Guest Author & Giveaway: Tori St. Claire featuring Stripped

Wednesday, January 11

I know there's this whole fitness crave right now with stripping poles and dancing.  And while I can appreciate the athleticism to do it, as well as the dancing ability necessary to pull it off....I just can't do it.  I guess I just don't have the inner sex kitten pseudo-stripper gene :)

But don't let the title or the cover of Tori St. Claire's debut novel, Stripped,  fool you, because this story has very little to do with stripping...even though it takes place in a strip club and is the basis for the story.  It's more about the heroine's stripping down all of the layers of her Black Opal persona to rediscover the person that she used to be...wants to be again.

Tori St. Claire is my guest today and is here to share a bit about her complex heroine Natalya and the character's role as a Black Opal agent, and has provided a special excerpt just for Musings readers.  Read and enjoy!

Understanding the Black Opals

They exist only in shadow. An elite team of deadly operatives created to satisfy increasing international threats. Their world is the dark underground, where sin and pleasure dominate and lies are second nature. To those who cross them, they are professional killers. Within the CIA, they are the rare Black Opals. . . .

One of the things I think it’s important to understand about the Black Opals is that they are not a band of undercover operatives who skip around and laugh and impersonate clowns.  Nor are they the CIA’s equivalent of a good undercover cop.

They are professional killers.  Let me say that again – they are professional killers. 

Translation: assassin.

Which means, a Black Opal is going to do whatever it takes to get a job done.  And you are going to experience those necessary evils with them.  If you’re looking for a lighthearted read with elements of suspense, or even a more mainstream suspense, don’t be surprised to find the characters in the Black Opal series behaving more like villains than perhaps ideological heroes.

These men and women exceed the concept of normal by leaps and bounds.  They do not exist on paper in any fashion, and very few governmental figureheads are going to be aware of their presence or utility.  Many of them come from pasts that are equally as dark and uncomfortable as the lives they currently lead.  Some of them, like Natalya in Stripped, just became wrapped up in her job and one day realized where she was at.  What she’d become.

Fear is a word they don’t recognize.  Failure isn’t part of their vocabulary.  And when it comes to pleasure – well, if life can cease to exist at any given moment, they know how to indulge and enjoy like no other.

The worlds they walk in are dark, coarse, and raw.  They deal daily with criminals and psychopaths whose motives make the Opals look like choirboys.  To effectively interact in those environments, to make it to the next sunrise, they must have… shall we say flexible… morals.

But at the core of their beings, when all the layers are unraveled, all the deeds overlooked, they are human beings.  Men and women who laugh, hurt, and love just like you and I.  Their jobs are conducted to keep you and I safe.  To keep our country intact.  To eradicate the threats that exist internationally and make the world a better place.  If that means eliminating someone along the way, if that means getting their hands equally as dirty…

You’ll see all of this in Stripped.  Natalya is a Black Opal, through and through.  An assignment is just a job.  A separation between the heart and duty.  The trouble arises when passion enters the equation and desire alters the stakes.

And only the best Black Opals can balance imminent danger with exquisite pleasure.

Body of secrets…

As a member of the CIA’s elite, Black Opals, Natalya Trubachev must live a lie, working undercover as the lover of Dmitri, a Russian mob boss. His business is trafficking vulnerable Las Vegas strippers overseas for twisted sex games. Natalya’s business is to blow the ring wide open and bring down Dmitri and his American contacts. But the stakes are raised when she learns that the next target is her own sister Kate, a dancer in the famed club Fantasia. Only now does Natalya realize how personal her mission has become, and how far she’s willing to go to complete it.

Body of lies…

The manager of Fantasia is Brandon Moretti, an undercover detective who keeps a close eye on his girls, and an even closer one on his sinfully sensual hire. For Natalya, working the club could be the break she’s been waiting for. But for Moretti, Natalya is a possible link to a killer. Only he never counted on her being so lethally seductive or so dangerous to get close to.  As every forbidden pleasure between them is stripped away, his own secrets threaten their security, but it’s Natalya’s that could destroy them both.

Read an excerpt from Ch.1
& enjoy a very special excerpt for Musings readers below:

     “Tell me what you want, beautiful.” His breath rasped over her cheek. Featherlight kisses accompanied the whisper, trailing across her skin in a taunting path toward her mouth.

     Kiss me. She turned her head in search of lips she instinctively knew would be warm, the words on the tip of her tongue. Kiss me until I don’t care whether I live or die.

     Honesty. Just once.

     He caught her lower lip with his teeth, the nip nowhere near gentle. But the lazy stroke of his tongue soothed the stinging bite. She parted her lips, dipped her tongue out to touch his.

     Brandon’s body tightened like a whip. The pressure in her lower back increased as his fingers curled into her skin. Their breaths mingled. The tips of their tongues met in a slow, sensual dance. As another spasm of ecstasy threatened to send her tumbling into his solid chest, she braced her hands on his shoulders.

     And then Brandon was gone, the magic of his fingers disappearing as he stepped back and set both hands on her waist. His gaze scorched in to flood her body with tingles. He waited, his question unspoken, but hanging between them.

     Tell me what you want.

     Clearly he intended to make her admit she wanted to feel him deep inside her. Wanted to experience the slide of his bare skin against hers. And God, how she wanted to kiss him. To taste the desire that burned in his gaze and the indescribable flavor of hot, aroused man.

     Confessing might lead her to an early grave, but for once, her conscious would be clear. She swallowed hard and dug deep for the courage that had kept her alive these last three years. His gaze followed the sweep of her tongue as she moistened her lips.

     “Kiss me.” Her senses honed in on her whisper, amplifying it and the ragged fall of their mutual breathing. She became aware of every minuscule sound as she waited for Brandon to either dip his head and honor her request, or shove her aside with a wicked sneer.

     He took a step closer, bringing their bodies in contact from chest to toes. One arm wrapped around her waist, then slid up her back to offer support between her shoulder blades. The other tangled in her hair, tipping her head back. Putting her where he wanted her—subtle dominance that thrilled her in places she hadn’t known existed. Her womb clamped hard, sending another rush of moisture through her pussy.

      His mouth descended. Warm lips played against hers, drawing her into the spell his body wove. Pulling her in so deep she struggled for air.

     The sudden, brassy ring of her cell phone jolted her out of hazy desire. She froze. With Kate and Sergei due to arrive at Fantasia any minute, there could only be one other person calling at this time of day—Dmitri. It would be almost one in the morning in Moscow. The time Dmitri put aside his work and crawled into bed. He’d want to talk before he slept.

     “Don’t answer that,” Brandon whispered against her mouth.

    Damn if those lips weren’t compelling. She’d had his mouth on her breast, knew the incredible magic his tongue could create there, but had yet to experience the tantalizing slide of his tongue against hers. The need to feel his mouth on hers, to get lost in his potent masculinity pressed her to ignore the ringing tones.

      Duty, however, rose up screaming. If she didn’t answer, Dmitri would get suspicious.

     “I have to.”

Congratulations Tori and thanks for being my guest today!  I know that Moretti was more than distracted by Natalya's seductiveness, but Moretti was some pretty hot stuff so I can totally understand why Natalya risks it all to be with him.  I know I would  :)

If you'd like to learn more about author Tori St. Claire and her alter ego Claire Ashgrove (who consequently also had a release on Jan 3rd) you can find her at her website, her blog, & Twitter.  The next book in the Black Opals series is Lie to Me and is scheduled to release this summer in July 2012.  Oh yeah, hot fun in the summer!

To celebrate the release of the first book in the Black Opals series, Stripped, author Tori St. Claire is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky commenter during the tour!  Here's how you can enter to win:

Ways to earn entries:
  • Mandatory:  Ask Tori a question about Stripped or her Black Opals series. (good for 1 entry)
How to enter:
  • Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour to earn additional entries for the $25 GC. 
Rules and disclaimers:
  • The winner(s) for the $25 GC will be selected randomly from among all of the comments of the blog tour by either the author or by Goddess Fish Promotions who will also be responsible for contacting the winner(s).
  • Seductive Musings is not responsible for prizes that are not honored, distributed in a timely manner, lost, stolen, or damaged during transit 
  • All giveaways are subject to change/cancellation without prior written notice
Good Luck!

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*Seductive Musings is an Amazon affiliate and receives a very small referral fee for purchases made via the links on the blog and through the Seductive Musings Amazon Store. Read the full disclosure here.


marybelle January 11, 2012 at 4:44 AM  

WOW!! Thank you for the very special excerpt.

I know NOW that STRIPPED is about so much more than just stripping, but do you find yourself constantly explaining? I'm thinking with publishing & PR etc.


Goddess Fish Promotions January 11, 2012 at 5:59 AM  

Thank you for hosting Tori today.

Anne January 11, 2012 at 8:27 AM  

I've read great sreviews for Stripped on my book blogs. How many books are planned for the series? Will characters from previous books continue to show up in future books?

Karen H in NC January 11, 2012 at 8:54 AM  

Interesting post today and I'm loaded with questions...but I'll keep it to a minimum.

Likening your book to '24' and Jack Bauer's deeds, good, bad and ugly. He was called on to deal with threats because of his abilities to 'handle things' but yet he was called on the carpet and disciplined for his actions. It sounds like your characters are called on to deal with a threat because of their abilities to do so. There is such a thing as going too far. Who, or what, keeps them in check, if at all?

erin January 11, 2012 at 10:19 AM  

Congrats on the new release!!! I've heard such wonderful reviews about this book, I've already added it to my wishlist :)

I love the gritty, dark premise. Was it hard to write these characters that seem to be doing things against their conscience (even though it was for the greater good) and still have them likeable/relateable?

gfc: erin

erin January 11, 2012 at 10:20 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
booklover0226 January 11, 2012 at 12:28 PM  

How did you create the cover for Stripped? Did you work with a cover artist?

Tracey D
booklover0226 at gmail dot com

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 12:40 PM  

Oh yay challenging questions -- let's see...

Good morning everyone! Good to see the familiar faces and the new ones too!

Tracey, you're up first on the cover:

The cover was designed by the artists at Berkley. I sent over a brief "what I thought might fit" and some basics on the hero/heroine's physical descriptions. Understand, given that it's Berkley and they have a fabulous team, I knew I'd get something wonderful back.

I did. Hands down gorgeous in my opinion. But it had nothing from my little book bio sheet I sent over in it. LOL!

Just goes to show their marketing and artists know what they are doing, I think. I was very impressed when it arrived.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 12:42 PM  


No, I haven't really had to explain the book much. I have been asked *a lot* where the idea/inspiration came from and what kind of research did I do, though.

And actually, I try to avoid explaining the book and just default back to the back cover. There are a whole world of intricacies inside the pages, and I'm totally afraid I will say more than I should and reveal something I shouldn't. Laugh.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 12:46 PM  

Anne on the series --

Stripped does not have a deeply-involved ongoing subplot that spans across several books. They are all stand alone, and if someone opts out of one, they won't miss anything detrimental in the next one. Given that, the series is of indeterminate length. (Basically until I tire of writing it or the readers tire of reading it.)

But that setup does translate, almost directly, to seeing characters from different books in future books. I can't say you will see all of the characters present in STRIPPED at some point, but you'll see a few. Natalya makes a brief (and rather entertaining) appearance in LIE TO ME.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 1:01 PM  


Interesting question. As the Opals typically are given a free-for-all to get the job done, they still answer to their director, who's really not brought out in STRIPPED, but is much more active in LIE TO ME.

Really, the real risk is failing in their mission or revealing the Opal existence. As Natalya mentions, one press of a delete key and they cease to exist. That's not a euphanism. The Opal who breaches their (albeit loose) structure, literally disappears.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 1:06 PM  

I'm so glad STRIPPED intrigues you, Erin!

Was it hard to craft the darker characters? Not at all. I love a dark character and morally ambiguous characters. Really love them, and the Opals have all been coming quite naturally.

What has been challenging is finding the non-Opal to pair with each Opal. Folks like me and you would probably have a natural resistance to binding our lives permanantly with these operatives. Creating the right personality, the right background, the right association has been tricky. But I was pleased with STRIPPED, and even more pleased with Sasha in LIE TO ME. What's in proposal, really thrills me too.

MomJane January 11, 2012 at 1:10 PM  

I love the idea of fleshing out the characters and being able to watch them grow and change. Your story sound really fascinating and I love the romance/mystery involved.

Tore January 11, 2012 at 2:42 PM  

I really want to read this book. It sounds very good. What other generes do you write.

June M. January 11, 2012 at 4:08 PM  

This book does sound terrific and is on my TBB list. I am glad to hear that the series will continue for a while at least. I was wondering if there are any authors who are on you must read, auto-buy list? Also, is there any genre that you have not written in but want to?
manning_j2004 at yahoo dot com

Arthur Caudill January 11, 2012 at 6:35 PM  

I liked the part where her cell phone ruined the moment and I was wondering if they ever finished what they started. My temperature was rising and now you left me hangin'. Sounds like a good book. BTW, I was checking out your other tour and saw that you take care of two kids and fifteen horses. I have no time to do much of anything. Good luck with your tours.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 8:45 PM  

MomJane -- the growth arc for a character is a lovely thing to build. I have a lot of fun with them. A whole lot of fun :)

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 8:47 PM  

Tori, as Tori St. Claire I only write erotic romantic suspense at this time.

As Claire Ashgrove I write contemporary and paranormal and historical. My full-lenth paranormal series, The Curse of the Templars, debuted alongside Stripped on Jan 3, and Claire is also on tour!

Hm. Talking about myself in third person... must need more coffee.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 8:50 PM  


On my auto-buy there's really only one who remains constant -- Steve Berry. I do read Maya Banks and Shayla Black and Karin Harlow/Tabke faithfully. Sylvia Day as well. Oh, and Meredith Duran.

Genre that I haven't written in but want to... yup. Straight, mainstream fantasy. That, however, will have to wait for a while longer. And if I do, I probably won't tie the pen names together.

Tori St. Claire January 11, 2012 at 8:52 PM  

Arthur -- so nice to see you here! Yes, I do have two demidemons who keep me on my toes, and the yard full of horses... as well as a houseful of cats and dogs. Laugh. I keep very late hours usually.

As to whether they pick up where they left off? That's one I'll have to leave to the book. ;)

Lexi January 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM  

Glad I stopped to read this post to see that this book isn't all about just stripping. Sounds like an emotional journey, with some heat in there too =)
Great excerpt!

eyesofblueice (at) gmail (dot) com

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