First read Oct. There was no hesitation. He exuded complete confidence. She felt another surge of heat curling through her body like a wave.

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Genres: Fantasy , Romance "I can live with being on a small boat with no privacy for seven long days, the sun turning me into lobster girl, and mosquitoes feasting on me, I really can," Riley Parker informed her mother. His constant licking his lips and saying he likes the idea of mother and daughter gives me the creeps. He was a great brute of a man, with wide shoulders, a barrel chest and an attitude of superiority that irked Riley.

Worse, her mother was very fragile right now, making Riley extremely protective of her, and his constant sexual innuendos and filthy jokes around her mother made her want to just shove him overboard. Annabel Parker, a renowned horticulturalist famous for her efforts to reestablish thousands of acres of Brazilian rain forest lost to deforestation, looked at her daughter, dark brown eyes twinkling and mouth twitching, obviously itching to smile.

She and her mother made this same trip up the Amazon once every five years, but this year from the moment they had arrived in the village to find their usual guide ill, Riley felt as if a dark cloud hung over the trip.

Even now, a strange heaviness, an aura of danger, seemed to be following them up the river. Her students could have warned the man to beware when she smiled like that. It never boded well.

The smile faded a little, though, as she glanced down at the murky water and saw the silver fish churning around the boat. Were her eyes playing tricks on her? It almost looked as if piranha were following the boat. They went about their business. She stole a glance at the guide who muttered to the two porters, Raul and Capa, ignoring their charges-a far cry from the familiar villager who usually took them upriver.

The three looked very uneasy as they continually studied the water. They, too, seemed a little more alarmed than usual about being surrounded by a swarm of flesh-eating fish. She was being silly. Her imagination was working overtime. The humidity was so high that every shirt Riley wore clung to her like a second skin.

She had full curves, and there was no hiding them. Riley tried to smother a laugh. Her mother could ruin a perfectly good mad with her sense of humor.

Mack, where the hell is the bug spray? As far as she was concerned, Don Weston and the other two engineers with him were liars-well at least two of the three were. They claimed to know what they were doing in the forest, but it was clear neither Weston nor Mack Shelton, his constant companion, had a clue. She and her mother had both tried to tell Weston and his friends that their precious bug spray would do no good. The men were sweating profusely, which washed off the insect repellent as fast as they could apply it and left them feeling sticky and itchy.

Scratching only aggravated the itching and invited infection. The smallest wound could quickly become infected in the rain forest.

Shelton, a compact man with burnt mahogany skin and rippling muscles, swatted at his own neck and then his chest, murmuring obscenities. Maybe that was because his smile never reached his eyes. And because he watched everything and everyone on board. Riley had the feeling Weston vastly underestimated the other man. Clearly Weston thought himself in charge of their mining expedition, but no one was bossing Shelton. Alone in the middle of the Amazon, without a guide to accompany them to their destination, she and her mother decided to team up with three other groups traveling upriver.

Weston and his two fellow mining engineers had been in the village prepping a trip to the edge of the Andes in Peru, in search of potential new mines for the corporation they worked for. Two men researching a supposedly extinct plant had arrived from Europe seeking a guide to go up a mountain in the Andes as well. An archaeologist and his two grad students were heading to the Andes looking for a rumored lost city of the Cloud People-the Chachapoyas. All of them had decided to pool their resources and travel upriver together.

The idea seemed logical at the time, but now, a week into the journey, Riley heartily regretted the decision. Two of the guides, the archaeologist and his students and three porters were in the lead boat just ahead of them with a good deal of the supplies.

Annabel, Riley, the researchers and the three mining engineers were in the second boat with one of their guides, Pedro, and two porters, Capa and Raul. She wished they were already halfway up the mountain, where the plan was to go their separate ways, each with their own guide.

Annabel shrugged. That feeling was growing with every passing hour. She glanced at her mother. As usual, she appeared serene.

Riley felt a little silly saying she was worried when Annabel had so many other things on her mind. Still bickering about the discarded bug spray, Weston flipped Shelton the finger. There must be more. Ben was the quietest of the bunch.

He never stopped looking around with restless eyes. He was the most ordinary looking of the three engineers. He was average height, average weight, a face no one would notice. He blended, and maybe that made her uncomfortable.

Nothing about him stood out. He moved quietly and seemed to simply appear out of nowhere, and he watched everything and everyone as if he were expecting trouble. The other two stuck together and obviously had known one another for some time. Charger appeared to be a loner.

Off to the left shore, her eye picked up a white cloud, moving fast, sometimes iridescent, sometimes a pearly color as the cloud twisted together, forming a blanket of living insects. Weston actually stepped back, his face paling a little. He glanced around the boat, his gaze settling on Riley, whom he caught looking at him. Maybe that will help. For one terrible moment, when he called her mother "Mommy" and made his gross suggestion, Riley thought she might hurl herself at him and really push him overboard.

She burst out laughing. You are just so gross. Her stomach gave a little flip of fear. She forced air through her lungs. Weston leered at her. Look at your clothes! He looked extremely fit and there was no doubt that he was a man used to a rugged, outdoor life. He carried himself with absolute confidence and moved like a man who could handle himself.

His traveling companion, Gary Jansen, looked more the part of the lab rat, shorter and slender, although very well muscled from what Riley had observed. He was very strong. He wore black-rimmed reading glasses, but he seemed every bit as adept outdoors as Jubal.

The two kept strictly to themselves at the beginning of the journey, but somewhere around the fourth day, Jubal became a little protective of the women, staying close whenever the engineers were around. Both he and Gary clearly carried weapons. She could ignore Don Weston until they went their separate ways. The three engineers were supposedly from a private company seeking prospective mines in the mineral-rich Andes. All three complained, but Weston was the worst and most offensive with his constant sexual innuendoes.

The men in some countries have a different philosophy toward women. You know how to handle yourself. It was the first time Annabel had indicated she thought something was amiss as well. Her mother was always calm, always practical. If she thought something was wrong, then it was. A bird sounded in the forest on the riverbank, the noise traveling clearly across the open water.

Some people have photographic memories that let them remember anything they see or read. I can remember and repeat virtually any sound I hear. She could repeat it perfectly, right down to the pitch of his voice.

She forced a little laugh. To Riley, Annabel was beautiful. She was of medium height, slender, with dark wavy hair and darker eyes, flawless Spanish skin and a smile that made everyone around her want to smile. Riley was much taller, with bone-straight blue-black hair that grew almost overnight no matter how many times she cut it. She was very curvy, with high cheekbones and pale, nearly translucent skin.

Her eyes were large and the color was nearly impossible to define-green, brown, Florentine gold. Her mother always said she was a throwback to a long-dead ancestor. To her knowledge, her mother had never been sick a day in her life. She had no wrinkles, and Riley had never seen a single gray hair on her head. Riley was determined to stick close to her mother.


Dark Storm

Storyline: Dark Storm Dark 23 Awakening after all this time in a world of absolute darkness and oppressive heat, Dax wonders in how many ways the world above must have changed. But it is how he has changed that fills him with dread and loathing. Buried alive for hundreds of years in a volcano in the Carpathian Mountains, Dax fears that he has become the full-fledged abomination that every Carpathian male fears, a victim of the insidious evil that has crept relentlessly into his mind and body over the centuries. But there are some things that never change. His name is Mitro, the vampire Dax had hunted all these long centuries. Second in command to the prince of the Carpathian people he is the epitome of everything malevolent, and perpetrator of one of the most shocking killing sprees known to man - and beast.


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