Academy of Littles Collection
“Tell me, when was the last time you felt the innocence of being a child: carefree and without worry?” he asked gently.
Sighing and allowing her shoulders to collapse in a slump, she answered. “I do not remember ever being carefree and without worry, Mr. Hartley. I do not have the luxury in life to do so.”
“Do you not wish sometimes that you could be like a child? Have no worries, no concerns of misfortune, and no hard decisions to make. Have you ever wished to have someone take care of you, fully take care of your every need? Have you ever wanted to be tucked in at night, kissed on the forehead and told to have sweet dreams, and you would, because someone who loves you very much has already chased the bad dreams away?”
Taming Demons for Beginners
Want to join the blog tour?
I snapped the Demonica guide shut and replaced it under the table, then scooped up my remaining cookies and walked across the hardwood floor. I stopped two long steps from the summoning circle, the dome-shape interior filled with inky, impenetrable shadows.
I held up a cookie.
“This,” I announced, “is a double-chocolate brownie cookie. It’s delicious, and I’ll give it to you if you answer a question for me.”
Silence from within the darkness.
“I answered your question,” I added accusingly.
Quiet lay upon the room—then a soft, husky laugh.
“A question, hh’ainun?” the demon crooned. “What would you ask?”
Doubts trickled through me. This was a bad idea, but I plowed on. “Do demons lie?”
“Ch,” it replied, a sound of cold amusement. “Zh’ūltis question. Ask another.”
I frowned. “What does zhuh-ool … what does that word mean?”
“Stupid. Stupid question.”
My frown deepened into a scowl. I rephrased. “If it’s true that demons don’t lie, why is that?”
A long pause, but it wasn’t the same silence as before. My skin prickled, instinct warning that a predator’s attention was locked on me.
“Tell me truths and lies, hh’ainun.”
“What?” I asked blankly.
The demon said nothing, waiting.
Brow furrowed, I searched for harmless things to say. “I moved here six days ago. I miss my college classes. My favorite class was biology. I enjoy baking for my family.”
“Moved here,” the demon repeated in its swirling accent. “True. Miss your … college,” it enunciated carefully, as though unfamiliar with the word, “true. Biology … lie.”
My eyes widened.
“Your family.” It rolled the last word as though tasting it. “Lie.” “No,” I said. “That one is true.”
“Lie,” the demon repeated with certainty.
“You’re wrong. I love baking for my family.”
“Did you just call me stupid?” I clenched my jaw, then relaxed. “You didn’t answer my question.”
“No, you didn’t.” Glaring, I took a deep breath. “Fine. Whatever. If that’s your idea of answering a question, I won’t bother asking any more.”
I stepped closer to the circle, knelt, and carefully set the paper towel of cookies on the floor. Keeping my body as far away as possible, I nudged a corner of the paper across the silver inlay, then snatched my hand back. This was the closest I’d ever come to the circle.
A soft scuff against the hardwood emanated from the darkness. The paper towel twitched, then slid into the black dome.
Icy blades of fear cut through me. Suddenly, the demon was no longer a voice—it was a physical being. Something alive and solid and real that could pull the cookies into its prison cell. My gaze rose from the floor where the treats had disappeared to the curved black wall.
A spark of red in the darkness.
Flames burst to life and shot upward in a hungry blaze. I flung myself back. As I landed on my butt, the brief flare lit a shape within the black—the dark outline of shoulders, the edge of a jaw, the plane of a cheekbone.
Burning crimson eyes caught the light and glowed.
The fire died as quickly as it had appeared, and the dome was once again filled with impenetrable darkness, the demon hidden within. Gray fluff fluttered out of the circle—ash. Flakes of ash. The demon had burned the paper towel.
I scooted across the floor, then pushed onto trembling legs. Without a word or a backward glance, I ran through the door and pushed it shut behind me, swearing never to return.
An hour later, as I lay in bed, trying to sleep, all I could see was the demon’s dim outline—and those eyes that had glowed like hot coals, like magma erupting from a volcano’s heart.
“Relatively Happy hit my happy spot. This story is not only funny, but it will tug at your heartstrings. Whitney Dineen has another winner on her hands. Bravo!” -Jennifer Peel, Amazon bestselling author of My Not So Wicked Boss
“Relatively Happy touches on love, life, dreams, and wishes. Dineen brings a new perspective which ends this series with a laugh-out-loud, cry-your-heart-out tale. Life is more like a roller coaster rather than a merry-go-round. I loved it!” – 5 Stars, AJ Book Remarks
“Another delightful, yet deep page turner by the talented Ms. Dineen! I laughed, I cried, I swooned, and I pouted that I have to wait for more from one of America’s most fabulous romcom voices.” -Melanie Summers, author of the bestselling Crown Jewel Series
“So many emotions in this book! I laughed out loud and I cried. I loved every second of this fantastic read!” – Becky Monson, author of Just a Name
I try to regain control of the class and reiterate, “Time to thank our breasts.”
“Out loud?” Emily gasps.
“Totally, out loud. We’re here in a healing sisterhood. There shouldn’t be anything we’re afraid to say in front of each other. Why don’t I start?” I take a deep breath before stating, “I want to thank my breasts for being strong and healthy and pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself.”
Nan pipes in. “Girls, I want to thank you for hiding my belly from me. It’s nice of you to block that little pooch from my view.”
The other gals add their two cents, before Emily says, “Um, thanks for helping me look better in swimming suits?”
Nothing from Dorcas. I nudge, “Your turn, Mrs. A. How have your breasts served you?”
“Well, I guess they fed my babies. So, thanks for that.” Then she adds, “I’m guessing you don’t want me to thank them for the infected milk ducts, all the backaches, and the years of leering men.”
I ignore the unexpected sarcasm and ask, “Anyone else?”
There are no takers, so I jump up and announce, “It’s time to encourage our lymph nodes to open up and drain!”
“How are we gonna do that?” Nan demands.
“Follow me.” I keep my promise and help Nan to her feet before lending a hand to the minister’s wife. Sarah takes care of helping the other ladies. When we’re all ready, I start to skip around the field in zigzagging lines. I feel the warm sun on my face and the soft dandelions underfoot, then I start to wave my arms around like I’m an exotic bird about to take flight. It’s a deliriously freeing sensation.
When I look behind me to see if the others are following my lead, I find my regulars are doing their part, but Nan’s laughing her head off, and Dorcas and Emily look borderline appalled.
“Girl, if Dorcas does that, she’s gonna have black eyes for a month,” Nan declares before doubling over with renewed hilarity.
Dorcas smacks her friend’s arm and snaps, “Don’t be nasty, Bridget. I don’t see you out there flapping around like a lunatic.”
That’s all the encouragement Nan needs to take off like a slightly wounded, elderly, bird of prey. She starts slow, but eventually catches her rhythm and starts to hoot like an owl before she begins clucking like a chicken. “Sarah, this is the most fun I’ve had in ages!”
I hear Emily giggle and mumble, “What the heck?” before she joins in.
Dorcas is totally immobile until Nan runs up behind her and pinches the back of her leg while yelling, “Dorcas, you got a bee up your shirt, gal.” That’s all that is needed to set her in motion.
“Thank your breasts,” I yell. “Tell them how much you love them.”
Nan starts to sing out at the top of her lungs, “Do your boobs hang low, do they wiggle to and fro? Can you tie ’em in a knot? Can you tie ’em in a bow? Can you throw them over your shoulder like a continental soldier? Do your boobs hang low?”
I don’t know how long we skip around the field with our breasts flapping in the wind, but it was a good long while—we probably could have gone a lot longer—but I hear Nan call out, “Hendrix Greer, is that you, boy? As I live and breathe, come over here and give me some sugar!”
Hendrix Greer? Nan’s got to be hallucinating. Rix Greer hasn’t set foot in Gelson since his grandfather’s funeral six years ago. I turn around to tell Nan to quit playing games when I come face-to-face with an image that filled many of my adolescent fantasies.
I stop dead in my tracks with my mouth hanging open like a hungry baby bird. The Adonis standing in front of us is no mirage, it really is Hendrix Greer, the biggest football star to ever call Gelson home. The biggest star of any kind, actually. He played for Notre Dame before turning pro.
Rix was four years older than me, so we were never in the same school at the same time. But man, his legend reigned supreme over our whole town. It still does. It’s just that he’s never here to feed local gossip. Don’t get me wrong, we still talk about him, but not with firsthand knowledge anymore. Whenever Rix shows up in the tabloids with a new woman on his arm, it’s all over the Wash-n-Curl like turkey vultures to a fresh kill.
And here he is, standing right in front of me. I don’t say anything and yet I can’t seem to close my mouth.
B & E Ever After
From the front of the apartment, the distinct sound of a door unlocking echoed down the hall.
Wide brown eyes gaped at me, letting me know she heard it too.
“Shit!” I surged to my feet beside her, squeezing her hand tight. “She’s home.”
“Wait. What do you mean shit?” Eyes going wide, she gasped. “Oh my God, you’re not supposed to be here, either. Are you? I thought you looked way too sneaky, backing into the apartment the way you did.” Expression going murderous, she smacked me hard on the side of my shoulder. “You fucking hypocrite! Treating me like a burglar when you broke in too.”
“Shut up,” I hissed as the sound of the front door swung open. Slipping my wallet from my jacket, I flipped it around with one hand in order to flash my keycard, waving it in front of her face as I whispered, “At least I have a key and I know who lives here.”
She opened her mouth, looking pissed, but I set a finger over her mouth to quiet her. We could argue later. Right now, I had to come up with a plan to save us both from the wrath of Lana, who I could hear tossing her car keys on a side table in the front room.
“Just so you know,” I murmured as quietly as possible, pocketing my wallet as I stepped closer. “I’m doing this for your own damn good.”
Her eyes flared with worry. “Wait. Doing what?”
In answer, I wrapped a hand around the back of her neck, hauled her up against me, and slanted my mouth across hers.
The rest of the Pleasure House series can be found here!
“What is it you need, Shannon?”
Less than an hour ago, they’d been sitting at the kitchen counter, him asking her this same question. She wasn’t going to tell him. She wasn’t going to fuck him. But he wasn’t playing fair. The cream was a very persuasive tool. It had a way of making you see the world differently—of changing priorities in an instant.
Pain and arousal. Twin catalysts the house used to get whatever it wanted. What was it exactly that the doctor wanted from her to break out these tools?
“Tell me,” he said.
“I need to be touched.”
“It’s not just the cream,” he said. “We both know that. You’ve needed me to touch you for a long time. It practically radiates off you.”
Shannon shook her head, somehow finding the will to resist him, however limp the effort. “No. Not you. Never you.”
The cane sliced through the air and came down hard on her ass.
“That’s for lying,” he said. There was another short painful snap of the cane against her thigh. “And that is for the language. You call me Sir. Not Lindsay. Not motherfucker. Are we clear?”
“Good. I remember the way you used to look at me when you came to visit my office in the city. I remember you used to wear those too-short skirts and heels. Your legs seemed to go on forever. And then when you sat and crossed your legs, the silk skirt slid up your thighs exactly the way you wanted my hand to slide up them. Isn’t that right? Did you imagine that whisper of fabric moving up your leg was my fingers teasing you? Did you think about it when you were alone in your bed at night after our sessions?”
Shannon felt the blush creep up her neck and into her face. “That was then,” She said, fighting the need even as she continued to writhe and squirm against the table, seeking contact that just wasn’t there.
“And earlier tonight? When you got out of the shower? What was that hungry look about?”
“Your imagination,” Shannon said, knowing she was playing with fire. This wasn’t the Lindsay she thought she knew, and yet she couldn’t let herself admit the truth to him. She didn’t trust him.
Suddenly that large warm hand was pressed between her legs, exactly where she’d always wanted it. It felt as good as she’d imagined it would—better even. Especially after such a long stretch of denial.
“Tell me to stop, then.”
Shannon pressed harder against his hand. Her hips began to move without her conscious effort.
He pulled his hand away, leaving her humping the air. “You’re right. We should stop. It’s inappropriate and you said you didn’t want…”
“Please.” The word came out desperate and strangled. Not her finest moment if she wanted to resist him.
Lindsay picked up the cane again and moved to the front of the table. “Lick.”
She licked the length of the cane, not sure where he was going with this. A moment later it landed in a sharp wet sting across her ass. Oh. That was where. It had been too long since she’d played this way with someone. She could barely remember how any of it was done. The rules. The protocols. The creatively nasty signature styles and habits of the master in question. The personal private rituals, unique to him—to the two of them ensconced in their own private world. A world she used to live in.
Slowly he ran his fingertips over the welts he’d left. How disappointing it must be for him to have so little fresh unmarred skin to play with. If he flogged or whipped her back, he’d be competing with another man’s marks in a game he could never win.
Dark Water: A Collective World Novel
Halfway through the lecture, which I normally enjoyed, the door opened.
His scent hit me first since I had my forehead resting in my palm, propped up on the desk. I jerked, knocking my notebook off of my desk with a clatter.
Half the room turned to look at me, the other half looked at the hunk of sex appeal that had walked in the room and knocked me over with his scent.
“Holy shit.” A whisper from my right drew my attention, but I couldn’t manage to look away. I knew the speaker from school.
“Andee, you ain’t kiddin’.” We hadn’t been close, but anyone could bond when someone that bad-boy hot walked into the room.
That asshole heard me, and as he inhaled, his head swiveled from greeting my Paw to looking for me. He’d scented me.
The Tall Glass of Fuck Me stared at me as I fought the urge to jump up and claim him in front of the entire class. And my Paw.
Lucifer’s leg hair, the last fucking thing I needed was a third mate. And a vampire, to top it off. Just like Meda. What kind of fated mate, romance novel, made-for-tv bullshit were my ancestors thinking?
The only open seats in the room were up front, directly in front of Paw, and right be-fucking-side me. “Don’t you sit there,” I warned him under my breath. All heads swiveled to me. Everyone but the witches, anyway. The vamps and lycans all heard my warning with their excellent hearing.
The stranger, my mate, smiled. He knew exactly what was going on. I leaned slightly out into the aisle so I could see him from head to toe. Mainly, I wanted to see if he had a boner to rival the lady-boner I had.
His fucking black fucking jeans were so tight on his Adonis-belt style body that the entire room could see the outline of his dick as it pushed against the material.
Everyone except Paw, who walked around the desk and stood slightly behind the blonde. The hollows of his cheeks deepened as Paw introduced him. “This is Kevin, everyone. Kevin, this is pretty much the whole school. I teach history to everyone at once, like it or not.”
“Pleasure,” he said in a British accent.
Every woman in the room, and a couple of the men, sucked in a breath at the sound of his sultry voice, myself included.
Those bitches could breathe as hard as they wanted, this hot motherfucker was mine. As hard as I wanted him, equally, I didn’t. He sauntered forward, the buckles on the leather of his coat jingling softly as he moved his cocky self to the seat beside me.
“Don’t.” I raised my eyebrows at him.
“Don’t what?” Paw asked.
As an empath, this was my idea of torture. The room was a big ball of anticipation, curious what was happening between me and the new sultry, sexy, slender… son of a bitch I couldn’t take it.
Jumping up, I finally looked away from Kevin and straight into the eyes of Randell. His fury and confusion pelted my emotions. Nope. Nuh-uh. I noped it right out of the room, using every ounce of speed I possessed.
Your one stop spot for delicious food and books you’ll devour!
Author of the Week: