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Merger and Acquisition: An Excerpt from Passing Through

5 May

RT-18-Reno-Banner-V3

By Alexa Day

Ten days to Reno.

Ten days to the RT Booklovers Convention and days of splendiferous fun with loads and loads of romance authors and readers and books and parties and happy hours and general abundant good times. If you’re going, be sure to make a space on your calendar for the second coming of Never Have I Ever, Ever, hosted by my learned colleagues.

If you’re not going, hey, don’t sweat it. I’m not going, either. I expect to have my hands full right here.

Last year, I had some friends drop by to hang out on a fainting couch that wasn’t big enough for all five of us. If I were at RT with my friends and the couch, you and I would have had to have The Chat about how I’m not sharing and you need to bring your own friends. All that is easier to navigate if we’re each at home with our own couches, away from prying eyes.

But certainly it won’t take you all of ten days to get your calendar done or to get your own couch with your own friends. Honestly, some of you overachievers might manage to do both in ten days. What are you going to do with the extra time?

passing through cover

How about a trip to the beach? I can get you there and back in no time. You won’t even have to park. And this time you won’t have to bring your own friends. In my novella, Passing Through, you’ll get a whole summer with a very hot, very obedient Army Ranger, and you’ll be home in time for dinner.

You want to see a blurb?

The summer’s brought two surprises to bar owner Gigi Dean: the former Army Ranger she hired is the perfect barback, and he takes orders in bed as well as he does on the job. She swore long ago never to let a man come between her and her business, so pursuing the powerful attraction to her employee is a definite no-no. But how long can she resist the desire to put this alpha male on his knees?

Noah Monroe’s told his boss that he’s just passing through on the way to a more permanent job. He hasn’t told her that his hunger for her keeps him awake at night. He won’t have more than this summer with the gorgeous woman who is his perfect match. Can he coax her into his arms for a summer fling? Or will acting on instinct cost him everything he’s begun to love?

Sound inappropriate? Good. That’s my specialty. But don’t worry. Ever the responsible boss, Gigi has a conversation with her best employee right after their first night together. When Noah drives her home that night, she takes the opportunity to have that conversation again. Just so everyone knows where they stand. Or sit. Or lie down.

Check it out.

***

Driving home after work bothered Noah for reasons he used to have trouble naming. The traffic-clotted madness that marked his drive to the bar didn’t faze him. At rush hour, he was surrounded by people on their own missions, trying to get home or stop for groceries or meet friends for the evening. Late at night, he had the road to himself.

Not having all those people to pay attention to should have made things easier, but the empty streets pushed his senses to high alert. After a few weeks of making that late-night drive, he realized that part of him was looking for people. That side of him wasn’t nearly as hypervigilant as it used to be, but the quiet still bothered him.

Tonight, his boss’s directions provided just the right distraction. She led him deeper and deeper into the suburbs, away from the water and the highways lined with strip malls and hotels. Trees gave shelter to narrow drives, and petite houses lay in darkness. People envisioned this sort of place when they talked about settling down with a family.

“Nice neighborhood,” he said.

“This is where I grew up. Used to ride a bike up this very street.” She pointed out the open window. “Fell out of that oak tree once. Next right.”
As he made the turn, he caught her wistful grin. She had more stories to tell about growing up here. This had been the place she’d learned to drive a car. This was where she’d done homework. Daydreamed about a boy who would one day take her to prom. Her parents had left her with more than a business. She had a history in this neighborhood. She had a whole life with roots growing down deep in this place.

She had a home. Something stable to protect from transient barbacks passing through town.

Something inside him twisted painfully, but he willed the ache away. Whose fault was it that he didn’t have what she needed in her life? His whole history fit in the back of the truck with room to spare. He chose that for himself, connecting only with what lay inside his arm’s reach. Able to move and start over whenever he liked.

Her home and history still called to him, and the need to answer pulsed in his veins. When the time came, it would take all his strength to go.
She pointed at a farmhouse on the right. “There it is.”

He pulled into her driveway and coasted beneath the boughs of a tree to her carport. The ancient transmission clunked when he put the truck in park, and they turned to face each other as the engine gurgled.

They watched each other in silence for a few seconds. Years ago, a teenage Gigi would have looked across the front seat at some hormone-plagued boy, wondering if he would kiss her.

Noah chuckled. Who was he kidding? If this woman wanted to be kissed, no way she was going to sit there with her fingers crossed, waiting for it.

“Something funny, Monroe?”

“Just thinking, boss.”

She rooted deep inside her purse before pulling out her keys with a jingling flourish. “I’ll call Heather in the morning, I guess.” She glanced down at his lap briefly before her gaze skittered to the gearshift.

Damn if he was going to make this easy for her.

“I can pick you up if you want. You know, if you want to make a run on the way in.”

Her tempting lips pursed as she shook her head. “No, no. Heather has to be up early anyway, and she has the supply list.”

He tried without success to keep from smiling. Was she even going to thank him? “If you say so, boss.”

A breeze tickled the branches overhead, making them sigh. She’d probably sit here all night rather than ask him for anything. But she wanted to. She wouldn’t still be sitting here, her knee up on the bench seat, if she didn’t want something.

“You have a second to come in?” Her voice lacked a little of the steel she used at work, and for an instant, he wondered if he was wrong about the teenage Gigi, waiting on the passenger seat.

He turned off the engine and the truck shuddered to rest. “Yeah, I have a second.”

* * *

Gigi shut the door behind them and leaned against it. Noah waited for her in the living room. The hodgepodge of furniture, most of which her parents had left behind on their way to retirement, looked small and insubstantial around him. He towered over the coffee table like a giant.

Her giant.

She shook off the thought and jerked a thumb over her shoulder at the kitchen. “Want anything?”

He smiled and sat down on her couch. “I’m good,” he said.

She opened her refrigerator and stood in the chilly air, acutely aware of the heat of his gaze on her back. She’d invited him in to ask about their conversation from the other night, to be certain that there were no awkward aftereffects from the Fourth of July. She had no reason not to take him at his word, of course; Noah was a straight shooter through and through. But at work, he could be such a closed book, even when they were alone after last call. He’d never let on that there was more between them than work and one hot night on the patio. And the cab of the truck—that was where kids made out.

If they were going to have an adult conversation, they’d have it in the living room like adults.

She finally closed the fridge empty handed, cutting off the spill of light into the darkened room. When she turned back to the living room, she found Noah holding the hefty glass ashtray that weighed down the coffee table. He turned the unwieldy thing over and over, his thick fingers moving in the grooves cut for cigarettes.

Gigi grinned and joined him on the couch. “It’s an ashtray,” she explained.

He nodded, smiling. “Yeah, I know. My uncle had one like this. I haven’t seen one in years.”

“Home décor secrets of the Seventies,” she said, watching as he set the ashtray back on the coffee table. “This is your uncle who was in Vietnam?”
He nodded. “My Uncle Tim.”

“You really loved him, didn’t you?” The question was out into the air between them before she could stop it, more personal than anything that had yet happened when they were alone.

In the soft light of streetlamps, his gaze found hers. “Yeah. He was my favorite uncle.” He leaned back on the couch. “My dad’s oldest brother. He was old enough to be drafted to go to Vietnam like a bunch of other guys. Dad worshiped my Uncle Tim when they were kids.” He smiled at her. “He said when people asked him what he wanted to be, he used to say he wanted to be Uncle Tim.”

Gigi laughed, and Noah shifted on the couch. His smile slowly faded into something harder.

“Anyway, he went to Vietnam and came back home. When he got off the plane, this gorgeous woman came up to him. My uncle thinks, hey, this is great, this woman wants to flirt with the man in uniform. He opens his mouth to say something to this girl. And she spits in his face and then turns around and walks off.”

Gigi felt her mouth drop open, weightless. He glanced up at her, sorrow darkening his features.

“Dad said Uncle Tim wasn’t the same after that. It was like someone had taken whatever he used to be and shattered it, and then he wasn’t able to find all the pieces.” He sighed. “When we went to visit him and my Aunt Joanie, they were always happy enough to see us. I could kind of see what my dad saw in him. But sometimes I’d look over at him when we were watching TV, and he’d be staring at the floor, almost like he was wondering what happened to him.” He laced his fingers and set them on his knee. “You know, we’re doing all this stuff for veterans now. Free drinks and all that. College girls who want to climb you like a tree. Which is great. All that is great. But no one wants to remember that, a little while ago, people would wait for soldiers to get off the plane so they could spit in their faces.”

The silence stretched and grew thick between them. In the dark, she could all but hear him breathing.

“You learn a lot in the Army, boss. You learn that everyone’s there, willing to put it all on the line, for a different reason.” He looked up to meet her gaze. “And I never met one person who went all the way to Afghanistan for free beer. But little things like that matter anyway.”

“You didn’t have to tell me all that,” she said.

He shrugged. “Your ashtray just reminded me.” A long sigh slid out of him. “I guess it’s been trapped in there for a while.”

She had to reach to pat his knee. Resisting this need to make contact with him proved harder than simply giving in.

His hand covered hers, setting her heart on a jig. More than the excitement she’d been trying to fight for so long, she ached with a new emotion. She felt safe. Like he’d opened this part of himself to her now and wanted to welcome her inside.

She stared at their joined hands, long enough for her skin to tingle. She knew he was watching her with the same intensity he reserved for potential trouble on the job, for anything that might not go as planned.

Yeah, this qualifies.

He shifted again on the couch, and she forced her eyes to meet his. His fingers twined with hers. A whirlwind pushed at her insides, fear and need and this forbidden excitement chasing each other around her heart.

He reached for her slowly, cupping her face in his large palm. His rough thumb stroked her cheek.

“What do you need right now, boss?”

Gigi found her breath. “You said this was whatever we said it was.”

He nodded. “Right.”

“So what are we saying it is?” she whispered.

He closed most of the distance between them, stopping just inches away from her. “What do you need it to be?”

She tried to yank her hand out of his but he tightened his grip. Frustrated beyond endurance, she turned her gaze up to the ceiling. “Jesus, Monroe.” She looked back at him and wanted to pull that smirk off his face. “Can you really not answer a simple question like that?”

He slid his fingertips up to her chin, gently tugged her toward him. Their knees touched when they kissed. His mouth coaxed hers, teasing her, making the spark she was trying to suppress into a hungry flame.

He pulled away from her and pressed his forehead to hers. “I want you like I want air to breathe.” The rough caress of his whisper made her catch her breath. “But Gigi, you make the rules.” He kissed the corner of her mouth, his lips lingering there. “You tell me. You tell me what you want.”

She wanted him. She wanted to see all of him and hear every sound he could make, and even if it never happened again, with him or anyone else, she wanted him tonight.

“The bedroom is at the end of the hall.” She pulled back and away from his embrace. “Go down there and strip.”

Without a word, he rose and headed down the hallway, peeling off his shirt as he went. She stood up on suddenly uncertain legs and slowly followed him.

***

Don’t you love it when work meetings go a little long? Click and find out how Gigi evaluates her best employee.

And in the meantime, follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

 

The Ghost of Hot Relationships That Never Were

9 Apr

by Madeline Iva

Watching a scene in a movie, or an episode of a TV show I’m like that kid from the Sixth Sense–but instead of dead poeple I see whole story lines that aren’t actually there.  It haunts me day in and day out. Don’t get me wrong. We’re lucky to have so many interesting stories out on TV and in movies.  I’m enjoying them; I’m reveling in them.  Yet I also see a lot of hot-boinking-that-should-be-there-but-isn’t.  To you they’re invisible–but they haunt me. Is this a blessing? Or is it a curse? <Cue the spooky music.>

There are just so many good shows in which the hotness factor between characters should be invoked.  Let’s seance with this sad spectre–the Ghost of Hot Relationships That Never Were as it wanders down the corridors of Untold Passion & Secret Scandalous Hook Ups.

MASSIVE MASSIVE MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!!!!! YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!!!

Black Panther:

Michael B. Jordan played Erik Killmonger in Black Panther. Out of all the villains in Marvel Universe why did they kill off this one? Whyyyyyyyy? WHAT ON EARTH WERE THEY THINKING? Don’t they see the Loki potential here? With his ripped body, damned attractive face, and awwwwww story of heartbreak and loss as a young boy–it’s killing me. (Pun intended.)

The hint of dimples is what truly slays me.

Eric Killmonger is that Loki-ish anti-hero we lurv, no matter how many times he’s got “Kill Whitey” tattooed all over his body. (He doesn’t really. Just kidding. But you get the idea.) His character would draw everyone back movie after movie, sequel after sequel.  Someone go to the bottom of that waterfall and fish him out. Revive and rehabilitate that bad boy STAT!

While Hollywood is at it, I think you’ll agree hands down that Erik needs to get together with Okoye, AKA Danai Gurira AKA Michonne from Walking Dead.  Erik is hotness on a stick.  Okoye is the woman all humans bow down to.  I mean–did you see the movie? Yeah? Then you get it.  The movie would have been more realistic to me if Okoye had straightened Erik’s sh*t out in about ten minutes. Danai

Okoye needs to become Queen of Wakanda too, btw.  Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett may be worthy of ruling as well, and I didn’t have any problems with our super-hero, Black Panther. He was cute–incredibly cute.  He has a real “goodness to the core” super-hero vibe.  It’s just that clearly he needs to be out and about in the world.  His job is international.  But back home in Wakanda, Okoye is queen material.  She’s the f**king bad ass leader of all leaders.  Just calling it like it is, people.  As for Ramonda–well, see below.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: AKA Heather-Heather-Heather AKA Vella Lovell

I mean, I really like CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND overall.  Rebecca Bunch obsessively crushes out on a former flame named Josh, and goes to cray-cray stalker extremes often urged onward by our twisted societal values about a women’s worth.  But Heather, Rebecca’s neighbor-then-roommate is her polar opposite.  Tall, goy, hot and slacker-ish, Heather is instantly compelling to watch. With her vocal fry, colored hair extensions, and community college scholar wisdom she is the one I obsess over in this show.  Yes, I have a massive girl crush on Heather — and the actress who plays her recently expanded her career to movies.  She was probably the best thing in THE BIG SICK.  (And the writers of the BIG SICK should make a follow up about her character story. Can you say another Smart Indian Girl Rom-Com? Squeeeeee! Hasn’t anyone in Hollywood watched Bend It Like Beckam?)

Anyway Heather and Hector are now together in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.   Hector always was cute, if a bit oedipal, but he doesn’t get much face time on the show. We all know the two of them hooking up is really just an excuse to give us more Heather.

Though White Josh and Josh in the stripper scene were giving Nathaniel a run for his money,  Nathaniel’s character is pretty appealing.  The more he was into Rebekah, the more I was into him.  But clearly, he and Heather should be together.  They both are seemingly shallow but really good people with unexpected depths. They are both extremely sane despite recognizing their perverse impulses.  They are both vulnerable to romantic situations in which they’re being used.  I’m asking nicely— could they PLEAAAAAASE get together? Pretty please? And I mean really get together in a complicated, sweaty, guilty, dirty way — the way that Rebecca tends to get together with men on the show?

She’s just using you, Nathaniel. Can’t you see that?

If they can’t, I will totally accept Father Brah, played by Rene Gube as a Heather-Love-Interest substitute.  That guy is totally under-utilized in terms of hotness. Wasted actually.

BTW — did you expect Crazy-Ex to really go there with serious mental health issues? I didn’t. I’m pretty impressed. And making Rebecca the poster girl for BPD — whoa.  That mental disorder does not get a lot of sympathetic play.  So thumb’s up Crazy-Ex Girlfriend for going there, staying there, and then doing a song and dance number there.

The Good Place — This show is not for everyone, but I get off on weighing utilitarian counterfactuals against Kantian ethical theory.  The show is about someone mistakenly sent to heaven.  My version of heaven is Jianyu played by Manny Jacinto. Manny is divine. Manny and Kristen Bell would be too cute together as a couple.  Manny and Tiya Sircar would be too cute too.  I mean, can Jianyu just have his own spin off show next year? Something where yes, we see his cuteness factor, but also the other hot never-see-him-coming facets as well?

Meanwhile, I very much appreciate Elinor’s girl crush Tahani played by Jameela Jamil.  Tahani with her Amazonian posh presence gains a wonderful edge from Elinor’s girl-lust-crush.  If the creators of the show wanted to take relationships in that direction, I, as a fan, would happily follow.  Just sayin’.

Before I sign off though, let’s talk steam heat in terms of romance with age difference —

First of all, I would like to advocate for Angela Basset’s character Ramonda having a thing with M’Baku when she gets dropped off at M’Baku’s land.  M’Baku is played by Winston Duke, a 6′ 4″ drink of beef water.  He’s a wee bit Alpha for my taste — but even so…even so. His character has an unexpected sense of humor that slays.M'Baku

And I don’t care who you are, if Ramonda gets dropped off in your kingdom and you’re made to promise to protect her and make sure she’s “taken care of” –I mean, seriously, how could your mind not go there? It’s Angela Bassett, people. It doesn’t matter how old she gets. I think I spent the next fifteen minutes of the movie not hearing or seeing anything on the screen.  Instead I was still back at the toothy gorilla lair with M’Baku and Ramonda imagining how their forbidden sexual tryst would come about.  These moments are so obvious to me–am I the only one? Is anyone else seeing the possibilities here?

Back at The Good Place I also noticed that Tahani has fabulous chemistry with Michael, played by Ted Danson.  Yes, he’s like in his seventies or something, but still–they’re both dapper dressers.  In fact, they are too attractively tall together not to have hot sex/romance.   Maybe they seem to connect because they’re the only two tall enough to look each other in the eye.  Maybe it’s something more.  But I think they should work it.  Torture Tahani with the tantalizing promise of a ‘daddy’ relationship figure that goes to a naughty places.  Let us live a little.The Good Place

The Upshot: Hollywood is having outstanding success with greater casting diversity.  At last.  Finally! Bravo. (The horror that’s going on behind the screens –that’s another blog post). Let’s all urge them to keep heading further in this direction.  Despite hot (and I mean that in more ways than one)  new talent, the boink factor is suffering.

There’s chemistry going on here, people!  My mind is a-buzz with all the variations and combinations to explore — I want jealousy and lust.  I want tenderness and taut sexual tension.  I also want some light kinky elements–is this too much to ask? I don’t think it is.

What relationships do you wish you were seeing in movies/tv shows that you love? Please sound off below.

Madeline Iva enjoys penning stories about reclusive guys with dark secrets in mouldering castles.  If you like your gothic gloom with a perverse twist join her cult following newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

How I Married the Rock Star

1 Dec

 

By Alexa Day

In 1992, I married a rock star. Did you know?

I’m sure some people thought I was one of his phases. That was a big part of his career, the transition from one part of his identity to another. I’m sure people thought this was like that. Something new for him to try out.

How many times have you heard that one, right? I’ve always wanted to try one.

But this wasn’t like that at all. The man the world knew as a rock star was very different at home. When we were together, we didn’t have to wear the faces we presented to the world outside. We were just … us. Just the two of us, boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, father and mother. Just us.

Our 25-year relationship might be the most vanilla thing he had ever done. But he made it extraordinary.

Fifteen days ago, I married a millionaire. Did you know?

When we started seeing each other, I didn’t know about Reddit, and I’m pretty sure he didn’t follow tennis. I wasn’t so sure about him at first. We spent a lot of time together, just hanging out. Six hours wandering around Paris. The rest grew out of that.

I wore three dresses at the wedding, starting off with a beautiful ball gown. It came with a cape. The sort of thing girls dream of wearing. Something that would let them be superheroes and princesses at the same time.

He called me a queen. He said his whole life had led him to me.

In the end, we were swept away on carousel horses.

Next spring, I’m going to marry a prince. Did you know?

How do you meet a prince? Through a well-connected friend. The same way lots of women meet princes. The same way they meet us, if they’re lucky.

His family doesn’t do things small. Spectacle might well be a shared middle name. But he and his brother know that all the opulence in the world can’t save a failing marriage, and the two of them know what makes a relationship work. More importantly, they care about what makes a relationship work. We were actually making dinner when he proposed. The prince and I. Making dinner.

The wedding’s going to be enormous. A word can’t capture how enormous it’s going to be.

After that, though, I think we go right back to being a couple living in the public eye, using the attention to do good for others, and enjoying dinners at home.

I remember the first time I heard I wasn’t beautiful.

I remember the first time someone let me know I wasn’t special.

I remember the first time I was told I’d never get married unless I shrank some part of myself and made myself small. I was too much. Too smart. Too talented. Too plain-spoken. Who would want that, after all? Who did I think I was?

I’m not the only one. You have friends — a lot of friends, I promise — who had exactly the same experience. If you’re good friends, she might tell you who let her in on these essential truths. She might tell you who made sure she knew she was so undesirable. She might not tell you. She might not ever tell anyone because she still feels a little silly for thinking she was beautiful and smart and capable and good enough and wonderful, just as she was.

The truth became a pericardium of stone. Protective at first for a little girl, or so everyone says when they realize there isn’t really an excuse for telling a little girl she isn’t beautiful. No one says that the stony wall will stifle a woman’s heart as she grows and the barrier doesn’t. That kind of a warning might lead her to think that the wall is unnecessary, and that really would be a problem. She has to live with the truth of her smallness and inadequacy, the reality that she is not beautiful, in a world wallpapered with cartoons that depict her as a man or an ape wearing a dress, where the only literature about her glorifies her for the depth and nobility of her endless suffering.

We’re not supposed to marry rock stars and millionaires.

We’re not supposed to wear glittering ball gowns with bejeweled capes.

We are certainly not supposed to face all the ways our lives will change when we join a royal family.

We’re supposed to live with the truth. Someone told us so, and they wouldn’t have sealed our hearts up with words like “not beautiful” and “not special” and “who do you think you are” if there were no truth to these words.

So it matters when someone tells any one of us that love is very different from the tomb we are taught it is.

It matters when he makes his way under or around or through the wall, like it doesn’t exist. It matters when he shows us a way under or around or through the wall.

It matters when he says, “Of course you’re beautiful! Who said that foolishness?!”

Or when he says he couldn’t sleep before your first date, like the rock star did.

Or when he says your life together is a fairy tale, like the millionaire did.

Or when he says he knew you were his match immediately upon being introduced, like the prince did.

When something like that happens to one of us, or three of us, or more of us, it happens to all of us, just like it’s happened to me.

So we all married the rock star and the millionaire, and next May, our family trees will reach up from slavery into the British royal family.

Maybe it shouldn’t be amazing, but it is.

So enjoy the spotlight. Revel in the magic.

And don’t forget to bring a little girl with you.

Follow Lady Smut.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

 

Bad Ass Heroines In Space

13 Jul

by Madeline Iva

No more token female characters in sff novels. No more ‘space babes’ in skimpy costumes on the cover. You do not get to use your galaxy kitten for a minor romantic/sexual sub-plot then push her right back into plot obscurity again. Those times are over. Dead. Gone.

Here are two books that emerged from the SFF world fairly recently to provide a punch in the gut for male SFF patriarchy– now rolled up into a fetal position and slowly dying.

First I want to give a shout out to ASCENSION.  I love the cover. I’ve only read the first two chapters so far and saw much that romance readers would want to roll around in.  I’ll use three words to describe Jacqueline Koyanagi’s writing: heartfelt, soulful, longing.

At the same time, ASCENSION is described by others on Koyanagi’s website as “a fun, fast-paced space opera” with a diverse cast of characters. It examines disability and polyamory—“all while racing to save the universe from certain destruction.”

Sounds good to me!

Here’s the low down on the plot:

Our main character, Alana Quick, is maniacal about fixing spaceships. She’s an obsessive grease monkey–even her skin tastes like the metal from ships she repairs. She feels as much lust for a space ship as she does for its hot female captain.  Although Alana has an aunt with medical issues, and a dying business on a harsh planet, she jumps world to stow away on a ship called the Tangled Axon.  The ship’s crew are trying to find her sister Nova–but why? And do they mean Nova harm?

The captain of this ship is a sexy bad-ass woman, the engineer is more of the burly growly type of male. But our heroine definitely has an eye for the ladies. Alana describes her first impression of the Tangled Axon’s captain:

The woman sizzled in front of me, all blond hair, boots, and confidence. She tilted her head at an angle of self-important distain, hip cocked to match. Cargo pants hung below her waist and a white tank top bared her toned arms. […] We locked eyes. Her barbed expression pricked at me from beneath her bangs, as if I were a spot of rust on her ship that had the audacity to sprout up when she wasn’t looking. Muscles pulled at the corner of her mouth. 

The book definitely is going to have romance/sexual elements in it. I can just tell.

However, I haven’t read it yet, just the first few chapters. So check it out yourself! (It’s the start of a series.)

You should definitely buy Ancillary Justice.

ANCILLIARY JUSTICE was the book everyone was talking about last year at Wis Con. It’s the first book in a three book series by Ann Leckie, but it’s definitely a stand-alone kind of read.

The main character in ANCILLARY JUSTICE is an AI. Once a spaceship called Ancillary Justice, the A.I. started off with thousands of “nodes” –i.e. human bodies that the A.I. mentally occupied and controlled–now the A.I. is down to just one body and bent on revenge.

The book starts off with the A.I. rescuing a former crew mate on the final stage of her long cold quest for vengeance–and we’re off to the races.

The other kicker in this novel–the one that left all the readers I talked to pleasantly a-buzz–was that the A.I. comes from a culture that only uses the “she” pronoun. Everyone from her world is a “she”.

Now, that’s not to say everyone is actually biologically female. The A.I. is no longer in her own society and while talking to other characters from different worlds, we get plenty of clues as to who’s who in terms of man meat and va-jay-jays.

That may sound like a complicated read. It’s not at all – it’s actually easier to read than it is to describe in this blog post, and that’s because Leckie is just one f***ing masterful writer.

Overall the book is engaging. I whiffled right through it in a day and then actually wound up reading it over again because I just wanted to hang out with the characters in that world all over again.

A great read.

A fabulous summer read.

Buy it!

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

Loving, Fiercely: Fifty Short Years

13 Jun

I bow to the Loving Project, both for this image and for their spectacular coverage of Loving Day 50.

By Alexa Day

Yesterday, June 12, 2017, was the fiftieth anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virginia, which made interracial marriage legal across the country. Loads of adorable interracial couples took to the Internet yesterday to thank Richard and Mildred Loving for their determination to defend their marriage against long-standing state law. This super-cute gallery is from last year, but couples turn up every year to smooch and be thankful.

Every year, someone asks me the same question.

“Alexa, are people still opposed to interracial marriage? After all this time, is that still a thing?”

In fairness, I have not heard that question yet this year. Maybe current events are answering the dubious for me. Nothing like hearing that some specimen left a noose at the National Museum of African American History and Culture to convince a person that yes, Virginia, people do still have an issue with racial equality.

But I’m going to approach this question squarely and honestly, by asking all of you to approach this question squarely and honestly. Take an objective look at the world around you.

Consider that 33 years after the Loving decision, Alabama finally got around to taking their anti-miscegenation law off the books. Consider that somewhere out there, someone’s first thought was that if the law was invalid anyway, why shouldn’t it hang out on the books for 33 years?

Consider that in 2009, there was a justice of the peace who would take the time to determine if a couple was interracial before refusing to marry them. In 2009. You might recall that the President of the United States at that time was the product of an interracial marriage.

And consider the many, many people who still endure hostile stares, snide remarks, ignorant questions, longstanding arguments with their families, and the occasional bold stranger who demands to know why they’ve chosen to marry outside their race. This will seem odd in a world where Richonne and a black Bachelorette and the golden days of Scandal are fresh in people’s minds. But in the real world, out there on the sidewalk with you, someone’s mom is being mistaken for the nanny. This happens all over the world, every day. Hip hop artist Eve, athletic goddess Serena Williams, and Prince Harry’s honey Meghan Markle have all had to take questions about the intersection of their racial identities and their love lives, and I promise that if it is happening to the three of them in the public eye, someone you know is having to deal with nastier questions.

So how do we fight this?

How a man looks at his wife is one thing. How he looks at the camera is quite another.

Take a lesson from Richard Loving. This is my favorite photo of him, with his arm around his wife. Mildred is smiling at someone off to our right, perhaps in the middle of a cheerful conversation about something other than being at the center of this court case.

Richard is looking right at us. His is the face of a man who knows his job is to keep his wife smiling, who takes his job very seriously, and who dares a nation of lookie-loos to make something of it.

Tell the Court I love my wife.

Or, if you’ll let me put frank language into his mouth: Fuck you. We’re happy.

How do we beat bigotry?

Choose happiness. Do it consistently, especially when people seem determined to make trouble. I can tell you from experience that this is harder than it sounds. One can only hear ignorant questions about what the sex is like or what everyone’s parents think so many times before wanting to flip out.

But today, we are much closer to a world where no one takes issue with marriage equality because of two ordinary people who wouldn’t back down. The least we can do is follow their example.

Love fiercely, my friends. And follow Lady Smut.

Speaking of loving fiercely, esteemed colleague Elizabeth SaFleur has a new release this week. Lucky is about a different sort of opposites attracted to each other, but my guess is that you can count on more BDSM in Lucky than in the average Supreme Court opinion. Click to score your copy of this super hot book about two people accustomed to getting what they want.

Click and go get it!

Billionaire, entertainment investor and resolute bachelor Derek Damon Wright and dance studio owner Samantha Rose are unprepared for their mutual attraction to one another. She desperately wants to have a baby, and family doesn’t match Derek’s sophisticated life of private jets, vacations in the Caribbean and his BDSM activities. Yet a magnetic passion draws them closer—at least until their past mistakes arise and threaten all hope of a real future.

Sexy Sunday Snippet

7 May

Morning ladies—We reallllly like Afton Locke, and she’s got a new serial romance for us to savor. DRUNK ON MEN is an interracial romance set in the roaring 20’s.  After reading the excerpt below, go to her website for the first THREE INSTALLMENTS and get addicted!

When three African-American women meet at a resort on the Jersey Shore in the 1920s, they say goodbye to their old lives. Finding men as intoxicating as bootleg liquor, they pin their futures on happily ever after. But love can be worse than a hangover when the men’s flaws threaten to destroy them.

Hannah knows it’s time to replace her fiancé who died in the war, but the abrupt white man who rescues her from rough surf hardly fits the bill. Belle longs to ditch her latest meal ticket, but is the rich African-European owner of an upscale hotel out of her league? And while Edie struggles to face her upcoming arranged marriage, a rugged Hispanic-white fisherman decides to stake his own claim on her.

This 8-volume serial is a heady romance cocktail stirred with addiction, abuse, betrayal, and scandal. These women aren’t perfect and neither are their men. If you think you can handle it, read on and watch three steamy interracial relationships explode across the pages.

You may think it’s sloe fizz gin

But honey we’re sober, just drunk on men

“You’re a bootlegger,” she stated.

He sighed and made a rude gesture with his hand and chin. “What did you think, Belle? The booze simply drops out of the sky into my bar? I am performing a necessary service for the town of Ocean Promenade.”

Excitement rippled down Belle’s arms and legs. Tonight’s joyride was the most thrilling thing she’d ever done.

“How much booze does this town drink, anyway? The Sands is the only place I see that’s even wet. I have a hard time believing you could buy a car like this on that speck of business.”

“I see you are shrewd businesswoman.” He leaned between the front seats and shot her an admiring glance. “I am much impressed. Since you ask, the product also gets shipped to Washington, Philadelphia, and New York City.”

“So, what happens next?” she asked. “Where’s the booze?”

He slid his jacket sleeve upward with two fingers and glanced at his watch. “It’s coming. Please join me in the front seat where I can see you.”

“Not with the gun lying there. A girl could get her cha chas blown off with a thing like that. Besides, how do I know you’re not planning to bump me off for knowing too much?”

“You are too beautiful to kill,” he crooned as he moved the monstrous weapon to rest against his door. “However, you have become heavily involved. I wanted to protect you from this.”

“It’s okay,” she said, shrugging as she scrambled to the front passenger seat. “I’m a big girl. I’ll survive.”

He reached over and grabbed her chin, forcing her to face him. Adrenaline flooded her body. Without thinking, she smacked him across the face.

He reared back in his seat. “What was that for?”

“Don’t manhandle me,” she said coldly. “I don’t care for it.”

She hadn’t pegged him as abusive, but she wasn’t about to take any chances. Especially in this abandoned place. She’d do a lot for money, but she refused to tolerate violence.

Please tell me you’re not one of them, Raoul. I don’t want to have to give you up.

“Bella, please. You shocked me, and I think you broke my jaw.” He stuck out his bottom lip like a little boy and dazzled her with another smile.

She couldn’t help laughing. “Oh, you’re all wet. I did not.”

“I’m only trying to make you understand something.” He leaned closer but without touching her this time. “You will see things and people who don’t want to be recognized. If you do not keep your pretty kisser shut, you could endanger your life and mine.”

Belle took a shaky breath. “Understood.”

“And it means you are my lady. You cannot walk away from me. Not after tonight.”

As if she wanted to. They sat in silence for a moment. He caressed her hand and then the thigh it lay on through the thin hem of her dress, making her breath draw in with a hiss.

“I want to show you my hotel room soon,” he said, lazily stroking. “I have a circular tub with flowing water. It is like the ocean, yes?”

“Sounds divine,” she whispered.

“We don’t have much time, and I need you to show me your loyalty.” 

Loyalty?

Belle watched, fascinated, as he reclined his seat until it lay almost horizontal.

His voice dropped very low. Very soft. “Come here, Bella.”

25954402 – art deco vintage frames and design elements

Afton Locke is a USA Today Bestselling Author who prefers romantic fantasies to everyday reality. Fantasies take her to different times, races, places, and beyond. She lives with her husband, several unnamed dust bunnies, and a black cat that can be scary or cuddly, depending on the current book. When she’s not writing, Afton enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and watching retro T.V.

Find Afton here:

Web site: http://www.aftonlocke.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AftonLockeAuthor

Twitter: http://twitter.com/aftonlocke

Newsletter: http://www.aftonlocke.com/mailing-list.html

Guess the Lady Smut TBR Stack–Win $10 Amazon Gift Card!

4 May

Hi RT Orphans! Does your TBR pile have some of the same titles as ours? Let us know–leave us a comment below. 🙂 Want to buy the book on our TBR list? Click the link.  Meanwhile, here’s another fun game you can play at home.

FIRST Read the TBR lists. THEN guess which list belongs to which blogger. Your blogger choices are below & we’ve abbreviated the longer names for you. We also provided some hints.  THE FINAL STEP IS TO email us at LadySmutBlog@gmail.com with your guesses. The first reader to email us the most correct answers wins a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

CONTEST ENDS FRIDAY MAY 5th AT 12PM PST!!!!!

OUR BLOGGERS:

Elizabeth Shore

G.G. Andrew

Kiersten Hallie Krum (KHK)

Alexa Day

Rachel Kramer Bussel (RKB)

Elizabeth SaFleur (ESF)

Isabelle Drake

Thien-Kim Lam (TKL)

Madeline Iva

Ready to play? Here we go——

Lady Smut TBR List #1

Hint: This blogger is a foodie who loves diverse romances & sex toys

  1. Alpha by Jasinda Wilder
  2. Nine Kinds of Naughty by Jeanette Grey
  3. The Muse by Anne Calhoun
  4. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  5. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Lady Smut TBR List #2

Hint: This blogger likes to share all after a few dirty dates. ; > 
  1. The Pawn by Skye Warren
  2. Trophy Wife by Alessandra Torre
  3. The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  5. The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

Lady Smut TBR List #3

Hint: This blogger is a big fan of New Adult romances, secrets, and other crazy, sexy topics.

  1. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  2. Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
  3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. Deadly Testimony by Piper Drake
  5. Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Lady Smut TBR List #4

Hint: This erotica author loves blogging about TWD, kidnapping & a few other illicit topics.

  1. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  2. All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart
  3. Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Chorderlos de Laclos
  4. Slow Surrender by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres

Lady Smut TBR List #5

Hint: This blogger is wild about reviewing her fav authors.

  1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
  2. The List by Tawna Fenske
  3. Madly by Ruthie Knox
  4. Beyond Doubt by Kit Rocha
  5. Edge of Ruin (set of 3 Viking Dystopian Novellas) by Megan Crane

Lady Smut TBR List #6

Hint: This author blogs about edgy topics of desire including: swallowing, tattooing, cross-dressing–even Jewish Swingers. 

  1. Purity by Jonathan Franzen
  2. The Fireman by Joe Hill
  3. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  4. The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose
  5. Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha

Lady Smut TBR List #7

Hint: When this author wasn’t all tied up, she’s blogged about CW’s Riverdale.

  1. Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler
  2. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  3. DC Comics Bombshells: Enlisted by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage
  4. Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Lady Smut TBR List #8

Hint: This blogger is a capital BDSM Erom author

  1. Bombshell by CD Reiss
  2. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  3. Royally Matched by Emma Chase
  4. The Chosen by J.R. Ward
  5. The List by Anne Calhoun

Lady Smut TBR List #9

Hint: This author loves blogging about wicked villains & paranormal television shows.

  1. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  2. The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic V.E. Schwab
Send off those answers and follow us at Lady Smut. If you want to know the about the latest fun when it comes to sex, romance books, and pop culture–we won’t leave you guessing.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

This is Not Why We Need Diverse Romance–but it Sure Helps

24 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

There are a lot of reasons why #WeNeedDiverseRomance. We here at Lady Smut have discussed aspects of diverse romance regularly, whether it’s Alexa Day discussing the racial- and feminist-line blurring TV show Pitch or her examination of interracial romance through history or Thien-Kim Lam’s talking about #OwnVoices during #ReadHotter month, or my own look at the women who make America great, including the former first lady and the first Latina senator elected to office. Then there was Elizabeth Shore’s interview with Vikkas Bhardwaj who’s burning up romance covers and not only those covers with Indian or dark-skinned heroes. He’s challenging the need for white-washed heroes on romance covers regardless of the hero’s description on the pages inside. And we thank him for that. Oh do we ever.

We work to be a fuller, more rounded representative community here and not only when it comes to sexuality. I thought of that earlier today while trolling through Facebook (as one does on a Sunday afternoon) when I caught romance writer Zoe York’s post of a link to this delicious feature:

Gorgeous Asian Hunks Wearing Only Iconic Costumes Will Make You Thirsty AF

Well now, thought I, here’s my Lady Smut post for tomorrow.

Why yes, please do tell me more.

Whether they’re shirtless food vendors from Malaysia or smoking hot firefighters in Taiwan hosing themselves down with water, we here at NextShark can appreciate a hunky Asian man.

Thai portfolio service SKiiNMODE takes sexy snapshots that combine Asian culture with some of the continent’s most attractive guys, RocketNews24 noted.

Um, gulp.

Now, I myself, personally, am not a huge fangrrl of Asian cultural. I don’t like Asian food, or more accurately, my body doesn’t like it, and I seriously dislike anime. My cultural jones is firmly Celt and  British situated, for the most part. Thankfully, food and anime are only two minor aspects of Asian culture. There’s a ton of things to explore as with any culture, and I readily admit that samuri and geisha history fascinate me. I’m also fond of a great deal of Asian artwork and architecture.

Click on image to buy!

My romantic suspense addiction is likewise intrigued by the whole mafia/Yakuza genre. Criminal clubs/gangs/societies trip my trigger, I won’t lie, which helps explain my MC romance addiction. One of the things I loved about Anne Stuart’s fantastic dark romance, ICE series (which, if you haven’t yet, you must read–in fact, I just interrupted writing this post to one-click the hell outta the series and I already have every single book on my bookshelf in paperback) is her Asian bad ass heroes. Fire and Ice, book five of the series, has a defrocked Yakuza hero and takes place entirely in Japan, a culture of which the author is an admitted devotee. Stuart doesn’t take the tourist angle here either. Pursued by the bad guys, the hero and heroine go outside Tokoyo into the nitty-gritty aspects of Japanese society you can’t find on the NatGeo channel or with hours of devotion to Mortal Combat or Bruce Lee movies. I was just as intrigued by the Japanese culture Stuart utilized as I was by the story.

But holy hotness, SKiiNMODE. I think you just broke me.

Any of these chiseled examples of male perfection could easily storm the heart and attitude of the sassiest romance heroine regardless of cultural association on either person’s part. SKiNMODE also features gender-bending ideas for Ghost in the Shell geisha assassins and a male Elektra that would revive that sad franchise with one steely look. And who knew Power Rangers could exude so much sizzling sexuality. Morph me.

You can follow SKiNMODE on Instagram and Facebook and, bless them, there’s even a Tumblr page that gives a whole new meaning to NSFW.

You can thank me later.

Don’t forget that we’re going to be at RT this year.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll happily morph all your cultural jones.

It’s coming fast. No, not the virgin heroine’s first orgasm. Rather, the Lady Smut big RT event is less than two weeks away! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more! Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum

Exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

You Had Me At “Hi”: Scandal Goes Through the Looking Glass, People

18 Apr

But is it all a dream?

By Alexa Day

“For of all sad words of tongue and pen

The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

— John Greenleaf Whittier

Two immensely powerful words: what if.

They lead to a world that doesn’t exist, an imagined world where we have the chance to fix mistakes or indulge in every imprudent temptation we avoided in real life. “What if” creates a world full of adventures and devoid of regrets.

It can be a place to turn around, to get back on course.

Scandal needed to spend a little time in the World of What If.

By the time I stopped watching, Scandal had lost its way. It had drifted from tempestuous romance and outrageous plot twists into espionage and family dysfunction. Along the way, it shed lots of viewers. Not long ago, the series hit all-time low ratings.

But last week, for its 100th episode, Scandal spent an hour in the World of What If. Trapped between Fitz and Jake in a far less sexy way than I’d become used to, Olivia wonders how different her life would be if she hadn’t agreed to rig the presidential election for Fitz so long ago. It’s a tempting fantasy, even for one who’s had to decide between two men like Fitz and Jake, and she indulges in the daydream thoroughly.

At first it seems that things would be easier in a world where Defiance never happened. Without the presidency to support it, Fitz’s marriage to Mellie doesn’t survive. Without the presidency to impede it, Fitz is free to marry Olivia. Just a few minutes in, and the what if episode gives us estranged Scandal fans something we’ve wanted for a long time. We get a very stylish wedding, complete with a classic soul soundtrack. We’ve gone back in time to a place before B613, before the weekly Shonda-logue. We’ve returned to a Scandal with familiar faces gone too soon, long stares heavy with naked longing, and that greeting.

“Hi.”

This gratification is wonderful while it lasts.

Everything seems fine at first. It’s better than fine. It’s like all the things that chased me away from Scandal have simply been wished away. But while an alternate universe might change a person’s surroundings, it does little to change one’s character. Olivia still doesn’t know how to be happy in a relationship, and without the presidency, Fitz has enough time to worry about his place in her life. It’s not long before they’re fighting over something again, but this is not the familiar back and forth that drove me away from the series. This time, Fitz wants a divorce.

This still felt like good news to me, and not like before, in the prime universe, when I just wanted the two of them to stop talking to each other if they couldn’t be together. I was hopeful, at least partially because I didn’t want to let go of the daydream. Maybe, in this alternate world, they’d find their way back to each other, even if they only managed to stay put for the rest of the hour.

Alternate universe Easter eggs made the time pass quickly. Without black ops, Huck and Quinn are as close to normal people as their natures permit. Huck is more disheveled than his prime universe self, but he’s close enough to Olivia to walk her down the aisle. He’s a superfan of a Bachelor-esque dating show featuring his one-time prime universe sweetheart, Quinn. For her part, Quinn’s a believer in true love, happily ever after, and going down on Fitz behind closed doors. She’s in it for the attention, not unlike her counterpart.

Cyrus catches Mellie at a vulnerable moment, on the outside of the wedding, trying to peek in. Cyrus is still in the closet and trying to stay there, so when his pep talk with the heartbroken Mellie leads to a kiss, the opportunistic Cyrus makes sure that kiss leads to marriage … and later, to her very own presidential campaign. Cyrus has always wanted the Oval Office for himself. Running the country through Mellie would work just fine for him.

It’s crazy, soaptastic fun, loaded with twists and backed with a well-curated soundtrack. But no one stays in the alternate universe forever, and finally we travel back to Olivia and Fitz and their future, together or apart.

Fitz and Olivia actually manage a compromise, an agreement that has a chance of making them both happy. It probably shouldn’t be a huge surprise, right? There’s no sense in traveling to an alternate universe to make the same mistakes for the same reasons. But why are these two people coming together now? They still have the same hangups. I still don’t think either of them knows how to be in a relationship.

But Olivia and Fitz have a much easier time in the mirror world because no one is president. And as Olivia returns to reality, I think she realizes that her reality is about to merge with that daydream as Fitz’s term in the White House ends.

What does it all mean, now that the dream is over? Are we returning to the Scandal of old? Will I be on the edge of my seat, waiting for “hi”?

I don’t know. Right now, I only know that I watched an entire episode of Scandal, and I’m thinking about watching the next one. That hasn’t happened in way too long.

Are you watching Scandal? Big fan of the alternate universe plotline? I’ll meet you in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. What if has never been so much fun!

Heading to Atlanta for the RT Booklovers Convention? So are we.

Crowns! Fetish Toys! Booooks! All can be won at the Ladysmut.com reader event — Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever, at the RT Booklovers Convention.  Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Be rewarded for your naughty or sweet past on Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

Of Love and Tigers on The Walking Dead

4 Apr

Like Sixteen Candles, but with MREs.

By Alexa Day

Warning: This post is wall-to-wall spoilers for the season 7 finale of The Walking Dead.

Season 7 of The Walking Dead has been leading up to the phenomenon known to readers as the All-Out War. But right now, on the eve of war, the conflict that finally put most of the zombie apocalypse’s factions in one place at one time has a clear winner.

Love is winning.

And tigers. Tigers are also winning.

Seriously, it’s all spoilers from here. Last warning.

I wasn’t sure I’d get through this season. After losing Glenn and Abraham in the season opener, I had to watch Rick disintegrate in front of a schoolyard bully whose only weapons were a bat and the inability to shut up. My attention began to wander. What happened to Rick, a man who tore out an enemy’s throat with his teeth? What was Time After Time like? When did American Crime come on?

Still, I stuck around all season long. I’d have felt awful if I’d abandoned my favorite television couple. And now I’m glad I stayed.

First, let’s salute the little things that make TWD great.

Carol has come out of the dark and reclaimed her status as BAMF. Earlier in the season, she had trouble reconciling her own vulnerability with her emerging identity as a true warrior. Her ability to open her heart to other people was, she felt, at odds with her ability to herd people into a room filled with gasoline before tossing in a lighter. On Sunday, I think she discovered that embracing her lethal self is the highest form of service to those she loves. Watching her in a suit of shining armor, among King Ezekiel’s knights and alongside His Majesty’s tiger, Shiva, was a joyful experience.

Jadis, as leader of the trash-dwelling Scavengers, is also a joy to watch. The Scavengers feel like a matriarchal society — most of Jadis’s lieutenants are women. And it’s notable that when Jadis decides she wants a handful of Rick, she goes right to Michonne for permission. Either she presumes Rick would be okay with a night of garbage-scented loving, or she’s decided his opinion just isn’t that important. (Michonne declined to loan Rick out. No doubt she was concerned that she’d have to run his junk through a car wash with extra foam — twice — afterwards.) Still, whatever else we might think of Jadis, it’s important that, in her peculiar, disjointed English, she did ask for permission before advancing on Rick. A lot of people wouldn’t bother with such pleasantries, but the “filthy garbage people” (says Negan) do respect some of society’s rules, after all.

All of this is secondary to the core of the episode, a story about just how deep love will go at the end of the world.

Love has sidled up on people this season, surprising them with its magnitude and persistence. And on Sunday night, amid the gunfire, love’s powerful current made its presence felt.

As soon as CBS announced that Sonequa Martin-Green would have the leading role in Star Trek: Discovery, people started to count the days until Sasha made her exit from TWD. Still, The Walking Dead is not television as usual. Anything can happen — or not happen — to anyone at any time. So while I was watching Sasha listen to her mp3 player in the dark, it took me a little while to accept that these were the final moments I’d have with this character.

Sasha’s last thoughts are of Abraham. We only really witnessed the surface of their relationship, the way strangers would observe a new couple on an early date. He was the Abraham we’d come to know, full of a casual, self-deprecating vulgarity. Courtship brought out a certain warmth in her, something we’d seen before with Bob and hoped to see again.

But in her memories, we get to see an Abraham we didn’t really know. Sure, he still says he hates the beach because it’s like getting his nut-sack sandblasted. He’s not totally different. But he’s a gentler, sweeter Abraham in Sasha’s memories, held so dear in her mind that she can recite every word he said to her during their last conversation. We see their relationship in a way neither would have shared with the group. They are tender and still hesitant with each other, but they’re starting to strengthen each other as well.

That lost possibility is the reason Abraham is in Sasha’s thoughts, instead of Bob or her own brother, Tyreese. We mourn the things that might have been differently. Grief for the things that have run their course, or for the people we’ve had a chance to say goodbye to, is not the same. Together, Sasha and Abraham might have complemented each other in a way that would rival Rick and Michonne. Sasha and Abraham had a lot to lose, and he was gone perhaps before they realized it.

A couple of weeks ago, Rick and Michonne enjoyed a honeymoon of sorts, complete with MREs, a drop through the rotted roof of a building (followed by giggles), and a deserted carnival where Rick tries to shoot a deer for his sweetheart. Romance is unpredictable in the new world, though, and Rick drops from his vantage point on a Ferris wheel into a crowd of zombies, who close in on him.

Michonne freezes. We know Rick isn’t dead — but she doesn’t. The certainty that she’s lost him seizes her, and she drops her ever-present katana. She’s speechless and defenseless, until he emerges from a nearby shelter, and the two go back to killing zombies and taking names.

Later, shaken by the close call, Michonne confesses that she can’t function if she loses him. Rick assures her that she can, and that she’ll have to face the possibility that she will have to survive him. This same conflict splintered Carol earlier this season. Neither woman could reconcile her need to hold on to loved ones with the vicious reality of life, but by the end of the season, both are trying to get to that place.

Rick might be sure that Michonne will survive in his absence, but before long, he’ll find himself in her shoes. After Jadis’s Scavengers turn against our heroes, Michonne finds herself in a fight for her life. Rick knows she’s locked in combat with an enemy, but he’s powerless to help her and too far away to see what’s happening. When he hears someone fall, screaming, from a distant rooftop, we know Michonne isn’t dead — but Rick doesn’t.

By the time he thinks he’s lost Michonne, the battle seems lost. Negan has Rick and Carl on their knees. He’s threatened to cut off Rick’s hand, an event graphic novel fans have been grimly anticipating for weeks. But when Rick hears the death shriek from Michonne’s direction, the last of his resolve deserts him. Something seems to fall away from him. Maybe it really is over.

Whether he’d been planning to surrender before or not, Rick seems more at peace with the decision and his fate at Negan’s hands once he believes Michonne is gone.

But then Shiva the tiger pounces on one of Negan’s Saviors, and all is eventually restored.

The experts are right. The tiger is not a pet.

Regrouping from yet another attack on Alexandria, and embracing all who came to the rescue, leads Rick to Maggie. He tells her that she’d done the right thing by joining the battle, just in time.

For Maggie, this is both simpler and much more complicated than a choice.

Maggie responds that the decision to rescue Alexandria didn’t belong to her. It originated with Glenn, who put himself in danger to help Rick, a stranger, all those episodes ago. That chain of events led one person to another, making strangers friends and binding friends into family.

Family always saves family. It’s not a choice. It’s just reality. To face the possibility of loss and fight for the future anyway — that’s what love is. It’s what love does.

That’s a lot to think about until October.

Well, that and watching Shiva leap into action. I know I’ll be replaying that moment all summer long.

This summer, you can do more than just follow Lady Smut! Join LadySmut bloggers at the RT Booklovers Convention May 3-7, especially at our super special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever. Win crowns, fetish toys, books and more. Goodybags to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/event/never-have-you-ever-ever-ever

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