Some of you might be old enough to remember a series of commericials where a grocery store owner waited and watched to jump out and catch people in the act of trying out a certain soft product. His big thing was “don’t”.
Well, I’m all about free trials. Book Covers, blurbs and, best of all, excerpts, help me to decide whether or not a book is going into my TBR pile. Today, I’m sharing some tantalizing excerpts from my current releases. Be my guest! I hope you enjoy a glimpse into the hot paranormal worlds of my imagination.
HUNGER by Barbara J. Hancock
He didn’t draw his blade to hold her off. He continued to lean over her and her lips on his jaw grew warmer as if she could taste a hidden heat building inside of him.
Holly reached up to smooth her tingling fingers over his arms. He trembled and she tasted salt as his body responded to the heat. She flicked her tongue out and he drew in a sudden breath as his whole body tensed in response.
He wanted her. She could sense it. If she moved her lips to claim a kiss, would his control snap? If she moved her hands from his arms and slid them under his shirt to stroke his back and sides and tease into the waist band of his low-slung jeans, would he succumb to temptation with her?
Holly wanted him to succumb. She really, really did. The power inside of her whispered urgently. It offered seduction. It offered all the warmth she needed if only she would set it free. Winters would be hers if she let the predator in her take control, but…she wanted more.
Holly drew her face back and opened her eyes.
Winters looked down at her. His eyes were heavy-lidded and molten-copper hot. She saw them clearly, but she couldn’t read the emotions that swirled there. Desire? Fear? Need? A hunger that almost matched her own? His expression was heated, but it was also mysterious. The layers of brown in a myriad of shades—from amber to chocolate—hid what he was thinking. She wondered if his thoughts were as varied and changing as the sultry irises of his eyes.
She wanted more than heat and vampire-fueled seduction. She wanted more than a successful hunt. She wanted more than blood lust and capitulation. She wouldn’t be the beast. The predator was not going to take control because she was still a woman and she wanted Winters to want her, free and clear of influence.
She had the power to make him want her. She didn’t know where it came from. If she was a superstitious person, she’d say it was some kind of magic humming beneath her skin. Because she was a little less melodramatic than that, she figured it had to be super pheromones or something. Whatever. The power was there and she could have him, but she wouldn’t.
Her tiny cricket conscious must be hopped up on radiation or something ’cause it suddenly seemed fifty feet tall.
She looked into Winters’ eyes and let him see the desire in her eyes come under control.
“Well, now, this looks like an interesting dance. Mind if I cut in?”
Holly’s triumph was short lived. She didn’t have time to see if Winters knew she had controlled herself. She was wrenched from his side and whipped into a mad parody of a waltz that whirled higher and higher into the air. The air? She wasn’t given a moment to take in the new revelation that her Maker could fly.
Dillon’s arms were flesh-covered steel around her. If she were a rabbit she would gnaw off her foot and fall twenty feet to the ground below that’s how desperate her instinct was to escape. As it was, she was worse than trapped because her body warred with her instinct. Her body wanted to be in his arms. Her previous moment of pride faded as if it had never been. Would she ever be fully in control again or was she doomed to be always at the mercy of the beast? The beast who held her and the one that lived beneath her skin joined in unspoken jubilation. Their mutual pleasure mocked her fear.
Her heart betrayed her. That traitorous organ leapt to match, beat for beat, the one that resided in Dillon’s chest. It was pain, but it was also pleasure to feel the beats synchronize, to feel them throb in time with one another.
Her skin betrayed her. It trembled, as her very cells seemed to take life from his touch. His hands slid beneath her sweater and they were well-fed warm. Each finger spread heat in their wake, seeming to nourish and replenish the hungry, empty cells as he caressed lonely flesh that responded despite her protests.
Moonlight played over his angular face. It kissed him, caressed him, until she didn’t know if the wicked gleam in his eyes came from the spotlight of the moon as they spun or if he was just glad to hold her again.
Insane, but that’s what it felt like. As if he was a long-lost lover and this was a reunion. Her body was too close to his, but not close enough. Although part of her wanted to break free and fall away, her body denied it. It wanted to stay in this wonderful place forever.
There was an overwhelming sense of imminent salvation. His lean, hard form fit perfectly against hers, bringing with it endless promise. The muscled planes of his chest seduced her small breasts with visions of fullness. His hands on her back smoothed over the ridges of her spine and brought forth the feeling of firm, healthy muscles. His legs twined with hers and suddenly she knew her limbs could be strong and supple again, if only she would let him give her what he offered.
But, hidden in the lover-like embrace and the offer of salvation, was a challenge. Every flex of his muscles schemed to dominate, to subdue. The very literal way he had swept her off her feet seemed calculated to steal her free will away.
The gleam in his eyes and the wide, wicked grin on his face said louder than words that he expected to sweep away her resistance as easily.
Only, resistance was the only thing she had left.
Her body wanted him. It was obvious he owned it. Her heart longed for him. He was a walking pacemaker for God’s sake. But, her mind, her soul, some deep, deep part of her wouldn’t give in.
And the vestiges of the blood that Winters had given her seemed to help.
She was able to push Dillon away…an inch, then two. She thought he was surprised because they dropped several feet. She tried not to be woozy as she felt the drop in her stomach. They were so far above the ground that Winters was invisible. Night fog or clouds misted between them. She tried not to imagine falling through the white mist.
“Mmmmmm, darlin’, you have been a naughty girl,” Dillon spoke through a fang-framed grin. He ignored her struggles and plunged his face in the curve of her neck. He took a deep breath as if he could discern her darkest secrets through the scent of her skin.
“Soooo, naughty. The blood of a killer is heady stuff ’course I prefer innocents myself.” He was such a part of her by now that she felt his laughter inside her own head, her own chest, her own stomach. “Just remember, his blood will strengthen and sustain, but only mine will satisfy.”
His mouth opened and it was hot, impossibly hot, against her night-cooled, fear-cooled skin.
Holly couldn’t prevent the inevitable. No amount of willing it not to be would have given her the strength to stop him. Dillon’s fangs sank into her skin and her back arched as pleasure ripped through her body. It was a murderous electric shock frying her nerve endings and sizzling her brain. It was an Icarus-flying-to-close-to-the-sun burn. If that could be called “pleasure” then that’s what she felt. But, it didn’t end there.
He held her, almost tenderly, afterward, when an inner floating sensation mirrored the one that kept them suspended above the ground. She was empty. She was fading. If she let go now, it would be finished. No more fight. No more fish to fry or gathering firewood or being tempted to play with fire.
“No, love. You won’t take the easy way out.”
Easy? Nothing was easy about doing what she had to do. Nothing was easy in knowing that her enemy knew her so well. Dillon had known she wouldn’t give up and he had manipulated the situation so that only one option was left to her.
The skin of his neck was salty sweet and that was somehow wrong. It should be bitter. It should have seared her lips.
It was too easy and natural to bite down and drink. She did it for her mother, for the memories of her father and sister. She did it for Winters too. He needed her though he’d probably never admit it. She wouldn’t take the easy way out, but she despaired to find that drinking from Dillon wasn’t as hard as it should have been.
His chuckle vibrated against her lips before she tore away. But his face followed hers and he didn’t let her pull back far. He claimed her lips with a kiss for long seconds as she was hit by a swoon so powerful that her body shook. Physical rapture and mental anguish kept her frozen as his mouth slid intimately against hers.
“You. Are. Mine.”
The words were a breath against her open lips and a threatening promise that echoed in her mind. Holly and the universe around her seemed to pause as Dillon swept wildly away. Then, the universe started again, gravity and all. The air around her was thick with fog, but not thick enough.
Not like an immortal fiend. More like a rag doll who could scream.
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CAPTURED by Barbara J. Hancock
(*Slightly modified to ensure PG-13 content*)
They were headed in the wrong direction.
Maya’s teeth clenched as she clamped them tight against the fear and frustration that made them want to chatter. The morning had dawned bright and clear. Too bright. Too clear. She’d had to bring Wiseman’s sunglasses out of her pocket as sunbeams glittered down through the trees, harshly painting everything with a whitewashed glare.
It felt like the morning after. After what, she wasn’t sure. Shepherd didn’t speak. He also didn’t limp or slow his pace. They set out — in the wrong direction — at an even quicker clip than the night before.
She didn’t know how many miles they would have to travel to reach the research hospital, but she could feel it looming in the distance, coming closer, ever closer. Every instinct she possessed told her it was wrong to travel toward it.
She had choices. She could stay with Shepherd or she could try to escape. With every step she took toward the hospital, she weighed her options.
Shepherd was no pushover. She would have to utilize every bit of her power in order to escape him and that would mean losing the wall she’d built between her and her sister. Right now, Sasha thought she was dead. Her sister would have no reason to do anything but hide. In saving herself from Shepherd, she might shock her sister out of hiding. They shared a mental link that might be jarred if she didn’t continue to be careful with her powers.
But, if she went back to the scientists, it would only be a matter of time before they used her to discover that Sasha was a ‘wolf. Sasha was naturally quiet and withdrawn. She could stay hidden for years, possibly forever, if Maya didn’t mess up and lead the authorities to her door.
Neither option was perfect.
And what of the werewolf threat? Could she really leave Shepherd to face them alone if there was even the slightest chance that her visions could help him?
Maya hiked onward.
The cuff had become a constant irritant around her wrist. Its slide and rattle a constant reminder of her capture, of her predicament.
There was one possibility she was afraid to ponder.
It was the first time she wanted to reject her visions and pretend they weren’t as accurate as they were. She couldn’t trust Shepherd’s kisses or his touch. He had held her through the night as ‘wolves howled, but Maya knew he held tighter to the beliefs which drove him to hunt people like her and her sister in the first place.
Believing in option number three meant that she would have to believe in Adam Shepherd.
It was one thing to find yourself with an unlikely ally. It was another thing entirely to trust him when you were used to going it alone.
Shepherd stopped. Maya almost bumped into him. They had traveled two hours and she could see nothing discernable in the vicinity that would call for a halt. She watched as Shepherd took a deep breath.
She held hers.
She had grown to dread and anticipate his pauses. She couldn’t gauge which emotion claimed her in this moment. She only knew that she had frozen with one foot in front of the other. She only knew that every cell in her entire body seemed to be tuned in to his movements.
With his back still turned to her, Shepherd reached for a large sheath strapped to the side of his uninjured leg. He unsnapped the cover and slowly pulled out a knife even larger than the one she’d used to cut his pants away from his injury. He moved with care as if he considered every inch of shiny steel before choosing to free it from its leather case.
Maya’s muscles ached as she fought the instinct to flee. She searched the nearby trees for movement. Surely, she wasn’t the threat he prepared to face? Shepherd turned as slowly as he had extracted the knife, as if he considered and accepted each inch as a decided course of action.
Maya didn’t run.
Even if her visions hadn’t brought her beyond that point of fearing physical violence from him, his very real kiss last night had. She feared their destination. She feared how she was drawn to him. She feared the moment when she would have to choose to trust or to fight, but she didn’t fear Shepherd. Not in that way. In countless others, but not because she thought he would physically harm her.
She watched as he moved to stand directly in front of her. His eyes were shadowed by the lenses of her sunglasses, but they didn’t look angry or threatening. Only resolute.
She didn’t protest when he reached for her hand. She let him raise it as he had yesterday, bringing the cuff up for inspection. Even though the sunglasses shaded her skin, she could see the angry redness caused by the handcuff’s constant slide.
Shepherd smoothed his rough fingers over the inflamed wrist, then he looked up from her wrist and met her eyes. While his fingers still slid softly over the old scars and the new irritation, she could see the hunter war with the man in the swirl of his irises.
Finally, his intense gaze moved back to her wrist and he inserted the tip of his knife into the slot intended for the lost key. A hard twist, a slight dig and a skittering click resulted from his movements. He let the ruined cuffs fall to the ground.
But, he didn’t release her hand.
The knife was re-sheathed in a practiced, one-handed move so quick and so smooth she could barely track it with her eyes.
But, he didn’t release her hand.
Maya had watched the cuffs fall. She’d tried to watch the knife disappear. Now, she couldn’t decide where to look. His hand on hers was fascinating, all warm and strong and steady. Her fingernails were chipped and her skin was pale. Her palm had seen cleaner days, but none of that seemed to faze him as he continued to hold her hand.
The cuffs were gone. His surprising mission accomplished. Why hadn’t he moved away?
Maya looked up. She didn’t know who she feared seeing the most, the man or the hunter. What she saw when she met his gaze was an indelible blending of both.
Adam Shepherd was a man sworn to hunt. She might detect a softness to his lips or heat in the depths of his soul, but the softness and heat were kept in check by a hard won survival mode that would be impossible to penetrate.
He had freed her from the hurtful cuffs. But, she wasn’t free. He had kissed her late in the dark of night and he had enjoyed her touch. He had given her a release, the hardest she’d ever experienced in her life, but he wouldn’t kiss her now in the harsh light of day.
She saw him firm his lips. She watched as his body perceptively stiffened.
It didn’t matter.
He could fool himself. He could even fool her. It was her visions that saw past his control to something building between them even as he let go of her hand to turn and resume the hike.
Maya tried to follow, but her knees had gone weak from the sudden feel of his naked body sliding against hers. Honed by hardship, sculpted by crisis, his lean form would be hers to hold and to stroke. It would be adventure realized, a challenge accepted and the Maya of this moment couldn’t see her way to the brave and bold Maya of — tonight? Tomorrow? — who would hold his body, taste his skin, throw all caution aside to claim the man in spite of the hunter.
And it was a claiming she foresaw.
He was several yards away before Maya could command her feet once more. The vision faded, leaving her trembling in reaction to the sudden, intimate touch of his body against hers. He would be almost too much for her to handle. The lean, muscular length of him; his strength and power and passion would almost overwhelm her. But, her vision showed her glorying in that power. Reveling in his strength and passion. Loving every inch of his muscled form.
In that moment, she knew it had been too long for both of them. Her powers gave her a glimpse into his life. She ached for his isolation, for his loneliness, because she had felt it her own self for far too long. No one should be alone. In this dark changed world, companionship was a treasure. Man. Woman. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding some measure of warmth when harsh cold reality became too much to bare.
He was a hard, guarded man, but he would let down his guard for her, with her, and she would let down her guard as well.
She knew if Shepherd turned to look at her now he would see her lips swollen from his kisses. He would see her skin flushed from the slide of his calloused hands.
He didn’t turn.
Her feet gradually began to feel the solid ground against them as she put the vision and her insight into his past behind her. Unfortunately, her powers left Maya with an even harder choice than she’d faced before.
She had to save Sasha.
But, now she knew Adam needing saving as well.
This harsh life had claimed him body and soul, but her visions showed her reaching past that hardness, braving that harshness, for what?
Maya began to walk again. She had to quicken her steps so she wouldn’t be left behind. She would protect Sasha no matter what, but now she had to worry about protecting herself because every step they took brought her closer to danger. The scientists were a threat, but the greatest threat was this desire for Adam Shepherd.
Visions or not, she couldn’t easily accept that challenge.
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