CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Lucienne Diver

Posted October 31, 2016 By Jennifer

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

It’s the final day of this year’s Flash Fiction event, I hope you’ve been enjoying all of the stories!! Also, be sure to check out the Coastal Magic Convention, where you’ll be able to hang out with each of our participating authors, and many, many others. Today we’ve got THREE holiday stories to share.

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Lucienne Diver is another permanent fixture in the Coastal Magic family, and I’ve always loved how imaginative her stories are!

Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

black_dog___trick_r__treat_by_dustycrosley-d99b4p8

 

“What the hell was that at the last house?” the witch asked her ghosty companion.

“You said I could eat one before we got home,” he whined.

“I meant one candy, not one person.”

“She was giving out toothbrushes,” he said, exasperated. “Toothbrushes. Really, she was asking for it.”

“I don’t care. You’re going to get us caught.”

The ghost looked around, red eyes glowing through the eyeholes in his sheet. “By who? No one’s looking for us. When no one answers there, someone will egg the house and they’ll move on.”

Two kids ran past them, both dressed as super heroes, capes flapping in the breeze as they raced each other to the next house.  Marai watched them, wishing she could get into the spirit. She was restless, unsettled. Wanting something, but with no clue at all what. So when Caliban had begged to go trick or treating “like a real boy,” she thought what the hell.  It was the one day of the year they could blend in among humans. The one day it was even tempting. The rest of the time they were so…pedestrian.

Tonight, though, they embraced the darkness. Or the candy.

Caliban skipped ahead of her to the next door. There were already two little ones ahead of them, a lion and a vampire, complete with fake blood dripping from his mouth. Marai approved of that one, but the lion was almost…cute.  Lions should not be cute.

“Thank you!” both kids called as they accepted the candy dropped into their pillowcase carriers and then scampered on to the next house. Marai withdrew her approval. Vampires shouldn’t scamper.

“Trick or treat!” Caliban said, mimicking the cheerful pleading he’d heard from others throughout the night.

“Ooh, scary!” said the man who answered, blinking through thick lenses and slightly stooped, either by nature or design to bring him closer to their level. “I love the glowing eyes. Good job. For that you get two pieces of candy each!”

“Score!” Caliban said, every bit like a real boy.

Marai smiled fondly, momentarily flashing her pointed teeth. The man blinked more rapidly and took a step back, bringing the candy with him. Unfazed, Caliban reached out and chose two pieces for himself. Then two more for Marai.

“Thanks!” he said, cheerfully.

The man nodded and practically slammed the door on them as Caliban pulled his hand back. Smart man.

They turned for the next house and almost crashed into a pair of teens who had come up behind him. A guy and a girl. His whole costume seemed to be white pancake make-up, dark face paint smeared around his eyes and hollowing his cheeks. Marai guessed he was supposed to be undead, but of what stripe? Zombie, ghoul, haint…really, it was like he wasn’t even trying. The girl’s costume was even more minimal—hair that had been sprayed screaming purple and tortured into a fauxhawk that made her look like a punk rock cockatoo, and a shirt that read “Zombie bait”. Ah, so the boy was trying to be a zombie.  But where was the rot? The ruin? The blood and gore from his indelicate feedings?

“Wow,” the zombie boy said, coming up short. “That’s some great make-up.”

And before Marai even registered what he meant to do, he had his hand on her nose, actually poking at it, warts and all.  She snarled, and he snapped his hand back to himself in an instant.

“That’s…that’s…” Marai rolled her eyes at the stuttering. So typical. “But it can’t be real,” he rallied.

“Can’t it?” she asked, showing her teeth.

She enjoyed the look of fear. Ate it up. So much tastier than the chocolate Caliban fancied.

“Come on, Cal,” she said, steering him away, leaving the boy staring, she was certain of it. She could taste his fear on the nip of the autumn wind. Tart and refreshing.

They headed down the street until they hit a dark patch between houses where the streetlights didn’t penetrate. Then Marai grabbed Caliban’s shoulder and pulled him into the shadows.  All the better to lay in wait.

“Mar, what are you doing?” Caliban asked. “You’d said we weren’t hunting tonight.”

You had one,” Marai said, looking down at him. “Plus, he touched me without permission.”

Caliban looked up at her, eyes glowing even brighter in the shadows. Or maybe in anticipation.

“Glad you’re getting into the spirit of things,” he said.

“Well, ’tis the season.”

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Amy Lane

Posted October 31, 2016 By Jennifer

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

It’s the final day of this year’s Flash Fiction event, I hope you’ve been enjoying all of the stories!! Also, be sure to check out the Coastal Magic Convention, where you’ll be able to hang out with each of our participating authors, and many, many others.

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Today we’ve got THREE holiday stories to share, and this one is brought to us by Amy Lane. Amy’s stories are always full of heart, and this little short is no different. AND… it comes with a song suggestion for the “soundtrack”!! <3

Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

guardian_by_ziizii_rock-d4ceom3

Dreams of an Urban Angel

Music trickled, ran, and flew above the rooftops, and Duma, Angel of Dreams, rested his cheek on his knees and ruffled his wings.
His human was dreaming of him again.
He’d been troubled–tickled, titillated, teased–from his chamber in heaven.  Dreams–he’d guarded the dreams of the righteous from the pain of the past, allowed common sense fears into the minds of toddlers, the better to keep them safe.
Or that’s what he’d been told.
Duma had begun to doubt the truth of his mission–and that was always bad for an angel.
Angels who doubted tended to fall.
Then Duma had heard the music, a refrain, sweet plaintive–an Appalachian violin riff, but he had yet to ask the angel of music if he was correct in his guess.
It wasn’t being played, though. It was being dreamed. 
 
Duma had resisted at first, but then, in odd moments, when he was thinking of nothing in particular, the dream of music would creep into his mind, along with an image–not the image of the dreamer, the image of the man he dreamed of.
Lanky, dark-haired, gaunt and sardonic.
Duma had wanted to look behind him to see where this cruel-smiling fallen angel stood. But every night the music crept relentlessly into his chamber, until Duma –half-insane with compulsion–slid out of heaven like blood-heated water slid between a man’s fingers.
He closed his eyes and plunged into that guise so effortlessly, he imagined it was how humans felt when diving into a pool of clear water on a hot day.
Ah, yes! God, thank you! This was who he was born to be!
With this newfound energy, he found the rooftop he needed, in a bustling metropolis, in the place where the business buildings were starting to fade into the residential buildings.  On a squat, square building a few stories taller than the others in the area, he made his perch.
It took him an hour.
For an hour, he sat on the rooftop and listened to the music in the hearts of the dreamers.
He heard heavy metal, the twang of country, the bounce and patter of theater. In his millennia as a heavenly being, he’d never imagined the allure of music, until it had twined his heart in a man’s dream.
And then…
Ah! Plaintive, melancholy, simple and beautiful–country plain, at odds with his urban angel exterior.
The contrast delighted him.
He saw his dreamer, walking in the rain, no umbrella in sight. He held his face to the warm summer rain, smiling faintly even as the rain plastered his dark blond hair to his head.  He didn’t shuffle, or hunch, or shy away from the rain. He welcomed it, like Duma had welcomed the transformation from light and thought to the form he wore like skin.
This man–this man was waiting for love to transform him.
He disappeared into a nearby building and Duma tilted his face to the rain. The strain of music played, embedding itself in the sinews of his heart, the bittersweetness so acute, he could taste it like sour candy.
Tonight, his dreamer would call him, and Duma would answer.
Tonight, they would dream together.

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Deborah Blake

Posted October 31, 2016 By Jennifer

Happy Halloween, everyone!!

It’s the final day of this year’s Flash Fiction event, I hope you’ve been enjoying all of the stories!! Also, be sure to check out the Coastal Magic Convention, where you’ll be able to hang out with each of our participating authors, and many, many others.halloweenflashfictionblogbanner1

Today we’ve got THREE holiday stories to share. Deborah Blake‘s fresh take on the traditional Baba Yaga tale has been fun and interesting, and today’s story fits right in (with an added holiday flare!)

Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

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Trick or Treat

Bella took a deep breath of the fresh air coming through the caravan’s open window and sighed with contentment. After a week fighting to control a smoky wildfire in Ohio, the crisp clean air of late October in upstate New York smelled like heaven. Outside the window, the tattered remains of a few bright leaves drifted to the ground like faded autumnal birds, heralding the coming winter. She pushed her long red hair out of her face, taking another whiff.

As a Baba Yaga, one of the three powerful witches whose responsibility was the United States, Bella was used to traveling to wherever she was needed. The eastern third of the country was usually covered by Barbara, the eldest of the trio, but Bella was more in tune with the element of fire than the others, so she’d gone instead. And since she’d ended up so close to Barbara’s home in rural Clearwater, New York, Barbara had invited her to stop by for a visit. Barbara might tend toward the crabby and antisocial with most folks, in keeping with the traditional Russian fairy tale witches in whose footsteps they followed, but that had never applied to her sister-Babas, and living with her sheriff husband Liam and adopted daughter Babs had mellowed her even more. Well…maybe mellowed was a bit of a stretch, but Bella was looking forward to seeing her anyway, especially since it what Halloween, a special holiday for those of the witchy persuasion.

Of course, she was missing her own new husband, Sam, and Jazz, the teen they’d taken in as a Baba Yaga in training, but Bella would be home soon enough, and in the meanwhile, she was hardly alone.

“Were you thinking of making dinner any time soon?” a plaintive voice said from the area near her knees. “All this fresh air is making me hungry.” A large square head butted her leg hard enough to force her to grab for the nearby countertop. In the compact but efficient traveling caravan (transmuted from its original form as a wooden hut atop movable chicken legs, because in this day and age, someone would probably notice such a thing), most things were nearby, more or less.

“Everything makes you hungry,” Bella said in a fond tone to her traveling companion, Koshka. Koshka was actually a dragon, but people tended to notice those too, so he was currently wearing his usual guise of a gigantic brown and gray Norwegian Forest Cat. “When we were in Ohio, you said the smell of smoke made you hungry. Besides, you just had a can of tuna an hour ago, and we’re heading down to Barbara’s house for dinner in a few minutes.”

The caravan was currently parked in a meadow off to the side of Barbara’s yellow farmhouse, tucked a little ways off the road for privacy. Bella was still worn out and a little on edge from dealing with both the fire and the nasty fire elemental who had turned out to have started it, so she was glad for some much-needed peace and quiet.

KNOCK. KNOCK. KNOCK.

“What the hell is that?” she said, glaring at the door.

Koshka gave a huge yawn, treating her to a glimpse of sharp white teeth. “Girl Scouts? Avon Lady? Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

“We’re parked in a damned meadow!” Bella said. She peeked out the window, thinking maybe Barbara had for some reason come up to fetch them, but she couldn’t see a thing. And Barbara was pretty hard to miss, with her cloud of dark hair and the head-to-toe black leather she wore most of the time.

Bella yanked open the door and prepared to send whoever it was packing, only to stop dead in her tracks at the sight of a floating apparition hovering less than two feet away. What the hell?

The amorphous shape wasn’t very large, but its edges moved ominously to and fro, and the faintest sparkle of rainbow-hued lights lit its translucent whiteness in the gathering gloom of the setting sun.

Bella was just beginning to summon defensive magic to the tips of her fingers when the shape let out a loud, “BOO!” that startled Bella so much she almost set her own foot on fire as she jumped backward. To add insult to injury, Koshka began to make the coughing noise that was his version of a belly laugh.

“Oh my goddess,” he chortled. “If you could see the look on your face!”

The shape dissolved into a small girl, about seven years old, with short dark pixy-cut hair and an adorable nub of a nose. The girl sank slowly back down until her feet touched the ground, a serious expression on her face.

“I am sorry, Aunt Bella,” Babs said. “Did I do it wrong? Was I supposed to say ‘trick or treat’ before the ‘boo’? I am still learning these things, and Barbara’s instructions were not quite clear.”

Babs had spent the first years of her life hidden away in a corner of the Otherworld by an insane woman and a viciously ambitious fairy—she was still trying to adjust to life in the normal Human world, if you could call living with and being trained by a Baba Yaga anything resembling normal.

Now that she was over the shock, Bella could see the humor in the situation, and laughed along with her dragon-cat. She leaned over and gave the girl a hug.

“You did it perfectly,” Bella said. “It’s just that most children use a white sheet with holes cut out for eyes for a ghost costume, instead of magically disguising themselves as an actual ghost.”

Babs blinked up at her. “That seems very silly. How would you scare anyone with a sheet?”

Bella bit her lip, holding back a grin. “Well, sweetie, most children can’t do what you can do, so they have to settle for a costume instead.”

“Are you wearing a costume?” Babs asked, as Bella and Koshka shut up the caravan and started walking across the meadow towards the farmhouse. She eyed Bella’s jeans and flannel shirt. “Because I am not sure what you are supposed to be.”

Koshka snorted, causing wisps of smoke to trickle out of his nostrils. “Fashion-challenged artist witch?”

Bella nudged his massive brown and black side with her foot. “Very funny. Just because you always have the best illusion in the room is no reason to get nasty.”

She turned back to little Babs. “I wasn’t actually planning to get dressed up for the holiday. Do you know if Liam and Barbara are going to have costumes on?”

Babs gave one of her rare crooked smiles. “I asked them before I came to see you, and Barbara said they were going to come as a small-town sheriff and a really cranky witch.”

“Ah,” said Bella. “So one is the treat and one is the trick. Very appropriate. I think this is going to be a lovely holiday.” And she let out a witchy cackle, just because she could.

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with B A Tortuga

Posted October 30, 2016 By Jennifer

We have two more awesome flash fictions, today, from two more returning Featured Authors at Coastal Magic. I’m always happy for a chance to hang out with B A Tortuga, and I’m just as happy to have her participating in this event.

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Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

halloween_pumpkin_by_nox_stock

Carving Pumpkins

“It looks like Jack Skellington.” Adam tilted his head, staring at the Jack O’ Lantern. “That kinda wasn’t what I planned on.”

“Little bit, yeah.” He gave it a once over. “Is that bad?”

“Well, it’s more cute than scary.” Adam looked so frustrated. It was damned funny.

“Oh. You can have my pumpkin, Adam.” He was easy. It wasn’t like they hadn’t bought twelve.

“I just know Troy will tease me about it unmercifully.”

They were having a bonfire for Halloween on the back forty, and all of their friends were coming down. Adam was all nervy about it, which was fair enough, he reckoned, after the great Christmas Tree fire last year.

That had been awkward as fuck.

Who could have known those live fuckers went up so fast?

“This one’s all scooped. Go traditional. Triangles and pointy teeth.”

“Yeah.” Adam grinned at him. “Did you do Halloween when you were a kid?” Adam asked him that every year.

“We went to this deal in Greenville where all the places downtown handed out candy. Then we trick or treated on Park Street and in Turtle Creek.” It had been cool, or that’s what he remembered. There’d been pirate costumes and Dallas Cowboy costumes and once him and Benny Robins had been a two-headed guy from a freak show.

“Yeah. We always did something at the house at the lake.”

Adam’s people came from more money than his did, for sure. He reckoned they hadn’t wanted to taint their boy with all those common kids. Still, he knew Adam’s momma Miz Lana loved a good costume party.

“Yeah. You could do one with a circle mouth for Troy. That would shut his ass up.”

“I totally could.” Adam grinned. “Eric will punch his arm for me regardless.”

“Hey! Are y’all still carving pumpkins?” His friend Dakota clomped up on the porch, carrying an immense bowl of candy.

“You know we ain’t gonna get no trick or treaters out here, right?” Sometimes he worried about Dakota a little.

“Shit, this all’s for Jayden. I even brought extra Snickers.”

“He’s gonna weigh a ton if you keep spoiling him,” Adam murmured.

Jayden trotted up the steps. “I get my workouts in. Hey! Your pumpkin looks like mine!” Jayden brandished a Jack Skellington Jack o’ punkin.

“Oh, good lord and butter.” Adam shook his head. “Gimme that other one, babe.”

“What you gonna do?”

“I’m gonna make Troy a blow job punkin, just like you said, then I’m going to stick it between these two.”

“Well, I bet Troy has some weird-assed twin fantasies,” Dakota pointed out. “Maybe put a beret on the middle one. That would make it perfect.”

“You’re a sick fucker, Dakota.” Adam grinned over. “I like it.”

Sage just shook his head, because what he could see that the others couldn’t was Troy coming up the walk carrying a carved pumpkin. That looked like Jack Skellington.

Someone obviously had a sale on that pattern online. Now they had triplets. Go them.

Sage and Adam are from Terms of Release, Troy and Eric are the heroes of Articles of Release, and Jayden and Dakota are in the upcoming Catch and Release, all available from Dreamspinner Press.

You can find BA at:

Website      Twitter     Facebook     Pinterest     Goodreads     Blogger     Instagram     Tumblr

BA Tortuga bio:

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

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CMCon17 Halloween Flash Fiction with Terry Spear

Posted October 30, 2016 By Jennifer

We have two more awesome flash fictions, today, from two more returning Featured Authors at Coastal Magic. Terry Spear writes stories that are always among readers’ favorites, and I’m sure this short will be no different.

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Don’t forget to comment below her story with a question or comment for her (or for us), to be entered to win a prize pack of books & swag from many of our authors this week! (And be sure to check back on our “kickoff post” for the full schedule of participating authors. So many great stories, and each day you can enter to win!)

Here’s the image that inspired her story…

gold_musical_venetian_mask_by_fantasystock

 

The Halloween Masquerade Ball

 

A medley of lyres, mandolins and lutes intertwined in a pleasing melody as Elizabeth Wheeler stepped into the ballroom, wishing she hadn’t agreed to going to the Halloween masquerade ball and watched something on television at home instead. She could have run around the suburbs as a cougar instead, being really scary. She tugged at the bodice of her brocade gown, the cut appropriate for the century it represented, but totally too revealing as far as she was concerned. Her fingers touched the diamond necklace dangling like a strip of sparkling lace at her throat.

She wrinkled her brow in annoyance. Why had she agreed to help Armand sell his creation, tonight of all nights?

At least everyone in here was a cougar, and that helped put her at ease a bit. A couple of shifters were even dressed in their cougar coats, one wearing a bowtie, another a diamond collar.

Though when others attended high-priced Halloween balls just for the fun of it, what did she do? Attempted to sell a piece of high-priced jewelry.

She straightened her already stiff back knowing that many of the attendees at the masquerade party had tons of ready cash. Any one of them surely would be interested in buying the necklace for his ladylove. At least that’s what Armand told her. And so where was he tonight of all nights?

Perusing the crowded room where women flaunted floor-length gowns of taffeta, brocades and velvet, she noticed a few eyes that focused on her necklace. Good. Maybe a buyer would approach soon. Still, Armand was supposed to introduce her to the men who’d be willing to purchase such an item. No way was she going to waltz across the floor and hawk his wares without an introduction.

Then from across the room, she noticed a man watching her whose mouth curved up considerably when she met his gaze. His intense stare dropped lower. Was he interested in the necklace? Or just the dip in her bodice? Her face grew flushed with embarrassment. Where in the world was Armand?

She needed a drink.

Though she waved at a waiter, she missed catching his eye. She tapped her foot on the floor. The fluted glasses of golden champagne wobbled slightly on the waiter’s silver tray as he moved farther and farther away from her, deeper into the jungle of elegantly-dressed bodies.

She wasn’t much of a drinker, but tonight, she needed a drink.

Lifting her long skirts slightly to avoid stepping on the hem, she made her way for the waiter and the bubbly nectar he carried on his tray. Winding her way through the crowd, she concentrated on the glasses of champagne dwindling in number as thirsty guests served themselves.

The waiter was nearly across the room when a man suddenly stepped in front of her, causing her to run into his chest…to her annoyance. Without looking up at him, she attempted to sidestep around him, but he maneuvered in front of her again.

More frustrated than a cat watching a bird through a window, Elizabeth looked up at the man and scowled.

The man with the dark eyes, a deep brown, his hair the same rich color curling in waves behind his ears, stared back at her as she looked up at him.

“Excuse me,” she said with an edge to her voice, fully intent on pursuing the waiter further.

The light of the chandeliers dripping with crystals high above reflected in the man’s eyes making them appear to sparkle with mischief.

“You wished a drink, no?” He clicked his fingers in the air and immediately a waiter appeared with more champagne.

“Thank you.” She couldn’t curb the frustration in her voice. She didn’t need a man…any man, to help her out…even as hot as this one looked. His woodsy scent permeated her breathing space as his body rested so close to hers, he warmed her to the pit of her stomach. With no room to maneuver, she couldn’t take a step in any direction, without crunching on someone’s toes with the spikes of her heels.

The smile returned to his lips.

He must have thought her a lush the way she raced after the waiter like some kind of alcohol-craved maniac.

“Someone as attractive as you are should have a gentleman companion to fetch your drinks, Madam.”

Drinks. Now she knew he thought she was a binge drinker.

She sipped her champagne, the bubbly tickling her nose. Stifling the urge to sneeze and make a complete fool of herself, she shook her head. “He hasn’t arrived yet.”

“No? I would have thought he should have escorted you here, Miss–”

“Elizabeth.” She switched the glass to her left hand and offered her right for a handshake.

Dimples appeared in his cheeks as the tanned skin beneath his eyes crinkled with laughter. But he didn’t shake her hand as she expected. Instead, he lifted her fingers to his lips and kissed them, his gaze remaining on hers as if he wanted to see the affect he had on her.

She nearly swooned. That’s how he affected her. Or maybe it was the champagne. She couldn’t be sure. Her head grew light, her stomach fluttered unsteadily, and she leaned further into his chest.

“Damon Deveroux,” he said, still holding her hand hostage. His deep voice and firm touch brought her back to reality.

Damon Deveroux? The multimillionaire philanthropist who owned several art galleries in the city? Was he interested in purchasing the necklace?

When a tipsy partygoer bumped into her, Damon released Elizabeth’s hand and wrapped his arm around her waist pulling her against his body, nearly making her spill the remainder of her champagne. She wanted to rest her head against his chest, to have him embrace her warmly, and kiss her passionately when the clock chimed midnight. Was she nuts? She didn’t even know him, and she was certain she’d given him the wrong impression. Instead of sharing the special evening with a man on her arm, she’d been unaccompanied and chasing the waiter down for a drink.

“Would you care to dance, Elizabeth?”

Dance? Dancing was the farthest thing from her mind. She took another sip of her champagne, not ready to let go of the glass until she was done.

“After you finish your drink of course.”

Once she finished her champagne, she wasn’t sure she could dance without stepping on his toes.

“I’m really waiting for…”

“Armand?”

Her heart stopped dead. He knew Armand? Well everyone in rich folks’ circles knew Armand, she supposed. Her blood coursed through her veins as her breathing quickened in anticipation. Was Damon willing to buy the necklace?

She parted her lips to speak. “You know Armand?”

Damon drank the rest of his champagne and handed the glass to a passing waiter. He touched her necklace. Then his fingers traced the rows of diamonds moving in a v-shape dipping toward the crevice between her breasts. She caught her breath in her throat as she watched his movements.

“He made this and wanted you to find a buyer for it, no?”

Yes, but this wasn’t the way in which she was supposed to sell it, wrapped up in Damon Deveraux’s arms like he considered buying the whole package. She laughed inwardly at herself. He wasn’t interested in buying the necklace. But maybe he figured he could convince her to share the night with him. Hmpf. Why would he want her when he had half a dozen other women chasing after him at any given time?

But if she could sell the necklace on her own… She cleared her throat. “Are you interested?” She swallowed the rest of her champagne, wanting to wash away the words that spilled from her lips. When smile returned, she quickly added, “In buying the necklace?”

He freed the empty glass from her hand. “Let’s dance.”

“But I’m waiting for Armand.”

He guided her to the dance floor where men and women circled to a waltz. “How well do you know him?”

A blush rose to her cheeks. She’d met him two years ago at a party like this one. She’d been alone then too, only because her fiancé had jilted her. But Armand had loved her looks and asked her to model his jewelry. Flattered beyond reason, she’d done as he’d bid and earned a substantial commission on every piece she’d helped him sell.

“Well enough.”

Damon smiled. “Has he never mentioned me to you?”

Elizabeth’s body heated in embarrassment. Armand’s lovers included several well-to-do men. Was Damon one of them? Sure, he was good looking enough.

“Listen, I’m just here to…”

“Sell your wares.”

Her blood boiled with anger. “Armand’s necklace.”

“A woman who looks as good as you, shouldn’t have to attend an affair such as this one, alone.”

She attempted to squirm out of his grasp. “This is a mistake.”

“He’s not coming tonight. He asked that I meet with you instead.” He rushed his words as if he feared losing her.

She ceased her struggles. “What?”

“He asked for me to look out for you tonight.”

“Can you introduce me to some of the men here who might be interested in buying the necklace for their–”

“Lovers?” He grinned. “Or wives.”

Her back stiffened again.

“Relax. Someone here tonight already wishes to purchase the necklace.”

She couldn’t relax. Every molecule of her body churned with annoyance. Damon already had a buyer for the necklace, so why the charade? Why not get on with business?

“You don’t remember me, do you?”

Damon’s words totally threw her. Remember him? As overwhelmingly handsome as he was, how could she not have recognized him if she’d ever met him before? His broad shoulders blocked her view of any other dancer that night, and he held her close, possessively close. His hands traced her spine as she touched the satin of his jacket.

“We’ve met before?” She looked up at him and was surprised to see his eyes darkened with desire.

“We attended the same college and a lot of the same dances.”

She tilted her head to the side. “No. I would have remembered anyone who looked like–” She cut her words short. He had to have been mistaken.

“You were engaged at the time. I guess you had eyes only for him.”

Her brow wrinkled and she looked down. Just remembering the hurt her fiancé had caused when he started seeing another woman behind her back filled her with anguish.

“Armand felt you should be dating again.”

Her cheeks grew hot. “Armand shouldn’t be telling others what I should be doing or not doing with my life.”

Everything she said seemed to amuse him. A smile tugged at his lips again. “Don’t be too hard on my brother. I’m the one who’s been pestering him about you.”

Damon was Armand’s brother? Her mouth dropped in astonishment.

He grinned. “I know. No family resemblance. We’re half-brothers, but we’ve been close all these years as if we’d been brothers.”

Actually, now that she studied Damon’s sturdy jaw and angular features, the color of his eyes and hair, she could see a slight family resemblance.

“So how about it?”

He couldn’t be half bad if he was Armand’s brother, and certainly he had some pretty winning moves. The way his hands caressed her back, she sure wished he’d kiss her at the summit of the bewitching hour. Still, she wasn’t certain what he had in mind. “How about what?”

Damon kissed the top of her head. “Nothing too risqué. Maybe breakfast at Jardenes. Crepes and coffee?”

Breakfast? And what in between?

She took a deep breath. What had Armand told his brother about her? Surely not that she was easy.

When she hesitated to respond, Damon picked up the slack. “I could collect you at your place whenever you were ready to go.”

Instantly relief washed over her like a warm, welcome shower. “I’d like that.”

He chuckled, the sensuous, throaty sound triggering in her deep-seated longings for comfort and companionship.

When the clock rang twelve at the top of the hour, Damon kissed her. She knew then the way his mouth kissed hers with tenderness, this night was only the beginning.

“Want to run around the neighborhood as cougars?” she asked, when he finally let her up for a breath of air. She wanted to shed her expensive gown for her fur coat and what better time to do it but with someone who might like to run with her too?

He smiled. “Exactly what I was thinking. Lead the way.”

 

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