Wednesday, July 16, 2008
"Masters of Illusion" by Tawny Taylor
MASTERS OF ILLUSION
Illusion. A word shaded with nuance, making the men who practice it — the masters — enigmas. Particularly when they magically materialize from the shadows of a woman's dark past.
It's been fifteen years. No longer the tormented young men Blair knew and loved so long ago, Damon and Trey still know how to touch her heart, how to draw out her secrets, and how to bring her to the edge of ecstasy.
Blair has two weeks to unravel the mystery of the ruby and decide if the magic her seductive masters are wielding is real or illusion. The answers to her questions are hidden within the facets of the ruby gifts she receives each night, the mysteries veiled by their illusions…and the dark desires burning in her body.
Reader advisory: This book contains scenes with same-gender sex, and references to child abuse.
A semi-work-safe excerpt:
“Hello? Damon? Trey?” She stepped into a silent reception area. To the left stood one of those reception counters. No one was posted there. The overhead fluorescent lights were off, and the deeper she walked inside, the darker it grew, the heavier the shadows became, and the edgier she felt.
She smoothed her hands down her legs, flattening her skirt against her thighs. Her pumps made little tap-tapping noises on the tile as she ventured to the back of the reception area. There were three wooden doors spaced evenly along one wall. One was marked with a sign, a bathroom. The second opened to a small office. Empty. The third opened to the cavernous warehouse. “Trey? Damon? Hello? It’s me.”
She almost turned around, called it a total wash and headed home, but then she heard her name, whispered, and she instantly recognized the voice.
She stopped, held her breath, searching the deep shadows. Where were they hiding? “Damon, you dork. Are you two trying to scare me? Quit playing.”
There. She heard something moving. She rushed forward, eager to touch her old friends, to give them a hug and thank them for the wonderful gift. But she stopped midstride, a scream shooting up her throat, when one of the enormous black cats from their show, wearing a sparkling red collar, stalked from the shadows, its glittering eyes fixed on her.
Absolutely terrified, she froze in place. “D-Damon, I think one of your pets is loose,” she whispered, afraid to speak louder. Oh God, that animal was huge. Those paws. Those teeth!
And then the cat stood up on its hind legs and the scream she’d been swallowing flew from her mouth. She whirled around and slammed into one hard male body. “Trey! Ohthankgod! Help me!”
Trey smiled as he eased her around.
The panther was gone. Damon stood in its place, dressed head to toe in black. The top two buttons of his crisp shirt were unfastened, revealing a vee of suntanned skin and a silver charm hanging from a thick chain. The panther’s glittering red collar lay in his outstretched hand.
Blair let loose with a huge sigh. She accepted the proffered jewelry, which up close looked more like a choker and less like an animal collar. “Thank you. But you just about scared me to death.”
“May I?” Damon asked, pointing at the jewelry.
“Sure.” She dropped it in his hand.
Damon’s eyes glittered with smoldering heat as he stepped closer to fasten the choker around Blair’s neck. It felt cold and heavy against her skin, even with the little flares of heat erupting beneath the surface. “Welcome, Blair.”
“I’m so glad to see you two. I have so many questions, like how you–”
Damon pressed his index finger against her lips, silencing her. “Later.” His gaze meandered down her body then slowly climbed back up. The corners of his mouth lifted into a naughty, predatory smile. “You look beautiful. You’ve always been beautiful, but you’ve changed. In a very good way.”
Her cheeks had to be as red as the fiery stones in her new choker. She nervously fingered the jewels as she met his gaze. “Thanks. But I think most of the changes haven’t been for the better. You, on the other hand, both look amazing. You really…er, filled out.” That was an understatement.
Damon looked very pleased by her compliment. “Thank you.” He motioned toward the far corner of the warehouse, which was completely cloaked in thick black shadows. “This way.”
“I’m not sure if I’m liking the magic thing or not. Gotta admit, it’s a little strange. Scary, even.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of,” Trey said behind her, gently coaxing her forward with a hand pressed to the small of her back.
Little prickles danced up her spine. She would have shivered but she stopped herself. Somehow.
A small part of her felt like bait being coaxed into a trap for a big, hungry feline. But a bigger part knew better. These two guys had been her soul mates. And even though it had been years since they’d last seen each other, she knew they wouldn’t hurt her.
Damon flicked his hand and poof, a dozen candles or so lit instantaneously, illuminating a table draped in white and set for three. She had to give it to them, these guys had the magic thing down pat. Another flick of the hand and the warehouse was filled with the low, sultry sounds of jazz.
And it looked as if they’d learned a thing or two about romance since she’d last seen them too.