Max’s Desire (Alpha Protectors 3) by Elyzabeth M. Valey

Congratulations to Elyzabeth M. Valey on your new release!


 

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How can a man love a succubus without literally losing his heart? 

Alpha Protector Max almost died during his last mission to Lust’s hellish lair, but the worst torture was his failure to save Eva, a young woman who begged for his help. When he meets her again in Spain, he discovers two things. One, she is his mate. Two, she is also a succubus.

Though Eva has not come into her full power, her love could still be fatal. For how long will he be able to defy her allure? 

Pleasure is Eva’s business. Love isn’t. 

Although unaware of her true nature, as a luxury escort, she is used to men falling at her feet. Yet, Max doesn’t. Though his attraction mirrors hers, the soldier does things differently and she can’t help falling for him.

And Eva is terrified by her recurring nightmares. When someone from her past shows up, and the dreams become reality, there is only one thing that can save Max’s heart.

Be Warned: forced seduction

 

Available at:

Evernight Publishing Amazon.com Amazon.uk Bookstrand 

and more!

 

Thank you for having me at your blog today! I’m here to talk about Max’s Desire, where sex, demons, art and a vibrant European city all come together.

As a writer, one of the most important things when writing paranormal romance is finding the balance between fantasy and reality. There has to be a connection. In Max’s Desire that link occurs when Max travels to Madrid, Spain and meets Eva.

Together, the pair explore the city I have lived in for the past ten years. They visit places I have seen and walked through: Calle Alcala, the rooftop terrace in Santa Ana, the Prado Museum…

I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

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Alpha Protectors follows the story of the Guardians. An elite unit of paranormal soldiers created to balance out the forces between good and evil. Their mission in life is to protect the people, both human and supernatural, from the influence of the seven Sins: Pride, Lust, Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Envy, and Gluttony.

Not only do they have to fight evil, but also their own demons, which can be much worse.

Each novel can be read as a standalone.

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Excerpt:

“What happened?”

She chuckled, self-deprecating, and shifted her gaze. “I had a nightmare.”

“Must have been quite vivid.”

Her bottom lip trembled and she sucked it in.

“Hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to tell me about it.”

“I panicked. It was stupid, really. I don’t even remember much anymore, but when I woke up.” She shuddered. “I was screaming your name.”

“So you called me.”

Her eyes locked with his, shimmering with undisguised concern.

“I thought something had happened to you.”

Max smiled. He rubbed her cheek with the pad of his thumb.

“I’m perfectly fine, and I’m glad you called me. I was in the subway, which is why I didn’t answer.”

He spoke the truth. He’d been on his way to one of the portals hidden in the city, so he could go to the academy and do some research. When he’d received her call, he’d turned back. “How come you fell asleep? I thought you had to get ready for work.”

Eva pressed her lips tightly and squirmed on his lap. Max’s jaw dropped as her welcoming heat caressed his groin through his jeans. He gawked at Eva, taking in her flimsy attire. She hadn’t closed her robe, and the silky material gaped at the front, revealing soft, pink flesh, from the curve of her breasts to the dip of her stomach and lower. Max swallowed. Desire pumped through his veins at the speed of lightning, his cock growing at an equally alarming rate.

“I canceled my date tonight,” she said.

“How—” Max coughed. “Sorry. How come?”

She shrugged and moved again. Her lips parted soundlessly. No doubt she’d noticed the wedge of his erection. Her eyes narrowed and she grinned.

“Well, I wasn’t in the mood to go out, and I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”

“Eva—”

“I called in sick. I couldn’t bear the idea of being touched by another man.” She gave him one of her practiced coy looks. “I also masturbated to you.”

Max dropped his arms to his sides. Maybe if he didn’t touch her, he’d escape temptation. She leaned forward, rubbing against him.

“You want me,” she stated. “And I want you,” she purred.

“Eva, it’s not a good idea.”

“Why?” She pouted.

Why indeed? How did he explain his fear? How did he tell his mate that yes, he wanted to make love to her but was afraid she’d rip him apart?

Eva placed her hands on his shoulders.

“We won’t fuck if you don’t want to, but let me touch you, please you in other ways.”

She ran her hands across his chest, rubbing the hilt of her palm against his straining nipples. Max threw his head back, swallowing his groan. His cock throbbed relentlessly, desperate to be inside of her.

“Please?”

She brushed her mouth over his, a light feather touch which made his heart pound, quieting the voice in his head. Eva rolled her hips, rubbing against him. Taking hold of his hands, she placed them on her hips. His fingers flexed, then slid beneath her robe to her ass, massaging the firm globes. Her gasp fueled his passion. He dipped lower, finding her slick folds.

“Max.”

His thoughts fled, his mind becoming blessedly blank and focused on only one thing: his mate.  He pushed a digit into her, then another.

“So wet, kitten.”

“Yes, for you.”

Max pulled out and licked her cream. Musky and sweet, it was better than anything he’d ever had.

“Fuck me,” she begged.

“Not yet.”

Grasping the back of her head, he angled her mouth and kissed her hard. Eva snaked her hands beneath his t-shirt. They glided across his abdomen, heading north.

“You’re wearing too many clothes,” she declared.

She tugged on his shirt and he swept it off.

“Oh my God, Max.”

He froze. Fuck. How could he have forgotten?

 

About Elyzabeth M. VaLey

elyzabeth-blogger-image

Elyzabeth M. VaLey is a writer of sizzling, sexy romance who firmly believes in happy ever after.  From paranormal to contemporary, fantasy, or historical, she enjoys exploring her characters’ darker side and writing stories about tortured heroes, strong heroines, and all that comes between them and their love.

When she’s not writing, she can be found walking in the Spanish countryside with her black Lab, exploring castles, or enjoying some tapas with her friends.

 

Follow her at:

Blog
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Instagram (@elyzabethm.valey)
Goodreads
Pinterest  (Max’s Desire has its own inspiration board)
Amazon

 

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Shelter – The Beginning by Allyson Young

Congratulations to Allyson Young on your new release!


 

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Addison Longwood survived the plague that struck down almost everyone around her. She survived the hazardous trek into the countryside to find shelter within a group of like-minded individuals led by a man she can actually respect. Settled and contributing, she allows herself a sense of hope.

From the remaining military, Captain Jesse Forbes is charged with locating survivors in order to rebuild the country. His initial impression of Addison’s band isn’t positive and he sets his sights on the young woman in order to infiltrate, and assess her leader—the end justifying the means, or so he assures himself.

But there are far greater dangers lurking, threatening the very existence of the survivors. Alliances are forged—and tested. Betrayal cuts deep, lives are lost and others changed forever.

Who are the good guys anyhow?

 
 

Buy Links:

Amazon /  books2read

 
 

Excerpt:

Wrapped in an old piece of toweling—another item to add to the shopping list—she was squeezing the moisture out of her mane when Jesse Forbes came through the door. One of her guys lingered just outside, guarding the man, but every molecule of her being told her to run, far and fast before she put some steel in her spine and managed a nod.

“Morning. I see you’re up ahead of most everyone else too,” he said.

Making small talk in the showers, with him fully clothed and her … not, sucked. To his credit, aside from one sweeping glance down her body, he looked at her face.

“Seems like it.” She edged around him, catching his amused stare and grabbed up her clothes. “Excuse me.”

“I wondered how long your hair was.”

She blinked, and despite herself, her hand rose to finger the wet tangles. Not particularly vain, she’d left her hair to grow, finding it easier to tie up and out of the way instead of fighting with the unruly curls. Especially now she could keep it clean and avoid the critters that tended to infiltrate dirty hair, particularly among close quarters. It had been carefully secured and out of the way on the mountain that day so he couldn’t have known.

Deciding not to answer, she ducked into the tacked-on separate room, no more than a tent, thank goodness for the temperate climate. She rubbed furiously at the dampness still on her skin and then yanked on her jeans under the cover of her towel. She pulled on her shirt, only then using the toweling to wring more moisture from her hair.

“Sorry. Again. I seem to put my foot in my mouth around you. And I’m not yet privy to the rules around here.” His smooth baritone sounded too damn close and she wheeled around, cursing the fact she’d turned her back on him. And he was between her and her rifle.

She hadn’t been mistaken about his size and breadth, although refused to feel intimated—or anything else. Besides, his guard was close by. Her brain processed his educated comment. Sometimes he sounded like an average Joe, then next, a college professor. Privy? Her obsession with books allowed for the interpretation, but still…

Forcing herself to project calm, or whatever felt close to that, she said, “Are you asking about segregation? Of the sexes?” And why had she used the word sex in his vicinity?

“That, among other things.”

“Mitchell, I mean, the Colonel, will apprise you.” She thought she saw a glimmer of intrigue in those strangely colored eyes but it passed too quickly to be certain.

“He said he’d assign someone. As a guide. Aside from my armed escort.”

“Then you’ll be set. Excuse me.”

“Is there a time that’s better for me—and the guys—to shower?” His hands went to the collar of his T-shirt and he tugged it over his head.

Addy had seen enough torsos—and other man parts—in her life. How could she not, given her history and where she now slept? So Jesse’s cut chest and chiseled abs shouldn’t have had any effect on her. And they didn’t, her excellent self-control surging to the fore. They. Did. Not.

“No set times,” she said, infusing her voice with casualness. “This shower is communal for the fighters. The camp defenders, I’d guess you’d call us. There’s another, larger one for the rest of the camp. The guys make allowances for us four women—me, Marcia, Denise, and Laura—first thing. I woke up earlier today.”

“Couldn’t sleep?”

Was that a knowing look? She fought a blush. He was getting under her skin and she had no doubt he knew it. Probably knew women inside and out, had lots of experience with them. Well, she had lots of experience with men, too, and none of it positive.

“I slept fine,” she lied. “I woke early, is all. So if you hurry, you won’t be disturbed by the other women when they arrive. Unless it won’t bother you.” For sure it wouldn’t bother Denise and probably not the other two.

“I’ll just be quick then.” His long fingers reached for the button on his khakis. It didn’t escape her notice he didn’t remark on being disturbed by the women.

Refusing to look as though she was fleeing, Addy folded her towel before turning on her heel and stalking out, dipping to snatch up her rifle. The glimpse of his naked, sculpted butt and strong legs was emblazoned on her retinas, but she blinked the vision away. Add arrogance to his confidence. Not necessarily a nice mix.

 
 

About the Author:

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Allyson Young aka Peri Elizabeth Scott lives in cottage country, Manitoba, Canada. She and her husband pretend to work well together in their seasonal business.

She has always enjoyed the written word, and after reading an erotic romance, quite by mistake, decided to try her hand at penning one. That was followed by a mix of spicy (Ally) and sweet (Peribeth) romances in various genres as well as a post-apocalyptic adventure without a lick of romance by Peribeth.

A bestselling Amazon author, a hybrid, and a coauthor, as of April 2018 she has published seven series and several standalones, with others in the works.

allysonyoung.com

 

A strange feeling in the pit of his stomach #SexySnippet from Red Black Dawning

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Happy Sunday! Sexy Snippets are seven sentences taken from a work in progress or published book, brought to you every Sunday.

Today, I give you a sexy snippet from my dark frontier romance, RED BLACK DAWNING ❤

In this scene, Tókwar has carried the mixed-blood woman back to their shelter after a fight. He doesn’t know what to do with her, she’s too angry and emotional.

* * *

 

She continued crying silently. He was about to get up when she grabbed his hand and slid her fingers into his palms. They were warm, moist, and her touch caused a faint tremor inside him. “Don’t go,” she pleaded, wet brown eyes staring.

A bit taken aback, he stayed put. What a strange woman, changing mood so fast. And what a very awkward gesture!

No, she asked for a little humanity, that was all. That much he could give her, despite her ugly words, despite her slapping him.

For a moment, they sat together in silence. She sniffing and holding onto him, and he waiting for her to calm. But the way her fingers clung to his sent a current of heat between them. A strange feeling grew in the pit of his stomach, warm and ensnaring.

 

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Anno 1865. Three regional conflicts, three conflicted hearts.

As the Indian Wars rage in Colorado, Ute hunter Tókwar wanders without purpose after finding his wife and unborn son murdered and mutilated by white trappers. Sick with grief, he’s about to leave for the Spirit World when he witnesses a joint Arapaho/Cheyenne attack on a convoy.

Heavily pregnant Annabelle is the daughter of a cotton plantation owner and his black slave. While her fiancé, a renegade Confederate soldier, is imprisoned at Camp Douglas, she flees the Civil War-ravaged Arkansas with a group of settlers to build a new home at the western frontier.

Dog soldier Hevo thirsts for blood. With his band of warriors on the prowl, he aims to avenge the innocents slaughtered at Sand Creek and wipe out all Pale Faces. His plan comes to an abrupt halt when he’s wounded during a raid gone wrong and forced to assist an enemy Ute deliver a baby.

Becoming responsible for a newborn amid the chaos and pain gives Tókwar some solace, but he knows it’s temporary. The beautiful, feisty mixed-blood mother is restless, and despite his growing attraction for her and fatherly love for her son, he and Hevo must travel east and return her safely to her man. But how will he enter the Pale Faces’ war zone without risking his life—or once more losing his heart?

 

Add the book to your shelf on:

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See pics that inspired me to write the book:

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* * *

 Catch the other #SexySnippets here. Have fun!

You can stop staring #MidWeekTease from Red Black Dawning

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Happy Wednesday, and thanks again to Angelica Dawson for organizing the MidWeekTeases!

This week’s tease comes from my WIP, the dark frontier romance RED BLACK DAWNING.

In this scene: Two days and two nights after the Cross Mountain massacre, Tókwar decides to take care of his captive, a Cheyenne dog soldier wounded during the raid.

* * *

 
    

“I’ll fix your leg,” Tókwar offered.

The young Cheyenne glared. “About time. Are you waiting to see me crawl to the river like a wounded snake?”

Tókwar held back a, “You are a snake.” It must cost a warrior a great deal to ask for help, especially from an enemy. Without a word, he grabbed his outreached arm for the second time today and helped him up.

Physical and mental exhaustion wore him out, but he had no right to complain: the woman was even more tired. He grounded his teeth and half-carried, half-pulled the limping young man, as heavy as a dead body, to the beach. “How far?”

Face constricted with pain, the Cheyenne nodded ahead. “There. So I can sit in the water.”

They waded into the cool stream, water sloshing around their ankles, and stopped at knee level. Tókwar held the young man’s arm while slowly lowering him.

Grimacing, the Cheyenne sat in the current with water up to his ribs and shifted until he found a comfortable position. Hopefully, the coldness would numb the throbbing in his broken leg. He scrubbed his hands before splashing water onto his face and blowing out air. It had to have been a long wait, tied to a wagon wheel for two days and two nights. He loosened his braids, tilted his head, and wet his long black hair in the swirling stream.

Tókwar threw a look back to the wagons. They were only thirty feet away, but he didn’t like leaving the woman and the baby unattended. With the decomposing bodies nearby, wildlife had to be roaming—he just hadn’t observed any other than vultures yet. His worst fear was a wild dog bold enough to sneak into the shelter, pick up the baby, and run off with it. Knee-deep in the river, he wouldn’t be able to stop it.

Whether the white woman survived, he had to move on as soon as possible and seek protection for the baby’s sake. Either south, to the tribe his sister married into near the White River, or west, to the Yamparika Ute camp he saw days ago while traveling along the Yampah. He wasn’t sure which was the safest route.

When he gazed back at the young warrior, he was rubbing his chest, stomach, and arms to remove several days’ worth of dirt. Sitting in the river current, he looked like a wet package of long and strong muscles, much like himself. The difference between them was the warrior had trained for combat, while Tókwar took pride in staying fit to provide food for his family.

The Cheyenne wasn’t of much use now with a bad leg. He would most likely choose to tag along until he could travel on his own. But if they sought protection from the Ute, he would be given a deadly welcome.

He paused and glanced up, eyes thinning. “You can stop staring.”

Tókwar chuckled. “I never thought I’d help a fearless warrior to wash.”

The Cheyenne held his look, a spark of humor lighting his black pupils. “As long as you keep your hands to yourself.”

“I would rather have to marry a white woman and bed her for the rest of my life than touch a Cheyenne dog soldier.”

The young man sent a knowing glance to the wagons. “That might very well be what awaits you,” he quipped.

Tókwar contained a smile. The tension between them was easing, and it hit him: by bringing these two representatives of enemy tribes together, Creator proved he had a plan—he wanted them to make peace.

Copyright (c) 2018 Lea Bronsen

     

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Anno 1865. Three regional conflicts, three conflicted hearts.

As the Indian Wars rage in Colorado, Ute hunter Tókwar wanders without purpose after finding his wife and unborn son murdered and mutilated by white trappers. Sick with grief, he’s about to leave for the Spirit World when he witnesses a joint Arapaho/Cheyenne attack on a convoy.

Heavily pregnant Annabelle is the daughter of a cotton plantation owner and his black slave. While her fiancé, a renegade Confederate soldier, is imprisoned at Camp Douglas, she flees the Civil War-ravaged Arkansas with a group of settlers to build a new home at the western frontier.

Dog soldier Hevo thirsts for blood. With his band of warriors on the prowl, he aims to avenge the innocents slaughtered at Sand Creek and wipe out all Pale Faces. His plan comes to an abrupt halt when he’s wounded during a raid gone wrong and forced to assist an enemy Ute deliver a baby.

Becoming responsible for a newborn amid the chaos and pain gives Tókwar some solace, but he knows it’s temporary. The beautiful, feisty mixed-blood mother is restless, and despite his growing attraction for her and fatherly love for her son, he and Hevo must travel east and return her safely to her man. But how will he enter the Pale Faces’ war zone without risking his life—or once more losing his heart?

    

Find out more about the book here

Check out pics that inspired me to write the book on Pinterest

Add the book to your shelf on Goodreads

* * *

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out all the fantastic writers sharing

Mid-Week Tease Blog

 

A half-naked prince of the wild #SexySnippet from Red Black Dawning

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Happy Sunday! Sexy Snippets are seven sentences taken from a work in progress or published book, brought to you every Sunday.

Today, I give you a sexy snippet from my dark frontier romance, RED BLACK DAWNING ❤

In this scene, Annabelle is in labor. She’s scared half to death and in horrible pain. She has just survived an Indian attack on a settler convoy headed west, but doesn’t know how the hell she and her baby will make it alive in the wild.

* * *

 

Soft footfalls sounded nearby.

Sniffing, she looked up and adjusted her sight through the tears in her eyes.

Black Wolf walked up from the river with hasty steps, lines of worry on his forehead. He looked like a half-naked prince of the wild, dark and beautiful, and she couldn’t help noticing how his wet loincloth showed the neat outline of his manhood as he moved.

Lord, have mercy!

Her heart leapt in her chest, and a quick pulse thundered in her ears. Warmth filled her, driving away the bad feelings. If she succumbed to exhaustion now and never awoke, at least, the last image to forever etch on her mind was this half-erotic one of her Indian savior coming for her.

Comforted, she took a long, deep breath and closed her eyes again.

 

BookdesignBetiBup33_2376

 

Anno 1865. Three regional conflicts, three conflicted hearts.

As the Indian Wars rage in Colorado, Ute hunter Tókwar wanders without purpose after finding his wife and unborn son murdered and mutilated by white trappers. Sick with grief, he’s about to leave for the Spirit World when he witnesses a joint Arapaho/Cheyenne attack on a convoy.

Heavily pregnant Annabelle is the daughter of a cotton plantation owner and his black slave. While her fiancé, a renegade Confederate soldier, is imprisoned at Camp Douglas, she flees the Civil War-ravaged Arkansas with a group of settlers to build a new home at the western frontier.

Dog soldier Hevo thirsts for blood. With his band of warriors on the prowl, he aims to avenge the innocents slaughtered at Sand Creek and wipe out all Pale Faces. His plan comes to an abrupt halt when he’s wounded during a raid gone wrong and forced to assist an enemy Ute deliver a baby.

Becoming responsible for a newborn amid the chaos and pain gives Tókwar some solace, but he knows it’s temporary. The beautiful, feisty mixed-blood mother is restless, and despite his growing attraction for her and fatherly love for her son, he and Hevo must travel east and return her safely to her man. But how will he enter the Pale Faces’ war zone without risking his life—or once more losing his heart?

 

Add the book to your shelf on:

goodreads-badge-add-plus

See pics that inspired me to write the book:

pinterest-button3

 

* * *

 Catch the other #SexySnippets here. Have fun!

 

Love Reawakened by LM Spangler

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Blurb:

Drea Tate had loved and lost … and gained.

Having been told her lover died and her life was in danger, Drea left her home in the Appalachian Mountains of Pennsylvania to start anew in Cicada Lake.

Micah Bridges had been lured to Cicada Lake by the hefty bounty for catching a wealthy bail jumper.

Imagine their surprise when they meet in the small town’s only bar. And imagine Micah’s surprise when Drea drops a photo of a young boy who looks just like him.

Lies had torn them apart. Can they reawaken the love they once shared? And is there enough love to go around?


Excerpt:

He stood and pulled her flush against his body. His mouth captured her in a brutal, soul-searing kiss before he lifted his head. “I love you.”
She rubbed the fingertips of her index and middle finger over her lower lip. “I love you, too.”
He grinned as the voices neared. “Good.”
The air around him began to swirl, becoming tornadic. The fire blew out and hot ashes rose, circling around him. Through the glowing haze, he saw her body blur then disappear into the whirlwind. She had become one with the gale.
Her alluring vanilla aroma—so enrapturing—blew away, making it impossible to follow her trail.
Knowing she was safe, he turned toward the brush as his uncle and cousin stepped into the small clearing.
His uncle lifted his nose and inhaled deeply. “So, your bitch eludes us again. No matter.”
His cousin threw his head back and laughed. “You won’t be alive long enough to worry about her anymore.”
“What do you mean?” the alpha-elect asked. Sounds of rustling underbrush signaled the approach of more people. His head turned from side to side. “What’s going on?”
His uncle smirked. “I should inform you that your father has met…” He paused for a moment. “An untimely demise.”
Anger rushed through the alpha-elect like a fireball. “He what?”
The rustling grew louder until four wolves stepped into the clearing.
“What the fuck is going on?”
The wolves surrounded the alpha-elect, circling menacingly.
“He’s dead. And soon you will be, too,” his cousin answered.
His uncle pointed and then all hell broke loose.
The wolves lunged. Claws slashed. Teeth bit. The alpha-elect was attacked on all sides. Pain tore through him as blood had begun to flow from multiple wounds.
Defenseless. It had happened so fast. He couldn’t fight back. He had his strength, but he was no match for four fully matured wolves. He fell to the ground and covered his head as the sound of growls and chomping jaws rent the air.
His life force started to waver. He’d lost too much blood.
He was going to die.
But his last thoughts weren’t of the unbearable, burning pain or betrayal.
They were of her.

Love Reawakened-evernightbanner-seriesBuy Links:

Available at your favorite ebook retailer!

Book 2 Reads

https://www.books2read.com/ap/nlvm5x/LM-Spangler

36399269_10215769681338037_6378368124978200576_nAbout LM:

She lives close to the Maryland border in South Central Pennsylvania. Her husband is wonderfully supportive of her in all aspects of her life. She has a son who is currently serving our country in the U.S. Navy. Her daughter is still in school. She’s blessed to have the three of them in her life.

From a young age, she remembers burying her nose in a book. A love that her mother and father passed onto her brother and herself. From her passion for reading sprang her love of writing Her mind is so often full of story ideas from the wildly paranormal to contemporary. She has notebooks lying about with story outlines and character descriptions. A song or TV show can spark an idea, which circles her mind until she puts the idea on paper.
When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with her family, burying her nose in a book, and watching a vast variety of television shows from crime dramas to 1970’s game shows. She even dabbles in crafting. Her favorite craft would be jewelry making. Nothing like creating wearable art.

Social Media Links:

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/authorlmspangler
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authlmspangler
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorlmspangler/
Google+ https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LMSpangler

Touched by her acceptance and trust #MWTease from Red Black Dawning

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Happy Wednesday, and thanks again to Angelica Dawson for organizing the MidWeekTeases!

This week’s tease comes from my WIP, the dark frontier romance RED BLACK DAWNING. 

Tókwar is the sole survivor of a Cheyenne attack on a group of white settlers. Reeling, he wanders in shock when he suddenly hears a noise.

* * *

Pulse beating like a drum in his chest, Tókwar stood, walked to the wagon, and circled the dead oxen on the ground. On the driver’s seat, a man sat in a crooked, half-lying position, his eyes open but blank, a filet of blood running from a hole in his shirt. He wore different clothes than the ones of the Mormons, who traded with the Ute west of Wasatch.

Tókwar gazed past him, through the oval opening of the white canvas. Inside, among scattered belongings, lay three little girls’ bodies, faces shot beyond recognition, blood and brain mass splattered up the walls. Partly underneath one of them, a woman, with only her back and legs apparent.

He had heard wrong. No survivor.

A violent surge of grief went through him as he acknowledged each small body, then conjured up the image of his own newborn son who had been brutally cut out of his mother’s womb and left to die on the cold ground.

Why, Creator? Why butcher children? The wars of the adults don’t concern them!

This massacre was completely unfair, proof of the lowest of human conduct, and made no sense since it would only provoke retaliation from the whites. More blood spilled, more revenge, more tears.

Had there been at least one survivor, he might have regained some faith. But in the company of these dozens and dozens of victims, he felt like the loneliest person in the world.

He glanced at his wrists and the bloody fringes pressing on his cut veins. Maybe time to untie them and finish what he had started.

He was about to retreat when a movement in the corner of his eye snapped him back.

The woman. She had moved, he was sure.

He grabbed the driver’s limp arm and pulled until the man fell to the ground like a heavy bag. Holding his breath from the stench of death and defecation drifting out of the wagon, he climbed up to the seat, leaned over the dead children’s bodies, and touched the woman’s back. Yes, her skin was warm, and she trembled underneath his fingers. She lived!

Heart palpitating, he tugged on her, tried to turn her around, but couldn’t get a grip on the glistening, blood-covered fabric of her clothes.

All of the sudden, she jerked up with a squeal of terror, brown eyes so wide their whites showed, and scrambled backward until hitting the end of the wooden box.

He drew a sharp breath and worked to conceal his surprise.

Her white apron bulged. The big, round stomach beneath gave her pain, for she held it and winced while fixing her eyes on him and heaved for breath. Unruly dark hair framed her tanned, sweaty face, she had to be a blend of white and black people. She looked to have lived at least twenty-five winters. She seemed unharmed, but the shock provoked by the attack had probably started her labor. He hoped it wasn’t too early.

He turned up both palms in the air. “Don’t be afraid,” he said in English, having learned the language from communicating with Mormons. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

With a grimace of pain, she emitted a cry and clutched her stomach harder, but still kept her wild gaze fixed on him.

“I’m a Ute,” he explained, voice soft. “I don’t belong to the band that attacked you. They were Cheyennes and Arapahos. I’m a man of peace.”

Panting, she looked down, as if to indicate she understood. Sweat rolled down her temples and throat and landed as small droplets on her heaving gray dress.

He lowered his hands, too. His pulse beat at a quick pace from the tension and a chill landed on his neck, raising the hair.

What was he going to do with her? She would need help soon, and he had never assisted the birthing of a child. It was women’s business. All he could do was provide water, food, and a shelter, and then Mother Nature would have to take over. She looked scared, but Ute squaws often left the camp to deliver on their own, so she should be able to, too.

She closed her eyes and rode a new contraction, whimpering through gritted teeth and rocking back and forth on her folded legs to alleviate the pain.

He had to find her a different place. She couldn’t stay inside this box turned slaughterhouse. He spun, jumped down from the driver’s seat, and circled the wagon to join her on the other side, in the back opening of the canvas.

Still clutching her stomach, she turned and snapped her untrusting glare to him.

“You have to get out,” he said. “Let me help you.” He put a hand on her shivering arm.

Widening her eyes, she jerked back and swatted at him. “Get back! Don’t touch me!”

Too fast.

He withdrew, trying to keep his voice calm. She needed time to adjust to him. “Listen, this place will be full of bacteria soon.” He nodded to the cadavers behind her. “You and the baby will get infections and die. You can’t stay here.”

“J-just don’t t-touch me.” She whimpered and grimaced again, a coat of sweat covering her face. Her voice sounded lighter than the Ute women’s, and held a slight hint of the accent he had heard some of the southern settlers speak.

He took a step back. “Then get out on your own.”

Taking quick breaths, she peeked over the side of the box and grimaced again. “I c-can’t.” She clutched her stomach. “It’s t-too high. I’ll fall.”

With a little goodwill, it was possible to climb down in her condition, but she seemed too panicked, too frozen to do the simplest thing.

“No,” he said, “you won’t, but if you do, I’ll catch you.”

She retreated, eyes wild. “N-no.” Her breaths came erratic.

He held back a sigh and repeated, “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help.”

She shook her head. “Get away from me.”

“Listen. With all these dead rotting in the sun—” he swept the landscape around them “—wild animals and raptors will come soon and it’ll be dangerous to stay here. I promise, you won’t survive the night.”

“Oh, God. The night.” She brought a hand to her trembling mouth and sobbed, eyes filling with tears. “What the hell am I gonna do? What’s gonna happen to m-me? And my baby?”

His chest tightened. He honestly didn’t know. Even if he did everything in his might to help, he couldn’t guarantee they would live. There were too many unknowns. But he couldn’t tell her that and aggravate her mental state. “Just let me help you. I’ll watch over you.” He extended a hand.

“No!” She jumped back, watery eyes so suspicious it almost stung his pride.

Would he have to use force? No, she was irrational, in despair. The best thing he could do was be patient.

He ground his teeth, took a deep breath, and bore his gaze into hers. “You have to understand. You’re on your own. No one else is going to help you. Certainly not the Cheyenne dog I tied over there.” He nodded to the wagon in front of hers. “The first chance he gets, he’ll kill you. But with me, you’re safe.” He crossed his arms and waited.

“W-what a nightmare.” Sobbing, she leaned over the edge again and measured the height. Tears rolled down her face and plopped on the dusty ground beneath. After a while, she gazed up into his eyes and swallowed. “T-tell me about you f-first.”

That, he could do, if it helped her calm. “I am Tókwar Sin-av of the Tabenague Nation. Have you heard of it?”

“No.”

“Have you heard of the Utes?”

“Yes. Where do you live?”

“Near what your people call Great Salt Lake. We’re camped west of the Wasatch Mountain, at the Uintah and Ouray Reservation.”

“What does your name mean?”

“Black Wolf.”

“Okay.” She nodded. “How c-come you speak English so well?”

“I’m a hunter. I trade with your people.”

Nodding again, she sniffed and wiped her face.

He was grateful she had temporary relief from the contractions.

She glanced at his wrists. “W-what have you done to yourself?”

His heart squeezed, but he didn’t reply. It was a private matter.

“Why have you come here?” she insisted. “What are you doing here alone, far from your tribe, with your wrists cut?”

He didn’t have to answer that.

Her dark eyes gleamed. “Your name suits you. The lone wolf.”

Ignoring the spite in her words, he gazed at the lifeless bodies in the wagon. Flies buzzed over the open wounds and would soon lay eggs in the rotting flesh. He needed to remove all the dead on the site somehow, so they wouldn’t attract wildlife. He didn’t have the strength to dig graves and bury them properly. The only immediate solution was dumping them into the river. What a horrid task.

As if reading his mind, she gasped. “God, so many people.”

He gazed back at her, when she grabbed her stomach and leaned forward with a wail of pain, the long brown hair sliding over her face like a waterfall.

He wanted to do something to soothe her, but felt useless. Thankfully, he hadn’t been present during Isareta’s delivery and witnessed her extreme pain.

Ugh, old grief bubbled right under the surface of his conscious, but he had to stay focused on the present.

Beside him, the pony whinnied. Maybe it was thirsty. Now that he thought of it, thirst scratched at his throat, too, and he would have to get water for the woman as soon as possible. He sighed, the overload of feelings and physical exhaustion weighing him down.

After a long moment, she rose, panting hard, wet hair sticking to her face. “What do you … want from me?”

He regarded her. He didn’t want anything from her. Life wasn’t only about giving and taking. One could do something that felt right and not expect anything in return.

Her tired eyes searched his.

After a beat, he stated more than he asked, voice low, “You think I can just walk away?”

“Most people would.” She reached him a trembling hand.

Finally!

Leaning against the wooden box, he pulled her slender arm around his neck, scooped her into his arms, and lifted her out. Her clothes were wet with sweat, blood, and birthing fluids. She was surprisingly heavy and he weakened by the ordeals of the last days and his blood loss, but he wouldn’t falter.

Gathering all his forces, he spun on his heels and walked past the wagon. The pony stared at him with pointy ears. He gave it a wry smile and said in Ute, “Soon, I’ll need your help.” After he carried the woman to a safe place, he would make good use of the pony’s strength to drag the cadavers to the river.

She shifted in his arms and pushed at his chest. “Let me down! I can walk on my own.”

He ignored her.

“God, what have I gotten myself into?” She let out a cry, not of pain this time, but of what sounded like despair.

When he passed the unconscious Cheyenne, she leaned her head against his chest and sobbed, her soft curls brushing his jaw.

Touched by her acceptance and trust in him, he held her tighter.

Stand by me, Creator. By us.

Copyright (c) 2018 Lea Bronsen

 

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Anno 1865. Three regional conflicts, three conflicted hearts.

As the Indian Wars rage in Colorado, Ute hunter Tókwar wanders without purpose after finding his wife and unborn son murdered and mutilated by white trappers. Sick with grief, he’s about to leave for the Spirit World when he witnesses a joint Arapaho/Cheyenne attack on a convoy.

Heavily pregnant Annabelle is the daughter of a cotton plantation owner and his black slave. While her fiancé, a renegade Confederate soldier, is imprisoned at Camp Douglas, she flees the Civil War-ravaged Arkansas with a group of settlers to build a new home at the western frontier.

Dog soldier Hevo thirsts for blood. With his band of warriors on the prowl, he aims to avenge the innocents slaughtered at Sand Creek and wipe out all Pale Faces. His plan comes to an abrupt halt when he’s wounded during a raid gone wrong and forced to assist an enemy Ute deliver a baby.

Becoming responsible for a newborn amid the chaos and pain gives Tókwar some solace, but he knows it’s temporary. The beautiful, feisty mixed-blood mother is restless, and despite his growing attraction for her and fatherly love for her son, he and Hevo must travel east and return her safely to her man. But how will he enter the Pale Faces’ war zone without risking his life—or once more losing his heart?

 

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