Hi guys! We have K.L. Noone Popping in today with the tour for her new release Steadfast, we have a brilliant sneak peek of Cinnamon and Strawberries K.L.’s holiday novella (releasing in December), we have a great excerpt and a fantastic $10 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(Character Bleed 03)
A love story for the ages! An intimate confession! An epic quest! And happily ever after on the horizon…
Jason Mirelli loves Colby Kent. And Colby loves him. They’ve told the world. And Colby’s recovered from injury, so they’re back at work and back on set. Jason just might have everything he’s ever dreamed of, with a serious leading role, an epic love story, and Colby safe and happy in his arms—but they only have two weeks of filming to go. He’s afraid of the dream falling apart, and he knows Colby has a secret to confess—one that could transform both the ending of their movie and their future together.
Colby never got around to telling Jason his final secret before the accident on set. Now that he’s recovered, he wants to share his writing and his silent script doctor work with the man he loves. Besides, he’s rewritten this script to give their characters a proper happy ending. But he’s nervous about making changes to a classic novel, and he wants the author’s approval.
Colby’s hoping to seek out the famously reclusive author in question, but first he’ll need to trust Jason with this last piece of himself. If he can, he and Jason might finally find their happily-ever-after both on screen and off—for their characters and for themselves.
What happens when the No. 1 college hockey star in the country falls in love—with a man? Nick Johnson, a top prospect for a pro hockey team, has a secret: he’s gay. Tired of living in the closet for the sport he loves, he sees no way out.
Jacob Meyer’s string of bad boyfriends left him cynical about love. Instead, he focuses on his studies as a third-year law student. With a new job waiting for him, he’s eager to graduate and move on.
On a school-sponsored trip, Nick and Jacob meet in a most unexpected way. When Nick tells Jacob his secret, they decide to hang out, just as friends. But their attraction is too strong to ignore, and they soon begin dating.
Since Nick is a big man on campus, it doesn’t take long for people to notice his attachment to Jacob. All hell breaks loose when the relationship gets out. As the national media descends, university officials try to figure out how to solve their “problem.” Their efforts divide Nick’s team, inflame fans, and put Nick and Jacob’s futures in jeopardy. Will the men be able to survive a plot to destroy them without derailing both their careers?
Nice Catching You is an out-for-you romance featuring a lot of love, exciting hockey, and a beautiful holiday. There’s also plenty of steam and a very happy ending.
Sunday, December 4
I haven’t been on many buses, but I was starting to think I might die on this one. The snow began falling before we left Whiteface Mountain early in the afternoon, not unusual for one of the top ski resorts in the Northeast. We were due in Syracuse before six, and I hoped the weather didn’t delay us much. The last week of classes would start the next day, and I had work to do. The snow was coming down hard, and by the time we reached I-87, I could see very little out the window. Many of the cars had pulled over to the side, and others were creeping along with their hazards flashing. Our bus joined the traffic and immediately began slipping all over the road.
With fifty-odd college students on the trip, there had been a lot of noise when we left the resort, but nerves had soon taken over, and people were mostly quiet now. I sat alone, three rows from the back of the bus, trying to read a case for Federal Courts. With only one more semester of law school to go, I needed to do well. A big firm in Boston offered me a job right before Thanksgiving, contingent on my maintaining a 3.8 GPA. Pulling a C in Fed Courts would bring me slightly under the requirement. Although I had high hopes for a job in DC, I couldn’t risk losing the Boston offer.
Between the bus sliding in the snow and the constant chatter from the guys in the seat behind me, I couldn’t concentrate at all. They were hockey players, and they kept up a conversation about the game, other players, cars, and whatever else dumb undergrad jocks talk about. They were the only people behind me except for their friend, who was passed out on a seat in the back.
Whoa! The rear end of the bus lurched violently into the left lane. I tried to grab something to hold onto, but I was already airborne by the time I dropped the heavy casebook. Hands grabbed my shoulders but didn’t slow my momentum. Dreading the impact with the seat across the aisle, I screwed my eyes shut and held my breath. All at once, something stopped me. Rather, someone stopped me, and that someone had brawny arms and a hard body. He’d caught me in midair.
“You all right?”
“What?” On my back in the man’s arms, facing the top of the bus, I couldn’t see much. I turned my head, trying to find out who had hold of me.
I craned my neck in the other direction just as he leaned over, and it was—shit!—one of the hockey guys who’d been sitting behind me. I’d seen him over the weekend with his buddies, at least one of whom had laughed at me the whole time. Now they’d laugh even harder, and I’d be known as the skinny little runt who couldn’t even stay in his seat—the twit who had to be rescued by a real man.
Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and share their home with a big, cuddly German shepherd. Ryan and Josh enjoy travel, friends, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Ryan also loves to swim, and Josh likes to putter in the garden whenever he can. The romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.
Hi guys! We have Warren Rochelle stopping by today with the tour for his new release The Werewolf and His Boy, we have a great interview of Warren interviewing himself, a great excerpt and a brilliant $25 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~p.s. keep an eye out for Shorty’s review coming soon!
The Werewolf and His Boy
Their leap of faith could unleash magic—or plunge them into darkness.
Henry Thorn has worked at Larkin’s since graduating high school. He likes it—especially when he can use his secret skill of hiding inside shadows so his boss can’t find them. Without that talent, he would never had survived growing up different.
When a hire enters the store, Henry’s other latent talent kicks in. He can smell an emotional response even before he lays eyes on the redhead.
Jamey Currey came out, and his conservative parents promptly kicked him out. He, too, is different—he senses Henry’s attraction the moment they met. The first time they kiss, torrential rains fall from skies split by lightning.
Their kiss also awakens the Watchers, diabolical hunters who will stop at nothing—even extermination—to keep magic suppressed. With the help of a friendly coven of friendly witches, the boys embark on a quest to discover an ancient key to restoring magic to the world, and to understand mysteries of their own hearts.
The question is, will this quest cost them their lives?
Aqua and Rios are bored, which is always a recipe for disaster. Going on a trip might not solve the cause of the boredom, but they know it will distract them for a while. Except, Rios runs into a nix trying to save his river from drug smugglers and Aqua is kidnapped by a bunch of angry fire salamanders. Their fun adventure quickly turns into a desperate fight for survival, and they’re not certain they’ll be able get back home ever again.
“That’s enough, boys.” Uncle Willy’s frown of displeasure was pronounced. Rios shut his mouth on another fart noise and Aqua did the same at his side. The long table was quiet, Rios realized, and they were all staring at him and at Aqua. Uncle Dane, with his shiny blond hair, was easily recognizable sitting farther down. He was hiding a smile, but the rest of the people didn’t look happy at all.
“Really, William. This is an important meeting. Send the children away,” Ming said sharply. She was the tiny Asian woman who controlled everything west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. The entire table was full of territory leaders, and Uncle Willy had explained who each one was and the territory they controlled before they’d arrived for the North American Territory Leaders Conference that occurred every ten years. The last conference had been in Mexico, and the next two or three were going to be in the US before it went back to Mexico. Uncle Willy controlled Canada, and he always hosted the conference after Mexico.
Uncle Willy had been very stern with the boys about the conference. He had been teaching them all about his duties as territory leader and wanted them to sit quietly so they could listen and learn. But that was boring!
Rios opened his mouth to explain how bored he was, but Uncle Willy’s frown grew even sterner, so he shut his mouth again. Uncle Willy was his and Aqua’s caretaker. He had found them making a mess in a river and had ended up adopting them instead of punishing them. Living with Uncle Willy was fun. He played games with them and taught them magic. Even though they had to do chores, it was much better than living in the wild. Uncle Willy had even lost a lot of weight over the years so he could go swimming with them; he wasn’t skinny, of course, but he could keep up now, at least. But then he had said that being fifteen years old signified that they could now take on some responsibility. Well, if responsibility meant sitting in boring meetings while people did a lot of useless talking, then responsibility was awful.
Both Aqua and Rios hated being bored, and Uncle Willy knew that. Rios hoped his answering pout at Uncle Willy explained his reasoning.
“Go on, then,” Uncle Willy finally said with a sigh. Rios refrained from cheering happily as he jumped down from his seat and scampered out of the room after Aqua.
It took them ten minutes to realize there was nothing to do outside of the meeting either.
“Nickel should have come,” Aqua grumbled into the pillow that he used for a face-plant. His blue hair was spread around his head like a wave.
He should have. Rios couldn’t agree more. Nickel was awesome. He was an older water dragon, about twenty-two, and Aqua and Rios had been playing with him for ten years. He had taught them so much about their shared magic and was happy to see them whenever they could convince Uncle Willy that they should go visit. Except, the last four years of their friendship hadn’t been nearly as fun. Nickel had a new playmate: an air dragon named Platinum. Instead of coming to the territory leaders’ meeting with Dane like Nickel should have, he was home playing with his new best friend. It wasn’t fair.
Aqua rolled onto his side so his face wasn’t being smushed by the pillow. He growled under his breath and then let out a heavy sigh. They were both brothers, and the fact that they had definitely hatched from the same clutch was obvious in their shared brow line and rounded chins. Aqua’s nose was a little longer than Rios’s, his eyes a smidge wider, and he was about four inches taller, but they were clearly brothers. They hadn’t been entirely certain of that fact when they were younger and had been confused for twins more times than Rios could count. When they had been kits covered in identical blue dragon scales with identically colored hair, no one could tell them apart. Only as they grew had their differences become apparent, but as far as the issue of being bored and being abandoned by Nickel, they were of the same mind.
“We should go tell Nickel how sad we are that he couldn’t come,” Rios whined, knowing he was speaking what Aqua was also thinking.
“Not on the phone,” Aqua grumbled in reply immediately. The phone number for Nickel’s new house that he was sharing with Platinum was written in a little book kept next to the phone in the kitchen, but a phone call wouldn’t convey just how upset they were with Nickel. It had to be done in person.
“Uncle Willy won’t take us there when he’s still in the middle of a meeting,” Rios mused aloud, “and Uncle Dane isn’t going back home until the meeting is over, so we can’t tag along with him.”
“So we’ll have to travel on our own,” Aqua said insistently.
That made sense to Rios. They weren’t too far away from Dane’s territory, or at least Rios didn’t think so. Uncle Willy owned big houses all over Canada. He didn’t want to use his main house—where they lived most of the time—for the meeting, so he had brought them all to his house in Ontario instead.
“Wasn’t there a map on the wall of Uncle Willy’s office?” Rios asked. They didn’t spend too much time in Ontario, but they had made sure to thoroughly explore the house.
They ran out of the living room eagerly, up the stairs, and down the hall to the office. Since Uncle Willy was downstairs in the meeting, they didn’t knock. Aqua threw the door open and they piled inside.
It wasn’t hard to find the map on the wall. It was only about five feet by five feet long, and Rios could easily grip the wooden frame and take it off the hook. Some of the lines were a bit different than Rios thought he remembered, but it was definitely a map of North America. Although, only the right half of the US portion of the map had the lines that denoted the States. The rest of the map was mostly blank. It definitely looked weird, but they could still pinpoint where Uncle Willy’s house was in Canada and Uncle Dane’s house was in Massachusetts.
“There is a river, see!” Aqua ran his finger down the big lake that Rios knew was called after a big bird. Lake Seagull didn’t sound right—maybe it started with an H, but it wasn’t Hawk. The big lake connected to another slightly smaller lake via a river, which then connected to a third lake that was close to where Dane lived.
It looked like it would be faster and much more direct to walk on land, but they were water dragons and could traverse through the lakes and rivers at much greater speed. Once they got to the last big lake, they could find smaller rivers to get to Nickel’s house.
Aqua held his finger over the distance from the third lake to Massachusetts and grinned at Rios. “It’s only a few inches long. With our water magic, we can get there in a few hours.”
Something didn’t seem quite right—weren’t they supposed to measure with a ruler or something a little more accurate?—but it sounded like too much fun not to go anyway. Rios glanced at the clock, which read eleven in the morning.
“We had better pack lunch,” he said with his own grin.
When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.
Vivian Chastain is an adrenaline addicted veteran, transitioning to civilian life in Sacramento, California. She settles into a new routine while she finishes up college and works as a bartender, covering up her intense anxiety with fake bravado and swagger. All Vivian wants is peace and quiet, but her whole trajectory changes when she stumbles upon a heinous crime in progress and has to fight for her life to get away.
While recovering from the fight, she falls in love with someone who is tall in stature but short on emotional intelligence, and this toxic union provides Vivian the relationship that she thinks she needs. Given Vivian’s insecurities and traumatic past, she clings to the relationship even while it destroys her.
Vivian’s relationships are strained to their breaking points as she continues to seek balance. She turns to her best friend for support, only to be left empty handed and alone until she finds comradery and care from the last person she would have thought.
Scott shouted into my ear over the deafening roar of wild, whipping wind and prop engines.
“Okay, Vivian. On the count of three, I want you to take a big step forward and jump!”
Sucking in my breath, I held it as churning wind buffeted my body. Scott’s goatee tickled my ear as he leaned into me again and shouted, “One! Two! Three!”
Just as I began to step forward, Scott’s full body weight pushed against my back and together we teetered on the edge before tipping out of the side door of the tiny Cessna.
In the moment I stepped out of the plane, my vision and hearing stopped. And just as quickly, it all came rushing back. I took in the reality that I was plummeting toward Earth. My training kicking in, I briskly checked the altimeter strapped to my wrist before folding my arms across my chest.
Even in the shade of an enormous maple tree, I had a film of grimy sweat on my forehead, arms, and neck. I lay on my belly in the crunchy dead grass of Mom’s backyard. Sweat pooled on my lower back. I rolled over and peered up at the broad canopy of the tree. Branches crisscrossed; the leaves hanging perfectly still in the hot summer air, the blue sky visible though the gaps.
I concentrated on the speckled sunlight as it danced on the backs of my eyelids and then flopped my arm across my eyes, listening to trucks rumbling in the distance on Highway 113. Dishes clinked in a sink. The back door of the house opened and closed with a rattle, followed by my brother’s familiar tread.
I tensed and moved my forearm slightly down, so it covered the bridge of my nose. My other arm covered my abdomen. Otherwise I kept my eyes closed and stayed still.
His footsteps stopped near my head. I waited. Sweat dripped from my armpit and was wicked away by my well-worn T-shirt. The seconds drew out as he stood over me, likely considering his options. Another big rig rolled by on the freeway, its trailers rattling loudly. Grass tickled my ear.
“Vivi, where’s Mom?”
My tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth. The heat was too much, and I was incredibly thirsty.
“Just running errands. Should be back soon.” I turned my head toward him and opened my eyes. His brown hair was tousled, the bangs hanging past his eyebrows. He scuffed the toe of his shoe in the scrubby grass. Joey was bored, and Mom wasn’t home, which meant trouble wasn’t far behind.
Closing my eyes, I turned my face back toward the sky. Sweat gathered between the crease inside my elbow and the spot where it rested on my nose. Cautiously, I took my arm away from my face and let it flop into the grass.
“Hey, give me the comics,” Joey demanded. The newspaper I had been reading rustled as he snatched it up. His footsteps crunched away, and I heard wood creak as he climbed up the ladder that was leaning against the house.
Thirsty, I stood up. Stars dazzled in front of my eyes and my head and hands tingled. Once the dizziness had passed, I trotted across the small yard toward the back door. My worn-out sneaker slapped onto the concrete of the shady back porch when Joey called out. I froze, one foot on the porch, the other on the old brick walkway. Standing there in silence, I waited.
“Viv, come up here.” Joey’s voice was syrupy, traveling down to me from the roof.
“No, thanks. I got stuff to do,” I said, still not moving.
“Viiiiivv, up here. Now.” His voice took on a sharp edge.
I clenched my jaw as my temper started to rise.
“Joey! I got stuff to do. I’m goin’ inside.” I stepped up onto the porch and strode resolutely to the sliding glass door.
“Vivian,” Joey said, taunting. “Come up here now, or I’ll tell Mom it was you who broke the piano bench.”
Joey had hit the nail on the head. He knew I would do anything not to get into trouble with Mom. My hand slipped off the cool metal handle of the sliding glass door. I spun on my heel and marched to the ladder. It was huge and weathered, the white paint peeling to reveal graying wood below. I nimbly climbed up and made the scary transition from the ladder to the roof, swinging my leg over the top rung.
The sun was brighter up there, and I squinted as I walked to Joey.
“What!” I balled my hands up into little fists, my mouth set.
Joey pointed to the tops of some trees growing over the far side of the house.
“Go over there and pick me some loquats.” He fanned himself with the comics and fixed his muddy-brown eyes on mine.
I didn’t move and didn’t respond, glaring at him. Joey stood up, walked straight up to me, and punched my upper arm as hard as he could. I staggered, trying to keep my balance on the steeply pitched roof. Tears instantly welled up, and I bit back a yelp of pain. My arm throbbed deeply, but I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of making me cry.
The heat from the roof radiated through the soles of my sneakers as I willed the tears not to fall. Breaking eye contact with him, I walked carefully up and over the peak of the roof. The trees were planted close to the house, so the branches hung low over the gutters, heavy with ripe fruit. Holding the hem of my T-shirt out, I created a pouch and began picking loquats until I had gotten the closest ones. Inching closer to the edge, the toe of my shoe over the gutter, I stretched my short arms up to pick a few more.
When the pouch of my shirt was full, I squatted down in the shade of the tree and chose a fat, golden loquat. Biting into it, I was thrilled with how sweet and juicy it was. Carefully, I ate around the large seeds and then tossed them into the side yard. I wiped my sticky fingers on my shorts.
Standing up, ready to face Joey again, I heard a heavy wooden thunk. Walking back up and over the peak of the roof, I didn’t see Joey. I scurried over to where the ladder had been. Joey stood in the yard, looking up at me. He barked out a malicious laugh that instantly piqued my anger. With my sore right arm tucked into my side, still holding the hem of my shirt, I grabbed a ripe loquat and threw it at Joey as hard as I could. I missed. The loquat bounced across the dead grass. Joey’s laughter immediately stopped. I threw another, this time hitting him in the gut. The overripe fruit left a smear of juice on his raggedy, striped, hand-me-down polo shirt. I threw two more. Both fell short.
Recalibrating, I continued angrily throwing until all of the fruit was gone. I dropped my hands to my sides, the sun beating down. Joey gaped at me. A long pause followed while he decided what to do. He finally blinked and spoke.
“Look at you up there. Stuck like a stupid stray cat. With your stupid black hair and stupid blue eyes. You don’t even look like anybody in the family. You’re not a real Chastain.”
My bottom lip trembled, but I held in the tears. “Good! Maybe I don’t wanna be a Chastain. You’re all terrible people!”
His eyes narrowed as he turned and walked toward the back door. “Good luck getting off the roof, Vivi,” he said over his shoulder.
“Joey! Joey! Joey! Bring back the ladder!” I screamed as hard and loud as I could. “Joey! Joey! Come onnnn!”
Trying to stay calm, I looked around the backyard. The wooden ladder lay useless in the dirt, surrounded by smears of loquat. I peered over the edge, trying to judge how high up I was. It was a straight drop to hard packed dirt. I walked back over to the loquat trees.
“Joey! Come onnn!” I shouted again, as I tested the branches. I was too heavy to shimmy down the branches to the trunk. Dishes clinked at the neighbor’s house, and I looked across the side yard. Old Mrs. Hadler was standing at her sink looking out of the window at me. She shook her head with a disapproving glare and then went back to washing her dishes. Embarrassed, I stopped shouting and walked around to the front of the house. It was still high up, but there was nice green grass below. Mom always watered the front yard and made sure the planters on the porch had flowers in them; meanwhile, she let the backyard die.
Sweat dripped down my face and neck. It was the hottest point of the day, and the street hummed with the sound of air conditioners working hard. Nobody was out except for Gail, who lived half a block away. She pedaled by on her bicycle, dressed in her usual hospital scrubs, and looked at me with concern.
Anger coursed through me and frustrated tears started to well up again. I let a few silently roll down my grimy cheeks. The salty tears hung on my jaw before dripping down onto the roof, where they evaporated. I wiped my face with the front of my shirt, clenched my jaw, and stepped off the roof.
Liz is a recovering workaholic who has mastered multi-tasking, including balancing a day job, solo parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor.
Liz lives in the East Bay Area of California, and enjoys exploring nature with her son.
The boys from ROCKING THE BOAT are back in TIPPING THE BALANCE. Nick Bedford’s best friend Drew St. Charles is a man with a dream. He wants to move from selling real estate and flipping houses on the side into renovating houses. Ideally, he’d find the houses and his boyfriend would flip them. Not that he has a boyfriend.
Brad Sundstrom, fresh out of college and working for his father in the family construction business, never believed he could dream of more…until he met Drew. When Drew wins a contract to restore the historic Bayard Mansion, they become the solution to each other’s problems. Drew needs someone to oversee the renovation and offers Brad, who wants out from under his father’s thumb, the job of project foreman.
Working in close contact makes the sparks between the two men burst into flame, and Brad takes his first hesitant steps out of the closet. Before long, spending the day together at work leads to nights spent together. It looks as if Drew’s dream is coming true, but then he is savagely attacked in a hate crime, and Brad panics.
Brad faces a crucial test. Will he overcome his fears and take his place at Drew’s side? Or will he retreat to the stifling familiarity of the closet?
“Are you sure you can’t get a general contractor’s license?” Drew wiped the sweat out of his eyes.
“Did you just whine?” Nick grunted as he muscled a cherrywood cabinet into place. “Besides, what about the one you already work with?”
“Shut up. Bob’s great, but I’m getting tired of hiring an outside contractor so this work passes inspection, and anyway, you’d be cheaper.” Drew set a level on the cabinet Nick had just installed and squinted at it as the bubbles moved sluggishly in the yellow fluid. “It’s not…quite…plumb.”
“How come you don’t have a contractor’s license?” Nick squatted down to tap a shim into place under the cabinet. Sweat soaked his shirt, as portable fans cooled the kitchen in theory only, but with the HVAC unit out, fans were all they could get in the summer heat.
Drew looked up from the level, struck once again by just how attractive his best friend was. Coaching the men’s crew at California Pacific College certainly encouraged Nick to keep himself fit—that, and his smokin’ hot boyfriend, Morgan. Some coaches let themselves go, but not Nick. Not for the first time, Drew found himself wishing they could’ve worked out, but they’d given that a whirl as undergraduates and both agreed they made better friends than lovers.
And what friends they were, pulling each other through hard times and celebrating the good. Drew had helped Nick win and keep Morgan. Nick worked like a dog all summer for Drew’s home renovation business. He was one of the few people Drew trusted besides himself to supervise each project from start to finish, the only other person whose eye for detail and quality touches matched his own. Nick treated the jobs done by St. Charles Renovations like it was his own name on the line, not Drew’s.
“Because getting my real estate license took all my time and money when I was younger, and now selling houses takes all my time.” Drew sighed. “The flipping was just a sideline, and now reno work for other people? It’s killing me, I tell you.”
“A sideline.” Nick snorted. “The best home flip in the area. Isn’t that what Sacramento Magazine named you this year? Spend the time on this it deserves, and the St. Charles property empire could grow by leaps and bounds.”
“It still will. I like a challenge.” Drew grinned wolfishly. “Besides, sleep is for sissies.”
“You would know from sissies.” Nick watched Drew carefully to gauge the reaction, faintly disappointed when Drew barely even rolled his eyes. “Is it level?”
“Yes.” Drew straightened.
“Good, now you can use those over-gymmed muscles for something besides filling a polo shirt and help me hang the next cabinet. That’ll be the last of the uppers on this side of the kitchen. The guys can help me hang the rest later.”
“I can’t get too sweaty. I have to show houses this afternoon,” Drew said.
“Don’t worry, princess, you’ll still be the prettiest girl in the room.” Nick laughed. “I just need someone to steady it and hold it while I get it bolted to the cleats. The pilot holes have already been drilled.”
“Seriously, Nick, how am I going to replace you?” Drew asked. “You’ll go back to coaching and your grad work all too soon, and I’ll lose my best crew leader.”
“I’m your only crew leader,” Nick pointed out.
Drew made a face. “Don’t remind me.”
“You and Renochuck have me for another two months, so make the most of it,” Nick said, “because after that I go back to just being your friend.”
“That’s what Octavio and the guys call it.”
“Some of them barely speak English, and they still came up with Renochuck.” Drew shook his head. He wiped a speck of dirt off the rich red wood.
Nick eyed Drew askance as he bent over. “Bend from the hips, not your lower back.”
“Yes, Coach,” Drew sighed.
“Did you enjoy throwing your back out last fall?”
Drew smirked. “Oh hell yes, I had a fabulous time. It was the event of the season.”
Nick didn’t reply. He just glared at Drew, warm brown eyes to merry blue ones. “Did you enjoy the aftermath? No? Then do it my way. I do know something about bodies in motion, thank you very much.”
“Yeah, that’s what Morgan tells me.”
“Hands on.” Nick loftily ignored his friend. He squatted down and put one hand under the cabinet and used the other on top to steady it. “In three. One, two, and up!”
“Now I know,” Drew grunted out, “where that coxswain of yours gets his abrasive tone from.”
“No, that’s totally Stuart’s,” Nick said. “Besides, we’re crew. We’re not real bright, but we can lift heavy objects. Now, put those muscles to some use, Muscle Mary, and hold this steady while I drill it.”
“I’m sure you’re very good at drilling, seeing how much practice you’ve been getting.” The muscles of Drew’s arms and back strained to hold the cabinet in place as Nick hurried to secure it to the wall. Then he noticed something. “Why is the taller of the two of us the one who’s not holding this up?”
Nick grinned at him. “Because I’m the drilling expert, remember? There,” he said as he put the last bolt in. “That’ll hold it while I finish up. You can let go.”
Drew lowered his arms. “Seriously, how’s it going with you and Morgan?”
He pretended to listen as Nick rattled off a list of his boyfriend’s virtues, but Nick’s syrupy smile answered the question well enough. “I’m sorry, what’d you just say?”
“I asked if you were going to be around this weekend,” Nick said. “I’m meeting his parents for the first time, and I’m scared shitless. I’m hoping you’ll be around so I can send panicked text messages from the bathroom.”
“Meeting the parents? It must be serious.” Drew smiled.
“You know it. He’s it, the only one I’ll ever want.”
“Some of us might like the chance to find that for ourselves, you know.” Drew pretended to be very interested in a small pile of loose screws.
“Aww, jeez, not Brad Sundstrom again. I keep telling you he’s straight.”
“Just his phone—”
Nick put the drill down. “Look, Drew. You know I can’t give out his information without his permission. It’s a confidentiality issue, among other things. I was his coach, technically a college official. I can’t just hand out phone numbers like that.”
Drew knew all about Nick’s scruples, having listened to him endlessly gnaw his guts out about his interest in Morgan. He supposed he ought to be grateful to Morgan for taking matters into his own hands, if not because Morgan made Nick happy, then because it shut Nick up. “Then will you at least give him my number if he asks for it?”
“C’mon, Nick. It’s a fair question. Don’t I at least deserve the chance to get shot down?”
“I just don’t want to see you hurt,” Nick said quietly.
“I’m a big boy, babydoll. I can take care of myself.”
“I know, and yeah, if he asks, I’ll pass your number on.”
Drew looked at his watch. “Shit, it can’t be that late, can it?”
“It can be, yes. Late for the showings?” Nick asked.
“Just about. Everything looks great so far, but keep in touch, and let me know if you hear from the counter fabricators, will you?” Drew said, already heading for his car.
“Of course.” Nick picked up his drill.
Drew tried to mop the sweat off his brow as he rushed for his car but only succeeded in pushing it up into his brown locks. He had just enough time to run home and shower before he showed the first of the homes to his clients. Yeah, rummaging around in the dirt and sawdust probably wasn’t the best idea, but he couldn’t give up fixing up homes, he just couldn’t. What he hadn’t told Nick was that some days, he felt like he’d made a huge mistake in getting a real estate license instead of going directly into repair and improvement. Working his way through the building trades might’ve seemed strange after getting his bachelor’s degree in business, but it would’ve been handy when he got a contractor’s license. While he’d never wanted to be a designer, there was something almost magical about watching a dump of a home rise from the depths to become a showplace, limited only by budget and imagination. The cabinets with their reeded glass inserts, the soapstone counters that were supposed to have arrived last week, the reclaimed Indonesian teak floors covered with marine varnish to repel water, the lighting, all of the pieces fitted together like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle only he could solve—that was why he couldn’t keep out of it.
Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.
He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.
While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.
Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.
Hi guys, we have J. Scott Coatsworth stopping by today with the tour for his new release Skythane, we have a fantastic excerpt, a brilliant $25 Amazon GC giveaway and Shorty’s review, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(Liminal Sky: Oberon Cycle 01)
J. Scott Coatsworth
Jameson Havercamp, a psych from a conservative religious colony, has come to Oberon—unique among the Common Worlds—in search of a rare substance called pith. He’s guided through the wilds on his quest by Xander Kinnson, a handsome, cocky skythane with a troubled past.
Neither knows that Oberon is facing imminent destruction. Even as the world starts to fall apart around them, they have no idea what’s coming—or the bond that will develop between them as they race to avert a cataclysm.
Together, they will journey to uncover the secrets of this strange and singular world, even as it takes them beyond the bounds of reality itself to discover what truly binds them.
Hi guys! We have Anthony Dobranski stopping by with the tour for his release The Demon In Business Class, we have an excellent character interview, a great excerpt and a brilliant $ Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
The Demon In Business Class
She can speak all languages. He can smell evil intent.
They’re enemies. They crave each other.
With secret magic, international settings, a conspiracy plot, and star-crossed lovers, The Demon in Business Class is a stylish modern fantasy spanning continents and genres.
A shady executive hires Zarabeth Battrie to help start the next global war, giving her a demon that speaks all languages. But other people know more about her job than she does…
A resolute investigator recruits Gabriel Archer to use his emerging psychic powers, for a visionary leader who turns others from evil. As his senses develop, his doubts grow…
When the two meet by chance in Scotland, passion becomes fragile love, until the demon’s betrayal drives Gabriel away. Before Zarabeth’s revenge destroys the visionary’s plan, Gabriel must stop her — for both to survive, neither can win.
Warnings: FOR ADULTS! Drugs, fistfights, vigorous sex, murder, an orgy (witnessed), a cult, and a (told not shown) history of child sexual abuse.
Fans of Jeff VanderMeer, David Mitchell and Michel Faber will love this cross-genre novel with crisp literary style. The Demon in Business Class is an international story of fantasy, intrigue, and love, on the uneasy ground where the human meets the divine.
YOUR NEXT READ IS NOW BOARDING
“If William Gibson wrote paranormal …. weaves the dark worlds of the occult and big business into an intoxicating tale.” – D. J. Butler, author of Witchy Eye
“Creative spark? Anthony Dobranski ignites a creative bonfire …A masterwork of invention.” – Mary Kay Zuravleff, author of Man Alive!
“A swank cocktail of international intrigue, steeped in the supernatural, mixed with literary flair …. so sleek it flies off the page.” – Zach Powers, author of First Cosmic Velocity
Hi guys, we have T.A. Moore stopping by today with her up coming release Wolf At The Door, we have short guest post from T.A., a great excerpt and a fantastic $15 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Wolf At The Door
(Winter Wolf 03)
For Jack and Gregor, the exiled Wolf Princes of the Scottish pack, it’s someplace they never wanted to leave. For Danny, who fled as soon as he could, it’s someplace he never planned to return. As for Nick, pathologist and carrion bird, he has nowhere else to be.
It offers only one thing—the Old Man’s help in putting down the bloody-handed treachery from the prophets who dogged them all the way from Durham. The twins’ father is many things, not all of them kind, but not even the prophets would cross him.
But when they finally arrive home, they find the Old Man gone and the prophets’ puppet installed in his place. Outnumbered, bereaved, and haunted by old mistakes, the four of them must discover the prophet Rose’s plan before it’s too late. As the stakes rise and the cold settles into their bones, they find that the old fairy tales hide horrors under their pretty words.
In the Highlands, Fenrir has stirred, and he’s hungry.
The prophets have always said that a Wolf Winter is red as blood—but they never said whose.
A monster moves through the darkest night, lit only by the full moon, taking them, one by one, from Seattle’s gay gathering areas.
In an atmosphere of spine-tingling fear, Thad Matthews finds his first true love cooking in an Italian restaurant called The Blue Moon Cafe. Sam Lupino is everything Thad has ever hoped for in a man: virile, sexy as hell, kind, and…he can cook!
As the pair’s love heats up, so do the questions. Who is the killer preying on Seattle’s gay men? What secrets is Sam’s Sicilian family hiding? And, more important, why do Sam’s unexplained disappearances always coincide with the full moon?
When the secrets are finally revealed, is Thad and Sam’s love for one another strong enough to weather the horrific revelations revealed by the light of the full moon?
Music from his clock radio woke Thad Matthews at 6:00 a.m. The song, “Smokestack Lightning,” yanked him from a heavy, dream-laden sleep. Its energy forced his eyes open wider, caused synapses, eight hours dormant, to tingle, and made him want to move. Nonetheless, he slapped at the snooze button, silencing the bluesy wail, rolled over, and then pulled the comforter over his head. He was glad he had tuned his clock radio to KPLU, Seattle’s only all-blues all-the-time station, but he desperately wanted to recapture just a few more minutes of his dream, in which he’d found himself on the moors of England. All he could recall was that the moors themselves were appropriately fog shrouded and lit with a silvery luminance from above. Someone waited for him in the shadows and fog. And he couldn’t, for the life of him, know for certain if that someone meant to do him harm or meant to just do him.
He’d been having a lot of sexual dreams lately.
As much as he wanted to unravel the mystery of the dream—and to perhaps savor the vague sexual vibrations he was getting from it—sleep eluded him. He found thoughts of the day crowding in, preventing even the most remote possibility of a recurrence of slumber.
Thad sat up in the four-poster, rubbing his eyes like a little boy, and wondered why he bothered setting an alarm. He had no job to go to, no pressing engagements, no muse to answer to—hell, he didn’t even have an appointment for an oil change.
This day, like all his others, stretched out before him completely unmarred with obligations other than the requirements life imposed upon him, such as eating and going to the bathroom, which the erection poking up under his sheets compelled him to take care of. He called this morning wood a pee-on, because once he had put that particular need to rest, it most often subsided.
After stumbling to the adjoining bathroom and letting go with a flow that caused a mighty sigh of relief to issue forth from him, he thought once again that maybe today should be the day he looked harder into getting himself some employment—anything to put him into contact with other people and to fill his waking hours. Lord knew he filled out enough applications and answered enough Help Wanted ads on Craigslist to keep the officials down at unemployment sending him checks. But all his efforts, dishearteningly, were ignored.
It had been nearly four months since he had been laid off at Perk, the national chain of coffee shops headquartered in suburban Shoreline. Thad had been there for six years, in the marketing department, spending his days writing clever sayings for paper coffee cups and point-of-purchase signs for the stores. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. And writing phrases like “Plan on Being Spontaneous” paid the bills, even if it didn’t provide much creative or intellectual challenge. It helped sell coffee, and Thad never kidded himself: that’s why he was employed there.
Except now they didn’t need him anymore. Who would write the signs for their special Iced Coffee blend?
He gazed down at the bubbling golden froth in the toilet and flushed it away, along with his thoughts about his former job. He turned and rinsed his hands under the sink, then splashed cold water on his face. Standing up straight, he stared at his reflection in the medicine cabinet mirror.
“You’re too young for a life of leisure,” he said to his reflection, rubbing his hands through his short, coarse red hair, which stuck up in a multitude of directions. People paid good money for products that would make their hair look as fetchingly disheveled as Thad’s did right now. He peered closer at himself, taking inventory of his pale skin, his gray eyes, and the constellation of freckles that spanned his nose and the tops of his cheeks. He flexed, thinking he was looking a little flabby around the middle.
“Workout day. I’ll head over to the gym today. I need it.” He sucked in his gut and let it out again, thinking it was empty and needed refilling. A Pagliacci delivery pizza only went so far. His slumber and active dream life, he supposed, had all but digested the pie.
Thad moved to the bedroom and began tossing pillows on the floor to make up his bed. He wasn’t sure why he bothered with this either, since it was unlikely anyone would see the military-neat bed except for him, when he would approach it once more this evening just to mess it all up again. But it was important to Thad to have a routine. Otherwise his days would blend into one meaningless chunk of time, formless, without definition or purpose.
It was becoming increasingly hard enough to distinguish Tuesday from Thursday—or Sunday, for that matter.
Back when he was putting in forty-plus hours a week, he envied the increasing number of friends and acquaintances who had gotten laid off during the economic downturn. The money they made on unemployment seemed like enough—at least for him and his modest lifestyle in his Green Lake studio apartment—and the freedom they had seemed worth the cut in pay.
But now he wasn’t so sure. The uncertainty of what would happen if he still wasn’t working when the unemployment checks dwindled down to zero hung over him like a vague threat. And the freedom wasn’t really so great, when that same threat prevented him from spending much money, lest he should need it down the road for luxuries like food and a roof over his head.
Worst of all was what the job loss had done to his self-esteem. Thad needed some meaning in his life, a purpose. That much had been instilled in him since he was a little boy, back in Chicago growing up in the working class neighborhood of Bridgeport, where his father was a cop and his mother waited tables at a Lithuanian restaurant.
He pulled on a T-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, padded out to the office area of his apartment, and plopped down in front of his laptop. He planned to check out the classifieds on Craigslist, then Monster, then CareerBuilder. When he was first laid off, he looked only at writing and editing jobs but had lately broadened his search to include, well, just about everything. Thad realized he would work retail, man a customer service phone line, groom dogs, or wait tables, as long as he had a job.
Yet the rest of the world hadn’t gotten wind of his eagerness to accept any kind of employment. Or if they had, they weren’t saying.
Before he went through the often-depressing ritual of cyber pavement pounding, he would check out what had happened in the world since he had stumbled in last night from an evening of self-consolation and vodka on Capitol Hill. He hit the little orange-and-blue Firefox icon on the dock at the bottom of his screen to bring up the day’s online news…
And was jolted right out of whatever sluggishness he was feeling. He stared at the lead article for that day’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. A chill coursed through him, and he slowly shook his head as he read the details of that morning’s top story, titled “Brutal Slaying in Capitol Hill.” The article described how an as-yet-unidentified young man had been killed in an alley in the Seattle neighborhood known for its heavy concentration of gay bars and clubs. Thad had to stop reading for a moment to close his eyes because the gruesome details were simply too much to bear. His stomach churned. The man had not just been killed but had been literally ripped apart. Very little blood was found at the scene. And forensics had already determined that there was no trace of metal found on the victim’s flesh, which meant that the deed had to have been done with something other than a knife. The worst detail of all was the fact that the remains bore definite signs that much of the man’s flesh had been eaten. Authorities are keeping details to themselves regarding who—or what—the perpetrator could have been. The story closed with the usual cautions about what to do—don’t travel alone, avoid strangers and unlit places—when something so unsettling and violent occurs.
Thad exited Firefox sooner than he had planned and stared out the window. His heart thumped in his chest. Bile splashed at the back of his throat and a cold sweat broke out on his forehead. He had been in Capitol Hill the night before, having a dirty martini or three at Neighbours, one of the gay ghetto’s most popular hangouts. He wondered if, as he had made his way back to the bus stop, he had passed the killer or killers. If perhaps the killer or killers had eyed him, wondering if he would suffice for their demented purposes. He could see himself through their eyes, being watched from the shadows of a vestibule or an alley as he made his way back to the bus stop on Broadway. He wondered if he looked appetizing. He had been told on more than one occasion that he was “tasty” and “delicious,” but those doing the describing were not thinking of him as dinner—at least not in the conventional sense. He wondered if perhaps the only thing that had saved him was the coincidental passing of a boisterous group from the University of Washington, coming up alongside him just as the fiend in the dark was ready to pounce. He shivered. For once, rejection was a comforting thought.
Rejection, under these circumstances, was the new “getting lucky.”
Still, some poor soul had not been as lucky as he had, and today forensics was probably busy trying to figure out just who this unfortunate soul was. From what Thad had read, it didn’t sound like they had much to go on. Dental records, maybe? What kind of animal would not only kill a fellow human being but also eat his flesh and drink his blood? Was this a human being at all? Thad had heard of bears occasionally making their misguided ways down from the mountains and into Seattle, but they usually got no farther than suburban parks and backyards. And the “bears” that routinely cruised the Capitol Hill neighborhood were of a much more cuddly variety.
Surely, though, an animal couldn’t have been roaming around busy Capitol Hill on Friday night. The neighborhood, on weekend nights, was a blur of barhoppers and partiers, its hilly streets filled with people and cars jockeying for position. Loud and well lit, it was the kind of neighborhood that would scare the shit out of an animal, at least an animal with normal fears and inclinations. This had to be the work of a person, or people, right? And whoever was behind such a thing had to be majorly warped. Thad had a quick vision of pale-gray eyes and enormous canine teeth until he banished the imagery to the back of his brain, grateful for another kind of canine distraction.
That distraction had just sidled up beside Thad, her arrival signaled by a clicking of toenails on hardwood. Thad glanced down at his gray-and-white Chihuahua, Edith, staring up at him with her dark eyes. Her tongue stuck out one side of her mouth, giving her a both comical and wizened appearance. The dog was about a hundred years old, and Thad thought, for better or worse, she was his very best friend in the world. Edith got up on her hind legs to paw at Thad’s lap, indicating to him that he was not the only creature in the house that had to pee first thing in the morning.
Thad got up and, with Edith following impatiently behind, slid into flip-flops and grabbed her leash. “C’mon, sweetheart, let’s take a little walk down to the lake, and then we’ll see about getting us both some breakfast.”
Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.
Former pro-rodeo champion Smith Rose and his cousins Cooper and Christa Boone live a quiet life together in the town of Cody, Wyoming—until the summer of 2015 shakes them to their foundations.
Stuck in an unhappy rut since his retirement from the rodeo five years prior, Smith is forced to reckon with his past, present, and future when his former friend and lover John Henry Walker shows up at Smith’s bar. Meanwhile, the Boone sisters face a threat they never would’ve predicted when an out-of-town stranger begins to stalk Christa after meeting her at a party. While trying to support her sister and their cousin, Cooper secretly agonizes over her fears of their little family splitting apart and where that would leave her.
When Smith, Cooper, and Christa’s problems converge in a dangerous confrontation, will the three of them survive?
The three of them sit sprawled in a booth: Smith, Cooper, and Christa. Their table’s littered with beer bottles and the shucked off metal caps. Smith’s got a cooler on the floor alongside his seat because this is his bar and he can do whatever the hell he wants. He opens each beer with the bottle opener on his key ring. His cousins got a pretty good buzz going on, the two of them pink-faced and smiling, leaning into each other. Smith is mellowed out, not drunk. He doesn’t watch the saloon or Georgeanne filling in for him at the bar, just nurses his drink and considers his cousins.
“There is no way in hell I’m riding fifteen hundred miles on the back of a motorcycle,” says Christa.
“Why not?” Cooper whines. “Labor Day weekend, it’ll be beautiful. We won’t see weather that good in between here and Austin until next spring, which is almost a year from now.”
“I wouldn’t go in the spring either. I’m not traveling that far on a bike. Period.”
“You don’t even have to worry about the bike. I’m the one handling it. All you have to do is hold on and enjoy the scenery.”
“I wouldn’t be enjoying anything, Cooper! I’d be terrified the whole way. What’s fun about that?”
“I wouldn’t even go fast!” Cooper says. “I’ll cap it at five above the speed limit; I promise.”
“Eighty miles an hour on a motorcycle is still enough to kill you!”
“Okay, first of all, it would be seventy half the time, and second of all, why don’t you trust me? I’m not some reckless yahoo looking to cheat death taking a corner too fast, and even if I was, I would never gamble with your life.”
Christa gives her sister an indulgent smile. “It’s not about you. It’s about all the things you can’t control. My fear included.”
Cooper sighs in defeat and blinks at Smith sitting across from her. “Will you go with me?”
Smith pauses. “Might follow in the truck.”
Cooper rolls her eyes. “Forget it. I’ll go on my own.”
“You’re not making that trip alone, Cooper,” says Christa, sipping on her beer.
“Well, I wouldn’t have to if you’d come with me.”
Cooper’s been restoring a 1966 Triumph Bonneville T120TT all year, tinkering with it in her spare time at the garage where she’s an auto mechanic. She reckons she’ll be finished with it by the time September rolls around, and she’s been pestering her sister about a long road trip to Texas.
Christa ignores Cooper’s pouting and gives Smith a pointed look. “You coming to the rodeo with us?”
“No, ma’am,” he replies and draws on his beer. He’s sitting in the interior corner on his side of the booth, and he’s got his left arm stretched out along the top of the seatback behind him. He might be hiding a little, from the rest of the room.
“Smith. Come on.”
“Every year, you two go out there, and every year, I don’t. I figure that’ll never change.”
“Why can’t you just suspend your boycott for one night and spend some time with us?”
“I’m spending time with you right now. I’ll follow you anywhere, except the damn rodeo. Why don’t you skip the rodeo and do something else with me? We could take the motorcycle course at the DMV and get licensed.”
Christa makes a face at him. “Very funny.”
“Well, we’re going tomorrow night, with or without you,” Cooper says to Smith. “And I’m betting whoever places first in bronc and bull riding won’t come anywhere near your records, like I always do. Then I’ll be proven right like I always am. At least half a dozen people will recognize me and Chris as your family, ask us how you’re doing, and then recount some memory of your glory days we’ve both heard about a thousand times. We’ll smile and nod and agree you were the best in the West, shake hands, and go home.”
“Clearly, I’m not missing anything,” says Smith, his face shaded under the brim of his cowboy hat.
“If you hate the rodeo so much, why did you decide to live in Cody?” Christa asks. “You could’ve gone back to Rawlins or Cheyenne. Left Wyoming altogether.”
“Cody ain’t a bad place to live.” Smith flicks his eyes past his cousin and gives the saloon a once-over. “You two are here.”
“We’re here because of you,” says Cooper.
Smith glances at her but doesn’t respond, draining his beer bottle instead.
Marie S. Crosswell writes long fiction, short fiction, and poetry. Her novellas Texas, Hold Your Queens; Lone Star on a Cowboy Heart; Alchemy; and Cold, Cold Water are available online wherever digital books are sold. Her short fiction has appeared in Thuglit, Betty Fedora, Plots with Guns, Tough, and other indie crime fiction publications. She’s a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where she studied creative writing. She lives in the American West. Find out more about Marie on herWebsite.
Ian Start is an art professor and poet, living and teaching in Providence, Rhode Island. After suffering an infection in his leg that left him disfigured and traumatized, he’s been struggling to regain his emotional balance and find his voice again in his poetry.
It doesn’t help when one of his students is murdered, and he’s implicated. The chemistry is still there between Ian and Jake, who is his ex and the investigator, but being a suspect presents a barrier to their reunion.
Furthermore, Ian’s injury left a massive scar, both physically and emotionally. He is not convinced anyone else should have to live with his disfigurement and his nightmares.
As I hobbled to the door, I could see, through the leaded glass, a stout Black man in a dated tweed blazer. He was staring intently at my approach, which made me wish that I was dressed in more than a robe and flannel pajama bottoms. Opening the door, I saw that there was a second man, a few steps down, looking out toward the street. “Professor Ian Start?” said the man in front of me.
“Yes?” I said, tearing my gaze away from the familiar pale ginger head.
“I’m Detective Henry Ransom from the Providence Police Department. May we have a few minutes of your time?” At that point, the tawny head turned, and it was, as I knew it would be, Jake. Right on cue, Ransom said, “This is Detective Jake Quinn.” Our eyes met and held. In the moment, I was delighted to see him. But in my moment of pleasure, I could see wariness and warning in his eyes, a slight shake of his head that clearly said don’t acknowledge. I immediately assumed there were some gay identity issues at play and kept my trap shut. Everyone knew I was gay, but I was well aware of guilt by association.
“Yes, of course, come in. We were just having coffee. Can I get you a cup?” Ever the perfect host, eh? With no small amount of trepidation, I led them to the kitchen where Rita was sitting at my little table. It looks out over a small terracotta-tiled patio with a wildflower garden beyond, looking bleak and dead in the frigid morning with black stems and flower heads that hadn’t been tended to before the winter frosts.
“Yeah, coffee would be good,” said Detective Ransom. I raised my eyebrows at Jake, who merely nodded. I knew he took it black but inquired of both anyway. Rita introduced herself, and they all shook hands. I didn’t get a handshake. I began to feel very nervous. My knuckles started to prickle.
Rita rents my street-level apartment. Short and trim, with crazy hair from an indeterminate ethnic background, she’s my closest friend even if she is a social worker. I had an overload of social workers during the time I was in the hospital, all telling me how fucked up I was going to be when I got out. After that, I swore off them permanently, but Rita was the exception. Despite our connection, Rita was a little bit of an enigma; quiet as a whisper, I never heard music or a loud voice from her apartment, so it was hard to tell if she was home or not, and I never knew if she had company because she apparently didn’t keep regular hours. But every Sunday morning without fail she’d be at my back door with croissants and hot chocolate and dressed in tight stretchy sportswear, perfectly comfortable with me in pajama bottoms and my faded silk robe. And that’s how a Sunday morning found us, the second of January, a sunny, cold winter day, when we heard the knock at the front door.
“I’m going to head back downstairs, Ian. If you need anything, just call.” And then she was gone. Cops can do that: clear a room instantly.
I poured two cups from the carafe and retrieved a carton of milk from the refrigerator for Ransom, letting him pour. “What’s going on?” I asked.
Ransom spoke. Jake didn’t say a word. “You are acquainted with a Thomas Wilson.” Statement, not a question.
“He was a student of mine, yes.” The answer to the nonquestion.
“Was?” Ransom asked, a hint of a challenge in the tone.
“Yes,” I said warily. “He’s taken his last drawing class. I teach drawing.”
“When was the last time you saw him?” Again Ransom. Christ. This was bad. I was going to hear that Thomas was missing. Missing or hurt, or…no, not going there. My stomach roiled a little.
“What’s going on?” I asked again. And in nearly a whisper. “What kind of detectives are you? Missing persons?” Yeah, like there are missing persons detectives. I was hoping for the best out of the only other option.
“Homicide,” said Ransom. I sat down hard on the nearest chair. Ransom then asked again, “When was the last time you saw Thomas Wilson?”
No, I do not want to hear what’s coming. “The last day of class. Um, the twelfth, I guess. He helped me load portfolios into my car. Are you telling me Thomas is dead?” Jake nodded but said nothing. “Are you sure? Sure it was Thomas? What happened? When?” They were wrong, had the wrong kid, were talking to the wrong instructor. I stared uncomprehendingly at Ransom. I couldn’t meet Jake’s eyes at all. I felt helpless. My knuckles began to itch, and I distractedly scratched at them.
Pamela A. Williams is a Clinical Social Worker living and working on the Southcoast of Massachusetts. She is the daughter John E. Williams, winner of the 1973 National Book Award for Augustus. She has always had writing in her blood but has only lately found the serenity and confidence to put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, if you will).
Ms. Williams comes from a widely varied background. She’s worked in manufacturing, retail, graphic arts and the mental health field. She tries to bring these experiences to her writing to create well rounded, believable characters. And she remains forever honored and grateful to her clients who have shared their personal stories and broadened her view of humanity. She is awed by their resilience and trust.
Hi guys! We have Hurri Cosmo popping in today with the tour for her newest release Graham’s Rescue, we have a great exclusive excerpt, a fantastic $20 Amazon GC giveaway and Shorty’s review, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(The Oletti Shifters 02)
“You’re pregnant, Graham.”
Wow. Life has tossed Graham a lot of curveballs, but he never expected to hear those words. Then, just as Graham and his fated mate, Hyden, are getting used to that amazing news, someone from Graham’s past returns and kidnaps him, threatening the very future they want to build. Talk about curveballs! Graham is an Oletti, a bloodline of wolf shifters that seems to be part of an ancient prophecy, one that speaks of a hidden magical spring of water that can restore the earth and all that is in it. A power some would kill to possess. Except, in the wrong hands, it can also turn humans and shifters totally away from what, and who, they truly love, tearing families and even fated mates apart.
Unfortunately, Hyden has been forced to drink this water so no one is coming to rescue Graham. It’s now up to him to not only save himself, his unborn child and his fated mate, but very possibly the world. Except superhero capes are hard to come by and he never liked himself much in tights. Still, with the help of his Oletti powers, this should be something he could do, right? Oh, Great Wolf, let this be something I can do…
Warnings: mention of great death in the past, rape attempt, violence off book
Bad things happen when supos go unchecked. That’s why Abarra needs The Ministry: to keep tabs on royals with powers run amok. Queen Maialen has entrusted the safety of her subjects to her nephew, Prince Xabier, placing the agency in his capable hands.
Only, the Prince would rather spend his days putting his own power to good use in the vineyards than to wither away on the bureaucratic vine. Tired of policing perpetrators and babysitting bean-counters, he schemes to groom his first lieutenant (and second cousin) the Duke of Shrubs. After months spent moving chess pieces, he is poised to convince the Queen to assign his cousin to his post.
But an unlikely pawn still stands in his way: the sexy Zain Otxoa is the pushiest pencil-pusher in all of The Ministry and head of internal affairs. Prince Xabier has plotted to have him fired at least thrice. Zain’s influence over the Queen—his only saving grace—is baffling.
When a master maneuver to have Zain reassigned exposes a shocking imbroglio, Prince Xabier learns The Ministry isn’t what it seems. And Zain isn’t a pawn at all.
Q: What show from your childhood would you love to bring back?
A: Not my childhood, but canceling Firefly was a big mistake. It’s great that they had a movie (Serenity) designed to cap the series, but…yeah, that wasn’t sufficient. Mal and Inara still need to get together. I’m waiting… (::taps foot on ground::)
Q: What’s the best vacation you ever had?
A: I spent a month in Tanzania. The first two weeks were spent acclimatizing to altitude, then climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. The last two weeks were spent on safari in the mainland, then in Zanzibar relaxing at the nicest private resort I’ve ever stayed in.
Q: If someone gave you a free plane ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go?
A: Probably Antarctica or the Seychelles or somewhere that is prohibitively expensive for me to go to myself. Antarctica doesn’t even have any public airports. If someone could organize a string of air travel that would get me there, yes, I would absolutely take it. I travel a lot for work and I afford most of my leisure travel using miles. I’m also one of those people who is nuts about having a credit card that gets you frequent traveler points. That’s how I take most of my far-flung vacations.
Q: What’s your favorite rainy day movie?
A: I never get sick of The Princess Bride, or the 1980 version of Fame. I can generally watch AMC or TCM for hours. Now that we have streaming services, I rarely have to go back to old favorites. I’m always addicted to something new. Right now, that’s K-dramas.
Q: What fictional character would you most like to be stuck in an elevator with?
A: Someone super-sexy who’s game for stuck-in-an-elevator stranger sex. I mean, who wants to be stuck in an elevator with someone and just talk?
Not so fast.
My heels clicked in rapid succession as I walked down the centerline of the grand executive hall. It was far afield of the offices on lower floors. It took minutes to get all the way up there, which was why I’d needed to make haste. Left unattended on nights when he would rather have been any place but at his post, the Prince had a tendency to disappear.
The floors were made of marble and their design was quite ornate—a wide white border off to each side, with an elaborate design forming a runway down the middle. It wasn’t a pattern, but a work of art, its geometric pieces reminiscent of stained glass. It gave the sense of walking on a rug made of stone.
Hues from garnet, to ruby, to tawny, to rose made up elements of a palette that swirled and faded to ambers and golds. They complemented magnificent oil paintings of Abarran countryside that lined the grand corridor’s high walls. Spaced-out sitting benches rendered the space worthy of entertaining. Yet, he kept it to himself, and spent most of his time alone.
The downstairs offices were another story. They were filled with six-by-six-foot cubicles configured en masse for the Ministry’s rank and file. Enclosed offices here and there were reserved for mid-level managers: MLMs, as we liked to call them. I inhabited one of the better of these offices—a space in the corner on a higher floor with a not-bad view—though an MLM I was not.
Ostensibly, I was the Head of Internal Affairs, which was exactly her intention—a gross understatement considering my deep involvement with the covert side. Not making that last fact public was by design. My list of responsibilities was too long to name—too long for me to remember most days. Yet, the highest of my duties was to babysit him.
He was Prince Xabier Garrastazu, third in line to the South Abarran throne, son of Prince Frantzisco, nephew to the Queen, and Duke of Brix. He was also the Minister of Powers—the highest-ranking official at this agency and—despite my charge to keep him from making too big a mess out of things, he was—technically—my boss.
“Is he in?” I asked Eusebio, more for his benefit than mine. I knew the Prince’s comings and goings. I had eyes on him at all times. I tried not to roll my eyes as Eusebio made a production of picking up the phone to announce my arrival. The Prince enjoyed forcing me to wait to be let in.
The more ridiculously childish and infuriatingly vain Prince Xabier, Duke of Brix, chose to be wherever I was concerned, the easier it was to ignore his ridiculous appeal.
“Your Grace.” As usual, I greeted his back, the part of him that always seemed to face me when I walked into his suite. Even from behind, the man was magnificent. Broad shoulders filled out a perfectly tailored button-down made of fine fabric and subtle herringbone design. Today’s shirt—white if you weren’t paying attention—was the faintest of lilac. He was the epitome of a dashing prince.
To be clear, I was paying attention, not only to the way its snug fit showed the definition in his shoulders—to the place where the fabric stopped and his rolled-up sleeves gave way to skin. For all the hard work he didn’t do, there needn’t have been any rolling up of sleeves. In my most outlandish of theories, he did it to torment me.
“Mr. Otxoa,” the Prince greeted blithely, not turning toward me just yet. He stood on a rug in the sitting area with his gaze remained fixed on the fire. His office was a projection of the man himself—pleasantly fragrant, clean to a fault and dripping with style. Tufted wingback chairs with ottomans flanked a matching Chesterfield, all three in a dark teal. Fire glow warmed his features, casting appeal on the planes of his face, flattering the smooth line of his nose and cutting shadows from his diamond jaw.
I stopped at the edge of the rug next to the drink trolley that carried only wine. Its twin at the other end of the Chesterfield was all crystal decanters and spirits. When he turned, I was meant to bow out of deference. This was always the most difficult moment—the one when he first cast his gaze upon me. I faltered at the devastating beauty of his eyes.
“And what have you for me tonight? More documents to sign, no doubt. More supos with powers run rampage?”
He made no secret of the fact that my presence vexed him. Unencumbered by the burden of common birth, the Prince was under no obligation to feign politesse. Logic dictated that his resentment stemmed from me holding him to task. Instinct told me that the sport he made of pushing my buttons was something more.
The Prince finally cast his sapphire gaze upon me and I did bow then, thankful that the deep hue of my skin made it easy to hide my flush. Blood that he could not see rushed to my cheeks and prickled my nose and burned the tops of my ears. If he resented me, I, too, resented him. Training the Prince was not supposed to be so difficult as this.
Meet the Author
Kenzie Blades is a queer author of romantic LGBTQ+ fiction and is the alter ego of a multi-award winning author who writes other fiction under a different name. Kenzie lives in San Francisco and enjoys lots of things that start with the letter B, like bacon, bourbon and books.
Hi peeps! We have April Kelley popping in today with the tour for her new release A Little Unsteady, we have a great exclusive excerpt and a fantastic $20 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
A Little Unsteady
Nigel wouldn’t mind if Asher called him Daddy if the age-gap didn’t bother him so much.
Nigel Blackburn has lived a full like as a private investigator. His job means he travels solo a lot, which is something he enjoys. He’s a grouchy, stubborn dragon shifter who is better off alone. The last thing he wants is a mate and certainly not one so young. It doesn’t matter that he finds little bobcat shifter, Asher Burkhart, sexy. But all Nigel’s dragon wants to do is protect, which is good because danger drives into town.
Wingspan used to be normal. It was just a small dragon shifter town until a bear showed up. He was just the beginning. Between rescuing vampires and bobcat shifters, and the Wingspan resident whose mate is a pregnant male bat shifter, Wingspan isn’t just dragon shifters anymore. They didn’t mean to be all-inclusive, and now everyone has to get along. It’s easy said than done.
All Erabus ever wanted was to stay out of his brother’s way, to let him become king after their father, and spend his life hunting in the forest outside the kingdom. That all changes when he uncovers the plot to kill his father. Erabus will do whatever it takes to save him, even forming an alliance with a strange ally named Xicuz—an incredibly gorgeous satyr he met in the forest.
If things aren’t complicated enough, Erabus soon finds himself tangled up in a deal with a devil that puts the lives of the people closest to him in danger. He learns that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire and makes a deal of his own—one that will save the love of his life, but forfeit half of his own to do so.
Warning: This excerpt may contain sexually explicit material, please proceed at your discretion.
The sun only just began to rise as Erabus made his way through the thick forest, his footfalls inaudible on the damp leaf-carpeted ground. He held his bow with an arrow notched and ready to fire as he navigated around one cluster of trees and then another. The sounds from the other hunters faded into the distance. They made far more noise than they should if they expected to catch anything.
Putting the far less skilled hunters from his mind, he paused to sniff the fresh forest air, filling his nose with the strong scents of pine and moss. He smiled at how the scents calmed him and continued in search of any deer that might have passed through the area recently. Though if the others continued to rustle around and break branches, he doubted they would remain in the vicinity for long. Erabus tuned them out once more as he crouched to the ground and removed debris from an indention in the dirt.
He traced the imperfect print with the pad of his index finger. Deer or perhaps a goat down from the mountain. The print didn’t cause a deep enough indent to tell for sure which. The only thing he was confident about was the freshness of the print. With any luck, the animal would still be nearby, and Erabus was determined to catch it before the others could alert it to their presence. Careful to walk on the pads of his feet to reduce what little noise he made, he followed the prints farther into the forest until he heard the rustling of leaves coming from the other side of a cluster of trees that grew so close together he couldn’t see through them.
He parted the branches as much as he dared, waiting only long enough to spot the horns before carefully releasing the branch and taking aim through the trees. Though his target wasn’t visible from his current position, he knew roughly where the deer stood and took aim to the right and down a bit from where its horns should end. He inhaled as he pulled the string taut and released the arrow at the same time as his breath. The arrow pierced the air with an audible whoosh.
The gentle thud of the arrow striking wood came only a moment before a voice called out in alarm, startling Erabus. He barely caught his bow as he dropped it. Had another hunter made it out farther than I realized? But he’d seen the horns. Confused, he shouldered his bow to investigate when a voice called out, “Watch what you are doing!”
“I’m so sorry, sir. I swear I saw horns,” Erabus insisted as he fell through the thicket. He took a moment to right himself before turning his eyes on the man he came inches from shooting. Only it wasn’t a man standing before him. A foot away from where his arrow struck the tree stood a creature with the body and face of a man but the legs, hooves, tail, and ears of a goat. Most importantly, the horns of one too.
Staring at him in shock, Erabus gave him another once-over, noticing for the first time the loincloth that covered his lower bits from his view. He barely managed to squeak out a stuttered, “You’re…you’re a…” before snapping his lips closed once more when he realized his mind refused to supply him with the words he searched for.
The being before him smirked before offering in a deep, warm voice, “The word you are looking for is a satyr. It’s a good thing you are as bad a shot as you are a speaker.” Erabus glanced from the satyr to where the arrow stood embedded in the tree behind him. He realized just how wrong he was. It was true his arrow missed him, but he had not been the target.
“Look again, sir, my aim was true,” Erabus said, his confidence returning. “If you were a deer, as I first thought, the arrow would have struck between your shoulder blades.” He crossed his arms and gave him a smug look.
The satyr’s silver eyes widened as he looked at the arrow. “It is a good thing I am not an animal then. Though how you ever confused these beauts with deer antlers, I will never know.”
Erabus looked at the satyr’s horns once more. The satyr was right.
Where a deer’s antlers would have been large and branched out in every direction, he had two single arches on either side of his forehead, larger and thicker than a mountain goat’s. There was no excuse for his mistake—he should have looked more carefully before he shot. However, he wasn’t willing to admit it.
“You should be careful, sir. You shouldn’t be wandering around in the human hunting area.” It wasn’t right to blame his mistake on his near victim, but in his embarrassment, Erabus couldn’t stand the thought of shouldering all the blame himself.
“Actually, sir,” the satyr countered, his sir sounding an octave higher than the rest, “you have crossed over into the land designated for the satyrs when our kings met ten years ago. It is you that should be careful.”
It took him a moment to compose himself. Was the satyr threatening him? He doubted it but couldn’t be sure. Erabus opened his mouth to insist he would have known if they crossed the border onto their land, but his words caught in his throat at the sound of the hunters’ voices coming from the other side of the trees. Some bragged about the game they caught others complaining about, being unlucky in their hunt.
One called out for him, no doubt wanting his help to carry back their game as opposed to being worried about his absence. The hunters would soon overtake them, and they would not react well to finding a satyr on “their” land.
Erabus slapped a hand over the satyr’s mouth and pushed him back against a tree, hiding the two of them in the shadows. He pressed his lips close to the satyr’s pointed goat-like ear that twitched as Erabus’s breath tickled it with each whispered word. “Do not make a sound unless you want the hunters to find you.” Erabus glanced over his shoulder, barely able to make out the hunters as they made their way passed their hiding spot.
Erabus sighed in relief once the last of them disappeared back into the forest, heading toward home. He waited another moment to be sure before he turned back to the satyr and found his face an inch or two from his own. Erabus swallowed hard when he realized how close his lips were to his own, with only his hand separating them.
Before he could find the words to assure him it was safe now, something hot and wet dragged across his palm. He jumped back in shock. “You licked my hand!” he accused in disbelief, staring down at the moist spot on his palm.
The satyr smirked. “Would you prefer I licked something else instead?” He licked his lips and looked Erabus up and down.
Was he serious? Erabus began a stuttered reply, but he was saved from having to give an actual answer by a horn blowing in the distance.
The satyr sighed in disappointment before glancing off in the direction of the horn. “Alas, I shall not be able to hear your answer this time, sir.” He gave him a slight yet exaggerated bow before smirking at him again. “Next time then.”
Erabus didn’t know if he said it as a parting or in reference to when he would be getting the answer from him. Before Erabus could respond, the satyr disappeared into the forest.
Hairann is the author of the Outlaw Seven series. She is an out and proud Pan who lives with her amazing family in Montreal. She’s worked as a ghostwriter on Fiverr since 2018 and has an Associate’s degree in early childhood education. She invites you to follow @AuthorHairann on Twitter.
A fourteen year-old boy is struck by a car and left to die in a derelict section of town. He is the latest victim in a rash of deadly accidents spoiling a hot California summer.
Artemis Andronikos, a beautiful attorney with a teenage of her own, knows the deaths are not the unrelated mishaps the authorities assume. The victims are Harbinger children gifted with extraordinary perceptive abilities. It has been seven years since the Harbinger suddenly appeared enabling people to foresee traumatic events. The new sense has proved most dramatic in young children. Now the prescient children are becoming adolescents. And the world’s power centers are becoming alarmed.
Artemis and her partner Lucy Breem, put aside their comfortable Maui lifestyle to investigate who or what is luring the children to their deaths. What they discover shocks the conscience. The ancients left a warning for future generations. The future of mankind has been wrested in the hands of the Harbinger children. And someone unexpected wants the power back.
Angie rode the remnants of a collapsing wave onto the beach, hopped expertly off the board, and let it sidle along the sand. Her blonde hair fluttered in the wind as she retrieved the board and waved at the slender dark-haired woman watching from a nearby bluff.
“Not bad!” Artemis called down, pleased with the progress her niece was making. Lucy’s pretty young daughter possessed grace and balance and something more, something harder to define but undeniably present in the girl’s confident hazel eyes.
Artemis waited for the girl to saunter up the beach toward her and shook her head. Angie’s trim, agile body was on the verge of adolescence. In a month she would officially be in her teens and the very thought gave Artemis a chill. Whatever influence either she or Lucy had over Angie would soon dissipate like waves withdrawing from the beach. And given the horrors of the current world what would be normal trepidation tipped toward full blown terror.
She greeted Angie with an arm around her shoulders and a gentle hug.
“Can we show Mom?” Angie asked, giving her aunt an imploring look.
“Sure. I’ll text her right now.” Artemis shielded her eyes to check the sun descending in the west. “It’s close to closing time. Lucy should be able to close up shop and head this way. Want to get some lemonade while we wait?”
Angie nodded enthusiastically. “Can we get…?”
“…another round of Maui onion rings?” Artemis chuckled at Angie’s happy fist pump in response.
They headed to Leilani’s and took a free table on the patio. Lucy arrived twenty minutes later, still dressed in her shop clerk slacks and blouse, just as Angie polished off the final greasy onion ring. She gave Artemis a disapproving frown when she saw what they’d been eating and settled into the chair between them.
“Claire wanted to stay open for art night, so I left her in charge instead of closing up,” Lucy said, motioning the waitress for her usual pineapple iced tea. “I think she likes running the shop almost as much as she loves shopping.”
Artemis’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “No doubt about that. Buying and selling are all the same to Claire so long as she gets to be in an air-conditioned store. I hope we’ll have some inventory left though. We aren’t getting supplies again for three more days. And it promises to be a busy weekend.”
Lucy accepted the frosty glass from the waitress and took a long drink. “Oh, I needed that. This has been one hot summer.” She rolled the glass along her forehead and relished the coolness. “I may never get used to the tropics.”
“Maybe you’re just having hot flashes, Mom,” Angie offered with a wicked little smirk.
Not amused, Lucy glanced at Artemis who was sucking in her cheeks to keep from laughing and turned to scowl at her daughter. “Listen, kid. You aren’t a teenager yet. I still have a few weeks before I have to put up with that ‘you are so old’ commentary.”
Lucy set the glass of tea on the table with a thud and gritted her teeth. Artemis was not being helpful and if her partner laughed out loud Lucy was going to—something. She wasn’t quite sure what. Artemis may be her soulmate, but she was also a formidable opponent.
“Temmie! Don’t you dare encourage her!”
“Me?” Artemis asked innocently, touching a finger to her chest. She looked sternly at Angie. “I think your mother wears her age rather well.”
“For an old lady. You’re both past thirty, you know,” Angie chirped and stood up, ready to perform the new surfing skill they’d summoned Lucy to observe. She hooked her board under her arm and started for the beach. Halfway there, Angie froze and stood staring silently at the gentle surf.
Artemis sensed the danger an instant later. She jumped to her feet and searched the ocean where Angie’s gaze was focused. A pair of surfers bobbed in the growing swells about forty yards out.
Angie raised her arm and pointed. “There!”
Artemis took off down the beach, propelling her body with long powerful strides. She dove into the water and swam toward the surfers, closing the distance between them with quick rhythmic strokes. Aware of the hungry presence loitering below, Artemis plunged down and searched the silted water. In front of her was a young tiger shark, tasting the water with its open mouth. Artemis surfaced and called to the two boys perched on their boards, legs dangling in the swells.
The shark swam lazily beneath the bobbing surfboards and began a long, hunting circle back toward them. Artemis grabbed the tip of the first board and shook it, getting the attention of the boys, who were mesmerized by the circling fin. She pointed to the beach thirty yards behind them. The two surfers flattened themselves on their boards and began to paddle toward shore. Artemis trod water, her eyes locked on the rapidly approaching fin.
Taking a deep breath, she let her body go limp and sink upright below the surface within arm’s reach of the animal. The shark moved its head back and forth in the water, testing the new scent to determine if it was prey. Artemis watched the shark move slowly toward her. Her pale eyes darkened, bits of light sparkling at the edges. Gliding past her, the shark gave a swing of its powerful tail and retreated in search of a more appealing meal.
The two teenage surfers waited on the beach to thank the woman who had warned them. They watched her emerge from the surf, soaked shorts and tee clinging to her body. To the boys the tall, shapely figure was Venus rising from the ocean and they stood transfixed by the vision. Artemis shook water from her long hair and glanced at the boys with a trace of amusement in her ice-blue eyes. They stared as she whisked sea water from her torso and brushed her hair to one side. She nodded as she passed them, relieved the two boys would not join the growing list of youngsters who had not made it through the summer.
“You confused it,” Angie said, a touch of awe in her voice when her aunt returned.
“She was just hungry.” Artemis shrugged, enfolding Angie in a hug and playfully knuckling the top of her head. “She was a teenager interested in grabbing a snack just like someone else I know.”
Lucy gave the pair a quizzical look. What had her daughter felt, she wondered. The shark’s presence? Its hunger? Or just a sense of danger? Angie’s premonitions came in so many different forms of late it was impossible to know for certain. The ability was continuing to develop, not in Angie alone but in the minds of many of the children of the Harbinger generation. Lucy sipped her drink, silently pondering what alarmed her most: Angie’s premonitions or Artemis’s reckless charges into harm’s way.
I live in Southern California with my two daughters. I have degrees in English and Psychology from the University of California and twenty plus years of writing experience from technical manuals to short stories. As an executive with a major computer firm, I managed customer documentation and field training and have traveled extensively. I have a passion for history, alternative theories about life’s mysteries life and dolphins. Find Mary onFacebook.
Hynd Perrent leads a lonely life, rejected by most of society after a debilitating illness permanently changed him. He has spent nearly a decade investigating the disappearance of a military unit, Seventh Dragoons, in a war nearly a century prior, content to immerse himself in the frustrating search and the book he intends to write about it.
When his sister sets him up with a handsome stranger, Hynd can scarcely believe his luck, unable to recall the last time somebody wanted to be near him and did not fear or revile him for his illness. But Julius Ocere has come for a different reason: Hynd’s. He wants to learn what happened to the Seventh and prove that his great-grandfather was not a traitor.
While a research assistant isn’t what Hynd had hoped for, he takes Julius on. The mystery they uncover is larger than either of them could have imagined, and it will take both of them together to finally put the ghosts of the Seventh to rest.
Hynd was in the study, bent over a book when Alycia arrived. He ought to have known something was suspicious from her sudden appearance in his doorway, but he had been squinting at faded pages all day, and his eye wasn’t working quite right. So, he was caught off-guard when she said, voice sly, “I’ve found you a lover.”
“Oh,” said Hynd, and then, “no.”
“Well, perhaps not yet.” Alycia entered the study and dropped into the opposite chair. “A potential lover. He’s Viola’s cousin. Julius Ocere. Have you met him?” She reached across the desk and plucked up his pen, fiddling with it as she spoke.
“No,” said Hynd again, turning a page. He had to be careful when doing so, for the book was so old, the material so worn, that the slightest tug could send things flying disastrously out of their bindings. The book—one of Captain Walsh’s journals, written during the end of the Lily Wars—was on loan from the Royal University library; to wreck the library’s treasure would be to wreck his access to the Old Archives, and at that point, Hynd could bid farewell to ever completing his manuscript.
“I do love it when you stop listening to me,” Alycia said. Had she been speaking?
When he glanced at her, she rolled her eyes theatrically. “Thank you, brother. As I was saying, Mr. Ocere wants to meet you. He’s very interested in you.”
That seemed unlikely, all things considered, but when Hynd raised a dubious eyebrow at her, she continued more fiercely than before. “I mean it! Listen, I didn’t sell you to him—”
“I should hope not.”
That got him a scowl. “He asked about you,” Alycia continued. “I was talking with Viola, and I happened to mention the book you’re writing, on the Seventh Dragoons, and immediately, he was right there. Apparently, he’s as interested in the Dragoons as you are.”
Which…wasn’t where Hynd had thought things would go. “Really?”
“Truly. When I told him about you, he became more and more interested. Viola says that he recently parted ways with his lover, and even though it was amicable—at least, according to Viola, though God knows whether she’s right about that—Mr. Ocere is lonely. He wanted me to pass a message on to you.”
Something flipped a little in Hynd’s stomach. He tried to quash it—don’t get your hopes up—but it was like a queer little flame burning inside him. It wasn’t exactly as though Hynd were drowning in suitors; of course, a man personally asking to call upon him would have an impact. He knew that, and he knew it was foolish, and he still couldn’t help the warmth that rose in his cheeks.
Alycia noticed and smirked. “He wants to meet you,” she said, in a singsong way.
“Tomorrow night, eight o’clock. At the Vine and Blade. Do you know where that is?”
Hynd did, and told her as much, which made her look pleased as a cat in cream. “Good. So, you’ll meet him?”
“Last time you tried to arrange a meeting with a gentleman for me, he didn’t even appear.”
“I’m sure Julius Ocere will appear.”
“The time before that,” Hynd reminded her, “the man you found was actually planning on wooing you.”
Alycia colored and turned her face away. “Felix Roddan was just a silly boy. I can’t believe I even gave him the time of day. No, this isn’t like that. He’s interested in you, Hynd. He asked all about your work, and he wanted to know about your hobbies and what you like. He was enthralled that you’re a Royal Scholar, you know. He didn’t think twice about me.”
The funny feeling had returned, stronger than before. Hynd swallowed. “Did you tell him about me?”
“Of course, I did. I answered every question he had.” She tilted her head, looking concerned. “Did that breach your privacy?”
“No, that’s not… I mean, did you tell him about me?”
Alycia blinked at him, but he couldn’t tell if her confusion was sincere or feigned. “Yes,” she finally said, and her tone, at least, was decisive. “I told him all about you.”
“And he wants to meet me?”
“He sent you a message, didn’t he? You ought to send him a response as soon as possible. He seems like a busy fellow.”
No doubt, Julius Ocere was a busy fellow. Busier than Hynd, at any rate. It was easy to have lots of free time when one never left the house except on mandatory errands. It was easy to avoid packed schedules when one had no friends.
“You’re making that face,” said Alycia. “Don’t. Just send him a message and go tomorrow evening. He’s very nice, and he’s dashing, and he’s utterly handsome—tall and golden—and he practically begged me to mention him to you. What more could you want?”
She winked at him and rose, vanishing back into the hallway. Alone, he returned to his work but found himself unable to concentrate. His mind kept picking over the conversation. Tall and golden. What more could Hynd want?
Rachel White was born and raised in L.A., California, but moved north for college. An avid reader for as long as she can remember, she started writing in high school and hasn’t stopped. Her favorite genre is fantasy, but she’ll devour a good book no matter what shelf it belongs to; she takes the same approach to her own writing, hopping between ideas, genres, and stories as it suits her.
After a string of failed relationships, brilliant litigator Eunice Park is determined to stay single. Who needs distractions when you’re trying to make partner at Chicago’s most prestigious law firm? A Sunday afternoon visit from the police is the beginning of a series of events that turn Eun’s life upside down, and she’s forced to return to her hometown and confront her estranged family.
Morgan Wright, locksmith and part-time animal shelter volunteer, is convinced the perfect woman exists, just not for her. After a chance encounter with Eun, Morgan becomes embroiled in Eun’s family drama.
Charmed by Morgan’s easy swagger, Eun invites her back to her hotel room. Bone-melting sex and a surprisingly soulful connection leaves Eun questioning her return to Chicago. But not everyone in Sikesville is happy Eun has returned.
Eunice Park glared at the ringing phone on her desk. On the third ring she picked it up. “What is it?”
“Sorry to bother you, Eunice, but your father’s on the line. He insisted I connect him.”
Eunice leaned forward and straightened her posture. “What?”
“Your father. Says it’s urgent. Want me to take a message? Or leave him on hold till he hangs up?”
Eunice swept her hair back with one hand and closed her fist around it, barely resisting the urge to tear it out. “No. I’ll talk to him.” She took her reading glasses off and tossed them on the top of the stack of trial transcripts and depositions on her desk.
“Eun?” James Park’s rich baritone filled her ear. Her Korean name, spoken in the way it was meant to be said, made her heart squeeze. She detested Eunice and still cursed the day she had chosen to use it instead of her true name.
“Yes.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “It’s me.”
Silence stretched out between them, harsh and violent. Eun settled back into her chair. Her father’s silence and its power over Eun had weakened over the years. Eun knew his trick. Wait for the other to become so uncomfortable they spilled their secrets and told you everything you wanted to know. For once, Eun would not give in. She set her gaze on the clock on her computer screen. One minute. Two minutes. Eun fiddled with the edge of her blotter.
At three and one-half minutes her father cleared his throat and spoke. “Come home. I need to see you.”
“Nothing’s changed.” Eun chewed her lip.
“I need to see you.”
“Why now? I’m not coming home to be berated again. You made yourself clear five years ago. I’m not backing down. Not this time.”
“I’m not asking you to. I have something to discuss with you. I can’t do it over the phone. Please. This weekend?”
Eun rubbed her forehead. “I can’t. I’m buried. I have dog of a case, my cocounsel is an idiot, and I’ve got closing arguments next week. The weekend after?”
“If that’s the best you can do.”
“What?” Eun’s voice rose as anger she had managed to contain bubbled up. “Oh hell no. You can’t call me up out of the blue, demand I see you, and then act all pissy if I can’t drop what I’m doing and run home. Not after what you pulled last time. I’m lesbian, Dad. I’ve been lesbian, I’m going to be lesbian. Nothing is going to change that.”
“I know.” The defeated tone in his voice scraped against Eun’s battered heart.
“I have to go.”
“Will you come?”
Her father disconnected the call. Eun fell back into her chair. Late afternoon sun raked the tops of the high-rise buildings surrounding the office building. Red-and-orange light, reflected off the glass, shone through the floor to ceiling window and glinted off the framed print on the wall opposite her desk.
Her stomach rumbled, an audible reminder of her neglecting to eat breakfast and lunch. She tapped her pen on the desk and glowered at the stack of transcripts on her desk as she rang her assistant. “Order us some food, please.’
“Have a hankering for anything?” Sally’s soft drawl spilled through the phone.
“Whatever you want.”
“I will be.” Eun spun her pen in a circle, a wave of guilt for keeping her assistant after hours swept over her. “You don’t have to stay. John must miss you.”
“He does. But he also knows how important this case is. Faizal’s okay?”
“Sounds wonderful. That gyro salad they do.”
Eun’s mouth watered at the thought of the sticky honey-sweet dessert. “Of course.”
Eun hung up and spun in her chair to face her bookshelf. The black-framed photo of Eun and her father at her law school graduation was opposite a photo of Eun and her mother at Eun’s kindergarten graduation. She closed her eyes as the memory of the last fight she’d had with her father surfaced. Anger and humiliation over his demand she go to conversion therapy surged through her as strong and as raw as that evening. Memories of other interventions, his relentless set-ups with eligible young men, and the shocked expressions of his church friends when she told them all the only thing she was sure of was they were all going to hell bubbled to the surface.
Her stomach ached: too much coffee, and not enough food. She reached into her drawer for the ginger chews she kept at hand. She unwrapped one and popped it into her mouth to quell her stomachache and glanced at the clock on the computer screen. It would be at least forty-five minutes before Sally was back with their food.
Her phone vibrated with a message. The glowing read notification sent a rill of excitement down her spine. Maybe a quick fuck would be the ticket to a good night’s sleep. A glorious, no-real-names hotel-room sex fest would be delightful. She thumbed open the Hit Me Up app and opened the message.
Disappointment washed over her. The message was from her most recent date. A bold butch who had given Eun several mind-bending orgasms that had made her strongly reconsider her self-imposed no-more-than-one-date rule. Until she stalked the woman on social media and found out she was not single as her profile claimed. Eun detested cheaters. She deleted the woman’s message without reading it and tossed her phone on to her desk.
Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot.
I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list at: www.brendalmurphy.com
Hi guys! We have T.A. Moore, Rhys Ford, Bru Baker & Jenn Moffatt popping in today with the tour for Bad, Dad and Dangerous we have a brilliant guest post from Bru Baker, a great excerpt and a fantastic $10 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Bad, Dad and Dangerous
T.A. Moore, Rhys Ford, Bru Baker & Jenn Moffatt
When the kids are away, the monsters will play.
School’s out for summer, and these dads are ready to ship their kids off to camp. Not just because their kids are monsters—whose aren’t?—but because they’re ready for some alone time to let their hair down and their fangs out. You see, not only are the kids monsters—their dads are too.
Even the most dangerous of creatures has a soft spot. These bad, dangerous dads love their kids to death, but they need romance.
Every year, for a few short weeks, these hot men with a little extra in their blood get to be who they truly are. And this year, life has a surprise for them. Whether they be mage, shifter, vampire, or changeling, these heartbreakingly handsome dads might be looking to tear up the town… but they’ll end up falling in love. All it takes is the right man to bring them to their knees.
MONSTER HALL PASS BY BRU BAKER
White-collar dad Hugh Whitby dotes on his adopted daughter, but she’s away at camp. Now it’s time let the vampiric urges he so tightly controls run wild and take advantage of his monster hall pass to feed on criminals. But when fae prince Rykoff of Harlow interrupts Hugh feeding, he catches Hugh’s daughter’s scent and vows to avenge the fae youngling he believes Hugh has captured.
Hugh had no idea his daughter wasn’t human, and it rocks the foundation of his world. He must convince Rykoff that the fae youngling in question is safe with her vampire dad and can prosper in the mortal realm—or risk losing her forever.