1001 Dark Nights Press
is excited to present the winners
of the 2020 short story challenge.
Kait Ballenger ~ Asa Maria Bradley ~ Eden Bradley
Boone Brux ~ C.G. Burnette ~ Cara Carnes
Caraway Carter ~ Sierra Cartwright ~ S.A. Clayton
Katana Collins ~ Janie Crouch ~ Patricia D. Eddy
Zoey Ellis ~ Zoe Hill ~ Sara L. Hudson
Tracey Jerald ~ A.D. Justice ~ Terri E. Laine
Michelle Mars ~ Gina L. Maxwell ~ Kayt Miller
Dani René ~ Gen Ryan ~ Blue Saffire
Ella Sheridan ~ Mayra Statham ~ Delancey Stewart
Jen Talty ~ Mary Ting ~ Reina Torres
Magan Vernon ~ Jennifer Woodhull ~ Khloe Wren
When we started 1001 Dark Nights back in 2014, it was with the goal of discovery—creating a way for readers to find new-to-them bestselling authors and fall in love with their stories and their worlds.
This year, we held a contest where romance authors could submit a short story to be included in a 1001 Dark Nights anthology, and we were blown away by the results. We received hundreds of entries, and while we wish we could include everyone, we’re thrilled to introduce you to these thirty-six incredible authors.
We hope you love the stories as much as we do. If so, we encourage you to check out the other books by these wonderful authors. Each and every one is unique and special.
Free On All Venues!
This anthology will only be available
for three months!
Toni had joined Carnevale to escape her parents and their choice to be her husband, Zoro. Zoro was the definition of evil, and she’s sure he’s killed all his previous wives. She would not be next.
Marco came to have his cards read by her, when she touches him for a closer look she’s thrown into a vision and throws him out.
The next day they meet up in public and the attraction is still there. For some reason she feels safe with him.
This is a favorite scene.
Hand on his chest, she pressed him into the darkened alleyway, marveling at his crisp features. He placed one hand on her waist, drawing her tightly against him. The other hand wound through her curls, cradling the back of her neck. He cast his eyes down, staring at her lips, and the moment stretched in time. Her breath hitched. Whatever was to come, her future would be forever altered.
Raising on tiptoe, she tilted her head and brushed her lips against his. Mouth against mouth, they let their lives seam together.
A hunger rose between them. Desire flamed from low in her belly and spread throughout. From this kiss, she imagined being with him, celebrating their union of bodies.
Something shifted, and the more they kissed, the more lightheaded she grew. His kisses felt like they possessed the power to suck her energy, along with her good sense. They broke the connection. She swayed.
“Whoa, hold on there.” Marco steadied her. “Maybe we should slow down.”
“Give me a moment.” Even to her own ears, her voice sounded drunk, floating in and out of volume.
“It’ll be all right.”
She focused on a point of light and watched as it grew smaller and smaller until everything went black.
And she felt herself falling.
Bacio, Louisa, Shadow Lover. 1001 Dark Nights Short Story Anthology 2020. 1001 Dark Nights Press. Kindle Locations (5706-5716). Kindle Edition.
Marco knows he needs to protect Toni, it’s more than just an urge. It’s something he has to do and is proven when Zoro shows up.
I loved this tale of shadow, light and love.
5 Contented Purrs for Louisa!
This is a favorite scene.
The door behind Callista opened. Boomer shifted at her feet as a brunette and a tall man resembling Jesse entered. The latter knelt near the dog and smiled.
“Hi there, Boomer. You and I ran a couple of ops together.”
They had? Callista glanced down at the dog, who’d somehow become the focal point since her arrival. Fear clawed its way up her throat. “My husband was Army but left the service so he could be home more.”
“It’s always about what you want, Callista. What about me?”
“What about you?”
“We keep chipping away on my dreams to make this work between us. I’m not sure how much I have left to give.”
“Don’t say that.”
Owen turned and headed toward his truck. “We’ll talk when I get back. Maybe you’ll pull your head out of your ass by then and see I’m doing the best I can.”
Regret soured her stomach. The argument they’d had before he left for the mission recycled in her brain, an unwanted reminder that she’d put him in this situation. He never would’ve signed on with Jaxsun if she hadn’t demanded he leave the service.
“He contracted with Jaxsun after he left. Are they planning a retrieval?” the woman asked.
“No.” Callista pulled out the crumpled check from her pocket and tossed it on the table as the woman and man sat. “They knocked on my door less than a day after they received word of his capture and offered their condolences, along with this. Five thousand dollars dollars is the going rate for an operative’s life, in case you didn’t know.”
The two men regarded one another. Jesse fisted his hands while the other man cursed. The woman took the folder and shifted through the contents. From what Kayla had said, The Arsenal was the best private paramilitary organization around. They never failed on a mission.
“We have some money in savings, and I can get an emergency mortgage on our house. My friend said she could cover the rest of whatever your fee is.” Her eyes burned as she watched the three people rifle through the scraps of intel she’d accumulated. “Please. You’re his only hope.”
“Your friend is Kayla Dunn? Her father is a colonel.” The woman shut the folder and looked at Callista. “Why didn’t you involve him?”
“He’s plans D through F,” Callista replied.
Amusement flickered across Jesse’s face. “I’m curious to know what these plans were.”
“I’m thinking Callista isn’t leaving without a yes,” the second man commented. “I’m Dylan Mason. My five brothers and I run The Arsenal.”
Two of the five head honchos in the meeting was a good sign. Right? “I’d say it’s good to meet you, but this whole thing is a nightmare.”
Dylan’s gaze cut to the woman at the head of the table. “Is it doable?”
“Anything’s doable with enough time,” the woman answered as she looked to Jesse. “Levi’s team is already nearby. You ran their last op. Are they usable for this?”
Callista’s pulse quickened. Hope bubbled to the surface as she held her breath and awaited an answer. If they said no…
No wasn’t an option. Owen needed them.
She needed them.
“Even if they weren’t, they wouldn’t turn away from this,” Dylan commented. “It cuts too close to the bone for them, and for us.”
Tension thickened the air as the two men regarded one another. The woman broke the silence. “It’s your call, Jesse. I’m only here out of curiosity.”
“They’re mission ready. We’ll need to restock supplies, but that’s doable. Since Lexi’s with them, we’ll have an easier entry and exfil if we commandeer a helo.” Jesse thrummed his fingers on the table and glanced at Callista.
Relief and shock filled her. Was that a yes?
“Which plan is Boomer part of?” Jesse asked.
Damn. They’d put two and two together quickly. “C.”
“I’m missing something,” Dylan said.
“Kayla is on the top of Marshall’s acquisitions list,” the woman said. “I’m Mary, by the way. HERA alerted me when your background flagged her. We’ll do what we can to get Owen home. Maybe when this is over, she’ll finally answer Marshall’s phone calls.”
Tears streamed down Callista’s face. She wiped them away and nodded. “Thank you. I-I can’t say that enough.”
“Before we forget, this one’s on the house. We won’t charge to bring one of our own home.” Jesse stood. “I’ll have Ellie get you situated and show you around.”
Carnes, Cara, Exit Wounds. 1001 Dark Nights Short Story Anthology 2020. 1001 Dark Nights Press. Kindle Locations (1318-1356). Kindle Edition.
This is yet another example of how the Arsenal takes care of not only their own but other former military.
The reunion between Callista and Owen brought tears to my eyes, and I fell in love with Boomer too. He is a very special dog.
Love, Laughter, Tears and a Touch of Sizzle in this quick and satisfying read.
5 Contented Purrs for Cara!
Ella Cane really thought she knew what she was doing when she set out for the Black Park Island campground. Instead of finding it she ends up on a sandbar where Phillip Prince, the Ranger she really wanted to impress, found her.
This is a favorite scene.
The roar of an engine caught her attention. She glanced north and saw him heading her way.
Wonderful. Not how she wanted to see Philip for the first time on this trip. The entire idea had been to impress the hell out of him, not need him to save her. That would only perpetuate the concept that she was a high-maintenance female who only cared about her next mani-pedi.
She glanced at her toes and groaned. She was overdue.
“Looks like you’ve gotten yourself into a little bit of trouble.” Philip sat behind a steering wheel in a watercraft that looked like a blow-up toy with a motor. It reminded her of the tender on her father’s yacht that the deck crew used to taxi them back and forth from anchor to port.
“It’s just a little sandbar type thing. I can get out and push it and jump back in.” Yeah. She’d seen people do that on the private beach by her parents’ place all the time. It shouldn’t be too hard as long as Mr. Sexy Ranger Man stopped staring at her with amusement dancing in his teal-blue eyes.
“Ella, you don’t want to do that.” He shook his head. “The bottom isn’t like the beach. It’s more like quicksand. You’ll sink to your knees.”
She shivered. The only time she wanted to be caked in mud was at the spa.
“The mistake you made, besides passing the campgrounds a half-hour ago, was turning around back there. Had you just backed out, you would have been fine.”
Thanks for the lecture. “What do you suggest I do now? I’m supposed to go live to my followers…”—she glanced at her Apple Watch—“in a little over an hour. I’m doing a whole series on different parks and some of the history they have in our community, along with their great outdoor activities.”
He covered his mouth, and his shoulders moved up and down.
She scowled. “I don’t see what’s so funny.”
“I’m sorry.” He cleared his throat. “I’ve seen some of your YouTube videos, and camping on an island that you won’t be able to get off until the tide comes back in doesn’t seem like your cup of tea. Especially all alone. Unless we had some sort of holistic yoga healing studio with a juice bar.” He pointed to the sky. “And the storm’s rolling in.”
“Well, if you think that, you haven’t been watching enough of my live feeds.” She tilted her head. Dark clouds hovered a few miles away. The weather app mentioned it would most likely rain, but that was all supposed to happen north of Martin County. “That’s all moving out to sea.”
“If you say so,” Philip said. He maneuvered his boat, pushing his bow up against hers. “Hop on.” He held out his hand.
“What about all my stuff? The boat? We can’t just leave it here.”
“We’re not going to.” He patted the bench. “Think you can manage putting this in reverse and hang out in the open water over there while I unstick the rental?”
“Of course.” Instead of taking the help he offered, she stepped from her vessel. “Oh, shit.” She lunged forward, being flung into his arms. She dug her fingernails into his thick shoulders. “Well, hello, there.” He groaned, wrapping one arm around her and stretching out the other as he grabbed the steering wheel. His body twisted as his butt landed with a thud on the bench.
Talty, Jen. Some Day My Ranger Will Come. 1001 Dark Nights Short Story Anthology 2020. 1001 Dark Nights Press. Kindle Locations (3844-3867). Kindle Edition.
Ella struggles with even the simplest things as Phillip watches amused. He’s still wondering why she’s doing this but having seen some of her latest podcasts he wants to get to know the real Ella.
There’s more than one scene that has me laughing out loud and a twist in the weather that had me holding my breath.
A fast and fun read with a couple of twists and a touch of heat.
5 Contented Purrs for Jen!
Kayla met her boss Adam Justice at Gabriel Prince’s home. What she didn’t expect was for him to leave her there to go over the vetting information. She and Gabriel have history and she’s not sure she’s forgiven him for that humiliation so long ago.
Gabriel is more than aware of the mistake he made years ago, he had Adam to thank for her being here today.
This is a favorite scene.
After seeing Adam off, Gabriel closed the front door of his Vashon Island home as a gust of wind sent fallen leaves dancing about in the front circular driveway. On the horizon, heavy gray clouds filled the October sky, bringing with them the chaotic energy of an approaching storm. The atmosphere was charged, prevailing conditions changing at a moment’s notice.
Gabriel shook his head. Not unlike the situation he was in right now.
Kayla was here in his house.
Whatever fates had aligned to make this miracle possible, Gabriel was grateful.
There was one life truth that had been rammed into him over the last few years: If you ever had the chance to right a wrong, grab it—or her—with both hands, and don’t let go.
An unfamiliar tension tightened in his gut. Nervousness? For a man known for conquering any stated goal, the sensation was a sobering reminder of what was now at stake: getting back the woman he loved.
Walking back to his living area, he studied Kayla.
Her blonde hair fell in a thick, sleek sheet past her shoulder blades. Years ago, she often wore her hair up in a ponytail, especially during the summer. Having it down suited her. Her cashmere sweater showcased beautiful full breasts, and the navy skirt her rounded hips. How many times had he dreamed of running his hands over her supple body, undressing her, and discovering what drove her to beg for pleasure?
Gabriel gave a self-derisory snort. Christ, those thoughts were a pathway to hell he should dodge for now.
Kayla looked up, her hazel gaze narrowing and distrust radiating from her.
He deserved no better.
Six years ago, Gabriel had kept his promise to Max. Force Kayla away, keep her safe from the playboy Max had known him to be before he dated Kayla.
He could see Max’s logic. Twenty-two. In his first year working for the family firm. No way could Gabriel guarantee he wouldn’t end up breaking Kayla’s heart.
At the time, Gabriel had believed that, in turning her away, he was doing the right thing.
That decision had become his biggest regret.
“It’s already past eleven. We should get moving here.” A tiny frown creased Kayla’s brow.
His finger itched to smooth the wrinkle away. Instead, he slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “How about some coffee?”
At her hesitation, he reminded her, “We’ve got hours of work in front of us, Kayla.”
She pressed her lips together, as if weighing his suggestion before giving in. “You’re right. Coffee would be good.”
Taking her agreement as a victory, he poured two cups and added cream to hers.
As he set the mug in front of her, she thanked him with no reaction to him remembering how she took her coffee.
He sat opposite her. There was so much he wanted to say, which could set Kayla off like a bomb. For now, sticking to business was safer. “Where do you want to start?”
Archer, Fiona. Prince of Seattle. 1001 Dark Nights Short Story Anthology 2020. 1001 Dark Nights Press. Kindle Locations (2810-2832). Kindle Edition.
By the time they finished going over the files, the weather had changed and now Kayla is stuck in Gabriel’s home overnight. The storm had flooded the ford at the end of his driveway and the back exit was still blocked by fallen trees from the last storm.
Kayla’s boundaries come down and then go back up. Gabriel has much explaining to do if she’ll listen.
A fun and sensuous read.
5 Contented Purrs for Fiona!
Louisa Bacio’s Bio and Links
A Southern California native, Louisa Bacio can’t imagine living far away from the ocean. The multi-published author of erotic romance enjoys writing within all realms – from short stories to full-length novels.She shares her household with a supportive husband, two daughters growing “too fast,” and a multitude pet craziness: Two dogs, five fish tanks, an aviary, hamsters, rabbits and hermit crabs. In her other life, she teaches college classes in English, journalism and popular culture.
Born in small-town Texas, Cara Carnes was a princess, a pirate, fashion model, actress, rock star and Jon Bon Jovi’s wife all before the age of 13. In reality, her fascination for enthralling worlds took seed somewhere amidst a somewhat dull day job and a wonderful life filled with family and friends. When she’s not cemented to her chair, Cara loves traveling, photography and reading.
Welcome to my World! I’m a USA Today Bestseller of Romantic Suspense, Contemporary Romance, and Paranormal Romance.
I first started writing while carting my kids to one hockey rink after the other, averaging 170 games per year between 3 kids in 2 countries and 5 states. My first book, IN TWO WEEKS was originally published in 2007. In 2010 I helped form a publishing company (Cool Gus Publishing) with NY Times Bestselling Author Bob Mayer where I ran the technical side of the business through 2016.
I’m currently enjoying the next phase of my life…the empty NESTER! My husband and I spend our winters in Jupiter, Florida and our summers in Rochester, NY. We have three amazing children who have all gone off to carve out their places in the world, while I continue to craft stories that I hope will make you readers feel good and put a smile on your face.
Fiona Archer is an Aussie author who writes contemporary romance spiced with suspense. Her books feature masterful alpha heroes teamed with sassy heroines who limit their submissive side to the bedroom.
Her favorite hobbies include watching Nathan Fillion on television, shopping for that ever-elusive perfect shade of lipstick, and drinking iced coffee.