Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Hard Drive Transplant

I thought I would make a quick post to let you know I'm still here, only disconnected for about a week. My poor hard drive is going bad so I have to take it to the shop to have it replaced. I have been backing up items on the system since Sunday and there is so much... stuff. I made sure to back up the important things, WIPs, pictures, music and web links. The web links weren't hard just tedious.

I'm getting ready to start working on Striker, Lord of Thunder. It's the second book of The Valespian Pact. I needed to do a little more research and some house cleaning with my inspirations boards. I bruised the pad of my right thumb with the number of tacks I used.

Left to right. Druids of Sanctuary and Sumeria's Sons
I whittled the Sumeria's Sons inspiration board down to just the basics since I wanted space for a couple of other projects like Druids of Sanctuary and The Valespian Pact. The drywall is turning into swiss cheese but since the husband isn't worried then neither am I.

The Valespian Pact has a wall to itself. Different people, cultures, dress, planets, technology. Six pictures alone make up the inspiration of Dargon. There are people and species I don't have inspirations for because they are completely made up. I thought briefly about trying to draw some of them by hand. I'm not sure I could successfully bring what is in my head onto paper.
The Valespian Pact inspiration wall

I struggled a little bit with the opening scene of book two but I believe I have it nailed down. This will be the last book that will surround Zeus, Dargon, and Alpha. The next one will start the search for Zeus's missing biological brother.

The majority of the work I had to do for this book, besides some basic plotting, was research on I.A.s When I wrote the human's back history for Alpha Trine, there were three notable human problems.

The first one was the creation of the Feteine. They are a race of robots created by humanity to do slave labor. They developed an intelligent awareness but held no basic rights. When the Fetiene were sent to mine the crystals of the planet Qestaire. The crystals were the Qrxzl who befriended and help the Feteine to rebel against the humans.

The second was the invasion of Aries 7, the GyrFalconi planet. One of the four companies that run human society messed with DNA and genetics so the people of the planet could work the planet's mines. The future GyrFalconi generations lost the ability to fly.

The third and biggest issue stemmed from the treatment of Aries 7. The Cypress of Nine Council sent an Imperial Ambassador to the Milky Way to let the humans know they had violated Galactic Inner Planetary Regulations. Restitution had to be made. The ambassador was executed on live TV and soon the humans were faced with a 20 year war that they had no hope of ever winning.

It is these developments that led to the gathering, imprisonment, and experimentation on the Fal'Amoric race. Could the disappearance of the Prince Prometheus be connected? The lost Vondorian prince, Canry, summons Zeus to the Waters of Poseidon and beseeches Zeus to seek the help of the Feteine, warning the Vondorian brothers won't reach Valespia's capitol Haven without the Feteine as allies.

If only those were the only obstacles Zeus and the twins had to overcome. :)

Before I run off to start writing I wanted to share the first review that came in for May 18th's release of Surrounded by Crimson. I'm so pleased with this series and the reception it's had.

MM Good Book Reviews gave Surrounded by Crimson 5 Hearts. You can read the review here.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Winner Announcement and Release Day Excerpt!

Woot!! Surrounded by Crimson, book #4 of Sumeria's Sons is out! It has been amazing to watch this book rise on the pre-sale list to the #2 slot. I'm humbled and so grateful. Thank you guys!!

First off, I need to announce the winner of this week's giveaway.  Thank you for reading and participating!!

So had 5 e-books to give away and the winners are:  Teresa BlomanderMaame AdwoaFiona Bernard. Congratulations!! (I just noticed that I don't have an email link. So...) Email me at lexi.ander.author@gmail.com for your prize!!

So I promised a little something extra for excerpts today. The publisher has one up that starts at the beginning but I thought I'd share something tantalizing from the middle. Hold onto your hats!

Blurb: Tristan has agreed to bond with Ushna but there is still much to do. Returning to Tribe Enkidu puts everyone on edge and Tristan is being stalked like prey. It doesn't help that he fights depression as he mourns the loss of Nikita, or that claiming his birthright becomes a battle of wills with the Elder Council, and the pleading of his adoptive daughter adds to the oppressive feeling. Stumbling onto a secret prison while searching for Ushna leads Tristan to risk everything to free a lost God. But breaking the tie to his Flame has more repercussions than Tristan knew and the assistance of a forgotten Goddess and a centuries old lover may not be enough to save him.


"Xenres," Thomas said stepping close. "I know what you're thinking. Your consort has possibly been kidnapped by your enemy and seemingly held hostage somewhere down that tunnel. But we need to wait for Captain Ybarra to bring reinforcements. He'll be able to confirm if your consort is missing."

Again, we all tried to contact someone, anyone, at Nathan's estate. We were all frustrated when the calls went unanswered. I didn't disagree with Thomas. There were too many easy ways to plant a false scent trail and not enough evidence to chance a rescue with our current numbers. I had five warriors and I was slow, fat, and pregnant. I would hinder my men's movements, and their concern would be to keep me safe above all. Even if I superseded Juan's orders and sent two scouts down the tunnel, I would be left with three guards, and no way to escape if we were attacked.

Waiting for Juan to come back with reinforcements was the logical choice. Fifteen minutes to the house. Ten to fifteen minutes to gather a force and another fifteen minutes to get back. Juan had already been gone ten to fifteen minutes. We only had a little longer to wait for his return. The next draft brought the smell of blood mingled with Ushna's scent.


All logical thought left and I knew I couldn't wait, not if Daniel had hurt Ushna. There wasn't anything on this world that could make me stand out here when there was a strong possibility Ushna was being tortured. By the expressions from the warriors, they knew this as well.

With numb fingers, I tried one more time to call Ushna, only to be thrown into voicemail. I left a scathing message full of fake threats if Ushna didn't return my call immediately. I dialed Juan, he picked up, but loud static cancelled out any other sound. I cussed loud and long, not caring who heard me.

Russ pulled one of the two swords he carried from his belt. "You realize we're probably walking into a trap?" He handed over a blade. "I don't have a spare firearm."

I took the offered hilt, testing the balance before giving him a firm nod. "I know but I can't take the chance." I stared at his dark eyes, letting him see my resolve. I ordered one man to wait for Juan's return and report our plan to search for Ushna.

We approached the shed cautiously; the smell of blood grew stronger the closer we came to the entrance. The scent hadn't been there when we first arrived, which meant it was fresh. Thomas descended the stairs first and we waited at the top for the all-clear. The cool air rose up from the stairway as we waited for the warrior to return. He stepped into our view. "The tunnel is pitch-black, but there appears to be a lighted room twenty to thirty feet toward the end."

With two warriors in front of me and two behind, we descended the slick stone stairs into absolute dark. The air was moist and cool. The granite under my hand was smooth to the touch and wet with condensation. My heart pounded. That Ushna's scent was stronger here, with the smell of blood overlaying it, worried me. I picked up other odors. An older, stale smell with mold along with various animal traces underlying everything else.

Carefully, with a hand following the wall, we followed the passageway toward a sliver of light at the far end of the tunnel. We shuffled as quietly as we could, unsure of the state of the ground under foot. Our breathing seemed loud in the enclosed space, and I worried it would mask any noise made by someone sneaking up on us.

HAPPY READING!! I hope enjoy Surrounded by Crimson, the fourth book in the Sumeria's Sons series. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, Starting Fires, Part Five of Five

Day 1: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on TOMORROW Saturday, May 18th. Today is the last day to enter the giveaway!! 

I hope you enjoy the conclusion to Starting Fires. It was such fun to write this story for the guys. Now another one is swirling around in my thoughts.  All the what ifs that can happen from here.  Enjoy!!

Starting Fires (Sumeria's Sons #3.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.2)
© 2013, Lexi Ander

Part Five


It had been a couple of days since I'd left Juan's quarters in the pre-dawn hour exhausted but sated. We hadn't made love—yet—but spent the night learning each other's bodies. His scent on my skin still lingered, strong and heady. He'd been pretty happy with himself over the fact others would discern our mutual possession and I encouraged him. If he was distracted by the evidence of his physical and emotion ownership of me, then he wouldn't pay attention the unease I had difficulty suppressing. Magi took bindings very seriously. If it became known I'd linked Juan to me by accident. The consequences would be high even though Juan had been.

Magi formed bonds to create circles of power, usually for protection from those more powerful. The practice hadn't been used in times of war and not wide spread, until recently. Kevah Kortdad's leadership of the College instilled within the Magi a degree of distrust among the members. What I hadn't yet explained to Juan, I couldn't form a circle of just two people. Rules of magic were applied in threes. The smallest circle could be was three, the largest recorded had been twenty-one.

Soon I'd need to take on another or more to close the circle. A Magi would detect the gap and I'd be vulnerable to attack without the benefit of being able to defend myself. I didn't believe Juan would be up for sharing. I hoped he wouldn't have to--if I could come up with a solution.  There was so much my warrior didn't know. What would he do when he found out what I'd inadvertently made him a part of? Would he continue to be happy with me? The binding was fragile right now. If we avoided contact then the link would dissolve over time but again, Juan would pursue me if I tried to put distance between us without an explanation.

Honestly, I didn't want to let him go. I felt strongly for him and the degree to which I needed him scared me. When I'd crossed the yard to the main house, I wanted to turn around and climb back into Juan's bed.

What other options did I have? Explain to Juan what I'd need to do and weather the storm. If he couldn't abide by the rules of magic I'd have to release him. I'd need to leave until the bond completely dissolved. Surely there had to be another place from which I'd be able to serve Tristan. The ironic part? I'd been concerned about the Triad's retaliation since the attempted kidnapping, and I'd contemplated leaving the ranch for some time. Now, when the possibility arose that I might have to go, my very being rebelled, and I searched for a way to stay. But if Juan didn't completely accept the world which I lived, then I'd have no choice.

Fucking hell. I was getting ahead of myself. As far as I could tell, the Magi who'd arrived seeking asylum in Tristan's tribe weren't a part of those who favored Kevah's policies. Many of the faces had been familiar, young Magi who at one time I'd attempted to help, shield, and encouraged when I had attending the College. Maybe with a new College, different rules could be drawn up so we wouldn't live in fear of Lycans like Kevah.

Hunched over the work bench, I tested the cooling metal of the medallion. Perfect. I went to work with a chisel and rubber hammer, carefully carving as I chanted. I gather the magic to me as I spoke to the metal. A soft tune echoed in the garage, telling me it was time. I poured the spell into that which had been formed by the rhythmic pounding. I followed the words with a push of emotion, giving the feelings I had for Juan a home. I desired a way to protect him when I wasn't with him. It had been difficult to watch him transform and pursue the rogue Magi while my presence was required to stay and safeguard Tristan. Not that I'd ever leave my king unprotected. I merely wanted my lover and hopefully my future Bond Brother to be guarded as well.

I didn't know how long I worked on my gift to Juan. Dealing with the Magi and then Tristan and Stan, I'd missed my dinner with Juan. Disappointed, I retreated to the garage, my workshop in disguise, determined to finish the medallion. Creating an item of magic took considerable time and effort. Forging both the chain and amulet had taken much longer than Tristan's ring.

When I final sat back on my stool, my back screamed in agony but the present was perfect. The links of the platinum chain were solid and not too heavy. The medallion had more detail than I'd anticipated but that was part of the process. The energy didn't always decipher the information I relayed in a similar way. The magic pulled something of Juan through our link to add to the weave of the spell.

The sound of a shoe scuff alerted me to the unexpected visitor before I caught his scent in the air. I turned on my stool to greet Stan. The wave of vertigo that waylaid me almost unseated me. I had to have been working longer than I'd thought.

Stan rushed to catch me and I held out a halting hand. The bond with Juan may've been light but already the thought of another touching me added a rolling stomach to the dizziness. Luckily, Stan didn't insist.

"I hadn't meant to startle you. We've been taking turns checking on you." He put a respectable distance between us, which I appreciated.

I gripped the work bench as I struggled with a wave of exhaustion. The lightheadedness receded. All were signs of a Magi too long at work.

"How long have I been in here?"

“The Magi arrived three days ago. You came here after the meeting with Justus's attacker’s and haven't left since. It's six o'clock the evening of the third day.” Stan warily eyed the stone golem standing in repose.

Well, it could've been worse. Seventy some odd hours wasn't the longest time I'd spent working, but this session had been more intense.

"What are you making?"

Stan was being—calm—reasonable. I studied the warrior noting once again how maturity—only the physical because the emotional was still in question—had developed him into an attractive man. Wavy dark hair covered his ears but didn't brush his collar with thick brows over large dark brown eyes. He hadn't shaved in a couple of days and the growth came in lighter than his hair. Bronze skin gave the male an air of health and vitality. Stan wasn't as large or as tall as Ushna but he came close.

"The rings confiscated form Daniel's apartment and the demonstration given by Kent gave me an idea," I finally replied.

An organized group of assassins had been discovered within Tristan's growing tribe. We had been aware of their existence but not their purpose. It was either luck or fate they were unaware they hadn't murdered all of the royal line. It afforded us time to study our enemy. One of their secrets was the mysterious rings.

Stan leaned into one of the benches that ran along the garage wall, attempting to give off an air of casual indifference. Little did he know, he faced the man who had mastered the art of nonchalance. He didn't fool me. He wanted to talk and would use any excuse to keep me from kicking him out.

"The magic of the Kent's ring isn't Lycan but we can learn from them. I took a few of the principles I discovered so far and applied them to the medallion I'd been working on." I began clearing my work station, placing the necklace into a velvet lined box.

"That's for him?" Stan quickly forged on without waiting for my answer. "Is this because of what I did the other day?"

"Truth? In part. If I hadn't been there, you would've killed him." Stan blanched, but didn't deny my assessment. "If Juan will have me, I plan on spending the rest of my life with him."

Stan held my gaze, searching for something. "I didn't realize he meant that much to you. He's no more than an average warrior, he's definitely not strong enough to provide you with the protection you need. He's an uneducated loner with little to no social skills. He's the one who'd benefit from being your mate and all he'll do is drag you down. Mark my words."

Shuffling his feet, Stan placed his fist on his hips. "Look. I hear what the Magi are whispering amongst themselves. As their Sami, you're next in line to lead them, which means your triad needs to be comprised of the best and the strongest. You cannot attach yourself to someone inferior to you."

In my anger, I almost gave away the fact Juan and I were on our way to becoming Bond Brothers. The image on the completed medallion had assuaged my fears and renewed my optimism. Stan made too many assumptions and I was furious. He knew little of how a triad worked or what the purpose of one should be.

"Are you saying you would be stronger, better than Juan if I let you in my circle?" My voice didn't betray my growing ire. I sounded thoughtful and not like a man whose link to Juan had just been threatened by an external opponent.

Beware of the Magi who were driven to protect their Bond Brothers.

As foolish as Stan could be, his casual stance had become wary. "I realize my behavior over the last couple of weeks has been less than exemplary, but yes, I'm a better candidate than Juan Ybarra. My abilities as an alpha alone are valuable to you because I can force obedience from those who'd harm you. My skills as a Warrior of Anat are self-explanatory. I'm perfect for what you need."

I blew out a breath, wrestling with rising emotions. If I couldn't regulate them, I'd cause things in my workshop to combust. There were downsides to being the strongest Magi in an age. Father forced me swear to keep the secret of my true nature. Excess emotion, when not measured and redirected, caused serious irreparable harm. The only good thing my father had accomplished was to teach me how to contain the tide. Stan should consider himself lucky I'd been an excellent student.

"No, you're not. You presume to be knowledgeable of the Magi and yet you'd been trapped and leashed by their magic. I don't know where your false sense of loyalty and protection is coming from but I'm not the one you've betrayed, Stan. Don't use me to assuage your guilt. I won't be your scapegoat because you refuse to face the one person you turned your back on." I stood and shoved the velvet box in my pants pocket.

"For some reason Tristan loves you unconditionally. You need to reassess your priorities, determine what your destiny was supposed to be before you had been pushed off course by the assassins. What I do know, your fate will never rest with me." I pushed the stool under the workbench and locked up the cabinets.

Instead of heading to the door, I stalked toward Stan. Whatever he sensed from me, even though I didn't crowd him, caused him to stumble back until he smacked into golem. "You're not my friend, Stan. My confidence in you is spent. I don't trust you with the people I love. Maybe we'll be friends again down the road but that isn't where we are today. If you continue on this course of action, you'll become my enemy."

Very few people had witnessed the extent of the power I held. I planned to keep it that way but I needed to send Stan a message he wouldn't forget or disregard. The Triad didn't know for sure, although I believed they suspected. I wasn't only born the strongest Magi in five hundred years. No, I was the reason my mother died in child birth because I had been the Brann, born of fire.

Branns, Magi similar to me, were created to herald an age of great battles. The destruction they wrought had become legendary. Whoever guided the Brann controlled the outcome of war. My father, Kassian, beat into me the importance of hiding this secret. I held the knowledge close. The immense destructive power had been the reason I quit fighting as a juvenile and concentrated on healing—the opposite and calming aspect of destruction. I spent my life denying my birthright, terrified of the consequences.

I couldn't afford to be afraid any longer.

Exhaling, I release a tiny portion of what I hid since the revelations of my first transformation at puberty. I didn't sing, chant a spell, or beseech the Earth for magic. No words were spoken to draw the heat rose that from my core. Immediately the temperature in the room jumped several degrees but the area between Stan and I became as hot as an open flame. My hair lifted and swirled gently in the air. I raised my hands before me, cupped palms up. The pale skin turned pearlesque with pastel colors spinning and blending across the surface of my exposed arms.

What I held held captured Stan's wide-eyed attention. Blue fire licked at my skin without burning. He attempted to touch but snatched back blistered fingertips before he came close to the flame. I drew the heat of the flame back into me to keep Stan from being burned further.


I caught his dark gaze and held it. "The next time you decide to do me a favor and attempt to harm—murder—Juan, I will obliterate you. When I'm done with you, not even bones will be left. There's nothing you can offer me that I want or need. Do we have an understanding?"

The extreme heat caused sweat to bead on Stan's face. His eyes darted away as he licked dry lips and nodded. I was disappointed I had to threaten him. What we once had was gone forever. It couldn't be duplicated or revived; we were too far past that point. I hoped he'd pull himself together quickly because my threat applied to Tristan's well-being. If I determined Stan was a detriment, I'd safeguard the welfare of my king.

I'd set him free from any imagined obligations to me.

Had I been too hard on him? At the door I glanced back, Stan stood in the middle of the garage staring down at his hands. He seemed sad, definitely lost, and yes, there it was—relief. No, I'd given him what he needed, a slammed door, and a type of closure.

Achy and tired, I strode through the dark kitchen toward my bedroom. The house was quiet. I wondered where everyone had gone but I didn't have the energy to track them down. A shower and soft bed sounded glorious.

The most beautiful sight met me when I entered my quarters. A candle lit table for two had been setup in the middle of the room. Juan walked out of the bathroom using a damp cloth to wipe at a spot on his black trousers.

Gods, he was handsome. Hazel eyes, dark curly hair touched up with something that made his curls shine. He was clean shaven, brown skin smooth, the pink tip of his tongue pressed at his bottom lip as he focused on removing the stain.

He wore a thin V-neck sky-blue sweater, sleeves pulled up to his elbows. Warmth bloomed in my chest as I realized he'd made sure we had our dinner date. He was more in tune with me than I'd thought if he knew I would be finished about this time.

As if he sensed my presence, Juan grinned widely before he gazed directly at me. Stan had been wrong about several things. The biggest one was in regards to Juan Ybarra. The finished surface of the medallion told me something important about my lover. I guessed at the meaning of some of the images but there was one I understood clearly.

Juan was perfect for me because he cherished the flame.

"How are you feeling?" He tossed the cloth in the direction of the bathroom. His gaze traveled over me with concern. "You have to be starving. Sit. Eat. I'll draw you a bath and then we'll go to bed."

Instead of allowing him to lead me to the table, I crushed him to me.

"What's wrong? Do you need a doctor? Do I need to get Nathan?" His arms slipped around me, holding me tight.

"No, I'm just… seeing you."

His gaze searched mine. I distracted him with a kiss that quickly morphed into one of blazing passion. I wasn't as tired as I'd thought. Breaking apart was difficult. I craved his touch, needed to be close to him, and he seemed to understand. Sitting me at the table, he pulled the other chair next to mine. As he reached for the silver dome in front of me, I placed a hand over his to stop him.

"I have gift for you." I dug into my pocket for the velvet box. Juan's lusty grin made me give a startled bark of laughter. "Not that kind of present. Maybe later," I hedged.

My heart thumped hard as he opened the box revealing the hand carved medallion about two and a half inches across.

"Gregori!" he gasped, fingertips tracing the intricate images.

"Once you put it on, none will ever be able to remove the necklace but you."

"Then you must be the one to place it on me." He took the amulet out of its velvet bed and placed the chain and amulet in my upturned palm. "Please."

With trembling hands I slipped the medallion over his head. The fit was perfect even though I hadn't taken measurements. His dark hands engulfed mine, the solid links sliding through our fingers as we settled it against his skin.

"I love you, Juan," I blurted.

I had confidently flashed fire and threats at Stan minutes ago, and here I was a blubbering mess as I attempted to express, for the first time, how I felt to my lover. He didn't leave me hanging. The way he kissed me said dinner would be very cold by the time we got around to eating it.

The End

Note: Make sure to come back tomorrow and see who won the giveaway. You'll also get to see a new excerpt from Surrounded by Crimson. Cheers!!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, Starting Fires, Part Four of Five

Day 2: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Contest: Monday, May 13th I started running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

Starting Fires (Sumeria's Sons #3.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.2)
© 2013, Lexi Ander
Part Four


Corey pushed Stan out into the hall, but before he closed the door, he glanced at us, the colored beads on his blond braids clacking softly. "Enjoy your vacation—your five day vacation." He grinned devilishly. "If you come back before then, I'll simply tack on more days."

The door snicked closed quietly behind him and I smirked, no longer apprehensive about how to spend my time off. The room was a disaster. Granted, some of the upheaval had been our fault, a fact that caused the grin to widen and split my face in two. Oh, how I hoped there would be a repeat performance. Gregori helped to right the chairs, returned the photos to their places on the wall, and clean the floor where Stan scattered anything that hadn't been tied down.

"So. Five days, huh? " His mischievous grin had me beaming back coyly.

"Yeah, unless there's an emergency." I gave a dramatic sigh. "That's a lot of time to fill. I'm not sure what I'll do with myself."

Never have I taken such pleasure in flirting with anyone. I loved to watch Gregori grow flustered. Today, though, the Magi played along with more confidence than he'd had exhibited before.

"I can make a list of things you can do." His silvery gaze travelled over my bare torso causing me to suck in my gut. His stare stopped at my groin where my obvious excitement pressed against my zipper and he licked those full lips, before continuing down my long legs to my cowboy boots.

His scrutiny made me feel naked and I glanced down to double check that, yes, I still had a pair of jeans on. Sharp pants sounded loud in the closed room and Gregori had yet to even touch me sexually.

"You don't need to spend all that time—alone." He glanced up and met my stare. His expression revealing a sharp vulnerability, there and gone in the blink of an eye. "Come to supper with me tomorrow night. Not a table in the dining hall, or at the main house with my nosy friends."

"You want me to pick you up and take you into town for a suit and tie dinner?"

He placed a stray book on the table and approached me. "Yes. I think it's time everybody understands you're mine."

I inhaled sharply, running his scent over my tongue. Sweat blended with traces of arousal mixed with his unique pheromones, the effect at times drugged my senses.

"Anyone can tell I'm yours by the way I look at you." I didn't think it would come to a shock to people if we started seeing each other openly.

"Here. Allow me to take care of you."

I held still as Gregori laid his warm hands against my throat, his thumbs brushing over the pulse point. The Magi erotically caressed my skin. A tingling built beneath the tips of Gregori's fingers as they moved over the surface of my body, leading to the sensation of all the pleasure points being stroked simultaneously.

I didn't understand what he was doing to me. My eyelids drooped closed as my head dropped back and I gave in to his sensual ministrations. Without looking, I couldn't discern the touch of his hands from that of the magic. A tingling sensation worked its way up my torn back driving away the pain and increasing the pleasure. My cock pulsed with need and I swayed, overwhelmed by the heightened awareness. I reached out and braced a hand on the wall to keep from toppling over.

"Gods…" I breathed out. He caressed me everywhere and I craved more. A strangled noise pushed up the back of my throat when a palm grasped the base of my shaft.

Intoxicated, I glanced down my body; sure the touch had to be an illusion. Gregori knelt at my feet. The blue jeans pooled around my cowboy boots and my briefs caught on my knees. His palm enfolded the width of my cock, gaze devouring the length as if he held a tempting morsel.

I wanted to express to him how beautiful I thought he was, to recite sonnets of adoration, and show him how I valued his loyalty and courage and sacrifice. To open my lips and reveal he didn't need to hide because I could see him—even that which he hid from everyone else—and regardless of the fire that burned within him, I found him beautiful. To simply express the love I held for him.

All the poetic words I planned to say became lost when Gregori gazed up my body with his liquid-silver gaze and took me into his mouth. His free hand caressed my hip and swirls of intense magic transferred to me as his palm moved up and drew circles over the skin. All the while his wicked tongue did devilish things to my cock.

His gaze held mine as he sealed his lips and slid down the length until he met his fist before swallowing and sucking his way back to the flared rim. Never had I experienced anything resembling the sensations he invoked within me. Gregori mixed saliva, teeth, tongue, and magic to gradually me drive me insane. A part of me wanted to fist his hair and slowly fuck his mouth. Another part believed the exquisite sensations would end if I touched him and I'd wake up to discover this moment had only been a dream. Gods, I'd do everything in my power to stay.

Without warning, I rode the edge of orgasm and I fought back the need to come. I didn't want the connection between us to end. So I pulled out all my tricks to stave off the orgasm. Gregori movements become more concentrated, intense, as if he sensed I held back. The hand on my belly grew heavy, magic rolled across my skin, his single touch turned into a thousand.

Breath caught in my chest as Gregori began to glow. His alabaster skin turned pearlesque and then Gregori—bloomed—that is the only way I could describe what happened to my lover. When the light burst from him and engulfed me, I was shoved over the edge. I screamed his name, pouring my essence down his throat until I thought I'd turn inside out.

His strong arms caught me as I crumpled to the floor. He made shushing noises as I attempted to remember how to breathe again. Memories from the past created a kaleidoscope of pictures from a barely remembered childhood. My mind scrambled with the sudden knowledge that not all of the recollections came from my past. I recognized Gregori's youthful face among a group of boys; still shots from his own memories mixed with mine of the young men as they tumbled and played and grew up together.

"I'm so sorry. So, so sorry," he murmured over and over again. "I lost control of my emotions. I didn't mean for this to happen. Oh, Gods, please forgive me. Stay with me, Juan, come on, I need you to breathe, match the rhythm of my breath."

I gasped raggedly but my lungs rejected the attempts to draw in air. My limbs were heavy as if they had been filled with lead.

"You need to let in the magic," he coaxed.

I didn't know how.

"Gods! Your lips are turning blue." Gregori's warm hand cleared the hair from my eyes. His voice trembled when he said, "Think about me making love to you and the moment as I'd breech you. How there's that little bit of pain at first but then the need for movement grows. You want all of me the inside you but you need to relax your muscles and allow me in. You need to want me… want me to be a part of you." Tears spilled over, painting his cheeks before he buried his face in my neck. "What have I done? Please, please, please don't take him."

Spots danced in my vision mocking me with my inability to open up to the one person I had come to care about. All those years ago, I'd lost my family and closest friends and I believed I'd never be able to love as deeply again. How utterly wrong I'd been. Now, if I didn't discover how to allow Gregori's magic to enter me, I'd die. I refused to leave him just as I'd been abandoned long ago.

Tear-stained kisses lightly flutter over my face and I concentrated on listening to Gregori's breathing, to the rhythmic thump of his heart against my ear. His full lips slid over mine and he breathed his life's breath into me. My lungs immediately expanded to trap his essence.

Imagine, he'd said and so I did.

My eyelids fell closed and I opened my mind to the vision of Gregori leaning over me, his red hair falling to shield our faces as his surged powerfully within me. I needed him deeper, to touch the very core of my body. I arched to meet his thrust, and drew him in further. The gates burst open and the magic flooded into me becoming an unstoppable tidal wave. I didn't struggle or fight but permitted the power to flow over me. Gregori needed me to embrace his energy, and I drew an essential part of him into a place where no one else would ever reside within me.

My body bowed, breaking the kiss as deluge of magic filled me. Awareness blossomed and I gasped. The heels of my boots thumped against the floor and Gregori's voice, frantic and loud, called for help. My thoughts—his emotions?—voices not my own crowded into my head.

I didn't recall passing out, but when I glanced about I laid on the bed, not the floor, with a warm body curled around me. A single candle burning on the table top and the moonlight shining through the sheers softly lit the darkened room.

Gregori's scent covered everything, the bedding, on my clothes, in the air—under my skin—he was everywhere. I reveled in the fact he'd chosen to share himself with me. Not only sex, or his body but he exposed himself to me, even the part that was wholly magic. If I were a betting man, I would say Gregori had never let his guard down that completely…ever. Not even for Stan. I marveled at the priceless gift he'd given me, and at the same time I felt supremely smug.

"This isn't a competition between you and Stan."

I glanced at Gregori who appeared pleasantly sleep tussled but his eyes were bright and awake. Warmth flowed into me and with growing realization I understood the emotion I sensed belonged Gregori.

"I can feel you!" I blurted then immediately flushed with embarrassment. Several momentous things happened today and I sounded like a teenager who'd discovered a new gadget. How poetic.

I cleared my throat. "I meant to say… " and I had nothing. Never had I regretted not seeking a higher education until that moment. Surely then I would've been able to find the words to express myself without sounding like a bumbling idiot.

Gregori expression grew pensive. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for this to happen."

"I'm not exactly sure what has happened but I don't believe it's something you should apologize for."

He licked his lips the trepidation clear as day, not that his expression changed but the sensation came from his emotions.

"Earlier when we… ah… I… shit… you know, I gave you the blow job? I healed you first." I nodded with my lips pursed to keep from releasing the laughter. A flustered Gregori was cute.

I grinned. "I've never been healed by a Magi before. That was amazing."

He scowled. "No one else will heal you but me."

Gregori scrubbed a palm over his face, apprehension overwhelmed the spike of jealousy, and turning so thick the sensation was almost physically cloying.

"Normally, healing isn't pleasurable. I blended my emotions with the magic. Something happened and I… it was as if I'd been plugged into you. The magic began to give me feedback. I should've stopped but I wanted to give you something of me. So you'd understand… and I went too far. I've never given anyone… you were so open… you..."

He sat up and growled. The blanket pooled at his waist revealing a lightly muscled torso. But it was his haunted gaze that held my attention. "I'm not explaining this correctly. I'm so sorry. You're partially bound to me. When I realized what was happening, I tried to stop and pull the magic back but I was already too late.

I rose and drew him into my arms, needing to comfort him. "That's the reason I can sense your emotions?" Gregori's forehead nestled into the crook of my neck. He nodded. "And this happened because you wanted to share something of yourself with me and when you sensed what I felt for you, you lost control? And now you're sort of tied to me?"

"Yes," he whispered, sounding completely dejected.

"Oh." It wasn't the most brilliant reply but I doubted Gregori would appreciate a victory whoop at the moment. He worried I wouldn't be receptive to being tied to him and I understood his point of view. I wasn't sure what to say that would console him because, dammit, I was fucking ecstatic with a huge dose of pleased-with-myself.

"Are you disturbed because you now have this link to me?" I asked.

"I…" He started and then paused. Leaning back he gazed at me with his mouth open and his brow creating a deep V over the bridge of his nose. "You're happy," he accused.

If he sensed me the same as I did him then there was no reason to deny his statement.

"You could've died. My lack of control could've scrambled your mind and you're so overjoyed you should be dancing. What the hell?"

I was never accused of being a poet but now I had the ability to explain in a different way. Eyes closed, I ignored Gregori's swirling emotions and concentrated, thinking back to the moment when he'd taken me into his mouth. The sensations, the sight of him as I'd glanced down my body, I pulled the memory to the surface along with the passion I'd experienced. I followed my instincts and sent all of it to Gregori.

He inhaled sharply and when I opened my eyes, he greeted me with an amazed expression. "Even after everything you… I started a binding without your permission."

I drew my legs under me to kneel naked before Gregori. Palms placed along his neck, I rubbed my thumbs from his stubbled jaw to his high cheek bones. His expression continued to be a mixture of amazement and hope. His excitement was complex but I sensed fear underneath it all.

"I'm not a fickle man. I've experienced my share of love and loss. I don't own much, an old dusty house and what you see here. I'm not, nor have I ever been, promiscuous. I've always desired meaningful connections with people I've dated so there haven't been many. I didn't anticipate I'd ever experience deep affection before I passed. I'm beyond happy to be wrong. I think I began to love you from the moment I saw you, proud, defiant, and unafraid in the face of overwhelming odds. Spending time with you only confirmed what I'd recognized all along."

Gregori trembled and I tugged him closer until our mouths were but a breath apart. "I want to spend every night making love to you. Wake every morning with your body pressed against mine. Devote the rest of my life getting to know you and discovering ways to express my love for you. You're apprehensive because you didn't ask permission? I consented before you gave me our first kiss."

"Juan..." Gregori breathed my name, low and tormented.

His soft pliant lips opened and allowed me in. I knew his concerns of the Triad. We'd spoken of them before and yet he'd stayed. Somehow, I'd find a way to become an asset to him, for I had no doubts. What was left of the Triad would either attempt to kill or kidnap Gregori. I planned to be the huge wrench thrown into their plans.

Tonight, though, I'd work to convince him of my love.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, Starting Fires, Part Three of Five

Day 3: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Contest: Monday, May 13th I started running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

Starting Fires (Sumeria's Sons #3.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.2)
© 2013, Lexi Ander
Part Three


Gregori snarled—what a fucking turn-on—and used his incisors to nick the cloth before he yanked causing the sweet sound of tearing fabric. Impatient, I dove down and sucked in a pink nipple. The flesh pebbled perfectly as I licked and nibbled as I lavished attention on one then the other. He arched into me, holding my head in place while his erection pushed at my belly, silently begging for more. My mouth watered at the thought of all the things I wanted to do to him.

Hands suddenly free, I scrabbled at his heavy belt then the button underneath. I peeled back the denim and the tip of his cock boldly peeked out of the barely-there briefs. Clear fluid stained the jeans and painted Gregori's skin. Harsh bellowing breaths drew my gaze up his stunning form to a silvery stare. Eyes riveted on my progress, Gregori's chest heaved with each inhalation. I lapped at the head of his dick, catching the tang of his essence on my tongue. Oh, Gods, the taste…

One hand delved into Gregori's pants to grasp the hard shaft as the other pulled at the underwear and jeans, tugging them off so I could see him—all of him. I licked down the column and buried my nose in the short fiery pubic hair. I'd been dreaming about loving him this way. The reality—I wouldn't come away unchanged.

A groan escaped as I inhaled. I loved his scent.


Gregori's head fell back when I took his cock in my mouth, tongue swirling as I slid down the solid length until my lips came to rest against my fist. Glancing up, I met Gregori's silver-gray gaze. He'd levered on to his elbows, softly panting as his watchful eyes took in every move I made.

Hand and mouth working in tandem, I pulled out every trick I knew to make this moment unforgettable. My tongue delved into the slit, teasing the rim of the sensitive head, lapping at then sucking on his balls, to tapping his cock against the flat of my tongue. By listening to the sweet sounds he made, everything I did drove him wild.

His keening escalated as I worked vigorously until I swallowed the long hard length of him down the back of my throat. I reveled in his taste and didn't catch the signs of Gregori's impending climax until a hand fisted in my hair and tugged. His balls had pulled up tight against his body, and Gregori made nonsensical sounds as he tried to pull out of my mouth. I refused to give up my prize. I wanted to see him come, to be pushed to the brink, and then to fall over. I wanted him to trust me to catch him.

Gregori's groans climbed to a full out scream as he came, flooding my senses with his rich and tangy flavor. I swallowed greedily, making him a part of me in a small way that soothed my wolf.

I lapped and cleaned his softening shaft until no trace of his essence was left behind. Gregori breathed as if he'd run a marathon, sweat lightly coating his skin. I laid my head on his thigh, placing a kiss against the quivering muscle under my cheek. It thrilled me that I'd made his body tremble.

"Juan." Gregori's voice cracked. I glanced up, sure my expression revealed the emotions I harbored for him.

The door to my quarters exploded open with a thundering roar. I lunged to cover Gregori, frantic to get him safety. Something thick and sharp raked and tore across the muscles of my back from the top of my shoulders down to the waistband of my jeans. I roared through the blinding pain and then I kicked back once, twice, three times nailing the person in the torso. The action delayed another attack while Gregori slid off the bed on the opposite side. By no means was he protected but at least he was further from the intruder's reach.

The last back kick had sent the attacker staggering backward enough to allow me to roll away. Tumbling off the foot of the bed, I had my first glimpse of the intruder. Stan towered over me snarling, face twisted in fury before he pounced. Thick strong fingers encircled my throat, squeezing to cut off the airflow. His power, inherent in all alphas, crawled across, demanding my submission. Normally I would've given deference to any alpha, even Stan. The expression on his face told me that if I complied, he'd choke the life out of me.

I fought.

Bucking, kicking, gouging, and punching, I used all my strength to dislodge him but his larger body quickly covered mine, pinning me to the floor under his considerable weight. Spots swan in my sight and my lungs burned form the lack of oxygen.


Gregori leaped on Stan, beating ineffectually on the warrior's back as he yelled for help. One of Stan's hands released my throat to reach behind him. He grabbed Gregori by the hair and tossed the Magi over his shoulder.

I gulped several breaths of air which helped to revitalize me and I punched Stan in the face and shoulders. A solid fist to the temple threatened to knock me unconscious. As my vision went gray he clamped both hands around my neck again.

I would die. My muscles were heavy and oxygen starved. The fight in me was gone, wrapped up in a cloudy haze. I clawed at the unyielding fingers and stared into Stan's determined expression.

"I said stop!"

A wave of energy rolled over my skin and seemed to latch on to and throw Stan across the room. Coughing, I gasped for breath, attempting to rise to my feet. Wheezing I began to choke and retch.

Pale arms slid around me. "I've got you, Juan, let me see you. Come on."

Gregori sat between me and the maniac. The male wasn't in his right mind and could accidentally injure the Magi.

"Move," I croaked, the single word almost unrecognizable. "He'll be back."

I shoved him but my muscles had turned liquid and Gregori became a brick wall. He, on the other hand, manhandled me as if I were no stronger than a cub.

"He's not going to do shit," Gregori snarled. He rolled me on to my back and I arched off the floor giving a startled yelp.

He grasped my chin and tilted my chin up to study my throat. Gregori whistled angrily through his teeth when his fingers came away wet with blood. Above me a dome of swirling blue lights the size of fireflies shielded us as Stan pummeled his fist against the barrier and shouted. It was strange that no sound passed through the solid defense leaving Gregori and I in a cocoon of absolute quiet.

"Let me see your back," he demanded, his expression hard and full of fury.

I complied and rolled over, still coughing but not as much as before. Stan followed me, without the protection his foot would've connected to my face. I had never seen a Lycan so enraged and yet refrain from turning Lupe.

"I can't heal you and maintain the shield."

I grunted as I sat up. "I'm fine," I croaked.

His gray eyes narrowed but he didn't reply. Stan circled our small bubble. I wasn't sure what Stan searched for. I noticed that if I stared too long at him, his agitation increased.

"I know he's your friend but Stan's a jealous asshole."

I had no idea how we would get out of the situation short of Stan giving up and leaving. I highly doubted that would happen. I didn't have enough strength to overpower him, even if I hadn't been injured. I didn't want Gregori to use more extreme force against his friend. Eventually someone would hear the commotion and come to investigate, or so I hoped.

Gregori sighed. Not once did he glance at Stan. "Warriors are different than civilians. All Lycans feel compelled to submit to an alpha because they're more dominant, the leaders, but none are stronger or even as strong as Tristan. He's first among alphas and the only one who is able to force a warrior's submission. Others less dominant males are tribe leaders and they can demand obedience from the general Lycan population, but on a smaller scale." Gregori ran his fingers over my bruised throat.

"How that's accomplished is with a type of intrinsic magic. Stan's had been bound and stunted by the enchantment Tristan removed. He hasn't had the opportunity to grow into his dominance. He's a strong alpha, stronger than he'd been when he was seventeen. Now his system is swamped in an overload of excessive power. He doesn’t have the knowhow to process or effectively control the energy. It'll drive him a little crazy until he learns to regulate it or until he naturally balances out."

Stan circled them more slowly. I hoped that meant he was wearing out.

"I'm sorry," Gregory blurted.

I glanced back to him. "You've nothing to apologize for…"

Arms Master, Corey Bahar, burst into the room, followed by two captains. Stan attacked one of them, taking the man easily to the floor. Corey released a pulse of energy so strong it rippled against Gregori's shield. The disruption distracted Stan long enough for Corey to subdue him with a choke hold, pulling the crazed warrior off the unfortunate captain.

Stan's expression was a mask of uncontrollable rage. The warriors moved out of range of the male's wildly kicking. Gregori released the shield and the noise crashed down on us. The captains called for Stan to calm down. Stan's thick soled boots struck the floor with heavy thuds amid growls and grunts.

The Arms Master was a study of concentration. I'd always thought Corey hid the true extent of his alpha strength, somehow able to shield it from us. Never before had I experienced Corey's full potential, only hints of it here and there. The demonstration of power had warned Stan he was in the presence of a much stronger alpha. Even now the power rolled off Corey in thick waves causing my wolf to whimper and me to consider kneeling in submission. The only reason I didn't, the energy wasn't directed at anyone other than Stan.

The warrior's fury wound down and lucidity returned to his expression. Gregori used my body to shield him while he pulled on his jeans. The moment when Stan became aware of his actions, his gaze snapped up to my neck, the expression of horror plain to see. The man went utterly limp in Corey's arms and he offered up his neck in a show of submission. Corey continued to hold Stan securely, his eyes meeting mine for the first time. The Arms Master's stare lingered on my bruised throat. His eyes narrowed and expression hardened.

"Where else are you injured?" he demanded.

I don't know why I felt the need to protect Stan. I had no love for him. If what Gregori said was correct, and the warrior's magic was the driving force behind his aggressive actions, the fact still remained he'd attempted to kill me. And yet, I considered not presenting my Arms Master the full extent of my injuries. Gregori who prodded me to turn around, his countenance was unforgiving as he gazed past me to Stan.

"I'll heal Juan," Gregori reassured Corey.

"Gregori, I…"

I glanced over my shoulder. Corey had released Stan. The male remained on his knees, great regret reflected in his expression.

"If all parties agree,"—Corey's gaze rested on each of us—"I'll withhold this incident from Prince Tristan. He doesn't need the added stress in his condition." Corey finally met Stan's eyes. "But if you continue to harass the men under my command, I don't give a rat's ass what your circumstances are, or who you're friends with. I'll formally challenge you, and after I wipe the mat with you, I'll throw you into the detention center for insubordination. I won't put up with you anymore. While you reside on this ranch you report to me."

Stan nodded his head but his gazed stayed riveted to Gregori. The Magi's hand ran long my back and came away red. He stared down at his fingers covered in scarlet and something shifted in his expression.

"Next time," Gregori's voice broke. I grasped his hand as he cleared his throat. When he spoke again, the tone was hard and unyielding. "If there's a next time, I'll be forced to fight back. Don't make me choose, Stan."


Monday, May 13, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, Starting Fires, Part Two of Five

Day 4: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Contest: Monday, May 13th I started running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

Starting Fires (Sumeria's Sons #3.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.2)
© 2013, Lexi Ander

Part Two


Instead of leaving, Stan crowded into my personal space. "What do you believe you can present to him that he'll want or even need? You're a pauper and an orphan."

I met his hard unwavering gaze. "I'll be the one who stays, whether it's as his lover, or as his friend has yet to be determined. Either way, I won't leave him."

Stan took a stunned step back, his neck turning an unattractive shade of red. His mouth opened, obviously to give a scathing reply, but the scuff of a boot in the hallway drew our attention. Gregori glanced between the two of us. Gregori scowled with displeasure and Stan's coloring darkened further.

"We'll finish this discussion later," Stan grumbled before brushing by Gregori. The redhead watched him leave, his expression blank.

"Hey." I didn't know what to say. I didn't like how Gregori stared after the alpha. His silvery-gray gaze shifted to me. "Did you want to come in?"

The Magi hadn't been to the bunk houses since the news one had been built. For the second time in a half an hour I closed the door to my personal quarters and had my life assessed by a visitor. Gregori moved slowly about the room, fingering the spines of books, and gazing through the glass at items from my family's history.

"Do you miss your relatives?" Gregori asked as he peered at the photos on the wall. "All of these seemed to be taken when you were much younger. Hasn't the Order allowed you to return home since you enrolled?"

"My family is gone," I replied. "I'm the last." It was as if a tight band constricted around my chest, making normal breathing difficult. I hadn't spoken of the loss to anyone in a long while. But then again, Gregori wasn’t just anyone. "They were lost in a sudden storm at sea after I began attending the Order of Anat. The yacht had been discovered capsized but no trace of those who aboard had ever been found."

Gregori considered me for a long moment before he asked, "You've been alone all this time? If you don't mind me asking, how many members of your family did you lose?"

"Parents. Two sisters. Twin brothers. My grandmother, both aunts, my uncle, cousins, as well as …" I attempted to keep the grief from my voice and failed. They were all gone along with other family friends.

"Do you plan to have children? Surely your family name won't stop with you."

I grimaced. "Yeah, no. It didn't take me long to figure out she-wolves and I…" I couldn't finish the explanation. The memory of the failed attempt at sex with Catalina was mortifying; the heat of my embarrassment spoke for me.

Gregori hooked his hands in his jeans pockets and cocked his head to the side. "How did you know?"

The blush crept up the back of my neck as I rubbed at the skin. "My best friend, Catalina, and I, we believed we would be mates when we grew up. The situation was a mess with both of us grieving for our families. The sex had been… not great. I'd been turned on by the scent of Catalina's brother trapped in a pillow and not her. She accepted the discovery quicker than I did. Believe it or not, the encounter made us better friends. I lost contact with Catalina after her extended family adopted her. She moved to South America and I relocated to Georgia and Tribe Enkidu."

A small smile ghosted across Gregori's lips.

"Any females in your past?"

The red head grinned wider. "No, I've always been attracted to males."

I returned his smile, at a loss at what to say next. I didn't know why he'd come to visit me. Before Stan messed up our lives, I would've been kissing the hell out of Gregori by now. Somewhere along the way I'd become unsure of my place in his life. What I told Stan had been true. I'd never leave this beautiful man. How would he accept me? As a friend or his lover, which would he choose?

"I'm not weak," Gregori blurted. "I overheard part of what he said before you opened the door. I don't need to be shielded."

"You're one of the strongest people I know." To survive the horrors he'd experienced at the hand of the Magi Triad and to continue to be a good, kind man took tremendous strength.

Gregori took a couple of hesitant steps toward me. "Yeah?" One single word coupled with a certain inflection of his voice conveyed a dozen questions instead of only the one. I had a sudden flash of hope. "Why have you stayed away? You watch me from the shadows and around corners. If I didn't like you so much it would seem kinda of stalkerish." He scuffed his boot on the floor and glancing at me with a quirky smile before his expression sobered. "You used to make up reasons to bump into me so we could…" Gregori ran his fingers through his red hair.

We stole kisses in dark corners. How could I forget? The taste of his lips and the smell of his skin both fed the growing urge to take him to my bed and keep him there.

"Why did you stop?" His gaze searched mine, shoulders hunched with his fists trapped in his front pockets. When I didn't respond immediately, he ducked his head, his fiery mane falling to hide his face from me.

My feet became unglued and I crossed the floor. His gaze snapped up, expression full of surprise right before I snatched him up and buried my nose in his neck. He stiffened for a split second, then melted into me, his arms wrapping around my neck. What was it about this man that simultaneously gave and stole my confidence? How did I tell him his friend was a complete ass? That I didn't believe he'd want me since Stan had come back?

"I'd go to battle for you, Juan, for as long as you want me," Gregori whispered into my ear. "There are few who I'd fight to the death for. You told Stan you'd be the one who stayed. You've become an essential part of my life. The first thought after I wake in the morning is when will I be able to see you. It doesn't matter if it's from across the yard or at the breakfast table. I can't think of anything else until I do. How fucked up is that? Tell me why you only watch me from afar now." He shivered and I realized I'd been growling softly into the nape of his neck as he'd whispered to me.

I nuzzled into him and inhaled. "You were so upset when Stan arrived. I could see how much you hurt. I thought… I thought… him not me… him." Gods! I had trouble speaking my fears! The boulder sitting on my chest made the words that much harder to express.

"Don't you know?" he asked his voice low and calm.

Smooth warm palms cupped both sides of my face, forcing me to pull away. Immediately I detested the distance. I didn't know when I'd be able to caress his skin again or be this close to draw in his scent.

Unbelievably soft lips brushed against mine. Oh, Gods, with that one stroke Gregori snapped the restrictions I'd placed upon myself. A simple, tentative kiss bushed away the one hundred and one reasons why I should keep my distance from the Magi. With Stan determined to redirect my attention, and what appeared to be Gregori's indecision, both had been motive enough to give the Magi time to work through the issues he had with his friend.

Yes, Stan continually placed himself between Gregori and me. I allowed him to believe he thwarted my efforts to court his friend. I waited for Gregori to give me a sign or gesture that he needed me. When he did, because I had to trust he would, then nothing, not even Stan, would stand in my way. I understood Gregori needed space. No matter how I ached to be close to him, I had permitted the distance between us. I didn't want him to be suffocated by my persistence. Through it all, I hadn't been far away.

Here was the signal I'd been waiting for. Gregori licked my lips with an insistent tongue, his mouth caressing mine, and I couldn't stop my possessive response. I became a wild animal snarling as I opened and kissed him back. My arms crushed and imprisoned Gregori against me. A small voice warned I had to control myself. I'd alarm the man who I wanted with every fiber of my being. I'd practiced restraint for so long that I loathed to rein in the sudden freedom I found within his arms. I needed him. Keeping my distance from this male had been killing me a little each day. If he'd only… if he'd let me…

A whimper turned into a low groan breaking me out of the semi-feral state. I attempted to pull away but his arms grasped me, his silvery-gray eyes snapping with fire.

"Don't you dare stop, Juan Ybarra! All I dream about is your kiss." A small hop and Gregori wrapped his long legs around my waist, his arousal pressed into my abdomen, and my fucking knees went weak even as my palms slid under his ass to hold him more tightly to me.

Photographs fell to the hardwood floor as the drywall shook from the impact of Gregori being firmly shoved against the wall. The sound of glass breaking had to be loud. All I heard were the noises he made for me as I captured his mouth. I starved for his taste, and attempted to keep the kiss from being too hard or rough. Gregori answered with unbridled vigor, taking everything I gave while demanding more. He fit perfectly in my hands, and it was heady allowing myself to believe, even if a just little bit, that he'd been made for me.

Gregori threaded his fingers through my hair, tugging and pulling, maneuvering my head to exactly where he wanted me. He arched and rubbed his body along mine and I thrilled at the knowledge he was just as hungry, just as out of control as I was.

A sharp tug on my scalp broke our kiss. "More," he panted. "I need more." He arched against me again, his hard cock digging into my abdomen as he threw his head back and moaned. The long line of his neck begged for my mark. "Juan." The pleading note was already there in his voice.

Hefting him off the wall, we listed to the side and bumped the glass cabinet causing a loud jingle. On the way to the bed, my hip struck one of the chairs, moving the table until it banged into the wall. I didn't care. Gregori mewled, sucking on my neck, and I knew he'd leave a mark. Didn't that just make me as hard as stone. My whole body pulsed and my cock ached with each pulling suck.

We fell upon the mattress and clawed at the clothes. The light sweater hooked and had become caught on the Gregori's elbows. I became distracted by all of the exposed skin. Ducking down and starting at his navel, I licked a path up his smooth chest, between his pecs to his collar bone. Gregori freed one of his arms from the clothing and tore at my simple button up that suddenly wasn't so simple. Giving up, he pulled the shirt over my head to have the cuffs trap my hands. The damn thing was stuck and wouldn't come off. My wolf and I whimpered because we were so close to touching Gregori's skin again. We hadn't been this naked together since the ranch had been attacked. The memories of how he looked, how he felt haunted my dreams. We had finally made it back together again and my wrists were stuck—trapped by the cuffs of a shirt I didn't even like!


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, Starting Fires, Part One of Five

Day 5: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Contest: Monday, May 13th I will be running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

Starting Fires (Sumeria's Sons #3.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.2)
© 2013, Lexi Ander

Part One


The spot I picked to stand guard from had a clear visual of the road leading into the ranch, the bunk houses, and both barns… and Gregori lounging on the porch, the crisp early morning air turning his breath to mist with every exhale. I thought he was the most stunning male I knew. Long red hair loose, the breeze flipping up the ends and giving the impression of an open flame. His sad gray eyes scanned the ranch yard as if he searched for something or someone. Perfect smooth alabaster skin was somewhat pink from the chill in the air. He was unlike any Magi I had ever met.

My normal shift had been over for a couple of hours. It was probably slightly stalkerish for me to stay on just so I'd have a reason to run into Gregori. Our relationship had been strained since the return of Stanley Kendall and Jory Swaine almost two weeks ago. Gregori struggled to repress his emotions when he spent time with Stan. I wondered if the Magi I cared for still loved the dark warrior.

If he did then there wasn't much I could do besides guard him from afar… like a love sick puppy. Something had to happen. Stan wasn't only a higher ranked warrior, he was a powerful alpha. As possessive as the male could be, getting near Gregori in order to have a meaningful conversation had been near impossible.

Even now as I secretly safeguarded Gregori, Stan stood in the door of the horse barn glaring at me. He was too late—almost ten years by my count—to salvage a relationship with Gregori. At least I hoped he was. Gods I'd love to flip the asshole off and tell him to go fuck himself. I might be tempted on a day when I was jonesing for an ass kicking. Today would not be that day.

"Captain Ybarra," I glanced at Helios as he approached.

I never expected to hold any kind of rank in the Order of Anat much less possess the title of captain in the prince's royal guard. Arms Maser Corey Bahar honored me to show such confidence in my abilities.

"I'm supposed to relay to you that you're officially off duty for a minimum of three days." The Lycan grinned mischievously as he glanced past me to Gregori. "He's well aware you've been working overtime without reporting the extra hours."

What would I do with time off? I had nowhere to go or family to visit. Hell I didn't want to go anywhere. If I stayed I would continue to shadow Gregori. How sad was that? I considered arguing the amount of forced time off.

"Corey said if you gave me lip, I can continue to add additional time until you shut up." The warrior's eyebrow rose in silent question. I snapped my mouth closed and shot Helios a mulish expression. My friend enjoyed watching me squirm.

A growing number of Lycans and warriors arrived daily to request entrance into Alpha Janick's tribe. Corey needed his core warriors to monitor the incoming to safeguard our prince. We also had to be vigilant of the assassins who'd been hunting and murdering the royal line for centuries. Only twelve of us who knew of the alpha's bloodline and we'd sworn a Blood Oath to Tristan.

"I should give you another day for the scowl alone," Helios taunted.

"No," I replied. Three days off was long enough, I didn't need additional time added. "I won't leave the ranch so if something happens I'll be close to assist you."

The screen door slammed behind Gregori as he retreated into the main house. I needed clean up and catch some crucial sleep. The reason I rethought the logical course of action left the horse barn. Stan trudged across the yard toward the alpha's home. For a split second I allowed myself to be pissed off by the unfairness of it all. Gregori and Stan had a connection. They had grown up together. He saved Gregori's life, and for a short period of time, they had been lovers.

Gregori had once said the two of them had been wrong for each other and instead of questioning how he knew; I had let it drop. Let the sleeping dogs lie, so to speak. I'd regretted it ever since. When Stan arrived on the ranch, Gregori's actions spoke of a man who had unresolved matters when it came to his friend. I worried the unsettled issued between them meant Gregori still loved the warrior. I had to wonder if they'd been wrong for each other as teenagers, had they grown into to being right for each other now. I pushed away the thought as my stomach turned upside down.

Instead of following Gregori up to the main house, I made my way to the officer's longhouse. The building was one of the new bunk houses Tristan had constructed for us. I now called the structure home. It wasn't much but I didn't carry much baggage with me to begin with. Most warriors kept a room at the house of their clan patriarch, housed as honored members of the family. Mine had been long gone, leaving me the last of the Y'barra line.

As a teenager, I believed I would mate with a she-wolf and produce a half a dozen strong boys to carry on the family name. The one and only embarrassing sexual encounter with my childhood friend, Catalina, proved me wrong. What a disaster. With her encouragement and support, I worked past the guilt. I had grudgingly come to the conclusion I wouldn't have a she-wolf or children to fill my family's home.

The screen door clacked closed behind me and I had to grin. Tristan insisted on the old design for all of the screen doors. Solid wood and screen mesh replaced the modern day aluminum frames. He argued the metal grated on his hearing but the slap of the wood told him that he'd come home. As if we would argue with our prince.

Chuckling, I crossed the front room that served as the communal lounge. Multiple couches and chairs had been arranged in two conversation areas. My boots struck the hardwood floor, the sound resonating hollowly through the space. Past a galley kitchen, I entered the long hallway with doorways to other rooms evenly placed the length of the corridor. The last door on the left led to my personal quarters. I loved being the corner apartment with two sets of windows that looked out on the northwest pasture.

Corey had been correct in his assessment. I'd been ignoring how bone-weary I'd become over the last week or so. Ever since Stan had effectively maneuvered to block my time with Gregori, I'd been putting in extra hours. I understood the two of them had unresolved business. I didn't have a formal claim on the Magi—yet—and as much as I hated to admit it, I happened to be afraid of losing Gregori completely to the warrior.

Prior to Stan's arrival, I'd spent every free moment with Gregori, catching moments of secret kisses and hushed conversation as I wooed the sweet man. I'd made it perfectly clear I wanted him, emotional hang-ups included. However long it took Gregori to trust me, I'd wait. I didn't push for more than he wanted to give. I believed he'd eventually be mine and afterwards I'd love on him until my name was the only one he knew.

Then Stan arrived, someone who had a prior emotional claim on Gregori.
A sharp knock sounded at the door. I scowled, the scent belonged to a person I didn't wish to speak with today, or any other day for that matter. I considered ignoring him.

"Look, I just want to talk." The solid wood muffled the voice but I heard the determination.

Releasing an aggravated sigh, I opened the door and briefly contemplated making him stand in the hallway to "talk". I didn't imagine he'd want the topic of the conversation to be made public. Out of respect for Gregori, I stepped aside silently inviting Stan into my private quarters.

The dark haired alpha strode past me and the room seemed to shrink, becoming smaller simply from his overwhelming presence. Alpha Janick's presence had a similar affect but on a much larger scale. Stan may be a dominant but he had nowhere near the capability of our Xenres, the King of Alphas.

Shutting the door, I leaned against cool wood and waited. Stan scanned the interior of my living space, his gaze halting here and there. The room had simple decorations with minimal furniture—uncomplicated. The floor to ceiling corner cabinet with its protective glass door held my most cherished family heirlooms. A winged backed chair sat at an angle. A small table for two had been placed in front of the double windows. Next to the bed stood an overflowing bookshelf, and an area rug of mythical sea creatures, woven by my grandmother, covered the hardwood floor.

The warrior made himself at home. He sat at the table, stretched out his legs, and crossed his boots at the ankle. He seemed as if he had all the time in the world. I refuse to sit and make him more comfortable. The man had made a nuisance of himself for almost two weeks. Any time I neared Gregori, Stan immediately placed himself between us like a jealous lover. Alpha or not, I decided I'd do my best to lay him out if he continued.

"I realize you aren't here to make nice," I started. "What do you want?"
Stan narrowed his eyes, his jaw clenched as he glared at me. I loosened the muscles in my body, ready to move if the Lycan attacked me.

"There is nothing you can offer Gregori." Stan purposely glanced around the room again, this time with disdain. "What will it take to make you go away? Money? How much? A more prestigious position? I can pull some strings, call in a few favors. You can go anywhere in the world you want. Name it, as long as it's not here and it’s away from Gregori."

What an ego. The gall of the man to presume he understood me. My opinion of Stan had just cemented. Maybe he believed he knew what was best for Gregori. Personally, I believed remorse had been eating him alive for a very long time. A small part of me derived a certain satisfaction at the thought because as either a friend or lover, I would've never left Gregori's side had I been in Stan's shoes. I questioned the character of a person who'd leave behind people he considered family. Maybe the unsympathetic opinion I held for Stan stemmed from the loss of my entire clan at the same age as he'd left Gregori. I'd move the heavens to have them back while Stan abandoned his. In my heart, a man of honor doesn't leave the injured behind. Stan deserved the guilt he harbored.

The answer to the demand, for the statement had in no way been a question, remained simple and decisive. "No."

Stan gave a booming rancorous laugh. "You believe you have something to give to man like him? Your loyalties are tied to Tristan. Gregori needs someone to protect him, to shelter and put him first. You can't do either."

"Yes, my loyalties are tied to Alpha Janick. You continue to forget he is our future king. Both Gregori and I will put the welfare of our ruler above all. We have a duty to Prince Tristan—even you. You don't know Gregori like you think you do. He's tougher than you give him credit for. I doubt he'd appreciate you meddling like a nosey grandmother in his personal affairs."

Rising off the door, I opened it. "You need to leave."

Stan stood and flexed his muscular body in a show of strength. I put on my finest bored expression because I wanted to drag the asshole outside. I didn't believe my Xenres would appreciate it if I attempted to wipe the parking lot with his best friend. I might not be able to beat the power of the alpha but Stan would give me a wide birth when I bite his nuts off. Sometimes you don't have to win the fight; you just have to get in the best hit.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sumeria's Magi, A New Beginning, Part Three

Day 6: count down to book four in the Sumeria's Sons series. Surrounded By Crimson will be release on Saturday, May 18th. From today thru Sunday, May 17th, I will post the side stories to the Sumeria's Sons. 

Reminder: On May 13th thru May 17th, Starting Fires, the NEW short for Gregori and Juan will be featured here on the blog. The story is a little over 12k so I'll post about 3k per day.

Starting Monday, May 13th I will be running a week long contest/giveaway. More participants means more copies. Leave a comment everyday from the 13th thru the 17th for a chance to win an e-book copy of Surrounded By Crimson. If you comment all five days then you will have five entries in the contest. Winners will be announced on Saturday, May 18th. Good Luck!!

A New Beginning (Sumeria's Sons #2.1, Sumeria's Magi #0.1)
© 2013, Lexi Ander

The Magi, Gregori Borchetta, and the warrior, Juan Ybarra, have been dancing around each other since that fateful day when Juan gave his blood oath to Tristan Janick. Dangerous ghosts haunt Gregori and he's not sure if he should stay or go. Will the skittish Magi be enticed to not only to stay for Tristan and the tribe but for Juan as well?

Part Three

"I was eighteen and had recently graduated to fourth level of magics called a Sami, the youngest Magi written history. Very few reach fourth level and when they do; they're in their twilight years. Shortly afterwards, one of the Triad, Barron, approached me attempting to coax me to swear allegiance to Kevah and the Triad." My throat constricted and the hollow in my chest burned as I remembered. Unbidden, the words poured from me in a story I'd long kept secret.

Barron had found me in the college's extensive library where I'd been looking for information on fire mages. I attempted to ignore him but he stepped close, too close, and I immediately became uncomfortable with his proximity. Everyone heard the rumors about Kevah's jealous tantrums when Barron flirted. The man was indeed beautiful, with straight chestnut hair that touched his shoulders and sorrowful blue eyes. Of the three members of the Triad, Barron was the least intimidating and the one who would get you in the most trouble with Kevah.

"He won't wait for your answer much longer." Barron ran his fingertips over my cheek. It took every ounce of willpower not to shy away from his lingering touch. "Kevah's patiently allowed your meddling in the college business but his tolerance is wearing thin."

I casually distanced myself from Barron, and walked to the window overlooking the rose garden. Presenting my back to him wasn't wise, but I was afraid my anger would crack the carefully constructed façade of nonchalance I wore. Some members of the college were beyond corrupted, and young Magi who weren't considered powerful had been mistreated.

"Those instructors deserved a worse fate than what I gave them. As Sami my responsibility is the welfare of all students, not just those who've curried favor." 

Maybe I didn't have my temper under as much control as I'd thought.

Barron laughed hoarsely behind me. "You actually believe that? You're just an upstart teenager who's become power drunk. Caspian was right. The time has come to show you the consequences to your actions when you work against the will of the Triad."

I spun and glared at him. "What's that supposed to mean? I've done nothing to break College rules."

Barron stood in the doorway appearing almost—sad. "You're a foolish boy." He sighed deeply. "Come, there is something you must see."

Reluctantly I followed him through strangely empty stone hallways and downstairs to the Hall of Discipline. The underground amphitheater had been lit with torch light. The granite benches climbed several tiers up the carved walls. The students of the college filled every available space.

In the middle of the floor a tall wooden post had been erected. Two dainty wrists were chained to the iron ring embedded in the pillar. The whistle of the whip was the only sound until the end kissed the welted back of the girl.

"What…" Shock had stolen my words.

"She struck Caspian. Assault on a member of the Triad carries the penalty of fifty lashes," Barron replied from beside me, his tone resigned.

I recognized the girl—Karen—my friend. She'd continually turned down Caspian's advances. He'd arrogantly refused to take no for an answer and hounded her every time they crossed paths.

"She slapped him when he tried to force himself on her." My voice was filled with all the disgust I harbored for the Triad. "She cannot be disciplined for protecting herself."

"If you were aligned with Kevah you could've went to him for help."

I gave Barron a withering look. "I shouldn't need to beseech the Triad's good graces for them right a wrong or to protect the students in their charge." My hands fisted as I refused to flinch at the sound of the next swipe of the whip.

Barron huffed angrily. "That's not the world you live in. Kevah rules here. All Magi abide by his statues or they risk being declared rogue when they attempt to leave. You cannot change the outcome."

The whip whistled again. Karen cried out, going limp with only her bound wrist keeping her upright.

"The hell I do." I strode to the amphitheater floor. "Caspian!" I spat. "Hold!"

The Magi had taken off his suit jacket and dress shirt. Sweat glistened over his toned torso, dampening his blond hair. He smirked at me as he swirled the tip of the whip against the floor around his feet.

"Well, if it isn't the illustrious Sami who's decided to grace us with his presence. We've a packed house today. You might not be able find a seat."

"That's enough, Caspian. You've proven your point. Look at her, she can't handle any more." I stalked towards him. He held his ground but fear flashed across his face before he could school his features.

"She drew blood." He pointed to a scratch on his cheek. "You understand the college law. No one may attack a member of the Triad—for any reason."

"Self-defense can be declared," I countered.

"Only in front of the king, which we don't have." Caspian grinned maliciously.

"Then her case can be argued before the Council of Five."

"Elder Ion Argus declined the hearing." Caspian circled the whip and I lunged forward and caught his arm.

"How many more?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"Twenty-three," he responded, appearing triumphant.

I knew Karen couldn't take much more. The smug look on Caspian's face told me the asshole was aware of fact as well. He'd break her if he could and I refused to allow him the chance.

"I'll take them in her stead." My voice echoed through the theater.

For the first time the audience reacted, murmuring among themselves.

Barron stepped up to me. "Gregori."

"No, Barron, the swap is allowed. He's made his choice." Caspian seemed almost giddy.

"Kevah said…" Barron interjected.

"Kevah's not here!" Caspian snapped.

I ignored them as I closed the distance to Karen, stripping off my shirt as I went. A soft moaning cry came from my friend. I pushed her thick brown hair from her face.

"Shh, now," I whispered. "I made him stop."

"No, Gregori, you can't take my place. This is what he wanted," Karen warned.

"And I refuse to stand by while you take his abuse. I won't leave you alone," I promised.

I draped the T-shirt over her bare back, whispering apologies because I knew it had to hurt. She struggled to rise. I grasped her under her arms and assisted her to her feet.

"Come on Gregori, we don't have all day. Classes are disrupted enough without you drawing this out."

I declined to acknowledge Caspian. Karen gripped the chains above the shackles leaning against the post. I used my larger frame to cover her, supporting her as I was able before I reached up and grasped the iron ring.

"I'm so sorry," she sobbed.

"I'm not."

The whistle and snap sounded before the eruption of pain bloomed. Again and again the whip licked a trail of fire from the base of my neck to the small of my back. I refused to give Caspian the satisfaction of my screams and caged them behind clenched teeth. I lost count in the fog of pain and yet I stayed still, protecting Karen, knowing if I moved Caspian would strike her out of spite.

It took a moment for me to realize the lashing had stopped. The students were filing out of the room. Barron pried my stiff fingers away from the iron ring. My knees buckled and I slid to the floor. Sweat stung my eyes as my body attempted to process the abuse my back had taken. Barron unshackled Karen and drew her away, helping her to slip into my T-shirt.

Hands roughly grasped me under the arms and hauled me to my feet. Before I could protest, my wrists were clamped in iron, and chained to the post as Karen had been.

"Do you think I'd allow you to defy me in front of the whole of the college and not exact a price from you for your open defiance? Kevah wants your allegiance, and by the Gods, you'll give your fidelity to him."

Barron held Karen in his arms, his face a blank mask. She stared me with wide frightened eyes, too weak to do anything to help me.

"This is not what Kevah said to do." A hint of fear tinged Barron's voice.

"I swear if you can't shut up, Barron, "Caspian snapped, "I'll get what Kevah wants. Watch and learn."

I pressed my forehead into the wood of the pole as Caspian started again. I fought down panic, trying to keep a clear head. The only thing I could do was wait for Caspian to become exhausted. That was where I'd been wrong. He didn't tire, the strike of the whip landed harder, and the fire of its kiss more wicked. Agonized screams filled the amphitheater as the torture continued and blood soaked the waistband of my jeans.

Every so often Caspian would stop and whisper to me. "Do you give your vow, Sami?" He spat my title with undisguised derision.

Each time I responded with, "Fuck you."

I didn't remember passing out but when I opened my eyes, I hung limp from the shackles, the strain on my shoulders a muted misery compared to the torment of my shredded back.  Within my line of sight, Barron and Caspian wrestled for the bloody whip.

"You must cease!" Barron screamed. "You've assured he'll never give his power to Kevah and if you kill him, Kevah will murder us both!"

"I'll make him yield!" Caspian yelled.

"No, you won't because he cannot be broken. I've already told the two of you that and yet you've ignore my council." Barron shoved Caspian down retaining the whip. "You should've listened to me. You've guaranteed your fate with your stubbornness. I promise you, I won't share in your punishment."

Karen cupped my face, her eyes red and swollen from crying. With trembling fingers she pulled sweat soaked hair away from my sight.

"I'm so sorry, Gregori," she cried.

"I'm not," I croaked, my throat sore, voice hoarse.

"I'll have my pound of flesh." Caspian grasped Karen by her hair and pushed her aside. He pushed his face close to mine, the stink of his sweat made me gag. 

"Every tear she cries, every scream she gives me, each time she begs for mercy, when I strike her, bleed her, all of it is on your head. You could've stopped this but it's too late. She'll be the one to pay your dues." A vicious kick to my groin added a new agony and stole the air from my lungs.

Karen fought, kicking, clawing, and biting as Caspian hauled her away. I had no breath to call out, or strength to make him stop. The magic kept slipping through my fingers because I couldn't focus beyond the haze of pain. The last thing I witnessed before I passed out was Caspian beating Karen until her struggles ceased and she went limp.


I didn't remember how I'd come to be straddling Juan's body, clutching him tightly to me with both arms and legs. My chest ached and eyes burned from the memories of the friend I couldn't save. Juan's low calm voice whispered in my ear as he stroked my back from shoulder to waist.

It took time for his actual words to penetrate my sorrow. "You're with me now. I've got you and you won't be alone anymore." I attempted to push away from him but he refused to release me. "No more running, Gregori."

"Gods, you are dense," I snapped without much anger.

"Why, because I stayed?" He trapped my cheeks between his palms, forcing me to face him.

"Karen was killed because I failed. I was stubborn and selfish. I refused to bend to the Triad's will so Caspian murdered her to make me pay. I wasn't strong enough to protect her."

His thumbs wiped away tears I didn't know I cried. "How would you been able to save her? You told me they left you for dead. You aren't responsible for the Triad's actions."

"Had I yielded, Karen would be alive." The echoes of her cries still haunted my dreams.

"Do you actually believe Caspian intended to spare Karen? I don't. If you' given your allegiance you wouldn't have been able to live with yourself. You would self-destruct if you had surrendered to the corruption of the Triad. You wouldn't be the man I've come to admire if you had compromised your values to travel the path they had laid out for you. Some things are worth fighting for."

Juan dipped his head and brushed our lips together, scattering my train of thought. How long had I waited for a man to be interested in me? Not my strength in magic. Not my body or my family name. Someone who had enough constitution to stand boldly by my side, who wouldn't hear the words I spoke but listened to what I didn't voice? Would I allow that person to slip away? Juan deepened the kiss and an unintentional moan escaped my lips. The silky smooth texture of his mouth called to me and I gave in and pressed into his body, opening at his gentle coaxing.

The breakfast tray crashed to the floor when I fell backwards, bringing him with me. I kissed him back, fingers carded through his silky black hair. I locked my legs around his waist, pulling him closer as my tongue dueled with his, exploring him, tasting him. He was voracious, delving deep, stealing my breath and stamping his name on my heart. He pulled away and gazed into my eyes, he seemed determined.

"I won't push for more than you're willing to give me. But you need to understand this one fact, I'm here to stay. You can't chase me off, so quit trying."

I licked the taste of him from my lips. "I'm scared," I confessed.

"Only a fool wouldn't be."

I didn't argue with him.

I'd struggled with this attraction for him, just as I fought the need for a tribe, for the closeness of friends, and yet I'd found a new home with people who were more my family than my blood relatives. I stared at a man who carried the potential of a new beginning—if I had the courage to grasp onto him.

No, life was far from perfect. But I could see a promise of something more when I gazed into his eyes. Regardless of what he said, it was selfish of me to want more when I realized Kevah would eventually hunt me. I'd need to find strength to either walk away from him, or I'd have to leave behind my reluctance for violence—to protect my tribe, my family, and those I was beginning to love.