A year ago, I released Fireworks at Midnight, thinking I would leave the world of A Witch’s Night Out forever (I’d planned the series as a trilogy). Unfortunately, my characters had other plans. Since I’d sicced Madame Eve on her cat familiar, earth mage Shelley Dupree insisted I make things right. To be fair, I’d already given her a magical handicap, forced her under house arrest, and buried her in bills—taking away her feline companion did seem a cruel and unusual punishment.
It took me two months of fictional time to even the scales with Feline Valentine. Part of Decadent Publishing’s 1Night Stand series, my interracial paranormal romance is set in Washington, D.C., where magic-wielding folk try to live alongside us pesky humans. It’s my first true “shifter” AND “foodie” romance (talk about ticking two boxes with one book), and a quick read of the blurb should tell you what I mean.
To celebrate this unexpected return to my favorite series, I’m giving away a $15 gift card. To enter, leave a comment here and drop your details in the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post [or at my website: http://www.taraquan.com/felinevalentine].
Feline Valentine (A Witch’s Night Out) by Tara Quan
Under magical house arrest in her great-grandmother’s suburban cottage, college graduate and reluctant earth mage Shelley Dupree whiles away most mornings spying on the warlock next door. Though erotic daydreams offer some distraction, she faces long working hours, cash flow problems, and a repeat burglar. On Valentine’s Day, she sets a trap for the mysterious intruder, intent on ending his crime streak once and for all. But her scheming cat familiar foils her best-laid plans, and, with a little help from Madame Eve’s 1-Night Stand service, she discovers a far more dangerous species of magical feline.
After moving in next to a ramshackle building on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., pastry chef Adrien Chatdurois is plagued by repeat sexual fantasies starring the same curvy brunette. In a state of constant arousal, he devotes his early mornings to grueling exercise and spends the rest of his day handcrafting the city’s best chocolates. When his younger brother stirs up trouble on the shop’s busiest day, the frustrated shifter is forced to pay a surprise visit on his reclusive neighbor. He soon learns not all witches are wart-covered hags, and one in particular might prove the most delicious of desserts.
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Romantic Comedy, Interracial/Multicultural
Check out the rest of the series here!
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Extras (for you to use, or not use, as you see fit)
$15 Giveaway – Rafflecopter Embed Code:
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alternative link: http://www.taraquan.com/felinevalentine
About the Author
Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, Tara enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, paranormal worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Her characters, armed with magical powers or conventional weapons, are guaranteed a suspenseful and sensual ride, as well as their own happily ever after. To receive updates about her new releases and get a free sexy read, subscribe to her mailing list at www.taraquan.com/newsletter.
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Excerpts, in increasing order of heat level, from PG to R-Rated
Excerpt 1 (PG) – 540 words
Her doorbell rang.
An ominous crack followed the box’s impact with her yellowed kitchen floor. Sweat dampened the back of her neck. She must have imagined the sound. Her doorbell had been broken for weeks—months even. She’d taped a scribbled sign telling food delivery people to leave items on the porch. No one other than her family ever visited.
Everything, including the array of curiosities in front of her, must be part of a hallucination brought on by prolonged celibacy. Sweets wouldn’t dare sic Madame Eve’s service on her. Everyone Shelley knew who’d used it had—
Okay, she could fix this. She’d meet the guy and tell him to scram. No way could the matchmaker’s mojo work in less than five seconds.
Muttering curses under her breath, she marched past the counter, through her makeshift office, and across the small living space, to stop in front of the thick wood barrier. Peepholes hadn’t been in vogue back when this place had been built. Since she hadn’t bothered to switch out the bulbs after the porch lights died, she couldn’t have discerned more than shadowy shapes regardless.
Pulling her shoulders back, she summoned her inner bitch. She had to run the guy off. Failure would end in disaster. Acting rude and obnoxious was a matter of determination, persistence, and effort.
She swung the door open.
The warlock next door stared back at her.
Her next breath erupted as a cough. “F—udge cakes.”
As opening lines to Shelley Channeling the Shrew went, she could have done better. She blamed her parents. No matter how many times she’d thought, read, and heard four-letter expletives, she couldn’t shake the ingrained childhood habit of modifying them for polite company.
It didn’t help that the man had a brown cake box sandwiched between his waist and left arm. Responding to the stimuli, her stomach had short-circuited her brain and demanded sustenance—ideally, in the form of fudge cake. Her gaze dropped to the bottle clasped in his hand. She’d had a champagne craving since this morning.
Her hunky neighbor’s green eyes had widened to a comical degree. Perspiration beaded his forehead. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. When his mouth opened, no sound came out.
What did he have to be shocked about?
Of course, only now did it occur to her she could have pretended not to be home. Just because someone rang the doorbell didn’t mean she had to answer.
It would be so rude not to, her goody-two-shoes inner voice who sounded suspiciously like her mother countered. I raised you better.
As she contemplated slamming the door, an act that met with immeasurable resistance from the metaphorical angel on her shoulder, her neighbor croaked, “It’s you.”
As first exchanges between potential soul mates went, this might be one for the books.
At least the guy came with more than one bribe. A covered plate of chocolate-dipped strawberries balanced precariously on his other palm. Her gaze drifted over his bare forearm and along tensed biceps. The short sleeve of his red T-shirt accentuated his muscle definition.
Her mouth watered. Her gluttonous heart did a little flip. She couldn’t settle on what tempted her more—the food or the warlock.
Excerpt 2 (PG-ish) – 326 Words
Adrien finished slotting the tray of chocolate-dipped strawberries into the case’s most prominent spot. In honor of Valentine’s Day, he’d drawn a Cupid’s bow on each fruit using melted white chocolate. Beaming a proud smile at the appetizing array, he made a mental note to drop off any remainders on his next-door neighbor’s porch after closing time.
With the notion came a sudden compulsion to also send a bottle of bubbly. Rolling his shoulders to relieve the tension in his fatigued muscles, he tentatively added champagne to the shopping list. If today’s profits met expectations, he should be able to gift the old lady some booze.
Less than a second later, an image of a bottle of peach Schnapps flashed over his vision. Stepping to his left, he took off the wool hat and placed it next to the cash register. Why was his brain fixating on ingredients for a Bellini? He didn’t even like cocktails.
White heat flashed over his vision. He found himself on his knees, crouched over a soft feminine body. Fizzy, bubbly liquid slicked skin the color of caramel. When her back arched, the drink sluiced over a set of tensed, quivering abs to soak her lacy pink waistband. He dipped his head, his tongue trailing over the potent mixture of peach, alcohol, and woman. He dug his fingers into her lush hips, tilting her in the opposite direction so the remaining liquid trickled over her ribs to catch along the underwire of her bra. Capitalizing on the excuse to taste, he—
Fingers snapped repeatedly in front of his face. “Oy. Where the hell did you go?”
With a sigh, he directed his gaze at his sibling. “Bass, what the hell do you want?” Their two-year age gap allowed for a healthy dose of fraternal bonding, but a lifetime as the man’s big brother had also built up baseline cynicism. Sebastien’s unannounced visits tended to have odd and oftentimes very expensive consequences.
Excerpt 3 (R-Rated) – 635 Words
“Stop hogging the binoculars. It’s my turn to ogle the warlock next door.”
Ignoring the high-pitched whine, Shelley Dupree zoomed in on a pair of sweat-slicked pecs. A prolonged spying session on her new neighbor seemed the perfect cure for Valentine’s Day doldrums. Though Dulcina, her best friend and cat familiar, could turn into an absolute pest when thwarted, the reward for tuning out her incessant requests superseded all risk. After all, Shelley needed to stock up on copious amounts of drool-worthy imagery. How else was a single witch on house arrest supposed to while away the most romantic night of the year?
Prolonged sexual frustration had long since warped her brain, part of the reason she couldn’t tear her gaze from the delicious male specimen on the other side of her crumbling wall. As she watched the man execute a strict pull-up over his doorjamb, her lips tingled. She imagined trailing them over his lightly tanned chest, pictured herself tracing those rippling muscles with slow, sipping kisses.
Her tongue darted to wet the corner of her mouth as she envisioned sliding her hands under the waistband of his red workout shorts. She’d fuel his arousal with teasing strokes before catching the fabric between her teeth and yanking the garment off.
His body lowered, filling her magnified view with a visage stunning enough to choke off her next breath. Thick fringes of sooty lashes framed dreamy, moss-green eyes. His pale skin darkened to a rusty hue as he sped up the repetitions. Glistening with perspiration, midnight curls clung to his sharp, slanting cheekbones. An overlong forelock snaked down to graze his pronounced nasal bridge.
With his lips pursed and eyes narrowed, the intense, menacing expression he wore added fodder to her prolonged sexual fantasy. She could almost feel his coarse chest hair rasping her chin and cheeks, taste salt as she explored the expanse of taut, supple flesh. Her pulse raced, her erratic heartbeat a warm flurry over each fingertip.
As if by magic, his waistband slipped down his hips, sending his shorts pooling to his ankles before they dropped to the floor. Entranced by the unexpected striptease, her attention zeroed in on his penis. Even from afar, the warlock didn’t disappoint.
With a contented sigh, she imagined tracing the ridge, swirling her tongue over the long, thick shaft before taking the engorged tip into her mouth. While she contemplated the way he might taste, deep grooves formed between his thick brows. His full, sensuous lips flattened into a grim line.
She closed her eyes and ventured deeper into the familiar daydream, a moan catching in her throat as his erection slid back and forth over her flesh. Instead of the binocular’s cold metal chilling her hands, the toned, flexing ass she’d always admired warmed her palms and fingers. She took him deeper, until she could almost feel the head brushing the back of her throat. A hoarse, masculine groan echoed between her ears when she hollowed her cheeks and—
“Meow!” A quintet of sharp claws swiped down her calf, the sudden pain shattering her erotic fantasy.
Spinning around, she nudged at the brown, shorthaired cat with her toe. Her friend must really want attention if she’d resorted to shifting into her hated feline form. A familiar stockpiled more magic as animal than human, so the amount of time her companion spent coughing up fur balls around the house directly correlated with the accuracy of her premonitions.
For whatever reason, the witch preferred to keep the future at bay.
“Damn it, Sweets.” She tapped her foot on the diabolical cat’s head. “Scat. If you don’t stop bugging me, I’ll tell your boyfriend you’ve been gawking at another man on a daily basis.”
Arching her spine in a sinuous stretch, the feline stuck out her tongue.
Excerpt 4 (R-rated-ish + Extended) – 1,182 words
Since she’d removed the plastic wrap but had forgotten to eat, Adrien reached over and brought a strawberry to her lips. Shelley stared at him for a long moment. With a shrug and a grin, she swirled her tongue along the chocolate before clamping her teeth over the fruit. Biting off a chunk, she drew back and licked her lips clean.
Shifting his stance, he tried to focus on anything but the blood rushing to his groin. He hadn’t thought his jeans could get any tighter. He’d thought wrong.
The activity in the kitchen screeched to an abrupt halt.
She studied him through lowered lashes. “What? Is something wrong?”
Two could play this game. Caging her between the counter and his body, he brushed his fingers over her upper arm and along her neck. When she tilted her head to the side, he lowered his head so his lips grazed her earlobe. Grinning when her breath caught, he reached around her, his arm missing her breasts by a millimeter as he wiped her lower lip with the pad of his thumb. “You missed a spot.”
Her skin darkened to the color of milk chocolate. Though he couldn’t wait to find out how she tasted, he mustered enough self-control to return to the task at hand. The sooner he fed the witch, the sooner they’d shift to more delicious activities. “Keep eating. I don’t need another tantrum on my hands.”
As she polished off the strawberries, he whisked a pair of eggs in a separate bowl before combining his two mixtures. He placed a small container of butter in his palm. A few seconds later, it softened and melted. Shifters generated far more body heat than humans or elemental mages, which came in handy since his host’s microwave seemed to have been rescued from a 1980s Dumpster.
Soft footsteps approached him from behind. “Can I help?”
He turned, glanced at the empty plate on the counter, and answered her sheepish grin with a smile of his own. “Feeling guilty?”
“You’re not off the hook, or anything.” Her cheeks darkened. “But my temper might have been a bit more…explosive than usual. I’m sorry I punched you in the face, but you’re not forgiven for acting like a horny asshole.”
“I kind of am horny thanks to—” He managed to shut his mouth before allocating part of the blame to her vivid sexual fantasies. “Erm…. Anyway…. All is forgiven. Blood sugar dips make women’s moods go haywire. When paired with my lack of filter…let’s say there’s a reason I learned how to cook.”
Her nose wrinkled. “I’m pretty sure male moods are affected by hunger as well.”
“Yes, but we tend to prioritize filling our stomachs over most other tasks.”
Finding an empty patch of counter space, she seated herself and watched as he finished off the batter with freshly grated orange zest. “Do you always say what you think?”
“Yup. It’s a hazard.” Covering the bowl with plastic wrap, he placed it in her fridge to rest. “Then again, there’s no point getting someone to dig a fake version of me.”
He turned in time to catch her rolling her eyes. “You might want to give them some time to warm up.”
“Oh, stop pretending. You like me. Admit it.”
She looked him up and down. “I hate to break this to you, but while I might think you’re hot, your attitude leaves much to be desired.”
He worked on the oranges and lemons for the sauce. “What’s wrong with my attitude? Here I am, slaving away to put food on the table—”
“What? It literally describes what I’m doing. And what about the repairs I did before finding out what you looked like? All my altruism has to count for something.” He floated a pan over to the stove and started melting some sugar and butter. The distinct smell of caramel soon filled the kitchen.
Rolling her shoulders, she arched her back. The stretch puffed out her chest, and his physical reaction almost made him lose control of his telekinesis. He’d never met a female so unaware of the gorgeousness of her boobs. At this rate, he risked permanent damage to a very important body part.
An idea hit him. With a slow wave of his finger, he sent melted sugar into the air, allowing it to cool for a moment before directing a slow stream toward the witch. When she opened her mouth, he deliberately dripped the caramel over her chin and down her neck before bracketing her body with his.
“What”—her voice turned husky—“are you doing?”
“Snacking.” He ran the tip of his tongue from the base of her throat, up the column of her neck. The sauce’s smoky sweetness lingered as he followed the sticky path to her mouth.
When he caught her lower lip between his teeth, her fingers trailed up his forearms to clench over the sleeves of his shirt. He sucked, teased her with light nips until she sighed and melted against his chest.
She tilted her head back, and he took it as permission to devour. Hidden under layers of chocolate and strawberry, he discovered his personal addiction. He pushed her further, forcing her to meet him stroke for stroke.
“This is a bad idea,” she murmured between sipping kisses. “Madame Eve isn’t any old dating service.”
“I don’t care.” He circled one arm around her waist and pulled. Her thighs parted, the counter height positioning her for his taking. He ground his tented fly between her spread legs, relishing her soft moans as she hooked her ankles behind his back.
Lifting a hand to fondle her breast, he pumped his hips. His quest for relief only aggravated his arousal. He channeled his mounting frustration onto her neck, leaving hickeys as he nibbled his way to her collarbones. Pulling down her hoodie’s zipper, he marked the swells of silky skin then tugged at her neckline so he could explore.
When he lifted his head to examine his handiwork, he found her flushed and panting. Each labored breath lifted her plump breasts, their perfection marred by his dark brands. The rush of possession brought an indescribable high, the cat in him recognizing what neither human seemed ready to admit.
“Your clothes,” Adrien rasped. “Take them off.”
“You first.” A split second before Shelley surrendered to temporary insanity, the sharp crack of breaking glass yanked her from the brink. Cursing her wayward hormones, she jumped off the counter and headed for the back door.
With a rumbling curse, Adrien grabbed her upper arm and swung her behind him, using his much larger body as a shield against the harmless kitchen exit. “Stay inside. I’ll handle—”
“Oh please. It’s my house. All you’ll do is stumble around the backyard half-blind. I’ve got this.”
Spinning on his heel, he gaped at her. “You’re seriously pulling a women’s lib moment on me now?”
“Yup.” She pointed at the stove. “Finish the dessert like a good househusband while I deal with the break-in.”
Alternative Guest Posts
When and why did you begin writing?
As a kid, I read a lot. I don’t know when it started, but I remember at times wanting to change the ending, the pairing, or specific scenes in certain books. That’s probably why I wrote fanfiction in my teens, and I progressed to creating my own worlds after finishing college.
What inspired you to write your first book?
My first manuscript, which will forever dwell in the bowels of my laptop, was a vampire romance inspired by my love of Nalini Singh’s style of writing. My first published book is a retelling of Rapunzel, set in a post-apocalyptic zombie world, and it was inspired by a creative submissions call.
Do you have a specific writing style?
Despite numerous failed attempts to emulate my favorite authors, my sense of humor gets the better of me. My stories tend to be funny, light-hearted, and a little tongue-in-cheek. Of course, I’m a romance junkie and it shows.
What books have influenced your life most?
There are too many to count. I think my path to becoming an (English-language) bookworm started with Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Although I adore Nalini Singh as a reader, I think my writing style most closely approximates that of Julia Quinn. I think I learned a ton of language tricks by reading all her books.
How did you come up with the title?
This one was easy. It’s a story with a “big cat” shifter, and it’s set on Valentine’s Day. I was so stoked when I looked up Feline Valentine on Amazon and discovered it wasn’t taken yet.
On the subject of titles, what book are you here to plug?
Alas, I must end with a moment of shameless self-promotion. The paranormal romance I’m here to plug is Feline Valentine. If you get a chance, check out the sample read below or on my website (http://www.taraquan.com/felinevalentine). Until the end of February, I have a giveaway going on for a $15 gift card.
What type of reader are you?
I have a confession: I’m a romance reader.
Growing up, my parents wanted me to express an interest in the classics. So I faked my way through works by Charles Dickens, discovered I very much enjoyed anything by Jane Austen, and realized I didn’t have the patience for Leo Tolstoy (no, not even Anna Karenina). For the sake of dinnertime debates with my better half, I’ve braved Richard Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker and skimmed Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.
But a quick perusal of my past Amazon.com purchases reveal the undisputable truth. My favorite authors are Cherise Sinclair, Kresley Cole, and Nalini Singh. The books I read all fall under the same genre.
So what makes me a romance reader?
- I can’t stand it when books don’t end in a happily ever after. In fact, I almost always read the final pages of every book first, just to make sure nothing bad happens. As much as I adored Erich Segal’s Love Story, I will never re-read it. The books on my shelf with worn pages and creased spines are ones with endings that make me smile. Many of them also feature covers with lace-lined bodices and handsome rogues.
- I’m a sucker for a love story. Don’t me wrong—I’ve strayed from the romance genre on several occasions. The fantasy lands of George R.R. Martin’s The Song of Ice and Fire and the sci-fi planets of Frank Herbert’s Dune both lured me to sample other types of fiction, but even those stories contained characters who loved and made sacrifices for love.
What can I say? I’m a hopeless romantic. I like reading books about people who fall in love, who then live happily ever after, and, who, upon occasion, have a bit of kinky sex along the way.
To celebrate an unexpected return to my favorite series, I’m giving away a $15 gift card. To enter, leave a comment here and drop your details in the Rafflecopter widget at the bottom of this post [or at my website: http://www.taraquan.com/felinevalentine].