Friday 28 February 2014

Feature: DOWNBEAT by Mary Hughes


Downbeat (Biting Love, Book 7)
Striking the right note could shatter more than their hearts.
After an attack that slaughtered his family, vampire Dragan Zajicek walled off his heart and went on a sixteen-hundred-year rampage with the bad boys of history. 
Now a rock star of the concert podium and master freelance spy, he’s taken the baton for a small orchestra near Chicago to investigate rumors of a monstrous, undefeatable vampire dubbed the Soul Stealer. 
But it’s the lovely, unassuming Raquel “Rocky” Hrbek who mesmerizes him from the first touch of her luscious lips on her flute.
Rocky, a shy shadow scarred by middle school cruelty, is mystified as to why core-meltingly gorgeous Dragan would notice a mouse like her. As his stolen kisses draw her dangerously close to the edge of her carefully constructed comfort zone, he exposes her secret—she’s investigating the monster herself.
As their quest draws them closer together, the monster zeroes in on the woman Dragan’s rebellious heart tells him is his mate. Now they must find a way to destroy the indestructible before Rocky is utterly consumed. And Chicago is bathed in the blood of innocents.
Warning: Contains a master of seduction and symphonies, an awkward and innocent flutist, small-town humor, heart-stopping action, and an exodus to Iowa. Oh, and the cheese balls are ba-a-ack—and deadlier than ever.

Enjoy the following excerpt for Downbeat:
“May I accompany you, Ms. Hrbek?”
I jumped and nearly tripped. Zajicek caught my wrist to steady me. His fingers were long and slender but amazingly strong—and fiercely warm. Like iron filings to a magnet, my skin aligned instantly to him. Hot sensation juddered through me, knocking me even more off balance. I scrambled to regain my equilibrium, only to have my feet scud into one of the semi-vertical sidewalk stones. My flute bag slipped off my shoulder and nosedived into the crook of my arm, yanking me sideways. I went down.
Powerful arms wrapped around me and saved me from severe pavement burn. The arms were gentle righting me, and I stood in their comforting embrace a moment to get my breath back. A strong heart beat under my cheek. My palms pressed against warm, crisp cotton. The body under the cotton was a solid, cloth-covered cliff, so unlike my own soft limbs. I shivered.
“Are you all right, Ms. Hrbek?” Zajicek’s deep honeyed tones, tinged with amusement, came from somewhere over my head.
“Huh?” Not the snappiest of rejoinders but I was cheek-to-massive-chest with Dragan Zajicek, the posterboy I’d had the hots for half my life.
He was definitely not pasteboard now. The longer I stood there the more I felt. Every ridge of his taut abdomen, the roped muscles of his long thighs, the poke of his belt buckle; they all became alarmingly three-dimensional. His warm breath stirred my hair. Something else stirred too, at hip level…and silent laughter rippled through him.
My brain churned. The intimate way he held me made no sense, but the laughter, well, my clumsiness had lightened the room on more than one occasion.
Then Zajicek’s long fingers slid under my chin, raising my face. His brilliant eyes were shuttered by slumberous lids. I stared in bemusement as his face expanded in my vision…
His lips found mine.
Warm. Smooth. Exciting. “Some Enchanted Evening” sang through my right brain.
My left brain locked up in utter confusion. A man was kissing me. Zajicek was kissing me. The sum of my kissing experience was a slobbery grandmother and a few rushed awkward sexual encounters. I never really saw what the fuss was about. Until Zajicek.
I always thought kisses were simply the press of lips. His mouth didn’t simply anything. It rubbed, it tasted, it gently teased. Warm, velvety soft, his tongue began to explore.
I stood there in stupefied awe.
Until he murmured against my lips, “How clumsy you are, Ms. Hrbek. How very fortunate I was here to catch you.”
He thought I’d done it on purpose.
I struggled out of his embrace. He was slow letting go, his fingers firm on my arms. 
With a little tilt of his head, he perused me. Whatever he saw on my face made him release me with an extravagant sigh. “I beg your pardon. Apparently I misread your…desires.”
I flushed, because he hadn’t misread my “desires” at all. Just my intentions. I jerked my flute bag onto my shoulder and started determinedly toward my car, fiercely watching my feet on the uneven sidewalk. “No biggie. What did you want, Maestro?”
Long legs kept graceful pace with me. “Call me Dragan, please. Maestro is so overused.”
His first name? It implied an intimacy I couldn’t afford. “You call me Ms. Hrbek.”
“Yes, but perhaps you would allow me the familiarity of your first name as well?” His tone was coaxing.
I skewed a look at him, immediately returning my attention to the stones, although I was beginning to think Zajicek was more treacherous than my footing. “If you want. After all, you’ll be seeing us weekly for a while.”
“Perhaps you and I will be seeing a great deal more of each other, hmm?”
Yikes. My stomach flipped, my attention disintegrated and the elevated corner of a concrete slab cold-cocked my foot. I tripped and would have fallen again if not for Zajicek’s lightning reflexes. He caught me in his arms, steadying me. Senses reeling, I let him, my forebrain scolding idiot but my lizard brain panting and presenting its tail. Before I could completely self-combust, he brushed a thumb over my cheek and released me.
“What do you mean by that?” I croaked. Catching my flute bag to my chest, I wheeled and trotted off, fast, too fast, almost running, nearly stumbling yet again. Making a conscious effort to slow down, I cleared my throat. “Why would you see more of me than any other orchestra member?”
“I am staying in Meiers Corners for the duration of Mr. Banger’s recovery. That is what I wished to discuss with you. I have only just arrived in the area. I’d like to follow you home this evening.”
Dragan Zajicek in all his powerful, elegant glory, driving behind me? My internal meter was pinging red alert, core meltdown imminent. “You don’t need to. I can tell you how to go. It’s not that far.”
“Perhaps. But it’s late and I would not wish to become lost.”
I opened my mouth to say no, heard my voice say, “Oka—” and snapped my jaw shut so fast teeth sparked. Problem was, I liked being with him—which, considering I was practically wearing my heart on my sleeve, was dangerous. What if he found out his kiss was the first real one of my life, and had utterly demolished me?
“Ms. Hrbek?”
He was politely waiting for an answer. Politely, as if the whole of my pitiful ego wasn’t in the balance.
I tried to see it from his point of view. The man wanted help getting around. A few directions, not my soul. Simple neighborliness would do. I breathed deep, and managed to rasp out, “Sure. No problem, Mr. Zajicek.”
He smiled and slipped his arm around mine. “Dragan, please.” His hip bumped against my side as we walked.
My respiration rate shot through the roof. I gritted my teeth. Simple neighborliness, yeah, right. Like your basic neighborhood raging inferno. “Okay. First names. I’m Rocky.”
“Rocky? That’s a boy’s name.”
“It’s a nickname,” I admitted.
“Ah. And your real name?”
Yes. My “real” name.
My friend, Nixie Emerson, once told me names have power. In her case, she went by her kicky middle name instead of “Dietlinde”, her dull-as-dust first. For her, that was appropriate. Nixie was short and punk and smart as a whip—and as smart-mouthed too, though she reined it in around her new baby.
In my case though, my “real” name was not appropriate. Anti-appropriate, in fact. My mom named me Raquel, after Raquel Welch, the sex-goddess of the sixties. So while Nixie’s name was right and good, mine was a joke. And considering my nega-love-life, a rather nasty one at that. “Rocky’s good enough, Mr. Zajicek.”
“Dragan,” he murmured, somehow pulling me closer. The heat of his body licked flame-like up my side. I hissed and shifted my flute bag between us, but as a defense it backfired. Zajicek simply plucked the bag from my hands. “Shall I carry that?”
“You don’t have to. No, wait—”
“Nonsense. It is quite light.” He shifted my bag onto his own shoulder, not the one between us. The strap wrapped itself over his muscles like a second skin, and I swear it moaned happily.
Then Zajicek curled one hand around my waist and pulled me so close I could barely breathe. I tried to, really I did. But every tentative inhale brought the scent of him, cotton and sandalwood and burning masculinity. Every movement of my ribcage scraped the side of my breast against his arm, until I was trembling with the need to rub blatantly against him. Every breath drew cool air over my tongue…yikes, I was lolling like a dog in heat.
My glasses fogged up, and I stumbled again.
Both Zajicek’s arms went around me. I felt incredibly clumsy and stupid, making him rescue me continually from my own feet. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Zajicek—”
“Dragan,” he murmured, cupping my chin and lifting my face for another soft kiss. His lips touched mine, his mouth moving in tiny circles as if to warm my skin. He didn’t need to. I was plenty warm already—and a little buzzy.
“You taste wonderful.” His mouth opened and his tongue teased the seam of my lips.
I jumped at the touch but Zajicek held me, so securely I relaxed into his arms. It seemed to be some sort of cue for him to lick me and slide his tongue between my lips, encouraging me to part them.
He asked so nicely, with tiny hot licks. So I did.
The instant my mouth opened he devoured me. His mouth slanted over mine and his jaw dropped. Heat rushed in. I gasped. Shocked and a little scared, I fell back, but he stepped with me, wrapped his arm around my back and trapped me good. He had to bend quite a ways to do it.
My back arched like a bow, my breasts crushed to his chest, my hips to his thighs. Something stirred against my belly, sending a jolt shearing through me. My mouth tingled and my breasts tingled and I was getting really tingly between my legs.
I slid my hands between us to try to wedge open some space. All I succeeded in doing was fitting my palms to the hardest pectorals in the world.
The tingling between my legs was starting to drive me insane.
Zajicek’s mouth left mine to trail licks and nibbles down my jaw to my throat. He nuzzled me there, an odd dark rumble coming from his chest, almost a lion’s purr. “You smell divine. Ah, to taste you fully.” His tongue rasped over my pulse.
Somewhere along the way his hand had found my breast and was kneading and cupping while he sucked gently on the tender skin of my neck until my head spun.
Then his fingers found my raised nipple and plucked.
A thousand Christmas lights went on in my head. I shrieked.

I've worked as everything from a cleaning temp to project manager for global clients. Currently I'm an author, musician, and computer consultant. I live in the United States Midwest with a basement full of spare computer parts and several musical instruments including my husband's romantic cello and my flute for playing bird parts in orchestra...ask me to tell you that story sometime :)


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Thursday 27 February 2014

39 For The Very First Time

Laurie Roma posted this on my Facebook Wall yesterday. HA HA!

Yesterday was my birthday. Wahoo! I've reached the ripe old age of 39. And I'm not trying to be coy - I really am 39. Next year I might be 39 again, but I haven't decided yet.

My husband has an aunt who's been 29 since I met her eighteen years ago. At that point I think she'd already been 29 about fifteen times. Her daughter is now 7 years older than she is. I always thought she was a bit odd, even though I know she's not the only woman who does this. I don't know why we insist on lying about our age. I could understand it when we were 18 and hoping to buy beer or get into a club. My parents are in their early sixties and they'll say they're 65 so they can get the senior's discount. Those things I can understand. But if I were to go around proclaiming that I was 29, everyone would know I was full of shit. Either that or I wasn't aging well and looked much older than my years.

Shh! They'll never know I'm not 29!
(Image from

In June I was transferred to a new work location, and in chatting with my new colleagues, I mentioned that I have a twelve year old son. One of the other women looked at me and said, "Really? You don't look old enough. I thought you were about my age." She's 31. Talk about making my day! I like to think I look younger than I am (and I'm not posting a pic because that might give away my secret identity) but that was a significant difference. 31 is only barely out of your twenties! It helps that I've been lucky enough to avoid  a lot of grey hair. Some friends have been using Nice 'n Easy since their twenties.

Why is it so hard for women to admit their age? I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with the constant bombardment of ads for anti-aging products (which I don't use). Women are just terrified of looking older. You know what scares me about aging? It's not the wrinkles, or the facial hair that seems to be occurring more frequently. It's the fact that I'm not as agile as I used to be. I have aches and pains that I didn't used to have. I worry about losing my mobility or about not being able to play with my grandkids. I worry about my heart, or cancer. Will lying about my age or buying whatever new cream is out there stop those things? Nope.

Hubby's aunt can barely walk. Her health hasn't been good, and saying she's 29 hasn't given her a more youthful mentality. In fact, she acts like she's in her eighties. I really don't understand what she hopes to accomplish. Granted, now that the big 4-0 is right around the corner for me, maybe my attitude will change. I guess we'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to embrace my 39ness, keep an eye on my health, have sex as often as possible, and try not to get stuck in a rut that might lead to a mid-life crisis.

Image from

How about you? Do you lie about your age or are you happy with the number of candles on your cake? I'd love to hear what other people think!

Monday 24 February 2014

Dear Creators of Candy Crush: F$*& YOU

Image by beverlynault WANA Commons


Dear Creators of Candy Crush,

I am a typical woman: wife, mother, writer, employee of a nameless company, cat owner. For a long time, I resisted the Candy Crush fad, but like many good people before me, eventually I succumbed, just because I was looking for something to do one day.

That was the biggest fucking mistake.

At first, the game was easy and fun; amusing for a time. Then, things got more difficult, and that's when I discovered that there were lives I was using up every time I lost! What the fuck? I play Where's My Water and Angry Birds, and they'll let me keep failing miserably over and over until I'm so demoralized I'll hide the phone in disgust.

But when your game told me I couldn't play anymore (unless I paid for more lives of course), I just became that much more determined to show you that I could beat it down. It took an annoyingly long time, but I finally finished the early levels. And then I hit a roadblock. In order to move on, I had to play some frigging mystery quests (and only one every 24 hours? That's fucked up) or pester my friends to help me, or pay to unlock the next episode. Lacking patience to do the mystery quests, and not wanting to piss off my friends with a deluge of game requests, I paid to unlock the next episode. I rationalized it by saying, "It's only $0.99. That's not a lot."

Your candy is sucking all my money!

In my relentless pursuit of beating your damn game, I've probably dumped at least $20 into a FREE app. Plus, you threw out those easy offers: "Play this other game we've got and we'll give you more lives for free!" Fuck. That strategy managed to get me hooked on Farm Heroes Saga and then Pet Rescue Saga, and I ran into the same damn problems with those games!

In addition to the drain on my wallet, you've caused a huge drain on my time. I play the games when I wake up in the morning (because I have full lives again). I play them whenever I get another new life throughout the day. I play while I'm making supper (and let me tell you, my family is getting sick of burnt food). I'm even ashamed to say I've taken the damn phone with me into the bathroom to play while I'm taking a shit. Or even if I'm not taking a shit. I'll just sit there and play away.

I gave in to the temptation to bug my friends because it seemed many of them suffer from the same unfortunate addiction that I have, and now it's a vicious cycle of enabling each other by sending lives, and magic beans, and helpful boosters! By the way, what the fuck is the point of the coins in Pet Rescue Saga? I've got a shitload of them but there seems to be no use for them at all.

Your fucking games have cost me a ridiculous amount of productivity. I'll play on my lunch breaks at work, and sometimes even sneak in a game when no one is looking. As we speak, I should be writing some fucking books (literally fucking books - you should read my stuff) but instead, I'm wasting time playing a stupid fucking game.

The only conclusion I can come to, is that this is all part of an evil plot to enslave humanity and take over the world. Well, I'm here to tell you that I won't take it anymore! I'm going to start a petition to have you all beaten with big-ass bags of candy until you cease all further game making. Maybe I'll even get a class action suit going for all the money and time I've wasted, not to mention the pain and suffering of being unable to get past level 382.

I swear I'll do it!

Right after I finish this game...

Monday 10 February 2014

Friday 7 February 2014

The Nightmares Series by Sage Marlowe

Today I'm thrilled to welcome my friend Sage Marlowe, whose latest book is releasing today! Keep reading to find out more about this HOT series!