“Do you use the proper terms for everything, Mallory?” He makes an inarticulate sound as I peel the gauze off the cut, wiping gently. “You call your pretty place a vulva, right? And you use the word vagina.”
“And yes, I do. Vulva and vagina. And then there’s the clitoris,” I say primly.
“A clitoris. Never heard of it.”
I freeze and look down at him. Bright eyes meet mine. Is he serious?
“The clitoris is a nerve cluster above the opening to the vagina,” I begin, taking a breath to continue my impromptu human sexuality lecture, because when a man tells you they don’t know what a clitoris is, you educate them immediately.
For the sisterhood. All the women Will is going to sleep with from here on out will thank me later.
He starts to laugh. I’m so tempted to pour the small bottle of isopropyl alcohol directly on his wound, but I’m a kind, compassionate woman, so instead I dab it on with a swab.
“OW!” he bellows.
“You’re not sorry at all.”
“I’m sorry for your sex partners that you have no idea what a clitoris is, Will.”
“I know what it is. And my tongue knows how to find one. Blindfolded.”
“Why would you blindfold your tongue?”
Raven Acoustics: Rock Star Romance
Deadline day had arrived.
The intimidating man sitting across from me in his ivory tower office had given me plenty of time to decide.
“What’s it to be, Errol?” Quinn said. His attention was squarely on his phone. I could be forgiven for thinking he couldn’t care less about my answer.
Today, I needed to sign the recording contract with The Dark Side record label or walk away. Quinn Saunders who owned the label had a plan that had played out to perfection. I’d won a talent contest, with my real name and my true passion for singing soul music. Transforming from Casey Lowe, rock band front man to Errol Thomas, solo soul singer was the best move I could have made and it was all thanks to Quinn.
When I saw Donovan Carter in the recording booth at my old label, a year ago, singing a Fragile song, I knew I had to leave Red & Black. When I watched Donovan sing the track, I could see Erin’s reflection in the glass wall of the studio. She’d given me the same proud smile years ago. That was when I was her favourite, before her husband Alex and long before Donovan.
The Dark Side record label building had stunning views across London. I loved coming up to the city to see Quinn. He’d coached me in the ways of the business and how to make a splash. His genius idea to use my real name and have the big reveal at the contest completely blinded all of them at Red & Black. For a moment, seeing Erin’s face when I shouted at Donovan about his sister made it all worthwhile. She doubted him and his innocence in what had happened. For a moment Erin was on my side. I hadn’t felt that in years, not since she danced with Alex Devlin at Green’s Music Venue. The night she left our friendship on the floor and went to him.
“Hell yes, I want this contract, pass me the pen.”
I jumped up from the leather sofa to reach for the contract. Quinn slapped his hand down hard on the stack of papers.
“Are you absolutely sure Errol? I’ll make you a worldwide sensation, but you’re going to have to play a role to get it.”
“I don’t care. All I want to do is to perform on stage and for everyone to know my name. I can sing, I’ve got the looks, and I don’t care what else I need to do.”
“Good lad,” Quinn said, flashing me a conspiratory smile. He took the pen from his inside jacket pocket and handed it over. The pen cost more than everything I owned. Everything about Quinn screamed wealth, and I wanted some of that money.
I scrawled my signature, using my real name in all the places the yellow sticky tabs told me to sign. The deal was done.
“What happens next?” I asked.
I’d retaken my seat on the sofa, watching the boats sail up the Thames river. Quinn had moved to the other side of his office into the gloom. The sun shone brightly in through the windows but only reached half of the floor space. Quinn’s black suit enabled him to blend in with the darkness, and I couldn’t see what he was doing.
“You wait for my call, lad. My PR people will be in touch soon with our game plan.”
“Am I going to lay down some tracks today?”
“Not yet.” I heard his irritation, I could have kicked myself for being over eager. Playing it cool never came easily to me. “We need to get everything in place first. We can take our time, get it right to make you a superstar.”
Quinn turned his back to take a call, dismissing me from the conversation. It wasn’t until he slipped through a side door in his office and his PA came in to collect the signed papers that I understood I was dismissed for the day.
“Have a great day, Errol,” she said with a smile that told me it had been many years since she’d had a good day.
I muttered my thanks to her retreating back, drank the glass of water in front of me and took one more look at Quinn’s office. Over the last couple of years, this had been our HQ for planning. Quinn discussed with me the next step in getting away from Maverick and Red & Black label. Years of planning and here I was, the ink still wet on the contract that would take me to superstardom.
Rubbing my closed fist against my chest as I left Quinn’s empty cold office, I looked for any familiar faces to chat with. I was still used to the Red & Black mansion where everything was open plan. Here at The Dark Side head office, all offices had doors with no windows to peek in. The grey slate coloured carpets marked my exit to the elevators and down to the security desk.
Quinn hadn’t told me what would happen in the coming months. I trusted him to keep me on the path to fame and fortune. Now that I’d signed the contract, I had faith in him more than ever to get me to household name status.
Of Shadow and Light
The Scarecrow & George C
All Saints High, Book One
New Adult Romance
Date Published: April 29, 2019
We were supposed to be best friends But turned out to be worst enemiesâ¦
They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
Iâd had four years to stew on what Daria Followhill did to me, and
now my heart was completely iced.
I took her first kiss.
She took the only thing I loved.
I was poor.
She was rich.
The good thing about circumstances? They can change. Fast.
Now, Iâm her parentsâ latest shiny project.
Her housemate. Her tormentor. The captain of the rival football team she hates so much.
Yeah, baby girl, say itâIâm your foster brother.
Thereâs a price to pay for ruining the only good thing in my life, and sheâs about to shell out some serious tears.
Daria Followhill thinks she is THE queen. Iâm about to prove to her that sheâs nothing but a spoiled princess.
Everyone loves a good old unapologetic punk.
But being a bitch? Oh, you get slammed for every snarky comment, cynical eye roll, and foot you put in your adversariesâ way.
The thing about stiletto heels is that they make a hell of a dent when you walk all over the people who try to hurt you.
In Penn Scullyâs case, I pierced his heart until he bled out, then left it in a trash can on a bright summer day.
Four years ago, he asked me to save all my firsts for him.
Now he lives across the hall, and I want nothing more than to be his last everything.
His parting words when he gave me his heart were that nothing in this world is free.
Now? Now he is making me pay.
About the Author
LJ Shen is a USA Today and Washington Post bestseller of over a dozen books. Her books are translated into more than 10 languages.
The Scream Behind Her Smile
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I drag my gaze from across the room and look at my husband. Really look at him. He has his eyes squeezed shut. Has he always done that?
Was there ever a time we’d looked at each other as we made love?
“Derek?” I whisper. “Derek,” I repeat a little louder when it is clear he hadn’t heard me.
Derek opens his eyes, a slight frown between his brows. “Do you want me to stop?” Is that impatience in his tone?
“No,” I say. “I… I love you.”
“Love you, too.” But he closes his eyes as he says the words. He doesn’t see the tear that escapes between lids I’ve squeezed shut.
He changes the angle of his thrust. It’s only slight, but I recognize it, and I know he is getting close. I can almost tell, to the exact thrust, when he’ll climax.
Then he’ll roll off me and onto his back. I’ll lay my head on his chest and listen to the beat of his heart as it slows. For one minute. Never longer. He’ll then roll over, and I’ll spoon his back.
His eyes are shut, so he doesn’t see the other tear that rolls down my cheek to dampen the hair at the base of my neck. But I’m not even sad.
I don’t feel anything at all.
How can I cry when I feel this empty?
How can I feel empty with my husband inside me in the most intimate way possible?
With the final thrust of his hips, like an orchestra conductor’s last wave of his staff, Derek finishes.
Without a single glance in my direction, he rolls onto his back.
I didn’t even bother to fake an orgasm.
He doesn’t seem to care.
This time I roll over, my back toward him.
He doesn’t move to hold me as his heart slows. Instead, I listen as his breathing turns to a light snore.
I’m not where I belong. But that can’t be right. I’m married. I’m living with my husband. Surely this is where I belong.
Then why do I feel so lost?
And so terribly alone.
“Well, the alternative was pretty awful, so there’s that.” Luis grimaced. “It’s grim work sometimes, and it’s sure not easy, but it’s worth it. We’re getting our happily ever after, so I’ll do whatever it takes.”
He would, too. He’d always been willing to work for his happiness with Donovan as long as there was hope. He had his concerns about working on a case together again, but they’d get through it. Like the alternative to recovery Donovan had mentioned, the other option was too awful to contemplate.
“So I’ve got to ask,” Donovan said after a few seconds. “Freetown State Forest has a reputation, right?”
“Place is full of ghosts.” Luis chuckled. He didn’t need to ask what Donovan was getting at. “Most of them were kind of static though. I guess the technical term is residual? They weren’t interacting with the modern living world at all. They were just kind of re-creating the past. It was kind of interesting to see that past, but not helpful. Some of them were a little more aware. One chased after the pickup truck the other day, when you first joined in. Or when we first joined in, depending on your point of view. Anyway, he chased after us for a while, yelling at us to ‘Get off his lawn.’ ”
“Wait, what?” Donovan burst out laughing. “You’re joking.”
“Nope. Angry old white guy sitting in an old lawn chair, drinking a beer. If it weren’t for the glow, and the fact that none of you could see him, I’d have thought he was alive. He chucked the beer at the truck, and another one appeared in his hand. If I have to be a ghost when I die, I aspire to that level of badassery.”
Donovan pulled onto the highway. “Luis, you don’t even drink.”
“I’ll throw something else then. Or I’ll start drinking ghost beers just so I can throw them at passersby.” Luis grinned. “I still feel like I’m lost at sea with all this ghost stuff, but I’m getting there.”
“You have a slight concussion. And it’s perfectly natural to be confused after a blow to the head.”
I reached up to touch the back of my head and probed gingerly, wincing when I hit the tender spot.
I hated this fuzzy feeling. This strange, helpless flutter inside me. “I can’t remember what happened. God, I hate this.”
“It may come back to you, it may not.” Emory smiled kindly. “Don’t worry too much about it. All that matters is that you’re all right.”
A lock of his silver-blond hair had fallen across his forehead, and before I could stop myself, I’d reached up and brushed it back. He froze. His pupils dilated and fixed on me, and then he let out a sharp exhalation and quickly stood and put distance between us. His gloved hands hovered at his pockets, but in the end, he settled for clenching them at his sides.
Oh, shit, Emory was a stickler for his personal space, and I’d just violated it. “Sorry, I … I have no idea why I did that.”
“It’s fine.” His tone was easy and smooth, but the clenched fists gave him away. I’d rattled him. “Just get some rest. Danika will give you some pills for the headache. Take the rest of the day off.”
He canted his head. “No? Echo, you just fell twenty feet into a chasm.”
“I don’t want the others to think I’m getting special treatment.”
His frown was incredulous. “Special treatment? Of course you’re getting special treatment.” He leaned in slightly and enunciated his next words. “You just fell into the chasm.”
Incredulity had morphed into irritation, and although I’d seen him annoyed before, it was usually a flick of the brows, or a twitch of the lips; he never exploded, never raised his voice.
But Finn’s revelation as to why the other guys hadn’t accepted me was prominent in my mind, and maybe it was the fall, maybe it was the damn concussion, but my mouth decided to speak the thoughts running through my mind.
“The heart keepers think you’re favoring me because we’re lovers.” The sentence tumbled out and then sat between us like a bomb waiting to be defused.
Emory went very still. Was he holding his breath? Was I?
I pressed my fingers to my temple, wishing I could take the words back just to wipe the look of horror from his face. A look that was not good for my ego.
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