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Authors: Christopher Rice

Tags: #1001 Dark Nights, #erotic romance, #Christopher RIce, #MMF, #ghosts, #New Orleans, #Erotica

The Flame

BOOK: The Flame
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The Flame

A Desire Exchange Novella

By Christopher Rice

 

1001 Dark Nights

 

 

The Flame

A Desire Exchange Novella

By Christopher Rice

 

1001 Dark Nights

Copyright 2014 Christopher Rice

ISBN: 978-1-940887-18-0

 

 

Foreword: Copyright 2014 M. J. Rose

Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, characters and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination and are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or establishments is solely coincidental.

 

Book Description

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR CHRISTOPHER RICE PRESENTS HIS FIRST WORK OF EROTIC ROMANCE.

 

IT ONLY TAKES A MOMENT…

 

Cassidy Burke has the best of both worlds, a driven and successful husband and a wild, impulsive best friend. But after a decadent Mardi Gras party, Cassidy finds both men pulling away from her. Did the three of them awaken secret desires during a split-second of alcohol-fueled passion? Or is Mardi Gras a time when rules are meant to be broken without consequence?

 

Only one thing is for certain—the chill that’s descended over her marriage, and her most important friendship, will soon turn into a deep freeze if she doesn’t do something. And soon.

 

LIGHT THIS FLAME AT THE SCENE OF YOUR GREATEST PASSION AND ALL YOUR DESIRES WILL BE YOURS.

 

The invitation stares out at her from the window of a French Quarter boutique. The store’s owner claims to have no knowledge of the strange candle. But Cassidy can’t resist its intoxicating scent or the challenge written across its label in elegant cursive. With the strike of a match and one tiny flame, she will call forth a supernatural being with the ultimate power—the power to unchain the heart, the power to remove the fear that stands between a person and their truest desires.

 

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The First Night

by Shayla Black, Lexi Blake & M.J. Rose

 

Table of Contents

Foreword

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Also From 1001 Dark Nights

Acknowledgments from the Author

About Christopher Rice

An excerpt from The Surrender Gate: A Desire Exchange Novella by Christopher Rice

Also by Christopher Rice

Special Thanks

 

One Thousand and One Dark Nights

Once upon a time, in the future…

 

I was a student fascinated with stories and learning.

I studied philosophy, poetry, history, the occult, and

the art and science of love and magic. I had a vast

library at my father’s home and collected thousands

of volumes of fantastic tales.

 

I learned all about ancient races and bygone

times. About myths and legends and dreams of all

people through the millennium. And the more I read

the stronger my imagination grew until I discovered

that I was able to travel into the stories... to actually

become part of them.

 

I wish I could say that I listened to my teacher

and respected my gift, as I ought to have. If I had, I

would not be telling you this tale now.

But I was foolhardy and confused, showing off

with bravery.

 

One afternoon, curious about the myth of the

Arabian Nights, I traveled back to ancient Persia to

see for myself if it was true that every day Shahryar

(Persian:
شهريار,
“king”) married a new virgin, and then

sent yesterday's wife to be beheaded. It was written

and I had read, that by the time he met Scheherazade,

the vizier's daughter, he’d killed one thousand

women.

 

Something went wrong with my efforts. I arrived

in the midst of the story and somehow exchanged

places with Scheherazade – a phenomena that had

never occurred before and that still to this day, I

cannot explain.

 

Now I am trapped in that ancient past. I have

taken on Scheherazade’s life and the only way I can

protect myself and stay alive is to do what she did to

protect herself and stay alive.

 

Every night the King calls for me and listens as I spin tales.

And when the evening ends and dawn breaks, I stop at a

point that leaves him breathless and yearning for more.

And so the King spares my life for one more day, so that

he might hear the rest of my dark tale.

 

As soon as I finish a story... I begin a new

one... like the one that you, dear reader, have before

you now.

 

1

CASSIDY

The first sheets of rain pound the parked cars and filigree ironwork all around her with enough power to give off spray, forcing Cassidy Burke to hurry for the cover of the nearest balcony.

When she starts to run, the giant rolls of tapestry in her arms slide back and forth, giving her no choice but to launch into what her best friend Shane would probably call “a
Cirque du Soleil
move,” a desperate sideways and backward dance intended to keep the whole precarious assemblage of outstretched arms, toile-patterned fabrics, and slippery plastic coverings from slamming to the wet sidewalk.

It works, thank God; her balance is back, and just in time. No such luck with her bangs. When she puckers her bottom lip and tries to blow them out of her eyes, they remain sealed to her forehead, her hair soaked to its roots.

For several days now the French Quarter has been in a drowsy, post-Mardi Gras slump, but the heavy downpour sends it into a coma. She’s the only pedestrian in sight, which makes her feel like the only human east of Canal Street. And now she’s trapped, all because some silly vendor scheduled his delivery for the week before when she’d told him specifically the shop would be closed. But it’s not Leonard DeVille’s fault she walked to the UPS store without an umbrella or a raincoat. Still, parking is a nightmare on these narrow streets, laid as they were in the age of horse-drawn carriages, and she knew she’d need both arms free to carry the shipment back to the little gift shop she’s owned for two years.

Two-and
-a-half-
years
, she reminds herself, keenly aware, once again, that ever since she became a business owner she’s tended to round down her every accomplishment, as if no achievement of hers will be good enough until Cassidy’s Corner is out of the red and fulfilling Internet orders from all over the world.
Then
everything will be better;
then
she will earn the respect of her husband’s fellow architects at Chaisson & Landry, men and women who currently see her as nothing more than a housewife with a love of long novels and a codependent friendship with her gay best friend. And
then
she will never have another insecurity in the world. Ever.

If she’s not careful, this cruel, self-defeating line of thought will wash away her ambitions with the speed and ease of the rain sluicing through the gutters overhead.

She’s not a teenager anymore. She has no business blaming others for the terrible pressure she places on herself at the start of every workday. And if she doesn’t watch herself, she’ll make it Andrew’s fault, too. If he weren’t so driven and successful, she wouldn’t feel the need to compete. And if he weren’t so goddamn handsome, then she wouldn’t constantly feel like she didn’t deserve him, that other women were whispering things behind her back, things like, “What’d she do to land that one? Does it involve splits?”

It is fear that tricks her into seeing the blessings in her life as obstacles. It is fear, plain and simple, that twines its black fingers through the love and respect she has for her husband, pulling it apart until its strands look like chains. And nothing good in her life has ever come from treating fear like a teacher.

Worse, these thoughts are just painful distractions from uncomfortable, everyday realities. Owning a business is a lot harder than she thought it would be. That’s the long and short of it. And it’s just easier to indulge paranoid fantasies than it is to balance the books, conduct bi-weekly inventories, and stay abreast of trade conventions where she might find that rare, expensive specialty item that will snag the attention of a tourist from Atlanta or a Garden District housewife wandering the Quarter after brunch at Galatoire’s.

And then there’s what happened during Mardi Gras.

Cassidy screws her eyes shut to keep the memory at bay. For a split second, she worries the effort might launch her from her body, causing her to drop the rolls of tapestry after all. To anyone peering at her through a nearby window she probably looks like she’s suffering from a crippling phobia of rain, what with her furrowed brow and her rapid, shallow breaths lifting her soaked blouse. How could they possibly know she’s trying not to feel the dizzying, seductive caress of her husband’s breath against one side of her neck and her best friend’s lips against the other?

BOOK: The Flame
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ads

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