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Apricots and Wolfsbane

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Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane

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Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies, to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Her morbid desires are balanced with faith since she believes confession erases the sin of murder, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge against her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder, but the betrayals are just beginning.

Watch the Book Trailer

Read reviews from other readers and on Goodreads or read an excerpt below.

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Excerpt

The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.

With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.

I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.

My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.

Murder just never got old.

The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.

The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.

Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.

I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.

After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.

Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.

I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my emotions on the job. No matter the circumstance, I learned to remain calm and reason through any dilemma. That night was no different.

Grabbing the corpse’s wrist in one hand, I pulled on the metal band with all my strength. Still, the damn ring did not move, even with my heel braced against his chest. But through the sound of my grunting, the unexpected scratching of a nearby rat interrupted my efforts.

The rodent stood tall on his hind legs, observing the entertainment outside his hole in the floorboard. What else could I do except laugh in amusement? There was something poetic about the meager creature being the singular witness to the growing farce, while beyond the chamber door, an entire brothel remained unaware.

But their ignorance would not last for long.

By God’s nails, I was not going to degrade myself to play tug of war with a corpse, nor disgrace my spit to serve as lubrication. I retrieved the dagger from my boot and sawed through the bone of the blasted digit. In contrast, his purse strings cut with ease and the contained sum gave me confidence the proprietor would retain his promised discretion. Eager to depart, I cleansed the ring with the pure decanter of mead and left the contaminated gloves on the table.

I threw the finger to the rat.


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Guest Blog

Guest Post By Anne Marie Andrus

Today I’m thrilled to host author Anne Marie Andrus who is spreading word about her new novel, Raimondwhich releases October 25, 2018 and is a prequel to her debut vampire romance fantasy, Monsters & Angels.

While working on a sequel she realized she really needed to write a prequel. It’s an excellent example of letting the characters the writer has created lead the story.

Alright Ann, take it away!


 

Raimond CoverIn these last few days before the release of my newest novel, Raimond, I’ve been reflecting on how my previous work, the Monsters & Angels Series was born.

In January of 2013, the winter after Superstorm Sandy, I was desperately searching for an escape. Though the season was tremendously bleak and depressing, it held an unexpected gift. Endless nights and bottomless cases of wine gave birth to a story.

Monsters & Angels is the tale of Sorcha Alden’s life and death, her tragedy, rebirth and epic love. I released that novel as my debut in October of 2017 and immediately got to work writing the sequel…then a funny thing happened. I realized that a step back was necessary in order to move forward. My readers also pointed out that, while I was writing Sorcha’s story, Raimond was the true super-star of this saga. Raimond is the more than a prequel, it’s the foundation for Monsters & Angels…and now we can truly waltz into the future.

Back in 2013, I wrote the story I wanted to read, full of characters that I wanted to fall in love with. Sometimes, I forget how it happened…the rush of being swept away by characters that didn’t exist until the moment they stepped out of the smoke and took the stage.

Obviously, I’m a great fan of vampire fiction and New Orleans. I was (still am) an incredible fan of The Originals. The ending of that series left a huge hole in my heart. Now, more than ever, I’m so grateful to be able to step back into the refuge of Monsters & Angels.

As I let myself sink into the magic of New Orleans October, my mind wanders…to stained glass windows and dangling shutters that framed strange faces…along alleys lined with crooked doorways, when haunting footsteps echoed next to mine. Back to the shadowy labyrinth where I met the Monsters…

A doomed commander, blessed with the heart of a savior

A blood slave, hiding her exotic appetite,

A perfect prince, arrogant and viciously flawed,

A trained healer, born to be a killer,

A legendary warrior, incapable of simple trust,

A second son, unwilling to be held hostage,

A brilliant politician, searching for courage to love,

A city behind walls, glittering and moody, ravaged and reborn,

And a fledgling nurse with the soul of an angel, carrying a spirit fierce enough to make them all family.

In the novel Raimond, the Monsters & Angels Series opens by introducing leading man, Commander Raimond Banitierre. (View the trailer here.)

Hero to martyr…

Assassinated in the earliest days of the French Revolution and tricked into decades of vampire slavery, Raimond fights for freedom and chases his ultimate dream of becoming a physician. His escape from France takes him across the Atlantic Ocean to Savannah, Georgia and through a trial-by-fire residency as battlefield surgeon during the American Civil War. Along the way, Doctor Banitierre encounters unlikely allies, finds precious love and suffers losses devastating enough to spiral him into despair.  

The arrival of Prince Draven Norman appears to be the final nail in Raimond’s coffin. Draven’s invitation to join the mystical royalty of New Orleans is either treachery or the next step in Raimond’s miraculous journey.

Soldier to saint…

FullSizeRender cardMonsters & Angels begins in 1936, on the brilliant autumn day of Sorcha Alden’s nursing school graduation. Driven by tragedy to honor her family name, Sorcha’s quest sends her from the bleak but familiar streets of New York City, through the sultry city of New Orleans, and on to a charity mission in the brutal jungles of Nepal.

Falling in love with handsome Doctor Vir Ashayle could have been a fairytale.

One tragic death, two haunted lovers…

Being murdered and waking up as a blood-thirsty monster, became her living nightmare.

The dawn of an immortal dynasty…

Forced to start over in a cutthroat underworld of bitter rivals and jealous ancestors, Sorcha returns to New Orleans as a newborn vampire with medical director, mentor and benefactor, Duke Raimond Banitierre, at her side.

Can the Crescent City’s magical harmony, the collective force of her newly found family, and Raimond’s fierce heart give Sorcha enough courage to fulfill her eternal destiny?

View the Monsters & Angels Trailer


24Anne Marie Andrus has been an equestrienne, chorale singer, EMT and baseball fan. Roaming the back roads of New Jersey with her family, she found great respect for antiques, historical locations and the stories they hold. Her current list of favorite pastimes include coffee, bourbon, and Les Misérables–which requires more bourbon. She has been known to attend sporting events just for the flyover. The boat she and her husband christened Glory Days, is her escape from the chaos of everyday life.

The inspiration for Anne Marie’s series, Monsters & Angels, is her fascination with vampires and her passion for everything New Orleans. When she isn’t writing, she can be found working nights with the critical care team in a busy trauma center.

In addition Monsters & Angels, Anne has two stories, Where The Power Hides and A Glimpse Of The Monster, available in Dan Alatorre’s newest scary story anthology, Dark Visions, sequel to best-seller The Box Under The Bed.

You can learn more about Anne at AnneMarieAndrus.com and Monsters & Angels Blog.

 

 

Apricots and Wolfsbane

It’s My Book Birthday!

Book BirthdayHappy Book Birthday to Apricots and Wolfsbane! One year ago today (Friday, October 13, 2017), I became a published author and what a year it has been.

Do any other authors check their Author Central sales daily?

How about GoodReads stats or for new reader reviews?

The best part of having my book out in the world has been hearing the reaction, both the good at the bad.

Thank you to the reader who wrote telling me I’m your new favorite author! (Here’s a video that summarizes why that is so cool: Surprise YouTube Video)

Thank you to the military wife who wrote saying my novel provided the escape she needed during her husband’s deployment. I am so touched to be able to give you something in return – a very minor, minuscule something compared to the sacrifice of your family.

But thank you also for  all the comments from readers wanting to throw their kindles at the wall when they reach the last page. I’m proud to have evoked such an emotional reaction. I knew the ending would be polarizing and therefore also appreciate the majority of comments saying they loved it and it is “the most dramatic ending” they have ever read.

I have enjoyed all book club chats, meeting readers at book fairs, and seeing my book at the Texas Renaissance Festival. I’m looking forward to my first international book club next month!

Thank you to all you amazing book bloggers who dedicate their time to promoting authors like me.

I am still in shock over the Historical Novel Society selecting Apricots and Wolfsbane as an Editors’ Choice Novel, and to be Discovering Diamonds book of the month. To have such reception from trusted historical fiction review sites is validation beyond what I imagined.

Thank you to every author who has swapped cross-promotion or provided advice. With the number of readers dwindling and book sales being incredibly competitive, it is amazing to see how warm and welcoming the author community is. You are all incredible. You are also the only ones who understand what a crazy, wild, insane, exhausting, emotional journey this has been.

Thank you to Filles Vertes Publishing for giving wings to my wild dream.

Most important, thank you to my family who provide such encouragement.

 

What do you think Lavinia would want for her birthday present?

Discuss your thoughts at the Apricots and Wolfsbane Book Chat Group on GoodReads or post in the comments.

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Book Review

Book Review: The Greenest Branch

I wish I had written this book and I can think of no higher praise.

The Greenest Branch as a fictional account of Hildegard of Bingen, a young, spirited oblate who overcomes more than just her gender to become Germany’s first female physician. Written in two parts, The Greenest Branch covers how Hildegard earned the title of “physician” and the early parts of her career.

Synopsis of The Greenest Branch

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(From the Amazon description)

The year is 1115, and Germany is torn apart by a conflict between the Emperor and the Pope over who should have the right to appoint bishops and control the empire’s vast estates. In that atmosphere, young Hildegard is sent to the Abbey of St. Disibod in the Rhineland as her parents’ gift to the Church in accordance with a custom known as the tithe.

Hildegard has a deep love of nature and a knowledge of herbal healing that might make more than one Church official suspicious of witchery, and she hopes to purse medical studies at St. Disibod. But no sooner does she settle into her new life than she finds out that as a girl she will not be allowed to attend the monastic school or use the abbey’s library; instead, she must stay at the women’s convent, isolated from the rest of the community and from the town. It might seem that Hildegard’s dreams have quickly come to an end. Yet she refuses to be sidelined.

Against fierce opposition from Prior Helenger, the hostile head of the monks’ cloister, she finds another way to learn – by securing an apprenticeship with Brother Wigbert who runs the infirmary and is in dire need of a capable assistant. Under his supervision, she begins to train as the abbey’s first female physician and makes rapid progress. When Hildegard’s reputation starts to spread throughout the Rhineland, Helenger’s persecution escalates as he fears losing control over the women’s community. But that is not the only challenge she must grapple with. She has also developed feelings for Volmar, a fellow Benedictine novice, that force Hildegard to re-examine the fundamental assumptions she has made about her life. Is the practice of medicine within the monastic confines her true calling, or is a quiet existence of domestic contentment more desirable?

With the pressures mounting and threatening to derail her carefully-laid plans, Hildegard becomes locked in a struggle that will either earn her an unprecedented freedom or relegate her to irrevocable oblivion.

The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the true story of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician and one of the few women to attain that position in medieval Europe. Set against the backdrop of the lush oak forests and sparkling rivers of the Rhineland, it is a tale of courage, strength, sacrifice, and love that will appeal to fans of Ken Follett, Umberto Eco, Elizabeth Chadwick, Margaret Frazer, Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, and to anyone who enjoys strong female protagonists in historical fiction.

 

My Thoughts

Every word of this book is beautiful. The phrasing, the description. P.K. Adams’ talent for writing is evident upon each page of this notable tale.

True to Hildegard’s life, this book has a slow and perhaps flat plot, but I appreciate the author’s honest recount of the physician’s life. At several points I wished Adams had turned up the tension just a bit more, especially with Hildegard’s potential love interest, but in the Author’s Note in the back, Adams admits such events were already heightened for the sake of the book. Life is often not a perfect story arc or action-packed and I respect the author’s choice to stay true to history. Most historical fiction fans will feel the same.

That being said, the antagonist in this book is Medieval German society and the prejudice Hildegard has to overcome to foster her gift. Adams strikes a fantastic balance in the voice of this novel. Hildegard’s frustration comes across but in balance with how a Sister would have honored the Church, its customs, and her superiors even if they often stand in her way. This is a story I easily related to as a female engineer: how sometimes you just want to scream, but swallow battle losses for the sake of the larger war.

I also loved how historical detail was woven perfectly into the plot. P.K. Adams subtly weaves in the details of how a medieval abbey functioned without a single line of “information dump.” Every detail from religious tradition to the medicinal use of herbs flows naturally from the narrator.

Hildegard would be honored to have her tale captured in such beautiful words and by a female author nonetheless. P.K. Adams has honored Hildegard’s memory and story in a exquisite novel I highly recommend. I can’t wait for part 2.


Order the The Greenest Branch on Amazon US and Amazon UK

Learn more about The Greenest Branch from GoodReads


PKAdams

About The Author
P.K. Adams is a Boston-based historical fiction author, whose debut novel The Greenest Branch is the first in a two-book series based on the life of Hildegard of Bingen, Germany’s first female physician. She has a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a master’s degree in European Studies from Yale. When not reading or writing, she can be found hiking, doing yoga, and drinking tea (though usually not at the same time).

Learn more about P.K. Adams at her website and @pk_adams.


 

 

Apricots and Wolfsbane

Contract Signing Day!

Today I signed the publishing contract for the sequel to Apricots and Wolfsbane!

(And it was every bit as thrilling as the first time.)

Having tasted publishing once, I wanted it again, which made the stakes feel even higher this time around. I’m comforted by the stories from other authors who have shared similar feelings, to wonder if you can really write a book again. I’m told it never goes away, regardless of how many books are released.

I am so proud of how the sequel turned out and I know the developmental rounds with my editors will only make it better. I am grateful to Filles Vertes Publishing for their continued support and can’t wait to share the next chapters of this story with so many of you who are eagerly waiting. Thank you for all of the notes, tweets, DMs, e-mails, and reviews that call out anticipation for the sequel. They truly motivate my fingers at the keyboard.

So when will you get your hands on the sequel? Publication will be fall of 2019, but stay tuned over the next few months for sneak peeks of the plot synopsis, a title announcement, and the cover reveal. If you follow me on Twitter you’ve already seen some preview lines as well!

Free BookLooking forward to next fall, I’m working to put Apricots and Wolfsbane in as many hands as possible, but I cannot do it alone. The novel is currently free to download from BookFunnel throughout the month of September. Do you have a friend who might like a darker fall read? Please consider suggesting the novel or passing the link to them.

I’m also thrilled to announce Green Man Games and Books will be selling Apricots and Wolfsbane at the Texas Renaissance Festival this season! Please stop by booth 504 (across from the Royal Mint) to support a local author and a local bookstore. You can also challenge a fellow Rennie at one of their wooden games set out in front of the shop.

GreenMan

Lastly, I have created a GoodReads group for those interesting in discussing Apricots and Wolfsbane. While writing the book I aimed to create polarizing plot and character layers to challenge the reader and foster discussion, but I’m finding many of my readers are secluded without a network to have those discussions. Did the book leave you thinking? Do you think Lavinia would have killed again? Come share your opinion and join the discussion: Apricots and Wolfsbane Book Chat

Book Chat

Thank you to everyone for your continued support and stay tuned for more news to come!

Guest Blog

Guest Blog: “Nice to Meet You” – Insight into the writing process of Katherine Hastings, historical romance author

Today I’m thrilled to be hosting a guest blog by fellow Wisconsinite Katherine Hastings, author of the new historical romance, In the Assassin’s ArmsI am a plotter to the extreme for many of the same reasons Katherine discusses below. Check out her tips, read an excerpt of her new book, and enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift card in the link below!


“Nice to Meet You”

by Katherine Hastings

The writing world is divided between two types of writers… plotters and pantsers. Plotters plan out their entire story before ever typing a word. Pantsers crack their knuckles and let their fingers go wild, discovering the story as they go. Both ways can turn out incredible stories, and I’ve actually tried both. In the end, this writer turned out to be a plotter. I found that by having my entire story sorted out before I start writing allows me to write efficiently and without having to do much editing to the plot when I’m done. All the plot holes and problems are figured out long before my fingers hit the keyboard and I can write without getting hung up as I go.

However, there is one big difference between myself and much of the plotter world. Even though every novel I write is thoughtfully outlined and structured before I type the first word, the one thing I let expand naturally in my writing is the characters. Other than a few basic details about them like their name, appearance, and where they’re from, I tend to leave the rest open to discovery as my story unfolds. When I’m writing my novels, I’m discovering things about my characters the same way my readers do. Like peeling an onion, I learn more about them one layer at a time.

In a recent novel I wrote there is a supporting character who was barely a thought before I started typing. He didn’t even have a name when he entered that first chapter. The only thing I knew about him was that he was going to be a friend to my heroine and a person for her to confide in throughout the novel. When I started typing out his first scene, I closed my eyes and pictured him walking up. I could see him parting the crowd while my heroine discovered him too. When he introduced himself to her, I felt like he was introducing himself to me as well.

Hello, Mark. Nice to meet you, I thought while I examined him closely wondering how he would play out in my novel. As the chapters went on and he developed, I found myself more and more drawn to him and soon he was playing a starring role in my book. While most of my dialogue comes out without much planning or thought on my part, this particular character had a way of speaking and behaving that had me laughing out loud at the crazy things he did and said. Then I laughed harder realizing I was writing him, and yet he someone found a way to surprise me every time he opened his mouth. It’s a bizarre feeling being shocked by something you typed after you typed it. There may have been a few moments when I saw my husband peering over at me with an arched brow while I rolled in laughter at my computer.

“Aren’t you quite entertained with yourself?” he asked one night.

I shook my head. “It’s not me. It’s Mark. He’s hilarious!” I answered, as if the man I was creating on the page was an actual person I had no control over. However, with this character especially, that is exactly how it felt. He just ran around doing stuff and saying things that kept me giggling away while I hustled around behind him trying to write it all down.

Each character of mine has a mind of their own and I love when they take control of my fingers and tell the story the way only they can. As much as I enjoy planning my novels, and as much as I love how easy it makes writing the story, pantsing my characters is one of the greatest joys of writing for me. It allows me to be surprised and excited while I write, waiting to discover more about them and the things they do and say, the secrets that haunt their pasts, and the desires that drive them on. Every time I start typing a new book, I get excited when my character enters a scene and I can smile and say, “Nice to meet you!”


About the Author:

KatherineKatherine Hastings loves love. It’s why she writes romance novels. Getting lost writing a romantic adventure is one of her favorite pastimes. When she’s not on an adventure in her mind with her characters, she can be found at her home in Wisconsin snuggling her husband, two Boston Terriers, and the world’s naughtiest cat. Two things make Katherine want to leave her happy home these days… going for rides on her dressage pony or floating at the beach in her big inflatable raft. Writing her novels while floating in the lake is one of her ultimate pleasures… that and Fried Wisconsin Cheese Curds, of course.

Website: http://www.katherinehastings.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/katherinehastingsauthor

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/khastingsauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/katherinehastingsauthor/


Synopsis of In the Assassin’s Arms

IntheAssassinsArmsJohn Douglas may be a well-trained political assassin, but he has met his match in the woman he once called a friend. When his childhood playmate reenters his life, she’s not looking to rekindle their friendship… she’s out for blood.

With a vendetta to settle, Charlotte Cornewalle isn’t stopping until she finds the man who killed her father. All signs point to Robert Douglas, the leader of the opposing faction of assassins… and John’s father. To get her revenge, no one will stand in her way… not even the boy she once adored.

Fate forces them together as they fight to prove their innocence and right the wrongs they have suffered. Sparks fly from more than just their swords, but will they be able to put the past behind them? Will they be able to find the truth before it destroys them both?


Enter to win a $25 amazon gift card


Excerpt from In the Assassin’s Arms

“John, you’ve got an untreated arrow wound and you were sitting with it exposed in a dank, dirty cell.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“John,” she cautioned.

He rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it up over his head. Charlie tried not to stare but the sight of him illuminated in the warm morning light proved impossible to ignore. His muscles bulged beneath his skin. Chiseled lines marked every hour of training and practice that had carved him into a near ideal specimen. Only a few old scars marred the otherwise perfect physique.

“You just wanted to see me without my shirt on, didn’t you? The whole, ‘I want to treat your wound’ speech was just a ploy?” He had not been unaware of the effect he was having on her.

Clearing her throat, she looked away. “Don’t flatter yourself. If you’re going to fight at my side, I don’t need you dizzy with fever from an infection. Sit over there.” She gestured to the chair while trying to slow the breathing that had quickened from the sight of him.

“As you wish.” He strolled past her. She tried to act casual while she peered from her peripheral vision for another look at him before he sat down.

“Nurse, your patient is waiting,” he said with a smile.

She stood up, walked over to the bucket of water and pulled out the metal ladle, filling the pot with several scoops of water. She placed it on the spit over the fire and hunted around for a piece of rag. John’s eyes followed her everywhere she went.

“Let’s have a look,” Charlie said as she approached.

“My wound is up here,” John teased, following her gaze to his sculpted abs.

“I’m just looking for more wounds,” she lied.

“Likely story.”

“Do you want me to treat you or not?”

“Yes, go ahead. I’ll stop teasing you.”

“Good.” She leaned down and examined the wound closely. The jagged edges were red and weeping. “It looks infected.”

“Doesn’t surprise me,” he said, looking down.

Charlie walked over to the fire and used the torn cloth to pull the pot from the flames. She set it on the table beside him and dipped the cloth into the hot water.

“This is going to hurt,” she warned, holding the steaming rag above him.

“Most of the worthwhile things in life sting a bit.”

“Then consider this very worthwhile.” She pressed the hot rag to his skin. He cringed and grimaced as the water seeped into the wound. “Are you all right?”

“Never been better,” he said through gritted teeth.

Charlie laughed and dipped the rag again. She squeezed the water and flushed the wound. John held his breath through the worst of it. After several rounds of washing, she examined the wound once more.

“I think that’s the best we can do for now.” She wiped the area surrounding his wound with the wet cloth. Her hand moved slowly across his chest, wiping away the dirt and exposing his smooth, tanned skin. She watched his chest expand as he breathed, his muscles flexing with each breath. Charlie glanced up to see his green eyes watching her, her own desire reflected back in them.

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