But there's something else they got that you, my readers, did not. If you followed all of those posts, you may be thinking to yourself, "But those stories weren't finished! They totally left me hanging! I really NEEEEEEED to know what happened!"
Now see, if you had come to the conference, you would already have your satisfaction. But I won't leave you hanging. Would I do that to you? So today, here all in one place with no jump links, you can enjoy the story of Our Heroine Candy, with an exclusive ending:
I WANT CANDY
Candy gazed at her dodecahedronical diamond ring and sighed. It really had been sweet of Jace to give it to her, but she just didn't know that the manager of the Alpha club, where she was a stripper, was really the right guy for her long-term. Granted, he had all that lush chest hair that she loved, and those brown eyes the color of burnished copper. But she'd never felt like she'd hit a home-run when they'd had sex. Something was simply missing, and she couldn't put her finger on it (or apparently in it either). Now, staring at her amazing, and really big, ring, she knew the time to make a decision had arrived.
Sighing again, Candy rolled her eyes; decisions were never easy to make. Ever. This life decision seemed like the hardest yet with the variegated sides to it. Sliding the ring on her finger just to see what it would look like, to see how it feels on her finger, Candy smiled. It sure looked good, but could she really marry him? A locker slamming nearby jolts Candy out of her musings and she jerked at the ring to pull it off. Somehow it was stuck. The superb ring that she didn't know if she could really keep since she wasn't sure if she really wanted to marry Jace, was stuck on her finger. Panicking just a bit she whirled to make sure no one was too close, she couldn’t let the word get out yet. Candy ruffled through her own locker and finally she found a bottle of talcum powder and with a bit of a relief she poured it generously on her hand not caring a bit that it fell all over the floor around her. Dropping the bottle she jerked violently at the ring, but it was still stuck. Whimpering a little since she couldn’t keep wearing the blasted thing and her shift started in twenty minutes, she briefly wondered if there was some Crisco lying around somewhere. Her finger started to throb and it seemed as if the ring were getting smaller the more she tugged. She whirled around to try cold water and cames face to chest with a very large, manly, body.
Startled, Candy stumbled a bit and slowly lifted her eyes up the hard packed, tanned, hairy chest, even as she felt large hands on her hips steadying her. Once her eyes reached his, she was gone. His eyes were the most fierce golden color she has ever seen and they were focused entirely on her. Keeping her still while her brain was telling her to run. Holding her breath unable to even form a coherent thought she could only stare at the stranger who seemed to be taking everything in, even the smell of the powder as his nose twitched. Then in a move so sudden and quick Candy was lifted into his strong arms and swept away. She realized she was being taken to a subterranean level after descending multiple stairs. The stranger smelled so wonderful, of dark woods and sunlight… such a compelling combination. The man wasn't even breathing heavily while carrying her, and without meaning to, Candy felt a stirring in her lower abdomen.
Candy's loins may have been awake, but obviously her tongue wasn't. She might have been a natural blonde under that hundred-dollar scarlet dye job, but her brain worked just fine. Either putting on that ring had made her a little bit stupid or she'd been temporarily discombobulated by Mr. Tall, Dark, and Criminal.
"Um. Excuse me?" She writhed, trying to free herself of his grip, and slammed her heels hard against his ribs.
No dice. If it weren't for his low, fierce growl, she would have thought he was completely unbothered.
She'd just have to try harder to get his attention. She wasn't the kind of girl who got carried off willy- nilly into caves by big hulking strangers who smelled like the promise of good sex and breakfast the morning after.
"I'll have you know my fiancé tracks my phone through GPS. You're leading him right to this place."
Just as well. Jace wouldn't have figured out how to track her phone even if the instructions were printed in little words on the back of a cereal box, and he'd bought the dang thing.
The farther the stranger descended into the cave-like sanctuary, the less light there was. Only his startling, wolf-like eyes were easily visible. She patted his face, found his nose, and gave it a hard, twisting yank.
"Oh, so now you talk."
He reached a landing on the long staircase and, tossing her over one broad shoulder, pulled a heavy, old-fashioned door shut, and latched it. "We can talk plenty now. Let's see if we can get that ring off you first, though. We might have a little problem if you told him yes."
Not that she had any intention of saying yes to Jace, but she really didn't like where this was going--especially since the pummeling of her fists on the man's back seemed to be having no effect whatsoever. "What kind of problem?"
"For starters, you're his sister," he responded, his tone so teasing he was almost singing the words.
"That's not possible. And even if it was, how would you possibly know?" She'd been adopted on the other side of the country and Jace had talked about his parents--his birth parents--on more than one occasion. Clearly her captor was full of shit. Candy bit back the curse before she gave it voice and tried a new tactic--kicking the stranger as hard as she could.
Laughing, he gripped her legs tighter and her kicking only served to send one stiletto heel clattering into the darkness. "It's more than possible, you squirmy little fish, it's certain. I only hope you have this much energy once I get you into my bed."
"Your bed? Play me another one, maestro, because there's no way I'm dancing to that song," she said, horrified at the suggestion. She might take her clothes off to make ends meet, but she didn't have sex with strangers--ever--and she'd be damned if she planned to change that rule for the brute holding her hostage, regardless of how good he smelled, much less her body's reaction to his nearness.
"Yes, little one. I'm the one you were promised to, and it will be my bed you lie in on your wedding night."
Unbelievable. A stranger - albeit a drop-dead gorgeous stranger - had taken her underground, and the biggest shock was his arrogance. Once she was out of this situation, Candy made a mental note to have her head examined.
"Excuse me, but I will most certainly not grace your bed. And just where did you get your information?"
His full lips curled up in a sensual smile. "Ah Pet, I had a feeling you'd be curious. I'll bet you were the head of your class in school."
His voice has probably caused millions of panties to go up in flames. She had to resist, and not be silly enough to fall for his sensuality. She looked all around the cavern, and tried to ignore the firm grip of the hands on her thighs.
"Yeah, no shit. You've got me down here in the Bat Cave and Bruce Wayne is nowhere to be found. Not to mention, you're under the false impression that we're going to get married. Now, you're either going to tell me what is going on, or find me a bag of pretzels because I'm starving."
Her captor grinned. He had dimples. This was wrong. Kidnappers should never have dimples. Standing, he reached for a ledge and grabbed a tube. Her eyes gaped as she recognized what was in his hand.
"Just happened to have a bottle of lube laying around?"
"Sure did. My future bride may have a kinky side. But we'll discuss that later. Give me your hand. That ring is going to cut off your circulation."
Reluctantly, she held out her hand. His fingers on hers felt incredible. Distracting herself, she looked down and saw what appeared to be old tracks. Biting back a moan at his touch, she inclined her head to the ground.
"Is this place an old mining shaft?"
Mr. Tall, Dark, and Criminal didn’t respond. He was focused on her finger which was swelling up like a segment of a clementine. So much for golden-eyed men being able to multi-task.
He squeezed the lube onto her finger, slickening the dodecahedronical diamond ring. He tugged, but it wouldn’t come off. She felt it tighten even more. Her arousal had taken a train to Gone-ville and panic had flown in on a red-eye from Cleveland.
He moved away, agile for such a large man. Candy clutched at the ring and tried as hard as she could to pull it off. Both the pain and the frustration made her scream.
Returning to her, the man held a book—well, not just any kind of book, but an ancient leather weather-stained tome. He flipped open to a page, muttered three words, and the ring fell from her finger. Only the ring didn’t fall. It drifted to the floor. She expected to hear it clatter on the stone, but instead, it remained, floating.
Candy watched it, speechless. She wanted to say something flippant, or rib her savior, but all she could do was stand, stunned, as the ring floated above the stone.
“A mine shaft, yes,” the man said. His voice, his presence, brought her back, and she found herself staring into those mesmerizing eyes.
“We of the A’hem search for what was lost but must be found. Just as I found you, you will find your love for me.” He paused. “Princess.”
“You of the A’hem. Not me.” She made a face. “Princess? No, I’m a lot of things, stripper, poet, pastry chef, Mensa member, but I am not a princess.”
“But you are.” He took her hand and rubbed the soreness from her finger. “Lost royalty. And I swore an oath to your real father, before he died, to save you.” “Which means Jace is a prince?” She made another face.
“A fallen prince, yes. He gave you the dodecahedronical ring for a reason. Not to marry you, but to kill you, so he could reign supreme. You see, the A’hem are without king, without queen, and the war with the Nah still rages in worlds unseen by mortals.”
She expected him to smirk. He didn’t.
Breathless, she looked down at the ring, still floating. “You know, I finally realize what that ring looks like. In high school, I played way too much Dungeons and Dragons. That’s a twelve-sided die.”
Candy signed. “Tell me more about the Nah, and the…” she cleared her throat… “A’hem.”
“Funny.” For the first time, Tall, Dark and Prophetic smiled.
When Candy didn’t show for her shift on the pole, Jace’s senses went on high alert. She was a lot of things, but she wasn’t a flake. Her locker was a mess—and mostly empty; she’d left it open and it had been totally ransacked. There was no reason to panic, but every instinct he had was screaming that the A’hem had found her. That asshole A’ron, probably. Who knew what kind of lies he was feeding her even now.
Oh, Jace knew Candy wasn’t for him. That had been made abundantly clear, not least by their failure to connect on a physical level. She’d be their queen, but her true consort will have chosen a different path than Jace. For starters, he’d be purer of heart, mind, and body. He’d have kept celibate, as the old ways required, while Jace been tasked with keeping her safe and hidden from the Nah… and the easiest way to make that happen was to become her significant other, though his role as the slightly bumbling, harmlessly affectionate buddy chafed.
First things first, though. Jace called James on the emergency cell, checked the coordinates coming from the engagement ring, and they teleported directly to the location.
Before Candy could say “dodecahedronical,” Jace plugged A’ron with a taser and James scooped the ring up from its suspended animation. For good measure, he grabbed the spellbook too. At Candy’s expression, Jace shook his head and said, “Did he tell you the one about how I’m your brother?”
She nodded wordlessly.
“God, that guy’s a jerk,” Jace muttered, looking at the golden-eyed dipshit, inert on the stone floor.
“Is… is he going to be ok?” Candy faltered. “Did you…”
“Kill him? Nah,” James snorted at his own joke. “The taser will keep him out cold for an hour or so, though. It scrambles those guys up on a molecular level.”
Candy didn’t know what to believe or what to think. Jace and James had been her friends, and Jace her lover, for years. She knew and trusted them, or she thought she knew them. This other guy was, well, she’d been drawn to him but the attraction suddenly had gone as inert as his frame, as though a magnetic field had powered down. He’d scared the crap out of her, and God, he really had been a jerk.
“Wait.” She pulled a permanent marker out of her purse and wrote “I AM A BIG HUGE JERK” all across her kidnapper’s face. “Call me 'Pet?' Call me ’Little one’? my sweet ass,” she muttered.
“I never said I was mature,” she said, at their mirrored, startled expressions. She capped the marker, took them each regally by an elbow, and said, “Let’s go. You need to tell me about this whole Queen of the Nah gig.”
Oh, and because I have 80s lyrics in my head pretty much all the time, this is where the title came from (no extra charge for the earworm):