Authors: Ciana Stone
A Four Book Set Including:
On My Knees
Ruffle My Feathers
A Taste for Jazz
Kissed by Fire
Copyright 2016, Ciana Stone
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, businesses, places, events, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2016 Ciana Stone
Cover by Syneca Featherstone
All rights reserved.
A note from the author:
For those of you who've read Untamed and The Whisperers, you may recognize some familiar characters.
From The Whisperers:
Alexandra (Alex) Morgan
As it turns out, the lives of the characters in Untamed and The Whisperers are far more intertwined with the Preternatural beings than we realized.
For my honeyman – I do.
Forever and Always.
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I was on top of the world. My first television interview and I thought I handled it pretty damn well. The morning news show was one of the most watched in the country, and little old me had been the featured guest. I was so excited I wanted to dance, to sing — and to pinch myself to make sure it was real.
As I rode the elevator to the lobby level of the building where the show had been broadcast, I replayed the interview in my mind. The host had started by telling how my first book had been rejected by every publisher on the planet. I had to admit that was a little embarrassing.
Thankfully, she followed that rather quickly by telling the viewers how I’d used the opportunities online for self-publishing. I let my mortgage get behind for two months and sold everything I had that wasn’t nailed down or necessary for survival. I used the money to hire an editor and to run ads online everywhere I could afford, promoting the release of the book.
Then I panicked. What the hell had I done? Thanks to the economy, the dental clinic I worked for had folded. My so-called fiancé had skipped out on me when I lost my job, and I was down to the last five weeks of my unemployment. How could I have been so stupid to spend every dime I had and get behind on my mortgage for this pipe dream?
I was terrified. For three weeks and four days. I had enough to eat, and if I didn’t run the heat too high I could keep the power bill paid. The days ticked by and I had less than two weeks until I was broke. I mean broke as in not even fifteen cents to my name.
Then I checked my online sales numbers at the Amazon Kindle store. I’d been too chicken to check before then. I didn’t want to know that I’d sold three electronic copies and two had asked for refunds. I wasn’t strong enough to face that. But now I had to know.
So I checked.
And almost fainted.
Literally, I saw the numbers and the world started spinning.
When it stopped, I screamed. I mean screamed like a lunatic. And scrambled to check again. Maybe I’d been delirious the first time.
Nope. I wasn’t delirious. Well, actually, I was a little. Deliriously excited. In three weeks and four days, I’d sold three hundred, seventy-two thousand and sixteen copies.
Me! My book!
At one dollar per copy royalty to me that was… holy shit I was rich!
But not as rich as I was going to be. By the time I appeared on the morning news show, my book had sold over two million copies and the sales just kept rolling in. Publishers who had rejected my book with disdain and derision were suddenly clamoring to have me “on their team.” Movie studios were courting me and fan mail was pouring in.
It was a dream come true and I was walking on air.
Which was probably the reason I spoke with uncharacteristic glibness when the interviewer asked if I was anything like the heroine of my book. What would I do if some alpha Vampire kidnapped me and whisked me away to be his love slave?
It seemed harmless, even a little bold and flirtatious to smile and reply, “well, if he was a cowboy AND a Vampire – heck anything paranormal, I’d be like … bring it on, baby!”
How was I to know that those words would alter the course of my life?
Layla looked up from fumbling in her handbag for her favorite ink pen and went stone cold still. There must have been two hundred people crowding the table where she was due to sign copies of her book.
She turned to her publicist, Sheila Rayburn. “All those people are here for me?”
“That’s just the ones they let in, honey. There’s a line around the store waiting to get in.”
Layla was speechless. She’d never dreamed there would be so many people wanting her autograph on a copy of her book. Then she never dreamed that a major publisher would snatch up the print rights to the book she’d self-published, pay her a mountain of money, and offer her a five-book deal on whatever she wrote next.
In many ways, it was the proverbial dream come true. In others, it was almost a nightmare. Ever since her glib remark on the morning news show six months ago, she’d been barraged by emails from so-called cowboys. Psychic, werewolf, warlock, and Vampire, they all were ready and willing to “bring it on.”
She could kick herself for uttering those words, but her publicist said it was a stroke of genius. Not only was the female market raving about her book but also the sales to men had started a strong and steady climb.
Layla wasn’t sure there was any genius about it, but as her Grannie always said, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Whatever the heck that was supposed to mean.
She looked at the crowd waiting and sucked in a deep breath. Time to face the music. After all, without fans, she was right back where she started. A want-to-be writer wishing for a break.
Six hours and hundreds of autographs later, her publicist led her to the bookstore manager’s office where she’d left her personal belongings.
“You were great, Layla. Just great. I have a limo waiting out back for you to take you to your hotel. I’ll meet you there later and we can grab dinner and go over the itinerary. Our flight for LA is at ten in the morning. The car will pick you up at seven.”
“Okay, thanks, Sheila. I really appreciate everything you’re doing.”
“It’s my job, sweetie. Now grab your stuff.”
Layla picked up her purse and overnight bag and followed Sheila to the rear exit of the store. As promised, a limo was waiting, with the driver standing beside the rear door.
"Ma’am.” He gave her a nod and took her luggage.
She climbed in, settled back on the seat, and closed her eyes. The sound of a thump from the rear of the car had her opening her eyes and turning to look out of the rear window, but all she saw was the body of the driver as he rounded the rear of the car and headed for the driver’s door. It must have been the sound of the trunk when he put her overnight bag inside.
“There’s chilled champagne ma’am," he said as he started the car.
Champagne? She wasn’t much of a drinker, but what the heck. Layla poured herself a glass.
Wow, this must be the good stuff.
It was bubbly and a bit sweet and went down a lot faster than she intended.
One more glass and she was feeling a definite buzz. Maybe she should stop. She didn’t want to be drunk when she got to the hotel. But heck, she
celebrating. One more glass wouldn’t hurt.
Then again, maybe it would. She was halfway through the third glass when her eyes started to swim and her head to spin. She opened her mouth to tell the driver that she wasn’t feeling well, but before she could speak, darkness closed in around her.
What was that sound? Wind? How could she be hearing the wind? The windows in hotel rooms didn’t open. Layla listened, trying to decide if she was dreaming. As she lay there, she became more conscious. And with consciousness came fear.
Her eyes flew open.
The sight of an unfamiliar room met her eyes. Dim light filtered in from the sole window to her left. The walls appeared to be paneled. Beside the window sat a wooden rocking chair. On the wall across from her was a dresser with a mirror mounted above it. The only other furniture was a nightstand with a lamp that was dark.
And the bed that she lay on. Correction, make that was tied to. She jerked her arms as hard as she could and succeeded only in making her wrists hurt as whatever was restraining her bit into her skin.
At least her legs were free. She discovered that when she started twisting and turning, trying to see how her wrists were immobilized. It looked like some kind of fabric. A bandana?
This had to be a dream. No, make that a nightmare. It couldn’t be real. She ceased her struggles and tried to think. The last thing she remembered was being in the limo. Drinking champagne.
That was it! The champagne. She must’ve had too much. Or maybe the champagne was drugged. No. That didn’t make sense. Who would want to drug her and tie her up in some room?
She was dreaming. That was the only logical explanation. It was just one of those dreams that felt real. All she had to do was relax and go with it. She'd wake up soon and laugh at herself for being so freaked out.
Layla closed her eyes and tried to relax.
Let it go. Just sleep. It’s just a dream.
Okay, that wasn’t going to work. Her heart was beating way too fast for relaxation, and the dream felt too damn real. How did you wake yourself up from a dream anyway?
It came to her in a flash. When she was a child and would have nightmares, she’d scream. That always brought her mother running and her to consciousness. Smiling at her own cleverness, she opened her mouth and let loose a scream. Long, loud and if she did say so herself, rather blood curdling.
Seconds later fear cut the scream short. The door to the room opened, silhouetting the figure of a man. Layla scooted; digging her heels into the mattress to propel herself back against the headboard, pulling on the wrist restrains to get herself into a seated position.
The man stepped into the room. One of his hands reached toward the wall beside the door and the lamp on the nightstand flared to life. The sudden light made her blink and squint
The man in the doorway had to be a dream. Tall and powerfully built, he looked like something out of a movie. Dark hair that was in need of a trim framed a face that could have been used as a visual definition of
in any dictionary. Only his full lips lent a modicum of softness to the chiseled features and hard, gray eyes.
Sin in jeans for sure.
Dressed in faded jeans, and a dark t-shirt that molded to his lean but muscular frame, he was, as her Grannie would say, handsome to a fault. And as frightening as he was beautiful. After all, no one said psychos and sociopaths were all ugly and she
tied to a bed.
His voice was as soft as his body was hard. Deep in timbre but low in volume, it was almost a caress. She searched his face, looking for a sign that his intimate tone masked a serial killer about to carve her into chunks.
Oddly, she sensed no malice in him.
“Who are you?"
“Call me August.”
“August? You don’t look like an August. August what?”
“Thurinus. Augustus Thurinus.”
“That’s kind of an old name."
“I’m kind of an old man.”
Not from where she stood. Correction, sat – if you could call her position sitting, with her back pressed against the headboard of the bed and arms stretched wide. He wasn’t young, but certainly not older than his mid-forties. Just the right age for a dream man, she decided. Which brought her back on point. How to wake from the dream.
“Could you pinch me?”
His eyebrows rose, as if in surprise. “Pardon?”
“Could you pinch me? I’m ready to wake up.”
The surprise on his face turned to amusement a moment before he laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“You’re not asleep, Layla.”
“Yes I am.”
“No, you’re not.” He walked over and stopped beside the bed, looking down at her.
Something hot and entirely female washed through her. How stupid was that? Here she was tied to a bed and she was getting the equivalent of a female hard-on at the close proximity of her captor? There must have been some kind of mind-altering drug in that champagne because she should have been terrified.
Instead she was turned on, and starting to get a little angry. If this wasn’t a dream then whoever this sex-in-boots guy was, he had no right to tie her up.
“Okay, fine. I’m awake. Then untie me.”
That sent a little spike of fear bouncing through her already scrambled neurons. “What do you mean not yet?”
“Untie me!” Her voice rose, complete with a tiny note of fear.
He didn’t respond. He just stood there looking down at her. Which made her anger grow hotter.
“Look, I don’t know what you think you’re doing, but you can’t just kidnap someone and tie them up like this. You could go to prison when the police find out what you’ve done. And my publicist will definitely be calling the police as soon as I miss that flight to LA. So, if I were you—“
“You’re not me. And I’m not going to prison.”
Layla thought his attitude was just too cocky. Despite the fact that she was in no position to fight, the urge to smack him had her mouth flying into gear before her brain could relay the message that shouting at your captor might not be wise.
“Let me go, you jackass!” This time it was a shout, accompanied by a lot of motion. She jerked her arms, making the headboard bang against the wall, and kicked out at him with her bare feet.
He remained motionless as she thrashed and screamed. When she finally ran out of steam, she was sweaty, winded, and needed to pee. She blew hair out of her face and collapsed against the headboard.
“Have you finished?” His voice was so calm that she wanted to spit at him.
“Why are you doing this? Let me go. Please. I’ll—I won’t tell anyone. We’ll just call this a mistake – a lapse in judgment. Just let me go.”
“Why not? Is it money? I have money. I’ll get it for you.”
“I don’t want your money.”
“Then what? You’re not—oh god, you’re going to kill me.”
Anger disappeared in the space of a heartbeat to be replaced with bone-chilling fear. If he meant to kill her, she was doomed. Tied up the way she was, there was no way for her to fight back. Horrible visions of every murder mystery she’d read in her life, every horror film and terrible news reports she’d seen, suddenly crowded her brain.
“I’d never hurt you, Layla.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“Because I don’t lie.”
“Uh yeah, right, you just kidnap people and tie them up.”
“It was for your own good.”
That statement restored a bit of her anger. It was one of her shortcomings and had been since she was a child. Let anyone tell her she had no choice but to do something, or they were doing something “for her own good” and she balked like a mule.
“It is not for my own good!” Anger fueled boldness and kick-started her brain. “Getting drugged is not for my own good. Being kidnapped and held hostage is not for anyone’s good. And it’s damn sure not for my own good to be trussed up like a prize pig! You said you don’t lie, but you just did.”
“No, I didn’t lie.”
“Yeah, right. Whatever.” She could see she was getting nowhere with the argumentative approach. Time to switch tactics.
“I need to go to the bathroom.”
He didn’t budge or blink.
“Please? I really don’t want to wet the bed. Embarrassing for me. A mess for you.”
“Good point.” He moved closer, untied her right wrist, and then walked around the bed to loosen the restraint from her left.
Her arms felt heavy and tired. Probably something to do with blood flow. She shook them a bit and then slid to the edge of the bed. “Where’s the bathroom?”
Augustus gestured toward the door. “Come with me.”
Layla followed him out of the door and looked around. They were in a long hallway with three doors on either side, an opening at one end, and a door at the other. The walls were all of the same dark wood paneling as the bedroom. He led her to the last door on the left. She could see that the hall opened up into what looked like a massive living area.
She scooted inside the bathroom when he opened the door, then whirled as he started to follow her in. “Whoa, buddy. I don’t need any company.”
He hesitated then dipped his head in a short nod and left, closing the door behind him.
Layla turned and scoped out the room. Her eyes widened and a smug smile appeared on her face at the sight of a window above a large old-fashioned, claw-footed tub. She turned on the water in the sink and ran to the window.
It was heavy and wanted to stick, but she managed to get it moving and shoved it open as far as it would go. It took a couple of pushes but the screen slid out and she let it fall to the ground, which luckily, wasn’t that far. Outside were trees and pasture, an enormous barn, two smaller structures, and what looked like a stable.