Flash Fiction – Year One

Flash fiction really translates to very short, sometimes extremely short stories. There is no hard and fast rule but they can range from 100 to 2000 words. I use flash fiction to try out ideas or even to give myself a break from the actual book I’m working on without having to put it down entirely. Almost like an author’s coffee break. They may become their own stories at some future date.

I conducted a poll recently that showed my readers would prefer to have the stories listed by genre instead of chronologically. It took me a bit to do this but here you go! Do be aware that a story may appear in more than one list and they are still listed below in the order they were published in, I’ve just revised the index at the top of the page.


I Dare You


(M/F, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published June 10, 2007 on The Pink Chair Diaries site – http://pinkchairdiaries.com/

Terry groaned and collapsed back onto the luxurious bed, kicking off her strappy sandals. Free at last, free at last. She chuckled tiredly at her own attempt at humor. Now a single woman again, she was determined to make the most of it and the two week vacation with her life-long best friend, Jason.

Well, almost life-long anyway. They’d met in kindergarten and cemented their friendship when he’d dared her to jump off the moving playground swing. Her broken arm was proof of her inability to turn down a dare from Jason.

Her husband, make that ex-husband, never understood their closeness. From the first time the two men had met, the animosity had been tangible. Jason disapproved silently but her ex-husband complained at any opportunity. It didn’t matter how many times she tried to reassure him, he was convinced Jason was a threat to him.

Eventually, his inability to relax and stop trying to control Terry spelled the death of their short marriage. Hell, he wasn’t even good in bed, he was so uptight.

Terry closed her eyes for a moment, picturing Jason’s muscular body and wishing he had any interest in her as more than just a friend. She didn’t want to destroy their friendship by coming on to him but some days it was really difficult to bite her tongue … and to not bite his firm ass. But without some sign he was on the same page, it would be too much to risk.

To distract herself from images of Jason, she got up and went to investigate the large basket on the room’s desk. Already in the room when she checked in, she’d assumed it was a gift from the resort management. Instead the tag was in Jason’s heavily slanted scrawl. Happy Divorce.

She chuckled to herself as she began to untie the ribbon and peel back the cellophane from the basket. Who knows what the perennially unattached bachelor would decide she needed. “Oh man, what have you done, Jason?”

There was no telling what he’d decided she needed to have right now. Terry could only hope he’d not decided on something either alive or perishable.

With some trepidation, she got the wrapping off the basket and began to unpack its contents.

A box of Godiva chocolates.
A bottle of wine.
A box of scented candles with a lighter taped to it.
A bottle of vanilla-scented massage oil.
A slender vibrator.
A bottle of lube.

Terry paused and shook her head at the last two items. Jason obviously decided that she needed some physical fun. Or he was hoping to embarrass her so he’d have the upper hand when he arrived.

Reaching back into the basket, Terry’s fingers closed over the flat square package tucked in the bottom of the basket and pulled it out.

“What the hell?”

The clear plastic package had a pink object inside and when she flipped it over, she saw an illustration of a pink blow-up chair. Candy pink, Barbie pink. But the dildo mounted in the middle of it didn’t fit at all with the color.

Terry’s mouth dropped open. This had to be a joke. Jason must be looking forward to giving her hell about this chair being better than her ex. She had no idea anything like this even existed.

Fascinated despite herself, she began to read the information on the label of the chair’s package and saw a note in thick black marker. I dare you.

* * * * *

It took Terry a shower and nearly half the bottle of wine to get up the courage to unpack and blow up the chair. She’d be damned if she declined Jason’s dare. The pink chair certainly sparked her imagination. She ran a finger lazily up and down the pearlescent pink dildo that adorned the seat of the chair.

Too bad it wasn’t Jason’s cock instead of a plastic substitute.

She drank another sip of the wine. She had time. Jason wasn’t due to arrive until tomorrow morning. Maybe she could fulfill the dare and gain some measure of control over her libido before he joined her. It had to be preferable to tackling him the moment he arrived and telling him to fuck her.

Terry’s fingers grasped the base of the dildo and stroked to the tip, imagining it to be Jason’s thick, hot cock. Up and down, fingers tracing over the tip with every stroke. Would it drive him crazy? Would he groan out his desire?

She untied the belt of her robe with her other hand and spread the sides open so she could run her fingers over her own body. She cupped her breast and tugged on the silver ring through her taut, dark pink nipple. The sharp ache made her pussy clench in response.

Gently, then sharper, stronger, she alternated pinching her nipple and flicking at the ring. Each burst of sensation made her wetter and more aroused, her hips flexing and rocking in arousal.

Releasing the chair’s dildo, Terry spread her legs as much as she could from where she knelt on the floor and ran her other hand between her legs. She teased herself briefly, running her fingers lightly over her bare labia, barely touching her sensitive lips. What would it feel like to have Jason’s fingers there? His lips? His tongue?

A shudder rolled through her and she gave her other nipple ring a sharp tug.

What would his reaction be to her piercings? He’d dared her to have her belly button pierced two years ago and she’d done it, but he didn’t know about the other three piercings. In a fit of rebellion, she’d had them done the day her divorce paperwork was filed with the courts. Unfortunately, they seemed doomed to remain a private indulgence.

Terry took another long sip of the wine, draining the tumbler she’d poured herself. She didn’t have a huge tolerance for alcohol and didn’t want a hangover, just enough of a buzz to take on the dare

The very nice red wine did nothing to soothe her thirst, instead the slightly spicy flavor made her wonder just what Jason’s skin would taste like.

Draining the rest of the glass, she popped a dark chocolate into her mouth. She savored it, held it in her mouth and let it melt onto her tongue. The rich dark flavor complimented the wine perfectly and made her close her eyes for a moment and moan softly. Would Jason’s cock be as rich and sweet as the candy? As dusky and mysterious?

Without conscious thought, one hand strayed again to her breast and resumed rolling and tugging her nipple and its sensitive piercing. She ran her other hand back down her belly and between her thighs to tap a finger delicately against the ring just peeking out from between her waxed labia. Her pussy grew hot and creamy as she repeatedly fondled and tugged on her clitoral hood ring. Delicious jolts of sensation made her spread her legs further apart to savor the feeling.

Terry’s tongue captured a tiny bit of escaping chocolate off her lip and she decided to tackle Jason’s latest dare. Unlike some others this would be one she would enjoy, even if it was Jason’s body she wanted, not a pink plastic substitute.

She was wet enough not to need it, but poured some of the lube into her hand and stroked it over the chair’s dildo. As if it were a real cock, Jason’s cock, she slowly stroked her hand from the tip to the base. Up and down, her grip growing firmer, she massaged the slippery lubricant into the cock. Terry imagined her friend’s voice urging her on, telling her he wanted to be inside her body, wanted to fuck her.

A few pushes so the pink chair was sitting beside the bed and Terry scrambled to her feet. Poised with her hands on the bed to keep her balance, she threw her curly brown hair back over her shoulder and lowered herself until the tip of the dildo just entered her pussy, teasing herself, anticipating the fullness to come.

Guiding the pink cock with one hand, she spread her legs and slowly, oh so slowly, impaled herself. She traced the tips of her fingers along the skin stretched around the dildo, then in circles around her clit, each bump against her ring making her pussy clench with the electric flash of pleasure.

She closed her eyes and focused on her fantasy.

She could almost feel Jason’s hands on her pussy, playing with the ring and teasing her by holding back. His sexy playful chuckle as he made her wait, made her beg. “Jase. Please, Jase. Fuck me.”

He refused to hurry, moving in and out of her with excruciatingly slowness. She pictured his square jaw clenched with the effort to control their pace. His denim blue eyes unfocused and half-closed in pleasure, his sandy blonde hair disarrayed by her fingers.

“Please, Jase. Faster, dammit, faster!”

Rising and falling on the pink chair, Terry writhed with the need to come. Just a little more. “Jason, I’m so close.”

“I see you like the chair, Terry.”

Her eyes snapped open at the sultry baritone voice she knew she wasn’t imagining. Jason was walking toward her from the door between their adjoining rooms, discarding pieces of clothing along the way.

Blue eyes blazing with a heat she’d never seen him direct toward her, he peeled off his boxer-briefs as he got within arm’s reach, revealing a deliciously erect cock jutting from a nest of neatly trimmed curls.

Her mouth watered at the sight of Jason’s body. Skinny dipping as a teen was the last time she’d seen him nude and he’d matured in ways she’d not anticipated.

Her pussy clenched around the dildo impaling her as he wrapped his long-fingered hand around his own cock, stroking it from tip to base, then back to the tip again.

“I heard you, Ter. I heard you begging me to fuck you. Do you have any idea how many years I’ve longed to hear those words from you? How many years I’ve had to stand by as ‘just a friend’ while you were sleeping with men that didn’t deserve you?”

He stalked a step closer and grabbed her face with both hands, gently forcing her to look up at his face instead of at his cock. “If you don’t want me, Ter, tell me now.”

A deep breath and Terry nearly drooled at the musty, earthy scent of Jason’s body. “Fuck me, Jason. I want you to fuck me.”

His sensual lips pursed as he looked into her eyes. “I won’t fuck you, but I will make love to you, Terry.”

Rational thought fled when he captured her lips with his own. Gently teasing and nibbling, he coaxed her to open to him, to allow his tongue to explore her mouth and tenderly stroke her. He slowly intensified the kiss until they both gasped.

Jason dropped to his knees in front of her, parted her knees and ran his hands up and down her thighs. “Sexy nipple rings, Ter. Dainty body piercings on a woman turn me on.”

The last words were muffled as he captured a ring between his teeth and tugged gently on it before releasing it to suck her hard nipple into his mouth.

The feel of his hot tongue and lips on her breast made Terry writhe. His talented tongue flicked and teased the nipple and ring while his hands continued to stroke up and down her thighs, coming close to her pussy on every stroke but never actually touching her.

“Jason, please.”

Releasing the nipple with a pop, he licked his way across her chest to her neglected breast and gave that nipple equal attention with tender bites and licks, seemingly oblivious to her hands clenched in his hair.

Unable to stay still any longer, her hips moved in small circles, the dildo still inside her suddenly a poor substitute for Jason’s hot, hard cock. “Please, Jase. I need you inside me.”

He captured her hips and held them still. “A hood piercing? Oh man, that is so sexy. I didn’t think you had it in you.”

Before she could respond he’d buried his face between her legs and was exploring her bare slit with his tongue and teeth. Nibbling and stroking, he tugged on the small silver ring and then slid his tongue down to where the pink chair’s dildo still impaled her. His hot, wet caresses drove her right to the brink of orgasm, her body clenching in anticipation.

He pulled away suddenly. “Oh no you don’t.”

She whimpered and released the death grip she still had on his hair, letting him lift her off the blow up chair and arrange her on her knees using the pink chair to support her head and shoulders. She rocked back and forth on her knees, her pussy weeping with need for him. The smell of her own cream filled her nostrils, the scent of sex only driving her lust higher.

The distinct sound of a condom wrapper behind her made her realize this was really happening, she was really going to have the man she’d wanted for as long as she could remember inside her.

Strong hands grasped her hips and Jason nudged her knees further apart. “Lick it, Terry. Taste how delicious you are. I want you to imagine you’re sucking my cock, tasting your flavor on me.”

Groaning, she moved her head toward the center of the chair and captured the base of the dildo with one hand. She made sure Jason could see what she was doing, her hair pushed away from her face before she trailed her tongue in a long, slow line from the base of the chair’s dildo to the tip. Her own juices made the taste raw and somehow risky, a bit dangerous.

As she opened her mouth to take in the tip of the pink cock, Jason eased his hot, hard cock into her pussy. Slowly and steadily, he fit himself into her until he was buried to the root, stretching her more than she’d imagined.

Groaning her name, he stayed there, not moving.

She rocked her hips, then licked up and down the dildo again, trying to inspire Jason to action. She needed him to move. Needed him to pound into her – to need her the same way she needed him.

Moving his hips in small circles, he seemed unwilling to move more than that.

Finally, Terry let go of the chair’s cock and shoved back at him. “Move, Jason. I need your cock, so move.”

Her growled order seemed to set something free in him, something primal and raw. He grabbed her hips and began to glide in and out of her. Each thrust stroked over her g-spot, driving her closer and closer to an orgasm almost frightening in its intensity.

Her pussy clenched around his cock, relishing the feel of his hot, hard length.

“I love you, Terry.”

She knew she should be surprised by his announcement but she was far too close to coming to worry about it, to do more than react with the truth she’d not really acknowledged to herself. “I love you too, Jason.”

As if the words tore away the last of his inhibitions, Jason pounded into her, reaching his hand around her body to rub her clit in time with his strokes. “Come for me, Ter. I can’t hold out much longer.”

The orgasm she’d been on the edge of burst over her like a tsunami, her body convulsing in waves of pleasure.

Jason thrust into her and cried out her name as he came, his cock pulsing hotly within her. He hugged her close to him and collapsed onto his side on the floor, still buried deep inside her.

Their breathing slowed gradually and Terry tried to not think too much, not wanting to spoil the spell.

“Terry, I love you and have for years. Will you marry me?”

Somehow Jason’s proposal fit their entire relationship, spontaneous, irreverent and full of love. Just as she took a breath to tell him yes, he made sure she’d agree.

“I dare you.” He whispered.

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Fire Dragon


(M/F, Paranormal, Fantasy)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published October 20, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Mariten could no longer feel her hands. The pain of the tight bonds turned to cold numbness hours ago. Her hysterical fear had likewise turned to icy calm.

Used to the furtive glances and rejection of the townsfolk, she’d not paid much attention to the whispers and avoidance yesterday. She should have known that Hadriad would seek revenge after she’d rejected him, however privately. But even she would not have guessed he would have the priests declare the need for a sacrifice to bring back the warmth and drive away the cold. They required that the sacrifice must be one with red hair, which assured her death. She was the only unmated person with red hair.

The townsfolk filed past, each bearing wood to add to the growing pyre around and under her. Some looked at her in sorrow, most would not look her in the face. The mound of wood grew and the sun moved low in the sky until only the thinnest rim remained above the horizon.

Cold. She was so cold. The thin red robe she’d been clothed in was no protection from the frost. Another twist of her wrists proved her bonds were still tight. The stickiness on her hands must be her own blood. All day she’d attempted to wriggle free and somehow have a hope of escape, but to no avail. The gag in her mouth made speaking impossible – she could not even plead for her life.

She sagged in the grip of the ropes. They’d come for her before dawn, before she could have any chance to defend herself or escape. Stolen from her bed by Hadriad and his group of cronies, she’d feared rape or even slavery.

Never had she considered her life would end in a forbidden practice – as a sacrifice to the Fire Dragon.

“Not so proud now, Mari? You should have accepted my offer.” Hadriad spoke with quiet menace. “You would have lived a much longer life.”

The once fit warrior, now fat with excess and laziness, moved to stand next to her. His small, dark eyes narrowed in obvious satisfaction as he examined her. A sneer curled his lips at her flinch when he tightened the rope about her body yet again, making it even harder to breathe.

She straightened her trembling legs. She’d be damned if she gave him any satisfaction. She might die but she refused to cower before him. Hadriad was the true coward here. She narrowed her eyes attempting to convey her loathing.

Hadriad held his arm to the side to receive the torch handed to him by one of the priests. The fire would have come from the sacred fire of Dregalla, the Dragon Queen, creator of the world.

Fear clenched her belly again. This was the end. A few tears escaped eyes she thought were beyond any more tears.

Hadriad lowered the torch to the pile of wood and lit the pyre, then stepped back and laughed as the fire caught and spread.

The horror of her impending death ate through Mari’s shock. The heat of the fire increased as it surrounded her.

Great Dregalla, save me from the pain. Let me pass quickly if this is my fate.

The flames licked at the hem of her trailing red gown, closing in around her bare feet. It was hot but not painful. Yet.

Hadriad stared at her, almost waiting for her torment to truly begin.

The flames enveloped her and consumed her gown in a flash. Mari looked down and saw her flesh itself was on fire, tendrils of orange and red racing over her skin. But there was nothing there to feed the fire.

Sudden ferocious pain slammed through her and she threw her head back, a silent scream erupting from her throat. Afraid to know, she still forced herself to look back down at her body. If a soul really remembered the last moments of their prior life, she wanted to remember. She wanted to carry that vision with her into the future. If vengeance could not be hers in this lifetime, she would have it in the next.

Blinking her eyes rapidly to clear the smoke, she stared in horror at herself. Her charred and burnt skin dropped away in sheets from the flesh beneath. The fire opal red scales of a dragon. A fire dragon’s skin.

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Night Born


(M/F, Paranormal, Fantasy)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published October 26, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The long silver hair of the imposing man was caught back at the nape of his neck in a braided tail that reached clear to his knees. Not the hair of any warrior she’d ever seen, it would make too easy a handle for a foe. A black leather coat lay neatly across a nearby stump, a compliment to the black leather pants that molded to his thighs and revealed every flexing muscle as he plied his axe on the wood rounds nearby. Even his loose white shirt was somehow alluring, plastered to his muscled back and arms with sweat that made it nearly transparent. The bright light of Lurrina’s full face showed him as clearly as full sunlight might have.

She should not be here. Only desperation made her enter the mountains to seek out this man. For most of her life she’d heard rumors of Shadorn, one of the few Night Born that lived this close to the Sun Dwellers. He lived alone and did not interact with any others, not that they would seek interaction anyway. All Night Born were treated as if invisible and beneath notice.

But still she’d heard the whispers, the rumors. It was said he waited for someone or something and would never leave until his task was completed. In the meantime, he lived a simple life in the mountains in a small cabin protected from the power of Stralinga, the sun god, by the heavy woods. A few travelers told of his giving unsought but welcome assistance but that he never spoke to them nor took anything from them. He just disappeared back into the woods.

She had to choice but to seek him out now. This may be the last hope she had to make a new life for herself. Her old life was lost to her. She’d tried to ignore the signs when they’d started. The pallor she put down to illness. The changes to her hair and eyes she’d passed off as a passing illness.

All the denial in the world didn’t save her. She had become Night Born, claimed by the moon goddess, Lurrina. Ripped from home and family, outcast and now almost too weak to travel, she’d finally made her way here.

He may not help her, he had no obligation to. Shadorn may even kill her on sight as a misborn, as her own people had threatened to do. No. Not my people. Not anymore.

“Why are you lurking in my woods?” The melodic voice called out the question. He faced her now and she could see his face, the finely sculpted delicacy of his features belied by the firm set to his lips and his scowl.

She flinched but gathered her courage and stepped forward, wary of his reaction. Her traveling leathers were dusty and worn. An old pair of her brother’s that she’d taken when she left.

“Greetings. Are you Shadorn?” Her breath caught as she asked the question. She prayed he was indeed Shadorn but feared it also.

“I am Sha’dorn.”

He stepped toward her. When only a few steps separated them, he stopped and glanced up and down her body, lingering occasionally.

“My name is …. was… Mikera. Can you help me. Please?”

Sha’dorn caught her when her knees buckled and hefted her easily into his arms. Gently and carefully, he set her on the stump he’d just been chopping wood on. “Are you newly changed? Have you fed?”

She could only shake her head. Ever since her eyes and hair had changed, she’d been unable to keep any food down. Nothing but water. Everything else made her sick.

“When did you complete your change? Did your people not even feed you before throwing you out?” He snarled an almost feral sound. “What has the world come to?”

“I don’t understand.” She almost sobbed. “My skin got paler and paler and I couldn’t stand the sunlight. I’d burn when I’d been in the sun all my life. My eyes changed from brown to this pale, strange color. My hair was gold, everyone said it was like silken sunlight. Now it’s white and so long.”

Now openly weeping she looked up into his face. “And my ….”

He smiled a stunning, sensual smile that stopped her in mid-sentence. A smile that revealed the sharp white tips of fangs. Fangs that matched her own.

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The Binding Tree


(M/F, Paranormal, Fantasy)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published November 2, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Kartiera sat apart from the other women petitioning the Binding Tree. Even the sacred ceremony of change they all stood on the brink of wasn’t sufficient to win them over, to overcome their distrust and fear of her differences.

She’d lived here all her life but her white hair and violet eyes set her firmly aside as different and strange. The only time they did more than shun her was when she assisted the village healer, her mother.

Fidgeting with the long plait of hair she held, Kartiera’s stomach churned. What would happen to her today?

What would this happen when she faced the Binding Tree? Would it reject her? Welcome her? Kill her?

With sheer willpower, she held back the nausea that threatened. Instead she focused on the plait of hair. A long white ribbon, carefully fashioned of all the hair trimmed from Kartiera’s head since her birth. Her fingers stroked up and down the satiny length, drawing what comfort she could from it and the love that created it. She gently toyed with the beaded ends and tried not to think of what might happen.

Movement caught her eye and she looked up to see all the villagers lining up around the clearing. The village ruler strode confidently into the clearing, placing himself before the Binding Tree, his back to the applicants. He raised his arms and the villagers began to circle the large clearing, stopping to place their offerings on one of the seven sacred fires.

Kartiera began to smell the smoke of the fires overlaying the ripe scent of her own fear. The chilly night made goose pumps raised on her arms, the thin petitioner’s robe she wore. She rubbed her hands on her arms, garnering her an admonishing glance from Bricha.

The villagers finally arranged themselves on the edge of the circle, facing inwards, and the ruler dropped his arms. In the brief moment before he began to speak. Kartiera glanced at the great tree they all worshipped. The Binding Tree. A huge tree with branches gnarled and twisted, lush leaves and a thick, it appeared not so different than any other tree – until l saw the aura it had begun to exude. A sheathing of purples and blues slowly surrounded it until it was completely enveloped in the moving, alive aura.

Now she was really scared. All the rumors in the world couldn’t compare with the reality before her.

At the ruler’s motion, she and the rest of the girls stood. Kartiera took a deep breath and threw her shoulders back. She was ready.

The first girl walked hesitantly up to the Binding Tree and looped her plait of hair around the trunk, winding it neatly while she chanted the spell they’d all been taught. For just a moment, nothing happened but then the aura flashed for a brief moment and the Binding Tree’s bark seemed to absorb the ribbon of hair and it disappeared into another craggy ring around the tree.

She dropped to her knees and pressed her forehead to the Binding Tree’s roots. She’d been accepted into the Tree’s service.

One by one, the girls each approached the Binding Tree and repeated the ritual. Some were accepted but a few had their ribbon rejected to fall to the ground below it, signifying the Binding Tree’s rejection. They would be given in marriage immediately instead of being honored to serve first.

Finally it was Kartiera’s turn. More confident than she felt, she wrapped her white ribbon of hair around the tree, chanting the spell as she tied it off. Her task completed, she waited in terror for something to happen, anything to happen. Whispers started among the villagers. She broke out in a sweat and gulped. Was she to be ignored totally?

At long last the aura began to grow brighter, even brighter than for any other applicant. A sudden flash startled all who watched and when she could focus, she saw no new ring. Dejected, she looked at the ground, expecting to see her ribbon. Nothing.

A scream sounded from the villagers behind her. “Look up!”

When she looked up she saw a huge flower, the exact color of her hair with a center the violet of her eyes had formed on one of the largest limbs of the Binding Tree. But what did it mean?

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Not a Fairy


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published November 9, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“Let me get this straight. You have, without my permission, without even telling me until now, set me up on a blind date with a fairy?”

By the time she’d spat out the last word, Lucynda’s voice was almost a screech. She winced and glanced around the coffee shop, then spoke more quietly. “What the hell possessed you? You know I don’t date anything that isn’t human. Fully human.”

Unperturbed by her best friend’s protests, Kelly continued to eat her salad. When Lucynda finally had to pause to take a breath, she glanced up. Her lips curled in a secretive smile and she gestured with her fork. “I told you, Valandil is an elf, not a fairy. And he’s a friend of Iulian’s.”

“I don’t care if your vampire boyfriend recommends him, I am not going on a date with a fairy.”

This time Lucynda managed to respond in a low hiss, no doubt disappointing the nearby couple that seemed determined to eavesdrop.

Kelly didn’t reply, merely smiled and went back to her salad while Lucynda ranted away.

“You aren’t listening to me.”

Lucynda shoved her shoulder-length brown hair behind her ears and rubbed her temples. A date was the last thing she needed at the moment, especially one with some strange fairy creature. Hell, she probably couldn’t deal with human man right now.

After pushing her salad plate away, Kelly took her time wiping her lips. Finally, she neatly folded her napkin again and looked up at Lucynda. “Look, you need this. You need a date with someone who can put up with your attitude and not want to kill you in the first half hour. You need a date with someone who just wants to get into your pants, not have some philosophical conversation about art or music.

She chuckled. “Maybe you’ll even get a nice hard fuck out of it.”

Lucynda started to speak but Kelly’s steady gaze made her swallow the protest. She was right. Lucynda had been consorting with her vibrator for so long anything self-heating would be an improvement. A real cock would be a delight. Her pussy clenched at just the thought.

Humans only. I swore that I wouldn’t fuck any more non-humans. Humans only.

“He’s a fairy, Kell. He’s probably two feet tall and dressed in leaves or something. I’d be better off with a few fingers and a really hot story.”

Lucynda unclenched her fingers from the edge of the table, one at a time. Ice tinkled in her water glass as she picked it up with a now shaking hand and took a sip.

“You shouldn’t call him that in person. He’s an elf and quite proud of the fact. And he’s a lot taller than two feet, according to Iulian.”

Kelly looked around and waved an arm, apparently to someone behind Lucynda.

“Call off the date. Make your liquid diet boyfriend call it off. I’m not going. Period.”

The waitress dropped the check off on the table and Kelly snatched it up with one hand and grabbed her purse with the other. The chair rasped as she slid it back from the table and hopped to her feet. “Umm. Your date is right now. Here he comes. “

Shock froze Lucynda with her mouth wide open. “But… Now?”

“I’ll call you tomorrow.”

Moving faster than seemed possible in her high-heel boots, Kelly headed for the register.

If Lucynda ran now, she might make her escape, at least before Valandil got to her table. But before she could do more than think about it, he was there.

Almost six feet tall, he clearly was no fairy. At least no fairy she’d ever heard of. Long silver hair trailed down his back in a neat ponytail. The slicked back hair revealed ears that were gracefully arched and pointed but whose lobes were pierced through with heavy silver spirals. Pale skin, almost opalescent, covered an elegant bone structure with high cheekbones and lips quirked in a sarcastic smile.

Irresistably drawn, she looked up into eyes so blue they seemed indigo.

“Lovely human, I am most certainly not a fairy.”

Belying his fairness, his voice was a rich baritone tinged with an accent she couldn’t place. He lifted one of her hands in his own.

Lucynda didn’t resist, enthralled at the mere sight of him.

He pressed her hand firmly to the huge hard bulge tenting the front of his leather pants. “For one thing, I am much better hung.”

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Frostbite


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published November 16, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Whooooomp!

Before he was even fully conscious, Michael was out of bed and flat on the floor. The thick, braided cotton rug cushioned his fall as well as kept his naked body from direct contact with the very cold wooden floor.

Adrenaline raced through his system. Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. The long ingrained training kicked in and he had control again. Absolutely still, he listened intently. His own heartbeat. The occasional subtle whoosh of the snow sliding off the steep roof of the cabin or off the nearby snow-encrusted trees. Nothing else.

Every sense alert, he rose silently to his feet and reached for the wax wood staff he’d set in the corner near the headboard.

Hyper-aware of everything around him, Michael slowly and cautiously crept toward the bedroom doorway, ears straining for any sound. A check through the small opening where the door was ajar revealed nothing that seemed amiss.

He slowly drew the door open just far enough for him to slip through. One step at a time, careful to stay centered and aware, he eased into the main living space of Aaron’s cabin. Staff at the ready, he scanned the room.

When he could find nothing wrong, Michael allowed himself to partially relax and stand upright, no longer crouched and prowling for potential prey. He flicked on the light and relaxed even more at the complete lack of any sound or movement that was not his own. Nothing seemed to lurk in the corners.

He set the staff against the wall. “Well, that was a really crappy way to wake up.”

There was no way he was getting back to sleep right away, not with that scare. Maybe some tea and some meditation would help. He’d just put the kettle on the stove to boil when he heard a scratching at the door.

He stopped at the couch to tug on the pair of sweatpants he’d tossed there earlier, after his Tai Chi exercises. Had an animal gotten lost in the snow? The predicted storm had quickly turned from a typical winter snowstorm to one of blizzard proportions.

All he could see through the peephole was the fluffy drifts of snow, illuminated only sparsely with the porch light. The snow was still coming down rapidly, making it impossible to see much beyond the edge of the porch.

About to turn away, he heard the scratching sound again, this time accompanied by a soft moan. Gut instinct made Michael unlock and open the front door, only to have the freezing air nearly take his breath away. Now he could see a large depression in the snow near the base of the porch steps with a packed path leading toward the house, spotted and streaked with some dark substance. He looked down to find not an animal but a woman collapsed face down in front of the door.

In the face of the bitter cold, he grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into the cabin’s great room. She slid easily on the polished wood floors and he slammed the door on the blizzard as soon as he had her far enough in the room.

What the hell was a woman doing here? And who had hurt her?

Long white hair was plastered to her, red in some places with the blood seeping out of the four long gashes down the her back. Pale, almost bluish skin was very cold to the touch. She needed to be warmed up.

Careful of her wounds, Michael turned her over. Her face was finely sculpted with high cheekbones and a delicate chin. White eyebrows arched over closed eyes with matching thick white lashes. Her lips were a combination of pink and blue, enticing him to warm them with his own.

She reminded him of something, of someone. But damned if he could remember what or who.

He pushed her hair away from her face. Suddenly, her hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Long, sharp silver nails dug into his arm, his own blood oozing out over the needle tips that pierced his skin.

He stared at the talons then looked up at her face again. Deep, glacier blue eyes stared back at him, angular pupils making it clear she was not human. He recognized those eyes – the distinctive eyes of a frost dragon.

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Stasis Dreams


(M/F, Paranormal, Futuristic)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published November 23, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

As if from a great distance, the vague sound of voices intruded on the echoes of her dreams. Sultry, seductive dreams. Terrifying horrible dreams. But she couldn’t see anything at all, only a ceaseless black swathe of darkness.

Only the painful dreams began in darkness.

She tried to pull herself from the grip of the dream, to escape the promise of agony to come. Every bit of willpower she possessed was not enough.

Not again. She couldn’t take the pain, the torment, yet she would be forced to do so. Held immobile by unseen bonds to accept whatever was forced upon her. Yet she couldn’t accept the futility of resistance. No matter what the voices told her, she always fought. There was no honor in surrender.

No. No more. Not again.

Still the voices continued. Two, maybe three separate voices. And somehow different this time. Not as soft, not as harmonious. Not in any language she could decypher. Another voice suddenly spoke so close to her ear that she gave an involuntary twitch.

She moved? Was it some new kind or torment? She momentarily ignored the voices and struggled to think, to remember something besides the seemingly endless sequence of dreams.

There. A battle, some sort of battle. Her small exploration craft had been attacked without provocation and nearly demolished around her. There had been no time to do anything other than set off her distress beacon and lock herself into the claustrophobic stasis pod.

No one had ever been able to tell her what stasis was like. Hell, they’d not even been able to swear to the length of time it would be effective and survivable. It was a last ditch hope, that was all. If stasis resulted in dreams like hers, she’d die before she willingly entered it again.

But where was she now? Had she been rescued? It was almost too much to believe. Too much to hope for.

The voices intruded again. One sounded angry and upset, another used a tone that seemed to be universal to the soother, the peace-maker.

A sudden pressure below her jaw and a line of burning ice ran up her neck. Before she could scream, silence encompassed her mind again.

* * * * *

She fought her way to the surface again. It wasn’t a dream, she was sure of it now.

Now she could feel herself breathing and taste the faint odor of life and chemicals underlying the more organic scents. Deodorizers. Recognition allowed her to push the information aside to focus on other things.

So weak. Just licking her lips was exhausting. Her lips were smooth but her tongue felt incredibly rough, almost bristly. Was this something else stasis caused?

She wanted to open her eyes but caution won out. With no idea where she was or what her situation was, secrecy might be her best hope. Hell, it might be her only hope. She listened intently, trying to sense whether anyone was near her.

After a seemingly endless time of hearing nothing more than mechanical hums and ticks, she heard distance voices. A soft woosh accompanied by a change in air pressure. She steeled herself to pretend to be unconscious and unaware. The voices ceased but rhythmic footsteps neared her.

“What is your opinion, Traisa?”

She could understand this one! A deep masculine voice spoke in a tone of voice that brooked no denial. Someone accustomed to command and being obeyed. The words were EuroStan but with a very strange accent.

“I think we should do her a favor and euthanize her.” The brittle iciness of the female voice was made more chilling by the sharp clip to her accent.

The words sank in. Euthanize? What the hell had happened to her? What shape was she in?

The higher voice continued. “Face it, Maylar. The registration on her stasis pod was to the ship of Doctor Sandra Mailings. That ship was found in pieces over 200 cycles ago. Fifteen years was the lethal limit for this kind of stasis and standard humans.”

“Well, she’s still alive, even if we don’t know why. But what the hell happened to her in there?” The man’s voice sounded almost contemplative.

“The med tests all show that if this really is Dr. Mailings, she’s not standard human anymore. She’s become part Caitoyn.”

Sandy’s eyes opened in shock, only to squint almost closed until her pupils adjusted to the bright room. Far too bright.

“She even has Caitoyn eyes.”

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Damascus Vision


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published November 30, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Ryan stifled a moan and closed his eyes for a moment. It seemed like forever before his stomach returned to its accustomed place and ceased desperately seeking to evacuate his body through his nose.

Goddess, he hated it when Niall decided to transport him. A hundred years of it and it still took every bit of willpower he possessed to not puke.

Experimentally, he cracked his eyes open just a little. No sign of nausea. More confident now, he opened his eyes fully and looked around. He’d been lucky this time. He stood atop a small hill, shielded from casual view by a fairly dense group of trees.

Of course, secrecy was everything, even when Ryan was running his cousin’s errands instead of his own. At least it wasn’t the middle of a slimy pond or inside a Port-A-Potty this time. No matter what Niall said, that could not have been an accident.

A few steps took him to the edge of the trees where he could see the buildings below. One good-sized house, few small outbuildings and a large barn sat in a clearing.

He shook his head. Not at all the place he expected to find Niall’s weapon-maker. Ryan’s Tuatha cousin had spoken of the smith’s work in nearly reverent tones and kept driving home the honor bestowed by the summons. After the sixth repetition, Ryan’s eyes practically rolled back in his head. A weapon made on request was honor enough but a weapon made because of a need seen by the smith was nearly unknown. And for a half-human, yet.

Ryan looked around carefully. Nothing more threatening than some songbirds appeared interested in him. Thankful for the leather pants, heavy boots and long black leather duster, he made his way around several clumps of large purple thistles and down the hill toward the house.

The short hair at the nape of his neck stood up and a shudder ran through him at the border to the house’s clearing. Wards. Stronger and more powerful wards than he’d ever felt in his life.

“Oh man.” Maybe there was even more to this smith than Niall knew.

Hearing rhythmic clanging from the barn, he bypassed the house and headed that direction instead. Uncertain of his reception, he stopped at the threshold of the open door. A remarkably slight figure stood at an anvil, tapping steadily with a large hammer. Blows became lighter and lighter until the smith merely tapped delicately, clearly refining what looked like a spear point. Picking it up with a pair of tongs, the smith sighted along one edge, then flipped it over and sighted down the other. He adjusted something on the forge and placed the item back inside the brightly glowing center.

Ryan couldn’t see much of the man’s form but it was not the hugely muscular, strong one he’d expected. Clearly strong and skilled, the smith’s arms were narrow and sleekly chiseled, the sweat on them highlighting the flowing muscles and tendons.

A long, thick braid of red hair hung down the smith’s back. Ryan realized the smith wasn’t wearing a face shield or protective glasses.

“Welcome, Ryan.” A woman. The sacred smith was a woman?

She turned to face the door and pulled off the leather apron she wore to lay it on the nearby workbench. Wowsa. Her delicate bone structure was clearly Tuatha but it was overlaid with muscles beyond those of most. He could just see the delicate points of her ears. But a Tuatha could not stand cold iron. Weren’t her anvils and tools made of iron or steel?

She chuckled, a throaty sound that caressed him like a lover’s touch. “I can see your confusion. You may call me … Ciara. My mother was Tuatha de Danaan but my father is Creidne.”

Ryan took a moment but finally came up with the reference. “One of the smithing gods. But even he didn’t work in iron.”

She nodded and stepped closer. “But he discovered his bastard half-breed was even more talented than he. So he cursed me in a fit of jealousy. I am cursed to provide arms and armor to my mother’s people but all my magic is limited to metal. Even my sight.”

A few steps closer and she stood an arm’s length away. The sunlight fell on her face, revealing the truth of what she said. Eyes of swirled Damascus steel stared back at him.

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Caught


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published December 7, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Martine hung onto the edge of the rocky cliff with every bit of strength she had, fingertips already white with strain. Stupid, so stupid. She’d finally die on one of her crazy missions, just as her family always predicted. She’d been so sure she’d found evidence of a new raptor, a huge bird of prey, that she’d ignored her own safety and taken a chance. The ledge she’d leapt over to had crumbled beneath her, leaving her dangling in midair with no real hope of rescue.

She felt in vain for toe holds or tiny outcroppings, anything to take the weight off her hands and maybe give her a chance to clamber up. Nothing. Her fingers slipped and she fought to regain her grasp, then the bit of rock she clung to pulled from the outcropping and she tumbled in the air.

Unable to breath, panic flooded through her. She was dead. The whole world moved in slow motion as she twisted and turned in the air, flailing her arms and legs in an instinctive effort to somehow catch herself.

It seemed forever. It seemed like a split second. Suddenly what little breath she had was forced from her with jolt that doubled her in half. She wasn’t falling anymore but was soaring upwards instead. She felt something tight about her body and glanced down her body, only to stare in disbelief. Huge talons were clasped around her, sharp tips burrowed into her clothes. Her ears recovered from the whistle of the wind and she could just make out the flap of huge wings.

A moment later whatever was carrying her dropped her onto a rocky mesa and landed lightly next to her. With a shove, she turned onto her back to see the huge hawk she’d been hunting looking at her, head cocked and looking at her with shiny black eyes.

“Oh my God.” It really did exist. She had finally found one of the mystery animals she’d spent years looking for.

She sat up and tugged her backpack off to search for her small camera by feel. A picture. She needed a picture to prove what she’d seen. No one would believe her without some proof.

Before she located the camera, the bird seemed to shimmer and blur. Martine rubbed her eyes to try to clear them. Then the bird glowed with a bright bluish light for a moment, then disappeared. A tall, muscular man with long black hair and gleaming coppery skin stood in its place. A very naked man.

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Calling a Ride


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published December 13, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The roar of a motorcycle engine cut through the stillness of the early morning quiet. Hidden by the deep fog, she crawled behind the small boulder near the park entrance. Lena clutched the talisman to her lips, fingers and face so cold she could no longer feel them. But she continued to whisper the foreign words her mother had taught her as soon as she was old enough to memorize them. The words that would summon a dragon to aid her.

Her mother knew this day would come. The day when her mother’s family would find them and try to kill them. All in the name of purity, in the name of bloodlines. The memory of her mother’s broken body tore at her but she couldn’t cry now. She refused to waste that desperate sacrifice now. She would grieve later. She would plan her vengeance later.

The deep throb of the motorcycle engine drew closer, now accompanied by the crunch and clatter of tires on the gravel road. What the hell was a biker doing her at this time of day and in this weather? And where was her dragon.

Goddess, please let this work.

The bike was so near now it had to be in the parking lot where her burnt out car sat. The rider cut the engine and the silence seemed stark in comparison. She closed her eyes and chanted the words, putting every bit of energy she had into the call.

“Would you stop, already?” The deep voice spoke from right beside her. Startled, Lena’s eyes shot open and she tried to scramble away from the tall man who stood glowering over her, helmet in hand.

“Who are you? Why did you sneak up on me?” She forced the words out despite her panic. She hadn’t even heard him approach.

He reached a large, hard hand down and effortlessly drug her to her feet by one arm. He was quite a bit taller than her and looked very solid. Lena rejected the instinct to run, there was no way she’d get more than a few feet away.

Muscles clenched in his angular jaw and his almost teal blue eyes narrowed. Without a sigh, he tugged her toward the huge motorcycle he’d parked under the dim parking lot light. “You can call me Shayle and I was sent to answer your summons. My family owes yours and I get to make the debt good.”

Despite her fear, she couldn’t help but admire the thick muscles that flowed under the skintight black leathers he wore. He had dark hair, pulled back from his face and bound with criss-crossed leather ties from the nape of his neck to the top of his glorious ass. The silver tips of the ties bounced against the seat of his pants.

As soon as they reached the bike, he yanked another helmet off the seat clip and shoved it at her. “Here, put this on. We need to get out of here.”

She made no motion to take the helmet. “Umm. My mother swore a dragon would come and transport me away to somewhere safe.”

She motioned at the huge machine, almost ridiculous with the amount of chrome, black leather and studs. “This doesn’t look like a dragon. A hog, maybe.”

A snarl escaped the mysterious Shayle. “It’s not a hog or a dragon. It’s a custom.”

He tried to shove the helmet at her again and she backed up a step. “Can’t you just get a dragon to fly me out of here?”

He seemed shocked for a moment, then his strange eyes seemed to glow and his voice had an undertone of anger that made Lena instinctively flinch. “No one mounts a dragon but his children or his mate. And you are neither, human.”

This time she took the helmet he held out to her, careful to not touch the razor sharp claws that had appeared from the tips of his fingers.

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Breathe


(M/F, Contemporary, BDSM, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published December 21, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“He’s a stubborn one, Dragoness. Well know for topping from the bottom and willing to risk any pound of flesh, but never his emotions. Never his heart.”

The familiar voice of Gerald’s hostess, Nicole, was only slightly muffled by the supple leather hood laced over Jared’s head. The hood was his own request and the smell of the high quality leather was almost soothing, a sign to his raging libido that it might soon have at least a bit of release.

The thick leather cuffs clasped his hands behind his back, a short chain connecting them to the cuffs around his ankles. His hard cock was fastened in a leather harness but this time Nicole had gotten creative and connected his nipple rings and Prince Albert piercing with chains barely long enough to allow him to sit upright.

He could take it. He could take anything he needed to.

So he sat proudly erect, legs spread and shoulders back, ignoring the tension on his piercings. The hood’s eye covers prevented him from seeing but he didn’t care. Instead he saw the curvy and compact body of Nikita Gordyn, the tiny tornado he’d faced and lost to – again – in court last week.

Unlike his co-workers, he wasn’t afraid of her. But he spent every moment in her presence with a hard on, his blood hot with the thrill of the battle and the respect he had for his opponent. A heady mix, indeed. Especially when he had yet to find a Mistress he couldn’t manipulate or win over.

He heard the door close without a word from this “Dragoness” and wondered if Nicole had scared her off, then he heard the tap of heels on the highly polished wooden floor and the snick of the privacy lock.

The sound of steps approached until he knew she was only a few feet away. Then she circled him. The light breeze she generated seemed to caress his skin, raising goose bumps and hardening his tautly pulled nipples.

Around again. Still she said nothing. Who was this woman Gerald had set him up with?

A few steps and he could feel the warmth of her body next to him. The seductive scent of amber and vanilla teased his nostrils and he breathed it deeply into him. Not the subtle flowery smell of a woman who was unsure of herself.

He had to fight to keep his head facing straight ahead.

She stepped behind him, moving slowly. Suddenly he felt the erotic, spine-tingling sensation of her hot breath caressing the sensitive nape of his neck. The feeling seemed to send an electric jolt down his spine to his cock.

Unpredictably, erratically, Dragoness touched different parts of his ever-more sensitive body with just the head of her breath. When she blew a long breath across the head of his rock-hard cock, he lost control and moaned out loud.

He’d never been this turned on before. And from so little.

As if waiting for that concession, footsteps walked toward where he knew the refreshment bar was. A clink of ice. The sound of water flowing. After a moment or two more, he heard the steps approach again.

She was in front of him. The entire surface of his skin tingled with that knowledge. A gentle hand reached out and removed the chains from his piercings, careful not to touch him more than absolutely necessary, despite his subtle attempts to force her to.

Nothing. No touches, no movement. She can’t have gotten up, could she? What the hell? What kind of Mistress would just walk away. He was popular with the club’s patrons – the Dommes saw his size and aggression as a trophy they could display on a leash if they could just tame him. But he stayed unattached, not content with playing the role.

Was he alone?

Jared shifted slightly, hoping to not betray his concern if Dragoness was still there. For his efforts, an ice-cold hand grasped his cock, nearly causing him to fall over in shock. Out of his control, his hips flexed oh-so-slightly forward as the small, cold fingers stroked his cock from base to tip, then just as abruptly released him.

“Mistress, please.” Jared moaned the plea.

As if that was the signal she waited for, his chin was cupped in a cold hand and another peeled off the eye coverings of his hood. He froze at what he saw.

“Good evening, Jared.” Nikita’s sea green eyes stared back into his own.

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Season’s Greetings


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2007 by Maura Anderson
First published December 27, 2007 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Steve stared at the pictures covering his mother’s refrigerator. This time of year brought out all her love of friends and family and every new picture she received was proudly added to the display. Christmas was his mother’s favorite holiday and his father always tried to make sure it was perfect for her.

He smiled and gave an ironic little snort. The holidays always seemed so bittersweet now. He loved his family and spending time with them, but he missed Alan. Though they’d been partners and lovers for almost five years, neither one of them had really come out to their families. Thus they ended up spending the holidays apart and fending off the hints and occasional attempts at blind dates set up by well-meaning relatives.

He was sick and tired of the charade. This year he swore he was going to tell his parents, come hell or high water. The night after Christmas, after his nieces and nephews had gone to bed. That way no one’s Christmas would be ruined.

Trying not to imagine the possible reactions, Steve pulled open the refrigerator door and snuck a few pieces of his mother’s almond roca from the tin inside.

“Ummmmm.” He groaned in pleasure as he nibbled off little bits until it was gone and he licked the chocolate from his fingertips. Oh hell, that was a mistake. Alan loved to nibble on his fingers and he could picture just how much his sweet-toothed love would have enjoyed the chocolate coated digits.

The house was deserted but he’d seen the note from his father that they were out picking someone up at the airport and then nabbing his sister’s family from the local snowboarding slopes but would be back soon.

Finally he heard the slamming of car doors and excited voices. The front door burst open and his sister’s kids spewed into the entry, shedding snow gear and yelling competitive trash talk at each other in between laughing at their own mistakes. Must have been a good day on the hill.

“Uncle Steve!” His niece caught sight of him first and raced over to throw herself into his lap. The others followed suit until he was covered in four cold, wet kids, all trying to hug and kiss him at once.

“Kids! Get back here and get your wet clothes off!” Tammy’s voice was warm and full of humor.

The kids obediently struggled off him, one of them narrowly missing kneeing him in the balls. Once free, he headed toward the entry, only to be intercepted by his mother. Steve pulled his mother close in a huge hug, his heart in his throat. This year would change everything. Would he ever have a “normal” family gathering again?

“I’m glad you made it. It was starting to snow pretty hard.” His mother’s voice was muffled as her face was still squished against him. A firm shove from her, and he finally let her go.

“You have to come see my favorite photo Christmas card, Stevie. I just got it and it was so special I waited to put it up until I could share it with you.”

“Umm, okay.” He obediently followed her tiny figure back into the kitchen. From the top of the fridge she pulled down an envelope and opened it to pull out one of those long photo cards. But this one looked suspiciously familiar. When she flipped it over, his jaw dropped.

It was the card he and Alan had sent to their friends. The one with them in a very clearly non-platonic embrace in front of their own tree.

Holy shit. Who sent that to her?

Ignoring his silence, his mother carefully made a prominent place for it on the appliance door and turned back to him. “I love you, Steve. Without reservation. I’m so glad you found someone you love to spend your life with. But I wish you would have told me yourself instead of forcing me to give poor Alan the third degree and put him on the spot by telling him I’d guessed you were gay years ago. Just understand you don’t have to pretend with us anymore, ever.”

His eyes stung with tears. Tears of relief, gratitude and love. He still couldn’t force a single word out.

Then warm arms wrapped around his waist from behind and Alan’s beautiful bass voice whispered in his ear. “Season’s Greetings, my love.”

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Lightning


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published January 4, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

She will die young and without knowing true love. As the storm embraces her, the kiss of lightning will be her death, yet she will be endlessly drawn to her killer.

“Look Mom, I need to concentrate on driving. I’ll call you when the storm has passed to let you know I’m okay.” Even her mother wouldn’t argue with that excuse.

“Okay, Joann. Please be careful. Stay away from the storm. I can’t bear to lose you now.” A hint of tears was obvious in her mother’s voice. Jo knew the pain of her father’s death still hadn’t eased for either of them, even in the three years since he lost his battle with cancer. Her mother was terrified of losing her only child as well.

She hung up the phone and found herself stopping at another light. Only five miles to her house. She certainly should be able to make it in time – she hoped.

The obscure prophecy of her Romani grandmother hung over her head since she was born. All through Jo’s life her mother sought to prevent the curse – for it was really more curse than prophecy – from coming true. Any hint of a thunder storm and her mother would demand that she lock herself in the large guest bathroom, the only room in her childhood home that had no windows.

Jo hated that room. It always made her feel as if she were being suffocated. She tried to avoid it as long as possible, often having to be forced into it by her mother as the storms were breaking.

But the older she got, the more she absorbed her mother’s fears. She didn’t want to die.

Jo pulled up into a line of cars waiting at a stop sign. While she waited for her turn, she found herself watching the storm clouds writhe and twist in the sky. The horizon seemed alive with movement.

A glance in the rearview mirror at the sky behind her instead revealed her own face. Her curly brown hair always reacted badly to humidity and was now a bit frizzy, despite the expensive hair care products she lavished on it. Her face was so pale that the light makeup she had on didn’t disguise its pallor and her hazel eyes appeared huge. She looked frantic. She felt frantic.

When she’d realized the storm was coming in a lot earlier than predicted, she’d told her co-workers that she was suddenly feeling ill and had to leave the meeting early. She could tell by the knowing smirks they exchanged that they were condescendingly amused by their only female programmer’s fear of storms.

But they were wrong. Jo wasn’t afraid of storms. She was drawn to them in an almost irresistible attraction. The only thing that kept her inside in her safe room was the damned prophecy. An avowed disbeliever, she was still afraid that it might be true and had no desire to die.

Finally through the long line at the stop sign, Jo turned down the main road into the area her isolated house was located just as raindrops began to fall. She felt vaguely sick as the rain grew heavier and the hair on the back of her neck stood up.

At last she pulled into her own driveway. If she could just get into the house before the power was released. Before the lighting or thunder started. “Home. I’m home.”

She shut off the car and readied her keys, locating the one to her front door. A deep breath and she grabbed her purse and opened the car door, ready to race for the house.

As she slammed the car door shut, she felt it the raw power and presence of the storm surround her. Her heart pounded in her chest and she tried to force herself toward the house but instead stood frozen in awe, unable to move.

The sharp smell of ozone finally broke her free of her paralysis and she ran across her lawn toward the house. But before she could reach the door, she was lifted and thrown backwards through the air.

A small part of her realized she could no longer feel her heart beat before the blackness enveloped her.

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Anna


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published January 11, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Still. Dark. Silent.

Slowly the nothingness began to recede.

She floated in a chilly sea of mist, surrounded by shades of grey, her movements slow and sleepy. Peaceful and calm, her body embraced by the fog even as her mind began to wake.

Anna.

She contemplated the name as she drifted. It felt right, it felt natural. Surely that was her own name. It had to be.

My name is Anna.

The acknowledgement seemed to open a floodgate – memories assaulted her. An invasion of visions, sounds, even tastes and smells overwhelmed her. Her mind writhed from the onslaught, helpless in the grip of the experiences it relived.

Noooooooooooooooooo.

Her silent scream faded off as she descended again into the misty silence, unable to process the bombardment.

* * * * *

Anna McInnes. She was Anna McInnes.

This time she knew who she was and the memories were still present but she no longer felt as if they were attacking her. She could picture her own face and body. She remembered her parents and that they were both dead, gone for many years.

Where am I? What happened?

She remembered leaving her house to go to her friend, Jo’s. She’d climbed into her car and started it, then began the short drive. But she didn’t remember arriving. What did that mean? Where was she now?

She couldn’t see anything. Anna tried to touch her face to make sure her eyes were open but her body didn’t seem to respond to her demands. Only silence and drifting sensations met her efforts.

Determined, she pushed her fears aside and willed herself to move, to control her body.

Nothing.

I have to move. I have to know I’m okay.

She focused every bit of her will on moving just her fingers. Just one finger. Surely she could do that. Finally, as if a tightly stretched barrier burst, she felt her right hand move at the same time a wave of excruciating pain swept over her, throwing her back into her grey silence.

* * * * *

“What the hell are you doing?”

Anna’s eyes shot open at the shouted words. She was laying on a damp, cold surface that was so hard it felt like she was laying on a rock. Her head swimming, she tried to push herself upright only to realize she was so weak she could barely manage it.

“Well, Miss, what are you doing here? Do you have no respect?” The voice was closer now. “Are you on drugs?”

Anna managed to rise to her knees on the flat surface. She wrapped her arms around herself, cold and shivering now. Looking down, she realized she was wearing a dress she didn’t recognize. A thin flowery fabric in a style she never wore. Where the hell had that come from?

It seemed like she couldn’t focus her eyes. Everything seemed to waver and shimmer. It was so bad she would swear she could see through her own body, impossible as that was. But the stone slab she was on seemed solid enough.

Lifting her head, she saw a stone wall in front of her with words engraved on it. Reading them, she almost fell over again when she realized what the words meant.

Anna Marie McInnes – Beloved Sister and Friend.

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Visitor


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published January 18, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Something was not right.

Sata paused with the alarm code only half-entered, distracted by the odd tingle that traced up her spine. A familiar sensation but not one she’d felt since she’d chosen enter a voluntary exile in the land of the humans. Her land now.

The louder tones of the alarm’s final ten second warning pulled her back from her memories in time to key in her code and deactivate it. She really didn’t need a false alarm fine or an audience for her confrontation with whatever was waiting for her.

Stalling for time, Sata went into her workroom and set her purse in its accustomed place under the bench. Stripping off her red leather duster, she hung it on the hook behind the door. Hyper-aware of the sensation of magic nearby, she tried to quell her churning stomach but didn’t quite succeed. After drying her damp hands on her jeans, she couldn’t stall any longer and went to see just what, or who, had appeared in her store.

The front room was lit only by the low lighting in the display cases and dark shadows filled the corners of the room. A quick flick of the light switch and the overhead lights flickered to life but Sata could still see nothing out of place. The distinctive feeling of Sidhe magic was even stronger now, but it was mixed with another magic. A darker one.

Worst of all, she knew should recognize this particular feeling, should recognize the mix even though she’d not felt it in many years.

“Hello, Satadara.”

She jumped and spun in place, nearly falling into the side of one of her display cases. Catching herself in time, she stared in silent amazement at the figure that emerged from the doorway to the office.

Valeris.

A very different Valeris from the one she remembered. He’d filled in to match his height and was much more muscular. His piercing teal eyes shone from his unique mocha skin. The beautiful chocolate brown hair that had once draped across her was pulled tightly back from his face, making his features seem sharp and his gracefully pointed ears seem longer than ever.

Lips curved in a lopsided smile, Valeris stepped closer, giving her a chance to see admire his flexing muscles in the black leather pants and vest he wore. Not exactly the clothing of choice in the Court and a bit of a cross between biker and leatherman, but it seemed suited to Valeris’ personality.

For once she felt self conscious that she dressed so casually, her jeans and tank top were comfortable but not exactly enticing.

“Umm. Why are you here, Valeris? You know it’s forbidden to have any contact with me.” She was proud of her ability to keep her voice steady. “And how did you find me? The Queen herself masked my magic and hid me.”

Valeris grinned and stepped closer still. “Ah, but the Seelie Queen cast me from her court. Apparently mixed breeds are no longer welcome in her presence.”

That was odd. The Queen always seemed to be taken with Valeris’ bad-boy attitude and irreverent behavior. That fondness had even resulted in her own exile.

For a brief moment Sata felt her resentment flare but she quickly pushed it away. “What do you want, Valeris. If it’s a pity party, you’ve missed that event by a good decade.” She stepped back a little, only to find herself up against another case.

Anger flared briefly in the depths of his eyes, then he smiled again and looked up and down her body. “You haven’t changed all that much since I last saw you. You’re still luscious enough to eat.”

The fire of lust flared through her body at his words, nipples tightening and pussy clenching. Dammit. He should have no power over her anymore. “Why would I want a half-breed like you?”

“At least my parents stayed within a single species. Seelie and Unseelie are not so different. But I won’t let you pick a fight.” He held out his hand, a ring in his dark palm. The ring she’d made for him of her own hair. “You are old enough now and I have come to claim you as my own.”

She felt the magic flare a split-second before a thick rope of Valeris’ mixed magic settled about her wrists, binding them before her even as it jerked her forward and against his very hard, very aroused body.

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Hacking Immortality


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published January 24, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Death wasn’t easy, but couldn’t it be a little cheaper? Hettie Andrews stared at the deposit figure shown on the bank statement she’d hacked into. That’s a whole lot of zeros.

After a moment’s delay, her fingers flew over the keyboard as she looked for anything else within the last several months that might indicate Viktor Ginda was responsible for more than just the attempted hit a week ago.

The self-styled Ukrainian playboy led a life far beyond the income he earned as an occasional bodyguard. His love of gold, diamonds and platinum blondes is what had drawn Hettie’s attention in the first place. She sneered at the number of times Mr. Ginda paid for the company of his silicon-enhanced dates.

It figures, the guy’s dick probably rotted off before he hopped to the US. All swagger and talk and nothing to back it up. Hettie saved a copy of the data, then closed her connection to the online banking site. He doesn’t even have the brains to think of a decent password.

Still nothing she could easily tie to any of the other execution-style murders, let alone the attack that took Sean from her just six months ago. The attack that changed her life forever and ended his.

Her back popped at the movement after hours of inactivity when she impatiently shoved free of the desk and stood. Pacing the dimly lit room, dodging the few pieces of chrome and steel furniture, she tried to make sense of the pieces of information she had.

She wrapped her arms around herself, still not used to how cold she felt even in the thick sweatshirt, pants and fuzzy socks. It was quiet this late at night. Most of her close neighbors had gone to bed long ago and even the teenager down the block’s attempts at playing drums with zero sense of rhythm had ceased a few hours ago. She always did her best work at night – it just became more necessity than choice six months ago.

More lonely as well.

She fought the huge lump in her throat at the memory of all the late nights spent with Sean, hacking into networks, trying to solve crimes and remove threats. How much she missed the mornings she woke in his strong arms, secure in her love and her ignorance of the fact they had a price on their heads already haunted her daily.

No tears. She’d spent weeks crying until she didn’t think she could cry another tear. Now was the time for duty and bringing killers to justice.

So why were these other hackers being killed? They weren’t much of a threat, really. Just loud-mouthed script-kiddies who had little real talent. They had to have stumbled on something or someone but damned if she could figure out what. Weeks of digging through their files and posts failed to show a clear link. She was missing something either incredibly subtle or painfully obvious. At this rate, her handler would pull her off the case, despite her personal vow to find her fiancé’s killers. There were other cases that needed her skills.

“But where did Sean’s code come from?” Her voice broke the silence.

The snippet had all the hallmarks of Sean’s style but she’d never seen it before she’d found it while trailing several of the dead hacker’s activities. It had to be new or it wouldn’t have used the technique it did.

Maybe it was time to pay a visit to Mr. Ginda in person? He’ll probably pee his pants to see me again.” Her lips curled in a vindictive grin at the thought of appearing to Viktor like a ghost from the grave.

She suddenly realized she was hungry. Very hungry. No wonder she couldn’t focus very well. Thankfully the all night Chinese place just down the block was happy to deliver to her. In fact the delivery boys vied over who would bring her order – she tipped exceptionally well and they always left well rewarded.

She phoned to order her usual — wonton soup and fried rice. Nothing too stinky – she couldn’t stand anything too stinky these days. While she waited for her delivery, she tapped a manicured nail against a pearly white fang and smiled, imagining just what Viktor Ginda’s reaction would be when the victim of his last hit showed up in his bedroom – definitely walking and talking, and no more dead than she was before he shot her multiple times.

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On My Grave


(M/M, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published February 1, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Gary stood, still as a statue, in the cover of the overgrown blackberry brambles. The full moon dominated the sky and lit up the abandoned cemetery, so bright it could almost have been daytime. The once pristine and tidy graveyard was in ruins. The few headstones had been toppled or broken and the wooden markers had long since rotted away.

A small part of him mourned those now lost to history and memory, even their final resting places receding into the shadows. Another part of him envied them.

He noted idly that it was a cold night. The cycle of the seasons was continuing, as it had all his very long life. Unstoppable and relentless, the years crept by. Soon the snow would come and blanket the cemetery in the semblance of pristine purity, hiding the carnage that lay beneath.

Where was he? The young man was usually here by now. At first it had taken the man sitting on Gary’s unmarked grave to wake him. The man would sit, sheltered by the drooping limbs of the weeping elm Gary’s sister had planted, and daydream.

He couldn’t know Gary’s grave was there, let alone know what Gary was and that the ties of his kind to their mortal grave meant they could sense anyone and anything that touched it. For most of his kind it meant a tie to their relatives while they still lived and visited, along with the occasional caretaker tending the plot.

But no one had visited Gary’s grave even before the cemetery went to ruin. Only the occasional animal had sent the shiver of awareness down his spine and forced him to remember that he, too, was once human.

Then the stranger had begun to spend time here. At first annoyed by the strong reaction his body had to the intrusion, he’d tried to ignore it. Before long, the lure of the emotions that flowed off the young man in waves seduced Gary into acceptance, then longing.

Who was this visitor? Why did he go from sorrow to happiness to lust to despair?

The crack of twigs underfoot alerted Gary to his visitor’s approach. As the steps moved closer, Gary was careful to make sure he was tucked out of sight. He wanted to see the man, not be seen.

A figure, slender for all it was bundled up in a wool coat, pushed through the clinging brambles to the huge old tree. He slipped between the drooping limbs and almost tossed himself onto the ground near the trunk.

A shudder ran through Gary, so strong it raised goosebumps on his skin, something he’d not experienced in nearly a century. I wonder if that’s because I’m so close to my grave again?

Gary pushed aside the idle question in the face of the barrage of emotions that flowed off the young man. Loneliness, longing, a touch of sorrow—they were all entwined in a confusing morass. But so very human.

A quick tug and the man’s hat was off, revealing his dark blonde curls. Gary’s fingers twitched with the desire to run his fingers through that riot of hair. Instead he crept closer, eager to see the face of the man he’d come to anticipate and even long for.

The full moon’s light, combined with Gary’s inhuman eyesight, gave him a clear view of what turned out to be a face that was striking more than it was handsome. An aquiline nose and square jaw offset the softness of his plump, pink lips. Icy blue eyes, so pale they seemed unnatural, were framed by lush lashes—lashes that sparkled with tears.

The nearly forgotten heat of desire shot through Gary’s body. Desire he’d not felt in far too long. He wanted to dry the stranger’s tears, kiss those lips until they were red and swollen, ease his tongue between them into the warmth and wetness of the other man’s mouth. His mouth almost watered at the imagined taste of the other man.

He wanted to explore the other man’s body—with his hands, his lips, his tongue, his cock. What would he look like under that coat? What would his cock feel like?

Operating on pure instinct, Gary stepped forward, praying to a forgotten God that this fascinating man wouldn’t run.

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Beltane Dance


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published February 8, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

After slipping her sandals on, Shannon threw a light coat over her thin, flowing dress and let herself out into her parent’s backyard. Nervous energy flowed through her, making her shiver a little in anticipation, despite the warmth of the May evening.

Shannon shut the door behind her, harder than she’d intended, and winced at the slam. It was a good thing she was alone tonight. Not that she wasn’t alone most nights, too. The reminder sparked a familiar sense of loneliness she forcibly pushed away.

It was Beltane. A night of new beginnings, sensuality and fertility. A night for wishes to come true. It wasn’t a time for regrets or self-doubt. It was a time to finally think of herself and her own happiness.

A beautiful moon hung huge in the sky overhead, almost full and so bright it made her path easy to follow. The light breeze was just enough to cause her skirt to caress her bare legs and remind her that she wasn’t wearing anything under the dress. The unaccustomed sexiness made her pussy clench. Soon she’d dance naked around her small fire—a dance in the moonlight to draw love her.

At least if I make a fool of myself, there’s only me to see it.

Stepping carefully, she made her way to the small ring of bushes her mother had planted around the hill. Well, more of a mound. She stopped for a moment at the edge of the hill, and took a deep breath in an attempt to calm her nerves.

She braced herself and took off her coat, neatly folding it and placing it on the thick grass. Her sandals joined it and she walked barefoot in the cool grass to the small fire she’d laid in the iron fire ring. Sacred woods, carefully selected and saved all year, were seasoned and waiting to be lit. She pulled a fireplace lighter from her skirt pocket and set the rolled paper tinder on fire.

For a few moments she just watched the paper burn and the wood begin to flicker with tiny tongues of yellow and red. After a few minutes, the fire was beginning to burn well.

It’s time. Now or never, Shannon.

She reached up and pulled the band off her hair, unbraiding the brown strands to flow loose down her back. Fingers slowly unbuttoned her dress, focusing her will on opening herself for love. Finally ready, she pulled the dress off her shoulders in a single motion and let it fall to the ground before kicking it off and away from the fire.

She shivered, nipples hardening from the air that was suddenly not nearly as warm as she’d thought when she still had clothes on. Time to move.

“Beltane Fires, light the way

Love to me, come to stay”

She chanted her wish, walking slowly around the fire. Shannon’s steps and her words found a common rhythm and she soon began to sway and turn as she chanted.

“Beltane Fires, light the way…”

The beat of a drum seemed to accompany her, then lead her. The heartbeat of her dance, the drum thumped almost in time to her heartbeat. Thumpa, thump, thump – the drum drove her on, sped her dance, and drew her into a trance of movement and sound.

“Love to me, come to stay”

Her trance deepened as she chanted faster and faster. Her walk turned to a spinning, graceful dance.

Thumpa, thumpa, thump, thump.

Moving so quickly around the fire, she could no longer spare the breath or attention to chant. Instead she held onto her focus and let her body move as the drum demanded. As the dance demanded.

Finally, she could no longer dance and collapsed to her knees in the grass, facing the now roaring fire. The sound of drumbeats faded away and she panted, struggling to catch her breath.

Suddenly Shannon saw movement from the edge of her vision and looked up to see a man setting a large drum aside. He was as naked as she, tall and pale with the whitest blonde hair she’d ever seen. And incredibly sexy. As she stared, he walked toward her and smiled.

“You summoned me and I played for you.” His face was a gorgeous as his body, brilliant blue eyes shining out from a face so pretty it seemed unnatural. He tucked his long hair behind one ear and Shannon realized his ear was not the shape of a human ear.

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Coyote Run


(M/M, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published February 15, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Damn he hurt.

What the hell had happened? He remembered going for a night ride on his big palomino gelding, Nikki, feeling unusually restless and lonely. Just riding randomly around, he’d come across something he’d only heard legends of – a Coyote Run.

There must have been a dozen coyotes, weaving in and around the shrubs, playing and dancing in the moonlight. The full moon illuminated their antics and he just watched in awe from atop his horse, hoping they wouldn’t mind his presence.

Sudden, searing pain exploded across his back and darkness rushed through him.

Mitch slowly opened his eyes. Lethargic and cold, he saw the outlines of the familiar furniture of his own bedroom in the darkness. Was it a dream? He reached for the light beside the bed, then hissed at the sharp pain that jolted through his back at the slight movement. Nope – not a dream. But what the hell had happened?

He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth, willing the pain to recede. He felt the bed next to him shifted a little and a soft whine made him open his eyes to see the long snout of a dog come to rest on the bed next to his face. Warm golden eyes looked steadily into his own with what seemed to be un-doglike intelligence.

He didn’t even own a dog.

The crunch of gravel, accompanied by the sound of a motor, told Mitch someone had pulled up outside the small cabin. He braced himself to try to sit up, only to have the dog snarl at his movement.

“Someone’s here. Back off, dog.”

When he lifted himself up on his elbow, Mitch realized two things. He wasn’t going to be able to stand up and that was no dog. With those ears, that had to be a coyote. His awe was quickly overwhelmed by fiery pain and he collapsed back onto the bed and into darkness.

* * * * *

Warm. He felt surprisingly warm and comfortable but there was something important he had to remember. Something just outside his awareness.

Mitch couldn’t remember being this tired in a long time, yet he’d obviously been asleep for a while if the dryness of his mouth was anything to judge by. It felt like a herd of army boots had marched through but he wasn’t sure it was worth the effort to get up for some water.

With a sigh, he opened his eyes to discover it had to be midday, judging by the amount of light coming in the cabin’s main windows and bleeding into the sleeping loft. Enough light to see the coyote curled up in the bed next to him, taking up over half the mattress. The light snuffling of the sleeping animal hadn’t even penetrated his consciousness until now but he’d obviously been curled up against the coyote’s warm fur.

Mitch realized he was naked and his soft swearing woke his bedmate who cocked his head, at least he assumed it was a him because it was a really big coyote, in return. “Umm. Hi, boy.”

Mitch turned onto his back and almost swore again at the pain radiating from his shoulder and upper back. He waited a second, then tentatively wiggled. He’d been hurt somehow but it felt as if there were bandages or something on his back. Maybe he’d been in an accident?

The coyote rose to his feet and hopped off the bed to stand beside it, looking at Mitch with a steady gaze.

“Did you get help for me? Who are you?” Mitch chuckled at himself. “I must be loopy, here I am talking to a coyote who can’t possibly answer me.”

The coyote snuffle, as if laughing as well, then Mitch’s attention was caught by the shimmer that surrounded the gorgeous animal. Almost instantly, the large coyote was replaced by the form of a man—a naked, slender man with hair the color of the coyote’s fur and golden brown eyes. And an impressive erection that no self-respecting man could fail to notice.

“My name is Jamie. And my family helped get you home after the hunters shot you.”

With an eerie grace, Jamie propped one knee on the edge of the bed and bent to capture Mitch’s lips in a kiss that made the rest of the universe disappear. As Jamie slipped back under the covers with Mitch, he released his lips just long enough to change Mitch’s life forever.

“I am your mate.”

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Eclipse


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published February 22, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“Oh come on, Nettle. A total eclipse only happens every few years. Come outside with me.”

Scott shook his head at the small blue-eyed wolf. “You know, wolves are supposed to love the moon and you seem to hate it. You have to be the least wolf-like wolf I’ve ever encountered.”

He chuckled. He was doing it again, talking to Nettle like she could really understand him. Her unknown owners had extensively trained her and she understood quite a few commands, but she wasn’t up to a conversation.

Nettle gave her thick, almost white-blonde fur a thorough shake, her collar jingling. Cocking her head at him for a moment, she laid down on thick bed near the door with almost dainty movements.

Just what was her story? She’d been rescued by a bystander after being hit by a truck. She been brought to Scott and his wildlife sanctuary when they realized she wasn’t a dog but a full-blooded wolf, if an unusual one.

But she’d been someone’s pet. With her complete lack of any fear of humans and her familiarity with commands and routines, she would never be a candidate for release.

She’d lived with Scott ever since he’d brought her home the first night to care for her broken leg and ribs. Sleeping at the sanctuary’s clinic was a sure recipe for a migraine and no sleep and she was his only patient at the moment. He’d not expected her to worm her way into his heart so quickly.

“Okay, I’m going out there though. I want to lay back and just watch the show. You can stay in here if you insist.” He chuckled. “But I’m sure I can protect you from the big, bad moon.”

Her long-suffering sigh ended on a whine.

“You’re such a diva. I should have named you Princess instead of Nettle. Although a princess would be nicer to visiting dignitaries. Growling at my date was not the way to make friends.”

As if she understood him, Nettle lifted her head and bared her teeth in a wolf-smile.

Not that he’d liked Donna, anyway. The minute she’d admitted to liking white carpet and outdoor only pets, he’d written her off. God, he was sick of dating shallow women.

He forced the thought away. He wasn’t lonely anymore with Nettle around. He’d avoided pets before because he didn’t want to leave a dog or cat alone all the time and couldn’t really take them to the sanctuary with him. But Nettle refused to be left behind and just a few weeks after he’d first brought her home, she was family. Hell, she even slept on his bed with him.

He glanced at the clock. “The eclipse is starting. I’ll leave the door open for you.”

He stepped past her and slid the door open, ignoring her grumbled protests. The wooden deck boards were cool under his bare feet and the air even chillier. Collapsing into the strategically positioned chaise, he was happy to curl up under the thick blanket he’d left out there earlier.

He was even happier to see Nettle nose open the door and follow him. So silent she seemed a product of his imagination, she slunk slowly toward him. Scott obediently lifted the blanket and moved to one side and the beautiful wolf hopped up to cuddle next to him and let him drape the blanket over them both.

He looked up to see just the tiniest bite taken out of the moon. It was starting. He’d loved eclipses all his life. As short as it was, it seemed so magical and it just wasn’t something pictures adequately conveyed.

Nettle whimpered and squirmed and he reached over to pet her. “Does your leg hurt, hon? There’s not a lot of room up here but you insisted.”

He alternated between stroking her fur and toying with the tag on the collar she’d been wearing when found; a strange disk inscribed with a wolf paw print in the middle of a pentagram, hanging from an exotic woven steel chain. She had fits when he tried to take it off, so it remained.

The night’s tranquility only broken by the occasional whimper and restless movement of his wolf, he watched the eclipse progress. “Almost full, Nettle.”

The chaise suddenly heaved, tossing him off onto the deck. He leapt to his feet only to stare in shock at the blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman sitting on his chaise, only partially covered by the blanket and wearing Nettle’s medallion.

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Right on Time


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published February 28, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

All my instincts told me I needed to figure out just what this code did – quickly.

I’ve never understood how my magic works, let alone been able to explain it to anyone else. Instead of cauldrons and grimoires, I worked with computers, software and programming manuals. I can’t create a love spell to save my life, but I can craft the perfect matchmaking application. A source of continual embarrassment to my very traditional mother, I was the family techno-sheep.

With the USB fob plugged into my specially crafted hub, I sat down at my secure system. As soon as the fob powered up, I could feel the intent of the code like a dark, malevolent fog washing through my nervous system.

Deep breaths helped trigger my long-ingrained training and I sank into a slight trance. Eyes closed, I visualized my shields like a bubble of reflective metal, then deliberately thinned them until they seemed like a layer of shiny mylar. The heavy shields normally protected me from the plethora of electronics in daily life but I couldn’t work with them up.

In and out. In and out. With each breath I traced my magic along the code paths, sinking gradually deeper as I explored it. I avoided the couple of traps I felt, easing around them so I didn’t set off whatever payload they would trigger. They weren’t the most sophisticated traps, signaling that the person who wrote this code wasn’t a highly skilled developer. It felt more like the cobbled together code of a script-kiddie but I’d never seen this nasty a code from them. It wasn’t their style.

Still without a clear idea of what the code did other than receive commands to spider the network and send details back out. It wasn’t complete and I couldn’t tell much more from this snippet than I had from the prior two I’d examined.

There had to be some connection between them.

Thickening my shields again, I kept my eyes shut. I didn’t know how long I’d been immersed in the code but I was so tired I could feel my own hands shake. Damn, I needed some food and some sleep soon or I wouldn’t be worth anything.

A commotion broke out in the break room down the hall and the loud, excited voices caught my attention. I’d call it parental instinct if I had any children – maybe zoo keeper instinct in my case. Something was going on that might need intervention.

Annoyingly shaky, I steadied myself with a hand on my desk for a moment before I dried my sweaty hands on my jeans, tugged my leather halter top down and went to see what the hell was going on now.

One of my newer developers, Jade, was hopping up and down in front of a machine I’d never seen before.

“What the hell are you doing, Jade?”

She shot a guilty look at me and seemed about to answer. But when the machine made a clicking sound, she immediately turned back to it, almost quivering with excitement. I’d apparently been forgotten.

“Jade, did someone give you lemonheads again? Last time you ate two pounds in only a couple of days and you couldn’t focus enough to stay human for more than ten minutes at a time. We had to peel you off the ceiling, then you slept for the next three days.”

My office manager leaned against the doorway next to me. “I took care of that.”

Another click and Jade got even more frantic. By now a crowd had gathered to watch her crazed movements, accompanied now by high pitched chittering.

“What did you do? Why is she going nuts?”

“It’s an automatic feeder. It dispenses one lemon drop every two hours. No more, no less.” She chuckled and pointed at Jade. “It’s about to give her a treat.”

Just as I thought my young developer would fly apart if she vibrated any faster, a bright light flashed and a cute sable ferret was hopping around on the floor below the dispenser, still tangled in Jade’s clothing. Wiggling free, the ferret war-danced as the dispenser clicked again, then a chime rang out and a large, wrapped candy popped out.

Jade the ferret managed to catch it in mid-air, then sank her teeth into the wrapper and drug it after her, heading backwards out of the break room and toward her office.

I tried not to laugh. Really.

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Caress of the Sea Witch


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published March 6, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

She stared at him from the safety of the ocean’s rhythmic waves. Breathing deeply and raggedly, he lay above the tide’s marks on the peaceful beach. Bronzed skin glowed in the sunlight and the white, sun-warmed sand stuck to his damp, muscular body as if dusted on.

Every day for the last month, he had dove into the ocean before dawn and swam until the sun was high. His hard, defined muscles worked for hours, swimming through the waves almost as if born to the sea. Almost as graceful as she was. Exhausted, he would drag himself from the water to collapse on the beach until his taller friend finally came to collect him, to coax him to his feet and force him to walk away from the water.

Who was this dark-haired man?

He came into her watery domain as if compelled, yet she never sang for him, never drew him in. Instead he entranced her until she found herself waiting near the shore for him every day, ever afraid that each day would be the one that he would appear, would not come to her.

Today she finally gave in to her fascination and touched him with her magic. Slick as the water he swam in, she caressed his warm, laboring muscles. Learned the texture of the hair on his head as well the coarser hair on his body. Her magic swirled over his chiseled abdomen and slicked over his growing erection.

Too soon, he swam to shore and stumbled away. But she could no longer take the chance he would stop his visits. She needed to know this human, a need she’d never before felt in all her long life. A need that consumed her.

She floated toward the shore, closed her eyes and gathered her magic to her, casting the spell she’d only used once before. Power swirled around her, encased her, then receded. The sensations of having legs and a human body were so strange she collapsed to her knees.

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Raven


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published March 13, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

There he was!

The tall, muscular man followed the hostess through the sparsely occupied restaurant, striding fluidly to the rearmost table. He’d done the same thing every Thursday night for at least the last two months, since Aaron had started working this shift. Until now he’d been forced to admire him from afar, but this week Aaron had finally persuaded Rachel to switch sections with him so he could serve the man who now fueled his dreams and fantasies.

This week his familiar black jeans and worn harness boots were accented by a dark green tee shirt. The soft fabric of the obviously well worn shirt clung to his generous muscles. Aaron wanted to drool at the mere hint of the scupted body beneath the cotton. Aaron realized the bold black pattern wrapped around the man’s arm was a raven tattoo. Exotic, dangerous and very sexy.

The man sat with his back to the wall, as always, alternating between watching the restaurant’s front door and glancing through the dinner menu. He must be waiting for the stockier blonde man that usually joined him for dinner.

“Aren’t you going to greet him, Aaron?”

The other waiter’s amused voice broke his paralysis. With a start, he took a deep breath and trying to ease the nervous flutters in his stomach.

The man glanced up as Aaron neared the table. The man turned out to have surprisingly pale skin but his hair was an intense blue-black and was drawn back into a tight, long braid. Lush lashes framed equally intense eyes so light they seemed silver. His slightly hooked nose and sharp cheekbones gave him an almost predatory appearance.

Aaron had to swallow twice before he could force out a description of today’s specials. Those silver eyes seemed to see into his soul – he could only hope that he didn’t glance down at the erection straining his black slacks.

Instead the man nodded and smiled slightly. Hell, even a casual smile made Aaron’s cock jerk in excitement. He’d dreamed about this man for weeks, stroked his cock and pretended it was this man’s hands. Ached to be filled by him.

“I’d like some water, please. And some for my guest. He should be here shortly.” Raspy and deep, even the man’s voice was a turn on.

Aaron struggled to form a coherent answer. “Certainly, sir. I’ll get that for you now.”

“Raven, sorry I’m late.” The blonde man had arrived and now Aaron had a name to put to the man’s face. A name to cry out when he came.

Aaron’s face grew hot. “I’ll get the water,” he muttered as he turned and fled. He could almost feel Raven’s eyes following him.

Only partially successful in calming himself down, Aaron set the glasses of ice water on the small server tray and braced himself to approach the two men and take their order. The blonde man was chattering away at Raven, who sat leaned back in his chair and looked amused and perhaps a bit bored.

Rather than sliding the water glass across the table, Aaron stepped behind the table to serve Raven from the side. As if in slow motion, he felt his foot catch the edge of the chair leg and his body lurched forward, tray and drinks sliding from his hands directly onto Raven’s lap.

Raven’s mouth and eyes opened wide in shock at the sudden coldness of the ice water. He gasped wordlessly and almost tipped his chair open in an attempt to escape.

“Oh my god, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Aaron babbled apologies as he snatched up the glasses and tray. He gathered up the big ice cubes and tossed them onto the tray to dispose of. Once he’d picked up the worst of it, Raven pushed back from the table even further and tried to brush off what water he could and wring out his shirt.

His pants were a different matter.

Aaron dropped to his knees beside Raven’s chair and began to blot up the water soaked into Raven’s jeans with his bar towel. His mortification at his slip was mixing with his longing to be doing more than sopping up water from this man’s pants. He wanted to be in Raven’s pants.

“I think our little blue-eyed waiter likes you, Raven.” The other man’s voice was obviously amused.

When he looked up and met Raven’s searching gaze, all he could do was nod.

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Death Whispers


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published March 20, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Kate wrenched open the bottom drawer of the ancient dirty-beige filing cabinet and tossed her purse in before shutting it. As usual, it refused to close completely until she gave it a solid kick.

“Ah the glamorous career of journalism.”

A heavy sigh and she reminded herself she was still just the intern. Pretty much the lowest of the low on the food chain at the Seattle Sentinel. Only three weeks to go on her three month internship and it was back to school to finish her degree, but with some experience at a newspaper on her resume.

Of course this job had been a learning experience in an area she’d never expected nor wanted. Maintaining obituaries and fetching coffee had never hinted that Kate would find herself embroiled in a situation that both terrified and fascinated her.

Her stomach churned as she pulled the wobbly desk chair out from under the dented metal desk. A vain attempt to brush the little bits of shed foam off the seat and she took a deep breath before sitting in the chair. Careful to not tip it over, she tugged herself up to the desk and the many-times-handed-down PC.

Her hands shook slightly. Kate gave herself a mental shake; she still had a job to do, weird coincidences or not. Weird visions or not. At least she could do the people in her visions a favor and make sure their obituaries were well crafted and complete. Their last hurrah would be a caring one.

At first it was just a feeling. An urge to work on the obituary for a person not on her list. Once she’d completed the assigned list, she’d given in to the urge and updated the obit for Shelley Siren. Kate had filed it away and managed to put it out of her mind until, two days later, Shelley had died suddenly in a traffic accident.

No one questioned the fact her obit was so up to date, they’d merely run it as quickly as possible on the paper’s website and been happy to have beaten most others.

But it hadn’t stopped there. Three days later, the same situation had repeated itself with a reclusive ex-athlete. Then another. And another.

By the third week of her internship, Kate knew she’d had to go along with whatever name came to mind and stopped resisting or pushing away the thoughts. Instead she tried to open herself, to see if anything made itself known.

But last week things had changed again. Instead of just a name, she actually saw something when she’d closed her eyes to concentrate. Along with the name of a famous musician, she saw just a flash of a metal and plastic.

A day later the body of rock star Darryl Davenport had been found, dead of an overdose with a syringe on the floor next to him.

Kate’s previous resigned acceptance became gut-wrenching fear. Since that day she’d tried to push away any intuition, any thoughts of a name. She couldn’t do this. Somehow it was more than her fatalistic nature could take, to see something along with the name.

You can’t ignore it forever. You only have a little while left before you’re back in school.

Not that she actually knew if leaving the paper would mean her strange intuition would stop as well. She could only hope. There was no way she could live with this long term.

Come on Kate, get it over with.

She’d chosen to come in really early, before the other intern that shared the office cum broom closet with her would be in. Maybe she could find a way to warn the person about to die?

“Yah, and have them think you’re a crazed stalker.” She muttered to herself, even as she realized she was stalling. Maybe she wouldn’t see anything, think of anyone. It didn’t always happen.

Kate laid her cold hands flat on the desk and took another deep breath. Then another. Slowly breathe in, slowly breathe out. At last she felt relatively calm and shut her eyes, mentally ‘listening’ for anything.

For a moment, nothing happened. Maybe it was an empty day. Just as a sense of relief began to sink it, she clearly saw a shiny chrome automatic pistol swing around and point toward her. Then she heard a name as the gun steadied and panic set in.

Katherine Ann Succaro

Her name.

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Mating Rite


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published March 27, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Aislynn knelt before the low stone altar, the surface smooth and polished from generations of use. Her ritual tools were laid out upon it, familiar and ready for her use. The rising full moon glinted off the steel and bone of her athame. The hematite eyes of the raven head hilt seemed alive in the night.

She looked beyond the altar and saw the circle of standing stones around her. The familiarity of their regal presence helped calm the butterflies flitting through her stomach.

A cool breeze flowed over her in waves and teased her bare skin with its chill caress. Her nipples hardened to stiff nubs at the kiss of the night’s breath. Her long hair hung loose and the wind gently ruffled its length and the raven feathers woven into it.

Aislynn waited eagerly. Her circle already cast, she bowed her head and focused on the energy of the Goddess rising within her. It gathered in her abdomen then pulsed through her body until all of her seemed to throb in rhythm to the Goddess’ own heart.

The heat built within her and even her clit now throbbed in anticipation of Cian’s attentions and the ritual’s climax.

Her heart leapt at the sound of feet crunching on the gravel pathway around the standing stones. The sound moved around the perimeter of the circle until she heard it directly behind her. She lifted her head and smiled.

“Beloved, I have come.” Cian’s smoky bass sent jangles of electricity up her spine.

She gracefully rose to her feet, her athame held lightly in her hand. “How have you come?”

“In perfect love and perfect trust.” His response was clear and sure. Just the sound of his rich, deep voice with its sexy accent made her grow damp with need.

Aislynn turned and stepped toward the muscular figure at the entrance to the standing stones, awash in the moonlight and shadows. Her hair caressed her back and ass, the raven feathers a sharper note within the silky curtain. Her arousal grew more urgent by the moment until she felt her own cream run down her thighs.

She took a few steps closer still, admiring her mate. She could just see the faint tracery of the myriad of scars on his heavily muscled body. The band across his bicep came into focus as the vibrant pattern of intricately knotted thistles.

His long dark hair hung loose about his wide shoulders and small stag antlers jutted from his forehead, held in place by a gleaming metal band. He smiled and his rugged, strong face softened with a glint of humor.

His eyes appeared to glow with lust and need, an impressive erection jutting before him. This evidence of his need and desire for her made her breath catch in her throat. I do that to him. He wants me the same way I want him.

He chuckled slightly.

She realized she had been gaping at his cock and raised her athame to cut a passage through her circle’s energy to allow him entry.

He stepped through the passageway and she closed the circle again behind him.

He reached out and grabbed her waist in his huge hands. His impatience showed in the way he quickly pulled her body up against his own.

His cock bumped up against her belly and seemed to sear her with it’s heat. The drops of pre-cum dripping from the tip let it slide across her skin until it was nestled between their bodies.

Cian groaned and moved his hips to rub his cock against her again. He moaned again and his eyes closed briefly.

Aislynn reached up with her left arm and drew his head down to meet his lips with her own. Her hunger and passion made her aggressive. She captured his lips with her own and challenged him to yield and allow her in.

Her tongue darted along the seam of his lips until they opened and she could tease his tongue with her own. She slowly withdrew her own tongue, tempting and coaxing him to follow her.

He ran his tongue along the sensitive inner skin of her lips and caught her whimper in his mouth. He eased back gradually until he was only feathering small kisses on her lips and face.

“The ritual, ciat. We must complete the Mating Rite before I can have you.” Cian’s voice was almost a growl. “Goddess but I want to throw you on the ground right now.”

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Patterns


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published April 4, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The lightning struck and flowed over her skin in intricate patterns of blue and white, leaving behind the smell of singed flesh and the marks of its passing. Pain struck, a fierce, sudden agony that stole her breath. The fire of torment crawled back up her body and she found the breath to scream only when the inferno consumed her.

Sandra’s eyes snapped open as she jerked bolt upright. Heart thundering in her chest, she glanced around the darkened room. Her own bedroom. Her own bed.

What the hell was going on? She’d not had this many nightmares since she was a teenager and now it kept being the same damned dream. Why was that? It wasn’t from any movie or book she remembered. She didn’t feel stressed or upset. If anything, her life was terrific – a challenging new job with a new home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She’d worked for years to get to this point, dammit.

Sandra fingers ached and she forced herself to release her death grip on the satiny cotton sheets. Hands shaking slightly, she rubbed her face and gritty eyes. Now she was awake—too damned awake for the middle of the night.

It seemed to take a monumental effort to climb out of bed and grab her robe off the back of the bedroom door. Snuggled in the warm, soft fabric, she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering slightly despite the unseasonable warmth of the rainy night. “Feels more like Florida than Oregon.”

She laughed. Now she was talking to herself. Maybe there was more of her eccentric grandmother in her than she’d admit to.

Sandra flinched when a sudden flash of lightning lit the room like full daylight. The rain picked up, sounding like a monsoon outside the little a-frame house, pounding on the roof and windows unceasingly. Kaboom! The thunder rattled the entire house.

At least it seemed several miles away, if the old wives’ tale her grandmother had taught her was correct. One mile per second of delay, wasn’t it? That lighting had to be at least five miles away.

Another bright flash and her eyes ached from the sudden light, afterimages glowing before her. Focusing on counting the seconds, she counted only four seconds this time.

Sandra reached a hand up to rub away the lingering effects of the bright lightning and caught sight of her hand.

What the hell was on her hand?

Swirls and lines, interspersed with symbols of some sort, covered the palm of her right hand in a shimmering, opalescent blue. They slowly faded away as her eyes re-adjusted to the light spilling dimly from the open door of her bedroom.

It had to be her imagination. She looked closely and couldn’t see anything on her skin. “Man, I’m so tired I’m hallucinating.” She forced out a quiet chuckle but her stomach clenched in fear anyway.

Staring at her hand, Sandra waited for another bolt of lightning to strike. She was just too tried, nothing was there.

The sky lit up and she stared at her arm. Holy shit. Not just her hand but her entire arm was covered in the glowing, intricate patterns.
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Eyes of Jade


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published April 10, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Gearóid’s eyes flew open as his body convulsed, sucking in a panicked breath. The blue sky directly above him seemed painfully bright in contrast to the dense border of tree branches at the edge of his vision. He panted, disoriented and strangely out of breath. Where was he? What was going on?

He sat up abruptly and nearly fell back again when dizziness made his head swim. Heart racing with the possibility of danger, Gearóid struggled to gain control of his body. Eyes closed again, he took a few more deep breaths of air that was strangely devoid of the copper scent of the blood spilled during the battle before his dizziness subsided. The only sounds he heard were chirping birds and a few deep-voiced frogs.

He cracked his eyes open again, slowly. Thankfully the world seemed much more stable than just a few moments ago. He looked around in amazement. The clearing, surrounded by thick, old trees, had a lush layer of fallen leaves and needles on the ground. Ferns grew in abundance, mixed with other plants he didn’t recognize. Despite the light breeze that intermittently brushed over his skin, the air felt heavy with the smells of damp earth and musty, decomposing vegetation.

His bare skin.

On his feet in a leap, he was only more puzzled. His body seemed somehow heavier, alien, almost as if it were not his body at all. The difference made him unsteady for a moment, a rare occurrence since he’d begun his warrior training.

A glance down proved he was indeed naked and, though the body he saw was similar to his in shape and size, it was not what it should be. Metallic copper glimmered where his pale Sidhe skin had once been. His nipples were a dark bronze color and what little body hair he’d had was now gone as if it never existed.

In disbelief, he ran a hand over his abdomen. He could feel his fingers sliding over his skin but his belly and chest were smoother than he remembered and the scars left from the many battles he’d survived were gone as if they’d never been. Even his hand was smooth, the calluses from years of weapons practice had disappeared.

Battle? The memories flooded back in a rush. The horror of seeing Ailin fall. The vain attempt to save his best friend. Then the pain of the Milesian lance piercing through his back and emerging from his chest. He remembered dropping slowly to the ground, the sounds of battle and clashing weapons dimming as his spirit faded from the world.

Maybe this was merely a dream, a momentary awareness in the Cauldron of Rebirth? Even a foreshadowing of a possible future? He’d never heard of such a thing but he was a warrior, not a priest.

Gearóid turned, examining every part of the clearing he found himself in. No danger was apparent but it nothing was at all familiar to him. The trees, the bushes, even the small animal he glimpsed were nothing he’d seen before. It certainly wasn’t the battleground he’d died on.

The chilly breeze kicked up again and a dark shadow appeared at the edge of his vision. He jerked away and spun unsteadily, only to find he’d been startled by his own hair. Now a shiny onyx black instead of its previous pale blonde, it was still so long as to brush his ass when unbound – as it now was. His one vanity, as Ailin was always quick to point out.

His hands flew to his face and traced the features there. The scar down one cheek from his brash challenge to one of his trainers was gone. Like his body, the skin of his face seemed a bit smoother but his features were familiar at least. His ears were still gracefully pointed but the left one was now pierced through the lobe with what felt to be a metal ring. Something dangled from it but he couldn’t tell what, only that it felt long and tapered.

The sudden sound of wings beating directly overhead gave him scant warning before a large raven landed gracefully on a thick tree stump before him. The ebon bird stared steadily at him for a moment, head cocked slightly to one side. Just as he began to worry about the intelligence he saw behind the bird’s black eyes, it shimmered and grew until another form emerged.

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Mirror, Mirror


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published April 17, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

She blinked her eyes, reaching up to rub the grittiness of sleep from them. Finally able to see clearly, she stared into the old oval mirror, trying to force away the swirls of magic that flowed through the glass like tendrils of fog twirling in eddies and wakes. The unseen currents of power made visible.

Oh so slowly, shapes began to form in the chaos. Areas of darkness and light separated into vague forms.

She trailed her fingers along the gilded edge of the mirror’s frame and willed the image to appear. What secrets would the mirror show her this time? What faces would she see?

Color seeped into the miasma, first pale and pastel but then enriching and darkening until she realized she was looking at the back of a woman’s head with dark, curly chestnut hair pulled into an elaborate braid and entwined with sprigs of violets and baby’s breath. The mirror cleared until she could see the woman bend over, almost disappearing from view before she sat back up, shoulders hunched in a semblance of defeat. Suddenly, the woman threw what appeared to be a fancy white shoe toward the far wall.

She nearly flinched back herself with a hiss of shock. What the hell was going on? She’d never seen anything like this in the mirror before. “What’s happening?” The question was purely rhetorical, she’d long ago given up hope of any real answer. Staring as if transfixed, she smoothed her hair back from her face.

The woman in the image threw her shoulders back and stood. Now it was clear she was wearing a slender, simple white dress. She reached her arms awkwardly behind her back and fumbled for the tiny zipper. A few fumbles and she managed to get enough of a grip on it to pull it down, revealing lacy, delicate underthings.

But instead of treating what must be a wedding dress with the loving care she expected, the brown-haired woman let it drop down her body and stepped back a little before giving it what looked like a vicious kick. Just a flutter of what looked to be expensive material could be seen at the edge of the mirror before the woman turned and threw herself down onto a seat—facing the mirror at last.

The face was similar to her own – the same green eyes and slightly hooked nose—maybe she was another relative of some sort. The mirror tended to show blood relatives. The other woman’s full lips were pursed and made her look tense and unhappy and her lashes were clumped with tears, the remains of mascara staining her eyelids.

The other woman pushed her hair back with no regard for the flowers or careful pinning of her curls, dislodging some of the violets and baby’s breath. A tear traced down her cheek as she stared at her left hand, rotating the large star sapphire ring on her ring finger. Finally the sad woman worked the ring off her hand and tossed it onto the vanity, out of the mirror’s view.

“Oh, what happened?” She couldn’t stop her question. Sympathy flooded through her. “Been there, done that. You’ll be better off without him if he betrayed you!” So what if the woman in the mirror couldn’t actually hear her.

The other woman looked up and seemed to meet her eyes directly. As if they had a connection. What was going on?

The woman in the mirror looked puzzled, then shrugged and reached her hand out, flipping the mirror over to face the wall. Its focus gone, the mirror clouded over with fog again, until the surface was an even grey and she was trapped within it again, sightless and alone.

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Life Lines


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published April 25, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“Do you ever date anymore?” Kyle’s voice sounded much too carefully casual for Alex’s taste.

“I’ll date when I find someone I want to spend time with.” Alex pulled a couple of Corona’s from the fridge, wiping them dry and popping their caps off before taking a long pull from one of them. A deep breath braced him a little, then he turned to set the second bottle on the counter in front of Kyle. Only sheer force of will kept him from blurting out a lot more than he wanted the other man to know, even if there was a hope of Kyle being able to cope with the knowledge.

Bright blue eyes glanced up from below the shaggy ash-blonde bangs, the natural curl making it look like he never combed his hair. Kyle trailed his long fingers up and down the cold beer bottle, caressing the glass like it was a lover’s skin.

Alex stepped behind the counter, hoping to hide before Kyle noticed the hard-on that ridged the front of his jeans. He’d hidden his lust for Kyle for over a year now and he didn’t want to scare the younger man away at this point.

With a heavy sigh, Kyle took a sip of his own beer, then sat it back on the counter and proceeded to pick at the edges of the label. “But you used to date, or at least have play dates. The other boys talked a lot about you.”

Lightning seemed to hit Alex in the chest. He missed having a boy but only wanted one anymore. One that was off limits forever. But what a boy he would be…

Kyle stopped picking at the paper label long enough to tug his shirt cuffs down to the top of his hands. That gesture had become a frequent one over the last few months, so much so that Kyle no longer seemed aware of doing it. The more uncomfortable he was, the more often he seemed to do it.

“I’ve just not been in the mood for play.” Alex chugged the last of his beer, hoping to cool the fire in his balls. The mere thought of Kyle’s tall body in nothing but leather cuffs and boots made his dick hard as a rock. The mental image of his friend writhing under him, reveling in the sensations Alex could lavish upon him, nearly made him come.

But it wouldn’t happen. It couldn’t happen.

Alex set his half-empty beer bottle down and took his time pulling the hair tie from his ponytail, then smoothing the escaping red strands back from his face and retying it. It bought him the time needed to get his lust back under control.

Kyle took a long swig of his drink, then a deep breath. “I’m glad you’re my friend, Alex.”

He peeled the rest of the label completely off the beer bottle, then stuck it back on upside down. Smoothing it, he opened his mouth as if to say something, only to close it again.

Worry made Alex frown. Had he scared Kyle somehow? It had only been a year since Kyle’s boyfriend had gotten high on drugs and attacked him. Alex searched his memory but he’d been careful, painfully careful, to always keep their relationship that of non-threatening friendship so Kyle could heal.

After another false start, Kyle finally managed to squeak out some words. “Have I ruined your sex life, Alex?”

He couldn’t think for a moment, frozen in place by the blunt question. “What? How the hell could you ruin anything?”

Kyle played with his shirt cuffs again, tugging and straightening them. “You’re a Top but you never date, you never play, you don’t even go out to parties. I know you’re doing it for me, but I don’t want you to have a permanent case of blue balls for my sake.”

Alex gaped at him.

A sad smile curved Kyle’s lips. He lifted the beer to his lips again and his sleeves slipped back. The thick white scars on his wrist made Alex’s heart ache.

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Giving Thanks


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published April 25, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Troy was sprawled face down across Derek’s side of the bed. The chocolate brown sheets were wrapped around his hips, just high enough to ruin Derek’s view of his gorgeous, tight ass. As Derek stood there, Troy mumbled something then turned onto his side. A long arm reached out and drug Derek’s pillow to his chest, only to wrap his arms around it with a muttered “Love you”.

A huge lump filled his throat. He loved Troy so much. Hell, he’d fallen for the black-haired, blue-eyed devil on their second date. Head-over-heels irrevocably in love. How had he let his family’s feelings take precedence over Troy’s for so long?

Deep-rooted anger flared in his chest again. How dare his father demean Troy? Even if he’d thought Troy was just his long-term roommate. Then to just write him off because he didn’t approve of his sexual orientation? What the hell part of “love” did his father not understand? Could his father have just walked away from his mother?

Being “out” to his family was something he’d have to get used to. A small sense of relief was replacing what had been an ever-present fear of discovery. But now he was afraid that he’d lost the rest his family. He had no control over their reactions and whether they could accept the fact he was gay or not. No control over whether his father’s reaction would be echoed by his siblings and mother.

At least he no longer had to pretend. No more hiding. No more trying to remember to not touch Troy with his family around. That was a little piece of freedom he would savor. And no more hurting Troy with his cowardice. Troy had always respected his wishes and hidden their relationship but Derek knew it had seemed like he’d chosen his family over his lover. That would no longer be an issue.

Whether he had a job anymore was another matter entirely. Derek pushed that thought away. Plenty of time to worry about that later.

He focused his attention back on the sexy man taking up most of their king-size bed. The man he wanted to touch, to taste, to savor.

Just imagining the smell of Troy’s skin, the taste of his cum, the sounds he made gave Derek a raging hard-on. With a quiet groan, he stripped off his work clothes and freed his aching cock from his suddenly far-too-restrictive boxer-briefs. By sheer force of will he didn’t touch himself. He didn’t want a self-administered hand job, he wanted Troy.

A quick shower got the lingering smells of onion and garlic off his skin. Soaping up his body only made him ache all the more.

Drying himself was worse; it felt like his skin was twice as sensitive as normal. The scrape of his razor across his late-night stubble sent chills down his spine and straight to his cock.

Finally ready, he eased into bed behind Troy and nudged him back over to his own side of the bed. With a moan and mumble he couldn’t understand, his lover released the pillow and rolled onto his back.

Ah, how convenient.

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Leather, Lace and Leaves


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published May 10, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

There had to be one hell of a joke playing out and Sabine not only didn’t get it, she seemed to be the butt of it.

It was almost too much to take in. The shop’s windows were swathed in what appeared to be a cross between a late Victorian bordello, a funeral parlor and a BDSM club. Heavy burgundy swags, complete with pom-poms dangling every inch, were offset by black lace sheers with studded leather tie-backs. The entire backdrop seemed to come from another universe than the delicate tea cups and saucers arranged on the leather-lined window display shelf.

Leather, Lace and Leaves.

“A goth tea house?” She shook my head in disbelief. “Only on Capital Hill.”

Maybe I just have the wrong address? She glanced down at today’s email on her cell phone. No such luck.

A girl dressed in layers of rustling black and red satin skirts and a leather corset brushed past her and proceeded to open the shop’s door without giving Sabine even a second glance. The scent of amber and cured leather in her wake made Sabine’s nose twitch. She was never going to get used to her new sense of smell.

Well, her symptoms were only getting more and more intense. Someone had to have an answer for her, no matter what kind of nutcase they seemed on the surface. Maybe this tip was the one that would give her the information she needed.

Out of habit, Sabine started to take a deep breath then remembered what had happened the last time. She’d coughed for an hour. Instead she settled for throwing her shoulders back and flung the shop door open, standing aside and praying to not be inundated with a tidal wave of “Eau d’Occult Shop”. Nag Champa made her eyes water now, in any concentration.

A shallow breath. Then a deeper one. Wow, for once she’d not fear passing out from breathing too shallowly. In fact, she liked the delicate aromas emanating from Leather, Lace and Leaves.

Entering the shop felt like she’d been dropped into a different world. The walls of the hostess area were lined with shelf after shelf of tea cups, all carefully arranged on their saucers. The riot of color and pattern was almost dizzying. The front of the lectern had a sign mounted on it, the beautiful copperplate script somehow not clashing with the black leather and studded mat that surrounded it.

Odder still was how she suddenly felt…normal. Normal in a way she’d thought gone forever. At peace. Comfortable. The tension seemed to flow from her in a rush. Even the ache through her shoulders seemed to disappear.

Sabine broke free of her amazement long enough to pay attention to the small sign on the top of the lectern that invited patrons to choose whichever cup suited their fancy. She began to examine the cups in detail, taking a few down to run her fingers along the rims and down the handles. One cup in particular called to her and she kept returning to it again and again. The delicate scene painted on the fluted cup fascinated her with its strange portrayal of what appeared to be a cat with fairy wings. Not at all like her normal slightly hippie, slightly geek style. Not that tea was her style either.

Why not use this one? Her mind finally made up, she took down the saucer that accompanied the cup and, as if signaled, the black velvet drape across the doorway-shaped opening opposite her parted and a tall, slender woman gracefully seemed to flow through the gap.

“Good afternoon. My name is Aliya. Welcome to my tea house.” Even her voice was relaxing with a musical quality Sabine couldn’t identify.

“I see you’ve chosen a cup. That’s not one that gets picked very often.” Aliya smiled slowly. “Are you here for a reading? Or for passage?”

“Passage?” Sabine struggled to make her mind focus again on what had seemed so urgent only a little while ago. “A friend of my family, Thomas Bedlam, said I should come here and ask if the owner could tell me anything about these strange episodes I’ve been having and all these changes in my body.”

“Oh dear. Where are your parents?” Aliya’s smile seemed to fade a little.

“Dead. They both died when I was in college.” Sabine fought against the desire to relax, to be soothed. She had to find some answers before she really went nuts and killed herself – or someone else.

Aliya reached up and tucked her jet black curls behind her ear, all the while watching her as if she was looking for something. Waiting for something. It wasn’t until Aliya lowered her hand that Sabine realized the other woman’s ear had quite a few dainty rings lined up along the outer edge – but that it was inhumanly pointed as well.

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Small Town Vet


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published May 17, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“A llama?” Sam slowed his truck then turned off the payment onto the private road. He shook his head at the idea of a llama in Bondsville, Wyoming.

Phil Marting had bought the old Miller place last winter, including the few remaining sheep, but no one heard much from him. He kept to himself and was rarely seen in town. Sam was one of the few that seemed to interact with the retired entrepreneur regularly, being called in to treat one or the other of the man’s menagerie of rescued animals.

Today Sam’s service had gotten a call to have him stop by and check Phil’s new llama. A llama? There had to be a story behind this new addition and Sam couldn’t wait to hear it. Maybe it would be even better than the four goats that had mysteriously appeared in Phil’s yard one day, driving his two giant dogs out of their doghouses and taking them over. Phil had come out to find the dogs cowering by the door and a big black doe on top of one of the doghouses. The story still made Sam laugh. Of course they now had their own big pen and their own expensive goat houses. The man was the ultimate softie.

Phil had done a lot of work on the ranch already. The fences had been repaired recently, more than half the posts were new wood and the wires tightly strung. The sprawling big house was bright with new paint and a new roof and several men intent on working on the wrap-around porch.

The huge barn to the right of the house was a completely new addition with bright red sides and a deep burgundy metal roof. A couple of horses lazed about beside it and the big doors were open. Fifty or so shaggy looking sheep were penned up on the other side.

Sam parked the truck and hopped out, grabbing his tall rubber boots from behind the seat. He’d barely reached the doors when a tall, slender man stepped out of a stall and shut it behind him.

“Hey, Sam.”

The man’s voice always made a shiver go down Sam’s spine. The soft, deep bass seemed to caress his nerve endings and carried just the hint of an accent.

His cock began swelling instantly. Down, boy.

As usual, his body ignored his plea and his erection made it painful and difficult to walk toward the other man. He tried to squash his lust and pretend friendly nonchalance.

“Hi, Phil. You’ve got a new freeloader, I hear.”

The other man’s cheeks flushed pink and Sam tried not to laugh. Who’d have guessed that P.J. Marting, poster child of rags-to-riches software success and last year’s tabloid fodder, would be living in small town Wyoming and rescuing barnyard animals instead of orphaned software products?

Hell, the most successful openly gay entrepreneur in the software industry after Ric Weiland abruptly selling his company and retiring out of sight caused a lot of speculation but it had died down in the wake of the latest drunken escapades by a young pop-tart.

Sam didn’t know why he was here, but he respected the man’s privacy and wasn’t going to ask either.

The gorgeous man was as tall as Sam and gave complete lie to all the geek stereotypes. He still wore his black hair in a ponytail and his unusual grey eyes still seemed haunted, even though he’d relaxed a lot around Sam over the last few months.

Phil’s full lips curled into a shy smile. “His family lost their land to the bank and he needed a new home, so I said I’d take him. I read that llamas can live with sheep pretty happily and even guard them from coyotes.”

Trying desperately to ignore his cock and the urge to devour Phil’s mouth, to bite that full lower lip, Sam shook his head. “What do you know about him, Phil?”

“Ummm. Not too much besides what I read. But he was a pet.”

Sam broke out laughing. “Okay, let me take a look at him. I’ll get my boots on. You are an easy mark, Phil.”

He sat down on the stool by the barn door to yank off his cowboy boots, replacing them with the tall, black rubber boots he wore to work. Standing up, he bent over to tuck his jeans down into the rubber to protect them a little.

He froze at the feel of hands on his hips and a thick, hard cock against his ass.

“But are you easy, Sam?”

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Hidden Depths: Secret Graves


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published May 24, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Damn, he was too keyed up to sleep. Again.

Simon twisted his stiff body, the kinks from three hours of holding position making him feel every day of his thirty-four years. It was a good day, though—the hostages were safe. Mission accomplished.

A small part of him wished the suspect hadn’t committed suicide. That cowardly final act cheated his victims out of the kind of closure that might help heal them but it also meant Simon hadn’t been called on to dispense justice with a single bullet. Justice it was too late to mete out on his own behalf.

Running his hands through his short hair, Simon rubbed his fingertips against his scalp. Even his skin felt way too tight. The war of control between adrenaline and the need for stillness always made him jumpy after a mission. Exhausted or not, he was wide awake.

Ah, hell, maybe he could tire himself out enough that he’d relax and be able to sleep. Marius already told him that he was going to be off rotation for a bit and stuck doing some babysitting for some scientist Marcus was trying to recruit. Why Marius thought putting him together with some civilian was a good idea, he’d never know.

With the M24 safely stowed in his weapons locker, Simon stripped off his concrete grey BDUs and tossed on the running gear he kept in his locker. MP3 in hand, he headed toward BTI’s fully tricked-out gym.

It was late enough that the gym should be empty or nearly so. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, to dissect the mission or even to just make small talk. The muscles in his jaw jumped and he made a conscious effort to relax it.

He felt raw and vulnerable, like his nerve-endings were exposed. Damn, he hated that feeling, that weakness, and it only seemed to be getting worse lately. Instead he’d told Marius he was fine, just tired.

His boss hadn’t called him a liar. Quite.

Marius knew him far too well to be fooled that easily.

Pushing open the door of the gym, Simon saw there was only one other person there. Not someone he knew and the other man was doing bicep curls in the free weight area.

Simon got himself set on the treadmill and started running, MP3 player blaring the classic rock that helped him focus on his steps and breathing and to not think too much. But this time he found himself examining the other man’s reflection in the mirrored wall across from the treadmills.

The man was big, maybe six-five or six-six and really muscular. His features made Simon think of Hawaii or the Pacific Islands, with long black hair he’d pulled back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck and deep caramel colored skin.

Running at an easy pace, Simon watched the other man trade barbells and saw an intricate pattern of lines below the hem of his shorts, covering his thighs to his knees. Was it a tattoo? The man looked and moved like a pagan warrior.

But he’d never even shown he’d noticed Simon’s presence.

* * * * *

Mika barely noticed the burn of his muscles as he progressed through his upper body weight routine. Ingrained by years of repetition, he didn’t really need to think about it, it was automatic now.

So close. He still needed to give his software some real world testing before he’d let himself believe he may have finally solved the last puzzle in interpretation of the ground-penetrating radar data. He’d thought he’d done it before but it hadn’t stood up to scrutiny. Now he’d reserve judgment.

This was a nice gym, for all that it belonged to a bunch of private investigators and spooks.

What did he really want to do? He liked academia but he’d discovered he really wasn’t that fond of paying his dues by trying to cram geology down the reluctant undergrads. True, it allowed him to keep working on his own projects and it paid the bills, but he missed working in the field. Plus the recent denial of his sabbatical request meant he couldn’t really test his new code.

He wasn’t sure what to do.

A small wave of dizziness made his head swim. He thought back over the day. Damn. He’d done it again, he’d forgotten to eat dinner. He set the barbells down on the floor and closed his eyes for a moment, until the dizziness eased.

When he opened them again, he was startled to see a slender man with very short blonde hair and intense ice-blue eyes standing in front of him with a look of almost concern on his face.

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Bittersweet


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published May 31, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Brand tucked the last dark chocolate box into the cardboard delivery box. He tapped the lids of the four delivery boxes down and set them carefully on the long table behind the retail counters. Done at last.

Shirley lifted one pierced eyebrow and crossed her arms. The strict schoolmarm chastising look might have been a bit more effective on someone older and less…colorful. Instead he had to fight the urge to break out into laughter as he walked back to get the clipboard with all the order information for her.

“Here’s the order form and it’s already paid. They’re supposed to be picked up by six today.”

“Umm, Brandon, has it escaped your notice that we closed at four? That would be an hour ago?” Now she looked downright annoyed. “Why do you keep letting people talk you into rush orders and weird pick up and delivery options?”

“Umm. I’m a sucker?”

Yes, the order for twenty five sex toy candy boxes had kept him late at work for a week but it’s not like he had anywhere else to be. The weather had been too drizzly and rainy to make him want to go for an evening ride and his cats were always happy to see him whenever he arrived. Hell, he didn’t even have to be home to catch his favorite television shows–TiVO had that covered.

This bride was the friend of a friend, too. He couldn’t help it that he still had a soft spot for love. Too bad it wasn’t mutual. No, he didn’t have any time to think of that. Jason and his betrayal was years in the past but the ache still came back.

“You might be a sucker but, Boss, how are you ever going to get a date if you don’t ever get out of here?” Shirley shook her head, setting her currently shaggy green hair into motion. Then she gave him a naughty grin “You could suck something a lot more fun, after all.”

“I don’t need a date, Shirl. And do not set me up with all your friends again. When I want a date, I’ll find my own. Somehow I don’t think discussions on what to suck are something I want to have, thank you.”

She rolled her eyes and stuck her tongue out before she turned to grab the army bandolier she used as a purse. She started toward the door, then came back to pick up the order clipboard. Damn, he’d have enjoyed teasing her about OCD with lack of follow-through. But she’d remembered and only left after she’d put the papers in the filing basket and the now-empty clipboard on a nail in the project wall in the prep area.

Alone, Brand flipped the lock on the store’s front door and made himself a mocha. The rightly scented steam hit his lungs and he sighed. He loved his store and his edible art but he was really tired. He reached booted foot out and hooked the tall counter stood to drag in to him. Sitting down made him realize how tired his legs and back were today.

It made for a long day when he came in at three a.m. Again.

Maybe he did need a good fuck. The insomnia had grow worse and he kept waking up again and again, thrashing around in bed and thinking far too much.

He’d finally succeeded. The business his relatives thought he’d never succeed in was making a nice profit now. His income was good without having to sell his soul to the corporate world or work in someone else’s space.

Too bad Jason couldn’t see him now.

No. That was the past and it needed to stay in the past. The future needed his attention and he had a great idea for a pomegranite and dark chocolate truffle addition to the aphrodisiac candy series.

He drained the rest of his coffee and refilled it before going back to his work area. He pulled out a selection of ingredients and threw himself into his passion for chocolates.

* * * * *

Aha! A parking spot on the street in Freemont. That was more rare than three dry days in row in Spring. Dave pulled his little Mazda into the open space with a sigh of relief. Chris told him she’d promised to be there to pick up the naughty chocolates at six and it was already a little after that.

He hopped out of the car and raced over the ominously empty looking shop. A glance at the listed hours showed that they closed at four p.m. on Sundays.

“Dammit!”

He pulled his cell phone out of its holster and called Chris’ number. Just as he heard the phone begin to ring through, he saw movement in the shop. A husky man came out from behind the counter, wiping his hands on a towel. The hairnet was a very strange contrast to the motorcycle muscle shirt, black jeans and heavy black harness boots the approaching man wore.

Wow. This wasn’t what Dave had pictured in a chocolatier. Tattoos and leather? Yummm.

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No Average Cat


(M/F, Futuristic)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published June 8, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Che’tal paced, unable to take more than a few steps in any one direction before hitting the force walls that made up the boundary of her cage. She snarled at the thought of being caged. She was not an animal and certainly not a pet.

Stepping back and forth, her stomach churned and her tail whipped back and forth in rage. The feel of her sensitive tail slapping against the opalescent boundary only served to enrage her further until she could feel her body nearly vibrating. At least her anger seemed to help push away the remaining effects of whatever drug they’d used to subdue her. The metallic tange of it still teased the back of her throat.

Hell, was she the only one they took? Two of her young cousins had gone for a run with her. Her heart seemed to seize in her chest at the thought of anything happening to them. A deep sniff of their scent only made her gag and almost retch. Even with the metallic odor overlaying everything, each breath she took repulsed her. The shuttle stank more than any of the ships she’d crewed on-a mix of unwashed people, decay and completely ineffective deodorizers.

Dammit, why couldn’t she morph back to her humanoid form? She’d done it since she was only two turns old and no matter how much she tried to force her cells to re-arrange, nothing happened. Gulping, she tried to swallow the bile that rose in her throat. Control, she had no control at all.

Sick of pacing, she flopped down onto her belly, grateful for her thick fur pelt when she felt the cold metal decking of the cargo bay. The thick collar she’d woken with pulled at her fur. She had to get it off but no amount of writhing or clawing at it got her anything more than self-inflicted scratches and some missing fur.

The unmistakable clank and change in air-pressure said the shuttle had docked somewhere. Forcing panic aside, she tried to think. This was too small a craft to have steldrives so it had to be another ship. Artemisian space was strictly controlled and no stations were within even a week by sysdrive. Maybe the mandatory customs inspection would lead to her rescue.

She stood and resumed pacing again.

A few minutes later, three nervous-looking crewmen entered the cargo bay and walked toward her. The most unpleasant one carried a stunstick and waved it in her direction. “We need to get the cat into the IsoWard. Cap’n has it set up for her for this trip.” He gave an unpleasant cackle. “The bounty on a live Artemisian Cat pays for a whole lot of brides and equipment.”

Bounty? Someone had put a bounty on one of her people? Unable to hold back, she screamed in fury and charged the men, only to run headlong into the force walls. Dizzy with the force of the impact, she shook her head and tried to regain control of her temper.

“What’s the matter, kitty?” The smuggler waved his stunstick near her face again. “Don’t worry, I’m sure your new home will keep you in order. The guy has paid a lot of money to add you to his zoo. He even sent that pretty collar you keep trying to wiggle out of.”

A Zoo? Her people were not beasts to be kept in a zoo! Artemesia kept the secret of the Cats carefully, so much so that few had ever even been seen and none had been studied. But to smuggle one out for a zoo?

“Darl, it’s an animal. Why are you talking to a huge cat like it can understand you?”

Che’tal snarled softly. They really thought she was just an ordinary wild cat.

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Eyes of Jade: Maeb


(M/F, Paranormal, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published June 13, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Maeb O’Malley slogged through another pile of slush, barely dodging the wet clumps thrown up by the tires of the cab that raced by. Not that it could do much more damage – her legs were already soaked, the hem of her skirt caked with mud. At least the rubber shoes she’d bought, despite Peter’s distaste, kept her feet dry and the addition of a pair of socks meant she could still feel her toes after the several block walk from the train to her apartment building.

She sighed and stood before the door to the apartment lobby for a moment while she tried in vain to grasp her keys. Finally, she took off one glove and fished the keys from the pocket of her overcoat. Her hands shook already and she knew it wasn’t the cold.

Through the security door and into the somewhat shabby, dark lobby, she picked up the mail. Junk mail. What a surprise.

She shook off the flash of loneliness and loss, then used the small mirror from her purse to refresh her lipstick and do the best she could with her damp hair. She needed all the confidence she could muster. Goddess forbid I’m not pulled together for Peter or that I show any sign of weakness.

Resigned, she pressed the button for the small elevator, grateful it was working today and she didn’t have to climb eight flights of stairs. She didn’t have the energy to make it that far.

Just as the door slid open, another person raced in from the cold street and hurried into the elevator as she pushed the button for her floor.

The man let out an exasperated groan. “Damn – this weather can warm up at any time.”

She winced – the rough male voice belonged to her downstairs neighbor, Dale Samuels. Officer Dale Samuels. A thick arm reached over to push another button. “How are you doing today, May? Really.”

Mortified, she fought the urge to crawl into a corner and hide. It wasn’t bad enough that her day had been awful and the weather even worse – now she ran into one of the people she’d been studiously avoiding ever since the night Peter’s temper had truly flown out of control. She’d listened to Peter’s apologies and excuses and hadn’t pressed assault charges, but to have her own neighbor be one of the officers that arrived in response to the 911 call was nearly the ultimate embarrassment. He knew how weak she really was. How much of a failure.

She glanced toward the stocky policeman. “I’m fine, Dale. It’s just been a long day.”

The expression on his face clearly dubious, he nodded slowly. “You know I’m here if you need any help.”

She could feel the heat growing in her face. The elevator seemed to take forever to rise to Dale’s floor and she could feel his eyes on her the entire time. Carefully looking anywhere but at him, she was relieved when the elevator doors finally opened.

May looked up as Dale stepped out of the elevator and gave her a sober glance over his shoulder before he turned toward his apartment.

A deep breath shuddered out of her. There wasn’t really any help for her. She was tied to a man who had nothing good to say to her or about her. She had a dead-end job that made a mockery of the art she once craved and loved. She was stuck in a concrete jungle she hated, living in a tiny box she hated even more.

Her shoulders slumped for a moment, but she forced them back when the elevator opened on her floor. She clamped down on her dread and fear before she moved to her apartment door. It never paid to let Peter know how bad her day might have been. His day was always worse and it somehow became her fault. He seemed to sense any weakness, any vulnerability and attacked it like a rabid dog. Too bad he didn’t put that energy into finding a real job.

But this time he wasn’t sitting on the couch, watching the door, ready to ambush her with his complaints, demands and insults the moment she got home. May stopped in shock. There was hardly a day in the last four years when he hadn’t been waiting.

Carefully closing the door, she listened for any sound that might indicate where her husband was. Nothing.

She unbuttoned her overcoat and eased the cold, wet fabric off before she hung it on the coat tree by the door. Where was Peter’s coat? He rarely left the apartment so why would he choose to go out today, a day which was guaranteed to be uncomfortable and unpleasant? Did he find yet another thing he needed in order to have the right image, whether they could afford it or not?

What is going on?

A few steps to the single bedroom and she stopped in the doorway, shocked. Never completely tidy, despite her exhausted efforts, it was now in complete chaos. Dresser drawers stood open and empty, the closet door hung ajar and hangers were strewn over the floor. Even Peter’s side of the dresser top was cleared off.

Blindly, she reached out a hand and grasped the doorframe before she collapsed. What had Peter done with all his clothes? With his expensive cologne? Unable to believe her eyes, she kept glancing around the room. Finally, she noticed a piece of paper on top of her laptop where it sat on the tray table beside the bed.

May wove her way through the jumbled room to the laptop. Every few steps she found herself stopping to listen for any noise, any hint of Peter’s return. At last, she could reach the paper and see it was a short note in Peter’s discordant and heavy handwriting.

Unwilling to touch it, she read it from a distance.

The words were curt and cruel, not that she could expect any different from the man she’d married. He had taken his belongings and left her for a woman worthy of him. One that had money and connections. One that wasn’t selfish. One that wasn’t frigid.

The reality of the note’s message on top of Peter’s missing belongings suddenly struck May full force. Quick reactions at least let her sit on the bed instead of the floor when her legs lost their strength.

Gone? He was gone? She reread the note, praying her eyes hadn’t deceived her. She’d never hoped that he would just leave. She was free? Months of deceit, hiding money and fear that when she left Peter would follow her and hit her again had come down to this. He’d dumped her in a grand gesture of selfishness and she still couldn’t quite believe it.

In relief, she burst into the tears she’d denied herself for years.

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Finding the Willow


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published June 20, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Come to me.

The huge expanse of Lake Superior’s surface made the rest of the world seem so far away it might as well be gone. They’d left the shelter of Whitefish Bay yesterday, the rhythmic flash of the lighthouse beacon visible for all too short a time. Fainter and fainter, it soon disappeared into the mist and fog. The mournful sound of the foghorn bid them a sorrowful farewell, consigning the searchers to the dubious mercies of Lake Superior.

Only a few days before, Loren stood with the rest of the expedition’s crew and paid respect to the lost crew of the Edmond Fitzgerald. Each toll of the recovered and restored ship’s bell made Loren’s soul ache. The Fitz had been found and the ship’s soul could be heard again, mourning the crew that had gone down with the ship and the years the ship had spent in the cold, dark depths of the largest of the Great Lakes. Fellow sailors, all.

Find me.

He’d be the one to rescue the ship’s bell of the Willow and give voice to the soul of that ship again. He had to. His obsession with the Willow had begun when he was a child, listening to his grandfather tell him stories of ships, shipwrecks and the ghost ships of the Great Lakes.

Not a ship of treasure or riches, but a hard-working upper lakes schooner carrying grain and passengers, the Willow had disappeared in full sight of two other ships and no trace of her or those on her had ever been found. She’d become one of the ghost ships that roamed the Great Lakes.

Don’t leave me alone.

The research ship dipped and rose, riding the waves that were already picking up despite the forecast of a few more calm days before the Witch of November came to stay. Loren’s hands tightened on the rail until they ached and he forced himself to loosen his grip.

So close. He was so close. Close to finding the Willow. Close to being able to sleep through the night without dreams of the ship sitting upright on the bottom in deep water and the Willow’s voice, a woman’s voice, calling out to him.

Save me.

Dizziness made him waver. He caught himself and closed his eyes for just a moment, exhaustion warring with fear and excitement. They only had one more try this year. It was already November fourteenth and the expedition was flirting with disaster. If the weather picked up much more, the ROV couldn’t be used. If a storm slammed them, they could find themselves fighting for their own lives against the hunger of Lake Superior.

Voices whispered behind him. He forced himself to stand erect and opened his eyes. The crew was already uneasy, superstitions and portents being traded and expounded upon at length. He turned and gave the two young men a thumbs up before he moved toward the ROV’s cradle on deck.

I am here.

Loren ran his hands over the sophisticated and very expensive piece of equipment. Soon. As long as the waves died down, he’d be able to launch the ROV and watch through its eyes as it descended into the lake’s depths and down to where he was sure the Willow waited for him.

He couldn’t hold still. The waiting was so much worse than even failure. He couldn’t do anything to calm the weather and couldn’t risk the ROV. Twenty years of research, reading and work had led him here and he more than ready to finish his task. He would find the Willow and bring her soul to the surface again.

I am waiting for you.

With a final pat, he looked out into the lake again. Now thick and nearly opaque, the fog moved and flowed with the wind and waves. It was almost like the lake was breathing. Visibility must be down to about twenty feet. The waves still shifted the anchored research vessel to and fro in a rhythm all its own.

He couldn’t seem to take his eyes off the hypnotic motion of the fog and kept searching it. For what? He didn’t even know what he was looking for.

Suddenly a large fore-and-aft rigged ship appeared out of the fog. The schooner moved as if being tossed about by great waves, waves far exceeding what Loren’s ship was experiencing. The other ship neared them, moving alongside but still being thrown violently about. Just as the beautiful ship seemed to stand up on its bow as if diving into a deep trough, Loren saw the name of the ship — Willow — before the ship vanished into thin air and only the roiling fog remained.

You have come to save me!

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Heart of the Appaloosa


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published June 27, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Sharon forced herself to stillness, barely breathing as she adjusting camera settings and captured the image in her viewscreen. The mirror-like stillness of the lake reflected the almost full moon and stars so perfectly it seemed magical.

She snapped a few more shots of the lake, hoping to capture the awe and serenity of the scene, then rested the camera on her lap and just enjoyed the pristine Idaho night. The deep-voice frogs serenaded her from the shores of the lake. The distant noises of the ranch’s horses in their corral. The small slash of a fish breaching the lake water to catch an insect or two.

What a difference from the city. A pang of fear made her breath catch. She loved it here and loved taking photos but quitting her job to become a freelance photographer was a big risk. The fact she’d been forced into making that switch before she was really ready made her nervous. But she’d make it work. She had to make it work.

A deep breath of the cool, clean air. Then another. She could worry about it later. Right now she just had to enjoy her visit to Coeur d’Alene.

She stared out across the lake again. This land seemed to welcome her the moment she set foot on it. A belonging like she’d never felt in the city or even on her adoptive parent’s ranch. Before now she’d not really thought of herself as superstitious or prone to the fantastic but this was the land of her ancestors and it made a difference.

Motion caught her eye suddenly. Elk? Moose? Something large was in the light woods and moving toward the shore of the large lake. It was close enough she should be able to hear the rustling as it brushed up against the trees and bushes, but she didn’t hear anything.

Finally, washed in the bright moonlight and appearing like a mirage, a horse emerged from the woods. The horse’s head and neck were a dark color but then the coat changed to a light colored blanket with a heavy dusting of dark spots.

“Appaloosa.” Sharon barely breathed the word. Oh so slowly she lifted the camera up and focused in on the horse. Through the camera’s zoom, Sharon could see that the horse was clearly a male. She started snapping pictures as she followed his movements, so excited her hands shook and it was a struggle to hold the camera still.

“Please let these turn out.” There might be a hope with digital manipulation and the moon’s in play.

The stallion—he had to be a stallion with that proud attitude and air to him—looked around and she froze. If he saw her, he might run off. Was he a wild Appaloosa? There were rumors that some still ran wild but not in this area, it was too populated.

The Appaloosa were the pride of her ancestors and considered part of their heritage and strength. A tangible tie to the Sharon she still struggled to come to terms with and know.

He stepped into the shallow water near the shore and lowered his head to take a drink. After a few gulps, he bent his legs and rolled in the water like a child.

The pleasure the beautiful animal seemed to take in the playful action made her chest ache at the same time she chuckled softly. Oh to be that free and have such simple pleasures again.

She continued to snap pictures as he rose to his feet again and shook his entire body, water droplets flying off in all directions. A reflexive duck and she had to laugh at herself, he was too far away to get water on her.

Suddenly the camera’s display seemed to blur and mist and she looked up to see the gorgeous horse was shimmering in the moonlight. A second later and the horse was gone. It its place stood a long-haired, naked man.

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Up in Flames 1


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published July 4, 2008 on the Fiction With Friction site – http://www.fictionwithfriction.com

Noah took a swig of cold beer and stared at the collection of fireworks laid out on the picnic table. “Hmm. Where to start?”

Not that anyone was going to answer him. Boone had moved out more than eight months ago. He’d never begrudge his long time friend and roommate his new partner and the solitude was nice—for about a week. Now the house practically echoed.

For a while Noah could bury himself in his new project at work but that had been shipped off two weeks ago.

Hell, he didn’t really want another platonic roommate. The thought of someone he didn’t know enough to trust rifling through the contents of his house really made his stomach churn. Boone he’d known since junior high and their trust and friendship had cemented when they’d come out together as teens. Nothing like shared trauma to bond two people for life.

He swigged the rest of his beer and immediately opened up another from the several in the small ice bucket on the picnic bench.

Maybe some amateur pyrotechnics would liven up his night. At least he could shoot the mortars and not worry too much about setting his nearest neighbor’s house or shop on fire. The property had been sold to a blacksmith who’d made a bunch of improvements, including a standing seam metal roof on the house and a big metal shop building.

He’d yet to actually meet the new family, though. He’d been too busy working and hiding from the world. He probably should have invited them over or at least warned them that his Fourth of July tradition included fireworks a small town might envy. At least they weren’t illegal…much. There were lights on in the shop but it was probably just for security.

Was it dark enough yet? It wouldn’t actually be sunset for a while but surely it was dark enough for a mortar round or two. The so-called meadow that substituted for grass on his property was still moist from the rain they’d had over the last few days. The mugginess of the day had started to give way to the cooler evening breeze as well.

Setting down the beer, Noah grabbed a fireplace lighter and a mortar, then trooped across the yard to the launch platform he’d set up with the mortar tubes and sand buckets. He straightened the fuse out and dropped the mortar in the tube, lit the fuse and trotted back toward the house, turning around midway to watch the round go up.

Ka-boom!

The mortar shot skyward and exploded in a flower of yellows and reds, then faded away in a forest of crackles and pops.

“Nice bunch this year.” He chuckled to himself. It sounded like he was judging a vintage of wine. The mortar had gone almost straight up, though, and he didn’t like it that close to his roof. He needed to angle the plywood platform a bit more.

Another swig of beer and he took another mortar shot downrange. Adjustments made, he lit the fuse and trotted away again.

Ka-boom! Boom!

Wow, that was a double round. Fuchsia, then yellow before it started to subside into crackling and popping embers. Except the embers didn’t go out before they fell right onto the neighbor’s shop. “Fuck.”

He winced and waited for a moment. Maybe no one was home. Just as he thought he’d gotten lucky, he saw the lights in the shop flick off and a few seconds later someone was walking across the acre of thigh high grasses between the two houses.

The figure was obviously a man, with broad shoulders and a heavy chest above narrower hips and long legs. He walked over the uneven ground with an easy grace that ate up the distance.

“Hot damn.”

He barely kept himself from drooling. Was this his new neighbor? Even if he wasn’t gay, he was a real piece of eye-candy.

The man stopped to examine the mortar launch platform and decreased its angle a bit before he continued toward the patio.

Red hair. Fuck, the guy had long red hair pulled back into a thick braid. Noah loved redheads. Shit, his cock was throbbing uncomfortably against the button fly of his jeans. He didn’t need his neighbor—at least he thought it was his neighbor—offended in addition to having fireworks debris landing in his yard.

At the edge of the patio, the other man paused and smiled a sexy, slow smile. “Evening. You must be Noah Collins. I’m Jim Rissolo.”

Muscular indeed. Thick muscles rippled and tugged at the green long-sleeve T-shirt he was wearing while well-worn jeans fit like a glove over slender hips and long, strong legs. Noah was no slouch at the gym and this man made him feel small.

It took a supreme act of willpower to not stare at the other man’s crotch.

Jim glanced at the pile of pyrotechnics on the table. “Some of the other neighbors warned me that it would be a war zone in your backyard tonight. Guess they weren’t exaggerating.”

“Umm. Hi. Nice to meet you.” Noah struggled to gather enough brain cells to form a complete sentence. Too bad his blood was too far south to allow much thinking. “I’m sorry I overshot my yard and got your shop. It wasn’t deliberate.”

A warm, deep laugh from Jim made Noah’s cock ache even more. Slightly thin lips curved in an easy smile. His silvery-grey eyes were fringed by red lashes, slightly lighter that the color of the hair on Jim’s head. Noah couldn’t help wondering what color the rest of the hair on his body would be. Or what those lips would look like wrapped around Noah’s cock.

Aaargh. Now was not the time for his long-dormant libido to decide to come to life.

“It’s okay. I’m a blacksmith so the shop is pretty well fireproof. And I like fireworks, I just didn’t have any time to investigate the legalities or find a good place to shop.”

The tight lump in Noah’s chest eased a bit. “Want to join me? I’ve got beer and lots of things that go boom. I can pull some steaks from the fridge to grill later, if you’re hungry.”

“Sounds great. I just finished the last piece of a commission I had to get done, so I’m free to enjoy myself now.” Jim helped himself to a beer from the ice bucket.

Noah tossed him the opener. “Is anyone else at home?”

Subtle, jackass. Way to sound nosey.

“Just me.” Jim took a long swallow of beer. “What about your roommate. The other neighbors I’ve met said two men lived here.”

“My roommate fell in love and moved out over six months ago. Guess you can tell I don’t talk to the neighbors too much, huh?” He fussed with the fireworks and laughed nervously.

“Well, we all need distance sometimes. It’s when alone becomes lonely that people need to take some action. Maybe meet some new people or go some new places.”

That seemed to be the voice of experience.

Jim picked up another lighter and a big roman candle. “May I?”

At Noah’s nod, he walked a few feet out into the yard and lit the firework, holding it at arm’s length and pointing it away from himself and Noah’s house.

The five shots of the roman candle went off, one pop-boom after another. The firework may have been more impressive if Noah had been watching the show instead of Jim’s ass. Though the blacksmith’s ass was a damned show in and of itself.

Well accustomed to the routine, Jim stuck the spent roman candle into the big bucket of water Noah had stationed near the patio for just that purpose. With a huge grin, he picked up his beer again and sat perched on the edge of the table.

“Fireworks are so much fun. Thanks for letting me join you, I needed this.”

“I’m glad you came over.” Before he could say anything to give himself away, Noah grabbed up bottle rockets and set them off in a shriek of high pitched noise.

His jaw almost dropped open when Jim stood up and peeled off his T-shirt. Not only was the man built like a bodybuilder, he had amazing tattoos. Both arms were covered with intricate flames that started at the wrist and trailed all the way up to his shoulders. Whoever the artist was had done a masterful job of making them look realistic, like real fire.

“My god, I love your arms.” Noah blushed when he realized what he’d said. “The tattoos, I love your tattoos.”

“Thanks.” That sexy smile again. “Some people are really turned off by any body mods.”

“Not me. Especially those.” Noah choked out the words, then grabbed a lighter and fireworks to escape for a moment and try to regain control of his tongue and his cock.

When he got back to the patio, Jim had sat on one of the benches and leaned back as if to watch him, elbows back on the picnic table. “So, got a girlfriend at the moment?”

Amusement lightened the mood and Noah laughed. “Umm, not my side of the buffet table. No boyfriend for a while either.”

Jim’s sexy mouth curved in a broad smile. “Then we have something else in common besides fireworks. I’m gay, too.”

Crap. If Noah’s cock got any harder, he wouldn’t be able to walk. How the hell was he supposed to respond to that?

Jim chuckled and stood up, walking toward him like a predator stalking delicious, helpless prey. “I must have stunned you into silence, hmm?”

The closer he got, the faster Noah’s heart seemed to beat. Was this really happening? To him? This was not anything Mr. Antisocial should have happen.

Jim’s big hands framed Noah’s face, callouses rough against his cheeks and the faint smell of smoke and musky man teasing his senses.

“Can I kiss you?” His deep voice seemed to run over Noah’s nerve endings, making goosebumps rise despite the warmth of the night.

“Please?”

As if unable to wait, Jim’s lips caressed Noah’s. Warm, tender skin brushed feather light, then nuzzled at the corners of his mouth. The tip of Jim’s tongue teased the edges of his mouth, flicking and licking as if savoring the taste.

An electric arc seemed to jolt from Noah’s lips to his cock and his lips parted in a gasp for air to plead for more.

The blacksmith’s strong fingers moved to the back of Noah’s head and held him still as Jim’s tongue tenderly explored the inside of his lips then wrapped itself around Noah’s own tongue.

The intimate caress made him moan and he finally lost all control and pressed his rock-hard cock against Jim’s crotch, only to discover the other man was huge and thickly erect.

With a final lush swipe of his tongue across Noah’s lips, Jim pulled his head back and panted for a moment. “Damn, Noah. Just your mouth tastes incredible; I can’t imagine what your cock tastes like.”

“Want to stay the night?” Noah prayed the other man would accept.

“I’d love to stay, as long as I can taste my fill.”

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Up in Flames 2


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published July 4, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Jim twisted together the fuses of two mortars, dropped them into their launch tubes and lit them. He trotted back toward the patio, a huge smile on his face.

Ka-bang!

A rapid series of booms lit up the now dark sky with the colorful mortar flowers. Too bad Noah didn’t want to take his eyes of his sexy neighbor to look up. The sparks between them were hotter than anything he’d bought on the res. He was almost eager for the fireworks to be done so they could move to something even more explosive—a change from his usual desire to make the pyrotechnics last as long as possible.

Jim picked up his almost empty bottle of beer and teasingly ran his tongue up the bottle’s neck, staring at Noah the entire time.

The man was going to drive him completely nuts.

Maybe he could return the favor. Noah chuckled, stood and made a show of adjusting his now snug jeans to accommodate his stone hard cock. He sauntered over to the launch platform, taking his time and making sure his hips swayed a bit. Once there, he made sure to bend over more than actually necessary to pretend to examine the launch tubes in detail before loading his mortar round and lighting its fuse.

He turned to look up at the firework, more to give himself another chance to tease Jim than because he was really dying to see the firework explode. His heart raced a little at the hint of danger he felt in taunting the powerful man he lusted after.

Ka-boom!

The purple and white flower hadn’t fully faded when strong hands spun Noah around and he felt himself tossed over one of Jim’s broad shoulders with one arm holding his legs in place. A token attempt at struggling only got him a stinging swat on the ass instead. “Teasing time is over, Noah. Now you pay the price for driving me crazy for hours.”

The muscled shoulder digging into his belly with each step made it hard to breathe but that became a secondary concern when Noah slipped his hands down the back of Jim’s worn jeans and realized he was commando under the soft denim. Noah teased Jim’s crack with the tips of his fingers and relished the deep growl it elicited from the bigger man.

As quickly as he’d been carried to the patio, Noah was dropped back off Jim’s shoulder and set on his feet, then yanked up against the blacksmith’s still bare chest. “You are a damned cock tease.”

The words barely registered before Jim devoured Noah’s mouth, first rough and demanding, then coaxing and tempting. Noah’s mouth opened in invitation, tongue seeking out the spicy, heady taste. But Jim wouldn’t let him lead, he stayed clearly in control, only assuaging Noah’s hunger enough to make him crave even more.

So strong, so powerful. It always turned him on when his lover took control. But he needed more, dammit.

Noah whimpered and wrapped his arms around Jim’s waist, pulling himself against the other man and rubbing against him like a cat in heat. Noah’s cock felt like it would explode at any moment. Just a little more. He moaned into Jim’s mouth in a wordless plea and writhed, unable to hold still. His hands gripped and released Jim’s sexy ass.

Jim tore his mouth free of Noah’s and pushed him back against the patio table, then held him there with his own body. “Fuck, Noah, just your mouth is amazing but you promised me more.”

He took Noah’s hands and placed them flat on the table behind him so the smaller man was forced to lean back. “Keep them there.” The rough snarl was so sexy.

Jim yanked Noah’s T-shirt up and over his head, pinning his arms behind him with the cloth. The wicked grin on the smith’s face made Noah’s cock jerk. Then the other man dove for his right nipple and proceeded to devour it. Lips, tongue, teeth—oh God the teeth…

Wild moans and almost incoherent pleas were all that came out of his mouth. An electric current jolted through him when Jim allowed the first nipple to pop free of his sinful mouth and immediately latched onto the other to torment it in turn.

Noah’s eyes closed and he could only throw his head from side to side and try not to collapse.

Jim nipped sharply at the nipple he tortured then released it. “Hot damn. You are so sensitive. I just want to eat you up.”

“Please. I’m begging, dammit.” Noah forced the words out. “I can’t take this, Jim. I need to come. Please let me come. Please…”

“Oh, I love it when you beg.” Noah’s eyes opened to see Jim lick his lips and grin.

“Let’s see if I can make you beg some more.” He dropped to his knees and began to devour Noah’s body again.

The nipping of teeth on ribs and abdomen made him flinch but the sharp pain seemed to rocket his lust higher and higher. Each jolt made his orgasm come closer then recede again—over and over.

This man was going to kill him.

Jim gentled his touch and licked an excruciatingly slow trail around his navel, dipping into the shallow indentation before flicking at it again and again.

“Please, Jim. Let me come, dammit. I’m dying here.”

“But you taste so wonderful. I’m not even done savoring you yet.” The other man chuckled against his belly then popped open one button after another to free Noah’s engorged cock from the jeans that painfully bit into it. “You would be one that wears button-fly pants, you know.”

He couldn’t even form words when Jim pushed his jeans and underwear down. Close…so close….

“Touch me, goddammit.” He nearly shouted at the sexy man kneeling in front of him. Just one touch might do it. He could feel the cum at the base of his cock.

Instead Jim blew a hot, moist breath over the head cock, already soaked with pre-cum. He collapsed back onto the table’s support, his legs no longer able to hold him upright.

Then that hot, sexy mouth and clever tongue attacked his cock like a starvation victim. With a single motion, his cock was swallowed to the root and only the strong fingers tightly clamped at the base of his dick prevented him from coming instantly.

“Damn, damn, fuck, damn” He could only shout a string of obscenities. So close. So damned close and Jim wouldn’t let him come.

Jim’s other hand yanked his pants down to his knees and forced him to spread his legs. All the while his hot, wet mouth tormented Noah’s cock, sucking and stroking it with his clever tongue.

Exploring fingers caressed his heavy balls, drawn tightly up to his body and aching so much he could hardly stand the gentle touch. Jim’s fingers found Noah’s guiche piercing and fondled it, sending another blaze of sensation through the root of his dick.

Noah sobbed in need, in want. He had to come before he passed out but he couldn’t even find the words to beg. Jim held him captive and owned his dick and his orgasm.

The sexy blacksmith looked up to meet his eyes and released his cock oh so gently. “You have a very interesting toy here, you naughty boy.”

As if reading the desperate need in Noah’s eyes, Jim watched his face as he sucked Noah’s cock down again, lashing the underside with his clever tongue while releasing the pressure he’d been keeping on the base. One hand flicked at the small ring while the other circled his rhythmically clenching anus.

Noah’s orgasm exploded over him like nothing he’d felt before. Jet after jet of hot cum pumped down Jim’s throat. Swallow after swallow, the sexy smith drank down his spunk while looking straight at him with eyes that seemed to see into his very soul.

Unable to stand at all anymore, Noah collapsed back onto his hands on the picnic table. He couldn’t even catch his breath. How was his body capable of that?

Jim released his cock with a final soft suckle. “That was amazing and I was right, you taste incredible.”

“Inside…now.” Noah haltingly panted out the plea.

Jim stood and easily picked Noah up in his strong, fiery arms. He carried him to the sliding glass door and Noah reached over to fumble the door open.

“I need to fuck you, Noah. So where to?”

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Spirit Messenger


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published July 13, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

At least it was a weekend. That alone was something to give thanks for, given his current exhaustion. Lately it seemed that no matter how much he worked, how exhausted he became, he lay awake most of the night. The tossing and turning had long since grown old and now it both pissed him off and worried him.

Dreams interrupted what little sleep he managed. Images of lightning, thunder mixed with the sound of battles and the smell of blood and death. Something was calling to him, screaming out to him, pleading with him. He knew he was the one supposed to answer but he couldn’t figure out what he was supposed to do.

Despite it the early hour, he’d just awoken in a cold sweat, pulse pounding and panting as if he’d run a marathon. There was nothing for it then but to get up. Try as he might, he couldn’t ever get back to sleep when the dreams woke him like that.

Chayton tugged on the worn sweatpants he’d tossed on the foot of the bed last night then headed through the great room toward the kitchen. Maybe there was still some coffee left from yesterday. He needed something to clear his mind and allow him to regain focus on the here and now.

Cup of lukewarm coffee in hand, he went out onto the small deck off the log cabin’s kitchen and collapsed into one of the sturdy pine chairs he’d made last winter. The deck’s boards were slightly rough on his bare feet, reminding him that he needed to do some maintenance on it before winter.

Maybe he was going nuts? His friends and family had told him that his isolated lifestyle wasn’t good for him. Of course they also thought he’d never be able to make a living with his rustic furniture business either. He’d proven that wrong about a year ago.

He drained the last of the coffee and set the mug on the thick table, then leaned back and closed his eyes. The sun warmed his skin and relaxed him. The one good thing about his native heritage was that he didn’t burn easily—which was good, considering how much he seemed to crave the sun lately. His gut slowly unclenched and he let his thoughts wander.

Chay seemed to drift in the sounds of nature. The soft rustle of leaves in the gentle breeze. The chittering of the raccoons eating below his bird feeder. He was happy here in his woods and really didn’t miss the chaotic feed of the city at all. He might miss his parents and friends, but the city was nothing but toxic to him anymore.

A raspy, screech startled him out of his reverie. Chay’s eyes snapped open and he saw a huge red-tailed hawk perching on the deck’s railing. Damn, that’s one big bird. He’d seen quite a few of the distinctive raptors flying and circling around his house and shop and always paused to watch them.

This one cocked its head, looking directly at him with a steady gaze that seemed to see deep down into his soul. It seemed to be waiting. Expecting something.

“Umm. Hi.” Damn he felt stupid talking to a bird, no matter how intelligent it appeared.

The hawk opened its beak and let out another screech. Damn, something inside him seemed to come alert. The hawk’s screech meant something but he couldn’t grasp what. Somewhere inside him a memory struggled to come to life.

“I don’t understand.” He held his calloused hands out. “I hear sounds like that in my dream, too. Are you trying to tell me something? Or maybe I’ve dreamed all of this.”

The hawk ruffled its wings and looked at him again. Then it spread its wings and flapped from the deck railing to the back of the other deck chair.

He’d never seen a hawk or any other raptor this close. His breath seemed to catch in his throat at the sight. But the sense that the bird was trying to tell him something—something important—only grew stronger.

Another loud screech—this one sounded annoyed—then the red-tailed hawk shook itself like a dog after a bath. He couldn’t seem to remove his eyes from the golden eyes of the raptor but it began to blur and shimmer before a light flashed brightly, forcing him to close his eyes for a moment.

When he opened them again, a woman sat on the chair opposite him. Golden eyes and rich, burgundy hair made him think of the hawk. Her naked body made him think of something else entirely.

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Grove of the Ancients


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published July 19, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The chill wind stole what little warmth Tayla’s cotton pajamas provided. Great heaving shudders wracked her body but she still struggled against the tightly knotted ropes that bound her. Warm wetness made her wrists slick, but the coarse rope that bound her to the spikes driven into the ground only tightened with each struggle, each attempt to free herself. Exhausted, she stopped struggling to catch her breath again.

What the hell was going on around here? Her quiet weekend getaway at a cabin had turned into a kidnapping before dawn and being staked out like a pagan sacrifice in the woods. Maybe she’d been drugged—she’d gone to bed really early the night before, unable to keep her eyes open, and fell asleep immediately. Then she’d woken up here with a headache and mouth so dry she wanted to drink a river dry.

Squinting her eyes, she looked at the clearing again. She seemed to be in a clearing but not one that seemed to be groomed or maintained. The trees around her were enormous and shrubs and ferns filled in the spaces between them. The rich scent of decaying leaves and loam made the clearing seem almost otherworldly, especially compared to the big city smells she was used to.

She closed her eyes, trying to think. What to do? Would whoever delivered her here come back for her? Why the hell was she here?

A distant roar made her snap her eyes open again. Bear? Was that a bear? Holy shit, what if wild animals decided she looked like a nice buffet? Adrenaline raced through her veins and she yanked as hard as she could on the ropes that tied her hands to stakes. She couldn’t catch her breath, couldn’t make herself stop and think. All she could do was try to escape.

A sudden pop and explosion of pain from her shoulder made the darkness descend across her vision.

Tayla slowly opened her eyes again and shifter her body but the rush of exquisite pain that radiated from her right shoulder made her dizzy and momentarily nauseous. She’d done something to herself, maybe dislocated it? Fuck. Now she was even more helpless.

On the other hand, nothing had eaten her while she’d been unconscious. That was a definite plus.

She carefully turned her head to look around the clearing, trying not to move her shoulder. The ancient trees seemed more sinister, more mysterious in the little light that remained. It was almost fully dark but she could already see the very edge of the Blood Moon’s arc rising over the edge of the clearing. When a flash of movement caught her eye, she focused on the closest tree, a huge hemlock that seemed to shimmer and waver.

Maybe her vision was going. She blinked to force what little moisture her eyes had to clear them. No – the tree actually seemed more unsteady, moving in and out of focus. All at once, a deep fog enveloped the tree then just as quickly disappeared, leaving a tall, muscular naked man in its place.

No. No way. She had to be hallucinating. Trees do not turn into men.

In desperation, she clenched her eyes closed and counted to ten. It didn’t work. Reopening her eyes showed now there were several naked men where the ancient trees had stood. They seemed to share the same long, flowing hair and muscular bodies.

And they were coming toward her.

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One Winter Day


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published August 9, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The temperature was dropping quickly and the sharp, acrid bite of the air made Jared certain it would snow before too long. The heavy, slushy snow already on the ground was already forming a surface of ice that crunched under his boots.

He shifted the pack of supplies higher on his back and wished he was in his fur. Too bad he’d had to go to town instead—that required his vehicle and his human form. He used to love visiting the town and talking to others but anymore it had turned into a chore and he resented every trip he had to make. Each time he was reminded of his own solitude, his own withdrawal.

The two mile walk from his nearest neighbor’s cabin to his own was just what he needed to relax after the trip. Sure enough, a light snow started but the lazily drifting snowflakes quickly turned into fat, heavy flakes and Jared picked up his pace. This had all the hallmarks of turning into a blizzard and he’d better get home.

Finally at his clearing, Jared stopped and stared at the small bootprints, quickly filling in with new snow and barely visible in the dim light. Someone had been here. He clenched his teeth and examined the area in detail, following the steps toward the cabin.

Whoever it was had stumbled several times and wasn’t walking very steadily. He scent of smoke teased his nostrils and Jared struggled to not roar at the rage that flashed through him. Someone had lit a fire in his hearth?

Jared quietly crept up on his own cabin in the wake of the intruder. Silently, he took off his pack and set it in a corner of the porch, then eased the door open.

The warm air inside confirmed that someone had lit the fire he’d laid yesterday. He slipped into the cabin and shut the door behind him.

Was the intruder still here?

The pile of wet clothing he nearly tripped over as he crept toward the side of the couch answered that question.

“Who the hell is in my house?”

His growl went unanswered. What the hell was going on?

A soft snore made him glance at the couch and see a small, dainty foot with bright pink toenails resting on the padded arm. His nose twitched and he inhaled a subtle musky scent.

Jared looked over the top of the couch and saw a sight he’d never have believed before today. A small, blonde woman was asleep on his sofa, apparently naked and wrapped in his skin!

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Cat Toys


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published August 16, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

“Hey, sweetie. Are you keeping an eye on the kids?” Sable jingled her keys at the grey tabby perched in her bedroom window. In a clear message of disdain, Feeters turned his back on her and flicked his tail.

“Okay then.” She couldn’t help chuckling but still unlocked the front door with a hint of trepidation. Just what would she find inside? Two kittens could cause more chaos than a herd of developers and they’d been walled off from the living room by only a couple of baby gates all day. These two were such little monsters they may have found a way to get free. Again.

Cracking open the door, Sable peeked in and saw that the stacked baby gates were still in place at the end of the hall. A ripple of relief made her shoulders relax a little and she looked down to see two sets of bright blue eyes staring up at her and trying hard to look innocent and sweet. Sweet she could buy but innocent was a huge stretch for her.

“You guys are such con artists!” But she couldn’t help smiling. Kittens are so hilarious. Sable dumped her purse and computer backpack in the hallway and took down the two baby gates. The instant the barrier was removed the darker seal-point kitten scampered out into the rest of the condo and began exploring as if hunting for something.

“Ocean, what in the world are you searching for? Did you lose your crinkle ball again?”

Who could figure cats out? They seemed to have their own agenda and nothing would distract them from their goals for long. Rusty bounced after his brother and they both started burrowing under the couch and rustling around.

Shaking her head, Sable set up her laptop. Before she could get online, her stomach rumbled and she decided dinner was in order first. “You guys be good.”

The kittens didn’t even poke a head around to see what she was doing.

* * * * *

Finally. I thought she would never get out of the room. Kieran tried to roll his blue cat eyes and failed.

Well, you’re the one that was chasing the yardstick in circles until you were so dizzy you fell on your ass. We’re cats this time, not dogs. Try to remember that. Harkin flicked his white tail, lightly ghosted with orange, in his partner’s direction.

Hey, stop being an ass. It’s your fault we got stuck doing this job anyway. If you hadn’t pissed off Lugh, we wouldn’t be stuck in these so-cute-I-could-barf kitten bodies and trying to find a lost piece of jewelry.

Kieran flounced out from under the couch and scampered over to the bookcase, trying to remember he had four paws now instead of two feet. Ignoring his partner’s indignant hiss, he pawed at the assortment of boxes and bags tucked into the bottom shelf.

I still think it’s a wild-goose chase. The only description we were given was that it was an old ruby? And this chick is supposed to have it? I think this is all about revenge and nothing about a quest.

Even Harkin’s mental voice was whiny and Kieran’s irritation made him grit his teeth, thankfully not biting his own tongue again.

By the Gods, Harkin, shut the hell up and keep looking.

This time a small snarl came from behind him. You just like being a pet, Kieran. Are you a tame fae now? Maybe wanting to have a pretty cage and a fancy collar to show your servitude? Maybe some rhinestones to show against your fur?

The snarky comment pushed Kieran over the edge. Need I remind you that it’s your fault we’re in this mess anyway? And you’re the one letting her call you Rusty? What kind of name is that, anyway? A pussy name, that’s what it is!

Harkin was silent for a second, then hissed again and jumped Kieran. A brawl of teeth and claws and the two furry bodies rolled around on the floor in a mix of brown, white, tan and orange. In the midst of biting Harkin’s ear, Kieran felt a stream of cold water hit him, shocking him into jumping away from his annoying partner.

“You two are nuts.” The human woman’s voice sounded part annoyed and part amused. She set down the squirt bottle and laughed. “Or maybe you’re not really cats.”

Wrath of the Gods? How had she guessed?

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Culloden Moor


(M/F, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published August 23, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

One more deep breath while she drew her shields tightly to her, then she pushed open the glass doors and walked out onto Culloden Battlefield.

Once outside, she took a moment to look around – a small thatched cottage stood nearby and a walkway led off into the distance behind it. She walked past the cottage and to the gate beyond it, where a sign indicated the start of the battlefield walk.

Sorrow – overwhelming sadness overlaid with fear and pain. Each step brought a new barrage of emotions to her. She straightened her spine and tried to let the influx pass over and around her. She knew what they were – impressions of the past, echoes of the immense energy expended and extinguished in this place. Echoes of the dead.

Her hands clenched into fists so tight her nails bit into her palms. But she forced herself forward, following several other people through the gate and out onto the battlefield proper.

The people ahead of her chattered to each other, but it barely registered. Her entire concentration was focused on her chosen goal – the completion of a single circuit of the battlefield. Just once around at a fast walk and she could consider herself the victor and leave.

Step by trembling step, the moor long considered the site of the culmination and defeat of the Scottish civil war enveloped her. Her steps grew more unsteady by the second. Her shields wavered and strained, taking all her available energy to just remain intact, no matter how thin.

Anguish.
Pain.
Sorrow.
Sadness.
Hopelessness.

The enormous power of lingering emotions hit her with the force of a gale. Over a thousand people fought and died here and even their graves were later disregarded and mistreated. No peace existed for them. Every one of their voices cried out to her and clamored to be heard. Each voice demanded solace, begged for ease.

The distinctive smell of gunpowder grew with each step. The coppery tang of blood became an underlying odor, never fully masked. The voices grew louder and louder, now mixed with the sobs and wails of women.

In the farthest corner of the battlefield she finally buckled under the unceasing onslaught of the emotional barrage. In agony, she fell to her knees. In a move of desperation, she grasped a large purple thistle she could barely see. Maybe the physical pain of the thorns and the symbolism of the plant itself would somehow help her. She panted and struggled to retain her own identity, to keep her own feelings separate from those of the slaughtered Scotsmen.

Distantly, she felt someone come up behind her. She turned her head weakly and saw Kieran, the man from the weapons exhibit.

Green eyes looked into her own for a moment then he reached out and plucked her up from the ground. Seemingly without effort, he carried her quickly around the rest of the circular walkway and back toward the visitor center.

The instant he touched her, the voices of the dead faded back to a whisper. Tears filled her eyes at the incredible sense of relief.

Kieran held her closer and began to speak quietly to her. He spoke of his home and his family, nothing of importance really, but the sound of his voice permeated her. It was like having her father use his voice Talent to soothe her.

Calm began to seep back into her.

Somehow he managed to open the door back of the visitor center with her still in his arms, maneuvered her in and carried her back toward the office area. A nod toward the volunteers and he continued on into one of the offices then kicked the door shut behind him.

He set Aislynn gently down on one of the large guest chairs then took a bottle of water from the desk. Twisting the cap off, he handed the bottle to her, careful to steady her shaky grasp.

Suddenly aware of her terrible thirst, she drank down half the water in a few quick swallows. She opened her other hand and dropped the mangled thistle to the floor, hissing at the pain. Embarrassed by her own stubborn stupidity, she snuck a glance at the handsome man across from her.

He chuckled. “If I am not mistaken, you have some psychic talents, aye?” he asked in that compelling voice. “I could feel your discomfort during my talk but thought you’d only come to see my brother’s work. I had no idea you were so foolish as to walk around on Culloden Moor.”

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Labor of Love 1


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published August 28, 2008 on the Fiction with Friction site – http://www.fictionwithfriction.com

Noah was more than ready to be home and sleep in his own bed but even more, he was ready to be in his own bed with Jim. His handsome blacksmith lover spent nearly all his non-work time at Noah’s house now, instead of his own. A now-familiar warmth spread through his chest. Damn, he was so in love. So much so that he’d given Jim a key to his house and free reign of it.

He shook his head, still amazed at how easy it had been to open up to Jim and trust him. He still hated to have others violate his privacy but Jim was a part of him now. For probably the hundredth time since he’d left on this trip ten days ago, he tried to figure out how he would ask Jim to move in with him. There wasn’t much “moving” left to do, really, but the formality of it seemed important.

An ache in his throat made him swallow convulsively. What if Jim said “no”? What if his feelings were one-sided? Jim had never seemed to take him or their relationship lightly but what if…?

The snap of his ears popping pulled Noah back from the spiral of doubt and fear to see the ground nearing out the small airline window. Finally. Sitting on the runway in Atlanta had only made him more anxious to be done. The trip was a success and he’d gotten the contract he’d set out to get but that goal seemed far away now. He really wanted Jim.

The process of landing and getting to the arrival gate at SeaTac took forever. As soon as the seatbelt sign went out, Naoh yanked his briefcase from the carry-on bin and stood, waiting not at all patiently, for the doors to open and the few people ahead of his business class seat to exit the airplane. Another twenty minutes of pacing while waiting for the luggage to appear on the carousel and he finally was able to make his way out of the busy airport and to the long-term parking to retrieve his car.

Only once he was on the freeway, his nervousness returned. Jim had dropped hints about a special present he had for Noah during their nightly phone calls but he refused to elaborate, instead he just laughed and reassied Noah that it was a good surprise and he’d been planning it for a month.

After an hour of driving, Noah pulled into his driveway and excitement ran through him when he saw Jim’s car in the driveway and the lights on. No sooner had he popped his trunk to retrieve his suitcase than the front door opened and Jim stepped out onto the porch. The sight of his lover’s muscular body made his cock instantly hard. Ten days was way too long for only some phone sex and his hand, dammit. He needed to be fucked. Now.

A few quick steps and he was up on the porch, suitcase and briefcase abandoned on the porch bench and arms thrown around Jim’s neck. Massive, strong arms gathered him close to the bigger man and a sexy, rough chuckle sent shivers down his spine. “Welcome home, Noah. I missed you.”

Jim’s warm lips devoured his, first softly and gently then rougher and more hungry. His tongue traced the edge of Noah’s lips, the tender flicks setting fire to every nerve ending. A shudder ran through Noah’s body and his lips parted to invite Jim in.

Instead Jim pulled away with a heavy groan. He threw his head back for a moment and Noah couldn’t resist the pulse thundering in the other man’s neck, nipping and licking the hot skin. “Wait. First you have to see your present.”

“The only present I want is your cock in my ass. That would be a perfect present.”

Jim groaned again and pushed Noah to one side, then picked up his suitcase and briefcase. “Soon. Just cooperate for once and you can have my cock too. But I’ve been working on this for a long time so I really want to give it to you.” He spun and walked back into the house, barely dodging Noah’s grab at his ass.

Once inside, the luggage set by the base of the staircase, Jim turned back to the smaller man and rubbed his hands together. If anything, he looked a little nervous. “Okay, time for the present. It’s in the bedroom so I want you to close your eyes at the top of the stairs and let me lead you there. Okay?”

Noah nodded and walked up to the top of the stairs. His hard on made it a bit tricky, though. Eyes closed, he followed obediently when Jim took his hand and led him down the hall to the big master bedroom. The snick of the door opening was all he heard, then Jim came to a halt a few steps further. A small quiver of fear clenched his gut, just a twitch of doubt. What was Jim up to?

“Okay, you can open your eyes.” The other man’s voice sounded strange, strained and almost unsure. Jim was never unsure.

Noah’s eyes opened slowly and he couldn’t help but see the present – a huge wrought iron bed with an intricate headboard of twists, spirals and thic pillars at the two corners. The footboard was shorter but no less intricate and both pieces had the uniquely sensuous but still very masculine feel he’d learned to equate with Jim’s best work. In awe, he couldn’t look away.

“I’m going to assume that since your mouth is gaping open, you like it?” A touch of humor was back in his lover’s voice.

“Oh my god, Jim. This is amazing. How many hours did you spend on this?” As if released from a trance, Noah stepped toward the bed and ran his fingers over the sleek, satiny wrought iron. “I don’t just like it, I love it.”

Hard arms wrapped around him from behind. “I’m glad.” Lips brushed the nape of his neck and his cock hardened even more. “It was a true labor of love.”

Noah bent his head to one side, coaxing the nibbling lips and teeth toward his sensitive ears and neck. “But if it’s here, you need to be in it with me.” Fear made his voice quiver just a little. “Would you move in with me, Jim?”

Teeth stopped in mid-nibble and a flash of terror made him feel sick. Did he misjudge the situation after all? He’d just opened his mouth to say something, anything, to get rid of the strain. Instead Jim’s arms loosened and he was spun around so quickly he was momentarily dizzy. Jim cupped his calloused hands around Noah’s cheeks and looked straight into the smaller man’s eyes.

“Thank you. I’ll move in this weekend but we need to inaugurate the bed now. It would be a shame to waste it and I need to be inside you. Now.”

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Labor of Love 2


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published August 28, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The sun shining on his face made Noah throw an arm across his eyes and groaned. Was it morning already? What time did he have to be at the client’s this morning? Try as he might, he couldn’t think of what today’s agenda was. He tried to get up the energy to roll over in the incredibly comfortable hotel bed and check the clock but his body really didn’t want to move. Comfortable? He’d never slept in a truly comfortable hotel bed. Hell, he hardly slept on the road. But this was just like home…and his ass was sore.

That realization made a deep, peaceful warmth run through him and Noah relaxed. Home. He was home and lying in the beautiful huge bed Jim had labored to create for them. The incredible wrought iron bed was definitely sturdy, as their intense love making last night had proven. Big enough for two larger than average men and strong enough, too. What an incredible present and even before Noah had asked his lover to move in with him. Noah turned over onto his belly and stretched out over the bed.

Jim was probably already up and making coffee. Maybe he’d get up and join him. Soon.

Before Noah could do more than consider it, he drifted off into sleep again.

* * * * *

He drifted awake again, still laying spread-eagled on the bed but now a warm, muscular body was pressed against his back, a hard cock nestled in the crack of his ass and Jim’s familiar scent filled his lungs. “Mmmmmm.”

“Good morning, lazy.” Jim chuckled then nipped his earlobe. “I thought you were never going to wake up.”

Other parts of Noah were waking up and demanding attention. He shifted to relieve pressure on the instant hard-on Jim always seemed to cause, rubbing his ass against the other man’s thick cock in the process.

“Bad boy.” Sharp teeth bit Noah’s shoulder, the pain somehow possessive and tender at the same time. “Damn you feel good, Noah. I missed you and have days to make up for now.”

Noah’s chuckle turned into a groan when his lover licked his way up from his shoulder to his ear again. One calloused hand snuck under his chest and pinched his already throbbing nipple, making him gasp and try to turn over but he couldn’t. “What the hell?”

Jim laughed again. “I told you this bed was more than it seemed. I built in some handy attachment points just to be able to make you hold still.”

A bolt of pure lust made his cock almost explode at the words. He loved it when this powerful man controlled and fucked him until they were both ready to collapse but Jim had never tied him up before. An experimental tug and twist of his arms and legs proved he was tied down so he could only move a few inches at a time. He lifted his head and saw a wide leather band with red flames buckled around his wrist and a taut chain was attached to a large ring on the band.

“Are you okay, Noah? Do you want me to take them off?” Jim sounded worried.

Words. He had to force words out somehow, past the huge lump in his throat, but all he seemed to be able to do was moan.

“Okay, I’m taking them off. I’m sorry, I should have asked first.”

The weight was off his back and Noah saw the brightly tattooed arms reach for his right wrist. No. He finally found the words he needed. “No. Fuck me. Dammit, Jim, leave it alone and fuck me.”

“Ah, darlin’. You scared me. But you look so sexy in my bed, in my cuffs. All ready for me and laid out like a buffet.” The teasing words had a distinct tone of relief.

Long hair tickled his back as Jim moved back behind him and then his hot tongue traced a leisurely path down his spine, each bone lavished with licks and kisses. Goose bumps broke out over his skin, every nerve on alert for the next touch, the next lick. His whole body quivered and shivered with the electric surges of arousal. “Please. Please, Jim.” He almost babbled the words out, begging and pleading. Desperate for release, he circled and rubbed his hard cock against the sheets.

“Stop that.” The sharp smack on his ass hurt for just a moment, then his arousal climbed even higher and another smack landed on the other side of his ass. His skin burned, inside and out.

“Need you, please. Dammit, Jim, please.”

“What a gorgeous ass you have, Noah. Even more lovely now that it’s so pink. But you liked it, didn’t you. Maybe I’ll have to spank you some more.” Gentle licks and kisses covered his ass and Jim’s lush, hot tongue traced down between his ass cheeks and teased his hot hole. Flicks and tender strokes had Noah on the brink of cumming. Cool, lube-covered fingers replaced Jim’s tongue and quickly eased inside his eager ass.

“Your cock. Please give me your cock.”

“God, Noah. I can’t resist you any longer. You are the sexiest man alive and I love you.”

His lover’s thick cock replaced his fingers, pushing into his body so slowly Noah stayed on the brink of orgasm but couldn’t quite go over. He tried to lift his ass higher, get Jim in deeper, harder.

Suddenly Jim’s hands grabbed his hips and he drove into Noah’s hole with a single, fierce stroke. Breathless with the exquisite pleasure and delicious pain of the penetration, he froze for a second, then heard himself whimper. As if the small sound broke his last resistance, Jim pounded into his ass. Every stroke nudged his gland, sending shockwaves through his body and tugged his guiche ring, adding another jolt. A few moment later, his orgasm slammed into him and he bucked up against Jim’s weight as he came, spewing hot semen into the sheets under him.

A stroke later and Jim drove heavily into him and shouted as he came, cock pulsing hot jets of cum into Noah’s ass. His sweaty lover collapsed against his back, panting but not crushing him with all his weight. His cock throbbed a few more times in Noah’s hole and, still panting, Jim kissed his shoulder.

“I’m glad you… enjoyed my… present.”

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Music of the Heart


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published September 6, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The early morning air had that sharp chill that carried the reminder of oncoming fall. A cold, damp nip that sent a shiver down Aiden’s spine and raised goosebumps on his arms. Fingers cupped around the warm coffee cup, he took another sip and savored the rich taste. With some effort, he managed to ignore the cold rock under him and focused instead on the gorgeous sunrise just peaking out from behind the mountains in the distance. Still quiet for now, the nearby music festival was scheduled to start in two days and with the promised appearance of Bran’s Visions, it was going to be utter chaos.

Just the thought of seeing the famous celtic rock band made Aiden’s heart beat a tiny bit faster. Well, if he was honest with himself, it was a single member of the band that made him abandon his office and deadlines to travel across the country to Seattle for two weeks. He shook his head, still wondering what it was about Colen, the band’s charismatic fiddler, that brought out uncharacteristic impulsiveness in Aiden. But the tall, hazel-eyed blonde man had caught his attention the first time he’d seen Bran’s Visions perform almost five years ago. The mix of a very handsome man with huge amounts of energy coaxing every emotion possible from the strings of an electric fiddle changed Aiden’s musical taste. His large collection of classical music was now peppered with CDs from a wide variety of celtic or alternative groups.

But rumors abounded that Bran’s Visions might announce their retirement. Colen had broken up with Kate, the lead singer, and she’d married a man she’d met in Ireland. The live concert he’d caught on PBS was…different. Colen was different. Hell, he’d even cut off his gorgeous long hair. Stupidly, Aiden mourned that hair – not that he had any right to but he loved long hair on a man. Hell, he’d never even met the man and given Colen’s past history, he seemed securely on the straight side of the buffet table. Damned shame.

He drank the last of the coffee and enjoyed a few more minutes of peace. Just as he started to push himself up off the boulder to return to his cabin, he heard a faint sound from the direction of a nearby cabin. The sound of a violin being tuned. Maybe it was someone performing at the festival? Aiden sank back onto the boulder and cocked his head to listen.

Seconds later a violin’s slow, sad strains drifted out on the morning breeze. Recognizing the plaintive notes of Tchaikovsky, he closed his eyes and drank in the depth of emotion and loss evoked by the talented violinist. A segue into Barber’s violin Andante. Then into Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor. Aiden felt immersed in the music, in the sadness and longing. The last mournful notes by Mozart trailed off into silence, somehow oppressive now instead of peaceful. When the violinist didn’t continue, he sighed and pushed himself up off the rock. Time to get back to his temporary home and see if he could get any work done on the website design he was trying to finish, even though he really was not in the mood for a light, humorous website right now.

A few steps took him back to the walking path and he looked up toward the closest cabin, surprised to see a man standing on the front porch. Shadowed by the overhang of the roof, Aiden couldn’t make out his features but he appeared to be wearing just a pair of shorts and had a violin dangling from one hand and a bow from the other. Aiden stopped near a tall fir and watched. Should he approach him and thank him for the music, sad as it was? The man’s bowed head and slumped shoulders made Aiden sure the tone of the music was an echo of the man’s own emotions.

Just as Aiden made up his mind to continue back to his own cabin and leave the other man in peace, the violinist lifted his instrument again and the notes of Cerridwen’s Cauldron emerged from his talented fingers. The violinist moved out of the shadows and Aiden gasped in recognition. It was Colen Cassidy.

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Rhythm of the Ancestors


(M/M, Contemporary, Adult)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published September 25, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The sun was almost to the horizon, autumn colors blooming around the golden disc and turning the brilliant blue surf a deeper blue, then purple as it set. The earlier rain was gone, leaving only the clean smell of rain and salt water behind to tease his senses. The tide was coming in with waves cresting higher and higher, just begging to be ridden.

But, dammit, the beautiful beach and sunset was like a movie with the sound off. The roar of the ocean waves, the sound of the seagulls, the soft sounds of his own bare feet on the lanai. All missing. Instead there was nothing but silence and the nagging vertigo that came and went at seeming random.

Hell, he was supposed to be resting and taking the steroids the specialist had prescribed while enjoying the beach. He pulled himself away from his own beckoning pity party. His band-mates had covered for him at the festival in Washington and they’d all agreed to take a sabbatical under cover of Kate’s overdue honeymoon. Liam had alread seen tabloid rumors of Bran’s Visions breaking up and various love triangles as the cause.

No one had guessed the truth – that the band’s main composer and song-writer had woken up deaf almost a month ago and no one could seem to figure out why.

His gut clenched and he shook his head to clear it, only to grab the railing to steady himself against another wave of vertigo. A flash of movement caught his eye and his frustrated energy became excitement. He drug the chair to the railing positioned it for the best view, then sat down to watch his private afternoon delight.

He always arrived just as the sun touched the ocean and surfed until it fully set. Then only the lights from Liam’s borrowed beach house lit his path back to the SUV parked off the road. So far he didn’t seem aware of his spectator – or he didn’t care.

The object of Liam’s fantasies emerged from beside the house, following the trail from the road above. Shoulder-length hair, wavy and dark reflected the light of the setting sun. Heavy muscles flexed and stretched beneath skin the color of mocha overlaid with the complex tracery of what had to be tribal tattoos. Liam had never thought of board shorts as sexy before but on this man, they made Liam’s mouth water. The surfer’s sexy ass filled out the cream and blue shorts exquisitely well and when wet, they clung to every inch.

Liam watched his graceful walk toward the beach then craned his neck to get a good look at the surfer’s ass as he walked past. He sighed and rubbed his now rock-hard cock. This sexy island man gave him an instant hard-on. Something about the man’s graceful movements fascinated him. Even carrying the surfboard, the man seemed to glide over the soft sand so lightly his bare feet wouldn’t leave prints. He was a talented surfer as well, riding some of the trickier waves as if practicing on the sand.

Sandals kicked off on the beach, the surfer dove into the water and frolicked among the waves while Liam watched. He’d learn to surf just to spend time with the handsome man, even if he was into girls, but his vertigo wouldn’t even allow that much. Hell, he couldn’t have a conversation right now that didn’t involve the written word.

Hi, I’m Liam and I used to be a drummer and composer but now I’m deaf and useless. Want to fuck? Yah. that would go over so well.

The surfer suddenly emerged from the waves, well before his normal time, and Liam sat up straighter to see wha had interrupted him. He carried the surfboard up above the waterline and set in down on the sand, then walked a few steps closer to the beach house and looked straight up at Liam.

Dammit, the man had seen him watching and didn’t like it.

A few more steps and the man came up the steps and stood at the base of the lanai steps. Then, completely out of the blue, he began to dance. The slow, sultry movements of the hula seemed to seduce Liam on the most primitive level. Even without sound or voice, the surfer’s dance seemed to echo in his soul. The muscular, sexy Hawaiian man seemed to sway and turn to the rhythm of Liam’s heart, each motion in time to that ancient rhythm.

With a final turn, the surfer stopped and held his arms out toward Liam as if in invitation, the outline of his erect cock clearly visible under his wet shorts.

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Through the Veil


(M/F, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published October 18, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

The full moon crested the tops of the tall trees bordering the clearing and cast a crescent of light onto the ground. Despite the fire burning before her, the deep chill of fall lay on her bare skin like a blanket, heavy and thick with the threat of winter’s approach. The large flat stone that served as her altar sat next to the fire, her ritual tools neatly arranged upon it.

A shiver ran through her and she scooted closer to the sacred fire to feed it another piece of rowan wood. The crackling flames devoured the offering and flared as if in response. The acrid smell of the fire wafted around her and she took a deep breath. The scent of the living trees around her mixed with that of the dead trees in the fire. Living and dead. Past and present. The veil between the worlds thinned with every minute of the moon’s rise.

Soon.

This was her heritage. This was her duty, reluctant though she’d been to assume it. She trembled and tried to relax. Her stomach clenched and a wave of dizziness wafted over her. Fingers dug into the earth, she focused on grounding herself and the dizziness receded.

The moon’s light crept further and further into the clearing as it rose, seeming to drive the small creatures before it. First the frogs stopped singing. Then the chittering of bats ceased. Finally even the scurrying sounds of small rodents had vanished. Silence descended. The silence of the grey lands, the lands between the living and the dead. Now the only sound she heard was her own fast heartbeat.

She stood as the moon moved completely overhead and moved to the edge of the clearing. The instant the moon was directly above the clearing, the fire roared into a bonfire and left her nearly unable to see when it receded back to the small ritual fire she had laid and tended. The grass of the clearing sparkled and glowed in the wake of the fire’s flash, then brilliant lines of turquoise traced a labyrinth on the dark grass. The turns and folds filled the clearing and the opening appeared before her.

One deep breath, then another. She had to do this. She’d made up her mind to accept her fate at long last and this Samhain would complete her year’s path. Maybe her grandmother would talk to her through the veil, coach her or at least reassure her that she’d made the right decision.

She stepped into the labyrinth, a soft “thank you” whispered to acknowledge the help of the moon and the earth. Slowly and carefully, she walked along the curved and twisted path. Each step was easier, each step calmed her. One foot quietly placed before the other, all focus on the path instead of the destination. Her path would take her to the correct destination for her.

It may have taken hours or mere minutes; all references to time were skewed. It surprised her to see her path open into a central clearing. A look up showed a fire and altar but she gasped loudly and jumped at the sight of the man standing naked beside the stone altar. An altar she didn’t recognize.

Alerted by her noise, the man turned and held out his arms to her. His long silver hair wafted around his muscular body as he spun and his milk-white skin glowed in the light of the moon.

“Beloved!”

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Bonds of Steel


(M/M, Contemporary)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published October 31, 2008 on the Fiction with Friction site – http://www.fictionwithfriction.com

Noah pulled his car up as close to the smithy doors as possible. No sense having to tote the pumpkins filling his backseat any further than necessary. Jim’s excitement over the holiday party they’d planned for their friends had proven contagious and Noah couldn’t wait to see how the smithy’s conversion to haunted party house had come along. But that excitement was curtailed a bit by the constant case of nerves he’d had for two weeks now.

He started pulling the pumpkins out of the car and setting them out along the path between the driveway and the smithy. Hopefully two dozen would suffice, that was all he could fit in the car in one trip.

In the midst of arranging the pumpkins to his own satisfaction, the door to the smithy opened and he looked up to see Jim’s boots in the doorway. “Umm. I thought you said a couple of pumpkins, Noah. Unless I’m hallucinating, this is a lot more than a couple.”

Noah could feel his cheeks grow hot at the amusement in his lover’s voice. “Well, I want it to look nice. Do you think it’s too many?”

“Nah. It looks perfect.”

A strong hand reached down to help Noah to his feet and up against his Jim’s warm, hard body. Calloused fingers tilted his chin up and his lips were captured and devoured by his lover’s. Fire seemed to flash through him, consuming him and pulling him under Jim’s seductive spell. Even his bones seemed to melt and he laced his arms around the blacksmith’s waist to keep himself upright.

When the kiss ended, Noah sighed and tucked his head against Jim’s shoulder, content to snuggle for a few minutes before the final party preparations had to continue. His cock had other ideas but it would have to wait. He needed to tell Jim how he felt.

I love this man. Even after admitting the truth to himself last week, it still seemed like a dream. How had he gotten so lucky? When he imagined telling Jim, nerves made his stomach clench and his knees weak. He thought Jim felt the same but what if he didn’t? What if Noah’s feelings weren’t fully returned?

“What’s wrong, Noah? You suddenly tensed up.” Jim’s deep voice was laced with his concern. “Are you worried about the party? Do we need to cancel it?”

“No, I’m okay. I just want the party to go off perfectly. You said this is one of the days you tend to sell a lot of your fetish gear and this is the first party since you moved here. I want to help.” Noah’s voice was surprisingly steady and didn’t betray how very nervous he was.

Jim didn’t look convinced but gave him a gentle hug before releasing him and then pulling him toward the smithy by one hand. “I have everything done in here. Come take a look.”

The small building had been separated into little areas by long drapes of gauzy fabric hanging from the metal rafters. Each little area had been set up and decorated to best show off Jim’s impressive stock of bondage and fetish metalwork. Noah peeked into each little room as they walked through, his already rock-hard cock throbbing and aching as he imagined the play that could take place with the items Jim made.

One area had a large cage in the center, open manacles laying on the floor of the cage and what looked like a chastity belt on a chair next to the cage.

Another room had a huge x-frame dotted with rings and bolts, manacles chained to the end of each arm and a thick chain anchored at the intersection of the two arms.

The last area, around the forge which was off for now, there was a wall of display racks of different types of manacles, collars, leashes and even a few pieces like head cages and gags to demonstrate the custom-fitted work that could be ordered. Another wall was hung with swords, daggers, axes and other weaponry since there was a large amount of crossover in customers.

Jim pushed past him and picked up the pair of manacles laying on his anvil. “I have a present for you.” His long red braid swung around as he spun and gave Noah a smile that made him briefly consider running. Predatory is the only way to describe it. He stalked nearer and Noah dropped his gaze to the manacles instead. They were polished steel but appeared to have a pattern on them and were lined with what looked like red and black leather. The cuffs had several rings spaced out around them, a hasp to allow a lock to be added and they were attached together by a short length of sturdy chain.

He looked up again to see Jim watching him intently. “I made these for you, Noah. They’ll fit you perfectly and I made sure you can’t hurt yourself on them when you thrash and writhe on my cock. I wouldn’t want you to cut or bruise yourself while I’m making you come. I don’t like blood mixed with my cum.”

Noah’s mouth felt like the Sahara, dry and barren. He couldn’t force words to his lips, instead standing there mute and gaping at Jim’s speech, cock pressing urgently at the zipper of his jeans and hoping he wouldn’t combust before he could ask Jim his question.

His predatory stride took him another step or two closer and Jim held the cuffs closer so he could see them. This close he could see the polished metal was etched with the same flames that ran up his lover’s arms. They were beautifully made.

He licked his lips and swallowed heavily, finally able to choke out a few words. “Wait. I need to ask….”His voice wavered and his nerves took over again, pushing his libido to the side. Jim obediently stopped but kept his eyes on Noah’s face. A look of concern and worry replaced the teasing, devilish look on his face but instead of demanding an answer, he waited.

Fuck it. I need to just get it over with. Noah reached into his pocket and pulled out the object he’d been carrying and fidgeting with for two weeks now. Hiding it in his hand, he abruptly dropped to his knees in front of Jim and looked up at the solid, muscular man. If he wasn’t so nervous, he might be amused by the look of confusion on Jim’s face.

Voice thin and reedy, he finally managed to choke out one of the most important questions he’d ever asked. “Jim. Will you marry me?”

Grey eyes widened in surprise and then glanced at the ring Noah was now holding out to him on his palm, a beautifully-made stainless steel ring etched with flames and their combined initials.

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Black Dragon


(M/M, Contemporary, Paranormal)

Note: copyright © 2008 by Maura Anderson
First published November 15, 2008 on Maura Anderson’s site – http://www.realmsoftheraven.com

Maolmuire, you are summoned.

Mal attempted to ignore the mental summons and drift back to his peaceful sleep. Surely another could answer the summons instead.

Maolmuire, you are needed and are sworn to answer the call. Arise and report to the Council chambers.

With a gusty sigh of resignation, Mal cracked his eyes open. His eyes gradually focused on the stone wall of his lair, dotted with quartz and pyrite. The glittering minerals sparkled in the low light, easily visible to his sensitive eyes.

With a groan, he forced himself off the low platform. So stiff. How long had he slept this time? Even in his dragonskin, the extended immobility had taken a toll. A heavy shove moved the huge stone sealing his lair’s entrance to one side. Bright sunlight assaulted his eyes and he could feel his pupils contract down to a slit in response.

He sniffed the fresh air that rushed in, cool and wet with the scent of the salty ocean nearby but also overlaid with a faint taint of chemicals. Pollution had even reached here. Damned humans.

With no smells that would indicate a threat nearby, he squeezed out the doorway and past the boulder. The rough abrasion of the rocks felt so good he couldn’t resist pausing for a moment to rub his shiny black scales on it. Too bad he couldn’t just take a quick dip in the ocean and then sun himself for a while. He would be a lot happier for it.

Report now, Maolmuire. This is no time to indulge yourself.

Mal snarled and gave a last good scratch to his right wing in defiance of the Council’s lackey. Let him dare try to stop him. Wrapped in the illusion of a cloudy sky, he launched himself into a long glide off the high ledge.

* * * * *

Caleb bailed from his bed, jolted awake by the motion of the bed. Was he being shelled? Who was firing on him? Where were they? He rolled to take cover at the base of the wall near the door, the pistol he’d grabbed even before fully awake cocked and ready.

He froze and gradually realized the only sounds he heard were his own thundering heartbeat and the distant sounds of the morning traffic. He wasn’t in Afghanistan anymore.

Caleb sat up, slowly, unable to stop himself from examining every corner of the small bedroom, assessing every shadow.

Once reassured that there was no threat in the bedroom, he stood and made his way to the bathroom. The adrenaline was wearing off and he needed a shower to clean off the soured sweat coating his body.

How the hell had it come to this? Was he even capable of becoming normal again? Well, according to some people he’d never be normal because being gay was already abnormal. He just couldn’t go on like this.

Setting the .45 on the back of the toilet, in easy reach, he stared at himself in the mirror. Scruffy and unshaven, his blonde hair way too long and the still-fresh scars on his face and chest shiny and bright red – he was a mess. Maybe he should just be done with it all. Not like he had shit to live for anyway – the Marines wouldn’t send him back to his team unless he was able to convince the psych he was okay.

Hell, he knew he wasn’t okay.

But he wasn’t a coward. He’d never been a coward. Caleb fought the temptation back. If he really had wanted to die, he could have left that job to the Taliban. According to the guard he’d later killed, they were all set to film his decapitation but he’d refused to beg or grovel. Refused them anything beyond his name, rank, service number and date of birth. It infuriated them and they redoubled their efforts to crack him.

Heart pounding again, a sudden wave of dizziness washed over him. Caleb grabbed the bathroom counter to steady himself but it didn’t help. Earthquake. Another in the weird spat of earthquakes that were shaking through Southern California since he got back.

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