"Julian's Forgotten Goddesses series has amazing chemistry among the three main characters, a satisfying villain and wonderful sexual tension. Let the fireworks begin! 4 Stars" - RT Book Reviews
"Goddess in the Middle is an incredibly erotic, unconventional, romantic love story, and it is most certainly worth the read." - That's What I'm Talking About
"Definitely a read that will offer something to fulfill your every need." - Book Obsessed
"Of course I got GODDESS IN THE MIDDLE for all the raunchy reading it'll give me! And I promise SJulian delivered in that area" - Talk Supe
"I would recommend this book to erotica and paranormal romance fans. This series is a must read!" - Romance Book Junkies
"Strong hero's and heroine with a fast pace action story that makes you crave more. This is the way reading should be. " - Bitten by Paranormal Romance
"Readers will enjoy this heated Etruscan triangle." - Genre Go Round Reviews
"The characters, the humor, the unique spin on magic and mythology are combined in the most sinful way possible. " - Book Loons
"This is my first book by Stephanie Julian, but I must say that it will not be my last. She's a fantastic storyteller, and GODDESS IN THE MIDDLE kept me entertained from beginning to end!" - The Romance Reviews
"Goddess in the Middle continues the fine tradition of awesome and gripping storytelling with a saucy grin and a wink of mischievous fun while delivering a completely satisfying happily ever after. It's a book not to miss." - Long and Short Reviews
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"Amity, those two guys have been staring at you for the past half hour. Are you just going to sit here and ignore them or are you going to put them out of their misery?"
Amity Monroe, formerly known as Munthukh, Etruscan Goddess of Health, gave Jill Doyle a wry grin before taking another sip of her whiskey sour-and continuing to ignore the men at the other end of Kelly's Corner Bar.
She and Jill had grabbed a table in the back, away from the constant bustle at the bar, because Amity had said she'd wanted a quiet night out with a friend.
"How do you know they're looking at me? Maybe they're looking at you."
Which would make a lot more sense. A drop-dead gorgeous brunette in her late twenties, Jill had been known to break more hearts than she saved. And Jill was a damn good trauma nurse. One of Reading Hospital's best.
Men typically fell over themselves to get to Jill. She inspired fist fights and more than a few indecent proposals.
Amity... Well, she apparently looked like the kind of woman men wanted to take home to their mothers. Not the kind who inspired panting and dirty talk. She hadn't even gotten that at the height of her worship, oh so many, many centuries ago.
It wasn't that she was ugly. No, men still looked at her with lust in their eyes and fell into her bed when she invited them for fast, hot sex. The problem was, most of them wanted to stick around the next day and the next. They wanted to keep her.
Amity had learned her lesson on that point. She may be the Goddess of Health but she couldn't heal her broken heart. Best never to let a relationship get to that point.
Humans were so very fragile. So easily broken. And she no longer had enough power to fix them.
"They haven't given me more than a passing glance." Jill leaned back and grinned at her over her wine glass. "Why don't you go over and introduce yourself?"
Sighing, Amity took another sip of her whiskey sour. She'd spent more than half her day with two of the worst cases she'd ever seen in her career as a medical aesthetician. And her frustration level at her inability to perform even the slightest miracle had boiled over about two hours ago into a crying jag.
Which was why she'd agreed to come out tonight with Jill and a few of the other nurses. The girls had been talking for two weeks straight about the new bar that'd opened only a block from the hospital on a West Reading side street. The drinks were cheap, the men good-looking and plentiful, and one of the bar owners was a former nurse whose husband was a cop and a Navy vet. Which accounted for all the guys.
"Not tonight." Amity shook her head. "I'm just here for a few drinks."
Okay, more than a few drinks with her friends, thereby avoiding the loneliness of her home.
Maybe she was totally pitiful, especially considering the fact that she didn't even want to turn around and look at the guys.
Jill raised an eyebrow at her. "Well, I think you should at least give them a chance. Gotta warn you, though. The one's a little rough looking. His face..."
Jill didn't finish and Amity saw pity cross her friend's expression.
Now, her curiosity kicked in. Not wanting to make it obvious-and probably failing miserably, because she was not going to go over there and introduce herself-she shifted around and immediately knew which two men Jill meant.
She blinked, caught first by the sure knowledge that she was looking at two Etruscan males. She was an Etruscan goddess, after all, even if she hadn't been worshipped in more years than she wanted to remember.
Her second thought... Oh, yes, I'll take two to go. Please wrap them and deliver them to my bed.
The taller one, with his short, dark hair and ruggedly handsome features, met her gaze straight on. He didn't smile, just let their gazes connect and hold until she felt a sizzle start beneath her skin.
Tinia's teat, that one fairly burned her alive with only a glance.
Pull yourself together. You're a goddess, not a horny twenty-year-old.
And she'd do well to remember that.
With effort, she dragged her gaze to the second man.
Her breath stuck in her throat. Oh my. This one had been beautiful. Once. Until someone or something had scarred the left side of his face.
And still, he held her attention for reasons other than those marks. So much strength in that face. And in the body that looked long and lean and lickable. Totally lickable.
As opposed to his friend who was built like a gladiator. And whom she'd rather take bites out of.
They can make me the filling in their sandwich any day.
As she stared, the dark-haired one leaned down to say something to the scarred one, who now turned. He caught her gaze and her chest tightened until she thought she might embarrass herself by having to gulp for air.
Wow. Just... wow.
Where the hell was her reaction coming from?
She wanted to go over and demand to know why they were looking at her like they wanted to devour her. And that was really stupid. She should be flattered. Hell, maybe even grateful.
Then again... Damn it, she was just too old for this flirting nonsense. Why couldn't they just walk over and ask her if she wanted to get naked and get it on?
Probably because she was totally misreading the looks they were giving her.
No, they must be staring at Jill.
Still, that tingling sensation low in her belly continued. How long had it been since she'd had mind-blowing sex?
Way too long if she had to think about it.
Jill elbowed her discreetly in the side, knocking her back into the moment. "Go over there and talk to them. You know you want to. You're practically devouring them with your eyes."
Shaking her head, Amity took a sip of her whiskey sour. "Aren't they supposed to come to me?"
Jill laughed. "Honey, what century are you living in?"
Good question. The answer was one she occasionally forgot. Lately, the years had been blurring into one long, slow grind.
But right across the room was, at the very least, a way to relieve some of that grind. Hopefully with a little bump and grind. Or a lot. A lot would be good, actually.
Fine. She picked up her drink, straightened her shoulders, and slid off her bar stool.
"Watch my back. I'm going in."
Jill laughed as she was supposed to. "Good luck, Amity. But I don't think you're going to need much. Those men want you something fierce."
"She's on her way."
"Are you sure this is a good idea? We don't know what the demon wants with her. Hell, I'm still not convinced it's really after her."
Romulus Cangelosi heard the doubt in his cousin Remy's voice but found he couldn't take his eyes off the woman now approaching them through the crowded bar.
"Bullshit." Rom's almost silent curse wouldn't have been heard by anyone in the vicinity except for Remy. "We both know it's targeted her and it's gonna try for her tonight or tomorrow at the latest."
Remy sighed and Rom heard resignation in the sound. Remy had been against this plan from the moment Rom had brought it up.
His cousin still had scruples.
Rom couldn't afford to have any, not when they were so close to achieving their goal.
Still, he could admit, at least to himself, seducing this woman wouldn't be a hardship.
From the first moment he'd seen her, his skin had stretched tight over his body and every one of his muscles went taut with heightened awareness. Of her.
It'd been a damn long time since that'd happened to him. Lust like this-the biting, raging, tearing kind now eating at his insides-was what brought down kingdoms and countries.
Rom refused to let his dick fuck it up.
But, damn. The woman pressed every one of his buttons. And he knew Remy wasn't immune either.
Which should make the seduction that much easier.
"I don't know why the hell you needed me to come tonight." Remy practically growled the words. "You would've done just fine on your own."
True, but then Remy would've been left alone at the house and Rom thought that might have been like waving a red flag at the tukhulkha demon they'd been after for almost twenty years.
Maybe it didn't know they were in the area. Then again, maybe it did. Rom was taking no chances. He and Remy needed to stick together or they'd wind up dead.
This woman was the key to tracking down the demon that had killed their families. For some reason, that same demon had targeted Amity Monroe, a thirty-year-old medical aesthetician who'd been employed by the Reading Hospital for the past five years.
Why the hell it wanted her, they had no idea. But when it finally came after her, they'd be by her side, waiting for it with sharp blades and even sharper teeth and claws.
No, seducing Amity into their bed was not going to be a hardship.
But Remy had to do his part.
"Damn it, Remy, at least try to look like you're into her."
Remy sighed but finally turned in the direction of their prey. "I don't have to try," he grumbled.
Surprise at Remy's comment made Rom shoot his cousin a quick glance. For the past few days as they'd followed her, waiting for the demon to attack, Remy hadn't said one damn word about an attraction to her. Amity wasn't Remy's type at all, so Rom hadn't been surprised. His cousin usually liked them blond, blue-eyed, and long-limbed.
Amity was short and curvy with dark hair and eyes. She projected a sweet femininity that other men might mistake as being plain. Those other men had been brainwashed by television and by women who believed they had to be runway-model skinny to be attractive.
Which was a damn shame, as far as Rom was concerned. He liked a woman to look like a woman, not a hard plastic doll with fake breasts and lips and hair.
Rom knew better. This woman's soft features perfectly matched the softness of her body, all rounded curves instead of sharp angles.
Her sable brown hair had dark gold highlights and waves that made his fingers itch to sink into them. And her face... He'd been staring at it long enough now to realize how truly striking she was.
Full lips, rounded nose and cheeks. Wide, dark eyes that mesmerized and missed nothing. Intelligence shone from those eyes.
A smart woman. They'd have to be careful or she'd realize they were up to something.
He straightened as she reached their table, making sure he maintained a pleasant expression. One that hid the fact he wanted to strip her naked, throw her on a bed, and fuck her until she was so sated she couldn't walk. Then he'd watch while Remy did the exact same thing.
Then they'd take her together.
And when the demon came for her tomorrow or the next day, they'd kill it, avenging their families' deaths and saving the damsel in distress. Then...
Yeah, what then?
"Hello, gentlemen. My name is Amity. Can I buy you both a drink?"
Out of the corner of his eye, Rom saw Remy's mouth kick into a true grin, an expression he hadn't seen on his cousin's face in months, maybe as long as a year.
"Not that I wanna turn down an offer from such a beautiful woman," Remy responded before Rom could open his mouth, "but I think we owe you a drink since you've provided us with such beautiful scenery all night."
His hand curled into a fist beneath the table and Rom had to hold himself still so he didn't smack Remy upside his thick head. Was he trying to drive her away? Damn it-
Amity smiled, making those beautiful lips even more enticing. And her brown eyes sparkled as she began to laugh, a rich, earthy sound that made all the hair on Rom's body stand on end.
"I have to admit I've been out of the dating pool for a very long time but that might just be the lamest pick-up line I have ever heard." She paused as she slid onto the free chair at their table. "But I must say your delivery ranks pretty high on a scale of one to ten, so I'm going to say yes to your offer."
Remy's smile widened even farther and Rom knew his cousin had deliberately used that corny line to break the ice.
Remy stuck his hand out. "Remy."
She took his hand and let her fingers curl around his cousin's for a few heartbeats. Remy's expression transformed from flirtatious to almost slack-jawed amazement.
"And you can call me Amity."
Releasing Remy's hand, she turned to Rom. "Nice to meet you..."
"Rom." He took her hand and felt the same electric connection that had just rocked Remy back on his heels.
"Do you live in the area?" Amity continued as she released his hand, cutting that connection. "I haven't seen you here before, have I? I think I would have remembered."
"No, this is our first night." Rom forced himself to speak and not to reach for her again. "We're here on business."
If possible, her smile turned even more sultry. "And what business is that?"
"Sales." He'd decided their cover story, if they had to use one, should be something so simple and boringly nondescript, no one would ever question it. "And you?"
"I'm a medical aesthetician at the hospital."
That smile still held and Rom's gut twisted with lust. Damn, he didn't have time for this, but apparently, his cock hadn't gotten the message. It wanted to be inside this woman.
You need to go slow. Don't want to scare her away, do you?
So he shoved the lust down as far as it would go and worked with Remy to draw her into a conversation. Which she deftly steered away from their professions and into the most innocuous subjects: books, films, and music. Nothing too revealing, though she kept the conversation rolling like a pro.
She enjoyed mysteries and any movie where stuff exploded. She and Rom had that in common. Remy went more for political thrillers. Their musical tastes couldn't have been more different. She liked Top 40 and country. Remy loved metal, which Rom could tolerate, but he went more for jazz and standards. He blamed his dad for that.
As they talked, Rom tried to get a sense for which of them she was more attracted to. He and Remy had agreed that if she wound up in a bed with both of them, no problem. But if the only way to get close to her was for her to pick one of them, they were adult enough to deal with that.
But if she didn't choose him, Rom knew it was gonna sting.
He didn't flirt. He wasn't good at it. He'd found intensity worked better for him. Remy had learned how to use flirting to get beyond a woman's natural aversion to his scars.
But Remy didn't have to lay it on thick for Amity.
Maybe it was the fact of what she did for a living or maybe it was just who she was. Either way, she responded to his cousin with clearly evident warmth. And in the exact same way she responded to Rom.
Which just made Rom like her that much more.
And then she dropped her bombshell.
"So, gentlemen," Amity said after more than an hour had passed. "Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, why don't we place our cards on the table? Are you here to talk? Or are you here to find a woman to share your bed for the night?"
Remy nearly spewed his mouthful of beer.
Luckily, he managed not to embarrass himself that badly, but holy hell... Had she really just implied that she'd be willing to share their bed? Or had he totally misread her statement?
He glanced at Rom, who sat with his mouth hanging open, obviously thinking the same thing. Nope. He hadn't misread her.
Remy opened his mouth to say something, but Amity's bright eyes, teasing smile, and the graceful way she held that beautiful body distracted the hell out of him.
She truly wanted to know if they wanted to take her to bed.
Oh, hell yes.
Remy's gaze shot to Rom again. Amazingly, Rom appeared to have been struck dumb. Which left Remy to fill the void in the conversation.
Leaning forward, he looked directly into her eyes. "If I said that's exactly what we were looking for," Remy's muscles tensed with anticipation, "could we buy you another drink first?"
He was right. He saw no pity, only interest in her eyes as she smiled at him.
"I'd love another whiskey sour, thank you."
Rom stood immediately, his expression a polite mask that had Remy battling back a frown as his cousin nodded at Amity.
"I'll be right back."
What the hell?
He sent the thought directly at his cousin, knowing Rom could sense exactly what Remy was thinking. But Rom didn't answer or look back.
Remy wanted to smack his cousin on the back of the head. What the hell had shoved that stick up his ass?
"I'm sorry. Did I scare him away?"
Amity looked at Remy with a hint of regret in her eyes but Remy shook his head.
"Rom doesn't scare easily. And neither do I."
No, Rom wasn't scared. They'd both had that gene crushed out of them years ago. He didn't know what was up with his cousin. But he couldn't dwell on that. They'd come to this crowded eteri bar with one purpose. Get close to Amity.
"Brave words," she murmured. "So, how did you find out about this place? It's a little off the beaten path for the out-of-town crowd."
"One of our clients told us about it." Which was kind of the truth, if you stretched the meaning of client to include a Malandante pawn they'd captured four days ago and had questioned relentlessly until he'd given up this woman's name.
The spell he and Rom had worked to pinpoint the demon's whereabouts had led them to this bar, which shouldn't have been a shock.
The city of Reading and the surrounding county still held an old and powerful magic. Many in the magical Etruscan community, into which they'd been born, continued to call this area home. Many years ago, so had he and Rom.
Better not dwell on that now.
"So what exactly does a medical aesthetician do? I don't think I've heard of that profession before."
She paused, her teeth biting into her lower lip before she smiled again. "I mainly work with cancer and accident patients. Look, I hope you don't think I'm rude, but I'd rather not talk about work tonight."
He heard something in her voice that made him rein in his curiosity. Something painful. He didn't want her to feel any pain while she was in their company.
"No problem. Let's make professions off limits. Why don't we just agree not to talk about anything other than how much I want to get you naked and in bed?"
She blinked and her eyes widened just the slightest bit. Shit. He probably shouldn't have pushed that far that fast.
Damn it, he should've left the seduction to Rom. He was gonna kick Remy's ass-
She laughed, a slow, deep sound that brushed against his cock like a physical caress. His hands clenched and he had a sudden, vivid image of her spread out on a bed crooking her finger at him.
"I have to admit, it's been a long time since I met a man who made me consider simply jumping into bed with him after a few minutes. Let alone two men."
Fierce, hot triumph licked through him. "And are you considering it?"
Her smile answered for her.
Yes. He wanted to pump his fist in the air. Wanted to toss her over his shoulder and find the nearest bed. Or maybe he'd just bend her over the table and take her now.
Probably attract a little too much attention but, damn, it'd so be worth it.
Shoving back the lust that threatened to swamp him, he took a deep breath and forced himself to remember why they needed her. She was a means to an end, one that had been coming for a very long time.
But right here, right now, that need was not based on what they wanted her to do for them but what he wanted to do to her.
"So, Remy, would you and your cousin like to come back to my house for a drink?"
Oh, hell yes.
Luckily, Remy didn't blurt that out loud. And not because Rom had overheard Amity's question from his place at the bar and sent a warning thought straight back to him.
Remy half expected Rom to rush back and take over the conversation. Couldn't say he'd blame his cousin. Remy didn't normally do this, the pick-up stage. He usually left that to Rom.
But there was something about her...
"We would love to."