Romance Writers Weekly ~ First Romance ~ #LoveChatWrite


Happy Tuesday, hoppers! Today's question is, "Do you remember the first romance book you read? Tell us about it. Or, tell us about the book that made you want to write romance."

Wow. Yes. I do, in fact, remember my first romance--and the books that made me think, I need to read more books like this, but I can't find any. Guess I'd better start writing!

When I was eleven, we had a house fire that destroyed the second story of our house where my grandmother's bedroom, and the room I shared with my sister, were located. We lost everything. I remember neighbors dropping off boxes of household goods--including the most hideous clothes imaginable. Sorry, but as a pre-teen girl who'd just been shopping the week before and now no longer had her first grown-up suit that she'd been planning to wear on Easter Sunday, it was devastating. HOWEVER, proving that there's light at the end of every tunnel, someone also dropped off a box of romance novels (mostly historical) that no one else in the family had any use for. Including a shit-ton of Georgette Heyer. I. Was. Hooked. I remember reading Venetia, Frederica, The Grand Sophy, and quite a few others, but my first and probably my favorite was These Old Shades. With its unquenchable heroine, and powerful but bad tempered hero (I feel like my vampire overlord Conrad Quintano has a lot in common with the Duc of Avalon) not to mention fencing, horseback riding, trips to London and Paris, and storytelling used as a lethal weapon, I feel it altered the course of my life. And its influence continues to be seen in my writing today.

As for the book that probably got me started writing...actually, there were a few. I read (in quick succession) Jayne Ann Krentz' Absolutely Positively, Deep Waters, and Eclipse Bay, along with Jennifer Cruisie's Tell Me Lies, Crazy for You and Welcome to Temptation. I think that explains a lot about how my first series, set in Oberon, California, came to be.

Btw, even though the Oberon series is not currently available--it'll be back next year--you can get the prequel to the series, Such Fleeting Pleasures, right here, right now for FREE! (but only through the end of July): https://books.bookfunnel.com/goodfellow01/ug35uj72ik

Now, continue on to Leslie Hachtel's page to read about her first romance! And be sure to check out her book, The Dream Dancer.

The Dream Dancer

Lady Bryce has a gift. 

She can enter dreams and persuade her will onto others. 

It has served her well, especially in eliminating unsatisfactory suitors of her father's choosing.

But when she encounters Lord Rowland she wants him more than anything and decides to visit him in his sleep and make him desire her above all others. 

As a virgin, she has discovered a diary from a leman who describes seduction in detail.

When she has driven Rowland to the edge of longing, she extracts a promise that he will marry her. 

As time passes, Bryce and Rowland fall in love.

But will their love be able to conquer all once Bryce’s secret is revealed? Rowland must decide if he truly loves her or has been bewitched.

Get it here: https://amzn.to/3OHB0dw

Last Week! .99 cent Romance!

This promo is going away very soon. So, check it out now, while there's still time!

Today's my anniversary! So it's probably not surprising that I'm in a wedding-y mood. Which means you get to read all about my most wedding-y book ever. There's even a link to an excerpt, although it's from an earlier version of the book, before the venue was changed.

You can find the excerpt here: https://rhymeswithforeplay.blogspot.com/2017/07/going-to-chapel-excerpt.html AND if you're interested in learning the reason for the change and how everyone ended up in Oberon, you can read about that here: https://oberoncalifornia.blogspot.com/2019/06/wedding-bells-in-oberon.html

                                  Going To The Chapel

An Oberon/LA Love Lessons Crossover Book 1.0

In Waiting For The Big One, Gabby and Derek went from being friends to being lovers. Now, they're waiting for their "big day". But will it be the wedding of their dreams? Or a bride's worst nightmare? 

A quick trip to Gabby's hometown turns into the wedding from hell when Gabby and Derek are plagued by hailstorms, lost reservations, voracious goats, angry bees and enough family drama to fill a barn. 

Guess it's true what they say, "The course of true love never did run smooth." But can the happy couple hold it all together, or will their Big Day turn into a Big Mess? ​ 

***A slightly different version of this book was previously released as part of the Sapphire Falls Kindle World program.*** 

 Available now, only at Amazon:


600+ Books, One Day Only


600+ Free Ebooks! One Day Only!
No signups! No strings at all! Just a thank you to all readers for loving books as much as we do! We got Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Apple & Google! Stuff your e-reader now!


Romance Writers Weekly ~ Things We Do Well ~ #LoveChatWrite


This week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop we're being asked to "Name something in your writing that you do really well. It can be a trope or the way you write your heroes. Tell us why this works for you and why readers love it."

You know, this would be a whole lot easier to answer if I wasn't suffering from Imposter Syndrome. If that evil voice who lives in a closet in the back of my head weren't softly asking, "IS there anything in your writing that you do even moderately well?" I'll try to ignore it...

I guess I want to say I'm good at world-building. But, I think I might have been better at that once than I am right now. It takes a lot of focus and attention to keep all those plates spinning, to keep track of all the characters and how they've interacted with each other in the past, to remember all the rules you set up when you first started building your world, or writing your series. It's not that I think I've lost the ability, but life is definitely getting in the way of that at the moment. 

I think readers appreciate good world building because when the author has put in the work and done his or her job in terms of creating their fictional world, then there are less inconsistencies to distract them and detract from their experience. It's also one of the reasons I prefer to set my stories in fictional locations, and why I have a love/hate relationship with books that are set in places that I've lived in or loved visiting. I'm constantly comparing the characters' reactions with my own.

I also like writing people who aren't perfect. Heroes--and heroines, too--who are flawed or wounded but who still manage to come through when needed. I think there are two parts to this. I love showing that even imperfect people can find (and be worthy of) true love. And I love writing main characters who are madly in love with the man/woman/people with whom they're in a relationship. I think the reason readers love that is because we all (most?) see ourselves as less than perfect so it's comforting to be shown examples (even fictional ones) of people just like us (or even WORSE!) being loved just as they are.

Anyway, that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Now hop over to A.S. Fenichel's page and learn about what she does well. And be sure to check out her returning series, The Forever Brides:

The Forever Brides are coming back on August 9 with pretty new covers. PreOrder them now if you missed them the first time around. 

These three women will settle for nothing less than the greatest love, but getting their HEAs might lead to some trouble.

PreOrder the series here:


You won't want to miss the biggest and best "fill your kindle" event of the summer! 

Happening this Thursday, June 23 for ONE day only!




OAK by PG Forte

Twice each year, Aine Murphy ventures into the woods to hold ceremonies to honor the Oak King and the Holly King, never dreaming these Lords of the Forest could be anything more than myth. When the legends spring to life in front of her, how can she help but fall for the sexy demi-gods she's loved all her life? 

 From midwinter to midsummer, Fionn O'Dair rules the Greenworld as the Oak King--a role he feels is beyond his abilities, and one that dooms him to a loveless future, forever craving the one man he can never allow himself to have. How can he resist what Aine offers--the sweet devotion that soothes his aching soul, and the slim chance to live a "normal" life as her husband, if only for half a year? Holly King 

Kieran Mac Cuilenn never desired a human lover--until now. Seeing Fionn and Aine together fills him with longing for the love he threw away and awakens feelings he thought he'd buried with the last Oak King. Is there enough magic in the solstice to correct the mistakes he made years ago? Or is he doomed to be forever left out in the cold?

Previously published as The Oak King



Romance Writers Weekly ~ Fictional Relationships ~ #LoveChatWrite


Welcome to this week's Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop! This week's question asks us to, "Compare the relationship with the characters in your book with real life relationships. How do they differ and how are they the same?"

Umm...I'm assuming this means how do the relationships that I make up between my characters compare to actual relationships between actual people. Otherwise, it's asking how my relationships with my characters differ to my relationships with real people and all I can say is, A. First of all, I've never actually killed anyone in real life and B. my characters occasionally do what I want them to do, whereas in real life THAT NEVER HAPPENS.

So let's assume the first interpretation. And that's a really good question and one I've actually been obsessing over during the writing of my current WIP, Funnel of Love, because it has seemed to me that my characters really aren't acting like real people at all. This may be imposter syndrome at work, but they talk to each other--well, some do. Others have not spoken to each other in years. But the characters who do talk seem to communicate a little better than actual people. Although it's possible that most of the people I know are just bad at communication.

Also, their conversations have structure--painstakingly crafted structure that I agonize over. Most people I know say whatever comes into their heads. Or, it's possible that far too much of my conversations lately have been with my four year old grandson and his friends. Although, really, can one ever converse too much with such delightful people? I think not. 

But I do suspect it's not been great for my writing.

I think while my characters tend to be more candid with each other, they also tend to be less impulsive--well maybe not Rocky and Stephanie. I'd say they're outliers in that regard. 

All in all, I'd say the biggest difference is that the length of time that fictional characters hold grudges and nurse emotional injuries is completely a function of plot. The reason truth is stranger than fiction is that fiction has an identifiable shape to it. Writers are magicians and every work of fiction involves sleight of hand. When done correctly, we create characters that appear to resemble real people, when in reality they're no more than caricatures.

Now, hop on over to Leslie Hachtel's page and see what she has to say about character relationships! And also check out her book Once Upon a Tablecloth

Nick Jordan acquires failing restaurants, then makes them prosperous. But when Lily Mercer calls him for help, he didn't count on falling in love. Or that someone wants to kill her.

And with so many obstacles and threats, can she survive? Can their love?

Buy here now: https://amzn.to/3NMVRMr

Last Day for this promo! .99 cent eBook Sale! All genres. Check it out here: https://books.bookfunnel.com/99bookssale/op34d5d3oh

 Atlas Beach is experiencing a retail renaissance—and Carly Meyer is determined to be part of it. But she and her sandwich shop, The Lunch Box, are struggling to stay afloat. 

 Luckily, help is on the way thanks to the Chamber of Commerce’s innovative mentoring program—partnering successful Atlas Beach business owners with some of the newer start-ups. Too bad the mentor assigned to her is the delectable—and highly annoying—Tino DiLuca. 

 Tino knows exactly what’s been hurting Carly’s business and—exactly how to fix it. But his number one solution, changing the name of her signature sandwich, is the one thing she’s not prepared to do.


Free Books with Antho Purchase!


⭐🎉 Unreal Giftaway Deal! ⭐🔥 
Get the #1 Bestseller in Later in Life Romances for only $3.99 and receive SEVEN free stories! 

A SEASON FOR LOVE is a limited-edition collection of thirteen fiery and passionate contemporary romances featuring characters in their 40’s, 50’s and beyond. These authors don’t close the bedroom door on the good stuff, so be prepared to get hot and bothered in the best of ways. After all, lust has no age limit! Claim your free reads by sending proof of purchase to cipgaw3@gmail.com

My freebie in this collection is Waiting for the Big One, which is part of my LA Love Lessons trilogy. The hero of this friends to lovers story is Derek Novello (he's also the hero of Going To The Chapel, an Oberon/LA Love Lessons crossover novella). Derek plays a small but pivotal role in my story Let Me Count the Ways, which is currently available ONLY in A Season for Love

Here's an excerpt from Let Me Count the Ways, to give you an idea...

Yoga is not easy, so the Bhagavad Gita warns, for those whose minds are not subdued. But I can tell you, it’s pretty damn hard for any of us. Especially after forty. 

I suppose I shouldn’t say such things. After all, Yoga did save my life. I turned to it in much the same way Tina turned to Buddhism after Ike. Married to a cruel, emotionally distant man, my career, my health, my looks, my self-esteem had all hit the skids. Yoga offered me a way out, a way back. It offered sanity, peace of mind, discipline, and the courage I needed to pick myself up and turn my life around. 

That’s why I used the money I got in my divorce settlement to open The Body Electric. I wanted to give something back, to share the blessings I’d received, to support myself by working at something I could still believe in. Still, as the Gita says, it’s not easy. Of course, the same can be said of pretty much anything; business, relationships, life itself. There are days, and today was definitely one of them, when it all seems damn near impossible. 

Standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling smoked glass that lined one entire wall of my second-floor office, I watched the class working out in the studio below me. A dozen and a half youthful beauties—mostly female—twisted their bodies into pretzels. Willingly. Eagerly. Effortlessly. 

The first two were something I could completely understand and totally empathize with, given that their instructor was Derek Novello. Derek has some of the most beautiful musculature I’ve ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. What woman wouldn’t be eager to give her all for a piece of that? But the effortless part—now, that’s where they had me beat. That’s what had me feeling every last year of my age today. 

How many years, you wonder? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but there are some things I just don’t share. Age is nothing but a number, you know, and a girl’s entitled to keep a few secrets. 

Derek is the most popular teacher we have here, which is saying rather a lot. Especially when you consider that his classes are also among the hardest we offer. He’s tough enough to challenge the men to push themselves to their limits, charming enough to make the women want to melt—into those same willing pretzels I’ve mentioned. 

Tireless, talented, passionate, intense. Derek brings everything he has to his teaching. For almost five months, he brought most of it to our lovemaking, too. All but his heart. That, I suppose, was par for the course, and frankly I wasn’t expecting anything more. These older woman/younger man things rarely last long and are almost never about love. I knew the moment it was over. Probably before he did. I could tell right away that Derek’s heart had been lost to a pretty blonde pretzel. 

Still, I really can’t complain. I’ve been dumped before, but never so discreetly. To the casual observer I’m sure it appeared that I’d tired of him, rather than the other way around. I think even the pretzel was confused. And, in the months since our affair ended, I’d discovered another reason to be thankful. I no longer have to take even one of his classes. I can’t tell you what a relief that’s been! 

At least I still look fit, I thought, taking a step back so that I could see my reflection in the glass. I sucked in my tummy, tucked in my buns, pivoted from side to side. “Not bad,” I murmured as I thrust back my shoulders and studied my breasts, wondering how much longer I could get away without having them lifted. “But you’re not what you used to be, that’s for sure.” Still, things could be worse, and no doubt they will be, in time. 

“Nonsense,” a male voice insisted from somewhere behind me. “You’re as beautiful as ever.” I spun around, startled to find Mike Sherman watching from the doorway—which just goes to show you the kind of funk I’d been in all day. I’d totally forgotten his standing, bi-monthly appointment to go over the books, three p.m. every other Thursday. “Sorry,” he mumbled, his face flaming. “I didn’t mean to intrude.” 

“Don’t be silly.” Calling on all my training to hide my own embarrassment, I rolled my eyes and grimaced slightly. “Actors, you know.” I waved my hand in a negligent gesture as I seated myself—not in my chair but on the edge of my desk—where my crossed legs would appear to their best advantage. “We’re always so focused on appearances.” And ain’t that the truth? 

“Well, you have to be, don’t you? The same way singers have to take care of their voices.” He looked so sincere as he said it too. As if he really might mean it. 

“What a nice way of putting it.” I beamed at him as he crossed the room to his own desk. “How are things with you, Mike? How’s your day going?” 

He didn’t answer right away. A small smile played over his lips as he slid his briefcase beneath the desk and seated himself. Then he glanced up at me, his eyes twinkling. “It’s always a good day when I know I’m going to see you, Claire. Don’t you know that?” 

“Flatterer.” Laughing, I leaned forward a little, just enough to flash some cleavage in his direction. Call it a reward, if you will. “You have all the right answers today, don’t you?” 

If they ever make a movie of my life, no doubt they’ll get someone like Danny DeVito to play the part of Mike, which will be a shame. Don’t get me wrong, I think Danny is a fine actor and he’s got the bald head, the soulful brown eyes and the teddy bear physique the part calls for. He’ll do a fine job of catching the nervous, slightly awkward exuberance Mike exhibited when we first met. But there’s so much more to the role than that. 

For starters, Mike is big. Brian Denehy big. With Denehy’s surprising gracefulness—when he’s not acting all nervous. Mike, I mean. Then there’s his impeccably trimmed beard, the wicked twinkle in his eye and his rare and wondrous smile, all of which bring Sean Connery to mind. 

But, even though Sean would be a dream to work with, if I were casting for the part I’d go for something different. I’d pick someone like a young James Earl Jones, for example. For his eyes and his smile and his size. For his astonishing ability to shift from fearful to fierce, from stern to boyish, from gentle to regal to commanding to jovial—or back again, or all at once. But, more than anything else, for his voice. For that deep, dark, delicious river of sound that could never be anything but male and can’t help but leave you wondering, why all the fuss about Tenors? 

“It doesn’t count as flattery if it’s fact,” Mike replied in that lovely, low rumble of his. 

“Oh, fact, is it?” I couldn’t help but smile as I recalled my recent conversation with Dave, my lawyer, over tapas and drinks. Dave had been pleased I’d taken his advice and gone to see Mike, but he’d seemed shocked by the deal we’d worked out... 

“He’s handling it himself?” Dave asked, looking up from his seared tuna, clearly having trouble coming to grips with the idea. “Didn’t he assign you to one of the people who works for him? You don’t have to bring your paperwork there? He just shows up at your office—himself—every month?” 

“No, twice a month,” I corrected, nibbling at the celery stalk that had come in my michelada. “Why? Isn’t that what you told me to do—to hire someone reputable? Someone I could trust? You said he was the best.” 

“I know I did, but, damn it, Claire, he doesn’t even do that for me anymore, and I was one of his very first clients! How much is he charging you, anyway?” 

Surprised, I told him. “Oh, hell, no,” Dave replied, sounding almost insulted. “That’s nothing!” 

I sipped my drink and refrained from pointing out that, in my current financial state, it hadn’t seemed quite like nothing to me. Then again, neither had Dave’s fees. You get what you pay for, I suppose. 

Dave’s gaze had turned speculative. If he were anyone else, I know exactly what he’d have been thinking—that I must be giving Mike some additional form of compensation. Entirely too many people still confuse the terms ‘actress’ and ‘prostitute’. 

“He’s a fan, Dave,” I tried to explain. “It’s not that uncommon.” Although, these days, I’m afraid it really is. 

But Dave had his own ideas. “You know what I think it is? He probably knows your business is too small to afford his usual rates yet. Probably he figures he can afford to give you a break because he’s banking on the fact he can use your name to attract other Hollywood types.” 

“Well, that would be foolish,” I sighed. I knew just how far my name would take him in Hollywood, even if Dave didn’t. It wouldn’t even take him as far as it takes me. Which is close to nowhere anymore. “Maybe he’s just being nice.” 

“Nice is no way to stay in business,” Dave grumbled, which only made me laugh because Dave is one of the nicest people I know. “He probably doesn’t want to pay one of his employees to work on an account he’s not making any money on. I bet that’s why he’s doing it himself.” 

“I’m sure you’re right,” I murmured. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that there’s no arguing with a man who’s made up his mind about something. So why bother trying? Reason and logic are no match for sheer, pig-headed, male determination. And, when it turns out you were right all along, that’ll just prove to him that you’re a bitch. Directors are especially good at making that connection. 

“It is,” Mike insisted now. “Absolutely fact.” And I wasn’t about to argue with him, either. Not just because he’s a man. Not just because I didn’t want him to re-think the great deal he was giving me, or assign my account to someone else. No, I had an even better reason than those. 

Mike’s a fan, no matter that Dave doesn’t see it that way, and you never, ever argue with your fans. That’s rule number one of being a celebrity. Fans are the lifeblood of our business. They’re why we do what we do. They’re the customer. They’re always right. And you never want to run the risk of their turning into Kathy Bates


Romance Writers Weekly ~ 5 Facts about my WIP ~ #LoveChatWrite


This week on the Romance Writers Weekly Blog Hop, Andie Fenichel (whose blog you should be coming from) has asked us to, "Share 5 facts about your latest book or book in progress."

My current Work in Progress is Funnel of Love, which is the sequel to The Name Game, so these are going to be facts about both those books:

1. I've been planning these stories for several years, ever since I began working on Never Have I Ever. I knew even then that I was going to have to redeem Kristy's brothers's reputations. And the only way to do that, of course, was to give them their own books.

2. The DiLuca brothers' names both have special significance to me. Tino was my godfather's name (very Italian). While Tino can be a name on its own, it can also be a diminutive of many other names--Santino, Martino, Valentino. BUT in this case, both Tino and his sister Kristy were named after their mother, Cristina. Rocky, of course, was named after his father.

3. Speaking of Rocco, the Feast of St. Rocco was a big festival in my home town while I was growing up. It's also where I went on one of my very first dates with my husband. The festival food I most looked forward to eating there was zeppole, which are Italian doughnuts and not all that dissimilar to funnel cakes.*

4. The brunch scene took FOREVER to write, for some reason. Some reason that I'm sure had absolutely nothing to do with the numbers of brunches I attended, or brunch drinks I imbibed, during the writing of said scene. All for the sake of research, of course. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

5. After years of writing mostly vampires, I was thrilled to be writing books that revolved largely around food again. Maybe a little too thrilled. Yes, the characters in my Sandwich Shop book make and eat sandwiches, but they also spend a lot of time eating pizza and cooking breakfast. And the characters in my Cupcake Shop book sample brunch dishes, eat pizza (again), visit a farmers' market, and spend a lot of time making cookies and wedding cakes--on top of the cupcakes. I have a book in the works that's set in a coffee shop--and that feature's the DiLucas' cousin, Giada. God only knows what those characters will end up eating. But New Jersey is the home of the foodie, so it's only to be expected, I suppose.

* Bonus fun fact! The Tunnel of Love was always my favorite boardwalk ride. So, really, this entire book is a love letter to my Jersey Girl childhood.

Now, hop on over to Brenda Margriet's page to learn more about what she's working on! And check out her new book, LOVING BETWEEN THE LINES (Silverberry Seduction #2). 

A one-night stand neither will forget. She wanted a final fling before choosing science to make her a single mom. He needed an escape from the regret grinding him into dust. Her baby isn’t his…but maybe family is more than DNA.

Pre Order Now for $2.99 Available on Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo 

Release Date July 15

Are you on KISS? If so, be sure to check out their LGBT History Month Shelf. My story, Ashes of the Day is featured there until the 9th. Read more about that HERE.

Damian and Conrad's road has been a rocky one, and Damian is struggling to trust in the relationship he and Conrad now share -- what seems like a perfect love. After all, it's fallen apart before, why couldn't it do the same again? 

Secrecy and conflict within the nest continues to grow, and Georgia's hold on the deadly secret she carries begins to erode. What she hides threatens their entire species...

Rocco DiLuca, owner of DiLuca’s Italian Bakery, is not a happy camper. He’s just found out that his baby sister is getting married—to his former best friend—and he's not invited. But that's not even the worst part. They’ve hired someone else to make their wedding cake! 

Stephanie Sands thinks the Chamber of Commerce’s mentorship program is a great idea! She’s not ashamed to admit that her boutique bakery, Sugar Kink, isn't quite making it. Yet. But the mentor she's been assigned, Rocky D, isn’t just traditional, he’s positively medieval. It’s no wonder his sister wants nothing to do with him! 

Can the two bakers put aside their differences (and the insane attraction they feel for each other) and learn to work together? Or will their dreams fall as flat as a failed souffle? 

Buy Link:  https://books2read.com/u/mvoerj


Ashes of the Day on KISS!


So I just found out that Kiss is featuring Ashes of the Day on their LGBT History Month Seasonal Shelf from today until the 9th. You can check it out HERE

BLURB:  Everybody has secrets...but some have the ability to destroy them all. 

 Damian and Conrad's road has been a rocky one, and Damian is struggling to trust in the relationship he and Conrad now share -- what seems like a perfect love. After all, it's fallen apart before, why couldn't it do the same again? 

Secrecy and conflict within the nest continues to grow, and Georgia's hold on the deadly secret she carries begins to erode. What she hides threatens their entire species...


December 31, 1999

New Year’s Eve

Damian leaned against the railing of the second-floor balcony and cast a jaded eye over the crowded ballroom below. The decorations were a tad overdone, in his opinion. Gaudy gold-and-silver Mylar festooned every surface—the bar, the tables, even the walls. The glare all but blinded him. Overhead, a billowing mass of champagne- and platinum-colored balloons were tethered to the ceiling, awaiting the stroke of midnight, when they’d be released. The last day of the year had dwindled down to the final hour. Y2K was on the verge, that ticking time bomb that would shortly send the world hurtling back toward the dark ages…or not.

Either way, Damian could not find it in himself to be concerned, or even very interested, in the fate of the world. The new millennium, as most people counted it, was about to begin. For the time being, it was still 1999 and the throng of people gathered on the hotel dance floor was certainly partying like it.

Exhibiting far more enthusiasm than skill, the crowd sang loudly along with Prince’s signature anthem as they bounced and gyrated to the music. The once-familiar song struck a bittersweet chord in Damian’s heart and he closed his eyes as nostalgia overwhelmed him. How many times had he danced to this same record back when it was first popular? He didn’t feel even remotely like dancing tonight. Hadn’t felt like dancing in years.

Memories rose in his mind of a supple young body pressed tight against his own, warming his back, more often than not. He remembered arms holding him possessively close, sweet lips dropping kisses all along his cheek, his neck, his shoulder…

He remembered the feel of strong hands splayed on his hips, guiding him as they moved together, thrusting, grinding, taunting each other with graphic reminders of everything they’d be doing together later in bed.

Oh, how he longed to feel that way again, careless and wanton, desired, loved. Oh, how he longed to hear that sexy voice whispering in his ear.To feel those muscular arms encircling his waist or his neck, or wrapped around his shoulders.To see that smile, hear that laugh, just one more time.

Knowing those wishes would never come true, that those days of joy and innocence were lost to him, gone for good, never to return, did nothing to improve his mood.

Folding his arms across his chest, he surreptitiously touched the small gold rings with which his nipples had been pierced. The rings had been Paul’s originally, a final gift of sorts. Since he was Vampire, the pain had been mild and fleeting. The tiny wounds had healed almost instantly and had done nothing to ease the heavy sense of loss that weighed against his chest. Perhaps if the physical pain had been more intense, more prolonged, more on par with his emotional pain, it might have helped distract him from his inner turmoil. As it was, all he’d had to make do with was Conrad’s anger. While that was certainly painful to endure, it didn’t so much detract from Damian’s distress as add to it.


“Slaves were once made to wear such things,” Conrad had complained when he learned what Damian had done. “Is that your wish?To be thought of as a slave now? Is that how you want people to think of you? Is it how you want them to think of me?”

¡Ay, puñeta!” Damian had snarled, baring his teeth and shocking himself with his own boldness. “Déjate de leches. Tell me, who are these people about whom you’re so concerned? And what has any of it to do with you? Are the rings yours? Did you force me to wear them? No! So why should you have a say in this at all? Why do you even care what I do?” It was not his usual habit to disregard his sire’s wishes so recklessly or to respond so rudely to his complaints. No one spoke to Conrad in that fashion. No one without a pronounced deathwish, that is.

Is that what it’s come to?Damian wondered. Am I so weary of drawing breath I’m looking to end it all?Perhaps he was.

“Silence,” Conrad commanded. “You go too far. Have you forgotten who I am that you dare speak to me in this manner? Are you trying to make me lose my temper?”

Damian looked away. For all that a shudder ran through him when he contemplated the likely result of Conrad’s losing his temper, he still couldn’t honestly say no, that wasn’t exactly what he was trying to do. He needed something, didn’t he? Needed something drastic and extreme, something strong enough to pull him out of the abyss of grief he’d fallen into. Anything was preferable to what he was feeling now.

“Everything you do concerns me,” Conrad said after a moment, his voice lower but no less intense. “Don’t ever think otherwise. You’re a part of me, Damian, a part of my family, blood of my blood. Nothing will ever change that. And I will always have a say. Always.”

And that, Damian thought, was precisely where the problem lay. It was obvious that what Conrad objected to most of all was the idea of someone else’s “mark” being made visible on Damian’s body—a body Conrad still thought of as belonging to him, however little he wanted anything to do with it anymore.

Yes, the small bits of metal would last for centuries—another of Conrad’s complaints, and far more valid than the rest, in that at least it was true. They were as permanent a reminder of Paul as any Damian could think of, something he would carry with him wherever he went, something he could keep symbolically close to his heart for potentially the rest of his life. But what right had Conrad to rage about that either? None at all. Not when he himself had two living, breathing vampire children to remind him of his last lover. As a bequest, they had no equal. As a memorial, nothing else could come close. Of that Damian had no doubts whatsoever. They were his one saving grace, the only things that made his life worth living…


“A penny for your thoughts,” Conrad said, appearing at Damian’s elbow with two glasses of champagne in hand.

Damian started. As his mind returned to the present, the first thing that struck him was that the same song was playing—whether again or still he didn’t know. Memories washed over him once more and his heart twisted in grief. How was it the years could flash by, while the minutes lagged? Time was cruel, fickle, wearisome. How much more could he bear before it broke him?

“What’s wrong? Is one penny not enough? Perhaps you’re holding out for more?”

“What are you talking about?” Damian snapped. “More what?”

Conrad frowned. “Why must you scowl at me in that fashion? I did not invent the phrase and I’m quite sure I used it correctly. If you think I meant to imply your thoughts were not worth very much, I assure you you’re mistaken. I merely intended to inquire what was on your mind.”

Damian sighed. “Of course. I beg your pardon. Your use of the vernacular is exemplary. But I have nothing whatsoever on my mind—not even a penny’s worth.” He waved at the dance floor. “I was merely observing the crowd.”

“Ah.” A pleased smile curved Conrad’s lips. “Getting hungry, are we? Good. I’m pleased to hear your appetite’s returning.”

“No, I’m not particularly hungry.” There was only one taste Damian was craving, and as he had virtually no chance of satisfying that craving… “It all seems somewhat pointless, I’m afraid.”

Conrad’s smile disappeared. “Here,” he said, handing Damian one of the glasses. “Take this, at least. You look as though you could use something.”

“Thank you.” Damian took the glass and looked at it with distaste. Here was something else he’d felt no inclination for in well over a decade. “But I’m not, as they say, in the mood for it.”

“Hold onto it just the same,” Conrad said when Damian attempted to give him back the glass. “You’d do well to keep up appearances.” He studied him for a moment then asked, “Damian…you would tell me if there was anything you needed, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course,” Damian replied dutifully, lying again because what was the point of anything else? The truth wouldn’t do either of them a damn bit of good. 

Find more of the series  here: