Let the Games Begin…The stakes are high, the odds are stacked against them but for these two, winning is everything. Let the games begin…Derek Wescott, the Prince of the Eighth Circle of Hell does not online date. Until now. His minions arranged one for him and are placing bets that he won’t be able to entice the sweet, yet untouchable, Jaclyn, out of her long skirts and into his bed. Derek doesn’t lose bets, and he isn’t about to lose this one. Jaclyn Reynolds is in trouble. Her business partner has embezzled from her non-profit foundation for children in need, and they are desperate to replace those funds. If that’s not enough, in walks more trouble in the form of a drop-dead gorgeous, and extremely wealthy man. The answer to her prayers? Probably not. Handsome men are heartbreaks waiting to happen. She’s ready to run fast and far until he does the unthinkable. He bets her $10,000 for her foundation that she can’t spend one night with him without ending up in his bed.
More than either realizes is at stake with this game, and for them both, winning is everything.
“A Prince of Hell hero & walking fashion disaster heroine have a twisted fairytale romance filled with FIRE EXTINGUISHER worthy scenes! I give Ms. Cooke my top score of 5 fingers up & 10 toes for this UNEXPECTED twisted fairytale full of heaven & hell!” -Patty VH., Reviewer
“A fun read, sweet romance that gets seriously hot at times, and it’s a novel that doesn’t try too hard, but lets events flow naturally.” – Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews
“The story is full of drama and excitement to keep the reader’s on the edge of their seat with some humor thrown in to lighten things up, lots of passion to spice things up and there are a couple of surprising twists to keep the reader guessing.” – Eva M., Reviewer
“I could not put this book down. I started to read it and became so lost in the story that I did not stop until I was done.” -Kae H., Reviewer
“This book was a devilish delight” -Patricia, Reviewer –This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
A Southern Gothic Romance Series – Bayou Magic Series
Since childhood, Drew Michel sees death and the spirits who walk the halls of his family’s ancestral home, and they are warning him—Laura will die. Deep in the swamp, an ancient ritualistic clan is planning to claim her life. Can he defeat the evil that demands her blood and save the woman he has grown to love, or will the bayou claim them both in a demon’s ultimate sacrifice?
Excerpt from Bayou Whispers!
With her heart lodged in her throat, Laura peered up at the white structure soaring three stories high. Balconies adorned with swirling patterns of ironwork stretched across the front of each floor. Thick, thorny vines wrapped around tall columns, reaching skyward to smother the house and pull at the walls.
Laura stifled a shiver and again fought the instinct to flee. Nothing about this house was welcoming. Nothing moved. Both the grounds with their dark moldy fountains and the house seemed as quiet and still as a graveyard.
She could do this. She hadn’t been able to remember what had happened to her or her mother when they lived in this house, no matter how many different treatments her therapist had tried. Now maybe she would discover the truth.
Towing her suitcase, she cautiously climbed creaky steps onto the wide porch. She scanned the large wooden door and expansive front porch. She’d spent her first eight years in this house. The answers she’d spent her whole life searching for were here. Someone must know what had happened to her and how she ended up alone in San Francisco.
With a trembling hand, she reached for the brass lion’s head knocker on the front door, lifted it, and let it drop. A loud thud reverberated around her, through her.
Footsteps sounded within.
Laura stiffened and braced herself as the door swung open. A tall man, magazine-perfect with dark brown hair and smooth chiseled lines underlying a strong jaw, filled the doorway. A tailored jacket hung snugly across wide shoulders. Dress slacks hugged his form, betraying long, muscular legs. A cream linen shirt opened at the collar betrayed smooth bronzed skin beneath.
He was so unexpected, so out of place in the dank bayou, that for a long second, Laura couldn’t speak.
“Can I help you?” he asked, his voice low and deep.
“I’m … um …”
His intense eyes, the same deep green hue of the swamp, locked onto hers. Questioning.
Say something. She blinked, moving her focus to his wide, generous mouth, and took a deep breath. “I’m looking for Delilah Larame.”
The man stepped onto the porch, pulling the door shut behind him. He moved closer to her, stealing the air around her, or at least her ability to breathe it.
She took a quick step back, tripped on her suitcase, and grasped for the rail. He grabbed her arm, steadying her with his strong grip. She felt his touch clear through to her insides.
“Who are you?” he asked, the deep tone of his voice making her heartbeat double time.
What was with her? She was acting as if she’d never seen a man before. He reached forward, his fingertips almost grazing her cheek as he released a strand of her hair caught in a vine. For a heart-stopping moment, he held it then let it slide slowly through his fingers.
“Laura Larame,” she answered, the words catching in her throat.
An unsettling hint of recognition filled his eyes as his gaze moved in a slow perusal of her face, her body … before finally settling on her dusty bag.
“My cab driver abandoned me back by the bridge.” Story of her life, she thought as her tongue tripped, impairing her speech.
His perfectly sculpted eyebrows lifted in momentary surprise before he nodded with understanding. “The locals can be a little superstitious.”
“I gathered that,” she said dryly.
For a moment neither of them spoke.
“I’m Drew Michel,” he said then stepped back and opened the door. “Please, come in.”
Drew. She knew that name; she just couldn’t quite place it. She followed him, stepping through the front door and onto large black-and-white checked marble tiles.
“I’m looking for my mother. Is she here?” Laura asked again.
His eyebrows arched with surprise. “Were you expecting her to be?”
“Yes,” she said, feeling a touch confused.
Behind her, the front door closed with a resounding thud. She jumped, then turned and stared at a long staircase that stretched up into the shadows. Unfocused memories teased the back of her mind. Apprehension circled the base of her spine.
“I’ve received word that she’s here,” she muttered.
“Come into the living room,” he said, his voice low and quiet, his words hanging between them in the gloom. “So we can talk.”
Something lingering in the depths of his eyes sent warning bells ringing in her mind. “I’m sorry. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” She stepped backward toward the door. “If my mother’s not here—”
Was that a plea in his voice? She searched his face for the truth but couldn’t find it.
He stepped close, too close. “It’s been such a long time, Laura.”
She swallowed. Something about the way he said her name, about the way his mouth moved over the syllables, rolling them off his tongue and tasting them, knocked her off balance.
He reached forward and traced his fingers along her jaw. She felt frozen as if he’d trapped her under some voodoo spell known only to Louisiana natives—the rabbit caught in the eyes of the snake.
“There’s something you should see.” He turned and walked toward a wide set of double doors, opening both at one time.
She shook off the stupor induced by his touch and followed him. Curiosity rising above her apprehension, she peered into the darkened living room and saw a fireplace centered on a far wall. Floor-to-ceiling windows covered with heavy green draperies flanked either side. A crystal chandelier hung above worn velvet furniture. Nothing here looked the slightest bit sinister or even familiar, just old and musty.
Slowly, she entered. Standing next to the window, Drew pulled open the drapes. Light flooded the room, highlighting a woman’s portrait hanging above the mantel. Time stopped as if the world spinning on its axis had come to a screeching halt and all that moved was the sudden thunder of her heartbeat pounding in her ears.
Her mother’s image stared back at her, reaching deep into her heart and seizing it within a tight, painful grasp. Tears burned behind her eyes. She remembered this painting, and yet, she hadn’t realized until this moment how much she looked like her mother.
“The resemblance …” she whispered then couldn’t continue. The artist’s deft strokes brought her mother’s large pale blue eyes to life. She stared into them and felt almost as if her mother was looking back at her, peering deep into her soul.
Laura’s knees weakened and a tight ball of need formed in the pit of her stomach. “Please, do you know where she is?”
He stood next to her, his warm breath caressing her cheek. “No, chère. She’s âme per-due, a lost soul.” His hypnotic voice washed over her, stealing the last of her energy. “You can see it in the depths of her eyes.”
She was so tired and so afraid she’d reached a dead end. “I need to find my mother.”
“We haven’t seen her in years. Except in this portrait.”
Her mouth opened on a soft breath. She looked up at him, on the brink of desperation and ready to plead for help. “I came so far, hoped so much. She has to be—”
China crashed, splintering across the floor.
Laura flinched. A woman stood in the doorway, her eyes wide, her mouth open—a dark gaping hole in the center of her pale, white face.
“Delilah,” she said, her voice an anguished cry.
“No, Mère, it’s Laura,” Drew said.
The woman’s gaze moved quickly from Laura’s face to the portrait then back to her again.
“Laura’s come home,” he added.
Home. The word echoed through her mind and mocked her. This wasn’t her home. She didn’t belong here. She never did.
Also in the Bayou Magic Series is His Magic Touch!
Sera Barnhardt wants nothing more than to forget the man who stole her heart and left her behind. Now he’s back, claiming their daughter is in danger. How can Sera believe him? And why does her body still crave his touch? Can Sera open her heart to Trent once more and rebuild the family she lost, or will she be fooled by his magic touch and lose everything.
Sera’s aunt sat at a table by the window, worry lines creasing her brow as she flipped over a tarot card and set it on top of a row of others. “They’ve been saying the same thing all day. The threat I’ve warned you about draws near.”
Sera stared down at the cards spread neatly across the small table with a new appreciation. “You have no idea how right they are.”
“He’s here now,” Mary said, tapping a card with her index finger.
“I know,” Sera agreed. “He just left my house.”
“What?” Mary looked up, surprise and alarm widening her eyes.
“Trent,” Sera pushed through her tight throat. She still couldn’t believe after all this time he’d just shown up on her doorstep with a bouquet of roses in his hand as if he’d only been gone a few days and not eight years. And damned if he didn’t look better than she remembered.
“No, not Trent,” Mary insisted, shaking her head and looking back down at her cards. “He’s not the threat.”
Sera slapped both palms down on the table. “Of course he’s the threat. The man has been missing in action for eight years and suddenly he decides to show his smug face and tell me Aimee’s in trouble? I’d say that’s a threat. What am I supposed to tell her about him?”
Mary sucked in a quick breath through her teeth. “He said Aimee’s in trouble?” She quickly stood.
“Yes, that’s why I’m here. You have to help me get rid of him. I don’t want him here, and I don’t want him anywhere near Aimee.”
“He can help you, Sera. You must listen to what he has to say. There’s a demon close by. The cards told me so. Trent can keep Aimee safe from the demon. You must let him help you. You can’t protect on your own.”
Sera wanted to scream and yell and throw a good, old-fashioned fit. But she wouldn’t. Obviously, her aunt was having one of her weird delusions again. They’d been happening more and more of late, and yelling at her would only make things worse. Instead, Sera took a deep breath to steady her voice, and said, “It’s okay, Mary. There are no such things as demons, and even if there were, why would one want Aimee? She’s just a little girl. No, the threat is Trent. He’s back, and I need you to talk to him. Can you please ask him to leave before he causes me any more trouble?”
Mary leaned toward her, and grabbed both her arms in her bony grasp. Her eyes, wide and full of fear, captured Sera’s and sent a chill down her spine. “I’ve told you for years she’s different. Aimee’s special.”
“Of course she’s special. She’s my baby,” Sera insisted, her voice breaking.
“Magic is in her blood. It makes her desirable and easy for demons to find her. You won’t be able to protect her on your own.” The look in Mary’s eyes, the tone of her voice…she was dead serious.
A shiver shook Sera. “You’re scaring me, Mary.” She turned away from her aunt, her gaze moving over reptile heads that stared at her through cold, glassy eyes. Voodoo dolls hung suspended from the ceiling, and apothecary jars of powders and herbs lined the shelves of the shop.
Why was she surprised her aunt had finally lost it? Look where she spent all her time.
Sera inhaled a sharp breath. “Mary, Aimee’s smart, beautiful, and talented, but she’s not magical.”
Mary grabbed her hands. “You can’t deny her blood heritage. That’s why you must listen to Trent. He is here to help you. There’s a lot about him you don’t know.”
“What I do know is Trent walked out on us. He’s never kept in contact, has never been worried about his daughter before, and now suddenly he has to protect her? I know all I need to know about Trent Droulliard. He can’t be trusted, and he has never been there for me or for Aimee.”
Mary squeezed her hands. “Hasn’t he?”
Sera bristled and pulled away. “Yes, he’s provided for us financially.” Handsomely, in fact. Their house was paid off. Life for them was good. Lonely, but good. “But that doesn’t mean I owe him. He was the one who left us. I wanted him to stay.” Her voice broke over the words and tears burned behind her eyes—tears of frustration and outrage. Tears she wouldn’t let fall.
Sera flung her arms wide. “Why am I defending myself to you? You are the one person I thought would be on my side.”
Mary sighed and gave her a small smile. “I am on your side. But turning your back on the one person who can save Aimee is not the answer. You have to see him. Listen to what he has to say. Do it for Aimee’s sake.”
“I can’t let him waltz in here and worm his way into Aimee’s heart only to watch him leave her in shambles when he waltzes out again.”
“Is it her heart you’re worried about? Or yours?”
Sera looked away. Her aunt always had been able to read her too easily.
“Sera, what matters here is that Aimee’s in danger and Trent is the only one who can protect her.
Why did she keep saying that?
Bells tinkled throughout the shop as the front door opened. Trent strolled in, acting as if he owned the place. Acting as if he’d never been gone. Sera’s stomach tightened. For the first time, she noticed his faded blue jeans, worn and snug over muscular legs, and a black leather jacket that made him look dangerously sexy. A vein in her temples began to throb. “What are you doing here?” she said through gritted teeth.
“I thought neutral territory might make it easier for you to listen to what I have to say.”
Blue eyes that had once made her melt every time she saw him, now looked tired and worried. His shaggy blond hair was overdue for a trim, and he hadn’t shaved in days. Somehow that only made him more appealing. She sighed.
Mary reached for him, a large, traitorous smile on her face. “As I live and breathe.”
“Hello, sweetheart,” Trent said and kissed her cheek.
Sera clenched her hands, certain that if she stared at him any longer, she would self-combust.
“So what can we do to help you?” Mary asked him.
Surprise slammed into Sera as she heard her aunt’s words. This wasn’t happening.
“We need to get the amulet on Aimee as soon as possible. It will mask her aura from the demon who’s after her. For now.”
They both turned and looked at Sera.
“Fine. If I give her the amulet, will you leave?” Right now, she’d do just about anything to get him away from them.
“I’m sorry. I can’t. Not just yet.”
“Why am I not surprised?” She closed her eyes and gnawed her tongue until she tasted blood. She had to find a way to get rid of him. When she opened her eyes, he was standing right in front of her. Her heartbeat quickened, her chest rising and falling too quickly.
He reached for her. She took a quick step back but hit a wall. His eyes didn’t waver. The sharp angles of his face, the strength in his jaw, and the intensity in his gaze boring into hers kept her frozen. She couldn’t move. Couldn’t breathe.
Before she could stop him, he had her in his grasp and pulled her hard up against his chest. “No,” she blurted, placing her hands between them, trying to brace herself. With a twist of pain, she remembered his smell, his touch, and how safe she’d once felt in his arms. Back then, she’d thought nothing or no one could destroy what they’d had together.
And then he was gone. Just like that.