Sunday, September 29, 2013

Rings of Paradise -- Chapter 1


Chapter One
 

Khristen Roberts cleared her throat. “Excuse me, but you’re sitting in my seat.”
“Oh?” The casually dressed man made no effort to move from the seat he boldly sprawled his body across. He sat as if he owned this entire section of the plane, especially the two seats he now occupied.
“Listen, if you want the window seat, that’s just fine with me. There’ll be nothing to see but water, anyway.” Khristen Roberts forced a polite smile. She stood waiting for the man to remove his legs from the only empty set left in first class. She wasn’t about to sit in coach. She’d worked too hard and too long for this vacation and particularly that seat.
Not even off the ground yet. Who does this guy think he is, anyway?
Perturbed, Khristen glimpsed her reflection in his mirrored glasses. Not only was the obnoxious, handsome man sitting in her seat, but his large legs swung over onto her now inherited seat, as well.
Khristen took matters in her own hands and pushed the bare, hairy, tanned, muscular legs out of her way.
“What the—” The soft, deep voice rang out in surprise as he tore the sunglasses away from his eyes—eyes the color of clear seawater, brilliant and dangerous.
A woman could drown in eyes like that.
She felt herself slipping into their deep waters without a life jacket.
“What’s going on here?”
Confusion and disbelief were very much evident in those sea-green eyes, as well as in his voice. Even the muscles in his biceps seemed to twitch with surprise. Or was it aggravation?
Serves him right.
“You, sir, are in my seat.” Khristen fought to control the building irritation as she sat down. “I paid good money for it and don’t intend to share it with you or your legs.”
She snatched a magazine out from the back of the seat and flipped through it. Not really seeing the contents of each page, she wondered what lucky star she had wished on to be stuck next to this despicable hunk all the way to Hawaii. Despicable was the nicest word she could think of to describe him at the moment. He was the type who thought muscles and a nice body got him his way. She had dealt with his kind before. She’d successfully kicked each one to the gutter each and every time. Well, almost each and every time… but she wasn’t going to dwell on that mistake.
Khristen ignored the confusion as the final passengers boarded the plane. She figured it would be ten minutes or so before they would even begin to taxi out onto the Los Angeles airport runway.
Khristen fastened her seat belt and prayed sleep would come for the remainder of her flight to her long-awaited tropical vacation. As soon as they were in the air, she would locate a station on the radio and let her mind tune in to some good, hard ‘80s rock music. Maybe some Van Halen, or Journey, or better yet, David Lee Roth, anything to make the four-hour trip go faster. She hoped it would keep her mind from wandering over to the guy who sat next to her—a man who smelled as good as he looked—all spice and dangerous as hell.
“You know, you were pretty rude.” The deep, smooth-as-silk, masculine voice pierced the silence she’d tried to plant between them.
So much for solitude.
“Me!” The anger in her eyes reflected off the mirrored sunglasses on her unwelcome travel companion. “You should talk, Mister My-Future’s-So-Bright-I–Gotta-Wear-Shades. I’m not the seat-stealer here.” Khristen’s nerves snapped with aggravation.
In a desperate attempt to calm down before her mouth got her thrown off the plane, Khristen rested her head against the back of her seat. She closed her eyes, hoping to put an end to the unwanted conversation. As entertaining as it may end up, she didn’t want to tempt fate.
Been there and done that, as the saying goes, in another place and time. No need to repeat the same mistake.
“That still doesn’t give you the right—”
“Listen. It’s going to be a long flight, and if you don’t mind, I’d rather not spend my time bickering with you. You can have the seat, and let’s just pretend that neither one of us is sitting next to the other. Okay? Okay,” she said, clutching the magazine.
While the stewardess instructed them all on safety procedures, Khristen couldn’t help notice her fellow traveler kept the silver-framed mirrored sunglasses perched on his nose. An unquenchable curiosity surged its way to the surface, causing an all-too-familiar feeling.
Damn hormones, anyway!
She felt them start their rampage through her body, and thoughts of the mysterious stranger mingled with a desire to figure out what he had to hide.
His body fueled her imagination as she tried to seek out his facial features—the ones she could see, anyway.
Daddy always warned me about being too curious. It only gets a girl going down the wrong path.
Too bad she hadn’t taken those words to heart the last time she had taken a trip.
A little hidden inspection couldn’t hurt, could it? Not if she was careful, and he didn’t notice her giving him the once-over. She was only looking, not touching, after all. And he’d never know; if he fell asleep with those damn glasses on.
On his head sat a well-worn Los Angeles Dodgers baseball cap, covering curly, dark-brown hair that barely peeked out from under the brim. Khristen’s gaze passed over his partially hidden face from the eyebrows to a somewhat crooked nose. His mouth seemed to carry a sense of seriousness at the corners of a pair of full lips—the kind that Khristen imagined could kiss a woman with fiery passion as easily as lash out a thousand whipping strokes.
A quick and unnerving surge passed through her body when her gaze followed the outline of his strong, squared jaw. With the plane ascending, her inspection rested at the end of his determined chin. A smile played across his lips.
“Like what you see?” His deep, silky voice challenged with a touch of conceit. Her eyes revealed everything she was feeling at that moment, if her mirrored reflection was true.
“Don’t flatter yourself!” She was scarcely aware of her own voice or the warm glow touching her cheeks, but she was fully aware that he had messed up her ecosystem without as much as a touch.
He smiled fully, showing each and every pearl-white tooth. “Thanks, babe.” He nonchalantly removed the baseball cap, the tucked-up hair spilling down around his shoulders.
Despite her obvious lame protest, she barely muffled the squeak of pleasure when her continued inspection took in the massive chest with the hair that peeked out the top of his black tank shirt. A mischievous smile threatened her lips as curiosity took hold of her again.
Mmmm, wonder where that leads?
She felt herself nearly reaching an uncontrollable level. Her warning bell should have been gonging a thousand times by now but wasn’t.
Her body filled with natural female desire as Khristen focused on muscular tanned thighs hidden snugly in a pair of wild-colored spandex shorts. Her heart skipped a beat when his welltoned thigh muscle twitched.
A nervous sigh escaped her. She tried with all her might to subdue the unwanted longing and curiosity that could spell trouble.
Why do I always seem to go after a challenge?
She rested her head against the seat and tried in vain to suppress the smile crossing her face.
Because, that’s what makes life interesting, and it’s also what gets me in so much trouble.
Khristen pushed the thought of herself and the stranger out of her mind until restless sleep finally fell upon her.
* * * *

It was all Shadoe could do to keep from laughing. For the first time in years, here was a woman who didn’t recognize him, or for that matter, even try to be civil toward him. He knew from the way her body pinked with embarrassment when she’d been checking him out that she was hot for him. Her gaze shot boiling lust over him and made him feel as if his clothing had melted from this body, leaving him naked and vulnerable.
The last thing he had expected from her was a flare-up. He had always gotten his way with women before.
Ha, maybe it was the women who got their way with me.
Rachel, his ex-wife, had been a prime example. Regardless, this woman was a regular spitfire.
It had been so long since he’d met a woman who did not crawl all over him that he was not sure what to do. Being a professional wrestler offered “companion” opportunities nightly; all he had to do was look around as he left an arena.
He longed for more than being on the road, and it gnawed at him more as the years passed. He’d watched his fellow wrestlers leave the business for one reason or another. One might say his biological clock was ticking.
He would have retired, quit the business years ago, before the deaths and injuries to some of his buddies woke him to the fact that the public needed to be educated about the game. He felt the only way to guarantee the truth was told to his satisfaction was to have it printed in his own magazine. He owed it to those fallen and to himself before it all ended for him.
Shadoe slipped off his glasses and listened to the even breathing from the woman beside him. Her breath gently raised her breasts. He wondered whether they were as firm as they appeared.
Good heavens, man, why can’t they all be as challenging as this one? He wanted to trace the outline of her full lips with his fingertips, and he ached to calm the storm that had brewed between them moments ago. The feeling was unlike any he had ever experienced in his professional or personal life in quite a while.
Shadoe slid the glasses back on and turned to gaze out the window—her window—and wondered whether her hair felt as soft as the passing puffs of clouds looked.
* * * *

“Please return your trays to their upright...”
The words echoed softly in Khristen’s mind, bringing her back through the sleepiness of the last three hours. Stretching to pull her cramped muscles from their stiffness, she opened her eyes and realized she’d fallen asleep with her head against her neighbor’s shoulder.
“Well, she’s back in the world, ready to grace me with her outstanding wit again.”
“Sorry, forgot you were there.” She set her seat in the upright position. “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Who am I kidding? Maybe out of sight, but he firmly planted himself in my dream.
“Are you sure? That was a pretty sensual moan coming from you just before you stretched,” he whispered, leaning toward her so close, she felt the warmth of his breath on her skin.
The sensual smirk on his face irritated her. He was ever more pompous than she’d first thought. “If it was, which I highly doubt…” She watched the Maui landscape come into view over his shoulder. “Rest assured the cause wasn’t you.”
“Or maybe you just didn’t realize it was me,” he said.
The plane’s landing gear bumped the ground. “I think it was you dreaming, not me. After all, you’re the one with the fixation on yourself.”
“Maybe so, only I’m never alone in my dreams.” The sharp and assessing look he gave her sent hot shivers down her spine.
What is it about this guy? Why do I even give him the time of day?
As the plane taxied into its arrival gate, their gazes met briefly, causing her blood to race through her veins. Heat flashed through her face, and she felt he had read her thoughts—wanton thoughts that surprised even her.
Khristen shook her head as if to put the marbles back in place. She reached into the overhead compartment for her overnight bag with him standing next to her as the plane taxied into the terminal.
“Let me get that for you.” He placed his hand over hers.
“I’m perfectly capable of carrying one small piece of luggage.” Her grip tightened under his.
She wasn’t about to allow him to help her. She was perfectly capable of handling her own little overnight bag.
“At the moment, you don’t look capable of doing anything but taking a cold shower.” He tried to pull the bag from her as the plane jolted to a stop.
“Leave me.” Khristen gave her bag one last tug, causing it to open and spilling the contents onto the floor of the plane.
“Now see what you’ve done!” She stooped to gather her overturned belongings as quickly as she could. Why couldn’t he just leave her alone and let her get on with her life?
“Here, let me.” Shadoe bent and picked up her things and placed them in the bag, including her lacy panties and their matching bras. He held her undergarments between his thumb and forefinger for a moment. Dropping them, he picked up the nametag dangling outside the case in his hand.
“I can do it myself.” Khristen grabbed and tossed the tag into the bag with the last of her things. She snapped the bag shut and headed for the departure door wondering what act of God had caused her case to fly open when it had been locked. She had a feeling this was going to be one hell of a vacation.

* * * *

“Khristen Roberts,” Shadoe whispered to himself as he watched Khristen make her way to the back of the plane.
There couldn’t be more than one of her, could there? She had snatched the ID tag fast, but he thought the city and state on it had read Madison, Wisconsin. He was still stunned by what he read. Was she his Khristen Roberts? Well, maybe not his but the magazine’s?
It had to be her—the woman Ric Scott had recommended for the article that would most likely end his career. How many Madison, Wisconsin Khristen Roberts could there be in the world?
He hoped there was only one—the one who sparked something in him he once thought did not have a chance to ignite ever again; the one who for a few hours made him remember he was just a regular Joe, not the Universal Wrestling World Champion; the very one making her way down the little departure hallway. If he didn’t follow suit, he’d lose her in the crowd.
He grabbed his athletic bag and followed her. If he lost her, he would either have to call all over Maui looking for her or contact Ric Scott to find out where Khristen Roberts from his newly acquired magazine was staying. As he saw it, his only option was the former. 

~~ Will love bloom in paradise? Or will Shadoe lose this reporter's heart? ~~

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Rings of Paradise -- Prologue


PROLOGUE

 
Shadoe Donovan stood in front of the large office window overlooking the bay of Lake Monona. His six-foot, two-inch muscular frame cast a shadow over the thirty-something man sitting behind a weathered oak desk.
“When did all this happen?” The man’s voice came from behind him.
“Officially, the deal was signed last night.” Shadoe smiled, feeling a bit of pity for the man. Hell, if someone suddenly walked in off the street telling me he’d just bought the company I worked years for, I’d be a bit pissed off, as well.
“Why this magazine?”
“It’s small, virtually unknown...exactly what I was looking for.” Watching the local ski team practice their routine to perfection, he felt their aches and pains as they worked to hone each move with precision. He felt his own aching muscles spasm in response.
“For what? A tax write-off after you’ve driven it further into the ground?” The voice came again, edged with sarcasm and irritation.
“Look here, Scott—”
“My name is Ric, damn it!”
Shadoe turned from the window as one of the skiers completed a jump. “Right now, all I’m looking for is someone to write a story. I want a fresh, unbiased unknown for this. Someone with the drive and desire to tell the truth as they see it, who’s not afraid of a little bit of controversy.”
“Controversy?” Ric Scott turned away from the files he’d been asked to get. “Just what the hell is this story about, anyway?”
Shadoe observed the man a bit closer. Ric Scott was going to be just the person he needed to keep things under control while he was away on other business. He had a reputation for being dynamic in his profession. So far, everything Shadoe had heard about the editor-in-chief was right on the money, including the shooting-straight-from-the-hip warning.
“Pro wrestling.” Shadoe smiled, watching closely for the normal reaction to the game he loved so much, a profession many people considered a circus of highly paid performers. He supposed they could be right about the circus part. In the past few years, he’d been asked to wear costumes his father wouldn’t have put on for any amount of money.
“Are you nuts? Controversy is right.” Tossing down a pencil, Ric pushed away from his desk.
“I’ll be damned if I’ll let you bring this magazine down with that kind of cover-up story,” he continued. “We write the truth, not some sugar-coated soap! Our readers aren’t a bunch of hicks; they’re intelligent, well-educated members of society.”
“Take it easy, Scott.” Shadoe walked to the front of the desk. “I’m not about to change the format. I just want a writer to do this exposé, is all.”
Standing over the man, Shadoe knew under usual circumstances his size and attitude could be intimidating, but this wasn’t the case here. Even at a less imposing five-foot-eight, Ric Scott wasn’t about to back down from him, and he liked that fact very much.
“I have a plane to catch. I don’t have time to pull rank with you. Let’s see who’s on staff and go from there.” Shadoe pulled up one of the large winged-back leather chairs.
Shadoe listened to Ric as he read each staff member’s credentials. Sitting back in the chair, he knew halfway through the files not one of the staff would fit what he was looking for.
“Look, Scott,” he began, sitting forward. “Everyone so far has experience. If the rest of them do, too, I can’t use them for this assignment.”
“All right, Donovan, just why do you want a virtual unknown?” Scott sighed. “Unless you’re ready for a lawsuit, which, by the way, would destroy the magazine, an experienced journalist would be best.”
“As for the legal and financial condition of this magazine, it’s of no concern to you.” Shadoe liked the directness and aggression of Scott. The fact that this man was so protective of the magazine and its staff was a welcome relief, but he wasn’t about to play nursemaid to the man.
“This company can handle anything thrown at it from now on. As for the why, it’s time for the fans to know how hard pro wrestlers train every day of the year, how difficult it is on their families when they’re on the road ninety percent of the time,” he continued, walking back over to the window, gazing at the lake and the lone boater drifting out on the water. He felt much of his life was like that boat, just going with the flow, never really coming to rest for a long time.
“Besides, I’m the boss, and I said so.” Returning to the desk, he once again stood with authority over Scott. “Because it’s the sport that’s enabled me to follow the career I love and cherish more than anything or anyone. I owe it to the wrestlers who have been disabled for life or even given their life in the ring for the love of the game.”
Shadoe watched the reasoning register deep in Scott’s mind as he let him think. He glanced at his watch. His plane was due to leave in less than two hours. If things didn’t progress right now, he’d never get through security and would miss his flight to Hawaii. The cocky posture diminished slightly with each passing moment until at last Scott exhaled in a small surrender.
“Okay, I get the picture. I may just have the person you’re looking for.” Scott ran his hands through his short, dark hair, hesitation flashing through his face.
“Great! Who is he?”
“It’s not a he.” Scott smirked. “It’s a she. There’s no real formal training or experience. Just the drive and desire to write. Her name’s Khristen Roberts, but she’s on a long-deserved vacation.”
“Perfect. Put her on the assignment as soon as you can reach her.” Shadoe stepped toward the door. “I’ve got a plane to catch. I’ll be in touch with the details soon.”
“What’s your connection, Donovan? What makes you think you’ve got the inside track to this ‘secret’ society?”
Shadoe turned just as he reached for the door. Pausing, he looked Ric Scott straight in the eye, deciding quickly to tell him just how connected he was.
“Ever hear of ‘The Flame’?”

~~~ To Be Continued ~~~

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sunday, September 1, 2013

THE QUEEN



THE QUEEN docked August 31, 2013 and awaits you to come aboard ...

Cole Masterson takes a ghost hunting gig aboard the Queen Mary to find out why pictures of his great grandfather and Hanna Amery are in an old locket.
...
Hanna Amery finds the love she left behind on The Grey Ghost housed in the body of Cole Masterson, she just needs to figure out how to get to him.

What happens when they find each other on opposite planes of the Universe?

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Excerpt

Shrugging off the odd sensation of being watched, I went back to investigating, and snapped pictures of the bunks noting that even with a mattress they had to feel like a board. I certainly wouldn’t trade the luxury of my Sleep Number bed for one of these for an extended period of time for anything. I took several more pictures then covered the lens and turned off the camera.

“Other than my nerves, all is quiet in the Isolation Ward. Gonna call it a night.” I turned away from the beds, then shuffled back toward the sinks. A low groan filled the air, stopping me in my tracks. But looking back I saw no one. Had I just imagined it? Were my nerves playing me up?

“Who’s there?” I double checked the recorder finding the new batteries kept it barely running. Shoot, why I hadn’t thought to bring an extra set of batteries? Normally I would have done that, but tonight was far from normal. “Listen, whoever you are, I’m going to bed now. If you want to talk to me you’ll have to find me tomorrow.”

Quickly stepping out of the ward, wanting nothing more than to get my head on straight, I inched past the attendant’s room and hustled toward the stairs that will take me above deck.

“Dr. Masterson!” Clicking heels hurrying along the floor echoed softly behind me.

The soft feminine English accented voice made me freeze as every hair on my body suddenly stood at attention. Oh my god, I hadn’t imagined her. I spun around eager for a glimpse of her, hearing the urgency in her voice, and groaned when I found no one there. Damn, if she was so eager to reach out to me why wouldn’t she appear?

“Dr. Masterson, please!”

The disembodied voice made my heart ache and my fingers tremble as I once again checked the power of the nearly drained recorder hoping it caught her voice. Swallowing the lump in my throat I said, “Yes?”

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