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LOVE’S LAST KISS
A Deadly Force Standalone Novel
BY SHARON WRAY
Is love worth risking everything for?
Rose Guthrie, a reluctant erotic dancer, hasn’t trusted anyone since her parents’ death. Yet, to make money for her brother’s heart transplant, she agrees to deliver a sealed box to a mysterious buyer. Until the box—and the seller—disappear. Not surprised by the betrayal, her situation becomes more dangerous when she learns that two brutal arms dealers also want the box and are willing to kill everyone she loves for it. With one clue left, she breaks into Doom—Savannah’s violent, illegal fight club. Unfortunately, Doom’s referee—the sexy, ex-Army Ranger, Kade Dolan—stands in her way. Although she harbors a secret attraction to Kade, she can’t let him stop her. If she doesn’t deliver the box on time, she’ll lose everything. Including her own life.
Rose doesn’t trust ex-Army Ranger, ex-con Kade Dolan, but that’s okay—he doesn’t trust himself either. Why? Because he lies to everyone about everything, including his time in Leavenworth and his job as an illegal fight club referee. Then there are his two side gigs. The first as an informant for the Prince, the leader of a secret, two-thousand-year-old private army. The second, loving from afar the beautiful, secretive Rose Guthrie. After the Prince discovers Rose is the courier of a lost 18th century artifact, he orders Kade to help her find the box before their greatest enemy does. If they succeed, Kade must return it to the Prince. If they fail, Kade must kill her.
Betrayal or death. When faced with an impossible choice, Kade can’t lie anymore, at least not when it comes to what he’s about to do the woman he loves. But when Rose uncovers Kade’s lies, they learn a terrible truth—the 18th century box holds a secret far deadlier than they imagined. A secret that could destroy them all.
In Love’s Last Kiss, my romantic suspense novel that released yesterday, the hero and heroine (Kade Dolan and Rose Guthrie) are caught in a passionate, star-crossed love story where they believe the Fates are working against them. They have to fight like heck to protect each other and win their happily ever after. Time is–literally–running out for both of them, and Fate isn’t helping.
Like for most of my books, I did a ton of research for Love’s Last Kiss (the next book in the Deadly Force series) including reading up on Greek and Roman mythology. The Fates, aka The Moirai, were three weaving goddesses who assign unique and individual destinies to mortals at birth. Clotho is the Spinner. Lachesis is the Alotter. And Atropos is the Inflexible. In the Greek pantheon, they were the daughter of Nyx (the goddess of night) but in the Roman pantheon they are the triplet daughters of Zeus and Themis, one of the original Titans.
These three sisters had so much power that even their father Zeus, the king of all the gods, had no power to change their decisions. The Greek word “Moira” means “share” or “portion” and includes everything from food to beauty to wealth to victory in battle. The Moirai were “apportioners”, meaning that they gave each person their own portion of everything that life has to offer, including years living on Earth.
These three sisters each had a different “spinning” task. Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured out each life’s allowed length of time, and Atropos cut the thread with her shears. They were also each assigned a different time period in a person’s life with Atropos watching over a person’s past, Clotho handled the present, and Lachesis protected the person’s future. In Greek and Roman times, these three sisters were represented as beautiful young nymphs. Later on, especially during the Middle Ages, artists represented them as old hags–probably out of anger and revenge for a perceived lack of allotments.
Although their jobs were separate, together they were required to write everything down in the Book of Fate–a story about the life of each and every person ever born. But they were never allowed to intervene in human history–except for that one time. When a mortal named Meleager was born, they told his mother Althaea that her son would live only until the log burning in the hearth burnt to ashes. So she took the log out of the fire and kept it safe. Years later, Meleager killed his uncle’s (Althaea’s brothers) and she was so heartbroken that she burnt the log and killed her own son. Then, filled with despair, she killed herself, proving to the Fates that they should never get involved in the affairs of humans.
And only once were the sisters deceived–by a god named Apollo. Upon learning that his friend Admetus was to die, Apollo got the Fates drunk and convinced them to save Admetus. Because a balance must always be struck (something Rose learns well in Love’s Last Kiss), Apollo had to find another man willing to trade his life for Admetus. When Apollo failed, Admetus’ wife, Alcestis, agreed to give up her life for her husband’s and saved him.
I took this story of Alcestis and wove it into the end of Love’s Last Kiss where the hero, Kade, sacrifices himself for Rose, his heroine. (although I promise it has a happy ending!)
But the sisters of Fate also had a mother–Themis–who was Zeus’ second wife. Themis represented the law and undisputed order: The Divine Right. She created and protected divine laws that govern everything that all humans and gods must adhere to. As a goddess of natural order, she had many daughters, besides the Moirai, including The Hores (The Hours) who represented the seasons as well as the rotation of time until the end of the world. These goddesses were named Eunomia (the protector for Fair Order), Deke (the goddess of trials) and Erene (the goddess of peace). Themis, also a goddess of prophecy, also gave birth to the nymphs, oracles, and Astraea (a virgin goddess of stars from which we get the words “astral” and “astrology”).
Themis was so powerful that she could, if she wanted, stop time or bring and end to the suffering of all humanity. She is often portrayed holding a sword in one hand and a set of scales in the other. The sword represents her protecting humans from the whims of the other gods while the scales tell the world (both humans and gods) that everything in the world must be balanced. A promise for a promise. A death for a death. A life for a life. This is something that the Fianna, the villains in Love’s Last Kiss, take very seriously. It’s also the key to how Rose saves Kade in the end of the book.
A huge thank you to all who read and have reviewed the book already! Reviews are huge to the success of an author’s career. They don’t have to even be great reviews–it’s the number of reviews that get the bots going, not the number of stars. As long as the review is honest, that’s all that matters. I hope you all have a great week!
Kade dropped Rose’s hand and began to pace the hospital’s hallway, taking his heat with him. The air around her felt cooler, and she took a few more deep breaths.
He ran his hand over his head and continued moving as if on a private mission. As if he couldn’t stop himself. As if afraid of what would happen if he did stop. “Deke, the club’s manager, is asking questions about the time you’ve been taking off. You’re the best the club has, but there is a line of women who’d love to take your place.”
Because the money was so good. Yes. She knew. She leaned her shoulder against the cold, concrete wall, grateful for the reprieve from Kade’s body temp. She was glad he’d pulled away. The last thing she needed was another complication.
She focused on the long stretch of silent hallway behind him. “Hopefully Timmy can come home tomorrow. As long as he’s stable, I’ll be at the club every night for the rest of the week. That should shut Deke up for a while.”
Kade paused in front of her, stared at her lips, and paced again. “Deke is also busy tormenting the two new bouncers he hired. They’re smart and strong. Two things Deke hates about other men.”
“Great. Deke feels threatened. That will make life easier for all of us.” She swallowed and lifted her chin. That might explain the weird text Deke had sent her earlier, asking if she needed another way to make money. She wanted to hear what he had to say, though, before giving him a firm answer.
Kade stopped in front of her for a third time and started to reach for her face but dropped his hand. That’s when she noticed a series of scars along his forehead.
She closed her eyes and licked her lips. What was she doing? Noticing such personal things about a man she barely knew?
“Rose.” Her name came out as a plea hidden beneath a whisper, and she opened her eyes. He moved closer. So close that his lips hovered over hers. So close that everything around her heated up again. So close that she had to raise her head to meet his blue gaze. “How can I help?”
His eyelids lowered, and she felt his short, choppy breaths brush her cheek. “You don’t have to do what you’re doing. There are other jobs—”
“There aren’t.” She stood taller, despite shame’s heavy weight. She’d do whatever was needed to save her brother. “I barely finished high school and need to make money as quickly as I can. Besides Timmy’s medical bills, I also have legal fees and everyday living expenses.”
He took her elbows and drew her in until she leaned against his chest. He was so much taller, and her head barely reached his chin. She inhaled his masculine scent—a combination of leather and bourbon—and a tear traced her cheek.
Slowly, she moved her hands to his waist.
Kade wrapped his arms around her shoulders and rested his chin on her head. She fought against drawing herself in closer when all she wanted was to burrow into his warmth and cling to his strength. That was the thing with shame. It didn’t just strip away your dignity, it left you cold and alone.
Shame left you naked while reality snapped the whip.
And in her case, reality was a bully named Deke who managed Rage of Angels, Savannah’s infamous Goth nightclub.
“You don’t always have to be strong.”
Instead of laughing at his ridiculous statement, she tried to pull away.
Kade tightened his hold and whispered against her hair, “It’s going to be okay.”
You don’t know that. She didn’t say the words because she didn’t want to move, didn’t want to break the peace of the moment.
She’d met Kade nine months ago when she’d started working at Rage of Angels, and she still knew nothing about him. While he’d helped her get the second waitressing job at the hotel where he bartended, they’d never dated, nor flirted, nor even held hands.
Yet, in the past few weeks, she’d become hyperaware of his presence. No matter if he was bartending or bouncing, she always knew where he was and what he was doing. She’d even begun looking forward to seeing him at work. A miracle since the club was the sleaziest—and most violent—place in town.
When she heard his indrawn breath, she withdrew from his embrace and wiped her eyes, disappointed that he wouldn’t meet her gaze. Instead, he stared down the hallway.
She turned just as the overhead fluorescents flickered. For a brief moment, in between the blinking lights, it looked like a man in a black T-shirt was coming toward them with a…gun.
The lights went out. Kade threw her against the wall, using his larger body to shield hers. When the red emergency light flared, she noticed another man behind the gunman. The second man wore a black hoodie and a white eye patch. He also held a thin sword against his thigh.
The red emergency bulb, tucked within an iron cage, pulsed. The man in the hoodie now held the gunman with one arm and slipped the thin sword into his neck. The gunman fell to the ground, and she screamed until Kade covered her mouth. Slowly, the man with the sword lifted his head to stare at her.
Then he wrapped one arm around his waist and bowed.
A moment later, the emergency light burned out and everything went black.
Sharon, a Jersey girl who landed in Virginia, is a chemical & patent librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris… and worked as a Red Cross caseworker in South Korea. Because it took her forever to decide what she wanted to do when she grew up, she now writes romance and women’s fiction novels filled with suspense, adventure, and love.
Her bestselling Deadly Force romantic suspense series is set in a world with scary assassins who bow before killing, sexy Green Berets seeking redemption, and smart, sassy heroines who save them all. It’s also a world where, since Sharon is slow and clumsy, her chances of making it out alive would be slim.
She also writes small-town contemporary romances, gothic romantic mysteries set in the sultry south, and Christmas stories. Because nothing brings out the romantic feels more than stories set during the holidays.
Army wife, mother of twins, and caretaker of rescue dogs, she’s repped by Deidre Knight and Kristy Hunter of The Knight Agency.
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Thanks, Sharon, for sharing your story with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!