Friday, December 16, 2016

New Release: Owen and the Beast (Valladora Tales)

Valladora Tales is a series of stand-alone stories set in Valladora. My latest tale, Owen and the Beast, is now available.

As the title suggests, this story is a retelling of the fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast, but it has a few twists in it.

Seeking to ease his loneliness, Owen sets out to meet his last remaining relative, someone he never knew because of an old family scandal. He’s trying to find his way in life, his path uncertain and his heart having been broken more than once.

Suffering under a demonic curse that can never be lifted, Edmund hides away in Erimooor Lodge so he doesn’t have to deal with the pity and fear his appearance inspires. Though many in the nearby village accept him as he is, he knows not everyone will have that ability to tolerate his animal-like appearance.

Owen makes his living as a storyteller, enthralling others with fantastical tales. Little does he know that the gods have something amazing planned for him when he meets the real “Beast of Erimoor Lodge” and finds out how wrong all the old legends are.

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Owen hoisted himself up onto the boulder and pulled his boot off, crying out at the unexpectedly sharp pain. He stared down at his rapidly swelling ankle. Cursing, he fumbled for his bag, which had gone flying when he’d caught his foot in a rut in the road and been thrown forward. He’d actually done more damage pulling his foot out of the rut, and that pissed him off. He looked down the road and tried to guess how far away he was from his aunt’s village. He thought it had to be at least five or six more miles, but he didn’t really know. There was supposed to be an inn coming up soon, but he didn’t know its exact location either. What he did know, however, was that he didn’t see anyone coming from either direction on the road.
He barely managed to drag his bag over without falling off the boulder. He dug around in the deep, overstuffed bag, hoping to find something to wrap his ankle with, perhaps even brace it. Even though he’d known he didn’t have anything, he still felt dejected when he cinched up the drawstring and dropped his bag back to the ground. Dirt flew up, making him cough, and he looked up to the sky. It had been so dry lately he’d been praying for rain, but now he hoped it held off since he might get stuck in it. Fluffy clouds floated to his left, but the clouds to his right were darker. He looked around to find some shelter, but he couldn’t see any. Only open fields lined this part of the highway.
Owen sighed and wiggled his ankle, cringing at the pain. He could always rip the hem off one of his shirts to bind it, but walking any distance would only make things worse. His aunt would know just what to do, but she was miles away. Should he keep it still or move it? Should he elevate it? Questions raced through his mind as he heard hooves beating in the distance. He jerked his head up and began waving frantically as soon as the horse became visible over the ridge.
A man about his age rode up on an enormous black stallion. He made the horse stop and jumped down right away. The enormous animal seemed formidable, but it stood calmly and looked on as its master rushed over to Owen. The man actually appeared much younger up close, a huge grin on his face as he pushed his messy brown hair out of his eyes.
“Hi! You look like you need some help!” the man said, still grinning.
Owen had never seen anyone express concern so happily. He shifted on the boulder and said, “Yeah. I sprained my ankle, and I’m still miles from my destination.”
“Where are you heading?” he asked.
“The next village. The small one by the mountains in Lady Christobel’s dominion. My aunt lives there.”
“Oh. That’s many miles away still. You’d never have made it by dark even if you hadn’t hurt yourself. There is a little inn about four miles up, but my home is much closer. I live in the lodge just over this next hill, off in the woods.”
“I’d appreciate it, but I don’t want to impose.” He straightened. “I’m Owen.”
The man laughed. “Sorry. My master would roll his eyes at me and my thoughtlessness. I’m Lane. Nice to meet you, despite the circumstances.”
“Your master? You’re a servant?”
“Yes, sort of.”
“You mentioned a lodge. A hunting lodge?”
“Well, it used to be.” Lane bent down and looked at Owen’s ankle. “Hmmm. I need to see to this, but I don’t have anything for a splint. I’ll tell you whatever you want to know on the way.”
“Thanks. I really appreciate it. I was worried about getting stuck out here in the rain,” Owen said as Lane picked up Owen’s bag and hefted it over this shoulder. Glancing to the stallion, Owen sighed. “I know I can’t walk, but I’m not sure I can get up on him. He’s enormous.” Lane was also half Owen’s size, so he wasn’t sure how much help the man would be in getting him up onto the horse. “Maybe if I can stand on one foot and put all my weight on you, I can make it.”
“Oh, don’t worry. We can get you up there.” Lane made a clicking sound with his tongue, and the stallion came right over to them. Speaking to the horse as if it understood every word, Lane said, “This is Owen. We’re going to take him home with us. He needs our help.” Then he pointed at the ground.
To Owen’s shock, the horse actually lay down and then turned to look at the two men. Lane held his hand out.
“Here. Just swing your injured leg over. I’ll steady you.” He frowned. “No, wait, I’ll move to the other side.”
Lane moved to the other side of the stallion and reached his hand over. Owen grasped his hand and threw his injured leg over, pulling himself into position to sit properly in the saddle. Once Owen was situated, Lane smiled at him and clicked at the horse again. Lane held to the horse’s reins and urged him up slowly. The powerful animal got to its feet easily, and Lane walked around to fetch Owen’s other boot.
As they began their journey, Owen asked, “Your master won’t mind an unexpected visitor? I can pay, of course.”
“Nonsense. You’ll be our guest. It’s just me and Lord Edmund day in and day out.” Lane grinned once more. “I’m so excited! I already know exactly what to make for dinner. And I just aired some of the ground floor rooms, so we can move you right in to one of those.”
The title gave Owen pause, as did Lane’s excitement. “Your master’s a vampire?”
“Yes, but he doesn’t like to be addressed by his title. I slip up now and then, and he forgives me. He’s very gracious. Kind and gentle. Would not harm a fly. The best of masters. Good and generous and understanding.” Lane smiled as he kicked at a few pebbles on the road. “I’ve never been happier in my life.”
Owen wondered why Lane was trying so hard to convince him this Edmund was a good man. “You think a lot of your master.”
“Yes, I do.” Lane beamed up at Owen. “I think you’ll like him. I’m sure he’ll like you.”
“Well, once my ankle is bound, I won’t trouble you too much. If I can just rest and then maybe borrow a horse. I promise to bring it back as soon as I can. Or you can accompany me if you like.”
Lane waved his hand. “Nonsense. You should stay until you’re healed. We’d love to have you.”
“I couldn’t impose like that. It will take days. And even if your master is gracious, you haven’t exactly asked his permission.” Worried he might sound condescending, Owen quickly said, “I mean, you know him best, of course, but I hate to put him out in his own home.”
“It’s nothing! Please, I insist. It’s time we had a bit of life and activity about the place.”
Owen watched Lane for a long time, wondering how things could be lacking in life and activity with Lane and his enthusiasm to contend with.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Guest Post: E. D. Parr and Make a Wish

Make a Wish, E.D. Parr 
Erotic, romantic, a Christmas MM romance to make you tingle

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and gorgeous, happy, Nick Kringle is making deliveries on the main street of the city when a car breaks down at the intersection.
Amid the seasonal crowds and inclement weather, Dylan West gets out of his car and tries to push it to the side of the road.
Nick rushes to help him and comes face to face with the most delicious man he’s ever seen.
Dylan’s down on his luck, but Nick believes in magic.
Can wishes come true? You bet—especially if Nick Kringle has anything to do with it.

Who is Nick Kringle?
With a name like that you might think he’s the jolly old elf in red, but Nick is a gorgeous guy who just happens to have a touch of the supernatural about him. He drives a red SUV, he delivers goods, and sometimes they’re straight from somewhere special—a place of magic and kindness.
Nick is gorgeous, kind, generous, loving just the kind of man that down on his luck Dylan West needs to run into. Could it be fate that makes his car break down unexpectedly almost next to Nick on the busy main street full of hectic Christmas shoppers and travelers? Maybe…

Read an excerpt:

The city street glistened with rivers of red, green, bright pink, and white light thrown there by the stores and cafés decked out for the holiday season. Rain fell in drifting sheets as a chill wind ravaged the shoppers rushing from one place to another, some laden with parcels, others hunched against the weather in their winter coats.
Nick parked his SUV in the first available space, opened the trunk with the interior lever, and leaped out. He didn’t feel the cold unless snow lay knee deep on the ground and even then, he enjoyed the beauty, and the way a new white fall would change the light, way too much to complain about the chill.
As he ran around to the back of his vehicle, the squeal of tires braking hard and the clamor of honking horns made him spin around. In the junction behind him, standing motionless, was a stalled car. Other drivers surged around the stationary vehicle, making everything worse by taking space in the oncoming lanes so that everyone crammed dangerously together.
The driver of the offending vehicle edged out of his open car door, narrowly missed by a small car that chanced overtaking just as the lights turned red.
Nick cast a keen gaze over the man, registering his muscled body beneath an inexpensive suit and his thick dark hair, pushed back from his forehead so that the front spiked up. Nick watched the man lean into the open driver’s side door and attempt to shove the heavy vehicle to the side of the road. The man’s pants stretched over his hard ass and a sigh of appreciation escaped Nick. With one hand on the wheel, and the other lodged in the gap between open door and car, the man clearly needed help. Nick clicked the trunk of his SUV closed and jogged over to help.
“Hi, I’ll lend a hand,” he called to the stranded driver. The man straightened to answer and Nick was face to face with one of the most gorgeous men he’d ever seen. Nick never hid his emotions. They shone from his ice-blue eyes and exuded from his well-toned body. He smiled at the man in a way he knew and didn’t care broadcast attraction, desire—pure sex.
Apparently unaffected by Nick’s charisma, the man gave a grateful nod. “Thanks.” He leaned into the task of pushing the car out of the way, as the traffic lined up behind him, and the sky opened with a fresh punishing downpour.
Copyright E.D. Parr Evernight Publishing 2016
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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Roses and Thorns (Arundel 5)

Just one month shy of the 10th anniversary of contracting the first book in this series, I'm very excited to bring you the conclusion, Roses and Thorns. I loved Jareth from the moment he wandered into my imagination, so I'm thrilled about giving him his happy ending, even if it's with a very unexpected person.

Jareth’s always been treated as if he’s fragile, but there’s one person who doesn’t see him that way, one person who truly believes in him. And Jareth’s finally ready to admit he’s the only one who matters…

Tired of always deferring to everyone else and holding back in every part of his life, Jareth is ready to go after what he wants. He can’t remember the exact moment he realized he loved Marcus, but he’s going after his happy ending. He doesn’t know what to expect from the man who claims he’ll never love again, but Jareth knows he’ll regret it forever if he doesn’t at least try to win the heart of the flawed man who sees him the way no one else does.


Marcus climbed up on the footstool and ran a feather duster over the top shelf of his collection of flow blue dishes. At first, it had annoyed him to have to do this by hand, but now he enjoyed it. Dusting gave him a few moments each week to reexamine his collection. His son Gil had already made fun of him more than once regarding how domestic he was becoming, but he didn’t really care. A knock sounded at the door, and he descended and set the duster aside. He’d been wary of unexpected visitors since the day the queen mother had basically told him to get on with fucking her grandson—something that still baffled him a bit—so he glanced out the small side window by the door before actually opening it.
The young man standing there looked familiar, yet Marcus couldn’t put a name to his face. Part of him really missed his powers, while the rest of him felt like a fool for having relied on them so much over the years. He’d gotten used to the edge they gave him, and now he often felt lost. “Can I help you?” Marcus asked.
“Yes. I’m interested in the training you’ve been doing.”
“Are you? What’s your name?”
“Malvern. Everyone calls me Mal.”
Marcus looked at the young man’s wild curls. “Do you by any chance know what your name means?”
“Bare topped hill. Yeah. I’ve heard plenty of jokes, thanks.”
“Just curious.” Something about the man’s demeanor told Marcus to be cautious so he stepped out onto the porch instead of asking Mal inside. “What can I do for you exactly? Do you wish to be trained?”
“No. I want you to stop training someone else.”
“That’s something you should discuss with that person. I train anyone who wants it unless I have a good reason not to.”
Mal crossed his arms. “It’s Jareth. He’ll end up getting hurt.”
“I’d never let him be hurt. If he had an accident, his grandmother could help him. Nothing I’m teaching him is dangerous. And we aren’t using real weapons. We’ve had four sessions, and he’s made wonderful progress.” Marcus crossed his arms to mirror Mal’s defensive stance. “Most importantly, it’s none of your business.”
“I care about him, and you’ve misunderstood me. I’m not worried he’s going to break his arm. I’m worried you’re going to break his heart. Take advantage of him.”
Marcus didn’t have time to wonder how this young man had any inkling of something going on between him and Jareth. “And what exactly makes you think anything of the kind?”
“You’ll never appreciate him. He’s far too good for someone like you anyway.”
“Again, none of your business.” He took one step forward. “Are you an old flame? Perhaps someone Jareth broke things off with? I can’t imagine him liking a man who goes around threatening others because he’s jealous.”
“You’re a fine one to talk about threatening people. I read your confession.”
“So did Jareth. What’s your point?”
“You’re powerless now. You wouldn’t stand a chance against me.”
“Is that a threat? I’m not the kind of man you want to threaten.”
“Neither am I. Just end things with him, and I won’t bother you again.”
“I’m training Jareth. Nothing more. But if there ever is something more, it’s our business, not yours.” He chuckled. “Hate to keep repeating that, but you seem a bit thickheaded.”
“I’ll make you pay if you hurt him. I have my ways.”
“Because I’ve done things you find distasteful you assume I’ll hurt him? That’s not fair. Jareth can not only take care of himself but also make his own decisions. Now, if you’ll excuse me.”
Mal grabbed him by the sleeve. “I’m not asking. I’m telling. Leave him alone. I know your type. You’ll fuck him until you’ve had your fill. Then cast him aside.”
Marcus slapped Mal’s hand away and said, “You couldn’t be more wrong.”
“Really?” Mal smirked.
“Yes.” He pushed Mal and made him stumble up against the house. He held Mal there and said, “If Jareth ever comes to my bed, I’ll tie him there and never let him go.”
That made Mal scowl. “Then I’ll rescue him.” He began to fight against Marcus’s hold.
Marcus held firm and laughed. “I knew that would get you going. You see, here’s where you’re the most wrong about me. You think I don’t see Jareth for what he is. But I see him all too well. You’re right. He’s far too good for me. He’s too perfect for words, even down to his flaws, and there will never be another as sweet and beautiful as he is. I’ll consider myself lucky if I get even one night with him. And if I do get it, I’ll do all in my power to keep him.”
“But you have no powers!” Mal spat.
Marcus released him. “Magic can’t give you another’s love. And neither can jealousy or any of the foolish things it makes you do.”
“Am I in for a lecture now? You think you’re such a bigshot because the king let you off easy.”
“Easy?” Marcus advanced on Mal again. “Do you know what it’s like to be completely cut off from magic? If I still had my powers, I’d show you. Just briefly.”
“What? There’s no spell for that.”
Marcus laughed. “Of course there is. What do you think vardys is? An incredibly potent spell. There are simpler versions, ones that wear off. You obviously have a lot to learn about magic before you go around threatening anyone else.” He shoved Mal and made him fall backwards off the porch and land on his ass. “Leave now and I won’t tell Jareth about your visit.”
Mal’s face went red. “I know things about magic you’d kill to know! This isn’t over,” he said before using magic to transport himself away.
Marcus stood for a moment staring at the spot where Mal had landed, wondering if there was any substance to what Mal had said. He still didn’t know exactly who the man was, other than someone who obviously wanted Jareth for himself.
“Well,” Marcus whispered to himself as he went back inside, “looks like I better stake my claim as soon as possible.” He slammed the door and bolted it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

New Release - Bound and Bitten *Year of Suns 2*

Vane's story is finally here! And this volume is a bit longer than previous ones. Once I got started with Vane and Arion, I had to keep going until they'd both had their say! :-)

Read on to the excerpt below to see what happened 20 years ago when Vane and Arion met for the very first time.


Feeling hurt and betrayed, Arion left Vane and rejected their mate bond twenty years ago. He vowed never to return and even made Vane promise not to try to find him. He’s tried to bury the feelings of guilt and regret over the years, but he’s forced to face it all when Vane’s brother shows up to plead with Arion to save Vane’s life.

Vane knows the Dissolution will kill him if he doesn’t drink from his fated mate, but he refuses to break the promise he made to Arion. When Vane’s brother brings Arion back, Vane doesn’t know how to react to his mate’s return, especially when Arion proves so eager to take care of him.

Lucky for Vane, Arion has a plan. He’s tired of wondering what might have been, so he’s going to focus on finding out what could be. The past holds nothing but pain, but Arion already sees how much pleasure the future could bring if he embraces the love he once walked away from.

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Arion shifted in the saddle when he spotted the hitch post and trough, ready to get down and walk for a while. He’d left home to explore the world, unable to stay in his mother’s house after her passing. His friends had supported his decision to go, though they’d urged him to return home soon. Arion had never been away from the lycan settlement for more than a few days, so the past week had been fun, even though nothing all that exciting had actually happened to him. He stopped Lily and dismounted, stretching and rubbing his shoulders before leading the gray mare over to a drinking trough and tying her there while he moved around to get the kinks out of his back.
The sound of pounding hoofs caught his attention, and he turned to look down the road. A horse went flying past him, panicked and stirring up lots of dust. Arion heard shouting in the distance, and he briefly calmed his horse before yanking his boots off and reaching into his bag for his dagger. He moved as quietly as he could through the grass on the side of the road, keeping low until he could see what was happening.
A group of dirty, shabbily dressed bandits seemed to have attacked a lone rider. Arion got low to the ground and tried to count his enemies. There seemed to be six men, so he laid his dagger aside. He could only stab one man at a time, and he didn’t want to risk one of them getting it away from him and turning it against him. None of them seemed to be armed, though they might be beating the other man merely for sport and concealing their own weapons. Arion yanked his shirt off and wiggled out of his leather breeches as best he could without drawing attention to himself. He shifted into his wolf form as he crawled through the grass, and then he pounced on the largest man.
Arion tore at the man’s shoulder and drew blood as the man screamed. He didn’t wish to kill them, but he had no intention of letting them get off easy. He pushed off the man and growled at the two who approached him. He cast a glance to the victim, worried they might kill him, and he caught a flash of red in the man’s eyes just before he sank his fangs into one of the assailants. Arion focused on his own foes again. A vampire might not be a match for six men, but he seemed more than capable of handling three if the screams told Arion anything.
Arion dodged away when one man tried to tackle him, and he maneuvered around them well enough, leading them in a merry little dance. When one man got in a kick to the side of Arion’s head, he latched on to his ankle and bit down hard. The man jerked away, but then he stumbled on the injured foot. Arion growled again and leapt at the third man, who jumped back in terror and fell backwards down a hill. His three foes in retreat, Arion turned to the others. One man had run off, but two more still tried to best the vampire. Arion growled and leapt on the one trying to hold the vampire down, and he tore into his back with one swipe of his jaws. The man howled and twisted and jerked to throw Arion off. Arion leapt down of his own accord and advanced on the final man as the other ran. The bandit acted as if he’d stand his ground for a moment, but when the vampire rose to his knees, the man thought better of his chances.
Arion watched them fleeing and wanted to pursue them, but then the vampire collapsed forward, barely catching himself. Arion shifted back to human form and went to the vampire, rolling him to his back and letting him come to rest in Arion’s lap. The bandits had beaten him mercilessly, and he was covered in blood and bruises.
“Is anything broken? What can I do?”
The vampire stared at him and didn’t reply. Arion wiped blood from his own eyes and noticed his head was bleeding. He felt stupid for not realizing exactly what the vampire needed. “Blood. I’m sorry, my lord. Of course you need blood.” Arion held out his arm for the vampire to drink from.
Still the vampire stared at him as if he couldn’t believe Arion was real. “What’s wrong?” Arion asked, touching him all over to check for mortal injuries. He felt the back of the man’s head and was relieved to find no blood or bumps. “You’ve lost a lot of blood. Drink. Then we can get to safety.”
The vampire took hold of his arm and, to Arion’s shock and confusion, kissed his wrist before sinking his fangs into Arion’s flesh. Warmth flooded Arion’s body, but he tried to keep his composure. He knew a vampire’s bite could be heady and intoxicating, but he hadn’t expected it to feel this good. It didn’t hurt at all even as the vampire sank his fangs deep. Arion felt his body responding with arousal, but he tried to ignore the reaction. The intimate act did have an erotic quality, and Arion averted his gaze, as seeing the vampire’s rapture made him feel strange. When the vampire was done, he licked the wound to heal it, then turned Arion’s hand over and kissed his knuckles.
Arion felt somewhat embarrassed. He was naked, and this man was kissing him and now rubbing his hand. The vampire sat up and cupped Arion’s cheek, turning his head with gentle insistence. “I’m Vane. What’s your name?”
“Arion, my lord.” The vampire’s eyes had changed to black, which worried Arion. Vampires had white irises, but the color changed according to mood. Only two colors meant the same thing for every vampire—red and black. Red indicated anger or the need for blood, as Arion had witnessed during the attack, and black indicated lust. Arion wished his clothes weren’t so far away. He knew vampires had quite the reputation for overactive libidos.
Vane smiled. “A fine name for my brave, handsome mate.”
“Mate?” Arion said, the word hanging there between them.
“Yes. I’m sorry if I worried you by not responding to your questions. I was in shock, I guess. I scented your blood as soon as you knelt beside me, and I couldn’t believe my luck. Not only to be rescued so unexpectedly but for my savior to turn out to be my mate? It’s like something out of a romantic legend.” Vane caressed Arion’s cheek lovingly and leaned in to kiss him.
Arion turned away without thinking about it, and Vane stopped short. “What is it?” Vane asked.
“Um.” Arion realized he’d been rude, but he couldn’t simply let himself be caught up in this man’s will. “I don’t desire men, my lord. I’m sorry.”
Vane backed off a little, but he didn’t release Arion. “Didn’t you feel anything when I bit you? I’m sure I felt your cock stir.”
Arion felt his entire body flame red. He knew the vampire was resting just over his cock, but he’d been so concerned for Vane’s welfare he hadn’t given it much thought at the time. “Yes, I think maybe it did, but I just met you. I don’t like men that way.”
“But we’re mates. The gods want us to be together.” Vane didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was examining every inch of Arion.
“I’m a lycan. Your gods and beliefs are not what direct my destiny.” He thought back to his desire to leave after his mother’s death and how several of the lycan elders had encouraged him to follow his feelings. He could believe he’d been meant to be here this day to save Vane’s life, but he hesitated to accept more than that just yet.
“A vampire is never mistaken about its mate.”
“May I get dressed, my lord? I can’t keep talking in this state.” Lycans didn’t tend to care about such things, having no problem with others walking around either naked or in their shifted forms, but he couldn’t help feeling self-conscious when the vampire so obviously desired him.
Vane finally averted his gaze. “Yes. Forgive me. Despite what I’ve just experienced, I can’t seem to fight how much you please me.”
Arion stood. “I’ll return soon. My horse isn’t far.”
“Arion?” Vane said after he’d taken a few steps.
Looking over his shoulder, Arion said, “Yes?”
“I’ll back off. Please don’t run away.”
Arion realized he’d probably hurt the man’s feelings. Vampires were always enthusiastic when they found their mates. “I’m just surprised,” he said, though that wasn’t exactly the best word. “I’d never run off and leave someone in distress like this.” But he turned away before Vane could say anything else. Part of him wanted to run away, but what if the bandits returned? He had no way of knowing if he’d given Vane enough blood for the vampire to make it to safety. He couldn’t abandon him.
Arion put his clothes back on and smoothed his hair away from his face as he picked his dagger up. He went back to Lily and found that she didn’t seem too worried about him. He patted her on the side of her neck and then put his boots back on. “Come on, Lily. We have a new mission, it seems.”
As he walked her back to Vane, he wondered what would happen next. According to the law, no vampire could force another to accept the mate bond, but it was quite rare that any human ever walked away. Not only did vampires possess wealth and power but they were also supposedly amazing lovers. Arion could believe it, given his reaction to that bite. There had been something very sensual about it, something that still lingered with him.
Vane sat on the ground looking down at his hands. His expression seemed not quite sad but something similar. Wistful, perhaps? Arion’s stomach knotted as he tried to think of what to say. Vane looked up at him then, and the vampire’s gaze held unmistakable longing. Arion cleared his throat as he brought Lily to a stop. Deciding to fall back on formality to keep his distance, Arion said, “Let me help you stand, my lord. I can take you wherever you need to go.”
Vane looked at his hand and then accepted it. When they were face to face, Vane said, “May we start over? Come back to my castle as my guest. I won’t tell anyone that you’re my mate. Perhaps once you get to know me, you won’t be so reluctant.”
“I’ll see you to safety, but I don’t know. It seems pointless. And cruel to lead you on and take advantage of you.”
Vane blinked. “Take advantage?” He squeezed Arion’s hand. “Arion, that’s not even possible. I’d do anything for you. I’d die for you.”
Arion gently withdrew his hand. “But you know nothing about me. That all sounds insane to me.”
“I’m sure it does, but … there’s no way to describe it to anyone who isn’t a vampire. As upset as I am that you’re rejecting me, I feel joy just being near you. If compromise will keep you with me, I’ll agree to anything.”
Arion had no idea what to say to that, so he stepped aside and gestured to Lily. “Let me help you up. You seem to be healing already, but you need rest and more blood. I should get you home so others can attend to you, my lord.”
“Don’t call me that. Say my name, please.” Vane came closer but didn’t touch Arion again. “Stay one night. You should rest as well after the way you fought. I won’t touch you. I’ll accept any condition if you’ll stay one night in my castle and just come to know me a little.”
Arion gripped Lily’s reins, nervous energy surging through him. Vane was practically begging him, and he didn’t know how to handle it. “All right. I’ll come back to the castle. I’m tired and could use a hot meal and a warm bed.” He met Vane’s gaze. “If you’ll do as you said and not tell anyone. I’ve seen the way people react. I can’t handle that.”
Vane nodded. “I promise. I won’t tell a soul. They won’t think twice about anything I do once I tell them how you saved me.”
“Don’t make a big deal about it. Anyone would’ve helped.”
Vane’s eyebrows rose. “How old are you? You seem so young, though your impressive physique tells me you’re no boy.”
“Twenty a few days ago.” Arion didn’t see what his age had to do with what he’d said. Was the vampire saying he was naïve?
“Oh. You’re only a few years younger than I am.” Vane searched his face. “Honestly, I have to disagree with you. Most people are selfish cowards and would’ve run away. You’re very brave, and I’m so grateful. There were too many of them. They thought a vampire would be carrying something valuable, and they weren’t very happy when they found I had nothing they could steal. I probably would’ve died.”
“And that’s why I had to do something. Even after I saw that you were a vampire, I couldn’t give up.” He shuffled his feet in the dirt on the road. “I guess you’re right, though. Lots of people would’ve run to protect themselves.”
“Which only makes me admire you all the more.”
A noise sounded behind them, and Arion turned and took a defensive stance. It was the horse he’d seen earlier.
“Well, Tiger, you didn’t live up to your name at all,” Vane said to the chestnut stallion.
“Tiger?” Arion asked.
“Yes, one of the children named him.” Vane patted Tiger and smiled. “I love children and let them run a bit wild at the castle. But I like it that way. I love to hear children playing. Tiger was probably heading back home to beg for a carrot, not at all concerned about me.” He mounted the horse. “Let’s set off. It’s not that far. I could use a bath and a generous glass of wine.”
“I might join you in that. Sounds wonderful,” Arion said as he mounted.
“I certainly won’t say no.” Vane smiled and arched one brow.
“That’s n-not what I m-meant,” Arion said, fumbling over the words.
Vane laughed. “Sorry. I know you didn’t mean it that way, but I couldn’t resist. I promise to be a gentleman from now on.” He sighed, his expression turning wistful again. “Or until you change your mind.”
Arion swallowed and said, “I’ll accept your kindness graciously, but please.” He paused as they set out and pressed his lips together. “I don’t wish to lead you on, Vane. I’ll accept your friendship but can’t offer more now. Or perhaps ever.”
Vane looked ahead of them, his expression going very still. After a seemingly endless moment, he said, “And I don’t wish to force you. Have patience with me. I’d rather have your friendship than nothing.”
“You have that. We fought together. For a lycan, that’s a bond that lasts for life.”
Vane managed a slight smile. “Friends then.”
Arion nodded and looked away. Something in Vane’s eyes seemed to add the words for now, and Arion genuinely had no idea how he felt about that.
He’d wanted excitement and adventure, and he’d gotten his wish beyond any doubt.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Desire and Duty (Valladora Tales 1)

I'm kicking off my new series, Valladora Tales, with Desire and Duty, the first MF romance set in Valladora.

Each story in this series is a stand-alone romance. Some characters were introduced briefly in other books, but you don't have to read those to enjoy these tales. If a character was introduced or appeared somewhere else, it will be noted here on the info page, Valladora Tales, and on my website.

If you're a fan of the Valladora trilogies (the Year of ... books), Desire and Duty is about Gwynn and Orman, whom we met in His Insatiable Bear (Year of Suns 1). It takes place during the week between that book and the next one, Bound and Bitten, which will be coming out Fall 2016.

Lots of readers, and my editor, have asked for MF stories set in Valladora, and there will be many in this series. There will also be MM, MMF, and MMM storylines as well.


Gwynn really liked the terms the merchant offered, and his price was reasonable. She sat at Orman’s desk and drafted a reply, as she felt Orman would agree with her. Her handwriting wasn’t very feminine, so Orman often sent off letters she’d drafted with his signature affixed. It saved all of them time. She set the draft in the middle of the desk pad and patted it with a sheet of blotting paper. She tossed the used sheet into the little basket by the desk and stood up, surveying the mess on the polished surface. She put the unopened letters in the wooden box on the corner and began sorting things out. Vane’s illness had Orman worried and flustered, so his study was even messier than usual.
As she sorted the papers and put the ledgers in their proper places, she considered what to do. If Orman liked her, why wasn’t he saying anything? Doing anything? He talked to her a dozen times a day. She wasn’t being courted by anyone, and she wasn’t a flirt like so many of the other maids. She did her duty and focused on that, just as Orman did. Now she thought on it, that seemed to make them very compatible. As she put the last paper into place, she wondered how red he might turn if she pushed everything off his desk and stretched across it to wait for him in a seductive pose.
He’d probably faint.
She giggled at that, and at just that moment the door opened. Orman walked in and stopped short. He looked around with a puzzled expression on his face. “Someone else here?”
She cleared her throat. “No, just me.”
He glanced at his desk. “Something amusing you then?” He closed the door and came closer. “I see you’ve cleaned my desk.”
“Aye, it was a bit messy. I know you’ve been under a lot of pressure with Lord Vane sick and all.”
“Yes, I have.” He met her gaze. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Anything you need, you can always ask me.” Gwynn decided to test the waters. She walked around the desk and stood right in front of him. Taking a deep breath to make her breasts strain against her bodice, she said, “Anything at all.”
Orman didn’t take his eyes off her face. “Then there is something. Lord Vane wants us to have dinner together tonight.”
“Really? Isn’t he sick to death of us?” she asked, wondering why Vane would want them to have dinner with him.
“No, you misunderstand. He wants you and me to have dinner. Together. Just the two of us.”
“He said that?”
Orman nodded, looking as if he was hiding something.
He seemed to search the air above her head for words before he said, “So we can just relax. Have some time to ourselves.”
She took a step closer and noted how his breathing shallowed. “Liar,” she said in a low voice.
“Excuse me?” he said, shock registering on his face as his eyes widened.
“Lord Vane is bored stuck in that room, and now he’s playing matchmaker. He says you like me, so out with it. Is he right?”
Orman looked uncertain as he searched her face, and Gwynn realized she’d never seen him look that way before. She swallowed and said, “I’m not teasing you.” She bit her lip and shrugged one shoulder. “All right, I am a little, but why are you looking at me like that? It’s just me.”
“Just you? I can’t think of it that way. Not at all.”
His brown eyes looked softer now, and his dark hair fell into his face as he gazed down at her. “Oh?” she said.
“That all you have to say?” he asked.
“Vane really said he wants us to have dinner?”
“Yes. He commanded me to have dinner with you, in fact.”
Gwynn almost laughed. “Did he, now? He wasted no time. He was working on me when you came in just a bit ago.”
“Working on you?”
“Aye, he was saying all kinds of things. How you smile more around me. How you’re happier when I’m in the room.”
“He may be right about those things. I do think I’m happier when you’re in the room.”
See where your teasing has gotten you? She pushed the thought away. “Are you?” She’d only meant to test the waters, not jump right in.
“Yes.” He came much closer to her. “I have to obey my lord and have dinner with you, but it’s something I want as well. It’ll be my pleasure.”
“Don’t I have a say in the matter?”
“Of course, but if you say no, you have to go and tell Vane that you turned me down. I’m not going back up there today. He’s threatened to turn his mother loose on us.”
“Turn her loose on us? What do you mean?”
He smiled. “You’ve never been to their castle, have you?”
“Vane’s parents? No, I’ve never been there.”
“Lady Evane is the real matchmaker in that family, so we need to be careful.”
“Be careful? What would she do?”
Orman laughed and walked around his desk. “She once locked two people in the wine cellar to get them to admit their true feelings for each other.”
“Oh, there’s no way that happened.”
“Ask her. She considers it a triumph. They were married within a month.”
Gwynn let her gaze wander over the desk. “Hmmm.”
“Well, can I have an answer?”
Gwynn put a hand on her right hip. “Not until you ask me properly. I don’t care what Vane said. I’m not having dinner with anyone because someone told me to.”
“All right then. I want to have dinner with you because I do like you. I have for a very long time. Will you?”
She plumped up the pillow in the chair in front of Orman’s desk before saying, “I suppose so. Not very flattering, though, that you had to be forced to ask me.”
Orman walked around the desk and came up to her again. “I’m sorry you feel that way, but you should be very flattered. I didn’t ask before now because I don’t think I’m good enough for you.”
“You’re the lord’s steward. What are you talking about?” If she’d set her sights on him, people would’ve said she was doing it to raise her station and earn more favor. What he said made no sense at all.
Orman laughed. “You’re a strong woman and beautiful in the bargain. I’m more than ten years older than you and not much to look at. I see the way men your age look at you. Handsome, strong men that other girls fawn over.”
“Well, you don’t see me fawning over them. Good looks are just luck, and muscles come from working hard.” She gave him a quick once over. “There’s nothing wrong with the way you look, and who cares how old you are.”
Orman came even closer, tilting his head and looking as if he was about to kiss her.
Gwynn stepped back and dusted her skirts off. “Well, if we’re having dinner, I need to finish a few things before then. Where do you want me?” She cringed at how that had come out, but she couldn’t help it. She’d kissed plenty of men, but she wasn’t ready to kiss this one.
Not yet anyway.
Orman seemed to take the hint well enough. She couldn’t even be sure he’d been trying to kiss her. He was so much taller than she was he might’ve just been trying to hold her gaze from that angle. “Yes, I need to see to a few things, too. I’ll come to your room for you about seven? We could take a picnic basket outside, just in time for the sunset. That way we won’t be in anyone’s way or need anyone to serve us or set up. That all right?”
“Sounds like a good idea.” Was he truly being considerate of others or trying to ensure some privacy? Now she wished she hadn’t teased him and practically shoved her breasts in his face. “I’ll be ready.” She turned to go, but then she looked back and pointed. “There’s a reply for the merchant. I liked what he had to say. Change anything you like.”
Orman smiled at her. “I’m sure it’s fine.” He looked into her eyes. “We make a great team, you know?”
“Aye, we do pretty well. Think alike, I guess.”
“And you look ready to bolt.” He took up the letter to read it. “Go on. I’ve wasted enough of your time.”
She wanted to argue with him, a bit insulted at the implication she was scared or anything, but instead she grabbed the doorknob and twisted it to make her escape.
And it came off in her hand.
Oh, fuck me. Has Lady Evane somehow found out? Did she come down here and loosen the knob from the other side? Gwynn wondered what Evane would be expecting of them if she had.
“Damn, I thought I’d fixed that.” Orman came over and took the knob from her, oblivious to her distress and wayward thoughts. He fit the knob back in and twisted it very gently. “I’m just going to have the entire thing replaced. It’s getting ridiculous.”
“Aye, best see to that,” she said, not quite bolting but definitely quickening her pace as she moved around him. She went straight to the kitchen and grabbed a basket to gather some herbs. She wasn’t fit to be around anyone right now, and she needed time to think.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

New Release: Antique Roses (Arundel 4)

My newest Arundel novel is here!

As the son of the reigning king of Arundel, Erik has never backed down from a challenge. He goes after everything with a boldness that sometimes gets him into trouble. But when it comes to matters of the heart, he’s been stalling for years because he can’t rid his mind of doubts and fears.

Lance couldn’t be more surprised when he finds out Erik is interested in him. But as he thinks about it, he realizes he’s been deflecting the man’s attention for years. He can’t deny his attraction to the prince, but he also knows they can’t ignore his old grudge against Erik’s father, or Erik’s past struggles with Marcus, the only father figure Lance has ever had.

Can they work through it all to find their way to each other? Or will their love be over before it’s begun?

Buy Here:

Lance found himself looking up more quickly each time a customer came in. It had been two days since his conversation with Erik, and he wondered why the prince hadn’t returned yet. He’d apologized to his mother and made up with her, but she was still a little miffed with him because he refused to go to Arundel to see Erik. Traffic had been slow all day long, so Lance had pulled out his tablet to check some online auctions. Lately he hadn’t had much luck finding stuff online, but he had his eye on a few carved wooden figurines.
He told himself he wasn’t watching them for Erik, but he knew he was. After both his mother and Marcus telling him they’d noticed Erik’s interest, Lance had been thinking back over their encounters through the years. He only vaguely remembered the day they’d met. Lance had broken his leg, and Asyan’s mother Eliana had come to visit him and give him something for the pain. He’d insisted on letting it heal naturally, and Eliana had just as stubbornly insisted that he at least keep the potion in case he wanted to take it later so he could sleep more comfortably. Lance had been fifteen years old at the time. Erik had escorted his grandmother to the mortal world, but he’d mostly talked with Maggie while Eliana inspected the splint and dressing the mortals had put on. Lance wondered if Erik even remembered that day. He and his mother had been living in Italy at the time. Lance could barely picture their house, but he vividly remembered the tree he’d fallen out of trying to rescue a kitten for the girl who lived next door.
The kitten had run away after that, and Erik had gone to find it, using a spell. He’d taken it next door and then returned for his grandmother, winking at Lance and telling him to be careful trying to impress the girls. Lance had actually been more attracted to the girl’s older brother, but his mother had tactfully cautioned him that the mortal world wasn’t as open minded about sexuality as the fairie world, which had been especially true in the 1950s when this had happened. He hadn’t been able to be openly seen with a man until the 1980s, and even then there had been occasional problems. Dating women had simply been easier most of the time. Erik hadn’t become a regular part of his life until about twenty years ago, and snippets of conversations echoed in his head. Blood welled up on the inside of his lower lip where he’d been chewing on the flesh as he thought about how cold he’d always been to the prince. It almost amazed him Erik had any desire to be around him at all. He cursed softly as he saw that he’d been outbid on two auctions. His mind began to drift again when the front door opened. Lance froze when he saw Erik, but as the man walked toward him, he straightened up and put his tablet away.
“Hi,” Erik said.
“Hi.” Lance’s gaze landed on the three coffees Erik carried. His mouth went dry when it occurred to him that Erik had been bringing him coffee for years now. He’d always seen it as a merely friendly gesture. It wasn’t like spending money mattered to the prince. But now, Lance saw that it was something Erik liked doing for him. Lance’s love for coffee had never been a secret.
“Two sugars, two creams,” Erik said softly, handing the cup off.
“Thank you,” Lance said just as softly. Though they were roughly the same height, Lance felt about six inches tall as he took the cup. He grasped it tentatively, as if brushing his fingers over Erik’s would have some magical effect. It occurred to him, as he looked into the other man’s eyes, that it just might. Erik had been justified in thinking Lance didn’t like him, and he had to fix that, even though he wasn’t sure where to begin.
“Quiet in here. Even the coffee shop was dead,” Erik said.
“Indeed,” Maggie said, swooping by and grabbing one of the coffees. “You can get by without me for a bit, right?”
“Sure,” Lance said, though she was already at the front door.
“Good. See ya,” Maggie said.
Lance opened his mouth to say good-bye, but she was gone. She never left the shop during the day, always insisting there was work to be done. He smiled nervously at Erik, feeling like it couldn’t be more obvious they’d been left alone on purpose.
Erik glanced over his shoulder briefly before looking into Lance’s eyes. “I’d like to finish our conversation, but I am here on a mission.”
“You are?” Lance had imagined their unfinished talk would’ve been what had brought the prince back, so he couldn’t help being curious.
“Yeah. Lucian and Gil. I wanted to get them a housewarming present. Lucian had been living here so long he didn’t have a home of his own in Arundel. They’ve built one now, so I wanted to get them something.”
“Oh. Okay.” Lance thought for a minute. “Did you have something in mind?”
“Not really. I know they’re doing a lot with the garden.”
“Yeah, they are. Gil’s been in for his father a couple of times. He was talking to mom about it.” Lance scanned the shelves on the far wall. “And actually, I might have an idea.” He didn’t see the urn he was thinking of, which bothered him. Had his mother sold it? He hadn’t been reviewing the ledger that much the last few days. “Hang on. It’s not where it should be.” He moved around the counter and began looking around.
“What is it? What color?” Erik asked.
“It’s a bluish green urn. It has white Queen Mary roses on it. And Gil said he was planting those kind in their garden.”
“Queen Mary roses?”
“Yeah.” Lance spotted the urn. “There it is.” He reached down and grabbed it. “See?” he said, handing it over.
Erik took the urn from him and looked at it, rotating it as he hefted it. “I don’t know much about roses, but I like it.”
“What?” Lance asked, genuinely shocked.
Erik said, “What do you mean, what?”
“You’re a fairie from the royal family, and you don’t know much about roses?”
Shaking his head, Erik said, “No. I’ve never planted a protective garden before. I know next to nothing about gardening.”
Rose gardens protected mounds of fairie magic all over the world, and Lance had assumed Erik would probably know lots about them. Erik’s stepmother had been the guardian of one until recently. “Your home could use a little landscaping. You know?” He took a deep breath and said, “Maybe I could come have a look sometime … soon.”
Erik met his gaze. “I’d like that.” He looked at the urn again. “I’ll definitely get this for Gil and my brother.” He lifted his eyes back to Lance’s. “You know a lot about roses?”
“I love roses. I work in my mom’s garden a lot.” He nodded back to the counter and walked over to retrieve his tablet. “I think something with a large bloom would look good around your house.”
“Someone referred to it as a haunted abbey recently. I’d be grateful for your help sprucing it up.”
Lance laughed. “That’s a great description of the place. All the gray stone and long, dark hallways. And those vaulted ceilings? Whoever said that was spot on.”
Erik looked stunned, and he just stood there staring at Lance.
Clearing his throat, Lance said, “Uh, sorry. I didn’t mean it in a negative way. Your home is beautiful. I love all the detail. How accurate it is to the period.”
“I know you didn’t mean it in a bad way. What are you apologizing for?” Erik asked in a low voice, moving a bit closer.
“For laughing. You looked kinda, I don’t know, surprised.”
“I liked it. You almost never laugh around me.”
“Oh.” Lance focused on his tablet, trying to find the best images of the types of roses he thought would be good. “I like your house. It really does have a great gothic revival look to it. I guess I’ve never said it, but I know you put a lot of work into making everything just right.”
“Thank you,” Erik said, his voice still low. “I love it, but some people think it’s too gloomy.”
“One thing this business has taught me is that we all love different things.” Lance found a few pictures and showed them to Erik. “I think some of these would be nice,” Lance said as he forced himself to finally look back up.
Erik leaned in and studied the pictures. “I like these,” he said pointing to two pictures.
“Victorian spice and antique.”
“Antique?” Erik asked, looking up into Lance’s eyes. “Maybe we’ll go with those. Seems a good omen I won’t kill them.”
Lance chuckled. “In Arundel? Probably impossible to kill any flower unless you actually rip it out of the ground.” He scrolled through some of the pictures. “Maybe Victorian spice in the front and antique in the back? Some other flowers as accents here and there?”
“That could work. You really wouldn’t mind helping me?”
Lance set his tablet down and said, “No, not at all, though I doubt you need my help.”
“Maybe not, but I’d like it. Placement, care, I don’t know anything. And believe it or not, people in Arundel don’t do everything by waving their hands. Think how bored we’d all be.”
“I know you don’t all do that.” He checked to make sure no one was outside the shop and then said, “I don’t hate you. Not at all. I’m sorry I’ve been such an ass.” He met Erik’s gaze and searched it a moment. “I don’t like letting people in. I do so very rarely.”
“That’s fine. Few people are really worth it.” He reached out and took Lance’s right hand. “So it’s time I stop pretending I’m only here for the antiques.”
“I’ve never even been on a date with another fairie. And Marcus is my only close friend who isn’t mortal.”
“Why do you think it’s going to be so different?”
Lance tilted his head and squeezed Erik’s hand. “Are you serious? Just touching your hand has my heart racing. My mother’s powers are bound, so being close to her doesn’t affect me very much. I used to always feel a little heady all day when Marcus would come see us, and that was just from being around him. Ask Gil. I bet it shocked him the first time he touched your brother.”
“Lucian’s mentioned that actually. He said Gil was overwhelmed the first time they kissed.”
Lance tensed. Is he about to kiss me? He felt stupid being nervous considering some of the things he’d done with other people, but this kiss would be different. Just touching the man’s hand had his heart skipping beats. “Someone could walk in, ya know.”
“I know. Do you care?” Erik stepped closer to him, his wider frame crowding Lance a bit.
Lance looked at the door a long time, almost willing someone to come in. Erik took him by the chin and turned his head back slowly. Their lips were mere inches apart.
“I can wait, if you’re really as nervous as you seem to be. I’m interested in more than sex, but I think you already know that.” Erik backed off a bit, though he still caressed his fingers over Lance’s cheek. “I can understand you wanting to go slow. I’m willing to let you set the pace.”
Lance wanted to lean forward and press his lips to Erik’s. He also wanted to back away as quickly as possible to get away from the prince’s touch. These two impulses warred, and he simply stood there. “You remember the day we met?”
Erik dropped his hand from Lance’s face, but he still held Lance’s hand within his grasp. His brows furrowed, and then he said, “The first time I saw you was at your mother’s trial. You were about seven maybe. You sat in my sister’s lap because you were afraid. I was in the back of the room.”
Lance blinked as he tried to remember. He did recall Raven holding him. She’d been beautiful and soft spoken, and she hadn’t objected when he’d starting playing with her hair, which had reached well past her waist. That day it had been worked into one long braid, the strands decorated with beads and ribbons. He hadn’t known who she was until his mother came over and thanked her for letting Lance sit with her. “Yes, I remember Raven. She was very kind to me.”
“Do you remember the day we really met?”
Lance nodded. “1951. Italy. I’d broken my leg and—”
“Trying to save a kitten.” Erik smiled. “Yeah, I’d almost forgotten that day. You tended to hide whenever one of us came to visit Maggie. You did that until you were about thirty, if I remember right.”
“Hey, I’m a fairie. Long life and all. We can do the brooding teenager thing for decades, right?” he quipped.
Erik laughed. “Sometimes Raven and I still do it to this day. So hey, why not?” His expression became more wistful. “So is that the first time we spoke to each other?”
Lance nodded. “I think so.” He knew it was but for some reason didn’t want to admit that.
Erik inched closer again. “And what did you think of me?”
“I didn’t know what to think. I really didn’t give much thought to your looks or anything. You told me to be careful trying to impress the girls.”
“And was the girl next door grateful for your efforts?”
“Yeah, but she only had eyes for someone else. A match her parents arranged. And actually, it was her older brother I liked. Cesare.”
“And? It was 1951. I couldn’t say or do anything. I was fifteen. All I could do was jerk off thinking about him.”
Erik’s gaze darkened a bit. “I don’t remember exactly what you looked like, but you’re making me feel like a pervert now, trying to picture that.”
Lance jerked back and pulled his hand free, mortified at his own words. “I didn’t mean to say that. I wasn’t thinking.”
Erik shrugged. “No need to be embarrassed. It’s stupid to be ashamed of things like that.”
Though he tried to smile, Lance could hardly lift his gaze. “Been among mortals too long, I guess.”
“Well, only one way to take your mind off this embarrassment.” Erik snaked one arm around Lance’s waist and drew him close. His mouth descended quickly, and Lance gasped, giving him immediate access.
Lance’s entire body tingled, as if he was standing under the hot spray of a shower after coming in out of the freezing rain. He grasped the prince by his biceps and kissed him back. Just the feel of the man’s mouth against his was better than the last time he’d been fucked. Lance knew he was trembling, and he clung to Erik more as the kiss went on.
Erik drew back, and Lance actually stumbled a bit. Erik steadied him and said, “Someone’s coming. I better stop molesting you.”
“I can’t think straight. You deal with them.”
Erik chuckled. “Maybe they’ll just want to browse.” He pushed Lance toward the counter. “Sit if you need to.”
Lance grabbed at the counter and got to the stool behind it, glad for once that it had a back.