Canopy by Liz Faraim Blog Tour, Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Liz Faraim stopping by today with the tour for her new release Canopy, we have a brilliant interview, a great excerpt and a fantastic $20 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Canopy

(Vivian Chastain 01)
by

Liz Faraim

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.

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Smashwords ❣️**.•.•.

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His Dark Reflection by Heloise West Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

His Dark Reflection

Series: Heart and Haven 03

Author: Heloise West

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 2, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, action, blue-collar, law enforcement, mystery, crime

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Synopsis

Disgraced FBI agent Nick Truman failed to save his sister, who was held hostage by a drug cartel until he could give them Alex Crow, who eluded him. His epic downfall lands him in witness protection, where he plays by the rules and keeps to himself. But the murder of his neighbor brings danger to his door. He unexpectedly finds himself the champion of innocents and helplessly attracted to the homicide detective in charge of the case. Nick knows it won’t end well.

Homicide Detective Hank Axelrod is good at digging out secrets, maybe because he hides a big one of his own. He also suspects his husband has one foot out of the door of their marriage and the specter of single life looms unpleasantly on the horizon.

A murder resembling a previous one brings Nick into his world, a man who claims to be a mystery writer looking for a real-life resource. Hank’s instincts say he’s more than that, and he’s rarely wrong.

Torn between the errant soon-to-be-ex husband and the distracting, sexy stranger, Hank needs to focus all his attention on his murder case before he becomes the next victim.

Excerpt

His Dark reflection, Heloise West © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Hank rattled the keys in a one-handed grip to shake loose the house key from the rest. No lights on in the house and beyond late for dinner—starving and sleep deprived too. In his other hand, he held a thick file of case notes because the night wasn’t over for him yet. At least Len had left the porch light on.

After letting himself into the house, he placed the file on the end table, keys on top, and toed off his shoes. The windbreaker he shrugged out of hadn’t done much to keep the spring cold off.

The rocking chair in the living room creaked. Hank spun around, hand going to his holster.

“Easy, cowboy.” Len yawned. He snapped on the table lamp beside him. “I fell asleep. What time is it?”

“Jesus, Len. It’s two in the damn morning. Let me put this away.” At the bottom of the closet, the gun safe sat on a shelf. He knelt, spun the dial, and tucked the gun away. When he turned, Len stood, arms across his chest, brown hair tousled. Another yawn stretched his mouth wide. Hank, tired to the marrow, pulled Len into a bone-crunching hug, and Len laughed against his shoulder.

Relief tickled through him. On the drive home from the station, he’d feared the house would be empty. He inhaled the scent of Len’s pricey shampoo—vanilla and sweet tobacco with a hint of whiskey. His heart twisted with anxiety.

“I’m sorry. I—”

“You got caught up, I know. ’Sokay.” Len yawned again. “But I’m beat. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed wants me in bright and early tomorrow, so…” He stepped away from Hank’s embrace. Hank let him go with reluctance. “There’s lasagna and meatballs in the fridge. Or maybe you’re ready for bacon and eggs?”

“Neither. Both. I’ll figure dinner out while I read the case notes again. I need to make sure this guy doesn’t walk.”

Len turned around. “Hon? I know. You’ll be great. You always are. Night.”

“Night,” Hank responded as he picked up the paperwork. He sat in the rocker Len had vacated with the file in his lap and fell asleep with the first page between his fingers.

He awoke with a snort, thinking he’d heard Len’s muffled laughter and smiled. When he glanced at his watch, twenty minutes had passed since he’d first sat down. He’d sleep in tomorrow, but he still wouldn’t have caught up on all the sleep he’d lost over this one. Hank stood and stretched his aching muscles, contemplating a shower, but his deepening desire for bed and maybe sex to relax him led him into the bedroom and not the kitchen. Len’s nightstand lamp glowed, and his side of the bed rumpled but empty. Len’s soft giggle came from the other side of the bathroom door.

Hank rapped his knuckles against the oak. “Hey, babe?”

The toilet flushed. “I’m washing up! Be right there.”

A cold weight settled into Hank’s belly at his husband’s rushed, edge of guilty tone, slithery and with pointed scales brushing against his tender insides—a too-familiar feeling tilting the world on its axis. The bathroom door opened, and Len came out wreathed in the scent of mouthwash and minty toothpaste. “All yours.” He smiled but wouldn’t meet Hank’s eyes, making it all the harder for Hank to dislodge the sick feeling in his stomach.

“Who were you talking to?”

Len turned away from Hank. “One of the new interns drunk-dialed me. She’s a hoot, so we talked. Come to bed, Hank. You must be wiped out.” He slid between the sheets and pulled on the covers on Hank’s side.

Liar, the serpent in his belly whispered.

“I fell asleep in the rocker, so yeah, I guess I am.” Too tired to fight, he gathered up pajama bottoms and a T-shirt and headed into the bathroom. When he came out, Len lay facing away from Hank, his breathing even. Maybe asleep. Hank doubted it as he climbed into bed turned away from Len, his eyes wide in the darkness.

*

Hank slept later than usual, exhaustion stealing any memory of dreams he might have had. When he awoke, Len had already gone to work. What had Hank been so afraid of last night?

He went into the kitchen and started up the coffee. Not the first time one of Len’s friends had called drunk or upset. Len had a lot of friends. They helped him through Hank’s late nights. Although their marriage went to hell last spring, in the end, love forced them to work things out. Hank believed in Len, still believed the tearful, heartfelt promises of renewed fidelity.

He shoved a bagel into the toaster oven. But—he plopped down on a kitchen chair as if his bones had untied themselves—why did he have such a weird feeling last night? A couple of weird feelings, actually.

He’d believed Len when he returned to him and promised fidelity. Yet, he spent too much time with liars, thieves, cheats, and murderers, so maybe the distrust had rubbed off on him?

Or should he stick with his gut feeling Len had more to hide? It wouldn’t be the first time…but he’d hoped they’d done with the past. Ugh, second-guessing himself again. He couldn’t afford the drain on his confidence today.

The toaster oven tinged. With a fork, he dragged out the bagel. He loaded it with butter and the homemade strawberry jam his mother had made.

He didn’t trust much of humanity, long before he’d become a cop. Hank didn’t want the scum bleeding into their relationship. Distrust bred more distrust. He often found it tough to leave the hard-guy persona behind at the office, to let his softer side out around Len. It’d been difficult when they first met, but Len had been patient. Well, Hank would be patient too. What if a family issue had set off Hank’s alarms, a secret Len didn’t want to share yet?

He’d demolished the bagel as the wheels turned in his head. Sucking on his sticky-sweet fingers of one hand, he opened the fridge with the other for a second bagel. Last night’s dinner sat wrapped in cellophane on the shelf.

He had to talk to Len. But first, where did he leave the damn file?

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Heloise West, when not hunched over the keyboard plotting love and mayhem, dreams about moving to a villa in Tuscany. She loves history, mysteries, and romance. She travels and gardens with her partner of fifteen years, and their home overflows with books, cats, art, and red wine.

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Stable Hand by A.E. Lister Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Stable Hand

Series: The Braided Crop Ranch 01

Author: AE Lister

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 2, 2020

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, BDSM, pony play, cowboys, entertainment, sex toys, menage, polyamory, rewards, punishments

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Synopsis

The Braided Crop Ranch is looking for stable hands. But this is no ordinary horse ranch. They cater to men with a certain interest. An interest involving harnesses, tails, and trainers.

Managed and expertly run by registered psychologist, Adam Marsland, the Ranch is a safe place for the expression of sex positive and kink positive needs and fantasies.

Jensen Moriarty is desperate for a job. He can handle horses. In fact, he’s a pro at it. Too bad the BCR doesn’t deal with real horses. But they do have “ponies”.

If Jensen can wrap his head around what the BCR actually stands for, he may have the opportunity to expand his resumé and experience something completely unexpected in the process.

Excerpt

Stable Hand, AE Lister © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Horses. They were what I knew. What I’d grown up knowing, riding, grooming, tacking in the small Alberta town where I’d lived.

I missed small-town life. Ottawa wasn’t a huge city, but it was big enough, crowded enough, it made me crave the peace and quiet of a smaller life.

My friend Mitchell hadn’t told me much about the Braided Crop Ranch except to say the place was secluded deep in the heart of the Muskokas in Northern Ontario, which turned out to be an understatement.

From my calculations I was only about twenty minutes away, but the brush had thickened, and the GPS wasn’t making sense. There wasn’t even a proper road. Out of desperation, I pulled my car over to the gravel on the side of the dirt track. I left the car on, air conditioner blasting, while I looked up the name of the man who’d interviewed me over the phone: a Mr. Adam Marsland. I found the number quickly in my contacts and hit call.

“BCR, Connor speaking,” a chipper male voice announced after a few rings.

The voice didn’t belong to Mr. Marsland.

“Uh,” I hesitated. “Hi. I’m trying to reach Adam Marsland?”

“Who’s calling, please?”

I cleared my throat, feeling like an idiot. Nothing like starting a new job and not being able to find the place. “This is Jensen Moriarty. I’m supposed to be there at noon, but I—”

“Oh, hi, Jensen. I’m Mr. Marsland’s personal assistant. Would you like me to get him for you?”

“I just need directions. My GPS isn’t making sense.”

Connor laughed. “He should have told you not to rely on the GPS. You should be using the map from the email.”

Email? “What email?”

There was a pause. “You didn’t get the welcome email? The one outlining our policies and practices? I’m sure I sent the form to you a few days ago…”

I wracked my brain but didn’t remember seeing an email. Unless the message had gone into my spam folder. “No, I didn’t get it. A map would be…helpful.”

“Sure, yeah, let me text the map to you. Hold on a second.”

“You might as well text me the other info as well.”

Connor cleared his throat. “Yes, well, I’ll let Mr. Marsland explain everything when you get here.”

I heard a notification and saw the map had come through. I opened the file quickly and had a look.

“Looks like I’m not too far.”

“Okay, come to the main building when you get here. You’ll see the BCR sign on the wall.”

“BCR?” I asked, wiping a crushed mosquito off the dash.

“The Braided Crop Ranch. That is where you’re trying to get to, right?”

“Yes. I just— Yes, that’s where I’m headed.” God, could I make a worse first impression?

“I’ll make sure Adam is here to greet you.”

“Thanks,” I said.

As I’d suspected, I wasn’t far out. If I followed this dirt road and turned onto another called Rattler’s Revenge in about three miles, I’d be there.

Would they put me to work right away, cleaning stalls and looking after the horses? Mr. Marsland hadn’t described my exact duties during our phone interview, but Mitchell had said they were looking for a stable hand.

Marsland had seemed like a nice guy. He’d appeared more interested in the kind of person I was rather than in any experience I’d had. I’d explained I needed a job that would give me some direction along with a decent salary so I could pay off my student loans.

The business degree had been a waste of money, no matter what my parents said. Turned out I hated accounting. Yeah, I was good with numbers, but working with them all day and night was too much to ask.

I needed to be outside. I needed to be interacting with other beings, human or animal. I needed hard work and adventure.

Now I had no idea what I wanted to do. Except for horses. I wanted to work with horses. Living on a ranch with a bunch of other cowboys wouldn’t be so bad either. Even if they didn’t share my orientation, the eye candy would be heavenly.

I’d been surprised when Adam told me the salary I’d be earning. The level was high for a stable hand. He’d also mentioned something about the special stock at the BCR so maybe they only housed Arabians or something. That would be a treat. I’d never seen a full-blood Arabian horse up close.

After following the serpentine curve of Rattler’s Revenge for about fifteen minutes, the brush thinned, and I emerged into a large clearing with the impressive outline of the ranch spread before me. The path took me to a set of steel black gates with BCR in big iron letters affixed to the bars.

A black intercom box perched on the stone wall to the left of the gates. I pulled in close, lowered my window, and pressed the button.

There was a crackle and then Connor’s voice. “Name please.”

“Jensen Moriarty. We spoke on the phone.”

“Awesome. I’ll buzz you in.”

An electrical humming noise sounded as the gates unlocked and slowly swung open.

“Welcome to the BCR, Jensen,” Connor said.

I drove forward and rolled up the window to keep the heat out.

An array of bright red and brown buildings crowded the far distance. In front of me stood an imposing clapboarded farmhouse with these words, painted in black, spanning the wall:

THE BRAIDED CROP RANCH STABLES

~ Pony shows every month ~

Pony shows every month, huh? Looked like I’d have my work cut out for me.

I parked in the small lot to the left of the front door and turned the car off. I wondered if driving all the way out here had been the right thing to do. At any rate, the job provided a new beginning and somewhere to spend the summer. If I enjoyed the work and found the people to be friendly and helpful, maybe I’d stay for a while.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published many other books, one of which (Beyond the Edge) received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association–International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.

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Steadfast by K.L Noone Blog Tour, Novella Preview, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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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~

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Steadfast

(Character Bleed 03)
by

K.L. Noone

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.

.•.•.**❣️ JMS Books | Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo ❣️**.•.•.

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Nice Catching You by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Nice Catching You

A Holiday Love Story

Author: Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood

Publisher: Wainscott Press

Release Date: 10/30/2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84,000 words

Genre: Romance, Gay Holiday Romance, Contemporary Gay Romance, Holiday Romance

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Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood - Nice Catching You Cover 8werfj

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

JACOB

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.

“Everything okay?”

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.

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Authors

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.

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Canopy by Liz Faraim Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Canopy

Series: Vivian Chastain, Book One

Author: Liz Faraim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 26, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 72700

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, romance, crime/thriller, lesbian, polyamory, ex-military, bartender, family drama

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Canopy, Liz Faraim © 2020, All Rights Reserved

January 2004

Paso Robles, California

Elevation: 14,000 feet AGL

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.

“Viv-iiiii…where’s Mom?”

“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.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

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.

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Tipping The Balance by C. Koehler Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Tipping the Balance

Series: CalPac Crew, Book Two

Author: C. Koehler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 26, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 107376

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, romance, family-drama, gay, real estate agent, college graduate, housing developer, questioning, coming out

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Synopsis

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?

Excerpt

Tipping the Balance, C. Koehler © 2020, All Rights Reserved

“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.”

“Renochuck?”

“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?”

“Drew—”

“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.

But how—oh how—was he going to replace Nick?

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

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.

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The Silence of Lightning by Marie S. Crosswell Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

The Silence of Lightning

Author: Marie S. Crosswell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 19, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 73800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, bisexual, ace, interracial, Wyoming, rodeo, cowboys, in the closet, outing, family, HFN

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Synopsis

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?

Excerpt

The Silence of Lightning, Marie S. Crosswell © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Cody, Wyoming
Summer, 2015

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.

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

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 her Website.

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Start To Finish by Pamela A. Williams Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Start to Finish

Series: The Ian Start Mysteries, Book One

Author: Pamela A. Williams

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 19, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61600

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, College, artist, law enforcement, murder, disabilities, reunited

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Start to Finish, Pamela A. Williams © 2020, All Rights Reserved

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.

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

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.

She lives with two cats, of course.

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Perceptions by Mary Eicher Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Perceptions

Series: Artemis, Book Two

Author: Mary Eicher

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 70800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, paranormal, family-drama, crime, lit, lesbian, precognition, fake religious cult, Hawaii, astronomy, Greek mythology, Roman Catholic Church, goddess, ancient aliens, detective

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Perceptions, Mary Eicher © 2020, All Rights Reserved

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.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

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 on Facebook.

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Lockset by Brenda Murphy Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Lockset

Series: University Square, Book Two

Author: Brenda Murphy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 12, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 62900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, romance, family-drama, interracial, lesbian, locksmith, lawyer, father/daughter conflict, dog, funeral, arson, family secrets, infidelity

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Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

Lockset, Brenda Murphy © 2020, All Rights Reserved

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?”

“Next weekend.”

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.”

“You okay?”

“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.”

“Baklava too?”

Eun’s mouth watered at the thought of the sticky honey-sweet dessert. “Of course.”

“On it.”

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.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

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

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Homecoming by Rick R. Reed Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Homecoming

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 5, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50300

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, grief, friendship, tear jerker, hurt-comfort, road trip

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Synopsis

After losing his partner Toby, Chase faces a long, painful road back to life and love.

At first, he doesn’t see how he can go on, but then Chase and Toby’s old friend Mike cajoles him into returning to Chicago for the annual International Mr. Leather Competition. There Chase revisits a world of hot, casual sex that he had forgotten existed, meets a friend who cares more for him than he ever realized, and discovers the possibility that he just might be able to move on without betraying the memory of his late partner.

Will Chase find his way back once more to life? To love? And will he find that place he’s been missing? Home. You’ll have to experience the heartrending journey firsthand to find out.

Warning: Death of a prominent character

Excerpt

Homecoming, Rick R. Reed © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Warning: This excerpt may contain sexually explicit material, please proceed at your discretion.

Chapter One

Toby tried his best to stay awake.

He was on the Microsoft shuttle, traveling home from his job at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, to his condo in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. It was a long commute, but he had his phone, his weariness (which meant he sometimes slept through the trip), and an overactive imagination for company and entertainment. The commute was made longer because he had to transfer to a bus once he got to downtown Seattle to get close enough to home. Home was a two-bedroom with amazing views of the Space Needle and Lake Union he shared with his soul mate, his beloved, his special one, Chase.

He was grateful every single day for the wonderful life he’d built for himself. He was one of those lucky folks who could hardly imagine how things could possibly be any better.

The familiar scenery passed as the bus drew closer to closer to downtown.

He wished he could banish this fatigue, but it had been a long day and a long week and there simply wasn’t much fuel left in his tank.

But it was his birthday, for god’s sakes ! He wanted to celebrate—so much. It was a milestone, after all. One doesn’t turn forty every day.

If he came home exhausted and ready for bed—and sleep—at nine o’clock, it would only validate the sinking feeling Toby had that forty was the beginning of the long path down that particular piece of geography known as “over the hill.”

He hoped seeing Chase at the door to their shared home would revive him enough to at least maybe order a Pagliacci pizza for delivery and to stream a couple of episodes of Unforgiven on Britbox.

Now, that sounded like a perfect evening and a birthday celebration ideally suited to his introvert leanings. He was grateful once again he and Chase hadn’t made big plans for the 4-0. They could have a nice dinner over the weekend, perhaps, at his favorite Korean street-food eatery, Revel, over in the Fremont neighborhood. Or maybe they’d splurge, as they had last year, and try to get a table at Canlis.

To keep himself awake, he brought his phone out of the pocket of his jeans and, like everyone else on the bus, stared down at the illuminated screen.

He checked Facebook and found it flooded with birthday wishes, so many he got lost in the long thread of well wishes, emojis, and memes exhorting him to have an amazing celebration. Twitter was a little less celebratory, but he still felt like a rock star when he scrolled through all the birthday tweets directed toward him.

Last, he brought up one of his favorite blogs, Tales from the Sexual Underground, written by an old friend of his from Chicago, Danny Britton, who went by the more youthful-sounding pen name of Bryce Weston, because Danny didn’t know how seriously he’d be taken as a middle-aged dude from Highland Park writing about fringe sexual practices and personages. No one would guess most of his tales were made-up (except for the interviews with sex workers and porn stars) and that the man behind the blog was actually pushing fifty and was happily settled with a doctor husband and two very demanding Pomeranians. The wildest Danny got was a season ticket to Ravinia music park every summer.

Danny posted a new column twice a week and devoted the other days to curated roundups of news about sex workers, the porn industry, and the rights and freedoms of those wanting to pursue kinks without government interference. His blog had grown so popular that, last Toby heard, he was making a good chunk of change from advertising. The Twitter followers for his blog numbered in the tens of thousands.

He had a way of writing that made Toby feel he was speaking directly to him, even though he and Chase were pretty much mere acquaintances when they all lived back in the Windy City area.

This week’s latest blog post, for example, spoke to him and where he found himself in life at age forty perfectly. He’d read it earlier on his lunch break, but found himself wanting to savor its short, sweet, sexy words one more time. It was all about how love wins out over sex every time, although the two together could actually induce heaven on earth, provided everything was in place.

It was amazing how Danny could put himself in the shoes of a single gay man so convincingly. He’d been with his physician partner, Jake Wells, for more than two decades.

Back when he and Chase lived in Chicago, he’d tease Jake about the blog when they’d run into him at Wrigley Field or strolling around Millennium Park or at the gay beach at Ardmore and Hollywood. Toby would wonder aloud if Jake had been reincarnated from the soul of a wanton slut of a gay man, or if he was perhaps a horndog trapped in a gay milquetoast’s body.

Perhaps inspired by the teasing, Jake had even written a blog about that. It was hilarious. You never knew what would inspire Danny, or Bryce, as he was known to the masses.

Anyway, this particular post, though, made him so grateful and happy he’d found his one and only, Chase. He was grateful there was no longer any need to play the field. Someone, a happily married gay friend of his at Microsoft, had once quipped that there was no reason to go out for hamburger when he had filet mignon at home.

Toby couldn’t agree more. He began reading.

“Going for Quality, Not Quantity”

Why, I can remember a time when sex parties and the filthy backrooms of leather bars were the height of sexual euphoria. Coupling with strangers en masse set my heart to racing, the blood to pumping, and the brain to disengaging. Caution and even reason were thrown to the wind. Out the window too—unwisely, yes—went fears of AIDS, STIs, and even the limitations of the human lumbar system as I swam through the darkness like a hungry fish, searching with eyes glazed for the next cock, mouth, or ass.

But all of that stuff seems to have lost its charm, to be replaced by “gasp!” if not romance, then at least human connection.

Am I getting old? Maybe not. Maybe I’ve just grown jaded. And, wonder of wonders, perhaps I’ve grown wiser.

But these days, sex seems hotter when it’s one-on-one, with someone I actually know more about than the fact that he’s able to swing that baseball cap around effortlessly, inhale a bottle of poppers, and blow me all at the same time. I get more aroused in my own bed, waiting for someone whose name, occupation, and likes and dislikes I at least have a rudimentary knowledge of than I used to lining up for a crack at the crack in the sling.

A couple cases in point. Old habits die hard, which is why I readily accepted an invitation to a party held during International Mr. Leather (IML) weekend in one of the rooms of the host hotel, the Hyatt. There were to be about fifteen guys gathered. There would be no chips and salsa, witty repartee, or flirtatious glances across the room. No, we all knew what we were there for. The only party favors supplied were bottles of various lube (even that new sensation J Lube, which bears no relation to J Lo, except that both might or might not have something to do with big asses, but I digress), poppers, a sling set up in one corner of the room, and a portable enema hose in the bathroom’s shower. There was no music. No conversation. Just naked men (and some pretty hot ones), grunts, groans, and the odd operatic aria (“Sweet mystery of life, I adore you”).

After about an hour or so, and making the corporeal acquaintance of at least five other men, the whole thing seemed rather amusing and well, if I’m honest, a little boring. Gatherings like these were often so much better in the imagination than they were in real life.

So I left, even though the partiers had hours to go before they slept. Trying to get my clothes back on amidst a tableau out of something Fellini might have dreamed up was no easy task. Picking my way to the door through the sweaty bodies almost made me giggle…it was like playing a very grown up game of Twister.

Contrast that with Sunday…and a very nice day at the beach with someone whom I’m getting to know on many levels. Contrast the sex party with just the two of us, in my sun-drenched bedroom, pretty much doing what the guys at the sex party were doing, but instead of looking for who we should fuck next, we stared into each other’s eyes, charting the course of each other’s pleasure.

What’s happened to me? Does this mean I’ve finally grown up? Or am I just getting boring?

Yeah, Toby thought, I get it. He and Chase had been together now for years, and the thought of wanting a little variety or a little on the side had no appeal at all for Toby. He’d won the prize—a hot man who still inspired his passion, but also one who inspired a sense of contentment, a sense of home, and best of all, an assured future together.

They were almost at his stop and, yes, Toby, anticipating kissing Chase in the next few minutes gave him with a boost of energy. He wouldn’t need anyone else to make his fortieth birthday one for the books.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

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.

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Cat’s Got Your Heart by Jem Zero Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Cat’s Got Your Heart

Author: Jem Zero

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 5, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, gay, trans, new adult, enemies-to-lovers, interracial, pet store, pets, snark, nerds, bullying, grief/grieving, hurt-comfort, romantic comedy/comedy of errors

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Synopsis

A Fluffy Feline Isn’t the Only Thing They’re Fighting For

Adopting a cat doesn’t sound hard. Then Jericho Adams meets Harinder Mangal, the surly pet store employee who loves animals and hates customers. Their first encounter inspires more than simple loathing—it puts the ball in motion for an absurd game of deceit that boasts a fluffy cat named Dumpling as the prize.

Harinder hates Jericho’s attitude, especially when it comes to owning a pet. He attempts to chase the other man from his store and is shocked when Jericho overcomes every obstacle, no matter how bizarre. Not only that, but he generates some of his own wild inconveniences that leave Harinder seething in his ugly sweater and mom jeans.

Before either man can get the other to crack, Harinder finds himself unexpectedly homeless. Despite their mutual antagonism, Jericho invites Harinder to crash at his place. The increased proximity makes it difficult for Harinder and Jericho to maintain their respective ruses, not to mention stopping themselves from actually caring about their pet-parenting rival.

Excerpt

Cat’s Got Your Heart, Jem Zero © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Jericho Is Not Prepared

There’s a Petco another half hour down the bus line, but it’s snowing and Jericho doesn’t have that kind of time. Well, he does. But his phone is only at thirty-seven percent battery, and he’s not patient enough to go that long without entertainment. Fortunately, there’s a small hole-in-the-wall ten minutes from his apartment.

Aquariums & More doesn’t have a website, but according to Yelp, the “more” includes live pets. Half the Yelp reviews complain about hostile and unwelcoming employees, but that’s none of his business.

The pet store looks even shittier in person than it did in the picture. Multiple neon signs have been added since the pixelated, overexposed image was captured—probably somewhere in the early 1800s. Combined, they shine so brightly they distract from the puke-green awning, torn from years of weather, with faded navy font that looks like it’s trying to be Comic Sans but isn’t quite.

The visual assault is such that Jericho briefly overlooks the grime on the windows and how there seems to be something alive inside the trash can.

Any animal bought from this place is guaranteed to have three kinds of rabies and possibly congestive heart failure in addition to being intellectually dishonest and a kleptomaniac. It’s perfect for his sister, Shiloh, so Jericho spits a wad of tasteless gum into the cigarette disposal (he isn’t going near that trash can) and steps inside.

The bell on the door jingles merrily, but upon passing the threshold, there’s no one in sight: no customers, no pimply teenage employees, not even a grizzled old man to regale him with stories of putting live mice in freezers.

Alrighty then.

Along the entire front wall is what must be a six-foot-long, gargantuan tank full of…sand and wood? Jericho looks closer, blinking when he sees some small things skittering through the thick foliage. Oh, hermit crabs.

“They’re not for sale,” a rough voice says behind him.

He startles, but not enough to make a fool out of himself. Instead of swinging around to face whoever came up behind him, Jericho casually rolls his back. See? He isn’t bothered in the least.

“There’s a sign right there.” He points down at the far corner of the tank where Hermit Crabs $5 per ea. is written in Sharpie on an off-white piece of cardstock. It’s placed away from the reach of the fluorescent tank lighting as if someone doesn’t want it to be noticed.

A dark hand reaches into his line of sight and unceremoniously rips the sign off the tank. “That was a prank,” the other person says. “Feel free to ignore it.”

“Okay,” Jericho says—because sure, whatever—and turns toward the speaker. The voice made him expect someone at least moderately intimidating, but the fluffy hair, round cheeks, and full lips are suspiciously cherubic despite the rather genuine scowl. Also, this guy is, like, five feet tall, give or take a few inches. “Do you work here?” He’s dubious about whether or not this is customer service or an attempt at stealing his lunch money.

The guy rolls his eyes—which makes Jericho think the answer is no, and he’s about to be held at gunpoint in a pet store—and then he grabs the front of his mustard-yellow sweater and tugs the wrinkles straight to reveal a worn laminated tag that reads: Hello, my name is Harinder. The first thing Jericho notices is that his nails are painted black, although heavily chipped. The second thing he notices is the bottom of the nametag where the phrase How may I assist you? has been cut off at the bottom and heavily frayed.

Harinder drops the sweater and reaches up to brush his overgrown bangs out of his eyes, then folds his arms over his chest. It turns him into a puffball of rumpled wool and flyaway hair, which Jericho fails to find either professional or impressive. A hissing alley cat, at best.

Speaking of. “Do you have any kittens?”

If Harinder’s face looked offended before, now it looks straight-up murderous. “If you want a kitten, I invite you to look into one of the mills of inbred, abused, unloved, soon-to-be-abandoned, backyard-bred animals. Might I suggest Craigslist, or some cushy chain pet shop balanced on the rusty, beloved seesaw of quality photography and appalling ethics? There’re at least three of them downtown.

“If you want to pay five hundred dollars for an animal you’ll only care about until it stops being small and inoffensive, be my guest, but I’m afraid I can’t fff— I can’t help you.”

Jericho blinks very, very slowly. He didn’t miss that aborted f-bomb, but as with the Yelp reviews, that isn’t Jericho’s problem. He tries again. “Do you have any…cats?”

Hunching his shoulders around his ears, Harinder jabs a thumb at the wall behind him. “Cat kennels are through that door.”

“Thanks.”

There are, in fact, no kittens. However, the eight kennels filling in one side of the room give him enough to choose from. The moment he catches the attention of the room’s inhabitants, there’s a chorus of noise as all the cats come to the doors of their steel prisons to bat fluffy paws through the bars in a sordid appeal for pets.

Jericho obliges the nearest one, threading his fingers through a gap and allowing the animal to smash its head into them, purring enticingly. He wiggles his hand as best he can to facilitate a more effective petting motion. This one is a skinny tabby, and the note on the front of its—his—cage says he’s two years old and calls him Princeton.

It’s such an obnoxious yuppy name that Jericho can’t help but snort. What a terrible name for a cat. He shakes his head and moves to inspect the next prisoner.

In total, there are nine cats. Two green-eyed, gray longhairs inhabit one of the lower cages. They remain curled around each other, staring dispassionately at Jericho from the back of the kennel.

“Fuck y’all too,” Jericho comments, leaving both “Lacey” and “Casey” to their own shitty devices.

A ten-year-old Abyssinian boy going by the name of Sir Charles immediately becomes his favorite. Jericho loses about five minutes trying to cram his whole hand through the tight bars so he can stroke his sleek honey-colored fur.

He doesn’t think giving Shiloh a pet that might die soon is the best idea, and he isn’t prepared to take on his own cat, so he moves on.

He ends up two cages to the left, shoulder pressed against the wall, studying a creamy Siamese point. She has a shaggy medium-length coat, faint textured stripes, and piercing blue eyes, with which she regards him coolly before padding over to give his extended fingers an inquisitive sniff.

Her body is long and lanky. Regal, Jericho thinks for all of thirty seconds before he looks at her infocard and discovers that her name is Dumpling.

A short, surprised laugh bursts from his chest; Dumpling’s ears flick backward in disapproval. She’s perfect. At a solid four years, she’s old enough to know how to use a litter box and, hopefully, a scratching post, but isn’t quite aged enough that he has to worry about being strong-armed into frequent vet-related errands.

The adoption fee is sixty-five dollars. A little steep, but manageable. Before he can do anything about it, the door to the kennel room bursts open and Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony Performed Entirely by Cats nearly deafens him.

Harinder snarls. “What the f—” His teeth settle for a moment on his bottom lip. “—are you doing?”

“Just looking,” Jericho says, pulling his hand away from the cages and shoving it in his pocket as if he was doing something wrong, although he’s pretty damn sure petting cats in a pet shop is not actually illegal.

“I’ve heard people use their eyes to do that,” is the surly reply. Of course this jackass would go there.

“Gonna call the cops?” he asks, rolling his eyes. Jericho is used to threats of police intervention in his simple existence. No innocence when you’re Black. Even being albino doesn’t change that.

Harinder’s face clouds. “I wouldn’t.” Then he wraps his whole fist around a cable lying against the room’s back wall and gives it an unnecessarily forceful yank. A thick brown curtain rolls up to the ceiling, exposing a greasy window. Harinder doesn’t say anything more, but the message of “I can see you and will rain unholy hellfire down on anything that displeases me about your conduct” is clear.

Jericho doesn’t respond. He only finds his voice when Harinder turns toward the exit. “Hey, wait. I want to buy a cat.”

Harinder stops dead, spine stiffening. Again, Jericho imagines some kind of small, furry creature raising its hackles in a misinformed attempt to look threatening.

“We don’t sell cats,” Harinder says, voice gravelly.

“Uh, what?”

He turns around, jaw clearly set. “I. Said. We don’t sell cats, you—” He clamps his mouth shut.

“What are these here for, then?”

Harinder’s eyes flick to the kennels, then back to Jericho. “They’re up for adoption.”

Jesus fucking Christ. Jericho rolls his eyes again. “Fine. How do I ‘adopt’ a cat?”

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Meet the Author

Jem Zero is a disabled lesbian who lives in a house built by zir great-grandfather with zir family and two rescue greyhounds. Zir work is unapologetically queer and strives to communicate the frustration of being limited by one’s meatsack & brainjuice.

While arguing zir way through an Accounting Certificate, Jem makes a living as a portrait artist and, similar to most tortured creators, is attempting to establish zirself in creative writing.

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Mr. Perfect by Aimee Nicole Walker Blog Tour,

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Mr. Perfect
Sinister in Savannah Series, Book Two
Aimee Nicole Walker
LGBT Romantic Suspense
Release Date: 09.18.20

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Cover: Jay Aheer
Photographer: CJC Photography
Model: Brock

Blurb

Word-slinger. Purveyor of truth. Jaded heart.

By day, Felix Franklin is an investigative journalist. By night, he produces Sinister in Savannah, an investigative podcast, with his two best friends. Felix’s life revolves around three principles: fortune favors the bold, honesty is everything, and love is for schmucks.

The podcast is back to investigate allegations that a local businessman is dabbling in money laundering. On the surface, everything about Cameron Spencer, aka The Auto King, appears to be perfect. The trio of trouble quickly learns all that glitters is not gold. Seeking the truth will challenge Felix’s convictions and put his life in grave danger. The biggest threat to his well-being isn’t an unknown villain; it’s the reappearance of his first and only love.

Jude Arrow had it all: great looks, charming personality, and a lucrative career as Atlanta’s hottest news anchor. So, why had he recently relocated to Savannah? When the two reporters are forced to work together, Felix will get a chance to ask him. The answer will stun Felix until he remembers not to believe anything that comes out of the heartbreaker’s pretty mouth.

Love and hate are two sides of the same coin and just as conflicting as the battle of wills that ensues. Will the chip on Felix’s shoulder save him from trusting Mr. Wrong or ruin his chances with Mr. Perfect?

Sinister in Savannah series is a fictional podcast exploring the city’s most nefarious crimes with Southern-fried snark. The books explore friendship, love, loss, and the irrepressible human spirit. Mr. Perfect is book two of three. While each book is written about a different couple, the series should be read in order due to continuing storylines. Sinister in Savannah is an LGBT romantic suspense series with mature language and sexual content intended for adults eighteen and older.

Universal Link: http://mybook.to/Mr_Perfect

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Excerpt

Felix held up his hand. He didn’t want to hear another lie from Jude’s beautiful lips. “Just shut up. I’ve heard enough of your fake apology to last me a lifetime.”

“It wasn’t a fake apology. It just wasn’t the one you wanted to hear,” Jude argued, crossing his arms over his massive chest. The move pulled his dress shirt tighter over his bulging biceps.

Goddamned sexy bastard.

Felix quirked a brow. “Okay, we’ll call it a non-apology then. How does that work for you?”

“A non-apology?” Jude asked. “What the hell is that?”

“When someone does or says something horrible to you, and you call them out on their bullshit. Instead of saying, ‘I’m sorry I hurt you,’ the loser pops off with ‘I’m sorry your feelings are hurt.’ That is not the same thing at all. It’s implying the person who’s hurt is the one at fault. It’s victim-blaming, and I hate it.”

Jude clamped his jaw so tightly that Felix was surprised he didn’t hear his teeth cracking under the strain. His nostrils flared as he worked to calm himself. After a long, awkward staredown, Jude relaxed his jaw and tersely said, “You’re an idiot.”

Felix chuckled; the sound filled with disdain. “You’ll have to find harsher insults to throw me off my game, Arrow.”

Aimee Nicole Walker Logo

Ever since she was a little girl, Aimee Nicole Walker entertained herself with stories that popped into her head. Now she gets paid to tell those stories to other people. She wears many titles—wife, mom, and animal lover are just a few of them. Her absolute favorite title is champion of the happily ever after. Love inspires everything she does, music keeps her sane, and coffee is the magic elixir that fuels her day. I’d love to hear from you

https://linktr.ee/AimeeNicoleWalker

Born For Leaving by Jude Munro Book Blast, Guest Post, Review & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Mia Kerick writing as Jude Munro popping in today with her newest release Born For Leaving, we have a great guest post from Jude, a brilliant $10 Amazon GC and Prime’s review so check out the post and leave a comment to enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Born For Leaving

(New England State of Mind 01)
by

Jude Munro

When they say be careful what you wish for, do you pay attention?

Neither did Oliver Tunstead.

Oliver wishes for nothing more than to get his mind off his crappy bartending job, pile of debt big enough to swallow him whole, and playboy ex-boyfriend/boss who refuses to back off. Too bad distractions, like the hot little convertible he has his eye on, cost megabucks. And Oliver is flat broke. Renting the spare bedroom in his rundown beachfront cottage is his only option to pick up the cash he needs–a risky proposition, as Oliver is the polar opposite of a people-person. When he responds to a bizarre ad in the Waterfront Gazette seeking summer housing, he gets more than he bargained for. But Oliver can cope… After all, how much harm can a single quirky tenant do to his tightly guarded life in three short months?

Where Oliver is a loner by design, urban cowboy Bodie is a loner by necessity. A family dispute long ago dropkicked him onto the path of a lifelong wanderer. This changes when Bodie moves into the tiny beachfront cottage and starts working the door at Oliver’s bar.

Despite Oliver and Bodie’s nearly paralyzing instinct to avoid commitment, they fall into a wary romance. And to their surprise, life as a couple is sweetly satisfying; that is, until their jealous boss devises a cruel plan to destroy the tentative bond they’ve built. True to form, Bodie hits the road, leaving Oliver to lick his wounds alone.

Can these wounded souls defy their urge to flee and fight for love?

**Trigger Warning: discussion of childhood sexual molestation of adult character, graphic physical violence, off-page coerced sexual relationship

.•.•.**❣️ Amazon US | Amazon UK ❣️**.•.•.

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Rocking The Boat by C. Koehler Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Rocking the Boat

Series: CalPac Crew, Book One

Author: C. Koehler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 28, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 68500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Contemporary, romance, gay, new adult, sports, rowing team, multiple partners, in the closet, outed, coach/athlete, university

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Synopsis

Nick Bedford coaches the men’s rowing team at California Pacific College, a small liberal arts school in Sacramento. He’s quiet, dedicated—and closeted. He struggles with professional ethics and NCAA rules as he denies his attraction for Morgan Estrada, one of his rowers. While they may not be far apart in age, the difference between coach and athlete leads Nick to worry about exploitation.

But Morgan has desires and a mind of his own, and what he wants is his coach. As the spring racing season advances, Morgan feels his coach’s eyes on him. Morgan may be gay, and while he’s not out to team, he hasn’t hidden it, either. It may be a coach’s job to check out an athlete’s form, but Morgan hopes Nick’s interested in more than his technique.

Morgan corners Nick in the boathouse, and Nick admits that while he wants Morgan he can’t have him. Morgan laughingly points out that he’s not bound by any of those rules and he wants Nick. Nick and Morgan start a relationship, but Nick worries whenever they’re in public: what if someone sees? An anonymous complaint from a rower to the athletics director sends Nick’s worries into overdrive just as the crew prepares for the make-or-break race of the year.

Excerpt

Rocking the Boat, C. Koehler © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Warning: This excerpt may contain sexually explicit material, please proceed at your discretion.

Coach Nick Bedford watched the eight men—his athletes, sweaty and pushed to the edge, their sides heaving like thoroughbreds—do their best to beat each other on the boathouse ergometers. The ergs, specialized rowing machines that duplicated the rowing stroke almost exactly, were his rowers’ best friends and worst enemies, building their conditioning and strength but also devouring everything they had to give and demanding more. He often shared their workouts, but not today. Today he walked around each athlete’s erg, looking for flaws in his technique. The crew’s coxswain helped him, but he was still the coach. It was his job to get them in shape.

They were a small crew, and California Pacific College was a small school. A former college rower himself, Nick was a graduate student working on his master’s degree in exercise physiology at a not-too-distant state university, and around the boathouse, he did it all. He was the resident expert on bodies in motion, guiding each athlete through workouts on land and water, each designed to make the boat go faster. He was the dietician, trying to keep a group whose natural prey was pizza and beer on the nutritional straight and narrow to build muscle and fuel recovery. He was their sport psychologist, helping them through losses and guiding the young men through the shoals of school, rowing, and life. He spent his free time immersed in exercise science literature, reading, reading, reading—anything to give his men that extra edge.

He even rigged the boats, adjusting the hardware and making minor repairs.

Eight varsity athletes, eight seats in the varsity boat. Nick was lucky they were so competitive, even with each other. Posting their erg scores meant someone would be pulling harder next time. He also had a standing offer to the junior varsity rowers: any JV athlete who beat a varsity rower on the ergs could challenge him for a seat in the boat. He’d only had to make good once. Each of his eight rowers put the “I” in team, each determined to beat the others. For a small program, it was ideal. For eye candy, it was unbeatable.

“What’d you think, Coach?” his coxswain asked, coming to stand next to him.

Nick was lucky. Stuart Cochrane had coxed in high school, and the junior premed major was as skilled as they came. “There’s room to improve,” Nick said, never taking his eyes off his athletes. “Look at Sundstrom. He’s hunching his shoulders. On the ergs, it’ll hurt, but on the water, it’ll strain his muscles and make it hard for him to stay in synch.”

“He’s never going to catch Morgan without fixing his technique, either. I’m on it,” Stuart said. He walked over and knelt next to the large rower, watching intently for a few strokes before correcting him. Stuart returned, his coxswain’s strut even more pronounced.

Nick had to smile. The best coxswains were small and light, so they didn’t slow the boat with weight that wasn’t pulling an oar, and they had Napoleon complexes. Stuart fitted the bill: short and cocky and determined to win. “That worked.”

“Of course, it did.” Stuart smirked. “Keep your eye on Estrada. Have you noticed how he speeds up just a bit during the last two k? That’s part of how he keeps beating Brad.”

“I like a nice, friendly rivalry.” Nick grinned. “It keeps the erg times fast.”

“I’m not sure how friendly it is. Brad was the fastest until Morgan joined the team and hasn’t taken kindly to being beaten,” Stuart added quietly, his voice just loud enough to reach Nick’s ears over the sounds of the ergs. “And some of the other guys are beating him too.”

“Then Brad needs to up his game.” Nick didn’t want to know about rivalries like that. He’d seen crews torn apart by such distractions. So long as his rowers left their differences on the dock when they rowed, he didn’t care. As he’d told Stuart, a rivalry on the ergs would move the boat faster.

Nick returned his focus to the ergs. He’d kept an eye on Morgan Estrada, all right. It was hard not to. Collegiate rowers were in fantastic shape, but something about Morgan drew his eye. He was tall, taller than Nick (who, at six feet, wasn’t short), but then, rowing selected for tall men and turned them into muscular ones. Sweat dripped from one wavy brown lock, running down his cheek, but Morgan ignored it.

Nick noticed it, however. It defined Morgan’s cheek, flushed red with effort, but normally very fair. There was more conquistador than conquered in Morgan Estrada’s background. All Nick’s men were good looking in one way or another, but something about Morgan pulled him in, something that threatened to swallow him whole.

Eye candy was a perk of his job, but Nick tried not to stare too much. They were his boys; he was their coach. There was a trust there, and he took that trust very seriously.

Still, watching Morgan strain, sweaty and grunting and red, made Nick think of crossing that line.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

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.

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Stealing Jennifer by C.C. Bridges Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Stealing Jennifer

Author: CC Bridges

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 28, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female/Male (Female/Female interaction)

Length: 21500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, established couple, criminals, law enforcement, PTSD, menage, found family, ffm

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Synopsis

Jennifer, Sean, and Maria are jewel thieves—and lovers. When a job gone wrong sees Jennifer in the hands of the FBI, Sean and Maria have to figure out how to break her out. It’s no easy feat, since Jennifer is both their hacker and master planner. But these two thieves will do anything to steal their heart back.

Excerpt

Stealing Jennifer, CC Bridges © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Now

Whatever happens, no regrets.

Jennifer had only seconds to act. The pounding of footsteps up the stairwell echoed against the walls. This old building had zero insulation. They probably thought they were being quiet, but Jen had good ears and fast hands. Years of experience had her moving before thinking.

One glance at her laptop showed the dual security camera feeds she’d hacked into. Sean hovered above the case of jewels and Maria waited patiently in the getaway car. Jennifer had a second to tab through the rest of the feeds to make sure no police had gotten close to either of them. She entered the kill code to erase the recordings while she still could.

At least they would be safe.

Jennifer touched her fingers to her lips and then the screen, brushing over both Sean and Maria’s faces, imagining the soft feel of the stubble on Sean’s cheeks and the flutter of Maria’s long black eyelashes. She regretted not being able to touch them one more time. Even this warning would have to be abbreviated in case she was overheard.

“I’m about to get busted.” Jennifer never thought she would be the one saying these words. “Get out, now. I’m burning the laptop.” She ripped the headset out of her right ear without waiting for a response. After five years together, she trusted them to listen, still a surprise to her even now to know that she could rely on anyone other than herself. Jennifer slammed the laptop closed and pressed her thumb against the failsafe fingerprint reader she’d installed on the bottom.

She ran out of time. The door behind her cracked under the weight of some asshole cop’s foot as she dropped the laptop onto the floor. At least she hadn’t rented this apartment—she’d never get the deposit back. No, she’d chosen an empty location with good sight lines to the jewelry store and picked the lock on the door.

If this had been a long con, they would have rented an apartment and tried to look like good neighbors. Jennifer had fond memories of jobs where they entrenched themselves, living for months or more in one place until that location felt like home. This job in particular should have been quick, in and out.

Yeah, that turned out well.

The cracked door gave way with a crash, and her once private sanctuary filled with large men in uniform. Jennifer forced down the panic as they surrounded her, black barrels of guns pointed at her. This had happened before, only she hadn’t been the target. “Put your hands in the air!”

Jennifer stood with deliberate caution, keeping her hands in view. Cops would take any excuse to get a shot off, and if she wanted to survive this night, Jen knew she had to play the game. However, the sarcastic little shit inside of her couldn’t resist saying, “Congratulations, you got me.”

Because really? Dozens of armed men for little ole her? Come on.

They didn’t seem impressed, at least no one responded other than to grab her by the shoulders and turn her around to cuff her wrists behind her back. The metal felt familiar on her skin from so much time practicing slipping out of handcuffs. Maybe that skill would come in handy tonight.

More important than slipping her cuffs would be figuring out the man in charge. If she kept her wits about her, Jennifer could think over the pounding of her heart, over the fear that this time she wouldn’t make it out. No, she had to focus. Think. None of these keystone cops were distinguishable from the others. They all wore the same damn blue uniforms with black body armor and helmets. Foot soldiers. She needed a mastermind.

That’s when he walked in. No nondescript body armor for him. He wore a suit, not an expensive one with a label, no, something utilitarian you’d pick up in the mall. Still, she noticed the bulge in the line of his jacket, a clear indication of a weapon. He carried himself like he expected to be obeyed, shoulders back and his jaw clenched. She met his eyes as he stared her down like he cataloged her for evidence, startled by the pale blue of those eyes and the contrast of that with his dark hair.

Funny. In another circumstance she’d consider him hot. Jennifer had always loved the combo of dark hair and light eyes, although his eyes were nowhere near as striking as Maria’s. She swallowed down thoughts of Maria or Sean. If she didn’t keep control of herself, if they guessed that she had partners out there, then the game was as good as lost. This stranger in a suit couldn’t know anything real about her.

When they forced her to walk past him she made sure to throw him a cocky grin.

He didn’t seem affected by it. She didn’t register to him any more than an object. Good to know. He nodded at one of the uniformed men. “Take her in.”

Asshole.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

CC Bridges is a mild-mannered librarian by day, but by night she writes about worlds of adventure and romance. When she’s not busy solving puzzles in an escape room, she can be found diving into comics or binge-watching superhero movies. She writes surrounded by books, spare computing equipment, and a fluffy dog. In 2011, she won a Rainbow Award for best gay sci-fi/futuristic novel.

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The Couple Next Door by Rick R. Reed Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

The Couple Next Door

Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, author, multiple personality disorder, brothers, murder

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Synopsis

Jeremy Booth leads a simple life, scraping by in the gay neighborhood of Seattle, never letting his lack of material things get him down. But the one thing he really wants—someone to love—seems elusive. Until the couple next door moves in and Jeremy sees the man of his dreams, Shane McCallister, pushed down the stairs by a brute named Cole.

Jeremy would never go after another man’s boyfriend, so he reaches out to Shane in friendship while suppressing his feelings of attraction. But the feeling of something being off only begins with Cole being a hard-fisted bully—it ends with him seeming to be different people at different times. Some days, Cole is the mild-mannered John and then, one night in a bar, he’s the sassy and vivacious drag queen Vera.

So how can Jeremy rescue the man of his dreams from a situation that seems to get crazier and more dangerous by the day? By getting close to the couple next door, Jeremy not only puts a potential love in jeopardy, but eventually his very life.

Excerpt

The Couple Next Door, Rick R. Reed © 2020, All Rights Reserved

How many disappointing dates will I endure before I just give up?

I mean, here I am, a perfectly attractive, fit, self-sufficient thirty-year-old, and I’m still waiting to meet the man of my dreams. Mr. Right. Hell, tonight I’d even settle for that character who seems to come along on dates for most of us, the all-too-common Mr. Right Now. But even he isn’t on the seat beside me. In fact, I strongly doubt he’s anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle where I live.

Believe me, I’ve looked.

Mr. First Date pulls his Ford Fusion up to the curb in front of my apartment building on Aloha Avenue. We sit in awkward silence for several long moments, listening as the engine ticks down as it cools. I can feel him looking at me. As he’s done most of the evening, he waits for me to speak. I turn my head and, in the dark, give him a weak smile. The date, dinner at a little sushi place on Broadway, had not gone well, full of uncomfortable silences, awkward pauses, and desperate looks around for avenues of escape—on both our parts.

Do I need to say we just didn’t click?

I didn’t think so.

So what he says now surprises me.

“Do you want me to come up?”

Really? We’ve just spent an hour and a half of agony together, trying to find a snippet of common ground that doesn’t exist, and he’s wondering if I want him to come up, which we all know is code for “Shall we make the beast with two backs?”

Seriously? The most irksome thing is, I’m considering it. I mean, he’s cute in spite of our lack of social connection. He’s a games developer for a software company here in town and looks it, with a sort of hipster/geek vibe going on. He has red hair, which I love. He has a beard, which I love. He wears retro glasses, which make him look paradoxically goofy and sexy—which I love.

Would it be so terrible to sleep with him? I mean, it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve enjoyed the charms of anyone other than Mr. Thumb and his four sons, so at least in terms of a release, maybe I should just say “Sure” and open the car door. If things go like some of my dates in the past, he’d follow me upstairs to my apartment and be back in his car in, like, fifteen minutes.

No, I tell myself. And then I tell him, shaking my head, looking sad, and saying the words countless heartbreakers have used over the years to stop ardent passion in its errant tracks.

“I’m sorry, Neil. But I have to get up early.” Lamely, I pat his hand. “Maybe another time.”

I don’t need to be psychic to know that we both know another time ain’t gonna happen.

Neil seems relieved as he restarts his car. He shrugs. “It’s okay. Club Z’s just a couple minutes away, right? Down Broadway and a right on Pike—easy.”

He grins at me, and I wonder if he expects me to laugh. Club Z is one of Seattle’s filthiest bathhouses, and yes, it’s only a few minutes away. He doesn’t seem to need directions.

It’s my turn to be relieved that I didn’t actually succumb to the temptation of inviting this jerk upstairs. Wordlessly, I get out of the car and slam the door behind me.

Neil roars off into the damp and still night.

I pause and sigh, staring up at the building in which I’ve lived for the past five years. It’s an okay place, an old redbrick three story with none of the modern amenities—no stainless steel, granite countertops, or gas fireplaces. My apartment is homey. It even has the original tile, sink, and claw-foot tub in its single bathroom. The living room is large, with three big windows that look out on Aloha and let in lots of light—on the days when we have sun in Seattle (that means usually summer days). The floors are scuffed original hardwood. The kitchen actually has a pantry and built-in china hutch. I’ve painted the place a cheery, soft yellow.

Upstairs, the TV, with its DVRed episodes of at-odds Sons of Anarchy and Downton Abbey, awaits. Upstairs, there’s the gelato I love from Whole Foods in the freezer—hazelnut dark chocolate.

Such is my life. Comfortable and a little lonely.

Sometimes I wonder, like Peggy Lee, if that’s all there is.

I head toward the glass-paned front door. I grope in my jeans for my keys. The mail had not yet arrived before I left for my date, and I wonder if there will be any surprises in the vestibule mailbox. You know, like an actual letter from someone, standing out from the usual assortment of bills and solicitations by the cursive spelling out of my name—Jeremy Booth.

My problem is I always have hope, even when there’s little reason.

I open the front door, and that’s when everything changes. My life turns upside down. I go from bored discontent to panic in a split second.

The first thing I hear is someone shouting “No!” in an anguished voice. I look up from the lobby to see two figures on the staircase above, on the second-floor landing. One is a guy who looks menacing and so butch he could pose for a Tom of Finland poster. An aura of danger radiates from him. Aside from his imposing and muscular frame, he’s even wearing the right clothes—tight, rolled jeans and a black leather biker jacket with a chain snaking out from beneath one of the epaulets. His high- and tight-buzzed hair gives him a military—and mean—air. He has his hands on the shoulders of a guy who looks a bit younger and much slighter, making me want to call up the stairs, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size?” The smaller guy, blond and clad only in a pair of pajama bottoms, struggles with his attacker, looking terrified. Their movements, clumsy and rough, would be comical if they weren’t so scary. The smaller guy is panting and batting ineffectually at the bigger one.

“Please! No! Don’t!” the smaller guy manages to get out, his voice close to hysteria.

I have never seen either of these men before. In fact, the whole scene has the quality of the surreal, a dream. The danger and conflict pulsing down the stairs makes my own heart rate and respiration accelerate, causing feelings of panic to rise within me.

And then the worst happens. The big butch guy shoves the smaller one hard, and all at once he’s tumbling heavily down the stairs toward me.

The fall is graceless, and it looks like it hurts. It’s over so fast that I’m left gasping.

I look up to see the leather-jacket guy sneer down at his mate, lying crumpled and crying at my feet, and then turn sharply on his heel to go back into a second-floor apartment that had been vacant yesterday. He slams the door. The sound of the deadbolt sliding into place is like the report of a shotgun. Both slam and lock resound like thunderclaps, echoing in the tile lobby, punctuation to the drama and trauma of this short scene.

I switch into Good Samaritan mode and drop to my knees at the sniveling, crumpled mess of a man lying practically at my feet.

“Are you okay?” I ask and reach out to lightly touch his shoulder.

He jerks away and, wincing, pulls himself up into an awkward sitting position. He stares at me with clear blue eyes for a moment, almost as though he’s trying to place me. He finally looks away.

“My ankle is throbbing. It hurts like hell. Maybe I twisted it.”

I don’t know what to say, other than to ask, “Would you like to try and stand? Test it out?”

He nods.

I lean over to grip him under the arms—it’s damp there, and I can smell the ripe aroma of body odor, probably inspired by fear or panic—and pull. He comes up with me and then stumbles, wincing and crying out.

“Damn. I might have sprained it when I fell.” His eyes are so appealing, in both senses of the word, as he stares at me, as though seeking direction for what to do next. He leans on me, taking his weight off the injured ankle.

I keep my arm around him, and together we limp over to a bench set beneath the bank of common mailboxes. We sit.

“What do you want to do?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I think Cole may have locked me out for the night.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

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.

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Everything Changes by Melanie Hansen Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Everything Changes

Series: Resilient Love #1

Author: Melanie Hansen

Publisher: Self-Published (formerly Dreamspinner)

Release Date: September 14, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 65,000

Genre: Romance, Military, disability, amputee, post-traumatic stress, friends to lovers, bisexual

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Synopsis

A childhood in foster care taught Carey Everett to hold tight to what he has. Enlisting in the Marines gave him purpose, but a life-threatening injury ended his career—and took his leg. Now fully recovered, Carey’s happier than he’s ever been. He has a fulfilling job, a chosen family and, best of all, a cherished friendship with Jase DeSantis, the platoon medic who saved his life.

Jase knows how to take care of the people he loves. As the oldest of seven, and then a Navy corpsman, it’s what he was born to do. Still, he’s haunted by his actions overseas. Playing music with his band keeps the demons at bay, but it’s a battle he’s starting to lose.

After a week of sun and fun in San Diego, Jase and Carey’s connection takes an unexpected turn. With change comes a new set of challenges. For Jase, it means letting someone else into his deepest pain. For Carey, it’s realizing love doesn’t always equal loss. In order to make their relationship work, they’ll each have to come to terms with their pasts…

…or risk walking away from each other for good.

Excerpt

With an oath, Carey broke away from Jase, turned, and strode off the dance floor.

Cursing, Jase ran after him.

“Carey, wait!” he called, but Carey didn’t stop as he pushed through the doors leading to the patio. It was almost empty, the chill of the late night air having driven most everyone back inside. Abruptly, Carey whirled and grabbed onto Jase’s T-shirt with both fists.

Bracing for a shove, or a blow, Jase staggered when Carey instead yanked him into the shadows just outside a soft pool of light.

“Damn you,” he hissed, his eyes glittering. “Damn you, Jase.” Despite the harshness of his tone, Carey didn’t let go of him, his fingers twisted in the fabric of Jase’s shirt. His lips were parted, breaths coming in pants, spots of color high on his cheekbones.

His heart thudding painfully in his ears, Jase deliberately took one step closer until their bodies were only inches apart. Carey turned his head away, but still didn’t let go, his grip tightening.

“Damn you,” he said again, but the words were without heat, softer, more like an exhalation. He dropped his head back to the wall, pulse throbbing visibly in the hollow of his throat, eyes drifting shut. “Oh God. I don’t know what’s happening to me.” His voice was barely audible.

Blood racing, body trembling, all Jase could do was wait him out. At last Carey opened his eyes, the normally brilliant blue dark with emotion. His gaze clung to Jase’s, his lips parting as Jase started to close the last few inches of distance between them…

Gasping, Carey shoved him back, then yanked him close again in an abrupt motion that had Jase slamming his palms against the wall to keep from crashing into him. He looked down at Carey’s fists, still twisted in his shirt, then met his eyes once more.

“Let me go,” he said softly. “If you don’t want me to kiss you, push me away.”

For one heart-stopping second, Carey’s grip loosened, then tightened again. Leaning in until their lips were only a whisper apart, Jase breathed, “Let me go. If you don’t want me to kiss you—”

The rest of his words were muffled by Carey’s mouth, crushing his. Hot, slick, eager, Carey’s tongue slid deep, almost devouring him. With a hoarse groan, Jase slanted his head, his own tongue thrusting, parrying. They bit and licked at each other, bodies straining, breaths sawing in and out…

Then Carey ripped his mouth free. “No.”

Struggling to focus, Jase staggered a bit when Carey pushed him away. For the space of several heartbeats they stared at each other, chests heaving, Carey’s body tense, coiled, as if ready to flee.

Seeing it, Jase forced himself to blow out a long, slow breath, and crammed his hands in his pockets as he deliberately took another step back, giving him some room.

“I’m sorry,” Carey whispered. “I’m so sorry.”

“For what?” With an effort, Jase kept his voice low, calm. “I was a more than willing participant.” He waited until Carey met his eyes. “You think I don’t want this? Want you?”

Carey shook his head wildly. “I can’t risk it. I can’t.”

“Oh, Carey. Risk what?”

His throat worked. “Losing you.”

“Losing me?” Jase took a step forward, but Carey put up a hand to hold him back.

“Three years ago, I did almost lose you. Over this.” He made a sawing motion between them.

“That was different.” Jase still kept his voice low, despite the emotion raging through him that made him want to shout at the top of his lungs. “This is—”

“It’s what?” Carey interrupted. “Unfinished business? Curiosity?”

Pain stabbed Jase down low. “Is that what it feels like to you? Curiosity?”

“I don’t know!” Carey shoved his hands through his hair, then linked his fingers behind his neck, visibly striving for calm. He met Jase’s eyes again. “But whatever it is, it’s not worth risking our friendship over. I can’t—”

He sounded so distressed that Jase dredged deep and summoned a smile. “Then we won’t risk it. We’ll forget this ever happened, okay? Chalk it up to temporary insanity or something.”

The relief that spread across Carey’s face made his heart ache. “Yeah. Okay.” Pushing off the wall, he brushed past him, muttering, “See you at home.”

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Meet the Author

Melanie Hansen doesn’t get nearly enough sleep. She loves all things coffee-related, including collecting mugs from every place she’s visited. After spending eighteen years as a military spouse, Melanie definitely considers herself a moving expert. She has lived and worked all over the country, and hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to the love stories she gets up in the wee hours to write. On her off time, you can find Melanie watching baseball, reading or spending time with her husband and two teenage sons.

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Splash by J.R. Hart Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Splash

Author: J.R. Hart

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 7, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 60100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, romance, new adult, gay, cisgender, swimming pool, lifeguard, summer job, enemies to lovers, father/son relationship, multiple partners

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Synopsis

Connor Molina’s summer can’t get any worse. He’s stuck in his college town taking summer classes, and he’s got a dead-end lifeguard job he’s too old for and a baby gay who’s thirsty for all the wrong guys.

Even worse? Tristan, a wild patron, won’t leave his section of the pool, splashing him and pulling stupid stunts to get his attention. When Tristan fakes a drowning to get closer to him, Connor’s furious, but he quickly realizes that Tristan’s reckless nature isn’t always infuriating…it’s also intriguing.

Can he let his guard down and let Tristan in, or will he be bound by his own rules and drown in the self-doubt this summer could free him from?

Excerpt

Splash, J.R. Hart © 2020, All Rights Reserved

I overslept. One week into summer, and I’d already overslept. Showering? Not really an option. Nothing about the summer after my sophomore year of college had gone the way I planned for it to go, so oversleeping? Yeah, not super unsurprising. That was me, Connor Molina, epic fuck-up. I knew why I was stuck in that godforsaken town the entire fucking summer, and almost all of it had everything to do with going to parties more often than going to my 8:00 a.m. classes. Can anyone blame that on me, though? No. The blame goes to anyone who thought morning classes would ever be an acceptable thing for anyone to experience. Whoever came up with that idea should be locked away, key thrown away, all of it.

But summer started all wrong. My ultimate goal had been to go back home. You know, normal summer stuff. Swim laps in the backyard pool, slack off, maybe hook up a few times. I don’t know. Obviously, that didn’t happen. I wouldn’t be saying shit about that summer if it had. Uneventful stories never make for good reflections, do they? But that summer was eventful in ways I didn’t expect it to be. It’s part of what made my summer so, so fucked.

Instead of being home for the summer, I was there, at the Springdale Aquatic Center and Lap Pool, sitting in ungodly heat and staring at unnaturally blue-looking water. You know the kind of blue of skies and oceans and all that? No, this was hyperchlorinated blue, made more intense by the paint at the bottom until it was an intense cerulean. Instead of swimming in my parents’ greenish lap pool, I was trying to make sure no one drowned in this lap pool. Real upgrade there, Connor. Awesome.

You’d think that shit wouldn’t get old after a day and a half, but it did. The only perk was not getting audited in the first couple of days—if no one was checking to see whether I was watching closely enough, then I couldn’t get screwed over and lose my job if I missed the sign. Of course, it would have been no surprise if the summer went like that. Considering everything else that had happened so far, it would have made sense for it to blow up in my stupid face and leave me jobless too. But that didn’t happen. All I wanted was to make it through the summer without someone dying on my watch. That shouldn’t have been too much to ask.

Nothing about the job was worth the money. If you’re thinking about being a lifeguard, let this be your warning. It isn’t worth it. But I couldn’t back out no matter how badly I wanted to. It was on the schedule before we even had the most terrifying meeting ever, and I had no choice but to press on. Never mind that they made it clear the job was life-or-death during that meeting. Never mind that I hated the concept of ever setting foot in the pool again after the stuff their words stirred up in my mind.

Never mind that I was scared to death someone might drown right in front of me because of my own fuck-up or inability to keep them alive. Never mind the added pressure when I was already at my breaking point going into summer. All of it was horrifying, but I didn’t have the luxury of choice. Everything else was full. Literally every single damn summer job…full.

If I wouldn’t have had to be there in the first place, I could have slacked off and loafed around on my parents’ couch and watched shitty daytime talk shows, checked out The Price Is Right and tried to guess the price of a car I’d never own. But no, I had rent to pay. I still do. I had to have something to do. Every pizza delivery position, every law firm secretary job, every retail cashier option, all of it was full. I couldn’t even get a job sacking groceries, not that I would have taken a position clearly made for a high schooler. Any of those had to be better than lifeguarding though. Every job in town, even that, was for teenagers. I was underqualified for the good shit, but I was way overqualified for being a lifeguard.

One summer. I promised them I’d work there for one summer, but after that, I had told myself there was no way in hell I’d ever be caught on that guard stand again. The whole job is complete and utter bullshit. No amount of SPF in the world could have gotten me through it either. I still don’t know how I didn’t lose my entire mind being there. Well, I do, but I didn’t at the time.

Sure, I probably took it a little bit too seriously, a little bit too personally whenever they mentioned, you know…drowning. None of my other coworkers gave a shit if someone were to die in their section. The thing is, they’re all basically kids, lifeguards are. High school babies at best, with a few going into college in the fall. I was the only jackass actually in college when I got the job, so, of course, none of them took it seriously. It made sense that they didn’t give a shit if something happened. None of us ever think it’ll happen to us. No one ever does, do they? But that stuff does happen. It does. I had seen it happen before, and the thought of letting it happen that summer somehow? I was horrified by the entire prospect. Don’t worry, nobody actually drowned over the summer, though the close calls were enough to make me hate the job regardless.

The summer didn’t start great, either. We were down two guards on the second day of work. One of them never bothered to call in, and I’m pretty sure she never showed up all summer anyway. The other one missed the audit ball and got sent home. Greg, the manager, tossed this little ball in the water in your section. Each ball represents someone drowning, and if you don’t jump in and save the ball in time, you get written up and sent home early. I’m not sure why they think sending you home is the right choice there. It’s not like it gives you more practice. To me, you should be buddy-guarding until you get it right, but that’s not how it goes, and it left us shorthanded. Way too shorthanded.

That’s why I scan the water, why I always keep scanning the water. The ball represents a life, someone she would have just let drown because she wasn’t even watching. Getting sent home was the least of her worries. Maybe if it had been a real person, she would have understood. We hadn’t been working together long enough for me to even know her name, and by the third audit she missed in two weeks, she was fired, so I never really got to know her anyway.

I don’t switch off when I’m working. I can’t. You never know who the hell might end up drowning on your watch, and I wasn’t about to have a death on my conscience. I couldn’t fathom the idea of telling someone’s mom, “hey, your kid drowned because I wasn’t paying attention,” or somehow having to deal with the consequences there, the nightmares or whatever else. It’s stuff like that making the job literally the worst in the world. If I looked away, who knows what might have happened? Maybe someone would have died. I don’t know. Maybe I was just fucking paranoid. Maybe I still am.

Or maybe it’s the way my section always attracted the biggest jackasses on the planet. The entire time I was working the first few days, regardless of the section I was in, there was this one guy. One damn kid who had to show off, basically. He and his buddies were there to break every rule, doing flips off the high dive, trying to play chicken. They were old enough to know better and old enough also to set a bad example for anyone younger—if they could do it, the younger kids thought it was safe to do too. It was impossible to watch everyone in my section when he kept pulling my focus, making me watch him and his friends carefully so nobody got killed.

He was there when I was manning the diving boards, attempting cannonballs and flips far beyond his skill level. When I moved on to the wide slide typically reserved for kids to slide down with his parents, he and his friends were shoving each other down and trying to launch themselves off. I’d tell him to sit on his ass (in nicer words) and not on his stomach, but halfway down he’d spin, flipping to skid down headfirst.

“He’s cute, isn’t he?” I can still remember James asking me that question and even now, a huge part of me wants to slap him over it.

“The one with the death wish? No, he’s not.” I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand how half of the guards at this pool could think he was hot. I was there trying to watch, trying to keep track of everyone, and it felt like everyone else was simply there to gawk at the patrons. Being the only one actually there to work sucked, even if I got that they were just kids. You know, whatever, but some of us didn’t need the added distraction.

“You have to admit he’s at least a little bit cute,” James said, elbowing me in the ribs. I was half tempted to break his arm over the way he jabbed me.

“I don’t have to. He’s not being cute. He’s trying to crack his head open on the side of the pool. What are you doing over here anyway?” This wasn’t James’s section right then, not where I was, and I couldn’t understand why he was even where I was at, to be honest. Last I saw, he was supposed to be over by the lazy river, not close to me in the deep end.

“I’m on break,” he told me.

“Oh, so you’re over here lurking and trying to stare at him and everything else, getting in my way when I’m trying to do my job? Cool. Thanks.” I was only half joking. I tried to make myself seem as pleasant as possible, but a large part of me was really annoyed. The last thing I needed was James near me, trying to talk while I was taking this seriously. James was the only other openly gay guard there, and not even a small part of me was surprised he was interested in a dumbass like that one. I never tried to hide who I was, and if a girl at the pool flirted with me, she usually figured out she wasn’t my type pretty quickly. But James? He couldn’t hide it. Anyone could’ve clocked him from a mile away. He wasn’t subtle and it was okay, but it also got him in trouble. The town wasn’t the most open-minded place ever.

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Meet the Author

J R Hart is a queer 30-something novelist passionate about telling romantic and erotic stories about LGBT+ characters. When J R isn’t writing, you can find her at the science museum with her son, cheering for her favorite soccer team, or at The Bean Coffee Co plotting her next work.

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