Which Witch?

by Leisl Leighton

You’ve already identified your inner wolf, but what about your inner witch? Luckily, Leisl Leigton’s new paranormal series provides enough action and adventure for both…

Witches are creatures of the elements, pulling on the power of mother nature to fuel their magic – wind, water, earth and fire. These elements come together singularly or in multiples to create the base power of the witch. In the Pack Bound series, the four heroines are: Bron, a Healer, Shelley, a Medium, Skye, an Elemental, and Eloise, an Empathic-Shifter. Which one of them do you most closely resemble?

Which Witch are you? Answer these 10 questions to find out.

What element do you feel an affinity for?

  1. Air
  2. Water
  3. Earth
  4. Fire

What animal is your spirit guide?

  1. Hawk
  2. Dolphin
  3. Wolf
  4. Dragon

What colour is your favourite?

  1. Purple
  2. Yellow
  3. Green
  4. Blue

What is your favourite stone?

  1. Amethyst
  2. Amber
  3. Emerald
  4. Sapphire

Do you prefer:

  1. Spring
  2. Autumn
  3. Winter
  4. Summer

Do you like to:

  1. Go mountain hiking
  2. Go for a swim
  3. Work in the garden
  4. All of the above

Would you say you are:

  1. Rational and analytical– you don’t like to be rushed into things
  2. Emotional and sensitive – you prefer spontaneity
  3. Practical and grounded – you like to work with your hands
  4. Daring and bold – you like to take risks

If you were at a party, would you be:

  1. Involved in debate about politics and social discussion
  2. Floating around making sure everyone is having a good time
  3. In the kitchen making sure there was enough for everyone to eat and drink
  4. Dancing on the table, in the middle of all the fun

Do you feel at home:

  1. In a school, university, place of study?
  2. Living room or place of social activity?
  3. In a garden/farm?
  4. Wherever there are people and fun activities?

If you could describe your ideal job, what would it be?

  1. Something that was intellectually stimulating
  2. Helping others heal physically or emotionally
  3. Working with your hands
  4. Teaching and inspiring others

If you answered mostly A you are: Shelley.

Congratulations! Shelley is a medium whose main element is Air. The Air element’s direction is east and its season is spring. Air governs the realm of the mind and mental activity and is the most ethereal of the elements and one of the reasons why Shelley’s main power allows her to speak to spirits and move in the veiled world of death. She longs to travel, is very intellectual and imaginative and gets a great deal of satisfaction out of discovering new information and new places.

She is always at home in places she can explore any of these loves, as are all those governed by the Air element. Meeting rooms, schools, libraries, airports, railway stations and bus terminals are all places that speak to her in ways that are unusual for others, which is probably why she was also attracted to working as a nurse in a hospital despite the spirits who have a habit of accosting her there. Despite this, she also loves being outside, especially at the top of a mountain or on a windy plain, or quite frankly, anywhere where there is a clear, open sky.

She is very rational and analytical, doesn’t rush into things and loves mental stimulation – which is why she loves studying the Pack Diaries. Sometimes she can be too judgemental and critical of herself and others and pedantic about getting things right. Her power when it manifests on the physical and psychic planes is amethyst. She is deeply loyal, and once she loves, she loves forever.

If you answered mostly B you are: Bron.

Congratulations! Bron is a Healer whose main element is Water. The Water element’s direction is west and its season is autumn. Water is the element that most affects the subconscious, emotions and dreams. It purifies, heals, offers emotional release and removes all that is stagnant which is partly what makes Bron the talented Healer she is. Her power is the warm amber-gold of true Healing in both the physical and psychic planes and she is never so happy as when she is helping someone else.

Bron is extremely social, loving always to be with people, although not always the centre of attention. She is in touch with her feminine core, is very sexually confident and has no problem with touch. In fact, she needs the touch of those she loves and cares for to feel whole.

She loves water places – seas, lakes, rivers, marshes, wells, pools and areas where the land is rain-drenched. She is spiritual, emotional, sensitive and very intuitive, which is why she can also feel and sometimes even see the dead and talk to them, although bearing their sadness is very difficult for her because she is likely to take it on herself. She is extremely spontaneous, sometimes too spontaneous – something that has got her into trouble in the past – but this is balanced out by her empathic and nurturing soul. The biggest danger to Bron is giving herself too much to those she loves and not leaving anything of herself.

If you answered mostly C you are: Eloise.

Congratulations! Eloise is an empath whose main element is Earth. Earth’s direction is north and its month is winter. Earth’s main qualities are those of shelter, the womb, rebirth and as a home of ancient oracles – and Eloise has all this in spades and more. Earth is also related to the gods and goddesses who represent sexuality and vitality, but its power is also grounding, which is one of the many reasons why she is the Nexus with the ability to create and destroy.

Her power is life and death, which is one of the reasons she is afraid to take risks and branch out and it often seems to her that her dreams are out of her reach, but everything is there inside her, she just has to trust herself to step up and take the chance. Her power when it manifests on the physical and psychic planes is spring green and when she finally opens up, she feels very connected to everything around her.

She loves to work with her hands and has a keen intellect, things that come in handy when she studied engineering, particularly her love of fixing cars. She needs to be surrounded by family because like Bron, she’s very tactile by nature and enjoys the pleasures of the senses. These were pushed aside for many years so, when these needs are finally explored, she discovers with delight that she has a very healthy libido, a fact she is more than happy to explore with the love of her life.

If you answered mostly D, you are: Skye

Congratulations! Skye is an Elemental whose main element is Fire, although she also has dominion over the other elements as well because of her Elemental status, so she can claim some of the characteristics of her friends. Fire’s direction is south and its season is summer. Her power when it manifests on the physical and psychic planes is electric blue. Motivated, creative, passionate and fast to act, Skye likes living a little dangerously. She loves a challenge and is addicted to the adrenaline rush of X-sports. She loves being outside and feeling one with her body and nature, but can push herself too hard and get hurt.

She is intuitive, understanding and imaginative which makes her a natural to work with children and one of the reasons why they love her so much, because in many ways, she is as open as they are. However, Skye is terrified of her powers and how they make her feel like she is out of control, that her natural instinct is to destroy. She allows her fear to cloud the fact that she is courageous and strong and has the power to transform everything she touches, and doesn’t immediately see that fire is not only destructive, it cleanses, purifies and creates.

Like most Fire personalities, she is charming, charismatic and passionate and lives her life to the full, relying heavily on instincts. Daring and bold in career, she is afraid to give in love until she opens to the reality of who she really is, and then she gives herself to love in the same way she gives herself to everything else – wholly and completely.


33095One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined…

Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch-kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand-new world.

But the Darkness was not destroyed.

Skye Collins has been brought up to fear her magic and shy away from witch and Were alike. But when Jason McVale, the Alpha of Pack McVale, comes in search of her, she is intrigued and tempted. Her mistrust of magic and wariness of the intensity of passion she shares with Jason threatens her control—and if she loses control, she just might turn into the weapon the Darkness intended her to become all along.

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Exclusive Excerpt: The Laird of Blackloch

33094

Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Sarah wasn’t sure when she first noticed the mysterious man dressed in black, watching her. Perhaps it was when Malcolm had escorted Damaris out onto the ballroom floor for a minuet.

Movement and noise surrounded her: laughter and chatter and the elegant strains of the small orchestra filled the air; the swirl of opulent silks and satins and velvets, and the flash of jewels dazzled the eye as dancing couples floated by. But lingering in the shadows on the other side of the room was a tall, dark stranger. He stood perfectly still, his attention focused solely on her. She could almost feel the weight of his gaze like a physical, intimate touch upon her—or so she imagined—and her cheeks grew hot, first with embarrassment and then silent indignation. How rude. Where were his manners?

With a lift of her chin, she turned her head away and directed her gaze back to Malcolm and his sister. But it was all for naught; her eyes kept straying to the man in black. There was something inexplicably compelling about him. Even though he was some distance away, she could tell he was handsome beneath his black half-mask. Unlike many of the other gentlemen of the party, including Malcolm, he was sans peruke. His raven black hair was clubbed at the nape, revealing the sharp cut of his square jaw above the frothy white lace of his jabot. Aside from white silk stockings and a touch of white lace at his cuffs, everything else he wore, including his cloak, was as dark as midnight.

Who was he? And why was he so interested in her? Since her father’s passing six months ago, she’d been in mourning and hadn’t been out and about that much. And considering she had only been in Scotland since Hogmanay, she wasn’t all that well acquainted with Edinburgh’s polite society yet.

She was about to ask Aunt Judith, her erstwhile guardian, if she’d noticed the stranger’s pointed interest when a young, fair-haired woman, in a scandalously low-cut gown of scarlet and gold brocade, touched his arm in a familiar fashion before murmuring something in his ear. The man’s wide, well-shaped mouth curved into a slight smile and his attention shifted to the dancers. Was he studying Malcolm now? How peculiar. Sarah’s nape prickled with unease.

Something odd was going on, she was sure of it. She would discreetly mention the stranger to Malcolm when he returned to her. Perhaps they were just old acquaintances …

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Who is your Inner Wolf?

by Leisl Leighton

If you were a Were-Shifter, would you be an Alpha, a Trickster or a Lone Wolf?

Do you like to:

  1. Make decisions on behalf of others

  2. Make decisions just for yourself

  3. None of the above

When you run, how do you like to do it?

  1. At the head of the pack

  2. By yourself

  3. Whenever the mood takes you

When you go out with friends do you like it to be:

  1. A large group

  2. A small group

  3. Don’t care as long as it’s fun

Of these sports, what one do you like to do?

  1. Anything as long as you can be captain

  2. Swimming laps by yourself

  3. Playing volley ball on the beach

What’s your favourite colour?

  1. Brilliant blue
  2. Spring green
  3. Amethyst

What’s your favourite holiday?

  1. Halloween
  2. Easter
  3. Christmas

If you were an animal, what would you be?

  1. Lion – king of the jungle
  2. Tiger – solitary predator
  3. Dog – family is king

What phrase best describes you?

  1. You love to be in charge and can handle a crisis
  2. You love the quiet and being by yourself
  3. You are the life of the party and don’t like being alone

Do you prefer to:

  1. Stay at home with family and friends
  2. Travel to exotic places and meet new people
  3. Both of the above

In regards to work, do you:

  1. Own your own business/are the manager or boss
  2. Work with your hands/are the creative type
  3. Work in entertainment/events, anything where you can help people have fun

If you answered ‘a’ to most questions, you’re an Alpha. Strong and resilient, you live for family and to protect those you love. You are loyal and kind, but firm and are good in a crisis. A serious soul, you always have your head firmly on your shoulders and would rather have a serious conversation and a good meal with an excellent glass of wine with friends and family than be out playing the town. Once you love, you love forever.

If you answered ‘b’ to most questions, you are a Lone Wolf. You too are strong and resilient and live for family, but unlike an Alpha, you prefer to go it alone. You don’t tend to ask for help and aren’t big on sharing emotions, except with your one true love. You can be quite artistic, and enjoy working with your hands. You need to travel and experience new things and are very creative. You don’t expect to love or be loved, but once you find love, you will never give it back.

If you answered ‘c’ to most questions, you are the Trickster. Like the Alpha and Lone Wolf, you are resilient and strong and incredibly loving and loyal to family and friends – you’d die for them if necessary – but you rarely sit still long enough for people to figure this out about you. You love to party because you get joy out of others having a better time than you. You hate to see others sad, lost or alone, and do everything you can to change this for them. You never give up on anyone – stubborn is the core of who you are. When you love, you give your all and there is no going back, ever.


33095One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined…

Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch-kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand-new world.

But the Darkness was not destroyed.

Skye Collins has been brought up to fear her magic and shy away from witch and Were alike. But when Jason McVale, the Alpha of Pack McVale, comes in search of her, she is intrigued and tempted. Her mistrust of magic and wariness of the intensity of passion she shares with Jason threatens her control—and if she loses control, she just might turn into the weapon the Darkness intended her to become all along.

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Friday Five: Amy Rose Bennett

2707Name: Amy Rose Bennett
First published with Escape: May 2016, The Master of Strathburn
Favourite romance trope: Forced proximity
Ideal hero (in three words): Honourable, considerate, intelligent
Ideal heroine (in three words): Smart, compassionate, strong-willed
Latest book: The Laird of Blackloch

What began your romance writing career? Why do you write romance?

I’ve been writing stories since childhood so becoming a published author has always been an ambition of mine. I fell in love with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre when I was nine years old and from that time onwards, I always knew I wanted to write historical romance. However, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I actually began to write a romance novel. It took me eight years to get around to finishing that book—The Master of Strathburn—so to have it published with Escape was a dream come true. I guess I write romance because I have this need to create stories that are my own versions of Jane Eyre. Stories that are full of heart-felt emotion and high stakes. Stories that will make readers cry, laugh, and fall in love too. I particularly love the challenge of creating an emotional roller-coaster of a journey. In a nutshell, I suppose I just love writing about the most wondrous thing in the world, love!

How do you write? What is your process like?

I write full-time and in the last year, I’ve become really disciplined. I’ve started to set myself a time frame of two to three months to complete my single title length novels and I try very hard to achieve my daily word count goal. To make sure I don’t get stuck during the first draft phase, I plot out the novel from start to finish before I begin to write—not in huge detail but I like to know the major turning points and ‘the end’. And I really get to know my characters. As I write historical romance, I also spend a fair amount of time researching the era and the setting before I begin the story … although I have been known to get lost in research rabbit holes during the writing process too!

What do you do when you’re stuck with a scene?

I often handwrite the scene out. Or I jot down the dialogue and then flesh out the rest of the scene later. If all that fails, I step away, do something mundane (like wash the dishes), and then a way forward usually pops into my head. My wonderful husband is a great sounding board for ideas too; he’s particularly adept at helping me get the male point-of-view right.

Where is your favourite place to write? (Pictures please!)

Friday 5-Amys Office

This will probably sound really dreadful, but my favourite place to write is in my lounge room, on the couch. I’ve never had a dedicated office space. And I can pretty much write anywhere—coffee shops, on planes, on long car trips, in bed. As long as I have my trusty laptop with me, I’m good to go.

Besides writing, what is something else that you’re really good at?

Cooking! I love baking and creating challenging savoury dishes. I have a ton of cookbooks and read them for pleasure. And if we throw a dinner party, I’m in heaven. My very sweet (and totally biased) husband tells me I’m his blonde Nigella, lol.

 


33094Revenge might be sweet, but love is far sweeter…

Following the Battle of Culloden, Alexander MacIvor returns to his ancestral home, Blackloch Castle, only to find the Earl of Tay, chief of the rival Clan Campbell, has laid waste to everything he holds dear. In the face of such devastation, Alex seems doomed to live the life of a fugitive Jacobite…until a stroke of good luck allows him to escape the Highlands and begin again.

Years later, styling himself as a wealthy Englishman, Alexander reclaims his forfeited estate, becoming the new Laird of Blackloch. But it’s not nearly enough to quell his thirst for vengeance. Hell-bent on destroying Lord Tay, he single-mindedly sets about driving his nemesis to bankruptcy. When he learns the earl intends to marry the very beautiful English heiress, Miss Sarah Lambert, thus escaping penury, he devises a devious plan: kidnap Miss Lambert and ransom her to hasten Tay’s ruin.

When Sarah Lambert learns Lord Tay is not the man she thought he was during a masquerade ball in Edinburgh, she is devastated. Reeling from her discovery, things go from bad to worse when a mysterious yet charming guest by the name of Alexander Black turns out to be a true devil in disguise. Abducted and whisked way into the wild Highlands by Black, Sarah is imprisoned in a remote, island-bound tower. Refusing to be a pawn in Black’s diabolical plan for revenge, she determines that somehow, some way, she will regain her freedom. If only she could unlock Black’s secrets…

Living in such close quarters, Alexander quickly discovers the spirited Sarah is more than a match for him, and even the best laid plans can go awry when passion flares and the spark of love threatens to revive his long-dead heart. When the shadows of the past begin to gather, will Alexander and Sarah find their way forward…or will the threatening darkness destroy them both?

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Exclusive Excerpt: Pack Bound

33095

One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined…

The microwave pinged and Skye jumped.

Stupid. Jumping at microwaves!

This is what happened when you had the kind of overbearing grandmother who sent people to follow you around on your holiday. Paranoia.

Slamming her hand against the button, she barely waited for the door to swing open before grabbing the bowl. Soup spilled over her thumb.

Fudge a fudgy-duck!’ She put the dripping soup bowl down on the bench and sucked at her burned thumb. ‘Ffffffruitloops, that’s hot.’

Wow, impressive. She not only skis like a pro, but she knows how to swear in the most inventive way I’ve ever heard. Tell me you can dance the samba and I think I might just want to marry you.’

The prickles on her neck bloomed into hot fire at the sound of a voice she would never forget. ‘You!’ she said, spinning around.

Me.’ His lips twitched.

Her gaze collided with those incredible eyes and her heart took a flying leap up her throat, cutting off her breath.

Breathe. Don’t act like a teenager with a crush. He’s just a man.

But what a man!

Luckily, her lungs responded to the demand for oxygen, because her brain was still missing in action.

Here. Let me help.’ Without asking, he took her arm and led her out of the kitchen to a bench, made her sit and then headed back to the kitchen, returning with her soup, toast, a spoon and a glass of water a moment later.

Thanks.’ Skye spun the spoon between her fingers as he sat on the bench seat opposite. It clanked against the side of the bowl, the sound kick-starting her brain enough for her to ask, ‘What are you doing here?’

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Celebrate (Wiccan) Good Times

by Leisl Leighton

I have always been fascinated with modern religious holidays like Christmas and Easter and how they got to be the way they are. Why on earth do we decorate a pine tree to celebrate the birth of Christ? Why is Christmas in December when historians know Christ was born in the Spring, not in Winter? And why would we have a rabbit leaving eggs to celebrate a man’s death?

It was always so weird – wonderful and interesting, but weird. As I got older, I discovered the reason was because many of our own holidays actually borrow elements from other religious pantheons, most particularly from pagan festivals which are now celebrated by Wiccans and Witches.

For instance, Midwinter, or Yule takes place on the 21st-23rd December. Marking the last month of the old year and the first month of the new (from the lunar calendar), Yule was a time of sacrifices, feasting and gift giving in the northern hemisphere.

Holly

People decorated their homes with ever-greenery – holly, ivy, mistletoe, yew, pine – often featuring red winter berries. (Sound familiar? The only thing missing is a jolly fat white-bearded man wearing a red and white outfit – thanks Coca Cola!) Yule was a very important festival, a turning point of the yearly cycle, a reversal of the sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, symbolising the rebirth of the solar god and presaging the return of the fertile season.

Historians posit that the Christians appropriated this holiday for their own celebrations, due to similar themes of birth and hope they wished to focus on (not to mention supplementing the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which occurred around the same time and was a regular orgy of food, drink and flesh – and a completely different story for another blog!)

Easter also takes much of what it is from the Pagan festival of Ostara or Oestra (sounds a lot like Easter, right?) Ostara is the Vernal Equinox running from the 19th-22nd March. It gains its name from the fertility goddess, Ostara, the Eastern Star.

The festival itself inaugurates the new year on the Zodiacal calendar and is the point at which the day becomes longer than the night in the northern hemisphere.

It is a time of rebirth – hence why it celebrates the goddess of fertility! Given eggs are a symbol of fertility, it became the custom to decorate them in celebration and as a kind of hopeful prayer for the new year. That’s why we give eggs at Easter time – although the chocolate thing is an entirely modern twist that most of us find indulgently delicious.

534890729

In regards to the bunny rabbit who delivers eggs (something we all know rabbits don’t do), the Goddess Ostara is associated with fecund symbols, most especially the hare (we all know the phrase ‘going at it like rabbits’) and the egg. So, this is why we have a rabbit delivering eggs. Cool hey?

14e1790a29ae4edd67f32a8370f9a88a--easter-decor-easter-crafts

And then there’s Halloween. A bastardised version of ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ or All Saints Day, it was a reference to the eve of Samhain, a sabbat festival, considered to be one of the four Great Sabbats.

It’s a time to celebrate the lives of those who have passed on. It is often considered a festival of darkness, balanced at the opposite point of the Wheel of the Year by Beltane which is the festival of light and fertility.

Wiccans believe that at Samhain, the veil between this world and the afterlife is at its thinnest, making it easier to communicate with the departed, the strongest time at midnight on Samhain Eve. It became tradition during the middle ages for people to go ‘mumming’ or ‘a-souling’ on the night before Samhain. They’d dress up and pretend to be spirits of the departed, roaming from door to door offering prayers for the dead. They were offered sweet cakes and fruits in exchange for this ‘mumming’.

220px-Mummers02

Of course, in modern times, candy companies and costume makers jumped on this tradition (after trying to start up their own ‘Sweets Day’ in the USA earlier in the month but failing to get traction) and the homemade treats and costumes became horror dress ups for candy. Trick or Treat anyone?

Trick-or-Treat-Photo

While I enjoy the modern versions, I love the histories of these ancient festivals, the rich traditions which are still payed homage to by thriving Wiccan communities across the world. It was this fascination that led me to include these festivals, the ties to the power of the earth, to rebirth, to changes, death and the power beyond the veil, into my Pack Bound Series. I hope the thread of ancient mystery mixed with my own imagination helps to bring my world of Were, Shifters, Witches and Wiccans to life for readers as much as they have for me.


33095One pack, one coven, a destiny intertwined…

Five hundred years ago, facing extinction, a group of powerful witches united to create a pact with the Were to save witch-kind. The pact expelled an ancient evil, known only as the Darkness, that was blocking the Were from their wolves. With the Darkness destroyed, the Packs and their Covens grew strong as they thrived beside each other in their brand-new world.

But the Darkness was not destroyed.

Skye Collins has been brought up to fear her magic and shy away from witch and Were alike. But when Jason McVale, the Alpha of Pack McVale, comes in search of her, she is intrigued and tempted. Her mistrust of magic and wariness of the intensity of passion she shares with Jason threatens her control—and if she loses control, she just might turn into the weapon the Darkness intended her to become all along.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.) Exclusive Excerpt 3

Part I

Part II

Levi knew the second he flipped the paper over a few days later and found himself staring into the face of his one-time best friend that Darcy’s buzz was going to be no match for this crappy piece of news.Tony’s shit-eating grin leapt from the back page and Levi’s heart sank as the headline jumped out at him.

Tony Cameron scores coveted Banshee coaching position.

Well… fuck! Darcy…

Fuck.

There’d been the tiniest niggle at the back of Levi’s brain for days. The knowledge that Tony could be a possibility as coach. No matter how outside. That’s what he did after all—coach. But last Levi had heard he was somewhere in Indonesia setting up coaching clinics there.

A long way away from here.

But apparently he wasn’t that outside after all.

Damn it! He should have listened to that niggle. Yoga had taught him to listen to his body and he did that without hesitation, but he wasn’t as good at listening to his gut. Trusting his intuition.

If he had, he could have prepared Darcy for it a little. Put it out there, given her time to get used to it. Just in case.

Christ. Tony—the life and soul of any party, the one who people gravitated towards—was going to be back in their lives. After leaving it so spectacularly two years ago. Turning his back on Darcy and gutting her in the process.

Levi had heard her crying in her bedroom late at night for months after Tony had left. He’d tried to be there for her during that time, be a shoulder for her, but she’d been so devastated. And then she’d woken one day and announced herself over him. He hadn’t heard her cry again. And they hadn’t ever really talked about him since.

But would Tony’s reappearance bring all that grief back again and was she really over him? Or did she, deep down, still love him. As far as he knew, she hadn’t been seeing anyone. So had she really moved on?

Or did she still lie in bed at night and pine for Tony as Levi lay in his bed next door and burned for her?

He sunk to the couch, reading the article without really taking anything in. He knew Darcy didn’t see him as anything other than her ex-boyfriend’s ex-bestie. A roommate. She’d firmly friend-zoned him and that had been enough to begin with because she’d needed a good guy to lean on.

But every day that passed it was harder to pretend he didn’t have deeper feelings for Darcy. Feelings he’d not looked at too deeply for the five years his best friend had shared Darcy’s bed. Feelings that had grown in the last two while he’d waited for his moment.

Waited. Prevaricated. Lost his nerve.

Too afraid to jump in case he fucked it up altogether. Got it wrong. Misread the occasional flare of heat in her weird, green cat’s eyes. Caused her to flee. Because being her friend, being near, sharing her life, was pretty damn good.

It sure as shit was better than nothing at all.

Christ. He was pathetic. And now this. Tony fucking Cameron smiling at him from the back page.

Her words from a few days ago came back to him. The coach can have whatever the hell he wants. Yeah. That’s what Levi was worried about.

‘Anything good in there?’ Levi almost went into cardiac arrest at the unexpected intrusion. He glanced at her lounging in the archway that separated the kitchen/dining area from the lounge room. She was in her regulation work clothes—roomy high-vis long-sleeved shirt, baggy King Gee shorts that reached her knees, thick protectors pulled over her socks and dusty steel-capped boots, her hair haphazardly tucked up in her Gerry’s Market Garden cap.

It was possibly the most shapeless, asexual uniform he’d ever seen. She shouldn’t look hot.

But she did. Fucking hot.

Trumped only by how she looked at the end of the day, her face all red and sweaty, her boots caked in mud, dirt under her fingernails and her hair clinging limply to her neck, happy and smiling and relaxed after a day doing what she loved.

Christ. What was wrong with him? Had Tony’s imminent reappearance tripped some kind of Cro-Magnon switch in his head?

Levi didn’t know. All he knew was he wanted to yank that hat off her head and kiss her. So damn hard.

Her spoon scraped along the bottom of her usual bowl of rice bubbles loaded up with Milo—poor man’s Coco Pops—before shovelling a spoonful in her mouth, spilling milk down her chin and swiping at it with the back of her hand.

‘Jesus.’ He grabbed his chest. ‘Sneak up on a guy why don’t you?’

‘Yeah. You look like you’re heart-attack material.’

She pushed off the archway, totally unconcerned for his cardiac health. Plonking herself down on the couch beside him, her arm warm against his, her thigh brushing his, she glanced at the paper. Levi angled it out of her line of sight.

‘Hey.’ She frowned at him. ‘I’m trying to read that.’

‘They’ve announced the coach.’

She gasped and her eyes lit up like a Christmas tree. ‘Who is it?’ She shoved the bowl on the coffee table in front of them, a bit of milk slopping over the side as she made a grab for the paper.

He held it just out of reach, wishing he didn’t have to tell her. Wishing it wasn’t so. She made another grab for it and he held it above his head.

Levi Phillips.’ It was said with a half-amused, half-frustrated growl and did very bad things to the muscles in his belly. They stirred and tightened. So did his dick.

She stared at him and frowned. ‘What?’

‘It’s… Tony.’

She blinked. Then she gasped again. ‘What?

She reached for the newspaper and this time he ceded it to her with a quiet, ‘I’m sorry.’

But she wasn’t paying him any attention. She had eyes only for the black and white print, the grip on the paper tightening as she read it half out loud, half to herself. ‘Cameron was the second choice after Doug McDonald reportedly turned it down.’

Levi suppressed a snort. Tony wasn’t going to like that one little bit. He had a huge chip on his shoulder about always being the bridesmaid, his whole life marked by being second best. Not quite making it to an elite level in footy due to injury and lack of that special X factor.

The one you either had or you didn’t.

Darcy had it. And Tony had known it. Hell, he’d resented her for it. And had spent the better part of their five years together undermining her confidence, trying to convince her she wasn’t quite good enough either. She hadn’t been able to see it but Levi had watched Tony’s subtle erosion with gritted teeth. And then he’d dumped her, citing her lack of commitment to their relationship, that it had run its course and he needed space.

It had really rattled her cage.

All because his fragile little ego hadn’t been able to cope seeing someone he loved be more successful than himself. It had been pathetic. Question was… would Tony continue his mind games or had he grown the fuck up?

Darcy threw the paper on the table. ‘Well shit. That killed my buzz.’

‘Yeah.’ Levi nodded slowly. ‘Thought it might.’

‘Can you believe this?’ she demanded, half turning to face him, incredulity twisting her features.

Levi shook his head. He couldn’t believe it. His gut burned with disbelief. And concern about how this would play out. How Darcy would handle it.

She groaned and buried her face in her hands. ‘God… Why him?’

Levi didn’t say anything. It was obviously a rhetorical question. He just sat there for a while and let her mutter away to herself for a bit.

‘What are you going to do?’

She dragged her head out of her hands. ‘What can I do?’

‘Nothing.’ It was the stark, honest truth. Players didn’t get a say in their coaches. Not at Darcy’s level anyway. And she wouldn’t want to rock the boat, not if she didn’t want to end up with a diva reputation before the comp even got off the ground.

‘Exactly.’

She sounded depressingly resigned and Levi cursed Tony silently. ‘It’ll be okay,’ he assured. ‘It’s been two years. And you’re over him, right?’

‘Right.’

It was followed by a nod. But neither the nod, nor her voice, rang with conviction. So Levi did the only thing he could think of, slipped his arm around her shoulder and gave it a brief squeeze.

‘He’s a good coach.’ It killed Levi to admit it. He didn’t want to say anything good about the guy at all but it was the truth and Darcy obviously needed something right now. He gave her another squeeze. ‘Don’t let him ruin your buzz.’

Tony fucking Cameron had already done too much of that in Darcy’s life.

Darcy nodded again, turning her face to look at him. ‘You’re right.’ A wan smile touched her lips. ‘I’m not going to give him that kind of power.’

‘Good for you.’

She stood then, slipping out of his light hold, tossing the paper onto the coffee table. ‘It’s been two years. We can have a professional relationship.’

Levi wasn’t sure if she was trying to convince him or herself. He gripped his thighs hard to stop himself pulling her down again, slipping his arm around her again, trying to convince her with the solid assurance of his body that she could do this.

She was incredibly strong and determined. She could do anything. He nodded instead. ‘Absolutely.’

She shot him another wan smile. ‘Thanks.’

‘You’ll be fine,’ he assured.

‘I am fine.’ Then she calmly scooped up her bowl and disappeared into the kitchen. Levi winced as the bowl crashed into the sink.

Maybe not so fine after all…

 


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 2

You met Darcy and her man-bun-wearing, yoga-doing, biggest supporter Levi in Part I yesterday. Not enough?

Well, we can help with that.

‘Unhand me, DC, you’re making a spectacle of yourself.’

Darcy laughed at the gruff humour and unlocked her legs, sliding to her feet. He handed her the balloon and grabbed for her bag.

She took a step back. ‘I can take it.’

He didn’t answer, just reached for it and slid it off her shoulder, slinging it over his own with quiet efficiency as they turned towards the exit. ‘Are you sure you’re female, DC? Most chicks’ make-up bags are this size.’

Darcy laughed to cover the sudden deflating realisation that after seven years of platonic cohabitation, Levi had probably never seen her as a female.

As a woman.

It’s true she wasn’t much of a girly girl. She was a sporty girl who worked a manual job, preferred loose comfortable clothes to anything fashionable, and lived for her Aussie Rules. But bloody hell, she had two C cups that pretty much put her femininity right out there.

They’d been squashed against his chest a moment ago.

Annoyed at her train of thought and why it seemed to matter so much suddenly, Darcy gave herself a mental shake. Since when had she given any fucks about this crap? ‘Not only female but a goddamn Brisbane Banshee, so watch out, Levi.’

He laughed and high-fived her before stepping around a toddler who was drunkenly navigating the airport corridor. ‘What did your parents say?’

Darcy sighed as she also took evasive action to avoid the toddler. ‘They said they were proud but could the name be changed to something less ghoulish.’ Levi laughed. ‘I explained the team names weren’t up to me.’

‘They mean well.’

‘Yeah.’

‘They going to go to your debut game?’

She shook her head. ‘Dad’s got a convention in Cambridge in February and Mum’s going with him to catch up with family.’

He didn’t say anything for a moment, then slid his hand onto her shoulder and gave her a squeeze as they walked companionably side by side. ‘Sorry.’ His hand fell from her shoulder as quickly as it had appeared.

‘It’s fine.’

Darcy didn’t mind. Her parents were proud of her, in their own way. It wasn’t their fault she’d strayed from the plan. That growing boobs and thighs at the age of fifteen had stymied her mother’s Royal Ballet ambitions for Darcy. And taking up soccer and football had added insult to injury.

They were the arts and academia. Darcy was dirty hands and football on Sunday. The two were hard to reconcile.

‘Well, I’ll be there.’

‘I should bloody hope so.’ It wasn’t strange that Levi’s presence at the game meant more to her than her own parents being there. He’d been her number one cheerleader for years. He got it. ‘

All of Brisbane’s going to be there, DC, just you wait and see.’

Darcy smiled at him. She hoped so. She really did. Everyone had such high hopes for the women’s game taking off and being supported by the same fans who’d been watching the blokes do it for decades. There were detractors, of course. The people who said nobody wanted to see chicks playing football and why didn’t they just stick to netball?

But, overwhelmingly, reaction had been positive. It was a gamble for the powers that be—no one was disputing that—hopefully one that paid dividends.

They’d all know in four months…

‘So, how’re you going to celebrate? Going out with the girls?’

‘No. Tomorrow night. Big night in Melbourne last night with the team.’ All the Banshee draft picks had painted the town red and Darcy grinned, remembering again, and gave herself a mental pinch. She was part of a national women’s team!

‘Can’t party too hard.’ She patted her stomach. ‘Gotta keep match fit.’ Levi threw back his head and laughed. The man knew the type of crap she usually shovelled into her mouth on a regular basis.

A woman coming towards them glanced at Levi, totally checking him out as she passed by. And why not? He may be just a friend but Darcy was still a woman and the man was very easy on the eyes. He didn’t seem to notice her appraisal, though.

He never seemed to notice how women looked at him. And they looked at him. A lot.

Not that he ever seemed to partake. Darcy couldn’t be absolutely sure—they weren’t the kind of friends who talked about their sex lives—but she did live with him and if she was a betting woman, she’d say Levi had been as celibate as she had these past couple of years.

He’d dated, in the past—she’d met a few of his women at the breakfast table when Tony still lived with them. But she hadn’t seen him with anyone in a long time. Not at their place anyway.

Which was a crying shame. The man practiced yoga every morning and taught it three nights a week—for damn sure he’d have some mad, crazy skills between the sheets.

Tune in tomorrow for Part III!


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Fair Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt

Our third and final launch title in the new Women of WAR series, releasing 20 February (pre-order now!) is Fair Game from award-winning, best-selling author Amy Andrews. 

If you haven’t, check out the excerpts from Nicola Marsh and Catherine Evans!

Darcy Clarke hadn’t felt this freaking fantastic in a very long time. Maybe not in her whole twenty-seven years. Not after a block of lime Lindt chocolate (which never failed to zing her straight to her happy place). Not after three scoops of pineapple gelato (which totally should be mandatory treatment for depression).

Not even after sex.

Not that sex counted, considering she hadn’t had any since douchebag Tony had dumped her just over two years ago. She’d had orgasms, for sure. By herself. And she didn’t think self-love counted.

But that didn’t matter right now. Hell, she doubted it would ever matter again because footy was better than sex—why hadn’t she always known this?—and she’d done it. She’d actually done it! Her name had come up in the draft and she was going to be playing professional Aussie Rules football in the inaugural national women’s competition for the Brisbane Banshees.

And she felt amazing.

She deserved it, for sure. But when had that ever made a difference? She’d busted her gut for this for years, but even twelve months ago she’d have never thought it possible. A national women’s comp had been mooted for years, but as time progressed it had become more mythical than the bloody unicorn. But suddenly, the planets had aligned and the glass ceiling had been smashed and she was going to be right there in the thick of it!

Darcy allowed the chants of an invisible crowd to swell inside her head. Not that having a crowd chant your name was what it was all about but she ran with it for a moment or two, giddy on life, footy and everything. She grinned so hard, the man sitting in the seat next to her shifted sideways a little as the plane made a smooth touchdown.

But Darcy couldn’t help it. She couldn’t stop smiling. She knew she looked maniacal—the flight attendant had eyed her suspiciously and handed her a plastic knife to cut her roll rather than a metal one like she’d given the guy next door—but she didn’t care.

Nothing and nobody was going to kill this buzz.

The plane taxied and finally docked and as soon as the seatbelt light went out, Darcy was up, dragging her small overnight bag out from under the seat in front. She was too damn excited to sit and she couldn’t wait to see Levi.

Sure, he’d rung yesterday afternoon to congratulate her, but just anticipating his I-knew-you-could-do-this grin was adding to her giddiness. She’d lived with Levi Phillips for seven years now and, in a lot of respects, he probably knew her better than any of her girlfriends.

He certainly knew more than anyone how freaking hard she worked for that Banshee jersey and had never doubted she’d make it. Never. Considering there were numerous times she’d doubted it, that was saying something.

Still, she was surprised to actually find Levi waiting at the gate for her. They often made trips to the airport for the other one, but always stopping at the drop-off/pick-up zones out front. He’d never come into the terminal. But there he was, standing right at the back, head and shoulders above the waiting crowd of kids and lovers and parents, a huge grin on his face, a metallic helium balloon with Congratulations emblazoned on its hide in his hand.

He looked like a crazy person, standing there with that grin and the stupid balloon with a few days’ worth of scruff on his face, but her heart gave a funny little giddy-up seeing him here for her. Of course, that could have something to do with his faded old T-shirt stretched across his shoulders, barely long enough to meet the waistband of his standard loose trackpants, of which he had about a hundred thanks to his obsession with yoga.

The top half of his long, riotous, dirty-blond hair was pulled back into its regular man bun, leaving the rest to curl and twist around his neck and shoulders in its usual disorder. Even the sight of his big, bare, size fourteen feet, sticking out of his open-toed slides, did funny things to her equilibrium. The man looked like some kind of Zen lumberjack but what she liked most was that he didn’t care one fucking jot what he looked like.

The crowd parted, as if especially for them and, before she knew it, she was grinning at him and running towards him, launching herself at him, crawling up him like a koala up a gum tree and wrapping her legs around his waist to hug him tight.

He laughed as he caught her, his body easily absorbing the impact as his arm anchored around her back. ‘Whoa!’ The low timbre of his voice licked into her ear as deliciously as the swipe of a hot, wet tongue. ‘I knew you’d get picked.’

Darcy grinned even bigger, hugged him even harder. ‘Yeah, yeah.’ She squirmed at his unashamed bias, but her heart swelled big in her chest at the pride underpinning his statement.

She wasn’t sure how long they stood like that, with her glued to him like an oyster on a rock, people eyeing them curiously as they stepped around them. But it felt good to be in this moment—the high point of her life—with the guy who’d been there for her during all her low points.

It felt really freaking good.

Pre-Order now, and tune in tomorrow to find out what happens next!


32511 (2)How to mend a broken heart…

Darcy Clarke would do anything to play for the new Women’s Aussie Rules league, even put up with her ex, Tony, who just happens to be the coach of the Brisbane Banshees. Tony stomped out of their apartment – and all over heart – two years ago, but she’s moved on, and she deserves her jersey.

As his best friend’s girl, Darcy has always been out of Levi’s reach, even after Tony dropped her and moved out of the apartment they all shared. Now, two years on and still sharing the same apartment, she should be fair game. But Levi is no closer to getting Darcy to think of him as anything but a roommate and a friend.

But when Darcy injures herself in play, Levi’s qualifications as a sports massage therapist are put to good use. Suddenly, their relationship becomes very hands on, and Darcy sees a whole new side of her old friend. A pity he seems immune to her charms. When Tony makes it clear he wants back into her life, she has a decision to make: between the man she once loved and the man who never left her side.

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Long Game (Women of W.A.R.): Exclusive Excerpt 4

Cress has been in love with Quin since she was a girl. But he thinks of her as a little sister. And now they’re going to live together…

Part I here

Part II here

Part III here

‘Were you scared when you came to Sydney? You were a few years younger than me, and you didn’t have anyone to come to.’ She was being nosy, but knowing Quin, he’d tell her if she overstepped, or he’d ignore her if he didn’t want to answer.

‘I think I was too young and too excited to think about it.’ The car seemed to slow a little as he flicked her another glance. The traffic was slowing for the lights ahead. Cress hadn’t seen them at first glance. There were so many lights and signs and sights, it was a little bedazzling.

‘Aren’t you excited?’ he asked.

‘I haven’t really had the time to get too excited. I got off the header late yesterday, on the train today. Tomorrow I’ve got a team meeting and I’m sure I’ll start getting excited then.’

His eyebrows lifted but before he could turn his head, the lights changed and they were moving again. ‘Weren’t you excited when you signed that contract?’

She chewed her bottom lip and tried to remember how she felt. ‘It came on email, Quin. It wasn’t any big deal. Not like you with the agent coming to school and all the media you got.’

He stiffened for a moment and then said, ‘The contract came on email? Did you get an agent to negotiate it?’

Cress laughed. ‘There was no point. It was a flat offer across the board, take it or leave it, except for a few who went in the draft.’

He shook his head. ‘No agent? That’s crazy?’

She fought back a grin. ‘You don’t have a clue how much money I’m earning, do you?’

‘No. I didn’t ask.’

‘Eight grand.’

‘Oh right. Per week? Per match?’

Cress chuckled. ‘Total.’

‘Total for what?’ Quin didn’t seem to have any idea at all. He was genuinely puzzled, she could tell by that deep crinkling near his eye and the tugging of his jaw.

‘Total for the season. It’s only eight games. A short season. Kind of an experiment.’

While she spoke, his jaw dropped further and further. Then he snapped it shut, slid a look at her, before his jaw bunched tight. ‘You’re okay with this?’

Cress laughed. ‘Well …’ She’d explained this a lot but it was a bit difficult to explain it to someone who was her male counterpart. ‘Women’s sport has to start somewhere. I’m stoked that they’re recognising us and giving us a competition. I understand that they’re not sure how it’ll go, so they can’t offer big contracts.’ She took a breath. If it wasn’t someone who was like a brother, she wouldn’t add this bit. ‘But yeah, it was a bit like a slap in the face, paying us that. I don’t know why they offered us anything, really. I would have played for nicks.’

Quin swallowed and it was a pretty loud one. ‘I’m sorry. I thought Tris would have told you why I had to ask to stay with you. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find work to fit in around football, which meant I wasn’t sure I could afford to rent.’

He held up his hand. ‘There’s no rent. No problem, Watercress.’

‘No, it’s cool,’ she said quickly. ‘I’ve got a job. It starts tomorrow too.’

‘You got a job?’ He sounded incredulous.

‘I’m a pretty capable chick, Mr Fitzpatrick. Did you doubt my ability to be employed?’ She tried so hard to make it funny, but she could hear the defensiveness. She hoped Quin wouldn’t hear it.

‘No. It’s just …’ He hummed. ‘I … geez … I thought you might want to climb the bridge?’ His question quite swept the air from her lungs.

She nodded. Vigorously. ‘I do. I do.’

‘I thought we could do it this week.’

‘A weekday?’ Cress shook her head. ‘I’ll probably be working. I’ve got to fit that in around training.’

‘Oh. Will you have the weekends free?’

‘I think we train some Saturday mornings. Not sure if they’re scheduling trial games or not. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.’

A few more kilometres passed in silence.

Then Quin said, ‘Do you need to work?’

Cress snorted. ‘Pretty much. I don’t want Dad footing the bill. I want to try to make this work. They reckon I can fit the work around footy commitments.’

‘What are you doing?’

‘Labour for a landscaper. It’s local.’

‘I was hoping you’d see the sights with me.’ There was just a tiny bit of a young boy’s plea in his tone that made her heart soften.

‘If I can fit it in, you’re on.’

Quin’s head shook, then was still, then shook again. If she had to guess, she’d say he was having a great conversation with himself and answering himself in the negative all the time.

‘It’s going to work, Quin. I feel it in my soul. I can juggle farm and footy, been doing that for years, so this’ll be just the same. Don’t stress. If I can still manage to get to the Royal to catch up with people, I’m sure I’ll fit in a few trips with you.’ She leaned over and squeezed his forearm. ‘I’ll let you know tomorrow night what my schedule is and we’ll fit in the Bridge Climb. There’s no way I’m coming to Sydney for months and not getting on that thing.’

Quin chuckled. ‘Watercress, you’re going to set Sydney on fire.’

That, or it’d burn her completely.

PRE-ORDER NOW and tune-in this week for more from Catherine Evans!


32510Does she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too…

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