I love having good news or something exciting to share. Today is definitely exciting. I'm sharing the sneak peak of my artist friend Joanne Renaud's sketch for the painting she is doing for me based on my paranormal christmas menage story called A Midnight Clear.
The story is not yet available (I'm gearing up to send it to my editor soon). But I thought I'd post an excerpt, blurb and the sketch of course!
Here's the blurb:
Zoey Blake is down on her luck. After losing her parents in a car crash and having to drop out of college in order to make ends meet, she finds she cannot afford the basics of life and is left living on the streets without a morsel of food to sustain her. When she is fatally attacked by another homeless person just a week before Christmas, she is rescued by a mysterious stranger named Ian.
Ian Kennedy, a century old Irish vampire, can’t resist rescuing a stray, especially if that stray is a beautiful young woman fallen on hard times. Wanting to take care of her like the stray cats he’s saved over the years, he brings her to his home. However, he underestimates Zoey. As a flesh and blood woman who is both beautiful and sensual, she tempts him to fall in love with her sweet nature and warm heart. He is all for seducing her, but there’s just one problem. His best friend and fellow vampire, Connor made him swear a vow decades ago: no more mortal lovers.
Connor O’Shea has never forgotten his one true love, Lara. He and Ian, close as brothers, had shared Lara’s bed together without jealousy. But when another vampire from their past murdered her, Connor swore never to let a mortal woman pay the price for loving him. That is until he sees…and kisses …Zoey. With a heart of gold and a stubbornness to rival his own, Zoey is just the sort of woman to make him break every vow he’s ever made, especially when it comes to love.
As Christmas draws near, Zoey struggles to accept the loss of her parents and the life she once had and she wonders if she can ever find happiness again. Connor and Ian unite forces, determined to prove to her that love is something sacred and special and something they all can share.
Here's the sketch!!
Here's an excerpt:
Ian was a vampire. Zoey blinked, her brain short circuiting as she tried to process his words and failed.
“Oh my God. He bit me! Am I going to turn into one?”
Ian’s face was suddenly above hers, his hands on her neck, her legs, everywhere as he checked her for injury.
“No, lass, no. You won’t become a vampire.”
Relief surged through her. She was safe with him.
“Connor, you damned fool. What are you doing biting her?” he snarled.
The other man, Connor, she’d been right to assume, shifted uneasily by the door, his hair wild from her hands running through it.
“You left me a voicemail. Said she was my dinner and I had to scare her.”
“What? That’s not what I said you idiot!” Ian scooped Zoey up into his arms. She burrowed into him instinctively. The remnants of her climax still rippled through her in tiny aftershocks and his strong arms absorbed her trembling.
“Ian…” Connor growled back.
“I said I had a guest and was bringing her dinner. I warned you to be sure not to scare her. Bloody hell man, she’ll never forgive me, not after you attacked her.” Ian exited the bedroom and started down the hall towards the living room where he settled her on the leather couch and grabbed a heavy thick blanket and he tucked it around her. Connor followed at a distance, eyes avoiding Zoey. That irritated her, not that she could say why exactly.
“Ian, I’m sorry. The message cut out in places. I thought I heard what I heard. I didn’t know. It’s clear she’s your dinner. I didn’t realize you were bringing them home again. You usually eat out.”
Ian, who had been brushing hair back from Zoey’s face, tensed. His eyes caught hers and held before he spoke to Connor.
“She’s not my dinner. She’s just a woman who’s in need of some help. I offered her a place to stay and to get her some food.” He pointed to the kitchen countertop which had several take out bags from the nearby restaurants.
The aroma of the food drifted beneath Zoey’s nose, and her mouth watered. Hunger hit her stomach with the violence of a physical blow, and she tensed in Ian’s arms. Food. God, she was ravenous. She’d quite forgotten it when she’d been beneath Connor in his bed. Her eyes strayed to the kitchen where the food was. It took every ounce of self-control not to run straight at the food. Somehow she knew making sudden movements in front of Connor, a vampire, might be a bad idea.
A vampire. She still had to process that, but she could do that later, when her stomach was full.
“Who is she, Ian?”
“Her name is Zoey Blake.” Ian moved so that he lifted her up and sat back on the couch with her in his lap.
It probably should have bothered her that he just moved her about and picked her up without asking. But she liked that he simply took control and more importantly, that he seemed to enjoy keeping her close. Even despite the allure of food she was reluctant to leave his arms.
“And why did you bring Zoey here?” Connor’s eyes narrowed to slits.
The very air about them seemed to vibrate, like someone had just plucked the strings of a harp and the sound waves still traveled silently along the air. The hair on Zoey’s neck rose and her skin tingled with awareness of the two men and the situation.
“She has nowhere else to go,” Ian rushed on. “The lass lost her family, her home. When I discovered her, she was dying in an alley where some whoreson had attacked her.” His voice was full of quiet desperation, but tinged with an edge of defiance.
Connor’s full lips twisted in a bitter sneer. “So you’d thought you’d bring her home and play the nursemaid? What about your promise to me? No more mortal lovers. Not after what happened to Lara.”
Zoey stiffened. Mortal lover? “Who’s Lara?” She glanced up at Ian. The movement brushed her lips across the line of his jaw. He tensed, chest and arm muscles hardening. The sudden bulge beneath her bottom had her blushing.
“You test me, love. Be careful.” His warm breath stirred the crown of her hair, eliciting little shivers from her. “Connor, she stays. Get used to the idea. She’s mine, and I will care for her. You are welcome to help, but do not make me choose between you. I will pick her. We swore once to protect the innocent. Zoey is as innocent as they come.”
“Hey! I’m not that innocent.” She was no stranger to sex – there had been a few boys through college before she was forced to drop out, and even if it had been a few years, she remembered the mechanics of it. Even if she’d been celibate lately, she’d still had her share of beyond wicked fantasies, her current ones featuring the pair of men both staring at her.
Connor snorted. “Right. You’re as green as the grass near Belfast.”
“I’m not sure what that means,” Zoey shot back a tad uncertain but still riled enough to glower at him. “But I think I’m insulted.”
Ian chuckled, but it soon died when she glared up at him with all the fury a woman could muster against a handsome vampire, which was apparently enough to make his eyes twinkle despite his lack of a smile. She turned her glower towards Connor, hoping to have a better effect.
“Don’t argue with me, pet,” Connor growled. “I’m liable to turn you over my knee and smack your arse until it’s a lovely shade of red.”
“You’re not to touch her.” Ian shielded her with his arms protectively, but she wasn’t scared. Connor’s threat had her body heating and the promise of his hand on her ass, even in punishment, melted her insides. She needed help. This was so wrong. She shouldn’t want him to spank her, and it sure as hell shouldn’t have aroused her.
Connor spun away and slammed his hands down on the granite kitchen countertop. His head dropped between his hunched shoulders.
Ian shifted her off his lap onto the other side of the couch as put his body between her and his friend’s. “Connor?”
She gazed steadily at the other man’s back, the tension rolled off him in waves. She couldn’t help but remember their encounter minutes before when he’d had her on her back in his bed. There hadn’t been any tension there, only passion. Her surrender, his domination and a sexual release the likes of which she’d never felt before. Her womb clenched at the mere memory of his fingers pumping inside her. She suddenly remembered she was in Ian’s arms. She raised her head and saw his nostrils flaring. Surely he couldn’t…smell her arousal.
Please god, I hope not.
“She’s helpless, Connor. I refuse to put her back out onto the streets. She was dying when I found her.”
Connor finally turned back to face them. “She’s another stray. Like your wee cats. But you can’t keep her, Ian. She’s a human, not an animal.”
Ian’s shoulders stiffened and a low growl vibrated from the back of his throat. Her hackles rose, and she suddenly realized Ian was just as dangerous as Connor was, although he’d hidden it from her with his outward gentleness.
As the words permeated through her hungry mind, she felt a sudden stab of anger, and the prickling of tears behind her eyes. Why hadn’t she seen it before? She would have, she argued to herself, if she hadn’t been so hungry. She was a pity case to this man. Ian didn’t look at her with passion – he looked at her with pity. She’d mistaken his intentions in the bathroom earlier when he’d kissed her, men did that didn’t they? Sleep with women they pitied? And the hurt of that thought wracked her insides with an angry sadness that choked her. Zoey was too angry to say a word, the violent emotions ripped through her and she didn’t dare open her mouth, otherwise she’d say a thousand things she’d regret.
With a growl, Connor looked away.
“You should have let nature run its course. We cannot save every mortal we come across.”
Hope you all enjoyed the post! Please feel free to share your thoughts! AND STAYED TUNED...When the finished painting is completed I will be giving away a copy of my paranormal Novella, a signed piece of Scene Art from A Midnight Clear and a first chapter sneak peek of the story!