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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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?”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

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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Time Lost by C.B. Lewis Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Time Lost

Series: Out of Time, Book Two

Author: C.B. Lewis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 7, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 114600

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, science fiction, gay, British, detective/police officer, law enforcement, crime procedural, engineer, programmer/decoder, murder, mystery, age gap, interracial, dirty talk, spanking, outrageous flirtation

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Synopsis

A dead intruder. A missing scientist. A terrified child.

No one wants a dramatic case first thing on a Monday morning, but that’s exactly what Detective Inspector Jacob Ofori got. It should be open and shut, but scientist Tom Sanders is nowhere to be found, a dead man seems to have appeared from thin air, and the Temporal Research Institute—Sanders’s company—is strangely uncooperative about assisting with the case.

Jacob’s only source is TRI engineer, Kit Rafferty. He clearly wants to help, but there’s only so much the man can and will tell him. As more and more impossible questions mount up, Jacob finds himself facing a reality that could change his world.

Excerpt

Time Lost, C.B. Lewis © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
At first, everyone assumed it was a burglary.

The postman was the first on the scene. He’d arrived early in the morning to make a delivery to the house in question and found the front door wedged open. No one answered when he rang the bell, so he called the police. The two constables arrived to investigate, and they were the ones who found the body.

It escalated after that.

Not even noon, Jacob thought grimly. Hell of a way to start a Monday.

His autopod shuttled along, arcing off from the main highway. As much as he missed manual controls of old-fashioned cars and early autocars, he appreciated the driverless function of the pod because it gave him time to skim through the images from the crime scene en route.

He wouldn’t get a feel for the scene until he got there, but the images let him know what he was about to walk into. There were signs of a struggle in the room where the body was found, and plenty of blood, but the rest of the house seemed undisturbed.

“Control to Delta Seven. ETA to destination?”

Jacob leaned forward and cleared the images from the display on the windscreen, bringing up his location on the map. Beyond it, he could see the country roads through the glass.

“ETA fifteen minutes, Control,” he replied, then muttered under his breath, “Into the backside of nowhere.”

It was half an hour beyond the miles of sprawling suburbs of the city in the middle of green fields and close to a forest. The nearest amenities had to be at least four miles from the building. He shook his head. What kind of person chose to live all the way out there anymore? It wasn’t as if there were a shortage of housing in the city.

A chime indicated another image had been received.

Jacob opened it up and leaned forward, frowning.

A door, barely visible, blended into the pattern of the wall. No handle, no visible hinges.

“You seeing this, sir?” Constable Foley’s voice rang through the speaker.

“I am indeed, Foley,” he said, widening the image. “Is that a safe room?”

“Looks that way, sir,” the constable replied. “The dust in front of it suggests a box was moved and recently. Looks like someone might be in there.”

Smart girl, Jacob thought with approval.

“Any response?”

“Not yet, sir, but if they were attacked—”

“They might not be capable of replying,” Jacob finished. “Keep trying.” He minimised the image and looked out through the windscreen. “I have visual on you, Foley. Be with you soon.”

Ahead of him, the house was visible between the trees. The red brick structure had to be at least two centuries old, but even from a distance, the modern touches were obvious. The windows were thick and secure. The roof had been replaced with faux slate.

The autopod purred to a halt beside the four other vehicles lining the gravel courtyard, and the door slid aside. Jacob stepped out and glanced at the other vehicles. He recognised the coroner’s transport pod, and the standard blue-and-white- patterned squad pod, but the other two were probably the homeowner’s.

Foley opened the front door to greet him.

Half his age, she hadn’t been with the force long enough to be as jaded as him yet. She smiled in greeting. “Morning, sir.”

He winced. “Say afternoon. It makes it a little more bearable.”

She laughed. “You want a summary, sir?”

“I read up on it on the way over. Any word on the owner?”

“Thomas Sanders,” Foley said, leading him toward the house. “Forty-eight. Widower with one young son. He’s a well-reputed scientist and engineer. High up in some kind of historical and scientific research program in the city, the Temporal Research Institution.”

“Have you been able to make contact with him?”

Foley shook her head, her sandy ponytail swinging. She offered him overalls to cover his suit. “We’ve tried his business and private numbers. His colleagues said he’s been on a leave of absence for health reasons for several weeks. Our best bet is the safe room.”

“Any sign of the son?”

“We assume he’s with his father,” Foley replied.

“Do we have an ID for the body yet?”

She hesitated in the hallway. “That’s the strange thing, sir. We can’t find anything on him. His prints aren’t in the system. No DNA trace either. We still need to run facial recognition, but so far, we’ve got nothing.”

“That’s not unusual.”

Foley looked at him. “There’s something off about it all. I’ll show you.”

The house was spacious inside. The lower level was split into four rooms, all branching off from a wide, sunlit hall. Foley led him down the hall and to one of the rooms at the back, her covered boots thumping on the wooden floors.

Jacob stopped in the doorway, taking a moment, then stepped across the threshold. The crime scene team was still at work.

The room appeared to be some kind of laboratory with workbenches running along one wall. Another wall was covered in old-fashioned whiteboards with all kinds of incomprehensible text and codes marked on them in half a dozen colours. Jacob studied all of it for a moment, but whatever Sanders was working on, it was far beyond Jacob’s barely adequate physics A level.

There were little machines here and there, suspended from the boards by wires. Spools of wire and gears were scattered across the floor. Several boxes had been upended from shelves and lay on their sides.

In the middle of it all, the body lay face down on the floor, a bloodied hammer close at hand.

Danni Michaels was working on the body and glanced up with a nod. “Sir.”

“Cause of death?” Jacob said, keeping his eyes off the dead man’s face.

“Looks like blunt force trauma,” Danni replied, nudging her magnifying glasses up her nose with her knuckles. “I don’t think it’s a wild guess to say the weapon was that hammer. It was a single blow, landed here.”

Jacob gritted his teeth and looked. The left side of the man’s forehead was ruptured. His eyes were open, and he had an expression of surprise on his rigid, bloody face. He was young. Maybe thirties. Dark-haired. His eyes were dark, the pupils flared wide open, but death sometimes did that. Blood had spread in a wide, sticky pool around his body. Jacob swallowed down the familiar rising acid.

Christ, he hated the messy ones.

He glanced around the room.

A pair of slippers, several steps away from the blood pool, had left bloody prints on the polished floor. The owner must have kicked them off, and they’d ended up at least three feet from each other. Not good shoes for running, slippers. If he—men’s slippers, size nine approximately—had already knocked down the man on the floor, then there had to be another assailant whom he was running from.

“Any sign of this man’s accomplice?”

“Accomplice?” Foley asked.

Jacob gestured to the slippers. It was easier than looking at the body. “You don’t try and run from an unconscious, nearly dead man. There was someone else here.”

“We haven’t seen any sign of anyone else,” Foley replied. “Sorry, sir. I didn’t even notice that.”

He offered her a brief smile. “That’s why I’m a DI, Foley.” He motioned to the body. “You said there was something off?”

Foley nodded, crouching by the body. “Take a look at his right eye.”

Jacob went down beside her, propping his forearms on his knees. It took him a moment, but then he saw what she was pointing out: The pupil wasn’t blown. There was no iris at all.

“What the hell…” He leaned closer. “Michaels, can I borrow your magnifiers?”

She handed them over and obligingly shone the torch over the man’s eyes. “Clever, isn’t it?”

Jacob peered down and frowned. “A synthetic bionic eyeball? Is that even possible?”

Michaels shook her head. “I’ve heard of people developing them, but I’ve never heard of any successful trials.” She squatted by the body and grinned. “I can’t wait to get it out and see what it’s made of.”

“And there’s one of those images I didn’t need,” Jacob murmured, peering through the magnifier again. The pupil seemed to be a focusing lens. High-quality, high-end technology. “Foley, have you checked anywhere that might carry tech this advanced?”

“We’re putting together a list,” she said. “But from what we’re hearing back, this is off the charts, sir. No one has heard of technology like this before, or if they have, they’re not telling us about it.”

He straightened up. “You said this Sanders was a scientist?”

“Doctor in physics and engineering,” she confirmed.

“Could he have made something like this?”

She hesitated. “From all accounts, he didn’t deal in human biology or bio-artificing.”

“Doesn’t mean he couldn’t.” Jacob ran a hand over his face. “Well, if we can’t find this man by standard identification, maybe we can find him by the eye he doesn’t have. Danni, we need all the information you can get us as soon as possible.”

“Sir,” Danni said at once.

Jacob turned to Foley. “Where’s Singh?”

“Still trying to get into the safe room.” She jerked her head. “This way.”

The safe room was up the stairs in what appeared to be a playroom. Windows lined one of the walls, the others covered in posters and drawings. Kids’ toys and games were scattered all over the place. Singh was working his way along the one blank wall with a scanner.

Jacob took in the mess. “You said Sanders has a son?”

“Ben,” Foley confirmed.

“About eight?”

Foley looked at him in surprise. “Seven and a half. Is this another one of those detective things?”

Jacob chuckled. “This time, it’s one of those dad things.”

Singh glanced over his shoulder at them, sighing in frustration. “Foley, I know you said to scan for a high intensity of fingerprints on the wall, but this whole wall is fingerprints.” He nodded at Jacob. “Afternoon, sir.”

“Singh.” Jacob approached, studying the wall. “It’s very smoothly done, isn’t it?” He rubbed his short beard thoughtfully with his fingertips. “No visible buttons or latches anywhere?”

“None we could find,” Foley said. “I thought it might be a pressure-point system, but seems not. We requested an expert, but they’ve been delayed.”

“I think we need to un-delay them,” Jacob said, touching his earbud to activate it. “If Sanders is wounded and inside there, we need to get him out. If not, we need confirmation, because this could be an abduction.”

While they waited, Jacob had gone down to the laboratory to take another look at the whiteboards. He didn’t see what it had to do with Sanders’s work at the Temporal Research Institution. A quick search suggested the institution specialised in identifying historical discrepancies and confirming historical events. It could be something to do with locating old records and creating algorithms, he supposed. You would need a specialised engineer to do that.

“Sir?”

Jacob turned. “Foley?”

“The smith is here. I thought you might want to be present if he can open the door.”

They headed back up the stairs to the playroom. The body had been removed in the hour before the locksmith arrived, the crime scene unit now working their way out from the house across the grounds, searching for trace evidence of the intruders.

The locksmith was already working on the wall with a scanning device.

“Apparently,” Singh said, joining them, “all safe room doors come installed with a registration chip, in case the mechanism needs to be deactivated in an emergency.”

“Not unlike this,” Jacob observed. “Useful.”

The locksmith glanced over. “It’s a recent make. Give me two minutes.”

In the end, he took less than thirty seconds, and the door swung outward.

Inside, there was a room big enough for a family, but only one person was there. A small tawny-haired boy shrank back into the corner of the room, his arms wrapped around his legs, his face bone-white.

Jacob motioned for the smith and the two constables to back off, and crouched a couple of feet away from the door.

“Hey,” he murmured.

The boy was shivering, and tears rolled down his face from swollen, red-rimmed eyes.

Jacob took out his badge, laid it on the floor, and slid it across to the boy. “It’s okay. I’m a policeman. My name’s Jacob.” He watched as the boy tentatively leaned forward and looked at the badge. “Are you Ben?”

The boy nodded. “Where’s my dad?” His voice shook as much as he was.

“We’re trying to find him now.” Jacob offered a hand. “Do you want to come out? You don’t need to stay in there.”

“Dad told me to stay here.” Ben wrapped his arms tighter around his legs. “He told me to, until he came to get me.”

“I know.” Jacob knelt and sat back on his heels. “We want him to come and get you, too, Ben, but right now, I think he’d want you to be safe, don’t you? How about we keep you safe?”

“P-promise?”

Jacob nodded. “Promise.”

Ben got unsteadily to his feet. His trousers were sodden, and there was vomit on the front of his shirt. The poor kid must have been terrified. Jacob knelt up, offering both his hands, and Ben’s icy fingers wrapped around his.

“There you go,” Jacob said as gently as he could, drawing Ben back out. “You’re safe now.”

The little boy gave a sob and stumbled forward and wrapped his arms around Jacob’s neck, clinging to him. Jacob scooped him up and rose to his feet with the boy in his arms. He rubbed his hand in circles on Ben’s back.

“You’re okay,” he murmured. “You’re okay.”

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Meet the Author

C.B. Lewis has been making up nonsense since she was able to talk. Now, she puts it into computers and turns it into books. She is chuffed to bits to officially be yet another one of the collective of authors from Edinburgh. Find C.B. Lewis on Facebook.

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The Assistant by John Triston Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

The Assistant

Author: John Tristan

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 24, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 52900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, gay, Japanese-American, trans, interracial, BDSM, D/s, power play, slow burn, personal assistant, disability/ chronic illness, depression, age gap

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Synopsis

Burned out ex-soldier Nick Kurosawa has drifted from job to job since he lost his family in a car crash. Lately, he’s been working on and off as a bouncer, barely managing to cover his bills; an opportunity for steady, well-paying work is just what he needs to get his life back in order.

Jacob Umber, a secretive philanthropist, gives him that opportunity. Umber has fibromyalgia and needs a personal assistant to help him with the tasks of daily living—someone strong, adaptable, and, most of all, willing to let Umber take the lead.

It seems a perfect opportunity for Nick. More than anything, he craves guidance and a purpose, and Umber gives him that in spades. When Nick starts craving more, it seems an impossible complication, but even the reserved Umber can’t deny Nick’s talent—and need—for following his orders. But Umber’s shadowy past holds secrets that could undo their fragile new relationship and any hope Nick has of a normal life.

Excerpt

The Assistant, John Tristan © 2020, All Rights Reserved

It was a clear autumn night, with the moon low and yellow above the city. Between its fullness and the lights, only a few stars could be made out, pinpoints in the raw black silk of the night. Nick stood with his fists balled above the man breathing hard in the gutter. A trickle of spilled beer ran into his hair, foaming like shampoo. He smelled sour, of sweat and fear.

“Jesus, man!” The man’s companion—a skinny young guy with a circular Band-Aid over one eye, like a discount pirate—crouched beside him. “Somebody call an ambulance! Call the cops!”

“By all means,” Nick said. He forced himself to take a step back, unclench his fists. “Let’s call the cops and tell them the whole story.”

Discount Pirate slit his eye at him and helped his companion to his feet. The man was dazed but seemed unhurt. Still—he could easily have a concussion.

Nick hesitated. “Maybe we should call an ambulance—”

“Forget it,” the man said thickly and spat into the gutter. In the neon and moonlight, the blood in his mouth looked black. His eyes met Nick’s, and this was the worst part: they understood each other perfectly. He’d wanted to start a fight, and Nick had taken the bait. Another night, it would have fallen out differently.

“Let’s get out of here,” Discount Pirate said, putting a proprietary arm around his companion’s waist and dragging him off into the darkness.

Nick let out a shaky breath. The street was empty, now; if he was lucky, this wouldn’t get back to Merritt, who owned the Hellhole. He hadn’t hired Nick to start fights but to stop them as gently as possible—de-escalation, not macho bullshit. The Hellhole was the only gay bar in Westerley, which meant it drew both the occasional snickering asshole and its share of ex-boyfriend drama. Merrick wouldn’t thank him for bad publicity.

“Jesus, Nick.”

Fuck. This was the last thing he needed. He turned toward the familiar voice. “Hey, Alex.”

Alexander Finn—his friend, once-upon-a-time fuck-buddy, and self-appointed social worker—had come up out of the Hellhole at just the wrong time. Sweat was still beaded on his pale forehead, cooling rapidly in the night air. “What happened?”

“Didn’t know you were down here tonight,” Nick said, affecting a breezy tone. “Must have been here before my shift started.”

Alex rolled his eyes. “I know you’re not jealous, so you’re trying to deflect. What happened?” He took out his cigarette case—silver, engraved—and popped one into his bow-lipped mouth, then offered one to Nick.

He reached for it, then hesitated. “Haven’t smoked in months.”

Alex gave him a skeptical look. “Come on.”

“Vaping doesn’t count.”

He laughed softly. “I’ll give you that one.” He snapped the case closed and tucked it away. “Talk.”

“I don’t know.” Nick ran his hands through his hair. “The guy just. Got under my skin. It’s like he knew how to push my buttons.”

“You’re not supposed to have buttons while you’re on the door.”

“Fuck you. Give me a cigarette.”

He did; they smoked together in the neon-lit dark.

“This job…” Alex chewed on his thoughts for a moment. “It’s not good for you. This isn’t the first time you’ve let someone…push your buttons.”

Alex was right—he’d never let himself take it this far before, but there were more than a few times over the last few weeks when a sneer or a snicker or a muttered insult had gotten under his skin and launched him right in someone’s face, teeth bared, eyes glittering. His fuse frayed shorter every week he was out here. He took a long, slow draw from the cigarette and laughed bitterly. “Well. I still need the rent paid.”

“How long until your shift is over?”

Nick grinned sideways at Alex. “Why, you want to take me home?”

He sighed and shook his head, but it had raised a smile. “Just think you could do with a good night’s sleep. After that…” Alex hesitated a moment. “Can you take the next few days off?”

“I’m not back on shift until Monday evening.”

Alex nodded and took a card out of his pocket—his business card, Nick recognized—and then fished out a pen. “Turn around,” he said.

Nick did. Alex leaned on him, using his back as a desk to write on. He could feel the scratch of the pen through his shirt.

When Alex was done, he handed him the card. Nick frowned at it. There was an address on it, a place in the financial district, and a name: Jacob Umber. “What’s this?”

“Someone—someone I know is looking to hire. I thought…well, you already have a job, and I had someone else lined up, but—”

“You always have someone lined up for something, don’t you?” There was a slight edge of bitterness to Nick’s words. Alex networked—he always had a side hustle lined up for someone, for the washouts and burnouts, the ex-cops and ex-military, the bikers and drifters he seemed to draw into his orbit. His type: like Nick. “Is this meant to be charity? Because you can pass it on to one of your other tricks. I don’t need it.”

“Call it what you will. And you’re not a trick, Nicholas.” Alex leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, chastely. “You’re my friend.”

Nick swallowed a sudden lump in his throat and stuffed the card in the back pocket of his jeans. “Yeah, all right, fine. There’s no number on the card—am I meant to just show up?”

“I wrote hours on there,” Alex said. “Nine to three. Weekdays.”

“Right.”

“Nick…” He seemed to be struggling with his words. “This isn’t a guaranteed job. I can get you a way in, but you’ll have to impress.”

“Come on, Alex.” Nick flashed a smile. “Don’t you think I can pull out the stops when I need to?”

He laughed and shook his head. “I know you can. Good luck, Nick.”

“Thanks. No, really…thank you.”

He nodded and left him on the empty street. Nick took his vape out of his pocket and sucked down a nicotine cloud; he noticed his hands were shaking. There was a subtle ache in his knuckles, where they’d collided with the man’s cheekbone. He felt a tiredness deeper than exhaustion, something like lead in his bones, and on top of that, a thin hot skin of queasy arousal. He didn’t know if he wanted to sleep for a year or get fucked up against the wall of the nearest alley. Well, he told himself, right now it’s going to be neither. He smoked until his hands stopped shaking and then waited for the sky to lighten—for his shift to be over—so he could go home.

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

John Tristan is a multinational gay nerd, currently living in Manchester, UK. When he’s not writing, he works in the voluntary sector; when he’s not doing either, he’s probably playing video games or tabletop RPGs. After his mother banned books at the table during mealtimes, he read the backs of sauce bottles. His stories are sometimes romantic, sometimes erotic, often speculative, and always queer.

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Together by Eloreen Moon Blog Tour, Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Eloreen Moon popping in today with the tour for Together, we have a brilliant interview, a great excerpt and a fantastic $25 Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Together

by

Eloreen Moon

Victor has loved El and En since high school. The problem is, they love each other and only see him as a friend. Victor leaves town, unable to cope with watching them together, but now he’s back—and his heart still feels the same.

El and En have had feelings for Victor for a long time, they just haven’t said anything. After all, a poly relationship isn’t something society looks upon kindly. But that isn’t going to stop them, not now they understand what missing Victor is like. They want their third, no matter what anyone says—they just have to find out whether Victor is up for the challenge.

Together again, individually, the three men know they’re meant to be a trio. The thing is, who will say so first? And will the dynamic work if Victor joins a stable couple? Can Victor fit in and have the relationship he’s dreamed of with the two men who have held his heart in their hands for what feels like forever?

Find out in Together.

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

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On The Square by Brenda Murphy Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

On the Square

Series: University Square, Book One

Author: Brenda Murphy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 17, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 64400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, romance, family-drama, interracial, blue-collar, restaurant, chef, reality TV star, builder, single mother, in the closet

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Synopsis

Dropped from her television show after a very public split with her cheating ex, celebrity chef Mai Li wants nothing more than to reopen her parents’ shuttered restaurant and make a fresh start in her former hometown. So what if twenty years of neglect has left the building in need of a major renovation?

Seduced by Mai’s charm and determination, hard-edged contractor Dale Miller agrees to take on her renovation project.

After a spring storm causes significant damage to the building and renovation costs exceed Mai’s budget, Dale offers her a deal, but is it a price Mai is willing to pay?

Excerpt

On the Square, Brenda Murphy © 2020, All Rights Reserved

Dale filled her coffee thermos. The scent of the dark brew had her wanting to linger over another cup. She tightened the lid. “You riding the bus today?”

“Nah, Chip’s coming to pick me up. We have a cross-country team meeting.” Noah slid the omelet he was cooking onto the plate. “You sure you don’t have time? You can have this one, Mom. I’ll cook another for me.” His round face and solemn dark-brown eyes were fixed on her face. He lifted the plate and waved it in her direction.

Delicately browned, perfectly cooked. The aroma of melted cheddar cheese and butter filled the small kitchen. The omelet tempted Dale even more than the coffee had. She sighed and cursed herself for agreeing to an early morning appointment for an estimate. Dale grimaced. Cowed by the insistence of the woman who called for the estimate, her oldest, Seth, had made the appointment outside of business hours. Afraid to turn down work. Knows we need the money. If it works out.

Dale tucked two peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwiches into her cooler, wrapped an apple in a napkin, and placed three battered and scruffy water bottles around the sides, spacing them evenly. She shut the lid and bungeed the ancient metal relic of a cooler shut. Please let it work out.

“What, Mom?”

The concern in Noah’s voice drew Dale from her thoughts. “Nothing. I wish your brother would’ve talked to me before he scheduled this. I hate to talk to people before I’ve had my coffee. And who the hell needs to meet at six in the morning for an estimate?” She peered out of the window at the sky, barely pink.

“Someone in a hurry? Like maybe you should be. Or you’re gonna be late.” Noah smirked as he shoved aside stacks of paper and clutter before he placed his plate on the table. He pulled a chair out, sat down, and flipped his napkin out with a flourish.

“Damn.” Dale took two steps over to Noah and mashed a quick kiss to his forehead. “Don’t forget to tell Thomas to pick up Grandad’s prescription and have a good day at school.”

Noah scrubbed his hand over his mouth. “I will.”

Dale snatched her thermos and her lunch cooler off the counter as she bolted for the door.

*

The large black pickup truck roared into the parking lot, kicking up a fine spray of dust and small gravel. Mai ended the call she had been ready to make to cancel the estimate appointment and shoved her phone back into her pocket. She frowned as a layer of gray dust settled over her polished black wingtips. Tinted windows prevented her from seeing inside the truck. With a snap of her wrist she straightened her collar, leaned back against her car, and crossed her arms over her chest. She tapped her foot and pursed her lips as she contemplated how much she was going to enjoy telling the yahoo in the truck what she thought of their driving skills. A warm-up for what she was preparing to tell the contractor who didn’t think her time was valuable. She didn’t do business with people who were not punctual. This town has not changed a bit. Still on country time. She snorted thinking about the ridiculous lengths she had to go to get the idiot on the phone to agree to a timely appointment.

The scuff of boots on gravel on the opposite side of the truck made her look up.

“Sorry I’m late.” A tall woman in faded jeans and work boots rounded the front of the truck. A thick tan work belt with a multitool pouch clipped to it held her jeans up over her curvy hips. She tucked a metal clipboard under her arm and stuck her hand out to shake.

“Who are you?” Mai didn’t take the woman’s hand. “I had an appointment with a general contractor for an estimate. Dale Miller?”

“That’s me.” A flash of irritation flew across Dale’s face as she withdrew her hand and stuck it into her rear pocket.

“You’re late.” Mai studied the unapologetic woman in front of her. Thick honey-blonde hair streaked with gray brushed her shoulders. A head taller than Mai, she had broad shoulders and a trim waist. Her pale-blue undershirt set off her golden-brown eyes. The sleeves of her flannel overshirt were rolled back and displayed well-muscled forearms.

Dale rocked back on her heels and glanced skyward before bringing her gaze back to Mai’s face. “I am. And I apologized. This is outside of our normal hours for estimates.”

“And I wasn’t…”

Dale cut her off. “And you weren’t expecting a woman.” She swept her hand through her hair. “You know what. I’m not certain I’m the best person for this job.” She turned on her heel and walked away from Mai, head high and shoulders rigid.

“Wait.”

Dale turned and rested her hand on the hood of the truck. “Why? You’ve made your mind up. I’m not going to waste my time. Or yours. Good luck with your project.”

Mai looked down at her shoes before returning her gaze to Dale’s face. “That’s not what I was going to say.”

“Right.” Dale arched an eyebrow. “I’ve been in this business too long to be scolded for being late. I don’t schedule appointments this early because I don’t like talking to anyone at this unholy hour.”

Mai laughed. “How have you stayed in business?”

Dale walked back over and stepped close to Mai, invading her space. “Because most people in this town recognize business hours are business hours and don’t expect special favors.”

Mai held her ground. “Special favors? I asked for an early appointment. It’s not my fault whoever answered the phone doesn’t know your hours.”

Dale clenched her fists. “My son knows the hours perfectly well. He was trying to be nice. He said yes to accommodate your schedule. Which, apparently, is way more important than mine. Good day.” She spun on her heel and stomped back to the truck.

Mai chewed her lip as she desperately tried to ignore how much she liked the way Dale’s ass looked in her jeans and failed. “Hey, wait.”

Dale yanked the truck door open and tossed her clipboard inside.

Mai sprinted around the truck and her shoes skidded on the gravel lot. She caught herself on the truck hood and narrowly avoided bumping into Dale. “Hey, please stay. I’m sorry we got off on the wrong foot. I’ve had too many folks be rude to me because I wasn’t what they expected. Please. I’d like you to at least look at the project.”

Dale turned to her and the delicate scent of lemon verbena wafted from her, undermining Mai’s determination to keep to the business at hand.

A rueful grin crossed Dale’s face. “No. I’m sorry. You’d think I didn’t want the work. I’d like to see what you want done.” She tilted her head and met Mai’s gaze. “Do you mind if we have coffee first?”

Mai held out her hand and Dale shook it. “Bring your thermos.” She tilted her head toward the silver flask. “Come on. We don’t have to talk until you’ve had another cup.”

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NineStar Press | Amazon

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.

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Gay All Year by Richard May Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Gay All Year

Author: Richard May

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 17, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 78700

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, romance, short stories, gay, bisexual, interracial, age-gap, slow burn, friends to lovers, BDSM, Dom/sub, humorous, multiple partners, priest, military, Native American, law enforcement, bereavement, daddy issues, men in uniform, Hanukkah

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Synopsis

Twelve optimistic MM stories, one for every month of the year.

How do men meet? Each story is connected to a holiday or event—Epiphany, Valentine’s Day, Pi Day, Arbor Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, summer vacation, a rodeo, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah—but may not be quite the celebration you’re expecting.

Neither may the men, and when these men meet, attraction does not always equal love—at least immediately—but chemistry finds a way.

Excerpt!

Gay All Year, Richard May © 2020, All Rights Reserved

I never meant to live in San Francisco again, but here I was. At first, it was just a visit but when I saw how advanced the effects of my mother’s lung cancer were, I decided I couldn’t leave her to institutional caregivers and fly back to Boston, so I took a leave of absence, and then I telecommuted, and finally, my company offered me a transfer to the office in Menlo Park.

I also never expected to be inside a Catholic church again, but here I was. I had successfully avoided them in Boston, which is no easy trick when you’re Irish and raised Catholic. But now, I was back inside Saint Paul’s, fulfilling a deathbed promise to my mother. “Don’t blame God,” she had advised between wheezes and made me agree to go to mass. I wanted to scream. Of course, I blamed God and every fucking priest and every fucking Catholic in the world, but I bit my tongue and said I’d go, thinking her funeral mass would fulfill the promise. “And my funeral mass doesn’t count,” she’d said with the remainder of a twinkle in her eye. Trapped—and I didn’t even get to scream.

I had put it off for six months until I’d run into Mrs. Andreozzi on Tuesday past, and she’d mentioned Saint Paul’s had a new priest. “Very handsome,” she informed me as if that were enough of an inducement for a gay twentysomething male. And perhaps it was because the very next Sunday I entered the building, genuflected toward the altar, crossed myself, and took a seat in a pew.

There was an excellent turnout of ladies and gay men. And Mrs. Andreozzi was right: the new priest was very handsome. He was a tall man, with dark wavy hair combed straight back from his forehead, regular features, and noticeably wide shoulders. Nothing at all like Father Michael, with his thinning red hair, sallow complexion, and sagging jowls. I hoped he was different from Father Michael in other ways as well, for the altar boys’ sakes.

After mass, I tried to slip past the line of parishioners telling the new priest how much they liked this or that, but he stepped away from an older woman in midsentence to intercept me.

“Thank you for coming,” he said, barring my way with his conspicuous body and extended right hand. “Father Adrian Doyle.” I shook the hand hesitantly. Touching a priest was, and probably always would be, disgusting to me. Father Adrian’s hand was warm, but then so had been Father Michael’s.

“Stephen Kinney,” I said. The priest’s bright-blue eyes momentarily ceased sparkling. Apparently, he’d heard the name before. I’m sure he has, I thought with satisfaction.

“Good to see you, Stephen. See you next Sunday,” he said, his eyes recovering. He gave my hand a final shake and went back to his line of well-wishers. I walked outside without a commitment, continued down the steps to Church Street and around the second corner to my parents’ house. The park across the street was full of dogs, kids, and adult supervision. I had been one of those kids once upon a time.

I had mostly happy childhood memories and was on quite a nostalgia trip, integrating my things with those of my parents and grandparents. The park was certainly convenient for walking Boris, my mother’s old and needy dog. Why she wanted a Russian wolfhound neither my sister nor I quite understood. It had always been Irish setters while our father was alive. Still, after Mom passed, Anne Marie and I fought over who’d get custody of Boris. Nothing else in the estate mattered as much. I won because I was already walking the dog on a twice-daily basis, feeding him, and acting in loco parentis. My sister lived outside Chicago. If the trip east didn’t kill Boris, the Midwestern winter would.

Monday’s alarm woke me from disturbing dreams vaguely remembered. Men in black, oppressive shadows, Father Adrian naked. The latter image disturbed me most of all. I rushed to be vertical and tried to ignore my erection.

After struggling into jogging clothes, I opened the door for Boris’s stroll to the dog run. Immediately, an unfamiliar tenor yelled “Stephen!” at me. One of a crowd of runners passing by was waving. “Father Adrian!” he shouted in explanation, pointing at his chest, which was already eye-catching enough, even in a baggy sweatshirt. I waved back in a jerky side to side motion and watched the healthy bodies disappear. The priest’s butt was obvious in his skimpy running shorts, shifting left and right, left and right. Lustful thoughts came to mind. “Good God,” I said out loud. Boris whined. “Yes,” I agreed. “Let’s have none of that. Come on, boy.”

The old dog broke into an eager amble across the street. After a few minutes sniffing this fascinating scent, inhaling that arousing aroma, and doing his business, we recrossed the road. I let Boris in the front door and took off at a trot toward Sanchez. Of course, I ran into the Saint Paul’s joggers on their return trip.

“Join us!” the priest yelled, his tousled hair and happy face strong inducements. I heard several other runners second his call, which surprised me, given what I’d cost them. Misery loves company, I suppose, or maybe just following the lead of their priest. Still.

I was about to ignore all of them when someone dropped out of the line and yanked me into it. “Tony!” I yelped. Tony Rodriguez, the boy I’d had a crush on in sixth grade. The man who’d stood by me during the lawsuit. I assumed he’d left town. He hadn’t been at my mother’s funeral, and I hadn’t run into him at Safeway or Royal Cleaners.

“I’ve been in Iraq, and Marylee was at her mother’s,” he exclaimed as if he read minds. Oh, right. He was in the National Guard.

I took up the rhythm of the run, Tony’s admirable thighs racing alongside mine.

“Aren’t you almost done?” I asked, looking for an escape route.

“I wish,” he said, flashing the ten-thousand-dollar smile Dr. Davis of Twenty-fourth Street had given to both of us.

I looked ahead at the priest. “What do you think of the new guy?”

“He’s good,” Tony said, between inhales and exhales. “Up on technology.”

“I thought his Epiphany homily was good,” I said. “Especially the part about everyday epiphanies.”

Tony nearly stopped running. “You went to mass?” he said, looking at me as if I were lying.

“I promised my mother.”

“Uh huh,” Tony grunted. Then he gave me a grin. “And Father Adrian is a good-looking dude,” he said. Just as quickly, his face collapsed in dismay. “I’m sorry, Steve.”

I kept looking ahead, which is what I’d told myself to do after I stopped going to church. The priest’s butt was obscured by those of less worthy men. “No worries,” I told him, but it might not have been loud enough for Tony to hear. In any case, we talked of other things before he peeled off for home a few blocks later.

“Be sure to call me about that beer!” he yelled. I gave him a thumbs-up. If only he were gay, I thought for the thousandth time.

The rest of us finally reached the steps of Saint Paul’s. No one else had spoken to me since Tony had left for home and a shower. At the church, I meant to follow his example, but Father Adrian held me back. “If you ever want to talk,” he said. His fingers gripped my arm with familiar strength and uncomfortable insistence.

“I did my talking to the attorneys,” I replied and pulled out of his grasp. His face was even more handsome when less under control.

“My offer stands,” he said, his lovely mouth now grim. “Don’t let the crimes of a few evil men get in the way of your relationship with God.”

I laughed in his face. “A few? See you later, Father.” I trotted south without looking back.

I had been a cute, blond-haired boy of nine when I came under Father Michael’s auspices. I was twenty-four when I organized other boys who’d become his prey to sue the diocese. There had been a settlement; the church knew it couldn’t win. I bought the condo in Boston with my portion of the proceeds.

However, later that day, Father Adrian’s offer was codified in a text.

Good to see you at church, Stephen. Hope you’ll be with us again next Sunday. And, if you want to talk, my door is always open.

He gave me a phone number. The question was, how did he get mine?

I should have deleted the text but didn’t. I was impressed he spelled my name correctly and by his follow-up. In fact, I kept rereading it until I finally called the number. Mary Flannery answered. She had been the parish secretary for decades. After I said my name, there was a pause before Mary responded.

“Is Father expecting your call?” she asked with an icy edge.

“Yes,” I said.

“Is this still about—” she began but hushed herself. “Just a moment, Stephen.” She put me on hold. I wondered how much it cost her to say my name.

“Stephen!” Father Adrian’s happy voice shouted into the phone. Credit him for enthusiasm.

“I’d like to have that talk,” I said.

“Good,” he answered after taking a quick breath. “Good,” he repeated more optimistically. “After mass? Which one do you—”

“I’ll see you Sunday at noon,” I told him. “On the steps.”

“Better make it twelve thirty in my office.”

“No!” I said, much too loudly. Mary Flannery might have heard me, if she were listening. I had no intention of being alone with a priest ever again.

“Where then?” he asked, sounding irritated.

“In the park. Twelve thirty is fine.”

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NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Richard May’s short fiction has been published in his collections Inhuman Beings: Monsters, Myths, and Science Fiction and Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories (with photographer David Sweet) and numerous anthologies and literary periodicals. Rick also organizes two book readings at San Francisco bookstores, the Word Week annual literary festival, and the online book club Reading Queer Authors Lost to AIDS. He lives in San Francisco.

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Summer of Hush by R.L. Merrill Cover Reveal, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have R.L. Merrill popping in today with the cover for her new release Summer of Hush, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic Amazon GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Mel~

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Summer of Hush

(Summer of Hush 01)
by

R.L. Merrill

Hush is back… and it’s about to get loud. After two years grieving the death of his best friend, Silas Franklin is back on the road with his metalcore band, Hush. With a new member, a brilliant new album, and a headlining spot on the last cross-country Warped Tour, life couldn’t be better—unless Silas could meet the intriguing music blogger known only as the Guru.

Silas has followed his blog for years and feels the Guru might be the only person who “gets” him. For years Krishnan Guruvayoor has reported on the metal scene as an anonymous blogger, and he’s just landed an internship on the Warped Tour as well as a potential position with a well-respected music magazine.

His best friend arranges for him to meet singer Silas Franklin—but only as Krish the Intern. Their chemistry is instant, and Krish is thrilled to get to know the man behind the music. The rock star and blogger quickly go from meet-cute to cuddle session, but secrets, overprotective bandmates, meddling media, and a terrible accident all conspire against them.

Warnings: Talk of suicide (in the past) and grief

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

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Gay All Year by Richard May Cover Reveal!

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Hi guys! We have Richard May popping in today with the cover to his upcoming release Gay All Year. so check out the post and enjoy! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Gay All Year

by

Richard May

Twelve optimistic MM stories, one for every month of the year.

How do men meet? Each story is connected to a holiday or event—Epiphany, Valentine’s Day, Pi Day, Arbor Day, Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, summer vacation, a rodeo, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah—but may not be quite the celebration you’re expecting.

Neither may the men, and when these men meet, attraction does not always equal love—at least immediately—but chemistry finds a way.

Warning: racial prejudice, infidelity, puppy play, death of a partner, racist language and stereotypes

Release date: 17th August 2020
Preorder:
.•.•.**
❣️ NineStar ❣️**.•.•.

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About Richard!

Richard May’s short fiction has been published in his collections Inhuman Beings: Monsters, Myths, and Science Fiction and Ginger Snaps: Photos & Stories (with photographer David Sweet) and numerous anthologies and literary periodicals. Rick also organizes two book readings at San Francisco bookstores, the Word Week annual literary festival, and the online book club Reading Queer Authors Lost to AIDS. He lives in San Francisco.

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Why Can’t Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza? by Andy V. Roamer Blog Tour, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Andy V. Roamer stopping by today with the tour for his new release Why Can’t Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza?, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic $25 Amazon GC so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Why Can’t Freshman Summer Be Like Pizza?

(The Pizza Chronicles 02)
by

Andy V. Roamer

RV, having successfully completed his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School, is hoping for a great summer. He’s now fifteen years old and looking forward to sharing many languid summer days with his friend Bobby, who’s told him he has gay feelings too. But life and family and duties for a son of immigrant parents makes it difficult to steal time away with Bobby.

Bobby, too, has pressures. He spends part of the summer away at football camp, and his father pushes him to work a summer job at a friend’s accounting firm. Bobby takes the job grudgingly, wanting to spend any extra time practicing the necessary skills to make Latin’s varsity football team.

On top of everything, RV’s best friend Carole goes away for the summer, jumping at an opportunity to spend it with her father in Paris. Luckily, there is always Mr. Aniso, RV’s Latin teacher, to talk to whenever RV is lonely. He’s also there for RV when he inadvertently spills one of Bobby’s secrets, and Bobby is so angry RV is afraid he is ready to cut off the friendship.

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Kobo | B&N ❣️**.•.•.

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Sorcery of the Blood by Alice G. Holmes Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Sorcery of the Blood

Author: Alice G. Holmes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: May 4, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58100

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, paranormal, gay, interracial, vampires, vampire hunters, dystopia, dark, magic, spells, witchcraft

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Synopsis

Kingston St. Louis and Martin Von Brandt are vampire hunters of the highest caliber. That is until Kingston is made a vampire and they discover too late that the city is being taken over by vampires in a bloody coup.

Branded as outlaws, they’re forced into hiding with an unexpected ally. For their plan to stop the coup to work, Kingston will have to overcome his prejudices and train the very vampires he used to hunt, and Martin must learn magic.

All the while, they struggle with their feelings for each other. Love can be a weakness, and they can’t afford weakness when hiding from a powerful enemy.

Excerpt

Sorcery of the Blood
Alice G. Holmes © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Kingston

Footsteps echoed in the night, signaling the approach of our prey. Martin clung to the alley wall, machete in hand, blue eyes wide behind his glasses. I could see a sheen of sweat on his cheek, and I placed a finger to my lips, reminding him to be silent. He nodded, and I headed to the mouth of the alley. I had a performance to put on. I ruffled my hair, loosened my tie, and did my best to appear inebriated.

Just to add a little extra to the act, I began singing in a slurred voice. I could practically hear the monster’s delight as I walked down the alley. Sometimes I wished I knew what the fuck they were thinking. Nothing but blood and murder.

“Are you lost, little boy?” a voice asked in a sickly sweet tone.

I turned. A white woman stood there with long legs and brown hair. She wore a purple pantsuit like she’d finished a late night at an office nearby. There was something wrong with her eyes, just like the rest of them. No depth; her eyes were empty and still. I palmed the stake up my sleeve, making sure she couldn’t see it.

“’M not little,” I replied, wagging my finger at her. “I’m big where it counts.”

“Of course you are,” she said, grinning at me. God, she couldn’t be this stupid. Then again what did I know? It’s not like I knew of any Mensa vampires.

Martin was in position, but I didn’t dare look at him for fear of tipping her off. No need to take any risks on a hunt. I staggered up to her, playing up the drunk angle. I could practically hear Martin rolling his eyes. “I am. I can show you. Come back to my place, and I’ll prove it.”

“Why would I want to do that?” she asked. Her fangs were sliding down as she grinned; she was ready to pounce. “You can show me right here.”

I smiled back, standing up straight. “Okay.” I shouted, “Now!” And threw myself at her. I grabbed her around the middle and tackled her to the ground. She howled, teeth snapping at my neck. I dodged the fangs and rammed the iron stake into her heart.

She screamed, face contorted in demonic rage. Her fingers had turned into claws, and she was scratching the hell out of my back. I looked up to see Martin standing over us, and he said, “Move.” I tore myself away from the creature, and she let out an unearthly howl before Martin cut off her head.

The body went limp, and I got to my feet and said, “Nice work.”

“You too,” Martin replied. His eyes were still wide, and a tremor went through him. He looked like a kid who was in way over his head. I knew better.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Fine,” he said, his voice squeaking. I raised an eyebrow, and he sighed. “Sorry. I’ve got a bad feeling is all.”

I snorted. “When don’t you have a bad feeling?” I went to where I’d hidden my bag at the alley’s mouth and took out the lighter fluid. I drenched the corpse in it, making sure to use the entire can.

“I’m serious, Kingston. Something’s coming.”

“Well, when it gets here, we’ll deal with it. Just like this one.” I grabbed the book of matches and uttered a quick prayer. Didn’t make a difference; we’d already done our work. The ritual was more for my comfort. Martin hated it but he didn’t begrudge me. I struck the match and tossed it. The body burned hot, bright, and fast, and was gone in seconds.

Martin handed me the machete after he’d cleaned it off with the edge of his shirt. I tossed the blade in the bag along with the can and the matches. I retrieved the stake and slipped it in my pocket. I slung the bag on my back and headed out of the alley with Martin at my side. I threw an arm around him and said, “You worry too much.”

“You should take a break. When’s the last time you went out?” When I gestured to our surroundings, he pursed his lips with annoyance. “I mean besides hunting.”

“I went to the movies Saturday,” I said.

“You tracked a vampire to the movies and killed him after. That doesn’t count as going out,” Martin said, and I sighed. We walked to the parking garage where we’d stashed the car. I was glad to see there was no attendant around, given the sight of us. The fluorescent lights of the garage rendered my brown skin a sickly shade. If I looked sick, Martin appeared unearthly.

He was so white he glowed under the harsh lights. He had strawberry-blond hair and pale-blue eyes like a husky. I loved the way his hair gleamed in the light, and I wanted to run my hands through it. I jammed my hands into my pockets instead, one curling around the stake. Something solid to hang on to. We found the car, and I pulled out the key fob to unlock it.

“Okay, yes, I’ve been hunting a lot. But there’s more of these fuckers popping up by the minute,” I reminded him.

Martin bit his lower lip as I tossed the bag in the trunk, fiddling with one of the beads on his fidget bracelet. It struck me we made an odd pair. He’d opted for jeans, an Ozzy shirt, black thick-framed glasses, and Converse sneakers. I was in one of my old navy suits and brown loafers. Blood soaked our clothes, which was why I was eager to get going before someone spotted us. We got in the car and drove off.

He had curled up in the passenger seat, staring out of the window. Martin still twirling his beads, not saying anything right away. He looked delicate, almost fragile, which was why he was usually the bait. He could lure them in with his boyish charm, and vampires would trip over themselves to get a bite.

They didn’t know he was strong, physically and mentally. Or when he set his mind to something, he would get it done. Or that he’s the smartest person I’d ever met either in my regular life or my hunting life. Not to mention the most compassionate, which was one of the reasons we’d been arguing so much as of late. I admired his tenacious streak. Not so much when he aimed that tenacity at me.

He was thinking, and I tensed for an argument. I entertained the idea of kissing him to shut him up, something I’d dreamed about but wouldn’t do. When we drove onto the 101 loop, Martin said, “We should talk to Tyrone.”

“Fuck no!” I snapped, struggling to keep my eyes on the road.

“He can help. He’s got his own crew, and we’re low on manpower.”

“He’s a fucking vampire. We can’t trust that bloodsucker.”

“Yes, we can.” Martin’s voice strained.

I chanced a look at him and saw Martin clenching his jaw. “Look, just because he switched to donor blood while you two were fucking doesn’t mean he’s trustworthy. For all we know he’s stalking school kids now.”

Martin slammed his fist against the dashboard. “He’s not like that. Not all vampires are evil.”

“Like fuck they aren’t!” I shot back. “Do we gotta go over this again? They killed your family. They killed my brother. How are they not evil?” I regretted it the minute I said it, but I wouldn’t take it back. Martin balled his hands into fists, shoulders tensing up around his ears.

He growled, “Kingston Patrick St. Louis, that is fucking low.”

“It’s the truth.”

I didn’t expect him to understand. Martin had grown up without his family. He didn’t know anything about them except for some pictures in a scrapbook. While their deaths hurt Martin, he had never known them. My brother and I were thick as thieves, and I missed Seph every day.

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Meet the Author

Alice was born in California in the 80s, which explains so much, really. Before becoming a writer they were in a punk band and also worked as a nurse. In their spare time they enjoy television shows about ghosts and baking as well as a wide spectrum of music. They currently live in Arizona with their collection of Funko Pops and comic book figurines.

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Drive by Courtney Maguire Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Drive

Author: Courtney Maguire

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 20, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 59900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, family-drama, BDSM, interracial, pet play, friends to lovers, in the closet, abusive father, mechanic, sugar daddy

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Synopsis

In the conservative East Texas town of Black Creek, you’re either old money or you work for them. Redmond Cole is the latter. The long hours he spends fixing fancy cars in the local garage are barely enough to support himself, let alone his sixteen-year-old half-sister, Katie. All he wants is a better life for the both of them, one that’s easy and real, but he has a secret. One that could blow up the meager existence he’s worked so hard to maintain.

Red is gay.

He doesn’t want to lie, especially to Katie, but Black Creek isn’t the most hospitable environment for those who are different. His secrets keep them safe. He’s all but resigned to a life in the closet when he’s propositioned by the dashing, wealthy Victor Itachi. What follows is a secret and intense sexual relationship that challenges everything Red believes about himself. When an unlikely friendship with the only out gay man in town opens Red’s eyes to new possibilities, he must make a choice: submit fully to the relative safety of Victor’s control or risk it all for a chance at real love.

Excerpt

Drive
Courtney Maquire © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Under the hood of a car, everything makes sense. Gears and wires. Oil and grease. All the parts fit together and just work. Each piece has its own function, a logic. Completely predictable even when damaged. Won’t turn over? Check the battery, the wiring, the alternator. Find the broken piece and the whole thing comes alive again, purring and growling and shrugging itself back into action.

I pulled my head out of the engine compartment of a Nissan Altima and flexed my back with a satisfying crack. The owner brought it in complaining of overheating. The repair was a simple one. Just a few hoses needed replacing. I wiped my grease-coated hands and folded my tall frame into the driver’s seat. I flicked the key, and the engine turned over easily. I tapped the accelerator and the temperature needle climbed before stopping at normal. I smiled and gave the dash an affectionate pat.

“Good girl.”

“Red!” I jumped at a sharp voice from inside the shop. I shut off the Nissan and stepped out to find my boss, Bo, poking his square head into the garage, gesturing for me to join him. Visible through a bank of windows behind him stood a neatly dressed man with long, ink-black hair and a troubled expression. I’d seen him before. Many times, in fact. He drove a silver BMW 5 series sedan, a fine machine and well-suited to a man like him, and he brought it in monthly for regular maintenance.

I always noticed. Not only the car, but the man. How the air changed with his appearance. How, like now, the gears in my head locked up and stopped moving, and all I could do was stare, mesmerized by the flow of his hair around his shoulders, the bow of his lips, his olive skin. He was nothing like the rednecks here in Black Creek. I struggled for a word to describe him. Pretty was what he was. Not in a feminine sense. More in the way you think of a Ferrari 458 as pretty. Sleek and stylish with a touch of ferocity lurking just beneath the shiny topcoat.

“Redmond!”

I jumped again, my eyes jerking back to Bo’s irritated face.

“What the hell are you doing? Get in here!”

Face hot, I slammed the car door behind me. I straightened my collar, immediately feeling ridiculous for doing so, and made my way into the shop.

“Mister Itachi,” he announced as I stepped through the door, “this is Redmond Cole. He’s our finest mechanic. I can assure you he’ll have you fixed up in no time.”

I nodded without raising my eyes, dirty hands shoved in my pockets. Mr. Itachi. Victor. I knew his name already, had seen it on intake forms and receipts, but unlike the other countless names I encountered daily this one stuck. He shifted nervously, his shiny leather shoes scraping across the shop floor. I lifted my eyes just enough to see his lips curl downward and lowered my head to hide my flush.

“I have a very important meeting in Longview, tomorrow,” he said, each word crisp and carefully formed. “It is absolutely imperative it’s ready by first thing in the morning.”

“Yessir.” My tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth, making the words thick.

“Trust me,” Bo assured him, slapping me roughly on the back with a meaty hand. “He’ll have it ready if he has to work all night.”

I frowned and swallowed hard as he gave my shoulder a tight, warning squeeze.

Mr. Itachi clenched and unclenched his hands at his waist, and he released a long sigh. “I guess I’ll leave it to you then.”

My tongue frozen in place, I nodded again. Bo released his grip on my shoulder and ushered the gentleman out in a fog of reassurances, each one laced with a subtle threat pointed at me.

Heart pounding, palms sweating, I retreated into the garage. I leaned heavily against the Nissan I’d just been working on. My coworker, Lawrence, squinted at me from underneath a Mazda 3, and I pulled myself up straight.

Goddammit, Red, get a hold of yourself.

“What is it with that guy?” he said in his three-pack-a-day voice, jabbing his wrench toward the windows.

My stomach clenched. “What do you mean?”

“Bo can’t seem to jump high enough when he comes around.”

I released a nervous laugh and shrugged. “Money talks, I guess.”

Lawrence snorted, disappearing back under the Mazda. Here in Black Creek, there were two classes of people: the obscenely wealthy and everyone else barely scraping by. Like every other East Texas town, we were founded on lumber and natural gas. Those who got in early prospered. Those who didn’t worked for them. Generations of people whose fate was determined by the luck of their great-great-grandfathers, though something told me Mr. Itachi’s story was different. The silver BMW pulled into the bay next to me, and I peered at it over the Nissan’s roof.

“What’s wrong with you?” I whispered to myself.

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Meet the Author

Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country. Her first novel, Wounded Martyr, is a 2019 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance: Short Category.

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Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza by Andy V. Roamer Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza?

Series: The Pizza Chronicles, Book One

Author: Andy V. Roamer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 55100

Genre: Contemporary Young Adult, LGBTQIA+, Young adult, contemporary, family-drama, interracial, gay, in the closet, immigrant family, high school, mentor

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Synopsis

RV is a good kid, starting his freshman year at the demanding Boston Latin School. Though his genes didn’t give him a lot of good things, they did give him a decent brain. So he’s doing his best to keep up in high school, despite all the additional pressures he’s facing: His immigrant parents, who don’t want him to forget his roots and insist on other rules. Some tough kids at school who bully teachers as well as students. His puny muscles. His mean gym teacher. The Guy Upstairs who doesn’t answer his prayers. And the most confusing fact of all—that he might be gay.

Luckily, RV develops a friendship with Mr. Aniso, his Latin teacher, who is gay and always there to talk to. RV thinks his problems are solved when he starts going out with Carole. But things only get more complicated when RV develops a crush on Bobby, the football player in his class. And to RV’s surprise, Bobby admits he may have gay feelings, too.

Excerpt

Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza?
Andy V. Roamer © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One—Why Can’t Life Be Like Pizza?
Why can’t life be like pizza?

I’ve been asking myself the question a lot lately. I love pizza. Pizza makes me feel good. Especially since I discovered Joe’s. Joe’s Pizza is quiet and out of the way and allows me to think. And Joe’s combinations are the best. Pepperoni and onions. Garlic and mushroom. Cheese and chicken. And if you really want that little kick in the old butt: the super jalapeno. Mmmm, good. Gets you going again. And lets you forget all your troubles.

What troubles can a fourteen-year-old guy have? Ha! First of all, I’m not a regular guy, as anyone can guess from my taste in pizza. My parents are immigrants who are trying to make a better life for themselves here in the United States. Besides the usual things American parents worry about, like making money and having their kids do well in school, my parents spend more time worrying about the big things: politics, communism, fascism, global warming, and the fact they and their parents survived violence and jail so I-better-be-grateful-I’m-not-miserable-like-kids-in-other-parts-of-the-world.

Grateful? Ha! As far as I’m concerned, life is pretty miserable already. Instead of thinking about the World Series or Disneyland, I worry about terrorists down the street or the dirty bombs the strange family around the corner might be building.

I don’t know why I worry about everything, but I do. It’s probably in my genes. Other guys have genes that gave them big muscles or hairy chests. I got nerves.

And then there’s my name. RV. Yeah, RV. No, I’m not a camper or anything. RV is short for Arvydas. That’s right. “Are-vee-duh-s.” Mom and Dad say it’s a common name in Lithuania, which is the country in Eastern Europe where my parents were born. A name like that might be fine for Lithuania, but what about the United States? Couldn’t Mom and Dad have named me Joe, or Mike, or even Darryl? My brother, Ray, has a normal name. Why couldn’t they have given me one?

I even look a little weird, I think. Tall and skinny with an uncoordinated walk because of my big feet that get in the way and make me feel like a clod. Oh, yeah. I’ve been getting some zits lately, and I wear glasses since I’m pretty nearsighted. Not a pretty sight, is it? At least the glasses are not too thick. Mom and Dad don’t have a lot of money to spend, but they did fork up the money to get me thin lenses, so I don’t look like a complete zomboid.

What can I do? I try my best, despite it all. I’m lucky because I’ve done well in school, so at least my genes gave me a half-decent brain. Hey, I’m not bragging. It’s just nice to feel good about something when most days I feel pretty much a loser at so many things. When I was in grammar school, there were enough days when I came home from school and cried because some big oaf threatened me, or I got hit in the stomach during my pathetic attempts to play ball during recess.

Mom always tried to comfort me. “Nesirūpink,” she would say. “Esi gabus. Kai užaugsi, visiems nušluostysi nuosis.” We talk Lithuanian at home. Translated, that sentence means, “Don’t worry. You’re smart. When you grow up, you’ll show them.” Actually, not “you’ll show them,” but “you’ll wipe all their noses.” Lithuanians have a funny way of expressing themselves. Not sure I aspire to wiping anyone’s nose when I get older, but that’s what they say.

Whatever. I’m determined to put all that behind me. I’m starting a new life. My new life. Today was the first day of high school. I’m going to Boston Latin School. You have to take an exam to go there, so it’s full of smart kids. Besides smart kids, it has heavy-duty history too. It was founded in 1635, a year before Harvard. They already gave us a speech about that.

And about pressure. The pressure to succeed with all this history breathing down our necks. Pressure, ha! Doesn’t scare me. I know all about pressure. I’ve gotten pressure from cretinous bullies at school. I get it from cretinous Lith a-holes, who Mom and Dad keep pushing me to hang around with because they say it’s important to be part of the immigrant community. And I even get pressure from cretinous jerks in the neighborhood.

Cretinous. A good word. That’s something else about me. I like words. Real words and made-up ones. There’s something cool about them. Yeah, yeah, I know what people would say. You think words are cool? Kid, you’ve got more problems than you thought.

Well, I’m sorry. I do think words are cool. There’s something fun about making them up or learning a new one. Kind of unlocks something in the world. And I like the world despite all my worrying. It can be an okay place sometimes.

Okay, okay, I’m getting off track. I want to write about my first day of school. Mom and Dad gave me this new—well, refurbished, but new to me anyway—computer for getting into Latin school, and they keep after me to make good use of it. So, I’ve decided I’m going to write about my new life. My life away from cretins—Lith, American, or any other kind.

The first person I met at school today was Carole. Carole Higginbottom. She’s in my homeroom. She was sitting in the first row, first seat, and I was sitting right behind her. We started talking. She’s from West Roxbury, too, which is where we live.

West Roxbury is part of Boston. You have to live somewhere in Boston in order to go to Latin school. West Roxbury is a nice neighborhood, for the most part, with houses, trees, grass, and people going to work and coming home. Kind of an all-American place, I guess. We used to live in a different, tougher part of Boston, but Mom and Dad moved away from there because they said the neighborhood was getting too rough. They promised I wouldn’t get beat up so much in West Roxbury. I don’t know. West Roxbury is better, but I still have gotten a few black-and-blue marks with “made in West Roxbury” on them, so as far as I’m concerned it isn’t any perfect place either.

Carole lives in another part of West Roxbury, near Centre Street, which is the main street in the area. People like to hang out there. Mom says that part of West Roxbury is a little dicey. (Mom thinks a lot of neighborhoods are too dicey. Maybe that’s where I get my worrying from.) Anyway, Carole sure doesn’t seem dicey. As a matter of fact, she’s a little goofy. Tall and skinny with red hair, red cheeks, and a million freckles. And she has a really sharp nose that curves up like those special ski slopes you see in the Olympics. But I get the feeling she’s smart. She says she likes science. That’s good because I might need help with science. I’m better with other subjects like history and English.

Our homeroom teacher is Mr. Bologna, Carmine Bologna. He’s a little scary with slicked-back dark hair and even darker eyes that stare at you forever. He looks like he’s part of the organization we’re not supposed to talk about—you know, the scary one from Italy that’s into murder, racketeering, and drugs. Two guys were horsing around in the back of the class and Mr. Bologna came right up to them, said a few words under his breath, and just stared at them. Boy, did they settle down fast. I’m no troublemaker, but I’ll really have to watch myself. Don’t want to deal with the Bologna stare if I can help it.

Today was mostly about walking around, learning about our subjects, and meeting teachers. Besides all the regular subjects, I have to take Latin. I don’t have anything against it per se, but is it really necessary to learn a dead language? And then there’s the teacher, Mr. Aniso. He’s kind of light in his loafers. That’s another new phrase I learned recently. It refers to gay guys, and Mr. Aniso is so gay it hurts. I just hope he can’t tell anything about me. I don’t wave my wrist around the way he does, do I?

Yeah, that’s something else I have to come to terms with. I might be heading in that direction. Yeah, me. I can hardly believe it. Me! Why? It can’t be true, can it? I’ve been praying to God, asking Him not to make me gay, but I don’t think He’s listening. If He exists, that is. Maybe He’s not answering because He doesn’t exist.

I don’t know. People on TV and in books say being gay is okay. Movie stars and rock stars are gay. There are gay mayors and other gay political types. That’s fine for them, but they don’t live with my family. Mom’s a heavy-duty Catholic. Dad’s a macho, “what-me-cry?” kind of guy. And my younger brother, Ray, well, Ray probably doesn’t care one way or another, but he doesn’t count anyway since he hates everybody. And then there are all those Lith immigrants, the community that’s so important to Mom and Dad. Most of them are so Old World and conservative. I don’t think being gay would go down well with them.

Not that I am gay for certain. I’m just saying it’s crossed my mind because…well, because I think about guys sometimes. And I notice them. Notice how they look when they’re coming down the street. Notice their eyes or their hair or the way they move. Just notice them.

Oh, I notice girls, too, but something about guys is different. I can’t put my finger on it, but I think about them as much or maybe more than girls. And I want to be with them. Is that normal? What’s normal anyway? To be honest, I’m so inexperienced. Never dated. Never even kissed anyone. Not like that anyway. No, I’ve spent my time worrying about communism, terrorism, and global warming. Like I said, I’ve always felt a little out of step with the rest of humanity.

Dealing with all this is just too much. To be nervous about things the way I am. To be speaking a language most people haven’t heard of. To have a strange name. To wear glasses and look nerdy. And now I might be gay? It’s all too confusing. I might as well start on antidepressants, or something stronger, right now.

But no. I try to look on the bright side of things. Take Carole for instance. She seems nice and fun, and maybe we’ll be friends. And if she likes me, I can’t be too weird, can I? I guess I’ll find out. I better not think about it. There’s enough to worry about as it is. I just have to take a breath and focus on my homework. Yeah, we got homework already. At least that’s one thing I’m good at. And when I go to Joe’s, well, life’s not so bad, at least while I’m eating my chicken and cheese or super jalapeno slice.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Andy V. Roamer grew up in the Boston area and moved to New York City after college. He worked in book publishing for many years, starting out in the children’s and YA books division and then wearing many other hats. This is his first novel about RV, the teenage son of immigrants from Lithuania in Eastern Europe, as RV tries to negotiate his demanding high school, his budding sexuality, and new relationships. He has written an adult novel, Confessions of a Gay Curmudgeon, under the pen name Andy V. Ambrose. To relax, Andy loves to ride his bike, read, watch foreign and independent movies, and travel.

Website | Facebook

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Thicker Than Water by Becca Seymour Blog Tour, Guest Post, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Becca Seymour stopping by today with the tour for her new release Thicker Than Water, we have a fantastic guest post, a great excerpt and a brilliant $20 Amazon GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Thicker Than Water

by

Becca Seymour

Outcast operative in the Supernatural Investigation & Crime Bureau (SICB) Callen Blackheath finds himself doing what he does best: defying orders and giving his boss a headache in the thick of an operation he shouldn’t be in. And there’s no way he’s walking away, not when the investigation has become deadly personal.

Needing to protect the only family member he has left, this wolf shifter will do whatever it takes to stop the blood farms and destroy the dangerous drugs the vampires will kill for. But he doesn’t expect Liam “Thatch” Thatcher, the head of a special task force team, to receive a bite that pulls him into the centre of Callen’s world.

Bonded by memories and blood, together they navigate the operation that has wider reaches than they could ever imagine. And when it comes to matters of the heart, Callen knows in order to win, he needs to risk it all.

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

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Jeopardy in Tights by K. Childs Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have K. Childs popping in today with her new release Jeopardy in Tights, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Jeopardy in Tights

(Men of the Pantheon 01)
by

K. Childs

Down on his luck ex-security meets CEO looking for special bodyguard. Fine print: hazardous working conditions.

Errol Mason got fired from his last job and put on a blacklist for a good reason. Now, scraping the bottom of the barrel and desperate for any job, he finally lands an interview with Stardust Global.

Errol’s interviewer, company CEO Nathan Parkes, has a secret, one that might get Errol killed. All Nate wants is a meatshield while he goes on a one-man crusade against a bunch of psycho cultists and tries to rescue his missing stepmother. Errol is the meatshield in this equation.

Things start pear-shaped and only get worse from there. Between military small-arms fire, freeway fisticuffs, and escaping the cult’s secret bases, the duo quickly forms a bond of trust and lust.

Warning: references to a past drinking and drug problem (off page) and some on-page violence

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo ❣️**.•.•.

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The Prince of Almond Manor by Gregory Jonathan Scott

Gregory Jonathan Scott - The Prince of Almond Manor Cover 845rjfeTitle: The Prince of Almond Manor

Author: Gregory Jonathan Scott

Genre: Historical

Length: Novel (271 pages)

ISBN: 978-0991467488

Publisher: Gregory Jonathan Scott Books, LLC (30 Nov 2019)

Heat Level: Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts

Reviewer: Prime

Blurb: A genuine romance—a companionship misunderstood—one of earnest affection that could be torn apart by those around them?

Can a relationship between two men from opposite sides of the social order overcome the odds and survive at a time of an old-style declaration of living?

In mid eighteen hundred, the largest almond plantation south of the Mason Dixon line was home to Deklan Royal, however, deep down, it didn’t feel like a home. He sensed a part of him was missing, an emotional desire he’d been keeping hidden since a very young age—that was, until he’d come across Oakland, a reserved servant of the Royal Manor and the one man who could change everything for him.

With no warning, a single magical event had set the plantation affair into motion, brought on by a mysterious gentleman who summoned a fairy-tale twist not even Oakland understood.

Enduring parental clashing and blurring promises, Deklan and Oakland find themselves developing a relationship that could result in scorn and even exile. Caught in the center of eminent pressures, Deklan faces discouraging predicaments with his foreboding father, those of which expose a surprising overview of who Oakland is.

With family principles putting up walls between them, the two heart-bound men cling to threads of hope, battling obstacles that matter most—their love for one another and a life of happiness into their very own ever after.

Find out if Deklan risks his wealthy family ties for the chance at love with the man he knows to be the other half of his own soul. If surrounding conflicts outweigh their love and desire, both Deklan and Oakland face revulsion at its strongest.

The Prince of Almond Manor is an interracial historical romance between two men. Erotically written with extreme situations of desire not suitable for readers under the age of eighteen.

Purchase Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Review: The Prince of Almond Manor is a historical romance by Gregory Jonathan Scott, who is a new author to me, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

I’ll admit, I was immediately intrigued. The title had me thinking that there could be some possible thriller, mystery or paranormal aspect to the book – not sure why, but I was completely off the mark.

I was even more intrigued when I read the blurb that this is a historical romance. I love historical novels, and historical romances are the only MF romances that I really enjoy reading these days. Now this can always go two ways, mostly because of the historical persecution of the LBGTQI+ community. Authors will ignore all persecution (arguably, while many of the legalities have been resolved the persecution still exists to this day, just not quite on the same puritanical level) and write a historical novel with society functioning with the same opinions as it does now. Or they won’t ignore the persecution but they were make a conceivable way to make these secret romances wonderful. Gregory Jonathan Scott managed to do the latter which is why I really liked this novel.

However, Scott manages to do a double whammy on historical taboos, because not only is this a same sex relationship, it is also interracial relationship with a man shortly after the end of slavery in the American South (I am sure that there could be many discussion about how this has the end of slavery being the absolute end of the persecution of POC, I won’t get into that). How much more interesting things does one need?

The titular Prince of Almond Manor is actually Deklan Royal, whose family has owned and run one of the largest almond plantations in the South. He’s never been fully comfortable in his surrounds but things change when Deklan meets one of the plantation’s black servants, a reserved and observant man by the name of Oakland. This is a really gentle and deep story that leads to love. The guys know just what society thinks of men with their types of sexual proclivities, but their grand romance starts off with a really easy and wonderful friendship. The world is changing around them but no matter what they know that they have to be careful about revealing their desires to anyone but each other.

What I love most about this book is the depth of the characters and depth of the emotions that we observe as a reader as the book goes along. Overall, this is a fantastically written and well-paced historical romance. If you’re not sure about reading a historical gay romance, I think that The Prince of Almond Manor is a good place to start within the genre.

The Weight of Living by M.A. Hinkle Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys, we have M.A. Hinkle stopping by with her new release The Weight of Living, we have a great excerpt and a brilliant $10 NineStar GC giveaway so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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The Weight of Living

(Cherrywood Grove 03)
by

M.A. Hinkle

When she arrives in Cherrywood Grove for a working vacation, shy photographer Trisha Ivy expects to kick back and relax, enjoying her last summer of freedom before turning into a real adult with a mortgage and a nine-to-five. After all, her real life is back in Chicago with her best friend Bella, not a sleepy small town. But Trisha keeps running into beautiful, confident Gabi Gonzalez, a caterer working all the same weddings…and she’s the daughter of Trisha’s favorite local TV star. Trisha can’t resist getting to know her. After all, she’s only in town for the summer, and Gabi is straight. What harm could it do?

Gabi Gonzalez has spent most of her life trying to escape Cherrywood Grove and find something bigger and better. During an internship in Milwaukee, she thought she’d finally found it. But after her father’s sudden death, she returns home and tries to squeeze back into the same childhood roles: kid sister, cool aunt, tireless worker. She’s just resigned herself to going through the motions when she meets Trisha, someone who finally sees Gabi for her own self instead of putting her in a box. Can Gabi open up to Trisha about what she really wants before Trisha leaves town for good?

Warning: grief/grieving, loss of family member, discussions of homophobia and transphobia

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo ❣️**.•.•.

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No Parking by Valentine Wheeler Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi guys! We have Valentine Wheeler stopping by with her new release No Parking, we have a great excerpt and a fantastic NineStar GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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No Parking

by

Valentine Wheeler

When Marianne Windmere’s bakery customers begin complaining that her parking lot is always full, she assumes it must be customers for the new restaurant next door. She’s never met her neighbor, and with the parking lot situation, she has no interest in doing so. But when a snowstorm knocks out the power and traps both women in the building overnight, sparks fly—until the next morning, when the buried argument comes to a head.

Can they find a way to reclaim the magic of that night? And as decades-old secrets about the history of the town and Marianne’s family come to light, can they work together to save both their businesses?

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo ❣️**.•.•.

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Soul Burn by Brenda Murphy & Megan Hart Release Blast, Excerpt & Giveaway!

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Hi Guys! We have Brenda Murphy & Megan Hart stopping by today with their lesbian release Soul Burn, Brenda Murphy brings us Shifting Flames and Megan Hart gives us The Fire Inside, there’s a fantastic $10 NineStar GC giveaway, so check out the post and enter the giveaway! ❤️ ~Pixie~

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Soul Burn

by

Brenda Murphy & Megan Hart

A mistress, a werewolf, a screenwriter and a shapeshifter walk into your heart in these two sexy paranormal stories of love and redemption.

Shifting Flames by Brenda Murphy

Shunned screenwriter Eve Perez has something to prove. Shut out of the industry after a scandal, she’s ready to do whatever it takes to climb back to the top, even if it means working with notoriously difficult author Celeste Quon.

Reclusive best-selling author Celeste Quon is adored by a generation of fans, but would they love her if they knew her truth? Under pressure from her fans, Celeste agrees to bring her best-selling novel to the screen but on her terms.

After a freak spring snowstorm strands Eve at Celeste’s home she discovers Celeste’s incredible secret. Amid their fiery attraction should she let their relationship burn out, or surrender to the flames of their desire?

The Fire Inside by Megan Hart

For Clara, crafting pain into pleasure is her job. For Selena, it’s her salvation. When submissive Selena hires Clara as her Domina, it seems like the best of business arrangements. But when their emotions infiltrate what was meant to be only professional, both women are rocked by the possibilities that their relationship might be changing into something… more.

Selena has given her submission to Clara for months, but faced with the idea of giving her heart, she runs. Loving Clara means revealing her secret, the one that sent her seeking pain in the first place, and it’s a risk Selena can’t take.

Clara, confused and terrified by the glimpse she had of Selena’s true self, can’t keep herself from wanting more. And, as Selena’s Miss, she’s not afraid to demand she be given the chance to take it. Snowed in at Clara’s mountain cabin, the women must face the truth about themselves and about each other.

Can true love grow from a business relationship, and can it conquer even the darkest of fears?

Warning: Pain play, deceased family members, graphic violence, and references to physical abuse

.•.•.**❣️ NineStar | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | B&N | Kobo ❣️**.•.•.

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Saints and Sinners by Jude Marquez

Jude Marquez - Saints and Sinners Cover nhj77fuTitle: Saints and Sinners

Series: The Desecrated Pack 01

Author: Jude Marquez

Genre: Interracial, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Length: Novel (268pgs)

Publisher: Jude Marquez (June 16, 2019)

Heat Level: Low – Moderate

Heart Rating: 💖💖💖💖💖 5 Hearts

Blurb: The strangest things happen in the sleepy town of Glenwood Lock…

But if you’re lucky, you’ll make it out alive.

The Ortega family comes from a long line of werewolves and magic. They are a powerful family, one that puts the lives of the innocent above themselves at all costs. Alpha Celia and her brothers, Eli and Artie, thought they had seen it all. Their entire world is turned upside down when two college guys decide to walk home during a full moon and now, their small pack is transformed into something they never expected.

Lou Correa and Dante Navarro have been best friends as far back as they can remember. One walk home during a full moon threatens to change that. In a single instance, they are thrown into a world that is chaotic, unfamiliar, and terrifying. With trained hunters coming after them for powers they don’t understand, will they learn to survive? Can an unexpected romance help them or will it be yet another obstacle to overcome?

Honestly, will they even see the end of the week?

The Desecrated Pack: Saints and Sinners is the beginning of a new series, with a sweet MM romance, feisty characters, and a world filled with unexpected challenges.

ISBN: B07T44DW6X

Product Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Reviewer: Shorty

Review: I loved this story about Dante, Lou, Eli, Artie, Celia and so many other characters. We get a first hand account into many of their thoughts and feelings as circumstances out of their control throw them all together in a bind to protect each other from a group of humans who are hell bent on making sure they don’t become too powerful.

The Ascendancy is a ruthless group in that they kill without discrimination. Is does not matter who the intended victim is they take them out to prevent paranormal groups from becoming too powerful. I was shocked by this as I did not understand why paranormals would allow humans to do this. Nevertheless it made for a powerful, emotional story that reveals secrets, a prophecy and making a stand against the injustice in the world placed on them by humans.

Fantastic beginning to a series.