WILLEM SECOND EXCERPT:
“Lyra, this is Willem.”
“Oh, yes. Willem. Are you having fun?”
“I, ah, yes. I just got here.”
“Have you had something to eat? We wouldn’t want you to be hungry and there’s so much food!”
“I’ll never forget the food.”
She barked out a laugh. “You hope!”
It took me a second to catch up and remember about the memory wipe thing.
“Well, yeah, I guess I do hope I remember.”
Her grin resolved into a smile. “So tell me what you’re going to do with your life if you win, Willem.”
“You know, that still sounds like one of those what-would-you-do-if-you-got-a-million-dollars questions. It feels too unreal to take seriously.”
She nodded. “A good solid honest answer. I like that.” After studying me for a few seconds, she said, “Okay. You passed my test. Let me introduce you to Lilith.”
She turned me around when she took my arm and, as she did, I happened to catch a heated look exchanged between Harmony and Raider. It was an, “Ah hah,” moment immediately followed by an, “Oh, crap,” moment when I realized that, if I won Harmony’s sister, Raider would be my brother-in-law. I understood why he was happy enough to star in the Orientation video and babysit inexperienced canoers on the river. She was a catch and he knew it.
I decided there are worse things than being in Raider’s family. He didn’t actually finish drowning me in the river, but at the time it felt like he was trying. On the other hand, he insisted on showing me to the ballroom. And he called me ‘hero’. Who couldn’t get used to that?
I was ushered from one beautiful woman to the next and each took measure of me in her own way. It was an interview, or audition, but it was the most pleasant I’d ever experienced. Or ever would, I was sure.
Still, after an hour or so, I was getting hungry. When Bless tried to walk me to another chat, I balked.
“Hey, could you maybe give me a couple of minutes to partake of some of the amazing feast stations? I haven’t eaten and that guy in the other part of the house carving that prime rib really spoke to me.”
Bless had a laugh that didn’t exactly sound like tinkling bells, but reminded me of them just the same. “Certainly, Willem. Would you like me to accompany you?”
“That would be…” I happened to look away and notice that most of the conversational groups in the room consisted of clusters of contestants, not a witch in sight. I realized that’s what I’d been seeing the whole time whenever I looked away from the woman I was talking with. “Bless, I hope this isn’t an inappropriate question, but am I getting special treatment?”
Bless treated me to an extra big helping of her tinkling bells laugh. “Willem, you’re quite perceptive. And you’ve passed my test.”
“You know, you’re the sixth or seventh person to say that to me. Is this a gauntlet of gorgeous women in sexy red dresses?”
Again the laugh. “I love that description. You’re quite a character, Willem. You would fit in around here.” As she smiled at me, she grabbed the elbow of another beauty passing by. “Glory, this is Willem.”
When Glory smiled, I knew how she was named. “Hi, Willem.”
“He’s hungry and headed in the direction of prime rib.”
“Of course he is. I don’t see a man like this eating watercress.”
“Yes, well, perhaps you’d like to accompany him while he dines.”
Glory seemed as ecstatic as if she’d won the prize herself. “Of course! Willem. I’d be honored.”
She slipped her arm in mind and walked me to the prime rib. “What would you like with that?” she asked. “While Raleigh is slicing your rib just the way you want it, I’ll gather up something to go with.”
“Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.”
“Okay, then. Caesar salad. And did I see au gratin potatoes?” She nodded. “That should do.”
She pointed to a table at the rear of the room. “I’ll meet you right there.”
She was there with salad and spuds before I arrived with a hunk of prime rib that smelled so good it was all I could do to not face plant into the plate and tear into it with my teeth. Somehow I managed to preserve enough dignity to sit and take a few bites of salad before digging into my current reason for living with fork and knife.
Out of nowhere a waiter appeared on my right pouring red wine into my glass. That was followed with a delivery of ice water seconds later.
“You’ve eaten?” I asked Glory, who sat smiling with her legs crossed as if there’s nothing in the universe she’d rather be doing than watching me eat.
Someone appeared with a mint garnished drink that I hadn’t heard Glory order.
“I’ve decided that Wimberley must have the best service in the world. I’m certain the queen of England is envious.”
She smiled. “Don’t you know you get what you pay for, Willem?”
“So I’ve heard. I’m just a middle class boy from Alabama so I wouldn’t have much personal experience in that department.”
“You don’t strike me as someone who thinks of Golden Bull Buffet as a special occasion.”
“I had some nice times courtesy of my agent.”
“Your agent? Oh, that’s right. You were an actor.”
“How is it that everyone seems to know me by name? And, obviously, some know more than just my name. Have you memorized bios on all fifty contestants? And come to think of it, why did you say ‘were an actor’?”
“First, yes. We look over incoming guests. Second, some of us just learn names, some of us read more and have good recall. Third, you told our people in L.A. that you’re done with acting. That puts it in the past tense, right?”
“Right. So, should I be asking questions about you?”
She grinned. “You’re funny, Willem.”
“Because you have been asking questions.”
Hearing her say it out loud, I realized that was true.
“This prime rib is indescribable. And the wine, he didn’t ask me for a preference, but I’ve gotta tell you. It’s amazing.”
“If you win, you’ll eat whatever you want when you want it. As far as the staff goes, they’re very skilled at reading people and anticipating needs.”
“You’re quick, Willem. I like that. And you’ve passed my test.”
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If you love paranormal romance, you cannot miss the ultimate HEA follow up to Carnal.
8 years earlier
Dandy and Crave had taken the hike up the western mountain to the waterfall pool. Everyone knew where it was, but few people went because the effort to get there was worth mention.
The pool was small, only fifteen feet across, but the water was beautiful and clear. It was also cold since it began its journey higher up as snow melt. Crave thought it was the prettiest spot in the world, surrounded by pink granite outcroppings, aspens and evergreen trees.
They’d removed their clothes and jumped in, Dandy shrieking about the cold while he pretended to be immune and laughed at her. They swam and splashed, but after a time ended up kissing and exploring each other’s postpubescent bodies.
In many ways Dandy thought those first shy touches were the most erotic things that would ever happen to her. It was then and there that Crave had also declared.
“I love you, Dandy. You’re my Promise.”
She laughed. “You can’t just say I’m your Promise, Crave. You have to ask me. Don’t you know that?”
He looked a little hurt, but started again. “Dandelion. I love you. Are you going to be my Promise or not?”
“I will.” She smiled showing off her white teeth. Then she grew serious as a thundercloud. “But I’d better never catch you with another female.”
Crave was offended at the suggestion. Even in his fantasies, the only female he could imagine mounting was Dandelion. “I wouldn’t do that.” Understanding flitted across his boyish features as he considered the implications and his expression changed to a look of worry. “Same for you. Right? No other males.”
Dandy smiled a perfectly coy female smile and drew closer. “I would never, Crave,” she breathed. “You’re my Promise.”
His forehead smoothed as he relaxed then promptly dunked her under with a mischievous grin.
Ram’s book is partly My Familiar Stranger retold from his unique point of view with chapter insights from other significant characters. The story begins the first time he runs away to the wild magic of the New Forest at age ten, follows his recruitment by Black Swan along with his training to be a vampire hunter, tells the story of the death of his first partner, and his romance with Elora Laiken.
For five years, Glendennon Catch had knocked around the globe as a floater, filling in wherever a team of vampire hunters was down a member. He’d buried six good knights and watched the life take its toll on countless others. He’d drunk his share of whiskey and bedded so many women he would hate to hear the count, but he’d never gotten over his first love. And, if he had a chance for a do-over, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t have chosen Rosie Storm over The Order.
Elora Rose Storm had spent five years nursing a heavy heart, while on a cross-dimensional mission to make the world a better place, especially wherever she found human/animal hybrids being mistreated. She’d seen horrors, righted wrongs where she could, and matured into a powerful witch/demon with altruistic leanings.
After all that time, unbeknownst to each other, both were headed home. To Jefferson Unit.
Exiled, Book 1
The angel, Kellareal, stopped the genocide of generations of hybrids, who had been bred for research and spent their entire lives imprisoned. Against orders, he spirited them away to a place where they would have freedom and purpose.
In a vindictive fit, Rosie Storm asked her mother’s friend, Kellareal, for a place to hide from her boyfriend and teach him a lesson. Kellareal knew just the place for Rosie to grow up and learn temper control among other things. The land of Exiled.
How do you mend a broken heart? – Kellareal
Elora Rose Storm, otherwise known as Rosie, left her dimension in a fit of immaturity over not getting her way. Some might say the behavior was easier to forgive in light of the fact that she was, chronologically, only fourteen-months-old. Her witch / demon genes had accelerated her physical and intellectual growth, but her emotional equilibrium lagged behind.
The Exiled were a race of human hybrids, who, for generations, had lived their entire lives as slave test subjects. When they became perceived as too dangerous to keep, their creators planned a genocide. Against Council orders, Kellareal intervened and moved them to a dimension where they would have the opportunity to establish balance between the human population and a race of stronger, faster, fiercer hybrids who preyed on them.
Rosie thought she was getting a few weeks of asylum. The last thing she was expecting was to be the accidental architect of a war. Or to meet someone like Carnal.