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In the grey edge between light and dark lives a world unseen. That elusive edge is called The Gloaming.
Venture with three of Samhain’s most talented authors to that edge and beyond, where dwells danger, magic—and love.
Abhainn’s Kiss – Carolan Ivey lures you beyond the mists where a fragile Faery and has just one chance to restore Avalon to its former glory. Trouble is, her success—and her life—depends on a human man who doesn’t believe in Faery tales.
The Heron’s Call – Enter Isabo Kelly’s fantasy world, in which a sword mage returns from an ordeal to claim his soul twin, only to find out she wants nothing to do with him.
Thief of Hearts – Steal away to J.C. Wilder’s shadowy futuristic, where honor among professional thieves could make a woman’s career, or once again break her heart.
Warning, this title contains the following: hanging-from-the-chandeliers sex, graphic language, violence, light bondage, cool swordfighting, unruly Faeries, and did we mention hot sex?
Stories also available individually as ebooks!
The girl within the circle sat with her back to him, motionless as the stones that sheltered her. Something about that hair, hanging loose but riddled with tiny braids… Maybe he had seen her before on one of his previous buying trips to Ireland.
Perhaps if he saw her face, her name would come to him.
Deep inside, the boy that had long ago fallen asleep under the demands of adulthood now stirred, pushing and shoving at a thick, heavy barrier that seemed to blanket his memory on all sides. His head throbbed with the effort.
She remained still, as if she had not heard him. Somehow reluctant to enter the circle, he skirted along the outer rim, focusing on the curve of her cheek as it came into view. The upturned nose. His gaze dropped, startled, to the curve of breast that showed clearly under the plain green fabric of the dress she wore. This was no child. He moved his gaze up to her eyes, an impossible color of green that…
…blinked slowly, wide with terror. For the first time, he noticed the panicked sound of her breathing.
Michael blinked hard, but her image wavered, as if surrounded by heat waves off a hot pavement. Suddenly she clamped her hands over her ears and cried out.
“Hey!” He dropped his rucksack and took a few steps toward her.
The hairs stood up on the back of his neck. From between the stones appeared what looked like a garden gnome gone bad. Brown and squatty, with stick-like arms and twiggy fingers that clutched a primitive bow and arrow. Its black marble eyes met his, and it leered a smile that didn’t improve its looks. Michael froze in his tracks and stared it.
“What the hell are you?”
It didn’t answer, but nocked the wicked-looking black arrow, aimed it a Michael’s chest…then swung it toward the woman. Michael launched himself toward her, eyes riveted to the tip of the arrow, which dripped some nasty looking green goop.
The woman gave a strange, watery gasp as he closed his hands over her shoulders and shoved her down.
Michael rolled, grunting as his body impacted the rocky ground. The arrow whined past him to crack harmlessly against another standing stone, with a sound that oddly resembled a yelp of pain.
The ugly garden ornament took off down the hill on spidery legs, surprisingly fast for something that barely reached Michael’s waist. It breathed hard, a noise somewhere between a stuffed-up Pug and a coughing hog.
“Stay down!” Without looking back, Michael took off after the creature, fury pounding in his ears so loud that a splash of water behind him rarely registered.
It was a short chase. A hundred yards down the hill, the creature slipped through a break in a drystone wall. By the time Michael caught up, the thing had vanished down a hole, its snorting breath echoing from somewhere far below.
“Damn,” he muttered.
Pain stung the pack of his hand, and he glanced down, flexing it. Blood oozed from a long straight scratch. That arrow must have nicked him.
That’s just great. No telling what was on the tip. Already, a sickly shiver rippled across his skin. Ignoring it, he launched himself back up the hill, concerned the arrow might have nicked the woman, too. Tiny as she was, a miniscule amount of the stuff could harm her.
The late morning sun beat down on the back of his neck, humidity plastering his shirt to his body. Gaining the top of the rise, he jogged through the stones and halted just inside the circle.
She was gone.
Michael searched, dodging in and out among the stones. He ended up standing near the center, still alone, his heart racing.
A faint voice called from down the slope. “Abhainn!”
The word tugged ferociously at the thick barrier covering his memory, but still let no light of recognition through. Far down the slope, an older, greyer woman stood in the whitewashed doorway of a neat, thatched cottage, shading her eyes from the sun.
Another shiver ran under his skin, and his mouth went dry. The ground tilted, just enough to send him backward a step, and his ears began to buzz. He looked down at his hand. Swollen, already twice its normal size.
He turned in a slow, careful circle, trying to find the rucksack he’d dropped earlier, which held his water supply and first aid kit. But his eyes wouldn’t quite focus. Sun on water flashed near his feet. Blue, then gold. Dropping to his knees, he crawled toward it.
He plunged his injured hand in first, seeking to cool the fire burning under the skin. Instantly, warmth spread through his body, chasing away the shiver and quieting the buzz in his ears. He took a deep breath and sat back on his heels, examining his hand with interest as the swelling deflated and the seeping cut sealed on its own.
He rubbed the water experimentally between his fingers and paused. Had the water just sighed?
He shook his head and leaned forward again to scoop some in his hands. It smelled of fresh rain and soothed his parched lips. He closed his eyes in relief and opened his mouth to drink.
He felt pressure against his mouth, entirely too soft for the roughness of his work-hardened hands and too firm for mere water.
And it moved against his palms, just like the jaw line of a woman.
Warm breath, like a woman’s sigh, caressed his lips. He opened his eyes and lifted his head.
There, cupped in his hands, was an elfin face framed in wild, white-gold hair. Eyes the color of sun on green water, wide with wonder, glowed above her slightly open mouth, still wet from his kiss.
A similar face leaped up from his memory, though still unnamed. It was pale and child-round; the one before him now was contoured with womanhood, though not much larger. The only feature virtually unchanged was her mouth, a study in curves and naturally upturned at the corners, which made her look like she was always on the verge of blurting some delicious secret.
She sat just as he had seen her before he’d taken off after the ugly lawn gnome—in the center of the stone circle, as if she’d never left it. Before he could think about how she’d gotten there, she reached up to touch his hair, reverently, as if it were he who had suddenly appeared before her, instead of the other way around. Her lips moved.
The Heron’s Call
Rowena fumed as the bulky sword mage glided along next to her, not taking any notice of her anger. She couldn’t believe he was here. After twelve years! And he thought they could start up again where they’d left off? Not in this lifetime, Kael.
Her traitorous body wasn’t cooperating very well, though. She was so needy, so weak-kneed as his scent filled her, she could barely walk straight. He had changed some over the years. His frame filled out with thick cords of muscles. His jaw was harder, more sharply defined, and faint creases framed his beautiful green eyes and firm mouth. But his face was still stunningly gorgeous, maybe more so now, with the hard cut of life etched into it. And his more mature, thickly muscled body did outrageous things to her libido. She tried to blame her earlier dream for the frantic pull of lust, but she knew better. Like it or not, deny it or not, Kael was her raynei and her body wanted his.
Her heart, on the other hand, was still too bruised from his rejection twelve years ago. She wasn’t about to risk that pain again.
She forced herself to study the trail, her surroundings. They needed a place to rest. And she needed some space.
The appearance of the mercenaries so early in her journey only proved how determined Dorjan was to keep the Valen horse clan’s oracle. The poor oracle had probably told him a sword sworn was on the way. It didn’t matter. Rowena knew her approach wouldn’t be a surprise.
She also knew she couldn’t fight Dorjan’s wizard. The priestesses had given her as much protection as they could. But it wouldn’t be enough. On missions like this, she envied her mother the mage sword, Ba’nari. Ba’nari blocked magic. With Ba’nari in Rowena’s hands, nothing the wizard threw at her would matter. But Ba’nari refused to leave Kellyn until Kellyn’s death, and because Rowena loved her mother, she was happy Ba’nari was still in her possession.
She sighed and studied the scarce trees lining the rutted road. Not much cover, but the night was clear, the stars bright. Anywhere would be as good as anywhere else. She was tired now. The rush of adrenaline from the fight, the sudden appearance of her erstwhile raynei, the loss of sleep over the past week left a toll on her body. She needed rest. When they neared a grassy clump, she stopped.
“I’ll bed down here. Feel free to go somewhere else. In fact, please go somewhere else.” She ignored Kael’s raised brow, his sardonic expression. She dropped her pack on the grass and pulled out her bedroll and blanket. When the pallet was made, she hit the release on her chest for the strap holding her scabbard across her back, set scabbard and sword next to her makeshift bed and crawled under the blanket. She wrapped a hand around the hilt of her sword, letting its familiar touch give her comfort. Then she closed her eyes, trying her best to ignore the still looming Heron.
And because of her exhaustion, she succeeded in ignoring him for all of three seconds. Then he moved, sitting on the grass next to her. A moment later, she felt the heat of a fire. She frowned, glanced at the glowing ball hovering just in front of Kael. With a grunt that could have been interpreted as a thank you if he were feeling generous, she turned her back on him and his magical fire and shut her eyes.
She had to suppress a moan when he stretched out behind her and spooned up against her back. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, but her voice sounded breathy, not dismissive as she’d intended.
“Keeping you warm.” His hot breath brushed across her neck, making her shiver.
“I’m not cold.”
Damn. How did she explain the trembling without admitting her desire? “I can’t sleep like this,” she said instead.
“Then we’ll find something else to do to pass the night.”
His hand slid across her waist. The feel of his big palm spanning her stomach, his thumb nearly touching the underside of one breast, made her entire body flush with hot need. Gods, he felt fantastic.
“Rowena,” he groaned into her hair, and the hand on her stomach flexed, inching lower.
Oh no. She lurched up and scrambled a few feet from the pallet. This was not going to happen. Not now. Not ever. She’d rather die a virgin. Even if the very idea pissed her off as much as anything else Kael had ever done. “I told you no,” she hissed, backing farther away as he eased into a sitting position. “I don’t want you.”
She spun around and stalked off into the trees. She hadn’t gotten more than a few feet before she remembered her sword. Still cursing she returned to the bed roll, snatched up her weapon and stomped away again, ignoring the look in Kael’s beautiful green eyes—a combination of amusement, confusion and hurt she didn’t care to know about.
She strapped her scabbard onto her back absently as she wandered in the dark. She kept near the road, using the dusty track to avoid getting lost. She could feel Kael anyway, so she wasn’t worried about going too far. Her biggest worry was going back.
Years of hurt welled up and clogged her throat. Twelve years! She’d been young when they met, only fourteen, but she’d been positive Kael was her raynei. At the time, she couldn’t have been happier. He was tall, handsome, a gifted smith of the famous sword mages, the Heron, he was nice and sexy. And he gave her a sense of safety. Like nothing in the world would ever hurt her so long as he was near.
So much for that fantasy.
She rubbed a spot on her chest beneath the cross strap of her scabbard. She hadn’t been prepared to see him again. Now her emotions were all over the place. She didn’t know how to deal with his presence. Especially when she had a mission. A woman’s life, an oracle’s life, depended on her. And like it or not, to save the woman Rowena needed the blasted Heron’s help. But how could she spend the next few weeks of travel with him when she could barely stand to be around him for a few minutes?
Thief of Hearts
Chase couldn’t believe his eyes or his luck when he’d spied the figure on the second-story balcony. It had to be Harper, as he’d recognize her mouthwatering ass anywhere. He dropped his slim cigar to the floor then ground it out with his heel. No other second-story pro would have the balls to break into a house while the owners, one hundred and fifty party guests and a legion of security guards were in residence. His gaze skimmed the shadowy figure. And to top it all off she was wearing a sexy evening dress guaranteed to slay a man with one glance at those neck-to-floor legs of hers.
How well he remembered those legs.
Chase held his breath when she opened the French doors and slipped into the office. It would appear that the beautiful thief was going to do all the hard work for him this evening.
With the grace of a ballet dancer, he climbed onto the balcony rail of the guest suite and made the leap to the office balcony. His gloved hands connected with the railing and he pulled himself up with ease.
He was pleased to see Harper still had the same, deft touch with locks that she’d been known for. Houdini had been a legend in second-story work though he’d heard she’d retired more than a year ago. He dropped to a crouch before the doors to peer inside through a narrow slit in the drapes. It would seem the stories of her retirement had been greatly exaggerated.
His former lover stood over the desk with a laser light tucked behind her ear as she searched the drawers. Her movements were economical, swift yet efficient. She moved through each drawer, her search thorough, yet she took great care to not disturb the contents of the desk.
What was she looking for?
Her task completed, she rose and her gloved hands were empty. She stood for a moment, her gaze fixed on a painting behind the desk. She slid her fingers along the bottom of the frame, it swung to the side to reveal a safe.
Now, that’s what I’m talking about.
She was hard at work on the safe when Chase reached for the door handle. Rising, he held his breath as he slipped into the room, counting on the fact she’d be too immersed in opening the safe to notice his arrival.
It wasn’t hard to detect the differences between the Harper he’d known and the woman standing before him. In the past she could’ve opened this safe in a matter of moments and that was with her eyes closed. Now, she labored over the task like a master painter would over his latest work.
In their line of business, being slow increased the chances of getting caught and she’d definitely been caught this time.
He slipped out from behind the curtains, his gaze still focused on the beautiful thief. Her posture was tense though she seemed to be completely unaware of his presence. In the past he’d never have managed to sneak up on her. It seemed Harper had been in retirement just long enough to lose her edge.
If it were possible, she’d grown more beautiful in the past five years. Her black hair was contained in a complicated twist on the back of her head leaving the length of her slim neck exposed. He’d always loved that part of her anatomy. There was something undeniably erotic about the bare curve of a woman’s neck.
She wore gloves and a long-sleeved black dress that clung to her tight, athletic frame. The skirt was short, ending several inches above her knees, but it was her legs that had his mouth watering. Long, shapely and clad in sheer black stockings, Harper had the most amazing legs and he well remembered the feel of them wrapped around his waist as he’d taken her beneath him. Bemoaning her mere five feet, five inches, she’d always worn stiletto heels and he was quite pleased to see she’d retained that particular habit. His woman hadn’t changed completely—
His chest went curiously tight. Five years ago she’d thought she’d caught him in a compromising position. Without giving him a chance to explain, she’d packed her bag and walked out of his life. He rubbed his hand over his chest. If she hadn’t come home early that day, if Susan hadn’t come by in the midst of an emotional meltdown, if he hadn’t held her as she’d cried and been more on guard when she’d grabbed his face for a passionate kiss, would he and Harper still be together?
The safe opened and she made a soft sound of satisfaction. He glanced down at his watch. Seven minutes. Definitely not as good as the old Harper had been, not by a long shot. He crossed his arms over his chest and adopted a careless stance.
“It’s about time, Harper. My grandmother could’ve opened that safe faster than you and she’s been dead for ten years.”