You’ve seen him Kingsman: The Secret Service and Jaguar commercials as the villanous Brit, but those are only some of his appearances. Mark has received critical acclaim for quite a number of roles and any way you look at it, Mark Strong is one sexy guy!
Today’s Man Crush is a man who creates heat in the kitchen and elsewhere: Paul Hollywood, celebrity chef from The Great British Bake Off. If you love cooking, and baking in particular, you must watch this show! I love hearing Paul and Mary Berry, the other remarkable host, talk about the items which have to be created and then analyzing them. The bakers on this show create some truly awesome confections.
As for Paul, this picture just doesn’t do him credit. You must watch the show to get the full effect of that salt and pepper hair, ice blue eyes and the accent. Oh my . . . things are heating up here. LOL! Hope you enjoyed today’s Man Candy.
Since I understand it’s the final season, it’s time to showcase today’s Man Candy, Charlie Hunnam!
Emmy-nominated Charlie is a British actor who has starred in a number of television programs and movies. He was discovered at the age of 17 while clowning around in a store. That led to his first acting gig.
His latest movie is Pacific Rim and in 2015, he’s slated to appear in Crimson Peak, a “ghost story and gothic romance.” Sounds like my cup of tea, Charlie!
Today’s Guilty Pleasure is Scott Adkins, a British martial arts expert and actor who has appeared in a number of movies and television shows. You may recall him from X-MEN:WOLVERINE as Weapon XI or as Agent Kiley in THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, but also look for him in NINJA, a March 2010 release in the United States.
Besides being way buff and handsome, he is an amazing martial artist with black belts in Wushu, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing, Judo and Jujitsu.
If you cannot see the video below, you can click on this link or cut and paste the following link into your browser:
Just got the word yesterday that my March Release, FURY CALLS, was nominated for a 2009 Reviewer’s Choice Award for Best Nocturne by RT BookReviews. Big WOO HOO and also, congrats to all my wonderful Nocturne buddies who were also nominated.
In light of this, I decided that I would share an excerpt with you from FURY CALLS, but first . . .
Okay, now I’m calm. So without further ado, an excerpt from my RT nominated novel, FURY CALLS! This is a flashback to the fateful ending of Blake and Meghan’s first encounter.
Three years, eleven months and ten days earlier
Meghan and her friends had heard about the Goth bar rumored to have the kinds of men and pleasures in which good little Midwestern farm girls didn’t get involved.
All the more reason for her to check out the place when one of their more world weary college classmates had dared her to go to the hangout, which supposedly attracted a clientele that enjoyed the darker aspects of life and sex. She had spent the last four years in New York City basically being a good girl. Once school was over and she headed home, any opportunity for a walk on the wild side would be gone.
Her Midwestern parents expected her to do as they had done — a nine-to-five kind of job, marriage by twenty-five followed by kids and a nice home in the suburbs. The only problem with that American dream was that it wasn’t her own.
Meghan loved the whole Manhattan vibe and could easily imagine herself staying here. Continuing to explore the kinds of things only Manhattan could offer.
Like this supposedly dangerous Goth bar.
It had taken the better part of the day to prepare for the senior dare that she didn’t expect to be all that daring.
She and her friends had spent the morning searching through a variety of vintage stores near Washington Square, rounding up accessories to dress up their version of Goth get-up for their visit to the club. Two of her friends had even bought black hair dye — the kind that rinsed out in a few washings — to make the look complete.
Meghan had opted to keep her blonde locks, thinking that going black with everything else would be more than enough for their little lark.
As she walked through the door of the Goth bar — the Blood Bank — she reassessed that thought.
Black was definitely the one and only theme.
Everything and everyone in the bar was swathed in darkness.
The floors and walls were all painted black, and the surfaces of all the tables and booths scattered throughout the inside of the club were likewise black. The dark color swallowed up the light from the large spotlights overhead which panned in irregular patterns across the sea of bodies on the dance floor and sitting at the tables and booths toward the back of the club.
As the light swept the far end of the bar, however, she caught sight of one glaring platinum-blond head. The daring of that one brave individual pulled a grin to her face before she forced it away and tried to adopt the serious we’ll-kick-your-ass glares that the friends on either side of her had embraced in response to the threatening looks some shot them as they strode deeper into the space.
With the forced scowl pasted on her face, she slipped into a gap at the bar area, close to the spot where she had noticed the bright head of nearly white hair. After she and her friends had squeezed their way to the edge of the bar, they all ordered shots of Cuervo in deference to what the others around them appeared to be drinking.
Everyone except the punky peroxide-headed Goth down at the end of the long wooden bar. He was nursing a glass of something else. An empty glass she noticed as he shuffled the glass from one hand to the other across the surface of the bar. He had big hands with long nicely shaped fingers. His hands were sure as he repeated the shuffle of the glass back and forth, back and forth, obviously bored by all the goings on around him.
When he finally picked up his head, their gazes connected.
He had amazing ice blue eyes and when he smiled, a sexy grin dragged a dimple out on the right side of his handsome face.
She smiled back, picked up her glass of tequila and downed it in one gulp, wincing at the strength of the straight liquor.
Mr. Platinum Punk clearly seemed amused by her as he chuckled and shook his head. The longer strands of hair at the top of his head shifted with the motion. He picked up his empty glass and motioned to it with an index finger. She noticed as he did so that he wore a steel ring with some kind of ornate design on this thumb and some thin black bracelets on his wrist.
He definitely had the whole Bad Boy thing down pat.
She didn’t need any further prompting, determined to live out the dare which had been made earlier in the day. The dare which said that they not only had to visit the hangout, but also hook up with at least one bar denizen before leaving for the night. While she wasn’t into one night stands, a nice makeout session with someone as sexy as the man down at the end of the bar wouldn’t be so bad.
She shoved two fingers into the air and waved them to get the barkeep’s attention. When he brought the shots over, she reached into her jeans, pulled out a twenty and tossed it on the counter. Ignoring her friends’ excited squeals as they realized her intent to fulfill the dare, she sashayed the few feet to the handsome punk, smiling as his gaze drifted down her body to where her hips were encased in snug black jeans, shifted back upward across her breasts and finally settled on her face.
Slipping her ass onto the cracked plastic pad of the empty bar stool beside his, she slammed the shot onto the rough surface of the counter.
“This is what you wanted, right?” she said.
Blake let his gaze slip from her attractive face to linger on her body, admiring all the lush curves beneath the black. Full breasts strained over the edge of the cotton tank top she wore beneath a leather jacket that was a bit too big, almost as if she had borrowed it for the night.
She shifted the glass closer to him and a hint of black lace peeked out from the neckline of the tank top as she said, “Well? Cat got your tongue?”
“No, would be the answer to both of those questions, love.” He pitched the tone of his voice low, striving for that sexy rasp women seemed to find so enticing.
“Brit?” she asked and picked up her shot glass before bringing it to her lush lips and slugging it back. As she had done before, she winced after the drink went down.
“New to this, love?” he teased.
He picked up his own glass and tossed back the drink, the liquor strong and dragging a grimace from him. His preferred beverage — blood — generally went down smoother and had a far different kick.
She chuckled at his reaction and shook her head. “Seems you’re new to this as well.”
The liquor warmed his belly, but not as much as the thought of taking a nip out of her luscious flesh. Scooting to the edge of his bar stool, he leaned toward her, brushed aside her shoulder length hair and whispered in her ear, “Cat definitely doesn’t have my tongue.”
To prove it, he licked the shell of her ear and she couldn’t control the shiver that traveled over her body before she moved away from him.
“Fast aren’t you?” she said, but her words lacked sting and an amused expression slipped across her cute Girl-Next-Door-features before she forced her face back into the disinterested scowl she had worn when he had first noticed her.
“That makes two of us, doesn’t it?”
She arched a perfectly waxed brow. “So you think you and I are alike somehow?”
He eyeballed her from head to toe again before signaling the bartender for another round. The man sneered and ignored his request until Blake reached into his jacket pocket and tossed a hard-earned twenty onto the rough surface of the counter. After that, the bartender deposited the shots on the bar with little finesse and snagged the payment quickly.
Blake raised his glass and slugged down the drink as did his companion. After mutual grimaces, he motioned to her with the empty tumbler. “I think that get up you’re wearing is borrowed and the shots are for courage, love. I think you might even be a cheerleader in another life. Am I wrong?”
Meghan crinkled her nose in response.
“A cheerleader?” she said, but damn did she resent that he had nailed it on the head. Deciding a little payback was in order, she pointed at his get up with a perfectly manicured finger sporting blush pink polish. “That look is so-o-o carbon-dated. Besides, a cheerleader beats a bad Billy Idol clone any day.”
To her surprise, he threw back his head and laughed at her bravado. When he faced her again, that damned sexy grin and dimple were back, creating a warmth in spots that had nothing to do with the liquor.
“Care to test that theory, love?”
“Test?” she repeated and he leaned close once again. The sharp scent of tequila wafted around him as he nuzzled her cheek with his nose and said, “You asked what I wanted before.”
“The tequila, right?”
He closed his mouth over hers, his lips mobile, but surprisingly tender as he moved them against her lips, inviting her to understand just what he wanted.
Possibly what she wanted as well, she thought as she opened her mouth and accepted the sweet slide of his tongue. Shivered as he slipped his hand to the nape of her neck and cradled her close as the kiss intensified.
“Get a room, Blake.”
She jumped away from him at the abrupt command coming from beside them. A lean rail of a man with skin so translucent and pale that he almost seemed like the specter of someone who had once been alive, slipped his hand between the two of them and slapped it on the edge of the bar.
The specter jerked his head in the direction of the barkeep and the shoulder length strands of his nearly white hair barely shifted, hanging lankly around a thin, long face. “If he hasn’t got the cash, get him out of here so a paying customer can sit.”
“He’s flush tonight, boss. So’s his girl,” the bartender responded.
“Is there a problem?” Meghan snared the sleeve of the boss man’s suit and daintily pulled his arm out of the way.
The man’s cold gaze — empty grey eyes the color of steel — searched her face before he turned that condemning gaze on her companion.
“Take your little adventures to one of the back rooms, Blake.”
Blake. The name suited him somehow. Short and to the point, but a little pretentious, much like his punk get-up.
Annoyed by the man’s attitude and recalling that earlier sweet kiss that he had interrupted, she laid her hand on Blake’s thigh and said, “Let’s go somewhere more private.”
Her touch on his thigh, a combination of natural innocence and practiced seduction, burned through the denim.
“Are you sure, love?” he asked, not quite believing his luck.
“Chicken?” she mocked, eased from the bar stool and held out her hand.
He slipped his hand into hers. Warm, silky skin against his palm awakened imaginings of how the rest of her would feel pressed against him. He suspected that tonight, he would finally satisfy both the demon and the human.
Eagerly he followed her to where Foley’s vampire guard blocked the hall leading to the back rooms.
The vamp barely glanced at him while he rubbed together his thumb and index finger. Blake didn’t hesitate to reach into his pocket for his last twenty. He handed it to the man, who shot him an annoyed look and grunted, “Last one on the left.”
The smallest of the rooms Blake knew, but it would hopefully do for whatever was going to happen with Little Miss Cheerleader.
She led the way, the sharp staccato sounds of her high-heeled boots setting a rhythm as they walked to the farthest room on the left and paused before the door. He detected her hesitation then in the slight hitch her breath gave and the waver of her hand in his.
“Nervous?” He cradled her cheek, his touch meant to soothe, but as his gaze met hers, he sensed her sudden reluctance.
Her eyes were an amazing emerald green and as her gaze swept over his face, she said, “I have a confession to make.”
“Kind of cliché at this moment, don’t you think?”
A hint of bravado flared to life in her eyes, bringing a plucky twinkle there. “Actually, the confession is that I’m kind of glad I accepted my friend’s dare.”
“A dare? Is that what I am, love?”
She shocked him by rising a bit on her tiptoes — they were almost of a like height — and kissing him. Her lips were warm and alive as she swept them across his mouth and then cradled his cheek with her hand. When she finally broke away, she trailed her thumb across the slick wetness her lips had left behind on his, strumming alive intense desire with that seductive touch.
It had been way too long since a woman had been able to reach that part of him.
“What do you think?” she said and with a wink, she opened the door, but stopped short at the sight of the far side of the room, where an assortment of whips, chains and cuffs were tacked to the wall.
He slipped in behind her and laid his hands at her waist. Bending, he whispered in her ear, “I don’t think we’ll have need of those.”
“At least not tonight,” she said, striving for a bravado that she wasn’t feeling at the sight of the wall. This definitely was not the kind of thing she had expected to encounter.
Nervously Meghan placed her hands over his as they rested at her waist. His hands were chilled. With the same reticence she was suddenly experiencing? she wondered.
“Having second thoughts?” she asked as she faced him, but he moved his hands to cradle her back. His movements were sure and yet surprisingly tender as he swept them up to beneath the shoulders of her jacket. With a deft touch, he slipped it off her and let it fall to the ground.
“That’s better,” he said.
He ran his hands across the skin of her bare arms and the exposed expanse of her shoulders. Stroking her softly, the palms of his hands slightly rough against her skin. The hands those of someone who physically worked for a living.
“You’re so warm. Smooth.”
His gentle touch roused emotion in her and drove away her earlier hesitation. She had expected from the rough look of him that he wouldn’t be much for preliminaries, but she had been wrong, she realized, as he took his time as he passed his hands over her skin before bending a bit.
The kiss started with a soft whisper of his lips against hers as he explored the shape of her mouth before he finally covered her mouth with his. The kiss was tentative at first, but then he deepened it by degrees until she was finally straining against him, her hands fisted in the soft leather of his jacket, pulling herself closer to him.
He took the next step then, easing his jacket off. It fell to the floor with a jangle of chains.
Beneath the jacket he wore a black t-shirt that hugged every hard line of his lean body and Meghan found that she was suddenly impatient to see more.
She grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it up and over his head, exposing a body that looked to be sculpted from palest alabaster.
He wasn’t a tall man, barely inches over her own five-foot-seven height, but what there was of him was magnificently formed male. Broad shoulders, big enough to bear any burden, were thick with hard muscles that were smooth beneath the palms of her hands as she laid them there. She measured the strength in them before trailing her fingers down to his well-defined chest where she briefly skimmed them down the ridges of his abdomen and then back up. She ran her fingers through the pale whorls of hair on his chest which matched the arrogant color of his head.
“You really are a blond,” she teased and stroked her index finger over the hard nub of his nipple.
“Are you?” he asked and picked up his hand, trailed the rough pads of his fingers along the swell of her breasts exposed by the low neckline of the tank top and the push-up bra she had worn. His actions dragged an immediate response as her nipples tightened in anticipation of his touch.
She looked up at him and curved her lips in what she hoped was a seductive smile. “You may have to wait a bit to find out.”
Blake laughed, her bravado stirring something deep within him. Something that couldn’t wait a second longer to take their little interlude to the next step.
He reached for the neckline of her tank top and slipped his fingers beneath, pulling away both shirt and bra with a quick tug. He heard the snap of the bra strap and felt the give as her breast slipped free of all the fabric.
Her creamy skin was a sharp contrast to the black of her clothing. A flush worked over her flesh at his perusal, tempting him to feel the warmth of it against his palm.
He cupped her and the heat of the hard tip of her nipple seemed to bore a hole into the palm of his hand, but he somehow restrained himself. He moved his hand, cupping her breast so he could stroke her nipple with his thumb before taking it between his thumb and forefinger and applying gentle pressure.
It dragged a soft moan from her and she copied his actions, tweaking his hard male nipple with her fingers, jerking his erection to painful life.
Her gaze slipped there for but a moment before she leaned forward and closed her mouth over his nipple.
He shut his eyes against the sensation that rocketed through his body with her touch and focused on the feel of her breast in his hand, all warm and creamy. Her pulse beat was loud in his ears and vibrated against his hand as it rested inches away from her heart, reminding him of what he was not.
Alive. Alive. Alive, drummed loudly in his head like the beat of her pulse.
“You’re cold,” she said and in response, he called forth a bit of his demon, driving away the chill in his body to allay her concern.
“Blake?” she asked and he realized that he didn’t even know her name.
“That’s my name and you’re . . .”
“Meghan,” she said in a husky whisper as he bent his head and took her hard nipple into his mouth.
She cradled him close, her hand snaking through his hair to keep him near as she arched her back.
Not that he was going anywhere, he thought, as he sucked on her nipple and relished the soft mewl of pleasure that came from her.
He shifted his other hand upward, tugged down the rest of her shirt and bra so that he could caress her other breast as he continued to pleasure her with his mouth until it wasn’t enough.
“Touch me, Meghan,” he almost begged and when she ran her hands across the width of his shoulders, he surged upward, wrapping his arms around her waist and crushing her tight to his body.
“Blake, what — ”
He silenced her with a kiss as he walked with her to the edge of the bed, but then he slowly eased her down his body, the smooth hard tips of her breasts brushing along him, awakening fire wherever she touched. The sensation pulled a shiver from him, but Meghan’s hands were quickly running across his shoulders again, as if to gentle him.
“Has it been that long?” she asked, surprising him with her sensitivity.
He shocked himself by admitting, “Since I felt something like this? Too long, love.”
“Why?” she wondered aloud even as she tenderly ran her hands across his shoulders and then let them dip down to cover the muscles of his chest with one hand while she placed the other flat over his heart.
Her touch reached deep within him, to emotions he thought he had suppressed long ago. Covering her hand with his, he said, “Let’s not go there tonight.”
He didn’t think it was possible that the green of her eyes could get any darker, but with his words, her pupils deepened to almost black with emotion. Reaching up, she cradled his cheek, tracing the sharp line of it.
“Where would you like to go tonight?”
“To heaven,” he said as he bent his head and took her lips with his once again.
“Heaven it is, then,” Meghan murmured as she accepted the gentle pass of his lips over hers. His touch was tentative, almost pleading. The emotions it roused sank its hooks deep into her heart, scaring her with the intensity of the sensation.
She laid her hands on his shoulders, gentled him by running her hands across the solid width of them. He had one elbow propped on the lumpy mattress beneath them, keeping his body away from her, but with that urging, he relaxed and lay beside her fully. Their bodies barely brushed, but it was enough to make her want more.
Sweeping one hand down from where she had been caressing his shoulder, she cupped the swell of his pectoral muscle and ran her thumb across the hard nub. A small shudder racked his body, emboldening her.
“Ah, love. That feels good,” he said, breaking the contact of their lips. He looked down to her hand where she continued to strum his tight nipple.
She smiled, filled with a bravado she hadn’t known she possessed. With a playful tone she said, “Well if it feels good to you, I imagine that it might feel good for me, too.”
He chuckled and met her gaze, amusement glittering in his crystal blue eyes. With a cocky grin on his face, he passed the back of his hand across her breast, dragging a rough sigh from her at the pleasure that simple touch created in her core.
“Is that the sound of good, luv?”
“Yes,” she said with a sigh and took his nipple between her fingers, rotated it gently. At their hips, where their bodies were closest, the jump of his erection as it hardened even further created a sympathetic pull between her legs. She twined her legs with his and he pushed his thigh upward, tight against the growing pulse at her center.
As she rode him, trying to assuage her need, he took her hard nipple between his thumb and forefinger. Pulled on it gently before a playful twist yanked a moan from her.
He immediately seized on that sound of desire.
“So was that the sound of . . . even better?” he teased, even as he was bending his head and she was arching her back, offering herself up to him.
His hard mobile lips closed over her nipple. He sucked the tip before circling the hard nub with his tongue and then teething the tip into an even tighter point. She cradled his head close and as he suckled her, she bumped her hips against his and shifted her center along the hard muscles of his thigh.
He responded by increasing the pull of his mouth and insinuating his thigh ever tighter against her.
She rode him with growing need, but recalling his earlier playfulness and wanting to join in it, she said, “And this is the sound of un-freakin’-believable,” and finally released the low long moan that had built within her at his actions.
Her words pulled a rough laugh from him and made his already full erection swell to painful proportions. He wanted nothing more than to bury himself in her . . . except possibly a taste of her humanity.
A bite of the life held tight against him. Her heart beat furiously against his ear as he once again brought his mouth to her breast and suckled. The warmth of her — her mortal warmth — bathed his upper body with heat. The smell of her — musky femininity — covered by the tight jeans that she wore brought sweet temptation.
The bit of vampire he had released earlier to warm her became a pool of heat at the center of him, growing ever stronger with each touch and taste of her. As she slipped her hand downward and covered his erection, a shudder ripped through him and the fire of the vampire flared across his body, breaking free and wanting dominion.
He fought the demon’s control, fearing the strength of the emotion she had called forth. Afraid of it even as he acknowledged that he had never experienced anything like it in either of his lives.
She must have sensed the difference in him since she urged him up from her breast and rubbed her lips against his. “I’m afraid too, Blake. I’m afraid of how much I like the way I feel with you.”
Her confession undid the last dregs of his human and released the demon.
“Forgive me, love,” he said as he gently eased her head to the side and bit down.
Pain seared through her neck, but immediately after came intense desire that made her entire body throb for fulfillment.
Meghan held him close, moaning and riding his thigh as desire gripped her hard, refusing to let go much like he seemed unable to release her. The pulse of her need beat through her body and seemed to echo from his, but little by little that beat grew weaker and erratic. Somehow she realized that the fading rhythm was that of her heart, failing slowly as Blake continued to suck at her neck until only a negligible thrum remained.
Cold enveloped her body. Weakness. Her extremities became nearly numb and useless.
As Blake finally pulled away, she caught a glimpse of his face. Long, blood-stained fangs extended well beyond his upper lip. The ice blue of his eyes burned with almost phosphorescent brightness and called to her as her eyesight dimmed.
“Sweet Jesus, Meghan. I’m sorry, love. So sorry,” he said, but his words were growing distant, as if she was fading away and maybe she was.
A part of her brain understood that she was dying and that part struggled to hold on. To not let go of what little life remained. That consciousness latched onto the feel of him cradling her. Of the wetness of tears on her face and then the saltiness of something warm against her lips.
“Drink, Meghan,” she heard and knew that he was offering her life. She didn’t know how she knew it, she just did, as if something deep in her subconscious had elemental knowledge of what he offered.
All that she knew at that moment was that she didn’t want to die.
She was only twenty-one and she wasn’t ready to die.
She opened her mouth and placed it against the flesh he offered. Drank of the warmth of his life’s blood. With each pull of her mouth and each sip, strength grew in her body. Unbelievable strength that touched each cell until she was able to force herself away from him.
With a brutal shove she drove him from her and as he rose from the floor beside the bed where he had fallen, he gazed down at her with eyes filled with tears, but they created no emotion in her other than hatred. Within her, fury rose with the realization that he had irrevocably changed her life.
She sat up and grabbed at her clothes and when he would have reached for her, she slapped away his hands.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t ever touch me again.”
“Ever is a long time now, luv,” he said sadly.
“It is forever now, isn’t it? You made me something other than human.”
At his nod, she said, “I’ll hate you forever.”
He morphed back to his human form then and despite her statement, emotion rose up in her at the sadness in his eyes and at the words he uttered next.
“No need to waste your emotion, Meghan. I’ll hate myself on your behalf.”