New Release Blitz: Drowning in Danger by BL Jones (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Drowning in Danger

Series: Liquid Onyx, Book Three

Author: BL Jones

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/26/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 112100

Genre: Urban Fantasy, family-drama, urban fantasy, superheroes, magic/magic users, organised crime, tearjerker

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Sixteen years ago, Alex Nova defied the impossible and shook the world to its core. He made children into superhumans and, in doing so, made a villain out of himself.

At age twenty, Rex Nova took the consequences of his father’s actions and used them to make himself into a superhero, so he could protect the world his father almost broke.

Unknown to him, however, are the secrets buried in his genetics. Hidden truths soaked in tainted blood.

Like his father before him, the choices Rex makes when his back is up against the wall will force him to confront things about who he really is, and what he’s willing to become to protect the people he loves.

This time, the consequences will be of his own wreaking, and the fallout will threaten everything he cares about.


Drowning in Danger
BK Jones © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Obsidian Blood


If I was ever going to waver in my conviction, the sight before me now is a harsh reminder of why I must commit the necessary evils of my mission.

“How old is this one?” Ian Stone, head director of Obsidian Inc., asks me.

We stand, side by side, in front of a one-way mirror that spreads from one end of the wall to the other. In the room beyond this window is a girl, well, a woman I suppose. The young woman is currently strapped to a bed: metal straps, chains, and cuffs, all titanium to hold her in place. Anything less and she might just be able to escape.

They’re always stronger near the end.

Her name is Katya Markov. She was born in Russia but moved to Canada when she was three years old to live with her aunt and uncle, after her parents were killed in a car accident. Before she was injected with Liquid Onyx, she was a quiet girl who loved rabbits, the colour green, and vanilla cake icing.

After she was injected, Katya gained the ability to move objects with her mind. Obsidian Inc. taught her how to use that power to inflict pain, to commit murder on their behalf.

Katya Markov became Agent Katya, a weapon with human skin stapled around it.

Katya was a little girl who hated the figure skating lessons her aunt made her attend, who preferred the ice hockey club her uncle took her to. Katya, the girl, liked swimming in the ocean and wanted to be a “penguin vet” when she grew up.

Agent Katya is a killer, a woman without a moral compass, who was torn away from everything that could have made her something close to human.

But none of those things are what Stone asked me.

“She’s twenty-three,” I say, careful to keep my voice measured and dispassionate.

Even after all these years, I’m wary of showing any form of emotional instability in front of this man. Ian Stone will never care how long someone has been with Obsidian Inc. His idea of loyalty is eternal servitude without error or complaint. There is no end, no final goal, just a continuous struggle to prove oneself of use, or… Well. Not.

“It seems the younger they turn, the quicker they spiral,” Stone muses, his entire demeanour as aloof as it always is. I don’t think I’ve seen more than two expressions on his face. Impassive. And outright fury. There seems to be no middle ground. Either you’re dismissed as unimportant and replaceable, or you’re noticed for all the wrong reasons.

“Perhaps,” I say, non-committal, half sure his statement wasn’t meant to draw much of a response from me.

If I was allowed to speak freely, I might tell him it’s more than likely that the Liquid Onyx OI agents are becoming mentally unstable at a faster and faster rate because of the conditions they’re being kept in.

The Liquid Onyx survivors OI have raised and trained are little better than dogs used in backroom fights. Highly skilled, for sure, but still barely more than rabid underneath the surface. Scratch at that brittle exterior of apparent detachment, and you’re likely to get severely bitten.

A lot of the OI agents and guards believe the Liquid Onyx survivors under OI’s control are broken creatures. Monsters on a leash. Pets with chokers around their throats they can yank on at any time.

I’ve seen different. No one who met Katya before, and truly saw her for who and what she is, could think her an unfeeling creature.

I see what I see. Girl. Child. Dangerous. Woman. Adult. Even more dangerous.

They all see what they want to see. Agent. Killer. Animal.

Less of a who and more of a what.

It’s no wonder that Katya has been reduced to this. Writhing around on a bed, alone in a cold, metal room, strapped down with cold, metal restraints, imprisoned in a cold, metal OI facility. Everything about her life is cold and metal and wrong.

She never should have had a life so barren of warmth and light and hope. No one should be treated with this level of inhumanity. It makes me feel sick to see it, to see the result of what my actions have caused.

I did this to her. We did. We created Liquid Onyx, and in doing so, we destroyed the life of a little girl with straw-blonde hair and two crooked front teeth and dreams of healing penguins.

We did this, Alex and me. We are the source of all this pain.

I will never forgive either of us for it.

She starts screaming again. It sounds muffled through the window. Muffled, but no less chilling for that fact.

Katya’s hands start to spasm in their restraints and there’s the sound of metal straining. A moment later her screams become far more wretched, rising to a pitch I wouldn’t have thought attainable, then petering off into fractured cries. Similar to those of an injured animal. Pitiful and grinding.

I hate to hear that sound coming out of a human being’s mouth. I don’t need to guess at the change in tone to Katya’s shouts of distress.

All the restraints seem gratuitous to me. She already has a chip embedded at the top of her spine that can be activated, as it was just now, to send an electrical shock through her body, meant to paralyse.

I’ve seen it used for other purposes. Reprimands. Torture. Even execution, in extreme circumstances.

All the Liquid Onyx OI agents are fitted with chips. It tracks them, as well as making sure they never go too far. They know what will happen to them once they’re found, and they know they will always be found.

We, everyone who works for OI, knows that. There is nowhere to hide from Obsidian Inc., not for long, anyway.

It’s why I’ve never entertained the idea of running away from them. I couldn’t risk them getting hold of me and Andy, and selfishly, I couldn’t imagine a life without my daughter.

Katya’s face is creased in anguish and fear and rage. It should be impossible for someone to feel so many powerful things at once, but I can see all that in Katya’s pale eyes. I think I see the thin veins of black creeping across her whites like the roots of a tree spreading through the underground.

“Do you believe she could be salvageable for one last mission?” Stone asks me, this time clearly expecting an answer.

I wish I could hate him. Kick and spit on him in indignant rage over what he has done, over who and what he is.

But I can’t. I can’t do those things, think those things, feel those things, because the truth is, I’m a far worse monster than he is a man.

“No.” I glance at him, keeping my expression neutral. “I’ve examined her. She’s too far gone. You know once it gets to this stage, it’s just a matter of waiting for her body to shut down, one organ at a time.”

Stone makes a low humming sound, neither agreement nor refusal to accept the reality we are faced with.

“I was hoping to get another year out of her,” he ruminates after a significant pause. “The ones before didn’t start losing their tactical ability in the field until they were at least twenty-four.” His observation suggests disappointment, but his tone does not.

Ian Stone is a practical man who has practical thoughts and believes in practical solutions.

I know he will order Katya Markov’s termination today. If he cannot use her, then he will not drain resources and risk further problems by keeping her alive.

In truth, it doesn’t matter as much as it should.

None of the Liquid Onyx survivors have made it to twenty-five mentally intact.

None of the Liquid Onyx survivors have made it to twenty-six alive.

And, whether I succeed in my mission or not, none of them ever will. Of that, I am certain.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

BL Jones is a twentysomething British author who spends all her free time reading and writing and taming her three much younger brothers. She works as a BSL interpreter in Bristol and lives with a temperamental bunny named Pepsi. She’s been writing stories since she was five, rarely sharing them with anyone except her numerous stuffed animals. BL has had a difficult journey into discovering and accepting her own queerness, and therefore believes that positive, honest, and authentic stories about queer people are very important. She hopes to contribute her own stories for people to have fun with and enjoy.

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New Release Blitz: The Lost Child by Thomas Grant Bruso (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Lost Child

Author: Thomas Grant Bruso

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/26/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male

Length: 76700

Genre: Contemporary Thriller, Lit/genre, crime/thriller, paranormal, horror, bisexual, child abduction, reporter, deceased child, hallucinations, Halloween

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Newspaper reporter Luke Sorenson has recently moved to a new town in upstate New York. Despite the change in scenery, Luke cannot run away from a brutal, harrowing past driven by the death of his only child, Emily.

Soon, Luke is propelled into a dangerous case of child abduction, an eerie reminder of losing his daughter. An eight-year-old boy named Daniel Hadley is kidnapped from his own bedroom and it is Luke, battling his own demons, who is assigned the story of the year.

As pieces of Luke’s mysterious, violent past are revealed, so are the sinister secrets to his daughter’s demise, sending Luke into a tailspin of heavy drinking and self-torment.

The search for Daniel is on, but it may be too late for everyone involved.


The Lost Child
Thomas Grant Bruso © 2023
All Rights Reserved

He watches her. She is alone.

She is six, maybe seven years old. She is having a picnic in the front yard with her dolls.

The girl’s hair is the color of spun honey. Her eyes, dark brown, innocent, come alive when he hears her talking to one of her plastic dolls.

Her voice is lively, soft, and gentle.

She laughs as the man shifts his footing in the shadowy woods across from her house. A small branch snaps underfoot, the sound of his weight on the thick twig imploding like fireworks.

She looks up from grooming her doll’s hair and stares in his direction. The man creeps behind a leafy spruce tree to hide.

Two vehicles pass along the quiet suburban street. The man stares around the massive tree, watching the young girl.

The sound of her humming to her dolls makes him smile. A splinter of electricity vibrates through his rangy limbs. Something mechanical surges through his veins and up and down his body to his scraggly face.

Trembling, he reaches a gnarled hand out against the thick bark of the tree to balance himself. His head is dizzy. His legs are unsteady.

He knows this feeling. It is familiar, like the blade of a knife skimming the surface of young flesh. Then he hears the sound of scared children panting and crying in the back of his head. He sees their frightened eyes, pleading for their parents, and he smiles.

He slips back into the brush behind the birch tree.

Watching. Waiting.

A dog walker passes two feet away. He skulks back into the coiling shadows so they won’t see him.

He wipes sweat from his neck with the back of his hand.

The man’s identity is almost discovered when the sizeable black lab points its nose toward the dense foliage. The owner tugs on the dog’s leash lightly and starts down the street, around the corner; now, they are out of sight.

The man waits for a second or two until he’s sure they’re gone. He hugs the tree limb and cocks an ear to the sound of the young girl’s mother yelling at her from the brightly lit porch.

“It’s getting dark, Susie. Come inside.”


Sweet little Susie, the cigar-smoking man muses.

Curly-haired Susie. Doll-grooming Susie.

When the time is right, he will be back.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Thomas Grant Bruso knew at an early age he wanted to be a writer. He has been a voracious reader of genre fiction since he was a kid.

His literary inspirations are Dean Koontz, Stephen King, Ellen Hart, Jim Grimsley, Karin Fossum, Sam J. Miller, Joyce Carol Oates, and John Connolly.

Bruso loves animals, book-reading, writing fiction, prefers Sudoku to crossword puzzles.

In another life, he was a freelance writer and wrote for magazines and newspapers. In college, he was a winner for the Hermon H. Doh Sonnet Competition. Now, he writes book reviews for his hometown newspaper, The Press Republican.

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New Release Blitz: The Flying Mermaid by Eule Grey (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Flying Mermaid

Series: The Volcano Chronicles, Book 1.5

Author: Eule Grey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/19/2023

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 20000

Genre: Fantasy, mystical, sea lore, coming of age, artists, action/adventure, great escape, air balloon, wartime, refugees, oppression, tyranny, racism, family drama, female friendship, beloved pet

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“Craw city has always been magical, at least to Luce. No boring war could ever make her love her seaside home any less. There’s the beach, where she and Adu can mess around and cause trouble, as well as the ancient songs they love to sing. Legends state that a vengeful mermaid named Sea Mother will protect the children from war. Why worry about politics and fighting? Nobody would risk the wrath of an angry sea serpent. Would they?

So why are groups of people fleeing the city, and why do Luce’s parents disappear every day to partake in mystery war work? What exactly are they doing, and why doesn’t Luce’s artist mother invite her along?

One day, Luce spies something that rocks her beliefs and changes everything. Her faith in the sea, and all she holds dear, will be sorely tested. But love is fierce, and so are sea goddesses.

This YA novella can be read as part of The Volcano Chronicles or as a stand-alone.”


The Flying Mermaid
Eule Grey © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Dear Craw Advisory Board,

I’ll keep the introduction and credentials brief. My name is Luce. I’m the daughter of Arker Fi, the mermaid artist. I was born in central Craw and fled ten years ago, on the day the bomb exploded. I haven’t returned. How could we, when the city’s frozen in time by Sea Mother’s curse?

I’m sure you know our history as well as I. No rivers or waterfalls will flow into Craw. Not a drop. Crops and plants don’t flourish. Houses collapse. They say soldiers guard the gates, and the streets are riddled with diseases… That’s all we know.

In my opinion, the curse is fair and just. Sea Mother warned you what would happen, but you didn’t listen.

Why am I writing? Be patient, and I’ll get to it. You might say a buzzing little bee is to blame. It sped through Mainland carrying a precious message. That gift was passed from person to person, and one day, it landed at my door.

Maybe you’ve also heard the rumour? Craw is recovering. I can hardly write without jumping up and down. Recovering, I tell you!

I didn’t believe it at first, and neither did Ma. It was too wide a leap. We did what Crawians always do in times of trouble—turned to the sea for answers.

“What do you think, fish?”

There was no reply.

“Seals? Have you heard anything?”

It seems they hadn’t. But the Fi family are rather stubborn and don’t give up easily. Towards dusk, something blew in with the scuttling turtles. Ma heard it first, and then I did. It was the essence of a whisper; a promise from far away.

Sea Mother, she shall rise.

The rebirth of Craw? She’s inviting us home? I’m not ashamed to say I cried. My city that fits like skin. I want it so much, so much. Home. Home. How difficult to write that word which wiggles and squirms like a bag of snakes. It’ll never be still.

So anyway, advisors, I’ll get to the purpose of this letter. It’s about your precious advisory board. Who’re the members? Leaders who fled, is it? Rich folk who donated money to weaponry manufacturers?

Shame on you. How dare you! What gives you the right to represent Craw without inviting—begging—Arker Fi to advise you? I’m sure I don’t need to list my mother’s achievements, but I will do, all the same.

Have you seen the mermaid statues that line the streets? And the town square that’s protected by a hundred stone women, each with more majesty and dignity than you can imagine? My mother made those, as well as thousands of mermaid dolls. When the lights of Craw dimmed, what do you think those kids reached for? Your guess is correct—Ma’s mermaids.

The last mayor declared Arker Fi a forever guardian of Craw. In recognition of her work in schools and around the city. Because of her visionary art. No filthy war can delete such honour. A board of self-appointed advisors can’t pretend it didn’t happen. You know I’m right, cheapskate though you may be.

I ask you this: Can a city be born without foundations? Can there be birth without a mother? You know the answer as well as I.

I’m moving too fast. Sorry. At least we both know where we stand.

Consider this letter an application for a role on your advisory board on behalf of my mother. I won’t apologise for my boldness or beg for our rights. I never was much good with manners.

My account is a diary. It tells of the most powerful love—that of a thirteen-year-old girl. That was ten years ago. I’m twenty-three now, so I should know. If you don’t like it, you can shove potatoes up your nose.

Oh, but we climbed inside the heart of a mermaid. The very heart, I tell you. It was colder than ice and as tough as a clam shell. I didn’t think we’d survive. But then, nothing worth having is easy. You already know this. Afterwards, we were changed. The parts of us that were already strong grew as tough as mermaid pearls. The other parts? We don’t talk about those.

This is my story.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Eule Grey has settled, for now, in the north UK. She’s worked in education, justice, youth work, and even tried her hand at butter-spreading in a sandwich factory. Sadly, she wasn’t much good at any of them!

She writes novels, novellas, poetry, and a messy combination of all three. Nothing about Eule is tidy but she rocks a boogie on a Saturday night!

For now, Eule is she/her or they/them. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter


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New Release Blitz: Ministry of Alien Relations by Rebecca Cohen (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Ministry of Alien Relations

Series: Devlin Taylor, Earth Ambassador, Book One

Author: Rebecca Cohen

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/12/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69800

Genre: Science Fiction, romance, explicit sex, tentacle/tail sex, aliens, interspecies, office worker, scientist, ambassador, space travel

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Devlin Taylor is Head of Settlement and Relocation for the British Government’s Ministry of Alien Relations. He’s more used to helping recently arrived aliens find new homes and pay their utility bills than babysitting extraterrestrial socialites, but he’s been assigned to look after Zal Catenmir, son of the Chroalian ambassador, during their diplomatic visit to Earth.

Devlin is the perfect host and tour guide, and Zal loves the fuzziness of human males, while Devlin can’t seem to get enough of Zal’s scales and tail. But with only two weeks together before Zal leaves, they need to make the most of their time.

Zal was just out for a bit of fun, trying to relive his wilder youth after a break-up, but Devlin is wonderful and they both wish they could find a way to stay together. The Earth Ambassador Programme is under development, but it doesn’t look likely Devlin will get the job, and the lovers may need to say their goodbyes forever.


Ministry of Alien Relations
Rebecca Cohen © 2023
All Rights Reserved

In Devlin Taylor’s opinion, the humble gingernut biscuit was underrated in its ability to restore peace and order to the busy offices of the Ministry. Devlin picked up the last of the sweet miracle workers from the biscuit tin and dunked it into his tea, slopping liquid over the edge of his mug and across the words Keep Calm and Remember Your Th’lian. He clutched the mug tightly. As the sole survivor of the batch created to mark the Th’lian delegation’s successful visit to Earth three summers ago, Devlin had to guard it possessively against potential kidnapping attempts from the office administrator, Marjorie, and her nefarious army of devious interns.

He ate the biscuit whole and moaned happily, enjoying the small respite from the chaos waiting for him. He sighed and picked a manila wallet from the top of the pile on his desk and opened it. Devlin scoffed at the idea of a paperless office. In his experience, the Ministry still wanted most things in dead tree format, but now he had to make electronic copies in addition, in the vain hope the computer system wouldn’t lose them. It was typical of the bureaucracy that came with working for the British Government’s Civil Service and strangely comforting most days.

When he’d been recruited by the Ministry straight out of Oxford, his naivety made him think he’d relish seeing excitement and danger. He’d spent evenings in high-end bars, sipping cocktails with beautiful people, had been on wild chases across continents, and survived encounters with some truly frightening individuals. But truth be known, he was far happier now, sorting out housing and mundane day-to-day issues for those that ended up directed to his department, far from home and needing guidance.

“Oh, you’ve had the last gingernut.”

Devlin looked up to see Marjorie staring into the empty biscuit tin. Her bad perm and miserable pout made her look much older than her mid-forties, as did her unfortunate choice of baggy cardigan and tweed skirt.

The door of the office swung open and Clive slunk in, a coffee in hand and a mouth full of doughnut. By the dark circles under his eyes and his tired expression, Devlin suspected that Clive’s latest case had resulted in another late night, if he’d got to bed at all.

“Afternoon, Clive. Everything okay?” he asked.

Clive waved but didn’t say anything. He drained the paper cup of coffee and sank into his desk chair without taking off his coat.

Devlin chuckled. “That bad?”

Clive exhaled loudly. “I swear she’s nocturnal—and can metabolize alcohol straight to pure energy.”

“Hmm, the notes did say that her species can go several days without sleeping.”

Clive rubbed his eyes. “She’s supposed to get tired though, and last night she got wilder and wilder. I had to stop her from stripping off and dancing on the table at the last club. I’m getting too old for this.”

“You’re twenty-four. Hardly in your dotage.”

“Says Mr Nine-to-Five-at-Thirty Taylor,” groused Clive, resting his head on his crossed arms on the desk in front of them.

“None of us work nine to five, Clive. I still do late nights and early mornings when I’m needed. Let’s not forget, last week I had to balance a new arrival’s hyper-metabolism with an allergy to concrete. When I was promoted to Head of Department, I was told I could reduce my amount of fieldwork to concentrate on looking after you lot and untangling the red tape, so less of the cheek.”

Clive muttered something about promotion not coming soon enough, and Devlin turned to his computer, raising his eyebrows at Marjorie who smirked in response. “I’ll go and see if I can track down some more biscuits,” she said.

“Good idea. I’ve a post-lunch sugar slump building.” Another biscuit would do the trick, or at least mask the lingering remnants of the canteen’s not completely successful attempt at moussaka. “How about a chocolate digestive?”

Marjorie snorted as she walked away. “Unlikely, since you polished off the last packet.”

With the school summer holidays in mid-swing, the office was quieter than usual. Devlin looked over to ask Wendy a question about the new expenses policy and, at the sight of her empty desk, remembered that she was camping somewhere in Wales with her two children and her mother-in-law. Trevor and Simon were also missing, and he couldn’t remember approving their leave, but their absence usually improved office efficiency. Marjorie returned holding aloft a packet of chocolate biscuits.

“Where’s the terrible twosome?” he asked, opening the biscuits and talking to a couple.

“Oh, Trev’s called in sick—he reckons he caught something from his last arrival. Says he’s got a blue rash in delicate places. And Si’s out on a visit for a new potential housing supplier.”

The telephone on his desk rang and, smiling apologetically at Marjorie, Devlin answered it. “Devlin Taylor.”

“Ah, Mr Taylor,” said a woman’s voice. “This is Amanda Foutaine from Detection Monitoring.”

Devlin groaned. “What’s happened?”

“I’m sorry, Mr Taylor, but the automated communication recognition system has just flagged an issue. It appears one of yours has got themselves processed via the normal channels and has been dealt with by Immigration at the Home Office.”

“Oh shit! Which one?”

“Marcus Andrati.”

“I’m on my way.” He replaced the receiver without waiting for further information and jumped to his feet, grabbing a folder from the pile on his desk.

“Can you arrange a greeting room for Case 4412?” he said, handing the folder to Marjorie. “Executive level—we have a bit of an issue.”

“What’s gone wrong?” asked Marjorie, looking at the case file.

“Not sure. I’ll fill you in as soon as I know.”

Trusting Marjorie would do all she could in as short a time as possible, Devlin ran out of the office.

He skidded around the corner of the corridor, his reflexes the only reason he managed not to send a colleague crashing to the floor, but the stack of papers she was carrying was not so lucky. Devlin called out an apology over his shoulder. He couldn’t stop to help her. Time was of the essence, and he needed to get over to the main immigration building without delay if he had any hope of averting a major incident. He didn’t bother with the elevator, instead he took the stairs, his plum tie flying behind him and his shoes slipping on the polished floors as he ran as fast as he dared, not wanting to add a personal injury to the looming disaster that was pending if he didn’t get there in time.

The Ministry’s offices were linked to those of Immigration, and Devlin, for once, thanked the original architect’s forward thinking as he swiped his access card to gain entrance to the basement. The strip lighting glared as it bounced off white walls, making Devlin squint to ward off the headache building behind his right eye. He hated it down here, so much so that when he needed something from the archive housed behind several of the closed doors, he usually bribed Marjorie or an intern with the promises of a large slice of strawberry gâteau to retrieve anything he needed. But this was the quickest route, and that was all that mattered now.

Pushing open the final door at the end of the corridor, Devlin emerged into a stairwell and took the spiral staircase two steps at a time. He reached the top, five flights later, panting slightly. A few deep breaths and a promise to himself to beef up his gym routine, which meant starting to go again, and Devlin straightened his tie and tugged down his suit jacket.

He entered a small lobby and walked over to a black panel situated to the side of another door, and after waving his access card across it, an image of a corridor appeared on the screen. Happy to see the coast was clear, Devlin waved his card again and the door opened into the corridor. The door slid shut behind him, merging back into the décor so any passers-by would have no idea it was there.

With no time to dawdle, he was off again but slower now so he could check who was in the glass-fronted interview rooms. Three doors down, he spotted a man with a hooked nose and high forehead matching the photograph in the file. He also recognised the woman opposite as Mrs Barnes, a senior investigator whom he’d had dealings with before, although her understanding of those dealings had been very different from their reality. By the incredulous expression on her face, it was evident she was having trouble believing what Mr Andrati was saying. Unsurprising, as no doubt she thought her interviewee had read far too many science-fiction novels, and they’d affected his mental capacity.

Devlin knocked on the door but didn’t wait to be invited in. Mrs Barnes glowered at the interruption.

“Do you mind, Mr Stevens?” said Mrs Barnes. “I happen to be conducting an interview.”

Devlin was careful not to react inappropriately to the fake name he went by when dealing with others not in his department. “Yes, I can see that—it’s just Mr Andrati is supposed to be in Sector Seven.”

He raised an eyebrow at Mrs Barnes, knowing full well she would understand the connotation of the code word he’d had put in place for such eventualities. This wasn’t the first time they had a visitor end up in the wrong place, and he doubted, with Ministry’s cumbersome IT systems, it would be the last.

Her eyes widened. “Well, that explains a number of things.”

“I’ll just take him with me.”

“Won’t you need the medical team? Perhaps security? I mean…if he were to get violent,” Mrs Barnes said, eyeing Mr Andrati with concern.

“No need. Mr Andrati is well known to Sector Seven.”

Devlin smiled warmly at Mr Andrati. “If you’d be so kind as to accompany me, Mr Andrati. I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

Devlin held the door open and ushered the confused man out of the interview room. “I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse my tardiness; it appears you were directed to the wrong building and therefore the wrong Ministry. The different sections don’t exactly share information, but I received a message that your form had been scanned incorrectly, and you’d been sent over here, so I came as fast as I could.”

“I…” Mr Andrati began but quickly ran out of words.

“Also, I’m not really Mr Stevens—that’s just for dealing with this lot. They process human immigration into the United Kingdom.” He extended his hand in welcome, realising Mr Andrati hadn’t understood a word he’d said. “Devlin Taylor, Head of Settlement and Relocation for the Ministry of Alien Relations, at your service.”

The relief was clear on Mr Andrati’s face as he grabbed Devlin’s hand and shook it firmly. “Thank Klaxia! I was beginning to think this had all been a terrible mistake.”

“If you’d be so kind as to follow me.”

“To Sector Seven?”

“No, that’s something else I lied about to Mrs Barnes,” Devlin said with a grin. “Sector Seven is code for an escaped patient from a mental health facility. It’s surprising how useful that ruse is.”

Halfway down the corridor, Devlin stopped and waved his pass across a poster of the local safety rules. The sensor beeped, the once-hidden doors slid open to reveal an elevator, and he led Mr Andrati inside before pressing the button to be taken to floor E. Moments later, he was showing Mr Andrati into a set of rooms where the lights were far less harsh than the normal office ones, so Devlin knew they’d be gentler on Mr Andrati’s eyes, and the ambient temperature was slightly cooler, much more like that of Mr Andrati’s home city. Comfortable armchairs were arranged in a cluster around a low table, upon which sat a selection of foodstuffs that wouldn’t be found in a standard London supermarket or even a Kensington high-end deli.

“Welcome to Earth, Marcus Andrati. On behalf of His Majesty’s Government, I wish you a long and pleasant stay. Feel free to make yourself comfortable. I imagine you’re dying to get out of that skin.”

Devlin smiled politely as Mr Andrati shed his clothes, dropping each piece to the floor. Once naked, he rested his right hand at the hollow of his throat and drummed his fingers against his collarbone. A rose-coloured line appeared through the centre of his forehead, running south, down his face and chest before stopping at his groin. The scar-like join split open and Mr Andrati groaned in relief as he pulled away the skin suit. Devlin watched as Mr Andrati’s naturally purple, scaly skin appeared, covered by the crisscross markings of his tribe. There had been a time when he’d been awestruck at the first sight of an alien in their true form, but apart from the rare occasion when an alien was like nothing he’d seen before, he’d lost the sense of wonder it had once brought with it. Intricate patterns adorned Mr Andrati’s cheeks; they ran down his neck and across his shoulders in a mosaic of circular tattoos. He rubbed his hands across his exposed belly, lazily scratching at a patch of dry skin that flaked off and drifted to the floor.

Reaching out to the food that had been provided, Mr Andrati selected a bright orange cube and grinned. “Thank you, Mr Taylor. I’m very happy to be here.”

Devlin glanced around the room, marvelling at how Marjorie had managed another of her minor miracles to make sure everything was ready for their new guest, especially since he’d not arrived via the normal channels.

“Please make yourself comfortable. Your day-to-day liaison will be with you in a moment, then we’ll get you settled into your temporary accommodation and help you find your feet.”

Mr Andrati flopped into a chair, his body rippling on impact. He let out a contented sigh as he popped another orange cube into his mouth and put his feet on the table. “I think I’m going to like it here.”


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Rebecca Cohen spends her days dreaming of living in a Tudor manor house, or a Georgian mansion. Alas, the closest she comes to this is through her characters in her historical romance novels. She also dreams of intergalactic adventures and fantasy realms, but because she’s not yet got her space or dimensional travel plans finalised, she lives happily in leafy Hertfordshire, England, with her husband and young son. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and sloe gin with lemon tonic in the other.

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Book Blitz: Shifting Forces by Cassidy McKay (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Shifting Forces

Series: Protect and Serve 8

Author: Cassidy McKay

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: Sept 1

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Female/Male (No Male/Male interaction)

Length: 70 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Action Adventure, Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Military, Veterans, and First Responders, Multiple Partners, Shapeshifters

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Aurora Monroe has detailed plans for her life — and not one of them includes being barefoot, pregnant and under the thumbs of two decidedly alpha males. But what’s a girl to do when she has two sexy shifters both trying to claim mating rights?

When two paranormals on opposite sides of the war save an injured human, they unintentionally mark her as their wife. Bonded by blood, fire and passion, the gryphon and phoenix shifters do everything they can to keep their new human mate safe.

Getting her to go along with the plan is a different matter. She has no intention of following their orders. Found in defiance of both human laws and paranormal traditions, the battle for their rights turns into a fight for their lives.

Sex between a human and her two shifters can be spectacular, but is it worth risking everything for a chance at forever?


Copyright ©2023 Cassidy McKay

Varick’s Blog

“Paranormals are just like us. They deserve equal rights, equal status under the law, and no less than our full understanding and cooperation!” I watch from the outskirts, close enough to hear, but not a part of the crowd. A smattering of applause greets the pretty redhead as she finishes her speech on the stairs in front of the white columned government building.

A heated, spicy tingle warms my body as she steps down, her nipples tight and visible in the oh-so-proper sweater she wears over a blouse against the chill wind. Staid, gray slacks demurely outline her curvy figure. Mmm. Definitely my kind of woman… proper on the outside, but all fiery and full of fight on the inside.

Only a few dozen people brave enough to show up for the rally now stand in the square. It’s mostly your typical malcontents and troublemakers, but there are a few who look like they might actually give a damn.

I can’t decide whether the woman has balls of steel or is dangerously naive. More than likely, a little of both. A tall, unkempt man makes his way to the front of the group, standing on the concrete base of a light pole like a monkey, spouting obscenities and tossing crap about how humans are better than paras. The crowd grows, becoming restless as the man yells, gaining the attention of the cops outside City Hall.

I stay in the shadows of the storefront across the street, where I can watch without being seen. Easier said than done most times, but I’ve gotten good at it. Most of us have. Coming out as a paranormal isn’t a fashionable, celebrity thing to do anymore. It’s a life sentence. The government took care of that. So much for equality.

I’m Varick Gerard. Used to be a paramedic, but now I’m labeled a criminal. Just because I’m a shifter, I was legally forced out of my profession, my home, and the comfortable life I once lived. Phoenix shifters aren’t inherently evil. Given the choice, I’d rather save lives than take them. I don’t like to fight. While some of the other paras here live for nothing else, it just isn’t my thing. I don’t steal, I don’t destroy things, and I don’t kill people unnecessarily. I may have lost everything else, but I still have my principles.

Me, I’m a loner. It’s a phoenix thing. Most of us are. I don’t mind being around people, I’m just not into long-term commitments. Sex? Yeah, I’m definitely into that. I can burn up a bed like nobody’s business. And that woman up there — she’d be right at the center of my pyre of passion on most days.

But not today. Something’s in the air, I can feel it. I’ve been chased out of more cities than I can remember, just because I choose to survive. What’s left of the local police force musters in front of the building. Riot shields and batons at the ready, the leader shouts into a megaphone for the crowd to disperse. Chaos has a strong following in this town.

The cops advance in a restless, unsteady line — a phalanx of toy human soldiers pitting themselves against the evil paranormals. Same shit, different location. That isn’t what’s bothering me, though. There’s something else, just on the edge… It’s like I can almost feel it, taste it, but it keeps slipping past me.

“Hey, phoenix-dude, come on! The goon-squad is coming out to play.” A short, pimply vampire pauses, motioning for me to join the unruly mob gathering in the shadows, waiting for their chance to pick someone off.

He’s annoying — hangs around all the time, always trying to get me to kill something with him. I think he just wants to see what a phoenix can do. Lucky for him, I’m not really a joiner. “No thanks, I’m heading out. Good luck with that.”

He shrugs and sprints off, his fangs standing at attention and ready to rumble. Idiot. Time to leave this burg. I don’t need the cops on my ass or any more problems than I already have. It’s not worth the trouble.

A woman’s annoyed yell yanks me to attention. “Leave me alone! I haven’t done anything wrong!” The redhead struggles against one of the officers, landing a solid whack on his neck where the protective gear doesn’t protect.

My smile fights to break free — the girl’s a fighter, all right.

“Submit willingly, Miss, and you’ll just be charged with disorderly conduct.”

The cop doesn’t look old enough to have graduated high school, let alone wear a badge. He can’t seem to decide between juggling his shield, going on to a more willing arrestee, or grabbing his cuffs and taking his chances against the wildcat.

My bet is on the girl.


Changeling Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Cassidy lives in the beautiful state of Washington and is surrounded by mysterious rain forests, tempestuous oceans and enough gorgeous scenery to inspire stories for at least another two hundred years.

She’s been reading romances since she was thirteen, and writing them since she was fifteen. However, the serious writing bug didn’t bite until much later in life, inspired by her talented husband (who is also a writer!).


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New Release Blitz ~ Haints Everywhere by J. Hali Steele (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title: Haints Everywhere

Author: J. Hali Steele

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: August 1, 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33 pages

Genre: Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Hot Flash, New Releases, Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Razor’s Edge Erotica, Romance


Former Evangelist Patrick Stevens packed his secrets away and kept traveling. Now he knows the fate that awaits him, and he wakes each morning waiting for the day he’ll meet the devil in Hell. Today’s different. Today Patrick meets him — a man who, unlike any of those he’s recently taken to his bed, manages to turn Patrick’s world upside down. Not today, Satan.

The moment he enters Brake Away, Robert Wilson’s senses are assaulted. He’s stopped dead in his tracks by a pair of gray eyes that appear to see into his soul. Not my type, he assures himself. But still, he visualizes undoing each button of the gentleman’s fancy clothing. What he doesn’t imagine is becoming the plaything of deadly and powerful otherworldly creatures…


Haints Everywhere (Haint Misbehaving 6)
J. Hali Steele
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 J. Hali Steele

Growing up in a poor neighborhood outside St. Louis, Missouri, Patrick Stevens was used to having nothing. As a young man who found his way onto a holy path, he found solace in God’s service. And the arms of any man I coerced into my bed.

Sinner. Now, Patrick had money. Lots of it. Stolen, pilfered, at this point he didn’t care how he received the almighty dollar. He enjoyed the comfort of lavish living. There was a time he’d have railed against anyone who acted as he did. This was not that time.

The transgressions he’d committed had begun centuries ago when he was a traveling pastor continuing his Godly pursuit. Singlemindedness and restraint were developed. Patrick had discovered early how to compartmentalize. It was as if he packed his base side into a box and carted it from city to city. After each indiscretion, he envisioned placing his dark secret back into a tiny container and shoving it far to the back of his mind.

The symbolism of the box hidden in his mind was the reason Patrick learned to fashion small wooden vessels from a young man in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee — one of his favorite places to preach the word. He chose cedar for its scent and because mention of the trees could be plucked from a few holy versus of the bible. As if that would provide a good enough reason for God to forgive me.

Recently, while he’d been in Arkansas visiting a man with whom he occasionally enjoyed relations, Patrick had recognized a haint’s familiar scent. The haint had bedded another of Patrick’s… he thought of the haints as resurrections. When he discovered the scent belonged to Luke, Patrick had been excited. He’d trailed behind Luke since the haint left Arkansas, and now Patrick maintained watch on Luke’s residence.

Although he had known every haint who existed, Patrick had never attempted to contact any of them until now. Tonight, he stood in front of a suite on the eighth floor of the Viceroy Santa Monica Hotel in Los Angeles hoping to set things right. What would he say? He heard a voice near the door and knew he didn’t have long to ponder his question.

“Wake my partner and I’ll slither into your ass, motherfucker, then drop you into la la land.” The door was yanked open. “Who the fuck are you?”

Patrick recognized the man as one of the Philadelphia haints — his name was Web and he likely traveled with his lover, Casper Wainright, who was probably asleep in the bedroom. His thick cock swung free and, Christ, his shaft was magnificent as it began to jerk between his thighs. Patrick managed to blurt, “Stevens.” He wasn’t ready to divulge everything yet. “I’d like to speak to Luke.”

“Okay, Stevens, how can Luke help you?” A big grin split the good-looking man’s face. “Luke’s uh, resting. With Dallas. Perhaps I can assist your handsome ass.” He turned toward the interior of the suite. “Luke, someone to see you.” Web started stroking his shaft.

Lord help me! Trying not to stare at Web’s dick, Patrick angled to see past him. He observed Luke gently lift a guy who slept in his arms. The carefulness with which he carried the young man out of sight dumbfounded Patrick.

The fact they’d fallen asleep butt ass naked on the sofa came as no surprise, though. Patrick had encountered circumstances like this when he released his woodsy aroma, enticing one, sometimes two men to whatever hotel room he occupied. But I never cared for them or their comfort in such a manner. Goodness sake’s, the spirits inside the room didn’t even bother to mask their scent. Patrick’s cock started a dance in his pants. What the hell? “Long as you’re not going to tone down the cedar, I’m game.” He released his own scent into the air.

The fragrant mist surrounded Patrick and Web, who pivoted and glowered. “Impossible. You’re a… Who the fuck did you say you were?”

“Stevens.” Patrick asked, “You going to leave me standing out here? Our erotic bouquet might wake the whole hotel.”

Purchase at Changeling Press LLC

Meet the Author

Growl and roar — it’s okay to let the beast out. — J. Hali Steele

J. Hali Steele wishes she could grow fur, wings, or fangs, so she can stay warm, fly, or just plain bite the crap out of… Well, she can’t do those things but she wishes she could!

J. Hali’s a multi-published Amazon bestselling author of Romance in Paranormal, Fantasy, and Contemporary worlds which include ReligErotica and LGBTQ stories where humans, vampyres, shapeshifters and angels collide — and they collide a lot! When J. Hali’s not writing or reading, she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

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New Release Blitz: Borders Between Empires by Sasha Hope (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Borders Between Empires

Series: A Luxor City Novel

Author: Sasha Hope

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 09/05/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 57600

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, paranormal, crime, gay, shifter, Alpha/omega dynamic, organized crime, police/detective

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Detective Hanni Nassar finds himself in enemy territory while investigating a string of robberies. After accidentally crossing the Central Empire’s borderline, he comes face to face with Jaemin Yi, a high-ranking Alpha of the Southern Empire’s Elite.

A cop and a gangster, both Hanni and Jaemin are suspicious of each other at first. Jaemin wants to know what Hanni’s doing on Southern turf, and Hanni wants to know if Jaemin’s notorious boss has any involvement with his case. Their initial meeting is tense, but soon Jaemin starts pursuing him for his own dissolute reasons.

Despite the clandestine rumblings through the streets of Luxor City, this isn’t about a case anymore.

Jaemin Yi is persistent. He thaws Hanni’s frigid airs and shows him there’s nothing wrong with caving to his more primal desires once in a while. As an Omega working in an Alpha-dominated field, Hanni has buried the Omegan side of himself, and Jaemin seems keen to draw it to the surface.

But where did his sudden interest come from? And will the lines crossed be too much for Hanni to handle or will adversarial passions heat up the borders between Empires?


Borders Between Empires
Sasha Hope © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Crossing Borders

Being an officer of the law in a gang-run town like Luxor City was an admitted contradiction. Hanni Nassar had accepted this fact as soon as he’d decided to join the force. The entire experience had been what some might call a bit of a rough ride, but he’d survived the salacious comments about his small Omegan build, his cute curls, and his lovely tan. He flew through basic training and even surpassed some of the Alphas on his final scores. It was an accomplishment very few Omegas could attest to.

Years later, he was still one of only two Omegas in his precinct. Exhausting as it was trying to prove day in and day out that as an Omega he could hold his own in even the most Alpha-dominated environments, Hanni stuck it out.

After the academy and basic training, he took an assignment at the Central Empire’s Southern Border Precinct and had been working there ever since. He was a Central Empire brat, born and raised, proud to serve his community. However, with every business on every street corner being owned or operated or protected by Luxor City’s old crime families, in reality, Hanni served the Central Empire first and the law second. His work and the work of every officer in the Central Empire was to protect the interests of the Empire and its Alpha leader, Dominik Wesa.

The job paid well, but Luxor City wasn’t an ideal place to fight crime. The list of actual laws the police could meaningfully enforce was short to say the least. Some laws were obvious, of course: break-ins, theft, vandalism, speeding…but even then, if you stopped the wrong car and a member of the Wesa Family stepped out, well, that was asking for trouble.

As the leader of the Central Empire, Dominik Wesa’s interests were typically aligned with those of the police force. He didn’t want drug dealers on his streets, neither did they. He didn’t want disorderly conduct running rampant, neither did they. He didn’t want thieves stealing from his businesses…and that’s where they’d run into serious issues lately.

Through hard work and perseverance, Hanni had moved up through the ranks and was now a detective for the Southern Border Precinct. His jurisdiction extended over a strip of the Central Empire that ran across the island, coast to coast, just north of the Southern Empire. There had been a spate of robberies in the area at a few of the bars in the Central Empire’s lower downtown. Over the course of two months, more than a hundred thousand dollars had been stolen. It was pennies to a man like Dominik Wesa, but as the Alpha of the Central Empire, he had been very firm in letting the police force know he was going to make sure his interests were protected one way or another.

“I don’t think I need to explain that the police force doesn’t have any sort of monopoly on violence in this Empire. So if we don’t want Dominik Wesa and his lot handling this, we’ve gotta get on it,” Hanni’s police chief, Noor, had said as she handed him a file. “Consider it a mercy if we can get these guys behind bars before they end up in a heavy, metal shipping container a few thousand leagues under the sea.” She had chuckled before patting him on the back and leaving him with the case.

At least Hanni could be tempered by the fact that he was never bored on the job. He sighed as he looked over the case file. Scrolling through the tablet, he saw the main suspect of the three hadn’t been quite good enough at asymmetries in his disguise to block his appearance from the AI security systems at the last place they hit up. Using footage from the heist, Hanni was easily able to uncover the suspect’s identity and track him to his place of work on the edge of the border.

Hanni spent a few tedious days at his desk staring at holo-screens, tracking the man’s comings and goings. The video surveillance footage followed the man from his work to his car to his home. Running a security algorithm showed Hanni that with only five percent deviation his suspect went to work then went straight home except on Thursdays. On Thursdays he went somewhere the cameras couldn’t track him before returning home much later that night.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough of a lead to give Hanni something to do other than sit at his desk staring at grainy security footage. And so that next Thursday, he took the logical step and followed the suspect from work to the unknown location.

Hanni waited until the end of the day and parked a few blocks from the factory where the suspect worked. The sky was overcast, pitch black, and the streetlamps barely lit the alleys Hanni was traveling through to keep out of his suspect’s sights.

Like every previous Thursday, the suspect left his work walking with a casual ease. Whistling to himself, unaware he was being followed, he made his way through Luxor City’s back alleys.

Hanni twisted and turned through the dark, tailing the man across the city for a good half hour. The suspect walked into a dead-end alley and his whistling stopped.

Hanni froze in the shadows. The alley was barely lit by the red glow of a set of bulbous neon lamps hanging outside a small import-export business at the far end. The crimson glow hardly brightened anything in the shadows between buildings.

Standing between the mouth of the alleyway and the dead end, the suspect glanced around quickly before opening a door and dipping into a ramshackle old building. A warehouse of some sort. It sat tucked away and probably was being used to house something illicit. Hanni planned to find out just what that something was.

A broken window, open just a crack, allowed him to see his suspect walking into a room where a few others had clearly been waiting for him. Their voices reverberated through the big empty space as they spoke, making it hard to distinguish their words. Hanni leaned into the window, trying his best to get close enough to hear.

“Took you long enough,” one man huffed.

“Some of us have to work,” his suspect replied.

A third man chuckled. “Huh, well, you’ll be able to quit that shitty day job of yours once all of this is done. I heard we’re going to hit up something bigger than Wesa’s little bars next month.”

“Oh yeah?”

Hanni frowned upon hearing those words. Next month they were changing tack? What could they be planning?


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Sasha Hope is a lover of story, art and design based in Canada. As a writer and an artist, she enjoys having the opportunity to create new characters and build new worlds for readers to explore. Having studied linguistics and a myriad of languages from a young age, she is passionate about including characters of different backgrounds in her work. Whether the setting is fantasy or reality, she believes that a diverse cast with diverse languages and cultures is a wonderful thing.

Crafting stories that embrace MM romance and erotica is her modus operandi. When she is not creating new worlds she is travelling this one looking for inspiration or enjoying her career in the videogame industry.

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New Release Blitz: Sympathy for the Gods by Tallie Rose (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Sympathy for the Gods

Series: Briar Constance, Book Three

Author: Tallie Rose

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/29/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Female/Female

Length: 70900

Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy, family-drama, gods, blood magic, lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, witches, fae, murder, death, prime minister

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With the death of Eliana, Briar had hoped the danger for her and her friends had passed, but killing a Goddess comes with consequences.

As Briar struggles to deal with her new life and responsibilities as conduit, Bastianna rallies others to try to destroy everything she is working for. A group of fanatics, known as Believers, want Briar to pay for her sins. Meanwhile, Eliana’s father Ivian wanders the earth as a fallen God. When he joins the Believers, lured by their promise of revenge, everyone Briar loves is in danger.

Will her new powers of Conduit be enough to keep them safe? Can Briar once again defeat a God?


Sympathy for the Gods
Tallie Rose © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Early morning sun streamed into the nearly empty window display of Briar’s old shop. The only thing remaining was a book stand, the FOR SALE sign balanced precariously in its metal arms. Now, there would be a new inhabitant. Red lettering announced the building had sold.

Her once beloved shop was going to sell coffee, just like half the other buildings in Wesvik. She’d boxed the stock up, shoving first editions into her linen closet while she did her best not to cry in front of Lillia. She didn’t think she could handle the sympathy.

Briar watched the retreating figures of the buyer and agent. She’d signed the papers and the loss had carved a hole in the pit of her stomach. She tried to remember what she’d gained. She could have any book deal she wanted now. She was the conduit, though she still hadn’t figured out exactly what that would mean except filtering people’s sadness and grief.

Lillia and Fauna urged her to accept her new role. There was nothing to run from. Her new power and position were not an enemy to defeat, they were part of her. But she also saw the way Lillia looked at her sometimes, the way her eyes took in Briar’s flawless skin, the slight glow that emanated beneath it. She felt other, even further apart from everyone else than she had been before.

Soren told her to do whatever she wanted. He whispered it when the others weren’t listening, reminding her that she hadn’t chosen this, that she could still pick the path of her life. She didn’t owe anyone anything. But every nerve beneath her skin told her she did.

New magic spread out, a web through the world, reaching into the beyond, and she could always feel the Gods, just a pull away. She pressed her forehead to the cool glass then she stepped away. She couldn’t run the bookshop. She couldn’t let the women who worked there deal with the constant barrage of people wanting things: help for sick kids, help with their bills, but mostly they just wanted to see if she was real, to see if the Gods had truly returned.

She sighed and turned, leaving the shop behind, and wiped her tears. Speaking of coffee, she could use some caffeine. She’d barely slept the night before, dreading the morning, but now it was done. There were only a few blocks between her store and her favorite coffee shop. She pulled her collar up before she ordered and tried not to make eye contact.

Coffee in hand, Briar found a spot outside. She stretched into the rays of the sun like a cat, and pulled out her phone, barely noticing the footsteps that approached, assuming some stranger wanted something. She glanced up, a quip ready on her tongue, and her heart skipped a beat.

Bastianna sank into the seat across from her, smiling sweetly.

“What do you want?” She’d seen her on TV, on social media. Bastianna’s face seemed to be everywhere these days, constantly calling Briar a murderer. She was nothing but a sad fraud, but that didn’t keep the followers, Believers as they called themselves, from flocking to her.

“Things are bad between us, Briar.”

The world’s largest understatement. “Do you think it’s because I’m fucking Lillia or because you’re a psychopath trying to kill me? I’ve been debating it.”

A muscle in Bastianna’s jaw twitched at the mention of Lillia but her smile stayed plastered on. She opened her mouth to talk but Briar held up a hand, cutting her off.

“And it’s so odd, you’re constantly saying I killed the Gods, that you’re a true believer, blah, blah, blah, but I’m the conduit. The Gods come at my beck and call. Makes you a little hard to believe.”

“Are you done?”

A man stared at them from the next table. Good. Briar was glad to have witnesses. She caught his eye for just a moment before turning back to Bastianna. “She doesn’t mention you, you know. Though when would she have time? And I’m sure you know how delicious she is.” Bastianna’s smile finally died and Briar smirked in its wake. “Definitely not an easy person to lose, but I’d imagine you’re used to people leaving you. You’ve got abandonment issues written all over you.”

“I wanted to talk about Ivian.” Sparks flared at Bastianna’s fingertips and Briar wished she would try something, right now in the crowded street, full of witnesses.

“Why? As far as I can tell he’s waiting out his time.” At least, that’s what she hoped. Ivian was a fallen God, his punishment older than time itself. The finer points of what being a fallen God meant were hazy. But it seemed he had two choices: atonement or death. She couldn’t see how he could atone for trying to kill her, for nearly killing Evaria. Not unless he was about to pop out and take down Bastianna, which she’d really like to see.

“He’s contacted me. I won’t tell you where he is.”

“I bet I could make you.”

“Is that a threat? From the conduit?” She clucked her tongue. “Anyway, he’d like to talk, and I think you owe him that since you murdered his daughter.”


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Tallie Rose lives in Charleston, SC with two kids, five cats, two goldfish, and one dog. She spends her spare time thrifting, watching bad TV, and reading books.

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New Release Blitz: All Hail the Underdogs by E.L. Massey (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title: All Hail the Underdogs

Series: Breakaway, Book Three

Author: E.L. Massey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/29/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 78100

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, gay, interracial, YA/new adult, sports, ice hockey, team mates, writer, humorous, private school/ dorm life, slow burn, enemies to friends to boyfriends, enemies/rivals to boyfriends, coming of age, coming out, adoption, alcohol/underage drinking, family drama, emancipation, accidental baby acquisition

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When seventeen-year-old Patrick Roman is offered a scholarship to a top hockey preparatory school, he thinks maybe his notorious bad luck has finally ended. With a hearing for his legal emancipation on the horizon, he dreams of getting scouted and securing a place on a D1 college team. There’s only one problem: Roman has serious beef with his new winger on the team, Damien Bordeaux. They’re supposed to be perfectly in sync on the ice. But Roman, with his buzzcut and tattoos, has nothing in common with trust-fund-kid Damien, his floral scrunchies, and designer T-shirts that cost more than all of Roman’s secondhand hockey gear combined.

When eighteen-year-old Damien Bordeaux starts his senior year, he tells himself he’s going to focus on hockey and school. No more making out in the stacks, no more dorm parties. He needs to decide what his future will look like. Does he pursue his long-held dream of becoming an author? Or stay in his lane and do what he’s good at: hockey. Regardless, he’s not going to let any pretty boys distract him from figuring his shit out. Except his new center, Roman, is possibly the most beautiful boy Damien has ever seen. And his hockey—the way he moves on the ice—might be even more beautiful. Too bad he’s also probably a homophobic, racist asshole.

But their antagonistic beginning turns into an unlikely friendship and then turns into something much scarier for them both. Navigating relationships is hard enough for normal teenagers. It’s a lot harder when contending with lawyers, NHL scouts, and mutual past trauma. Roman and Damien have to decide: What do they really want in life? Are they willing to fight for each other—including fighting against their own pasts and prejudices—so they can have a happy ending?


All Hail the Underdogs
E.L. Massey © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Patrick Roman has his mother’s eyes and his father’s nose, and on his face, they’re still a family.

He considers his reflection in the filmy bus station bathroom mirror. He rubs his thumb down the raised line of scar tissue bisecting his chin: pink and new and only partially hidden in the drip-paint collage of his freckles, and then rubs harder, more habit than intention.

After spending the summer as a stern man on his uncle’s crab boat—sorting, banding, baiting, resetting, trying his best to repair the limping hydraulic trap hauler that should have been scrapped a decade ago—layers of sunburn have turned into a tan, multiplying the pigment across his nose and cheeks and shoulders to a point where he looks constantly dirty. As if he’d been working in his other uncle’s garage and absently smeared an oiled forearm over his face.

His cousin Saoirse once said that Patrick looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. He thinks she was trying to be mean. Or elitist. Or both. But he sort of agrees with her. He didn’t know who Jackson Pollock was, at first, but when he went with his aunt into town the following weekend, he used the library computer to google him.

At thirteen, with new calluses on his palms from his first-ever crab haul, constant peeling skin over his nose and shoulders, and the kind of secret that scrapes your insides hollow, he’d found the paintings, grainy and pixelated as they were on the old computer monitor, strangely familiar.

Maybe he is like a Jackson Pollock painting: a dark, incensed, anxious spatter of reds and yellows and blacks and blues. Too much color for one canvas. Too much feeling for containment. Too much, maybe, in general.

Someone bangs on the bathroom door, and he stops glaring at his reflection because there’s nothing much he can do about it.

He uses a paper towel to dry his hands, runs his fingers, still damp, over his buzzed hair, and shoulders his duffel bag.

St. James Academy is waiting.

He googled St. James when he googled the rest of the best hockey prep schools in the country.

Same library.

Same shitty library computer.

Initially, he wanted to try to play for a junior team; he was good enough, he’d been scouted. But now, money issues aside, billeting would be all but impossible considering his legal situation. So he’d spent stolen hours at school and after work searching boarding schools with prep hockey teams, comparing stats and rosters and course offerings. He sent in his game tapes and paperwork with scraped-together application fees and letters of recommendation from his former and current coaches.

He applied to six schools and was accepted at two.

St. James was the closest, not that he really cared about staying close, but his lawyer said it would make things easier for possible future hearings if he was within a few hours’ drive of Port Marta.

St. James was also the cheapest, which he did care about, and it routinely produced D1 prospects, which was his primary concern. A full scholarship with housing, a meal plan, and a chance to elevate his game to the point that maybe, next year, he could get a scholarship to college? An easy decision.

After getting a handful of salt-crusted hundreds from his uncle at the harbor early that morning as payment for his summer of work, he’d hitched a ride with another stern man from Port Marta to Brunswick and then took a Greyhound from there to Concord, and then a city bus to the station closest to St. James.

And now he’s here, standing outside with a paper map from his library’s equally shitty printer, a duffel bag from the army surplus store full of abused hockey gear, and an address written in permanent marker on his wrist. It’s three miles away, but he’s not about to waste money on an Uber.

He shoulders his bag and starts walking.

The campus looks exactly like the online pictures—sun-dappled and idyllic, with people lounging under trees and throwing frisbees and weaving colorful bikes in and out of foot traffic on immaculate sidewalks.

He’s too hot in his leather jacket, and the strap of his bag is rubbing the side of his neck raw, but he walks with a purpose and doesn’t make eye contact when people look at him.

And people do look at him.

He’s six foot two, dressed all in black and carrying a bag over his shoulder that’s nearly as big as he is. Doubtless, he stands out like some sort of hulking freckled raven among songbirds.

By the time he finds the administration building, his palms are so sweaty it’s hard to get the stupidly ornate door open. Once inside, standing in line on the marble floors, looking up at the vaulted ceiling, the whispered assertion that’s been following him since he stepped foot on campus gets louder: You do not belong here. He’s felt that way for most his life, though, wherever he was, so it isn’t that disconcerting.

He clears his throat when it’s his turn, stepping up to the counter at the student center.

“I’m a transfer,” he says. “Patrick Roman. I need to pick up my dorm keys.”

Before the receptionist has a chance to answer, though, the person behind him speaks.

“You’re our new center?”

He turns to look at the speaker and pauses.

Because he recognizes the boy’s face.

He’s seen it on rosters and game footage and even a few news articles.

During his research, Patrick memorized the names of three players at St. James Academy. Three players he thought were exceptionally good. These would be your peers, he told himself.

The first was Aiden Kane. Junior. Winger. Number 5.

The second was Justin Lefevre. Senior. Defense. Captain. Number 73.

The third is now standing in front of him.

Damien Raphael Bordeaux. Senior. Winger. Number 21.

What he didn’t anticipate is that, off the ice, Damien Raphael Bordeaux looks a lot less like the goon he does on the ice and a lot more like the kind of boy Patrick’s father warned him against becoming, sometimes with words, but sometimes with fists.

Because off the ice, Damien wears cuffed skinny jeans stretched tight over the bulk of his thighs and half-unbuttoned floral shirts and velvet scrunchies to hold back his long, curly hair. His dark skin is clear and pore-less, and the delicate gold chain around his neck should look out of place on someone so broad, but it doesn’t.

He is irritatingly well-groomed.

He’s also waiting for an answer.

“Yeah?” Patrick manages, and it maybe comes out more aggressive than he intended.

“I’m Damien,” Damien Raphael Bordeaux says, extending a hand and smiling with straight white teeth and the easy confidence that comes with money. “I’m on the hockey team too.”

He has the slightest accent that might be French. Of course, he does.

Damien’s hand is warm and dry, and the torn calluses on Patrick’s own chapped hand scrape jarringly against his palm.

“Rome,” Patrick says. Because if there’s one thing hockey has given him, it’s a name that his father didn’t.

Damien squeezes his fingers, holds on a moment past comfortable, grins wider so the skin around his eyes crinkles, and says, “Rome. Cool. Coach says you’re going to be my new center.”

And all Rome can think is:

Oh no.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

E. L. Massey is a human. Probably. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner, the best dog in the world (an unbiased assessment), and a frankly excessive collection of books. She spends her holidays climbing mountains and writing fan fiction, occasionally at the same time.

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New Release Blitz: Rescue by Sean Ian O’Meidhir and Connal Braginsky (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Rescue

Series: Darklight, Book Two

Author: Sean Ian O’Meidhir and Connal Braginsky

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/22/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 54800

Genre: Paranormal, Vampire, Mage, Neurodiverse, Autism, Magic, MM, Paranormal, Conspiracy, Supernatural, Gay

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Nathen, a newly created vampire, diagnosed with autism, and his boyfriend, Cameron, a telepath, find themselves swept up into a corporate plot between two seemingly rival corporations working together to create monsters.

In so doing, they uncover a piece of tech they take to their technomage friend whose skills surpass their own. However, in exchange for information, they must assist in rescuing an ally—a rescue mission that brings them face-to-face with the darker side of this world.


Sean Ian O’Meidhir / Connall Braginsky © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“Oh man, I don’t care what you two say, she was F-I-N-E, fine.”

Cameron side-eyed his best friend. “Syn, this is serious, and all you’re thinking about is her ass?”

“All you think about is his ass.” Laying on the couch, her feet kicking over the back, Syn shot a look across at Nathen, who perched on the edge of the arm of the recliner where Cameron sat.

“I think it is safe to say that we think about various parts of each other’s body, some not so obvious.” Nathan cast a cryptic grin at Cameron.

Snorting, his raven-haired friend stuck out her tongue in disgust, waggling a finger. “Oh no, I do not think about either of your parts.”

“You two, please. Aside from the fact that—What do we even call her? Cybernetic vampire?—she exists, she was placed there by both Impetus and Paradigm, two of the largest companies in the world, to—What did she say?—test how law enforcement deals with a threat?”

Nathen responded, “Yeah, and it makes a sort of sense from a purely logical perspective. Say you are creating something new, something the world has never seen before…” He paused for a moment, his mind going down a path of the many things he could imagine the world hadn’t seen before: supernatural creatures, AI, flying cars, aliens… Catching himself, Nathan went on. “And I can’t recall ever hearing of anything like what we saw. You would want to see what it can do, and how a society you are introducing it to can possibly respond, which the authorities did stereotypically, without much deviation from the norm. They treated it like a normal cyberattack, no real investigation, no pulling at strings to see what unraveled.”

“So, guys—” Syn rolled herself into a sitting position. “—I got so many questions. I mean, Nathen, how did you respond to Impetus? Your masters gotta know, right?”

“Syn!” Had she just called them that? Sure, Impetus had made Nathen into a vampire, but to call them his “Master” left a bad taste in Cameron’s mouth.

“Wha—?” She rolled her eyes.

“Technically that’s what they are. Or think they are. But they know either way what our part was. She would have told them we found out about her. So I told them the truth, or enough of the truth without telling them everything. HR seemed pleased, or at least I think he was pleased. He simply replied, ‘Good, thank you.’” Nathan tried to mimic HR’s mildly disturbing calm cadence and demeanor as he echoed his words. “He didn’t give me anything else. Said I will get a bonus and Agnus will contact me for my next task. I have until then to relax, I guess.”

Cameron bit back his anger. He had hated allowing Nathen to go into the office alone, but at the same time, they had all agreed it simply wasn’t safe for Cameron to go in with him. Not with them knowing he was a mage, a telepath, and having already notified him that they knew his true identity. It had been a tense hour until Nathen returned in one piece. “So, I know the two of you have planned on moving forward and have that hard drive we recovered decrypted. But…to what end? I mean, what is it going to prove? We already learned the companies are working together and why.”

“Oh, but did we?” Syn rested her elbows on her knees, hands outstretched. “Check this—we have one of Impetus’s vampires.” She gestured to Nathen. “We find out the companies are working together—Impetus with their vamps and Paradigm with their tech? But honestly, Cam, what’s their endgame?”

Nathen chimed in. “They do a lot for the general society, from medical research to robotics; maybe they think they are helping mankind. The news has not exactly been happy recently. Politics have been corrupted and abused to the point where a lot are at each other’s throats around the world. Maybe they plan to nudge us in a better direction? Any information on their inner workings could be helpful in understanding where they are headed.”

“Orrr,” Syn dragged out the word. “They might be bent on world domination, and this is just the first step in their nefarious plot, and only we could potentially help thwart them!”

A groan rumbled from him as Cameron flung himself into a chair, his feet landing on the edge of the table with a thud. How did he find a best friend who was so dark and a boyfriend who was so light? Yin and yang played out in front of him. Sitting around theorizing wasn’t going to get them anywhere. And besides, what would it hurt to let them figure out what was on the hard drive? It was probably more of the same they’d already learned. And that would be the end of it. “Fine, fine. Tomorrow, you guys get to learn more about these shadowy corporations, and tonight, I get to learn more about mages. Cool. Guess it’ll be a couple days of having some questions answered, huh?”

“That sounds about right; hopefully it is answers, and not more questions on top of an already huge pile,” Nathen interjected. He turned his attention to the television. “So what are we watching anyway?”


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Connal Braginsky is a software engineer who lives in San Diego, California. Diagnosed with high functioning autism, Connal sometimes struggles in social situations, but has an inner world that is always incredibly rich. With an insatiable thirst for knowledge about many esoteric things, Connal brings a lot of personal philosophies and interests to writing.

Sean Ian O’Meidhir is a psychologist who lives in San Francisco, California. Sean is a hedonist who believes in living for today, living every day to the fullest, and enjoying as much as possible. They have been gaming since adolescence and have written about and played hundreds of lives, revelling in the chance to take on new personalities, dramas, even disorders.

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