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Copyright ©2007 Lena Austin
An Authorized Excerpt
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Valda bent her head and nodded. She wasn't going to describe those first couple of years, living off a receptionist's salary and submitting articles she typed up at night in a tiny rented trailer just outside Boulder, Colorado. "Took me two years to make it to -- what did you call it? -- token coward."
"Cowan. Cow Ann." He poured the contents of the pot into something else, staring intently at his work for a moment. "They certainly needed the eyes of a cowan on things. We forget non-believers don't see things like we do."
See things? Like men who glowed golden even inside houses, like Blaze did now? Even the stupid log in front of her glowed slightly. Her hands shook and the little rose in her hand ended up glued sideways on the log. Valda shuddered and changed the subject. "Hey, aren't I supposed to be interviewing you, Mr. Famous Author?"
"Anytime you're ready." He laughed and shoved something that sounded like plastic to the side. "These will take a while to harden."
Spike had reappeared, in that silent way cats had, and was now yowling and begging. She snorted as he stretched himself to his fullest length to reach the top of the counter, pawing at something.
Blaze shooed him away. "No, I am not giving you LSD for cats. Go chase a mouse or eat your cat food."
"LSD for cats?" she repeated. "Chocolate? What are you making, anyway?" It smelled like a confectionary in the kitchen with the bread and chocolate smells.
"Come see, if you like."
Curiosity got the best of her. It always did. That was what made her a journalist instead of some comfortable wage slave in a cubicle. She sighed and got up to wander behind the island.
Penises. Chocolate penises, all lined up in neat little molds on the counter. Some were life-sized and some were no bigger than her thumb. The larger versions were three dimensional, and the smaller were flat on one side.
The surprise made her lifelong curse activate. She tripped on the rug in front of the sink and went sprawling. Naturally, because Murphy hated her, she fell sideways and slapped her hand into a mold of the largest penis collection as she attempted to catch herself.
On her way to the floor, everything slowed, like some sort of hokey scene out of a movie. She saw the first splash of chocolate catch a flabbergasted Blaze right in the face and chest.
Her impact at his feet might have been funny to anyone else, and probably twice as hilarious when the rest of the mold teetered off the counter to dump the remainder on her until it rattled on the tiles beside her. Upside down, of course. Her glasses skittered across the floor and disappeared from view.
Silence was not golden, not when you wallowed in humiliation with your eyes shut. She broke it with the only thing left to her -- humor. She didn't bother opening her eyes. "Did I mention my middle name is Grace?" It wasn't really, but he didn't need to know that. She waited, praying for laughter.
Her prayer was answered. His chuckle started low, and began to crescendo like music. She cracked an eye.
Blaze, his handsome face a startling mask of chocolate, like the Phantom of the Opera in a negative print, was guffawing so hard he had to hold his side. "And how was charm school, Grace?"
Perversely, Valda got annoyed. "It's not that funny!"
The big buffoon collapsed down on the floor beside her. In between chuckles and wiping his eyes, he managed to say, "You're priceless, pretty owl." He suppressed his laughter and wiped a tear from his un-chocolate-covered eye. "Valda Anastasia Lyman, no one has ever reacted quite that way to my cooking."
Shock made her roll over and sit up in the confined space between the cabinets. "How did you know my full name?"
He gave her That Look again. That superior, slightly smug, I'm-a-witch look. They were almost nose-to-nose. The wish to slap the smugness and humor off his face warred with the need to do something shocking. Shocking won.
She would never know the reason why she did it. Impulse took over, and she licked the chocolate off his neck. The rich flavor slid over her tongue. "Your cooking is excellent, by the way."
She sat back, her face dripping with warm chocolate, intending to get a laugh then quietly exit to die of mortification in her room. Maybe hara-kiri was in order.
Those dark sapphire eyes of his matched his name. Strong hands clamped over her arms and yanked her until their noses touched. Then his head tilted to the side and he nibbled the chocolate off the side of her chin. "It tastes much better this way," he murmured.
The heated ball of lust she'd managed to control up to now flared. Valda couldn't stop the moan that pushed its way past her lips.
Blaze was nibbling his way down to her neck. "No objections?" He waited a moment. "Good." He pulled her into his lap without removing his lips from her neck. "I've wanted to do this since I laid eyes on you." He looked down at the cat, busily licking some of the spill off the floor. "Beat it, Spike."
Object? She could barely think. This gorgeous, talented man wanted her? Aw, to hell with it. Why not? It wasn't going to affect whatever she chose to write about him. Besides, what he was doing to her skin was driving her insane. A nice, slow carriage ride to madness sounded like the perfect way to go.
"Yeah? The feeling is mutual." She leaned back on his left arm and bared all her throat.
He was licking his way down to the hollow of at the base of her neck. "Last chance, Valda. I don't coerce." His free hand was working her shirt from her waistband by inches.
"Your safe sex or mine?" God, her voice was wanton, husky and had a distinctly feline purr in it.
"Mine." The hand that had been working on her shirt dug in a drawer above their heads and brandished a foil packet. "I had hopes, so I put this where I could get it easily."
She let him pull her shirt off her while she pondered the implications of the packet. "I'm not... I don't... oh, God." He'd unsnapped her bra without her being aware of it, pushed it aside, and buried his face underneath one of the heavy orbs.
"I know you don't." He licked the underside of her breast and shifted her off his lap to put her on the rug. "But that fancy nightgown of yours last night has been killing me by inches. A man can dream, can't he?" He switched to the other breast without touching her aching and rock hard nipples.
Her hands moved of their own volition to get under his tee shirt. The body under it was the stuff her dreams were made of. Fair was fair. "I didn't know you saw me. Shit, Blaze, if you don't do something about my tits, I'm going to rip this shirt off you."
He lifted his head and looked fully into her eyes. Mischief lit his face. In a bad Romanian accent, he quoted an old comedy. "'For you, never a quickie. Always a longie.'" But he took off the shirt.
"Right here, right now." He bent and brushed his lips over hers. "I've waited long enough for you."
That slow southern drawl of his would have fired up any woman's lust. His right hand cupped one of her breasts and lifted the weight of it without attempting to dial Radio Free Europe. Most men, upon seeing a pair of tits that matched the rest of her abundant flesh, seemed to think nothing of causing pain in their excitement, forgetting they were still attached to a living woman. His head bent to lap at the areola and crinkling nipple between his thumb and forefinger.
It should have been funny. The man's face was half-covered in chocolate. Instead, she found it erotic. "I'll never look at chocolate again without thinking of this." She chuckled and added, "When I'm old and gray, I'll ask, who was that masked man?"
Blaze looked up at her in puzzlement for a moment before releasing her breast. He fingered his face. "Oh. Yeah." Then he reached up on the counter and pulled down a bowl. "I think I have another use for my Beltane chocolate recipe."