Excerpt from Alicia’s Possession

“What do you want?” she asked. “I don’t know what you want from me.”

Mason gripped her upper arms, forcing her eyes to meet his. He knew he’d made a mistake the moment her warmth bled through the silk of her robe and into his palms, sending a ripple of sensation up his arms and down his body. “Why did you lie about knowing Judith?” he asked, his voice low and gravelly but not in the terse tone he used to intimidate a witness. No, she might not recognize it, but he could hear his lust cradling each syllable.

She squeezed her eyes tight as if to prevent her tears’ escape, but instead it forced them down her cheeks. “I wasn’t lying. I don’t know her. I don’t remember her. I don’t remember anything.”

He lifted one hand from her arm and brushed the tears from her cheek with his thumb before running it across her bottom lip. Her eyes remained closed, and his chest rose and fell in rhythm with hers. He leaned in close enough to inhale her breath.

“Don’t,” she said without force.

He shuffled his feet forward the few inches required for his body to brush against her breasts. “How can you not remember?”

“Th-the accident.”

He brought his mouth down, barely touching hers, his tongue tasting the salt of tears on her lips—those lips he had wanted to kiss from the first moment they’d met.

“Please,” she said on a puff of air and tried to pull away from him, but he tightened his hold on her arm.

“Please what?”

“Please…don’t kiss me.”

“I think you want me to kiss you.” When she said nothing in protest, he pressed his lips to hers and gently pulled first her top, then her bottom lip into his mouth. He held her chin between his thumb and fist to lift her face.

Tears still streamed down her cheeks, but she opened her eyes and shook her head. “I…I can’t do this.”

Mason trailed his finger down her throat to the opening of her robe, stopping just over her heart, and she trembled with a hitch in her breath.

“What do you mean you didn’t remember her because of the accident?”

“I have…gaps, memory loss.” Her tears had begun to wane.

“I’m going to kiss you again.”

“No,” she whispered when his mouth hovered mere millimeters over hers. He dropped his hand from her arm to the small of her back and pulled her against him, and she gasped at the unmistakable evidence of his arousal. “I’m not ready for this.”

“Because of your injury?”

“Because of the infidelity. My husband. He hurt me.” Her words pinched his heart and he nodded. “I can’t be with a man—any man. I can’t trust anyone. I don’t even trust myself to have the sense or judgment to know who can be trusted. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust anyone again.”

Mason laid a soft kiss on her mouth, tugging her bottom lip gently between his teeth. He lifted his face just enough to look at her. In time, he could teach her to trust again, at least to trust him, but it would take patience—and perseverance. He thought she might be worth the effort.

“If you want me to stop,” he told her, “if you really mean it, say ‘apple.’”

Alicia furrowed her brow and blinked before meeting his stare directly. “But I told you to stop.”

“Yes, but you didn’t mean it.” The color rushing into her cheeks proved him right. “I will only stop if you say ‘apple.’ Understand?”

She responded with a single, slow nod, never taking her eyes off him. When he covered her mouth with his, he ran his tongue along the seam of her lips, and she opened for him. He wrapped both arms around her then, holding her tight, and she placed her hands on his shoulders. As his tongue swirled inside her mouth, she leaned against him and released a low, moaning sigh. He allowed the kiss to continue and to deepen, in part because he wanted to prevent her from using the safety word, but primarily because he didn’t want to relinquish her delicious mouth. Although he would never call himself a connoisseur, he could detect the subtle notes of cherry, chocolate, and plum from the wine on her tongue.

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Alicia's Possession

About Alicia’s Possession

Following the horrific car crash that left her in a coma for two months, Alicia Pageant has returned to her affluent lakeside home to recuperate and come to terms with her husband’s infidelity and their impending divorce; but her attention is frequently captured by the violent arguments of Daniel and Judith Holloman who recently moved into the house on the other side of the lake. One night she is awoken by gunshots and other strange noises coming from across the lake; and, after witnessing what she believes is someone driving away with a body and never seeing Daniel again, Alicia insists on calling the police, against the advice of her estranged husband, who believes she has imagined it.

Detective Mason Crawley is sent out to investigate the “suspicious incident,” which he considers a nuisance call – even more so after learning of Alicia’s recent head injury and watching her take her pain medication with wine. He interviews Judith Holloman, who says her husband has gone out of the country on business, but the stories of both women begin to unravel when he sees the two of them meeting. Then while attempting to locate Daniel, someone claiming to be a contractor with the Department of Defense warns him not to investigate Daniel’s disappearance further.

Mason confronts Alicia and demands an explanation, and she is forced to admit that her head injury has left her with no memory of the accident or the several weeks before. Still she insists not only that Daniel is dead but now he is haunting her because she knows he was murdered.

Although he cannot control his increasing attraction to Alicia, Mason isn’t sure if she’s lying, delusional, or in some sort of danger. This leads him to look into her drunk-driving accident, in which she drove her BMW into a lake several miles from her house; but something about the single-car crash doesn’t add up either.

Even as they succumb to their growing feelings and desires, Alicia doesn’t know if she can trust anyone after her husband’s disloyalty; and when Mason discovers that the night of Alicia’s accident she had gone to confront her husband’s mistress – and no one has seen the girl since – he doesn’t know if he can trust her either. And now he has yet another mystery to solve, with Alicia at the heart of it.

50 Shades of Blushes

(A portion of this has been condensed as Mr. Darcy and the Utmost Force of Passion for Darcyholic Diversions)

Much ado has been made over the recent threats that our beloved Pride and Prejudice, as well as other classics, would soon be receiving a “50 Shades of Grey” make-over by Total-E-Bound Publishing as part of their “Clandestine Classics” series. My first reaction was to wonder if they planned to rewrite it in first person present tense with terrible prose, ridiculous metaphors, and nonsensical dialog. (Full disclosure:  I have not read 50 Shades of Grey and doubt that I ever shall. I have been unable even to finish the Kindle sample, so I take my opinion from the short portion I did read as well as from the plentiful excerpts available in book reviews.  This seems to be the type of novel one either loves or hates, and I am certain to fall into the latter category.) Hence, my curiosity led me once again to the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon to take a peek at Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen and Amy Armstrong.

Relieved to find none of that dreadful first person present tense, I read a few paragraphs to see if I could gather the co-author’s intention. The novel begins with the opening scenes culled from the original but with a deeper point of view from Elizabeth. Hence, I did the unthinkable. Yes, gentle reader, I have read the Clandestine Classic Pride and Prejudice so you don’t have to. What I found, however, would disappoint lovers of Austen and erotica alike. Just beyond the copyright, the publisher issues a warning, which in and of itself was enough to make me blush: “This book contains sexually explicit content which is suitable for mature readers. This story has a heat rating of Total-e-sizzling and a sexometer of 1.” (Emphasis in original.) I had no idea what that meant; but as my publisher classified my novel Pulse and Prejudice as an “erotic” romance, which created great amusement in my household since it is anything but, I ventured forth.

The following paragraph contains spoilers. Ms. Armstrong has taken the text of Pride and Prejudice in its entirety and added a few naughty bits here and there, much as Seth Grahame-Smith did with zombies and martial arts in his “mash-up.” I must own to being disappointed by the lack of original material. Not that I looked forward to being offended, but I had hoped at least to be diverted. Early on, whilst in Mr. Darcy’s point of view, I found my colour heightened by the use of a certain coarse term for a certain part of the male anatomy – especially as I found the first appearance in a scene during which he partakes in a certain activity not uncommon to young men while thinking of a beautiful woman. Alone. In bed. (I have found a similar scene in several variations, so I suppose this provides titillation to some demographic, of which I am not a part.) After that, the comparatively mild sex scenes intrude in Miss Austen’s prose more like a commercial break before returning to the original programming. At first I reasoned that at least the promise of sex would incite some people to read Pride and Prejudice when they never would have before, but alas the additional insight into Elizabeth’s thoughts as she reflects on her intimacies with Mr. Darcy show her to regret refusing his proposal at the parsonage and also pining for him before their reunion in Derbyshire. This lessens the value of Mr. Darcy’s transformation into a man capable of pleasing a woman worthy of being pleased and, at times, directly contradicts Miss Austen’s text, which is retained verbatim.

The attention this new “50 Shades” version has received almost aroused in me a modest amount of sympathy for Annabella Bloom, whose “Wild and Wanton Edition” received no such fanfare when released last year and contains scenes of a far more graphic nature. Although she, too, used virtually all of Miss Austen’s original, she helpfully put her own additions in bold type, which clearly demonstrates that she included far more of her own writing (as offensive as much of it can be) than did Ms. Armstrong.

All of this raises the question, “Why do some authors of Austenesque novels, such as myself, include romantic scenes of varying levels of sensuality?”

Through my own extensive analysis of some ninety minutes, I have divided lovers of Austen literature into five categories.  First, we have the purists who believe any variation, adaptation, sequel, or spinoff to be akin to defacing the Mona Lisa. This metaphor never worked for me because, unlike the result of vandalizing a da Vinci, the original classic remains unscathed.  Copies of Gone with the Wind did not spontaneously combust with the release of its sequel. I once tried my hand at painting Café Terrace at Night, but not to worry! Van Gogh’s masterpiece is safe in a museum in the Netherlands despite the atrocity hanging in my office.

Secondly, some Austenites enjoy variations and sequels inspired by Pride and Prejudice but want Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy to remain chaste, many not even allowing for a kiss, as in the original. A subcategory of these will allow consummation of their marriage vows but only behind closed doors.

Next, fans of sequels often allow for certain levels of sensuality as long as the Darcys have taken their marriage vows. The fourth category, in which I classify myself, are those of us who enjoy variations and adaptations that might allow our beloved couple to “anticipate their vows” as long as it is tastefully done. Finally, some lovers of Austen love lovers and enjoy far more explicit love scenes, which bring blushes to the rest of us.

Now we have this new group that defies categorization: Fans of “mash-ups.” I have met some readers who appreciate Austen but also find the introduction of monsters or sex into the original text of Pride and Prejudice to be entertaining. I have also spoken with many people who, much to my chagrin, have only read the “mash-ups” and like them exceedingly. (I back away slowly.)

I cheated with my paranormal novel Pulse and Prejudice by creating both an adaptation and a variation, teetering between categories two and four. The first three volumes follow the plot and style of Pride and Prejudice but from Mr. Darcy’s point of view (and he just happens to be a vampire). The brief moments of physical contact he shares with Elizabeth arise in the context of the paranormal. Then I added a fourth volume – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – which veers from Miss Austen’s original with my story of the weeks leading up to the wedding. As you might have guessed, in this volume, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth “anticipate their vows” with a certain level of sensuality; but as one reader said of my love scenes, “You write it in a sultry way that’s not lewd.” (That’s good because my mother-in-law reads them!)

I can only speak to my own motivation in including this in my variation. For one thing, vampires notwithstanding, I strive for historical accuracy; and during the Regency, couples typically enjoyed intimacy after betrothal but before vows. If such were not the case, we should try to learn their trick for having so many eight-pound babies after only six months’ gestation. At that time, engagements were rarely broken; and a man who “cried off” could find himself a social pariah.

Of course, many couples did wait until their wedding night; but for a novel – a love story, a romance – the scheduling of a first romantic interlude denies us spontaneity of emotion. I want that “utmost force of passion” Mr. Darcy feels for Elizabeth, which leads him to risk being ostracized from his friends and family and polluting the shades of Pemberley by marrying her, also to overwhelm his reserve and adherence to propriety as he surrenders to his ardour. To sense a love and desire that overcomes all obstacles of reason and will does not require crude language or vulgarity or a “50 Shades” makeover. And for those who prefer our couple to remain chaste, Miss Austen’s unadulterated Pride and Prejudice will always be there.

Please leave any comments on Darcyholic Diversions.


The inspiration for Amadeus from Pulse and Prejudice

The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen (pronounced peh-TEE bah-SAY grih-FON von-day-ON, and nicknamed the PBGV) has a rough, scruffy outline and distinctive long eyebrows, beard, and moustache. They are generally 13 to 15 inches tall, and their bodies are longer than they are tall. PBGVs were bred to hunt small game, such as rabbits, in rough terrain.

In addition to their charmingly tousled appearance, PBGVs have a delightful personality. They are active, happy, curious, and highly intelligent. They are affectionate dogs that need attention from people. They are great with children and people of all ages. They also get along well with other dogs and pets in your family when properly socialized.

While PBGVs can have a mind of their own, they respond well to patient, consistent training methods. Bored or lonely PBGVs will find ways to entertain themselves, so it’s important to give yours a variety of toys and things to chew on, as well as keeping him in a safe place where he can’t harm himself or your possessions if you must leave him alone.

As delightful as PBGVs are, you should know that according to the American Kennel Club breed standard (standardized guidelines for the breed), the PBGV has “a good voice freely used.” It doesn’t take much to translate that into “He likes to bark!” If it’s any consolation, PBGVs usually just bark at something rather than barking just to hear their own voices.

Also, like all hounds, the PBGV is governed by his nose. You should always keep your PBGV on a leash when walking in unfenced areas. All it takes is one enticing smell for him to be off on the hunt!

They definitely need a fenced yard, but since some PBGVs are escape artists, you’ll need to be sure that it is at least four feet tall (so they can’t jump over it), and regularly inspect it for holes or areas where he might escape. Electric fences don’t deter a PBGV who has seen a rabbit or a squirrel just beyond the boundary. The momentary shock will go unnoticed as he wildly runs after prey. Another disadvantage of an invisible fence is that it doesn’t prevent other dogs from coming into your yard and harming your PBGV.

PBGVs are pack animals at heart, and enjoy only one thing more than the company of another dog or pet–your company, of course!

From Dogtime.com


The Meryton Assembly

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Excerpt from Pulse and Prejudice 

Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,and shares the nature of infinity.

The Borderers, William Wordsworth, 1795

The Meryton assembly did not fail to live down to all of Darcy’s expectations. Even his chilled bones suffered the closeness of the room, rank with the musk of too many bodies dancing to the strains of an unequivocally untalented quintet. Rarely had he witnessed such vulgar manners nor, although it pained him to aver to Miss Bingley, unfashionable attire at a social affair.

When he had arrived at the assembly with Charles and Caroline Bingley and the Hursts, the entire assembly turned and gaped at them. Certainly, any newcomers would draw attention, and Bingley’s sisters were bedizened in the latest London styles; but Darcy knew he and Bingley were being assessed for their value as eligible bachelors. He detested it. In such a setting, his fortune and his noble, handsome features were a hindrance as he sought to remain in the background as an observer. He heard the whispers weighing him not by stone but in pounds. Staring out the window, he felt more affinity with the creatures scurrying in the darkness than the animals in this room. Never comfortable amongst strangers, the last several years, since his change, had only served to increase the uninviting nature of his manners. Hands clasped behind his back, he sulked around the perimeter of the room, exuding an air of disdain until Meryton society ceased calculating his worth and pronounced him arrogant and rude. That would do.

Bingley, likewise, did not disappoint Darcy’s predictions, seeking out the acquaintance of all the principals present, dancing every dance, and almost immediately finding the prettiest girl at the assembly – Jane, the eldest of the five Bennet daughters – and charming her with his attentions. Although Darcy enjoyed seeing his friend so happily engaged, he gritted his teeth as he bore the merriment of the gathering, which in general seemed designed to taunt him.

Darcy felt something like regret, however, that Miss Bennet’s sister might have overheard his unkind words to Bingley. Always hoping to play matchmaker, Bingley had demanded that Darcy dance, suggesting Miss Elizabeth Bennet as a partner.

Glancing at the young lady seated nearby and catching her eye, Darcy declared, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.” Darcy had intended his words only to discourage Bingley, but he observed the subject of his remark turned slightly at his address and arched her eyebrow in amusement, the semblance of a smile flickering on her lips. Regardless, he decided – ignoring the discomfort that turned his gaze towards her more than once – as she should not have been eavesdropping on his private conversation, he had violated no rules of propriety. Yet when he saw her laughing amongst her friends shortly after, he thought it might have been at his expense.

Once their party had returned to Netherfield and they gathered in the saloon to dissect the assembly, Bingley effused with delight regarding the evening whilst Darcy found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to agree with Bingley’s sisters.

“’Twas a tedious passing of an evening in decidedly unrefined company,” pronounced Miss Bingley.

Bingley shrugged off their complaints and spoke with the very ductility of temper that had endeared him to Darcy from the start of their acquaintance. “I, for one, cannot recall a more enjoyable evening. I am only disappointed it ended so early.”

“Charles, pray, you could not truly have meant it when you talked of inviting all of those people here for a ball.”

Bingley smiled at his sister. “Indeed, I have every intention of doing just that.”

Darcy grimaced at the very idea, and the ladies began to groan; but Bingley raised his hand and his voice over his sisters’ protests. “Before this evening, I had never met with pleasanter people or prettier girls. Everyone was most kind and attentive – no formality, no stiffness – and I quite soon felt acquainted with all the room.”

“Mr. Darcy,” said Miss Bingley, forcing his attention. “What say you to this evening’s assembly?”

Darcy, quite formal and stiff in his reply, directed his remarks to Bingley. “I witnessed a collection of people in whom there was little beauty and no fashion, for none of whom do I feel the smallest interest, and from none did I receive either attention or pleasure.”

“Little beauty!” cried Bingley. “What of Miss Bennet? I could not conceive of an angel more beautiful!”

Darcy tilted his head in acknowledgment. “Yes, Miss Bennet is quite pretty; but she smiles too much.”

Bingley scoffed at that and, crossing his arms across his chest, adopted a petulant expression; and Mrs. Hurst placed a reassuring hand on his arm. “Charles, Jane is a sweet girl. I would not object to knowing more of her.”

“I quite agree, Louisa,” said Caroline in a soothing accent, and her brother’s features softened. “Miss Bennet was by far the prettiest and sweetest girl there this evening.” Then she added with a glint in her eye, “Although I am given to understand Miss Mary Bennet is the most accomplished girl in the neighbourhood, I own that I prefer to know only her eldest sister.”

At Miss Bingley’s sneer, Darcy could not but wonder which of those two Bennet sisters had the greater fortune in Jane being thus distinguished.

In the days following the assembly, the three gentlemen of Netherfield passed many a morning at sport, finding the game fowl to be plentiful. The timing also absolved them of any responsibilities towards courtesy to the succession of Meryton females who came to wait on Bingley’s sisters. Darcy disguised his relief at avoiding such society by maintaining his typical countenance of insouciance. Conversely, Bingley hesitated before taking up his scattergun each day, and he glowered in disappointment when they returned from the covies one morning and discovered the Bennets had called in their absence and were just then taking their leave.

Invitations to dine with the neighbours soon followed. Darcy excused himself from the first, owing to urgent correspondence to which he must attend; and for the next, estate business importuned his presence in Town. Alas, when the Bingleys and Hursts determined to fulfill their societal obligation, all matters of business gave Darcy a reprieve but no excuse. He would attend dinner on sufferance.

The Lucases, the Gouldings, and the Bennets arrived punctually and excited the saloon to a modest din with alacrity. Darcy dispensed his terse bows and the requisite courtesies promptly then found with mild vexation and greater mollification that the party by no means required his attention, allowing him once again to prowl the room unimpeded. Miss Bingley’s fawning had been postponed for the evening as she fulfilled her role as hostess with charm and benevolence to rival Covent Garden. The Hursts stood in audience of Sir and Lady Lucas and their raptures on St. James’s Court. Bingley directed all of his smiles to Miss Bennet, whose demeanour and regal mien were in complete contrast to the crass and toadying manners of her mother. Darcy cringed at the squeals and giggles of the two youngest Bennet girls, visiting with the younger Lucas daughter; but he more particularly observed Miss Elizabeth Bennet, in tête-à-tête with Miss Charlotte Lucas. His eyes grazed over her to find grounds for his derision at the Meryton assembly; and with a self-satisfied smirk, he contented himself that his earlier assessment had been sound. Nothing about her features could be considered pretty – her face rather plain, and her figure lacks symmetry.

Darcy continued this exercise in self-approbation by studying her through dinner, giving more consideration to her than to the artifice of moving his food about his plate. Just as he had decided on the merit of his slight and it should not be regretted even if it had been overheard, she smiled at her neighbour; and her face turned effulgent, as if radiating a light from within and nearly bursting with life. He found that face to be rendered uncommonly intelligent by the beautiful expression of her dark eyes. Upon observing the liveliness of her countenance, Darcy turned away abruptly and tried to suppress the uncomfortable sensation rising within him – a hunger that the meal before him would not sate.

The evening could not end and the visitors could not be away soon enough for Fitzwilliam Darcy. Once the last guest had been handed into the last carriage, he anxiously awaited an opportunity to take his leave; but Miss Bingley would not allow him to escape until their guests had been thoroughly maligned. The primary target of her vilification being Miss Eliza Bennet, Darcy feared his attention to her had not gone unnoticed. He thus ensured his companions understood that he found nothing about any of the Bennets, including the second eldest daughter, to recommend them. When further prompted by Miss Bingley to comment on Miss Eliza Bennet’s reputation as a great beauty, he replied with rancour, “I would sooner call her mother a wit.”

To this, both ladies responded with great peals of laughter; and Darcy took advantage of their distraction to excuse himself. He hurried to his rooms, untying his cravat even as he charged up the stairs. Miss Bingley and Mrs. Hurst, taken aback at his quick exit, exchanged open-eyed glances; but Bingley had become accustomed to the occasional eccentricities of his friend.

In his chamber, Darcy continued to undress and called to his valet to bring him some refreshment. Rivens appeared with a pewter chalice and handed it to his master.

“What do we have today, Rivens?”

“Mutton, sir.”

“Ah, very good.” Darcy drained the contents then, handing the cup to Rivens, said, “I think I shall have another.”

Rivens raised a brow but said, “Very well, sir,” and withdrew to refill the cup.


Pulse and Prejudice – Prologue

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June 1814

 “Is he dead, sir?”

“Is who dead?” Darcy slurred, although he knew to whom his valet referred.

* * * *

In the velvet darkness of the blackest night, his footfall – silent as death – stalked the prey as it stumbled out of the Cheshire Cheese and down the dim alley. Not until Darcy was nearly upon him did the drunkard hesitate and glance behind him towards his suspicion of someone – something – lurking in the shadows.

He turned around and squinted back from whence he had come. “Danny, is that you?” No, not Danny, nor any of the others he had left drinking ale at the public house, friends who knew all of his secrets and accepted him nonetheless.

The heavy mist turned to a light rain and dampened the man’s face and lashes. As he fumbled forward, Darcy drew upon him with a swiftness that might have provoked a stronger response had his victim not been so intoxicated; but instead he managed only a confused grunt as his face paled and his eyes bulged, terror evident on his features as he fell into silent supplication. Darcy gripped his shoulders and stared with intent into eyes wide with shock and fear until the man’s eyelids drifted down and his body swayed. His prey’s muscles relaxed under Darcy’s grasp, and he pushed him against the wall.

Darcy should have despised himself for this act, for taking this stranger and feeding upon him, etiolating him; but he had long since reached the pinnacle of self-loathing. Indeed, he had chosen his quarry in hopes of drowning his agony in this blood.

His teeth sank easily into the thick skin of his victim’s throat, and he consumed the blood in a frenzy, not to sate a hunger but to quell an ache. Pain diminished any satisfaction in feeling the man’s pulse beat through his limbs, but he did not drink for pleasure. He drank to forget. To forget himself. To forget Elizabeth.