We are joining in the celebration, wishing Escape Publishing’s a very happy first birthday! We have FIVE new adults title from them that we are featuring and giveaway away. Check them out and HAPPY BIRTHDAY ESCAPE!
BY SCARLETT DAWN
RELEASE DATE: 08/2013
IMPRINT: ESCAPE PUBLISHING
A fresh, meaty, sink-your-teeth-in-and-hold-on-tight new adult fantasy series kicks off with King Hall…
King Hall — where the Mysticals go to learn their craft, get their degrees, and transition into adulthood. And where four new Rulers will rise and meet their destinies.
Lily Ruckler is adept at one thing: survival. Born a Mystical hybrid, her mere existence is forbidden, but her nightmare is only about to start. Fluke, happenstance, and a deep personal loss finds Lily deeply entrenched with those who would destroy her simply for existing — The Mystical Kings. Being named future Queen of the Shifters shoves Lily into the spotlight, making her one of the most visible Mysticals in the world. But with risk comes a certain solace — her burgeoning friendships with the other three Rulers: a wicked Vampire, a wild-child Mage, and a playboy Elemental. Backed by their faith and trust, Lily begins to relax into her new life.
Then chaos erupts as the fragile peace between Commoners and Mysticals is broken, and suddenly Lily realises the greatest threat was never from within, and her fear takes on a new name: the Revolution.
Dominic growled, Where are you? They’re pairing everyone up!
Coming, I replied, running down the empty green hallway. I stayed late going over
the reading list with Mr. Jarvis.
Dominic mentally sighed. You’re gonna get stuck with someone you don’t want.
They’re going in alphabetical order. I’ve already been called and so has Elly.
Wonderful. I was going to get my butt kicked before lunch.
I ran into the girls locker room and jammed everything inside my locker before
quickly stripping down to change into the black sports bra and black shorts we had to wear
for these classes. I grabbed a ponytail holder then slammed my locker closed and raced out
of the room and down the back hallway to the gym I had been in merely an hour ago. The
bleachers were pulled back. Instead of an audience and press, my classmates were situated
throughout the gym, paired off, standing on round blue mats.
I scanned the room and saw Dominic sigh in exasperation as he stared at my feet. I
glanced down and realized I had forgotten to put socks and tennis shoes on. My blackpainted
toenails gleamed under the hideous lighting. I groaned, and started to turn around,
but was stopped by a loud voice. “Ms. Ruckler! It’s so nice of you to join us!” It was Mr.
Bertrand, my teacher for this hour of torture. “Get over here!”
Sighing in resignation, I jogged his way. “I need to get my shoes.”
Mr. Bertrand glanced at my bare feet and chuckled, shaking his head. “You’ll be fine
without them. I don’t imagine they would help you much this time.” He gestured to his
right. “Mr. Zeller is going to be your partner.”
I gaped, turning my attention to where he pointed.
Ezra Zeller was leaning against the closed bleachers with his huge arms crossed over
his equally massive chest. He wore only black‐knit pants, cut off below the knee like every
student who was male, so I got a close up view of my impending death with all that bare
flesh. He was enormous. It would be like taking on Dominic. Ezra shoved off the bleachers,
gradually examining me from head to toe.
In unison, we muttered, “You’ve got to be kidding.”
Mr. Bertrand shook his head. “That’s what you get for being late, Ms. Ruckler.” He
smiled like the evil teacher he was. “In the future, be on time to my class.”
“I will seriously hurt a Com,” Ezra stated bluntly, striding to stand directly beside me,
glaring at Mr. Bertrand. “Pair me with someone who’s not a Mys wannabe.”
I choked, scowling. “I’m not a Com!”
He snorted, looking me over again. “Yes, sweetheart. You are.”
“Actually, she’s not,” King Venclaire countered, breaking away from where he and
King Kincaid were talking quietly. Each King stayed with their Prodigy the first day, going to
their classes to get an idea of what their Prodigy’s day consisted of. “She’s a Shifter.”
Ezra’s arched eyebrows lowered and he turned from the King to me, again giving me
a once over, but this time with the gentlest brush of his power. It was dark and seductive,
probing, feeling my Shifter magic in verification before he pulled it back. “Shift.” It was a
I snorted this time. Flipped him off. He wasn’t my “to be” King.
Mr. Bertrand’s jaw gaped.
King Venclaire only smiled. “You remind me of someone, Ms. Ruckler.”
I bit my lip. It wasn’t wise to attract the attention of the Kings. Not that I hadn’t
already a month ago, when all four had been dressed in their eerie, hooded robes for this
year’s Awakenings. Mine had taken over ten minutes. A normal Awakening only takes a few
seconds. I rolled my shoulders, shaking my head. “That’s surprising.” Truth.
He nodded absently, his head cocking in his quiet perusal.
“What do you shift into?” Ezra asked suspiciously, closely watching the King’s
interaction with me…and his almond eyes weren’t merely green. They were more a spring
green, light and piercing, vivid against his mocha coloring. The simpering women here would
fall at his feet.
“A wolf,” I grumbled in irritation, then turned back to Mr. Bertrand. “Seriously. I
can’t fight him.” I waved a hand up and down Ezra’s frame, even poking his bicep — hurt my
freaking finger. “He will murder me.”
Mr. Bertrand actually laughed. “The mat in the corner’s free. Good luck.”
I gawked as he and King Venclaire meandered in King Kincaid’s direction. Slowly, I
pivoted, warily regarding Ezra. My assessment of being dead before lunch wasn’t too far off
Irritably, Ezra shook his head, stalking toward “our” mat. “What kind of training have
I gulped, and hurried to catch up. “Uh, none.”
“Perfect,” he muttered, facing me on the mat. “Try not to bleed too much.” A small
curve of his wide lips. “Or do. Either way, I won’t mind.”
I ignored the Vampire’s comment while he stretched. My hands shaking only slightly,
I quickly put my hair up in a ponytail. I rolled my shoulders and stretched my arms, glancing
to Dominic, who had been paired with someone his own size. Being on time had merit.
Once Ezra and I were finished warming up, he gave no warning.
He lunged, using his Vampire speed.
“Ugh!” I grunted as my back hit the mat, my breath damn near knocked out of me.
“Get up,” he rumbled, still on his feet, his back muscles flexing with his rolling steps.
Gritting my teeth, I twisted, careful to not use my own miniscule Vampire speed.
With a small portion of my Shifter strength, I dove. I didn’t care if his back was turned. It was
probably the only way I could get a hit on him.
He turned at the last second, more than likely hearing me with his senses, but I still
plowed into him. I wasn’t as agile as him to stay standing, so we both went down. He
grunted this time when he landed on his back, and even though my forehead smacked
against his shoulder, lying flat on top of him I still grinned with mischievous delight.
Until I was flipped. My shoulders slammed back on the mat. With a very heavy Ezra
on top of me, I kept the grunt at bay, glaring up at him.
Spring green eyes glowered. “Good. You can’t beat me in a proper fight, so get
dirty.” His nostrils flared, and he added, “You’re not scared anymore. You’re angry. That’s
good, too, but don’t let it cloud your judgment.”
My glare didn’t disappear. “Shut up, and get off me.” He was like a freaking boulder.
Suddenly, his fangs lengthened. His voice was a mere whisper. “Get out of my hold.”
I freaked. This guy could seriously bite me. There was no way to get out of this.
Panting hard from instant fear, I shoved anyway. The action got me nowhere. Trying to twist
out from under him, heart pounding, I shouted, “Get off!”
He shook his head. “Calm down. Think.” Nice words, but his fangs were still out.
A deep wolf’s growl erupted next to us. “Get off my mate.”
Ezra blinked and tilted his face toward Dominic, who stood next to us, meeting my
mate’s deadly gaze. Another blink. His eyes slid to Dominic’s neck, where my mate mark
was, then to my neck, where Dominic’s mate mark was. Instantly, he was on his side of the
mat and wearing a cool, blank expression. Like, one second he was a massive weight on top
of me, and the next beat he instantly stood five feet away.
Dominic quickly lifted me to my feet, glaring, a definite growl in his tone. “When she
tells you to get off her, then fucking do it.”
The two Kings had edged closer, but weren’t interrupting.
Ezra’s jaw seesawed back and forth, probably remembering all the rude comments
he had already said to me, unknowingly offending the Prodigy Shifter’s mate. He surprised
me, though; instead of apologizing, he stated bluntly, “She needs to learn to defend herself.
That wasn’t a difficult position to escape from.” No fangs showed.
Dominic’s grip on me tightened, fairly vibrating.
All eyes inside the gym were now on the three of us, and I knew Dominic was on the
verge of going after the Prodigy Vampire, so I held Ezra’s spring green eyes steadily, stating
quickly and quietly, “Just keep your fangs away, and you can teach me, or whatever it was
you were doing.”
Calm down, I told Dominic silently, I just wigged out.
Dominic’s gaze met mine, his dark eyes glowing, his hair falling around his cheeks.
You told him to get off. He didn’t. The prick hasn’t even apologized.
I don’t think he’s going to, I replied calmly, I don’t think that’s his style.
Dominic snorted, his hands skimming down my back softly. You sure you’re okay?
Yeah. I’m good.
He lifted a finger and brushed it over my lips. Stared, as I gazed at his lips, but I
remembered Ezra was still standing there. I peered away from Dominic’s perfect mouth to
Ezra’s hooded gaze. “No fangs. We clear?”
Slowly, Ezra nodded, watching.
I nodded in return, agreement made, then smiled at my mate. You can go back to
your partner and I’ll continue getting my butt kicked. My lips twitched. Maybe you can give
me a massage during lunch?
Dominic grinned leisurely, making me feel all warm inside as a tiny, rumbling growl
resonated from deep inside his chest. I can do more than that.
I laughed, pushing him back. “Get going.”
“Yes, my sweet and innocent love.” He bowed, but when he straightened, walking
backward to his mat, his gaze slammed into Ezra’s, glowing harshly. “Don’t hurt her.”
Ezra cracked his neck. “No more than necessary.”
Dominic took a deep breath. Nodded once.
I tried not to gawk.
Dominic’s brows rose. “You have to learn. It won’t be easy.”
I gulped, staring wide‐eyed. Alright, I got that. Slowly, I peeked at the Vampire who
was going to bring the hurt on. This so wasn’t my favorite class.
As everyone’s attention quickly went back to their own business, Mr. Bertrand
stated loudly and cheerfully, “Get used to your partner, everyone. The person across from
you will be your sparring buddy for the next month.”
Closing my eyes in resignation, I sighed heavily…right before my back hit the mat,
taken unaware and unprepared by a tormenting Vampire.
TEARING THE SHROUD
BY JM BRAY
RELEASE DATE: 11/2013
IMPRINT: ESCAPE PUBLISHING
Fall in love, be possessed, hunt a sorcerer and save the world — and Vincent thought calculus was tough.
1984 — Vincent expected college to be about freedom and girls, but then the nightmares of sorcery, monsters and other worlds began. Not even the surprising attention from his dream girl, Julie, could shake them.
Before he's even nailed his second date with Julie, he's possessed by Coleman, a warrior from another realm. Coleman is hell bent on defeating the monstrous Kafla who threatens to tear into Vincent's reality, changing both his and Coleman's worlds forever. They have one chance to stop them: Vincent must allow Coleman to share his body and wage war against the sorcerer.
Now it's up to them, the women they love, and Vincent's rag-tag bunch of role-playing and gaming friends to save the world, or see 1984 descend into the apocalypse.
‘Get up! Hurry! Wake up!’ Justus could hear his older brother Jonas yelling, but he couldn’t
imagine why he would be making such a racket in the middle of the night. It wasn’t time to
bring the cows in for milking. The cows themselves were probably still sleeping. He rolled
toward the wall, hoping it was a dream, but his mind woke up before the rest of him did.
Why was he waking the whole house? Something was making the back of his throat itch. It
cut through his sleepy mind like a sharp knife. Smoke. Then he heard the other thing Jonas
‘Fire. Hurry. Everybody get out of the house.’
He jumped to his feet and dragged on his pants. Still buttoning them, he stumbled
into the hall that spanned the length of the third floor. The smoke and intense heat filling
the corridor nearly overcame him. Realizing he’d forgotten his shoes, he reached back into
his room to retrieve them. When he bent over, he found the air was clearer near the floor,
so he sat and put them on then went to his knees. Making his way down the hall, his eyes
filled with tears from the smoke and his panic. The house made an eerie creaking as it
expanded with the heat. Smoke swirled in a thick blanket inches above him...
As he neared the end of the hall, he found that the heat was coming up the stairs,
like a chimney. He sat back, panic‐stricken, unable to move. Sitting there wasn’t the answer;
that would end up with him roasted like a chicken. The thought shook him into action, and
he crawled back down the hallway.
Panic rose in him like bile in his throat, and he started crying once more. Shaking his
head, he fought to concentrate. He had to get himself under control. ‘Come on, Justus,’ he
said. ‘Calm down and think. Think think think.’ He crawled as fast as he could, trying to
escape the heat. His head smacked into something. A door! His father’s study. Unable to see
anything above him, he reached into the dense, churning smoke, for the knob. He turned it
and took one last look down the hall, only to see flames rushing at him with a roar, like a
living thing feeding on the oiled wood. He dove inside and slammed the door. The relative
coolness of the study was an instant relief.
Nothing in his twelve years of life had prepared him for this. He knew if he were
going to survive he would have to get out of the house, and do it fast. Dashing to the
window, he threw open the shutters. The sight stunned him. Flames engulfed the forest.
Although a clearing fifty strides across encircled the house, the heat was like being inside a
furnace. At that moment, the top of a pine tree exploded, creating a huge fireball. A blast of
intense heat, noise, and wood struck the house, shaking Justus out of his reverie. There was
no one to help them. The nearest holding was a half‐day’s ride.
Justus screamed out the window but heard no answer. No father, mother, or brother
came to his aid. He’d have to do this himself. Justus blew out a shaky breath. Desperately
searching the room for something to help manage the long bone‐breaking drop, all he found
were books. His father’s priceless collection had taken a lifetime to accumulate, but it was
worthless to him now. The door groaned, buckling from the heat. Turning to the window, he
shoved aside the heavy velvet curtains. Grabbing the mass of cloth, he jumped up, trying to
pull them down. With his meager weight, it took several attempts but finally they fell in a
heap. The heavy brass rod banged to the floor next to him, nearly striking his head. At that
moment, the door burst in two, and flames eagerly rushed onto the rug. He had no time to
spare. Justus braced the rod across the window and shoved the red velvet into the brightly
lit night. He looked down. The drop below the curtain was still high, but not impossible. ‘You
can do it,’ he muttered. ‘Just make sure you land right.’ He tried to calm himself. ‘Just like
jumping out of the hayloft.’
Justus eased out the window, being careful to grip the thick cloth firmly. He had
lowered himself just two handholds when there was a ripping sound. He looked up as the
curtain tore free.
Time seemed to slow, and he became acutely aware of everything around him. The
night sky stood out in stark, beautiful clarity.
Do the stars always shine that brilliantly?
His body rotated. The broad wooden planking of the house passed inches before his
face; he could count the dowels holding them.
His thoughts were as weightless as he felt, floating through his mind.
Is this how birds feel?
This is really going to hurt.
Then the magic moment was over. Time rushed to catch up, sweeping at him with
blinding speed. Justus landed on his side with a sickening thud, nearly in the position he
slept each night. He felt like a mule had kicked him, and knew something inside him had
broken. His first reaction was to move. As he tried, his mouth gaped like a fish out of water,
unable to breathe. Moving was out of the question; breathing was oh so much more
important. Would this be it? Dying, unable to simply draw a breath? Through his desperate
struggles, air slowly worked its way into his wrecked body. He coughed and pain lanced
through him like a bolt of lightning, nearly causing him to black out. The flames had leaped
out the window and were working down the side of the building. It seemed they didn’t want
their prey to escape.
No, that wasn’t going to happen. Maybe he could roll away. Justus pushed his hand
onto the ground and carefully eased onto his back. Each movement brought a shock of pain,
as his shattered bones pierced him. Still, he had to get away, had to move, so he pushed,
digging in his heels. By his fourth try, he’d traveled a hand‐width. It was no use. He was
going to die. Justus let out a small breathless sigh and looked up.
Directly into his brother’s face.
‘Justus, are you all right?’ Jonas asked. ‘I just got out of the house. It’s an inferno in
there! Have you seen Mother or Father?’ Even if Justus could have drawn the breath to talk,
he wouldn’t have been able to get a word in edgewise. Jonas stopped when he rolled his
eyes upward. ‘Don’t pass out on me, Justus. Come on now, stay with me.’
Justus wheezed, ‘I’m not...you idiot...can’t...breathe. Ribs...hurt.’
‘Oh Justus, I’m sorry. I didn’t even give you a chance to — ’
‘Please.’ Justus pointed weakly at the burning house. ‘Hot...away.’
‘Right, of course. Okay. How do we do this? I mean, what hurts?’
‘Let me see what we’re working with,’ Jonas said, as he lifted the nightshirt up. A
small gasp of alarm let Justus know things were not good. ‘Okay. I’m going to get under your
arms and pull you along.’ His brow wrinkled in concern as he tried to reassure Justus as well
as himself. ‘Tell me if it hurts too much, and we will try it another way. All right?’
As Jonas lifted slightly and started dragging him through the yard, Justus started to
moan softly, and sweat broke out on his face.
‘Should I stop and let you rest?’
‘No,’ Justus said through the cloud of pain. ‘Go.’
Jonas shook his head. ‘You’ve always been the bookish one. How did you get so
tough?’ He dragged Justus until they were at the stone cistern in the courtyard. ‘I figure this
will be the best place. If things get too bad, I can douse us with water. Does that sound good
to — ’
A shrill scream rose from the front room of the house. The scream tapered off,
paused as if to draw a breath, and started again.
‘That’s Mother! I’ve got to help her.’ Jonas leaped up and started across the yard. ‘I’ll
be right back,’ he called over his shoulder then disappeared through the flaming portal that
was once the front door.
Justus knew he should have stopped his brother, that it was impossible to make it
back out with their mother. But he also knew he would have done the same thing. His mind
fogged with pain. Time passed. Minutes? Seconds? The small hope of his brother’s return
dwindled with each passing moment. It had been too long. His family was dead, they must
be. Yet, he kept his eyes riveted to the door. Shadows moved in the flames. Someone was
Jonas stepped through the crumbling, flaming skeleton of the house with someone
held in his arms but something didn’t look right. Then he recognized what it was — both
Jonas and his mother were in flames. Jonas somehow managed to get within ten feet of
Justus before he staggered and fell to one side. Still clutching the form of their dead mother,
both their bodies continued to burn. Justus rolled onto his right side in his effort to reach
them, but the pain was too great to do anything more. He lay there on his side, as they were
on theirs, Jonas’ head just above his mother’s, both of their faces in clear view. He tried to
look away, to shut his eyes, but couldn’t help staring in a mix of horror and fascination at
what transpired before him.
His mother’s skin was already starting to blacken and crack, but his brother’s seemed
to be melting. His features were running like wax, the fat popping and sizzling, finally joining
his mother’s in a macabre death mask that looked strangely like a grin. As sanity slipped
from his grasp, Justus smiled. They’d posed for the family portrait the same way. In a quieter
part of his mind, a litany started, trying to hold back the darkness that threatened to
overwhelm it. This would not happen to him. He was never going to die, never going to die,
never going to die, never going...
BONJOUR CHERIE (NOVELLA)
BY ROBIN THOMAS
RELEASE DATE: 09/2013
IMPRINT: ESCAPE PUBLISHING
It's Paris or bust in this New Adult comedy of errors about seeing beyond the surface...
Beth Jenkins is into all things French — especially her French teacher, André LeBlanc. She’s on the fast track to Paris and nothing will stop her, not even the very Australian Zach Mills, whose abs and attitude are a powerful combination. As she endeavours to catch André’s interest, she also stubbornly ignores the growing chemistry with Zach.
But as mishap after mishap delays her dreams, Beth begins to learn that neither Zach nor André are quite what they seem. Will it be too late to win the one man who shows her that Paris is not the only destination worth planning for?
‘Monsieur LeBlanc … André, how lovely to see you.’ I beamed at him from the register as if he
were a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years, instead of four days ago. I pushed through his
items – seedless green grapes (the expensive ones), brie cheese (of course) and rice crackers
(99.9% fat free). I imagined myself sharing this with him over a bottle of mature red.
‘How are you, Beth?’ He remembered to use my first name. At last we were getting
‘Oh, just fine. I checked on those websites you gave me and I’ve been practicing away,’ I
‘Good, good.’ He stood there waiting patiently. What for? Perhaps he wanted to ask me
out for a drink, but was too shy to ask. I had nothing planned tonight. I could easily go. I
mentally scanned the items in my closet, wondering what I should wear.
‘Beth?’ He spoke hesitatingly.
‘Yes,’ I answered, trying to look encouraging.
‘How much do I owe?’
Flustered, I looked at the cash register. ‘$12.65 please.’
He gave me a twenty and I handed him the change. Our fingers almost touched. ‘Well,
see you in French class,’ I said lamely.
He gave me a warm smile and nodded, then disappeared out the door with his plastic
bag, obviously meant to be shared with someone else. I sighed and turned to the next
customer. Zach. Of course.
‘Hi,’ I said, dropping my usual ‘How are you today?’ greeting to customers. I scanned his
items — two tins of dog food (on special), a T‐bone steak (of course) and a can of Coke (not
diet). No doubt who he’d be sharing his dinner with tonight, I thought, the mental image of
Dave popping into my head. I almost smiled.
‘How’s the car running?’ he asked.
‘Fine. That’s $14.50 please.’
He handed me a twenty. I gave him the change and this time our fingers definitely
touched. I snatched my hand back quickly, and looked behind him. There were no more
customers waiting. In fact the shop was nearly empty as it was almost closing time.
He was still there. ‘You’ve got it bad, haven’t you?’ His look was almost sympathetic.
‘I don’t what you mean.’ My tone was icy.
‘He’s not interested, you know.’
‘The Frenchman. You’re wasting your time.’ Zach grabbed his shopping bag. I would
have exploded if I hadn’t been at work and in a public place. Instead I tried to put every gram of
cold anger into my look. ‘Well, please don’t let me waste yours.’
I had the satisfaction of seeing Zach redden, but his words took some of that pleasure
away. ‘Don’t worry. Babe, I’m not that desperate.’ He turned and swaggered, there was no
other word for it, out the sliding doors.
I had gone through about twenty emotions in the last five minutes, most of them
unpleasant and most of them due to Zach Mills. Who the hell did he think he was? What
business was it of his who I liked? But, I wondered, was it really that obvious how I felt about
André? And why couldn’t he look at me the way I’d seen Zach once (maybe twice) almost look
at me? Life, I decided, was very unfair.
After closing time, I sorted out my till and went into the small room at the back where
the staff kept their things.
I liked working at the local IGA. Bob, our boss, was good as bosses go, the staff was easy
to get along with and I could live at home, which certainly helped my meagre savings. Mum and
Dad had been disappointed I hadn’t gone to uni, especially as I had received an OP under 10,
but the trouble was I didn’t know what I wanted to do — except go to France. So, I’d taken a
gap year, well several actually. But life, a few parties and a busy social life had pretty much
taken care of the first couple of years. Then, my boyfriend got transferred in his job to another
state and our relationship, which hadn’t been that serious anyway, went with him. That’s when
André Le Blanc had come to town, and saving for France became once again my top priority.
Derek, who worked in the fish and deli section, was also grabbing his jacket in the back
room. ‘Hey, Beth, some of us are going to Bart’s tonight — if you’re free.’
I considered. I was friendly with most of the staff and we often went out for a few drinks
or a meal. Bart’s was a popular bar, where they served meals and even had a dance floor you
could shuffle around if you wanted to. It didn’t look as if I had any other plans for tonight. ‘Sure.
‘About eight. You need a lift or anything? I’m the designated driver tonight.’ Derek
grimaced. We often took turns at that. I considered my unreliable Fiesta.
‘Sounds good. My car wouldn’t start the other night, so yes, I’d be glad to get a ride.’
‘You really should get another car. I know this isn’t Sydney or Melbourne, but it’s not
safe for a girl to be in a car like that, even here.’ Derek was sweet, but seriously, a bit dull. At
twenty‐five he had the beginnings of a double chin. By the time he was thirty he’d be general
manager of the store, married and with 2.5 children. I liked him, but he represented everything
I wanted to escape from in this town. There was absolutely nothing between us. He was a good
mate and that was all.
I smiled at him. ‘Tell me about it. But I’m saving at the moment.’
‘Yeah, I know, for France.’ There was something about the way he said it that reminded
me of Zach.
‘Yes, for France,’ I snapped, grabbing my bag.
He held up his hands. ‘No offence. I know it’s your dream.’
My temper cooled. This was not arrogant, know it all Zach; this was sweet, dependable
Derek, who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
‘Sorry, I didn’t mean to snap at you. Just a bit tired.’ I headed out the door to the car
park at the back.
‘No worries. See you tonight,’ he called as I left the building.
A shower, one slice of reheated pizza and half a glass of chardy later, I felt much better.
The embarrassment of Zach seeing me trying to attract André’s attention was starting to fade. I
surveyed my wardrobe. Just friends tonight, so no stress. I selected my second best pair of
jeans and a pink V‐neck top that complemented, I thought, my auburn hair. (I was a bit
sensitive to people calling it red). I slipped into a pair of wedged heels that gave me height and
comfort — two for the price of one. I was a shoe person. I had to admit that some of my
purchases over the years had put a dent in the savings account. But this year I had been very
good. I only bought shoes when they were on sale — seriously.
I was all ready by the time I heard Derek’s tentative knock. His clean‐shaven face
beamed at me when I opened the door.
THE VIRGINITY MISSION
BY CATE ELLINK
RELEASE DATE: 06/2013
IMPRINT: ESCAPE PUBLISHING
An erotic new adult romance about old insecurities, new beginnings, and the things you can get up to in a tent…
It’s lust at first sight when Mac sees Jason shirtless and sweating on the back of a truck. Jason is the army sergeant assigned to support the six week scientific expedition that Mac is participating in, and might just be the perfect candidate for another journey of discovery that Mac is desperate to undertake — sex.
Fraternisation between students and staff might be strictly prohibited, but everybody knows fruit always tastes better when it’s forbidden.
We’re leaving for our trip, loaded up and weighed down. Going into the rainforest
with a bunch of strangers is not for the faint hearted, or anyone with paranoia, or even too
much imagination. I’ve fought a lot of fears to be here. Not only my own but all the fears
that my parents, younger brother, sisters and friends have for me. I keep Jason’s advice at
the forefront of my mind—well not just his advice.
On the morning we leave, he waves us off. I’m sure he is only saying goodbye to Tim
until he brushes against my shoulder and whispers, “Chin up.” My chin flicks right up and a
smile fills my face. His ‘good luck’ call as we leave is followed by a wink for me. My stomach
leaps and spins. I don’t think it’s only Tim he came to see. There’s no way I’m going to fail.
That wink will keep me company through any hardship. I wish I had the chance to tell him
but maybe when we get back.
We walk all day, finding a rhythm that suits us all. As feared, I’m Tail‐End Charlie but
fortunately I’m not three miles behind everyone. Today is easy walking, not much different
to bushwalking around Victoria. We reach the edge of the rainforest by nightfall, which is
farther than our daily target.
Our food choices are good, so far. We all agreed that food’s more important than
excess shelter. We’ve skimped on sleeping arrangements, bringing just two tent flies and
the outer covers to string over us rather than full tents. We each have sleeping bags. This
first night determines we’re right. We need cover in the rainforest—cover from rain and
also cold. It’s much cooler at altitude than at base camp. The tent flies are adequate but
being on the end of the row of sleeping people is cold. On the first morning, we make a pact
that no one will sleep on the edges for more than one night so a shifting sleeping allocation
is devised. We’ll stick to this plan for the next six weeks.
It takes a bit of getting used to new people; well, I take time to get to know others.
Some people walk into a room and feel happy with the crowd. I feel uncomfortable until I
find someone I connect with. If I don’t connect with anyone I drift. In this group I drift.
Belinda’s a giggly fun girl but with her sights set on Ed. If I hang around with her too much, I
cramp her style. Annie and I often walk together. Neither of us says much as we’re both
quiet people. The boys jostle for position. Harry, being the youngest, has the lowest position
and he can’t change that. Ed is challenged constantly by either Sam or Damien. The
presence of Tim changes the dynamic subtly and there’s less jostling for top position. Maybe
he subtly sides with Ed, or reinforces the leader’s authority, which means Sam and Damien
have no chance of ousting the leader. I’m not sure how he influences it but the dynamic
The second day out, I’m surprisingly refreshed considering sleep was a while coming in
the pitch darkness. When it’s totally dark, sounds are magnified. When you’re camping with
strangers, every sound is foreign. Sam’s snoring is annoying, Belinda talks in her sleep and
I’m not comfortable wedged between Sam and Harry. I’m not used to sharing my sleeping
space so intimately and there’s something about being asleep next to others that stirs my
sleep into restlessness. And then there’s Jason haunting my thoughts. Does he snore?
Would he annoy me when he slept or would I curl into his body, soak up his warmth and
feel a deep sated pleasure from being close to him? If I was near him, would I be able to
sleep? The night brings me visions of him—his deep cocoa eyes, his moist kissed lips, the
bulging muscles of his shoulders. It’s a wonder I was able to sleep at all.
Throughout the day I mostly walk alone at the end. The rainforest is dense so it’s easy
to follow where we’ve cut and pushed through it. Right now I’m walking with Tim and we’re
out of the rainforest and on a dirt road, probably a logging track. He’s dropped back to keep
me company I guess. The guys seem to take turns at doing that every few hours. It doesn’t
annoy me too much but I wish I could keep up. I hope Tim doesn’t want too much of a
conversation because I’m using all my breath to keep up the pace the others set.
“How are you going, Mac?”
“A bit slow, I’m afraid.” I puff my response between strides as we route march up the
dirt road scaling a hill. This road is luxury walking so we’re pushing a good speed. According
to the map we can follow the road before we cut back into the rainforest.
“Just stick to the pace you can do. Don’t bust yourself.”
“I know, I have weeks of this to survive.” I’m tired, trying not to be crabby, but I can’t
help it. I know what I have to do to keep up and keep my dignity.
“You’re doing okay. Don’t worry about it.” Tim’s pep talk is survivable. Not enough to
embarrass me, just enough to keep me going. Jason would be the same. Well, from my chat
with him I guess he is.
We march in silence before I work up the breath to speak. “You don’t have to slow
yourself down by waiting for me.”
“I want to chat to you. I’m not slumming it at the end you know.” Tim grins. He has a
face that breaks into a smile easily, like he’s meant to be happy.
“Why’d you want to chat with me?” Stupid question. I know as soon as it’s out of my
mouth but it slipped out before I could stop it.
“You always this prickly?” Again, the smile softens the question and I don’t mind
“Only when I’m route marching up a whopping great hill, my calves screaming at me,
and I’m dying of thirst.”
“Then stop and we’ll drink.”
I shake my head. “I might not start again. I’ll survive. Keep going. We’re bound to stop
But Tim isn’t accepting my excuse. He wrestles my drink bottle from the side pouch of
my backpack and thrusts it into my hands. I walk and sip the blessed water before screwing
the cap back on. “Do you want some?” He shakes his head and returns my drink bottle to
He slips his bottle from his belt and sips. “It’s much easier when you can grab it
I have one of those belts—at base camp. I didn’t think I’d need it.
Somewhat replenished of moisture, if not breath, the conversation picks up. We have
things in common, which surprises me. Of all the people to find the most connection with, I
didn’t expect it to be the army guys. I don’t know why. I think it’s because of the way
everyone avoids them, whispers about their reputations, and the warning to steer clear of
them. I should never listen to rumours.
Tim finally asks the question I’ve been expecting. “So what’s with you and Jason?”
Luckily I’ve had time to plan my response. I pretend to be coolly unaffected. No
fraternisation. “Nothing’s with us. We spoke a couple of times.”
“He doesn’t speak to people as a rule.”
I stop short. My legs will not respond to my brain. What does he mean, Jason doesn’t
talk to people? Why has he gone out of his way to speak to me? He seemed more than
capable of speaking when we chatted, unlike me.
“Mac, you coming?” Tim’s about five paces ahead of me and turns with concern
etched into his face. “What’s up?”
I huff the five paces to catch up to him and keep walking, putting one foot in front of
the other. “What do you mean he doesn’t speak to people?”
“Just that. I’ve been in his company for almost a year now. He bitched unendingly
about having to do this duty. He drilled us with the rules. And then I see him down the
creek, sitting with you, chatting away as if you’re old friends. I’ve never seen him relax with
“I’m not that strange.” I grin but Tim isn’t letting me fob him off.
“He voluntarily spoke to you, didn’t he?”
I shrug not quite sure what to say. He didn’t seem to have any trouble talking. I blush
at the memory of my own problems with speaking. Maybe that’s why he spoke—he felt
sorry for me. “Are you saying he’s shy?” I wonder if that’s the reason for Tim’s comment.
Tim’s sudden burst of amusement makes me feel a fool. “You spent almost an hour
talking to him and you’re asking me if he’s shy? Didn’t you get that impression?”
I frown, thinking back to our conversation. “No. He ripped into me about being a wuss.
Told me to get out here and bust a gut proving I could do this.”
It’s Tim’s turn to stop in his tracks and look dumbfounded.
“What?” I ask, twisting my head to make sure he starts walking again. He does.
“Wow. You must have hit a raw nerve. He doesn’t dish out advice. How on earth did
that come up?”
“I don’t know.” I shrug and try to explain without showing my foolishness. “He asked
how I was doing and caught me at a weak moment. I told him I wasn’t doing so well.” I look
at Tim. “Did he ask you to keep an eye on me? Is that why you’re here?”
“No. I wanted to come and meet you for myself. I wanted to find out how you knew
ashim, see who you were.”
BY SARAH DALTRY
RELEASE DATE: 12/2013
IMPRINT: ESCAPE PUBLISHING
For fans of dark urban fantasy comes a novel that questions why forbidden fruit is always the most tempting...
A vampire-themed masquerade party isn’t really her scene, but Nora is sick of frat parties and bars. When she meets Alec, the appeal suddenly becomes clear. It’s obvious that they’ve been struck by the same intense mutual attraction, but Alec keeps his distance. Intrigued despite herself, Nora pushes a little deeper — and discovers Alec’s unimaginable secret...
Nora is not afraid of following Alec into the darkness, but the choice is soon taken from her. Someone is hunting her — someone tied to the secret and desperate to see it play out. But when Nora finally meets her aggressor, she finds herself hopelessly drawn to him. She needs to make a choice between the two men, but can she save them both, knowing one is destined to die?
Eventually, I can’t take the sitting around and staring at walls so I walk to the church, even
if I am early. Keeping moving stabilizes my thinking. I don’t tell anyone where I am going which
is probably a stupid idea, but I don’t want to hear Henry rant about some age‐old story or
Scarlet lecture me about being safe. Instead, I just want to lose myself in Alec and let the rest
fall into place as it will.
The church looks different tonight. The light is lower since the moon is no longer full and,
without a party bringing life to the place, I almost let superstition and all this talk of danger hold
me back. However, when I see Alec standing on the church steps, I move forward, lured by
something beyond me. He is also early; I smile to myself, feeling pretty badass that this
demigod is as anxious to see me as I have been all day. He is dressed like a reasonable person
tonight, in a pea coat and corduroys. Maybe winter is catching up to him as well. Every time I
look at him, I wonder how I was lucky enough to meet him, to have him choose me. My body
reacts as I get closer and I decide that I will have him tonight.
Nothing changes each time I see Alec; I can’t resist him. When he faces me, the green in
his eyes turns me into a weak‐willed damsel in need of saving.
My mind flashes to another pair of eyes, deep blue ones hidden by silver. I don’t know
what it is about these two guys; it goes beyond their looks. There’s something between us that
links us to each other across time.
Pushing thoughts of his brother out of my mind, I greet Alec with a kiss. His lips taste
sweet and I want to keep kissing him. He cuts the kiss short, however, and takes my hand in his
‘You came,’ he says, half questioning and half impressed.
‘I did. I told you I would follow you anywhere. Although, a cold case from half a century
‘It’s not cold. Everyone knows what happened.’
‘Fine. But what does that have to do with anything? Also, why is your brother hunting me
down to offer sinister and vague warnings about your death?’
He clutches my hand and his face, already pale, grows somehow paler. ‘My brother found
‘Yes, but what’s going on, Alec? Some guy killed his brother years ago, some guy who
looks like Caleb, and — ’
‘Not looks like. Is. Charles is Caleb.’
Silence worms its way between us but I have no response. I wonder if there was more in
the drinks at that party, given how odd everyone is acting. First Chloe, then Henry, and now
Alec. He’s standing here, trying to make me believe his brother is — what? Over 100‐years‐old?
What is even stranger is that a part of my brain believes him. Logic is fighting to regain
control over my emotions, but something inside of me feels as if this is all finally starting to fall
into place. I fight that feeling, because, well, I’m not insane.
‘Nora, listen to me. Please.’
‘Alec, you’re hot. Like crazy hot. But there’s crazy hot and just plain crazy. So how old is
Caleb? 100? Yet he still looks 20? Drinks a lot of milk, does he?’
‘Blood,’ he whispers. I stare at him. I promised not to walk away, not to avoid the
darkness, but I thought he was trying to be mysterious. As attractive as he is, I can forgive the
capped teeth, but believing his brother is a vampire who killed someone in the 1960s? This is
the real ‘time to walk away’ moment.
Somehow, though, I don’t move. Again a piece of me whispers that he is right; just as
Henry and I discussed, it seems like my life has all been a lie until now, as if this was my destiny.
The cold stone of the wall of the church presses against my back but I don’t fight it as Alec
pushes closer to me and tilts his head back.
‘Nora, look,’ he says and he reveals his fangs. I reach a fingertip out and prick it on the
sharpness of one of them.
‘Ouch,’ I say as a small amount of blood forms on my finger.
‘The masquerade…you may all have been pretending, but me and my brother? Well, we
are hunting someone.’
‘Yes, a woman. She has eluded us since our time in Oxford. I have been looking for — an
answer. You and your friends seem to think this life is erotic, fantastical, but it is exhausting. I
can only be killed so many times — I need to break this curse, stop this cycle. And now, with
you, the need grows even more urgent.’
‘What are you?’ I ask. He holds me close and I try to believe that it isn’t perfectly right.
Whatever Alec’s story is, I know now that I’ll hear him out and I will become a part of it. I have
been waiting to meet him; I just didn’t know it.
‘You would likely call us vampires,’ he says, ‘although we are not exactly vampires as your
legends tell of us. We are immortal, and we survive on human blood, but it is only the blood of
the willing — and always women.’
‘Oh, what the hell?’ I complain. ‘I finally meet this dreamy guy and he‘s either insane or he
is going around drinking other women’s blood. Is it so much to ask to just find a hot guy and
have a little fun?’
‘You’re taking this very well,’ he says, but there is curiosity in his eyes.
‘I can’t walk away,’ I admit. ‘I want to. In fact, my mind is screaming that you’re crazy, that
this is ridiculous. But I can’t move. You are meant for me and I can’t deny it. The second you
touched me at the party, I knew I was home. ’
Alec leans down and kisses me. He is desperate and aggressive, not the considerate lover
he has been, but a hungry and needy animal. There is no fear in me, only an equally matched
passion, and I fall back into his arms as he moves up and down along my neck and chest. I think
we’re going to make love right here against the entranceway to the church, but he steps back,
his fangs disappearing, and he sighs.
Grabbing my hand, he leads me into the church. Empty, it is no longer a portal to a fantasy
world from a book; instead, it is an eerie entrance into something I realise is darker than I
anticipated. We move to one of the pews and the velvet cushion sinks under me as I sit, Alec
sitting beside me.
‘My brother and I, we are old,’ he says. ‘Older than man almost. From the beginning.
Many of your myths are lacking creativity, but we do survive on passion. It was passion that
brought us to what turned us, and it is passion that sustains us. If I stop, the price is too great.
Yet all I want is the feeling of something that lasts. When you live forever, you realise how
transient everything truly is. Immortality is a tricky thing. I have died enough to know that at
‘You’ve died? But isn’t — I mean, isn’t that kind of the opposite of immortality?’
‘I don’t die as you die. I just start again. Sometimes it takes days, sometimes years, but
eventually, the peace is broken and the cycle resumes.’
‘So you and Caleb have been dying and “resuming” forever?’
‘He doesn’t die. I die.’
‘Oh, I mean, that makes sense,’ I say.
‘It does,’ he says. ‘It’s my destiny to die.’
‘Why can’t he die? Shake it up a bit?’
‘Because he cannot. There is a great deal to our story and perhaps I will tell you someday,
but suffice it to say that we each play a role. And you are interfering because now that I have
met you, I don’t want to die. I really don’t want to die, Nora.’
‘You can resume, though? So, I wouldn’t really lose you.’
‘It’s more complicated — and this form of me, the one that you love — he does not want
to die while you are in his life. What if it’s ten years? For me, that may be nothing, but for you…’
His voice breaks my heart and I hold his face in my hands. ‘You won’t die,’ I tell him. ‘I’m
not easilyfrightened and I won’t let you.’
‘You can’t stop fate,’ he whispers.
‘It’s a good thing I don’t believe in fate,’ I say and kiss him lightly. He backs away again,
‘The point is, Nora, I don’t want you to suffer. I will die, even if you don’t want to hear it.
The bigger concern is that, when I have fallen in love in the past, it has ended badly. Terribly. If
my brother were to get to you…’
‘I don’t resume,’ I reply.
‘Can you make me a vampire then?’ I ask.
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