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THE GREATEST RISK – A Kristen Ashley Review & Chapter Reveal

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It’s passionate and powerful; suspenseful and seductive. Kristen Ashley’s finale of the Honey series is an endless list of beautiful adjectives that add up to an explosive 5 star read. Sixx, a renowned Domme in the Honey Club, has had her eyes on Stellan for years. Ever the ice queen, Sixx has never approached or dared to risk anything more than a furtive glance. Her main concern? He’s a Dom; and two dominant personalities combined with her dangerous past could never work. So she watches and waits as Stellan seems to move about life without her.

Stellan’s eyed the beautifully intriguing Sixx for longer than she could imagine. After waiting years for her to make a move he decides that only another Dom is willing to crack the shell of this mysterious femma fatale. What Stellan hadn’t planned on was not only culling the dominatrix but releasing the submissive inside. Our surprising little Sixx is a Switch; a rarity in the BDSM world. Now Stellan has to love the woman in control and woman who craves it. But is Sixx willing to take the greatest Risk?

In KA’s distinctive voice, I found a new hero within Sixx. Much like past heroes in her romances, Sixx has the attitude of a hero who doesn’t shy from what must be done yet doesn’t find themselves worthy of happiness or true love. Sixx is a persona created by our heroine to handle the harsh reality of the world and to shield herself from that which cold break her heart. But KA’s genius doesn’t allow for Sixx to be unnecessary or a skin that must be shed to find the true woman underneath. No, both the woman and the warrior are parts of Sixx that Stellan (and Sixx and readers alike) has to learn to love. There’s a beauty to her fragmented idea of self. Sixx doesn’t need to be fixed, she needs to be discovered, by others and herself.

In addition to our final Honey couple, KA dives into more worlds of the exotic and risque. With a wondrous gift from Stellan we get privilege to a warrior’s pit. And it Sixx’s dangerous world we dive deeper into the other clubs of BDSM and meet one of the hottest trios to ever grace romance pages (Seriously it was some of the hottest scenes I’ve ever read…EVER). The raw emotion throughout the entire novel is the number one reason why this is an instant addition to my top reads. Grab a glass of wine and some tissues because its about to get messy at the Honey Club.

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A woman unable to connect, struggling to hide another part of her.

A man burning to learn her truth, and make her whole.

Through explosive passion and deep exploration, they are about to take the greatest risk of all.

But will they be able to take that leap, and come out on the other side together?

In this next passionate novel in the Honey series, New York Times bestselling author Kristen Ashley delivers a stunningly romantic and intensely sexy novel that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

 

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one

Let’s Go

SIXX

Present day …

Sixx wandered the halls of the Bee’s Honey for absolutely no purpose except to make the boys in the booth watching the cameras that monitored the action in the club think she was taking in the scene.

Instead, she was biding time to go into the Dom Lounge to get what she’d stashed in her locker.

She was over it.

Over the scene.

Over the wait.

Done.

The Honey had now become a place she could hang and have a drink, connect with some friends if she was in the mood, get some of her kink by watching, and torture herself being around Stellan.

It was also where she stashed something if she had it to stash. This was because the Honey had surveillance and security that rivaled that of the White House. If a person wasn’t supposed to be there, they didn’t get in there. The end.

She’d been back in Phoenix now for a while.

Months.

And although she’d put on a variety of shows, bided her time, put herself out there, made herself available, Stellan hadn’t thrown down the gauntlet.

She sure as hell wasn’t making the first move.

Thus that first move wasn’t going to be made.

So be it.

She hadn’t expected much and she sure got that.

And she had to admit, part of her was relieved (a large part).

Because if he took a shot, what then?

Could she protect him from all that was her?

Doubtful.

More like impossible.

She never had with anyone who mattered, not that she’d had many in her life who mattered.

And Stellan absolutely did not deserve to have to deal with all that could befall anyone who got close to Sixx.

Tonight was different, though.

Tonight, she wanted done with the extracurricular activity she was engaged in.

Also tonight she roamed the halls knowing Stellan was there, he’d taken a room, and he’d gone off his normal modus operandi.

He’d selected a female sub.

He’d also selected a male.

If in a mood, though that mood was always rare, he’d pick more than one sub.

But they were always females.

Sixx had a feeling she knew why he’d done this. She had Google alerts set up, and she’d seen it.

That it being that it was announced to the media that day that the two-and-a-half-month marriage of Andreas Lange and his pretty-much-child bride Priscilla was done. Although the press was asked to leave the couple alone in this trying time, it was nevertheless reported that Andreas might often think with his dick and had apparent self-esteem issues that drove him to having a pretty young thing dripping off his arm, but when it counted, he used his other head. The one with an actual brain in it.

In other words, he had a reported ironclad prenuptial agreement, and the soon-to-be-again Ms. Newton would walk away with the engagement ring he gave her, any gifts she’d acquired during their relationship and nothing else.

Nothing else.

Not even a settlement.

She was young, and Sixx knew that young didn’t make you stupid, it just made you young, naïve, and perhaps with the beauty that girl had, overconfident. Thus she probably thought her golden looks mingled with a twenty-two-year-old pussy would buy her a lot more time to get a lot more gifts.

Sadly, she’d been wrong.

Sixx could not know how this news affected Stellan. Although they had exchanged a variety of words since she’d been home, they’d both been at a few get-togethers where he didn’t avoid her, but he didn’t pursue her, they’d caught each other’s eyes on a number of occasions; and she’d noted him watching her work with her submissives, as he’d noted her doing the same with his, they had not even resurrected the loose but friendly relationship they’d had before she’d left.

She put it down to him still smarting from Leigh’s falling in love with another man.

That said, even if Leigh had, it appeared that not much had changed between Stellan and Amélie. Although chilly between them when Sixx got back, that had thawed, and they were as sociable and close as they ever had been. And it was clear Stellan liked Olly, Amélie’s enormous, gorgeous stallion.

Then again, everyone liked Olly. It was impossible not to like the guy. He was just that guy who had it all and not simply the fact he was so easy to look at.

He adored Leigh, for one. Utterly. And he did not hide it in the slightest.

But he was outgoing, funny, solid. If you were moving house and you needed an extra pair of hands, he was there. If you had a nephew (or niece) who wanted to be a firefighter (which Olly was), he’d take the kid through his station and introduce him to all the guys. If you were at a cookout with him and running low on your drink, you found your glass slid out of your hand and another one put in it without even having to ask.

Even Stellan, wanting Amélie for as long as he did, couldn’t dislike the guy.

So they’d become friends.

And Sixx had watched.

That was one of the two things she’d done since being back.

In a halfhearted attempt to get his attention (and keep Aryas off her back), she played.

And she watched.

Which was what she was on a mission to do now before she hit the Dom Lounge to prepare to complete her other mission.

As she wandered, Sixx didn’t spend time watching Mira and Trey in their room.

It was tough watching Mira work now that she had a sub and they were together together. In other words, in love. Mira was good at what she did, and Trey liked what his Mistress gave him, but that look of adoration on her face while she was doing it …

Sixx just couldn’t deal with it.

This was also why she avoided Leigh and Olly when they were at play (and more recently, also when they weren’t because the connection they had between them just didn’t stop).

Right then they weren’t in a playroom. They were still in the bar, holding court, The Stallion Alpha Sub King and his Dominatrix Queen, as usual reigning supreme over the club and enjoying it before they moved to a room to enjoy each other.

They were actually worse to watch than Trey and Mira, they were so beautiful together. They were like watching dancers, so perfectly in sync, expressive, at one with each other and their own bodies. The sequence practiced, even if it was always different, it was so graceful it was sublime.

Putting this out of her mind, Sixx moved on her black platform pumps to the back hall full of playrooms, noting, and not surprised, that Aryas’s red room was shuttered away from view. The blackout blinds to that room were scarlet, not black like all the others, thus its name.

It was his own personal playroom if he was in town. And he was. And he had one of his babies in there, working her.

Sixx didn’t need to watch that, although she would have. She’d not only seen Aryas at play, he’d worked her because he’d trained her. He showed her how to be who she was. He introduced her to other Dommes to teach her the things he could not. And he’d played with her in his sessions in which she was required to sub so she could understand the headspace her own subs had to get in to serve her.

She had been surprised she’d liked it.

She’d been freaked she’d liked it so much.

Too much.

Aryas had handled that too for her—amazingly. Which meant he’d helped her handle it.

And then she’d locked it away.

However as she bypassed his room, she felt her lips thin that he was back there with one of his babies and not with the woman he should be with.

At first when Sixx arrived back in Phoenix, he’d let things lie.

Now that months had passed, he was getting up in her face about making a move on Stellan.

Fortunately, she was able to fight back since he wouldn’t make a move on Mistress Talia.

Which was where Sixx went and where she stopped to watch, also not surprised that Talia was working a sub mostly because those two circled each other just this way. If Talia took a sub and he caught it, Aryas wasn’t too far from taking his own. If Aryas took one and Talia caught it, she hustled a sub into a playroom.

Retaliation.

As Sixx watched Talia work a sub named Bryan, definitely a favored and oft-used toy of hers, she got worried.

In a heartbeat, Bryan would take things further with his tall, slender, lithe, beautiful, mocha-skinned, tawny-fro’ed Mistress, and not just because he seriously got off on the way she worked him.

She wasn’t just beautiful and had a serious style going on in and out of a playroom. She was funny, quick-witted, smart-mouthed, loyal and very sweet. And Sixx had witnessed her aftercare of Bryan when she got down to serious business with him, and even knowing Talia’s heart was with Aryas, her head and attention was with Bryan in a way he could mistake the fact that he didn’t have a place in that particular vital organ.

Sixx considered having a word with the Mistress.

She did that, and then she decided instead to have a word with Leigh so Leigh would have a word. Amélie was probably already thinking of doing it. She wasn’t Queen Bee just because she rocked a playroom, and she took her unofficial role seriously.

But if Sixx had a word, she might light a fire, and perhaps if they double-teamed Aryas and Talia, they could get something going.

Before hitting the Dom Lounge, she found her feet taking her one last place.

At first, she positioned herself carefully in order to be able to process what she might see and at the same time be out of his line of sight because he always broke scene to catch her eyes if he saw her at the windows. And the possibility of seeing him working a male sub was something she wanted without him breaking scene.

This eye contact, at first, she’d found terrifying, because it was encouraging. It was rare a Dom working would do that unless he was working directly with another Dom.

When months passed and nothing came of it, Sixx stopped finding it terrifying or encouraging and just found it weird.

There was no invitation in his gaze. No challenge issued. No warmth or comradeship or humor or anything.

He’d just catch her gaze and hold it for as long as it took for her to break it. Even if he was physically inside one of his subs, he’d thrust while simply looking at Sixx, remote and disengaged, from her and his sub, until Sixx herself broke the contact and his attention went back to his sub.

But if he was working a male, especially inside one, this she’d want to see. Man-on-man was a thing of hers, and since she’d returned to Phoenix, she’d indulged in that, always taking multiple submissives, they were always male, and she’d call the shots to get that fix.

Seeing Stellan engaged in something like this would probably make her orgasm right there in the hall. Hell, just thinking about it got her wet.

Then again, although this would be an extraordinary sight to see, Sixx didn’t figure it would take much to do that. In all her play since she’d come back, she had not once let a single sub touch her, she’d rarely touched them, and she hadn’t had that first orgasm, not in play, not with some random partner she picked up out in the vanilla world (because she hadn’t picked anyone up), not even at her own hand.

But as she hesitated at the edge of one of the rooms Stellan favored, the silhouette and blackout blinds up like he normally played it, she didn’t even see Stellan.

The female was working the male, and that work was inspired, but there was no Stellan.

Sixx took one step along the hall.

Another.

And there he was, still in his trousers and dress shirt, but the suit jacket was thrown over the back of the leather club chair he was sitting in. He had his long legs crossed, and he was slanted to the side, elbow on the arm of the chair, head propped up in his hand where it held his square jaw at his knuckles with his forefinger extended along his chiseled cheek.

She drew in a breath at the bored expression on his arrestingly beautiful face, that expression running deep into his dark blue eyes.

He did not look annoyed, upset, or distracted, as news of his father acquiring then disposing of another wife in a matter of months might make him.

He didn’t look anything, certainly not like he was in a room where sweet and dirty sex acts were being performed at his command by the slaves he’d chosen for the evening.

He looked like he was in a meeting that he couldn’t wait to get out of.

Then suddenly, his gaze came to her.

He didn’t move, didn’t lift his head, just swept his eyes straight to her, not like he’d noticed her standing there, like he’d sensed she was there.

His expression didn’t change. Neither did his position.

He stared her right in the eyes, pinning her to the spot, giving her nothing except his regard.

She wanted to scream, Why? Why do you look at me like that? Why can’t you give me something? Anything?

She didn’t do that.

Of course not.

She accepted the only challenge he gave her and stared straight at him in return for as long as she could stand it.

And Sixx could stand a lot, so this lasted a long time, perhaps full minutes, before, as ever (and as ever wanting to kick her own ass), she broke the contact and walked slowly, and as casually as she could fake it, away.

Once out of sight of Stellan, she didn’t mess around going to the Dom Lounge.

There were cameras in there too, but she’d given herself a reason to return there after she had a drink in the hunting ground. This being so she could collect what she’d put there a week ago and be done with the job she was on so she could then collect the paycheck.

She did just this, going directly to her locker and grabbing the small, boxy, black python Alexander McQueen clutch with its four finger loops topped with various skulls or roses. A clutch she’d placed there after she’d arrived rather than giving it to reception, which was what most of the Dommes did.

Inside was a slim, business-card-sized wallet with her credit card, ID and a few banknotes, her phone, another phone that was hers-but-also-not, her lip liner and lipstick, her fabulous vintage compact with mother-of-pearl inlaid in black depicting cranes flying across a yellow moon, her Cayenne keyfob and nothing else.

With her back to the camera, she grabbed a random vibrator she had in her locker, twisted off the bottom where you’d put batteries, upended the flash drive she’d hidden there, and slid it in the lining of the clutch that she’d jimmied so she could open it, hide things behind it, and then press it back in place where it held.

She then went to the mirror.

At first, she didn’t look at herself, but instead used it to take in the plush surroundings of the Dominants’ Lounge.

Deep-seated, purple-velvet banquettes spanned the walls. They were covered in red-and silver-velvet toss pillows. The patterned silver wallpaper behind them was bottom-lit with soft light.

There were attractive steel tables with scented candles glowing on top of them.

The lockers were made of the same steel as the tables and looked like a bank of cabinets with a variety of digital locks, not lockers.

The gleaming black basins had no faucets, just wide, lush waterfalls that activated by motion. There were no paper towels, instead thick, soft, purple, red or silver hand towels and washcloths.

There were showers around the side, as well as a Jacuzzi tub, a steam room and a sauna.

Available for use was anything you could need. Disposable razors (for men and women) and shaving cream, aftershave, a variety of colognes and perfumes, hairspray, lotions, oils, deodorants, tampons, condoms, face moisturizer, bath soap and scrub, shampoo and conditioner.

Submissives were specifically disallowed there. The lounge was for downtime and Dom time outside any scene. If a sub needed to be cared for or it was part of the scene, you requested a room that had those amenities, and the Dom took care of that.

And Sixx longed to stretch out on those banquettes and close her eyes to the D. L. & Co. candles that smelled like vanilla, balsam and pepper, soothing and spicy, so very Aryas. So very the Honey.

God, she loved it there. It was like her home. It was the only place, outside being on a job, where she could be …

What?

Not herself. She played a role there. No one knew who she was. Not really. (Except Aryas, or at least he knew more than everyone else.) Not even people she called friends.

So why did she love it there so much?

And why was her heart hurting that she wasn’t getting out of it what she needed anymore?

She looked at herself in the mirror.

“Because it’s safe,” she whispered to her reflection.

That was it.

And now it no longer felt as safe.

Because Stellan was there, and wanting him and not having him—but more, knowing she should never expose him to what it would mean to have her … hurt.

That didn’t make sense either. She’d wanted a lot in life.

And never got it.

But Stellan was different.

Stellan was …

Sixx shook off her thoughts and took herself in through the mirror.

She couldn’t see the black pumps or her long legs she’d sleeked not only by giving them a close shave all the way up to her pubis but also with a subtle oil that made them shine.

What she could see was the black leather micro-mini that sat tight on her hips, cupped her ass and had a wide black belt with a bold silver buckle.

Up top she wore a white leather modified camisole that had a deep plunging neckline that went to her midriff and spread wide at the sides, showing the inside curves of her smallish breasts. The straps were very thin. There was a tight band across her ribs. It was cropped but not by much, showing only a hint of flesh at her belly between camisole and skirt, depending on how she moved.

Her hair was short, clipped in a graduated bob at the nape of her neck, the champagne highlights in her dark cinnamon hair looking (she thought) great in the sweeping, long bangs that fell well past her eye, the sides of her hair hanging below her jaw, all the ends in messy flips.

She had to style it, which was a minus. But it was short so it didn’t take long, and it had a sex-bomb vibe, so that was a definite plus.

She looked into her wide, brown eyes and wondered, What next?

A weighty question because it wasn’t about what was next for her at the Honey.

But what was next for her with everything.

At Aryas’s appeal (which meant repeated demands), she’d given up “the job.”

Ostensibly.

As far as he knew, Sixx had gone legit, working as the internal investigator for a large local law firm.

However, directly due to Aryas’s interference in some of his other friend’s lives, a need had arisen in Phoenix when Branch Dillinger stopped doing what he did out there and became the operations manager for all of the Bee’s Honeys.

Nature abhorred a vacuum.

Cue Sixx stepping in because first, her pay at the law firm was good, if you weren’t used to making a lot more doing a lot more dangerous shit for a lot more dangerous people. And second, if you were used to doing a lot more dangerous shit for a lot more dangerous people, as well as used to the adrenaline rush that got you, it wasn’t an easy habit to break.

So she had a proper job, not a normal one, but one that included a 401K and a bi-weekly paycheck that gave her insurance benefits.

And on occasion, she moonlit on the side.

Aryas didn’t know.

No one knew (except her friend and sometimes partner, Sylvie Creed, and her husband, Tucker, who she and Sylvie sometimes had to call in to help. But Sylvie wasn’t in the life Sixx pretended to lead through her play and relationships at the Honey).

Even if Sixx got off on it, and the cash she accumulated doing it, not to mention the freedom that offered, she knew she couldn’t do it forever. She had the scars to prove that particular story you told yourself to stay on the job was a lie.

But what would she have if she stopped?

The kink was getting boring. There were only so many orders you could give that led—perhaps in a lengthy way, but nonetheless the end was always the same—to someone else’s orgasm.

It had lost its appeal.

Because she wasn’t connecting.

She used to connect.

She used to stay mostly silent, watch, listen, open herself to being acutely aware of every expression or even twitch of the skin to sense what her sub wanted … then she’d find some elaborate or creative but always hard-earned way to give it to him.

Now she didn’t even have that.

Anyone could give their own self an orgasm. It was her job as a Dominatrix, regardless if the emotion wasn’t there, the attention and the respect and the motivation and the deliberation had to be there to connect. Somehow. Some way.

That was gone.

So what was the point?

To yank herself out of thoughts that were going nowhere, even though her long-lasting lipstick was doing its job, she still opened her clutch, pulled out the liner and lipstick, refreshed the ruby red, ended it with a nice coat of clear gloss, and dropped the stuff back in her bag.

She then grabbed her phone—not her actual phone, the other one—before she clicked the clutch closed and made her way out of the lounge, deciding to have a drink while she dealt with the details of finishing up her final mission of the evening.

She wandered the halls, doing it avoiding having to walk past Stellan’s room, and hit the hunting ground.

The back corner booth was open, so she went there, flipped open the burner phone in her hand, set it to silent and then used her thumb in the onerous task of hitting the numbers on the pad repeatedly to get to the letters she needed to send the short text.

Really, smartphones were a gift from God.

The drop happens tonight.

She tucked the phone by her thigh when a server came, and she decided cool-but-luxe Sixx, Mistress with the Mostest, was fucking dead.

It was over.

No rep to uphold.

No bullshit to convey.

She was over that too.

She wasn’t going to sip from a glass of wine, withholding any personality, any hint of what made her, what defined her, that she might convey through the simple matter of ordering her preferred drink.

“Gordon’s cup. Hendrick’s,” she ordered.

“Gotcha,” the server said then moved away.

She looked to the hunting ground and saw subs avoiding her eyes but still preening in view, hoping she was there to make a selection.

God, she was dried up. Not even a tingle.

The only time she’d felt anything in—Lord, it had been days—was when Stellan’s eyes met hers earlier through the windows to his playroom.

And those days had been the days since she was last at the Honey and Stellan had turned his attention to her.

She looked down to her thigh, flipping open the phone to see no return text, and muttered under her breath, “I’m a fucking mess.”

“Sorry, didn’t catch that.”

Her head snapped up just in time to watch Stellan, back in his suit jacket and definitely out of his playroom, slide in the booth across from her.

God, he was gorgeous.

But …

What the fuck?

“You were saying?” he prompted.

She flipped the phone shut and tucked it against her thigh so she’d feel it vibrate when the text came in.

“I have something on my mind,” she shared, not knowing what to make of this, him in the booth opposite her, making an approach, sitting there looking magnificent but still inaccessible, speaking directly to her with only her there to speak to.

“And that would be?” he asked.

“It’s work,” she told him.

“Ah,” he murmured, glancing to the side and looking up when the server set her drink in front of her. An action he oddly watched with what appeared to be rather avid fascination as the old-fashioned glass came to rest on the burgundy cocktail napkin. “Scotch, please,” he ordered before the guy could ask.

“On it,” the server said and moved away.

Stellan didn’t watch him go and it took a good deal, Sixx didn’t look away when Stellan’s attention came back to her.

“Not in the mood tonight?” he queried.

She shook her head, lifted her drink, and took a sip.

When she put it down, she verbalized that same response. “No.”

“Hmm,” he murmured, and there it was.

God.

There it was.

That “hmm” was almost like a purr, and that purr snaked right up her pussy, an area that instantly got wet.

“You’re finished early,” she noted.

He gave a one shoulder shrug that managed to be masculine and elegant at the same time, something only Stellan could pull off.

“I thought I’d try something new.”

“And?” she asked.

“It wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.”

“Too bad,” she murmured, taking another sip of her drink.

“Is it?” he returned, and her gaze lifted to his, because he’d asked a question but mostly because that question was strange.

“For you, and them, of course it is,” she replied.

“They got a good deal out of it, I assume, unless she faked it, which is doubtful. He, however, couldn’t fake it as the evidence he left was physical.”

Perhaps she shouldn’t have left so soon. It would undoubtedly have been interesting to watch Stellan orchestrate something like that.

“Unusual for you to choose a male,” she remarked.

He turned his head to the hunting ground and remarked, “An experiment I’m unlikely to repeat.”

She gave it some time, and this was mostly because she was arrested in the act of taking in the beauty of his profile. The cut line of his strong jaw. The angle of his cheekbone. The shadowed hollow under it. The fine lines that fanned from the corner of his eye. The straight slope of his nose. And, Lord God … that remarkable swell of his lower lip.

When she realized another second and she’d start squirming in the booth, she spoke.

“It might be more enjoyable if you went hands on,” she suggested.

He looked back to her and more wet surged between her legs at the expression on his face and what was emanating from his eyes.

“If I fancy ass, it comes with breasts and a vagina or not at all.”

Sixx would take him up her ass, deep, hard, fast, soft, slow, gentle, any way he liked it.

She’d beg him for that.

On that thought, her salivary glands went into overdrive, and she lifted her drink, tipping it to him in salute, before she brought it to her mouth but didn’t take a drink.

“Too bad,” she murmured.

Then she sipped.

His lips, including that luscious bottom one, curled up slightly at the ends.

“Mistress Sixx,” he said softly. “If she had it her way, they’d be lined up by the score and fucked raw, climaxing at her command at the tip of her whip.”

She stared at him, her stomach feeling like it was cramping, but her voice sounded even when she asked, “You say that like there’s something wrong with it.”

“Of course there isn’t,” he drawled, totally and openly lying.

I’d make you like it, she said in her head. I’d make you beg for it. I’d break my back, sell my soul, do anything I’d need to do to make you come harder than you’ve ever come before, tying you to me, connecting you to me, making you never want to leave.

He held her gaze, his face arrogant and knowing.

Or I’d give it to you, her mind whispered. Anything you wanted, anything you’d want to do to me to give you what you needed in a way that need could never be eased and you’d always come back for more.

He kept holding her gaze, but in the dim light of the bar of the Bee’s Honey, she could swear she saw something in his expression grow soft, like he could read her thoughts.

Before she could get a lock on it, or better, turn from him so he couldn’t read anything further, for once he looked away first, but only because the server was there, placing his lowball of Scotch over ice in front of him.

Sixx picked up her drink, looked to the hunting ground, and took a healthy sip.

“Are you staying?”

Stellan’s question brought her attention again to him.

She put her drink down and asked, “Pardon?”

“In Phoenix,” he explained. “I know you travel for work and it takes you away for long periods of time. But this time, you’ve been back for a while, so it seems like you’re staying.”

She had been intending to stay.

Now she didn’t know.

“For a while,” she replied.

He nodded, sipping his drink, and then stated, “I’ve been meaning to invite you, simply haven’t had the chance. But I’m having a party next weekend. We’ve hit June, and the weather hasn’t yet started baking. I’m taking advantage. We’ll start with a pool party, then everyone can change and we’ll move in for dinner. I’d be delighted if you’d come.”

She hid her reaction to that by throwing back more gin.

“Leigh and Olly will be there,” Stellan went on, back to his gaze set unwavering on her. “Mira and Trey. Felicia’s bringing a couple of her toys. Penn and Shane will be there. Victor has a new slave he’s enjoying so he’s bringing her. In other words, it’s a play party, just to make that clear. Though, depending on how it goes, we’ll make things more sociable and less structured for dinner. That will be up to the Dom.”

When he hesitated, she nodded, indicating she’d heard and taken this in, and he kept speaking.

“Belle’s bringing Tiffany. Talia is bringing Bryan. Aryas will be out of town, as will Evangeline’s partner, but Evangeline will be there in her usual capacity. Observation only.”

It was an unwritten rule when referring to the Honey’s Domme Evangeline’s “partner”—who was really her boyfriend who was essentially living with her—at least in the confines of the walls of the club, people did not use his name.

But he was Branch Dillinger. Her partner. Her boyfriend. Her sub. But he was also the Honey’s new top guy, since Aryas had taken a step back from operations in order to focus on opening his new club in Tahoe, and he needed someone he could trust to pick up the reins.

And if Branch played it that way, wishing things to be private, he got it that way, and would even if the man couldn’t probably snap your neck with his bare hands then walk away and not give that kill a second thought.

It was just the life and everyone obeyed that rule.

Though the threat of having your neck snapped worked too.

Sixx was just relieved Evangeline was back, not to mention ecstatic she had a man in her life like Branch. Especially after what was done to her to make her take a prolonged break, all of this happening when Sixx was away.

It was good it happened when she was away. If she was close, retaliation would have been much different than what Aryas had ordered, and even much different than the vastly more thorough way in which Branch had handled it.

But it was handled. So at Aryas’s firm request, she’d let it be.

She was relieved and ecstatic for Leenie … and also jealous.

Jealous because she wondered what it would feel like to have a miracle happen after the world as you knew it turned to complete shit and then one day … you might not be healed, but you were again whole.

“And if you like, I’ll have a couple of male slaves available for your use. Fresh meat. I know a few who’d volunteer that I’m sure you’d like,” Stellan continued.

And that stomach cramp got worse.

He’d provide her “a few volunteers.”

Thoughtful.

And damned disappointing.

She wondered who he’d have there.

And how many.

“I’ll think about it,” she told him.

“Please do,” he said before taking another sip of his Scotch.

She followed suit with her gin, practically willing her phone to vibrate against her leg to give her a reason to get away from him.

Stellan spoke again.

“So you’re not in the mood, will you allow me to offer you something that might strike a different mood? One I’d wager you’d enjoy a great deal.”

At this proposal that came out of nowhere, Sixx almost choked on her gin.

But of course she didn’t, and again her voice was clear and cool when she asked, “What’s that?”

He shook his head. “I’m afraid it has to be a surprise. But I will say it will be a surprise you’ll like. I also have to say, you shouldn’t wait to make your decision or things will culminate and we’ll miss our chance.”

Things will culminate?

Oh no.

She was intrigued.

Damn it!

“Can you give me a hint?” she pressed.

He made a tsking noise that she felt tap against her clit, and as was his usual, he didn’t lose contact with her gaze.

But he wasn’t looking aloof anymore.

This was both an invitation and a challenge.

She just didn’t know to what.

And with Stellan—this sudden Stellan who was vastly different than the Stellan she’d been getting (or not, as the case was) for the last too-many-months—she wasn’t sure how to handle it.

“Don’t disappoint me, Sixx,” he said quietly. “The Honey’s Ice Princess, cool and composed in every situation, shying away from an adventure?”

“I simply need to know how long it would take,” she lied. “I have something I need to do tonight,” she didn’t lie.

“As soon as you need to go, I’ll bring you back.”

He’d bring her back?

He was going to take her somewhere?

“What’s it going to be, Sixx?” he pushed. “In truth, I should have asked you the minute I joined you in this booth. We risk missing the grand finale the longer we wait.”

“Stellan—” she started, wondering how to get out of it at the same time how not to appear like she was jumping on it by accepting too quickly.

She needed time to assess this change, plan, strategize, prepare, fashion a brand-new Sixx. One who could deal with the likes of Stellan Lange and come out the other side of whatever became of whatever was happening unscathed.

And more importantly, make certain he did.

Or time to find a place to hide. Or escape, her mind taunted. Coward.

“I’ve bought you a present,” he shocked her by announcing. “I did this some time ago. I’ve been wishing to give it to you but haven’t had the opportunity. Now’s the opportunity.” The movement was almost not there, but yet it was when he leaned slightly her way and warned in a low voice, “Don’t waste it.”

Again, eye contact, unrelenting.

Challenge.

Invitation.

Finally.

And a gift?

She lifted her drink, took another healthy swallow, put it on the table and then dropped her hand to her thigh to curl her fingers around the phone there while grabbing her clutch off the table with her other hand.

She looked back to him and said, “Let’s go.”

When she did, all vestiges of her stomach cramps disappeared.

Because when she said that, Stellan Lange smiled a wicked, roguish, beautiful smile.

Right at her.

Copyright © 2018 by Kristen Ashley in The Greatest Risk and reprinted with permission from St. Martin’s Griffin.

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Kristen Ashley is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over fifty novels, including Mystery Man, The Gamble, and Own the Wind. She grew up in Indiana, but has lived in Colorado and the West Country of England.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author Website

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SAVAGE PRINCE – A Meghan March Chapter Reveal

Who knew things could get even darker and dirtier in New Orleans? New York Times bestselling author Meghan March introduces the Savage Prince of the city, the man you never want to meet.

I do what I want and who I want. I don’t follow anyone’s rules—even my own.
I knew I shouldn’t touch her, but it didn’t stop me.
Didn’t stop me the second time either. Only made me want a third.
My lifestyle suits the savage I am, and she doesn’t.
But Temperance Ransom is my newest addiction, and I’m nowhere near ready to quit her yet.
I’ll have her my way, even if it means dragging her into the darkness.
Hopefully it doesn’t kill us both.

Savage Prince is book one of the Savage Trilogy, set in the same world as Ruthless King, however you do not need to read the Mount Trilogy to devour this scandalously hot new story.

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Chapter 1

Temperance

Why is he wearing a mask?

Instinctively, I take a step back as the heavy door swings open, revealing the rest of the doorman’s tall body and the other half of the ornate red-and-black leather mask obscuring his face.

It’s not Mardi Gras season anymore, and this antebellum mansion is dozens of miles away from Bourbon Street, where spirits are high and revelry is in full swing, no matter the time of year.

Louisiana, you’re beautiful, but you’re also creepy as hell at night sometimes.

The doorman gestures for me to enter, and I hesitate on the threshold for one final beat, clutching my bag to my side before stepping through the archway. He closes the massive wooden door behind me with a decisive thud and throws a long bolt.

I’m locked in. What did I get myself into?

Chills skate over my skin, and my blazer does little to stop the shiver working through me.

This is not a haunted house. Or a dungeon. It’s a potential customer. I tell my overactive imagination to calm down but blood pounds in my ears, competing with the slow, rhythmic, and visceral beat of the bass coming from somewhere inside.

The sprawling plantation house reminds me of something out of a movie, especially with its massive trees dangling their moss over the banks of the bayou. Mansions and their expensive everything make me more nervous than the gators lurking in that murky water.

My senses shift into high gear as I scan the polished wooden planks of the floor, covered by thick rugs that probably cost more than I make in a year. The muted glow of gaslight sconces adds to the otherworldly feel—at complete odds with the throbbing beat of the club music.

For the dozenth time, I wish I did more research before I showed up for this meeting, but I’ve been so busy, I can barely manage to shovel three bites of food into my mouth for lunch.

It’s worth it, I remind myself. I have a respectable job now. There’s no mud on the bottom of my shoes to track inside these days.

Even though I know I’m in the right place, my polished designer knock-off pumps itch to beat a path to the door and out to my car . . . except it’s not there, because the overly efficient valet drove it away before the front door even opened.

I swallow back a lump of unease but straighten my shoulders and turn my attention to the doorman, who seems to be waiting for me to compose myself.

When I meet his hooded stare, he doesn’t speak. I hold out the note that showed up on my desk at Seven Sinners. He takes it from me and glances at the printed text, but still says nothing.

“I’m supposed to meet someone?” I hate that my voice sounds like I’m asking a question rather than making a statement. I shake off the unease and find my assertive tone. “I’m here to meet someone for a business discussion. Can you please direct me to the office?”

The doorman gestures to the opulent staircase before me with the card before offering it back.

My sweaty palms leave smudges on the edges as I snatch it from his grip. I should have known from that fancy cream linen paper that this wouldn’t be like the normal bars and clubs I’ve visited to hawk Seven Sinners Whiskey.

“Thank you.” I give him a nod, and once again get zero verbal response. This place is bizarre. Time to get in and get out.

Attempting to look unaffected, I stride toward the red-and-gold runner climbing up the stairs.

I’m just here to sell whiskey. All the whiskey.

The treads beneath the soles of my shoes vibrate more with each step I take. As I round the curve of the staircase, I find another masked man waiting for me at the top.

I offer him my invitation and stare over his shoulder at the light spilling out from beneath a set of closed double doors.

There. That has to be the club. See, nothing different about this place after all.

Except there is, and I don’t know if it’s my overactive imagination, but I swear I can smell sex in the air. Images of all the things that can possibly be happening behind those doors assail my brain. I force my attention back to the man for direction.

He jerks his head to the side and starts down a wide gold-and-white-striped corridor, away from the doors. He pauses at the corner as though waiting for me to follow him, and I uproot my feet from the floor and stumble forward to catch up with my bag smacking my hip. Instead of leading me farther down the corridor, he steps out of the way to reveal another set of curving stairs and points upward.

Seriously? I thought this was a business meeting, not punishment for missing my date with the gym for the last six months.

My arches cramp in protest as I smooth down my skirt, reset my bag, and climb to the top, but at least this discomfort takes my mind off the peculiar feel of this place.

I’m going to have to sell a ton of whiskey to make this trip worth it.

When I hit the next landing, there’s a third man, this one the size of a linebacker, wearing a matching mask.

Where the hell is everyone else? What kind of club has silent doormen and no tipsy patrons stumbling back and forth to the restroom?

I don’t have time to ask either of those questions before masked man number three reads the words on the card I hold out and leads me down a hallway to what I assume must be the manager’s office. At least, I hope like hell it is.

An ornate door with an antique brass knob awaits at the end, and he pushes it open and gestures for me to enter with a meaty hand.

I pin my most professional smile on my face and take a deep breath, ready to charm whoever awaits me inside into buying more whiskey than they plan.

With a confident stride, I make my way inside.

“Hi! I’m Temperance—” I trail off when I realize the chair behind the desk, dimly lit by a simple banker’s lamp, is empty.

A quick scan of the rest of the dark room reveals no signs of life.

What the hell?

“Okay, then.” I clear my throat, poised to turn around and get the hell out of this place, when a light flickering to life distracts me.

But it’s not a light in the office where I’ve been shown, but a light in the room next door. A room that I can apparently view through what appears to be a two-way mirror.

Am I really seeing this?

And by this, I mean a monstrous iron-and-wood four-poster bed draped with black silk sheets . . . and restraints.

A bedroom. A kinky bedroom.

Holy hell.

I stumble back a step, reaching for the doorknob, but my gaze fixes on the black mask of the woman entering the bedroom and the heavily muscled shirtless man with his palm on the small of her back.

This isn’t just any trendy secret club interested in adding top-notch whiskey to their shelves.

It’s a sex club.

I should be horrified. Running screaming in the opposite direction and out to my car. But instead, I’m rooted to the floor.

I have a front-row seat to one of my dirtiest fantasies. A fantasy I finally got up the nerve to try to fulfill a few months ago, because Lord knows I don’t have time to have a relationship, but my search for a non-sketchy sex club in New Orleans fell flat. Google sure as hell didn’t have this one on the map, and neither did any of the forums or blog posts I read.

A real underground sex club.

A tingle of excitement, like I’ve just discovered a secret key to another world, shoots through me as the man shuts the door to their room and slowly circles the woman before pushing her to her knees with one dominant hand on each shoulder. He has the look of a conqueror inspecting his war prize, complete with tribal ink marking his chest and upper arms, and dark leather pants. It’s hot as hell.

The rational part of my brain says I should look away, not invade their private scene, but I glance quickly at the door I entered through. No one is bursting in to tell me it’s some kind of mistake that I was led here.

The woman, dressed in red lingerie, keeps her gaze downcast, but I’m not nearly as disciplined. I can’t take my eyes off her companion as his ass flexes against the leathers.

When he stops in front of her, he releases her shoulder and buries one hand in her honey-blond hair, gripping her at the base of her neck, forcing her attention to his face.

They are completely and utterly absorbed with each other, and neither of them spares even a glance at the wall that serves as my voyeuristic porthole. Do they know? They must.

His voice somehow comes loud and clear into this room. “You wanted my attention down there, little girl. You’ve got it all now.”

My heart thumps harder as he reaches for the flap of his leathers with his other hand and yanks it open, freeing his heavy cock.

I bite down on my lower lip to stifle the hushed oh my God dying to break free. The sting from my teeth serves as a reminder that this isn’t one of my dreams.

This is real.

My conscience wars with me, telling me to turn away. Go back down the stairs. Run out the front door. Find my car and get the hell out of here.

But that and any other thought of business dies away as he wraps one palm around his thick cock and gives it a rough tug before thumbing the tip. The ruddy reddish-purple shaft seems to pulse against his grip, and my lip trembles as my thighs clench.

Why is it so frigging hot to see a man handle himself like that?

Using his grip on her hair, he guides her lips toward the head.

Sweet Lord. I shouldn’t be turned on by this. But my sweaty palms and the thumping pulse that has taken up residence between my legs expose my lie.

This is the hottest thing I’ve ever seen in person.

“You want this? Is that why you’ve been acting like a little brat?” His words are muted, like the sound is being piped into the office through speakers, or maybe it’s because the blood roaring through my head is drowning out normal sound. Either way, his gruff, deep voice drags over my senses, making goose bumps rise across my skin.

“Yes, sir.” The woman’s chin bounces as she licks her lips.

He drags her face an inch closer to his cock. “Show me how much.”

My nipples pebble against my bra at his rough order. Heat, completely inappropriate fiery heat, streaks through me as one of the woman’s hands dives between her legs.

“You don’t get to touch yourself until I tell you to. I’ll turn that ass of yours red before you finger that wet little cunt.”

I squeeze my thighs together like he’s somehow threatening me. Ordering me. Dominating me.

And I wish he were.

“I want your hands on my legs. I’m going to fuck your face. Remind you who owns these lips.”

A quiet moan echoes through the room, and I’m ninety-nine percent sure it came from her and not me. Okay, ninety percent sure.

I squirm, my chest rising and falling faster as she rests her palms on his muscled thighs and he feeds his cock into her mouth inch by inch.

Oh my God. I can’t watch. I shouldn’t watch. I’m not a dirty little thing who likes to watch. I’m not. Really. I’m not.

But I’m a filthy liar, because none of the words I use to berate myself make me tear my gaze away from the most erotic scene I’ve ever seen play out.

He shifts his grip, using one hand to cup her chin and tilt her head to the angle of his liking as he powers deeper inside, more of his rock-hard shaft disappearing with each thrust.

His growl echoes through the room, and I can feel it in the wet heat between my legs like a heartbeat.

“You feel that? You want more?”

Her plaintive, muffled cry for more unleashes another round of shivers as my breathing shallows. My inner muscles clench as I imagine a cock sliding past my lips and down my throat. My gag reflex flutters at the all-too-real and intense feeling.

That could be me.

Her fingertips curl around his legs and mine do the same, but instead of smooth skin, mine scrape across the fabric of my skirt. Two thin layers. That’s all that separates me from making myself come in approximately 2.5 seconds.

My fingers tense, stretching as though itching to move.

Don’t you even think about it, Temperance. Don’t you dare think about it.

But then he slows his movements, pulling his cock from between her lips. It glistens in the dim light as he wraps a hand around it and strokes. The woman’s need is visible in every tense muscle of her body as she fixates on his lazy movements.

“I’m not coming in that pretty mouth. Not tonight. Tonight, I’m taking that ass you’ve been teasing me with. Bending you over so I can see your cunt and your tight little hole. I get so fucking hard when I think about turning it red before I finally bury myself inside.”

Oh, for fuck’s sake. This isn’t even fair.

I swallow the saliva filling my mouth and back up until I bump into the edge of a desk. My heels wobble, and I reach out a hand to steady myself.

I cross my legs and shift back and forth to try to stave off the urge to do more. I’m here for business. Not for pleasure. But the reminder is a fleeting one, disappearing from my brain as soon as he speaks again.

“Tell me you want me to take your ass. Own it. Make it mine so you never forget who you belong to.”

The woman’s mouth drops open and her tongue darts out to wet the corner. “Yes, sir.”

He reaches down and extends a hand. “Stand.”

She complies by sliding her fingers into his and rising gracefully to her feet. Then his movement turns rougher as he spins her around and bends her over the end of the bed.

My heart thunders as I squeeze my thighs together, and the man yanks the crotch of her thong aside, baring her pussy and ass.

It’s obscene, but I can’t look away.

My fingernails dig into my leg through my skirt as he barks another order.

“Spread your legs.”

The uncompromising tone of his voice ricochets through my body, and part of me wants to comply like the woman as she slides her legs a few inches farther apart, creating an even more indecent visual.

The heat between my legs jumps what feels like a million degrees, and I suddenly wish I’d done laundry this week, because then I’d be wearing underwear. Instead, wetness gathers and threatens to drip down my inner thighs.

A dirty, shameful feeling curls inside me and I squirm, squeezing my legs even tighter together, but it doesn’t change the way my body responds. Especially not when he claps his palm between her legs with a smack. Her hips jerk and a moan spills out from between her lips.

Oh good Lord. He spanked her pussy.

I cover my mouth with one hand to silence my own sharp breath, and my teeth dig into my skin.

He plunges a finger inside, moving it out and then back in. “This is mine. You flash it at anyone else, and I’ll tie you up and drag you to the edge so many times, you’ll be delirious before I ever let you come. That’s a fucking promise.”

He pulls free of her body and lands a hard smack on her ass. She screeches as his handprint blooms red on her skin before he covers it with a firm grip, and the sound coming from her mouth turns into a moan.

“Please.”

“You know I love to hear you beg.” He releases her and lands another blow. “But you’ll remember your manners or get nothing.”

“Please, sir!”

Her wail wraps around me as he caresses the cheek he just stung. The desk bites into my ass, but I know it’s not the same.

I want to know what that feels like.

The truth blows through my mind like a hurricane. Unstoppable. Unashamed. Un-fucking-believable.

Is it possible to spontaneously orgasm? I have to get out of here. But my fingers curl around the sharp edge of the wood as though it’s the only thing keeping me grounded.

“Beg me.”

With my nipples harder than diamonds, I wait for her to beg. Please. I want to see—

She does.

Oh good Lord, I’m going to hell.

He grips his cock with one hand, her ass with the other, and lines up the head with her entrance. “Pussy first. You’re not ready for me yet.”

The pace of my breathing nears hyperventilation.

I need to do something. I have to—

Any capacity for rational thought is ripped from my brain as he buries his cock inside her and her scream fills my ears. He pounds into her over and over, and I hate her. I hate that she’s receiving his perfectly rough thrusts that rip moans of ecstasy from her throat, and all I have is the clenching emptiness between my legs.

I want that. I need that. It’s been way too long since I felt . . . anything like this. Actually, I’ve never felt anything remotely like this.

This dark edge of pleasure is something I’ve only read about. Wished for. Dreamed about.

Her moans and cries intensify, and he praises her. I close my eyes, letting his words wash over me, and pretend he’s whispering them to me.

My fingers edge toward the hem of my skirt and I draw it up inch by inch. I need more. Just a little—

“My naughty secretary should know better than to touch herself during work hours.”

The deep, rasping words come out of the shadows and brush over my skin, leaving goose bumps in their wake.

Shock freezes my movements, my fingertips locked on the material of my skirt, as a chair creaks and the disembodied voice takes the shape of a tall, broad-shouldered man stepping into the dim pool of light. A black leather mask obscures the top half of his face, but his piercing blue eyes burn hotter than a five-alarm fire. They sear my skin everywhere they touch.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself, Ms. Smith?” His sculpted lips are perfect—except for the fact they called me by the wrong name.

“Umm, uhh . . .” I stammer as I attempt to find words that can possibly apply to this insane situation. “I-I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong—”

His eyes narrow, but the heat remains intact. “Nobody argues with me in my office. Strike two, Ms. Smith.”

“But I’m here for—” I make another attempt to explain his mistake, but he cuts me off with a tilt of his head.

“Whatever I want.” He emphasizes each word as he takes another step toward me. “And tonight, what I want is you.”

My teeth dig into my bottom lip as he slides his suit jacket off his shoulder and down one arm before repeating the motion with the other. His movements reveal a crisp white shirt perfectly tailored to broad shoulders, thick biceps, and a narrow waist.

Holy wow. He’s sex in a suit.

“If you’re still in this office in ten seconds, I’ll take that to mean yes, sir, I’m ready.”

I glance at the door and back at him as he begins the countdown.

“Ten . . .”

#SavagePrince_Meghan13

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A New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of over twenty novels, Meghan March has been known to wear camo face paint and tromp around in woods wearing mud-covered boots, all while sporting a perfect manicure. She’s also impulsive, easily entertained, and absolutely unapologetic about the fact that she loves to read and write smut. Her past lives include slinging auto parts, selling lingerie, making custom jewelry, and practicing corporate law. Writing books about dirty talking alpha males and the strong, sassy women who bring them to their knees is by far the most fabulous job she’s ever had.

Sign up for Meghan’s newsletter and receive exclusive content that she saves for her subscribers: http://meghanmarch.com/subscribe

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8 SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING A DRAGON – A Kerrelyn Sparks Review & Chapter Reveal

Welcome to the wonderful world of fantasy and romance: The Embraced. As nations war and history is in the cusp of change, Gwennore is becoming restless as an elf in a human realm. She’s looking for some escape; but capture by dragon is not something she could’ve planned for. Arriving in the strange mad world of Norveshka she meets their General, Silas. As more secrets about the kingdom come to light Gwennore has to decide: risk a future of persecution or her own happy ever after.

When you hear comparisons to Game of Thrones and other fantasy series, know that is so accurate! Sparks paints an elegant picture of different non-humans and magic induced humans mixed in a world of dragons, trolls, and elves. While the story has a romantic aspect there’s always a larger picture of danger and espionage. The elusive Chameleon from previous books has returned and is after another crown. As Gwennore and Silas begin to unravel the curse upon his kingdom and family, she begins to discover more secrets from his past. Silas is not all he’s portrayed to be; and Gwennore has some serious decisions to make on what she’s willing to handle for her future.

Sparks’ world building leaves nothing to the imagination. From a lands to creatures and even forms of travel, everything in her Embraced series is fantastical and wonderful for the creative mind. I highly enjoyed the twists and surprise in Gwennore and Silas’ story and I can’t wait for more of the sisters’ tales!


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Kerrelyn Sparks is no stranger to the New York Times bestseller list, as her massive fan base couldn’t seem to get enough of her Love at Stake series. Sparks then introduced her extraordinary fantasy romance series, The Embraced, with How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days and So I Married a Sorcerer. Set in a medieval mythical world, the series follows a special group of people with powers born when the two moons of the world form an eclipse. Now comes the captivating third installment, EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING A DRAGON (St. Martin’s Paperbacks; March 27, 2018), where readers meet Gwennore, our fierce and powerful new heroine.

Gwennore is an Elf able to track down the cause of an illness and heal it; a valuable asset to her people. But when she is thrust into the realm of the dragons, she discovers a haunted place of power and magic, plagued by an ancient curse. And then she meets the smoldering General Silas Dravenko. She’s been raised never to trust a dragon, but never did making a deal with the devil feel so good…

Silas has no way of saving the royal family he’s served for years. But when a beautiful elf comes bursting into his world, Silas is awakened to desire in a way he’s never felt before. But can he trust a sworn enemy?

Filled with romance, adventure, and a vividly imagined new world, EIGHT SIMPLE RULES FOR DATING A DRAGON is a fantasy in the vein of Game of Thrones with all the fun of The Princess Bride. Audiences will become enthralled with Gwennore in a world where passion, fantasy, and royal intrigue collide. Return to the most exciting, magical and romantic series to come along in years in the stunning world of the Embraced!

ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

AMAZON

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As the three men came to a stop, Gwennore noted that the ladies-in-waiting were curtsying, so she did, too.

Karlan bowed. “My lord general.”

“At ease,” the gorgeous man in the middle said.

Freya rushed to his side. “Silas, you arrived just in time. I’ve discovered an assassin.” She pointed at Gwennore. “You should arrest her!”

Gwennore popped up from her curtsy, ready to defend herself. But before she could say anything, the general had enveloped the queen’s hand in his own and turned her away.

“Your Majesty.” He flashed a smile that caused a few of the ladies to stumble as they rose from their curtsies. “I came as quickly as I could after hearing the news. May I congratulate you on the birth of your daughter?”

“Why, yes.” Freya blushed. “Thank you. I was in labor a dreadfully long time, you know.”

“Yes, so I hear.” He patted her hand. “But thank the Light, you and the babe are doing remarkably well.”

What nonsense was this? The gorgeous general was acting like the others—playing along with the queen’s delusion. Gwennore drew in a deep breath to voice her objection, but the general shot her a warning look with his sharp green eyes.

When she lifted her eyebrows as if to question him, he inclined his head ever so slightly. He’sasking me to trust him. It was as clear as if he had spoken. For a moment she wondered if she was experiencing a mental connec- tion with him like she had with Puff.

Don’tjump to conclusions, she chided herself. She was only hoping for a connection because he was the most handsome man she’d ever met.

Something flared in his eyes, a spark of gold in the em- erald green, and her knees grew weak. Good goddesses, was she about to swoon like these other silly women? She needed to be stronger than this.

“Thank you, Silas,” Freya said, drawing his attention back to her. “Doesn’t the baby look just like her father?” “Yes, indeed.” The general glanced at Eviana, who was still clinging to Gwennore’s legs. “And to mark the occa- sion, I have brought you a gift.” He motioned to Gwennore. “A nanny. As you can see, the princess has already

developed a special fondness for her.”

Freya gasped. “You brought the elf here?”

“Of course.” He gave Gwennore a wry look as if he was daring her to contradict him. “She’s a noblewoman I captured some time ago in battle, but since then, she’s learned our language and proven herself quite useful.”

So General Gorgeous had no problem spinning lies or manipulating a madwoman. Gwennore snorted. But since she was in danger of being imprisoned and even exe- cuted, she was not in any position to reject his solution.

Even so, she wondered if she could actually trust him. As the general of the Norveshki army, wouldn’t he see her as an enemy?

“We dare not trust an elf,” Freya muttered. “She could be a spy. Or an assassin.”

“We can trust her,” the general insisted. “Lady Gwennore cares deeply for the princess. Enough to risk her life for her.”

Gwennore’s heart lurched into a fast pace. He knew her name? And what she’d done? Puff must have told him everything that had happened. That meant General Gor- geous could hear dragon voices, too. It made sense, she figured, since his job would require him to communicate with dragons. But did that mean he had ordered the first dragon to kidnap Eviana? Or perhaps, he had ordered Puff to try to stop the kidnapping. Which side was he on?

“But elves are such violent creatures,” Freya whined. “They are fierce warriors, that is true,” the general

agreed. “That is why Lady Gwennore will make an ex- cellent nanny. No one will protect your daughter as well as she.”

“Well . . .” Freya looked confused. Her hands fluttered around her chest, causing the rubies to sparkle in the after- noon sun. “I suppose we can give her a try.”

“Excellent.” He turned toward Karlan. “You and your men may return to your posts.”

Gwennore exhaled with relief. She wasn’t going to the dungeon. And as the official nanny, she could remain close to Eviana.

“And remember.” The general stepped closer to Karlan and added softly, “Lady Gwennore is my guest. She will be treated with respect.”

“Yes, my lord.” Karlan motioned for his men to follow him back to the main gatehouse.

With Gwennore’s superior hearing, she’d heard the general’s whisper. He had to be on her side. For one thing, he kept referring to her as a lady. The status of noble- woman would shield her from any physical abuse during her stay here in Draven Castle.

So, most probably, she had two allies in Norveshka—Puff and General Gorgeous. She could only hope they would both prove to be trustworthy and honorable.

The general turned to the nearest lady-in-waiting. “Your name, please?”

The woman stumbled back a step. “O-Olenka, my lord general.”

“Lady Olenka, would you please escort Lady Gwennore and the princess to the nursery? And make sure they are well taken care of.”

“Yes, yes, of course, my lord general.” Olenka nodded, then curtsied again.

“I’ll drop by to check on you later.” The general shot a pointed look at Gwennore. “Till then.”

Gwennore inclined her head, understanding he in- tended to have a talk with her. That was fine. She needed to talk to him, too.

“Oh, everything will be perfect, my lord general! You can trust me.” Olenka motioned for Gwennore to follow her. “Come along now.”

Gwennore lifted Eviana in her arms and walked toward Lady Olenka. As she passed the queen, she bowed her head. “Good day, Your Majesty.”

Freya narrowed her eyes. “If anything happens to my daughter, I’ll have your head. I will not lose another child!”

Another child? How many had the queen lost? “I will protect her with my life,” Gwennore told her, then fol- lowed Lady Olenka toward the northwestern tower.

As she neared the general’s two companions, she noted there was a slight difference in their uniforms. One had three brass stars embedded in his leather breastplate, while the other had two. Did that mean they were officers? The general had four stars on his breastplate.

These men were handsome like the general—tall, muscular, long dark hair. No doubt they knew how to make a….


MEET KERRELYN…

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Apparently, she has issues with reality. After writing 16 books about vampires and shifters, Kerrelyn has now completely gone off the deep end and wound up on another planet.

Although Kerrelyn is best known (so far) for the Love at Stake series, which has hit as high as number 5 on the New York Times list and 22 on the USA Today list, she hopes her readers will love The Embraced as much as they did her merry band of vamps and shifters.

Kerrelyn lives with her family in the Greater Houston area of Texas. You can visit with her on Goodreads or her Facebook page, where she does a monthly contest. On Twitter, she posts as @KerrelynSparks.

WEBSITE

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HOOKING UP – A Helena Hunting Chapter Reveal

IMG_2541 Amalie Whitfield is the picture of a blushing bride during her wedding reception–but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of proclaiming his undying love, her husband can be heard, by Amalie and their guests, getting off with someone else. She has every reason to freak out, and in a moment of insanity, she throws herself at the first hot-blooded male she sees. But he’s not interested in becoming her revenge screw.

Mortified and desperate to escape the post-wedding drama, Amalie decides to go on her honeymoon alone, only to find the man who rejected her also heading to the same tiny island for work. But this time he isn’t holding back. She should know better than to sleep with someone she knows, but she can’t seem to resist him.

They might agree that what happens on the island should stay on the island, but neither one can deny that their attraction is more than just physical.

Filled with hilariously scandalous situations and enough sexual chemistry to power an airplane from New York City to the South Pacific, Hooking Up is the next standalone, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from Helena Hunting, the New York Times bestselling author of the Pucked series and Shacking Up.

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Chapter.png

One

Wedding Unbliss

Amie

This is the happiest day of my life. I allow that thought to roll around in my head, trying to figure out why it doesn’t seem to resonate the way it should. This should be the happiest day of my life. So I’m not exactly certain why the uneasy feeling I associate with cold feet is getting worse rather than dissipating. I’ve already done the hard part; walked down the aisle and said “I do.”

My husband excused himself to go to the bathroom several minutes ago and, based on Armstrong’s itinerary for the day, speeches are supposed to begin promptly at eight-thirty. According to my phone, that’s less than two minutes from now, and he’s not here. The emcee for the evening is awaiting Armstrong’s return before he begins. And then the real party can start. The one where we get to celebrate our commitment to each other as partners for life. As in the rest of my breathing days. Dear God, why does that make my stomach twist?

I sip my white wine. Armstrong pointed out that red is not a good idea with my dress, even though it’s my preference. Besides, I don’t want it to stain my teeth. That would make for bad pictures.

I glance around the hall and see my parents, who are probably celebrating the fact that I didn’t walk down the aisle with a convicted felon. And frankly, so am I. My dating history pre-Armstrong wasn’t fabulous.

The sheer number of people in attendance spikes my anxiety. Speaking in front of all of these people makes me want to drink more, which is a bad idea. Tipsy speeches could lead to saying the wrong thing. I check my phone under the table again. It’s after eight-thirty. The longer Armstrong takes to return, the further behind we’ll get. The music playlist, devised by Armstrong with painstaking efficiency, leaves no room for tardiness. If we don’t start on time I’ll have to take out a song, or possibly two, to compensate for his delay and he’s selected the order in such a way as to make that difficult and that will annoy him. I just want today to be perfect. I want it to be reflective of my decision to marry Armstrong. That I, Amalie Whitfield, can make good choices and am not a disgrace to my family.

“Where the hell is he?” I scan the room and take another small sip of my wine. I should switch to water soon so I don’t end up drunk, especially later, when all of this is over and we can celebrate our lifelong commitment to each other without clothes on. I’m hopeful it will last more than five minutes.

Ruby, my maid of honor and best friend for the past decade, puts a hand on my shoulder. “Would you like Bancroft to find Armstrong?”

Bancroft, or Bane for short, is Ruby’s boyfriend who she’s been living with for several months. Recently I find myself getting a little jealous of how affectionate they still are with each other, even after all this time. Cohabitation hasn’t slowed them down on the sex or their PDA. I have hope that Armstrong and I will be more like Bane and Ruby now that we’ll be sharing the same bed every night.

I’m about to tell Ruby to give him another minute when a low buzz suddenly fills the hall. It sounds like a school PA system. I start to panic—they can’t start the speeches without Armstrong at my side. What’s the point of speeches if the groom isn’t present?

I’m halfway out of my seat, ready to tell the deejay, or whoever is behind the mic, he needs to wait, when a very loud moan echoes through the room. The acoustics are phenomenal in here, it’s why we chose this venue.

I glance at Ruby to make sure I’m not hearing things. Her eyes are wide. The kind of wide associated with shock. The same shock I’m feeling.

Another moan reverberates through the sound system, followed by the words, “Oh, fuuuck.”

A collective gasp ripples through the now-silent crowd. While the words themselves are scandalous among these guests, it’s the voice groaning them that makes me sit up straighter, and simultaneously consider hiding under the table.

“Fuck yeah. Ah, suck it. That’s it. Deep throat it like a good little slut. Fuuuuuccckkkkk.”

My mouth drops and I look to Ruby to ensure I have not completely lost my mind. “Is that—” I don’t finish the sentence. I already know the answer to the question, so it’s pointless to ask. Besides, I’m cut off by yet another loud groan. I clap a hand over my mouth because I’m not sure I’m able to close it, my disbelief is as vast as the ocean.

Ruby’s expression mirrors mine, except hers is incredibly animated since she’s an actress. “Oh my God. Is that Armstrong?” Her words are no more than a whisper, but they sound very much like a scream. Oh no, wait, that’s just Armstrong on the verge of an orgasm. But these sounds are nothing like the ones he makes when he’s in the throes of passion with me.

I clutch Ruby’s hand. The next sound that comes from him is a hybrid between a hyena laugh and a wolf baying at the moon. And every guest at our wedding is hearing the same thing I am. Our wedding. Someone other than me is blowing my husband at my own wedding. My mortification knows no end.

I grab the closest bottle of wine and dump the contents into my glass. Some of it sloshes over the edge and onto the crisp white tablecloth. It doesn’t matter. There’s plenty more where it came from. I chug the glass, then grab Ruby’s.

People lean in and whisper to each other, eyes lift to the speakers. A few people, the ones who are probably just here for the social-ladder-climbing potential, question who it is.

“Is the deejay watching porn?” That comment comes from a table full of mostly drunk singles in their early twenties.

Several eyes shift my way as I carelessly down Ruby’s wine and someone asks where the groom has disappeared to.

The grunts and groans grow terrifyingly louder. This is nothing like what I’m used to in bed with Armstrong. The dirty words aren’t something he ever uses with me, mostly it’s just noises and sometimes a “Right there” or “I’m close,” but that’s about it. He’s never talked to me like he is to the woman currently providing oral pleasure. And I’m very adept at oral. Although with Armstrong it’s very polite, neat oral, with no sounds other than the occasional hum. Slurping is uncivilized and a definite no-no.

I reach past Ruby for the bottle of red since I don’t really give a flying fuck about purple teeth right now. As I sink low in my seat I pour another glass of wine, surveying the people in the ballroom from behind the cover of the centerpiece. The centerpieces are huge and excessive and I don’t like them at all, but at least provides a protective barrier between the guests and my disgust, which I’m certain they must share. He sounds like a wild animal rutting. It is entirely unsexy. I have no idea who he’s getting intimate with, but I’m suddenly very glad it’s not me.

And doesn’t that tell me more about our relationship than it should.

It’s only been about thirty seconds—the most humiliating thirty seconds of my life—before Armstrong comes. How do I know this? Because he says, very clearly, “Keep sucking, baby, I’m coming.”

And “baby,” whoever she is, makes these horrific gurgling noises. It sounds like some form of alien communication. It’s way over the top, and apparently Armstrong is loving it, based on the string of vile profanity that spews from his asshole mouth.

“Holy crap. Is this for real? That was really fast,” Ruby mutters.

I guzzle my glass of wine. Then decide the glass is unnecessary and take a long swig from the bottle before Ruby snatches it away. Wine dribbles down my chin and onto my chest, staining the white satin purple. My dress is ruined. I should be freaking out. But I really don’t care.

“Come on,” Ruby tugs on my hand. “We need to get you out of here while people are still distracted.”

My older brother Pierce and the emcee are standing in the middle of the hall, gesturing wildly to the speakers above us. My other brother, Lawson, is on his way toward the podium in an attempt to do something. I don’t think there’s anything he can do to stop this train wreck from there.

Ruby tugs again, but I’m frozen, still trying to figure out what exactly just happened. Well, I know what’s happened. I just can’t believe it.

The sound of a zipper and the rustle of clothes follows. “Thanks for that, now I’ll be able to last later tonight,” Armstrong says.

“What about me?” A female asks. Her voice is nasally and whiny.

“What about you?”

“Well I helped you, aren’t you going to help me?”

“Didn’t you come with a date?”

“Well, yes, but—” God her voice is familiar. I just can’t figure out where I know it from.

“My cousin, right? He loves my sloppy seconds. Speeches are starting. I gotta get back to my ball and chain.”

Gasps of horror ripple through the room, followed by a few giggles. These people really are assholes.

I think I’m going to throw up. I can’t believe he’s going to come out here and pretend nothing just happened. Like some other woman didn’t just have her lips around his cock. His distinctly average cock. Maybe even slightly below average in length, if I’m being one hundred percent honest.

A door opens and closes.

Lawson turns on the mic behind the podium and taps it, sending screeching feedback through the room, making people cringe. Too bad no one did that a minute ago.

Murmuring grows louder and glances flicker to the head table and then away as Brittany Thorton, a seriously skanky debutante, comes strutting through the doors, using a compact to check her lipstick. She’s made it her mission to attempt to get into the pants of half the eligible men in this room. She’s followed, not five seconds later, by a very smug-looking Armstrong.

“I’m going to kill him.” I grab the closest steak knife, but it appears my hasty, and possibly felonious, plan is unnecessary. My brothers leave their respective posts and stalk toward him. Across the room my mother is gripping my father’s arm, whispering furiously in his ear. Great. Just what I need, additional family drama.

“Oh shit,” Ruby gasps.

I follow her gaze to find Bane converging on Armstrong with my brothers. Bancroft is a tank and he used to play professional rugby. I’ve seen him with his shirt off, he’s built like a superhero and he’ll probably crush Armstrong, or at least break something. Possibly multiple somethings.

For a second I consider that Ruby should probably stop Bane from destroying Armstrong’s pretty, regal face, but then I realize I don’t actually care. In fact, the possibility that he might break Armstrong’s perfectly straight nose fills me with glee. Armstrong’s wellbeing is no longer my concern, it’s more about Bane ending up in prison for murder.

“I hope Armstrong has a good plastic surgeon, he’s going to need it once Bane is done with him.” Ruby echoes my internal hopes and her chair tips as she jumps up. “Come on, let’s get you out of here.” She nods to the right.

I notice my mother and father engaged in a heated discussion with Armstrong’s parents. I really don’t need this right now. Not the drama. Not the humiliation. All I wanted was a nice wedding. Instead I end up with a husband who gets a blow job during our reception—and it’s broadcast to everyone attending.

Ruby urges me into action. “Don’t worry about them. Get your stuff and we’ll get you the hell out of here. I’ll have the limo meet you by the entrance near your bridal suite as soon as I can.”

I nod and stumble unsteadily to my feet, thanks to having consumed the better part of a bottle of wine in the last minute and a half. It’s amazing how ninety seconds can change a person’s entire life.

All hell breaks loose as more men jump in to either pummel or extract Armstrong from the pummeling. I grab my clutch and phone from the table, gather up my stupid, too puffy gown, and head for the bridal suite, where I had prepared for what was supposed to be the most amazing day of my life. And now it’s likely the worst, at least I hope the mortification level I’m experiencing can’t exceed this. I feel like the foulest version of Cinderella ever.

I rush down the empty hall and grab the doorknob as I fumble around in my clutch for the key. I’m surprised when it turns. I thought I’d locked it before we left for the ceremony. Regardless, I need to get away from everyone before I either lose it or commit a felony. Maybe both. Murder in the first. Armstrong will be my victim. And maybe that horrible skank, Brittany.

I thrust the door open and slam it closed behind me, locking it from the inside. Tears threaten to spill over and ruin my makeup. Not that it matters since there’s no way I’m going out there again. I can’t believe my forever lasted less than twelve hours. I can’t believe the man I’m supposed to spend the rest of my life loving couldn’t be faithful to me for even one day. What the hell is wrong with me? With him? I’m as devastated as I am angry and embarrassed. Once I annul this farce of a marriage I’ll become a spinster. I should probably go ahead and adopt six or seven cats tonight.

“I need to get out of this dress,” I say to myself. I reach behind me and pull the bow at the base of my spine. Instead of unfurling, it knots and I only succeed in pulling it tighter. Of course my dress has to be difficult. I growl my annoyance and rush over to my dressing table where my makeup and perfume are scattered from earlier today. Half a mimosa sits unconsumed beside the vase of red roses Armstrong had delivered.

The card read: I can’t wait to spend forever loving you.

What a load of bullshit. I drain the contents of the champagne flute, not caring that the drink is warm and flat. Then I throw the glass, because it feels good and the sound of shattering crystal is satisfying. Next I heave the vase of roses, which explodes impressively against the wall, splattering water and shards of glass across the floor.

I yank out a couple of the drawers and find a pair of scissors. They actually look more like gardening shears and seem rather out of place, but I don’t question it. Instead I reach behind me with my back to the mirror and awkwardly try to cut myself free. It’s not easy with the way I have to crane my neck.

“Goddammit! I need to get out of this stupid dress!” I yell at my reflection. I think I might actually be losing it just a touch now. I stop messing around with the laces in the back and shove the scissors down the front. I nearly nick myself with the blade—they’re a lot sharper than I realized—but that doesn’t slow me down. I start hacking my way through the bodice; layers of satin, lace, and intricate beading sliced apart with every vicious snip.

I just want out of this nightmare.

 


CONNECT WITH HELENA

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She’s writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

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