Dream of Summer with THE BURNING ONE!

Happy Friday! And, not only is it Friday, it’s also the end of February. I don’t know about you, but I’m dreaming of sun, summer, and beaches… sigh.

In celebration of the end of February, here’s a special sun-drenched excerpt from my new stand alone THE BURNING ONE, available now for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo!

Contains some strong language, so mature readers only!

photo by Groovnick via flickr.

Goddamn, you are a shit driver!” Cee yelled from the passenger seat. Indira stuck her tongue out at him as she squealed around a corner.

I love this car.” She patted the steering wheel of his Maserati. “I have weakness for shiny paint and a lot of horsepower.” She shifted gears and sped ahead, passed a car on her right, then swerved back into the left lane.

Well this car is about to get wrecked.” He shook his head. “You do realize this is the 101, not a fucking racetrack?” She laughed, zooming until they reached a stoplight. Then she braked abruptly, loving the car’s quick response time.

Okay, out.” He unhooked his seatbelt, and opened the car door. “I said you could drive, but I lied.”

What are you doing? Stopping traffic?”

We’ve got the light. Move your ass, Zee,” he said hopping out. Putting the car in park, she begrudgingly got out. She passed Zee and he slapped her ass before sliding into the driver’s seat. She waved to Freddy and Juan, in the big black SUV behind them, and then got in the passenger seat. Cars honked, but Cee was quick. He adjusted the seat and the mirrors, and traffic only got a little backed up. She poked him in the ribs as they sped forward.

I was having fun.”

It’s always fun until someone gets killed,” he said, smiling. He leaned back in the seat, driving with one hand on the wheel, leaving the other one free to slide up her skirt.

We all have to die some time,” she murmured, crossing her legs to limit his access.

I like this,” he said, tugging on her hem. She was wearing a new peach-colored ankle-length dress with a halter top. “It’s sexy as hell.”

She glanced down at herself and shrugged. “I figured when in California, wear something not black. I have to get out of my New York frame of mind.”

Mmm-hmm,” he murmured, raising his hand to the back of her neck. Before she even felt him untying the halter, the straps were rolling down her shoulders. She squealed and slapped her hands to her chest before her tits were exposed. He laughed devilishly, eyes flicking between her and the road. “Oh fuck yeah, I like that.”

Cee!” she yelled, retying the straps.

Oh, now you want to be modest?”

Excuse me if I don’t want Mr. Hell’s Angel over here to get a good look.” She jabbed her thumb at the window, where a biker sat beside them in traffic. Cee only laughed.

That’s what you get for trying to wreck my car.”

Indira stuck out her tongue at him. Then she glanced around them, at the backed up traffic. “This is awful. How do you stand it?” She was feeling her anxiety start to flare. She hated being boxed in and crowded. But Cee only shrugged.

It sucks, but I’m used to it,” he said. She laid her head back against the seat, closing her eyes. She didn’t want to ruin the day with a panic attack, so she focused on her breathing before it got out of hand. His hand dropped back to her thigh and she closed her hand around it. They sat in silence for awhile, then Cee turned on the radio, low. Eventually the flow of traffic began to move.

So where are we going anyway?” she said, after awhile.

You’ll see.”

Or you could just tell me.”

Relax, baby. You’re in good hands.” She could hear the smile in his voice and she rolled her head to look at him. He lifted her hand to his lips and grazed her skin with his teeth. She felt a flush of warmth go through her. She looked away from him, trying to clear her head as her heart pounded. She was in trouble and she knew it. She didn’t want to get too attached, but she was worried it was too late. You have your own life, she reminded herself. You were doing fine before he came along. But how could she go back to a life without Cee?

And of course, Colletta was never far from her mind. It was only a matter of time before Cee began asking questions about his mother. And what was she going to say? She didn’t know and she didn’t want to think about it.

Eventually, Cee made a turn off the beaten path and traffic cleared up considerably. The sun was high in the sky and it was a typically beautiful day in Southern California. Indira felt herself relaxing, absolutely at peace with Cee taking her wherever he wanted to.

Oh!” Indira sat up in her seat, as the ocean passed them on Cee’s side. They were driving up the rocky coast, and Indira was awed by the scene unfolding before her. “Wow,” she whispered.

I thought you might like it. It’s a private beach. Not a lot of people to bother you,” he said. And she felt her heart flutter. Oh, Chadwick Benedict, you’re good, she thought. Being alone on a beach with Cee sounded heavenly.“Don’t say I never gave you anything,” he teased.

Oh, I would never say that,” she said. He’d given her so much already. He just didn’t know how much.

They pulled off on a sandy dirt road, driving downhill to the beach. They stopped in a small empty lot and Cee put the car in park. Indira hopped out immediately and took in the magnificent view.

The ocean was a bright, deep turquoise, flecked with silver sunlight, and the sand was a creamy yellow. High, rocky cliffs framed the beach, making it seem completely secluded. She closed her eyes and breathed in the fresh sea air, her dress blowing in the breeze. Any anxiety she’d felt earlier in the day was completely gone. The sound of the crashing waves below left no room for any worries. After a moment, she turned back to Cee, who was watching her with a slight smile on his face.

How did you know I love the beach?” she asked him accusingly. She wondered vaguely if he could read her mind.

The video at the art gallery,” he said. “You were on a beach.”

Playa Nacascolo, in Costa Rica,” she said, shielding her eyes from the sun with her hand. “You’re observant.” He didn’t respond, just smiled wider. Then he went around to the trunk and opened it up. She kicked off her sandals and dropped them through the passenger window. Then she joined him at the trunk. He pulled out a canvas bag. “What’s that?”

Graciely packed us lunch,” he said, like it was no big deal.

A picnic on the beach? I think you’re trying to seduce me, Mr. Benedict.”

Is it working?”

Absolutely.”

He laughed, looking pleased with himself. He held out his hand for hers and she took it. Before they headed down the path, Indira noticed that Juan’s black SUV was parked next to them in the lot, but both Juan and Freddy were still inside.

Are they coming too?”

Nope. Just you and me.” He entwined his fingers with hers and they made their way down the rocky trail to the beach. When they reached the sand, he spread out a blanket in the shadow of the cliff and she hiked up her skirt and walked along the water, letting the cool, frothy waves crash onto her legs. She sighed, feeling good. She realized that since she’d been in L.A., she’d felt good every day. What a strange concept, especially since she hated L.A.

Cee’s arm slung over her shoulders, and she smiled up at him.

So what’s your game, Cee?”

No game,” he said, innocently.

You’re trying to make it impossible for me to go, aren’t you?”

Well, you’re not going anywhere, so I don’t have to do anything.”

Oh, really?”

He nodded, looking confident. “L.A. is the best city on Earth and you should never leave.”

You’re so wrong. So, so, so wrong.”

Well I’m here, so obviously it’s the best.” He was laughing now, knowing he was being a jackass, but not caring. She lifted his thumb from her shoulder and bit down on his knuckle. That only made him only laugh harder. Then he cupped her chin and kissed her softly, his lips caressing hers. She threw her arms around his neck, leaning into him. The sad thing was, he wasn’t too far from the truth. At that moment, there was nowhere in the world Indira would rather be than on a beach in L.A. with Chadwick Benedict.

When her stomach grumbled, they went back to the blanket and dug into the tote bag to see what goodies Graciely had packed for them. Barbecue chicken, Cee’s childhood favorite, a salad, fresh berries, cornbread, and an apple pie for dessert. They tore into the food, forgoing the utensils for their fingers, feeding each other and then licking their fingers clean.

I’m going to marry Graciely, so you’re off the hook,” Cee said, after he ate half of the pie by himself. Indira just gave him a look, not wanting to answer him. Or acknowledge the pang that flashed through her when he mentioned marriage. She was definitely crazy. She’d only known the man for for a few months, she reminded herself for the millionth time. Well, she’d known him longer than that, but who was counting?

After lunch, a sliver of sun hit the corner of the blanket and Indira undid the straps of her halter top and arranged herself chest down in the sun. She set her chin on her folded hands with a sigh. The sun felt amazing on her skin. He was on her in half a minute, pressing kisses across her shoulders and running his big hands down her sides.

Cee!” she moaned, swatting at him half-heartedly.

What?” he murmured, distracted, as he rolled her over to expose her chest. “I’m addicted to the way you taste.” He ran his tongue along her bare skin, and she shivered despite the heat.

I’m trying to work on my tan,” she said, not even convincing herself.

You’re trying to work me up, you tease.” He tossed his shirt over his head, then buried his face in her neck. She ran her hands over his shoulders, loving the feel of his warm naked skin against hers.

Thank you, Cee,” she said after awhile.

For what?”

For this.”

I have an ulterior motive, remember?”

Right, I remember. To get in between my legs.” Indira tapped her forehead, pretending to think. “Although, let’s be honest. It’s not that hard. All you have to do is touch me and I’m yours.” She heard herself saying the words, and she knew it was the truth. She was his.

Zee?” he whispered her name, lightly.

What?” she murmured.

Nothing,” he replied.

What were you going to say?” she pushed, tracing the contours of his muscles under his dark skin. He didn’t answer, and they lay in silence for awhile, listening to the sound of the waves. He circled her bellybutton with his finger, absentmindedly, slowly driving her insane.

Cee?”

What?” he asked.

I think I like you.”

You think you like me?” he repeated, his hand stilling.

Yes. Maybe. Just a little bit.” He sat up, looking down at her.

After all this, I get a maybe?”

Yes. Maybe.” She smiled, teasing him. “I think that’s pretty accurate.” Then she screamed when he tossed her over his shoulder, lifting her up and carrying her to the water. He slapped her ass, hard enough for it to tingle, and she screamed again. Her hair flew in her face, and she was laughing so hard her stomach hurt. He carried her into the waves, and dropped her into the water. When she surfaced, she bobbed along, pulling her skirt up to her waist and lazily kicking her legs. He stood knee deep in the ocean, watching her. She blew him a kiss and he shook his head, not playing.

She dipped her head back, letting the water lap against her ears. She loved the ancient sound of the waves. When she was younger, and more dramatic, she used to think drowning must be the best way to die. Slipping below the cool, dark water, and letting it squeeze the life out of her seemed romantic, somehow. Intimate. But that was a thought for a darker day. And the dark days were long behind her. Today was a great day. She let herself be swept to shore and then she took off running, her feet sinking in the soft sand and her wet skirt slapping around her legs.

Cee was close behind her, and she barely avoided his grasp before running around an outcropping of rock. Then there was nowhere else to go. She was surrounded on all sides by the cliff. Ankle-deep in water, she turned and faced him. She felt exhilarated. Clean air filled her lungs. Water ran in rivulets down her skin. Cee held an arm out, his hand trailing against the jagged rock, his eyes on her. Her cheeks were hurting from smiling so much. She couldn’t remember the last time that happened.

Why are you running from me?” He stepped closer.

Because I like when you chase me,” she said, out of breath.

The Burning One © 2014 Lavender Parker. All Rights Reserved.

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A KISS OF FIRE sneak peek!

Kiss of Fire

Mark Kiss of Fire as a to-read on Goodreads.com!

I’m working furiously on Kiss of Fire, the follow up to Kiss of Ice. Kiss of Fire will definitely be available in March. Anyway, here’s a fun sneak peek* to hold you over!

*as always, sneak peek is subject to change in the final book! 🙂

Toni watched herself in the mirror at the studio, as she practiced her routine. But her mind wasn’t really on the dance of the Lilac Fairy. No. All she could think about was Sebastian O’Donovan. A.K.A. The Asshole.

He was sexy. He was sexier than he had any right to be. And Jesus, he was almost as old as Annata. But surprisingly, that didn’t seem to matter to her. Christophe was younger than Nat and they got along fine. Better than fine. Older men and younger women had been getting together for all of time. Other than the clichéd aspect of it, his age didn’t bother her at all. But it seemed to bother him. She wondered why.

God. Why did he have to be such an asshole?

They would be good together. The sex between them would be fire. Red-hot. She knew that it would be. She’d wanted to jump him at the hospital, and he was wearing a damn paper gown. She’d wanted to lick his face. Who knew a few days worth of beard and a few gray hairs would be such a turn on? Maybe it was just sexy on Sgt. O’Donovan. Everything about the man was sexy.

The only problem was, he didn’t want her. He’d made that quite clear. Maybe it was because she was black. Maybe it was because she was too young. Maybe she’d been right about the ex-wife thing. Maybe he was heartbroken and not ready for another relationship. She didn’t know. Whatever the reason, the outcome was the same. She was turned on with no outlet for her passion.

So she danced.

She danced until her muscles ached. She danced until her legs shook with the exertion. She danced until her toes felt like they were going to break. Only then did she stop. She pulled off her pointe shoes, and whimpered at the pain. All she could do was wrap up her toes, slide on her Ugg boots, and hobble to the train. But at least her mind was on the hurt, and not the sexual frustration.

She found herself riding past her train stop and heading for Annata and Christophe’s. They were supposed to be back from Paris that evening, she wasn’t sure what time. They’d probably be jet-lagged and want alone time, but she didn’t care. She was in the mood to be the bratty younger sister.

She rang the doorbell when she arrived and saw the lights on at the townhouse, figuring she would be courteous as opposed to using her key and tromping right in. The door swung open and her sister stood there, barefoot in a sleeveless white dress, a big smile on her face.

Look at you, ringing the doorbell like a guest,” Annata St. James said, her hand on her hip and an eyebrow raised. “Trying to pretend like you didn’t eat all the food and drink all the coffee in the house while we were gone.”

It’s the mice. I swear.” Toni stepped in and hugged her older sister, breathing her in. She smelled like coffee, mint, and Christophe. It was comforting. She’d missed her Natty, like she always did when her big sister was away. They were fourteen years apart in age, and Nat was almost more of a mother figure to her. She definitely looked up to her sister more than she looked up to their mother, who was a quintessential, traditional Southern housewife.

Is that my favorite sister-in-law?” Christophe was calling from the kitchen.

She’s blaming mice for the lack of food in the fridge. I think we need to call the exterminator,” Nat said, following Toni into the kitchen. “Either that, or change the locks.”

Christophe stood against the center island, effortlessly handsome in jeans and a cashmere sweater, opening a bottle of red wine. He held out an arm for Toni and she stepped into his embrace.

Ignore Annie. She ordered sushi already anyway.”

Eel? Did you get extra?” Toni wagged an eyebrow.

Yes, dear. You’re lucky we love you so damn much,” Nat said, taking the glass of wine Christophe offered her.

So how was your trip? Are you about to pass out from exhaustion?” Toni asked, sipping on her own glass and hopping up on one of the metal stools at the counter.

We slept on the plane,” Christophe said, sliding an arm around Nat’s waist and pulling her close. “And we have tomorrow off.” He pressed a kiss to his wife’s neck.

Christy finally hired someone to take over International Paris, so hopefully we won’t have to go back for awhile.”

Yay!” Toni clapped her hands. “You two travel too damn much.”

Now, remind me when your show opens?” Nat said, pressing a finger to her temple. “I don’t think I put it on the calendar.”

Opening night is June 23rd,” Toni said.

Okay. You hear that?” Nat poked Christophe in the chest. “Calendars clear.”

Got it,” he said, with a smile.

We might have to go to Shanghai some time in June, but we’ll make sure it’s not then.”

You don’t have to come, you know. It’s not that big of a deal,” Toni waved her hand.

Don’t be ridiculous,” Nat fiddled with her earring. “This is a big deal, right? The Lilac Fairy is a big fucking deal.”

Yes, it’s kind of a big deal,” Toni said, giggling.

Okay then. No arguments.”

So, my lovely Toni, I know you didn’t come over here empty-handed,” Christophe said, looking at her expectantly. A wide smile spread over Toni’s face.

I brought a little somethin’ somethin’,” Toni said, hopping up and reaching for her purse. “I figured you guys would want to relax a bit after traveling.”

You figured right. Roll that shit up,” he said, downing the last bit of his wine.

Ooh!” Annata looked up from her phone, a smile on her face. “I am so excited.”

An hour later, when the sushi was gone, they sat out on the patio and smoked and drank until all the weed and wine was gone as well. Nat lay on Christophe in the hammock and Toni curled up in a chair beside them. The spring air was crisp, but not too cold. It was a perfect night with two of her most favorite people.

When Nat dozed off, Toni caught Christophe’s eyes over her sister’s head. She could still remember the first time they met, at the hospital after the accident. She’d been so destroyed and he’d been so kind. In the weeks after the accident, he’d kept in touch with her and helped her through the shitty time, until Nat returned to the city. Christophe was one of the good ones. She smiled at his expression. He looked so… at peace. Stoned, but at peace. Like all was right with the world. And it was. For the most part. There was the nagging little issue in the back of her mind. O’Donovan the Asshole was still there, bothering her. God, she wished she’d never gone to see him. She wished she’d never met him!

You love her so much,” Toni said to Christophe, her eyelids heavy. He laughed, high off his ass.

I’ve loved her so long, it’s as easy as breathing,” he said, his voice strained. Then he coughed. Toni erupted in giggles.

We’re so high.”

I know. It’s fucking awesome,” he said, looking up to the inky black sky.

Tell me the story again,” Toni said, propping her head on her hand.

What story?”

The story. How you knew my Natty was the one.”

Okay,” Christophe smiled like the drunk in love person he was. His fingers stroked Nat’s arm. “She called me a… hold on. Let me remember the exact words.”

A ‘pathetic, entitled piece of shit’,” Nat supplied, her eyes still closed.

Right, that’s it,” he said, laughing.

I’m so sorry, baby. Really,” she said, lifting her face. He planted a kiss on her and then she settled against his chest again.

I mean, she was kind of right. Rude as hell, but right,” Christophe said laughing. “And I just looked at her. I stared right into those golden-brown eyes and I felt my life change. I just didn’t realize how long it would take before she felt the earth-shattering love I felt.” He pressed his cheek against Nat’s hair. “And then we fucked. After we fucked, I was a goner.”

Ew!” Toni raised her hands to her ears, laughing. Nat slapped him on the chest, eyes still closed.

Truth. Stone-cold truth.” Christophe raised his hand in a scout’s honor. “Your sister is the best fuck I’ve ever had or will have.”

I should hope so,” Nat mumbled, a smile on her lips.

That’s cute. Gross, but cute,” Toni said, laughing. “What about you, Nat? When did you know?”

After we fucked,” Nat said with a laugh.

That is a lie!” Christophe said, his voice rising. “You made me work so fucking hard for it.”

How else would you appreciate it if you didn’t have to work hard for it?” she opened her eyes and looked up at him.

You’re so full of shit.” Christophe said, stroking her cheek. “I think you didn’t know you loved me for sure until I proposed.”

No. No! I remember the exact moment. We were – sorry, Toni – we were at that hotel and we were fucking-”

Which hotel?”

The hotel, when I was home from Hong Kong. And then we got stoned, and I was in love with you.”

Ah.” Christophe looked off. “Damn, that was some good weed.”

I’m glad I could contribute something to the love story of Christophe and Annata,” Toni said, giving a light bow. “Seeing as how I couldn’t be in the wedding,” she said, tossing a little dig her sister’s way. Their families would never forgive Nat and Christophe for eloping. Nat stuck her tongue out at her sister, but didn’t say a thing.

So what about you, Toni?” Christophe rolled his head to look at her. “You got anybody in your crosshairs?”

Um. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t think he’s really interested in me.”

If he doesn’t see how great you are, then he’s a jackass.”

I know right?!” Toni said. “I’m going to let you tell him that.”

I will. I will tell that motherfucker to his face,” Christophe said, his voice slurring a bit. Nat was giggling now as well.

I think it’s time for bed,” Nat finally said, in between giggles. “If we stay down here any longer, I’m gonna pass out and then you won’t get lucky tonight, Mr. Van der Kind.”

Don’t tease me, woman,” Christophe said and they carefully extracted themselves from the hammock. Nat pressed a kiss to Toni’s forehead on the way past.

Are you going to stay tonight?” she asked. Toni nodded, feeling very tired all of a sudden. “Okay, dear. We’ll do brunch or something tomorrow, okay?” Toni nodded again, and then twisted around in her chair to watch Nat and Christophe through the kitchen window. They stopped at the foot of the stairs and kissed, wrapping their bodies around each other like they were starving for each other. Toni felt wistful all of a sudden. She sighed deep. She was so happy for them. But she wanted to be happy, too. More than anything she wanted someone to share her life, and her bed, with. O’Donovan, why do you have to be such a dick? she thought desperately, turning her eyes to the starless sky.

Get The Burning One for Nook…

The Burning One is now up on B&N.com for Nook here.

I really am pleased with how the book came out, although, originally, it was only supposed to be a short novella. The story took me in some… unconventional directions, that’s for sure. It pushes the boundaries of some romance tropes, but hey, what the hell? As a self-published writer, I can push boundaries!

I love wacky, damaged Indira and charming Cee. They both just spoke to me so much. Their story gets dark in points, darker than I’m (currently) going with the St. James Family series, but I hope the readers enjoy them as much as I do!

The Burning One now available!

burning_one FINALThe Burning One, my new stand alone novel, is now available here for Kindle. It’ll be available on Kobo and B&N by the end of the week. Woot!

Here’s the description:

Fading artist Indira Z. is a woman with many secrets. She keeps to herself, mostly, not letting many people in. Her tragic past has a hold on her, and she can’t let it go.

But when a ghost from her past returns, Indira is sent into a tailspin. Chadwick Benedict is no longer the bratty kid she remembers. Now a world famous rock star, he’s sought her out, and Indira can’t believe the burning attraction that flares up between them.

After a passionate night together, Cee is relentless. He wants Indira, and he won’t let her push him away. Indira is falling hard for the charming and sexy musician, but bad things tend to happen when she lets her guard down…

Lies will be told. Secrets will be exposed. Kinks will be indulged. Unconventional, but deeply affecting, The Burning One is a complete, stand alone novel, containing a HEA.

For Mature Readers only.

Reviews!

reviewsFor all you St. James Family series fans out there, if you liked Breaking the Ice and Kiss of Ice (or even if you didn’t like them!) I’d love if you could take a little bit of time and rate them on Goodreads, Amazon, and B&N! I appreciate the feedback, even if it’s negative.

In other news, I’m trying really hard to make a special (self-imposed) Valentine’s Day deadline for a standalone book I’ve been working on. It started as a novella, but it’s ballooned to a full novel. More details to come!