If the scale had gone up to ten, it would be a ten. That's how good Secrets, Volume 14 is. It's very hard to find an anthology where all the stories included are so equally good. I was on the edge of my seat with all four stories, barely able to contain myself while reading. Without a doubt, this book one hundred percent, and more, delivered everything I could have hoped for from a short story.
"Soul Kisses" by Angela Knight - Beth Chase knows that vampires exist. Her sister, valerie, is one, Unfortunately Beth has already had a run-in with a rather nasty vampire in the past, but that little toad was nothing compared to the one that takes possession of her. He is Joaquin Ramirez, and he is determined to take Beth as his slave. He'll turn her into a vampire (he's able to do so because she is Kith, rare humans with the ability to handle the vampire virus) and use her powers to amplify his own. That's where Morgan and Garret Axton come in though, cousins and vampires, both bent on avenging a friend and lover that Joaquin destroyed. When they run into Beth they can't leave her behind and take on the initiative of completing her turning so as to break Ramirez's hold on her. What ensues is a great, signature Knight-style tale that had me wishing for a full length book. This short is a sequel to Knight's first full-length book, "The Forever Kiss", which featured Valerie. If you are a Knight fan, this short is NOT to be missed. Hot vampire cousins and one gutsy vampire newbie made for some scorchingly erotic scenes. There's plenty of great action, plot and twists to keep readers glued to the pages.
"Temptation in Time" by Alexa Ames - Ariana is originally from the Middle Ages. She escaped that time of long ago through a stolen kiss - a powerful kiss taken from a formidable sorcerer named Marcus de Grey. Marcus has vowed to find Ariana, no matter the consequences, no matter the time it takes. In present day, Ariana uses the small amount of power she stole from Marcus to help heal the sick. She dreams of Marcus's touch, for this is the only way he has of tracking her. One fateful morning, after a particularly vivd dream, Ariana wakes to find Marcus in her apartment. The next thing she knows, they are back in the Middle Ages. He immediately begins his plans to bind Ariana to him in every way possible. "Temptation in Time" went above and beyond, in my opinion, the short story format. There was so much plot, so much romance and great characters packed into it that I felt so satisfied after reading it. Much more than after some full length books I've read. Ariana is the embodiment of a truly kind person, while Marcus is certainly all that is mouth-watering and delectable in a hero. A truly wonderful tale, Ms. Ames! I look forward to more from this author.
"Ailis and the Beast" by Jennifer Barlow - Ailis is to be her village's "sacrifice" in an ancient ritual meant to bring life back into the very earth and people. She must consumate a union with a mysterious beast man in order to bring balance a restore nature to rights. After three nights of meeting her mysterios beast man, Ailis comes to realize there is more to him than myth and legend have let on and she will do everything in her power to hold on to him. Through sacrifice and trust, they might have found a way to keep what they want- eachother. This was at times a very strange and obscure read, but so engaging and it provoked my curiosity, making me want to turn the pages to see what happened next. For all the prehistoric-like setup and veiled nature of the story, it turned out to be a very sweet and interesting read. Again, I would love to see what else this author can put onto paper.
"Night Heat" by Leigh Wyndfield - On a remote prison planet, Velopit, prisoners and Council guards and employees alike have been abandoned after a peaceful strike by the prisoners. After bombings by the Council, the survivors are struggling to survive on a planet filled with its hostile namesakes, the Velopeds, raptor-like creatures that begin to prey on the humans. Frighteningly humanoid in shape and size, they are finding a way into the prison compound. Jemma, a Healer, runs into Rip Bowhite, leader of the ragtag prisoner rebels, and agrees to help figure out why some of the men are sick and dying. She feels an attraction for Rip, and she wonders if he could be her Chosen. Rip is determined to keep her safe and the only way to do that in a band of cutthroat prisoners is to proclaim her his woman. She wants to resist his obvious allure, but what's a girl to do in the heat of the night? This was one of the steamiest, thrilling and suspensful reads I've ever come across in a Secrets book. The atmosphere of foreboding surrounding the mystery of the Velopeds was so gripping and interesting. I did wish there had been more light shed on them, but the story wasn't really hurt by any lack in that aspect of the story. Rip and Jemma's relationship is born out of that gut instict for survival, that primitive rush a person gets to feel alive as possible in the face of almost imminent death. This was, like the rest of the stories in this book, a one hundred percent completely satisfying read. I love sci-fi romance and that aspect alone was a major plus. Every aspect of the story was so well developed, especially when you consider it all had to be squeezed into a short story. Jemma is a brave and determined heroine that matches Rip's nerves of steel,and yes, all that marvelous sex appeal. This story gets five stars alone.
Red Sage publishing has definitely upped the anti with this installment. If you never read any other Secrets anthology, you must read this one. It's a truly wonderful selection of four truly talented writers. It's going on the keeper shelf, maybe even to the front of the keeper shelf line!