BENEATH THE CAPE: THE SUPERHERO ANTHOLOGY
Book 1: Reaping Angels by Laura Thalassa
The Executioner pulled off a glove with his teeth. I eyed the bare skin like it was a venomous snake and bucked against him.
“Last chance to do this the easy way,” he said, his voice deep.
I thrashed under the weight of his body, but he was simply too big and me too small.
My heart beat madly as his hand crept closer. He drew out the action, probably believing that fear would make me reevaluate his offer.
I lifted my chin and squared my jaw. “Screw. You.”
Warm skin caressed the nape of my neck. The Executioner’s hands were surprisingly gentle for a seasoned torturer. My eyes moved to his face, cloaked in the shadow of his hood. A long moment went by.
And then another. And another.
I blinked. The skin should’ve bubbled and blistered, my insides should’ve been lit on fire. Instead, only the soothing warmth of the Executioner’s body heat seeped into mine.
It wasn’t working. The fiercest villain in the entire world had come here to break me, and he couldn’t.
Harry Potter ain’t got nothing on me, bitches.
At some point, the Executioner also realized it wasn’t working. He removed his grip from my neck and stared at his hand. “It didn’t hurt you,” he said, stunned.
He reached out once more.
Oh come on.
For a second time his deadly hand touched the skin of my neck. There it rested.
I’d seen photos of his victims. The bad ones were nothing more than charcoal, roasted from the inside out. Those that held on a little longer … they could cling to an agonizing existence for something like a week before they finally succumbed to the burns.
The Executioner and I stared at each other. My heart beat steadily, and other than being crushed under a huge dude, my breathing was stable.
Still wasn’t working.
You would’ve thought someone had hit the man upside the head, he looked so stunned.
Rather than removing his hand, the Executioner began stroking the skin of my neck. His touch was cautious, almost … wondrous. His hand glided up my neck to my jaw and his thumb grazed my lower lip. I heard his breathing hitch and felt his body shudder.
I swallowed. Quiz me this: what would a man want to do with the first woman he couldn’t willfully burn?
He lifted his hand long enough to pull back his hood.
I sucked in a breath of air as I got my first good look at the supervillain.
The Executioner was hot. No, hot didn’t begin to cover it. He was come-in-my-pants beautiful.
And of course, he had to be evil. Why do all the sexy guys have to have issues? Why?
Strands of nearly black hair swept back from his face. Deep, dark eyes gazed back at me.
He leaned in, so close I could feel his cool breath against my skin. His hand went to my cheek, his fingers trailing over the skin there. His expression was full of wonder. Oh, and lust. A crapload of lust was there as well. He glanced down at my mouth.
“Don’t,” I warned him.
He smiled. And then his lips met mine.
Book 2: Cat Love by Sunniva Dee
A faint “yeeees?” muffles through when I knock on her door. I let myself in and find her standing by the window. With one arm extended, delicate fingertips support her against the top part of the frame. She leans her forehead to her elbow as she surveys the patio like it’s her kingdom.
At my entrance, Ulani turns slowly, a small smile twitching her lips. There’s no trace of the contempt I’d read from her only half an hour ago. Now she oozes sex and delight, the rarest of emotions around here.
“Hey,” is all I say at first because I’m rattled and it’s better if she doesn’t understand how she affects me.
“Hey, yourself.” She’s smug. Cat-smug. Jesus, as much as she’s not feline right now, she really still is. I can’t picture this woman without those supernaturally graceful moves… and the mood swings.
Ulani lifts her hand again, hooks her index finger to invite me closer. Besides being present, she’s done nothing to instigate the tightness I’m experiencing in the crotch area. This woman is dangerous.
I clear my throat. “You wanted a chat?”
“Get me out of here.” A flicker of shrewdness flavors the air at her words. “If Ms. Morgenstern could escape so easily, it shouldn’t be hard for you to get me out, right?”
“Right, and what would you do out there? Get caught streaking again?” I ask.
She huffs, anger skidding through her surface. If she didn’t have feline genes, I’d assume she had bipolar tendencies.
“Oh so you can fix my issues if I stay? That’s nice, Aidan—let’s get on that then.” She folds her arms, boobs pressing upward as she does. My attention draws to them automatically. I want to adjust myself, but I don’t because she’s the kind of woman who will abuse her power over a man.
Yes, Ulani could trick me if I weren’t so careful. Right now, she wants something I can’t give her without breaking hospital rules. She’s going to have to stay for observation until Dr. Reiss decides otherwise, and if I hadn’t spent most of my life exercising self-control, it’d be easy to lose my head and sneak her out for the promise of—
Either way, I won’t fall into her trap.
Book 3: Gypsy Love by Angela McPherson and Lynn Vroman
"First things first." I went to her dresser, pulled out a T-shirt and sweats, and tossed them to her. "You've got to cut me a damn break."
Mia caught the clothes with a grin, that treacherous robe revealing more skin. "You're sure?"
"No, but...look, I'm trying to be a gentleman. Humor me."
She headed to the bathroom, mumbling, "My dream and he calls the shots."
As the door slammed, I laughed. The woman had strength, intelligence, and beauty. The perfect trifecta.
Miryah's face flashed through my mind, especially her anger as she plunged the dagger into my chest. From witnessing firsthand her ability to suck me into a dream, Mia had that kind of power, too, more than any other Kotorara I'd seen. Maybe even more than Miryah.
A warning shot through me as she walked back into the room, a shy smile lighting her face. Hopefully Mia didn't have her ancestor's taste for revenge.
"So, here's the deal. If I have to change, so do you." Mia chucked a wad of clothes at me.
I barely caught them. "Excuse me?"
I barely caught them. "Excuse me?"
"Listen, I love the whole pirate thing you've got going on, but seriously, you look like you just stepped off the cover of a romance novel."
"Ah, what?" I looked down at my breeches and shirt then held up the sweats and T-shirt. "And where did you get men's clothes?"
"My dream, my rules, remember?" She raised her brow. "Unless you changed your mind? I have no problem getting naked."
She'd be the death of me. Again. "Not fair."
"No one said anything about fair. Go change, and then come on back so we can have our little meet-and-greet."
I grinned and headed to the bathroom. Gypsy magic.
Book 4: The Only Difference by Magan Vernon
She shook her head again. "No. It's fine. I can walk."
Without even thinking I slid off my Chucks and then pushed them toward her.
She looked down at the ground, then back at me, raising an eyebrow. "What are you doing?"
I nudged my shoes toward her. "If you won't let me drive you or get your shoes then take mine."
She shook her head. "I can't do that."
"Please. I insist." I rummaged through my pocket until I pulled out my cell phone and typed a few numbers into it before facing it toward her. "And here's my number. I'd put it in your phone myself, but I don't want to reach down your shirt. I doubt you'll let me walk you, so please just call me when you get there."
Her blue eyes were locked on me for what felt like forever before she pulled her phone out of her shirt and typed on it. She didn't speak. Not a single word. She just slowly slid my shoes on.
Reluctantly I let go of her arms and she walked around me, only briefly glancing back before she was swallowed by the night.
I sat down on one of the benches and let out a deep puff of air. My heart was beating so fast that I thought it was going to pound right through my chest.
I never did things like that. I never stood up to my brothers or invested that much time into girls. This was all new territory.
It could have been seconds. Minutes. Or even hours that I sat there. It wasn't until my phone buzzed in my hand that I was knocked out of my trance and looked down at it.
I'm home. Thanks for the shoes. See you around.
It may not have been much but there was something about that text that made my heart beat even faster. Maybe I wasn't a superhero, but whatever this adrenaline burst was, I didn't want it to stop.
Book 5: Heroes by Christine Zolendz
His gaze darts quickly back and forth between my eyes, then drops to my lips.
He's looking at my lips.
We are so close right now; I can feel his hands clench into fists and his muscles tense with restraint. The tips of my fingers bristle with pins and needles and the desire to reach out and touch his skin, to somehow slide it against mine, is maddening.
What the hell is happening right now? If I didn't know any better, I'd think there was some sort of chemical reaction in the space between us. Some sort of electromagnetic field of lust. I want to laugh at my own absurdity.
His eyes widen though, as if he senses something too.
"This is...," he whispers in a hoarse, strained voice.
"What?" I ask self-consciously.
"Nothing," he says, blinking. "Nothing. Would you…would you like a drink?" he asks, shaking whatever thoughts he had from his head.
"God, yes," I sigh. Instantly, I'm mortified with how breathy I sound.
He doesn't move though, he just focuses back on my lips and leans in closer.
I'm about to start panicking. There's something here between us, alive and heavy, some sensation, some presence of mind I've never felt before. Almost like the spark of electric in the air just before a thunderstorm.
"This isn't normal," he whispers, making me breathe in sharply. He points his finger between us, "Whatever this is–isn't supposed to be happening."
Our eyes lock and he holds my gaze for so long that I continuously have to remind myself to breathe. There's definitely something passing between us; it tingles over my lips, hums slowly up my spinal cord, and spreads out across my shoulders.
The tip of his finger skims gently over my arm and a current of blue static sparks burst across my skin.
Book 6: Breaking Through by D. Nichole King
Kray doesn’t move because he knows I’m the cause of this spectacle. He cups my face until he has me in a stare-down, attempting to calm me. “You want to know what really happened to your brother? You want to find that classified information?” He squeezes my cheeks with his hands, and I nod. “Then you learn how to control your ability and get the Navy begging to have you join up.”
I bob my head and unclench my fists.
“Get it under control,” Kray repeats and steps away from me so I can do what he said.
With everyone scrambling for the front door and bumping into me, distracting me, I’m forced to concentrate harder than usual. I bow my head and close my eyes.
Calm down. Relax. Slow your heart rate. I repeat the words Cara taught me over and over until I feel them working.
“Come on, Nautia. You’ve got this,” Kray encourages from somewhere behind me.
I squeeze my eyelids tighter, focusing on the water and willing it back into the pipes. Drops roll down my forehead, and I lick the excess off my lips.
Heaviness creeps into my shoulders, flowing down, down into my fingertips. As it inches into my extremities, I spread my fingers and lift my arms like I have a hundred pounds in each palm—it feels like I actually do. My chin drops until it touches my chest. Breathing in fast gasps, I force all of my power into my hands like I was taught.
Energy moves through my veins, the intensity threatening to rip my skin open. I feel it all over my body now, consuming me, shaking me, shattering me.
“Don’t let it control you,” Kray reminds me, his voice being drowned out by the power surging through me.
I’m about to break. I can’t hold on any longer. The weight, the burden is too heavy.
Tears flow down my cheeks, mixing with the water. In my mind, Nate’s face flashes in front of me. His black hair is soaked and falling into his eyes, but he doesn’t push it away. He can’t because he’s tied up. Water pours over him, and he can’t concentrate. He can’t control it.
He can’t breathe—
Energy flies from the tips of my fingers, and I throw my head back and scream. Above me, the pipes break, the noise ringing through the building.
Book 7: Villain by Cheryl McIntyre
Before Ember has a chance to say anything more, a single snowflake lands on the tip of her nose, melting on contact. She peers up at the sky, her mouth forming a wondrous smile as more and more snow flutters slowly down upon us.
“That’s beautiful,” she utters.
“Agreed,” I rasp.
Her smiles fades as she looks over at me, catching me staring. She pitches to her side, eyes falling on my mouth.
“I’m not going to kiss you,” I tell her, easily reading her thoughts, but it’s such a weak warning. I won’t make the first move, but if she asks, I’m pretty fucking sure I’ll comply. “You should be treated with respect and care. Always, Ember. I just want to make sure you understand I’m trying to do that.” I shake my head, dumbfounded with this unfamiliar side of me. No, it’s not unfamiliar, it’s just been laying dormant, frozen for so long. I thought this part of me was gone. Dead.
“I’m trying,” I repeat.
She leans in, her mouth hovering just above mine. “You’ve been nothing but respectful and caring with me, Lane, and I appreciate that. I do. But…”
“But?” I lead, my voice low and barely audible. I feel my head lifting in her direction on its own accord.
“But,” she whispers, lips brushing mine softly. “You’ve made your point. I believe you. Right now though, I don’t want to be handled with care. I want—”
I cut her off, gripping her waist and rolling us so that I’m the one above her. “What do you want, Ember?”
Her fingers sink into the hair at the nape of my neck, pulling me to her. She doesn’t answer. She doesn’t need to. Our mouths connect and she kisses me like she did on New Year’s Eve. She kisses me like she’s trying to end me.