Out TODAY From Maggie Carpenter!


Does an ancient hourglass hold the key to their happiness,
or is their fate in the hands of random coincidence?

TIMELESS OBSESSION, a contemporary fantasy romance from USA Today Bestselling Author Maggie Carpenter, is out today!

What’s it all about? See for yourself.

MASON
She’s all I can think about. 
Am I obsessed? 
That’s not the kind of man I am, but every time I see her with some hot new guy it makes me crazy. 
I want to own her.
Possess her.
Take her down a path I know she’d love…if she dared to travel it. 
If she dared to trust me.

CHLOE
Why can’t I shake him?
Why do I ache for his kiss and his arms wrapped around me? 
Why does my stomach churn when I see a woman draped over his tall, muscular frame?Why must I endure this suffering?
WHY? WHY? WHY?
I barely know him, but he’s all I want.
He’s all I’ve ever wanted.
Am I obsessed?
I must be. 
I hate him.
And I love him. Desperately. 

* * *(NOTE: This novel was previously released under the title The Hourglass. The book has been rewritten and re-edited. It contains scenes of consensual power exchange.)

One-click TIMELESS OBSESSION today!

Weekend Excerpt–New Year, HOT New Series!

I’m so excited about the New Year! 2019 is bringing my brand new series, Redheads & Ranchers, a three-book collection of stand-alone novels featuring gorgeous redheads and the ranchers they can’t resist. First up is JENNY’S VOICE, due out early this winter.

Upon returning to his ranch after picking up a new client’s horse, gifted horse trainer Cole Caldwell is shocked to find a terrified young woman hiding in his horse trailer. She’s been beaten, and beneath his old barn jacket, she’s barely dressed. She’s not even wearing shoes.

Mute since the violent day she was taken, Jenny Stone saw her chance to escape the thugs who’ve been holding her for the past two years, and she took it. Hiding in the horse trailer seemed like her only option. Now, how can she explain to Cole that dangerous criminals will be out there looking for her? How long can she hide at the ranch? And can she ever recover her voice?

Here’s a little sneak peek at JENNY’S VOICE.

After Cole left, Jenny aimlessly wandered around the house. She gazed again at the photos hanging in the hallway, making a mental note to ask Cole about them sometime.

In the kitchen, she found the chicken he’d mentioned, a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. She chewed her lip thoughtfully, then opened an upper cupboard. There she found flour, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a small container of dried parsley. She frowned. Dried would do if he didn’t have fresh parsley, she supposed.

In the fridge, she found butter, grated Parmesan, a lemon, and a partial bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. She surveyed everything on the counter, frowning.

Capers. If only he has capers. Dragging a chair from the table, she climbed up and peered into the upper cabinets once more. Shoving aside all the items in the front, she leaned up on her tiptoes, straining to see what else might be in there. All the way in the back, she spied a small round jar. She had to climb onto the counter to reach it.

Capers! Yes! Gleefully, she pumped her fist in the air.

Now that she had everything she needed, she filled the sink with water and submerged the package of frozen chicken. Cole had said he’d be gone a couple of hours. That should be plenty of time to prepare chicken piccata.

Before, Jenny hadn’t done a lot of cooking. She’d always been busy with school and her friends. Her mother hadn’t much of a cook herself, preferring to pick up take-out on her way home from work. That was before.

After, alone in her little room, sometimes she was given old magazines to pass the time. Never anything with news, mind you, but magazines about home décor and cooking, issues that someone else had thumbed through and gotten tired of, always months out of date. But to Jenny, they’d been a tiny window onto the outside world.

Hour after hour, she’d pore over the articles and recipes, even creating the dishes in the kitchen of her imagination, following step after step. Eyes closed, she’d mixed seasonings, sautéed the beef or chicken or whatever the directions called for, and at times, she’d have sworn she actually smelled the dish she was cooking.

A recipe for chicken piccata had particularly interested her, and she’d read it so many times, she had memorized it. And with all the ingredients, she was finally going to bring the dish to life here in Cole’s kitchen.

While she waited for the chicken to thaw, she gazed out the kitchen window. Across the yard was another pasture she hadn’t noticed before. She couldn’t see any horses there, but waving in the gentle March breeze were scores of wildflowers.

They’d look beautiful on the table with dinner. Anxiously, she wrung her hands. Could she risk going outside? Cole wasn’t home. There would be no one to protect her.

Her stomach flipped at the thought of Victor or his men watching her. That was stupid. He had no idea where she was. No way to trace her. How could he?

She shook her head. I will not let Victor run my life. Not anymore.

With determined steps, she walked to the front door, took a deep breath, and opened it. Glancing around, she saw no one. The horses were still out in the pasture, although Minnie had returned to the gate as though she wanted to go back to the barn.

The only sound she could hear was the wind whispering through the oak trees along the drive. She glanced to her left and saw the flowers she’d seen from the window. Blue sat at her side and looked up at her questioningly. She patted his head.

Twenty steps. Twenty running steps will get me to the flowers. Then twenty steps back. She breathed in deeply and glanced down at the dog.

Heart pounding, she took off sprinting across the side yard, ducking under the fence rail and into the field. Blue barked happily and chased along beside her, unsure of the game but pleased to be playing anyway. Jenny stopped at a large patch of bright yellow poppies and grabbed a handful. She was about to run back when she spied tall purple lupines further into the field. Glancing around to reassure herself that no one was around, she darted to the lupines and snatched a few before running back to the house.

She slammed the front door closed and leaned against it, panting. Ears up and tail wagging, Blue grinned up at her as if to ask if they could do it again. Jenny smiled and patted his head, then went to find a vase for the flowers.

–JENNY’S VOICE, Redheads & Ranchers Book 1

Keep watching right here for the official cover reveal of JENNY’S VOICE, and for information about its release date.

In the meantime, who doesn’t love a modern-day adult fairy tale?

See why CHASING ORDINARY is the
2018 New Apple Summer eBook Awards Medalist in Literary Erotica.
Get your copy here:
books2read.com/ChasingOrdinary

Watch This Space–BLOODLINE: The Beginning by April Fitts

If Werewolf/Wiccan/Fantasy/Dark Adult Romance is your thing, you are SO in luck!

Award-winning author April Fitts is all set to release BLOODLINE: The Beginning in February, but she’s giving us a sneak peek now.

Hidden in a cave; deep in the dark forest from the most vicious rogues, you will find a woman starving and alone, Amelia Dawn.  Amelia has only but her diary and a few berries to survive.  As her sources and sanity run low, she is forced out of her haven only do discover an inviting lake nearby.  Her desperate attempt for a bath and a quick taste of heaver come with a price, Alpha Marcus Calister and the thirsty Rowlers that both crave her enchanted soul.

Here’s a little teaser:

The Rowler starts to cough profusely as the color of its skin pales with every struggled breath.  The Rowler ask, “Why do you care so much about her? She is a simple human after all.”

Without letting go, he turns and faces me for the very first time.  As we look at each other, my tearful emerald eyes lock into this blazing blue eyes.  His breath hitches in shock as he utters one single word,

“MATE!”

BLOODLINE: THE BEGINNING comes out in February, but you can use this LINK to read it now on Wattpad.

April Fitts is the winner of an impressive list of awards:

1st place The Unity Awards
1st place The Chaos Awards
1st place The Fallen Angel Awards
1st place The Night Time Awards
1st place Jo Awards
2nd place The Rose Awards
3rd place Best Plot–The Fallen Angel Awards
3rd place The Chaos Awards: 2

Find out more about April at her website.

 

Weekend Excerpt–Merry Christmas!

This final weekend before Christmas, I’m sending you warm wishes for a wonderful holiday!

And I’m posting one last Christmas excerpt, but this one comes with a warning:
There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t read Rannigan’s Redemption from the beginning, you might want to stop right here.

This snippet comes from the third book of the Rannigan trilogy, RANSOMING REDEMPTION.

Afternoon blended into evening as dusk fell, and Maggie noticed that not only had no one left, they all looked as though they were settling in for a long stay, some even helping themselves to plates of leftovers.

“How are you feeling, Michael?” she asked, squatting beside him.  “Should I start shooing people out of here?”

“Don’t be silly, Mags,” he said, flashing his best Michael Rannigan grin.  “Everybody’s enjoying themselves.  This is the nicest Christmas I’ve had in a long time.”

She looked up at him and smiled, squeezing his hand.  “I’m really glad.”

As she made her way back to the kitchen, her phone buzzed in her pocket. Finally.  Bobby had called early in the morning and they’d chatted briefly, but they hadn’t had another chance to talk all day.

“Hey there, cher,” he greeted her.  “How’s my best girl?”

Maggie laughed into the phone.  “I’m better now.  I’ve missed you all day, but I know you were busy.  We’ve been busy here, too, come to that.”  She walked down the hallway for more privacy.

“Would you believe that everyone is still at Michael’s?” she whispered.  “Nobody has left yet.”

“No?”

“I asked Michael if I should start moving them along, but he seems happy to have them.”

Bobby laughed.  “It sounds like you throw a hell of a party.  Nobody wants to leave.”

“How was your day?  Did Savannah like her present?”  Maggie had sent Bobby with a portable artist’s kit to give the little girl.

“She just loved it.”  Maggie could hear the smile in his voice.  “That child had more stuff by the end of the morning than you would believe.”

Maggie laughed happily.  “Well, good.  I’m so glad.”  She sighed.  “I just wish you were here.”

“Me too, cher, believe me.”

“Do I need to let you go?” she asked.

“Yeah, I should probably get off the phone.”

“Okay, then,” she breathed.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too, Maggie.  I’ll see you soon.”

Maggie disconnected and made her way back down the hallway towards the living room which was as full of people as ever.  It seemed less than fair somehow that everyone had someone with them today.  Casey had John, Ben had Nate, Rance had Jason, hell, even Michael had Veronica   Whatever happened to the Orphans and Misfits?  She knew she was being petty and tried to shrug it off.

Across the room, Michael looked tired and he was using his oxygen again.  She wondered briefly whether she should just start moving people along in spite of what he’d said.  A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts.

“Hey Mags, could you get that?” Michael asked.

Sighing to herself, she crossed to the door, wondering who’d locked themselves out.  She didn’t notice that as she swung open the door the room fell silent.

“Merry Christmas, cher.”

Momentarily speechless, she froze for second before launching herself into Bobby’s arms.  He had to take a step back to keep from falling.

“Well, I’m glad to see you, too,” he laughed.

Through tears, she sputtered, “But…I mean, what…How did you…”

“Calm down,” he laughed as he carried her into the room.  “Merry Christmas, everybody.”  Bobby gently set Maggie down, and she gripped his hand in hers, unwilling to lose contact with him.

Casey brought a plate of food from the kitchen.  “Hi, I’m Casey.  I figured you were probably hungry.”

Bobby bestowed on her his best lop-sided grin.  “Nice to meet you, Casey.  I’m Bobby.  And thanks, I am pretty hungry.”  He took a seat on the end of the sectional, nodding at Michael.  “Merry Christmas, man.”

Michael smiled, his eyes crinkling.  “Merry Christmas, Beau.  Glad you could join us.”

As Bobby ate, Maggie introduced him to those he hadn’t met.  While everyone went back to their own conversations, she peppered him with questions.  “What happened?  Did you really call me from the hall?  Why did you come back tonight?  I thought you were staying in Louisiana for a couple more days.”

“I wanted to surprise you,” he grinned.

“Well…you did.  I’m so glad.”

Taking her hand, he kissed it gently.  “Let’s go get a breath of fresh air.”  He stood and held her hand, helping her up, and they let themselves out onto the terrace.  The cool air was a nice change from the warmth of the crowded apartment.  They walked to the railing and stood side by side looking out over the city with its sparkling lights and flurrying snow.

“It’s such a beautiful night,” Bobby murmured, and Maggie nodded, tucking her arm around his and resting her head on his shoulder.  “Such a beautiful lady.”

She looked up at him, and he kissed her lightly.  “When I think back on that day that your shoe broke,” he looked down and she giggled, “that seems like the luckiest day of my life.  I think of all the things that had to happen for us to meet at that moment.”  He gazed down at her.  “It’s like it was meant to be.”

He took both Maggie’s hands in his and faced her.  “I love you with all my heart.  I don’t ever want to know a day without you in my life.”  His eyes glittered with emotion and he slowly lowered himself to one knee.  Maggie’s jaw dropped, and her eyes widened.

“So I’m asking…Maggie, will you marry me?”

Maggie felt all the breath leave her body.  In a mad rush, memories from the last few years swirled through her mind, her infatuation with Michael, her engagement to Mike, her resolve to remain alone, that day she and Bobby had met.

She looked down into Bobby’s eyes and saw a twinge of anxiety and realized she hadn’t answered.  Unable to formulate the words, she nodded vigorously as tears filled her eyes.  Two things happened simultaneously.  Relief instantly flooded Bobby’s face, and raucous cheers went up from the crowd who’d pressed up against the living room windows to watch.

“You had me worried for a minute there, cher,” he laughed.  He reached into his pocket and removed a small midnight blue velvet box.  Opening it, he removed something and slid it onto Maggie’s left ring finger.  “You’ve made me the happiest man in the world.”  He stood and gazed down into her eyes before lifting her chin and kissing her passionately.  Again, their audience cheered loudly.

“Bobby, it’s absolutely beautiful,” Maggie said.  “I love it!”

He laughed.  “You can’t even see it.  I hadn’t counted on it being so dark out here.  Come on, let’s go on inside.”

Hand in hand, they went back inside the apartment to the hearty congratulations of their friends.  In the light of a lamp beside Michael, Maggie and Bobby looked at the ring.  The band of delicate platinum filigree held a huge emerald-cut diamond surrounded by dozens of smaller diamonds.

“Oh, Bobby,” she gasped.  “It’s unbelievably beautiful.  So delicate and vintage-looking.”  She turned and threw her arms around his neck.  “I love it!”

“Oh, for God’s sake, can we finally open the champagne?” Ben called out.  As champagne was poured and glasses were passed around, Maggie looked down at Michael who had a Cheshire grin on his face.

“This is the gift Bobby showed you?” she said, tilting the ring his way.  Realization dawned on her.  “And it wasn’t leftover champagne?  And this is why nobody would leave?”

“Everybody except you knew this was an engagement party, Mags,” he said quietly.

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I said yes,” she said.

“Oh, like you would have said no,” Casey quipped, and everyone laughed.

The Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy is RESISTING RISK,
RUNNING ROGUE, and RANSOMING REDEMPTION.
It’s available as a three-book boxed set, or as individual novels.
Why not start at the beginning?
books2read.com/ResistingRisk

Welcome to the Official UNORTHODOX TRILOGY Boxed Set Blog Tour!

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Title: The Unorthodox Trilogy Boxed Set

Author: Lilah E. Noir

Release Date: December 15th, 2018

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Smart. Mature. Sophisticated. Out of his league.
She was the forbidden fruit and his heart’s desire.

Young. Plucky. Ambitious. The last man you’d call a Dom.
He was all she never knew she needed.

After seven years of pent-up longing Thomas Jett challenges Lina Riley’s one crippling weakness. All bets are off when she surrenders to his discipline in the hope he’d set her free from her addiction. He introduces her to the deviant world of delicious torture and intense pleasure. Every time she kneels at his feet their connection grows stronger.

That intense bond pushes them past their limits and threatens to destroy their sanity.

Can Thomas get over his inner demons and be the man and Dom Lina craves?
Will Lina learn to trust him and her own desires?

Find out what will come of their unorthodox romance in this deluxe boxed set.
Get the boxed set at a premium release price before it goes back up to 7.99.

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Only $3.99 for a LIMITED time

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#AmazonGiftCard #Giveaway #Contest

  • Go to Goodreads and add The Unorthodox Trilogy Boxed set on your shelf (Click Want to read) – https://bit.ly/2Eo4cGj
  • Like, share and comment on this post – https://bit.ly/2GnWXjL
  • The winners will be announced on December 25th

THE UNORTHODOX SERIES FROM 0.5 to 3

Unorthodox Dom, Book o.5 of the series

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He was a Dominant on training wheels. She was a wild masochistic kitten and more than he bargained for.
Thomas has reached his breaking point.
Work, studies, lust for his sexy boss, his own kinky urges are driving him insane.
He’s sick of hiding.
In walks Kat. Sassy, creative, submissive to the bone and a hot mess of epic proportions.
The first girl who ever craved his punishing spanking, dominant touch and rough lovemaking.
What happens when her life begins falling apart?
Can Thomas put it back together with strict rules and iron discipline?
Is he strong enough to save her from herself?

Unorthodox Dom is 30,000 words erotic romance novella featuring hot, erotic action, a Dominant new to the lifestyle, a bratty submissive in need of a firm hand and a badass Dominatrix. Not a menage, no cheating. The story takes place four years prior the events in the Unorthodox Trilogy but it can be read as a standalone. Bonus material – Chapter 1 of Unorthodox Therapy.

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“You’re so beautiful when you suffer,” I whispered, drenched the edge of the crop with her thick nectar and brought it to her nose. “If I owned you, I’d keep you tied and gagged until I decided you’d had too much.”
I made the final crop hit across her chest. That earned me another agonized scream. I could watch her like this all day but I didn’t want to damage her. Using the clover clamps was already pushing the safety boundaries.
I leaned forward to kiss the line between her breasts and slowly unscrewed the metal teeth around her nipples. When the tender buds were free of the cruel bite, I went to kiss her chest, lick her nipples and ease the hot pain. My fingers stroked her other breast and rubbed the sore spots, marked in red, rough lines. I sank my teeth into her nipple and got up to look at her face, enjoying the battle in those pretty eyes.
Kat’s altered emotional and mental state made me insatiable. I wanted more of her internal struggle. So I decided to push the boundaries one more time. When I pulled my lips away from her aching nipple, I took one of the candles from the bedside table and tipped it. A thin line of wax started dripping down her skin. Allie chose that moment to remove the ball gag so Kat’s cries resounded through the room, desperate yet so sensual.
“Please… please… it’s too much.”
Her clit was pounding. I kept running the line of wax across her body and Allie resumed the vibe torture. Kat sucked in her breath and squeezed her hands so hard she probably left marks all over her palms.
“Shhh…” I kissed her lips lightly. My tenderness contrasted to the pain provoked by the wax. “Relax, kitten. You’re really close and you were such a good girl. You can do it.”

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She was still except for her trembling shoulders, staring at the floor, like a praying sinner and a guilty child. It broke my heart to see her that way and feel her anguish. The nausea threatened to make me dizzy but I pushed it away, walked closer to my girlfriend and started circling around her. Kat didn’t react to my presence. The only move she made was to lower her head. I could taste her fear as if it was black liquid sticking to my skin. It had been with her all along under the mask of makeup, charming smiles, and sass. She was finally stripped of her defenses.
I placed a hand on her shoulder. She raised her eyes to meet mine. The sight of Kat’s face was like a stab in my chest. Her cheeks were swollen and red after hours of crying. It was easy to see her eyes were bloodshot, even under the faint light.
“Thomas, I’m so sorry. I’m a horrible—”
I didn’t say anything, just put a finger on her lips. Earlier, I’d decided that it was best not to spare her. The sight of her made me change my mind. She was going through her own personal hell. It was much worse than anything even the greatest sadist could do to her. What Kat needed was kindness even if she felt she deserved a thousand whips.
After a few minutes of only looking at her eyes, my fingers ran down her cheek to wipe away a tear. I whispered in a soothing voice, “I’ll sit in that armchair. You’ll crawl to me on your hands and knees and put your head in my lap. Do you understand, Kat?”
She nodded. I smiled reassuringly and kissed her wet, chapped lips. When I walked away from her and sat down, my confidence slowly started coming back. Kat crawled slowly back to me, like a wounded, scared kitten, sniffling, trying to look strong. She laid her head on my knee and I rested my hand on her soft hair.
“Please, little one, just talk to me.”

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Unorthdox Therapy, Book 1 of The Unorthodox Trilogy

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She was his boss at work and his submissive at all times.
LINA
I’d never noticed him before.
He was just a lonely, scared boy when I hired him.
I was too busy to notice the lust in his eyes.
Now I’m at his feet begging for every bit of pleasure and pain he’ll unleash on me.
THOMAS
She enthralled me.
Her body. Her mind. Her wicked laughter and unreadable eyes.
She was out of my league yet I knew what she longed for.
I only had two months to kill her nicotine addiction and make her crave me.
I’d use every trick I had to claim her as mine.
WARNING! This book is intended for mature audiences. It contains scenes of BDSM, rough language, as well as non-sexual violence. The book is part 1 of a trilogy. All the characters are over 18 years old. Please, read the Warning at the front part of the book before you decide to purchase it.

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“It’s time we went upstairs for our training session, pet.”
I tried to get to my feet but Thomas shook his head, tutted and put a hand on my shoulder. He pushed me back to a kneeling position and spoke with a wicked grin.
“No, Lina, I want you to get in the mindset of what it’s like to be a sub. Crawl for me, my pet and trust me to lead you.”
“This is demeaning.” I whimpered in weak protest.
He didn’t say a word and kept walking, tugging my leash carefully. I didn’t have much of a choice except to do as Thomas commanded. Crawling on the staircase after my self-proclaimed Master on a tight leash was one of the most surreal experiences I’d ever had. My pride wept at the debasement but the sensations were riveting. He was walking without any sign of hesitation in his steps, and every once in a while he muttered what a good pet I was. Those words made my long suffering body and mind feel elated, as if I were floating during the act of surrender.
The next day, my flesh would be sore and stretched but today I was getting further past my inhibitions than ever. I felt brave, adventurous and too aroused to analyze the situation. All I could think at the top of the staircase was how my nipples were as heavy and filled with blood as if he’d restrained them with clamps.
Thomas led me into the kitchen and let my leash drop to the floor as soon as we reached the big round table. The room was so different to the peaceful, sunlit place I remembered from our discussion last Saturday. He had turned the lights off and everything was clouded by the soft velvet embrace of twilight. The only sources of illumination were two tall candlesticks whose small flames cast shadows over my face.
I had been too shocked to notice any small details last week but at that moment, all my senses were heightened. The fragrance of aromatic wax, probably cinnamon, made me tingle with expectation of the surprises Thomas had prepared for me. I closed my eyes to let the anticipation fully sink in and take control of me. Thus, I failed to notice the other objects on the table and yelped in surprise at the familiar bite of the clamps on my already engorged nipples.
“I remember you loved them.” Thomas laughed at my panic and slapped my ass playfully when he’d finished adjusting the clamps on my breasts. “Up on your feet now, pet.” He handed me a hair tie once I opened my eyes. “For the next part, tie your hair as tightly as possible. It would be in the way for what I have in mind. Bend over the table. Place your hands palms down next to your head. Spread your legs as wide as you can. I need full access to your pussy.”
“How long do I have to wait?” I moaned while I was tying my hair in a messy bun with shaking hands. The pain in my heaving breasts was the final straw, pulling me into an almost hallucinating state of arousal. “Thomas… Sir… I can’t last. I need you so badly. I’m in so much pain. Please, spare me.”
“So do I, my pet.” He was hovering over me. He had taken off his pants and underwear and the tip of his throbbing cock nearly pressed against my ass cheek. Thomas was holding himself by the shaft and staring at me with intensity. “The week wasn’t easy for me either.”
My skin was burning brighter than the flames of the candles lighting up my exposed, dripping flesh. This time, he didn’t use any bondage on me save for the symbolic leash, but his steely willpower had me fully restrained. One look and an order with his calm voice and my body turned into a mess of pent-up lust.
A week of holding back added up as well.
“I’m scared,” I whispered, and in response, Thomas pressed my shoulder harder against the table.
“I know. Don’t move an inch. If you change your position even slightly, the next step would be to have you wear a chastity belt for the next week.” The firm dungeon dominant had returned. The seriousness of his threat took its toll on my feverish brain.
“Yes, Master. Just, please, hurry up. I’m dying,” I whispered in a small voice, without recognizing myself.

“You’re a good girl, Lina, but don’t try to dictate my pace.” Thomas leaned forward to nibble my earlobe. Then he stepped back and out of my sight. “Close your eyes.”
The inky darkness behind my eyelids didn’t do much to comfort my throbbing clit and nipples. Then the first drops of wax licked the skin of my back. Had I seen him taking the candlestick and tilting it to leave a trail of red drops, I’d have tensed with fear and expected the burning would be unbearable. Fire was one of those forces of nature that held both allure and terror for me. The thought of permanent scars and burning flesh were imprinted in my mind each time I stared at the tip of a flame, but the warmth and safety it exuded made me feel alive in spite of the silent horror.
When he spread the hot, small drops all over my shoulders, down the sensitive spots on my spine and the curve of my ass, I tingled with how fantastic it felt. Instead of white-hot agony, my body shuddered with delight at the warmth of the dripping candle. It triggered pleasure through my entire self, like a throbbing, erotic impulse. The warmth down my sweaty, exposed skin was short enough to make me tremble with stimulation. It melted in rivulets down my back before solidifying. I tried to stay as still as possible but when strong convulsions ran through me, I moaned out loud.
“Do you like it, little one?” he whispered and brushed his thumb across the back of my neck. I writhed under his touch when he kept dripping wax all over me. “You used to say candles were the worst of all romantic clichés.”
“It feels amazing. I thought… Shouldn’t it hurt?” My mind was split in two, as relaxed as if I were in a massage parlor, and right on the edge of insanity. His slow, comforting movements and the increasing heat of the flame were torturous, but I loved what he was doing to me. For a moment, I wished I never needed to come down from my heightened state of arousal, right at the door of agony. My flesh demanded a climax to unify all my waking sensations.

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Romantic

“Have you always been such a rebel?” Hopefully, she wouldn’t take my affectionate smile as condescending.
Lina frowned and tried to pull her hand away but I wouldn’t let her escape so easily. She didn’t protest when I tangled my fingers with hers.
“Are you trying to analyze me, Thomas? I thought this was meant to be a fun afternoon.”
“I want to understand you better, Lina. I don’t want you to be defensive around me or think I’m trying to humiliate you.” My voice was low, almost a whisper. It might have been a bad idea to talk about intimate matters in a public place but the moment was way too perfect. “You’ve always been intriguing to me, such a walking contradiction.”
“How so?”
“For starters, you’re an introvert who has chosen the role of leader.”
“What?” Lina pulled away from me, much to my regret. She raised her hands over her head and gazed at me with bewilderment and some fear. “What makes you think I’m an introvert? That is even more ridiculous than claiming I’m submissive.”
Damn, for such a highly intelligent woman she suffered from some delusions about herself.
“Don’t take it the wrong way, Lina. I don’t mean you’re an anti-social freak or even shy. That’s a common misconception, just like the assumption submissive women are weak puppets.”
This conversation had the potential to backfire but I wasn’t going to back down. Who knew when we’d have another chance for an honest conversation? I just had to pick my words carefully.
“I’m an introvert myself, not that that’s a surprise. You’re capable and you show an enviable confidence. You know how to inspire your employees. Your negotiation skills are remarkable and you play the part of a people person to perfection, but there comes a point when you simply need to have some time away, doesn’t there? To recharge your batteries, to get your strength back? What I’m trying to say is…” I smiled at her in reassurance. “I understand your need for a safe harbor and I often experience it myself. I admire you even more now because I know how much effort it takes.”

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UnorthodoxChemistry

He was her Master, lover and the only man who truly knew her. She was his pet, best friend and the love of his life. Sometimes that’s not enough.
LINA
He’s gone.
His absence hurts more than any whip.
Thomas saw me for who I was.
Strong on the outside, fractured and vulnerable on the inside.
Every day I struggle to rebuild my life.
I miss him. His rough passion and his affection.
I know we’ll never be together again, I even tried to move on…
… and then one invitation changed everything.
Do I dare to say no to the greatest temptation?
THOMAS
I had to walk away.
Lina paid dearly for my mistakes.
She needs to heal and all that’s left for me is to wait.
In the dark, with nothing but my demons and sins to keep me company.
The memory of her is a bittersweet torture, one I didn’t think I could ever escape…
A year later, at the kinkiest club in town, I saw her. On the arm of another man.
May the seduction begin.

WARNING! This book is intended for mature audiences. It’s an intense love story and hot erotic romance with BDSM scenes. The book is part 2 of a trilogy and can’t be read as a standalone. All the characters are over 18 years old. Please, read the Warning at the front part of the book before you decide to purchase it.

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She shifted in place and spun her wrists in the tight bracelets to test their sturdiness rather than to set herself free. She trembled again and her skin rose into goosebumps under the warm glow of the table candles. Another lightning strike fell and made her lurch forward in the chains in shock.
I circled around the cube, moved behind her and pressed my body against hers, allowing her to feel my erection and my arms around her waist. The soft gasps of horror grew into louder sounds of pleasure when I pressed my lips to the side of her neck, fondled her breasts and squeezed her nipples. My clasp was as tender as possible when I left a line of wet kisses from her earlobe down to her collarbone.
She moaned and tossed her head back when I hooked my fingers into her wet cunt, grabbed the thick foxtail and pushed it deeper inside her. Her walls were soft and coated with silky wetness, a fragrance I could never mistake, even with the aromatic wax lingering in the air. She clenched her muscles tight around me when I picked up the speed of my fingers and gyrated the plug to ease her even more. Her hands clasped into fists and she barely balanced on the swinging chains.
Slick, profuse juices were gathering in my palm when I pulled out to give her pussy lips a loud slap. She let out the first real scream of pleasure for the night, parted her legs wider and raised her ass. The foxtail was brushing against the bulge in my pants while her naked body was dancing and her feminine crotch was grinding against my evasive fingers. That was the moment to tease her, never give her that deep, intimate touch. I let go of the fur I’d been clasping, spanked both her ass cheeks and let the warmth of the mild pain spread through her system.
She leaned her head back and rested it on my shoulder. She breathed heavily and stared up at the metal grid while her aroused clit was throbbing. I grabbed her ponytail in a firm, possessive way and forced her to bend further, to raise her bust and present herself to me as a gift, voluptuous, with hardened, pulsating nipples.
It was just my imagination but it felt like the elements outside were playing voyeur to our scene. Every time Lina screamed out with the teasing and warm-up spanking, new thunder shattered the air. The wind was a horny she-wolf provoked by my lover’s wild screams.

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Romantic

Lina picked up a bottle of white wine from the shelf and looked back at me.
“I’m not sure what you have planned but I could use a drink. You know, for relaxation. Would it be okay?”
I pulled her by the hips, kissed her and rubbed the back of her neck.
“I’ll make sure you’re relaxed enough without the extra lubrication. Still, it wouldn’t hurt. No more than half a glass per meal, and we’ll have coffee afterwards.”
She trembled when I leaned to whisper in her ear and bite it.
“You’re right about one thing, Lina. I do have plans and I want you sober, alert and dripping.”
Lina rolled her eyes, pushed me away with a light grin and left the bottle in the cart. She made sure to bend over more than necessary so her dress would cling to her hips.
“Same old. You love to boss me around and make me hot and bothered in public places.”
I smirked at her.
“Is that a complaint? We both know you love being teased into submission. Now, we’d better go if you’re done trying to pay me back with my own poison to earn a punishment later.”
After a little spicy argument at the checkout, I paid the bill and we headed out into the ice-cold morning. Lina gave me the directions to her address, and five minutes later we were standing on the wooden porch with our bags.
I looked around while she took the keys out of her purse. Her house was right on the coast, close enough to town. Still, the area had a sense of wildness to it. It opened onto a white sandy lot covered in marram grass, overgrown rocks with a view to the ocean. A small pathway led down to the beach itself. It must’ve been fantastic to be here in the high summer season, with nothing but blue sky and infinite ocean washing the sand below.
I’d have appreciated the austere beauty of the landscape more if it hadn’t been for the vicious winds blowing our way. Waves crashed against the shore with a threatening roar. The clouds gathering on the horizon were slowly spreading across the sky. Lightning flashed for a fraction of a second and distant thunder followed it.
Well, we’ll be stuck inside for a long time, I thought with a smirk.
Lina opened the sliding door just in time before the first raindrops fell on the porch.
“Bikini weather,” she mumbled as we brought the luggage into a sort of living and dining room combo.
“Oh, come on, it’s not that bad,” I said, carrying two of the grocery bags. “You know, it may seem strange but I’ve never been much of a beach lover. Indoor activities are much more fun.”
“You miss the finer things in life.” Lina laughed, took her coat off and hung it on a hook on the wall.
“What can I say?” I shrugged, approached her from behind and hugged her. “I’ve got all I need right here.”
She let out a happy sigh when my lips pressed to the side of her neck. I crossed my palms over her stomach and pulled her closer.
“This place is lovely and it suits you.”

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UnorthodoxUnion-2ndversion-brighter

No other woman could understand me like you. We know all we’ve been through, Lina, and I remember every scar on your body and soul.

LINA
We were together in the darkest pits of hell.
He cleansed me through the cruelty of pain and led me to my bliss.
I’m exactly where I belong.
A leader in the boardroom and a purring submissive for Thomas.
When the right chance comes along… do we dare reach for the stars?

THOMAS
I have the woman of my dreams and a chance for a new beginning.
Lina faced all of me, my dark, ugly and violent sides, yet she chose to stay.
She restored my lost balance and helped me find peace with who I am.
I’ve never been so happy… and that’s what scares me the most.
After all we have been through, can we have it all?

WARNING! This book is intended for mature audiences. It’s an intense love story and hot erotic romance with BDSM scenes. It also contains scenes of violence and rough language. If you have any triggers related to it I’d suggest that you don’t buy that book. The book is part 3 of the Unorthodox Trilogy and can’t be read as a standalone. All the characters are over 18 years old.

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The bare touch of his hands and the slowly growing intensity were electrical. He was studying the surface of my lips and was getting inside me with nothing but his sheer presence. The dungeon chill was fading and I grew more lustful with each small, tempting touch. If I tried to approach him and opened my mouth to beg he’d just place his finger on top of it to silence me. Thomas laid his left hand on my shoulder to keep me at the exact position.

His cat-like grace and the dance of his touch quickly turned into a stealth and aggression without a warning. I didn’t even have the time to cry out in protest when he grabbed me hard by the ponytail, spun me around without an effort and ground my aroused body against the stone wall. A soft mewl of despair came from my lips. Thomas moved his mouth to my ear and sank teeth in that delicate spot that always made me weak in the knees. He grabbed me by the wrists and crossed them at the small of my back before he pressed his strong body against mine. I found myself trapped between him and the hard, stone wall. Its iciness didn’t take away any of the liquid fire he provoked with his teasing and the sweetness of the denial.

“You know I can’t simply let you get away with it, don’t you, little one?” Thomas lowered his voice as he whispered in my ear. I shifted under him and tried to move my wrists. A sharp stinging slap elicited a cry out of me and forced me to stay in place. It was such a strong, confident smack. I bet my ass cheeks were already blushing in red. “Be still. I never gave you permission to move, did I?”

N-no, sir,I whispered weakly. It was so difficult to follow his orders when every word whispered in that sexy tone made me melt and wish to kneel.

“I’d say you were a good girl, but you have been very, very bad this morning, Lina. You must have forgotten what I’m doing with bad girls and it’s high time to remember.”

“What do you mean, sir?” I slipped into the role as if I was sliding my favorite silk stockings on. “A woman has to do what a woman has to do when her Dom hesitates to make the first move.”

His growling laughter, right at the nape of my neck, caused a row of ants to start marching all over my most sensitive zones. I breathed out and closed my eyes while he was brushing his lips across my skin.

“… and that sassy mouth of yours just earned you an even harsher punishment. You really don’t know what’s best for you, do you, Lina? You’re still begging for trouble, like the bad girl you are. You knew the rules. I warned you not to go to the dungeon unless I permit you. Did I ever tell you could mess with my locks?”

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Romantic

Lina?” I whispered in her ear and rubbed the nape of her neck. She looked up at me with hesitant, wet eyes. “Go to the bedroom and take off your clothes. Wash your face and take a shower if you want. Put on your collar and come to me downstairs.”

“Are you going to punish me because I was a bitch to you?” Her shoulders sagged. “Can we do it tomorrow or on Sunday? I feel unwell and I don’t think I can take it. Please.”

Relax, pet.” I kissed her and bit her bottom lip playfully. It was still tender from the way she’s been nibbling it earlier. “Yes, you’ve been a bitch but I won’t punish you for it… yet. Just trust me.”

That made her smile for the first time that evening.

“The old Thomas would have me bent over the kitchen counter and marked my ass with the largest and heaviest spatula he had.” She joked and pressed her face close to mine.

Oh, that guy?” I raised my eyebrow and squeezed her ass cheeks. “He was wrong about a lot of things. There are more effective ways to deal with your bitchiness… but Lina… you don’t have to act like a bitch to earn yourself a spanking. Kneeling at my feet and begging for it would be enough.”

When she withdrew from me and walked down the hall to our bedroom Lina looked much calmer. I shook my head at the thought.

Our bedroom.

Ours.

It was strange to think of anything in here as something different than my own.

Sharing space proved to be more difficult than planned.

I grabbed two beers out of the fridge. The thought of Kat flashed in my mind while I was walking down the stairs.

She was the girl who almost moved in with me.

Would it have been the same way if I had gotten together with her? She lived with me for a short time back. It was a different situation, though, and we always knew it was temporary.

That was it, I didn’t have much experience to make a comparison and Lina admitted all her previous attempts to live with someone ended up as a disaster.

We were both clueless.

She would probably not appear for a while so I sat back on the couch to finish the Skyrim game. It was difficult to focus but I did it just to keep my mind busy with something. I didn’t realize Lina was back in the room until I felt her on my lap.

The sight of her made my blood boil, being naked, a little wet from the shower, with perky pink nipples and a black collar around her neck. I pushed the lustful thoughts aside and made a gesture at her to climb on the couch. Lina curled next to me, still with her head on my knee and the silver chain of the leash in hand.

“Much better.” I said soothingly and ran a finger down the curve of her spine. “How do you feel now?”

“My head is no longer spinning. I don’t feel like I’d throw up so I must be well.” She chuckled and rubbed her cheek against my knee like a literal pet cat. “I can’t believe I told you…”

Goose prickles covered her spine while I traced it with hand in a soft, straight line. That simple action eased the knots in her shoulders and Lina was just about to start purring.

No.” I shook my head. “I’m glad you told me what was the problem. If I’m guilty of something I’d want to know what it is. You know it’s the first time I live with a woman so I want to do my best.”

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Lilah E. Noir is an author of dark erotic novels and psychological stories. Her work has elements of taboo, seduction and different aspects of the BDSM lifestyle, with a touch of romance and tenderness. If you love flawed characters, submissive alpha females, unconventional dominant heroes, angst, emotional darkness, lots of kinky sex scenes her books might be your kind of pleasure.

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Weekend Excerpt–A Different Kind of Christmas

Rannigan’s Redemption is the story of high-profile Manhattan attorney Michael Rannigan and his complicated relationship with Maggie Flynn, the talented redhead he hires to join his elite firm.

Michael is an inveterate player with a contact list of hot blondes at his beck and call.  Maggie is nothing like his usual type–she’s way too smart, for one thing.  So why can’t he get her out of his mind?

Here’s a Christmas snippet from RUNNING ROGUE, Book 2.

Following the dinner party at Rance and Jason’s, Maggie felt a bit more comfortable in the new office.  At least she knew a few people to speak with, some to go out to lunch with, and those few introduced to her more.  She dived in to the cases that came her way and before she realized it, she’d been with the DA’s office for six months.

Suddenly she was making plans for Christmas.  The usual cast of characters was invited along with a few new orphans and misfits from work.  Rance and Jason promised to stop by on their way to Jason’s mother’s house in Connecticut.

Maggie wondered about Michael.  Since that first year, he’s arranged his vacation so that he could at least put in an appearance at Maggie’s before jetting off to some exotic locale for the rest of the Christmas holiday.

Should I formally invite him?  Surely he knows…  His status as an orphan and misfit hasn’t changed. 

But as Christmas day wore on, as guests arrived and dinner was prepared and consumed, gifts were exchanged and hugs were shared, Maggie kept an eye on her phone, her ear tuned toward the door buzzer.

By the time the last of her guests hugged her good night and headed out into the twilight of early Christmas night, there was still no sign of Michael.  She glanced at the lone gift still waiting under her tree, the bottle of Parker’s Heritage “Golden Anniversary” bourbon she’d snagged for Michael at the liquor store where the manager always called her around the beginning of December to tell her about the rare bottle he’d put away for her annual purchase.

She considered the gifts he’d given her over the years.  He always found something unique and beautiful like the moonstone bracelet which she adored and had tried to give back.  There had been interesting art pieces, a hand-made necklace, and once, tickets to a Broadway show.

She shook her head, feeling foolish at having assumed he would come.  I should have invited him.  It’s not like me to be so passive-aggressive.  I’m an idiot.  She turned away from the Christmas tree, figuring she’d have the gift delivered to the office sometime after the New Year.

Her phone blipped indicating a message.  She swiped at the screen to see a Snapchat notification.  Pulling up the app, she saw that the message was from Michael and her heart pounded.

“Hi, Mags,” Michael smiled into the camera from the couch in his living room.  “Merry Christmas.  I was thinking about you and the other orphans and misfits.  I hope you had a nice holiday.”  Maggie smiled sheepishly.  He had been waiting for an invitation.  She considered not replying then thought better of it.

“Merry Christmas, Michael.  We missed you today.  When you didn’t come I figured you were already out of town.  I hope you had a good holiday.”  She pressed Send before she could change her mind.

He replied a few minutes later.  “I leave tomorrow,” he grinned, looking away from the camera.  “I wasn’t sure I was still invited.  I had a peaceful day, no hassle or stress.  It was nice.”

Wasn’t sure he was invited.  Maggie sighed.  She decided to play it off with humor.  “You are an orphan and a misfit, Michael.  You qualify on both counts,” she laughed.  She looked directly into the camera.  “You’re always invited,” she said softly.

Michael smiled into the camera, his eyes crinkling in that singular Michael Rannigan way.  “I’m glad to hear it.”  He paused a moment.  “A messenger will be arriving at your door any time now.  I’m sending your gift.”

Instinctively Maggie looked out the window.  “Michael, you didn’t need to get me a gift.  Seriously, it’s not necessary, I just…”  She broke off as the buzzer sounded.  “That must be he.”  She sent the message and buzzed the front door.

A knock at her door told her the messenger had made it upstairs.  She opened the door to find a tall young man holding a small parcel.  “Maggie Flynn?” he asked.

Maggie smiled.  “That’s me,” she said, taking the parcel.  She signed for it, then, “Listen, can you take a parcel to the man who sent this?”

The young man grinned.  “He said you’d probably ask me that.”

Michael always thinks he knows me, she thought irritably.  She went to the Christmas tree to retrieve Michael’s gift.  “It’s fragile,” she told him.  “What do I owe you for delivering this?”

He shook his head.  “Mr. Rannigan already paid me,” he said.

Maggie nodded.  “Of course he did,” she muttered.  “Thank you again, and Merry Christmas,” she wished him as he turned to leave.

She took the box to the living room and sat on the couch in front of the tree.  She gazed at the gift for a moment.  He’s probably waiting to hear if I like it, she thought, carefully removing the wrapping.

Inside the brown paper was a pale blue box tied with white ribbon, Tiffany & Co. stamped in silver on the lid.  She removed the lid and gasped.  There was a pair of dangling silver filigree earrings set with moonstone cabochons.  They had to be the matching earrings to the bracelet.

Maggie crossed to a mirror on the wall and held up an earring to her ear.  They were absolutely exquisite.  She put them on and held up her phone.   “Michael, I don’t know what to say.  These are amazingly beautiful.”  She tilted her head from side to side to show them off.  “They go perfectly with the bracelet.  You shouldn’t have, really.”

Michael smiled into the camera again.  “I’m glad you like them.  I knew you would when I saw them.”  A serious look crossed his face.  “You should have beautiful things.”

There it was, that classic Michael Rannigan mixed message that had kept her bound to him for so long.  Maybe it’s just that he has no idea what he really wants.  Which is why I can’t wait around for him anymore. 

Maggie shook the ambivalence out of her head.  “I love them, Michael, I really do.  Thank you!”  She grinned at him.  “As you predicted, your messenger is on his way back to you.  I thought I was going to have to send your gift to the office when you got back.  Instead, you can have it now.”

He replied to her fifteen minutes later.  “Holy shit, Mags, you did it again.”  He held up the bottle of bourbon.  “I don’t know how you always manage to find a different rare bottle every year.  This is really something else!”  He looked directly at the camera.  “Now I have to find someone to share it with who will appreciate such a fine bourbon.”

Maggie rolled her eyes.  I’m not biting, Michael.  “I’m so glad you like it.  How I find great bourbon is my little secret,” she winked.  “And I have no doubt in your ability to find someone to share it with you.  No worries.”  She smiled and sent the video.

Michael felt unsettled as he watched her last message.  That’s it.  She’s over me.  She’s not mad, she still likes me.  But she’s not in love with me anymore.  The thought unnerved him more than he would have thought.  He keyed up Snapchat once more.  “Well, thanks again, Mags.  I love it.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!”

She replied one last time.  “Merry Christmas, Michael.  Have a great trip.  Happy New Year!”

Rannigan’s Redemption is available as individual novels RESISTING RISK, RUNNING ROGUE, and RANSOMING REDEMPTION.  It’s also available in one boxed set.

Click HERE to indulge in Rannigan’s Redemption.

Weekend Excerpt–Christmas With the Orphans and Misfits

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling in the holiday spirit!  The decorations are up, the music is playing, I’ve squirreled away gifts for those I love.  So I’m in the mood for a Christmas scene.

This one is from RESISTING RISK, the first book in the Rannigan’s Redemption trilogy.  Fledgling attorney Maggie Flynn is alone in the world.  Her mother abandoned her and her father when she was a toddler.  And her father during her college years.

So every year, Maggie hosts her annual Orphans and Misfits Christmas for her friends who, like her, have nowhere to go.  One particular Christmas, she has a surprise guest.

“Maggie, is the turkey ready?” Casey asked.

Maggie checked the clock and shook her head.  “No way, it has at least another hour, then it has to rest.  We can put in the beans and the stuffing when it comes out.  Nate, how do we reheat the red beans and rice?”

As Nate answered Maggie’s question, Ben wandered over to the window.  The buzzer rang again.  Ben glanced at Maggie in the kitchen.  “Somebody’s buzzing downstairs, Flynn.”

Casey was helping Maggie turn the turkey around in the oven.  “Well can you please buzz them in?  I’m a little busy here.”

Ben pressed the buzzer but made no move to open the apartment door.  About a minute later there was a knock.  The others were engrossed in the football game.  Ben stayed put.  “Somebody’s at the door, Flynn.”

“Oh, for God’s sake, I’ll just drop everything and get it myself,” said Maggie, tossing down pot holders in exasperation.

Maggie flung open the door to find Michael standing in the hallway.  He grinned sheepishly.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

She blinked, confused.  “Michael, I…I mean, Merry Christmas.  But what…Shouldn’t you be in St. Bart’s?”

“I got snowed in.  My flight was canceled.  I have a charter later on, but I thought I’d stop by here.  Do you have room for another orphan?”

A slow smile spread across her face.  “Of course, there’s always room.  Come on in.”

Maggie turned to find that everyone in the apartment was watching the two of them.  “Everyone, this is Michael.  Michael, everyone.”

“Hello, Merry Christmas,” he greeted the group.  To Maggie, “I brought wine.  I wasn’t sure…”

“Wine is perfect, thanks,” she told him.  Waving toward the kitchen she said, “Help yourself to something to drink.  We’ve been enjoying the munchies out of your gift basket.  Dinner will probably be another hour or so.”  She smiled at him.  “I’m so glad you’re here.  Shocked, but glad.”

After he dropped his coat and his suitcase in Maggie’s bedroom with the other coats, Michael got a beer for himself and settled in the living room, striking up a conversation with the guys watching football.  Casey sidled up to Maggie in the kitchen.  “You didn’t tell me Mr. Wonderful was coming.”

“I didn’t know Michael was coming.  He’s supposed to be in the Caribbean.  With someone, you understand, nobody goes to the Caribbean alone.”

“Maybe.  But he’s here now.”

Michael relaxed on the couch and looked around appreciatively at all the activity.  Maggie and Casey were in the kitchen along with a couple he didn’t know.  There was an older woman chatting with Nate from the firm.  Several others were watching football.  Everyone seemed happy and at home.

“This is nice,” he commented to Ben.  “It feels like a scene from Rent.”

Ben smirked.  “Viva la vie Boheme!” he raised his beer.

Michael chuckled and raised his beer as well.  “La vie Boheme.”

Dinner was served on three tables pushed together in the middle of the living room.  Plates were filled buffet-style in the kitchen.  Ben insisted that Maggie toast before they ate.

She raised her glass of wine.  “I feel like the luckiest girl.  I’m here celebrating the holiday with my most favorite people in the entire world.  There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.  Merry Christmas!”

After everyone ate as much as they could, the guys agreed to do all the clean-up.  Maggie supervised returning the tables to their proper places then sank onto the sofa, resting her feet on the coffee table.

“What about the dessert, Flynn?” Ben asked when the leftovers were packed up.

“Let’s be informal.  Grab some if you want some.  I want to do presents,” Maggie said.  Michael brought her a fresh glass of wine.  She looked up at him, grinning in appreciation, and patted the space beside her.

“I’ll sit on the floor, I don’t mind,” he said, sliding to a spot beside her feet.

“Now the way this works is, everyone takes a number.  We go in order starting at 1.  Number 1 picks first.  Number 2 can pick a new present or steal from Number 1.  Everybody got it?” Ben asked.  Maggie watched in amusement as some played shyly while others were cut-throat.

“What’s this?” Michael asked quietly.  She looked down to see him holding an ornament from the tree.  It was a small red glass ball held by a green paper cone.  Her name was spelled out in glitter.

“I think I was about six when I made that,” she smiled.  “The Christmas ornaments were some of the few things I took from my dad’s house.”

He grinned.  “I like it.”

When the gifts were over, Maggie had a new hand-crocheted toilet-roll cover.  Michael had a $10 gift card to Starbucks.  “Guess somebody didn’t get the memo,” he quipped so that only Maggie heard, and she giggled softly.

He winked and leaned close.  “Mags, I should be making my way to the airport.”

“Okay,” Maggie sighed.  “I’ll walk you out.”  She got her coat and hat while he said his goodbyes.  “I’ll be right back,” she said to Casey as they headed out of the apartment.  They walked down the stairs without chatting.

Once out on the sidewalk, Michael turned and faced her.  “I had a great time, Mags.  Thanks for inviting me.”  He glanced up.  “We have an audience, by the way.”  He waved at the crowd gathered in Maggie’s front window.

She looked up at them, scowling.  “Come on,” she said, turning right and heading down the sidewalk.  She stopped just around the corner.

Michael smiled.  “Thanks.  I just wanted to say goodbye privately.  I brought you a gift, but I didn’t want to give it to you in front of everybody.”  He pulled a small flat box from his pocket.  It was light blue, tied with a white ribbon.

Maggie’s eyes widened.  “Sean Michael Rannigan, you did not!”

“How did you know the S stands for Sean?

She shrugged.  “Everyone knows it’s Sean.  I can’t believe you went to Tiffany…”  She stopped and looked up at him, smiling sadly.  “This wasn’t for me.  This is supposed to be for someone else.”

“No, Mags, this is for you,” he said earnestly.  “I mean, to be honest, I went there yesterday looking for something for Jana.”

“What, Toys R Us and GapKids were closed?” Maggie quipped.

“Ah-hah-hah, you’re very funny.  I found a little trinket to give to Jana, but then I turned and saw this.  All I could think was that you should have it.  It’s for you, Mags.”

Curious, Maggie slowly pulled the white ribbon and lifted the lid.  In the box resting on light blue velvet was a delicate silver bracelet.  It had a vintage look to it with large rectangular milky white cabochons alternating with trios of small round diamonds surrounded by platinum filigree.  She looked back up at Michael, eyes wide.

“Those are moonstones,” he said proudly.  “This was in the vintage case.  It was made in 1915.”  He gazed at the bracelet.  “It’s graceful and classy, just like you.”

“I don’t know what to say, Michael.  I’ve never seen anything so beautiful.  Will you help me put it on?”

He lifted the bracelet from the box and as Maggie held out her left hand, he fastened it around her wrist.  She held it out and watched it catch the natural light.  As she did, she noticed a tiny platinum tag hanging from the clasp.  Peering closer she saw that it was engraved.  To Maggie, From Michael. 

“See?  I told you it was for you.”  She looked back up at him, eyes shining, and as she did, a gust of wind caught some stray hair, blowing it across her face.  Michael gently moved the errant strands, tucking them behind her ear.  Without planning it at all, he planted a tender kiss on her lips.

He moved back slightly as Maggie looked up at him, eyes shining with desire.  He leaned into her again, the kiss this time all heat and passion.  She brought her left hand up to cradle his right cheek, her desire matching his.  When he stopped kissing her, he pulled her close, tucking her under his chin and they stood like that for a moment.

Finally, he gently set her back from him.  She looked up, the sad glint once again in her eyes.  After all, he was leaving her to go to someone else.  “Merry Christmas, Mags.”

“Merry Christmas, Michael.”

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