Sunday, January 11, 2009

Down and Dirty 2: Calling the Bluff by Moira Rogers

Down & Dirty: Calling the Bluff
by Moira Rogers

Cover art by Bryan Keller
ISBN (13): 978-1-60521-076-6
Genre(s): Futuristic, Paranormal
Theme(s): Werewolves
Series: Down & Dirty
Length: Novella


Hazel Young is a rare commodity in town: a young, single female whose first mating is nearly upon her. She's spent the last two years fending off suitors who grow more determined by the day -- after all, there's nothing flattering in the attention of werewolves more interested in what she is than who she is, especially not when she gave her heart away to Oliver Russell years ago. But Oliver seems to feel nothing for her but fond kindness, and the time has come to choose a mate before the wolf makes the choice for her.
When Oliver happens across Hazel being pressured by a local who wants to be her first, it awakens protective instincts he thought he'd set aside with the death of his wife five years ago. With Hazel in heat and no time to get her to safety, they wind up in a fishing shack on Lonely River, waiting for her mating fever to pass. The last thing he expects is to be tempted by her inexperienced attempts at seduction.


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Hazel closed her eyes, propped her chin on her hand and, for the fifth time that day, told herself it was time to be a good girl and fuck Noah Hampton.
Even without looking she could feel his gaze on her, a heavy weight fraught with anticipation. He’d brought another courting gift to the Full Moon Saloon this afternoon, the third in as many days. Hazel glanced down at the cookbook resting on the bar and admired its cheerful shiny cover. Finding books which predated the War was a challenge, but she’d mentioned to him the first time she met him that she loved books and he’d obviously jumped through hoops to find a present she would value.
Few people out on the plains could afford the luxuries of pre-War books and gadgets. Hazel had vague memories of the cities back East, where rich people lived in the gigantic skyscrapers that had once housed businesses with technology she could only begin to imagine. People traded in odd relics of the past, but the price had always been too steep for her mother’s shallow pockets.
Noah Hampton was wealthy. He was strong and handsome enough, and he was new to town, which at least made him interesting. He knew when to talk and when to smile, and he’d made it clear from the moment he’d set foot across the threshold of Lottie’s saloon that he was more than willing to guide Hazel through her first mating cycle.
Unlike most of the local boys, who’d spent the last months trying to grab her ass or sneak a hand under her skirt as a prelude to seduction, Noah had been comfortingly blunt about the subject. He wanted to fuck her, to lock them both in a room and satisfy every dirty urge she had or would have over the several days it took for the mating fever to run its course, and when it was over they could decide what to do from there.
He was perfect. He was fucking perfect.
Except for the fact that she couldn’t summon the slightest interest in touching him. Damn you, Oliver Russell.
“If you stare at it long enough, will it spontaneously combust?” Lottie’s polite, cultured voice sounded particularly jovial, and she swept around the end of the bar in a billow of skirts and pale blonde hair. “It’s a very nice book, and it would be a shame.”
Hazel didn’t look up. “Is he still staring at me?”
“He is.” Lottie cleared her throat. “I can tell him to go, or coax him upstairs for a visit with one of the ladies.”
“No.” She brushed her fingers along the smooth cover and sighed. “Because the only person he needs to be fucking is me, and I’d rather not do it here.” The minute the words were out she regretted them. For the madam of the town’s most profitable whorehouse, Lottie had some fairly strict ideas about appropriate language.
“Hazel Young.” One eyebrow arched delicately as Lottie fixed her with a patient look. “There’s no need to be crude about it. Your situation is entirely normal and natural.”
“Is it?” If her situation were normal, she wouldn’t have ended up with so many people meddling in her life. Everyone else spoke of their first mating as if it had been a casual thing. Unimportant, unremarkable. No one had mentioned craving one man so desperately even her wolf would have nothing to do with anyone else.
“Mmm.” Lottie leaned over the bar, and her drawl became more noticeable as she spoke. “A word of warning, though. Any man that smooth?” She nodded toward Noah. “Is rarely a good idea.”
Which was the entire point. “At least a man that smooth might know what he’s doing. Unlike the boys you keep throwing at me.”
“‘Nice’ doesn’t always equal ‘inexperienced’.” Lottie’s gaze skipped past Hazel to the door, and she swore under her breath and straightened.
Hazel didn’t need Lottie’s sudden descent into foul language to know who had stepped into the saloon. It should have been impossible to pick out one scent amidst the jumble of smells that always permeated the saloon, but it wasn’t just any scent. Her skin tingled and arousal crept through her, persistent and demanding as she gave in and lifted her gaze to the door.
Oliver Russell stopped just inside the room, his hat cradled in his hands. Hazel let her gaze linger for a moment on the strong line of his jaw and his rugged features, on his powerful shoulders and hard chest and the large hands that she could almost feel on her skin…
His gaze swept the room and landed on her, hesitating for just a moment. Then he walked to the bar and nodded his head. “Miss Lottie. Miss Hazel.”
“Good afternoon, Oliver. What can I do for you?”
Again, that slight hesitation which might have been Hazel’s imagination, only this time it was coupled with something that looked like dismay. “Whiskey, please.”
Hazel was breathing too fast, and the men in the saloon were starting to take notice. She clamped down on the rising heat inside her until it almost hurt, then turned to find the whiskey. Even with her back to Oliver, she could feel his presence, and her hands trembled as she poured a shot and tried not to listen to his voice as Lottie talked to him.
When she turned around with his glass, Lottie took it from her. “Why don’t you go take a break, sweetie?”
Hazel glanced at Oliver, who looked nervous and self-conscious, and the truth of his visit came to her in a rush. The tiny, feeble hope that maybe -- maybe -- he’d come to see her faded.
Oliver was here for the reason he was always here -- to visit the saloon’s only human girl, a sweet woman who accommodated Oliver’s sexual needs. Maybe it would have been easier if Hazel had been able to hate Melinda, but she was kind and thoughtful, and even her wolf saw the human woman as no competition.
Pain gave her sexual arousal a vicious edge, and she met Oliver’s gaze without flinching. “Should I go fetch Melinda for you? I’m sure she’s available.”
He returned her stare evenly. “I’d appreciate it if you could tell her I’m here, and that I’ll be up in a bit, if that suits her.”
So casual. So cold. She’d demanded his blunt acknowledgement and he’d given it to her. Tears stung her eyes as she shoved past Lottie, but she didn’t go to the curving staircase leading to the second floor and the well-appointed rooms where the ladies of the bar entertained.
Instead she went to the corner. To Noah.
He greeted her with a smile and a bow. “Miss Hazel. Can you join me for a drink?”
Everyone was watching. Hazel pushed him back into the chair and followed him. She settled on his lap and curled an arm around his neck before leaning close to his ear. “I don’t think I can wait any longer, Noah. I’m choosing you.”
His smile turned into a cocky, self-assured grin. “And you won’t regret a minute of it, Hazel,” he whispered and bit her earlobe. “Not a single minute.”

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