Tied With A Red Velvet Bow, Thank You



Huge thanks to all that submitted to this challenge and to everyone that has taken the time to read, like, comment, follow the authors and maybe (hopefully) even buy the books.

This is to be my last multi author challenge as life is taking me in a totally different direction (more about that in the new year though) so I need to say an extra special thank you to every single author and poet that has joined in not just this challenge but all my previous challenges. Without you all none of them would ever have happened so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I shall leave you now to enjoy your day.

Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2017!

Much love

S.J xxx

The Christmas Surprise by Tara Devaney-Thompson


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The Christmas Surprise

 A Gift of Love

Chapter One


Christmas comes around just once a year and for Corey Marshall this was once too many. He remembered clearly why he had come to hate the Holiday Season. Tragedy has a way of killing the Christmas spirit. Every year he had hoped it would ease but all that Carolling and Ho Ho Ho’ing made him cringe still to this day. These days he simply stayed home as much as possible. Hard to do when you had to work and, in his field of advertising, impossible most days. Like right now, in fucking October, they were all working on Christmas shit and it was driving him crazy. Especially with everyone at the office humming jingles and getting all festive! Desks decorated with trees and lights and the background music all caroley and sweet. Everything merely served as a reminder of that Christmas it all changed. And today was going to be the worst day yet. Today he had to meet with the CEO of Mrs. Klaus’s Confectionery. Could it get any worse?

Well, yes, it could but not in a way he could ever have anticipated. Being the bah humbug guy that he was he walked into the conference room ready to deliver his ideas and then leave but, all his preconceived ideas of who and what Mrs. Klaus may be dissolved when he caught sight of Leah Purcell. He suddenly lost all power of speech and movement. He simply stood there staring at her like a silly schoolboy. His hearing seemed to have deserted him too because it wasn’t until his boss, Joel Callan, grabbed his shoulder and squeezed hard that he realized Joel had been talking to him.

“I was just telling Miss Purcell about the wonderful work you have done on her campaign, Corey. Why don’t you tell us all about it?”

“Please, Corey, call me Leah. And do tell me all your ideas” her voice was like honey trickling down your finger when you lick it off. Jeezus, he was getting a fucking boner thinking of anything to do with her and licking. And this was the first time he had not associated anything Klaus with painful memories. She was beyond beautiful. Stunning, no, heavenly, still no…there was just no word to describe her. All he wanted right this moment was to grab her and fuck her senseless. How the fuck was he going to get through this meeting without disgracing himself? If he wanted to have aby chance with this woman he knew, instinctively, that he would need to impress her mind first. So, doing his best to gather his thoughts and pick his chin back up off the floor, he began his spiel.

An hour later, as all her business advisors left the room she stopped and turned to him,

“Mr. Marshall, I was wondering if we could go over the campaign details in more depth say over dinner tonight”

He couldn’t believe it. She was actually asking him to dinner. Part of him said, No, don’t be a fool…run while you still can. But the other, less wise part said,

“Yes. Certainly Ms Purcell! Please, call me Corey and what time and where shall I pick you up?”

“Corey then and I told you to call me Leah. I will send a car for you. Give my manager your home address and, be ready by eight. Oh, and wear a suit”

With that she looked him up and down and walked away. He felt that look like it was burning him. Yet, he had to admit, as he was wearing jeans and a jumper so she had no way of knowing whether he even owned a suit. He usually wore one as a matter of course but, he had just arrived back from a trip to see another client and had come straight from the airport. He would have changed into his suit but since she had arrived early for their meeting so it had been bumped up and that had left him no time to change. He would definitely dress to impress tonight if only to show her he could. Why he felt the need to impress her he had no clue but he was damned sure going to.

You know the old saying, I hate to see you leave but I love to watch you walk away, well, watching her walk was hypnotic. Her curvy hips rotated like Marilyn Monroe’s and her long, long legs were lean and shapely and went all the way up to….stop it! he thought and shook his head. He had to get hold of himself. Still watching her walk down the long hall he couldn’t help think that this Christmas was going to be a whole lot different to the ones before. Maybe this year he would get the perfect gift. The gift of forgetfulness! He had no idea that this night would change his idea of Christmas forever.






Chapter Two

At precisely eight, as she said, her driver buzzed Corey’s apartment. He was, as she requested, ready to go. He had made sure he was wearing his most expensive Armani suit and his Berlutti’s were shined to perfection. He adjusted his tie and, taking one last look in the mirror left the apartment. He had been lucky to find an apartment in this building as it was one of the most sought after, not to mention expensive, blocks in the city. It was only because of his family name and money, something he did not normally fall back on, that he had the wherewithal to live there. The Marshall name had always been synonymous with wealth and power and, above all, influence even with the scandal of what happened to his parents. No-one ever said no to a Marshall. Yet!

He exited the building to find a gleaming limo waiting at the sidewalk and the Chauffeur holding the door open. He climbed in and sat back in true automotive luxury. She sure knew how to pick a car, he thought, unless her advisors chose it for its shock value. He didn’t think she would let others choose anything for her but he would have to wait and find out. The driver eased away from the sidewalk with not the slightest bump and the ride continued smoothly all the way to their destination. Soon enough they arrived at what he took to be her office building. He supposed they would be picking her up before carrying on to wherever they were going.

A lift that ran just as smoothly as the car, took him to the top of the building where, when it was opened by what he assumed was an assistant or housekeeper, he found himself in a penthouse apartment. Stepping out into an enormous living area he was caught off guard by what he saw. He seemed to have stepped into his worst Christmas Nightmare. It was literally wall to wall Christmas chintz. Baubles, lights, tinsel, the lot! A huge tree stood in the corner laden with decorations and, on top, a silver and white angel. Parcels lay beneath and each one was wrapped in silver paper to match the décor and then tied up with a red velvet bow. His stomach turned over and he almost threw up on the white thick pile carpet that spread, almost like snow, across the apartment floor. It was by sheer force of will that he didn’t. How was he going to get through this without disgracing himself? He needed a distraction and he found it in the view.

The apartment windows were, it seemed floor to ceiling glass with no apparent seams or frames. They gave the observer a view that looked out over the city without the distraction of metal or wooden lines. He felt, for an instant, a bit acrophobic though he had never been scared of heights before. This view seemed almost as though he were looking down from heaven. The illusion was compounded when she entered the room. He didn’t hear her because he was busy looking at the lights of the city as seen from way up here. He knew that this was not the tallest building yet it gave that illusion because of the simple vastness of the view.

“Impressive isn’t it?” she said.

Startled he turned and was again caught off guard by her. She stood before him dressed all in white and looking almost like that Christmas angel had stepped down off that huge Christmas tree. Her hair, which had been pinned up at the meeting, was now flowing loosely around her shoulders in a golden cloud and her alabaster skin glowed in the light from the fire. He had, yet again, lost the power of speech.

“Good Evening Corey?” she said in that sexy voice.

It took him a moment to regain his power of speech.

“Good Evening Leah. You look amazing!” he wasn’t lying because she did look amazing. The white dress was cut in such a way as to accentuate her amazing figure in all the right places. He hadn’t realized that her hair was long because, at the meeting, she had worn it pinned up and business-like. Tonight it flowed like molten gold down over her shoulders and full and, he assumed, firm breasts. She looked almost like a rampantly sexy version of that angel atop that god-awful tree. Then, she almost undid all his careful plans for wooing her with his mind. She walked past him towards the window. Oh my fucking god, the way she moved was killing him.

“What do you think of the view from here Corey? Amazing isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is. It is a spectacular view indeed”

“I loved the view when I first moved in but now, well, I suppose I have become used to it. So, you think the view of the city is spectacular from here! I think I like it is better at this time of the year”

“I wasn’t talking about that view, Leah” he said.

“I know!” she replied. She walked over to stand close, very close. Too close almost. He could feel his body responding. She knew he was excited by her and, just before he could take her in his arms, she backed away running her hand along his chin as she did.

“Are you hungry, Corey?” she asked him in a voice that was both flirtatious and suggestive and obviously meant to be, Yet again his body responded. The double entendre was obviously meant to tease him and it worked. But, he didn’t want to move too fast and, if he cared to admit it to himself, he was kind of enjoying this little game she had started.

“Yes, Leah, I am ravenous”

“Then we had better get going. The reservation is for nine and, if we are not there on time the Maître’D will give the table to someone else” she moved to the elevator doors and stopped to put on her coat.

Corey moved to help her and she leaned back just enough for him to smell her musky, sensual perfume. He knew that only part of that smell was artificial. Part was the smell of her. It was the most intoxicating aroma he had ever smelt. Again, his move to engulf her in his embrace was thwarted. This time it was by the doors to the elevator opening.








Chapter Three


Once inside the elevator it was almost impossible not to simply gather her to him and kiss her senseless but, again instinctively, he knew this would end the evening before it really began. Instead, he simply stood back and took her all in with his eyes. He doubted that he would ever get tired of looking at her. And suddenly, for some inexplicable reason he felt, deep in his soul that she was about to become the most important person in his life. For whatever reason, life had brought here to him and now, he vowed to himself, he would never let her go.

“So, Corey, I get the feeling that Christmas is not your favorite holiday! Why is that?”

She caught him off guard by this question. The story of how he had come to hate Christmas was one he did not often care to remind himself. It was one of pain and great sorrow. But he wanted, for some reason unknown to him, to tell her. He had not spoken of it to anyone for many years. Not since it happened really. It was all so long ago yet so very clear in his mind.

“It is not that I hate Christmas so much as it brings back memories I would rather not have stirred up. It all happened so very long ago” he paused to gather his thoughts, “I keep thinking that I will get over it someday but, try as I might, I can’t forget it and the bad memories always manage to color the season grey for me”

Laura turned and looked at his face. She could see a great deal of pain in those beautiful blue eyes. Something very bad must have happened. Not only pain was visible but what looked to be a great deal of anger and despair. She saw that to push right now would be a bad move on her part. Later, there would be plenty of time to ask what had happened to cause him so much sorrow.

“I am so sorry that the Season causes you pain. Let’s not talk of it now. Let’s just have dinner and get to know each other better, shall we?”

Corey was grateful for her understanding and nodded his head in agreement. She was proving to be less and less the woman he had thought she would be and more and more like someone he could fall in love with forever. He had not expected to feel this way so quickly. He had found her incredibly desirable from the moment he met her but, had not thought to feel an emotional attachment so rapidly. They seemed to be forming a bond and he was somewhat unprepared for it. Somehow, he knew, this Christmas was indeed going to be special. Maybe, just maybe, he could learn to appreciate the holiday again as he had once done.








Chapter Four


They rode the remaining floors down in silence. It was not a silence of unease but, rather, a silence of reverie. Reaching the lobby of the hotel he took her arm and, in a gentlemanly way surprising to her, led her through the doors. Outside her limousine waited at the sidewalk. He helped her in and joined her on the spacious back seat. Not wanting to crowd her he sat far enough apart that she had to reach across an arms-length to clasp his hand. Turning to face him she said,

“I know this will sound quite odd, Corey, but I feel that a bond is growing between us and I am a little nervous about it happening so rapidly” she blushed which he found charming.

“It doesn’t sound odd at all. In fact, I feel the same way. I don’t know where this will take us but, and of this I am positive, I am quite happy to take the journey with you, Leah” he squeezed her hand to emphasize his strength of belief. “Wherever this road we are on takes us we will travel it together”

Leah looked deep into his eyes and, seeing no guile there, squeezed his hand in response. They both knew that, rapid as it may be, this was heading for something deep and rare. Cory’s heart was pounding in his chest and he wanted to tell the driver to turn back to the hotel. He didn’t because they needed to take this slowly or, he feared, he would scare her off and that was something he could not bear to happen. Instead, he sat quietly with her hand in his until they reached the restaurant. Ever the true gentleman he got out first and, going around to her side, offered her his hand to help her out of the car. She looked up at him and smiled that gorgeous, open smile and his heart did a flip-flop in response.

“Well, an honest to god gentleman. I didn’t think there were any left. Thank you, Corey” she said half teasing.

“You are welcome, my Lady” he replied with a little bow.

Leah couldn’t help laughing. Corey loved the sound. Like music played on a fine piano. He could, and hoped he would, listen to it for a long time to come. Helping her out of the car he placed her arm through his and walked her into the restaurant. The Maître D’ greeted them and showed them to their table. They had been given one that was in a quiet alcove away from the main dining room. Corey noticed that this table was, unlike the others, lit only by candlelight. It made their corner even more private and secluded.

Leah had wanted them to be able to talk and this was the perfect table to allow them enough peace to get to know each other. As soon as they were seated the waiter assigned to them handed them the menu’s and, as he should, melted back into the shadows to await their signal that they were ready to order. While they both perused the menu’s they took surreptitious looks at each other until, when they caught each other peeking, they laughed.

“So, what do you fancy?” Corey asked not thinking about his words until they were out.

Leah raised an elegantly shaped eyebrow and grinned lasciviously. Corey realized how it had sounded and, spluttering, tried to amend his question.

“Well! For starters” said Leah in a suggestive voice, “How about a stiff one…?” she let the words trail off and then, seeing his chagrined expression, laughed uproariously at his obvious discomfort. Looking at his reddening face she decided to take pity on him and said,

“Don’t worry, Corey, I am only joking. You will have to get used to my sense of humor if we are to spend any significant amount of time together”

Cocking his head to one side he replied,

“Are we going to spend significant time together, Leah?”

“Well, I certainly think so! Don’t you?”

“I certainly hope so, Leah. I am beginning to think that we are going to enjoy a lot of time in each other’s company. And, I hope you think so too”

“Oh, I do, Corey, I do. We seem to be getting along quite nicely right now” and she laughed that musical laugh again. Corey wanted to listen to that laugh forever.






Chapter Five


They finally decided on their choices and he signaled the Waiter over and, after giving him the order sat back and took a good look at Leah. Yes, she was beautiful in any light but, the flickering candle-light emphasized the high cheekbones and almond shaped eyes to perfection. He was enchanted by so many things about her. Her face, her long gleaming hair, her laugh and, most importantly, her humor and intelligence! Could he have met the woman of his dreams? He was beginning to think he had indeed. For so long he had thought this paragon of female perfection did not exist. Now, although he realized that Leah, like all humans, would prove to have her faults, he was thinking that he had come as close as he could have ever wished.

For a few moments he simply watched her. Then she raised those luminous eyes and looked straight into his.

“What are you thinking?” she asked.

“To be honest, I was thinking how utterly gorgeous you are” he replied with candor.

Her face pinked a little and she said,

“You’re not too hard to look at yourself”

He had the grace to drop his eyes and blush fully which made her laugh again.

“So, the man is capable of being embarrassed by a returned compliment. I like that in you, Corey. It shows you have the ability to be emotionally open”

Corey looked at her and was surprised to see she was being serious. He was also surprised to find that he appreciated her serious side as much as her flippancy.

“Yes, I can be emotional. Why does that surprise you?”

Leah paused before answering.

“It surprises me because, in my world, most men spend their lives trying to prove how masculine they are by pretending they are too strong to have emotions. It makes for a life filled with coldness and deceit. I am tired of men like this and, to be honest, I assumed you would fall into the same category.”

“Well, I can assure you that I do not. I am not afraid to let you know how I feel because, for some reason, I feel that you will never take advantage of that fact. As you may have guessed I have had some disappointments and hurt in my life too. This is one of the reasons I have hated Christmas so much. All I can remember of Christmas in my past is pain and grief”

Leah’s heart swelled with sorrow at the thought that he had been so badly hurt.

“You don’t have to tell me if you feel in the least reticent about it” she told him while reaching out to touch his hand which was balled into a fist on the table. She could tell that the memories were very close to the surface right now.

Feeling her hand on his, Corey looked at her and seeing nothing but pure sympathy, decided that she, of all people, seemed to understand. Not wanting to become overly emotional in such a public place he clasped Leah’s hand and said,

“No, I want to tell you, Leah. Just not here and not now! Let’s enjoy this, our first meal together and later, when I take you home, I will tell you the whole sorry story, okay” and he clasped her hand in his as he forced himself to push it out of his mind. “

Leah agreed and changed the subject. They spent the rest of the meal discussing the business that was the excuse she had used to get to know him better. The hours sped by and, by the end they had come to realize that they were indeed both falling for each other and rapidly. They left the restaurant to find that it had begun to snow. Taking a moment to watch the flakes fall they then made their way to the car. They rode back to her apartment still chatting and learning about each other.









Chapter Six


Back at her place they tumbled out of the elevator laughing and swatting each other playfully. Once inside they removed their coats and, without thinking, Corey wiped a stray flake from her face. She almost melted faster than that very snowflake. He was proving to be all that she had ever wanted but, she knew, he needed to talk about the reason for his hatred of Christmas before he could let go, in a way, and learn to enjoy all his heart could desire and all she could offer him.

The apartment was warm thanks to the roaring fire that had been lit in their absence and drinks were waiting on the side table. Leah had given her house-keeper the night off to visit family so they were completely alone. As his fingers brushed her face gently she felt her heart stutter and she, automatically, leaned towards him. Pulling herself up she looked up into his impossibly blue eyes and saw, to her utter surprise, what looked like tears.

“Corey, what’s wrong?” she asked.

“Nothing is wrong! It is just that you are so beautiful and I can’t help feeling like this is all a dream from which I will awake from and find you gone”

“Oh, Corey, it is not a dream unless I am dreaming it too. There is no doubting that there is something very special happing between us but, I think we need to talk about what has made you doubt that Christmas is a time of miracles and love, don’t you?”

He knew she was right but, in his heart, he was worried that once she learned about his family tragedy, or disgrace, as his Uncle termed it, she would not see him the same way. Yet, he knew that he had to tell her. There could be no secrets between them.

“Yes, I do. Let’s sit and I will tell you everything”

He took her by the hand and led her to the sofa. Getting them drinks gave him the time to gather his thoughts and, returning to her, he sat opposite her and began his sad story. Taking a deep breath he began to tell her of the Christmas that it had all gone so badly wrong. It began when he was a small boy of ten and it occurred on Christmas Eve. This event had colored his view of the holiday so deeply that, no matter who or what had followed, it simply continued to grow and fester. Until now!










Chapter Seven


Corey leaned back on the sofa and, with Leah watching from across the table said,

“Do you recall the murder suicide of the husband and wife back in 1993? The husband shot the wife and then himself while their son was in his bedroom. It happened in Lakeshore Hills?”

“Yes, I do recall that case. Why?” Leah said.

“I was that boy. My father killed my Mother because he thought she was having an affair. He was unstable at the time and suffering from delusions. Though, at the time, I was unaware of this fact. I knew that he had changed over the previous months but not why”

Leah gasped but said nothing just held his hands tighter.

“I need to tell you this but, in the third person, or I will not get through it. I want you to understand that I am not being dramatic or something like that it is just that if I talk about it as though it were me then I will probably break down before I finish. Is that okay with you?”

“Of course it is, darling. Tell it any way you please”

So, Corey began his tale of the murder of his Mother and the suicide of his Father.

He began with,

“The boy could hear the fighting from where he sat huddled in fear on his bed. Back and forth the voices went. Accusations and recriminations flowed like verbal vomit. It went on and on for what seemed like hours. This had been happening more and more lately. His Mother told him not to worry that it was just that Dad had a lot of things on his mind. Still, Corey couldn’t understand why, if his parents loved each other, they fought so much. He had seen the bruises on his Mothers face and knew, instinctively, that this was more than she was telling him. His Father had been such a loving man but, lately, he was far from it.

Sitting there listening to them scream at each other he knew that this time it was different. He didn’t know in what way or why but, and this scared him to the core, they seemed to be working up to something really bad. Suddenly the voices stopped. Maybe, he thought, just maybe, they are finished and Dad will go to bed and sleep off the drunken rampage he seemed to be on. Then, he heard his Mother scream,

“No, John, no, please don’t do it. Everything will get better. I promise. No, no, put it away. You don’t want to do this. Think of Corey” then she screamed again.

His heart stopped then as the silence that had descended was shattered by the sound of one gunshot followed then another. Corey screamed. No, no, no….over and over again. When he had screamed himself hoarse and could scream no more. The servants had been given the night off to celebrate the holiday with their families so there was no-one to hear the gun-shots or his screams of terror. After what seemed an interminable amount of time he staggered out of bed and, fearing what he would find would match his dreaded premonition, he made his way down the festively decorated stairs. Silently, bare feet on carpet, afraid of what he would find yet compelled to find out what had happened he crept into the living-room. What he saw there was to mark him for life. Both his parents lay on the carpet with blood streaming from their heads. He wanted to scream some more but there was nothing. Instead, he calmly walked to the phone and called 911. Placing the phone down he returned to where the bodies of his parents lay. Sitting down between them in a puddle of their blood he began to rock to and fro. This was how the Police found him when they arrived just fifteen minutes later.

They tried to keep it quiet but, of course, the media got wind of it and were outside the house, baying like a pack of hyenas, when the boy was led out. Even though he was wrapped in a blanket blood could be seen on his face and hands. His eyes were blank, showing no emotion whatever, and he seemed to be in shock. Ambulance Attendants helped him into the back of the bus and, without waiting, took him to the hospital. Doctors checked him over, pronounced him physically fit though traumatized, and allowed him to be taken to the Police Station. There he remained until the next day when, finally, his Uncle arrived. After conferring with the cops he took Corey to his home. The boy then lived there until he graduated High School”

When Corey told Leah he would be telling this as though recounting the story of another child, she understood his need to distance himself from the shattered child he was and could still feel. Her heart bled for him both as the child and the man. Crossing the small space between them she knelt down in front of him and, now up close, saw that tears were coursing down his cheeks. Saying nothing she simply knelt there and waited. Eventually he stopped crying and looked at her. She reached out her hands and, gently cupping his face, said,

“I am so very sorry, Corey. I am so, so very sorry. I should not have asked you about this terrible experience”

“No, Leah, it was time. You have given me a gift like no other. I am suddenly lighter. I have never told anyone about this that they didn’t already know from the media. I have been bottling it all up for too many years. You made me feel comfortable enough to tell the story. Now, I can let it go and begin to heal. Thank you, Leah”

“You don’t need to thank me, Corey! You obviously needed to get it out. Maybe now you can move on and be free. You did nothing wrong. You were an innocent child. Nothing you could have done would have changed the outcome”

“Logically, I know this, Leah, but some things you just carry with you regardless of your involvement. This hatred of Christmas and what it stands for has grown from that one particular event. With today being the anniversary of it well, I was feeling the weight of it. I simply tried to forget it for this one night so as not to spoil our time together. Yet, here we are talking about it and, I must admit, a weight has been lifted from my heart. And, it is all thanks to you and your simple sweetness and the feelings I am already developing for you. Fast, I know, but inevitable, I think”

Leah sat for a moment just looking at his beautiful, and now softer, face.

“You are not the only one who feels that way. I know, without doubt, that even after just these few hours together we have something so strong between us that neither of us can deny the pull. I don’t know where this will lead us but I want to follow and see where it goes. I want to help you learn to love Christmas and all it represents. Love, joy and the giving of gifts to show that we truly care for the ones we love. I want to show you that not all relationships end in pain and sorrow. That some are forever filled with respect and tenderness. Will you let me give you my heart as my Christmas Gift to you, Corey?”

His eyes filled with tears again and he leaned forward and kissed her so tenderly and with such love she thought her heart would burst.

“My darling Leah. I thought you had already given me the greatest gift by allowing me to unburden myself to you but, yet again you surprise me. This is the most precious gift anyone has ever given me and, I promise with all my heart and soul, that I will treat it as though it were more precious than all the diamonds in the world. In return, as my gift to you, I swear that I will always love you with every fiber of my being. I will hold your heart next to mine because they will always beat as one”

By now Leah was crying too. Corey stood and, as he did so, he helped her to her feet also. Taking her gently into his strong arms, he lowered his face to hers and, with all the love he genuinely felt for her, kissed her deeply and passionately. When the kiss finally ended he drew back and, without a word, he lifted her and walked towards the bedroom. Once inside he laid her on the bed and then lay beside her. She pulled him to her and kissed him deeply and with longing to feel every inch of this beautiful man. She knew he had a beautiful body even though she had not seen it unclothed. Now she simply wanted to see him naked and aroused. She could feel his erection and it felt huge. She didn’t want to rush it though. She wanted this, their first time, to be special and memorable for them both.

She looked up at his beautiful face and drank in its perfection. Those eyes as blue as a winter sky that were surrounded by thick black lashes any woman would be jealous of were looking at her with a combination of tenderness and desire. Her eyes moved down past his aquiline nose to the most gorgeously kissable lips she had ever seen. They were shaped into the most perfect cupids bow and that full bottom lip was one you wanted to bite on forever. He leaned forward and plated those lips on hers and kissed her with all the passion he felt and her body responded to the kiss by arching towards him.

The longer the kiss went on the more feverish their movements became. He had begun to remove her dress as soon as they had lain on the bed and now, aroused fully and wanting to be inside her, he practically ripped it from her body. She had worn the tiniest of G-strings and this sliver of material proved no impediment to his exploring fingers. She gasped as his fingers explored her pussy. She now began some exploration of her own. Her hands grabbed at his pants and fairly ripped open the zipper to free his cock. Then her hand gripped it and began to move up and down the long, thick shaft. He groaned with pleasure as she had at his touch. He ripped the flimsy material that was all that lay between him and her and tossed it across the room.

Leah lay back and opened herself to him then guided his rampant hard-on into her depths. She lost the ability to breathe as she felt his hardness slide inside her wetness. He responded with his own groans at the feeling of her engulfing him. She was hot and wet and felt like no other woman he had ever had. After pausing his thrust because he was close to cumming already and didn’t want to explode quickly like a teenage boy on his first fuck, he began to move in and out of her and she began to meet his rhythmic thrusts with intensity equal to his own. He raised himself up so as to go as deep as was possible and she raised her hips to meet him.

Her hands were holding his perfectly formed ass and they pulled him ever deeper. She could feel herself building to her climax too quickly so she pushed him off and forced him to roll onto his back. Then she mounted him and began to rise up and down his swollen shaft. Faster and faster she rode him as though her life depended upon it. And, in a way, it did. She felt as though if she didn’t cum soon and bring him to explosion also, then she would simply die from the absolute pleasure she was experiencing with him. He was a superlative lover who knew exactly where to touch her and when to do so. Right now, as he lifted his hips to penetrate her hard and fast, he was rubbing her clit with his thumb. She felt like she was about to explode and she could feel that he was also reaching the point of no return.

Then, when she felt like she could take no more, she felt him tremble and push up hard. This is it, she thought, we are cumming together in perfect unison. Wave after wave of tremors shook her to the very core as he and she reached their climaxes. He was shuddering and growling even as she screamed his name. Their bucking and writhing went on for what seemed like forever until, finally, their bodies collapsed together utterly spent. Nothing could be heard from them but gasping as they tried to regain their breath. She collapsed onto his broad muscular chest her breasts rising and heaving as she felt the final quivers of her orgasm. His cock was still hard and pumping ever smaller bursts of cum within her. Finally, they both caught their breath and began to relax.

Leah had never had such an intense orgasm in her life. She was stunned and speechless. Corey felt the same. He was totally spent. Never before had he cum so hard or so relentlessly. She had, quite literally, squeezed the very last drop from his now truly empty balls. His heart was pounding from the sheer emotion of their union. It swelled with the joy of it. He truly wanted to make love to this woman for eternity. This was exactly what he had needed to drive the sorrow from his heart.

Corey rolled onto his side and then rose to his knees on the bed. He leaned down and kissed her not with passion but with a tenderness born of love. Then he took her face in his hands and said in a voice full of all the emotion he was feeling,

“Now I know the true meaning of Christmas and what it is to be so beautifully gifted by love. Yes, I said love. I know it is only hours since we first met but, in my heart of hearts, I know that I will love you until my last breath. I can only hope that you feel the same”

Leah’s eyes filled with tears not of sadness but of joy,

“My darling man!” she replied, “Of course I feel the same. Love has no time limits. Whether we met hours, days or years ago I know without doubt that I was meant to meet and love you this Christmas. It was out destiny. Fate brought us together for a reason and I truly believe that. We were meant to be. We are a Christmas gift to each other. A gift that heals wounds and brings hope! Merry Christmas my darling. Merry Christmas”

“And a Merry Christmas to you my love. Now and forever”

The End

© Tara Devaney-Thompson 2016


Tied With A Red Velvet Bow by Laurie Lee


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Our day begins
As dawn arises
Upon the fluffy snow
As it glisten so

Arising from sleep
My love inside me
I realize today
Is our anniversary

It sure has been
A glorious year
Of love and sex
And passion aplenty

My one true love
And forever soulmate
Has shown me all
Without ever asking

I love him so
And will show him now
With a little gift
That he sure will enjoy

So after we climax
And settle down
I excuse myself
To get his gift

Upon emerging
His eyes open wide
As I am before him
All ready and alive

My heels upon me
So sexy and high
With nothing else on
But the bow I tied

It is sexy and lovely
A beautiful color
All that he wants
Is wrapped all under

It so reminds me
Of our wedding day
From last December
In a special way

I took it upon myself
To give him his card
Sauntering over
For him to appreciate

He reads the card
In his sexy voice
With such adoration
It is hard to believe

“To my forever love
My one and only
Please enjoy your present
Tied with a red velvet bow

Happy Anniversary
Forever more
Our love so great
From our heart and soul”

 © Laurie Lee 2016.

For more from Laurie…


Red Velvet Bow by Amanda Williams


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A merry christmas all around
Lots of laughter to be found
Children playing everywhere
Some other people should be there
The ones looking from above
The ones who we still love
Isn’t the same without them here
Gone is some of christmas cheer

A child all alone looking up at the sky
Grandad this year, you won’t come by
Looking on is a mother full of love
Darling they see us from above
You may even miss them a lot
Trust me though they haven’t forgot

See the stars twinkling up high
That is him watching you with pride
He’s in your heart so he’ll always be near
There with your joys and your fears

The child looks up and smiles
So full of love and so fragile
The mother pats him on the head
Time for you to go to bed

Sweet dreams my child and dont you fret
Lots of toys in the morning you’ll get
The child turned around and said
Just before I go off to bed
I hope that the morning comes quick
Tonight I may get a glimpse of old saint nick

I would tell him I dont need many toys
I would rather give to other girls and boys
The mother smiled and said goodnight
Santa will soon be here then take up flight

Later on that starry night
The boy woke with a fright
There was a noise from down the stairs
He had to be careful and to beware
Overhead he heard bells, and a loud ho ho ho!
Under the tree was a gift tied with a red velvet bow

The gift had a small silver locket inside
With a note that simply said wear me with pride
For it contained a picture of grandad and a star
So that he would be with him wherever they are


© Amanda Williams 2016.

For more from Amanda…


Sleigh Ride by Aurora Stoan


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The sleigh sits in the glistening snow,

Tied with a red velvet bow.

Twelve sled dogs raring to go,

Wanting to plough through the fresh snow.

Waiting to take the beautiful bride dressed in white,

To her groom on her wedding day.

To say her vows under the starry sky,

Beneath the mesmerising northern lights.

With the sound of “mush” the dogs take off,

Yelping with delight they race.

Taking her with them to the special place,

The place she will stand and say “I do”.

When one person becomes two.

© Aurora Stoan 2016.

For more from Aurora…


Angel’s Redemption by Raven Anxo


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Angel’s Redemption

(Raven Anxo)




Raphael, or as he was currently known, Raph Masters, stared out through the lodge window at the snow covered peaks sparkling under the moonlight. His thoughts far away from where he stood. Their focus? A fair haired, blue eyed female by the name of Miranda Dove. The first time he had seen her he’d known she was the part of his soul he had been searching for. Her light would stop him falling into the dark, condemning him to an eternity deprived of that which his kind needed. Unfortunately for him she was completely oblivious to that which made his situation more difficult than it already was.

Needing to clear his head he walked into the small hallway, removing his shirt and shoes before opening the front door and stepping out into the freezing night. His exhales of breath visible in the air he stood unphased by both the freezing temperatures and the light flakes of falling snow. Walking a few feet away from the lodge he stopped and waited.

Imperceptible at first the air began to shimmer around him as his back rippled, the change suddenly growing in intensity as two large wings exploded outwards, stretching out as far as they could as if relishing the freedom they now had. Moonlight danced across the feathers, the slightest movement making them shimmer in the light – well most of them. The translucent ones were a stark contrast to the white. The intruders were a reminder of his beginning decent into the dark, and at the rate they were starting to appear, Raph figured he only had just over three days before the last feather faded and his light was extinguished forever.

Turning his gaze towards the sky he looked at the twinkling dots of light, each struggling to cast its glow on the world. How much longer would he be able to soar upwards, to see their beauty up close? How many hours were left before the blessing of flight was stripped away, leaving him locked into a world which was alien to him. His only hope, his only salvation was a female who had no clue as to his true nature, and to save himself he had to bare that secret and pray she accepted his words as the truth they were.

“Not tonight,” he whispered as he flexed his wings and soared skywards. Tonight was for reveling in what he was and what he could do – while he was still able.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

Miranda stood by the window of her lodge, a steaming cup of hot chocolate held in her hands to chase away the cold of the night. Her decision to take the vacation had come out of nowhere, a sudden impulse she couldn’t fight which was unlike her. She was always the one to weigh up the pros and cons of any situation, never leaping in to anything feet first. Caution, that was her watch word. Well it had been until the day she’d started walking past the travel agents and a picture caught her eye. Before she knew it she had gone inside, booked the vacation, and walked out with the tickets and itinerary in her hands.

A sip of her rapidly cooling drink taken, she moved away from the window and over to the high backed chair by the burning fire. If there was anything good that had come out of her crazy decision, it was meeting Raph Masters. Black shoulder length hair, gun metal gray eyes set in a face male models would kill for, and a body women would lust and drool over. She had first seen him sitting in one of the outdoor hot baths; his broad shoulders and muscular chest had quite a few of the females visiting them ogling him, and as much as she was ashamed to admit it she had been one of them. Her mind began wondering what had laid hidden beneath the bubbling, steaming water. Just the memory of that had her body waking up and paying attention. “I’m not here on a man hunt,” she chastised herself. Unfortunately, her body wasn’t paying any attention to her words.

Placing her cup on the small table to her side, Miranda let the heat from the fire seep into her body to chase the chill away. Slowly she relaxed allowing sleep to creep up on her. Cushion behind her back shifted so she could rest her head on it, she turned slightly onto her right side and drifted off.





The first rays of sunlight breaking through the cloud cover warned Raphael of the approaching dawn. It also told him it was time to return to earth and resume his pursuit of Miranda. Three days left in which to not only convince her to bind herself to him for eternity, but to get her to accept that not only did angels exist, but that he was one. “That’s going to be so easy,” he muttered, sarcasm lacing his words as his feet touched the snow covered ground. As his wings disappeared from view he walked back to his lodge, the sound of the layer of freshly fallen snow crunching under his bare feet echoing into the air.

Pushing the pine door open as he reached it he walked inside, the heat from the still burning fire hitting him. A sharp contrast to the cold that had wrapped around his bare torso as he’d soared through the night sky. He’d taken his wings for granted, assumed they’d always be a part of him. Never in his darkest nightmares could he have contemplated the possibility of not only losing the ability to fly, but also losing the light. You knew this day would come. Yes, he had. All of his kind had to find the other half of their soul. That was something they couldn’t escape or avoid. What he’d hoped for was more time before his wings began their change. Unfortunately his time had vanished before he’d realized, leaving him to find his soul mate, convince her of what he was, and to spend eternity with him all in the space of seventy two short hours. “I’m fucked,” he grunted as he sat down.

“Maybe you are, and maybe you aren’t,” called a familiar voice from behind him.

Launching from his chair, Raphael spun around to face the voice’s owner. “Zarall? What the hell are you doing here?”

“Nice to see you too, brother,” Zarall chuckled before walking to stand with his back to the fire, rubbing his hands on his ass to warm it up. “What is with you and bloody cold climates? Why couldn’t you have picked some place like Bermuda?”

“I happen to like the cold,” Raphael mumbled. “Besides, this time I have more than that reason to be here.”

“I know. She’s here, isn’t she.”


“Why haven’t you claimed her yet?”

“Because it’s not that simple.”

“Sure it is,” Zarall replied, turning to warm his front. “Just go down, tell her what she is to you, what you are, and claim her.”

Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at his brother, Raphael crossed his arms over his chest as he looked at him. “Human females are different. Do you recall what happened when Camael went down that route?”

“Yes,” came the answer as Zarall turned to face him. “She fled, leaving him to descend into the darkness. Last I heard he was working as a hunter for some demon.”

“That is not a path I intend to walk; therefore, I’m taking it slowly.”

“Slowly? For fuck’s sake my brother, you have seventy two hours left. You can’t afford to take it bloody slow!”

He knew that. He didn’t need a reminder of how dicey his position was. “Tell me then,” he asked, uncrossing his arms as he stepped up to his angelic brother. “What the hell do you propose I do? Well, apart from your previous suggestion.”

“The time you have left isn’t long, which is why I think my original idea is best. But,” Zarall said, raising a hand to stop any argument Raphael may put forward, “with reservations I accept what you have said. Therefore, we need to put our heads together and come up with a sure fired, guaranteed to work plan.”

Raphael shook his head as Zarall moved away from the fire and towards the kitchen. Something told him the next few hours were going to be nothing if not interesting.

~ ~ ~ * ~ ~ ~

A shiver ran through Miranda as she woke. Her body letting its objections about moving be known as she shifted her position on the chair. Seemed the warmth from the now out fire had been enough to make her sleep soundly. “I’m so going to pay for this,” she huffed, getting to her feet to head into the kitchen for some breakfast.

As she stood waiting for her eggs and bacon to cook, Miranda stared out through the small window. At some point during the night snow had fallen, wiping away any trace of her footsteps. Her unblemished surroundings reminding her just how isolated the lodge was, and she loved it. Her work in a busy office had a tendency to overwhelm her with the noise and hustle and bustle everyday brought with it. Silence was hard to find in the middle of New York City, but the South Tyrol provided her with the peace she wanted.

Once breakfast was done she was tempted to visit one of the villages not far from her location, but the pull of the mountains was just too strong to ignore. So a walk through the snow with only her thoughts for company was chosen. “Breakfast and coffee first though,” she nodded, plating up her food and pouring a coffee before sitting at the small table.


An hour later everything was washed up and put away and she stood in the hall, jeans tucked into her snow boots, jumper and gloves on, and coat taken from the wall hook. “Time to hit the cold,” she smiled, slipping the coat on and zipping it up before stepping outside to sink ankle deep into the fresh snow. It took her a while to find her rhythm but once she did Miranda lost herself in the beauty of the scenery around her. No noise, no people pushing and shoving, no nothing. The only sounds heard were her breathing and the crunch of snow as she continued forward. For two hours she walked before reluctantly starting back towards her lodge to try and warm up her numb extremities. Half way back and with her concentration not where it should be she tripped over something, falling flat on her face and wrenching her ankle as she hit the snow. “Only I could trip over snow,” she grumbled, struggling to get upright. The second she tried to put weight on the damaged ankle, Miranda discovered a big problem – it wasn’t going to co-operate. To make matters worse her lodge wasn’t even in sight. The prospect of turning into a frozen, permanent part of the landscape really wasn’t appealing. If she couldn’t make it back though, that was the fate she faced. “Where’s Santa and his sleigh when you really need them?” Teeth gritted against the pain she knew was coming, she hobbled three steps forward before her ankle gave out again, sending a spike of pain shooting up her leg as she tumbled forward into the snow. Panic now taking hold she turned onto her back, looked towards the sky and started yelling for help, knowing it was going to take a miracle for someone to hear her, let alone find her.





Two hours of listening to Zarall had been all Raphael managed to take before grabbing his jacket and leaving the lodge. He didn’t need to be told over and over again how desperate the situation was. He knew and no amount of talking or chiding was going to change his looming future. What he needed was a miracle, and those were in short supply. “How in the hell am I going to approach her?” he asked the air, receiving an unexpected answer a few seconds later as he heard someone yelling for help. Never one to turn his back on someone in distress, Raphael nonetheless resisted the urge to summon his wings to fly directly to where the person yelling, was. Instead he tapped into his powers, harnessing their strength to give him the speed he needed to get to the area fast.

The moment he arrived and caught sight of the source of the yelling, he didn’t know whether to be pleased or worried. Seemed the miracle he’d thought wouldn’t happen, had, and his soul mate lay on the snow a few feet from him. “What happened?” he asked, walking closer.

“Seems I’m the only person on the planet who can trip over snow,” came a frustrated reply.

“I doubt that,” Raphael replied, resisting the urge to laugh at her comment. “Can you stand at all?”

“Stand, yes. Walk, no. I’ve done a number on my ankle and it’s decided not to co-operate on the walking front.”

“Best not to try then,” he replied. Crouching down he carefully picked her up, making sure she was secure in his arms before standing. The moment she moved and came into contact with his chest, he felt a part of him shift. It was like his soul wanted to leave him to join with hers.

“This is so embarrassing,” he heard her mumble, pulling him away from his confusing thought.

“We all fall over at some point,” he replied in an effort to try and make her feel better as he turned around.

“Have you tripped over snow?”

“Ummm, no I haven’t”

“See that just proves I’m a klutz. By the way, where are we going?”

“My lodge isn’t far from here. Once you are resting I can check your ankle.”

“I don’t want to be a bother.”

“Trust me, you aren’t.”


Gods, could the situation be any more embarrassing? The male her body went gooey over had to be the one who found her. Yep, her luck just kept getting better. Maybe she should wear a sign saying something along the lines of “walking disaster.” At least that way people would have a general idea of what to expect from her.

“We’ve arrived,” said a voice which sent certain parts of her body into party mode. “Please behave,” she mumbled low.

“Did you say something?”

“Me? No, nothing at all,” she replied, struggling to get out of his arms. A move soon regretted as her feet hit the floor and her ankle gave out sending her crashing to the ground. Turning her head to look at her rescuer, Miranda gave him a wry smile. “Just point me to a chair and I’ll crawl over.”

“No you won’t.”

Before she could protest she found herself held in those strong arms again, her body more than thrilled at the closeness. This was all kinds of wrong, but given her situation there was nothing she could do to extricate herself from it. Placed gently down onto a chair by a fire, she watched him as he carefully lifted her leg onto a foot stool before removing the boot to examine her ankle.

“There’s some swelling there, so I’ll grab an ice pack and put it on. Before you ask I doubt you will be able to walk on that for a while, so it seems you are stuck with my company.”

Stuck? That wasn’t the word she’d have chosen. Enjoy would have been better. “I’m sorry to have put you out.”

“You haven’t. Now just relax and I’ll sort out that ice pack for you.”

Watching him leave it took all her strength not to drool over his firm ass which was hugged by tight jeans. Gods what a beautiful sight. For a moment she wanted to see if a quarter could be bounced off it. The second the thought registered she let out a low groan. Her libido was going to be the death of her, she was sure of it.

The sounds of a conversation taking place in the kitchen reached her, thankfully shifting her mind away from ever more licentious thoughts. It was a good job as well because she was worried she might spontaneously combust if she got much hotter.

“This should help,” she heard him say as he returned, ice pack in hand.

Ice pack? Oh yes, bad ankle. Shaking her head, Miranda smiled at him. “Sorry if I’ve interrupted something.”

“Interrupted something?”

“I heard you talking to someone in the kitchen.”

“Oh. I was on my phone talking to a friend.”

Gaze narrowing as he placed the ice pack on her ankle, she wondered if he was telling the truth because the phone service tended to be spotty where they were. Maybe he made a connection at the right time. True. She had no clue as to why she’d doubted him. “Thank you for coming to my rescue, Mr. Masters.”

“How do you know my name?”

“I ummm, may have seen you at one of the outdoor hot baths and heard someone say your name.”

“Ah. Well I have a confession to make,” Raphael smiled. “I know yours as well, Miss Miranda Dove. I saw you watching me and asked around for your name.”

The embarrassment she’d felt at more or less admitting ogling him vanished on hearing his confession.

“Is the ice pack helping?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“Good. Let me grab a couple of cups of hot chocolate then we can relax.”

With her body doing the internal mambo and her mind creating its own version of the kama sutra, there was no way she would be able to relax. And that was going to make for a long afternoon and an even longer night.





Hands braced against the sink as he rested back against it, Raphael let out a long breath. Zarall had left after being told what had happened, but said he’d return later for a progress report. What the hell did his brother expect him to achieve in a few short hours? He wasn’t sure how to broach the subject he had to. How did one start a conversation which was going to change Miranda’s life forever? “Here’s your hot chocolate. Oh by the way I’m an angel, you are my soul mate destined to save me, so let’s get to it.” Oh yeah, that would work real well – not. Tapping his fingers along the edge of the sink he struggled to come up with a way of at least starting a conversation which would lead down the right path. “Maybe I need to just wing it,” he shrugged, the irony of the words not being lost on him. Pushing away from the sink he made two steaming mugs of hot chocolate. “Guess I’d better make a start,” he sighed, picking up the mugs and walking back into the main room.


“Here you go,” he said as he handed over a mug. “Be careful it’s still on the hot side.”

“Thank you.”

Their fingers touched, sending a fire coursing through him which threatened to explode outwards. Struggling to regain his composure Raphael sat opposite Miranda, watching as she blew across the top of her mug to cool the hot chocolate. The small o her lips formed making him wonder what they tasted like, what they would feel like when pressed against his skin. “Get back on track you idiot,” he grumbled.


“Nothing. So, Miranda, how long are you here for?”

“This is the second week of my vacation. Seven days left and then I have to return to my job in New York City.”

“I gather from your tone you don’t want to.”

“Not really. I don’t think I’m cut out for the rat race.”

“Ever considered a change of career?” he asked before taking a sip of his drink.

“Sometimes. To be honest there are times I just want to leave everything behind, go somewhere no one knows me to start fresh.”

What he was going to ask her to do would certainly fulfil that desire. “I think that will happen for you soon.”

“It would be nice. Until it does I intend to enjoy the rest of my holiday.”

Tell her what you are. No, now wasn’t the time. When will be? The clock is ticking you know. He did bloody well know! With his frustration building he knew he had to get outside, take to the skies. “Get some rest,” he said placing his half finished hot chocolate down on the side table. “I need to head outside to check on the log supplies.”

“Rest does sound pretty good,” a sleepy sounding voice murmured.

Getting up he took the mug from her hands, placing it next to his before heading into the bedroom to get a blanket to cover her legs with. Once sure she was asleep he slipped his shirt and boots off then walked outside. Even though it was still daylight the area was secluded enough for him to risk taking to the air. Wings set free from their confines he brought them forward to see how many more feathers had faded, noticing to his dismay that over a third on each wing were now translucent. There was no point in dwelling on the changes, he needed to clear his mind enough to speak with Miranda about what he was. Wings stretched out to his sides he leapt into the air, letting them take over as he soared upwards.

~ * ~

The sound of a door clicking closed roused Miranda from the sleep taking hold of her. Looking around she wondered where Raph had gone before remembering he’d said something about checking the logs outside. Shifting her position to move the ice pack, she carefully stood. The moment her damaged ankle took some weight it threatened to go out from under her again. Unfortunately, her bladder decided its need was greater than a damaged ankle, so she hopped from the main room in search of the bathroom, finding it before her lack of exercise caught up with her.

Hopping back into the main room once she’d finished, she went over to a chair by the large glass doors which led out to a deck. As she sat down, Miranda glanced out through the glass and caught sight of something large wheeling through the sky. To her it looked too large to be a bird so what was it? Suddenly it vanished from view leaving her even more confused. If she didn’t know better she could swear her sanity was running away.

How long she continued to stare out the doors she had no clue, it was only when she heard Raph call her name that she dragged her focus from the blank sky. “I’m by the large doors.”

“You are supposed to be resting,” he said, a note of disapproval running through his words.

“I needed the bathroom, then when I came back I decided on a change of view. Tell me,” she asked. “Are there large birds around here, I mean really large ones?”

“Not that I’m aware of, why?”

“Because I saw something wheeling through the sky a while ago and to me it looked like no bird I’ve ever seen.” As she finished talking she caught sight of a strange expression on his face before he took a step back.

“Give me a moment.”

Before she could say anything, he walked away towards the hallway. What had she said that sparked such a strange reaction?

Tapping her fingers on the chair arms she continued to look in the direction he’d vanished to, seeing him reappear five minutes later holding a small box in his hands.

“Do you believe in angels?” he asked, sitting opposite her.

“I guess. Wait, you aren’t going to tell me that thing I saw in the sky was an angel?” The look on his face as she finished speaking had her wondering if she wasn’t the only one with vanishing sanity. “You are, aren’t you. That is crazy.”

“Why? Many things are taken on faith, so why can’t you accept that angels are real?”

“Because, well just because.”

“That’s not a strong argument you know,” Raph replied as he handed over the box he held.

Eyebrow arched as she opened it, Miranda saw a white feather tied with a red velvet bow. Carefully removing it from the box which she placed to one side, she looked at it. No matter which way she moved the long feather, rainbows seemed to dance across the whiteness. Curious, she shifted her attention back to Raph. “What is this for?”

“What you hold is a feather taken from the wing of an angel.”

About to burst out laughing she stopped herself on catching sight of the sincerity of his words shining in his eyes. “You believe that, don’t you? Why? How do you know it came from an angel?”

“Because I took it from my wing. I was what you saw flying through the sky. I am an angel, my name is Raphael, and you are the other half of my soul.”

“I’m…,” the sentence left unfinished as information overload fried her brain, dragging her into unconsciousness…


© Raven Anxo 2016.

For more from Raven…


Amazon links for A Thirst For Vengeance:



The Gift by Chris Kuhn


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The Gift

By Chris Kuhn



She had left the gift there in a box.

Tied with a red velvet bow so many years ago.

When she was told to put down that glistening, colorfully garbed present, for it was too early to unwrap.

Or to get those rebellious fingers out of the decadent bridge mix for they had sneaked into the candy dish too many times already. Supper would be spoiled.

And when she started to cry because she was told a jolly man who could make each dream come true were all pretend and he disappeared in a puff of smoke, something else vanished that day.


Her head was always in a book.

Sometimes she would peek over the edge of the page, only to find no one staring back. Until one day, someone was, and the most exhilarating rush overtook her.

The smell of roses filled her small apartment, she clutched on tightly to his promise tied with a red velvet bow as ‘I love you’ and ‘I do’ wrapped her in hope for the future.

Blind to truth she could not see, this man dissolved into dust as pretense fell away and with it her notion of happily ever after. She would gather the pieces into a silk scarf and tuck away her heart. For now.


She lined her path with pretty words. She knew she held a power to wield them.

Words that could unearth the hidden meaning of our sighs, bring more clarity to the horizon or pull us out of rough currents if used as a life preserve and not an anchor.

Nothing easy to say could be carved without careful placement of the right words, meticulously chosen and weighed for their worth beside each other and neatly lined up in a row. A complex thought, a strategic proposal, an emotional waterfall wrapped and tied with a red velvet bow.

She had no idea where words might take her and the possibility intoxicated. But with every sentence she wandered deeper into her own forest, closer to the perimeter of a burial ground of submerged memory and forgotten promises to herself. As each suspenseful page turned, she got a little bit closer to the conclusion of her own story. And this frightened the hell out of her.


She never thought about the past before but its ghosts rose to the surface. Summoned by her own words.

Experiences that shaped who she had become and who she knew she could never be though she had tried so hard. Dimensions of her character she did not always understand but had grown to accept. Parts of her she wished away but refused to leave.

Why is it we muster the courage to change our life only when we no longer possess the time nor energy to do so?

Life becomes that perfectly wrapped present under the tree you simply must not touch. Or the tempting candy dish you dare not divulge in exploring, because that would be wrong. We still allow ourselves to believe in magic men who will solve all our problems and bring us everything we could ever want, beautifully swathed in glorious color and sparkle, tied with a red velvet bow. But the light in our eyes has dimmed as our expectations wane.

Would we trade in every drop of what we know to be true to believe again? To hold wonder and awe and joy, and never, ever let go, no matter who insisted that we should? Of course we would! Every day of our lives, and not just during the merriest time of year.

And, oh, what a gift that would be.



© Chris Kuhn 2016

Below are links for Chris Kuhn, author of THE MUSE UNLOCKED and OUR SEASONS, available in print and Kindle on Amazon.com. To purchase her published work, visit Chris’s author page on Amazon.com.


Website: www.chriskuhnauthor.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/chriskuhnwrites

Twitter: www.twitter.com/chriskuhnauthor

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/chriskuhnauthor


A Cat Is For Life, Not Just For Christmas by Shelli Rosewarne


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“What the hell am I supposed to do with that?”

Rhys glowered at the little black furball. It ignored him with the supreme indifference that only cats seemed to possess. A small pink tongue ran over its paw, then smoothed over sleek black fur.

“It’s not rocket science, Rhys. All she needs is a bit of food and a litter box. And you could do with the company.”

“I do not need company,” Rhys snapped. “I’m just fine on my own. Wait… litter box? I am not having cat crap stinking out my apartment.”

“Don’t be ridiculous!” Esme was starting to sound exasperated now. It was her usual tone around him. Of course, it might not be if she didn’t constantly insist on trying to interfere in his life. “Cats are very clean. Just scoop it out every day and it won’t smell at all.”

Rhys fixed both her and the cat with his best, ‘no chance in hell,’ stare. “It is completely irrelevant whether it smells or not because I am not keeping it. You can just take the damn thing back where you bought it from.”

“Oh, Rhys, come on. I got her from the shelter and I can’t just take her back again. Just keep her for a few days, if you really hate having her round that much then we’ll take her. The kids will no doubt be happy for another pet but you know we’re away for Christmas. And I really think you should reconsider coming with us. I don’t like you being on your own.”

Rhys gave a silent groan. Fine, lesser of two evils then.

“But how could I possibly come when I would have no one to cat-sit for me?” He asked her silkily.

Esme snorted. “I’m not even going to call you on that, as long as you take the cat.” Her voice softened. “Look, pets are good for some company – you’ve been too much on your own since Elise.”

He set his jaw. “I do not wish to discuss Elise. Just give me the damn cat.”

She handed the animal over and he eyed it gingerly. Emerald green eyes blinked up at him. He flicked at the red ribbon round its neck.

“You felt the need to wrap it up for me?” He asked wryly.

Esme smiled, tickling the animal under its chin. “It was a special Christmas thing at the shelter. ‘Tied with a red velvet bow’ they called it. All the animals had them. Isn’t it adorable?”

“Yeah, just precious.”

Esme sighed, leaning over to kiss him on the cheek. “Just give it a chance, Rhys. Please, for me.”

Damn it, he’d never been able to refuse her pleading. One of the main reasons he always got stuck in these situations.

“Fine,” he grumbled. “But just over Christmas. When you get back you can tell the kids they have a new furry plaything.”

“We’ll see.” Esme shot him that smug sister grin that said she thought she’d won. Yeah, right. Not this time. She pulled him into a quick hug. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas. Give my love to the kids – oh, and I sent their pressies over.”

Esme laughed. “I noticed. The pile gets bigger every year – you spoil them.”

Rhys shrugged. Who else was he going to spend his money on these days?

“Safe trip.”

Esme kissed him again and finally left him in peace. Well, not exactly peace. He glared at the black furball. Great, just what he needed. It tilted its head and gave him a little miaow.

“Yeah, yeah. Trust me, I’m not happy about it either.”



Rhys sprawled back on the couch, trying to find anything worth watching on TV. Cheesy Christmas movie after movie. Seriously, not everyone in the world had to fucking love Christmas. What was the point in it, after all? Peace and love – yeah right. What made it worse was that last year he’d actually thought things were different. That he’d found someone to share his life with, to share the season with. Instead, she’d just been a lying bitch.

His fingers clenched on the cut glass tumbler and he tilted it back, letting the deep amber liquid slide down his throat. Fuck that. He was better off on his own anyway.


A black furry face appeared on the arm of the sofa.

“No,” he snapped. “Get off the furniture.”

Miaow. The stupid furball completely ignored him, instead jumping up to the back of the sofa and delicately stepping along it.

“No!” He repeated louder. “Get down.” He pointed at the floor.

For fuck’s sake. It was definitely a female cat. Blatantly ignoring every word he said. With a low curse, he stretched back, scooped it up and dumped it onto the floor. She sat there a moment, blinking, and then jumped straight back up again.

“No!” Rhys shouted, putting her back on the floor again. “Stay!” He wagged his finger at her.

Miaow. And straight back up again.

Fine, the stupid thing could sit there if it was so important. He sure as hell wasn’t doing this all night. Groaning he slumped back down on the sofa, taking another gulp from his glass. Great, another female driving him to drink. Must be fucking Christmas. He switched the channel to some mindless action flick and rested his head back against the sofa back. His eyes closed.

A faint vibrating started near his head and he cracked one eye open. Purring. The damn cat was purring away.

“What’re you so happy about?” He grumbled.

It was kinda soothing though. Sort of relaxing, though he’d never admit that to his sister. Nope, when she came back after Christmas that cat was out of here. He yawned. Yup, out of here.


A soft hand stroked his cheek and Rhys slowly opened his eyes. Emerald green eyes stared down at him from the most beautiful face he had ever seen. Glossy black hair hung in silken sweeps and when he managed to finally drag his eyes away from that face he gulped. Holy shit! The mystery woman was wearing a red velvet dress that clung to her lush curves like a second skin. Okay, he was dreaming. Damn good dream as well.

She bent over him, a low neckline giving him an enticing glimpse of creamy breasts. His cock twitched. A slow smile curved her mouth and all he wanted to do was capture those lips. Suck the full lower one between his teeth. Nibble lower down her white neck. She leaned closer, her lips brushing his in a light kiss that still sent heat searing through him. When she pulled back slightly though he was shocked to see sadness in those beautiful green eyes. A woman like this should never be sad. He reached out a hand to touch her cheek, her skin petal soft beneath his fingertips.

“Help me,” she whispered.


“Fuck!” Rhys sat up on the couch, spilling the last of his drink down his shirt.

A dream. It had been just a dream. The TV was stuck on some night screen so it must be later than he’d thought. He scrubbed a hand wearily over his face. God damn, he’d never dreamed in that kind of vivid detail; he could still feel her soft skin beneath his fingers, hear her smokey voice ringing in his ears. Help me, she’d said. Help her how?

Just a dream! He stumbled to his feet. A furry brush against his legs made him jump. The cat was busy wrapping itself round his legs.

“You trying to kill me, stupid cat?” He muttered.

Damn, he needed to get some proper sleep. Groaning he undressed and dropped into bed. A part of him desperately hoping to see his dream girl again.


He woke up to a cold and grey morning, after a dreamless sleep. A weight was pressing down on him. What the hell? Rhys looked down to a black furry shape curled up right on his chest. Oh hell, no.

“Oi!” He poked it with a finger.

Green eyes opened a slit to stare at him. Odd, that shade of green. Almost like… Nope, that was a ridiculous thought. He sat up, dislodging the cat who gave a little yowl of protest.

“Get down,” he ordered it. “Off the furniture and definitely off me!”

Annoying little fluffball and he really did need to get that stupid red ribbon off it. Of course, he didn’t fancy getting scratched up in the process, so maybe later.

Stretching, he got out of bed, washed, dressed, fed himself and grudgingly the cat as well, then set off for work. Last day before it closed for the holidays. If he was honest, he would have quite happily worked straight through. His staff apparently had this overwhelming need to spend it with family though, so what was he supposed to do? The day was quiet at least, mostly dealing with odds and ends that needed to be cleared up before the Christmas break. It left him too much time for day-dreaming though and he couldn’t seem to stop his thoughts drifting time and again to his dream woman of last night. By the time it was finally time to leave he was crabby and out-of-sorts, having to paste on a smile in order to wish his secretary and the rest of his team a Happy Christmas.

Eventually he was home, flinging the door open to delicate miaows and yet more furry leg tripping.

“You are definitely trying to kill me,” he muttered. “Who’s gonna feed you then, hairball?”

The cat didn’t seem to care and he grumbled as he fed it and then himself. When he was sprawled on the sofa again he allowed himself a moment of self-pity. It was Christmas Eve tomorrow. It wasn’t like he bought into the whole holiday season but damn it might be nice to have something to do other than sit round the house watching lousy TV on his own. He gave a wry snort as he gulped down some of his drink, ice-cubes tinkling.

“Never alone with a single malt, huh?”


“Oh fuck off!” He groused as the cat jumped onto the back of the sofa again. “I’d rather have the whisky, and will you get off the bloody furniture?”

He’d probably get more response from the alcohol. What he should do was get up and move the damn thing off the sofa but he was comfy and it would only jump back up again. Was there really any point? He sighed. This was probably how crazy cat ladies started out. He downed the whisky. Stupid holidays.


The silky brush of hair against his face made him open his eyes. She was bending over him and he hadn’t realised until that moment just how desperate he’d been to see her again.

“You,” he breathed.

She smiled at him. “My Rhys.”

Heat curled through him, her voice stroking down his spine and the way she claimed him going straight to his cock. Her lips brushed against his and his fingers sank into her hair, dragging her closer until she was sprawled across his lip, soft curves crushed against his chest.

“What’s your name?” Rhys managed to get out. Maybe it didn’t matter since it was a dream anyway, but somehow he needed to know. Needed to give this vision of perfection a name in his mind.

“My name is Ariana.”

It suited her. Mysterious, exotic, unlike anyone he’d ever known before. He kissed her again, hands sliding down her back, caressing her curves, over her hips, her ass, cupping the sweet globes and squeezing them against him. She whimpered, rocking herself against his already straining cock. Damn, you’d think he’d have more control over his dream cock, instead at this rate he was going to embarrass himself like he hadn’t since he was a teenager.

Ariana slid off his lap to stand in front of him. Her lips curved again as she held out a hand, helping him up off the couch and leading him unerringly to the bedroom. She turned to face him, flashing him a wicked grin before reaching behind her and slowly sliding down the zip on her dress. It slipped down her shoulders, revealing perfect breasts topped with tiny pink nipples, already puckered towards him. Rhys bit his lip on a groan. The red dress slipped further to pool at her feet, revealing long legs encased in stockings, complete with little red bows at the tops, and the teeniest pair of red velvet panties.

Rhys gulped. Hot damn! Dream imagination was really coming up trumps tonight. And why the hell was he just standing here when he could wake up any minute? Reaching out he pulled her against him, lips crushing hers, before feathering kisses down her neck, over her collarbone, then heading lower to those mouth-watering nipples. He licked a slow path around one, before suckling it into his mouth. She tasted like heaven and all he wanted was to explore every inch of her.

He supposed it made sense since he’d imagined her, but damn it was like she was made for him. His every fantasy brought to life. She responded perfectly to every touch, her body arching against him, little whimpers and moans rising up from her throat until his cock felt like it would burst out of his pants.

Her hands peeled off his clothes, fingers stroking along his chest, down his sides and brushing his thighs, before cupping his cock. Fuck.

Rhys gently pushed her back onto the bed, staring down at her laid out before him. Creamy skin, flushed cheeks and just a glimpse of glistening dampness between her legs.

“Fucking perfect,” he whispered, one hand sliding reverently up her side.

Her green eyes glowed up at him and she reached up her arms, pulling him down onto her. Groaning he covered her body with his, his cock probing at her entrance, before sliding deep in one long thrust. Dear God, he never wanted to wake up. This was perfection. This right here, inside her. No place had ever felt so right in his life. Her slick walls wrapped round him, hot and wet, and her hips arched up to meet him, sending him deeper.

Unable to help himself, he began to thrust. Deep strokes that had her moaning against him. He moved faster, stronger, sensations building within him as her head thrashed and her moans rose in volume. God, she was stunning. He bent his head, capturing her lips, and those deep green eyes stared straight into his. Fuck. It was suddenly so much more. Like she was not only claiming his body but his soul as well, and he willingly handed it over to her. One of her tiny hands reached up, cupping his cheek. Then she cried out, her back arching and core clenching around him as her orgasm rushed over her.

“Rhys!” She cried. The sound of his name on her lips enough to send him into his own release.

When he could finally move again, he managed to clean them up and tucked her against his side. Too exhausted to do anything more than appreciate the feel of her soft skin against him. One hand lazily stroked circles on her hip. Weirdly he felt like he could almost drift off to sleep. When he was already asleep, right?

“I wish this was real,” he murmured.

Ariana fixed him with those bright green eyes. “You are not dreaming, Rhys.”

“Of course I am.” He laughed. “Or are you telling me the most beautiful woman in the world just decided to break into my house and jump me?”

“You think I’m beautiful?” Her face glowed.

He blinked at her. “You’re my dream woman. Which is one of the many reasons I know I’m dreaming.”

She sighed. “This is not a dream. I fear you won’t believe me when I tell you the truth. But you must for I need your help.”

“Help with what?”

Her body stiffened against him. “I am under a curse. An evil wizard has kept me prisoner for many, many years and even now he seeks to find me again.” Her eyes pinned him, the fear in those deep emerald orbs taking his breath away. “Please, you must not let him take me.”

Rhys held her close. “I will never let anyone take you away from me.”

She smiled again, cuddling closer. He held her, gently stroking her skin, her hair, as she slowly relaxed against him. A soft noise rose up and he frowned.

“Are you purring?”

The noise stopped instantly and she raised sleepy eyes to him. “Of course not, don’t be silly.”

He grinned. She cuddled in again and within minutes the sound started again. It was kinda cute. Soothing almost and his own eyes were closing. Purring women, curses and evil wizards. Damn, he hadn’t known his imagination was anywhere near this good!


Rhys woke to the sound of purring and a smile lit up his lips. She was still here. Maybe, just maybe, by some miracle it hadn’t all been a dream. He stretched out a hand, to be met by nothing but empty sheets. A small miaow drew his attention to his chest. The little furball was curled up there again, green eyes staring right into him. Those eyes… yeah, he was fucking losing it.

“Get off me,” he muttered, sitting up and pushing the cat away.

Maybe he had been alone too much. He’d never been the fanciful type but last night had seemed so real. Maybe in the New Year he would give in to Esme’s constant nagging and let her set him up with someone. And he’d look at getting a fucking dog. That was a normal pet. One that did what it was told. He stepped into the shower almost in a daze, letting the water pour over him, washing away memories. Just a fucking dream.

He dried off in record time, dressed and forced himself to feed the whiney cat. Stupid thing wouldn’t seem to leave him alone, constantly rubbing against his legs with little chirps and miaows. Finally he gave it some cream just to shut it up, which it lapped up happily and then sat delicately washing its whiskers. There was something slightly hypnotic about the process.

He jumped when the doorbell went. Who the hell was that going to be on Christmas Eve? Esme’s flight had left last night and he knew he had no friends who would drop by unannounced. Slowly he walked to the door, flinging it open with more force than it probably needed.

The man stood there was tall, impeccably dressed in a charcoal grey suit, his jet black hair neatly combed back and sharp eyes fixing on Rhys. Strange eyes, almost black they were so dark, and definitely on the intense side.

“Can I help you?” Rhys asked. Jeez the guy better not be selling anything. It was Christmas Eve for fuck’s sake.

“Rhys Kyle?”

He nodded. “Yeah?”

The man smiled and held out his hand. “I’m so sorry to bother you at Christmas. My name is Ashburn Alcarr and I believe you may have my cat.”

Rhys took the outstretched hand, an odd reluctance running through him at the other man’s touch. “Your cat?”

“Yes, indeed. You see there was a terrible mistake and she got out of the house. The shelter picked her up, and I’m sure they thought they were doing the right thing, but they re-homed her. She is a most… precious pet and I have been quite desperate to find her again. I will, of course, reimburse you for any expenses and inconvenience suffered.”

Rhys stared at him. The man was polite to a fault, his voice rich, cultured – obviously had a bob or two. There was just something about Ashburn that set his teeth on edge. The man’s eyes sharpened.

“You do have my cat? All black, green eyes, female. Sweet little thing, though doesn’t take to strangers.”

“I guess so.” Rhys slowly stepped back, letting the man step inside.

This was what he’d wanted right – the cat gone? He couldn’t have envisioned a better scenario, even Esme couldn’t fault him for this. The cat was annoying and never did what it was told and insisted on sleeping on top of him. So, why was every bone in his body screaming out in protest?

Ashburn stepped into the house and Rhys watched as his eyes scanned the place, instantly sharpening as they settled on the little black cat. A slow smile covered his face.

“There you are, little one,” he crooned. “I’ve been searching everywhere for you.”

To his shock the cat’s back arched, ears going back and a low hiss escaping it.

“It doesn’t seem too happy to see you,” he said mildly.

The other man gave a short laugh. “Cats are strange creatures. She will be perfectly happy as soon as she is home where she belongs.”

He moved towards the cat, so fast that Rhys could almost have blinked and missed it, bending down to pick it up. The cat shrieked and claws flashed, before a black streak sped across the room and to Rhys’ shock hid behind his legs.

Ashburn stood up slowly. Blood dripped from three long scratches on his face and the look in those dark eyes was suddenly seriously scary. His gaze shot to the cat behind Rhys.

“You will give me my cat now.” He ordered, voice barely above a hiss.

Rhys could feel the tiny body pressing against his legs, shaking, and the words from his dream last night floated through his head. You must not let him take me.

“No.” He said baldly. “Even if this is your cat then it obviously doesn’t want to go with you. Now, get out of my house.”

The man drew himself up, his eyes almost seeming to glow. Weird. In fact, the shadows in the room seemed to be lengthening, stretching out until thick ribbons of darkness were creeping across the floor towards Rhys and the cat. Ashburn brought up his hands and tiny sparks of fire crackled between his fingers. And weirder. Okay, was he still dreaming?

“You will give me the cat.” Ashburn’s voice had dropped lower and was no longer sounding rich and cultured. Instead it sounded like things were crawling inside it. The flames flared higher and then Ashburn pointed a finger and a small ball of fire shot across the room straight at him. What the fuck? Rhys flung himself to the floor, the flames hitting the wall above him, leaving a nasty black scorch mark on the wall.

“That’s impossible,” he muttered to the cat, still glued to his side. She looked up at him with those big green eyes. “Ariana?” He whispered.

She miaowed and bumped her head against him. Oh, this could not be happening.

Slowly he got to his feet, facing the – well, he guessed evil wizard. Not a sentence he’d ever thought he’d have to think. And what exactly was he supposed to do against a wizard? Fire was already glowing in the man’s hands. Rhys was surprised when the man smiled at him though.

“Think about this. You’ve got involved in something you have no understanding of. Walk away now. In fact, you don’t even need to walk – just look away. I’ll take my cat and you’ll never have to see either of us ever again.”

“No!” He might be in over his head here but there was no way in hell he was never going to see Ariana again. Wizards might be real but that meant so was his dream woman. He just needed to figure out how the hell to save her.

Ashburn’s brows drew in menacingly. “Fine, on your head be it.”

Fire lanced through the air again, faster this time and Rhys barely managed to fling himself to one side in time. The smell of burnt hair tickled his nostrils. Damn, not quite the kind of haircut he’d been planning on. The cat gave a frightened little miaow, bumping him with her head, green eyes anxious.

“I’m okay,” he murmured, one hand gently resting on her head.

A low growl came from across the room.

“You will not touch her,” Ashburn hissed. “She is mine.”

“Yeah, right. Seems like she should get to make her own choice about that.”

“I will end you.” The fire rose higher than ever, the flames reflecting maniacally in Ashburn’s black eyes. He shaped it into a ball, a faint smile on his lips, his gaze fixed on Rhys.

There was nowhere to go. This was how he was going to die – saving a damn cat. In his heart though he knew it was more than that. He just wished he’d been able to do more for her. Crouching down he gently stroked the little cat’s black ears.

“I’m sorry I let you down, Ariana.” He whispered. “While he’s distracted, try and get away. I hope you find your freedom.”

A tiny miaow escaped her as she gently rubbed her cheek against his fingers.

Fine, he could do this. The door was still open, maybe he could at least give her a chance to run. He squared his shoulders and faced Ashburn, taking a step towards the wizard, trying not to flinch at the heat reaching towards him. Ashburn grinned, his hand going back as he aimed the flames towards Rhys.

“I hope it was worth it,” he cackled.

Somehow it was. Rhys waited for the flames to reach him, for death to take him. Instead, a black blur streaked past him. What the…? It looked like cat Ariana, only it was more the size of a small panther than a domestic kitty.

Ashburn screamed as the black weight landed on his chest, knocking him to the ground. The flames surrounding him flickered out.

“Help me!” He cried.

Rhys edged closer. The huge cat had a paw clamped on the wizard’s neck, one sharp claw perfectly poised over the throbbing vein there. As Rhys watched it gently pressed down harder, a thin trickle of blood appearing. A slight queasiness settled in Rhys’ stomach. Ashburn tried to turn his head. Wide, panic-filled eyes pleading with Rhys.

“Please, help me. Get her off me.”

Rhys grinned at him. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Weren’t you about to kill me and imprison her again? Doesn’t seem a lot of incentive there to help you, does there?”

“I won’t hurt you. I swear it!” The man was almost crying as the thin trickle of red seemed to get stronger.

“And what about Ariana?” Rhys snapped. Big green swivelled to him. “You planning on capturing her again? Taking her back with you? Seems like you need to give her a pretty good reason not to swipe those claws right through your throat.”

“I… I’ll leave her alone. I’ll remove her curse and never bother her again. I swear it on the Holy Host and may demons strike me down if I break my word.”

Rhys stared at him a long moment. Ashburn probably deserved to die but he didn’t want his little cat to have to be the one to kill him.

“Ariana?” He murmured softly. “It’s up to you. But he’s done now. I don’t think he’ll bother you again.”

Those green eyes narrowed and for a moment he honestly thought she might do it. Then the claws abruptly retracted and she delicately stepped off his chest, turning her back on him with a swish of her tail. Ashburn rolled over, wheezing and trying frantically to swipe at the blood dripping from his throat. Rhys, gripped his shirt, dragging him up.

“Remove her curse and then leave.” He hissed.

The look the man shot him could have cut glass. But he waved his hands towards Ariana, muttered words escaping him and floating patterns of lights drifting into the air. Ariana gasped, her back arching. Then the giant cat was gone and the woman was there.

“Ariana,” he gasped, racing over to her, gathering her into his arms.

She was shaking, blood still staining one hand, and he reached for the blanket on the sofa to wrap her in. It was then he realised Ashburn had disappeared.

“He’s gone.” He exclaimed.

Ariana nodded. “He is a coward at heart. He will not return, his vow will hold him to that.”

Relief spread over him, causing his knees to sag and he sank onto the couch, gently pulling Ariana with him.

“So, you’re free?”

The smile she shot him lit up her face and caused his heart to stutter. “I am free. Thanks to you.”

Rhys snorted. “I think you were the one who scared the crap out of him. That was one seriously scary kitty.”

She laughed, a low music that slid through him. “That is my normal animal form. Ashburn trapped me in the form of a domestic cat, siphoning my magic so that I was too weak to break away. I could only transform back to human for a short period at once.”

“When you came to me.” He grinned. “I knew my dream imagination wasn’t that good.” He paused. “Wait… your normal animal form? I thought Ashburn cursed you into being a cat.”

“He limited my form to keep me from being able to escape or to fight him. I did not think I had enough magic left in me to transform to my true cat form, but when I saw him about to kill you I knew I could not let it happen.”

Rhys stroked a hair through her silky hair, unable to believe it was all real, that she was here with him – that she wasn’t quite… human? What did that mean for them?

“So, what now?” A part of him cursed himself for asking but he needed to know. “Do you have a male cat and a whole litter of kittens you’re supposed to be getting back to?” The thought formed a hard knot in his stomach.

Ouch! Her nails scored into his shoulder, almost drawing blood, and her eyes flashed at fire at him.

“You think I would sleep with you if I had a man already? Is this the kind of behaviour that humans engage in?”

He met her furious gaze. “Some do, sadly. God knows my last ex did. But I wouldn’t, and never with you. I guess I just need to know whether you can stay or not – with me?” Tears suddenly burned. Damn, he hadn’t cried in fucking years. “I don’t want to lose you when I’ve only just found you.”

Ariana’s face softened and her hands cupped his face. “I told you, you are my Rhys. I found you, remember? If I recall you were not keen on the idea at all,” she laughed, before her expression turned serious. “It is once in a lifetime that one of my kind finds a mate. I knew you were it the moment I saw you and I will not let you go now.”

Joy washed through him, and their lips met in a kiss that swept away all the doubts and worries, leaving behind nothing but love and hope for the future. His last thought, before his brain switched off and all blood rushed to… other areas. Damn, it looked like his sister would get to say, I told you so, after all. She really had given him the best Christmas gift – tied up with a red velvet bow.

© Shelli Rosewarne 2016.

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Red Velvet by Leigh Stone


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It had been a long day at the hospital. Fay kicked off her heels and turned on the water, letting it run and steam up the bathroom as she did. She unbuttoned her silk blouse, let it fall to the floor, then undid the zip on her dress trousers and shimmied out of them. She stood there with her hands on her waist, in her lacy bra and knickers, and let her eyes roam over her reflection in the full-length mirror. Not bad for forty-six, she thought to herself. Her skin was still soft and supple with few signs of her age; her breasts were still full and relatively firm. She worked hard in the gym to maintain her neat figure, keeping her curves in rounded perfection. She let her hand wander upwards from her waist, cupping her breast as she did, her nipples stiffening against the lace, straining for further attention. She closed her eyes, just for a moment, and let herself imagine it was that younger man she had seen watching her while she was working out so many times. A soft sigh slipped from her lips and she allowed one hand caress her skin down towards her pussy, knowing that if she were to touch herself, she would  find herself wet and ready.

The heat of the steam prickled her skin and brought her out of her daydream. She unfastened her bra, stepped out of her knickers, and pulled back the shower curtain to plunge herself under the warm water.

She let the heat slowly soothe her muscles and relaxed as the water washed away the day’s stress and grime. She grabbed her expensive body wash, squeezing some into her hands, and began to lather it over her body. Her mind again wandered to the hot young guy from the gym. She thought about his eyes roaming over her, and she let her soapy hands do the same thing.

She cupped her breasts in her hands, squeezing their fullness, letting her fingertips settle on her peaked nipples. She rubbed them, sighing at the contact, and then rolled them between her fingers and thumbs as a moan escaped from her lips.

Turned on, and lost deep in her thoughts, one of Fay’s hands slipped over her stomach and skimmed over her thigh as she adjusted her feet to allow her hand to get between her thighs.

She let one finger slip between her slick pussy lips, knowing that it wasn’t just the shower and the body wash that had her soaked. Her finger grazed over her clit, causing Fay to hiss at the sensation; she could feel her whole-body sizzling with a need for climax. She hadn’t realised just how much the gym guy watching her had been turning her on. She let her fingertips rub over her sensitive little bundle of nerves again.

A long moan escaped from her as she pinched her nipple harder, circled her clit, seeking release, wanting more, needing to come apart, all the while wishing it was at the hands of her would-be admirer.

Frantically, Fay’s fingers worked her to climax. Her moans of ecstasy echoed around the bathroom, and she slumped back against the cool tiles panting. “FUCK!” she exclaimed to the empty house. She hadn’t climaxed that hard for some time. It was rare that Fay felt lonely, but busy as her life was, in that instant, she couldn’t help but feel the pang of sorrow at the lack of someone in her life, even if that person’s sole purpose was to help her achieve orgasm.

Fay rinsed herself off, got out of the shower, and wrapped herself tightly in her fluffy robe before heading downstairs to the kitchen. She needed her habitual cup of tea, while she sat on the sofa and read the latest book from her favourite author.

As she waited for the kettle to boil, she glanced outside to see the first of the season’s snow finally beginning to fall. She made her tea, and was making her way to the sofa, when there was a knock at the front door. Fay set her cup on the coffee table and headed for the entrance. She glanced through the peephole to find no one there. She opened the door carefully, to make sure, and was surprised to discover a simple white box on the doorstep, tied with a red velvet bow. A small tag dangled from the ribbon and she lifted the box to get a better look. She closed the front door and carried the box back to the coffee table.

Fay sat for a moment, her cup in hand, taking sips of tea, and stared at the box. She hadn’t seen anyone outside to know who had sent it to her, and she tried to convince herself that they might have gotten the wrong door to leave it at, until she looked at the tag that is.


To the gorgeous Fay,

I’ve admired you from afar. Soon I want to admire you close up! Have this gift and think of me!

Secret Santa xoxo


Fay let her fingers run delicately over the outside of the box, as if testing to see if something inside would jump out at her. Her mind raced at two mysteries. What was in the box? And, who had left it on her doorstep?

She lifted the velvet ribbon and let it slip between her fingers, catching it just before it fell, pulling the bow free, so she could open it and find out what was inside. Fay held her breath as she lifted the lid on the gift box, excited to discover the contents. She eased back the red tissue paper, her eyes falling upon the red lacy bra and thong. She carefully lifted the delicate underwear from the box to find more hidden beneath.

She raised the little drawstring bag from the bottom of the box and the small envelope that lay beneath. She thought about which one she should open first. Squeezing the contents of the bag, finding it hard, it piqued her curiosity first. She pulled on the drawstring, opened the neck of the bag wider and poured the contents onto her palm.

A small bullet vibrator fell from the velvet pocket. Fay felt her nipples tighten. Who the hell was sending her such an intimate gift? Maybe the card will tell me? she thought to herself. Ripping open the envelope, she read the card, hoping for more of a clue.

I hope you’ll be wearing this underwear the next time I see you! But for now, I want you to go to bed, take the vibe with you, and think of me.

I’ll see you tomorrow after the gym. Xx

Fay flipped the card over to see if there was anything on the back. To her disappointment, it was blank. She was still no wiser as to who her Secret Santa was. He, however, clearly knew a lot about her: her exact size for the underwear, not to mention her habits and home address. She should have been alarmed by it, but instead, strangely she found herself getting aroused again.

She was getting off on the idea of being watched, realising the rational thing to do was worry about a stranger knowing so much about her in that way, but there was just something about it that was getting her wet, instead. The risk, the unknown, it was all so thrilling.

She gathered up the contents of the box and abandoned her now cooled tea, heading for bed, flicking the extra locks on the front door as she passed by.

Once in her bedroom, Fay stripped out of her robe and held the underwear against her. Even without fastening the bra, she could see how it would lift her tits and show off some great curves, the thong would do the same, flashing the ass that she had been doing all those squats for.

She left the bra and thong in the box, on top of her dresser, and took the bullet vibe with her as she climbed into bed.

She lay there, naked in the darkness, thinking about who could have sent her the gift. With no clear ‘suspect’ coming to mind, she turned on the vibrations and rolled the vibe over her clit. A tall, strong, yet faceless man, taking great pleasure in watching her from afar came to mind. Spying on her, perving over her, and within moments Fay could feel the signs of an impending tsunami of climax.


Fay had looked around her the entire time she was at the gym, but she didn’t see any trace of the younger man she thought the gifts were from. She couldn’t help but feel a sense of despondency. She had spent most of her workout drenched, not only from sweat, but the anticipation of what was to come, so far finding who she thought would turn out to be her suitor seemed unlikely. Her weary muscles demanded that she stop, and she finally gave in and headed for the showers.

Refreshed, she emerged in a towel, pulled her bag from the locker, and put her gifted red underwear on. She put on the rest of her clothes, packed up her bag, and headed for the locker room door. Fay was concentrating on getting her bag over her shoulder, and hadn’t noticed the form coming around the corner to meet her, colliding straight into the chest of the younger man she had fantasised about the night before. “Whoa, there!” he said, catching her as he knocked her off balance. His large hands moved over her back, one of them settling between her shoulders, the other molding against the small of her back. Fay could feel the heat coming off him; it was already starting to melt her into a pool of lust from just that few moments of contact.

“Sorry,” she murmured, looking up at him. She went to step back, but his hands kept her firmly pressed against him in the empty hallway.

“My fault,” his low voice rumbled. “Sorry, I’ve made you blush,” he remarked. “You should wear red more often, it suits you,” he breathed.

Fay’s breath caught in her throat, as she stared up into his eyes, and realised just how much they looked like two pools of almost black  ink. She didn’t have time to think of anything beyond that as his lips crashed down onto hers, his hands pulling her even tighter against him. In the split second it took for her brain to catch up with what was happening, he already had the door of the locker room open again and was pushing her back inside.

Fay’s fantasy turning into reality overwhelmed her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed him back hard, opening her mouth to his tongue when it demanded entry. Before she knew it, she was lifted onto the countertop between sinks, with him standing between her legs.

His mouth moved from hers, along her jaw, to her neck. “You are stunning…” he breathed against her skin as he moved down her neck and back to her ear. Fay moaned and let her head fall back, exposing her throat to her suitor. “Sweet Fay,” he called to her, nibbling more of her neck. “How I’ve loved watching you, thinking about this moment,” he told her.

“I don’t even know your name!” she whispered in mounting pleasure.

“It’s Drew,” he confirmed to her, as he cupped her breast and pulled her closer to him. “And I intend to make you call it out a lot!” He reached for the bottom of her t-shirt and pulled it over her head, revealing the red lace bra that he had left at her house the night before.

“Oh fuck, you wear red better than I could have imagined!” Drew moaned in excitement. before burying his face between Fay’s breasts. Her hands wrapped around his neck and pulled him in tighter against her.

“You feel better on my skin that I imagined,” she moaned, as he freed one of her breasts from the bra and wrapped his lips around her nipple, sucking it into his mouth as he circled it with his tongue.

Drew grinned at her, letting her nipple drop from his mouth. “Gorgeous, Fay, I can’t wait to get inside your pretty pussy.”

Fay’s pussy clenched at the thought. Drew pulled her hips against his erection, letting her feel all of him, in his rock hard glory. Suddenly she knew exactly what she wanted for Christmas, and she had a funny feeling that she might just get it, too.

© Leigh Stone 2016.

For more from Leigh…




Book Links…

Lex’s Melody (Belfast Bound #1) myBook.to/LexsMelody
Melodic Minor (Belfast Bound #2) myBook.to/MelodicMinor
Pulled Apart (Belfast Bound #3) myBook.to/PulledApartBB3
DOMME (Domination #1) myBook.to/domme
OWNED (Domination #2) myBook.to/owned-domination2
DOMME Evolved (Domination #3) myBook.to/DommeEvolved
The Domination Series (1-3 boxset) myBook.to/DominationSeries
Solitaire (with Michelle McLoughney) myBook.to/Solitaire