If you haven’t already joined the Sizzling Summer Reads hop hosted by The Romance Review, it’s not too late! Prizes are already being awarded, but the fun continues to run all through to the end of June! More than 400 participating authors equals more than 400 prizes and you don’t have to buy anything to enter. Just click the link above to join the fun, and for a chance to win a copy of Incubus Moon in my own private giveway, simply comment on any of my Sizzling Summer posts. Only 1 comment per post will be accepted, but if you leave 1 comment on each post, your name will be entered for each comment. 🙂 So, for this week’s hot as summer excerpt, here’s a sneak peak at Incubus Moon.
* * * * *
Veda held herself still, staring into the shadows beyond the ladder and the hatch until she felt that familiar itch of awareness that precipitated the approach of an incubus. Emen. It had to be. But from the sound of the footsteps trudging the cobblestones toward his door, he was not coming to her alone.
Careful not to wake the spikey, Veda disentangled herself from his clinging limbs far enough to roll partway onto her back. She looked toward the loft rail, watching the amber glow of flickering firelight dancing on the far wall and the cut of shadow that temporarily banished it when Emen opened the door.
There was a moment of silence below, one that seemed to stretch on forever before Emen’s calm voice drifted up to her ears. “Come inside, but speak quickly and quietly.”
Heavy boots crossed over the threshold and the spiraling curve of Emen’s horns moved out of the door to cast their own long shadows on the wall. A second, lighter set of footsteps followed his and, an instant later, the unmistakable scent of a human male drifted up through the cracks in the loft floor. Veda closed her eyes, breathing it into her—his sweat, his skin, the blood pulsing through his veins. She could practically hear the alluring beat of his heart.
Rolling quickly away, Veda covered her nose with both hands. She breathed in the slight insect smell of Keegee instead, her claws digging into her own cheek with the effort it took not to spring straight over the loft’s rail and drop down on the man like some mindless beast. She swallowed convulsively, forcing the succubus within back down again.
“How many did we lose?” Emen asked.
“Four,” the human answered. “Not including the Light-Bearers. How our walls were breached, I don’t know. It’s as if they knew where to attack and how. Three Light-Bearers—three! And no one saw it happen? Were we not in the midst of an attack—if it weren’t madness just to think it—I would suggest the culprit likely a member of this community.”
Struggling to calm her breathing, Veda opened her eyes. Her brow beetled as she turned a hesitant ear back to listen.
“Emen,” the human lowered his voice. “We have two Light-Bearers left. That’s not enough.”
Emen was somber and quiet. “I know.”
“There will be panic come morning.” The human drew a hard breath and held it before, with a softly expelled sigh, he said, “I know your reasons, but Delsin…”
“Will never be a Light-Bearer,” Emen firmly finished for him. “Do not ask again, Cleavon. I will not allow it.”
“Who, then? Palo’s boy—”
“Is barely nine. I have done many things wrong in this life, Cleavon, but to pit a child against butchers…No. I may not be able to shield his ears from their night screams but I can guard the innocence of his eyes. At least, for a while longer.”
Both men fell silent, and in that silence, Veda’s skin began to crawl. She couldn’t tell from Emen’s shadow, but she had the distinct feeling that he was staring up at the loft.
A moment later, the human confirmed her suspicion with a much more softly spoken, “Dalen says she’s wounded.”
“We are all wounded,” Emen replied, sounding tired.
“If she can’t control her hunger—”
“She has not attacked you yet.”
Veda hardly dared to breathe, much less move. Her mouth watered. Her skin crawled.
A few seconds later, one set of footsteps retreated under the protection of the loft. Very softly, his tone not far above a whisper, the human asked, “What if she can’t hold the Light? You said you—”
“In that regard, what I want doesn’t matter,” Emen interrupted. “Let it be, Cleavon. Tomorrow is soon enough to find what answers we still need. I am tired. I would to bed.”
“Kimara,” the human said finally. “She’ll be gentle with her. And she’s mortal-born, so the feeding urge…”
“Yes. Good night, Cleavon.”
Emen’s shadow shifted and then the door swung open again. After a brief pause, the human, Cleavon, retreated back across the floor. At the threshold, though, he hesitated, the topmost curve of his shadowed head glimpsed on the wall beyond the loft’s rail. “Emen? It’s good to have you home again. Regardless of what some might say.”
Horns dipping into a nod, the incubus waited for him to go. Silent and still, he remained standing there long after he’d closed the door. And when he did finally come to bed, the sound of him climbing the ladder seemed weary.
He was halfway up through the hatch when he noticed Keegee in his bed. He paused, his dark eyes moving beyond the spikey to her. There was no point in pretending sleep; she held his gaze until, with a shake of his head, he finished climbing the last few steps.
“He was scared,” Veda whispered over Keegee’s head.
“And you?” Emen asked, adjusting the swaddle of blankets over that bed on the floor.
“Maybe just a little.” It didn’t feel so bad a lie since she could tell by looking at him, that he knew it for exactly what it was.
He shook his head and came back to bed. His fingers brushed her cheek, smoothed back her hair, and then he bent and picked the sleeping spikey up. Keegee roused, but snuggled down into the blankets when Emen lay him down and wrapped them over him. Even with the spikey, his hands were never anything but gentle.
Veda rolled to face him as he moved around the bed to sit at the edge of the mattress on his side. “What’s a Light-Bearer?”
He reached back, stroking her hair once. “Not tonight, please.” His palm came to rest, warm on the bare slope of her shoulder. “There will be time enough to talk of it in the morning. I have doubled the watch. Know that we are safe. Close your eyes. Sleep.”
Veda did not argue, but she didn’t close her eyes either. She watched instead, wincing with him when he pulled his arm back and bent to unlace his boots. “They are broken, aren’t they?”
“I’ll be all right.” Emen moved stiffly, pulling each boot off and setting them aside where, hopefully, they wouldn’t be tripped over later. “Did you have company while I was gone?”
And just like that, the question she had been dreading was lying in bed between them.
“Delsin,” she said reluctantly.
He turned his head, though not far enough to look at her. “Delsin?”
“Scar threw him out.” She suspected she was telling him nothing he did not already know.
Emen grunted. “And who threw him out?”
“I asked him to go.” Those words sounded silly falling from her mouth.
“Asked.” Emen grunted again and looked down at his hands.
“I did not lie with him,” she offered softly, her face burning.
He did turn now, reaching across to cup her cheek. His fingertips caressed. “I would not send you away if you had.”
She turned into his palm, curling into his touch and let hers wander up the length of his arm to his shoulder. She would have stroked down his back, but her fingers would have trailed over the same place that Scar had struck. His skin was so dark and with the only light being the fire in the hearth below the loft, she couldn’t make out bruises, but he was moving stiffly, his breath softly catching as he leaned back to lie down beside her. He didn’t take off his pants first.
Rising up on one arm, Veda shifted closer. Careful where she touched him, she let her hand settle on his stomach and then his cheek.
“I am tired,” he said, cupping her hand in his and giving her fingers a squeeze.
“I know,” she said softly. “But you’re hurt too. Don’t you want me to heal you?”
Uncertain, she would have drawn away, but he hooked his hand around the back of her neck and drew her down instead.
“Yes, I want you. Yes, you can heal me. And no, I am not angry with you. Though I know you did not ask that, I can hear it in your voice. It is not my intent to hurt you. I meant only what I said. Tonight has been long, tomorrow will be even longer, and I am…I am tired.” In the faint light, she thought she saw him smile. If he did, it was very slight. “Little sips,” he murmured, his warm fingers playing across her nape. “That is all I need from you tonight.”
She gave it willingly, moving close to him, careful of how and where she touched him so as not to hurt him any more than he already was. He smelled good, a little smoky, a little sweaty, but still good. Heady. Like his kisses, soft against her lips, coaxing her to open and drink of him. She refrained. He was the injured one now, and she let him tug and pull at all her sensual strings, twining them even as he drew them out of her and leaving himself behind, whether she drank or not.
The heat and scent of him flavored each breath she took. His heartbeat quickened, and his kisses deepened. She caressed his chest, letting her fingers trace the hardened dips and planes. His hands moved over her in turn, hungry possession overriding tenderness until that moment when he abruptly rolled with her, laying her upon her back as he rose above her. It hurt him. His breath caught, tearing partway between a grunt and a gasp.
“Are you all right?” she asked, breathless.
“Yes.” He pulled back onto his knees, and for a moment she thought that her answer, until she realized he was pulling her up too, working her shirt out from under her hips in short jerks until it came free. He gathered the folds between his hands, sweeping it off over her head and discarding it to the floor even as he pushed her back down. He covered her, his hands moving to her hips, his mouth finding hers once more.
“I thought you were tired,” she said, lifting her chin and turning slightly away when he began to drift down along her jaw. Her toes curled when he reached her ear, her fingers ran along the waist of his pants where cloth met midnight skin.
“Exhausted,” he rumbled as she found the fastenings and worked them open. When she slipped her hand inside, he closed his eyes and his breath caught.
“Oh well,” she teased, smiling and wrapping her other arm around him. “Don’t let me keep you up, then.”
Bowing, he pressed his forehead lightly to hers. “Woman,” he breathed, his whole body beginning to rock to her stroking touch.
He groaned when he entered her and while that, in part, might have had something to do with his ribs, all the moans that followed after did not.
* * * * *
Don’t forget to check out the Bad Boys of Romance Blog Hop before it ends!