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Gracie C. McKeever's Special Collection 1 (MF)

Box Set 52

Siren-BookStrand, Inc.

Heat Rating: SCORCHING
Word Count: 218,000
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Box Set #52: Gracie C McKeever's Special Collection 1 (All 3 books for $3.99)

In Spells Cast in Shadows, Montana Freeborn’s ill-advised, predawn ride around her ranch leads to the discovery of a magnificent, unconscious, naked man. Seth Phoenix, a centaur of royal heritage cast out from his tribe, is fascinated by humans and must now rely on one for his survival. His one chance at redemption could free his mother, or cause his own downfall.

In In Plain Sight, Samantha Taylor decides a year of unhappy marriage to a man ten years her senior is enough and plans to escape with her unborn baby. A violent tumble down a flight of stairs ends her escape, but someone upstairs, newly-expired bounty hunter Dara Kelly, has other plans for her. Dara has no interest in wedding luscious Caution Foster. She is too focused on her profession, but her success earns her enemies as well as respect, some of whom aren’t above murdering a fellow skip tracer.

In Nine Inches of Snow and the Ebony Princess, empathic nurse Aziza Lopez is confronted with the depth of her abilities as she attempts to rouse her new patient, David Healey, from a coma. She learns what happened to David, but can she convince anyone else when she can hardly accept how she knows it herself? Aziza and David are in a race against time as the woman responsible seeks to finish the job she started on that dark road.

A Siren Erotic Romance

Click on each cover for detailed blurbs, awards, ratings, excerpts, and reviews for each book in Gracie C. McKeever's Special Collection 1.

Spells Cast in Shadows (MF) In Plain Sight (MF) Nine Inches of Snow and the Ebony Princess (MF)

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Excerpt

 

SPELLS CAST IN SHADOWS

STORY EXCERPT

 

Montana looked on in horror, heart pounding in her ears as Sunspot's front hooves came down, knocking the creature over and pounding his torso into the ground.

She watched him roll from his side to his back. As he moved, his lower half transformed, changing into two human legs before her eyes.

She couldn’t believe it. Had she really seen a half-horse, half-man?

Sunspot grew quiet beneath her, prancing and walking a wide berth around the figure on the ground. Montana leaned forward and rubbed his glistening neck, gently murmuring to the horse. "It's all right boy. Everything's going to be just fine." When she was sure he was okay and hadn't hurt himself, she carefully dismounted and crept to the stranger's side.

What struck her first wasn't that he was indeed a man and not the centaur she had initially seen—and she knew that she had—but that he was naked, just completely and totally na-ked.

Montana pulled in a deep breath as she crouched beside him to check for injuries. Her fingers glided over the hard, smooth curves of his chest and abdomen, all the while trying to avoid that sizable area of his anatomy several inches lower and resting peacefully against one thigh.

God, he was magnificent!

Not that she'd been exposed to that many naked men before, except maybe when she indulged in her guilty pleasure, watching hunk-inhabited soaps every once in awhile. Or when she'd splurge on one of those novelty beefcake calendars embellished with pictures for every month of shirtless cowboys clad in snug jeans that hugged all the right curves.

As far as beefcake and shirtless went, her unconscious stranger was beautifully formed from head to toe. Long, lean-muscled flanks curved up into a slim waist accented by a sectioned abdomen and well-defined pectorals. He had a swimmer's body, elegant, poised, and powerful, even in repose.

Her clit swelled beneath her jeans, and Montana simultaneously squeezed her eyes and her legs shut as if this could stop her tsunami-force lust.

She bit her bottom lip, contemplating. Heart speeding, palms moist, she itched to touch him, feeling like she was about to do something intrinsically illicit as her hand drifted of its own accord, closer and closer until her fingertips caressed one male nipple.

She brushed her hand across his chest, acquainting herself with his smooth pecs, then drifted further down to his abdomen….lower, lower until she made contact with the hair around his cock. She froze.

Montana's eyes shot open when she realized what she was doing.

Shit, she was horny! How else could she explain this instant hot attraction? Why did she have a sudden uncontrollable urge to molest an unconscious man as he lay injured?

Montana stopped gaping long enough to scold herself for her unconscionable act as she berated her foolishness in not heeding Jason's warnings about riding around the ranch in the dim light. She could just hear the I-told-you-so's now, which gave her some pause.

She needed to get her injured stranger some help, but how to do that without going back to the ranch and submitting to an interrogation or righteous censure?

She certainly couldn't lift him herself. True, she was made of sturdy stock at five-nine, one-fifty, and was in pretty good physical condition having worked hard all her life on the ranch and at various positions with the Forestry Service, but this man had to be six-four and two-hundred pounds of solid muscle. Dead-weight muscle at that. Not to mention he was naked.

Montana realized she had more qualms about the latter than the idea of actually trying to lift and carry an unconscious and injured man to the house by her lonesome.

She pivoted and marched back to Sunspot to retrieve the heavy blanket from beneath her saddle, returned, and crouched beside the stranger before gently covering him with the coarse material.

The stranger.

 

IN PLAIN SIGHT

STORY EXCERPT

 

Sam had always been athletic growing up, and was a varsity soccer player in high school. She continued to keep herself in shape with daily Pilates and yoga sessions, even had some martial arts training under her belt, which was both a good and bad thing since the arts focused more on the philosophy of self-discipline rather than self-defense. Unless one's life was threatened, of course, but Dawson's attacks had been so abrupt and unprovoked, Sam hadn't had an opportunity to properly respond. She had never dreamed she'd have to use what she'd learned against her husband.

It was an embarrassing insult to go out in such a manner. It was so mundane and unoriginal—no drama, barely a struggle or whimper—taking a headlong tumble down a flight of stairs. The one time she had to defend herself against someone turned out to be with the man who'd sworn to love and protect her.

Sam wasn't completely sure now whether to blame him or herself, not completely sure who had struck the fatal blow. She remembered swinging out with her free hand before Dawson lost his grip on the one holding the only piece of luggage she had packed, and she hit the bottom of the case landing at an awkward angle. Her head struck against the shiny parquet floor with a sickening crack, luggage wedged beneath her back and the floor.

She smelled the scent of polished wood and new house as she left her body and floated over the scene to watch the action unfold like a fender-bender's spectator. She remembered thinking that if she wasn't dead, she was at least a quadriplegic. That's how broken her body had looked. She lay bent and twisted like a crime scene chalk outline model. She remembered going after Dawson in her astral form, angrily swinging at his head as he tearfully knelt beside her body at the bottom of the stairwell. She'd barely stirred his hair, but at least garnered a slight shiver as her fist went through his jaw. The very last thing she remembered before she'd been yanked away from the scene was seeing her father go after Dawson, her parents having entered the house at some point during their daughter and son-in-law's altercation.

She should have stood up to him sooner, planned her escape better, left him when her parents had wanted her to—so many shoulda, coulda, wouldas—and now it was too late.

Or was it?

The light ahead glimmered with a life all its own, white-hot and beckoning.

Sam floated several feet before it, finally came to a stop, calm and at ease.

"Tater-Tot." The sobriquet came out on a strangled whisper, and Sam wondered why the memory of an infant boy was so vivid when her baby hadn't yet been born. It was a mere three-month fetus nestled within its mother's womb unknowing and unprotected at impact.

Sam lowered her palms to her stomach, cupped her abdomen in a protective gesture to shelter a life that had already been lost. She'd failed before she ever had a chance to try, failed despite her best intentions to remove her baby from a bad situation while she still had a chance.

You did not fail, Samantha.

Had that voice come from the light? Only her parents called her Samantha, and usually when they were at their wits' end trying to either talk some sense into her strong head, or talk her out of one of her rebellious antics.

Sam smiled. She had to admit that she drove her parents to the brink of several nervous breakdowns with some of her stunts. The last two infamous ones were dropping out of college during her senior year and marrying a man almost ten years her senior.

"Sam, honey, we're only looking out for your welfare. You need to explore the world, explore yourself. Why settle down so soon?"

She'd known the level of her mother's desperation at hearing that last one. Neither of her parents had ever approved of any of the boyfriends she'd entertained. "Common riff-raff," they usually said. "Beneath you," they harped on. Not to mention their favorite against her marriage to Dawson: "If he really loves you, he'll wait."

But Sam had been the impatient one, and unwilling to wait when she knew what she wanted, knew she had found the man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life.

Dawson was mature, so much more so than the boys Sam had dated. Dawson wanted her the way a man wanted a woman—with tender passion and primal lust. And she'd wanted him.

She should have listened to her parents for once.

Do not regret, child. It gets you nowhere.

"Why?" One word, encompassing, and the omnipotent voice understood.

We have plans for you.

"Plans? Why did you let me die then? Why not after I had my baby? At least you could have let me have my baby!" Sam sobbed. She wondered if she would have done a better job as a mother than she had as a wife. She wondered how good she would have been at protecting her baby once it was born. Then she remembered her dream, the one where she made a clean getaway from her ranting husband, their newborn son, Tate, alive and well behind her in his infant seat. Well, almost a clean getaway. If memory served her, she'd crashed on the highway as Dawson gave chase in his car, screaming about her not taking his son anywhere.

Not a dream.

Sam sniffled, heart skipping with hope. "You mean it was real?"

One reality. An alternate reality.

"Then you can send me back? I can have my baby, my life—"

Not in the way you expect.

What was that supposed to mean?It means, we have plans for you.

Sam wasn't so sure she liked the sound of that, but something told her she didn't have much say in the matter.

They had plans for her.

 

* * * *

 

Dara reached for her gun too late.

The shadow stepped across the threshold, gun drawn. He took aim at her chest, fired, hitting her dead center.

Dara flew back, realization dawning as the bullet pierced her vest.

Cop killers. Oh hell, oh damn…

Her old rival noiselessly, unhurriedly strode across the carpeted floor past the skip cowering behind the bureau. He smiled down at Dara as she crawled backwards, towards the window, on her elbows and heels.

She reached behind her, pulled herself up on the windowsill, blood seeping through skin, bone, and Kevlar, numbing her limbs. She leaned a shoulder against the jamb as her assailant leisurely switched guns, leering at her once more when he raised the new weapon.

"I told you I'd pay you back no matter how long it took. No one takes a skip away from me and gets away with it. Especially not some lezzy cunt."

Dara wheezed, gurgling her next words. "Tarrent, think about what you're doing."

"Oh, I have. Long and hard." He smiled, moving so close to stare her in the eyes she thought for a moment he might have changed his mind. Then he reached out to snatch the small gold hoop from her left earlobe.

Dara gasped, then regretted it immediately.

"I'll keep this as a souvenir of our time together." He graced her with sharp white canines as he pocketed the earring. "Be glad it's not your ear. Not that you'll have much use for either in a few seconds." He stepped back, taking aim at her chest.

Barbarian, cannibal, man-eater…Dara closed her eyes, knew she was a dead woman, but tried to get through to him one more time. "Tarrent, ple—"

"Bye-bye, bitch."

His next shot sent her crashing through the glass and tumbling out the window.

 

* * * *

 

Dara landed on the hard pavement, surprised that she wasn't dead and wishing she was.

Excruciating pain lit up every nerve ending in her body. She was sure she had broken her back, among other major and minor bones, in the fall, but her insides, they were the real problem, on fire like someone had shoved a grenade packed with razor blades inside her abdomen and detonated it. She'd heard about talon slugs before, breaking onto the street in the nineties, but had never come across anyone who'd used them, or lived to tell about being shot with one. Leave it to that mean-spirited bastard to use outlawed ammo.

The pain was unreal, unbearable, inhuman, and just when Dara thought she couldn't take another minute of suffering, she felt herself drifting—up, up, up, and away. Her body, however, remained on the rain-slicked pavement, still and bleeding.

Someone brushed by her on Dara's way out. Someone on her way in. Into Dara's body!

Dara sampled the other's soul as they crossed paths—her first impressions raising her hackles—rich, spoiled, suburban American princess. Bourgeoisie. Everything Caution's grandfather loved, everything Dara loathed. Her next impressions weren't much better—wheat-gold hair, sky-blue eyes, young, petite, beautiful…and very dead.

Oh God! I'm gone, dead, kaput…

Was He punishing her? Teaching her a lesson?

No, punishing would have meant leaving her soul in her body writhing in agony as her internal organs bled out. He had done her a favor by pulling her out of her body when He had.

But, Mighty Isis, what had homegirl done to deserve the fate Dara had just escaped?

Dara didn't have time to think much more on it. She hadn't stopped drifting; her journey was just beginning. She was mildly amused and mightily shocked that her trip seemed to be going in an upward direction.

 

* * * *

 

Sam slammed into her new destination with such force, the trauma left her breathless for several long moments. Awareness – painful, corporeal awareness – forced her to finally take a breath. She immediately regretted it, cursing Their plans and wishing for sweet oblivion again. The broken neck was nothing compared to what she was feeling now. Fire inside and out. Heck, even her left earlobe throbbed! This new body must have been thrown down several flights of stairs, if not the roof of a tall building. How it still possessed the ability to breathe and feel anything was beyond her. But not beyond Them, evidently. Why?

All in time, Samantha.

Yeah, sure, You say. That's what They all say.

Might as well have been talking to the backward-talking creature in Star Wars since the answers she'd gotten about her predicament so far made about as much sense as Yoda’s brain-twisting phraseology, and were about as satisfying.

"Dare! Dios mio, que paso?"

Sam opened her eyes as someone rushed over to her in the rain. The dimly lit side street where she lay afforded little opportunity to see her rescuer clearly. Or maybe he was her attacker, for all she knew, coming back to make sure he'd done the job right.

God, what had They gotten her into?

Take care, child. All will be well.

You're leaving me?

"No, chica! I wouldn't leave you for the world. And I'm so sorry I was late."

Sam hadn't realized she'd spoken out loud until she saw the horrified look on her rescuer's face and something else she could just barely make out: guilt.

She tried to sit up and gasped as the stranger pushed her back. He placed his rolled up leather jacket beneath her head and opened her jacket to probe her rib cage with gentle fingers. When one of his hands brushed the outer edge of a breast, she slapped it away before she realized he was searching for wounds, wounds inflicted despite a bulletproof vest.

She felt the weight of the contraption against her chest and abdomen, and the blood, wet and sticky against her skin, and almost became sick with the implications.

Just how badly had this body been injured? And whose body was it? Who was this Dare?

Gradually, pain faded as if fleeing in response to her questions, or perhaps the stranger's touch. Sam didn't care which, just that alleviation was at hand.

 

ADULT EXCERPT

 

[Scene note: Sam, who is in Dara Kelly's body, realizes that the man she thought is her abusive husband Dawson turns out to be Dawson's identical twin brother Caution.]

Shaken, Sam turned back to Dawson just in time to see he'd unlocked the cuffs.

He stood in front of her, grinning, restraints dangling from the pointer of his right hand as he whistled a nameless tune, looking entirely too self-satisfied.

How the heck had he gotten out of the cuffs? Sam couldn't remember being married to Harry Houdini!

Her heart hammered not just from the fact that she was in the room with a dangerous escaped felon, the man responsible for her death, but from the wicked butter-melting grin spreading across her husband's face and reaching his eyes. She couldn't tell whether he was enraged or just a little peeved, and didn't want to find out, but he reached out and caught her wrist with both hands, wrestling the Glock from her grip before she could squeak.

Dumbfounded, Sam watched as he ejected the chambered round, emptied the clip and pocketed it before placing the empty gun atop the marble center island.

He stalked her around the kitchen as she tried to gain the door. She dodged to her left, didn't fool him as he caught her by an arm. Sam threw one leg behind his, but just as she was about to flip him over a hip to the floor, Caution reversed position in time to take her with him, cushioning her fall with his body as they both went crashing to the linoleum.

She struggled as he flipped her beneath him, straddled her hips, pulled her arms up over her head and grasped her wrists.

"You shouldn't do that." He leered.

Sam frowned. "Do what?"

"Thrust and plunge that way. I might get the wrong idea."

She struggled harder at his words and it only made him laugh. "Let me go."

"You came into my house, Ms. Big Bad Bounty Hunter, pointing a gun at me as if I was some dangerous felon, and now you want me to let you go?"

"I was perfectly within my rights."

"And so am I, Ms. Kelly." He leaned in, lips a hair's breadth from hers, and paused as he stared into her eyes. "Is this what you wanted? Does this turn you on?"

Sam bucked. "Don't flatter yourself!"

"Actually, I'm flattering you." He leaned further, stirring her hair with his breath as he brushed her cheek with his lips, then murmured, "If I'd known you were into the kinky bondage scene, we could have tried this a long time ago."

Sam squirmed, gasped when she met Dawson's hard erection with her slit, and instantly felt moist heat between her legs as her pussy gushed. "I'm not," she said.

He arched a brow. "Not flattered?"

"Not into the kinky bondage scene." Tell that to your dripping wet cunt.

"Pity," he whispered. "Now, about this Dawson jazz…" He slid his mouth up, ran his tongue over her full lower lip. "You've never been fooled by my brother before. Besides my mother and Grampa Brody you're just about the only one in the world who can tell us apart."

Fooled? Brother? Grampa Brody? What did he mean by brother?

Sam frowned, light slowly dawning before she saw red. She should have known something was off-kilter when the man had addressed Dara so familiarly.

That evil, deceptive witch!

Sam remembered the last thing Dara had said to her before directing her to the townhouse: "I'm going to give you a lead to the skip." Not lead Sam to the skip, but give her a lead. Very subtle wording but it made all the difference.

If the woman weren't already dead, Sam would make sure the deed was done right the next time and kill Dara Kelly herself.

And Dawson! Talk about deceptive. He never once mentioned a sibling, much more an identical twin. But then again, Sam had never shown any overt interest, thus she only knew that he was estranged from his family, and she stupidly had not pried for the low down. She'd loved him, she'd married him, and the rest hadn't concerned her blind sensibilities, not to mention her overactive, twenty-two-year-old libido.

Fool.

She'd married a stranger. A stranger with a twin. An identical twin. Deliciously, erotically, lusciously identical.

Calm down, kiddo, that's what got you into this mess in the first place. A fool and horny.

"Cat got your tongue?"

"Pardon?" She really wanted to tell him that he'd have her tongue in a few seconds if he didn't back off. His mouth was so close, breath warm and enticing, if she reached out to lick her lips, she'd touch his.

"This is a first. I've never seen you at a loss for words before."

Sam could well imagine. Dara Kelly didn't seem the type to hold her tongue for anyone or anything, quite the opposite.

"I'm not at a loss. I've said what I need to say. And I want you to let me go and get off."

"Anyone ever tell you you're a bossy cuss?" Dawson—or whatever his name was— grinned, and Sam realized a total stranger held her captive. She didn't even know his name, despite knowing every angle of his gorgeous face.

How could she not tell the difference! He was so much more intense than Dawson was, serious and somber, a very solid and trustworthy vibe about him.

She wondered if the brothers were as alike as they were different. They both seemed to have the same spicy sense of humor; both had the same smooth, bronze skin, the lean-like-a-runner's build; both instantly kicked her female hormones into overdrive, but beyond these, Sam was almost in the dark as to demeanor and mood.

Where was help when she needed it and why did ghosts only pop up at the most inopportune times? Not that she had had much experience with the latter, but couldn't Dara see that she was in trouble? Or did she see and just not care?

Sam was tempted to call for Dara, but held back because of the strange man astride her.

His name is Caution.

The words came out as if said through clenched teeth, and Sam had to stop herself from searching the room for their source. Instead, she caught movement on the island behind Caution's hand, and peered as a cup and saucer violently rattled then levitated from the marble surface.

She gawked, and blurted, "Look out!" right before the ceramic-ware flew off the island towards the back of her captor's head as if flung.

Caution didn't hesitate and ducked without blinking or releasing her, and the cup and saucer hurtled past his left ear, missing his head by centimeters before crashing into the refrigerator and breaking into so many pieces.

Sam didn't know whether she was happy or disappointed the man had such quick reflexes, thwarting an opportunity for her escape.

Caution glanced behind him, eyebrows knitting as he turned back to her with a twinkle in his eyes. "Neat trick."

Sam bit her tongue in denial, but decided to turn the tables instead. "You too."

He frowned.

"The handcuffs. How'd you get out of them?"

"Trade secret."

"You're an escape artist?"

"Not quite."

His enigmatic smile only emphasized the fact that he had her where he wanted her, and that she was at a distinct disadvantage.

She should have been more nervous, more afraid, but once she realized it wasn't Dawson imprisoning her, her fear had evaporated. For the moment. Who knew what other sort of threat this Caution represented, besides the assault he was currently waging on her senses of course?

"So, what are we going to do about this impasse?" he asked

"You could try letting me go and getting off of me," Sam repeated, but noticed he didn't seem in any particular hurry to do either.

"I like it where I am."

"But I don't."

"You've made that abundantly clear the last couple of months."

Sam did not want to get into a debate about Caution and Dara's relationship. "I'd rather not talk about that right now."

"Running away from our problems isn't going to solve anything."

 

NINE INCHES OF SNOW

STORY EXCERPT

 

Oh, fuck.

Something had gone wrong, something he’d never encountered or heard of before.

He’d started to shift when he saw the car coming at him and recognized Philomena behind the wheel. It was a natural reaction, his body instinctively changing to another form to avoid maximum damage, or at least trying to change. She’d come at him so fast, it was a wonder he’d had time to react at all. It was a wonder, too, that he’d seen her face. But he had. There’d been no mistaking that long, platinum blonde hair or hateful green-eyed glare.

She’d meant to kill him.

David trotted over to his body to see if she’d succeeded, nuzzling his neck and releasing a howl at the non-response. He gaped up at the spectators and realized when none of them reacted to his presence that they couldn’t see or hear him.

Double fuck.

Either he was dead, or he wasn’t. Either he was wolf, or he was man. He couldn’t be both, could he? David had never heard of a split or bilocation of this nature. He needed to get to his father or grandfather to find out what was going on.

Would either of them be able to hear or see him any better than the spectators could?

He glanced up at the nearby apartment building, drawn to his original destination, the question momentarily moot. Something beckoned him. Someone.

Aziza was close. He could feel her.

David stepped back when an ambulance sped to a stop outside the circle of spectators and parked. The surrounding crowd opened their ranks to make room for the two EMS technicians who rushed to his body with a stretcher and other equipment. He stayed with his body for the several minutes it took them to stabilize and prepare him for transport and watched them head back to the hospital, sirens wailing and red lights flashing in the night.

David eyed the back of the departing ambulance longingly, torn between following or going to his new mate.

He chose his mate.

 

* * * *

 

Aziza jerked awake in her favorite corner of the sofa. The textbook she’d buried her nose in when she drifted asleep fell to the floor with a thwack. She wondered what had startled her out of her sleep until she spotted the large timber wolf standing on the threshold of her living room, staring at her.

He had azure eyes! Not that she was an expert in such things, but she had never heard of this in a wolf before, especially not so human a shade, so human an expression. 

She wasn’t sure how she knew the animal was a wolf and not a big dog or a coyote. There was just something too majestic and extraordinary about him to be either of those.

Where had he come from, and how in God’s name had he gotten into her apartment?

 

ADULT EXCERPT

 

Take your clothes off.

David wasn’t sure if the thought came from her or him until he felt Aziza’s fingers at the buttons of his shirt.

He closed his eyes and helped her along, willing the shirt off and leaving the pants for her deft touch, wanting to feel her divest him.

She unzipped his pants, dipped her hand inside and eagerly plucked out his cock, grasping it in both hands. When she bent her head to lap at the pre-come already gathered in the slit David saw fireworks.

Oh fuck, her mouth felt good! Too good.

Could a ghost-man-in-a-coma prematurely ejaculate?

David wasn’t sure, and he didn’t want to find out, sliding his hips out of her range and listening to his dick pop out of her mouth with a resounding slurp.

“What—”

“I want to taste you first.”

She smirked. “And you always get what you want.”

He flipped her beneath him on the bed in answer, closed his eyes again, and willed her wrists bound to the head posts.

His magic was more powerful in here than out in the real world when he was corporeal, almost reaching his grandfather’s capacity. How could he accomplish what he had so far and not be capable of pulling himself out of a coma?

Aziza didn’t have a problem with his powers or audacious behavior, staring up at him with those dark cat eyes and testing the silk restraints on her wrist with a bold smile of her own. “You like being in charge.”

“It’s the only way I know.”

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