Hot Spell

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9780425212882: Hot Spell
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Venture into a world beyond the ordinary, where the dark passions and voracious appetites of vampires, werewolves, demons, and a few undaunted mortals combine to unleash a potent spell.

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About the Author:

Emma Holly lives in Minnesota where the winters are long and people will use any excuse to warm up. According to Emma, humanity’s best inventions are hot showers, the printing press, coffee, chocolate, and bicycle shorts for men. She can be reached at emmah@wavetech.net or P.O. Box 2591, Minneapolis, MN 55402-0591.
Lora Leigh is known for her deliciously intense and satisfying erotic romance. Her characters come to her in her dreams, inspiring her with the possibilities of What If... Most days, Lora can be found in front of her computer weaving daydreams while sipping the ambrosia of the gods, also known as coffee. When not writing, thinking about writing, or plotting what to write, Lora, a Kentucky native, enjoys gardening, fishing, and hiking with her husband and children.
Shiloh Walker is the national bestselling author of many novels, including Hunting the Hunter, Hunter's Salvation, and Hunters: Heart and Soul.
Meljean was raised in the middle of the woods, and hid under her blankets at night with fairy tales, comic books, and romances. She left the forest and went on a misguided tour through the world of accounting, banking, and a (very) brief teaching career before focusing on her first loves, reading and writing--and she realized that monsters, superheroes, and happily-ever-afters are easily found between the covers, as well as under them, so she set out to make her own.Meljean lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The Countess’s Pleasure

EMMA HOLLY

ONE

Everyone said what happened in Bhamjran stayed in Bhamjran. Despite this universal assurance, Georgiana DuBarry, the dutiful widowed Countess of Ware, wasn’t sure she was ready to put the claim to the test.

Bhamjran might be the Aedlyne Empire’s capital of sensual enlightenment, but Georgiana had only been here a week. One did not throw off the restrictions of a well-bred lifetime as soon as that. One did not even throw off one’s corset.

She stood now, face shielded by hat and veil, in the secret heart of the desert city. This was a sweltering warren of sandy alleys west of the chowk, or central square. Bhamjran’s elaborately carved sandstone buildings rose four stories above her, rich merchants’ mansions rubbing elbows with narrow shops. The little jali-screened balconies—their stonework as fine as lace—lent the mansions an air of mystery. Pampered male consorts might be peering out from them secretly, whiling away the bright, hot hours until their mistresses returned to take their pleasure in thezenan. As interesting as this reversal of the usual patriarchal pattern was, what intrigued Georgiana most was not the idea of harems, but the prosperous-looking establishment directly opposite her watching post.

A steady stream of local women, both alone and in groups, filed beneath the pointed archway to The Ladies’ Lotus. Wrapped in colorful saris more appropriate to the climate than Georgiana’s heavy gown, each woman handed a silver coin to the turbaned guardian at the door. All were smiling faintly as they passed inside, as if their anticipation of what was to come was too delicious to suppress.

Georgiana could join them if she found her nerve. Two years had passed since her husband’s death, all the mourning decency required. Her parents had been gone since before her marriage, and she owed Jonathan’s memory nothing but discretion: to keep his secret as she had when he was alive.

At the thought of that secret, she pressed her white sweat-dampened gloves to the waist of her lilac gown. To have never known true conjugal pleasure, to have been twenty and full of life and in love with her handsome husband, only to discover he could not provide her that private joy, was a disappointment she had never imagined she’d experience. That her disappointment was too shameful to be shared with anyone she had understood at once, even without Jonathan’s tearful pleas not to expose him. To this day, his family did not know the truth. His mother, God heal her bitter soul, still blamed Georgiana for their marriage’s childless state.

I am free now, Georgiana reminded herself. I have money and position and no one about me with the right to tell me what to do. I can explore any side of life I wish.

“He is worth it, memsahib,” said a soft, lilting voice at her shoulder.

An older woman had come up beside her on the pourstone pavement, a richly dressed, golden-skinned Bhamjrishi with merry eyes. When she rubbed one knuckle beneath the curve of her teasing smile, silver and ruby bracelets clinked down her arm. From the look of her, Georgiana suspected her harem was well cared for.

“Bhamjran has not seen Iyan Sawai’s like in a dozen years,” the helpful stranger continued. “A shameful admission, considering he is a foreigner, but there it is. Certainly, you will not find his equal in a tourist trap.”

Georgiana cleared her throat and hoped the shadows on this side of the street hid her furious blush: “I have heard he is a graceful dancer.”

The other woman laughed. “Grace is only the beginning of that demon’s charms. Iyan Sawai can make every partof his body dance.”

Georgiana struggled not to picture too clearly what this emphasis must mean. She leaned closer and dropped her voice. “I have sometimes wondered if demons’ . . . I mean the Yama’s bodies work the same as ours.”

“Better,” the woman said with a grin, not the least scandalized. “Which isn’t to say I’d want one in my bed. Parvati forbid I’d ever take a consort who equated smiling with a sin. However, to look at, the Yama are all any goddess would find divine. Go along now. You’ll forget you are embarrassed the moment his tunic comes off.”

Georgiana wasn’t as sure of this as the stranger, but it seemed more embarrassing to stay with the older woman urging her on. Smiling weakly and nodding her thanks, she took a breath, smoothed her constricting bodice, and strode across the dusty street.

Thankfully, the male attendant took her coin without comment and waved her down the stairs.

It was cool and dark inside The Ladies’ Lotus, and Georgiana’s eyes required a moment to adjust. Cheerfully painted columns split the sunken space, allowing the audience to form small groups. Comprised entirely of women, they sat on the floor on jewel-colored satin cushions. Here and there, low tables held coffee cups and samovars. The sweet scent of cinnamon rode the air, so rich and heady it seemed as if the sun-kissed skin of the women must give it off. They all looked so comfortable in their surroundings, so natural and free, that Georgiana felt even more out of place than she had feared.

For the first time since disembarking from the train at Victoria Station, she wished she had a female friend with whom she might enjoy this adventure. That being out of the question, she looked for a place to sit.

A few cushions remained unclaimed. Unfortunately, the only one Georgiana thought she could get to was in the right-front corner next to the half-moon stage. The last thing she wanted was to sit that close, but the prospect of climbing over the others in her awkward skirt and petticoats was even worse. Resigned, she continued up the aisle and then arranged herself and her gown as best she could on the floor.

A mirror-spangled curtain veiled the platform in smoky blue. Georgiana tried to pretend she wasn’t furiously wondering what it would reveal.

Clearly used to such things themselves, the group beside her wished her a casual good day in her own language. Georgiana had heard that by the age of ten most Bhamjrishi had mastered three dialects. Her husband had liked to say the Queen’s Ohramese was the noblest language, and only savages need speak more, but today she found herself wishing she could return the greeting as considerately.

At least she would not have felt she was the backward one.

She was saved from her self-consciousness when a hush descended over the gathering. A trio of musicians had begun to play in an alcove opposite her seat. Their flute and sitar twined like snakes with the rhythmic pattering of an animal-skin drum. The music was unlike anything she heard at home, wild and worldly at the same time.

Georgiana’s heart began to thump faster. Mindful not to prick herself with the hat pins, she removed her little satin toque. She was really here. She was really doing this. Shades were lowered until the room was black, after which a light swelled from the foot of the stage, a newfangled electric light that was not, strictly speaking, permitted to shine in Bhamjran. Queen Victoria’s agreement with the Yama dictated that their technology be sold to Ohram alone and barred in its protectorates.

But she had no leisure to be offended on her country’s behalf. The spangled, smoke-blue curtain was rising.

Georgiana’s helpful stranger had been mistaken about the tunic. The tall male figure whose form was being revealed from the ankles up was completely naked—and completely breathtaking. He was facing away from the crowd, as motionless as stone, his every muscle thrown into relief by the bright artificial light. Georgiana’s mouth went dry. It seemed wrong to stare, despite having paid for the privilege, but she could not help herself. Symmetry and strength united in the figure’s back, in his long, athletic legs, in the lovely, cuppable rounds of his bum. His hair, which was as black as the proverbial raven’s wing, fell in glossy waves to brush a pair of broad shoulders. Even his arms, body parts Georgiana had never thought of as objects for admiration, brought an odd ache of longing into her chest. His hands hung relaxed and long-fingered by his hips.

He might have been a statue in a museum. Nature simply did not make men as wickedly beautiful as this . . . at least, human nature did not.

For thousands of years, the Yama—or demons, as humans liked to call them—had lived in scrupulous isolation in the icy northern wastes beyond the mountains of Yskut. There, they had been sufficient unto themselves, developing their highly stratified society and their amazingly clever science without the humans who lived around them suspecting they were there. One of Georgiana’s distant cousins, an adventurous captain of the guards, had been the first to stumble across their existence, more than a generation ago now.

Many changes had followed for both races, especially after Queen Victoria signed the infamous Avvar Accord, an agreement allowing the Yama to exile certain of their undesirables in Ohram’s capital. In return, the Yama had given Ohram access to enough of their technology to assure Victoria’s superiority over the less secure of her possessions, thus establishing peace throughout her empire. Some of the compromises involved had been uneasy, but given the Yama’s dramatic effect on human fortunes, none could deny a fascination with the empire’s newest visitors.

Yama were so like humans, after all. They simply were more: more beautiful, more intelligent, more perfect. They lived longer than humans, healed faster, and had more strength. Humans might want to deny it, but in their hearts they knew the truth: had the Yama not been so intent on distancing themselves from what they saw as the human taint, they could have ruled the world.

Luck alone saved Georgiana’s kind. The biggest difference between the races was the very one Yama feared. Humans were emotional beings. Sorrow and joy, lust and longing were an accepted part of their lives. The Yama, by contrast, shunned all the fiery issues of the heart. Control was their god, the chill of their icy homeland their ideal. Human nature filled them with disgust. Worse, because of their unusual sensitivity to human auras, the human taint could literally rub off on them.

As a result of this quirk in their constitution, the opportunity to see a demon in an intimate setting was extremely rare. That this demon must be a rohn, or lower-class Yama, was guaranteed. No self-respecting daimyo would ever display himself in this manner, and few enough rohn, either. Had more of Georgiana’s country-women enjoyed her advantages, she suspected the most conservative would have had difficulty walking by The Ladies’ Lotus without a pang. The thrill of the forbidden was enough to assure they’d wish to go in.

Which wasn’t to say that the demon who posed before her needed any more allure.

Georgiana’s gloved hands pressed her folded legs, now as hot as if she’d baked them beneath the sun. The demon had begun to move. One isolated muscle flicked behind his thigh and then one in his lower back. He made his delectable bottom flutter, then the ropy muscles of his shoulders. This was not a dance; artistic expression was as alien to the Yama as emotion. No, this was an explicit demonstration of physical control as, one by one, he shook the various parts of himself alive.

It wasn’t long before Georgiana was barely breathing. She had forgotten to be embarrassed. She had not seen her husband naked often enough to take such displays lightly, and this man . . . Oh, this man was so beautiful, so strong, it would have been a sin not to look.

And then he turned just his head, his chin coming to the line of his shoulder. To her amazement, his eyes locked onto hers as if magnetized.

She realized her hands were fisted at her breast when her heart tried to leap out.

His were not human eyes. Bereft of whites, they were silver from rim to rim but for the swell of his black pupils. In a face as smooth as a mask, those eyes glittered like icy fire. They were alive and, therefore, he was alive. The knowledge came home to her that she was staring at a thinking, breathing person and not a thing.

Her blush seared across her cheeks, but even then she could not tear her gaze away.

His body followed the turn of his head, slowly, calmly, drawing out the tension. As he faced her, her eyes drifted irresistibly to the revelation that was his chest. A shading of black hair could not obscure the beauty of its shape. His ribs moved upward with a breath. Losing her nerve, she looked at his face again. His tongue came out to wet his upper lip. She had heard that Yama did not often do this. Their tongues bore a natural marking that made them seem forked, the very mark that had caused her race to label them demons.

The gesture had a strange effect. Georgiana was no longer merely hot. A pulse as insistent as the goatskin drum thrummed between her legs, centering on the small, tight bud her departed husband had never thought it decent to acknowledge. An image flashed into her mind of the demon’s tongue stroking her there. The ache of longing that stabbed through her was as unprecedented as it was strong. She had desired her husband, but not like this.

“Oh, my God,” she whispered, unable to keep her shock at herself inside. “Oh, my God.”

As if he heard her above the music, the demon’s eyes went momentarily black.

Sweat trickled down Georgiana’s back. The demon’s lips moved soundlessly. Look, they said. Watch.

Gooseflesh prickled the nape of her neck. Her blood was rushing so loudly she barely noticed the audience begin to softly chant, “Sawai.”

The demon deliberately lowered his dark-lashed eyes, not so much acknowledging the others as compelling her. This time, Georgiana obeyed temptation. The front of his body was as lovely as the back. He was lean, symmetrically muscled, and well over six feet tall. She tried to skim past his most blatant attraction by admiring the shapely length of his thighs. It was no use. What hung between them was impossible to ignore.

His sex was as perfect as the rest of him.

He was slack but large, thick of girth and round of head. One strong, blue vein led down the front of his shaft, branching twice to circle him. As she followed this vital conduit to its termination, she saw he was uncircumcised. This gave her another unexpected sexual jolt. She bit her lip and prayed she wouldn’t gasp aloud.

“Sawai,” sighed the audience with a definite note of praise.

His sex had begun to swell.

A moan caught in Georgiana’s throat. He wasn’t even touching himself, and he was rising in smooth, hypnotizing surges. The skin of his penis grew darker, the covering over the head drawing back. Considering the size at which he started, she wouldn’t have thought he could get much larger, but he did, growing ever more impressive until his now-bare crest approached the curve of his navel.

He grew so stiff the blood could only shudder within his engorged flesh, an absolute hammer of stark male strength. No one could think him incapable of penetrating his mate, of riding her deep and hard. Georgiana had never seen anything like this prodigy. She would need two hands to stroke him....

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