Welcome Readers to the Cupid's Choice Blog Hop, Talbot's Peak style! If you're just joining us and would like to take the full tour click here to start at the beginning http://justromance.me/
Now sit back and read all about the wildness going on in our fair town...
Diva's, Dancing and Wild Giggles!
ROSES ARE RED, VIOLET IS ALLERGIC!
“AAAAHHHCCCOOO!” Violet Epperson, owner of Talbot’s Peak Floral and Sweets Emporium, grabbed two tissues from the box sitting n ext to her. She noisily blew her nose and tossed the tissues in the large garbage can near her. She sniffled, trying to smile amongst the tears flowing down her cheeks.
“Can I help. . .” Her words stopped in her throat. Before her stood three of the studliest hunks she’d ever seen. Their hair varied in color only by the slightest variance. Triplets? She swallowed hard. Talk about her hottest fantasy standing before her. She fought placing her hand against her cheek to check for a fever. No, she could drink in the sight and enjoy the eye candy while they shopped. Tonight though, her diary would be burning w ith red ink for sure. What fantasy details she could dream up as she wrote would ignite her dreams and probably wear out the batteries she’d just put in her new vibrator.
Now this was just too much. Tasman glared at the greeting card with the big red heart on it sitting on the middle of his desk. Someone had entered his home office, his sanctum, violated his jealously-guarded privacy, and left him a Vishnu-cursed Valentine.
He knew exactly where to heap the blame. “Guri!” he bellowed.
His youngest brother hesitantly poked his head inside. “Yes, Tasman? Oh. Someone’s left you a Valentine.”
Tasman was taken aback. “It wasn’t you?”
“I?” Guri made a face. “Absolutely not! You’re my brother!”
“But … you and Sanjay take such delight in this country’s holidays.”
“Yes, that’s true. But this particular holiday is reserved for sweethearts. No way Sanjay and I are missing out on that. We’re going down to the coffee shop to hand out chocolate hearts to the ladies. We’re hoping we might—Sanjay says the colloquial te rm is ‘get lucky.’ Would you like to come along?”
Tasman waved his hand at the card. It refused to fall over, as if to mock him. “You had nothing to do with this?”
“I would not give my brother a Valentine. That’s sick. Perhaps it was Rakshasi or Kali.”
“Perhaps. Enjoy your holiday, then. I’ve work to do.”
Guri shrugged. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” he said, and withdrew.
Tasman regarded the card and its big, blood-colored heart. Laying a heart at the foot of one’s lover—yes, he could understand how such a custom could evolve in a barbarous society, and why shifters would so eagerly adopt it. However, like America’s other inexplicable holidays, he had no use for Valentine’s Day.
He doubted very much that his sister or mother had left him the card. Neither was sentimental or romantically inclined. Nor did Tasman have a “sweetheart,” as Guri had termed it. When the time came, his father Shere Khan would arrange a marriage with a suitable tigress. As long as she was mannered and presentable, Tasman assumed he would approve. He swept the card aside and sat to deal with his usual mound of paperwork.
A soft rap sounded on the door, and Leila entered. Tasman barely glanced at her. Leila was his personal assistant, secretary and bodyguard, and as such as much a piece of the office furniture as his desk or chair. She spoke softly, as befit a female, dressed smartly in tailored yet feminine suits, kept her head in a crisis and never raised a fuss over anything.
Tasman’s glance became a full-on stare. In place of her usual conservative suit she wore a scarlet dress with a deep V-neck that showed off a hitherto-unsuspected expanse of comely bosom. The dress’s hem rode halfway up her thigh, revealing legs longer than the Ganges. She’d woven a crimson flower into her platinum hair. She smiled at him and nodded a demure good-morning.
Tasman reared back in his chair. “Leila?”
He found he couldn’t speak. He nodded at her outfit.
“Oh,” she said. “I hoped you wouldn’t mind. It’s Valentine’s Day.”
Of course. Guri’s madness tended to be infectious. So far Tasman had resisted. But Leila? His own executive assistant? “I wasn’t aware you celebrated this holiday.”
“All females celebrate this holiday. That’s what Guri said.”
“I suppose Guri gave you a card?”
She nodded with a little smile. “And chocolate.”
Tasman made an effort and composed himself. It wouldn’t do for a son of Shere Khan to crouch here panting like a randy cub. But dayam, as the Americans said. Leila looked spectacular in that immodest dress. Granted, snow leopards had little trouble looking spectacular in anything they wore, or didn’t wear. Leila had always managed to tone down her sexiness in his presence, as befit a professional.
Not today, however. Today she’d gone full out. She looked—what was the word Sanjay used when referring to females? Hot. Yes. Hot.
“Leila,” he croaked. He swallowed and tried again. “You are familiar with this holiday?”
“Somewhat. Guri explained it to me.”
Vishnu save them both. Well, he had no other sources at hand. “Explain it to me, then. The purpose of this Valentine’s Day.”
“Well,” she began. She tapped her full red lips with her fingernail. Nail and lips had been painted red for the holiday. She looked as if she’d clawed and bitten into some hot, fresh-killed prey. Tasman found it—again he had to grope for a Sanjay-word. Turn-on. A Vishnu-blessed turn-on.
“It appears to be a mating celebration,” Leila said. “Fe males dress provocatively. Males express their appreciation with flowers and chocolate. Apparently the cards are intended to express one’s intentions towards a prospective mate.”
“I see. I wonder why so many human holidays revolve around chocolate?”
Leila shrugged gracefully. It made the dress tug over several intriguing areas. “Chocolate has long been touted as an aphrodisiac. You know how decadent and self-indulgent the monkeys can be.”
“Prey,” Tasman agreed. “What’s the significance of the little naked baby with the wings?”
“Their god of love, I would assume. I wonder that they chose such an innocuous representation, given the nature of love.”
“Well, he is armed with a weapon. That says a lot right there. So.” Tasman swallowed again. “You’re in search of a mate? You should have come to me. I could have arranged a meeting with a suitable male.”
Leila lowered her eyes. “You’re so generous to me already, sir. I wouldn’t presume to impose.”
“It’s no imposition. You’ve been an excellent assistant and I value you highly. You are also … ” He licked his lips. “Hot.”
“Thank you, sir. May I say, you are also quite attractive. Virile and highly desirable.”
“I’m a tiger. That goes without saying.”
“Of course, sir. However, I understand today is the day to say such things. I thought I’d partake in the holiday. The rituals sounded intriguing.”
“Dinner and dancing. Cards and flowers. Chocolate.” She flipped back her hair with a careless, and sexy, little toss of her head. When had she learned that? She’d never done it before in his presence. “Sometimes one needs to relax.”
Tasman frowned at the piles of papers on his desk. “True. All work and no play.” He got up briskly. “Well. Perhaps a holiday is indeed in order. Does this Valentine’s Day include lunch?”
“It can. Also strolls in the park. Sometimes hand-holding.”
“I suppose we could manage that. You will accompany me?”
“I wouldn’t want to be seen as presumptuous, sir.”
“Nonsense. We’re both mateless, and this is a celebration. I—” He cleared his throat and amended his order. “I ask that you join me for lunch, and a stroll around the square. Perhaps we could fit in a run through the woods. Would that be acceptable?”
“I believe that would satisfy the holiday’s parameters, sir.”
“Good. Also, I believe we should go to dinner tonight, and dancing at the supper club. Just to be on the safe side.”
“That would cover all the bases. As the monkeys say.”
“All right, then.” Tasman nodded. Again the greeting card and its crimson heart caught his eye. Be my Valentine. Unsigned, of course. Very circumspect of her. No one else besides himself had access to this office. Anyone in the household would have recognized her handwriting.
He’d nearly forgotten what skillful hunters snow leopards were, and how underhanded they could be when it suited them. It was part of the reason he’d chosen Leila as his assistant.
He came out from behind the desk and offered her his arm. “If we’re going to celebrate, we’d best get started. You understand this is strictly business. An investigation of native customs. Blending in with the locals.”
She purred up at him with eyes that said otherwi se. Much like his own just now, he surmised. “Of course, sir. Strictly business.” She added with a grin, “Monkey business.”
Indeed. He would have to thank the monkeys later, for their creativity in devising their holidays. With a lighter step than he’d shown in days, Tasman escorted Leila from the office.
Posted by Pat C.
The Were-Huntress, Cupid's Victim
Like background music, Selakiah smelled the woman's werewolf lover. The smiling blue-haired barista placed a second cup of Cappuccino, sprinkled with cinnamon, before her.
Without taking her gaze off Zuquotti, the mercenary-for-hire werebeast striding toward the coffee shop from across the street -- not for a fraction of a second, Selakiah thanked the young woman, then lifted the cup and took a small sip.
"Delicious," she praised.
"You're new in town. Planning on staying in our fair Talbot's Peak for awhile?" the barista chattily asked.
There weren't that many customers. Selakiah assumed it was because the lunch crowd had departed. Even though, shapeshifters and supernaturals were the main population of this off-the-beaten-track town in Montana, many of them appeared to have regular jobs and careers. So she'd observed the past three days.
"Depends," she answered. "I'm a working girl... as in private investigator," Selakiah added because of her snow bunny outfit, her generously displayed cleavage.
She felt no compulsion to outright lie. Stretch the truth, yeah. Besides, Selakiah knew the barista was far more than she appeared, possessing obvious psi abilities.
"Investigating someone in town?" the barista casually inquired. The wariness beneath her words was heavy as a lead-lined coffin.
"No. Someone who has recently arrived here. He's headed this way...a-n-d entering now."
The bell above the door tinkled, and the 'cute as Cyndi Lauper' woman spun on her high bootheels. She spoke the usual greeting, and moved toward Zuquotti.
Waiting for the show to unfold, Selakiah sipped her Cappuccino, and told her eyelids to stop drooping. She'd been up for nearly twenty-four hours now, a stretch even for her slayer kind, especially given she'd barely slept since being on the werebeast's trail for the last several months.
Elusive was not an adequate description for the slippery-as-witch-spittle shapeshifter, who was known for his Adonis charm and sexy bad-boy looks. Neither was the word, deadly, when it came to the utterly bloodthirsty way he eviscerated his enemies, and his chosen targets -- most of them other supernaturals. And, of course, the other slayers who had tracked him. A few she'd known.
For the past decade, Selakiah had been hunting the 'beastly beast' as she'd ultimately nicknamed Zuquotti. About five years ago she'd watched as he morphed into five successive forms.
At the time, Selakiah had been crouched atop a small church's steeple seeking a way to deliver a kill shot to the one vulnerable spot on his human body. Before she could leap and drive her long, thin crystal spike -- her family's ancient slaying weapon -- into the hollow of his throat, Zuquotti had sprouted wings, and transitioned into a monstrous lion.
With an earth-shattering roar, he sprang, his great wings driving him. Piercing the the night's darkness with her superior eyesight, Selakiah quickly found his victim. Only this time, the ten foot tall, broad-as-a-tank Draco warrior had obviously gone bad. He was abducting a human toddler, the unconscious child trapped beneath his armpit.
For some reason unknown to her, Zuquotti had one redeeming quality to his character. He would save the young of any species. Selakiah often wondered before drifting into sleep if that's why she hadn't been able to hunt him to extinction, deliver the final blow.
Thinking to save the child herself, she'd lessened her body weight, then jumped and sailed through the air. As if he'd known the exact moment she would land close by, Zuquotti flying-charged the Draco just as he aimed his laser staff.
Before the giant reptilian could shoot the weapon's disintegrating fire, Zuquotti engulfed his shoulder shield with the power of his huge jaws. By sheer strength, he'd forced the Draco off balance, enough so the toddler slipped from beneath reptilian's white scaly arm.
Selakiah had been there to catch the child. Whirling like a dervish she'd retreated far enough away to observe. She'd cradled the still unconscious but unharmed child, and watched as the vicious claw-against-claw battle unfolded.
Beneath the silvery blazing light of the full moon on that winter-cold night, Zuquotti had eventually won victory, but barely. He'd changed into a razor-taloned eagle, striking the Draco's eyes repeatedly. When the reptilian had launched on top of his back, and used his weight and strength to crush the life out of him, Zuquotti had shifted into an enormous warhorse, bucking him off.
Again wings emerged from his back, and like Pegasus he'd flown, attacking with his hooves and raking teeth. Even as the Draco ripped gashes in his underbelly, Zuquotti had morphed into a prehistoric rhinoceros. Protected somewhat by his thick bony plates, he'd eventually trampled the reptilian into a messy death.
Selakiah preferred not to dwell on how easily she'd placed the child in his human arms. For one simple reason, though. He'd known where to return the boy.
Now... with the smile of an angel, and purposefully not looking her way, Zuquotti centered his full attention on the barista. His gaze all too appreciatively took in her red, pink and white outfit. "Ah, yes, Valentine's Day is tomorrow. Miss...?"
"Just call me Marissa."
"Marissa. What a lovely name. It flows from the tongue like music."
She tilted her head flirtatiously. "You know who you resemble, don't you?"
"Why don't you tell me?" the chimera shapeshifter charmingly bantered.
With attitude Marissa planted a hand on her hip. "John Kennedy Jr., rest his soul... only add in biker dude." She paused. "What can I get for you?"
After a smile that could melt hard-frozen butter in the middle of Antarctica, Zuquotti made a show of studying the menu board. "It would seem Cupid's Choice is the right brew for this occasion. If you'll also serve one to the lady in pink, I'll be joining her shortly."
Marissa scrutinized him for a moment, then with a nod, she sang, "Sure thing."
Somewhat thrown off stride because this was the first time, the chimera shapeshifter had directly approached her, Selakiah straightened, and set her cup down. She didn't fear his attack. Zuquotti remained circumspect in how and where he slaughtered. Besides, her instincts weren't shrieking like a banshee.
Not yet, anyway.
Although, as he approached, her hackles raised, and her hand itched to grip her weapon -- ready it for a quick strike to his throat. The woman in her couldn't help admiring the way his Italian suit, a dark navy blue, enhanced his tall, hard-as-steel physique.
He hadn't bothered with a shirt or a winter coat. Why bother since his sculpted chest, attractively sprinkled with dark hair, caused women to stop and stare. Besides, she knew he possessed the ability to control his body temperature.
One clue told her she wasn't in any immediate danger. His dark silver eyes didn't flash with blue bolts of lightning. No, they glinted with a brightness she'd never observed before.
With a sophisticated ease, he halted before her. From a lifetime of practice, she controlled her heartbeat, then slowed her racing pulse.
"My adorable Selakiah, your beauty only increases. I must admit you have been on my mind of late."
Subtly, but devastatingly, he swept his gaze over her. Damn, her peaking nipples.
"Why is that?" she bluntly asked. With a nonchalant manner Selakiah didn't at all feel, she took a long swallow of her Cappuccino, which drained the cup. Still, she never removed her gaze from his eyes, and her fingers kept it gripped like a weapon.
"Your pursuit of me over the years has worked, my Selakiah," he gentlemanly announced as if they attended a cotillion. "I yield to your desire to trap me into marriage."
If he had morphed into a fire-spitting, writhing dragon intent on devouring her as a tasty snack, Selakiah could not have been more staggered, more unprepared. Hell, she would have been more prepared for an evil attacking dragon.
She knew her eyes had flown wide open, that little gasps of breath escaped past her lips. That time must have ceased...
"I had wished to make this a more romantic moment between us, my Selakiah," he continued. With a polished move, and a small grin toying with the corner of his lips, he seated himself opposite her.
"Trapped you into..." she choked out like a frog. She couldn't even say the word, marriage.
"Yes, marriage is quite to my liking. I have reached a new maturity." Even though she knew she gaped at him like he'd lost his monster-chimera mind that didn't halt his next words. "I have always admired you from afar. What man could not? Beyond your fair and fiery beauty, your warrioress prowess over the years has proven to be most delightful, and an ongoing challenge for me."
As Selakiah absorbed his meaning while mentally looking for a quick escape -- it was of course at this critical moment in her life that Marissa appeared beside them with steaming dainty cups of Cupid's Choice, a coffee and cream brew that included a splash of strawberry, raspberry and chocolate liqueur. Selakiah knew the ingredients because she would have indulged in a cup if not for her surveillance of him... Zuquotti -- who must have gone utterly round the bend into a beast's madness for some reason she couldn't yet determine.
His outward appearance gave no sign, and his scent, his smoky, over-the-top virile, inebriating scent, offered no explanation either. "What is it you want?" she blurted out, once Marissa wisely departed.
"Now I wish a new challenge between us. Our marital bed should prove to be even more exciting, more delightful." He paused, his gaze flaring. "More savage."
Simply to contain her shock and gather her runaway thoughts, Selakiah lifted the coffee to her mouth. She let the steam fill her nostrils, then slowly tasted. The gorgeous flavors took over her palate for several moments, even though insanity had definitely found her, and now sought to imprison her.
Zuquotti saluted her with his coffee, his flair natural. After a taste of the brew, his gaze blatantly devoured her cleavage. For an instant, he seared a look at where she'd placed her wand-slim weapon. "Instead of your crystal arrow, beautiful slayer, I have been struck by cupid's arrow."
She watched as his whole demeanor changed to what she could only describe as love-struck. No, she didn't want to admit it, but certainly she couldn't deny he appeared seriously passion-struck over her.
Selakiah wanted to shiver inside. She didn't allow it because he would sense her weakness, know her woman's reaction.
With disbelief setting in, she asked, "I'm not really here, am I?" Her own voice sounded like mist to her ears.
"I have a proposition."
"You can't be serious."
He paused as she took another bracing sip. "You are currently residing at Dante's Pleasure Club. A superb place of protection, by the way. When you return, my Selakiah, you will find a red gown, other garments, as well as accessories."
"What are you talking about, beastly beast?" Her temper reared up, and Selakiah gave him her most formidable scowl.
"Ah, your nickname for me. I quite enjoy it, and plan to live up to such a billing during our marital relations."
So, he could read her mind, at times, as she'd suspected for the past several years. However, his current game of pretending to be truly interested in her, as in a marriage partner, felt somehow torturous. Selakiah didn't want to ask herself why. But then, even as a slayer, she wasn't exactly immune to her own desire to be loved, to be wanted by the right man.
With her instinct for survival kicking butt, Selakiah struck at one of his weak points. "Legend has it you escaped from an Atlantean lab during the final age when the mad scientists ruled, and were given free rein to create any kind of evil monstrosity. True?"
Imperceptibly, except to her trained eye, he stilled. His gaze flickered, pale silver sparks flashing in the depths of his eyes. "A fair concern for my future bride."
"I'd say so. And I am not your 'future bride'."
He gave her a dashing smile. "Allow me to be your escort at the Valentine's Day celebration at the Midnight Stardust Supperclub, and I will explain my story. To make my offer more enticing..." he leaned forward slightly, and she lost herself in the sheer bold intensity of his gaze, "and to complete my proposition, beautiful Selakiah. If I do not persuade you to be my bride within the protected confines of the supperclub tomorrow evening, then I will surrender my throat to your slayer's weapon."
Astounded because she sensed not one particle of deception, Selakiah straightened so the back of the chair cut beneath her shoulder blades. With her stone cold ability to deal with werebeasts, and as her heart pounded strongly in anticipation of finally sliding her icicle-clear blade deep into his throat, she did the only thing a slayer could.
"I accept your proposition."
His eyes glittered like a dusk sky suddenly taken over by diamond dust -- his desire for her obvious. "Once the club is closed for the night, my Selakiah, you will make your choice."
Holding the long-stemmed red rose, Selakiah stood at the entrance of the Midnight Stardust Supperclub. The red gown Zuquotti had provided fit more than perfectly, and felt like silken water as it slid over her curves, as the satin fabric glided against her skin.
Immediately, Zuquotti approached, his stride confident. The simple elegant black tux he wore only enhanced his brand of handsomeness.
"You are more beautiful than I could have imagined, slayer." His small wicked smile teased all of her senses, and warmed her womanly parts. After a slight bow, he offered his arm.
Their evening had begun.
~ Have a Magickal and Miraculous Valentine's Day ~
Savanna Kougar ~ Run on the Wild Side of Romance ~
“I’m screwed,” Mooney murmured as he read the e-mail canceling his order of twenty pounds of chocolate. He didn’t remember sending an e-mail canceling the order but there it was in his “sent” box. So much for his corny plan to do a solid chocolate mate for Marissa for Valentine’s Day. He’d gotten the idea after watching Marissa crack up watching an old episode of The Simpsons. What was he going to do now?
He had no one to blame but himself for this, of course. Every few months, he made a point of treating Marissa to something edible, sensual and erotic as hell. Last Valentine’s Day, they’d done “Angel Food Beef Cake.” There was no way he could top that now, not with only two days till the big day.
“What’s the matter, babe?” Marissa asked as she entered the bedroom from the adjoining bathroom. Mooney allowed the sight of his still-damp and completely naked mate distract him from his dilemma.
“Oh, nuthin’,” he replied, sounding a bit gloomy even to his own ears. Marissa’s left eyebrow cocked up at that, making her look rakish. Perhaps the jet black towel she was using to rub her brilliant blue-dyed hair helped. The combination was sexy as hell, he thought with a smile. His eyes followed her progress around the room hungrily.
“The chocolate order?” she asked. Mooney jerked his attention away from the silky rose-tipped globes of her tits. Aw, damn. He’d left his e-mail account open and on the order cancellation notice. With another start, he realized the impact of her words.
“You knew about it?” he asked, stunned and just a little sad. “It was going to be part of my Valentine’s gift for you this year.”
“I know, lover,” she said as she straddled his lap, snuggling her bare crotch against his jean-clad and stirring cock. “I love your surprises and don’t usually go digging for info when I know you are planning something, but this year, I had to take a bit of initiative.”
“Initiative?” he murmured against the hollow of her throat.
“Yeah,” she moaned, digging her eager fingers into his hair. “I’ve looked everywhere for info on wolf-witch pregnancies, but I haven’t found much of any use.”
“Pregnancies?” he asked going still.
“You know. Wolves can’t eat chocolate, especially breeding wolves. I’m not a wolf, of course, but I figured there has to be some reason why pregnant wolves can’t tolerate it. Maybe the chemicals in the stuff are harmful to the fetus? So I figured better safe than sorry. I’ll just stay away from eating it till the baby comes.”
“I-I-I… you…” he stammered. Whoa, he thought. Is she really saying what I think she’s saying. Mooney looking into her bright blue eyes, trying to find confirmation. She gazed back at him, nibbling on the corner of her lower lip, and shrugged.
“That is unless you don’t want to have a baby with me. I’m only a couple weeks late, so maybe I’m not, but…”
“Oh, baby,” Mooney whispered reverently. “You better believe I want to have pups with you.”
To hell with finding the perfect gift for Marissa, he though a few hours later. He looked down at her slumbering, well exercised body. He laid a hand gently on her still flat tummy. There was no way in a hundred life times he could top the gift she was going to be giving him in a few months’ time.
Here's wishing everyone a safe and romantic Valentine's Day!
~ Rebecca L. Gillan