New Release: Bite Me for Christmas by Megan Slayer #HolidayRomance #UrbanFantasy #Vampires @MeganSlayer

Rachael isn’t good at magic, and she’s not versed in life, but this witch wants to lay her hands on the sexy vampire who’s come to her in her dreams. She wants just one thing for Christmas wish — her vampire.

Gavin wants the witch in his dreams, but he doesn’t believe he’s worthy of her. Part of him wants to devour her magic and save himself, but what if being saved doesn’t involve dying?

Anything is possible with a little Christmas magic.

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Megan Slayer

How had she managed to summon a vampire?

Christmas lights bathed the room in a rainbow of color. Tinsel glittered around her window, and the tiny Christmas tree turned in small revolutions on her dresser. She was in her room and safe.

She was also a witch who not only believed in the creatures of the night, but also in Christmas. Krampus could haunt her, too. She was a conundrum mixed with confusion.

She sighed. If she wanted the vampire to come to her in person, she’d have to appeal to a higher power. Her sisters wouldn’t help and would probably try to steal him away, if they didn’t kill him first. Krampus hated her because she wasn’t bad enough. Clumsy, yes. Prone to mistakes? Sure. But bad? No. The only shot she had was Santa.

Damn.

Santa didn’t pay the coven much mind. It didn’t matter if she put out milk and cookies for him or that she believed he existed. If she existed and so did Krampus, why couldn’t Santa? Belief wasn’t enough. Santa wasn’t coming down her chimney.

Still, she could ask and believe.

She left her bed and ventured over to the window. Santa might not listen, but she had to try. Christmas was in two days, and she had a Christmas wish. If anyone could come through for her, it was Santa.

She held onto the windowsill. She hated being interrupted before she reached orgasm, but she needed her vampire to be there so she could. He mattered. Him being real mattered.

“Dear Santa, I should write a letter, but this seems faster. I could conjure you, but if I did, I’d probably give you four heads or turn you into a dragon by accident. Anyway, I’m tired of getting three-fourths of the way to climax and not being able to finish. Why? I know this seems like a strange thing to mention, but I’m trying to have sex in my dreams — which isn’t as good as the real thing — and it’s with a vampire. He could kill me, but I’m drawn to him. I don’t know who he is, Santa, but I want him. My Christmas wish is for the vampire in my dreams to come to me in real life. He might destroy me, but he might be what I need, and I want to find out. I accept the risk. Please, fulfill my Christmas wish and put a vampire under my tree.”

She swore she heard other voices and paused. Damn it. Her sisters must still be awake downstairs and heard her moving. If they did, they’d want her to get to work on whatever chore they’d found. They treated her like a fucking servant.

“Are you awake?” Serena, her oldest sister, called. “Rachael? If you’re awake, then there’s a sink full of dishes that need done.”

“It’s too early for her to be up,” Millie, her other sister, said. “She’s not awake. You’re imagining things.”

How could she sleep with the noise from her sisters downstairs? They treated her like a child and servant. The only way she’d have a chance at a life of her own would be to find the vampire and run the hell away.

“Please, Santa,” Rachael said. “I want my vampire for Christmas.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and white hot themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been nominated at the LRC for Best Author, Best Contemporary, Best Ménage, Best BDSM and Best Anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on various e-tailer sites.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice. She’s an active member of the Friends of the Keystone-LaGrange Public library.

Release Blitz: Crossed Lines by Steve Burford #crime #contemporary #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Crossed Lines

Series: Summerskill and Lyon, Book Four

Author: Steve Burford

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/23/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 69600

Genre: Contemporary Crime, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, crime, family-drama, gay, policeman, murder, gay and lesbian switchboard, MP

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Description

“Victor really was a very good man.”

Why then did someone brutally murder Victor Whyte, an elderly man chiefly known for his dedication to helping the gay community?

Inspector Claire Summerskill and Sergeant Dave Lyon investigate and are drawn into the world of the Hereford and Worcester Lesbian and Gay Switchboard, a telephone helpline for LGBQT+ people. Operatives and callers help piece together a picture of the murdered man, and gradually a surprising picture of Victor emerges with the possibility of a murderer in the very last place Summerskill and Lyon would have thought of.

Even as they deal with this latest case, the two officers are forced to deal with turning points in their personal lives. Can Claire balance the demands of her position as an inspector with those of her husband and children? Is Dave ready to settle into a relationship with earnest young police officer Joe Jones or will he opt instead for the excitement of an almost certainly shorter fling with charismatic MP Sean Cullen? And what exactly is Sean’s real motivation?

Crossing Lines is the fourth in the series of Summerskill and Lyon police procedural novels.

Excerpt

Crossed Lines
Steve Burford © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Dave Lyon examined the muscular, naked man smiling up at him from the sheepskin rug. “I’m a Power Bottom,” read the caption beneath him, “And I Always Have Safer Sex.” Dave sighed.

“Wishing you were curled up with him?” his immediate boss, DI Claire Summerskill, asked as she entered the cramped office. “Or is there only room on your rug for one other now?”

“You know you get very camp when you take the piss. Ma’am.”

Claire shrugged. “That was quite a longing look there. Love’s young dream isn’t fading already, is it?”

“Love’s young dream is, at this moment, on hold while Love’s young dreamers investigate a murder.” Dave indicated the poster they had been considering. “And actually, I was wondering why gay men have to be in such a rush to label themselves. ‘Top’. ‘Bottom’. ‘Passive’. ‘Submissive’. It’s more confusing than quantum physics.” He gave one last look at the happy stud on the rug, particularly at his magnificently rounded arse. “Still, this was in a good cause, I suppose.”

“Eyes back in your head and on me, Sergeant. Let’s have a look at what we’ve got here. Could you give us a moment, please, Maggie?”

The SOCO officer in whites put down her camera and stepped away from what she was photographing, revealing the figure of a man slumped in a chair in front of a desk. His face was distorted and blackened. Around his neck was a length of telephone cord wrapped several times and pulled tightly into the flesh.

“I’ve only seen one other person killed like this,” Claire said quietly.

“Bill Kilby.”

“Yeah. But he was a big man, prime of his life.” She grimaced. “Bit of a shit, too, as you’ll recall. But this. An old man. On his own.” She scanned the cramped room. “Surely there wasn’t anything of value here?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so,” Dave said. “We’ll find out soon enough, I suppose.”

Claire took a moment to imprint the unpleasant scene on her memory. She hated it, bitterly resented filling her mind with such vile imagery. But it was her job, and the only way to exorcise the picture was to find the bastard responsible for it, and if that meant sitting on any squeamishness she had till it was done, then that was what she would do. “All right, Maggie,” she said finally, gesturing for the SOCO officer to return to her work. She turned to Dave. “Let’s go and talk to these witnesses Chris has got for us and see if we can’t begin piecing together what’s gone down here.”

Summerskill and Lyon stepped out of the office and into a large, incongruously ornate hall. On three sides was a series of doors, all presumably leading to small offices or rooms similar to the one they had come out of. Above them, there was a mezzanine, with more doors all around that. White columns, presumably wooden but carved like something out of a Greek temple, reared up around the space, topped with gilded wreaths of what Claire assumed were meant to be laurel leaves. “What is this place?”

“How long have you lived in this city?” Dave reached for his notebook.

Claire scowled but couldn’t deny the implied criticism. The building they were in stood on the very edge of the city’s high street, its worn brick and wood exterior a sharp contrast to the clean-cut brightness of the metal and glass shop fronts surrounding it. Over the years she had lived in Worcester, Claire must have passed it several hundred times, either while on duty or when out shopping, but beyond its name, which was carved in stone over the impressive main double-door entrance, she realised she didn’t know anything about it at all.

“The Halo Centre,” Dave read from his pad. “Grade Two listed building. Built 1887 by the Congressional Church as a Sunday school. Repurposed as Vagabonds Nightclub, 1974. Repurposed again in 1990 as a centre for various arts and charity groups.” He flipped his notebook shut and slipped it back into his jacket pocket. “Including the Worcester and Hereford Gay and Lesbian Switchboard.”

“And what’s that when it’s at home? Some kind of hook-up operation?”

“It’s a telephone helpline. The sort of place you can turn to in the face of all too prevalent homophobia. And microaggression.” He gave his boss a look that he would have described as “jaundiced” and she would have dismissed as “sarky”. “The Centre is noted as having an unusual plan with offices in rows around a central two-storey hall with a gallery on columns in polygonal plan.’”

“You had time to look up and memorise all that, and you still got here before me?”

“Other way round, ma’am. I got here first and then had time to learn it. While I waited.”

Claire scowled at him again and strode out across the hall towards the small group of people gathered at the far end. “I might be slow in traffic, but you’d be amazed how fast I can bust mardy sergeants. Chris!” she called out.

Sergeant Chris McNeil looked up from the seated person he was dealing with. “Inspector. Sergeant.”

“What have we got?”

“Will you excuse me for a minute, please?” Sergeant McNeil stepped away from the man he’d been talking to and moved to one side so he could speak to Claire and Dave in a low voice. “You’ve seen the victim? Name is Victor Whyte. Midseventies. Was working for the Worcester and Hereford Lesbian and Gay Switchboard. That’s their office where you saw him. The Switchboard is for—”

“I know what the Switchboard is for,” Claire said. Dave coughed. She ignored him. “And these people are witnesses?” She indicated the man McNeil had been talking to and the woman across the hall who was also seated and being attended by a pair of paramedics.

“Kind of. Both that bit too late to stop the killer, and neither able to detain him. He was long gone before we got here, ma’am.”

Claire looked across to the seated woman. “Is she okay?”

“Slight bump on the head and a small amount of bleeding from a cut on her cheek. Nothing major. Bit shook up though.”

“Not surprising. And what were these two doing here at this time of night? Do they both work for the Switchboard?”

“The man does. He’s another Switchboard volunteer. The current chairman in fact. The woman is a cleaner for the Halo Centre. Works in all the offices.”

“Right. Pad out again, Sergeant,” she said to Dave. “Let’s go and talk to these people.”

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Meet the Author

Steve Burford lives close to Worcester but rarely risks walking its streets. He has loaded conveyor belts in a factory, disassembled aeroplane seats, picked fruit on farms, and taught drama to teenagers but now spends his time writing in a variety of genres under a variety of names. He finds poverty an effective muse, and since his last book has once again been in trouble with the police. (He would like to thank the inventor of the speed camera.)

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New Release: El Diablo by Marteeka Karland #mcromance #holidayromance #agegap #suspense @marteekakarland

Jezebel – Life in a gilded cage isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – especially if the whole purpose of the cage is to keep me a virgin till I’m ready to be sacrificed to the man of my father’s choosing. I want out, and don’t think I haven’t tried. It’s not that easy with Daddy’s Brotherhood guards all over the place. But that doesn’t mean I want to trade one cage for another. And, let’s face it, I have no idea how to live on my own. I’ve never had the chance. Now I’m not sure I want to learn, because my new jailer – err, rescuer — is the sexiest man I’ve ever known. El Diablo’s not the monster everyone’s made him out to be. But can I tame the beast of a man without losing my heart? All I want for Christmas is a chance to find out…

El Diablo — I went hunting for a victim. Instead, I found a Christmas Angel. She’s the daughter of my enemy, used as a pawn in a deadly game of chess. All I really wanted was the Brotherhood out of Palm Beach. Instead I found an innocent who brings out a side of me I’d thought long buried and gone. But Jezebel’s younger than my own daughter, and just as much trouble. And I’m El Diablo — a title I earned heart and soul. I’m so not what she needs. And now she’s under my protection in the Black Reign compound. She should be completely off-limits. I won’t let the Brotherhood take her back and force her to give up her dreams. But who’s going to protect her from me?

WARNING: Contains explicit violence and scenes of dubious consent. As always, there is a HEA and no cliffhangers.

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WHAT ARE REVIEWERS SAYING?

“OMG! He was totally worth the wait!!!! I love El Diablo & Jezebel she is the perfect match for the leader of Black Reign!” – Melissa, Goodreads

“OH MY GOSH!!!!! El Diablo is EVERYTHING you could hope he’d be. He’s HOT, HOT, HOT, FLAMING HOT!!!!!!!!” – G, Goodreads

“Wow, just wow! El Diablo is so much more than I expected. I lost myself in these characters and pages.” – Andrea, Goodreads

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Marteeka Karland

El Diablo

Sitting off in the distance next to a densely wooded area, the house looked like something out of a horror movie. Sure, the grounds were immaculate and the structure itself a beautiful, Gothic architecture, but with the trees bare of leaves and the full moon hovering above it with a halo of fog around it, not to mention the tall, imposing fencing with razor wire surrounding it… Yeah. The place could have been an asylum in a slasher film.

From what I’d found out from Drago and Pretty Boy, the girl I had been searching for was being held in this house. Had been in this house her entire life. Not just living there. By all accounts, she’d never once left it.

“No change, Liam,” El Segador — the Reaper — said to me on our personal line. He was one of a very few people who knew my real name. Mainly because we’d grown up together, and he’d willingly followed me for close to thirty years. “She’s still on the upper floor. West wing. Giovanni swears he got it right, and that there’s a tracker on her person.”

“Very well. Is there any way to get in and contain her before we breach the house from below?”

“Negative. Security equipment’s too sensitive. You can go up the side of the house and breach from the roof, but Giovanni says the only viable entrance opens up two rooms away from her. You’ll still have to navigate the hallway, which is probably full of Malcolm’s men.”

“That’s my entry. You come up from below and eliminate as many as you can… quietly. If I need a distraction, you call in the boys, and you’re it.”

“Copy that.”

I switched to the team channel. “It’s a go. El Segador and I will enter first. Other than that, follow the plan.”

“Not comfortable with that, boss,” Archangel keyed in. “Everyone agreed I should take point. Besides, Samson will kill my ass if you come back with so much as a scratch. I know, ‘cause he told me so.”

“I’ll endeavor to appease Samson’s delicate sensibilities,” I replied dryly. While I trusted my club with my life, I wasn’t willing to take the chance the girl was out and about in the house. Or that she could sneak out of her room. Drago had spoken highly of her intelligence and skill. While he’d been able to speak, that is. The fewer of us in the house until she was in my custody, the less likely it was there would be accidents.

“Going on the record I’m objecting strenuously to this. Something happens and El Diablo gets hurt, you motherfuckers better back me up,” Archangel replied crossly.

On any other occasion I’d have taken pity on him and let him lead the mission. Or El Segador. But this was too important. I let my club do many things in the guise of safeguarding me. Only because it pleased them, and I was willing to give a little and look weak if it made them happy. Every single one of them was more than capable, so, as long as the risk was acceptable, I indulged them. They always did what I asked of them to the best of their abilities. It was the least I could do when none of them asked for anything. Typically, I had to force on them their heart’s desires. This, however, was different. Malcolm was a fierce opponent, one I knew almost as well as I knew El Segador. I didn’t want to risk my brothers on someone so unpredictable without knowing exactly where the bastard was and how much he was expecting from me.

“I got your six,” Hardcase spoke up. I could detect the faintest amount of humor in his voice. “For all the good it will do you.” There were chuckles over the radio as throat mics were activated with the sound.

“If you are all finished, El Segador and I would appreciate it if you kept an eye out. Let us know if any surprises are coming our way. Particularly if it’s in the form of a small woman. Aye?”

“Eyes open, mouths closed,” Archangel said. Immediately the chatter stopped and the operation began.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.

Release Blitz: A Highland Hogmanay by Meg Mardell #LGBTQ #historicalromance #holidayromance @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: A Highland Hogmanay

Series: Christmas Masquerade, Book Two

Author: Meg Mardell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 11/23/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 37700

Genre: Historical holiday, LGBTQIA+, historical, Victorian England, holiday, Christmas, Scottish Highlands, lesbian, wlw, mistaken identity, humorous, family drama, interracial, intercultural, road trip, age gap

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Description

The daughter of an Indian raja and renegade Englishwoman, Sharda Holkar, was gifted with a magnificent dowry but little say in her future. Until now. She must endure one more depressing holiday season with her controlling cousins, then she will be free to begin her emancipated life. But her discovery of a plot to marry her off to the preening son of the house has Sharda wondering if her new start should begin at once. When Sharda meets the intriguing owner of a Highland castle at a Christmas Eve masquerade, she wastes no time in forming a plan—she will escape across the Scottish border!

Finella Forbes cannot imagine why a sophisticated heiress like Sharda would even associate with someone who manages a castle for a living, let alone accompany her all the way back to the Highlands in time for the raucous celebration of Hogmanay. But a wealthy buyer is just what Balintore Castle needs. Fin is determined to prove she is just as good an estate manager as her father, but with the negligent lordly owner refusing to do his duty, she needs help fast. When mistaken assumptions jeopardise their initial attraction, Sharda and Fin will need all the mischief and magic of a Highland holiday to discover the true nature of their feelings.

Excerpt

A Highland Hogmanay
Meg Mardell © 2021
All Rights Reserved

“It’s getting quite sticky in here, isn’t it? Don’t these people perspire a lot in their ridiculous costumes? But the fools will insist upon picking characters that require false beards and headwraps and the lot. What do they expect?”

Mr Edward Pilkington watched the white-masked Pierrots and Pierrettes rotating around the Mayfair ballroom the same way he looked at everything else—right down his upturned nose. Of course, on this occasion, he might just be stopping his own mask from slipping.

“I must say, I consider it in poor taste of Lady Belleville to host such a gaudy entertainment on Christmas Eve. There’s enough blinding décor in every home and shop window without humans dressing like a bunch of tinsel ornaments.”

Sharda thought the display of Venetian masks in gold, silver, and red rather complemented the miles of glittering white ribbon their hostess had threaded around her every enormous window and door. But five days of Edward’s persistent company had taught her to neither agree nor disagree with his frequent judgements as both fanned the flames of his perpetual dissatisfaction.

“Perhaps you now see, Miss Holkar, the wisdom of my selection of attire. A simple mask and fancywork vest, and perhaps a sash, is really all that is required on these occasions.”

“For women as well as men?”

Sharda’s costume took its inspiration from the opulent carnival style of Venetian women from the height of that city’s pomp and power two centuries back. Her square-necked black silk gown cut away to a blaze of scarlet underskirt. Tiny stitched-in crystals covered the tight scarlet front bodice as well as her matching silk hat. Jutting out over one eye, the bold topper terminated in a cascade of black feathers that brushed her black half mask. Edward’s mother, one of Sharda’s inexhaustible supply of second and third cousins, had tried to convince her to wear what that lady was pleased to call her “native finery.” But when Sharda had insisted on purchasing a new costume for the ball, Lavinia Pilkington had graciously conceded that the Venetian style looked well on Sharda, for “many ladies of the Italian peninsula are quite of your complexion, my dear.”

The lady’s son was equally talented at giving compliments.

“A bit of exotic finery is not amiss on a woman. Provided she’s young, of course. There’s nothing more displeasing than an old woman got up like the Queen of Sheba. Now, perhaps I can see if these insolent Turks of footmen have some iced sherbet. You must be awfully hot in all your…” The gentleman gestured to Sharda’s hat. “Er, not that you look to any disadvantage or are…” The gentleman sought in vain for an acceptable substitute for sweating.

Sharda suddenly wished she had selected a full mask to hide her private mirth. She should not find it so amusing when Edward remembered, too late, that he was trying to woo her. Though maybe if she did not find the clumsy courtship so funny, she might cry.

“Or perhaps you would like to take the air in the garden, Miss Holkar? And escape this dreadful crush.”

“They seem to have brought much of the garden in here, Mr Pilkington.”

She gratefully caught the crisp scent of the evergreen branches that wrapped every available railing in Lady Belleville’s house. A delicious freshness that made one forget one was in London.

“Hmm, yes, quite. But then you don’t have the same animal noises outside, of course. It’s much easier to talk.”

She had not noticed the noise of the ballroom impairing his ability to talk in the slightest. But she knew what type of conversation he had in mind. He wasn’t the first young man to try to negotiate her out onto a cool veranda.

“Perhaps I would like an ice, Mr Pilkington. If you would be so kind.”

“Yes, of course… Though it will be a dreadful ordeal making my way over to the refreshment area now… No matter. I will see that you get your ice…my lady.”

Sharda took a few calming inhales of the pine-and-wood-polish scent of the Belleville townhouse. Now she could face Lavinia Pilkington, a spare lady fluffed up with a great deal of feathers, descending upon her beside a very grand person in purple.

“Here she is, Lady Belleville. I thought we should have to send some of your splendid footmen in search.”

“That might have proved difficult. I have my own runaway to locate, Mrs Pilkington. My wretched nephew.”

Lavinia trilled a nervous laugh, unable to tell if this was a joke.

“This is my young friend, Miss Sharda Holkar, who is staying the holidays with us. Sharda, meet Lady Belleville.”

“I do like your hat, Miss Holkar. You need a bit of height for such a topper. I, alas, have always extended out rather than up. I do envy women who can carry off such plumage. You are enjoying the ball?”

“Yes, indeed, ma’am.”

“And you’ve been dancing?”

“Not yet.”

“Oh dear, I do like young people to dance.”

“Do not worry, your ladyship. I am sure my son Edward will do the honours soon.”

“Excellent. Now, you must excuse me, for I hear my dear husband’s growl even now. I should make at least a half-hearted attempt to save my guests from his best Scrooge impersonation, should I not?”

Sharda and her cousin each dipped a curtsy—Lavinia’s embarrassingly low—to their hostess as she moved back into the crowd like the prow of a ship easily carving a path through lesser crafts. Sharda was left stranded on an island of two.

“I do hope you truly intend to dance as you promised Lady Belleville. And what did you think of her ladyship? Quite a superior person, I think, but Edward says she wears too many jewels for true breeding. I only wish I had such a problem! Whatever is taking Edward so long, do you think?”

Lavinia had a fidgety manner that made it impossible to relax in her company. After nearly a week as her guest, Sharda was almost as high-strung as her hostess. The prospect of enduring even another five minutes with this wearisome woman was unbearable. Especially as her only reward would be to eat a melted ice and then dance in Edward Pilkington’s sticky grip.

“He promised me he would return very soon. Perhaps I might wait for him in the garden, Mrs Pilkington?”

Lavinia’s eyes glittered behind her feathered mask.

“Ah, yes, that would be an excellent idea. It is far too noisy and hot in here.”

“Should you like to come with me, cousin?”

“Oh, no. No, no. I declare I see my dear friend Mrs, er…Bamtree just over there. But you go right ahead, my dear.”

Sharda needed no further encouragement.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Meg moved from the US to England because she fell in love with the Victorians’ peculiar blend of glamour and grime. After a decade of exploring historical excesses in a prim scholarly fashion, she realized that fiction is the best way to delve into that period’s great female-focused and LGBT+ stories. Weaned on the high-seas romances of the 1990s, Meg’s lost none of her love for cross-dressing cabin boys but any tolerance for boorish heroes. She’s delighted to now have a whole raft of quirky and queer characters to cheer for on their quest for Happily Ever After. She frequently breaks off writing for an Earl Grey tea (milk not lemon). She’s trying to learn Polish and Portuguese at the same time. She plans to escape Brexit Britain.

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Release Blitz: The Donne Deal by Lori Fayre #sweetromance #contemporary #cowboys @totally_bound @firstforromance

The Donne Deal by Lori Fayre

Book 2 in the Unexpected Mergers series

Word Count: 50,577
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 193

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
ROMANCE
SWEET ROMANCE

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Book Description

Home is where the heart is…

Kindall Armstead was content with her life in the heart of Manhattan. She had a successful career and a welcome lack of romance to muddle things up. So, when Texas cowboy Clint Donne walks into her life, it’s more than her client’s wedding that he crashes. Before she knows it, her one-time fling has turned into something far more dangerous, and Kindall now finds herself skipping a tropical vacation in favor of a heated Texas ranch in need of serious help.

With family drama, deep secrets and a suspicious local creating trouble for her, Kindall barely has time to plan the Donnes’ annual family festival, much less think about the complicated, messy feelings she has for a smooth cowboy with a crooked grin.

With much more at stake than just her heart, can this city girl go back to her roots—or will she shake the dust from her designer shoes and turn her back on the only place that is starting to feel like home?

Reader advisory: This book contains bullying and references to inadequate parenting.

Excerpt

For the first time since she could remember, Kindall was ready for the workday to end. She marched through the open floor, ticking boxes on her tablet once she was sure everything was in order. Laura Cortez, her assistant, followed close behind, making her own notes as they went.

Kindall would be leaving everything in Laura’s care while she was gone. It was a big step for both of them. Laura had never been given so much responsibility at once and Kindall had never trusted anyone to do her job right. But Kindall knew that the young girl was eager, capable and would make her proud.

Laura reminded Kindall of herself in many ways. It wasn’t that they looked alike. Laura was younger, with short black hair and bright green eyes. Her skin was a deep tan, telling of her Salvadoran roots. No, it was the way that Laura was completely devoted to her job, willing to do whatever was necessary. Laura had made it no secret that she wanted Kindall’s position as chief event coordinator someday, and she worked hard to prove herself.

“Don’t forget you’ll be meeting with the caterers this weekend,” Kindall said over her shoulder, her heels clicking on the tile. “And there will be an order coming in early next week with the new dinnerware.”

“I’ve already got it here,” Laura said. “You don’t have to worry about a thing.”

“I know I don’t have to, but I’m going to anyway,” she said, stopping at the fabric station. There was a dark cut of fabric with metallic pinstriped threading. “What is this?”

“I think Damien found that earlier,” Laura said. “He was wondering if we had more of it for the dinner.”

“What? Where is he?” Crumpling the swatch in her hand, she rounded on Laura, looking over her to find her newest employee. Damien was near one of the table settings, flicking his shaggy brown hair out of his eyes. He was young, probably just old enough to legally drink, and had the type of face that screamed ‘heartthrob’.

Kindall wasn’t the type to be duped by a pretty face. Well, except when it came to Clint Donne. Don’t think about him now, she scolded herself. Steeling herself for confrontation, Kindall made her way over to Damien.

“Why was this with the fabrics for the executive dinner?” she asked sternly, holding the cloth in front of his face.

“Oh, that,” Damien said slowly. “Yeah, I found that in the storage room and thought it would look good or something.” He shrugged and offered her a crooked grin.

Kindall could practically feel Laura melting beside her. With a forced smile, Kindall took a step forward. Damien had a few good inches on her, but she knew where true power came from. She stood straight, boring into him with her ice-blue eyes.

“When were you going to ask me?”

“I figured I’d bring it up once I tried it out,” he said. There was a slight quiver in his voice that Kindall caught. “You know, better to ask forgiveness than permission and stuff.”

“Things don’t work that way around here,” Kindall said. “I am always open to suggestions, and I love to hear new ideas during the planning phase. But we are well past that and, in case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the ordering phase. You can’t add new items to an order at the last minute. It goes against the plan we’ve worked hard to create.”

Damien raised his hands in surrender, taking a few steps back. “I’m sorry,” he said. “It won’t happen again, Miss Armstead.”

“See that it doesn’t.” She offered him a more polite smile before turning on her heel and heading back toward her office.

“Did you have to be so mean to him?” Laura asked, jogging to keep pace with Kindall.

“Yes, I did. He’s new and needs to learn how things work around here.” Kindall shut down her tablet. “I can’t afford to have a wild card on my team, and that’s what he’s turning out to be. You just want me to be nice because you think he’s cute.”

“That’s not true,” Laura argued, but the slight pink in her cheeks gave her away. “Whenever you’re done establishing the pecking order, I’ll be ready for your lists.”

“And what makes you think there will be lists?”

“I don’t know, working directly under you for the past few years?” Laura held out her hand.

“They’re in my desk,” Kindall said. She rolled her eyes, shoving the glass door to her office open with her shoulder. “I don’t know why you’re judging me for this. The dinner is in less than three weeks, and I’ll be gone for two of them.”

“But you’ve already done most of the work. We just need to follow the plan, which we know how to do.”

“If there’s an emergency, though, you’ll have this.” She pulled out a pink folder and handed it to Laura. “Just in case you can’t get in touch with me.”

Laura took the folder and flipped through the pages before tucking it under her tablet. “Anything else I need to know?”

Kindall looked down at her watch. Only half an hour to go. “That’s it. Just keep things running like I’m still here, and we should be okay.”

Laura stood up with a nod and headed for the door.

“And, Laura? Don’t flirt with the new guy while I’m away. I won’t be here to keep you in check.”

“Thanks, Mom,” she said, scrunching her nose. “Have fun in paradise without me.”

Kindall laughed to herself, booting up her monitor for one last look at her emails. She found it hard to stay on task, her focus always drifting back down to the bottom corner of the screen, watching the minutes tick by. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to leave a little early. She had to finish packing, after all.

It hadn’t been easy to convince her to take a vacation. The order had come directly from Jade Alexander herself, and it had been Laura who had chosen the destination. Kindall would be spending the next fourteen days on a beach in the Bahamas, drinking as much as she wanted and definitely not planning any events.

She leaned back in her chair, closing her eyes for a moment. She could already smell the salt water and feel the sun against her skin. This vacation was going to cure her. For some reason, ever since the wedding, she’d felt drained and tired all the time. She was determined to leave her tablet at her apartment and try to get through the enormous stack of unread books on her shelves.

A knock on her door shook her from her musings about how many books she could cram into her suitcase. Jade Alexander stepped inside and shut the door behind her. She was dressed very casually for a weekday and Kindall couldn’t help being a little curious.

“Are you ready to go?” Jade asked, taking the seat Laura had left pulled out. Her jeans and T-shirt were stained with dry paint and her black hair was piled into a messy bun.

“I will be by tonight,” Kindall said. She gestured to Jade’s clothes. “What’s going on there?” she asked.

“We’re remodeling the penthouse,” Jade explained. “It felt too modern, so I thought I’d spruce it up a bit. But that’s not important. What is important is making sure you take time to relax and take care of yourself, right?”

“Yes, it’s very relaxing to have my career threatened by my boss,” Kindall joked.

“I never threatened you,” Jade said. “Besides, I think this will be good for you. Trust me. I’m not doing this as your boss. I’m doing it as your friend.” Jade stood up and stretched. “Well, have fun, and when you get back, I might get your opinions on the redesign.”

“I’d like that,” Kindall said. Jade’s style was vastly different from her own, but she was excited to see what her friend had come up with.

It wasn’t long before five o’clock rolled around and Kindall shut down her computer. She packed her tablet in her bag and stopped herself before she grabbed some of the folders from her desk. No more work, she reminded herself. Not for two weeks.

Getting into the elevator knowing that she had left something behind ate at her insides. She longed to go back and grab the papers. But she made it down to the garage in one piece and walked to her car with her head held high.

It wasn’t until she sat buckled into the driver’s seat that she practiced her breathing exercises. She was addicted to her work and knew it. She wasn’t about to change that, but she had to cope with it in her own way. Kindall started the car and pulled out of the garage onto the cramped street.

Traffic was a mess as usual, but that had always been Kindall’s time to decompress after work. Then, when she got to her apartment, it was right back to work. It was a vicious cycle that had never been a problem until recently. She sat in her car, an orchestra of car horns muted around her, and called in a delivery. It was something she did often and, if she timed it just right, her meal would be delivered minutes after she walked through the door.

She scrolled mindlessly through her phone, keeping an eye on the car ahead of her as a podcast ran in the background. A notification dropped down from the top of her screen with Clint’s name in bold letters. As usual when she got a message from him, she got a weird fluttery feeling in her stomach. Those unwelcome feelings from September had waned, but her body liked to remind her of them when she got a text or call from Clint.

She opened the message and was greeted by a picture of a beautiful smiling dog. He was sitting in front of a purple-flowered bush, his black, caramel and white fur shining in the sunlight and his tongue lolling out of his mouth. It was Rover, Clint’s Bernese Mountain dog, and Kindall was accustomed to getting a new picture of him every couple of days.

It had been awkward at first. Clint had been in New York for several weeks but Kindall had only met him in passing. It wasn’t until after the wedding that they’d decided to spend one night together, the night before he would leave for Texas. Kindall had never kept in contact with any of her one-night stands before. She and Clint had discovered that they didn’t have much in common, but conversation was easy. Although there was the occasional flirtation—usually on Clint’s end—they had become good friends and she looked forward to their talks. If only she could get rid of the butterflies…

Kindall finally arrived at her apartment building and swiped her key card to get into the garage. Each day she returned home more tired than the last. The idea of a vacation grew on her by the second. On her way up, she ran into the delivery man, the same one she saw every time she ordered tacos, and he handed over her bag.

As soon as she unlocked the door, Kindall’s phone buzzed in her hand. A picture of Clint lit up the screen and she struggled to open the door and press ‘accept’ at the same time. She shut the door with her hip as she aimed the camera at her face. Clint was already smiling at her from the screen.

“Bad time?” he asked, his voice echoing through the speaker.

“Not exactly,” Kindall said, setting her work bag on the floor. “I just wasn’t expecting you to call today. What’s the occasion?”

“You know me. I don’t need a reason to do anything.” He sat down on the couch, the camera shaking slightly. “I’m spontaneous like that.”

“I’m aware.” Kindall shifted the phone to her other hand, emptying the contents of her food-delivery bag on the counter. “Hey, since I have you here, do you think it’s weird when a taco delivery man knows you by apartment number and name?”

“I think that’s a sign you order from that restaurant too much,” Clint said.

“You could be right. So, what’s going on?” she asked, picking up one of the small boxes of noodles. “Why the random call?”

“Can’t I just call my friend to check in on her?” he asked. He readjusted on the couch, lying back so that his hair spread on the cushion like a halo. She’d told him before that it was past time for a haircut, but he always said he didn’t have enough time. “How are things at work?”

“Busy,” she said, “but that’s nothing new. The dinner’s pretty much planned, though, so it should go smoothly from here on out. What about you?”

“We’re not too far off from your situation,” he said. “You know we have the festival coming up, right?”

“I remember you saying something about it,” Kindall said, lounging back on her own couch with the box of takeout balanced on her leg. Normally, she would eat in her home office while getting some work done.

“Well, we’ve hit a little snag and”—Clint shoved his hair back from his forehead—“I was wondering if I could get some advice from you.” He looked a little embarrassed to ask, but Kindall thought it was adorable.

“I’m always here to offer advice,” she said, “but hasn’t your mom been doing this for years? Why would you need my help?” Even through the screen, she could see his distress. There was more going on that he wasn’t telling her.

“We’re just a little behind, that’s all,” he said. “The bones are there, and Mama and Bobby have most of it together, but—”

“But something’s happened.” Kindall took a bite. She would patiently wait for him to explain himself before she helped.

“It’s nothing you need to worry about.” Clint wasn’t looking at the screen. He was focused on the ceiling above him. “There are some problems, but I just need to make sure this festival happens.” He paused, chewing at his bottom lip. “It might be the last one we have.”

Kindall sat up straight. From the way Clint talked about the Donnes’ annual festival, it had been the highlight of his life since he had been little. It was more than a family tradition for him. “What’s happening, Clint?”

Clint began to move through his house, the camera shaking with each step.

“It’s really not a big deal.” The screen went dark for a second until he flipped on a light. “My parents aren’t doing well. Like, they’re going to be splitting up after the festival.”

“Holy crap.” Kindall had not seen that coming. “What happened?”

“Like I said, it’s nothing you need to worry about. But I need this year’s festival to work. I need to feel like my family isn’t falling apart, you know?” He covered his mouth, his brown eyes far away. “I just need some advice so I can know what to talk about with Bobby.”

Kindall could only imagine what he was going through. Her childhood had been vastly different from Clint’s, but she could tell he was in a lot of pain. Pain was something she knew. She looked over at the counter where her ticket to a tropical island sat next to her bag.

“I’ll do you one better,” she finally said. “You don’t just need advice. You need a friend. I’ll be on a plane first thing tomorrow morning.”

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About the Author

Lori Fayre

Lori Fayre was born and raised in a small South Georgia town. Her debut novel, “The Devil’s Maverick”, was a novel nearly six years in the making. An obsessive consumer of romance, Lori knew it was the only genre for her. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, drawing, or binging Hulu with her husband and Yorkie.

You can find Lori on Twitter and at her website here.

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Grizzly/Wolf by Harley Wylde #newadult #mcromance #suspense @HarleyW_Writer

Grizzly — The Beginning (Devil’s Fury MC 8)

May — Everyone else sees a rough biker from the wrong side of town, but there’s no one I’d rather be with. When I’m attacked by the town’s golden boy, I see the Grizzly his club has named him for. I don’t care that people whisper when we walk past. I love him, and I know I’ll keep loving him until the day I die.

Grizzly — May deserves the best life can offer — and a respectable guy. There’s blood on my hands. I keep her at arm’s length, but there’s only one thing I want more than my club, more than my next breath — and that’s May.

Wolf (Devil’s Fury MC 9)

Glory -– When I heard Devil’s Fury was running an underground clinic for women like me I knew I had to be a part of it. What I didn’t count on was falling for an alpha biker with a heart of gold, or turning to mush every time he holds my daughter. I won’t let a killer stand in the way of my happily-ever-after.

Wolf — When my ex left I should have been broken-hearted, but one look at the angel who walks into Church and I know Glory’s meant to be mine, and so is her adorable little girl. I know Glory can do better. I came back from the war broken. But I always get what I want, and I want Glory. I know I’ll do whatever it takes to keep them safe, even if it means letting Glory see the darkness inside me.

WARNING: Grizzly and Wolf’s stories are both part of the Devil’s Fury MC series and contains some violence, bad language, sensitive issues, and adult situations. Guaranteed happily-ever-after, a baby who will steal your heart, no cheating, and no cliffhanger.

Get the paperback at Amazon

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Harley Wylde

Grizzly — Summer, 1982

I ran my hand over my cut, proud as hell that I’d earned my patch. As the newest member of the Devil’s Fury MC, I should have been at the clubhouse enjoying the party. Instead, I found myself hiding in the shadows by the pond on the outskirts of town. If anyone owned the property, they were long gone. The land had grown wild with weeds. The tall grass around the pond blocked it from view of anyone driving past.

I heard May giggle and a splash. Jealousy ate at me. I had no right to feel any sort of emotion about her at all. She wasn’t mine. Never would be. May was a good girl. Sweet. Angelic. Not at all for the likes of me. I’d noticed her in school, even though I’d kept my distance. Until I’d discovered she liked to come swim here. The first time I saw her in her two-piece swimsuit, I’d had to pick my tongue up off the ground. Who’d have thought little May had curves like that? She’d only been fifteen at the time, and I’d had no business looking.

“Stop it, Mike.” I heard another splash. “I said no!”

My heartrate kicked up and I crept closer, quietly shifting the tall weeds aside for a better look. The dumbass jock she’d come with seemed to be copping a feel. The way May squirmed and shoved at him, I knew she wasn’t just playing around. When she’d told him to stop, she’d meant it. Dickweed didn’t seem to understand.

When he tried to work his hand down into her swimsuit bottoms, I knew I had to do something. I wasn’t about to let him molest her while I stood idly by. Even if I did belong to a club that didn’t exactly walk on the right side of the law, there were lines I’d never cross. Hurting a woman was one of those.

I stepped out of my hiding spot. The moment May saw me, hope sparked in her eyes. Yeah, I wasn’t walking away. Not without making sure she was safe.

“I think she said no.”

He turned to look at me, a sneer on his lips as he eyed my cut. I knew all about Mike Malone. Star forward for the basketball team. Just the sort of guy May should be with, if he weren’t such a douche.

“Let her go, Malone.”

“Or what?” he asked.

“Or I’ll make you, and then you’ll have to run crying home to your mommy. She said she wasn’t interested, but you must have too much wax in your ears.” I folded my arms. “Or maybe you got hit in the head with one too many basketballs. You should catch those passes with your hands and not your face.”

I honestly had no idea how well he played, or what the fuck his position on the team even did. I’d never been into basketball, and I sure as hell hadn’t been to any of the games at school.

He backed away from May and made his way toward me. He slogged through the water and onto the shore, slicking his hair back from his face. We were nearly the same height, but I had a bit of muscle on him. And I knew how to fight. Prissy boy here didn’t stand a chance.

“You lay one finger on me and my parents will sue your ass.”

“And what exactly do you think they’ll get? I don’t have a house. My bike is a piece of shit. Even I can admit that, but one day it won’t be. I don’t have a damn thing you’d want, Malone.” I held my hand out to May. “Come on, angel. I’ll make sure you get home safe.”

May hurried out of the pond and grabbed her towel, wrapping it around her. She came straight for me, giving the jock a wide berth. Couldn’t blame her. He didn’t seem like the type to lose gracefully. Now that he’d decided May should give him what he wanted, he wouldn’t back down. Not until he was forced to.

If he kept bothering her, I’d have to pay him a special visit. Make sure he got the message loud and clear. May wasn’t for him to play with. Or anyone else for that matter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil’s Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series.

When Harley’s writing, her motto is the hotter the better — off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place. She doesn’t shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve. 

The times Harley isn’t writing, she’s thinking up naughty things to do to her husband, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, and reading. She loves to read and devours a book a day, sometimes more. She’s also fond of TV shows and movies from the 1980’s, as well as paranormal shows from the 1990’s to today, even though she’d much rather be reading or writing.

You can find out more about Harley or enter her monthly giveaway on her website. Be sure to join her newsletter while you’re there to learn more about discounts, signing events, and other goodies!

Release Blitz: Best Player by Jacqueline Snowe #eroticromance #sportsromance @totally_bound @firstforromance

Best Player by Jaqueline Snowe

Book 3 in the Cleat Chasers series

Word Count: 77,372
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 297

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
SPORTS

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Book Description

Falling for my brother’s best friend is not an option—right?

Kenzie Hill needs a place to stay the summer before college, so when a spot opens up at her brother Aaron’s ‘baseball’ house, she accepts. Living with a bunch of dudes who walk around shirtless won’t distract her—she has plans and nothing will get in her way. Not even her brother’s best friend.

Tanner Johnson has one thing on his mind—his future in the MLB. After choosing to wait another year before entering the draft, he now dedicates every second to getting better on the field, or letting loose. His best friend’s sister shouldn’t even register on his radar.

The first kiss is an accident and the second leads to more. They agree it’ll just be a fling and that Aaron can never know. Kenzie’s just starting her future, while Tanner’s is already planned.

Falling for her brother’s best friend was never an option—but what happens when suddenly, it is?

Reader advisory: This book was previously released by Finch Books.

Excerpt

Leaving the home I’d grown up in—the house packed with every memory I had—hurt more than I’d anticipated. My throat burned each time I held back emotion, but it wouldn’t do any of us good to mention the overwhelming worry and sadness. We couldn’t afford wasted sentiments when every second of every day we worried about our dad—fighting cancer wasn’t a single person’s battle. It took all our efforts.

“I can’t believe our baby girl is going away to college,” my dad said from the front seat of the old navy mini-van that smelled like used sports gear. He craned his neck and gave me a weak smile. I returned the gesture, hoping I hid the bubbling anxiety growing in my chest, and raised my fists in the air.

“Yay!”

He coughed, the sound better than it used to be, but I still tensed every time I heard it. Each breath he took was a struggle. “While I’m not thrilled you’re going to be living with Aaron and two of his teammates for the summer, they seem to be decent young men. They’re better now than they were his freshman year. Good lord, they were hellions. But he promised he’d take care of you for us.”

“Dad,” I mumbled. “Come on.”

“I mean it. Your mom and I are going to be hours away trying out different treatment facilities. Someone needs to look out for you, K-Bug.”

I will not cry. Nope. I will not. “I’ll be fine. Really. I’ve been looking forward to college for years.”

“But not everyone goes two months early…” My mom let the words hang and our eyes met in the rearview mirror. Hers were tired and gray. My heart hurt for her and how strong she’d been for all of us. She’d been our family rock forever and while the thought of being away from them was freeing, it also left a hole.

“It’s better like this, I promise. It’ll be a good way for me to get acclimated to the campus and I signed up for two classes already. Introduction to Film and Online Biology. Both sound awful, but it’ll help me get ready for my hard schedule this fall.”

“K-Bug, you’ve never had to worry about grades. You’re our smart girl,” my dad said, not hiding his pride. Another wave of gratitude went through me. Despite Aaron’s insane athletic abilities, my parents had never once made me feel less important or talented. Not once. The world needed more of them and the gratitude switched to anger at the injustice of my dad getting sick.

It wasn’t fair.

But showing my internal battle would do none of us any good on the already emotional day. I swallowed down the grief and worry, plastered a smile on my face and spoke with a practiced enthusiasm that I’d mastered with all the hospital visits. “I’m just excited for the newness. New friends, new experiences, new things to learn and new mistakes to make. I’ve always heard about how college is this life-changing experience of fun, embarrassing stories and the place where you meet lifelong friends. I want that. I’m ready for it.”

“Then that’s what you’re going to do.” My dad’s voice held a finality to it and we all remained quiet for the rest of the drive. The campus was about two hours away from our childhood home—the house my parents had sold—and the moment we left the driveway that morning was the last time I’d set foot there. It was an odd combination to experience—utter excitement about what was next, and longing for what used to be. My constant battle was defining myself. I had always been Aaron’s younger sister. The daughter. The girlfriend.

I wanted to be me.

College was my answer.

“Honey, we’re going to stop and get some shakes. Would you like anything?” my mom inquired as she pulled into a fast-food place. My dad had a softness for milkshakes and we’d made an unspoken agreement that when he wanted one, he got one.

“Yeah, I’ll get a coffee. Want me to run in and buy one?”

“That’d be great, K-Bug.”

They handed me a twenty-dollar bill and I grabbed my phone before heading inside the diner. The humid air was hard to swallow, but it was a brief escape from the confines of the car. My dad got cold real fast, so we couldn’t have the air on too high. I fanned myself, moving the end of my old jersey-shirt to get air on my midriff. Sweat dripped down my muscles and a cold milkshake sounded perfect. I ordered—my mom preferred chocolate, my dad mint-cookie and I always got banana.

My phone went off and I almost ignored it, since my ex-boyfriend had thought it a great time to reconcile after our disastrous prom weekend. No thanks, Sean. That ship sailed. But it wasn’t him. It was Aaron, my ridiculous, awesome and obnoxious older brother.

Aaron: Yo, you almost here?

Kenzie: Stopped for milkshakes. Maybe fifteen minutes out.

Aaron: Coach just called and wants to meet me at the field—Tanner is here though. He’ll help you unpack. That cool?

Kenzie: That’s fine. Mom and Dad will be pissed if they don’t see you though.

Aaron: I’ll try and be back in an hour. Coach knows they’re here but said this is important.

Kenzie: Okay, see you soon.

Aaron: No backing out now, kid. You absolutely sure about living here?

Kenzie: There’s no home to go back to. Yeah, I’m sure.

I didn’t expect a response from him, and the few minutes I had to wait for the shakes were spent thinking about my future roommates. Sure, it was only two months, but these guys had the personalities of celebrities.

Aaron—my brother who’d slept with countless ladies the past two years and suffered a sex scandal. Zade Willows—the all-star pitcher who had a fan club named after him. Tanner Johnson—the giant center fielder who could make girls faint with a wink. Yeah. It was going to be an adventure living with them until their fourth roommate, Jeff, got back from playing baseball overseas.

Me, the awkward kid without an ounce of athletic ability, was living in the baseball house in the center of Jockville. Life was funny sometimes.

“Order’s up!”

I thanked the hostess and carried the drinks back to the car. Too soon, we were pulling into the chipped driveway of my new temporary digs. White house, large porch that had seen better days, overgrown trees in the front and backyard and the door wide open. I pulled my long dark-blonde hair into a high messy bun and took one final breath.

College.

Adventure.

New.

“What’s up, Hill family?” Tanner’s voice boomed from him. He leaned against the front railing, his height almost putting his head on the roof of the house. His hair was midnight black and it spilled from his head in messy curls, but his light brown eyes were killer. Yeah, I had a little bitty crush on him after having met him a couple times over the past three years, but it was hard not to. He was my kryptonite—long eyelashes, mischievous grin, the perfect dimples and real tall with broad shoulders. I gave him a little wave, hoping I didn’t blush too much.

I was going to be living with him, so it didn’t bode well for anyone to know about my crush. “Hey, TJ.”

“Roomie, let me grab your stuff. Aaron had to head to the field, but he’ll be back. Good to see you, Mr. and Mrs. Hill.” He swaggered—it was the only way to describe it—to the car and gave both my parents a hug. It pleased me to see how good he was to my family. The warmth on the back of my neck had nothing to do with his fitted shirt and workout shorts that showcased how much time he spent in the gym.

“You’re too kind, Tanner. Really,” my mom gushed and I had to roll my eyes. Even she succumbed to his charm. She had to know how much he got around… I mean, he was one of two single guys who lived in the baseball house. I snorted into my fist and Tanner slid me a look.

“Laying it on thick there, TJ.”

“What? I can’t hug my second-favorite set of parents?” He dared to raise one beautiful dark eyebrow, challenging me to call him out. I did.

“They brought you all beer and homemade casserole for at least a week. You don’t need to suck up.”

His grin widened and, after patting my dad on the back, he walked to the trunk of the car to help get my five bags. It was sad that, moving into college, I only had five bags’ worth of stuff. That was one lesson learned after seeing my dad go through his struggle—material things didn’t matter all that much. Life was more about the experience.

He walked past me, smirking, and picked up two of the bags. “Come on, Kenny. Let me show you to your room.”

He didn’t lower his voice or do anything weird, but those words coming from his mouth sent a shiver down my body. I cleared my throat and picked up the final load. “After you, Johnson.”

My parents took their time bringing food into the small kitchen while I followed Tanner into the house and up the stairs. I had been there before, but only for a small amount of time where they could hide their craziness. Now, they’d let it all hang out. The mess, the dirty bathroom, the pile of useless things stacked in the corner. Why did they have a stack of empty boxes? And empty cups? They had a kitchen…why didn’t they use it?

He led me down the upstairs hallway. There were two rooms on each side, two with their own bathrooms, but I wasn’t that lucky. While Zade and Aaron across the hall had one each, Jeff and Tanner shared theirs. And Jeff’s was the room I was using…meaning I had to share a bathroom with Tanner Johnson.

Two months was going to be a long time.

“Okay, Kenny. Here’s Jeff’s room.” He opened the door and gave me a bemused look. “He’s the neatest out of all of us. I saw you scowl on the way up. We’re not total pigs.”

“I’ll just have to do some cleaning, that’s all.” Thank God I brought supplies.

He chuckled and dropped my large duffel bags on the beige carpet. I took a hesitant step inside the room and sniffed. Nothing smelled off and there weren’t any weird stains on the carpet.

“Did you just smell the room?”

“Yes, I did.” I jutted my chin out at him. “I’ve lived with Aaron. I know how smelly boys can be. It seems fine so far.”

“God, this is going to be fun.”

“I’m bursting with excitement,” I deadpanned.

It earned me another grin, showcasing his impressive dimples, and I scanned the rest of the room. The walls had various baseball posters of the team and MLB teams. The sheets had been stripped from the queen-sized bed and the dresser drawers opened and emptied. I placed my bag on the desk and spun around. Tanner watched me with a curious expression and I did not look at his mouth when his lips quirked up on one side.

“We need to talk about some ground rules.”

Shit. Butterflies formed in my gut and I felt foolish. I wasn’t sure what I’d thought he was going to say, but it wasn’t that. Crossing my arms, I scrunched my nose and asked, “About what?”

“Living here.” He stepped farther into the room and with that small action, the walls seemed to close around us. He took up so much space and his warmth crowded me. “I know you’re pretty chill from everything Hilly’s told us, but I want to get it all out in the open, you know?”

I bit my lip to prevent myself from smiling. Was he going to give me the talk? Holy shit. I hoped he was because I wasn’t going to make it easy for him. “Okay. I’m listening. Should I write this down?” I moved toward my backpack, but he shook his head.

“We share a wall and a bathroom. The foundation here isn’t great and I don’t plan on being a saint just because you’re here.” He winced and moved his hand to his neck, stress lines forming around his eyes. “I mean, I’ll be more discreet about it. I won’t…you don’t have to see anything.”

“Tanner, what are you talking about?” I asked, successfully keeping my face blank. He had to know what my life had been like with Aaron. Hell, everyone knew the baseball house was notorious for hooking up. I wasn’t dumb or naïve. But watching him struggle through this was worth it. “What do you mean by saint?”

“Christ,” he said, then rubbed his hand over his face. Gone was the playful expression—uneasiness replaced it. “I don’t want you uncomfortable, but you might run into girls who…spend the night.”

“Ohhh, you have a girlfriend?” I whistled, getting another worried look. “Do I get to meet her?”

“Kenzie.” His cheeks turned just a little bit red and I pressed my lips together to prevent breaking character. “You might hear…stuff. I don’t want you to… Shit. I don’t know how to do this. I didn’t think it through.”

“Okay, enough. I’ll stop.” I laughed and enjoyed the myriad expressions crossing his face. They ended in curiosity and I closed the distance between us so we stood a foot apart. “I know you’ll have hook-ups. That’s fine. All I ask is that she doesn’t hog the bathroom the morning after and that you don’t fuck too loud.”

He blinked. It was slow and telling, and I bit my lip, but it did no good. I burst out laughing at how uncomfortable he was and I hit his shoulder without real force. “I was messing with you before, but I appreciate you trying to warn me.”

“I thought—Aaron said… Never mind. I didn’t want to shock or upset you.”

His comment warmed me, but his use of my brother’s name did not. “Whatever warning Aaron gave you, forget it, okay? I’m not this naïve, innocent kid.”

“Okay.”

“Your tone doesn’t agree with your word.” I pursed my lips and gave him my best leveling stare. “Mean it.”

He gave me his signature crooked grin, narrowed those baby browns just a smidge and lowered his voice like a soccer coach. “Okay.”

We stood, not in a face-off or battle, but in a weird bubble of not really knowing the other person. He was the playboy with a bright future. I was the innocent younger sister of his best friend. Two months living with him, good or bad, would be an adventure, and my excitement for something new overshadowed the awkwardness. I held out my hand, grinning, and broke the tension that had formed in the last two minutes. “Thanks for letting me live here, roomie. I think we’re going to have a hell of a time.”

He placed his large hand against mine and shook, a slow smile forming on his too-handsome face. “I already regret agreeing to this.”

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About the Author

Jaqueline Snowe

Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the ‘dry heat’ really isn’t that bad. She enjoys making lists with colorful Post-it notes and sipping coffee all day. She has been a custodian, a waitress, a landscaper, a coach and a teacher. Her life revolves around binge-watching Netflix, her two dogs who don’t realize they aren’t humans and her wonderful baseball-loving husband.

You can take a look at Jaqueline’s Website and Blog and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Safe Harbour by Thom Collins #gay #eroticromance @firstforromance @pridepublishing

Safe Harbour by Thom Collins

Word Count: 58,382
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 229

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

Two lovers seek shelter in a storm of jealousy and passion.

Matt arrives in the seaside town of Nyemouth for a much-needed vacation. As a successful lawyer, Matt has a hectic career, and with an ex-husband still pestering him for money, he is long overdue a break. A holiday home perched above the town and its breath-taking harbour seems like the perfect place to unwind. Matt can’t wait to explore the beautiful, jagged shorelines and lose himself for a couple of weeks.

Jake has made a home in Nyemouth. After growing up in the city, living on the coast is everything to him. Running a business with his sister and volunteering on the crew of the local lifeboat, he is exactly where he wants to be. But Jake’s life is far from peaceful. Though he left his domineering husband Vince a year ago, Vince refuses to consent to a divorce or loosen his controlling hold on Jake.

On Matt’s first night in town, he encounters the couple having a blazing row. When Vince turns violent, Matt intervenes and takes Jake inside to escape his angry ex. Despite what happened, Matt feels a powerful attraction to the younger man. Jake is bright, endearing and unbelievably attractive, but the young man’s life is complicated. Matt already has enough problems of his own. He came away looking for an escape, not a starry-eyed distraction. As Matt and Jake get to know each other better, the gamble on a holiday romance becomes hard for either of them to resist. They have both been unlucky in love before. Maybe this time will be different.

Vince will not be shaken off so easily. He has no intention of letting Jake go…ever. As Matt’s and Jake’s emotions deepen, they do not understand how far Vince will take things to keep his husband. As far as Vince is concerned, they made a vow to each other… “till death do us part.”

Reader advisory: This story contains stalking and assault, physical and emotional spousal abuse, attempted murder with a firearm and references to abusive parenting and substance additions.

Excerpt

“Will you be staying long in town?” the shop assistant asked as he ran items through the till.

“Two weeks,” Matt Ramsey replied.

“Really?” The assistant, a pleasant-looking man in his fifties, didn’t look up from what he was doing. “It’s a small place to spend such a long amount of time. Won’t you get bored?”

“I doubt it. I want to use Nyemouth as a base to explore the local area—country walks, coastal trails, that kind of thing.”

“Oh, then you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. There are some stunning locations nearby, both up and down the coast.”

Matt smiled. He’d already done extensive research into this area of Northumberland. He’d visited here a couple of times before, just for the day, and it was a place he’d always wanted to discover further. With two weeks ahead of him and no other commitments, there would never be a better time.

He had finished work at five p.m. promptly and got straight into his car. Despite the Friday evening traffic, he’d made good time on the journey from York to Nyemouth, arriving at the holiday home just before seven-thirty. The old man who lived next door, a friendly guy called Jacob, had greeted him at the door with the keys and given him a quick rundown on the property and what he could find in town. Matt had left home without picking up supplies, and Jacob directed him to the small shop near the marina, less than ten minutes from the house, where he could get all he would need to see him through the next few days. Matt had thanked him and hurried down to the store.

He intended to get a takeaway for dinner tonight, but picked up bread, eggs, bacon, milk and tea bags for breakfast. He also bought three bottles of red wine, a bottle of dark rum and two litres of Diet Coke. It was his intention to eat out as much as possible while he was there, but he wanted to have some alcohol in for the times he came home late, so he could unwind in the comfort of the beautiful house that looked down on the marina and the mouth of the river.

“Have you lived here long?” he asked the cashier as he paid for his shopping.

“All my life,” the man said, sounding proud. “I know I knock the place for being small and there’s not a lot to do here out of season, but I do love it. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Matt nodded. “Even in the winter, I imagine it’s still a lovely place to be.”

The man gave a good-natured laugh. “Come back in February when there’s a seventy-mile-per-hour gale coming in from the North Sea and see if you feel the same.”

“If the next fortnight goes well, I might just do that.”

“Well, if you do, I’ll be here.” He handed over the two bags of groceries. “Enjoy your stay. Hopefully I’ll see you around.”

Matt thanked him and left the shop.

That evening, it was difficult to imagine the brutal winter conditions the shopkeeper had spoken of. It was coming up to nine o’clock and the clear sky was deepening into shades of lapis and blueberry, marred by just a few wisps of cloud, high in the atmosphere. The perfect sky was mirrored on the still water of the harbour. The fishing fleet was home for the night, the boats lying motionless in their moorings.

There were a lot of people milling around the marina, couples and families enjoying the mild July weather. The bars and restaurants along the waterfront had set tables outside and looked to be doing a good trade. Matt had heard great things about The Lobster Pot, a bar-come-restaurant in the heart of the bay, and intended to treat himself to at least one good meal there during his stay—maybe one night next week when it wasn’t so busy.

He walked across the harbour, passing by the lifeboat station, towards the footpath back up to the house on South Bank Terrace.

Nyemouth’s lifeboat had made worldwide news the past summer when it was involved in the frantic rescue of the actor Arnie Walker and his young son. The publicity afterwards had brought hordes of tourists to the small seaside town. When Matt had been searching for a place in Northumberland to stay for his summer holiday, he’d almost discounted Nyemouth, remembering the scenes of chaos he’d seen on the news less than a year before. He wanted somewhere peaceful as a base for his hiking trips, and the interest Arnie’s rescue had created for the town made it far from ideal.

Matt had done some extra research and, while it was true that Nyemouth was now on the map as a major tourist attraction, the initial ghoulish interest people had taken in it had settled down, although he’d read that Arnie Walker was now a permanent resident here with a home on the north bank of the river. When Matt had discovered a house on the south side was available for the dates he required, those niggling concerns had disappeared.

Now he was here, breathing in the fresh sea air, and he knew he’d made the right choice.

At thirty-nine, Matt had no qualms about going on holiday by himself. He was a free man, able to do what he wanted and pursue his own interests without having to compromise for someone else. Some of his friends and colleagues had tried to talk him out of it and persuade him to join them for his summer break. Matt had no interest in their Spanish villas or their all-inclusive trips to the Caribbean. He’d always wanted to explore Northumberland, and now, divorced and one year short of his fortieth birthday, he intended to do exactly what he pleased.

Those same colleagues were always trying to fix him up with their gay friends. It was four years since he’d split with Clinton, and people seemed determined to pair him off with someone else.

It was all well-meant, but Matt didn’t need it. This was his time to do his own thing, and he intended to enjoy it.

He followed the path upwards, through the cobbled backstreets of the old town. Living in a city, albeit a modest one like York, gave him a greater appreciation of small towns and villages, especially those on the coast. The pace was much calmer here, more peaceful. He knew he was looking through the rose-tinted eyes of a tourist, but tonight he was happy in the belief that life was simpler in a place like this.

A middle-aged couple walking a small terrier smiled at him and nodded as they passed.

“Hey,” he said in return.

After a busy day at court, he looked forward to a quiet night in the holiday home. He would pour a glass of wine, order some food and unpack his stuff while waiting for it to arrive. He was too tired to explore the town this evening. There would be plenty of time for that tomorrow. He intended to get acquainted with Nyemouth this weekend, checking out the shops, pubs and cafés, before exploring the wider area next week.

Matt was a keen walker and hiker. Though the path from the marina to the house was steep, he managed it with the two bags of shopping without getting even mildly out of breath. The path levelled out as he reached South Bank Terrace and the last stretch was straight. The views from up here were second-to-none, taking in the entire valley and the river mouth. Maybe he’d be able to enjoy it with a glass of wine in the front garden before darkness cut in.

There were two men on the path that ran in front of the garden wall. He heard their raised voices as he approached.

“I’ve told you a million times before that the answer is no,” one of the men said. He was dressed in running shorts and a T-shirt—younger and slimmer than the other man. Pretty hot, Matt noticed the guy with long, muscular legs and dark brown hair that swept back from his face in luxurious waves.

“You’re being unreasonable,” the second man said. His voice sounded tight, like he was speaking through gritted teeth. He was stocky and thickset, with closely cropped grey hair and a narrow face. He wore grey suit trousers and a white shirt, the sleeves rolled up and the neck open.

“You’re the one who followed me up here,” the younger man said, sounding like he was close to losing it.

“What was I supposed to do? You won’t answer your damned phone. You don’t respond to my voicemails.”

“Don’t you get it, Vince? I blocked your number. I’ve told you before—I don’t know how many times—but I’ve had enough.”

A lover’s tiff, Matt guessed, though they seemed an unlikely couple. The young guy could do so much better for himself. Not that looks were everything, but he was way out of the older man’s league. Matt gave them a wide berth as he passed, but came close enough to see just how attractive the young man was. He had large, expressive eyes, a long, straight nose and a wide mouth. He looked wholesomely handsome in his running gear, giving off cute Clark Kent vibes.

The other man, he realised, was not as old as he’d first seemed, maybe early-to-mid-thirties. His prematurely grey hair and sharp features created a false impression. Even still, the two men did not look well matched.

“Just come with me,” the older man, Vince, snarled. “Listen to what I have to say.”

“Vince, I’ve heard everything before. There’s nothing you can say now that will make any difference.”

“How do you know if you won’t give me a fucking chance?”

Matt opened the gate and carried his shopping to the front door. He would not get involved. As a lawyer, he spent his entire working life dealing with the relationship problems of other people. These were two grown men. They could sort out their own issues. He put the key in the door.

“Get off me,” the young man snapped.

Matt glanced back to see him pull his arm out of Vince’s grip, and the man immediately lunged for him again. The young man dodged the grip.

“Stop being such a prick,” Vince said, his voice much louder now.

Matt groaned. This had the potential to get out of hand. He’d witnessed this kind of behaviour so many times—not just through work and handling messy divorce proceedings, but at home. Throughout his childhood, his father had been a pig, quick to anger and keen to use his fists. Matt didn’t want to get involved, but he couldn’t ignore this either.

“Is everything okay, fellas?” he asked, turning to face them.

Vince snapped his head around in his direction. “Piss off and mind your own fucking business. Prick.”

Matt ignored him and directed his gaze at the younger guy.

The man forced a smile. “It’s fine. Really.”

Matt nodded, unconvinced, but reluctant to involve himself any further in what was clearly a domestic argument. He carried his bags inside and through to the kitchen. As he put his supplies into the cupboard and the fridge, he could still hear their raised voices.

Vince sounded like the worst type of man—the kind of inadequate dickhead who tried to compensate for his own shortcomings with bullying and aggression. Matt knew the type well, having grown up with one until the age of twelve, when his mother had finally thrown his father’s sorry arse out. And he’d represented so many women and children during divorce and child protection cases who’d been caught up in relationships with controlling men.

Although he wanted to leave them to it, Matt’s conscience wouldn’t allow him to. He went into the living room and watched them through the window, hoping their argument would die down before it got any worse.

The young man had his hands up, warding Vince off to no effect as the little man puffed himself up and tried to get in his face.

“You stupid little prick,” he heard Vince say. “You’re worthless, you know that. Nothing. You were no one when I met you and you’re no one again.”

The skin of the young man’s face and neck was flushed. “If that’s how you feel, why don’t you go? Go on, and leave me alone.”

“I can’t leave you alone,” Vince said, changing tack. “You need me, Jake. You can’t get along without me. You’re useless on your own. You can’t cope.”

The young man, Jake, turned his back and tried to walk away. Vince grabbed his arm again and hauled him around, pulling him close, then wrapped his arms around him, taking him in a bear hug.

“Let go of me,” Jake protested.

“Enough of this shit. We’re going home.” Vince tried to lift him up and carry him.

Jake struggled, twisting out of his grip. Vince raised his hand to strike him.

Matt had seen enough. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and turned on the video camera as he headed for the door. He was filming when he stepped outside, training it on the two men. They might not like it, but he was determined to have a clear record of what happened next in case he had to call the police to deal with them.

As Matt walked down the path, Vince hauled back and struck Jake, his fist connecting with the side of his face, sending the young man sprawling to the ground.

“What the hell?” Jake complained, scrabbling backwards in the dirt, shuffling on his butt to escape his attacker.

“Stop pissing about and get the fuck home,” Vince jeered. “I’ve had enough of this fucking around. Do what I tell you to for once.”

Matt’s own anger mounted. Now that things had turned violent, he couldn’t let it continue. “Pack it in,” he shouted, coming to the end of the garden path.

Vince twisted in his direction. Matt saw the uncontrolled emotions flicker across his face—surprise, confusion, anger, then the aggression was back. He bared his teeth like a feral dog. “I’ve told you once already. Piss off and mind your own business.”

“I was prepared to do just that,” Matt said, keeping his voice calm and even, like a headmaster addressing a petulant teenager. “But when you throw your fists about, I can’t let that go. And, yes, I got that punch you just threw on camera, in case you’re wondering. It’s something I’m sure the police will be interested to see.”

Vince’s focus flickered between Matt and Jake. The bastard was no longer so sure of himself.

“This is a private matter. Nothing to do with you or the cops.” He puffed out his chest as he spoke, trying to assert his manhood.

“Again,” Matt said, amazed by his own composure, “that was the case until you started punching in the street. Now, it’s very much a matter for the police. Why don’t I call them and see what they think about it?”

“You fucking busybody… You should stop twitching your curtains and getting involved in things that have nothing to do with you.”

Matt kept the camera trained on him. “You’re not very bright, are you, Vince? For the third time, you made it my business. Now, are you going to take yourself off down that hill, or do I have to call the police to do it?”

Vince strutted towards the garden gate. “Why don’t you try to make me? Show me if you’re man enough to take me on.” He clenched his fists.

Matt wouldn’t fight him, but there was a good chance Vince would take a swing at him, regardless. “We have different ideas of what makes a man,” he said. “Violence won’t get you anything other than jail time, Vince. Even if Jake there doesn’t want to press charges against you, my testimony and video evidence will be enough to charge you and get you in front of the local magistrates on Monday. Is that the way you want this to go? To spend the weekend in a police cell? Or would you rather leave before you make it any worse?”

Stalemate. They glowered at each other across the fence. Bigger and more menacing men than Vince had tried to intimidate Matt, and he had not backed down. He wasn’t about to cave under the glare of this prize arsehole.

Vince’s face twisted in an ugly expression before he spat at the ground. He stepped away, turning his back on Matt. “Are you coming?” he demanded of Jake, who had risen to his feet and stood brushing the dust off his shorts. Matt noticed a smear of blood on the younger man’s face.

Jake shook his head. “Just go—and leave me alone. I don’t want to see you again.”

Vince loitered, his fists still clenched, his arms trembling.

There’s so much anger simmering under his lid that he looks like he’s about to explode.

“I think the message is clear,” Matt said. “Why don’t you do everyone a favour and leave?”

“Fuck you,” he said at last, his voice low and contemptuous. And as a parting shot to Matt, “Cunt.”

He strutted down the road, his shoulders back, knees wide, trying to look like a big man.

Matt, realising he’d been holding his breath, exhaled.

This was not the quiet evening he’d intended for the first night of his holiday.

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About the Author

Thom Collins

Thom Collins is the author of Closer by Morning, with Pride Publishing. His love of page turning thrillers began at an early age when his mother caught him reading the latest Jackie Collins book and promptly confiscated it, sparking a life-long love of raunchy novels.

Thom has lived in the North East of England his whole life. He grew up in Northumberland and now lives in County Durham with his husband and two cats. He loves all kinds of genre fiction, especially bonkbusters, thrillers, romance and horror. He is also a cookery book addict with far too many titles cluttering his shelves. When not writing he can be found in the kitchen trying out new recipes. He’s a keen traveler but with a fear of flying that gets worse with age, but since taking his first cruise in 2013 he realized that sailing is the way to go.

You can take a look at Thom’s Blog and follow him on Twitter.

Giveaway

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Dragon’s Egg by Lena Austin #gay #urbanfantasy #romance @Lena_Austin

Puff the Magic Dragon lived by the sea

Ever wondered what happens when Jackie grows up?

Jack Draper’s an orphan, with what he’s always thought of as a very active imagination — until he discovers the dragon from his childhood memories is real. Worse, he’s the son of the usurper king of Honalee and the Red Sorceress — which means Jack is a wizard himself! Now Jack has to go to wizard school…

Could life get more confusing than being a modern day gay man who suddenly becomes a wizard/dragonrider — and heir to the throne his father didn’t earn? In a word — Yes.

Publisher’s Note: Dragon’s Egg (Box Set) contains the previously published novellas Dragon’s Egg, Dragon’s Stone, and Dragon’s Quest.

Get the Paperback at Amazon

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Lena Austin
Excerpt from 
Dragon’s Egg

Jack stood. He wanted Puff as much as the dragon wanted him, insanely enough. He cast about for a way to put Puff at ease. “The tea is undoubtedly ready. Are you warm enough?”

Puff raised a sardonic eyebrow, and his voice was heavy with irony. “Yes, I believe I am, if you refer to my body temperature.” He squared his shoulders. “Yes, tea would be lovely.”

Jack reached for the steaming kettle, but Puff batted his hand away. “You can’t take the heat. Allow me.”

Jack appreciated the double entendres flying back and forth between them. “I can so take the heat, but I’ll allow you the privilege of being in charge, at least this time.”

His drawled words had the desired effect. Puff shot him an unfocused look, and turned back to lift the hot kettle with his bare hands. He poured the tea into the cups with studious care. “So you say.”

Jack picked up his cup and matched the dragon’s ironic smile. “Indeed I do.” He limped with deliberate steps to the dragon’s stone pedestal and sat on the edge. He knew he now sat on Puff’s bed wearing nothing but a pair of pants. He hoped the silent invitation was clear.

Puff gave Jack an opaque look. The only sound was the faint rush of the sea, the tinkle of the waterfall in the basin, and the hum between them that was purely mental. Puff’s eyes narrowed. “Stop teasing, Jackie. It’s not nice.”

Knowing Puff could not possibly see facial expressions over the dimly lit distance between them, Jack snorted. “You seem to think I am. I’m not. Are you going to take me up on the invitation, or will you force me to be crude and blunt?”

One elegant silver and black eyebrow lifted toward Puff’s hairline. “Yes. I want you to be crude and blunt. Tell me what you want, Jackie.”

Jack sighed, making it deliberately loud. “Very well. One, could you manage to call me Jack? I’ve not been called Jackie since I left.”

Puff sipped his tea. “I think I can manage that. Now that you’re a fully grown man, can you manage my real name of Aneurin?”

Jack choked back laughter. “I can indeed, Aneurin. It fits you better, to call you the Welsh name for gold. Your golden eyes haunted my dreams for many a night.”

The dragon put the cup down with deliberate care. “You’ve been dreaming of me?”

Jack took a sip of his tea, slurping deliberately. “Yes. Dreams of you and I making love, right here on this great bloody bed of yours.”

Puff-Aneurin stared at the floor. “And you don’t mind this dream?”

“At first, I minded. Only in that I didn’t think it was right to be making love with a character from a children’s song.”

Puff chuckled. “Should have never gone to the pub and had a few pints. Told some idiot songster while I was in my cups, but retained enough sense to make it a tale.” He shrugged. “Didn’t expect the song to cross the pond.”

“Puff, er, Aneurin… sorry. That song was sung in the 1960’s before I was born.” It had always bugged him that the song was older than he by nearly a decade.

“Oh. That. I went back in time to find some good ale, not that watered down piss they sell these days. I’ve heard in America they sell it cold, much to my horror.” Aneurin grinned at his dig on Jack’s adopted home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”

Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?

Release Blitz: Promising Love by Sara Ohlin #eroticromance @firstforromance @totally_bound

Promising Love by Sara Ohlin

Book 3 in the Rescue Me series

Word Count: 73,343
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 279

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

When a glamorous spa owner seduces the grumpy neighborhood bartender, passion smolders…

Ruby Naylor, confident, successful proprietor of Spa La La, has been crushing on Lachlan MacGregory for ages and finally throws herself at the grumpy bartender as he’s helping her tipsy butt home to her apartment above his pub.

Ruby is the only woman Lachlan has ever loved—from afar. When she makes a pass, he finally admits he’s wanted her for a long time. He leaves her that night with three promises—a kiss, a special connection between them and an epic tomorrow.

Unfortunately, when tomorrow arrives and Lachlan is smacked with the knowledge that she’s already in a relationship with two men, he feels he has nothing to offer her.

His day gets worse when his addict father is on his doorstep again, demanding money. The thought that he could end up sick and miserable like his father eats at Lachlan, making him focus on what has never let him down, his successful pub in the burgeoning Corvallis neighborhood.

Learning that Ruby is not taken, Lachlan finally goes all out to win her back. With his heartfelt apology, it’s easy for Ruby to forgive him—she believes in joy, in romance, in happy ever after. What she never expected was how vulnerable Lachlan could make her feel.

Can their love withstand life-shattering events to lead them into a beautiful future?

Reader advisory: This book contains mention of a parent suffering from addiction and some violence.

Excerpt

“Lachlan MacGregory, are you ever going to kiss me?” Ruby whispered. Leaving the key in the lock, she turned so they fit flush together, front to front. What’s a successful, sexy woman supposed to do anyway?

She’d been waiting for an eternity, it seemed, for Lachlan MacGregory to make a move, or accept her move. Okay, so it had only been a year and a half, but everyone knew time could be its own demon or goddess when love was concerned. Either way there was magic involved when sashaying around her feelings for Lachlan. It definitely felt more demon than goddess-inspired to her. Time she’d spent watching him casually date other women, while she herself had occasionally casually dated other men. They’d circled each other. And yet the forces had never aligned in their favor. Either that or neither one of them had been brave enough to step up.

Until now. Now she was going to ask for what she’d dreamed of. “I want you to kiss me.”

Aside from the deep burn in his gorgeous eyes, Lachlan’s face was stone and his entire body was rock-hard. Large and sexy, but most definitely a fortress at the moment. Or most moments, she’d found, during all the months she’d been drooling over him. She almost spun away from the freeze.

Maybe he’s not interested? It didn’t seem so, standing this close to him—even though he held himself like granite, his eyes gave him away. Using that courage, she searched into those golden-brown depths of his. Swirling pools of secrets or desire, or maybe both. They had a mind of their own and she’d caught him many a time sneaking glances her way. There were a few occasions when she’d almost made him laugh, and she’d taken them as wins. Stoic statue of a man. Does he even know how to laugh?

She hadn’t actually ever gotten a laugh from him, but she had gotten a different, more subtle and—in her mind—no less cute reaction. His mouth sometimes quirked up on one side while his left eyebrow did this little curve as if to say, “Give it your best, woman. You can’t break me. But it’s damn amusing to watch.” The man tried so hard not to show emotion, not to ask her out, not to kiss her. So, right this perfect minute when he was walking her upstairs to her apartment above his pub, when neither one of them was dating someone else, when the tango had put them smack-dab together, she’d decided to take matters into her own hands, and words and mouth. That’s what a confident woman does.

Or was it the hot-and-bothered woman in her? Because his body was so supremely close to hers, whisking all rational thought away from her. She’d tried flirting with him, and she’d tried ignoring him. It was time to ask for what she wanted, and hope, hope he felt the same. She leaned against him. He was a wall propping her up by her apartment door. She couldn’t take it one second longer. Pressing closer, she reached up and placed her hands on his shoulders. His hands immediately went to her waist. Oh, the warmth.

“You’re drunk,” Lachlan said. He looked down at his hands on her almost as if he couldn’t believe how they’d gotten there. One twitched and he gripped her, steadying her or himself—she wasn’t sure. But he didn’t pull away. When he began to move his thumb on her waist, searching little circles, exploring the tiniest bit of her, he watched, lost in her. Goody, goody, goody!

Lachlan’s fingers seared a brand on Ruby’s skin and almost took her legs out from under her. Nothing casual about our connection at all. She’d known it. And maybe that gave her the power to push her luck.

“Not drunk.” She pouted and got to see that almost-smile with the eyebrow betraying his attempt to remain stoic. Okay, maybe a teeny bit drunk, which did not dull the fact that she desired him.

“The gin and tonics were flowing to your table tonight, Ruby. And you ladies came in tipsy. I know Ellie wasn’t drinking them.”

This time there was no subtle eyebrow-lift, but both eyes—sparkly brown orbs that seemed to have a novel written in them, and boy she longed to read that story—lifted, his tone and his expression reprimanding. His voice was deeper. Perhaps because his eyes were both serious and searching, that reprimand went straight to her core. I wonder if he’d reprimand me in the bedroom?

She smiled, a full-on smile, because she, Ruby Naylor, had no problems showing her emotions, and leaned into his powerful muscles. “No, it wasn’t Ellie, although the ginger seltzer concoctions you made specially for her with the cute umbrella-cherry garnish were a huge hit and calmed her stomach. You thoughtful, thoughtful man.” Ruby gave his shoulders a gentle squeeze. My God, the man even has sexy shoulders, powerful, firm. She’d love to get her hands all over him, massage all his muscles, investigate each and every one.

“Besides, I’m tipsy from talking about love, dear man. I only had a few of your spectacular drinks. Ellie sipped her ginger drink while swooning over her life with Jackson and the new baby coming, and Natalie drinks like a sailor. But I’m not asking you to kiss Ellie or Nat, Lachlan MacGregory. I’m asking you to kiss me. Don’t you like me? It’s hard to tell some days,” Ruby purred. She was not above using all the tactics in her arsenal to seduce him. The man was a vault and she aimed to crash through, so he’d never know what hit him. Watching and waiting on the sidelines had gotten her nowhere, except a lot of great dreams. Now, Ruby sought the reality.

He’d offered to help her drunk butt upstairs, and even though she could have made it to her apartment above his bar perfectly fine, she wasn’t stupid. And whoosh, did it feel good to be so close to him. Finally. She was tipsy. Tipsy on Lachlan contact. It was a real thing, she could say, now that he was touching her.

His one hand clenched and unclenched at her side, then he slid it around to her back bringing them into a nice snug fit. What is happening? Maybe I am dreaming? His other one braced against the door behind her, almost as if he needed to balance himself, to hold on. And, holy smokes, he was looking at her now. Looking was too calm a word. His eyes had woken from their stoic slumber and were piercing and hot. And to have Lachlan MacGregory holding her, finally giving her the full direct force of his gaze? Oh, she could melt into a puddle. It was all too powerful.

“I like you.” His voice was deep and quiet, with a sharpened edge to it.

“I like you, too.” She watched those eyes of his, a page flipped over, or perhaps opened to her. “I’ve liked you for so long.” He blinked. But he didn’t focus on her eyes—he concentrated on her lips. A battle waged in his expression. To stay through the storm or run away to safety…which would he choose?

“Please,” she whispered. Please don’t run.

He tightened his grip on her, his fingers molding her through her jeans. “When I kiss you, I want you to remember it in the morning,” he rasped out. He was standing up taller now, all traces of casual disappeared into the night. He was intent.

Yay! He does want to kiss me! Ruby almost jumped up and down in cheers, but she settled for putting her hand on his cheek, unprepared for the sigh that wove through his body at her touch, how it sang through her nerves, but also gave her joy and strength. “I promise, Lachlan. I’ll remember. Will you?”

“Yes, beautiful, I’ll remember,” Lachlan said. He lifted her gently against the door and ghosted his lips over hers, sending shivers through her as he moved those amazing lips of his over her cheek and down her neck. Ruby’s head fell against the door, while the rest of her body tried so hard to stay molded to his. He stopped right beneath her ear. “I’ll remember how soft your skin is right here.”

Oh, my! It was a good thing that he held her up or she might have blown away from lack of oxygen. The man hadn’t even kissed her yet, and he’d stolen the breath from within her. And she could shoot herself for wearing a coat and her blouse tucked in when she craved the man’s hands all over her bare skin, not just the tiny patch where he’d snaked his fingers underneath the fabric to reach her waist. Although it might cause her to combust. She welcomed that combustion.

“I’ll remember how you smell, that fucking sexy, musky perfume you command.”

Huh. I was wrong, I am drunk. The man has skills. Command? Does he realize he’s going to brand me with his words?

Keeping her close, Lachlan took one hand away to unlock her door and walked her through the opening. Ruby had had no idea such intense concentration could be so fucking sexy. Lachlan’s heady gaze on hers, while walking them to her kitchen island, without a sound, added to the feeling that she was floating. A whimper escaped her mouth and she gripped his arms to hold on. This was not the time to close her eyes—this was her chance, warm in his embrace, to see his beauty up close. A man on a mission. And his mission was her. No distractions allowed. The power of that type of gaze mixed with his words went right to her head and her heart and other parts of her body. All those other parts that wanted his skin, his lips on her.

“The way you feel in my arms, Christ, Ruby, you have no idea.”

I do! I so do. I feel it too.

Now he’d kiss her. Yes, please! Lachlan lifted her onto her counter and, keeping his hands braced on her hips, held himself at the tiniest bit of distance. She had been waiting for forever for this. She’d beg. I wonder what other talents he keeps close to his belt? She reached to pull him closer.

“Ruby.” He’d nearly lost his voice, raw, edgy need feeding out of him with one word. My name. Jesus, he was going to undo her.

“Promise?” he asked. No, he was going to break her heart open with one request. If she was this turned on and whimpering with the touch of his lips soft on her neck, whispering gorgeous words to her, his kiss would probably brand her. Stake your claim, Lachlan. I’m here waiting for you.

She nodded. “I won’t forget. I promise, Lachlan.”

He gave it to her then, not the kiss she was desperate for, but the smile, his true smile. It changed his face from broody stone to brilliant, handsome man one hundred percent zeroed in on her. His eyes caught the fire and a shade lifted from those dark mysteries, like he’d been searching for light and he’d discovered it in her, finally. Holy cow!

And he strode from her apartment with one final announcement. “Goodnight then.”

What? Wait! What the heck is happening? “Goodnight?” She slid down from the counter and tried to anchor her feet on the floor because her legs were wobbly noodles and her heart was trying to beat out of her chest. Lust raced through her blood and she gripped the countertop for support.

He paused in the doorway, his hands on the frame, facing away from her, gathering himself.

No! Don’t gather your wits—come here. Throw your wits out of the window with mine.

And when he faced her, he blew her world into a million pieces of stardust. “I’m going to kiss you all night, kiss you into the morning, make you remember every single caress I place on your skin because I’ve imagined kissing you since the day you filled out the lease and teased me about lacking any sort of smile. When I nearly fell over at your beauty, the shimmer in your gorgeous eyes, that glow you spread out to everyone in your path. You have no idea.” Lachlan shook his head, lost in his thoughts. Or a memory? “I’ve wanted to kiss you since…since you altered my world.”

“Lachlan,” she whispered and took a shaky step toward him. Her body pulled her to his. They were connected now and the path to him was the only one for her. It was the feeling she’d had when she first met him too, and it had only grown stronger over the months. His words validated her romantic heart that existed in a world with so many people who didn’t believe, who walked their gray path and were fine with mediocrity.

He held up his hand to stop her. “Now that I know we’re here in the same space.” He made a circle in the air with his hands. “Now that I get to taste you, there’s no way I’m going to rush it. I’m going to savor every damn second.”

The man knew how to seduce, wielding anticipation like a gift, not a weapon. But she enjoyed rushing too. She loved rushing. Rush me into bed with your kisses now, you wonderful man, you!

“See you tomorrow,” he said. Then the handsome, frustrating-as-hell man smiled and strode out, closing the door behind him.

Lost in the laser hit of that smile for a minute, Ruby swayed on her feet as if she were truly drunk. Then his words filtered through her loopy state, wove themselves into her heart and set her on fire. “Oh, my beautiful goodness!”

Well, she hadn’t gotten a kiss. Any other man, any other spectacular moment and she might be pouting. Instead, her world had been spun in gold. She gently pressed her fingertips to her heart to feel the flip-flops it was doing. Drop-dead gorgeous, kind, sexy Lachlan MacGregory had zapped lightning through her with merely the promise of a kiss. Yet so much more than a kiss—he had noticed her. He did want her. Ruby held tight to the special moment, closed her eyes and cherished the luminous glow bursting in her dreams, in her heart at the promise tomorrow would bring.

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About the Author

Sara Ohlin

Sara Ohlin has lived all over the United States, but her heart keeps getting pulled back to the Pacific Northwest where it belongs. For years she has been writing creative non-fiction and memoir and feels that writing helps her make sense of this crazy world. She devours books and can often be found shushing her two hilarious kids so that she can finish reading. When she isn’t reading or writing, she’ll most likely be in the kitchen cooking up something scrumptious, a French macaron, shrimp scampi, a fun date-night-in dinner with her sexy husband, or perhaps her next love story.

You can follow Sara on Instagram and Pinterest and check out her website here.

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