I’ve just published the third book in my Crystal Warriors Series–WOOT!
Jade’s Choice is Malach and Jade’s story: if you’ve read The Crystal Warrior, you might remember Malach — he’s Wulf’s second in command, and he was originally bonded to Chalcedony’s mother, Francesca. However Francesca rejected the bond, and when Malach was taken by the crystal again, she believed he’d been destroyed by the Crystal Guardian. So this story is essentially Malach’s second chance at redemption.
Here’s the blurb:
A young woman, desperate to provide her chronically ill sister the care she needs, decides to sell herself. But who could have foreseen her first client would be the alien Crystal Warrior destined to be her life-mate? Or that this complex, compelling man who’s captured her heart, plans to kill himself rather than risk being imprisoned in his cursed crystal a third time. She’ll fight to save him, but it could be a losing battle… because he’s still in love with the woman who refused to bond with him decades ago.
Jade’s a talented painter, but was forced to give up her dreams of art school to care for her chronically ill sister. Faced with escalating medical bills, Jade lies to her sister and her best friend, and advertises herself as an escort. Her ad is answered by Peter Stone, aka Pieter, the Crystal Guardian. He gives Jade a malachite crystal and when she touches it, she shares the torment of the man trapped inside. The crystal breaks and a Crystal Warrior named Malach appears in the flesh.
Malach spent centuries imprisoned in his cursed crystal before he was given the chance to bond with a woman named Francesca. When the bonding failed, he believed he would be put to death by the Crystal Guardian, but he discovered a far worse fate was to be imprisoned yet again to suffer years of torment and sensory deprivation. He’ll willingly bond with Jade, if that’s what it takes to have another chance at freedom, but if he deems it likely they will fail the next stage of the bonding–the Testing–Malach has vowed to kill himself rather than endure imprisonment a third time.
Jade is horrified when she learns the true extent of Malach’s suffering. She’s determined to save him, but it could be a losing battle… because he’s still in love with Francesca, the woman who refused to bond with him decades ago.
Jade’s solution is to have her aunt cast a love-spell over them. But will a simple love-spell fool the Crystal Guardian and allow Jade and Malach to pass the Testing? And how far is Jade prepared to go when Malach’s first love, who’d believed him dead all these years, comes knocking on her door?
Here’s an excerpt from Jade’s Choice:
She exploded into motion, wrenching her hand free and rushing for the door.
She reached it just as it slammed in her face. She rattled the handle. “Locked. Crap!”
Before he could advise her against it, she shoved it with her shoulder. “Owww!” She massaged her shoulder and worked the joint. “Goddamn you to hell, Peter,” she hissed.
“I heartily second that sentiment,” he said.
“Well at least you don’t seem any more thrilled by this situation than I am right now.”
“I most assuredly am not.”
She fixed him with a ball-shriveling glower that was completely at odds with her sweetly innocent face. “Don’t try any funny business, either, or you’ll be sorry.”
“I assure you that laughing is the last thing I feel like doing.”
She stared at him as though she was trying to figure out whether or not he was serious. Finally she said, “You gonna stand there gawking or help me with this bloody door?”
He crossed his arms over his chest. “There is little point wasting our energies when Pieter has be-spelled it.”
“The point is we need to get out of here.” She backed up and tried another shoulder charge, only to rebound off the door so hard she staggered.
Malach hid a wince. That had to have hurt. “Even if the door hadn’t been be-spelled, shoulder-barging it is fruitless given that it opens inward.”
She clutched her shoulder and her lips thinned into a tight white line. “Fine. So brute force isn’t gonna work.”
She crinkled her nose, obviously thinking hard, trying to work through the problem. She wasn’t going to let a little pain divert her from her task.
He stared at her, fascinated despite his ire at this untenable situation, while she nibbled her lip and muttered to herself. He’d never encountered a female quite like her before. On the surface so delicate and doll-like he feared she might shatter, but inwardly stubborn and tenacious, and so forthright he didn’t know whether to grin at her audacity or shake some manners into her.
She slapped her forehead with her palm. “Ooooh! I know. Have you seen my sandals?”
“What are you babbling about, girl?”
She made no effort whatsoever to hide that she was unimpressed by his question. Most females in her situation would be watching their tongues, eager not to provoke him. He was, after all, very much larger than her. And they were alone.
“Typical man,” she muttered. “Incapable of thinking outside the square. Sandals. Dark purple strappy things? Heels about yay high?”
When he didn’t answer, she stalked over to the bed and lowered herself to all fours to peer under the coverlet. Her movements were slow and studied. The bonding spell must be taking its toll. Malach felt like he’d been dragged behind a horse, so his estimation of her rose when she straightened from her crouch gingerly, but without so much as a whimper.
She checked inside the wardrobe.
“Bingo,” she said, bending to scoop up a dainty piece of footwear. “Peter must be a neat-freak. Bet he makes the bed every morning and does the dishes before leaving his hotel room.”
He hid a smile as her staunch façade cracked just a little and her hip-swaying gait became more of a stiff hobble as she headed into the kitchen area.
She fossicked in a drawer and came up with a knife.
Malach eyed the weapon and gauged her expression. He had only one woman of this era to compare her to, and Francesca had shown no interest in weaponry, not even when he had first emerged from the crystal and scared her witless. From what he could discern from this particular young woman, he was in little danger of being stabbed the instant his back was turned. But then, women were wily creatures and it behooved a man to be on his guard.
Armed with one shoe and the knife, she confronted the door.
“What are you planning?” he asked, curious.
“I’m going to pry up these hinges with the knife blade, and use the heel of this sandal as a makeshift hammer for more leverage. Once I’ve removed the hinges, it should—hopefully—be a simple matter to open the door. Why?” She glared at him. “Got a better idea? Because if you have, now’s the time to speak up. Otherwise, shut up and let me work.”
Malach wandered over to peer overtop her shoulder as she inserted the blade beneath the lip of the hinge and tapped the knife handle with the heel of her sandal. It was a solid plan, and Malach had always been an advocate of giving praise where praise was due. Even hardened warriors responded better to honey than vinegar. “Girl, I must commend you for this idea, for there may be a slight chance the old man has slipped up and neglected to be-spell the hinges.”
Tap. Tap. Tap. “Quit breathing over my shoulder, Mal. It’s off-putting.” Tap. Tap. Tap. “And you don’t have to sound so astonished I could have a good idea floating round in my tiny female brain.”
He backed off and left her to her labors.
“And my name is Jade. Not ‘girl’.”
“Jade.” He rolled the word around on his tongue. “Hmmm. I am thinking your name does not suit you.”
The tapping paused and she stiffened, her small body vibrating with outrage. “Not that I care what you think, but tough. That’s my name: Jade. Set in stone. Like it or lump it.” She blew her bangs out of her eyes and resumed pounding at the hinge.
Malach sighed. He hadn’t meant to be insulting. He toyed with explaining what he knew of jade and its qualities but thought better of it. Doubtless she would take his explanation the wrong way again and bristle like a feral cat protecting its kittens.
It quickly became obvious that the hinges were not prepared to cooperate without some major time and effort. “Let me try,” he said.
“Be my guest.” She handed over the knife and her makeshift hammer.
He positioned the blade and whacked the knife handle vigorously with her footwear.
“Please try not to damage my sandal. My mother got these for me in Hong Kong. They’re not the real deal, of course. But they are really fine Manolo Bla—”
The heel of the sandal gave way. It dangled from the sole by a thin strip of leather.
He cast her a glance. She’d pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes.
He tossed the sandal aside and snapped his fingers at her. “Bring me the other one.”
“Why? So you can destroy that one, too? Not effing likely. Use your own boot or something.”
He ground his teeth with frustration. “My boots are too big and unwieldy to be effective.”
She glanced down at his feet. Her gaze skittered up his body to fix on his face. And even though he suspected that it took every ounce of effort she could summon, she stared him down.
Admiration surged through him. And something else, too. Something that tightened his balls and made him want to snatch her up and kiss her breathless. And then lay her on the bed and make her his. He stalked away from her. He needed to cool down. He couldn’t afford to feel admiration or desire for her. He couldn’t afford to feel anything at all. He needed all his wits about him if he were to survive the magical trap in which Pieter had ensnared them both.
“You could try sticking your head under the cold tap.” Her musical voice followed him, and even though the tone was mocking, it stroked his skin and stoked his need. “With any luck it might drown your attitude.”
A cold bath would be far more apt, he thought.
The tapping resumed, and from the ringing of metal on metal, Malach knew she’d resorted to whacking the hinge with the knife handle.
He retrieved the other sandal from the wardrobe and approached her.
She slanted him a gaze over her shoulder. “Give me that,” she said. “No way are you destroying that one, too.”
He handed it over without a murmur and said nothing as she tapped away at the hinge. The minutes stretched. The hinge deigned to move all of a hair’s breadth. From the tension in her shoulders, he knew her arms had started to ache.
“Let me,” he said.
“No. I can do this.” She tensed, as though waiting for him to elbow her aside and take over.
He sighed. “As you wish.”
She whacked the knife handle with her shoe, and kept whacking until the heel started to come away from the sole. He opened his mouth to warn her but before he could say a word, she tossed the knife aside, and with both hands, worked at the heel until it detached from the sole. Then she crawled on hands and knees to retrieve the other sandal and yanked its dangling heel completely away from the sole, also. “At least now they both match,” she said.
To his chagrin, he glimpsed the sheen of tears in her eyes. From the way she was clutching the footwear to her chest, he guessed they meant something to her. He’d known her for only a short time, but she didn’t strike him as the kind of silly female who cried over unimportant things.
He recalled what she’d said about them. “Your mother gave you those sandals.”
She blinked rapidly to prevent the tears from falling. “Yes.” Her lower lip wobbled. “She died not long afterward. Along with my dad. In a car crash.”
“Then I’m doubly sorry.”
“They’re fakes—not the real deal.” She shrugged off his apology, refusing to reveal how much she was hurting to a stranger. To him.
She cut him off with a sharp gesture and crawled to her feet, rubbing her back and neck, as she wandered over to the kitchenette. He knew it hurt her heart and her soul to deposit the now useless sandals in the bin and he wondered if she would give into her tears.
And how he would bear watching her cry.
He should have known better, for she came out fighting. “Peter, or Pieter, or whatever the heck your name is, if you don’t come back and get me out of here right now, I’m gonna kick your bony old arse from here to fucking Perth! Do you hear me?”
She heaved three deep breaths as she fought for control.
Malach’s tore his gaze from her breasts, so ripe and firm and high—breasts that begged a man to touch and to taste. He shook off the allure of her and took refuge in disapproval. “If you believe me impressed by such language,” he said, “I would disabuse you of the notion.”
“Like I give a crap about impressing you. I’d rather impress the bloody door.” She stalked stiffly over to it, rucked her dress up her thighs, and kicked the door thrice, each time snapping her foot out with toes bent back so as not to damage them whenever her foot connected with the door.
From her technique, and the resounding thud! each time she hit the door, she’d obviously familiarized herself with some form of martial combat. “Now that, I am impressed by,” he drawled.
She rounded on him, lips parted to cut him down to size. He deliberately slid his gaze to her bared thighs. He didn’t bother to try and hide his appreciation. The undergarments she’d flashed him were mere scraps of white lace. White. Such a virginal color. Such a lie.
She flushed pink as she let her skirt fall and smoothed it down her thighs. “Show’s over. Listen up, Mal—”
“My true name is Malachite, after my crystal. Or Malach if you prefer. Not Mal.”
“Whatever. I’m sure Peter thought he was doing me a really big favor by trading himself for you. But I assure you that despite his advanced years, I far prefer him to egotistical jerk-offs like you.”
“Is that so?” Malach was tired of playing games, tired of being manipulated and used—of having his hopes of salvation soar, only to be dashed. Sweet mother of all gods he was tired. It had been nothing but the truth when Pieter had accused him of courting death. One way or another he wanted this to end. And extracting the truth from this girl so he knew how best to handle her would be a start.
Hands on hips she looked him up and down. “It is indeed so,” she said, in a fair imitation of his voice.
By the gods she tried his patience. He seesawed between wanting to throw her over his knee and paddle her behind, and wanting to throw her on the bed and have his way with her. If she knew how much he wanted her, how he ached to bury himself in her soft feminine flesh and feel her clenching around him, she would not be so eager to provoke him.
Or perhaps she would. Because he knew the pretext Pieter had used to bring her to this room—masquerading as a client when he had answered her advertisement. She was young, yes, but Malach had been propositioned by younger girls, hoping for the increased status of being Chosen by the Lord Keeper’s influential tehun-Leader, his right-hand man. And this girl was no innocent, trying out her feminine wiles for the first time, flirting and coaxing but not truly comprehending the trouble she might incite. This girl knew how to rouse a man’s passions and make him willingly dip into his pockets to shower her with fripperies and coin.
Coin. Something he was sorely lacking at present. He must find a way to compensate her so they could get down to the business at hand. Everyone had their price, and there was bound to be something he could offer her.
“What did the old man promise you to bring you here?”
Her beautiful, thickly lashed brown eyes flashed fury. “That, Mal, is none of your business.”
His cock twitched. She was all heat and fiery temperament—an opposite to his coolly calm Francesca in every way.
“How many years do you have, girl?”
“What’s it to you, boy?”
Heavy emphasis on the boy. Apparently she believed two could play that game. His lips twitched. “Humor me. Or are you one of those annoying young females who coyly dissemble about their age while seeking to entrap men?”
“You’re insinuating I’m jail-bait? Heck, you really know how to flatter a girl, don’t you? I’m twenty, if you must know—twenty-one in a few weeks.”
He cocked his head as he considered her surprising answer. “You appear at most no more than one teh and a half, though I’d wager you must be older.”
She blinked at him. “Huh?”
“A teh has this many years.” He held up the fingers of both hands.
“A decade. Huh. Why didn’t you just say a decade? Hang on—you think I look fifteen? Sheesh! Just because I’m short, doesn’t mean I’m a kid. Don’t they have short women where you come from?” She glared at him, and then muttered something about retracting that comment as it seemed conceivable his ancestors might well be descended from Amazons.
“Look, I’m an adult, okay? I might look younger than I truly am, but I’m fully capable of looking after myself. Got that, Mal?” She thrust back her shoulders and, just for good measure, stuck out her lower lip.
Malach sized her up. Based on her reaction, all her adult life people had treated her like a child, deducting years off her age and not taking her seriously because of her height and her delicate looks. Just as he had done. He could see it rankled and made her very angry indeed. Like now.
Woman of dubious virtue or no, she’d been chosen for him and if he had any chance at all of escaping his cursed crystal, he must finish the bonding process that Pieter had set in motion. It would hardly be a chore to bed her. He’d be lying if he claimed he didn’t want her. Right now, however, he’d riled her so much that sex was apparently the last thing on her mind. But he could change that. Easily.
“Hmmm.” His gaze raked her from head to toe. “Yes. I have ‘got that’. I see you are most definitely not a child.”
His hands snaked out, grabbing her waist and hauling her flush against his body. His head bent toward her and the instant he touched his lips to hers, Malach forgot all about holding himself apart and separate, taking what he needed and not allowing himself to be vulnerable. The heat between them flared. He lost himself in her. And for a few seconds, she lost herself in him, too.
“Mmmph!” She jerked her head back, but he clamped the back of her neck with a hand and held her immobile. She kicked at him but only succeeded in stubbing her bare toes against his thighs. When she pummeled his chest with her fists, he backed her against the wall, pinning her. She was helpless. But he was helpless, too. Helpless to resist the allure of her.
When her lips softened, he licked the seam of her lips and coaxed them to open, to let him in. He stroked his tongue against hers and when she responded, dizzy with want and need he groaned.
His lips left hers. She stared at him, dazed. They were forehead to forehead, nose to nose, so close her eyes almost crossed when she tried to focus on him.
“Wh-what the h-hell do you think you’re d-doing?”
“Proving you will have more fun with me than with Pieter.”
“Let me go… you big… idiot!” Her breath came in pants.
“I intend to—once you let go of me.” He allowed smug amusement to infuse his words.
“Wh-what do you mean?”
He smirked and backed up a few steps, away from the wall, his arms held out from his sides.
She glanced down. “What the—? How come I’m—? Ohhh!” She unlaced her hands from the back of his neck. And when she finally became aware that her thighs were still wrapped around his waist, her cheeks turned the shade of a ripe berry. She unclamped her legs and slid a little way down his body, stifling a gasp and reddening still more when his leather-clad erection made itself at home against the juncture of her thighs.
“Omigod. Omigod. Oh. My. God. I’m clinging to you like a randy monkey. One kiss you’ve turned me into a raging slut. This is so not good.” She wriggled and slid awkwardly to the floor. Yet again, she yanked down her dress, depriving him of another glimpse of those smooth thighs that he’d very much like to have wrapped around him again in the very near future. Her blush deepened.
He frowned. She did not act like a whore.
She speared trembling fingers through her hair and backed away, her gaze hunted. “Sure wish we could ring for—”
The panic rippling in her eyes receded, replaced by a triumphant grin that lit up her face and confused Malach still more.
“Sorry to disappoint you, Mal,” she said. “But I’m about to spring us from our cozy little prison. And once we’re out of here, you can just bugger off back to wherever and maul some other girl.”
He brushed past her, heading for the bed. “I believe I will take a nap until you get it through your pretty head that Pieter will not be so easily thwarted by a mere—” What was the device called again? Ah, yes. “Phone.” He stretched out full-length on the mattress, linking his hands beneath his head and closing his eyes.
“Could have at least taken off your boots,” he heard her mutter. And then, “The old guy’s got some truly superb supernatural woo-woo going on, I’ll give him that. But he can’t keep us locked away in here against our wills. Not when we have a line to the outside world.”
He slit his eyelids to watch the fun as she snatched the phone from the side table and pressed it to her ear. “Huh. No dial tone.” She replaced the phone in its cradle and picked it up again. She held it to her ear. And scowled. And then jabbed at a few buttons anyway.
“Crap. Wonder if it could be the jack-point?” She sank to all fours, and fiddled with a small white box fixed to the wall. She picked up the receiver again and waited.
He closed his eyes again.
“I’m trying an outside line.” A pause while she jabbed at buttons again. “Double crap. No sound. No connection. No nothing. Okay. Last try. Just to be totally sure, I’m going to ring the national emergency number.” Three jabs. And then a hiss as she hung up.
“Okay, okay. You were right. He’s jinxed the phone lines, too. Can’t even call emergency services, so I sure hope we don’t end up actually having one—an emergency, I mean. And so much for phoning room service for food. We’ll just have to hope the mini-bar will see us through until we find a way to get out of here.”
“If I know Pieter, he will have arranged for sustenance to be provided whenever we are hungry.”
“Well, I’m hungry right now. So where’s the food?”
“All right, all right. I guess I’m not really hungry at the moment. All this BS has put a damper on my appetite.” He watched while she prowled up and down the rug beside the bed until another possibility occurred to her.
“Well, maybe it’s not so bad. One of us is bound to get hungry soon, right?” She paused expectantly until he muttered an agreement.
“And then all we have to do is stay alert until we hear room service knocking.” She grinned, warming to her theme. “And as soon as the hapless room-service attendant opens our door, we make a run for it. Easy-peasy, huh?”
He shrugged. “Perhaps. Though I am certain Pieter will have thought of that possibility, also.”
“You think so?”
“I do indeed.”
“Damn. I suspect you might be right.”
“I do know one method of escaping this trap Pieter has devised for us,” he said.
“Oh? And what’s that?”
“To do exactly what he wants.”
“For me to bed you.”
Jade’s Choice is currently available at:
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