Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where, every Wednesday, readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
INTO THE SPOTLIGHT by HEATHER LONG
Fifty years ago, Jeannie Williams made her way to Las Vegas seeking fame and fortune. Instead, she lost her soul and wound up performing nightly shows at the Arcana Royale. Every day, she straps on her feathers, her glitter, her stilettos, and she dances. Every day, it’s the same.
Until the day he walks in.
For six centuries, Malcolm Reynolds has been the go-to guy for anything his family needs: warrior, diplomat, wrangler, researcher, and now an attorney. He enters the Arcana Royale Casino, intent on negotiating the release of his cousin’s bad debt, but one look at the golden-skinned showgirl ignites a fire of need that he’s never experienced. When the fantasy come true sits at his table, words he never expected to hear come out of her lush mouth: “I need your help.”
Now he’s in for the toughest battle of his life, because the Overseers own both his cousin’s debt and her soul. And he’s not planning on leaving the Royale without either one.
This book has been previously published and has been revised and expanded from its original release.
Warning: Contains high-stakes games, sexy showgirls, and a powerful showdown between a vampire that can’t lose and the House that never does. Spells, slots, sirens and sex, oh my!
INTO THE SPOTLIGHT by HEATHER LONG
“Drink.” Heidi pressed the water bottle into her hands and Jeannie drank. Dancing was exhausting, dehydrating work. She needed fifty to sixty ounces of water per set to prevent passing out.
The stage manager plucked the bottle away without waiting to see if she was done and jammed one of Jeannie’s arms through the metal brassiere she would wear next. She maneuvered Jeannie’s body, seemingly uncaring that Jeannie stood there like a lump.
Ice-cold metal punctured the heat steaming up her skin. Jeannie blinked at her reflection in the mirror. Emotion weighed down her kohl-outlined eyes, more than the fringe of diamonds decorating the lashes. Her eyelids looked drowsy, and her lips were swollen, half-puckered as though expecting a kiss.
Behind her, Peppermint buckled Amber into her harness. The dancers would fly in this act, their own private circus of the damned. The black bustier fit over the metal brassiere. Heidi pressed the water bottle back into her hand.
Jeannie swallowed obediently. It was cool. Never cold. She missed icy cold water on a hot summer’s day. The temperature in the Royale was always a brisk sixty-nine.
Her only source of heat was the stage and the dance. And twin flames that scorched her in the darkness. Would those eyes still be there? Would he be waiting for her? Did she want him to be waiting? What if it wasn’t a him? No. It was a him. She wanted him to be there.
“Pandora!” Heidi’s voice jerked her back to the dressing room. The empty dressing room.
“Go!” the woman snapped, making shooing motions, and Jeannie pivoted on one shoe and strode up the steps, determination giving lift to the even strike of her foot on the metal plates.
She resisted the cloak of Pandora falling over her. Jeannie wanted to see those eyes again.
For the first time in decades, it would be Jeannie bursting out onto the stage. Jeannie who would dance. Jeannie who would search for the blue heat.
A whispered hush rippled over the audience. The tinny sound of the organ’s music drifted up from below the stage. One spotlight pierced the inky dark, highlighting Roseâtre, the ringmaster for tonight’s circus. A single lock of shocking white-blonde streaked through the rich black of her hair. Tall, long and leggy, Roseâtre fueled the audience’s imagination.
The dancer’s arms were aloft, locked in a pose that tilted her body to the side, her chin up and her gaze targeting some place far beyond the blackened theatre.
“Dearly beloved.” She murmured the words, but they echoed through the chamber, riding the tin notes of the organ.
“Welcome to our circus of the strange, our sideshow of the sinister and the theatre of the bizarre. Come into our realm of dark wonder, and let us engage you in your wickedest dreams. Come, dare to dance in our shadows.”
The light cut out and then the stage exploded in sound and color. The dancers cartwheeled, pirouetted and leapt. Each one was dressed in the same severe black and white gems wrapped around bare skin—alluring and decadent—but their faces. Jeannie bit her lip, tasting the heavy frosting of gloss and glitter. Their faces were macabre masks of death, pain, torture and fear.
The crowd loved it.
Silver hooped circles drifted from the ceiling, lowered on pulleys, and as they arrived at the stage, they burst into flame. One by one, the dancers dove through the circles, bounding out the other side. A sideshow of extraordinary technique, daring and danger. When the last dancer cleared the last hoop, the flames vanished and darkness whispered along Jeannie’s skin.
Her hips rolled as she strode onto the stage. This was what had brought her to Vegas the first time.
The love of adventure. The arts. The performance.
It held her hostage.
Jeannie swayed to the left and the dancers to her left pulsed. She swayed to the right and the six girls on her right pulsed, their fists toward the audience, heads snapping back. They were sprawled against the stage, like so many broken dreams.
They rose and fell at the extension of her arms. Here. In this moment. She was the ringmaster. Her gaze drifted across the darkness until she found the twin flames of blue waiting for her.
He was still here.
Meet Heather Long, Author….
Heather Long lives in Texas with her family and their menagerie of animals. As a child, Heather skipped picture books and enjoyed the Harlequin romance novels by Penny Jordan and Nora Roberts that her grandmother read to her. Heather believes that laughter is as important to life as breathing and that the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus are very real. In the meanwhile, she is hard at work on her next novel.
Links to Heather Long’s website, blog, books, etc.
**SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: Heather will give away a copy of one of her backlist releases (reader’s choice) to one lucky reader!! Comment on either her Monday Interview and/or Wednesday’s Karen’s Killer Book Bench blogs for a chance to win. Winner will be randomly selected and announced Monday, March 11, 2013. Thanks, Heather, for sharing your stories with us!