This year Christmas just got a little hotter.
Deck the halls with all things kinky. Jonas is an incubus with an incurable lust for women, gingerbread, and holiday lights. He needs one more soul to meet his quota. Amid the baubles and frivolity of the Winter Carnival, he meets Holly Pendleton—a woman with emerald green eyes and a body built for sin—and marks her as the final soul to end his contract. But now Jonas faces a heart-wrenching decision: take what he needs to feed his hunger, or sacrifice himself for the woman who has lit his own demonic soul on fire. Tied up with red ribbons, Holly just might be Jonas’s deepest Christmas wish and the one woman who could set him free.
Holly Pendleton is still recovering from the death of her husband and Dom. The holidays are especially lonely until a dark stranger walks in the door to Harlowe’s Bookery and Christmas Shoppe. The man’s enigmatic gaze holds her and ignites her body and her mind. When Holly accepts a job to decorate the sexy client’s apartment, she unknowingly steps into an age-old battle between the forces of darkness. Jonas Corsair is a man who makes her blood run hot and her dreams even hotter. But will she survive his hold on her soul?
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Holly Pendleton balanced a pile of books in her arms and made her way out of the stockroom. She glanced over at her boss and best friend, Gracie Harlowe, at the register and smiled. She enjoyed the busy throng of people at the winter carnival and usually looked forward to it. She had worked other retail jobs in the historic downtown shopping district, but working here was a dream come true. When Gracie had called her up three months ago and offered her the assistant manager’s job, she had taken it and hadn’t looked back.
Teetering on the edge of depression for months after watching her husband die of cancer, Holly was having a hard time finding the holiday spirit this year.
Derek had only been thirty-four, she thought bitterly. They’d been married for nine years, but she had known him since she was a geeky freshman in high school. The hole was too big to fill, and it left her feeling empty.
Still, she was grateful to Gracie for kicking her in the pants and getting her out of bed and back into the world again. Just in time for the holidays too. It was a special time that she and Derek had always shared. He would have wanted her to be happy.
She laid the stack of Christmas cookie books on a festive table near the window display and straightened the array of titles. Her gaze wandered to the small kitchen at the back of the store, and she made a mental note to grab some more cookies to refill the party trays on the dessert table.
“Holly!” Gracie waved her arms. “Can you grab me another stack of Fifty Shades of Grey?”
She glanced at the display where the books were and found they were down to one copy. Not good. Sales had started to slow down, but erotica had been steadily increasing over the past few months. It made her laugh to see the smut novels near the holiday displays, but it made the customers happy, so who was she to quibble? Besides, she loved reading them herself.
“I’ll get them!” Holly wound her way back into the stockroom and yanked a box off the overstock shelves. She grabbed a box cutter, deftly opened the box and placed the books on a cart, adding some of the second, third, and the new fourth book in the series, as they were getting a little on the low side too.
Erotic romance books were one of the few things she let herself enjoy these days, and she had several customers who came back to ask her about the latest and greatest. It was a fantasy land that took her beyond the walls of hospitals and now, the silence of the apartment at night. Reading was safe. She never even considered dating again. That part of her life was over.
Holly shook off the melancholy and hoofed it back onto the shop floor. Stacking the books onto the table, she arranged them in orderly piles of gray covers with erotic masks, ties, and handcuffs. She passed the romance section and gathered up some of her favorites to restock her promo shelf at the storefront. Cherise Sinclair, Kallypso Masters, Jasmine Haynes, Red Phoenix, Rachel Kramer Bussel…she loved them all. There were so many great writers that had made bondage erotica take off. Fifty Shades may have gotten the public reading again, but she had been a fan for years. Now the movie had come out for the famous books, and she wondered how it compared.
Smiling wistfully, she caressed the covers and wished her husband were still with her. She missed his firm hand and their power exchanges. He had been more than just her husband. He had been her Dom. Losing him had been the collapse of her entire world. If it hadn’t been for these books and Gracie, she would still be huddled in a miserable ball, crying her eyes out and wondering why he had to die. He was so young, and they hadn’t had much time.
“Can you help ring for a second?” Gracie called out and made a quick jaunt to the restroom in the back of the store.
Holly moved behind the counter and smiled as a woman arrived in front of her to check out. It was a unique store, and she loved being here. Gracie had crafted a special place for book lovers, and every holiday she spruced it up beautifully. Even when she wasn’t working here, Holly loved to come and check out the newest selections and pick up a couple of items for the house. Halloween, Christmas, or whatever was happening, Gracie always seemed to have the perfect balance of home décor and books to dive into, whether it was a cozy mystery or a pulse-pounding thriller. In the early days, it had just been decoration, but now she had expanded the business to selling the trees and offering to spruce up clients’ homes. The shop was every bit as special as Gracie, and it had, over the years, become Holly’s second home, even before she started working there.
Decorating clients’ businesses and homes and working behind the shop counter kept her busy. Putting up a tree gave her joy, and she saw how other lives were touched by a few twinkle lights and some tinsel. She’d done some decorations for the folks in the cancer ward, and this was a natural transition. If she could bring happiness by hanging a wreath or by delivering an order of books to a shut-in woman, then she was pleased to do it. It took her mind off the loneliness and gave her a purpose. This time of year especially.
The front door opened with a blast of snowy air, and an imposing thirty-something man sporting a thigh-length leather coat blew in. His chiseled features and mass of dark hair made her catch her breath and falter in her task of ringing up the woman in front of her. The black sweater he wore under his coat looked striking against the dark blue of his eyes. The gray slacks draped over his frame, his black boots befitting the weather outside. He said nothing to her, his gaze captivated by the display of holiday decorations.
He reminded her of one of the Doms in her collection of books. Heat spiked through parts of her she’d thought were as dead as her husband. She wondered how it would feel to unwrap that package.
Blushing, Holly turned back to the customer in front of her. Good grief, she hoped he hadn’t noticed her staring.
Holly finished ringing the books up and slipped them into a bag. She tossed in a candy cane with a card offering their holiday decorating services attached. “Here you go. Have a wonderful day.”
The woman waved good-bye and shuffled out the door into the snow. Looking anywhere but at the enigmatic man in front of her, Holly fought the sensation of butterflies fluttering in her stomach. He was incredible. The way his well-built form filled the space made her eyes automatically seek him out. Warmth stirred in her lower belly, and she nibbled on her lip.
“Hello. Welcome to Harlowe’s.” She fiddled with the hem of her sweater and felt a surge of heat rush up the sides of her face.
Ugh. How lame was she to just blurt that out?
The man raised an eyebrow, a dark and sensual smile sliding over his features. “Thank you.” His voice melted over her like chocolate, and she shivered.
Holly turned away and busied herself with stuffing bags with holiday activity lists. What kind of horrible woman was she to even be reacting to another man just a year after her husband’s passing? Lusting after the man in gray. Her lips thinned. No. She wasn’t ready for those feelings. Especially not from a stranger she had seen for all of thirty seconds.
She sneaked a glance at him while she straightened gift bags. He walked up to the Christmas tree in the front window and stroked its branches. Fingering the ornaments, he explored their small holiday store with a reverence that reminded her of a priest in church. Men usually didn’t bother with Christmas tree ornaments, but he was enraptured. It was mystifying.
A flush crept across Holly’s face. Stirrings of longing zapped through her body as she wondered if this dark-haired stranger knew his way around a flogger. Sighing deeply, she knelt down to pick up a bag that had fallen off the counter while she worked.
“Time for a cold shower tonight,” Holly mumbled. Sensing someone in front of the register, she stood.
“Hi. Did you need help finding anything…?” The very source of her temptation stood right in front of her. Oh God. She wanted to reach right across the counter and run her tongue over those amazing lips.
Holidays in Hell is the beginning to my new series, Demons in Darkness. The next two books will be released in 2016.
Erzabet Bishop is a bestselling and award winning author who loves to write naughty stories. She is the author of Lipstick, Dinner Date, Crave, The Science of Lust, Wicked for You, Arcane Imaginarium: Spirit Board, Holidays in Hell, Sigil Fire, Written on Skin, Club Beam, Pomegranate, A Red Dress for Christmas, The Black Magic Café, Fantasies in Red, Sweet Seductions: The Erzabet Bishop Collection, Holiday Cruise, Fetish Fair, Temptation Resorts: Jess, Temptation Resorts: Marnie, Taming the Beast, The Erotic Pagans Series: Beltane Fires, Samhain Shadows and Yuletide Temptation along with being a contributor to many anthologies. Erzabet has been a finalist in the GCLS awards for 2014 and 2015, winning the Goldie for her spot in two anthologies. She has been nominated for the 2016 Golden Flogger Award for Crave. She lives in Texas with her husband, furry children and can often be found lurking in local bookstores. She loves to bake, make naughty crochet projects and watch monster movies. When she isn’t writing, she loves to review music and books.