Hot off the press at Ellora's Cave is Darkling, a great new addition to the Xanadu line.
Niles Walker, a social worker in the ’hood, stumbles across what appears to be a gorgeous homeless woman heaped in rags in the middle of a heat wave. Drawn to her beauty, he struggles to keep from peeling the layers off and taking the tantalizing curves beneath. Finally he gives in to his urges and offers his apartment as refuge, though it puts his job on the line. And too late, he realizes he can’t keep her from his bed.
Vega is a fallen star looking for the magical object used to light newborn stars. She can’t believe the human who gives her shelter can also inspire such need in her strange new human form. She’s so hungry for his kisses and the fire he kindles inside her, she nearly forgets her purpose for coming to Earth—retrieving the starscale, or risking her future and those of her fellow celestial beings.
Read the following excerpt of DARKLING and answer these three questions in the comments section for a chance to win a copy! Make sure you leave your email address within the body of the comment.
1. What constellation is Vega from?
2. What funny sound does Vega make while sleeping?
3. What sport does Niles participate in?
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An Excerpt From: DARKLING
Copyright © EM PETROVA, 2012
All Rights Reserved, Ellora's Cave Publishing, Inc.
Niles leaned against the doorframe between the living room and kitchen of his apartment and stared at the sleeping woman on his sofa. In repose, her face was more striking than ever. Who was she and where had she come from? For two full days she’d been sleeping and downing glasses of water. After so many hours of this behavior, he was starting to get alarmed and wondered if he should call medical personnel.
He crossed the room to the sofa and attempted to shake her awake.
She flung out an arm and twisted her head hard to the side, but didn’t open her eyes.
“Vega, wake up!”
Her full lips worked as if she were trying to speak.
He laid his palm on her forehead, relieved to find she wasn’t hot. At some point during the night, she’d stripped off the outer layer of clothes, leaving her in only a thin chemise. It clung damply to the outer curve of her breast and the slope of her hip.
He tore his gaze away. “You’ve got to wake up and talk to me, Vega. I’m worried.”
“Pollux from Gemini. Earth is too hot, but I’ll grow accustomed to it. More water please…”
He straightened with surprise. What the—? Chafing a hand over his face, he bumped his glasses. He yanked them off and massaged his eyes. What the hell was he doing? There was something seriously wrong with her. The best thing to do was call the shelter and fight to secure a space for her. He’d been wrong to bring her here. He couldn’t start harboring the homeless in his apartment.
Sure you don’t need her to leave because you want her, Niles?
His body hummed at the sight of her curves. In fact, every long glance and touch he’d exchanged with her loomed up in his mind, as sweet and soft as a day in the country. Wiping her tears and holding her as she cried did things to his insides he hadn’t felt…well, ever.
He stared at her again without his glasses. Besides the facts that she wasn’t from this country and was searching for something, he knew little about her. When he’d gotten her into the apartment, she’d fallen instantly asleep and had awakened only to drink or to stumble to the bathroom.
Reaching down, he brushed a glossy raven lock from her velvety cheek. A lone wave pooled in the hollow of her collarbone and he longed to follow the length and learn the feel of her flesh. In fact, he fought to keep from gathering up that glossy lock and dipping his tongue into the delicious depression at the base of her throat.
Get a grip, man. Find out where she’s come from and what she needs, then turn her loose on the world.
Bold thoughts for a man who collected down-and-outs as if they were stray kittens.
He jammed his glasses back on his face and spun toward the kitchen. The tile floor cooled his bare feet but he was still hot. The inadequate air-conditioning in his apartment didn’t help his already impassioned state.
Reaching into a high cupboard, he pulled down a glass and filled it with iced tea. His apartment was his refuge from the sometimes depressing outside world, and now he’d brought one of the sad situations home with him. For two days, he’d been passing the bulk of his caseload off on Brady. Except for Mischa. In her delicate state, Niles couldn’t afford to upset the balance of their relationship. Their talks might mean the difference between life and death for this special young girl.
But he had to get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the sleeping woman on his sofa before he broke down and touched her the way he longed to.
For the fiftieth time, his mind raced with questions. Who was she? Where had she come from? What did she need help finding, and how was he going to get any information from her? Between their obvious communication problems and her heavy sleep, he wasn’t likely to learn what she needed soon.
He braced his feet wide and sipped the cold brew, wishing she was awake so he could talk to her. The faster he figured out how to help her, the faster he’d be able to return to his life. Tiptoeing around a heart-stopping woman asleep on his sofa and keeping his racing thoughts in check was putting enormous pressure on him. In the two days she’d been there, he’d done little more than gaze at her. He’d even missed his boxing practices.
She needs help finding something. What? A person?
A sliver of dread sliced through his chest as he realized she might have followed someone to this country. Someone she may be in love with.
Not your business, guy. Focus. She didn’t shed all those tears because she’s all right. It was his job to uncover her troubles and help her solve them.
Just like he should be doing with Mischa right now.
He flipped his wrist and checked the time. She’d be arriving at the office in half an hour. A street kid with little love in her raw existence, it was no wonder she’d given in to her debilitating depression and bipolar tendencies and tried to take her life.
But it gutted him that she had. If only she’d called him.
A quiet noise in the other room yanked him from his melancholy thoughts. He set down his glass and strode to the door. Peeking into the living area, he fixed his gaze on the stunning beauty on the sofa. She was curled on one side. One slender forearm hung over the side of the sofa, her knuckles almost brushing the floor.
She drew a snorting, hitching breath and released it in a wheezing gasp.
A rumble of laughter threatened to burst out of his chest. He pressed a fist to his lips to suppress it. His goddess was snoring.
Quickly his struggle to keep from laughing gave way to a battle over his emotions. A deep need to protect her overwhelmed him. Maybe the intimacy of watching her sleep hour after hour or her guile-free gaze fed his need to shelter her.
It’s probably the tender point of her chin driving these passions in you, Niles. Get hold of yourself.
Still, he couldn’t tear his gaze away. With each snoring breath, the soft upper bow of her lip fluttered in and out. Her lashes were long and curling and lay against her smooth cheeks. He longed to stroke them with a fingertip to discover if they were as unbelievably soft as they appeared.
His cock throbbed heavily in the confines of his pants. Yeah, this idea was turning out worse than he imagined. His regular caseload was stressful, but throw in a hot illegal sprawled on his sofa for two days plus the fact that his morals didn’t allow him to hook up with just anyone, and he hadn’t had sex in close to a year, and he was ready to hit something. Literally.
In a few hours, he hoped to have made some decisions in regards to her welfare. He needed to sneak away to the gym to get a few rounds in with his opponent Darien. He was expected in the ring at seven o’clock for a big fight, but if Vega didn’t wake up, he couldn’t exactly leave her here alone. She might be frightened.
He flexed his fingers into fists and then released them. If you miss that fight, you’ll manage. You’ll do what’s best.
He went back to the kitchen and retrieved his iced tea, then returned to take up the chair across from Vega. The old cushions sank beneath his weight. As his head filled with her natural perfume, he relaxed back with a sigh.
He’d drawn the curtains to keep the room cool. A single piercing sliver of light escaped the thick cloth and fell across the arm of the sofa. It didn’t touch the sleeping woman, yet she seemed to glow. For long minutes he watched the odd golden lights play over her skin, thinking it one of the most beautiful tricks of the eye he’d ever experienced.
Quiet snores became lulling music and pretty soon his body tuned into it. The knot between his shoulder blades loosened and some of the constant ache behind his eyes ebbed away. He removed his glasses and rested them on his knee.
Man, you’ve got it bad.
As he watched the rise and fall of her chest beneath the thin gown she wore, he knew beyond a doubt something wasn’t right with her. After more than a decade of working with the needy, he’d developed a sixth sense. And it told him Vega harbored a deeper secret.
Determination filled him. When she awakened, he was going to ask her some very hard questions. If he was to help her, she’d need to confide in him. By nightfall, he would have those answers.
~where words mean so much more~
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