Hi guys! We have Kathryn Sommerlot stopping by today with her new release The Loyal Whispers, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
The Loyal Whispers
The Life Siphon 03
Ravee: a pious Rad-em merchant’s daughter sailing with her family’s goods
Mairi: the Runonian king’s advisor seeing the outside world for the first time
Alesh: an alchemist’s apprentice in Joesar with a past rapidly catching up to her
Three women find themselves caught in the threads of change as the world threatens to fall apart around them. From across the Oldal Sea, the southern kingdom of Dusset has declared war, and if anyone is going to survive it, the alliance between Runon, Chayd, Rad-em, and Joesar must be solidified.
But there are forces at work that could undermine all the progress King Yudai and Tatsu have made. Peace treaty negotiations between the four realms could crumble at any time beneath the building tension.
As the women’s paths converge, they must navigate the true meaning of loyalty to themselves, their countries, and their families, while at the center of it all, a shattered king, hellbent on revenge, threatens the world balance.
Hi peeps, we have K.R. Collins stopping by today with her new release Lighting The Lamp, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Lighting The Lamp
(Sophie Fournier 03)
Entering her third season, Sophie Fournier has almost everything she wants. She’s the captain of the Concord Condors, she’s roommates and linemates with Elsa Nyberg, the elite Swedish winger she’s wanted to play alongside since the Zurich U-Tourney.
There are two major things she’s missing, though. She doesn’t have her next contract lined up, and she still hasn’t won the Maple Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize. If she wins the Cup, she’ll have leverage going into her contract negotiations. And, in case she needed more motivation, this is Benoit Delacroix’s final season as a Concord Condor, and she’s determined he won’t retire without lifting the Cup.
Hi guys! We have K.M. Neuhold stopping by today with the tour for their new release Nailed, we have a great excerpt so check out the post and enjoy! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(Four Bears Construction 02)
My new neighbor is a total tool
He hated me from the second he laid eyes on me, and I don’t have the first clue why…
But, if he wants to hate me, I’m happy to give him a few reasons: mowing the lawn at dawn on the weekend, leaving garbage cans in front of his driveway, renting a petting zoo for my backyard…making a list of ways to drive him crazy is half the fun.
He deserves it with the way he’s driving me crazy right back without even trying— walking around without a shirt on, sweaty rippling muscles on full display, well-worn denim jeans perfectly molded to his…well, you get the idea.
My point is, if he wants a war, I’ll give him one.
***Nailed is an enemies to lovers, neighbors who can’t stand each other, omg the anger banging, drool worthy, low angst story, which happens to be the second in my Four Bears Construction Series. It CAN be read as a stand alone. There are NO shifters in this series, only the OTHER kind of bears.
Hi guys! We have Mell Eight stopping by today with her new release Ge-Mi: Part Two, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Ge-Mi: Part Two
(Ge-Mi Part Two)
Taylor Reyes was born to privilege, but despite that has always been considered an abomination. He was the child that should never have been born and has spent his life trying to prove his worth to the world to no avail. As a red wolf Ge-Mi, humans look at his furry ears before his accomplishments, and no matter how hard he continues to work Taylor knows that will never change. Still, he has a grandfather that loves him and a pack of his own to lead. The life he created for himself is not a bad one, until one day a pair of adorable cat ears derails everything.
The thought of finding a mate had never crossed Taylor’s mind, but suddenly he can’t stop thinking about Nevada. There’s no time for the distraction, though, as people are moving to unseat his grandfather from the city’s throne. The fight has just begun, but ending it might mean Taylor will lose Nevada forever.
Hi guys, we have Rick R. Reed popping in today with his new re-release Big Love, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(Big Love 01)
Rick R. Reed
Teacher Dane Bernard is a gentle giant, loved by all at Summitville High School. He has a beautiful wife, two kids, and an easy rapport with staff and students alike. But Dane has a secret, one he expects to keep hidden for the rest of his life—he’s gay. But when he loses his wife, Dane finally confronts his attraction to men.
A new teacher, Seth Wolcott, immediately catches his eye. Seth is also starting over, licking his wounds from a breakup, and the last thing Seth wants is another relationship—but when he spies Dane on his first day at Summitville High, his attraction is immediate and electric.
As the two men enter into a dance of discovery and new love, they’re called upon to come to the aid of bullied gay student Truman Reid. Truman is out and proud, which not everyone at his small-town high school approves of. As the two men work to help Truman ignore the bullies and love himself without reservation, they all learn life-changing lessons about coming out, coming to terms, acceptance, heartbreak, and falling in love.
Hi guys! We have Lee Colgin stopping by today with her new release Forbidden Love, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
(They Bite 02)
When an esteemed vampire doctor treats an injured young werewolf, desire sparks between them.
Dr. Benjamin Arleth has devoted his life to finding a medical cure for his species’ most devastating weakness—sunlight. Finally, one of his pharmaceuticals shows promise, but sabotage looms large in the lab.
Wolf shifter Nathan Cramer is ready to finish grad school and begin his career when a trip to Center City’s Peace Conference goes awry. Weak and bleeding, Nathan knows his wounds could prove fatal. Dr. Arleth is his only hope.
Can love flourish between enemy species despite a society in turmoil? Could vampires walk in the daylight or will darkness reign? It’s a race to find answers, and Ben will have to put his trust in Nathan if they’re going to make it out alive.
Forbidden Love is a MM urban fantasy/paranormal romance and the second book in the series They Bite but can be enjoyed as a standalone.
Hi guys! We have Rain Carrington Popping in today with her new release Bullied No More, We have a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Bullied No More
(A Legacy Novel 04)
Finding peace at last, Javier Duran thought he’d hung up his guns and camo from his life as a mercenary to live in a town surrounded by beautiful mountains. Taking jobs that required him to be out of town periodically was perfect for him, except this time, when someone broke into his sanctuary.
Daniel Norman didn’t have an easy life. Abused by his brother and ignored by his father, he only existed. Learning how to get around security systems was the only skill he had that his family gave him credit for, so he did it well.
The house on the edge of town, the mysterious man who owned it, they were different for Daniel. Intrigued, he did his job and got their crew into the house but regretted it, as each room he entered told him a little more about the man who lived there.
When Javier returned home during the break in, everything changed for them both. Attempting to save Javier, Daniel commits murder, and Javier is determined to save him. To a cabin he’d bought the same time he’d bought his beloved house, he whisked Daniel, getting to know the quiet young man and finding more than he bargained for.
The age difference was Javi’s main concern, knowing his feelings for Daniel could only grow. Discarding him like others had, however, could break him. Can Javi chance his own heart to save the heart of the young man, or will his old life creep back in and destroy them both?
Hi guys! We have Este Holland popping in today with her new release Karma’s a Bit*h we have a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway!❤️ ~Pixie~
Karma’s a Bit*h
Jake Michelson plays it safe. All he wants to do is keep a roof over his head and graduate from NYU in a few months. He can count on three things in life: his job at Dinkin’s Donuts, his best friend Marri, and school.
Archer Ferraro plays by his own rules. The one thing he can’t stand is when bad people get away with doing bad things. He’s dedicated his life to righting the wrongs the police can’t or won’t handle.
When Archer accidentally upsets Jake’s life, he vows to make it right and hires him. Together, Jake and Archer must work on a new case involving stolen jewelry and a womanizer, deal with a lawyer brother and a jailbird father, and stay out of the cops’ way.
Want true, heart-throbbing romance? Put down the Cheetos, and stop being a jackass. The question is, can I do it? I’ve been an epic dick to my friends, my uncle. Him. Travis Hunter. Photographer, econ-student, paraplegic. Can I redeem myself? Apologize? Make a fresh start? Hunter seems to think so. Even roped me into saving his favorite gazebo from the bulldozers. The confidence of this man amazes me. He’s no bullshit where I’m all bullshit. I throw up walls where he knocks them down. He’s beautiful, too. Strong arms inked with hummingbirds, a wide teasing mouth, and blue eyes that read me like an open book. He looks at me, and I look away. These shivery feelings I have for Hunter? They can’t happen. I don’t deserve him. Where did I put those Cheetos? ~ ~ ~ Marc Jillson & The Gazebo is a sweet, sexy M/M romance with humor and a definite HEA. This New Adult, college, redemption story is book two in the “Love Inscribed” series. The books in the Love Inscribed series are standalone romances, and can be read in any order. LIAM DAVIS & THE RAVEN: Liam & Quinn’s story MARC JILLSON & THE GAZEBO: Marc & Hunter’s story
What author Anyta Sunday says about this release:
I want readers to enjoy a good, steamy romance with a sex-positive, strong MC (Hunter) who helps the other MC (Marc) come to terms with his past, and accept himself as worthy of love.
Release Blitz Teaser:
Marc. Hunter’s soft utterance of my name followed me the rest of the evening. It felt promising. Like maybe I could start with a clean slate. I stared at my computer. Did I dare go back on Demon-Slayage? I groaned as I clicked into the game. I wanted to be on here badly. Nervous butterflies hit my stomach seeing Hunter already online.
DaMage: You’re back! Me: I’m not sure this is a good idea. DaMage: In light of us knowing each other? Me: It was more fun when you didn’t know the real me. DaMage: Are you worried I’m judging you? Me: Aren’t you?
About the Author:
A bit about me: I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries. I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of fantasy. My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, and Thai.
To celebrate the release of Marc Jillson and the Gazebo, Anyta Sunday will be giving away 3 e-bundles of the “Love Inscribed” books, “Liam Davis” & “Marc Jillson”! Must be 18 to enter and win; open internationally.
One young American tutor + one dangerously sexy widowed king = conflict, chaos, misadventure and lots and lots of sexytimes
For the record, sleeping with my boss was not part of the plan when I started this new job. A job I desperately need to get my parents off my back about my chosen career path.
But the second I catch sight of Lukas Romansky in the flesh, I know I’m in trouble. The guy is pure sex wrapped in a three-piece suit, and not even his stuffy attitude or the way he seems to despise me on sight is enough to stifle my attraction.
But I’m here to work, not to hook up. It doesn’t matter how sexy Lukas is, or how sweet he is with his children—sleeping with the boss is never a good idea.
Oh, and did I mention my boss also happens to be the king?
Yes, King Lukas III of Korova, the man voted World’s Sexiest Head of State three years in a row. Hooking up with him wouldn’t just be a bad idea, it would be an international scandal.
So believe me when I say I didn’t come to Korova with the intention of seducing the king. But sometimes things just happen. And is it my fault I’m impossible to resist?
*The King and Jai spins off from Virtually Screwed (Love & Luck #2) and is the first book in the Royal & Reckless series.
**The King and Jai is part of a multi author box set titled Romantically Ever After.
“May I present King Lukas III of Korova,” she says with her usual introductory gesture. To me, she says, “Your Majesty, this is Mr. Jai Winters.”
The man standing in front of me is young. No older than his mid-twenties, I’d wager. I find it difficult to believe someone of his age could boast the kind of qualifications Veronika seemed so impressed with earlier, but I trust her judgment implicitly so I suppose I’ll take her word for it despite my reservations. He’s also incredibly handsome, a thought that I push from my mind due to its complete irrelevance. I instead focus on his attire—jeans and a hooded sweatshirt. My mouth turns down at the casual way he’s dressed, but it’s possible he was given very little warning ahead of this meeting so I suppose I could give him the benefit of the doubt this once.
“Mr. Winters. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
He gapes at me for a long moment, his gray eyes running up the length of my body, then back down again in a way that makes me decidedly uncomfortable. When he finally remembers he’s supposed to bow in front of the king of Korova, he bends at the waist, dipping low and almost toppling over. “Thank you, Your Majesty. I’m happy to pleasure you.” His back straightens, eyes wide. “I mean, I care about your pleasure. Ahh, I mean…shit. Fuck…”
The corner of my mouth tilts upward. “Well, I can see my children are in excellent hands.”
There’s color blooming on his cheeks as he offers a self-deprecating smile. I bite down on my jaw as that pang of discomfort hits me again. Yes, definitely discomfort. Not anything else.
“Yes, very good hands.”
His words prompt my gaze to drop to the hands clasped together in front of him. Long fingers, neatly clipped nails, golden tan skin. Strong hands. Capable hands. My own fists clench at my sides as I force my brain not to go there. The place I’ve been fighting against for over twenty years.
I glance up to find the American eyeing me curiously. A stray dark curl has fallen over his forehead and I decide to extricate myself from the situation before I do something ridiculous, like reach out to brush it back. With a curt nod, I turn on my heel and stride from the room, making a beeline for my private study where I take a seat at my large mahogany desk and start sifting through the pile of papers that have been left for me.
Isla Olsen is the romance-writing alter-ego of a YA Fantasy author. She first discovered her love of romantic comedies when, after spending all her work time lost in epic fantasy worlds, she decided she needed something light and fluffy to read in her downtime. She quickly became addicted to authors like Lauren Blakely, Tara Sivec and Rachel Van Dyken, and then one day she discovered MM…and there was no going back after that! After all, two hot guys are better than one, right?
Isla lives in Melbourne, Australia with her giant bed-hogging Rhodesian Ridgeback; she’s a major sports fan (yes, rugby is way better than American Football!), a chocoholic, loves Chinese food, and is a firm believer that the best music was created way before she was born.
Hi guys! We have Sean Ian O’Meidhir and Connal Braginsky popping in today with their new release Awakening, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Sean Ian O’Meidhir and Connal Braginsky
Nathen was recently diagnosed with autism, and he’s a newly created vampire. His maker, a multinational corporation with its finger on the pulse of the technology industry, has recruited him to stop a terrorist plot. In the process, he meets Cameron, a telepath and psychologist, who has a troubled past he keeps locked up in the shadows of his psyche.
Nathen is confused by social cues and Cameron can barely block out the thoughts of others.
Together, they find common ground, and with the help of their friend Syn, they work out the secrets of the terrorist group and learn that the plot is far greater than they could have imagined.
Hi guys! We have M.J. James stopping by today with his release Finding Fisher, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
When Ian Fisher walked away from his life a year ago, he had no plans to ever return to where he grew up. However, after a run-in with the cops, he’s forced to move in with his sister Rachel—in his dead parents’ house.
Back home, Ian can’t stop thinking about his ex, Sam. He still loves him and knows Sam loves him too, and he will stop at nothing to convince Sam to face his true feelings. But Sam has moved on. He has a fiancé, and he rejects Ian’s repeated attempts to fix their relationship. Ian deals with those rejections by getting lost in the bottom of a bottle, refusing to face how messed up his life truly is.
After weeks in the hospital—the victim of a viscous hate crime—and learning of Sam’s upcoming wedding, Ian has no choice but to fix his life to show Sam that he can be the man he needs. But rehab changes Ian, and he just might be ready to say goodbye to Sam forever.
Through addiction, violence, and self-preservation, Ian must learn to accept himself if he hopes to win back the man he loves.
Warning: alcoholism, deceased family members, depression, Drug/alcohol use/addiction, grief, Suicidal ideation, hate crime, depiction of hate crime attack
Hi guys, we have Lane Hayes stopping by today with her new release Out in Spring, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $25 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Out In Spring
(Out In College 06)
The jock, the nerd, and a little spring fever…
I don’t understand hockey at all. Or any sport. Attending a team party with my best friend might be a mistake. As an out and proud geek, I admit that hanging out with a bunch of jocks and their admirers isn’t my idea of fun, but getting kidnapped by a sexy hockey player who claims to have a crush on me is definitely a highlight. And finding out that Logan St. James is bisexual makes everything more interesting.
Keeping my big bi secret hasn’t been easy. I have a couple of months of college left and one more game to play. I’m determined to make the most of it and spend as much time as possible with the sexy guy I’ve had a crush on since freshman year. I don’t want this to be over. There must be a way to come out in spring.
Out in Spring is a low-angst MM, bisexual awakening staring a hunky hockey player, a sweet-natured geek, and a little college fun. This story is part of the Out in College series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.
Hi guys! We have Hank Edwards popping in today with his new release The Cupid Crawl, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
The Cupid Crawl
(A Williamsville Inn Story 04)
What happens when a confirmed hook up app user falls for a man who is his polar opposite?
Carter Walsh will be alone on Valentine’s Day, and his plans include a candy sampler of hook ups.
But after learning about the Cupid Crawl—a bar crawl covering a half dozen bars, gay and straight—he changes his plans.
During the crawl, he runs into:
An ex-co-worker nemesis who resurrects—loudly—an unfortunate nickname she bestowed upon him years before.
Several hot men eager for a quick hook up.
And one man absolutely not Carter’s type, but who manages to pique his interest and, possibly, steal his heart.
The Cupid Crawl is a funny, sweet, and steamy opposites attract, slight age gap story that takes place in the Williamsville Inn series world, and features characters from the Christmas stories “Snowflakes and Song Lyrics” by Hank Edwards and “Snowstorms and Second Chances” by Brigham Vaughn.
Hi guys, we have Rick R. Reed popping in today with his new re-release Hungry for Love, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~
Hungry For Love
Rick R. Reed
Nate Tippie and Brandon Wilde are gay, single, and hoping to meet that special man, even though fate has not yet delivered him to their doorstep.
Nate’s sister, Hannah, and her kooky BFF, Marilyn, are poised to help fate with that task by creating a profile on the gay dating site, OpenHeartOpenMind. They are only exploring, but when a face and body are needed for the created persona, they use Nate as the model.
When Brandon comes across the false profile, he falls for the guy he sees online. Keeping up the charade, Hannah begins corresponding with him, posing as Nate.
However, real complications begin when Brandon wants to meet Nate, who doesn’t know he’s being used in the online dating ruse. Hannah and Marilyn concoct another story and send Nate out to let the guy down gently. But when Nate and Brandon meet, they feel an instant and powerful pull toward each other. Cupid seems to have shot his bow, but how do Nate and Brandon climb out from under a mountain of deceit without letting go of their chance at love?
As the first-born son of a royal duke and cousin to the prince, Cathal has always put his duty to family and country first, even when it conflicts with his own wishes. When Cathal’s father arranges a marriage between him and Velia, cousin to the emperor of Ardunn, without consulting him, he sees no alternative but to go along with his plans for the good of Tournai. But it’s Velia’s companion, Flavia, who fascinates Cathal from the moment he first sets eyes on her. Cathal doesn’t know Flavia is really Flavian, an artist masquerading as a woman to escape Ardunn, a restrictive and repressive place where Flavian’s preference for men is forbidden.
Even when Cathal discovers Flavian’s identity, even as he struggles with his obligations and duty, he cannot fight his attraction to the sharp-tongued artist. Flavian is intrigued by him as well, but Cathal is still betrothed to Velia, and Flavian worries he is more taken with the feminine illusion Flavian presents than the man beneath it. He came to Tournai to start a new life—a safe one—as an artist, and an inconvenient attraction to his friend’s betrothed, a man who happens to be a member of the royal family, is not a part of his plans. While both men battle their longings for each other, spies from Ardunn infiltrate the capital, attempting to uncover Tournai’s weaknesses and secrets. They are also searching for Flavian, who possesses a magical Talent giving him the ability to see the truth of a person just by painting their portrait—something that would be invaluable to Ardunn’s emperor.
Cathal managed to keep his surprise hidden with some difficulty. That blunt statement was not what he’d expected when he received the summons to his father’s office. A discussion of family business, perhaps, or questions about happenings at the palace, even a diatribe about one of his cousin’s choices—since Father seemed to hate every one of them since the prince’s marriage to Amory—was what usually precipitated a call to Father’s presence.
He’d never imagined Father would bring up marriage. Cathal had seen no indication Father was even thinking in such a direction. Father had said plenty as he’d pushed the prince to marry, and plenty more when Philip had married a man of his choosing instead of the woman Father would have chosen, but he’d never said a word about his own sons’ need to marry.
Cathal probably shouldn’t have been so surprised. He was twenty-five years old and his father’s heir, and Father was a royal duke and dynastically minded. Producing an heir for the dukedom was Cathal’s duty, despite the existence of his younger brothers. He’d always known it, and he would never think of shirking that duty.
“Yes, Father.” He wasn’t interested in anyone in particular, but there were plenty of women who would make him a suitable wife in Father’s eyes. He was certain he could find someone who wouldn’t make the duty a chore. “I will begin looking for a wife immediately.”
“No need. It’s all arranged.” Father returned his attention to the papers on his desk, as if what he’d just said was of no particular consequence. As if he hadn’t just told Cathal his entire life was about to change and taken Cathal’s last bit of choice away at the same time.
Cathal snapped his mouth shut when he realized it was hanging open. “It is?”
Of course it was. Cathal should have expected that as well. Father would never leave such an important choice—a family alliance, a mother for future dukes—up to Cathal. He should have done so, or at least he should have asked for Cathal’s opinion. Cathal was of age and had proven himself trustworthy time and again, or he thought he had. It left a sour taste in his mouth to think Father respected him so little.
“May I ask whom I will be marrying?” He immediately regretted his tone as Father arched a single brow.
When Cathal didn’t jump to apologize quickly enough, Father let out a huff that expressed his disappointment more eloquently than a hundred words would have, but he answered anyway. “She’s a cousin of the emperor of Ardunn. Velia is her name. Beautiful, by all accounts, and accomplished, but the connections are the important part.”
Cathal hardly heard anything after Ardunn. Cousin to the emperor of Ardunn? What was Father thinking? And how had he even managed it?
Father looked up again, and this time his huff held more than a little annoyance. “Why are you staring at me that way?”
Cathal didn’t know how he was looking at his father. Usually he had more control, but incredulity seemed to have obliterated it. “Ardunn, Father? I don’t understand. Why—?”
“Don’t be stupid. If your cousin isn’t going to do his duty and marry for the good of this country, then it falls to you to take up where Prince Philip failed.”
And that statement made even less sense. “But, Father, you negotiated a marriage contract with the emperor of Ardunn. Does Philip know?”
His cousin couldn’t know. Cathal had damaged their relationship and weakened the trust Philip had in him—he knew and regretted it—but Philip wasn’t vindictive enough to keep something so big from Cathal, especially considering the prince’s hatred of arranged marriages. Though how a prince came by such a view, Cathal would never know. Nevertheless, Philip would have said something, which meant Father had been negotiating with someone in Ardunn without Philip’s knowledge or consent.
Father scoffed. “He’ll know soon enough.”
“But, Father, negotiating with Ardunn…what did you—?”
“Are you questioning my ability to negotiate a marriage for my son?” Father snapped.
“No, sir.” Just the prudence of doing so with a powerful foreign emperor without the knowledge of their own ruler. “But—”
“This is the marriage your cousin should have negotiated for himself, but since he wouldn’t do his duty, we have to do it for him. For the good of Tournai and this family.”
“No more.” Father slapped a hand down on the wooden surface of the desk. “It’s done, and when she arrives next month, you will marry this woman. We’re finished discussing it.”
Cathal gritted his teeth against further protests and gave a sharp nod.
A few moments later, dismissed by his father, Cathal dragged in a lungful of crisp air. Spring was taking hold, but the mornings were still cool. At the moment, he was thankful for the gulp of bracing air.
That had been unexpected.
He shook his head and strode down the steps into the garden. The home where Cathal had grown up was probably the largest in the city. Constructed generations ago of pale-gray stone, the house had three stories surrounding the inner courtyard and the garden it contained. He’d played in the garden as a child with his brothers and cousin, chasing each other, hiding among the statuary and bushes. As he grew older, he’d come here when he needed a moment of peace. These days, he spent most of his time at the palace, and the garden was the domain of his mother and younger sisters, who often sat on the benches near the central fountain to do their needlework.
He didn’t linger, couldn’t have if he wanted to. Cathal couldn’t even go up to the palace and inform Philip of the betrothal, because he was due at the port to inspect improvements to the harbor defenses. Taking the most direct route from Father’s office to the front of the house, he strode through the garden and ducked inside again and then made for the entrance hall without slowing.
His sister’s melodic laugh and the quiet murmur of his mother’s voice floated back to him. Smiling, he stepped from the corridor into the grand room. His mother and sister stood at the polished table in the center of the large room. At his first step onto the red marble floor, both women looked up from where they were arranging early spring flowers in a large vase. Identical smiles of welcome lit their faces. His youngest sister looked remarkably like Mother, though Meriall was just fourteen. She was the only one of them to inherit Mother’s golden-brown hair and not Father’s much darker locks.
Each time he saw Meriall, he was surprised at how grown up she was becoming. It seemed just yesterday she was trailing after their brother Etan and getting into scrapes and jumping on her brothers whenever she saw them. Now she was a young lady. The oldest of his three younger sisters was married, and his second sister was nearly seventeen. Cathal might have expected, if he’d thought of the subject at all, Father to be negotiating a marriage for Ottilie, not for himself.
Meriall and Mother were still smiling at him, and they left off fussing with the flowers and greenery as he approached. When she was younger, Meriall would have flung herself at him. She’d learned more appropriate behavior since then, but a part of him missed her enthusiasm. Then again, she would probably still throw herself at Etan. They’d always been closer.
“Cathal.” Mother held out her hands to him and tilted her head for his kiss to her cheek. “I didn’t know you were here.”
He brushed a kiss over Meriall’s cheek as well. “Father wanted to meet with me.”
Because he was watching, he saw the flash of concern in Mother’s warm-brown eyes. Did she know her husband’s plans for Cathal? “Is everything all right?”
No, he didn’t think she knew. He doubted Father would have consulted her anyway. He flicked his glance at his sister, wondering if he should speak in front of her, but everyone would know soon enough. “Father wants me to marry.”
Mother blinked, once, twice, the only sign of surprise in a serene face. “I didn’t realize, but you are getting to be of an age to. There are many lovely girls you could meet and consider. Perhaps we can have a party and invite some of them.”
“Actually, Father has it all arranged already.”
“Oh. Well.” Mother fussed with the flowers before dropping her hands to smooth her skirt. “I didn’t realize you and your father had chosen someone. I wish you’d told me.” The statement wasn’t much of a rebuke, not the way she said it, but from his gentle mother, it was still censure.
“I wish he’d told me.” He bit back impatience. His ignorance of Father’s actions wasn’t Mother’s doing. “I only just found out myself, Mother. She arrives in a month. I assume we’ll all meet her then.”
“Arrives? From where? Who is she?”
He didn’t blame Mother for her bewilderment. “Father says her name is Velia. I only know she’s a cousin to the emperor of Ardunn.”
“The emperor? Does His Highness know?” Mother had been the wife of a royal duke for nearly thirty years. She could see the implications as well as he could.
“It doesn’t appear so.” He glanced from Mother, who was admirably controlling her surprise and concern, to Meriall and her avid, undisguised curiosity. Well, he shouldn’t be talking about Philip’s lack of knowledge of Father’s actions anyway. “You’ll have to ask Father for more information. I don’t know anything else.”
Mother frowned. “Will you tell your cousin?”
“I can’t now. I’m due at the port, and I may be tied up there for most of the day.” And he didn’t want to put this information in a note. Still, someone needed to tell Philip, and Cathal wasn’t sure when Father would. “I’ll tell him when I return to the palace later.”
She nodded. “I’ll speak with your father. We’ll see you soon?”
“Of course.” He took his leave of his mother and sister and strode out through the large front doors into the morning sunlight again. A servant appeared immediately with his horse. He mounted up and guided the horse out through the imposing gate, open in anticipation of his departure. He needed to hurry if he was going to be on time for his appointment, and he refused to be late. He would sort out the rest afterward, including informing the prince.
Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.
She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.
Two years after the end of the world, Cate and Marco have finally found a place for their people to start over. Sustainable and safe from zombies, the island is everything they hoped it would be. It seems the worst may finally be over; they can stop surviving and begin to live again. But the arrival of two new people sets in motion a chain of events that throw the island into unrest, and Cate must fight for her love, her people, and her sense of self. Can the inhabitants of Alcatraz Island find a way to come together when everything around them is falling apart?
Almost two years before their arrival on the island, just after the event that ripped their family apart, Marco began an aimless journey. With his foster family gone—some dead, some vanished—once again, Marco was on his own and sure it was for the best; other people only slowed you down, ended up as liabilities, or worse. Alone was good. It was what he was used to. But on his journey south, he collected other wanderers and began to consider the idea of a cooperative group or, maybe, a found family. There was, after all, safety in numbers.
Finally, together on the island, everyone assumes they are safe. But assumptions in a world run by zombies can be dangerous. Deadly. There is something going on in the city, terrifying and unnatural. Something that will change everything they think they know about zombies. And it’s coming to the island.
The Island is not a stand-alone. It’s advised that book one, The End, be read first.
Those are not people. The way they move, the fact that when we wave, they don’t wave back, and the way they are all shambling toward us down the paths to either side. It all collectively spells zombie.
“Hello,” calls Calvin.
No answer. Damn it.
None of us has the energy to fight any more. We spent the whole night fighting to get to the island. We watched our people get maimed and die; Calvin’s Nana Mae sacrificed herself to save him, my sister Mel, and their new babies. Five other people died too, though I didn’t know any of them well. They were all Marco’s people. Now we’re all one another’s people. What a way to make a family.
Toby is looking pale. His younger brother Jax, though much smaller than Toby, is doing his best to keep him upright. The place where Toby’s hand used to be, before it was clawed by an Abnormal zombie and then cut off by me to prevent infection, is wrapped in a bandage from what I’m guessing is a very limited supply. I think everything is probably limited. There wasn’t much time to pack or prepare after Mel’s labor screams drew in the horde last night. It’s not her fault. Birthing twins with nothing stronger than ibuprofen must be agony. But we had to leave in a hurry. We made it all the way to Alcatraz, barely. And now, apparently, we have to fight again.
I’m too exhausted to cry. We are broken, for the second time since this all started. It’s cold and drizzling. There’s a thick fog rolling in. At least it isn’t dark anymore.
“What do we do?” asks Sylvia, holding her kids close to her body.
“Same thing we’ve been doing,” answers Marco.
When he doesn’t offer anything else, Calvin steps in. “We should get the injured and the kids somewhere safe, right?”
“They’re still far enough we can probably slip by them on that road—” Calvin points to the right. “—and come back out once you’re all safe inside. Shouldn’t take long to clear the island; there don’t seem to be many here.”
“It’s a big island,” says Marco. “There will be a lot more up there than you think.”
“Can’t say I’ll be much use,” says Captain Jacob, stepping forward through the group. He’s cradling his arm. I can guess what comes next: He edges his sleeve up, wincing, to reveal a definite bite near his elbow. The veins around it are black, all the way up and down his arm, peeking over the collar of his shirt.
“Captain,” breathes Amy, our doctor, “why didn’t you say something?”
“Call me Jacob; I told you. I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Happened so fast. Had to get us here either way.”
Amy examines the wound, touches his arm where the veins disappear under his sleeve. “There’s no way this hasn’t reached a main vessel by now,” she says, feeling his face for fever and shaking her head. “I’m so sorry, Jacob.”
“I appreciate it, Amy. But there’s no need. I’ll have to show someone how to drive the ferry. Murray?”
“Of course, Jacob.”
“It has been an honor to know all of you,” Jacob says. “Marco, you take care of these people. You got us this far. Soon you’ll all be safe.”
“I’m sorry, Jacob,” says Marco, who looks on the verge of tears.
“Don’t be. I did my part. I can live with the result. Or, I guess I can’t.” He chuckles at his own dark joke, but it turns into a coughing fit that makes his whole body tremble. “Come on, now, Murray. We haven’t got all day.”
Murray follows Jacob, catching him as he stumbles getting back on the boat. Jacob looks back and lifts a hand in goodbye to all of us. He doesn’t have long. Another family member lost, claimed by the infection.
“We should go,” says Ana, ever the stoic. “They’re getting closer.”
We move up the wider path as quickly as we can, although every one of us is exhausted and several of us are in some way incapacitated, so we’re not as fast as we need to be. The path switches back and forth as it ascends.
“Stay together,” Calvin whispers as the first few zombies notice us.
We do as we did last night, shuffling the less capable into the middle of our huddle as we move. However, now, so many more of us can’t fight than can. When the zombies get to us, we are less efficient than we have ever been. It takes me two hits to take down one zombie, even though I sharpened my axe the other day, and I have to put my boot on its head to get the axe back. I haven’t had to do that in ages. Calvin gets one on the first try, but it takes him a second to pull his knife free. Somehow, we escape. But just up the path, more swarm toward us. Not many, but there are always more.
M. Rose Flores has enjoyed writing since she learned how to string letters together. She grew up in the vast green Pacific Northwest of the United States, which with its dense forests, four seasons, and proximity to the ocean made a perfect setting for The End. When she isn’t writing on her computer or in a notebook (though scraps of paper and the palm of her hand will do in a pinch), she works as a professional dog trainer and loves every part of it, even the copious amounts of drool. She believes everyone should be represented in literature and all other media. The End is her first novel.
Kingston St. Louis and Martin Von Brandt are vampire hunters of the highest caliber. That is until Kingston is made a vampire and they discover too late that the city is being taken over by vampires in a bloody coup.
Branded as outlaws, they’re forced into hiding with an unexpected ally. For their plan to stop the coup to work, Kingston will have to overcome his prejudices and train the very vampires he used to hunt, and Martin must learn magic.
All the while, they struggle with their feelings for each other. Love can be a weakness, and they can’t afford weakness when hiding from a powerful enemy.
Footsteps echoed in the night, signaling the approach of our prey. Martin clung to the alley wall, machete in hand, blue eyes wide behind his glasses. I could see a sheen of sweat on his cheek, and I placed a finger to my lips, reminding him to be silent. He nodded, and I headed to the mouth of the alley. I had a performance to put on. I ruffled my hair, loosened my tie, and did my best to appear inebriated.
Just to add a little extra to the act, I began singing in a slurred voice. I could practically hear the monster’s delight as I walked down the alley. Sometimes I wished I knew what the fuck they were thinking. Nothing but blood and murder.
“Are you lost, little boy?” a voice asked in a sickly sweet tone.
I turned. A white woman stood there with long legs and brown hair. She wore a purple pantsuit like she’d finished a late night at an office nearby. There was something wrong with her eyes, just like the rest of them. No depth; her eyes were empty and still. I palmed the stake up my sleeve, making sure she couldn’t see it.
“’M not little,” I replied, wagging my finger at her. “I’m big where it counts.”
“Of course you are,” she said, grinning at me. God, she couldn’t be this stupid. Then again what did I know? It’s not like I knew of any Mensa vampires.
Martin was in position, but I didn’t dare look at him for fear of tipping her off. No need to take any risks on a hunt. I staggered up to her, playing up the drunk angle. I could practically hear Martin rolling his eyes. “I am. I can show you. Come back to my place, and I’ll prove it.”
“Why would I want to do that?” she asked. Her fangs were sliding down as she grinned; she was ready to pounce. “You can show me right here.”
I smiled back, standing up straight. “Okay.” I shouted, “Now!” And threw myself at her. I grabbed her around the middle and tackled her to the ground. She howled, teeth snapping at my neck. I dodged the fangs and rammed the iron stake into her heart.
She screamed, face contorted in demonic rage. Her fingers had turned into claws, and she was scratching the hell out of my back. I looked up to see Martin standing over us, and he said, “Move.” I tore myself away from the creature, and she let out an unearthly howl before Martin cut off her head.
The body went limp, and I got to my feet and said, “Nice work.”
“You too,” Martin replied. His eyes were still wide, and a tremor went through him. He looked like a kid who was in way over his head. I knew better.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Fine,” he said, his voice squeaking. I raised an eyebrow, and he sighed. “Sorry. I’ve got a bad feeling is all.”
I snorted. “When don’t you have a bad feeling?” I went to where I’d hidden my bag at the alley’s mouth and took out the lighter fluid. I drenched the corpse in it, making sure to use the entire can.
“I’m serious, Kingston. Something’s coming.”
“Well, when it gets here, we’ll deal with it. Just like this one.” I grabbed the book of matches and uttered a quick prayer. Didn’t make a difference; we’d already done our work. The ritual was more for my comfort. Martin hated it but he didn’t begrudge me. I struck the match and tossed it. The body burned hot, bright, and fast, and was gone in seconds.
Martin handed me the machete after he’d cleaned it off with the edge of his shirt. I tossed the blade in the bag along with the can and the matches. I retrieved the stake and slipped it in my pocket. I slung the bag on my back and headed out of the alley with Martin at my side. I threw an arm around him and said, “You worry too much.”
“You should take a break. When’s the last time you went out?” When I gestured to our surroundings, he pursed his lips with annoyance. “I mean besides hunting.”
“I went to the movies Saturday,” I said.
“You tracked a vampire to the movies and killed him after. That doesn’t count as going out,” Martin said, and I sighed. We walked to the parking garage where we’d stashed the car. I was glad to see there was no attendant around, given the sight of us. The fluorescent lights of the garage rendered my brown skin a sickly shade. If I looked sick, Martin appeared unearthly.
He was so white he glowed under the harsh lights. He had strawberry-blond hair and pale-blue eyes like a husky. I loved the way his hair gleamed in the light, and I wanted to run my hands through it. I jammed my hands into my pockets instead, one curling around the stake. Something solid to hang on to. We found the car, and I pulled out the key fob to unlock it.
“Okay, yes, I’ve been hunting a lot. But there’s more of these fuckers popping up by the minute,” I reminded him.
Martin bit his lower lip as I tossed the bag in the trunk, fiddling with one of the beads on his fidget bracelet. It struck me we made an odd pair. He’d opted for jeans, an Ozzy shirt, black thick-framed glasses, and Converse sneakers. I was in one of my old navy suits and brown loafers. Blood soaked our clothes, which was why I was eager to get going before someone spotted us. We got in the car and drove off.
He had curled up in the passenger seat, staring out of the window. Martin still twirling his beads, not saying anything right away. He looked delicate, almost fragile, which was why he was usually the bait. He could lure them in with his boyish charm, and vampires would trip over themselves to get a bite.
They didn’t know he was strong, physically and mentally. Or when he set his mind to something, he would get it done. Or that he’s the smartest person I’d ever met either in my regular life or my hunting life. Not to mention the most compassionate, which was one of the reasons we’d been arguing so much as of late. I admired his tenacious streak. Not so much when he aimed that tenacity at me.
He was thinking, and I tensed for an argument. I entertained the idea of kissing him to shut him up, something I’d dreamed about but wouldn’t do. When we drove onto the 101 loop, Martin said, “We should talk to Tyrone.”
“Fuck no!” I snapped, struggling to keep my eyes on the road.
“He can help. He’s got his own crew, and we’re low on manpower.”
“He’s a fucking vampire. We can’t trust that bloodsucker.”
“Yes, we can.” Martin’s voice strained.
I chanced a look at him and saw Martin clenching his jaw. “Look, just because he switched to donor blood while you two were fucking doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. For all we know he’s stalking school kids now.”
Martin slammed his fist against the dashboard. “He’s not like that. Not all vampires are evil.”
“Like fuck they aren’t!” I shot back. “Do we gotta go over this again? They killed your family. They killed my brother. How are they not evil?” I regretted it the minute I said it, but I wouldn’t take it back. Martin balled his hands into fists, shoulders tensing up around his ears.
He growled, “Kingston Patrick St. Louis, that is fucking low.”
“It’s the truth.”
I didn’t expect him to understand. Martin had grown up without his family. He didn’t know anything about them except for some pictures in a scrapbook. While their deaths hurt Martin, he had never known them. My brother and I were thick as thieves, and I missed Seph every day.
Alice was born in California in the 80s, which explains so much, really. Before becoming a writer they were in a punk band and also worked as a nurse. In their spare time they enjoy television shows about ghosts and baking as well as a wide spectrum of music. They currently live in Arizona with their collection of Funko Pops and comic book figurines.
On the run from his former allies in 1943, Janos Nagy’s life is turned upside down when he stumbles through a mysterious doorway and finds himself in the hands of the Temporal Research Institute, a covert organization that verifies historical events through time travel.
The year, he is told, is 2041. Wounded, exhausted, and helpless, he’s in a time he doesn’t know and a world that has changed beyond his wildest imagination. Dieter Schmidt, one of the TRI linguists and historians, offers his aid in making sense of this strange new existence.
But Janos’s arrival has broken the TRI’s prime rule of non-interference. It’s not long until someone in the TRI decides that if the rule can be broken once…well, why not break it again?
Chapter One The heavy rain had lightened, which was a small mercy.
The moonlight, thin and sickly, barely broke through the clouds. The trees shone a dull grey in the darkness. Only the rustle of leaves in the wind and the cries of some small creatures out in the darkness broke the silence.
A soldier broke cover from beneath the undergrowth. He stumbled and slithered down a muddy slope towards the track. Grass and dirt tore beneath his boots, and he caught himself against the trunk of a tree to keep from falling, his breath coming in ragged gasps.
In the distance, he was sure he could hear the howl of the dogs, the hunting party. He gulped down a breath before running onward.
He was armed, it was true, but what was one shot against a legion of men? He could turn it on himself, but he had escaped death once. He had no wish to face it again.
Though rough and little used, the narrow track was easier than breaching the undergrowth again. He had to get as far ahead as he could. They wouldn’t continue the hunt much longer, not with the chill of night setting in, but they might follow just long enough.
So he ran.
His legs shook with each step, but terror drove him onward. If he stopped, even to catch his breath, he didn’t think he would be able to start again. If he stopped, he would die. If he rested, he would die. If he did anything but run, he would die.
Something howled in the night, and his heart slammed against his ribs.
It might have been a dog, but it could have been a wolf.
The wind was picking up, whirling around him, the icy rain lashing his face cut through with scalding tears on his cheeks. Running and weeping. No honor. No dignity. All he knew was that he wanted to live.
Ahead of him, the track broadened, which meant it was coming closer to civilization, to people.
He hesitated a moment before plunging off the path and back into the forest, branches whipping at his face and limbs. His foot caught on a root, and he fell, rolling down the slope. He crashed into a stream at the bottom, breaking through a film of ice and plunging into the frigid water below. The cold it cut to the bone, so sharp he couldn’t even draw breath to cry out.
Blindly, he tried to find purchase on the bank. He fell forward heavily onto the ground, a thin keen of pain escaping him as he crushed his left arm beneath him. Warmth spread from the limb. The wound was open again.
“Ángele Dei,” he whispered desperately, “qui custos es mei, me, tib…”
A shout cut him off.
Lights glowed, flickering lanterns visible, like fireflies between the trees.
He pushed himself onto his knees, keening in pain, and grabbed at the low branches of a tree to pull himself upright. Splinters of bark cut into his skin, fresh blood warm on his hands. His legs were numb with cold and pain, but he ran.
The bitter wind cut into his throat and chest. He pushed deeper into the thicker, denser undergrowth—somewhere to hide, somewhere safe, somewhere unseen. Thorns tore at his face and hand, and he tasted blood in his mouth.
He was scrambling over a fallen tree trunk when it gave way beneath him. His ankle folded under him, and he yelped, falling onto his knee. It was only when he fell that he saw the hollow beneath the fallen tree. A hiding place.
Breathing hard, he squirmed through the gap, the tree and ground tearing at him, at his clothing. It was a small space, tight and narrow, but enough to shield him. He pushed dirt up to block the opening, his nose and mouth full of the taste of moss and mud, and lay still and silent as the grave.
C.B. Lewis has been making up nonsense since she was able to talk. Now, she puts it into computers and turns it into books. She is chuffed to bits to officially be yet another one of the collective of authors from Edinburgh.
Ethan Roam has faced a lot of nightmarish challenges—finding out he’s a sandman, falling in love with the man who once hunted him, and thwarting attacks from The Order of Azoth, a secret occult organization set on using his bloodline to conquer the universe by controlling immortality. And the battle is far from over.
To defeat The Order and its leader, Phantom, Ethan must first find the original Sandman and then bring the fight to the Dream World. Saving the universe might be too tall an order for one dream creature, but with the help of his friends and some Celestial beings with questionable motives, Ethan just might be able to weave a trap of surreal proportions.
“Maybe it’s broken.” Ethan Roam, the sandman, shook the orb as though giving the device the magic-eight-ball treatment would bring it pulsing back to life.
“It had better not be. Technical support doesn’t exist for magical artifacts,” Mercury said.
Unsuccessful at reviving the device, Ethan set the orb down on the flattened surface of a nearby stalagmite. “I’m surprised to say it, but I really wish Chris was here. If anyone could fix this, it would probably be him.”
“The Sandman Orb doesn’t need to be fixed. You’re just a bad driver,” Mercury, the former vampire, Dacey, who was now transformed into a celestial entity, chided. Guarded, he turned a one-eighty to view what little he could make out about their dark cavernous surroundings. This wasn’t the first alien planet Ethan had transported them to. But without the Sandman Orb working to give them a proper idea of where they physically were, it was becoming the most foreboding.
“Well, it would help if I had the driver’s manual,” Ethan defended, referring to the Codex, which had been left behind in Grady Hunter’s study during the battle with the Hunters of Azoth, forcing them all to escape to the Dream World. “My driving doesn’t explain why the orb just stopped working all together.”
“Of course, it does. You took a wrong turn into an uncharted dimension. You’re off the grid, darling.”
“Sorry I didn’t pull over to ask for directions,” Ethan snipped.
Before he could add anything else to his sarcastic rebuttal, Mercury grabbed his arm in a protective manner and whispered, “Hide the orb. We’re not alone.”
Ethan scooped the archaic device up and stowed the orb away inside his jacket’s inner lining, thankful Grady had bestowed the hand-me-down to him. His boyfriend’s wardrobe had all sorts of custom pockets and restraints for portable weaponry, which Ethan found to be more and more a necessity.
A cluster of glowing eyes appeared in the darkness, followed by the sound of grunts. Ethan released a pulse of glowing blue dream energy from his palm to light up the space. The alien animal let out an annoyed squawk. Now that Ethan could get a good peek at the creature, he wished he hadn’t.
The alien matched the murky gray sediment of the walls around them and appeared just as bulky. Its long body reminded Ethan of a salamander, only several feet longer and the size of a large crocodile. Once its gaggle of eyes adjusted to the light, the creature used six legs to propel itself rapidly toward them.
“Ball play is over. Back to basics,” Mercury instructed. Mercury had no reason to worry for his own life, seeing as he currently held the title of Death. Instead, he’d be more interested in protecting Ethan’s.
Picking up on his meaning, Ethan opened a portal back to the Dream World. In the blink of an eye, he and Mercury left behind a confused, angry, and hungry alien life-form.
Luckily, Mercury noted, Ethan has mastered the art of landing on his feet and not on his face when traveling between worlds.
Mercury grinned his approval. “You’re improving.”
“Not nearly fast enough,” Ethan reminded him, producing the orb once again. At least now they knew for certain the device wasn’t broken since the orb glowed back to working order with the atmosphere of the Dream World to energize it. “And this thing is basically useless without the Codex.”
“There’s more than one way to navigate foreign waters. Might I refer you to the Age of Exploration?” Mercury patted him on the shoulder in encouragement.
“No need to ask if you had any luck. I see Vincent still isn’t with you.”
They turned to see Marcus von Rottal, the vampire, standing nearby, his hands casually resting in his pockets.
Mercury had reason to be wary of Marcus’s extreme interest. They were all in limbo until they could find Vincent Roam, Ethan’s father—the original Sandman. Unbeknownst to the others, Marcus was the reason for Vincent’s disappearance. He’d pushed Vincent into a portal out of unfounded jealousy. Mercury had guarded their secret in order to protect Marcus. However, the truth seemed destined to come out. Especially if they were successful in finding Vincent alive. Mercury imagined Marcus would want to put all his efforts into doing whatever he could to prevent that from happening.
As long as Mercury had known him, Marcus had put his own interests above everyone else’s. Nothing could stop him or deter him once he set his mind on something. Mercury would have to play his hand very close to keep Marcus from interfering or suspecting he mistrusted his intentions. And as unrealistic as his desire was, a part of him also hoped the others never would know the truth. Regardless of everything which had transpired to drive them apart in the last century, and as much as he’d shed the coil of his past life as Dacey, Mercury still felt protective over him. Or at least responsible for him.
“Marcus, darling! I’m so glad you’re here,” he lied. “Would you be a doll and fetch Grady and perhaps even the portly fellow? What’s his name again?”
“Arthur,” Ethan helped.
Mercury snapped his fingers in confirmation. “Yes! I have an ever-growing list of questions needing answers from those bookish occultist blokes.”
“Hunter wandered into the dream forest,” Marcus informed them. He often referred to Grady by his surname to slight him. “I was quite hoping he’d lose himself in there, but I suppose I’ll go fetch him out if I must. Must I?”
Marcus pursed his lips in response before making his way into the fluorescent-hued woods surrounding them.
Knowing full well Ethan would question the need to interrogate the other men, Mercury went ahead and answered. “Who has read the Mechanics of Sleep Travel more times than anyone else, and even better, who helped write the damned thing?”
Dez Schwartz is a LGBTQ, Dreampunk, & Gothic Romance author and artist based in San Angelo, Texas. She holds a BFA in Studio Art and worked as a graphic artist, and a Director’s Assistant at a fine arts museum, before transitioning to writing full-time.
Her longtime love of Victorian spiritualism, gay literary fiction, and romantic comedies inspired her to begin writing all of the stories she wished existed.
When she’s not passionately crafting tales, she can be found drawing, researching, or traveling with loved ones.