Traumatized by the boyfriend from hell, Amber Heath makes a desperate plea for help and is shocked when the immortal love goddess Aria materializes and whisks her away to a nineteenth century Carnivale.
Jeff Conway is still reeling from his fiancé’s betrayal and not about to risk his heart. But he’s more than willing to play with the spunky sprite Aria brings to meet him at Carnivale.
Sometimes watching, sometimes joining in, and always coaching, Aria launches Amber and Jeff on an erotic journey back to health and playfulness. But even the love goddess can’t force them to love each other.
“I can’t believe you wrote this.” Amber Heath slid the book across the table and glared at her aunt, whose calm smile never wavered. “Tell me you didn’t write this.”
Jamie Hazelton turned the cover of the paperback.
Amber watched her mouth turn up into a broader smile.
“Colors of the Night. That does sound familiar.” She winked. “I won’t lie to you. Yes, I did write this. It even has my name on it. Did you think there were two Jamie Hazeltons?”
“Maybe there are,” Amber huffed, still not quite believing. “But even if you did write it, it’s not true. It didn’t really happen. You haven’t done all that stuff with sex toys, anal sex…you haven’t loved a woman.”
“Why not?” Jamie arched an eyebrow. “From what I hear, you’ve done all of that stuff and more.”
“But that’s different,” Amber quickly backpedaled, feeling her cheeks warm. “You’re my aunt. You’re older. You’re part of a different generation.”
“True enough. But I’ve not always been this old. Besides, your uncle and I continue to be quite creative—even at the advanced age of being in our sixties.”
Amber blinked and sighed. “I didn’t mean you were ancient. I can’t believe I’m even having this conversation with my favorite aunt. Why does everyone in the family think we’re so much alike? Your hair is redder than mine. You have gorgeous eyes. And you’re so much taller.”
“I’ve always been rather fond of the comparison,” Jamie admitted, “though I’d prefer my hair to be deep chestnut like yours. I used to slink about trying not to look so tall.”
Amber couldn’t help but laugh at the image of her aunt slinking about. That seemed so out of character for her. She’d always regarded Aunt Jamie as bold and assertive, in line with her reputation as a hardnosed prosecutor. But she’d never considered her aunt to be particularly sexual—Amber stared at the book jacket and swallowed—until possibly now.
“And you have the most mysterious eyes—sometimes greenish, sometime gray. Seldom exactly the same.” Jamie tilted her head to the side. “Neither one of us seems to have been blessed with much in the boobs department.”
“That’s for sure.”
“But you have a nice butt. The kind lovers admire.” Jamie narrowed her eyes. “Right?”
“Maybe.” More than one lover had told her that her ass was her finest feature—in addition to her expressive mouth and eyes. Still, she wanted to steer their conversation back to her aunt and to her incredible book. It wasn’t every day she learned her aunt was an author and a sexual adventurer. She smirked and pointed at the novel. “I must admit, it was a clever device coming up with the idea to develop the Aria character. A Goddess of Love from another reality to help troubled lovers in this reality even got my juices flowing a little.”
Jamie blanched. “You think I created Aria?”
“Of course.” Amber looked askance at her aunt. “You did, didn’t you?” She scowled and crossed her arms. “You’re not trying to tell me Aria is real—that you’ve had sex with a…a spirit, a ghost, or whatever?”
Jamie pursed her lips. “Would you prefer that I lie to you?”
“Of course not.” Amber closed her eyes and tried to breathe. Her aunt had been one of the top prosecutors in Ramsey County until she retired the previous year, apparently to devote full time to writing. Supposedly, the book recounted experiences her aunt and uncle had shared with Aria, a love goddess, who first appeared to them on a northern Minnesota lake. Impossible. She gawked at her aunt. Jamie Hazelton was the last person who would ever succumb to fantasy and myth. She was an objective realist who delighted in ferreting out truth from fiction. Many residents of Minnesota prisons could attest to that fact.
Her aunt chuckled. “It doesn’t compute, does it?”
Amber shook her head slowly.
“Sometimes, fact is indeed stranger than fiction.” Jamie shrugged. “Believe what you will, but Aria is as real as I am—as real as you are.”
“You haven’t seen her in decades?” Amber whispered, more to herself than to her aunt.
“True enough, but that doesn’t make her any less real. She did what she could for Ryan and me. The rest was up to us. That’s the way it is. Aria isn’t a puppeteer.” Jamie paused and laughed softly. “Oh, she can be very persistent and is not above some trickery, but she can’t make anything last.”
“I wish it were true,” Amber murmured.
“Maybe you need your own Aria. So, are things any better between you Frank?”
Amber scrunched her mouth. Her Aunt Jamie had been her confidant since she was a little girl. Maybe that was why she’d been so shocked by Colors of the Night. She thought she knew her aunt. There’d been no indication Jamie was so sexually…sexually adventurous.
Damn, maybe fascination with sex was embedded in her genes. What about my mother? Amber shook her head. She wasn’t about to go there. Having this discussion with her aunt was more than enough.
She shrugged her shoulders. “About the same as usual, I guess.” Amber saw her aunt square her shoulders and knew too well what was coming next.
“I don’t know why you settle for that creep. You have so much going for you. A beautiful, young, successful businesswoman with a keen mind and sharp sense of humor.” Jamie quickly reached for her hand. “I’m sorry, Amber. I don’t mean to be so harsh, but you deserve so much more. At least you’ve never married the bastard. But I worry for you. You’d tell me if he beats you?”
“He doesn’t.” Amber held her head high. At least he hadn’t tried that in the past year.
“He still makes you feel like a piece of shit.” Jamie’s eyes snapped. “I do everything I can to keep my mouth shut when you bring him to family events. You don’t deserve to be treated like that, Amber. No woman does. Someday, he’s going to mouth off to the wrong person and he’ll either wind up in the hospital, the court, or the morgue.”
Amber wet her lips. She knew better than to interrupt her aunt when she got on a tirade. And she was on one. But there was no question about her aunt’s love for her, and she would tire eventually. She always did.
Shaking her head, Jamie said, “You’re such a spunky young woman, yet there are times when I look at you and you look terribly sad. I wish I had a magic wand to make things right for you, but I don’t.”
Amber shrugged. “I gave up believing in magic a long time ago.”
“That’s a shame.” Jamie gave her a half smile. “But then maybe when I was twenty-seven, I’d given up on magic, too. Fortunately, I rediscovered it in my thirties.”
“Aria,” Amber breathed.