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Sinners at the Altar – Excerpts

23 May
Sinners at the Altar – Excerpts

Sinners at the Altar Cover finalThis book contains a collection of wedding stories. The first chapter of each story can be read below.

from Appetite for Seduction (Brian and Myrna’s wedding)

Chapter One

A LINE OF SUNLIGHT FILTERED through the window blinds and angled across Brian’s eyelids. Wincing against the red glare, he turned his face into his pillow. Something felt wrong this morning. He recognized the bed as the one at the back of Sinners’ tour bus, so it wasn’t because he was waking up in an unfamiliar hotel room. He was accustomed to life on the road and opening his eyes to a new city almost every morning, so why did he feel like something was different from his norm?

It was too quiet. The motion of the tour bus and the din of its engine were missing. It was such a familiar lullaby that his mornings felt off if he didn’t wake to the sound.

With a sleepy smile, he rubbed his face against his pillow, still trying to grasp full consciousness, and cringed as pain shot across the bridge of his nose. Fuck, his face hurt. And not because he’d slept on it again. He felt as if someone had pounded him between the eyes with a hard fist.

Probably because someone had.

All at once his mind grasped why the bus was stationary this morning and the reason his nose felt like it had been moshing with a wall in his sleep. They were in Las Vegas. Vegas. Myrna had agreed to marry him in Vegas. His botched bachelor party the night before had resulted in his worse-for-wear face, which meant…

Today was his wedding day.

Holy shit!

Instantly awake, Brian shot his hand out into the space beside him to find nothing but an expanse of empty mattress. Had it been a dream? The woman had been throwing off his proposals for weeks, so maybe he had imagined her telling him she loved him. Dreamed that she’d agreed to marry him. Brian’s heart panged unpleasantly.

He reached farther, needing the tangible evidence of her skin beneath his touch. More cool and empty sheet met his seeking fingertips. Had Myrna changed her mind and left him? She had been pissed when he’d shown up with two black eyes the night before.

He couldn’t blame her for having second thoughts after he’d gotten into a fight at a strip club. A strip club he hadn’t even wanted to go to, but still…

He stretched his arm as far as it would go, and his fingers found warm, soft skin. He breathed a sigh of relief and spooned against Myrna’s back, inhaling her delicate scent. Not a dream. Not his imagination. Sweet reality.

Myrna murmured his name in her sleep. The corners of Brian’s mouth turned up, and his heart warmed. He snuggled closer to her back, placing a tender kiss behind her ear.

“I love you,” he whispered. It felt so good to say it openly without worrying about her getting upset. The only thing better than verbally expressing his love was hearing her say it in return. He should probably let her sleep—their make-up sex had kept them awake well into the night—but he needed to see the love shining in her hazel eyes and hear her put the sentiment to words. In a few hours, she’d be his wife—Mrs. Myrna Sinclair. As far as he was concerned, the honeymoon started now.

Brian flicked Myrna’s earlobe with his tongue and sucked it into his mouth. The breathy sigh she emitted grabbed him by the balls. It was always like this with her; she ignited an insatiable sexual hunger within him. And so many things about her contributed to it. Her openness to any sexual experience blew his mind and challenged him to invent new experiences to share with her. Her scent, her taste, the sexy little sounds she made while their bodies were joined, the texture of her skin, the way the light danced in her auburn hair, the gleam of naughtiness in her hazel eyes, how her pouty lips always begged for his kisses… The entirety of her physical being burned his body with awareness. The music he composed while making love to her inspired his soul. Her hard-won trust set his heart ablaze. He loved everything about her, even her stubbornness. She wasn’t an easy woman, but she was the only woman for him. He’d known it the first time they’d made love. And now she knew it too. At least she said she did. He decided she needed a few reminders so she wouldn’t forget.

Sucking and nibbling on her ear, he moved his hand to cover her breast. She arched into his palm, her hardened nipple pressing into his flesh.

“Brian!” she gasped.

It would be the one and only name she’d call out in ecstasy for

the rest of their lives. He couldn’t ever imagine growing tired of hearing her say it.

He slid his hand lower, over her ribs, her belly, seeking the center of her pleasure at the juncture of her thighs. His fingers brushed the crisp curls between her legs, and she shuddered. He already knew what he wanted to do to her. He’d stroke her clit until she came and then press her down on her belly, suspend himself over her back and fuck her slow from behind. Grind his hips each time he buried his cock deep inside. Tease her clit with his balls until she begged him to make her come.

Myrna caught his hand before he could find his target.

“No,” she said firmly.

“No?” How could she say no? She never told him no. Never.

“Not until the honeymoon.”

He grinned. “Which I’ve already decided starts now.”

She rolled over to face him and winced. “Oh, baby, your face! And I thought you looked bad last night.”

“Thanks.”

Bar fights never ended well, even when you won. It hadn’t necessarily been the brightest idea to get in a brawl at his bachelor party, but the instigator of the fight—one Eric Sticks—wasn’t known for coming up with bright ideas. Impulsive ideas? Yeah. Troublemaking ideas? Definitely. But not bright ones. And the cause of the fight—one Jessica Chase. Well, he didn’t want his morning ruined by thoughts of that gold digger.

For a few tense moments the night before, Brian had thought Myrna would call off their wedding. Thought his world would end. But after telling him off, she’d listened. She allowed him to explain. And while she hadn’t condoned his idiocy—or Eric’s—she’d forgiven him. He’d made sure to thank her body profusely for her forgiveness well into the night.

Myrna kissed the bridge of his nose, and his flesh throbbed in protest. Wincing, he drew a pained breath through his teeth.

“Does it hurt?” she asked, rubbing her thumb along his cheekbone.

“Doesn’t feel good. Are both eyes black now?”

“Yep. You’re the sexiest raccoon rock-god on the planet.”

He grinned. “Well, as long as you think I’m sexy.”

“Always.” She kissed him and pulled away to stare into his eyes.

He stared back, his heart thudding with a mixture of love and lust and unadulterated joy. He couldn’t believe Myrna was openly his. That she wanted to marry him. Today.

Holy shit!

“I love you,” she said. She burrowed her fingers into his hair. “I love you,” she said more firmly. “Do you believe me?”

Almost—it was still very new coming from her lips—but he said, “Yes.”

“I think I fell in love with you when I saw you standing in the terminal in Portland waiting for me. Do you remember that?”

“Yeah, but you didn’t love me then. I asked you if you were opening up possibilities between us and you said only sexual ones. And then you gave me your panties to make sure I understood exactly what you meant.” He still had those panties somewhere.

“Well, I was an idiot. And I did love you, Brian, I just didn’t want to admit it. I was scared.”

“And you’re not scared anymore?”

She shook her head.

“And you promise not to break my heart?” he asked.

“I promise.”

“And you’ll love me forever?”

“Forever.”

“And we can start the honeymoon right now?”

She laughed. “Nope. I’m going to make you wait.”

“It’s the two black eyes, isn’t it?”

He blinked at her, knowing he looked like shit. He felt like shit. He wasn’t sure why he’d let his band mates talk him into going to a strip club for his bachelor party. They hadn’t believed him when he’d told them he’d rather spend his last night of freedom with Myrna. He’d had enough of bachelorhood; it was only more of the same. The love he shared with Myrna was new and exciting. Exactly what he wanted. Needed. His smart and sexy Myrna. His heart.

“Nope, it’s not the black eyes. It’s knowing how hard you’re going to fuck me after I tease you all day.”

She offered him a devilish grin, and his cock pulsed with excitement.

“Are you sure you’re not punishing me for getting into a fight last night?”

“Well, maybe a little.” She kissed him again. “But I love you regardless.” She stared at him with such intensity he had to look

away.

“I love you,” she said with conviction, and he met her eyes again. “I love you. I love you. Which way do you like me to say it?”

“Any way is fine with me as long as it’s frequent and you mean it.”

She continued to stare into his eyes. “I do. I do. I do. How should I say that?”

He grinned. “You just have to say that once.”

She smiled and there was no mistaking that her level of happiness matched his.

“We have a busy day ahead of us,” she said. “Rings. Dress. Makeover. Wedding. Sinners concert. Honeymoon. We’d better get out of bed.”

“Or we can stay in bed, forget the dress, and get married right here while participating in the honeymoon. I’m a firm believer in multitasking.” He grinned hopefully and nodded, encouraging her to mimic his motion and agree with his perfect plan.

The eyebrow she raised at him told him that wasn’t happening.

Damn.

He released a defeated sigh and pulled out of her arms. “Let’s go pick out that ring. It’ll be huge and expensive—no protests out of you.”

She opened her mouth, and he covered it with one hand.

“No protests.”

The corners of her mouth turned up against his palm. He knew damned well he’d get her whatever ring she wanted.

“We’re in agreement?”

She nodded, and he moved his hand so he could kiss her lips. “Are you ready to go pick it out?”

He so wanted to put that physical token of his affection on her left ring finger. The slender digit looked hopelessly bare at the moment. He drew her hand to his lips to kiss spot that would soon be obscured by his eternal rock.

She tossed the covers aside. “I need a shower first.”

“I’ll join you.”

She appraised him for a moment, her gaze skimming over his naked flesh from head to toe. Her concentration focused mostly in the middle. When his cock hardened beneath her appreciative attention, her tongue darted out to wet her lips.

“Yeah, you will,” she said.

♥♥~♥♥

from Sweet Love of Mine (Eric and Rebekah’s Wedding)

©2014 by Olivia Cunning

SITTING AT A RED LIGHT, Eric banged his head to the music blaring from the speakers and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel of his beloved ’67 Corvette. He followed the song’s drum progression around the circle with his improvised drumsticks and reached over to the passenger seat to tap his cymbal—Rebekah’s pert nose. His most beloved giggled, which warmed him far more than the California sunshine streaming in through the car’s open convertible top. It also prompted him to use her thigh as his cowbell and her nose as his cymbal again.

“You’re in a good mood,” she said, smiling crookedly at the dashboard.

Well, what did she expect? He was in love. He paused his live in-traffic performance to look at her. Really look at her. His Rebekah. His heart.

She couldn’t possibly love him with the same all-encompassing intensity with which he loved her, but he was okay with that. He was used to being unloved. And Rebekah hadn’t done anything to make him doubt her feelings. On the contrary, she did things to remind him of her devotion on a regular basis. He just had a hard time wrapping his head around the idea that someone could love him. Correction: that someone did love him. Perhaps if he stared at her long enough, his head would catch up with what his heart already knew.

A breeze caught her chin-length blond hair—accented with splotches of purple dye—and blew it against her adorable face. She pushed the silky strands aside impatiently and tucked them behind her small ears. Everything about her was tiny. Except her heart. And her sexual appetite. Two characteristics he happened to hold in high regard. When Rebekah realized he was staring, she turned her head to him and he immediately got lost in her sky-blue eyes.

Eric released a contented sigh, certain that he had a loopy expression on his face, but he didn’t care who knew he was one hundred percent invested in this woman. He saw forever in those

eyes. He could scarcely believe she was his, really his. He hadn’t had to kidnap her or drug her or anything. He lifted a hand to touch her face and make sure he wasn’t just imagining her gazing at him with adoration. But that loving look really was directed toward him. He wanted her to look at him just like that forever.

Only forever would do.

When they’d been waiting for her biopsy results at the hospital that morning, he’d thought his world might end then and there. Her oncologist’s concern of metastasis had been a false alarm, so Eric had decided he wanted to celebrate her clean bill of health by marrying her. Immediately. Our forever starts now, baby. But as they made their way across town toward the courthouse to make it official, he thought perhaps he’d been a bit hasty. He wasn’t sure if Rebekah was as keen on the idea as he was. He hadn’t consulted her, after all. He had just assumed that she was as ready to be legally wed as he was.

The car behind Eric’s honked obnoxiously, reminding him that he was supposed to punch the gas pedal as soon as the light turned green. Normally he’d have sent the impatient jackass a one-fingered salute, but nothing could put a damper on his spirits today. Not when the woman beside him was alive and healthy and his.

“I love you,” he said before he dropped his hand to the gearshift, slammed it in gear, popped the clutch, and took off with an impressive squeal of tires.

“I love you too!” Rebekah yelled, clinging to the dashboard as the car fishtailed slightly, found its grip, and jetted forward.

Unfortunately, traffic was too thick to have any real fun and Eric had to stop at the next light. And wait. God, he was sick of waiting. While he drummed his overabundance of energy into his steering wheel—again—a faded wooden sign hanging over a storefront on the next block caught his attention: Malachi’s Costume Emporium.

His pulse surged with excitement, and he glanced at Rebekah. Would she go for it? A regular courthouse wedding was a bit too normal for the two of them, but perhaps…

“I have an idea,” he said.

She stiffened and peeked at him from under her long lashes. She was usually gung-ho for any crazy idea that crossed his mind, so he wondered about her uncharacteristic hesitation.

“What kind of an idea?” she squeaked.

“Maybe we should get married in costumes.”

“Costumes?”

“Yeah, costumes!” The idea was really catching on with him. “Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“I’m not sure,” she said and worried her small hands together.

He lifted an eyebrow at her. She wasn’t having second thoughts about marrying him today, was she? Maybe he shouldn’t rock her boat too much. He knew her emotions were all over the place after that appointment. But he couldn’t help but want to make their wedding as memorable as possible considering their complete lack of planning and provisions.

Not waiting for her to be sure, Eric parallel parked in one of the five unoccupied spaces in front of the costume shop and turned off the engine.

“Come on,” he said, taking her hand. “Let’s go see how much trouble we can get into.”

Still she hesitated.

“Don’t you want today to be special?” he asked.

She tore her gaze away from the store window, which had several costumes on display, including some fancy old blue dress that Rebekah had been examining with interest. Her eyes bored into his with all the enthusiasm for life and adventure that he’d come to expect from her.

“It’s already special,” she said. “Marrying you will undoubtedly be the most memorable five minutes of my life.”

“But don’t you want it to be an experience unique to us?” He leaned in closer, hoping to sway her with his obey me, woman look.

She just laughed at him. “Will it make you happy?”

He beamed a grin at her. “It will.”

“Okay,” she said. “Then I guess I’ll make a fool of myself.”

His brief kiss of gratitude soon turned into a hands-pawing, tongue-mingling, cock-raising expression of his undying lust for the woman. His heart raced as he tugged her closer. Kissed her deeper. Loved her a bit more every moment they were together for making him so deliriously happy.

When had he become such a fucking sap?

She tore her mouth from his and sucked in a deep breath. “Easy there, tiger,” she said. “You’re making my panties all squishy.”

“Mmm,” he said in appreciation. “Those are my favorite kind

of panties.”

Maybe they should forgo the selection of costumes and get to the courthouse as soon as possible. He had a sudden urge to start the wedding night festivities sooner rather than later.

A bell over the door jangled as they entered the musty-smelling shop. A wrinkled old man in a white shirt, black suspenders, and red bow tie sat behind a long wooden counter near the door. On second glance, Eric noticed the thin man’s eyes were closed. Was he actually asleep sitting up?

“Are you open?” Eric asked loudly.

He didn’t stir.

“Are you alive?” Eric yelled.

The man started and smiled a greeting when his slightly cloudy eyes squinted at the pair of them.

“Welcome to Malachi’s Costume Emporium,” he said from his seat in a tall ladder-backed wooden chair next to the wall. “If you need assistance, let me know. Otherwise, enjoy your browsing experience.”

He rubbed his beak-like nose with the back of his wrist, leaned against the wall, and closed his eyes once more. Within seconds his breathing had become deep and even. He was undoubtedly asleep again.

Eric glanced at Rebekah to share a moment of mutual surprise at the proprietor’s trusting disposition—he supposed costume-shop business would be especially light in December, but still…

Rebekah wasn’t paying attention. Some costume had already caught her eye. She released Eric’s hand and immediately gravitated toward the ugliest wedding dress Eric had ever seen. The yellowed and limp lace collar looked like an enormous bib that covered both shoulders and half of the front. The skirt was layered with wide ruffles and some net-like fabric that looked as if had been caught in a paper shredder. Rebekah touched the ugly thing as though it were made of solid gold.

His heart panged as he realized what was bothering her. She didn’t want to get married in a courthouse. She wanted a real wedding. One with flowers and bridesmaids and a church and an extravagant white dress.

“You look around,” he said. “I need to call Jace and let him know we’ll be at the courthouse a little later than anticipated.”

His best man and witness wouldn’t appreciate spending his

entire day waiting at the courthouse while he and Rebekah goofed off in Malachi’s Costume Emporium.

“I should call my mom and let her know too,” she said, turning the dress to stare at the equally ugly reverse side. Five bows exploded from the rump in shameless celebration of the dress’s gaudiness.

“I’ll call her,” Eric said.

Rebekah tore her gaze from her strange obsession and blinked at him with her mouth hanging open. “You’re volunteering to call my mother.” She pointed at him and then at her chest.

He’d had a moment of bonding with Rebekah’s mother at the hospital that morning, and he wanted to use it to his advantage before he screwed something up and she went back to hating him again. He figured he had a couple days in Mrs. Blake’s good favor. Tops.

“Yeah, I’ll call her. No problem.”

Rebekah shrugged and went back to worshiping the ugly wedding gown.

Eric bit his lip as he watched her, wondering how to make her happy. He had a pathological need to bring her as much joy as she brought him. He figured it was time to call in a few favors. He stepped outside to make several calls because he didn’t want Rebekah to overhear his sudden change of plans. He hoped his friends would be willing to drop everything for him today and wondered how long he’d be able to stall his bride at the costume shop while they made his plan happen. His stomach was doing all sorts of acrobatics as he dialed his soon-to-be in-laws’ house and waited for someone to answer. He prayed his hesitant bride liked his impromptu surprise. He’d be crushed if he couldn’t make her burst with joy by the end of the day.

♥♥~♥♥

from Patience

© 2014 by Olivia Cunning

GROGGY FROM SLEEP, SED ROLLED OVER in bed and reached for Jessica. When he found nothing but empty pillow, he felt a moment of panic. He lifted his head to see if the bathroom light was on and then checked the clock. Even though it was past eight, the room was more dimly lit than was typical for a southern Californian morning. It probably had something to do with the storm clouds he could see outside the French doors to the balcony. And the absence of his heart and soul probably had something to do with it being his wedding day.

And hers.

Jessica had wanted to stay in a hotel room the night before so they wouldn’t see each other before the wedding, but three orgasms had exhausted her enough to keep her in his bed. At least for the night. She must have risen early and vacated the place. He could almost picture her with her hand over her eyes as she scooted out of the bed to avoid glimpsing him even in sleep. He made a mental note to tease her about it later. He’d only agreed to a traditional wedding because his family was expecting it and Jessica said she wanted one. He didn’t care how the deed was done as long as he could make that woman his in the eyes of God, his friends and family, and the fine state of California. That way she would never leave him again.

Sed rolled out of bed and stood naked before the French doors, scowling at the angry clouds overhead. Jessica would be heartbroken if it rained today. He wanted her to be happy every day, but especially today. He wondered if the band’s manager could do something about the weather. Jerry was a miracle worker when it came to keeping the band from falling apart, even though they’d gone through plenty of tragic events in the past couple of years. Surely the guy could stop a few rainclouds from dampening his day.

Sed’s cellphone rang and he recognized the guitar-solo ringtone of his best man, Brian Sinclair.

“Are you up?” Brian asked in greeting.

Sed glanced down at his morning wood, which would have been stone hard if Jessica was in his morning routine, but it was

already subsiding in her absence. “Not quite,” he said.

“Jessica and Myrna just left with an entire van full of giggling women. We need to go round up the guys and pick up our tuxedos.”

And how Jessica had ever talked him into wearing one of those, Sed would never know. At least she hadn’t insisted he wear one of those ridiculous bow ties. That was not happening.

“I’ll be over as soon as I get out of the shower.”

“You nervous?” Brian asked.

“No,” he said, but as soon as the words were out of his mouth, his stomach lurched in protest. “Not much,” he amended.

“Jessica is a wreck this morning. Not that I blame her. Look who she’s marrying.”

One corner of Sed’s mouth lifted in amusement. “Great, Brian. That’s just what I need to hear this morning.”

“Just remember I’m the nice one. Wait until Eric gets going.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Sed said with a laugh. Nothing anyone said or did would keep him from marrying Jessica today. Not even Eric Sticks.

He found it hilarious that Jessica had set out proper socks and underwear for him in the bathroom. He’d gotten her really worked up the night before when he’d told her he was wearing white tube socks with his black tux and dress shoes. He did enjoy riling her. But he’d behave himself today. She was already under enough stress. Tonight, on the other hand, her temper was bound to get poked. And that wouldn’t be the only thing he poked.

Like a good husband-to-be, he wore those dumbass, thin black dress socks with his basketball shorts, T-shirt, and cross-trainers. He just hoped no paparazzi were waiting at the gate of his condominium complex this morning. He felt as lame in the dress socks as he looked.

When he arrived at Brian’s house, a party of cars was already parked in the long driveway. He recognized Aggie’s black Mustang, his sister’s Toyota, Eric’s Corvette, and the big van that Rebekah drove to haul her brother Dave and his wheelchair around. Jessica’s car was there as well. He really wished he’d gotten to see her that morning. His day never started right when he had to start it without her.

Sed rang the doorbell and was ushered into the house by Brian. He was surprised the man wasn’t holding his son. The kid was

always attached to Brian’s arm except when he was on stage playing his guitar. He occasionally let Sed hold him. And nothing filled Sed with wonder more than snuggling his friend’s baby against chest except the knowledge that in seven months he’d be cuddling one of his own.

“Where’s Malcolm?” Sed asked.

“With his mother,” Brian said. “Come in. Did you have breakfast? Myrna said to make sure you ate something. She doesn’t want you fainting at the altar.”

Sed laughed. “Why the fuck would I faint?”

“It happens more than you think. Remember when Trey fainted at Malcolm’s birth?”

“Shut up, assmunch,” Trey said as he entered the room on cue.

“I missed that, unfortunately,” Sed said.

“Invite him to Jessica’s delivery,” Brian said, “and behold the hilarity for yourself.”

“I don’t think Jessica will want an audience of Trey.”

“I don’t know,” Trey said. “It’s not like I’ve never witnessed the two of you fucking in the bed right beside me.”

“We thought you were asleep,” Sed said.

“Dude,” Eric said, loping into the foyer to join the festivities, “where the fuck did you get those socks?”

“Jessica said I have to wear them with my tux.” Sed looked down at his socks and scowled.

“You could have brought them and changed into them later instead of wearing them now,” Eric said.

He punched Eric in the shoulder. “But I want to make sure they’re nice and smelly before the ceremony.”

The mechanical whir of Dave’s wheelchair announced his arrival into the increasingly crowded foyer.

“Why are we all congregating out here?” Dave said. “The strippers are getting lonely.”

“Strippers?” Sed’s band and crew had thrown him a wild and rather incriminating bachelor party a few nights before. He didn’t need any repeats this morning.

Brian chuckled and shook his head. “Myrna’s having some work done in the dining room. They’re stripping wallpaper off the walls this morning.”

“Good one, Dave!” Eric said with a hearty laugh.

“I think I’ve been hanging around with you too much,” Dave

said. “Your lame sense of humor is wearing off on me.”

“Five minutes is too much when it comes to Eric,” Sed teased.

“That’s what she said,” Dave added with a laugh.

Eric had no qualms against smacking his brother-in-law in the forehead.

“Where’s Jace?” Sed asked, noting the absence of the final member of his band.

“Asleep on Brian’s couch,” Trey said. “You know he doesn’t function before noon.”

“I think Aggie got a little vicious with him last night in the dungeon,” Eric said. “It’s got to be rough for them on the road without their St. Andrew’s cross.”

“I heard that,” Jace called from the living room off to the right of the foyer.

“What are you going to do about it, Tripod?” Eric asked.

“Gift you an hour-long session from Aggie when she’s on her period.”

“Eww, why when she’s on her period?” Eric asked, his long nose crinkled in disgust.

“Because she’s twice as vicious when she’s in a really bad mood.”

Sed still hadn’t taken Jessica for a training session with Aggie. He wasn’t afraid or anything. But now that Jess was pregnant, he couldn’t imagine that her using a cane on him to work through her frustrations would be good for the baby. Yeah, good excuse. It was bad for the baby.

Brian presented Sed with a piece of paper. “Jessica said you are to follow this schedule and not deviate from it at all.”

Sed scanned the contents, scowling at things like trim nails and brush teeth. What? Was he five? He glanced at his fingernails and decided they could use a trim, but still… He could plan things on his own. In fact, he’d planned their entire wedding dinner on his own. When he’d realized that a morning wedding and an afternoon reception meant they’d have the evening free, he’d taken it upon himself to arrange something special so he could celebrate his new wife in style. Having sex in another unusual location had only been part of his motivation for devising his plan. He’d rock her world tonight, he had no doubt. But he knew how important it was for her day to go without a hitch, so he’d follow her stupid list without argument.

Eric handed him a pink box that looked like something a three-year-old would store her beloved plastic princess tiara in.

“What’s this?” Sed asked.

“This is where you’ll keep your balls once you’re married,” Eric said. “Jess probably doesn’t want to continue keeping them for you.”

Eric ducked in time to avoid Sed’s retaliating slap.

“It only hurts for a minute,” Brian said, “and then you’ll wonder why you ever insisted on holding on to them in the first place.”

This bit of teasing was nothing compared to the massive ball and chain they’d manacled to his leg during his bachelor party. They hadn’t removed it until late the next day. Luckily, Jess thought it was hilarious when he came to bed that night and had to sleep in his jeans with his leg dangling outside the covers. It had been Jace who’d finally come to his rescue. Probably because the manacle had originated in Aggie’s dungeon.

“I need mine for baby making,” Sed said and handed the box back to Eric. “And keeping my woman in line.”

Even the strippers in the dining room laughed at that claim.

♥♥~♥♥

from November Rain

© 2014 by Olivia Cunning

AGGIE WRAPPED HER ARMS AROUND JACE and stole a kiss. Distracted, he kissed her back, but he didn’t seem to mean it. She gave his ass an appreciative squeeze and drew away to stare into his dark brown eyes.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Just a bit…” His eyebrows drew together. “Cold.”

While June in London wasn’t as warm as June in southern California, it wasn’t cold. Not even close.

“Cold?”

“I’ve been cold since we left the Tower of London yesterday.” He pursed his lips and shook his head.

“Are you coming down with something?” She touched his forehead, then his cheeks. He didn’t feel feverish. “Jet lag maybe?” He’d been a bit off all day. She hadn’t even been able to convince him to join her in the shower that morning.

“Maybe,” he said and wrapped his arms around his body to hold in a hard shudder.

Because she’d wanted to play tourist, she and Jace had rented a car to make their way from London to Donington Park for Sinners’ stage performance at the Download Festival. The rest of the band had left on the tour bus the day before. Maybe Jace was just worried they wouldn’t make it to the show in time. Their set didn’t start until late that night and driving across England wasn’t quite the same as driving across the United States.

“We’ll make it. We just have one more castle I want to see, and it’s only an hour and a half to the venue from there.”

“Another castle?” He grinned crookedly. “I’ve seen a different side of you these past two days. I never knew you were such a history buff.”

“History is so dark.”

He chuckled. “Just the parts that interest you.”

At her insistence, they’d spent the night in Mailmaison Oxford Castle—a creepy castle that had been used as a prison; their room

had once been a cell. Jace had been a bit skittish the entire time, claiming some presence was lurking around him. She’d laughed his claims off, and he’d gone quiet on her, internalizing as he did when he didn’t think anyone understood where he was coming from. She’d wanted to play tourist and had easily talked Jace into seeing some real dungeons, but while he’d started their adventure with enthusiasm yesterday morning, he’d been uneasy and listless the rest of the day. A restless night’s sleep hadn’t improved his disposition.

“Are you having any fun?” she asked.

“Do you really think I’d have fun touring the English countryside looking at old castles?”

“And dungeons,” she reminded him.

His gaze lowered, and he smiled. “But not the good kind of dungeons.”

“We don’t have to leave home for the good kind. If you want to go directly to Donington and skip our last stop—”

He tipped his head to rest his forehead against hers and closed his eyes. They stayed like that a long moment while he mulled over his thoughts. They’d been together long enough that she knew he wasn’t ignoring her when he was silent. He was merely thinking. At first, her natural instinct to demand a reaction had made it difficult for her to give him these quiet moments of contemplation, and they’d gotten into plenty of arguments over it, but she now understood if she gave him a moment to put his thoughts in order, he would share them with her. Eventually.

“I’m not having fun, not exactly,” he said.

Her heart sank with disappointment.

“But I am enjoying my time alone with you away from the insanity of the tour. Even if I have to listen to history lessons all day, at least the British accents are entertaining.”

Aggie chuckled. “What would you rather do?”

“Well, that would require one of those fun dungeons, but since I haven’t seen one of those since we arrived, I’m content following your evil guidebook.”

She pulled the dog-eared copy of Tour the Scandals of England from the back pocket of her jeans. “Not evil. Just a bit naughty.”

They were working their way through the Tudor period, visiting sites where noteworthy members of society had done their dirty deeds or been punished for them.

“What’s next?” he asked, his strong fingers sneaking under the

hem of her T-shirt to stroke the bare skin of her back.

Pretending not to be affected by that simple touch, Aggie flipped to the next stop on their self-directed tour. “Sudeley Castle, once home of Queen Katherine Parr. Only six months after the death of her husband, King Henry the Eighth, she married Thomas Seymour.” She glanced up from her reading and met Jace’s eyes. “Any relation?”

He shrugged. “Not that I know of. My father’s family was originally from England, so maybe, but I really doubt it. Do I look like royalty to you?”

“You’re king of my domain.”

He chuckled. “That’s more power than the King of England could ever claim.”

She shifted on her feet. It was hard for her to admit that he held power over her. Not because he dominated her but because she loved him so much, she knew she’d do anything necessary to be with him. Not a comfortable position to find herself in, but Jace was worth the compromise. Unequivocally worth it.

“Let’s go check out your ancestral home,” she said and tapped his leather-encased arm with her book. “Maybe you’re a baron or a duke and never even knew it.”

He chuckled. “If I’m related to Thomas Seymour of Sudeley Castle, I’m sure my branch of the family tree was sawed off centuries ago.”

“We can pretend; it’ll be fun,” she said and kissed him gently before opening the rental car’s door and slipping inside. She inexplicably had a steering wheel in front of her. Crazy backwards cars. Grinning sheepishly, she slipped back out of the car and said, “I changed my mind. You should drive.”

“You meant to do that, did you?” He winked at her knowingly.

“Of course,” she said and hurried around to the other side of the car.

In her wrong-side-of-the-car passenger seat, she unfolded the large map of England and traced the road they’d be traveling to their next destination. “It’s about a hundred kilometers from Oxford,” she told him when he settled into the car beside her.

He scowled. “Which is how many miles?”

“Sixty or so.”

“That’s not far.”

Once they were on the main road, they settled into a

comfortable silence for several miles. It had been weeks since they’d been completely alone without interruptions. She enjoyed touring with his band all over Europe, but she was looking forward to getting back home in October. She missed her dungeon and her customers, but mostly she missed quiet evenings with Jace and his silly cat, Brownie. They’d had to leave the feline behind when the tour had brought them to Europe.

“I’m glad I decided to take a day off,” she said, watching his face while he concentrated on driving on the wrong side of the road.

He glanced at her and smiled. “Me too. You’ve been working so hard on filling orders for corsets that I hardly see you without a needle in your hand.”

Her business was definitely keeping her busy. Too busy. She’d collected so many orders while the band was touring the U.S. that she had enough to keep her fingers sore for months. She was horribly behind in her embroidery work, but everyone needed a day off every now and then, so she didn’t feel too guilty.

“I’ve been thinking of working with some other fabrics. The silk corsets on display at that museum this morning were gorgeous.”

“I like yours better,” Jace said with a sheepish grin.

Hers were all made of leather, so of course he liked them better. He rarely went without his leather motorcycle jacket. And that was another thing she missed—riding behind him astride his rumbling Harley. But sitting on the wrong side of the car and taking in the sites was fun too. Smiling to herself as they passed through a quaint village, she caressed the platinum band of the solitaire engagement ring on her finger. Every moment with Jace brought her joy. She’d never thought she’d fall in love with a man. She definitely never thought one could hold her heart so completely and that she’d actually relish the feeling. She still pretended to be a badass dominatrix, but she’d come to terms with having an uncharacteristic soft spot for Sinners’ silent bass player the day he’d crumpled at her feet and begged for mercy.

They arrived at their destination without mishap. Jace parked in a small lot. Through the trees, Aggie caught a glimpse of the enormous sandstone castle.

“I’ve seen this place before,” Jace said.

“I thought you’d never been to England before.”

He shook his head. “I haven’t. I must have seen a picture of it

or something. It looks familiar.”

He opened his door and climbed out. He paused before the car’s hood and stared up at the stone façade of the immense structure. Still inside the car, Aggie saw a shudder ripple through his entire body. He took a hesitant step in the direction of the castle. And then another.

He was halfway down the path to the gardens before Aggie opened the car door and climbed out. “Didn’t you forget something?” she called after him.

He froze and turned to look at her. His breathing was uncharacteristically rapid and shallow. For a second he seemed not to recognize her. He lifted a hand to massage the golden hoop in one ear and tilted his head. “What did I forget?”

“Me!”

He held out a hand, and she trotted toward him to take it. As soon as his fingers wrapped around hers, he hurried down the walkway toward the entrance. After having to drag him through attractions for two days, his sudden change in enthusiasm baffled her.

“What’s gotten into you?” she asked as he bounded the steps and swung the entrance door open.

“We’re going to miss the last tour,” he said, pointing at a sign.

This week only—Rare opportunity to tour the castle’s private living quarters at 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm. Tour space is limited.

So maybe he was having a better time than he’d let on. Or maybe there was something unique about this place. She wasn’t sure why he was in such a hurry to catch another tour.

Luckily for them, there was space in the tour due to a last-minute cancellation. As they moved from room to room and the guide droned on about dates and lords and ladies, Aggie watched Jace with more curiosity than she held for any artifact or tidbit of historical information. Even though his eyes scanned every inch of every room, he didn’t seem to be paying much attention to the tour. As they made their way through the luxurious castle, his stride became more and more stiff and his brow furrowed deeper and deeper with displeasure.

“Jace,” she whispered as he glared at a set of drapes, “is something bothering you?”

“This is all wrong,” he said. “She wouldn’t approve of any of this.”

“Who?”

“Katherine.”

Aggie stiffened. “Who the fuck is Katherine?” While Aggie trusted him, she sure didn’t like the name of another woman tumbling affectionately from his delectable lips.

Jace stared at her wordlessly for a long moment. If she hadn’t known better, she’d have said he didn’t know who she was.

“Jace?”

He closed his eyes, shook his head, and shuddered violently. The tour group had entered another room by the time he flipped his eyes open to look at her again. “Aggie?”

“You’re acting weird,” she said.

“I’m feeling weird. It’s like I’ve been here before, but nothing is exactly how I remember it.”

“Déjà vu?”

“I guess. I’ve never felt this way about a place before.” He wrapped his arms around his torso and rubbed his upper arms. “It’s chilly in here, isn’t it?”

It wasn’t. She touched her fingers to his forehead to check again for fever. She almost hoped he was coming down with the flu; at least his odd behavior would have an explanation. “You don’t feel feverish, but I have to admit you’re sort of freaking me out,” she said.

He released a soft laugh. “You and me both, babe.”

“Should we go? Maybe you should lie down for a while before you have to be onstage.”

“No,” he said hastily. “I like it here. I want to see every inch of the place, even though something feels a bit off and I don’t know why that would be.”

“Maybe you were here as a small child and that’s why you remember it. And things look different to the adult you.”

“Maybe,” he said with a shrug.

She got the feeling he was only saying that to make her feel better about the bizarreness of what he was explaining, and she truly appreciated him for soothing her fears.

Based on appearances, the castle wasn’t the least bit creepy. The décor was elegant and inviting, the ceilings high and the rooms filled with abundant natural light from the enormous windows. But she couldn’t deny the shivers racing along her spine or the goose bumps on her arms. Maybe it was a little chilly in here.

At least she thought so until Jace leaned closer and captured her lips in a heated kiss. Nope. Not chilly in the castle at all. A bit too warm, if anything.

The chandelier overhead creaked. Aggie tugged her mouth from Jace’s and glanced up at the enormous light fixture, her heart hammering.

“Are you sure you like it here?” she asked, taking his arm and moving him out from beneath the inexplicably swaying chandelier.

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s like I belong here or something.”

She knew he didn’t get that feeling often. Hell, he hadn’t even felt like he belonged in his band, and it was obvious to everyone but him that he was tailor-made to fit their ranks. She patted his back and smiled, truly happy that he found a place that he connected to, no matter how many heebie jeebies were tickling her belly.

“Maybe you really are related to that Seymour guy. We should ask about him.”

Expecting him to disagree, he surprised her by smiling brightly and nodding. “Yeah, I think I will.”

They caught up with the tour group in the next room. Aggie stared at Jace in disbelief as he raised his hand and snapped his fingers to gain the tour guide’s attention.

“Yes?” the woman asked, her head cocked slightly.

“Did someone named Thomas Seymour live here at one time?”

“Indeed,” the guide said. “I usually talk about him in the chapel where his wife, Queen Katherine, is buried.”

“His wife is buried there, but he isn’t?” Jace asked.

“He was executed for treason less than a year after her death. Quite the scoundrel, that one. Well, depending on whom you ask.” She giggled.

“Oh,” Jace said flatly. His eyebrows scrunched together. “Would you mind telling me where he was executed?”

“In the Tower of London.”

“Wasn’t everyone?” an older man in the tour group asked, which elicited a round of laughter.

Jace didn’t look amused. A bit nauseated maybe, but not amused.

“He was only lord of Sudeley Castle for two years,” the guide continued. “He didn’t have much claim to the place.”

“I don’t think he’d agree with that,” Jace said under his breath.

The guide cocked a brow at him. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing. Please continue.”

The guide gave him a long look and then took a deep breath to continue with her rehearsed spiel about a different lord of Sudeley Castle.

“Scoundrel, eh?” Jace said, and then he produced an unfamiliar soft laugh. “If only the truth were half as interesting as the lies.”

“Have you completely lost it?” Aggie asked Jace.

He looped his arm through hers and trailed after the group, looking mildly amused for some inexplicable reason.

“It is a distinct possibility, my dear,” he said in a perfect English accent.

She gaped at him, but allowed him to lead her into the next room. “You’re full of surprises today.”

“Am I?”

She nodded.

“Must be a side effect of basking in your splendid beauty, lovey,” he said.

She stopped, drawing him to a halt beside her, and checked him for fever yet again. Jace didn’t say things like that unless they were in bed and he was sure there was no one around to hear him. Or even see his lips move. She hadn’t known he even knew the word splendid. And when the fuck had he started calling her lovey? “I think you need to see a doctor, baby.”

“I think you need to kiss me.” He drew her against him and brushed his lips against hers. A nearby door slammed. Jace pulled away and cupped her cheek. “She always was the jealous sort.”

Aggie drew her eyebrows together and shook her head. “What are you talking about?”

“It’s nothing. I’m just teasing.”

She might have believed him if he were the type to tease. He wasn’t. Jace turned and tucked her hand into the crook of his elbow again. He led her to a closed door, the one that had slammed for no apparent reason when Jace had kissed her. Even his gait was stiffer than usual as he opened the door and ushered her through it. He looked like Jace, but he didn’t talk like Jace or act like Jace or even walk like Jace. If she believed in ghosts and the supernatural—and she didn’t—she’d have insisted they turn back. Something was filling her with a dread she couldn’t explain.

“Uh,” Jace said, “I think we’ll skip the next room.”

“Why?”

“It’s Mary’s nursery. I don’t want to go in there.”

“How do you know that?”

“I… overheard the guide say as much.” He nodded resolutely.

“Jace…” A chill raced down her spine as he took a step back from the room where the tour guide was speaking rather loudly about the child born to Queen Katherine and her fourth husband, Thomas Seymour.

“Very tragic,” the guide said. “The baby was only days old when her mother died of puerperal fever.”

“I don’t think you should go in there either,” he said.

Aggie straightened her spine, wondering when it had become a yellow wet noodle, and strode across the hall to the door with as much confidence as she could muster. “I’m going in.”

When she was about to cross the threshold, the door slammed in her face. Aggie’s breath caught in her throat.

She glanced at Jace, who was looking around as if completely lost.

“How did I get here?” he asked.

“You walked. I need to find a bathroom,” Aggie said. “I suddenly need to go really bad.” And she wanted to get away from that nursery as soon as possible. Part of her wanted to get away from Jace as soon as possible.

“We shouldn’t leave the tour,” Jace said.

“Do you want me to piss my pants?”

“Maybe.” He grinned his usual adorable grin.

She hugged him against her tightly, relief settling over her. “You’re you.”

“Who else would I be?”

“Something weird is going on here.”

“I’ll say,” he said. He squeezed her even harder than she was squeezing him and then took a deep breath before releasing his hold. “Let’s find you a bathroom.”

Aggie nodded gratefully. Ghosts didn’t haunt toilets, did they? Hopefully they only did so in Harry Potter novels.

 
 

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