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Thursday, October 08, 2015

I’ll Be Seeing You… Entice Me @ParisBrandon #RB4U #kindle #RomFantasy

I’ll Be Seeing You…

What author doesn’t want their book turned into a Hollywood blockbuster? I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t ever want to hear my words uttered on the silver screen. The idea for the heroine of my latest story came about one day as I was reading about the early days of the film industry.  I came across the surprising bit of information that in the beginning, and I’m talking the silent era, women were actually some of the first screenwriters.

Before you get too excited, let me say it wasn’t because the powers that be thought they were brilliant at the time. Writing for the movies was not considered to be a particularly respectable or lucrative way to earn a living.

Although the budding industry was considered beneath most male writers, women flourished in the early days. Anita Loos wrote adventure films for Douglas Fairbanks, June Mathis discovered Rudolph Valentino and wrote two of his best known films, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and Blood and Sand. Then there’s my personal favorite, Marion Fairfax who scripted the 1925 version of The Lost World and was a pioneer in the use of stop-motion animation.

A couple of decades later; the world is at war and Hollywood is playing a large part in keeping morale boosted. Many in the movie industry enlisted but some of those left behind contributed to the war effort in other ways.

The heroine of I’ll Be Seeing You, young war widow, Lulu Lane, ghostwrites scripts for her uncle’s studio by day but her evening hours are spent as a junior hostess, serving doughnuts to servicemen and women at a local USO club. Hiding behind her horn-rimmed glasses and sensible shoes, she’s been content to stay in the background until she’s singled out by handsome army lieutenant, Jack Howland, who doesn’t seem to be very happy about asking her to dance and isn’t forthcoming about why. 

Jack Howland, part of an elite group of OSS special agents can’t resist the pull of the moon or widowed USO hostess, Lulu Lane. After the war, while chasing a Nazi war criminal, their paths cross again but will the truth about what Jack is send Lulu screaming into the night or back into his arms?

Here’s an excerpt: Heat level 2 chili peppers…

She wasn’t used to having someone pay for a cab or open the door of the small cottage she hadn’t shared with anyone else in three years.
The young lieutenant had barely closed the door before pulling her into his arms and kissing her—hard, as if he’d wanted to imprint his mark for all time instead of forty-eight hours. She pushed the thought away. He’d made his intentions very clear. Lulu had come to terms with the fact that forty-some hours with Jack Howland was worth more than a lifetime of regret.
She hadn’t been kissed in a very long time or been pressed against a wall while large, masculine hands swept over her bare flesh. His mouth tasted of cigarettes and coffee, unfamiliar and delicious. His touch, tender and demanding, sparked a need she barely remembered but knew, after this night, she’d never forget.
Her experience had been limited to a young husband whose enthusiasm often over-shadowed anything she might have desired, if she’d been brave enough to ask. Much like their dance, she followed where he led and was surprised by the stray tear he kissed away and didn’t ask her to explain. He’d glanced at Toby’s picture on the fireplace mantel and held her while she explained her two-week marriage and being widowed when the Arizona sank.
Jack was tender and passionate and she had to keep reminding herself that their time together was temporary, but she’d never been kissed so intimately or devoured so completely; consumed.
As much as he gave she couldn’t help but feel that there was part of himself he held back and she found herself wishing that might come before their time together ended. If it didn’t, she couldn’t fault him. He hadn’t made any promises past forty-eight hours and she didn’t expect any. He attended to her protection without comment and she was alternately grateful and sad. A child would have been impractical.
She thought she’d convinced herself that the last thing she needed in her life was the complication of a romance during this damn war until at the end of their time together, he kissed her goodbye and climbed into a cab while the radio played Jo Stafford singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” in the background.
He didn’t look back until she turned to go inside. One last glimpse found their gazes locked as they had been only hours ago. If she lived to be one hundred, she was never going to forget the desperate sadness he’d refused to explain.
It would have made a great movie scene. A real tearjerker, if her reaction was anything to go by.

Available for pre-order here

In case you haven’t already guessed, I have a fascination with the movie industry and the 1940’s.I knew when I started developing Jack that he was going to be a little different, and the story would read like an old movie, complete with a smart-mouthed heroine, a mysterious alpha hero with a secret, creepy settings and even creepier villains. I haven’t had so much fun writing anything in ages. Happy Halloween and I hope you enjoy I’ll Be Seeing You, my contribution to the Entice Me boxed set.

A little bit about moi…

An avid reader and a devoted History Channel junkie, Paris can be found most days bent over her keyboard, creating worlds where a wolf shifter saving the woman he loves from a Nazi war criminal is all in a day’s work.

A member of Romance Writers of America and published since 2009, she lives in Southeast Kansas with her husband of many years and considers a job where she doesn’t need to wear pantyhose the best career possible.

Please feel free to drop me a line via my website, Facebook or Twitter!

Happy Reading!
Paris Brandon

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Be Enticed by Heart of Stone from @RoseAnderson_ #RB4U #MFRWauthor #RomFantasy

Hello everyone. My name is Rose Anderson and I’d like to tell you a little about my part in the Entice Me multi-author anthology by the Authors from Romance Books ‘4’ Us. Before I begin, I’d like to say thank you to Denysé for hosting me on her Fantasy Pages. I wrote Heart of Stone under my new pen name Madeline Archer.  

I got the idea for this short and sweet story from Pinterest, of all places. I love Victorian stone work so made a pin board just for statues there.  Some truly remarkable carvings were created during Queen Victoria’s reign. I stumbled upon a neoclassical Carrara marble piece by the sculptor Jean-Joseph Perraud entitled Le Désespoir. A story started to form in my head the moment I saw the piece with its fine handsome detail like someone poured liquid stone over a man…

Heart of Stone

The story opens with the notorious witch hunts in 17th Century Salem, Massachusetts. 

As formal education for women lacks substance in her own country, Neila Flannigan leaves Ireland in 1904 to attend Radcliffe women’s college in America. Shy and introverted, Neila passes her lonesome hours sketching the Harvard grounds and sending drawings home to her father. A chance encounter with a kind and elderly Irish woman inspires her to sketch a statue in an old, unused building. Desperately lonely, Neila ends up sharing her thoughts and feelings with a man carved in stone. Some days it feels like he listens.

Setting the stage~
In this scene, Neila has taken Mrs. Maguire’s suggestion and gone to the old unused building to sketch a statue there.  

Neila found the door unlocked just as Mrs. Maguire had said it would be. Poking her head inside, she spoke loudly enough for anyone to hear, “Hello? Is anyone here?”
The greeting echoed in the hall. Relieved, she went inside. The first floor was empty. Upstairs, she discovered that was true for all the rooms save the last. There, a statue stood near the window and beside it sat a wooden spindle chair. There wasn’t electricity in the room or even a gaslight on the wall but an old wrought iron chandelier, dripping with dusty hardened candlewax, hung from the ceiling.
The statue was a young man seated in a rocking chair. His boots and simple clothing suggested a farmer from centuries past. He had an open book in his hand and a sleepy kitten curled on his lap. Neila touched the stone pages of the book. It was far too grimy to tell for certain, but she could feel texture there, as though the artist had carved words onto the pages. Doubtful, she murmured, “That would be impossible.”
The John Harvard bronze and the other posthumous tribute pieces she’d drawn thus far were fashioned with generic features. Not so with this one. From what she could tell with the subject’s head bent over his book, his features were unique. She ducked her head for a better look, wishing she could lift his chin to see his face fully. The sculptor had given the statue a straight Roman nose, intelligent brow, and full lips that turned slightly at the corners. It was likely carved from life. She told it, “You are certainly in need of a good scrubbing, but you were very handsome whoever you were.”
She ran her hand over the cold stone face from cheek to chin. It was impossible to tell if the oddly textured material was marble or alabaster. Whatever the stone, it was a perfect medium for sculpting, as it held detail remarkably well. The piece was exceptionally realistic. That much was evident, despite the grime.

About Rose / Madeline

Known for crafting characters that stay with you long after the last page has turned, Rose Anderson is a multi-published award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes across genres under the pen name Madeline Archer. She lives with her family and small menagerie amid oak groves and prairie in the rolling glacial hills of the upper Midwest.

Author’s Note: I hope you enjoyed my debut as Madeline Archer. Find my books under both names in ebook and paperback wherever love stories are sold.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Entice Me: Coming October 10th - Something Moor #RB4U #MFRWauthor #RomFantasy

Despite the fact my life has been something of an on-going roller-coaster for the past two months, I did manage to get a short story completed for ENTICE ME, the first boxed set from nine of the authors of Romance Books 4 Us. Set in Ireland, Something Moor is about Fate and Destiny, as well as our ability to recognize what we are meant to know once we find it. Caragh McCarthy is alone, and not entirely sure a trip to her past is a great idea. I hope you enjoy what Fate has in store for her when she gets lost on the moors of County Tyrone...

SOMETHING MOOR: An unexpected trip to Ireland takes Caragh McCarthy back to her ancestral home, and the past collides with the present when car trouble strands her on the moors of Country Tyrone. When Kelan O’Shea comes to her rescue, a 300 year old injustice might yet be set right, and a promised future can be fulfilled.

“Where are you heading on a night like this?”

Kelan O’Shea tucked a flashlight into his backpack and smiled. “I’ve got to get home, Maeve,” he replied. “You know that.”

She pouted and shook her head before coming to stand at his side. “They can manage without you for a night, Kel.”

“And here was me thinking I was indispensible.” He grinned and held up a hand when she would have tried to dissuade him. “I have to go.” He ignored her glare and headed out the door. Maeve was getting a little too clingy for his liking, and despite a lifelong friendship, he would soon stop visiting her. She ran a wonderful stable with excellent horses, and he enjoyed his hours spent on the trails. But… he laughed at his own thoughts, always a but to ruin things.

He reached the stable and led his horse out into the damp evening air. The storm had been torrential, holding him up longer than he intended. He mounted and nudged the gelding into an easy cantor. The animal was familiar with the route, and required little guidance.

He was only a mile or so from home when the horse deviated from their usual trail. A minute or two later, Kel spotted why. He reined in his horse and slid from the saddle in an easy motion. The ground beneath his feet was slippery. He paused just long enough to be sure he wouldn’t end up on his arse with his next step, then he crossed carefully to the figure lying in the rain-soaked grass. He dropped his pack and hauled out the flashlight. A quick once over twisted something unnameable deep in his bones and he swallowed the reaction.

The unconscious woman he’d found was a stranger. Her dark hair was soaking wet and tangled strings clung to her ashen features. Blood stained one shoulder of her lightweight jacket. He carefully picked her up and took her to the patient horse. It took him a few minutes, but he got her positioned in front of him and he touched heels to the sides of the gelding.

“Come on now, boy, we need to get home in a hurry.”

The horse agreed, he picked up his pace.

* * * * *

“How is she Doc?”

Seamus Payne was an old family friend, and he eyed Kel for a few seconds.

“Why was she out there on the moor? Even a stranger should have known better than to attempt that.” He closed his medical bag before adding, “Why in hell were you out there?”

Kel shrugged. “I got delayed by the storm.”

“Know who she is?”

“Caragh McCarthy,” Kelan said. “She was headed here, but wasn’t due for another day.”

“She the one you’ve been waiting for?”

Kel hesitated, then looked at the woman lying unconscious in the bed. “She might be. Is she going to be all right?”

“Keep an eye on her, she may have a slight concussion. She hit that rock pretty soundly. The bleeding’s stopped, and the few stitches won’t need to be in long.”

“I’ll keep an eye on her.”

Payne had just reached the door when Kelan stopped him with a question. “Did you see an abandoned car on your way in?”

“Half a mile from where you found her.”

“Can Robbie tow it here in the morning?”

“I’ll ask him when I get home, but I’d say yes,” the doctor said. “I want to see her at the clinic, Kel. It would be a good idea to get a CT scan. I don’t think she’s incurred a serious head injury, but I’d rather be cautious.”

“I’ll bring her in as soon as possible,” he promised.
When the door closed, Kelan pulled up a chair and sat a short distance from the bed. Leaning back in his chair he shook his head. “What the hell were you thinking?” he mused.

Monday, October 05, 2015

ENTICE ME: RIVIERA RENDEZVOUS @gemma_juliana #RB4U #IRInk #MFRWauthor #AuthorRT #BYNR #ASMSG #IARTG #99cents

I’m thrilled that my story, Riviera Rendezvous, is in the Entice Me boxed set with authors I admire and whose stories I enjoy reading. 

This story is dear to my heart in many ways, perhaps because Amalie’s story reminds me of my own experiences many years ago. 

In her recent blog post on September 29, co-author Denysé Bridger touched a chord of truth when she wrote about our ability to recognize what we are meant to know once we find our destiny and see what fate has in store for us. 

I thought about how this wisdom applies to the heroine in Riviera Rendezvous. Amalie Pallas has worked as a dancer on a cruise ship for months, trying to steer clear of trouble in the form of a staff captain who thinks he is a law unto himself. Trouble finds her anyway when a dangerous dilemma forces her to flee the ship in a foreign port half a world away from home. She faces the prospect of disembarking in a foreign land with little money and no real friends.

Fate intervenes when Xandros Xenakis comes to her rescue with a highly original proposition. He is not entirely a stranger. He’s the shipping agent who has boarded the docked ship every Saturday for months. Soon they began to search the crowds for each other, each aware of a magnetic attraction that pulled them together and begged for more.

Amalie has yearned to know Xandros better for months. Now she’s got to decide—disappear into the sunset for a weekend with a man she hardly knows, or refuse his offer and lose the chance to see if he really is the one for her. 

Should she listen to her heart and intuition or fear for her safety? Such situations can be dangerous, and some women have disappeared forever by throwing caution to the winds. 

Amalie must decide if she’ll accept the hand Fate held out to her and face her destiny. No matter which choice she makes, a risk is involved.

Amalie drove off into the Italian sunset with Xandros, to the French Riviera where adventure awaited... 

What would you do if you were in Amalie’s sexy sandals? Trust your gut and take off with a man who makes you sizzle, or play it more cautiously? There are no wrong answers. Do you have a personal fate and destiny story to share?

Thanks for visiting today. Please consider pre-ordering our fabulous, luscious stories in the Entice Me boxed set at

GEMMA JULIANA is a multi-published author who writes love stories of all kinds, from contemporary to paranormal. She has a penchant for romantic international settings, whether real and fictional. Gemma lives in a cozy cottage in Texas with her very own hero, teen son, and a dog who rules them all. Chocolate and coffee nourish her muse and fuel her creativity. She enjoys traveling for research and spending time with family and friends. Gemma loves hearing from readers and making new friends.


Sunday, October 04, 2015

Be Enticed by @JeanHartStewart #RB4U #RomFantasy

It’s a truly exciting pleasure to talk about our new boxed set, Entice Me! I’m thrilled to be a part of this wonderful anthology. My contribution is called Desire’s Dilemma, and for once I didn’t have to struggle for a name for a book. It seemed to name itself, and indeed there’s a lot of desire, and a bewildering amount of dilemma.

Marcus Monteith has loved Valanna for years. The last thing he ever expected was that he would be appointed her guardian. He cannot bring himself to tell her how the torture he received when a spy for Wellington had left him with a heart condition that can kill him at any time. Valanna, deeply in love with him, is crushed by his cold treatment. And then Marcus is injured and not expected to live.

These two have more than the ordinary trials of lovers. Marcus’s best friend also loves Valanna, and an unexpected traitor waits his chance to kill.

Here’s an excerpt --

Looking at the woman he’d loved for so long, the impish look on her face made him long to grab her in his arms and kiss that distracting impudence away. Instead, Marcus froze his features and held out his hand to assist her into the carriage. He sprang in, but not beside her. Rather he sat opposite her.
“I trust you are comfortable, my dear. If not please tell me what I can do to make you more so.”
Valanna snorted. “You can sit beside me, my lord. I could then make a fist and smack you someplace on your perfect nose. Hard.”
Marcus couldn’t mask his start of astonishment. Val, his Val, threatening to hit him? He couldn’t quite cover the grin turning up the corners of his lips.
Furious at his disregard for her feelings, plus her frustration at hiding her love for him made her reckless.
“You’re an idiot, my lord. A blind, opinionated ass. How you ever became noted for your bravery I’ll never know. You’re afraid to face up to your own emotions.”
Marcus growled, low in his throat. No one, but no one could accuse him of cowardice. He’d faced more than anyone could ever understand of pain and torture. Yet this one slight girl could look him in the eye and call him names he’d kill a man for even thinking of voicing. He moved so fast Valanna gasped, and was beside her, grabbing both her fists in his strong hands.
“I may be many despicable things, but I’m no coward. Not even you, my love, can call me that.”
His furious eyes glared at her, but all she seemed to hear were the two words, ‘my love’.
“Oh, Marcus.” Her lips were only a breath away from his. “If you only know how I’ve longed to hear you say that. Just that. You’ve been my love for so long.”
She moved to kiss him, and almost succeeded, but he suddenly caught her hands and shoved her from him.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Valanna. You’ve confused whatever you think you heard. Of course I love you, but as a dear, very dear sister. You belong with a man who will treasure you, and you have him in Lance. We had better return. He isn’t that indisposed. He’s probably waiting for you.”
He moved abruptly back to the facing seat. Ignoring the tears running down her cheeks, he looked out the window all the way home. He thought he’d known everything there was to know about pain and agony. Nothing he’d endured compared to the knowledge he could win Val if he’d been a completely well man. A small part of him want to dwell on her sweet words as she’d as good as said she loved him, but the pain of not being able to accept her love nearly doubled him up into helpless agony.
He tried not to listen as she valiantly stifled her sobs. Pray god they would both be able to present an unruffled countenance to Lance. His good and worthy friend.

Things get much worse, believe me! I loved writing this book and hope you enjoy reading it… and all the wonderful books in this anthology.

Visit Jean's website to learn more about her other great titles:

Friday, October 02, 2015

#RB4U author Marianne Stephens chats about Entice Me

Operation Man Hunt
Marianne Stephens

When I first had the idea for this story, it was going to be a novel with lots of guidelines the heroine wrote for publication. She was to follow her own guidelines and find a man.

Then I decided to switch things around, and place the heroine in the position of using someone else's guidelines to find a man. More interesting this way since she really had to think through a plan of action for enticing the hero.

Christine had fantasized about lusty lovemaking encounters with Tony, but never got close enough to really get to know him. With the help of her friend, Susan, and Susan's guidelines, getting to know Tony became a reality. And, a desirable on.

Mutual attraction flamed and all seemed wonderful, until a "dark moment" when trust and honesty came into question. Being truthful, confessing to little white lies, and forgiveness have to be out in the open if their relationship can flourish.

The authors of Entice Me - Luscious Love Stories - Anthology stories have varied genres but all stories are romances. Heat levels are for those chili peppers!

For more information, keep checking the Romance Books '4' Us Website:

Marianne Stephens

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Coming Oct 10th: Entice Me @CindySPape #RB4U

Title: Beltane Lion
Author: Cindy Spencer Pape
POST:  Second Chances

As humans, we don’t always get a second chance when things go wrong. My story in ENTICE ME, however, is getting one.

I wrote a short little story in 2008 called Beltaine Bargain, as a test to see if I felt comfortable writing historical romance. This was a paranormal as well, which you’ll see from the blurb. I sent it to The Wild Rose Press, a wonderful publisher, but one where my reputation was for writing contemporary cowboys—not enchanted medieval knights. Despite great reviews, it never sold so much as a hundred copies.

Fast forward seven years. I’m a better writer now than I was then, and I definitely have a larger audience. I’ve reworked some and left some the same, but the biggest change is in the ending, which I’d always had a few problems with, since the day I hit send on my initial edits. Now, for this anthology, Beltane Lion gets a new life, and Rhodri gets the closure he always deserved. I hope you enjoy dipping into my world of medieval and magic.

Blurb Rhodri of Llyan has returned from the Crusades a cursed man.  On the way home to Wales, a young friend is sorely injured. Rhodri seeks the aid of village healer, Selene, whose gift for healing is as uncanny as her beauty.  Selene’s magic can cure wounds, but she isn’t sure she can break the curse or heal the wounds on Rhodri’s heart? 
Heat Level: 3


“Where are you bound, my lord? I can send word when your friend is ready to be moved.” She sipped the soup, understanding now why it had resisted spicing. In the back of her mind, she must have sensed an impending patient.
“Home to Wales.” He didn’t even pause between mouthfuls to answer. “But you won’t need to send for me. I’m staying.”
Staying? That was never going to work!
“But my lord, there is only the one bed.” True there was also the loft, where her father stayed on his visits, but Selene had planned on sleeping there herself.
He cocked one golden-brown eyebrow and tilted his head toward the ladder to the loft. So he’d seen it. Fie! Then he swallowed and nodded.
“I’ll pitch my campaign tent in the field beyond the cottage. I’ve spent more nights in that than in a bed these last many years.”
Oh. How utterly reasonable. Selene sagged into her chair and nodded.
“That will be fine, my lord.” She studied her soup, unwilling to gaze on him openly.
“Rhodri.” His voice was gruff, but gentle, and so soft she could not make out his words.
“Beg pardon, my lord?”
He cleared his throat then spoke again, marginally louder this time.
“Since I’ll be your guest, you may as well use my name. It’s Rhodri. Rhodri ap Madoc, Earl of Llyan.” There was but a trace of a Welsh lilt to his English, just enough to lend a musical softness to his rough tone.
An earl? Oh my! She struggled not to let her discomfort show. Here and now, he was only a man, like any other, she reminded herself.
“Well that explains the lion on your shield, I suppose.” She sent him a smile. “I am called Selene. Welcome, Rhodri.”
He tipped his head in a bow.
“Well met, Mistress Selene. I am eternally in your debt. What boon can I offer in return for you care of my young charge? Name it and it is yours.”
“Let us wait until he recovers to talk of payment, my lord.”
He gave her an unexpectedly engaging grin and tsked.
“I mean Rhodri. But you could begin by explaining to me how it is that there are gashes and blood on your clothing, yet none on your skin.”


Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. EPIC and PRISM winning author of over 60 published works, Cindy lives in Michigan with her family and a houseful of pets.
(Photo by Russ Turner Photography)


Sunday, September 27, 2015

A pirate adventure fantasy... #RB4U #MFRWauthor #RomFantasy

The Gates of Infinity (novella)
Genre: Erotic Pirate Fantasy

THE GATES OF INFINITY lead to a different world where passion and deception may yet destroy two universes about to collide. Will time continue to turn upon itself, or will the mirror of our world open the gate and return stranded pirates and their sorcerous consorts to familiar shores?

The story poem that begins the novella:

ocean kissed sands wink diamonds into the night
the whisper of waves caresses nerves taut with panic
the sea-foam surf is a balm to troubled spirits
and the abyss of down-soft waters beckons as a lover’s embrace

out there, somewhere, is a ship
using stars to guide a course to infinity
eternity, too, has a path to follow
and a destiny to fulfill

standing on the rooftop of a once-thriving inn
I wonder at the fate that pulls me ever closer to death
isolation has become a way of life, my existence
against all my efforts to turn away from the void before me

the sea calls to me, pulls at my soul with seductive purpose
I hear voices carried on the misted winds
promises that I can’t quite define
but which haunt my heart and inflict greater agonies

I turn away to pursue the sandman of my dreams
despite the knowledge that there will be no respite there
no escape from transient demons and specters
no shelter in the arms of Morpheus

eyes close and breaths lengthen and deepen
then he comes to me, the devil who torments my being
with sensuous murmurs and erotic promises
he shows me what my life is without, what I deny within myself

the dream begins.....

the gentle sway of the ship is the rhythm of passion and sex
the lap of waves the stroke of a lover’s tongue over a swell of quivering flesh
the surge of the tide is his possession of my eager body
the fall befits our writhing ascent into heaven

who are you? I ask in mystified wonder
am I afraid of his answer, or anticipating it?
he laughs, a hearty, faintly mocking reverberation of humor
and my blood runs cold, then hot with rage

he is magnificent, this proud pirate who steals
with the exquisite skill of a thieving seducer claiming his virgin prize
dark hair streams and smoky eyes gleam with anticipation
and this is what I have been born to desire?

lover.... friend.... enemy.... destiny....
his hands have taught me love and pain
his heart has scarred me with hatred and unbearable pleasure

mentor.... destroyer.... confidant.... father....
you drove me to his arms, intent on betrayal
and in the end it was I who was betrayed, by myself

he touched me, and I was whole in his hands,
balanced on the edge of discovery and despair
I went willingly to his bed and his heart
asked desperately to remain prisoner to his destiny

he kissed me, a soft caress that vowed so much more would follow
and I stood before him, naked in all ways, desiring
things I could not yet name, but knew within me
and he held me with his gaze, searching for deceit, finding only trust

his hands stripped me of everything, while giving everything back
his mouth, soft, wet, suckling at my breast, gave me the taste of euphoria
hot, rigid velvet sheathed within my clutching body tortured me with ecstasy
and his possession defined my being and made me what I am

sorceress.... companion.... seer.... hope....
I am Mahjrah’s mate, and his life is mine, as mine is his
though we both have often wished it were not so

and I have betrayed my beloved captain.....

comrade.... strength.... protector.... deception....
what we did was wrong, yet it, too, was predestined in so many ways
Mahjrah made you my champion, and that story is as old as time itself

and now I stand before him again, waiting and afraid
trembling with need and terror, and reawakened love
yes, I love you, Mahjrah, always and only you
and somewhere inside you, I feel the poison of my treachery

you are uncertain, even as you stand solid and ever strong
the serpent of doubt and suspicion has bitten deep
that venom mingles with the heart’s blood of our bond
and I do not know which will emerge as the stronger power

still, you have taken me again, in passion and welcome
my body has been reclaimed, even as my spirit hides in shame
try as I may, I cannot forget the rapture that you gave me
and all I am able to offer you now is the frightened shell I have become

you deserve far better, you have asked for little,
given everything without question or price
until now, when a challenge far greater than others removes our choices
now you charge me with the task of finding our home

I have always thought my home was in your eyes
but the romanticism of that whimsy is a joke in the face of this harsh reality
you demand a gateway to another life
and I must find a way to obey this command

our world....
close enough to touch, to feel....
the parallel of this prison in which we have been trapped.....

Part Two: a short scene...
The moon shone silver across the restless waters of the cove, casting spectral shadows of ice into the endless ripples of the current. Sitting alone on the shore, Veranna stared at the magical night-scape and felt despair engulf her anew. They’d been stranded for eternal weeks, and no member of the crew looked upon her with warmth or friendliness now. Except the Captain, Mahjrah’s eyes held unflinching kindness and undeniable love. Her salvation, she knew.

She shifted her line of vision and shivered when her eyes came into contact with the repaired ship anchored in the small harbor. The mast stretched upward and the rigging stood starkly outlined, a wraith-like silhouette against the glowing orb sweeping steadily across the sky. The Scarab waited with patience her crew did not possess. Waited for her to summon knowledge and power she no longer controlled.

“Mahjrah’s looking for you.”

Startled, Veranna turned, and sighed inwardly at the cool masque of Doren’s indifference.

“I’m afraid, Doren,” she murmured without conscious thought.

Anger sparked in his eyes and she flinched. His expression softened with regret an instant later and he sat next to her.

“We’re all afraid, Veri,” he confessed with clear reluctance.

“I can’t imagine you, or Ehtionne, feeling fear.” She smiled in spite of herself.

“Everyone’s afraid of something, Veranna,” he chided. “Even Mahjrah.”

“You say that as if I should know your fear, but not his.”

“You’ve seen my fear, Veri,” he muttered, voice tinged with bitterness. “Even if you don’t remember it just now.”

He added the last with self-deprecating irony, and she felt a tremor begin deep within her. It burned through her with shocking speed, leaving her quivering against all she didn’t know.

“What is he searching for that I am supposed to know about?”

“Ask him,” Doren told her candidly. “Maybe that’s what he wants to talk to you about now?”

Suspicion flared in her dark eyes and he laughed at her.

“He doesn’t tell me what he wants from you, Veranna,” he said with a hint of derision.

“I suppose he doesn’t really have to, does he?” she retorted and rose. “He wants the same thing the rest of you want, the impossible.” She strode away, angered beyond reason by the exchange. She was still scowling when she found Mahjrah further down the shore.

The tall captain watched her approach, his expression guarded, but curious.

“You look as if you wish to kill someone, lady,” he remarked.

“Perhaps I do,” she replied, looking past his shoulder to the men who were standing a short distance from them. “What is it you want, Mahjrah?” she asked, suddenly weary.

“Darius is near, Veranna,” he said quietly, very serious now. “We need an escape from this place before Isiress pinpoints our location.”

“Isiress can control her magic, Ehtionne,” Veranna reminded him, uncomfortably aware of the many ears listening to their words. “I have no such strength. You ask what I cannot give.”

Dark eyes glittered like onyx in the flickering flames of the torches that had been lit. Veranna held her breath, waiting for anger, hoping desperately for understanding.

Slowly, Mahjrah nodded. He went to take her by the elbow, then led her toward the small circle of huts they’d erected for the duration of their stay on the isle. When they reached the relative privacy of their quarters, he sat her down and knelt before her.

“I know you can defeat this sorceress who guards The Pharaoh’s Ghost,” he began firmly, but gently. “But you must know it, too, my lady,” he continued, tone pitched to a sensual purr of sound. “You possess great power and knowledge, Veranna, and we need both while we are so vulnerable.”

“I’ve been trying, Mahjrah,” she assured him. “I want to help you!”

He considered her words with a seriousness that inexorably woke fear as she waited for him to voice whatever dark thoughts were creating such fierceness in his handsome features. When his low, gravel-textured voice finally stirred the air between them, she trembled.

“We need to take a great risk, love,” he began ominously. “One that may be our last hope of recovering your lost memory.” Dark eyes clashed as he forced her to meet his stare. “Do you trust our bonds, Veranna?”

It seemed a totally inappropriate question, and that, too, frightened her for eternal seconds as he awaited her reply. Unable to form the words, she nodded mutely, the response an intuitive answer born in her heart. He accepted her nod after only a second’s hesitation, then rose and left. A moment later, she heard his strong voice shouting for Doren. Hugging herself tightly, she listened as Mahjrah ordered his mate to bring Veranna’s trunk from the ship. When he re-entered the hut again short minutes later, Mahjrah carried a silver bowl etched with magical rhunes and filled with ashes. Behind him, Gianni came in with hands full of the mystical candles. He put them next to the bowl that Mahjrah had placed in the center of the hut’s rough floor, then he left them without a word.

“Tell me what you remember,” Mahjrah ordered.

“Place the candles that contain sky, earth and fire in a circle around us,” she replied without thought. His smile was an encouragement she responded to, and she continued quickly, lest she lose the precious strand of knowledge. “Strength, divination, and earth power.”

Mahjrah did as she requested, and by the time he was done, Doren and Marcello had retrieved the heavy case that had a permanent place beneath the captain’s bunk. Doren looked Veranna, his doubt clear, but he held his silence. Moments later, the captain and his lover were alone again.

“Choose your magic, lady,” he said and indicated the case that stood inside the doorway. “I fear that we have little time.”

Trusting to instinct once again, Veranna rose and went to the case. She opened it, and inhaled the enticing aroma of spices and herbs, and the tingle of mystical power that emanated from things hidden in the lowest levels of the case. As before, music was an undercurrent that guided her, attuned her to the very earth on which she stood. She lifted the upper tray of items and looked into the more powerful objects held in the chest. Mahjrah’s hand reached past hers, and he retrieved a key from the corner, a key that was gold on one side, and silver on the other, perfectly melded together, each side carrying the symbols that were on the coins contained in the chest they guarded. The key dangled from a cord made of strands of hair, hers and his, entwined with ribbons of blue and ebony, the colors of their eyes; he slipped it over her head and smiled when it came to rest just above the shadow between her breasts.

Aphrodeesia enchantrae,” he whispered roughly, his hands gliding over her back, before he moved to stand behind her and cup full breasts as he began to nuzzle her neck.

Shaking with another layer of emotion now, Veranna reached for the requested amalgam. She sucked in a rasp of air when the pressure of his hands increased and his sure fingers teased already straining nipples to greater sensitivity. Guided by instinct, she let the powder fall into the silver bowl, mingling with the ashes that would stir to life and reawaken her memories. The music that symbolized her power began to rise and find voice inside her.