Clockwork Butterfly by Tabitha Rayne
Mankind is close to extinction. Toxins have all but wiped out the male population. The remaining fertile men are housed in manors where their seed is collected.
Lena Lee is a new collector with a rare pheromone believed to reignite human fertility. She’s assigned a male who’s predicted to be her perfect match.
Angelo, a clockwork butterfly maker, is held captive, his essence harvested daily by Lena. Over time, the couple begins to fall in love, something which is strictly prohibited. When their forbidden love is discovered, Lena is banished from the manor.
Torn apart by the duty that brought them together, Lena and Angelo must find a way back to each other. But even if Angelo manages to escape, he doesn’t know where to find Lena. Will following the path of the clockwork butterfly lead him to his true love?
Content Warning: strong language, BDSM, and graphic sexual content, including m/f, f/f, and f/f/m sexual interaction
Lena James Lee waited excitedly in the bustling throng of women all the same age as her. They had been picked up by the coach from various stops throughout the country and most were rumpled, tired, and anxious. They all knew why they were there; their fates had been decided by the Archmatrias long before they had known anything of the manors or what it meant to be a collector.
Lena’s mother had been so proud; she was the only one in her whole community who had been given the special invitation to attend training.
“Remember, Lena,” her mother had advised quite forcefully, “it’s not just your life that depends on this.”
Lena had hopped on the coach without a care in the world. Now though, rumors swelled, starting with hushed whispers and giggling until all-out mayhem ensued.
“They make you wear nothing but a golden thong and you have to crawl around on the floor, parading yourself,” Mae, a loud, stunningly beautiful girl shrieked.
“Are there really men? Do we get to see them?” Lena tentatively asked her in a rare quiet moment.
“Honey, we do more than see them.” Mae cackled and swiped Lena playfully on the back of the head.
Lena felt her cheeks burn, it was clear that the other young women knew a lot more than she did.
“Are you really telling me you don’t know what you signed up for?” Mae leaned in to Lena. “Has no one ever told you what that’s for?” she whispered lavasciously into Lena’s ear and slid a hand up the inside of her thigh.
The truth was, Lena had been brought up with great solemnity about becoming a collector. All the girls were vetted and tested from a very young age and if they showed promise in any of the four categories, their life was pretty much mapped out for them from that day. Lena had been pinpointed as a good candidate for a collector because of her striking looks, poise, and perfect proportions.
“Lena, my dear.” Mae looked at her intently. “I think your mother followed the rules on abstinence and denial a little too carefully!”
“What do you mean?”
Mae rolled her eyes. “I’ve never met anyone so sexually unaware in all my life! You must be at least twenty-one, and I bet you’ve never even pleasured yourself, let alone anyone else.”
Lena recalled the delight on her friends’ faces when she’d brought out her prize-winning lemon meringue pies at tea parties.
“Yes, I have,” she said defiantly, knowing in her heart that confectionary was not what Mae was talking about.
Reuniting to save the world.
Dinah just wanted to save the world. That didn’t pan out, so she turned to social work, only to find herself miserable. When she’s given the option of returning to the Justice Fraternity and her life as Dinah-Go, super fast superhero, she hesitates because going back means working side by side with her former lover Myles Steele, aka Man of Wonder.
To save their city from gargoyles, Man of Wonder needs Dinah-Go back in fighting shape. But Myles wants more than just his fighting partner at his side, he wants the lover and friend he lost two years earlier. Getting her will take more than even his super strength.
The spring scent of cherry blossoms wafted into the car, coloring the air to memories of the past. They’d made love under the cherry trees a few times. Not nearly often enough, but on stray occasions they’d made the time.
There was so much Myles should share with Dinah, update her on, but breathing her in took over too much brain space to focus. He’d missed her.
The day two passenger trains collided at Silver City Junction, stealing the lives of dozens and injuring many more, Myles lost his best friend. Not to death, but to doubt, which also acted much like death in superheroes.
His second chance had come and he wouldn’t waste it. He turned down the gated road toward the Justice Fraternity lair.
“Wow, the place looks great. This area always looks amazing in the spring. I can’t wait to see Esmerelde and Sparrow. I’m sure I’ll get along fine with the others as well. I’ll pay my dues and be back where I belong.”
The determination and excitement in her voice were what his weary heart needed to hear. When he’d fought beside Dinah-Go, he’d had extra incentive to do his best, to be the best. He wanted that feeling back. For the most part, mankind did deserve saving, but like Dinah, he’d been running into the scum of the earth lately, and it made putting on his tights a chore.
Dinah reached over the center console of the car and pushed the discrete button near the steering wheel. She turned to him and grinned. “You always did have the best toys.”
Instead of the garage door going up, the driveway began tilting down into an underground location. He barely slowed as he headed down, taking the curves deep into the earth as he had a thousand times before. Dinah’s breathing increased, the excitement in the situation a little like the way she approached climax. She’d once told him speed and danger made her giddy. He’d bet she hadn’t felt the way she did at the moment in much too long.
The dark cavern had all the stereotypes of a secret lair—dim lighting, lots of mechanical additions, booby traps. Myles swerved left at the end of the drive, avoiding trick spikes. Dinah clapped her hands. “Yay, you still have them.”
“Some things you don’t get rid of.”
She turned to him, the joy and happiness in her expression everything he wanted to see. He put the car in park and turned off the engine. Dinah looked ready to bound out and explore, but instead she stayed in the car and looked at him.
“What?” he asked.
She shrugged. “I’m glad to be home. Really glad.”
She leaned across the center console and wrapped her arms around his shoulders, drawing him closer for a kiss. Her tongue dove immediately into his mouth, taking over the kiss with playful strength and power. She dragged her fingers through his hair, and though the space was cramped, Myles leaned back to pull her closer.
Her soft breasts pressed against his chest, igniting the lust that had simmered between them the entire ride. He ran his hand down her back, following her curves to her ass. She had the strongest legs and butt of any woman he’d ever met, but the fleshy softness remained. He squeezed her butt, and she giggled into his mouth.
A tapping on the window made both of them freeze. Dinah opened her eyes and looked at him, pupils wide, red already glowing on her cheeks. Myles looked over his shoulder and groaned when Crypto Man’s twisted grin came into view.
“Damn it,” Myles said and settled Dinah in her seat. “Sometimes sidekicks are way overrated.”
For some people ghosts are everywhere…
When rebuilding an old ghost town, a few ghosts shouldn’t be a surprise. And for Jen Ferguson, history professor and psychic, it’s par for the course. But ghosts aren’t her main worry.
After a disastrous affair, which has affected her job at the college, Jen promised her grandfather—the most important person in her life—that she would stay away from men until the end of the semester. That’s a promise she’s determined to keep, but when she meets rancher Adam Craine, it becomes a struggle. Adam’s sexy and flirty, and her psychic abilities are telling her that he might possess a very important quality the previous men in her life had been lacking…he can be trusted.
It’s a daily battle for Jen to keep her hands off of him, but she believes she can do it…until two of Winter Creek’s ghostly residents decide to up the stakes by possessing Jen and Adam’s bodies. How can Jen keep her promise with these two passionate spirits interfering?
And if all that’s not enough to deal with, now she’s having premonitions of danger which could lead to the destruction of Winter Creek.
“Close your eyes. I’m going to walk you behind the folding wall and place you in front of the mirror. Keep your eyes closed.”
“Are your eyes closed?”
She laughed softly but did as Barb asked of her. Every dress this talented seamstress designed for her was always shown off in the same way. “Yes.”
A moment later a soft hand encircled the top of her left arm while another hand landed lightly against her back. She allowed her friend to press her toward the small cramped area opposite her office desk and chair. A frozen touch slowly replaced the warmth of her friend’s hand, and a hint of flowery perfume replaced the scent of her friend’s earthier one. Honeysuckle flowed into the air around her a second later, a breeze of chilled wind moving past her skin into her interior being, making her dizzy with the aching familiarity of it. As she moved through the scent, closer to the old-fashioned Chinese wall, a strange iciness settled deep in her bones, freezing her feet to the floor.
She’d felt this profound, unnatural chill a few times before.
“Jen, don’t stop now.”
The strangeness deepened in her, and she brought her arms up to wrap them tightly around her upper body. “I’m freezing.”
“It’s not cold in…” Barb’s hand dropped from her back but not from her arm. “Oh, it’s that kind of cold.”
“My little saloon girl is visiting with me again.”
“So you’re finally admitting she’s a saloon girl?”
Barb’s words seemed to come from a great distance as the cold around Jen intensified.
“I’ve been telling you that for weeks,” Barb added. “What changed your mind?”
“She’s a ghost that haunts a saloon.”
“Yeah,” Barb said. “You’ve always known that, but it never convinced you before.”
Icy tentacles suddenly wrapped around Jen, like a frozen pair of snow-hardened gloves, before an eerie voice whispered, “He’s coming.”
“What?” Opening her eyes at the barely heard sound, Jen stared at her puzzled friend. “Did you just say something?”
“Are you all right?”
“Tell me you just said something under your breath.”
“Sorry, Jen,” Barb said lightly. “What’s going on?”
The prickly eeriness left her system as quickly as it’d entered, bringing blessed feeling back into her freezing, stilled body. The hint of honeysuckle perfume lingered for only a few seconds before dissipating in the October Montana air.
“Please tell me you heard a woman’s voice just now.”
“Are you telling me she actually talked to you?” Disbelief registered clear in Barb’s wide, dark eyes. “All mine ever does is mess with my stuff.”
“I’ve never heard her speak before.” Jen frowned. “Maybe it was my imagination.”
“So what did your imagination say to you?”
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