New Release Blitz: Make Like Mountains by BL Jones (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Make Like Mountains

Series: Liquid Onyx, Book Two

Author: BL Jones

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/30/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 130800

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, humour, family-drama, gay, bisexual, pansexual, superhero, crime gang, magic, PTSD, slow burn, friends to lovers

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Four months ago, Rexley Nova exploded into Danger City, fought some villains, saved some people, and became the vigilante known by the media as ‘Wrath’.

Alongside the superpowered friends he grew up with and Danger’s resident hero, Polaris, Rex is doing his best to protect the city and save the world on the regular, while also attempting to curb some of his more violent tendencies and figure out what the villainous group of Mages he’s been fighting are up to.

Through all this, Rex has to contend with his feelings for two men; Damon, a dangerous and aloof superhero, the one person who understands what being a vigilante means to Rex, and Jamie, his best friend’s older brother who he’s felt an intense connection with almost his entire life.

Rex battles violent superhumans, saves snarky children, gets himself a sidekick, deals with his extremely weird family, goes on a disastrous date, and continues to fistfight his own anxiety. #Traumaisthenewblack.


Make Like Mountains
BL Jones © 2023
All Rights Reserved


I would like to believe every bad choice I’ve made was rooted in altruism, through the pursuit of discovery. Even if I was wrong more often than I was right. Even if my bad choices led to so much suffering. Even if my regret is endless and true and as raw now as it was over fifteen years ago.

In the beginning, all I wanted to do was help. A simple, if at times directionless, goal. When I started out, I didn’t know what I was capable of. I didn’t know what other people were capable of either.

I often think of my daughter and how, when she was a child, I would tell her everyone makes mistakes.

And everyone does. It’s a rare truth that parents tell their children.

What parents usually fail to say, though, is the hardest mistakes to live with are the ones we can do nothing about. The decisions we make that ripple out of our control and cause irreparable damage to other people. Those mistakes echo throughout the rest of our lives, twisting and shaping our futures and ourselves into something, someone, unrecognisable. Perhaps someone we told ourselves we would never become.

If asked to explain the worst of my choices, I could say many things. I could say I was swept up in the tidal wave of genius that was Dr Alexander Nova. I could say I didn’t think it would go as far as it did. I could say I was forced and manipulated by Obsidian Inc. to do things I would never have done otherwise.

I was tricked, I was hurt, I was forced.

I could lay claim to those justifications.

But it would be a lie. And I wouldn’t stoop to that. I abhor people who make excuses for the acts of evil they commit.

I was not conned into it. I was not abused in my past. I was not coerced or blackmailed.

I made every single one of my mistakes with my eyes wide open. It doesn’t make it any easier to forgive myself for those sins, but at least I can accept the depth of my corruption for what it is.

I have spent over a decade trying to correct the mistakes I made as a young woman. And for over a decade, I have been unsuccessful.

My continued failure has led me here, to the point I am at now. I tried to avoid these extreme measures. It is not what I wanted. But there comes a time when we must take the first step on the hardest path. There comes a time when we must do what pains us most. A time when we use the corruption inside us to reverse the corruption we inflicted on others. Or, in my case, the world.

I have failed to heal the festering wounds I once helped claw into the skin of our society.

Almost a month after my second attempt, I find myself sitting in my daughter’s flat with a cup of quickly cooling tea in my hands.

We’re scrunched up on her shaggy green sofa, both of us sans shoes. Usually, I would relish the opportunity to be here with Andy. I enjoy our simple, quiet moments together. I enjoy hearing Andy tell me stories about her life, her work, her friends, her latest spat with her girlfriend, Dru, over whose turn it was to take out the bins.

But today I cannot seem to get to grips with myself. It isn’t hard to think of the reason why.

We have lost many in the two failed attempts to begin our eradication of corrupted blood. Our mission was worth the loss. I still believe that. But after our second attempt, some are wavering.

It was inevitable. One failure can be chalked up to a lack of experience and bad luck. Two is the beginning of a pattern.

There is grief and resentment to contend with now. There are those who do not believe we are capable of the task set before us.

Some want to give up while they still have their freedom and their lives. I understand the urge, the fear. I’ve felt it myself.

But our work is not done.

I cannot allow us to spiral.

We have sacrificed too much. I have had to take from them to steady us, and they will not forget that.

After the disaster of the park concert, I tried to rectify what had been done in the name of our cause.


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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Book Blitz: Haint Upon a Time by J Halie Steele (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Haint Upon a Time

Series: Haints Misbehaving 5

Author: J Halie Steele

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: May 19. 2023

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 31 pages

Genre: Erotica, Dark Fantasy, Paranpormal, Gay, Multiple Partners, Dark Desite, Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft

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Warning: This is a Razor’s Edge Paranormal Erotica Story. Expect limited plot and character development, and lots of paranormal heat. If you’re looking for a lengthy plot driven erotic romance, this is not it!

Luke ransacks the brain of every man whose body he steals before their memories fade. He’s learned how to make their homes and money his forever. It’s illegal as hell, but so is appropriating a body! Luke never searches out poor souls, but when a special man falls in his lap, he vows to keep him until he’s no longer useful.

Dallas spends his days on a beach bordering a hotel where he meets wealthy men who appreciate his prowess in the bedroom. He takes ribbing about his name and height in stride — the most vital part of him isn’t small. Often, the men he hooks up with don’t want to let him go. But if Dallas ever finds a man who truly wants to keep him it will cost them!


Copyright ©2023 J. Hali Steele

Luke struggled to stem the rising aroma of cedar as his dick bulged behind his thin white cotton beach pants. The towel lying across his lap would have been tented if he hadn’t kept his magazine strategically positioned. If pressed, he wouldn’t have been able to describe a single beachgoer who had ambled by his chair. Luke saw only one man. The surfer who’d set up his station on the beach just beyond the security fence was distractingly beautiful.

Maybe twenty-five, relatively short in stature, the man’s unruly reddish blond hair was worn a bit long on top. The rest of his body appeared to be hairless — which fit Luke’s fantasies perfectly. Fit, but not bound in muscle, the stranger’s freckled skin appeared to have been kissed for days, maybe months, by the sun. The pronounced bulge in his snug swimwear revealed the generous size of his dick. “I want to see that cock bare and engorged,” Luke whispered.

The smell of cedar distracted his attention from the gorgeous surfer. Sniffing, Luke twisted to survey the hotel grounds. A haint! The man stood no more than a foot behind him, but he was no threat to Luke. Shameless, he had his fat cock out and the crown shone with pre-cum. As he worked his hand up and down his length, dots of liquid slid over the broad crown. God, the sight was beautiful. Luke couldn’t tear his gaze away.

Dropping his magazine, Luke slipped a hand inside his loose-fitting pants. The cap of his dick was already wet, and smearing precum along his length made jerking the skin up and down easy. Within minutes he was ready to send a gush of sperm into his underwear. He didn’t even care that they’d become sticky and clung to his crotch.

Luke knew hooking up with another haint was not a good idea. Fortunately, his only other liaison with a haint served as a reminder to keep away from those like himself.

Singlemindedness and restraint had been taught to him by a traveling pastor whose name Luke could no longer recall. Luke could see his pretty face in his mind’s eye, though, and knew the man presided behind the pulpit the last Sunday of every month in Laurel Bloomery’s only house of God. There had been another man caught in the church man’s web of carnal deviousness and Luke often pondered what had become of him, as well as the pastor.

Finding another haint here shouldn’t have surprised Luke, but what were the odds he’d come across a being like himself on a beach in Los Angeles? And he didn’t recognize the man. This was the first haint he’d met who didn’t hail from Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee.

Philadelphia was the first city Luke had settled in, and for a time it was all his. Crossing paths with another haint there some time ago, Luke had damn near followed one of the ghostly beings into an eatery where he perceived at least one more whose aroma was vaguely familiar. Ah, their combined scents — so enticing.

Turned out the restaurant, Brake Away, was a hotbed of the creatures who used humans for sexual gratification, then discarded the bodies they’d squatted in. They weren’t exactly alive, unless they were inhabiting someone else’s body, and in that case, they were unlawful tenants. How often could a human completely disappear off the face of the earth before authorities became curious?

Luke had discovered containing a haint once they were on the loose was pretty much impossible. Until they inhabited a body, haints were apparitions — smoke — and unmanageable. Once they’d escaped, there was no telling where they’d turn up or whose body they would commandeer. And the idea of getting one to willingly return to their small cedar chest was laughable.

Luke had left Philadelphia behind and moved to the West Coast. He’d disassembled the box he’d previously been held prisoner in and now kept it in a safe, locked away on a secluded piece of private property he’d managed to transfer into his own name. He’d briefly occupied a shady character who knew a forger who could reproduced legal documents with Luke’s real signature and photograph.

As long as local authorities had no reason to dig deeper, Luke had his own bank account and lots of other pricey things. Most important of all, he owned a home.

Keeping a low profile and not wishing to have strangers visit his property, Luke often rented a suite in a nice beachfront hotel to find a companion for carnal release. Thanks to the one who had caught Luke’s eye, nothing was working to suppress his desire. Lord, Luke fought his body’s growing excitement at the memory. Am I the only haint who feels remorse?

But there were two of them here now, and the smell of cedar permeated the air. Nothing would deter Luke from what he desired. Little did the surfer know what was about to occur — how drastically his life was going to change.


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

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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads


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New Release Blitz: The Man With Sapphire Eyes by Larry Mellman (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Man With Sapphire Eyes

Series: The Ballot Boy, Book Two

Author: Larry Mellman

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/16/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 96100

Genre: Historical, historical/14th century Venice, lit/genre fiction, gay, new adult, interracial, political rulers, political intrigue and plotting, wartime action and adventure, gore, family drama, betrayal

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In this exciting sequel, disaster threatens Nico, ballot boy to the doge, as neighboring Padua launches an undeclared war. Mistrustful of diplomats and spies, the doge dispatches Nico on a secret mission to the court of King Louis of Hungary to gauge the king’s resolve to aid Padua.

The doge also drafts Donato Venturi, the greatest swordsman in Venice, nicknamed Black Hercules, as Nico’s adviser and bodyguard. It’s love at first sight for Nico, but he knows nothing about Donato, the son of a Venetian noble and a princess of Mali. Assuming Donato is straight, Nico guards his feelings until an unlikely encounter at the Prior of Brotherly Love proves otherwise.

The pair steal moments together, but the war changes everything. Cutthroat political struggles with his own nobles keeps the doge busy in Venice as Nico again confronts the carnage of battle, testing his cunning. This brings him face-to-face with his nemeses, Ruggiero and Marcantonio Gradenigo, forcing an unplanned rescue of his soulmate, Alex.

When the war goes disastrously for Venice, the fate of the Serene Republic hangs on the will of the doge and the skills of Nico and Donato. Desperate to defeat Padua and drive out the Hungarian invaders, they risk everything in a final gambit to checkmate in three. In love as in war, winning and losing aren’t what they seem.


The Man with Sapphire Eyes
Larry Mellman © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Donato Venturi

I’m safe as long as I’m rowing. No enemy has ever successfully breached the mercurial lagoon surrounding Venice on all sides. For three glorious miles I row free, my stroke easy and automatic. I spent my youth on the lagoon until, at fourteen years and nine months of age, I was randomly selected ballot boy against my will and inclination. Taken from my mother, from my friends, from my home, and installed in the palace with the doge as my boss, my rowing time turned into riding and Latin lessons. I still ache at times for an oar in my hands and a breeze riffling my long black hair.

Midway between the Doge’s Palace and Marghera, one of our ports on terrafirma, with the sun in my eyes and the scent of the lagoon in my nose, I savor a moment of sweet peace before embarking on my new mission. Our neighbor and enemy, Lord Francesco Carrara of Padua, regularly burns our farms and plunders our mainland towns. Our amorphous shoreline teems with crooks, assassins, and spies. I don’t wear a sword because I wouldn’t know how to use one, but my crossbow is at hand, and my dagger hangs at my waist with a special kiss of poison along its razor-sharp edge. I’m rowing to meet a man I’ve never seen in a place I have never been. Serenissimo assured me I needn’t worry, that I would know him straight off, and I trust any man stamped with the doge’s imprimatur. He rides from Treviso fortress, ours, to meet me at the inn by the tower of Marghera at Vespers.

I tether my boat in the shadow of the three-story brick watchtower, the lower course of obvious Roman origin. The Romans never ventured onto the marshy islands of the lagoon, confining themselves to solid ground. I stash my crossbow and quiver in my boat, expecting no danger at the inn, only a new friend.

Fishermen’s huts clustered at the base of the tower enclose a crude square deserted in the late afternoon. The tower looms overhead, a rook on a chessboard spreading from Carrara Castle in Padua to St. Mark’s Square. At the back of the square, outside the inn, three men—desperados, mercenaries, or thugs—watch me approach with an unhealthy interest. None of them looks likely to be Donato Venturi. I place my hand on my dagger to show them I mean business. The doge’s ring glints on my finger. Those who respect the power of the doge see the ring as a talisman; those who don’t see only a large chunk of gold. One more step and I clearly pick out the splayed red carts, the carros of the Carrara, on their blood- and mud-spattered tunics.

“Aw, ain’t he pretty?”

“You heard about those Venetian butt boys. Better than women, they say.”

As I unsheathe my dagger, three longswords lunge at me, their wielders laughing at the notion that a dagger could protect me from them. I stumble backward, catch myself, stand as tall as possible, and hold up the doge’s ring. “Arms down in the name of His Exalted Serenity, the Doge of Venice.”

“Exalted Fucking Asshole, that one. Old Contarini got no weenie.”

I raise my dagger, knowing something they don’t know. They snigger and slash, making their steel blades sing. I cannot possibly nick all three with my blade before they cut my hands off, so I retreat. One of them slip-slides into my space, swinging. The point of his blade slices my doublet, stinging my skin. I swipe with my dagger, desperate to break his skin and deliver the poison kiss, but he flips his sword, grips the blade with his gauntlets, and swings it, braining me with the pommel. I fly backward to general laughter, rolling away as the disrespectful thugs advance to skewer me for the fun of it.

They don’t notice until their heads turn, following mine, and by then it’s too late. A whirlwind of dust whips toward the square delivering an armed soldier on a lathered white destrier showering foam. He swoops in and circles the Paduans, freeing me to sheathe my dagger and scramble to the boat for my crossbow, but before I can, he disarms all three in a shower of blood. He doesn’t kill them, but he may as well have.

He jumps off his destrier, which stands still as a statue behind him, grips my hand in his gauntlet, and yanks me to my feet.

“Are you hurt?”

“Only my pride.”

“What did they want?”

“We never got that far.”

As the wounded Paduans crawl away, he laughs heartily, slaps me on the back, and says, “Well met, Niccolò Saltano. I am Donato Venturi.”

He lifts off his helmet and shakes his head, smacking his right ear with the butt of his palm. I lack words to describe his sudden impact. Even his shadow has tangible presence. But more astonishing are his brown skin and blue eyes. His beauty shatters every canon of classical aesthetics and redefines them. His square face is made up of rounded planes showcasing Arab eyes, a Venetian nose, and plush lips wreathed in moustaches and goatee. No matter how fierce his brows or severe the crop of his black curls, his smile strikes me speechless. He covers my blush and stammer with easy conversation. “I’ve heard a lot about you from Serenissimo. He brags about you like the son he never had.”

“I wouldn’t take his word on me. His fondness inclines to dotage.”

“And also from General Giustinian, who credits you with our smashing victory at Trieste.”

“And yet I know nothing of you but your name.”

“Accompany me inside,” he says, “and we can remedy that.”


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Larry was born in Los Angeles and educated in literature, political science, and life at the University of California, Berkeley. He has worked as a printer and journalist in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and St. Paul, Minnesota. Larry also worked with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground on the Exploding Plastic Inevitable in NY, Provincetown, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, was mentored by Dean Koontz, and shared a palazzo in Venice with international opera singers Erika Sunnegårdh and Mark Doss.”

While living in Venice for many years, Larry also taught English, led tours, and immersed himself in the history and art of the Venetian Republic. The Ballot Boy was born in Venice and completed in St. Paul.

Larry is a lifelong social activist and writer, a voracious reader and researcher, an opera fanatic, and devoted walker. He currently lives in St. Paul with his partner of twenty-one years and his ex-wife of twenty-five years. His son is a pianist devoted to blues and jazz.

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New Release Blitz: Raised by Wolves by Elaine White (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Raised by Wolves

Series: Surviving Vihaan, Book Two

Author: Elaine White

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/16/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 137800

Genre: Paranormal, MM romance, action/adventure, Alpha males, bonded, wolf shifters, disability

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Bad news always comes in threes.

As do the hits that knock Keon’s perfectly laid plans into chaos. His no-good brother conducted a hostile takeover of their pack, became Alpha, and got killed in the space of a year. Grief has crippled their father, leaving Beta Weston desperate for Keon’s return, as Simeon’s last act as Alpha was to name Keon his successor.

Leaving his friends is heartbreaking. Arriving home to a hostile pack is unsurprising. But finding a rival pack hovering on the boundaries of his land, vying for blood, could be a problem. With Simeon dead, they don’t seem to care which Alpha bleeds for the crimes.

With no other choice, Keon shoulders the burden of being Alpha. Fighting, bleeding, and sacrificing.

As a new Alpha, he needs to prove himself to get the respect needed for them to accept change…like dragging Vihaan into the 21st century. On the top of the list is finding a mate. But who would want to mate an Alpha whose own pack doesn’t respect him?


Raised by Wolves
Elaine White © 2023
All Rights Reserved


Seven Months Ago

Alpha Thatcher’s Pack

E’Boolou Region, Vihaan

He always knew this day would come. Thatcher was too old and selfish to fight his own challenges, but part of Milo had naïvely presumed it would be Usher standing in his place. Or one of his many other brothers, who were better fighters.

But Milo supposed that was the point. This wasn’t about the challenge. This was about punishing Milo, because the Fates had given him a male true mate. This was a reminder of his place in the pack, in the world.

Every challenge was to the death, and if Milo died, he doubted his father, Thatcher, would spare a second thought. The loss of Milo’s gift would be a small price if he could give the pack this important lesson―there would be no gaoj tolerated in Thatcher’s pack or his family.

It didn’t matter that Milo hadn’t asked to be born gaoj―someone attracted to the same sex. The fact he was would be enough of an insult to Thatcher’s opinion on what made a man a man.

Beating each other bloody counted, apparently. With not even the Meskli to preside, as was usually the case.

Alpha Farley was a m’weko, but as the Meskli, he was a neutral party who governed within Vihaan. Settling disputes and resolving problems between packs, villages, and species of foame―those half-human who could call forth a beast form. He wasn’t a man to disobey and held tight to tradition.

No, waiting for the Meskli would mean prying eyes and someone willing to―and with the power to―interfere on Milo’s behalf.

He didn’t recognise his opponent, and Thatcher hadn’t bothered to tell Milo what this challenge was about. What dispute or grievance required the shedding of blood. A secret part of him wondered if the problem had been fabricated purely to punish him. Milo would put nothing past his father.

The moment the challenger stepped forward―a brute of a man, made of muscle―Milo’s nerves shook. He tried to hide it, summoning long buried memories of his most hated brothers, bullying and goading him, from his childhood. The only way he’d survive this was to remember one important thing―he’d rather spend an eternity in reedav than let his father win. An afterlife in Vihaan’s version of hell would be worth the chance to make his father suffer.

As long as Milo remained breathing by the end of the fight, it would be enough. He’d drag himself to his home, with his insides hanging out, if it meant denying Thatcher the satisfaction of seeing him fail.


Milo was down, beaten bloody and could barely feel his legs, but not dead. He could only see out of one eye, but his reflexes remained quick enough to roll away from the foot aimed at his head.

It had been a long, excruciating fight, with his opponent employing every dirty trick possible, and Thatcher didn’t object once.

At some point, Usher had arrived to watch horror-stricken, as Milo fought for his life. At least neither his mother nor his sister, Haley, had been dragged from their beds to witness his humiliation.

After five minutes of struggling to make his legs move, Milo froze at the first sign of rain. Dismay filled his heart, but he fought to stand and dodged through another ten minutes of attacks, too bone-weary to do anything but defend and protect himself. His opponent showed signs of fatigue, and it was satisfying to see bleeding wounds where Milo had left his mark.

Then the opponent backed away to shift into his m’weko form―a giant beast, all fur and fangs, and far scarier than the Dnaran tales of wolf beasts. Something Milo was too weak to do.

Lightning flashed across the sky, and he feared his fate was to die here.

As a massive paw swiped at his head, Milo ducked, rearing back to avoid it gutting his stomach on the way up. Too late to see the other hand lowering over his bent body in time to counter-strike.

He saw the claw descend, knew he had neither the time nor energy to avoid it, and felt the skin tear as it made contact. Milo screamed, a sound he’d never made before, and crumpled to the ground to an angry shout,


In the haze of his vision, he made out Usher shifting to tackle the m’weko challenger, tearing at his throat. Milo lasted long enough for Usher to kill the man, then shift to human.

“I won’t let you kill him,” he snapped at their father, crossing to where Milo lay. Usher lifted his broken body from the ground, and such pain flooded through him that Milo passed into a brief, but peaceful, oblivion.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Elaine White is the author of multi-genre MM romance, celebrating ‘love is love’ and offering diversity in both genre and character within her stories.

Growing up in a small town and fighting cancer in her early teens taught her that life is short and dreams should be pursued. She lives vicariously through her independent, and often hellion characters, exploring all possibilities within the romantic universe.

The Winner of two Watty Awards – Collector’s Dream (An Unpredictable Life) and Hidden Gem (Faithfully) – and an Honourable Mention in 2016’s Rainbow Awards (A Royal Craving) Elaine is a self-professed geek, reading addict, and a romantic at heart.

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New Release Blitz: Wake the Dead by Sophie Whittemore (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title: Wake the Dead

Series: Gamin Immortals, Book Two

Author: Sophie Whittemore

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/09/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 83700

Genre: Paranormal, Paranormal, lit, asexual, demisexual, trans, lesbian, gay, siren, ghost, necromancer, shapeshifter, murder, detective, Green Man, Baron Samedi, fae, priest

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An ominous presence awakens in the small town of Gamin.

Fairies murdered by crazed monsters. Magic that makes immortals lose their minds and their heads (literally). Whispers of a vendetta against the fairy crime lords who own the infamous Kraken Club.

One ace siren detective, Lili, is dragged back into defending her turf…and hopefully, she doesn’t die this time around.


Wake the Dead
Sophie Whittemore © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Welcome to Hotel Hell

The world is a chrysalis waiting, desperately, for something to happen. And when things happen, that means chaos follows. And when chaos follows, someone inevitably writes something akin to the Book of Revelations.

The Book of Revelations is nestled between the thumb and forefinger of the wandering priest sitting with one leg crossed over the other in the lobby of the Sweeney Inn. A glass cup beads, crying condensation, at his side. He has stubble he probably dreams will, one day, become a beard.

He really shouldn’t have a beard.

I shouldn’t be thinking like that. There could be a mind reader in this very room. Gamin attracts those types more than most places. It attracts the magical like rats to disease. It’s the magic river that does it, the magic hiding us from the human world. So, case in point, there very well might be a mind reader in this very room.

Hey, asshole, if you’re reading my mind, and I smile as I think this, fuck off.

The round-bellied, redheaded, and altogether-too-good-for-her-own-good witch beside me, Patty, scowls at the priest bearing the Book of Revelations. Specifically, she scowls at the mud caking his shoes. “He’s dragging it all over the place.” She watches the floor, how his legs swing across it. “I don’t care if he’s a priest. If he muddies the ground—” She ties her frizzy red hair back from her round face, making me wonder if she really will sock him. Her absolute kickass attitude never ceases to amaze me, and if fate took other chances, I would not hesitate to make her my dream girlfriend.

“He’ll meet his Maker?” I finish for her.

She smirks, leaning her chubby, freckled arms against the front desk. She’s about to answer when the man gets to his feet and crosses toward us. He’s not too tall, about my height, with dark hair, thick brows, and skin that glows like a penny in the sun.

“Welcome to the Sweeney Inn,” Patty declares, a little glint of pride in her eyes. A businesswoman growing comfortable in her power suit. Her brother, Jason Sweeney, keeps the books. Patty leads the running of this place, and she runs such a tight ship that her orders even make me weary at times.

Together, they run the (Evil) Eye Inc., your friendly neighborhood necromancy corporation and local coven business. Being younger, they’ve moved a lot of the business online with tech-wizard friend Erik Borden doing most of the magical for-your-eyes-only monster coding.

You heard me.

Witches are getting into the Silicon Valley big tech startup business.

What’s the world coming to?

I look around the lobby again and notice a tiny ghost rat scurry in one of the corners, still carrying the piece of poisoned cheese that ended its life.

It’s a work in progress.

“Your name?” I ask the handsome stranger, my pen poised over the check-in book.

He points to the paper and pen. “Really, no computer?” He has crooked bottom teeth, but it doesn’t detract from the glow in his smile.

I shrug. “I’m old, therefore, I’m old-fashioned.”

He leans in a little closer at that statement. The Roman collar, a clerical collar, at his neck peeks out. “You look hardly twenty.”

“Many people have told me that. Well, mostly people.” Patty casts me a withering look at the inside joke. I point to the book. “Name?”

“One room.” He falters at how far I’ve already skipped in the usual check-in process. “And my name is Adam. Adam Way.” He pronounces it “Aadom.”

“Father Way?” I ask.

He nods. “As you say.”

Oh, a poet. I hate poets.

“What brings you to Gamin?” Patty takes the crumpled bills he pulls from his wallet, watching him just as suspiciously as I do. This wouldn’t be the first time a stranger tried to pull the wool over eyes. There was a ghūl just last week who tried to party with a selkie during a bachelors’ party…ugh, the teeth on that one, I assure you it was—

“Training.” He fixes his collar.

“For?” Patty shifts over, pressing his change into his open palm.

“The town’s priest—” I’m honestly surprised this town still has priests considering the string of murders that occurred a few months ago. “—he asked me here for a very special reason. He wants me to become a purifier. No, that’s not quite it. You will think it’s silly, like the movies.”

“I assure you”—and here Patty and I grin in unison—“we’ll believe in anything.”

“I am training to become an exorcist. I’m afraid my family back in Lebanon still hope I can become a lawyer or a scholar or something. Fight for justice. Get married again instead of chasing after some spiritual quest.” He lowers his head and looks conspiratorially at me. “But I’m sure your parents act the same way.”

I sign off on the rest of the book, checking off prepared rooms, and reach for a keycard for him from under the desk. “I don’t have family back anywhere. I came from, well, I suppose now it’s Iran. But I left home a long time ago. My home, the home I knew…it’s long gone. It’s history.”

“You left to go where?”

“Wandering the world. Traveling extensively.” Murdering. Thieving. Gathering an army of the damned, but who’s counting? That was old Lili. Now, I’m changed. I’ve grown soft.

Adam takes his keycard and nods at that. “I’m sorry. Without family, it must be hard.”

I close my eyes and think of the strange little community I’ve recruited here in Gamin. Patty and Jason Sweeney, necromancer siblings. Byron the ghost and his boyfriend, Erik Borden, a techno-wizard (literally). Detective Ikiaq, a shapeshifter as old as I am.

And Jo. Jo Kim. My gangshi, soul devouring partner. Forever asleep because of a mistake I made, chasing after an oracle punk who turned out to be an angry Greek goddess with a murderous chip on her shoulder.

But instead of telling him all that, I say, “I found my family. Eventually.”

He looks another moment into my eyes with his dark ones, his hand matching my complexion, the shade of the sun that made me when I wandered the world as a goddess of Sumer, the demonic opposite to Eve in Eden. His hair’s clipped back, perhaps a deterrent for his sex appeal as a priest, but it does a poor job of it. A gathering of ladies at a bachelorette party nearby whisper about how they’d “want the priest to come to the party before the wedding and not after.”

Even the slight case of sideburns only serves to accentuate his tense jaw, his teeth gritted in nervousness. Everything about him is tightly wound, a watch ticking in a gentleman’s pocket, waiting to spring.

Those are always the most fun to break.

“Of course.” He nods. The gaggle of ladies behind him giggle as he turns around and raises his hand in what could be a wave, a blessing, or both. “We all need family in these trying times. The world seems to be on fire, if you’ve read anything of the news or heard the gossip lately.”

“We didn’t start the fire!” Patty quips, already launching into a half-hearted humming of Billy Joel.

“You act older than me sometimes,” I gripe at her, biting my tongue back as I note Adam’s curiosity. Patty and I may both look twenty-one, but I’ve seen empires fall eons before she even learned they existed. Or before she existed, for that matter.

Adam, smiling, clutches his room key and his Bible in hand, his simple faux leather soles shuffling against the lobby floors as he turns toward his room. “Funny. My room number is 177. One more seven, and I might be considered blessed.” He bows a little toward me, the movement stiff, his eyes a little too curious for my comfort. “But it was a blessing to meet you, Lili.”

As he turns around, I’m cursing beneath my breath. What is he, a mind reader?

“How in the nine Hells did he know my—?”

Patty stops me by pointing at my lapel, where my nametag reads my printed name, “Lili,” alongside “concierge” beneath. “Cool it, Sherlock. Not everything has to be the start of some mystical case file with you. What is this, a TV show?”

She picks up a stack of newly printed Gamin town maps from beneath the desk and goes to restock the sad little pile next to the magazines by the door. Funnily enough, the maps mention town destinations like the riverfront, historic town hall, and hiking in the woods.

The pamphlets say nothing about the dead bodies of sirens, the cursed waters that make you forget your memory, or the string of serial killer murders that, somehow, flew under the radar thanks to a fair bit of magic.

Monsters make great bedtime stories but horrible advertising.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Sophie Whittemore is a Dartmouth Film/Digital Arts major with a mom from Indonesia and a dad from Minnesota. They’re known for their Gamin Immortal series (Catch Lili Too) and Legends of Rahasia series, specifically, the viral publication Priestess for the Blind God. Their writing career kicked off with the whimsical Impetus Rising collection, published at age 17.

They grew up in Chicago and live a life of thoroughly unexpected adventures and a dash of mayhem: whether that’s making video games or short films, scripting for a webcomic, or writing about all the punk-rock antiheroes we should give another chance (and subsequently blogging about them).

Sophie’s been featured as a Standout in the Daily Herald and makes animated-live action films on the side. Their queer-gamer film “IRL – In Real Life” won in the Freedom & Unity Young Filmmaker Contest (JAMIE KANZLER AWARDS Second Prize; ADULT: Personal Stories, Third Prize) and was a Semifinalist at the NYC Rainbow Cinema Film Festival.

Their prior works include “A Clock’s Work” in a Handersen Publishing magazine, “Blind Man’s Bluff” in Parallel Ink, a Staff Writer for AsAm News (covering the comic book convention was a dream), and numerous articles as an HXCampus Dartmouth Correspondent. Ultimately, Sophie lives life with these ideas: 1) live your truth unapologetically and 2) don’t make bets with supernatural creatures.

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New Release Blitz: Hunter by Mell Eight (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Hunter

Series: Witch’s Circle, Book Two

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/09/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 32900

Genre: Paranormal, Paranormal, magic, witches, shifters, vampires, werewolves, hunters, cat familiars, ménage

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Kana never dreamed he would be affiliated with a werewolf pack, but when Alpha Ember asks Kana for a favor, Kana agrees. However, helping Ember and his wolves means exposing Kana’s existence to the larger magical community. Breaking his safety net is something Kana doesn’t take lightly, but if it means Ember might finally notice him, Kana is willing to try.

Unfortunately, actions have consequences. A magic hunter is on the way to the city, and Kana is worried he’s the target. Laying low in the company of werewolves isn’t as easy as Kana hoped, and when the hunter turns his focus on Kana, Kana quickly realizes the pack and Ember might be the ones who suffer as a result.


Mell Eight © 2023
All Rights Reserved

The library was quiet at two in the morning. Kana didn’t understand why the librarian bothered to lock any of the doors, given most of the community could pop the locks with just a breath of magic. He certainly had never been stopped by something as measly as a physical lock. He walked past shelves of fiction and nonfiction, straight to the largest section of the library: magical studies. Illumination came from one security light in the corner and from moonlight and streetlights filtering in through the windows. Combined, Kana had more than enough light to see his path to the back of the magical studies area and into the separate room where the advanced books were kept.

These were the books the library considered too important or too rare to be checked out. Anyone could read them, but the books could not be taken outside. For most witches, this wasn’t a problem. Getting access was first-come, first-served, but an informal list had been generated so “everyone” could sign up to read the books in turn—except for Kana, the only male witch in the coven, who had repeatedly been “overlooked” when the informal list reached his name.

If he wanted the same chance as all the other witches to read the books that would allow him to develop his magic, he had to do so when no one else was around.

Kana found the book where he had left off, flipped to the correct page, and settled in one of the chairs close enough to the window so he had enough light to read by.

The coven’s circle of power and his fellow witches might not see any benefit in ensuring Kana was properly trained, but he was going to prove them all wrong. He would read every single book in the advanced section and become the strongest witch in the coven.

As the next few years went by, Kana spent most nights in the library, providing it wasn’t cloudy outside or during a new moon, of course. His knowledge of magic was growing in leaps and bounds, and he was also starting to understand that having magic and power would never be enough for his coven. He had been born male, which meant he would always be considered less than his female counterparts. Regardless of how strong his circle work was, in their opinion, he was only good for helping the coven produce the next generation of strong female witches.

The final straw had come at the start of the second half of his senior year of high school. The announcement had been posted for all interested individuals to sign up for a timeslot to attempt the spell to call their familiar. Kana knew his place so had waited for all his classmates to choose their times and then signed up for an empty slot.

“All students who are not planning to cast the spell to call your familiar, you are free to leave class today. Please go to the library for some self-study,” his magical studies teacher said to the class the day they had returned to school after winter solstice break.

About a third of the students got up and shuffled out of the room. The teacher looked over the remaining students, and her gaze froze when she reached Kana.

“Kana, you’re free to leave as well,” she said, despite the fact that the sign-up sheet was sitting on her desk with Kana’s name on it.

“I would like to try the spell as well,” Kana said, attempting to sound insistent.

The rest of the students in the class all sniggered around him. Kana heard some of them whispering gleefully about the “pathetic man.” Even the teacher had an indulgent, patronizing smile.

“You might be able to do some magic, Kana, but this is a high-level spell,” she told him, as if her mere words would dissuade him. When Kana didn’t move, she sighed. “Very well. You may sit through this lesson.”

Kana sat through that lesson and every lesson thereafter for high-level spells. He was never called on, never asked to demonstrate, and constantly got side-eyed looks and heard snide gossip about him. But he set a precedent. Even though no one thought he ought to be present, they stopped trying to dissuade him from attending. When the timeslots for attempting to call a familiar were finalized, no one bothered trying to stop Kana.

Of course, Kana knew what they were thinking. He was male, so he would fail, and they could afford to indulge him. Also, it was less work for them to let him try and fail than to fight with him about it.

However, what was important were the lessons Kana had learned. He could come out of the calling circle with the strongest, most powerful familiar the coven had ever seen, and he knew it wouldn’t matter in the least. He wouldn’t prove to them that men could be as magically strong as women. He wouldn’t suddenly become acceptable or be allowed to take a spot in the coven circle like a female witch who did the same. No, Kana had a very strong feeling the exact opposite would happen to him.

Kana didn’t want to continue living his life like this. It didn’t matter how his familiar calling went; Kana knew he couldn’t stay. He would never be happy or able to create some sort of life for himself if he remained here. Leaving would take planning, but it wasn’t as if he had anything else to do with his free time.

The library was dark and silent as it always was, but for the last month of his time in the village before he could try calling his familiar, Kana had a different goal. There were spell books in the advanced sections his classmates wouldn’t have access to for quite a few more years; only those admitted to the circle were put on the informal list to study them. Kana spent hours scanning them into the computer and emailing them to himself, using a free email service that accepted fake information to join. He was also careful to wipe the computers after he finished to prevent anyone from discovering what he had done. When he wasn’t stealing spells, Kana pored over maps, trying to decide on the best possible destination.

By the time his day arrived to cast the calling spell, Kana was as prepared as possible. No matter how the spell went, he was looking forward to finally starting his life somewhere new.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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Book Blitz: Diversion Plan by Tag Gregory (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Diversion Plan

Series: Rooms For Romance, Book Two

Author: Tag Gregory

Publisher: Tag Gregory

Release Date: 4/21/23

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 330

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ, MM Romance, Gay Romance

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Brent Riddick has been up to his armpits in work ever since he started his job as the Truman School’s manager. He admits he probably qualifies as a workaholic, although he doesn’t really care. He’s simply more comfortable standing in front of a board meeting than sitting in a cocktail lounge and has no desire to examine his lack of a social life. So it isn’t a big deal to him that he sorta forgets it’s his birthday.

Unfortunately his staff, led by the hotel’s sexiest troublemaker, Guthrie, remembers the occasion and Brent is begrudgingly forced to allow his co-workers to take him out for drinks. However, when all those birthday drinks go to Brent’s head and he ends up going home with an equally drunken Guthrie, things get a little more complicated.

Guthrie Walker is the kind of guy who always knows where the next party is happening. He also has a Plan B Party and a Plan C Party if his original party plans fall through. He’s still young and figures there’ll be plenty of time later to get serious about life. Drinking and dancing with his friends is definitely more fun than dealing with his messed up finances or dwelling on the festering rift with his family. So what if he occasionally drinks a little too much, does a few club drugs, comes in late to work a time or two, and suffers from an almost perpetual hangover? Everyone does it, right? Too bad the judge overseeing his case after Guthrie is arrested for drug possession doesn’t see things that way.

As if things weren’t messy enough, the court-ordered Diversion Plan requires Guthrie to enlist the help of his supervisor at work – who also happens to be one of Guthrie’s many one-night stands – if he wants to stay out of jail, retain his server’s license, and not lose his job. The hotel is already short-staffed and Brent is too much of a softie to say no to his desperate subordinate. Which is how Brent ends up vouching for Guthrie and agreeing to monitor his compliance with the court’s mandates. Now Brent just has to come up with a way to divert the party boy’s attention away from his club-scene past and himself away from lusting after his hot mess employee.


Chapter 1 – Brent

It’s not my fault that I’m so busy I sorta forget my own birthday.

The past six months, ever since I was hired as the manager of the Truman School, have been wild. I’ve been so busy that I rarely even remember what day of the week it is, let alone the actual date. Unless, of course, there’s some critically important work event I need to know the date of; those dates I remember because I’m paid well not to forget them. Personal stuff, though . . . Not so much.

The first three months leading up to the Grand Opening of the hotel were filled with hiring staff, overseeing the remodeling of the building, and working with the PR team to plan the opening. Most of that time I was working fourteen hour days, six or seven days a week. Things only slowed down incrementally following the opening. Being the manager, I end up being the one expected to handle all the problems and, for some reason, those problems always happen at the least opportune times. Primarily weekends and the middle of the night, it seems. I don’t think I’ve really taken a relaxed breath since starting this job.

Not that I really mind. I guess I probably qualify as a ‘work-a-holic’ but that’s fine with me. I’d rather be too busy than not busy enough. Work is good. I’m good at what I do. I like knowing that I’m appreciated. I like hearing the accolades from my bosses at McNally’s. I really like that I’ve already received one merit-based promotion despite being with the company less than a year. Plus, when I’m up to my armpits in work shit, I don’t have time to worry about anything else. So, generally speaking, I don’t complain about being too busy. Life is easier when you’ve got a purpose and, since I don’t have much of a life outside of work right now, that’s really my only purpose.

However, this weekend is proving especially hectic, what with it being Labor Day. The last official weekend of Summer is traditionally one of the busiest times of the year in the hospitality industry and, happily, the hotel is booked to capacity. It doesn’t help matters that our chef up and quit on me last week and the replacement, Easton, is not one hundred percent up to speed yet. Or that I’m immersed in marketing meetings with Ryan Zellers and the McNally’s PR team most of the weekend. Or that Ryan and his boyfriend – our ex-artist, Jayce – invited most of the staff to join them for dinner on Friday night. Or that the plumbing in the north wing backed up on Saturday afternoon. Or that any of the hundreds of other things that I’ve had to worry about this weekend have been taking up any spare brain capacity I might have left over.

Anyway, it’s no wonder I’m far too preoccupied with the daily crises of managing a full hotel to notice that this year September sixth – my birthday – falls on the first Monday of the month. I’m not sure whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing that Logan, my assistant manager, remembers the occasion. I’m afraid that I probably look a little confused, though, when my team surprises me with an impromptu celebration just as soon as I give the okay to the restaurant staff to close up the Courtyard kitchen at nine-thirty that Monday evening.

“For he’s a jolly good fellow . . .” They all sing as Malia emerges from the kitchen with a Jaciva chocolate cake festooned with three largish candles.

The fact that they aren’t singing the traditional birthday song adds to my confusion. “What’s this for?” I ask as the group circles round the table where the cake has been placed and I’m pushed down into a chair facing the confection. “Are you folks angling for promotions or something?”

“I told you he’d forget.” Logan gives a conspiratorial laugh. “Happy birthday, Brent!”

“Happy birthday, Boss!” the crowd echos.

I look around and see the faces of pretty much the entire hotel staff staring at me: Logan, Guthrie, Easton, Wyatt, Keshawn, Perry, Tasha, and all the rest. I note that even Mark has come by this evening, despite working out of corporate headquarters most of the time. I smile around at them lamely and try to look happy at being ambushed, even though I hate being made the center of attention like this. I’ve never been overly comfortable in social situations, especially when I haven’t had time to prepare something to say or figure out how I’m supposed to act. It’s different when I’m standing in a boardroom or in front of a staff meeting. Those I can handle. But random surprise parties where I’m the guest of honor are a whole ‘nother thing.

I can feel my skin heating up and I try to fight back the blush I feel creeping up from under the collar of my shirt. Being a redhead, I can’t control the fact that my ruddy skin usually gives me away any time I’m feeling embarrassed or put on the spot. I try not to let myself get caught out like this too often. I’m the fucking manager after all; I can’t be going around blushing like a school-girl in front of my staff. Apparently my body doesn’t understand the need to maintain a professional demeanor, though, and that stupid blush takes over, no doubt turning my cheeks almost as red as my beard. But I try to smile anyway as I laugh at myself along with the rest.

“Thank you. But you didn’t have to do this.” I gesture at the cake and try to bat away the hands attempting to pull the elastic strap of a paper birthday hat under my chin. “Really. You shouldn’t have . . .”

“Of course we should,” Logan insists, pulling out the chair across from me and smiling in an officious manner as they seat themselves. “Celebrating staff birthdays together is part of the fun of working here – or so it says in the McNally’s Team Policy Manual – but I knew you wouldn’t take the time to celebrate on your own, so I made the executive decision to ensure you at least sat down long enough to eat a piece of cake. And, after the ridiculously busy weekend we all just had, everyone deserves a party. Including you. Now, be a good boss and pretend to enjoy yourself.”

I know they’re only teasing so I try to play along. “Who has time for birthdays?” I respond, causing several of the party to chuckle.

“C’mon, Boss. You’d think someone born on ‘Labor Day’ would at least remember when to celebrate!” Someone in the back – I think it’s probably that smart-ass, Guthrie – calls out.

And, yes, I’m aware of the irony of the fact that the celebration of my birth is happening on ‘Labor Day’ this year. My poor mother, going into labor on ‘Labor Day’ thirty years ago, no doubt also thought it hilarious at the time. However, since my birthday and the holiday coincide about every six or seven years, I’ve definitely heard that joke more than a few times. It wasn’t funny the first four times I heard it, and I’m not really that amused now either. But I can’t be ungracious when they’re all trying to be nice by throwing me this party so I offer an awkward smile and fake a chuckle.

Did I mention how much I hate uncomfortable social situations?

Then another voice from the crowd – Guthrie again, I assume, because nobody else would dare to be that flippant with the boss – urges me to, “make a wish and blow already!” which, of course, leads to more teasing and joking.

What else can I do? I can’t just walk out of my own birthday party, so I play along, blowing out the candles and accepting a piece of cake. Malia pours beers for everyone who’s already off the clock, and maybe a few who are supposed to still be on the clock, but I turn a blind eye to that minor policy infraction since they’re ostensibly only doing it in my honor. The party carries on from there.

I’m not sure exactly when the party gets so out of control.

One minute we’re sitting around in the empty dining room, drinking beer and eating cake, chatting and laughing about work stuff and the crazy weekend we’d just lived through, and the next minute someone suggests we take the party on the road. I hear Guthrie, the eternal party boy, proposing we all go to Scandals. Several other voices concur. I try to demur, using the pile of administrative paperwork waiting on my desk as an excuse to get out of this little field trip, but I’m shouted down. After all, it’s my party, right? I’m the guest of honor. They all want to buy me more drinks. I might still have backed out, though, if Guthrie wasn’t teasing me so relentlessly.

“Come on, Boss!” The tall, bold blond waggles his eyebrows at me from behind those hipster horned-rimmed glasses of his. “Pull the stick out of your ass and live a little for once!”

I want to tell him to fuck off, and maybe even write him up for talking to his superior in such an improper manner, but that would make me look like an ungrateful jerk. This whole celebration is supposedly for my benefit, right? I’m expected to play along. Which is exactly why I hate social interaction. I feel so awkward; I never know how I’m supposed to react when put on the spot like this. So, despite feeling completely out of my element, I allow myself to be talked into relocating the party to one of Portland’s more well-known gay bars. What the hell, right? I suppose I can allow the diversion this once.

The debauchery progresses rapidly from that point.

I suppose it’s obvious fairly early on that I don’t routinely drink very heavily. I’d had a couple beers back at the Truman School, so I’m already feeling a bit loose when we arrive at Scandals. The team immediately insists that I drink something called a ‘Birthday Cake Shot’ to celebrate my special day. That’s followed up by a Jagerbomb. After that I completely lose track of the seemingly endless rounds of drinks that follow as everyone and their brother offers to buy the Birthday Boy a drink.

Although Scandals isn’t a dance club, per se, at some point during the night the entire Truman team ends up in the middle of the floor, jumping, twisting, gyrating, and dancing together in a big group. Surprisingly, I’m right in the middle of the roiling mess of them and, for once, I’m having a pretty good time, despite my introvert tendencies. The bartender cranks up the tunes. The music is decent and quite danceable. None of us are feeling any pain and the party moves into high gear.

I’m more than halfway sloshed by this point. I will readily admit that all the toasts I’ve been the recipient of have me flying pretty high. I’ve had enough to drink that my inhibitions are pretty nonexistent and I’m relaxed enough not to care how I look anymore. I even give up trying to remove the stupid party hat that my staff insists I keep wearing. I’m having a great time dancing, to be honest – something I usually avoid out of fear of looking like a juvenile red-headed moose having a seizure – which is, unfortunately, my go-to dance move. But I’m just tipsy enough tonight to not give a damn and it feels good to let go for a change.

So, when Guthrie comes up behind me at some point and starts grinding against me from behind I don’t sweat it. I merely laugh and wiggle my ass a little provocatively. Then I toss back the rest of the glowing, fruity blue drink that is currently in my hand and twirl around like some kind of drunken ballerina.

“Oh, so he can dance,” Guthrie says, taking advantage of the smooth tempo of the music to pull me back against him even closer.

I can feel his tall, lanky body pressed up against me from behind and then his hips do this swivel thing that causes his crotch to grind into the crack of my ass. I don’t even bother trying to stifle the groan that escapes from my lips at that move. It’s been a hella long time since I had anyone grinding up against me and I’m not about to waste the experience. Especially not when it’s a hot blond like Guthrie.


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Meet the Author

TAG has been living in Portland, Oregon, so long that it’s almost like being a native. They don’t even mind the rain that much anymore. TAG loves the city and the state with a passion. TAG has been writing for almost a decade, starting out with a hesitant toe in the realm of fanfiction before venturing into the scarier world of self-publishing original works. With an eclectic background as an attorney, microbiologist, all-around nerd, and adventurer, TAG brings to all their writing an off-kilter sense of humor, unbounded curiosity, a love of historical and contemporary details, and astonishing powers of research. If you are looking for a gripping story, with compelling characters that deal with real world issues, then you’re in the right place.

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Book Blitz: How Not to Date A Dragon Master by Stephanie Burke (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  How Not to Date A Dragon Master

Series: How Not To #14

Author: Stephanie Burke

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: May 5, 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 203 pages

Genre: Romance, Action Adventure – Dark Fantasy – Magic, Sorcery & Witchcraft – Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual – Paranormal – Military, Veterans & First Responders

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War is upon them — armies are clashing at their doorstep. Ulvissar’s heat is becoming uncontrollable, and tension between him and Nithe is higher than ever before.

With his Dragon Lord and her new mate leading his warriors, will Ulvissar be able to destroy those who would betray them, and will Nithe be strong enough to claim both the title of Dragon Master and his Ulvissar? How can anyone withstand the wrath of an angry omega dragon?

Publisher’s Warning: How Not To Date a Dragon Master contains scenes of graphic violence and adult kink with blood play that may be triggers for some readers.


The wind blew bitter cold on the overcast early morning when Prince Ranid the Bold and his army rolled into town, and it matched the attitude of the people. The few men who were left in the ranks watched the bedraggled and exhausted inhabitants stagger toward their town’s entrance, while the sounds of their war horses’ shoes loudly striking the dirt-covered cobblestones encouraged a lone hound to throw back its head and howl mournfully at the still present moon.

The few lights glowed enough to illuminate the remains of a once prosperous town now fallen into ruin. A lone, sickly-looking goat bleated as it wandered through, its dented bell clanking miserably in the night air while a lone owl hooted in the distance.

The place smelled of neglect and misuse. Most of the buildings that surrounded the courtyard and what looked to be the center of town appeared derelict, missing windows, wood siding sliding off of their sides, paint so old and weatherworn that it looked like it hadn’t been refreshed in years.

Prince Ranid the Bold, on his once proud white steed, stood up in the stirrups and declared for all to hear, “What a fucking dump.”

“Well, fuck you too, asshole!” a drunk leaning on a pole outside of the town’s only tavern called out. “Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.”

That gave the whole army pause before a tall, black-haired, green-eyed man’s laugh barked out, startling the few who wore his bright red colors before they began to chuckle as well.

“What?” The green-eyed Prince Colton of Rinastas called to the other disgusted prince’s soldiers. “Out here with no resources but what little nature has left, you expected to find a lavish palace fit for your royal ass?” He shook his head, amusement plain in every line of his body. “This is war, boy. No one is going to be around to hold your hand or wipe Your Highness’s backside for you. The people who live in this area make do with what they have.”

“And who do these people hold loyalty to?” Prince Ranid demanded, settling back into his saddle, his face slightly red because yes, he expected some sort of accommodation for the royals at least. He didn’t expect this place to be so… desolate.

“I believe they pay a once a year tax to the people of the Eastern Kingdoms — the missing princess’s kingdom — and then they are largely left alone. This is dragon territory after all,” Prince Colton explained. “No one has a real hold on it but because part of it scrapes against the princess’s kingdom, it is to her people that these hard-working individuals pay their taxes and what little tribute they can give.”

“No way.” Ranid rolled his eyes, crossing his arms and pouting like a child as he absorbed what Colton was telling him. “The kingdom renowned for its beauty wouldn’t let a place like this exist and tarnish their good name. This is a disgrace.”

From beside him on his own warhorse, Lord Petyr of The Eastern Kingdoms shook his head in embarrassment. How had he ever found the loud, obnoxious, and abrasive prince beautiful? Things had cooled significantly since he started seeking his own privacy and comfort in the bold red tent that Prince Colton had lent him. Sure, he was no longer in the man’s bed but anyone would think about waiting a full five minutes before another filled Petyr’s former position there. And Petyr knew from personal experience that when Ranid was distracted or angry, the whole act would take about five minutes… from start to finish.

“If you say so.” Colton snickered to himself, unwilling to engage the spoiled brat of a prince in any type of intellectual debate. As far as this asshole was concerned, if something wasn’t up to his ridiculous standards, then he would most likely dismiss it, and Colton was not up for this kind of stupidity. He could be back at his tent getting some shut-eye after a long and tedious… in every way imaginable… campaign march. He was tired, his ass hurt for all the wrong reasons, and now his head was starting to hurt as well from listening to the bitching and griping of the brat prince. The only amusement he’d found during this whole rush to an ass kicking was the delightfully sarcastic Lord Petyr.

The man was pretty, though his downcast eyes and guilty expression detracted from that somewhat. The man did know his mind though, and only consented to be abused a short time before, with some encouraging words, he struck out on his own. He was intelligent and sharp as he offered several pride-protecting alternatives to the idiot prince as they traveled that would allow him to pull out of his stupid march and still save face. Colton’s favorite idea was to just play this was an inspection and introduction tour to see what changes needed to be made before they reported back to the King of the Eastern Lands.

Of course, Rancid the Bol — RanidRanid the Bold ignored every idea offered and was hellbent on completing his quest no matter the cost. So far, he’d managed to lose a few tents, a few of his soldiers deserted because of the insanity that they were surrounded by, diseases was starting to run rampant through his men — the sexually transmitted kind of course, because at this point the prince had more camp followers that loyal soldiers — and he was losing the best aide-de-camp that Colton had ever seen.

Filled with righteous indignation, Ranid dismounted his tired horse with a huff and led the poor beast to what appeared to be an inn and tethered him to the post out front.

Petyr and Colton also dismounted and followed the upstart prince inside. They stepped into the dim light allowed by the open shutters of what appeared to be windows with some kind of glass. The rough wooden floors were dusty. Goodness knows how everything in this town was not covered in dust, but it looked like someone had tried to sweep it relatively clean. Several long wooden bench-style tables sat in rows on either side of the room, the bar along the back wall blocking access to what had to be a small kitchen in the back.

“You call this place an inn?” Rancid was already ranting at a disinterested woman who was slowly wiping down a battered bar with a dirty rag.

“That’s what the sign used to say.” She snorted, rolling her eyes and dropping the rag to the floor.

“Used to,” Ranid snarled, leaning on the bar… only to jerk his hand back as it encountered what had to be the remains of someone’s greasy dinner… or a body fluid. Who could tell?

“Used to.” The woman walked over to stand before him, her hefty body covered in a stained smock, her arms crossed over her chest as she stuck out her chin in an aggressive manner. “That’s what I said. Are you fucking deaf or something?”

“Do you know who I am?” He bent closer to growl in her face.

“No.” She leaned forward as well, growling back in his face. “And I really don’t give a fuck who you are. Do you want something or are you wasting my time?”

“I am the prince of your kingdom and I demand respect.”

“No,” the woman shook her head, a sardonic look spreading across her face. “Our kingdom doesn’t have any princes, unless you count the assholes that the princesses are supposed to marry. And you didn’t demand my respect, you demanded my utmost attention and you’re not worth my time… which you aren’t going to get.”


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

Meet the Author

Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.

From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.

Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.

Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.

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New Release Blitz: Phoenix by Barry Creyton (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Phoenix

Author: Barry Creyton

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/02/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69900

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, actor, suspense, murder, mystery, blackmail, revenge, identity scam, horse farm, family drama

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Jack McCauley is at a dead end. He’s run out of money, luck, and love. There’d be no one to mourn him if he died tomorrow. Out of the blue, he’s given the chance to begin anew—another identity, another life, another chance at love. Should he take it? Should he start over?

Jack is young, good-looking, and desperate for his next acting gig. His boyfriend is history, his rent is unpaid, and his agent isn’t returning his calls. He’s offered one chance at redemption—a small part in a western being shot in Arizona—if only he can make his way there from LA by noon the following day.

Hitching a ride with Martin Brenner seems just the ticket. Martin is on his way to a new life in Phoenix and seems pleased to pick up an extra passenger.

Little does Jack know that a simple pickup will lead to the acting job he least expected—the role of a lifetime. But nothing in Phoenix is what it seems on the surface. Can Jack act his way out of an intricate jigsaw of lies, blackmail, and murder?


Barry Creyton © 2023
All Rights Reserved


Wednesday, July 13

2:59 p.m.

“Your name?”

The voice came from somewhere beyond the glare of the lights. It was deep, resonant, and weary.

A pinpoint of light reflected from the camera lens; Jack smiled at this tiny beacon—a warm, open smile with a hint of vulnerability, as he’d learned in drama class. He held up the slate bearing his name and said, “Jackson McCauley.”

There followed a weighty silence broken by a gurgle as Jack’s stomach protested a skipped breakfast. He hoped the mic hadn’t picked it up. Not that breakfast was beyond what he had in his wallet, but when it came to auditions and screen tests, the void in his gut admitted a butterfly or two.

He sneaked a glance into the gloom and saw a tight closeup of his face on a floor monitor. He was shiny from the heat of the lamps, but it was an evenly proportioned face with strong bones, piercing blue eyes, and a shock of carefully casual sandy-blond hair—a handsome face, a face, he’d been told, that would take him far.

It had taken him as far as this ancient, rundown sound stage in the back blocks of Hollywood.

“Jackson McCauley?” The weary man intoned the name as if trying to place it.

Jack turned his gaze back to the camera lens. “Most people just call me Jack—Jack McCauley. But, professionally…”

There was a terse rustle of paper. “How old are you?”

“It’s on my résumé.”

The man sighed and said as if to a kindergarten dropout, “We’d rather like to hear your voice.”


Silence. Jack grabbed another look at his image in the monitor. He’d worn what he thought was appropriate to test for a western—a neat, sky-blue, long-sleeved denim shirt with tabbed pockets, faded 501s, and cowboy boots that were only slightly down at heel, a souvenir from a gig as an extra on a TV series; they added an inch or so to his lean six feet.

“Profile.” A female voice—the voice of the casting director who’d called him out of the blue that afternoon—Michelle? Nicole? Something French sounding. That was about thirty minutes before the phone company ended their bumpy relationship with him and killed his cell account.

He turned to his left, offering what he considered to be his best side to the camera. Across the dark stage in the yellow glow of a work light, he saw a bored grip gazing at the floor. Even from this distance, Jack could tell the only thought on the guy’s mind was getting the hell out of there for a cigarette.

“Other side.”

Jack did a one-eighty. His view from this angle was even more depressing: Another actor around Jack’s age stood in the dust-defined beam of a grid, rigid with nerves. His glance shifted back and forth from Jack to a page of script.

“Jack—Jackson—whatever…” Her voice had a husky, tough edge but sounded young; he could see nothing of her except the glint of a bracelet as she moved her hand in a casual, dismissive wave. “Tell us something about yourself.”

Jack turned back to the lens. “Okay. Um, I was born right here in LA. I always wanted to act, I guess. Always.”

“How about your folks?”

He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, unaware he’d done so, but this subtle movement, coupled with a second’s hesitation, was enough to suggest to anyone with the most elementary knowledge of psychology that this was a painful subject.

“I never knew my mom.” He let this sit for a moment, then added, “She, um, she left when I was just a month old. And—my dad died when I was twelve. My grandmother took care of me until—”

“Any other family?”

“No, no one.” What had his drama coach advised? Use it! Use the emotion! He lowered his eyes, subtly suggesting loss. This was good. He was getting to give them a range of expression without having read a word of the script.

“What’ve you done?” the baritone asked.

“Uh, let’s see…I did a spot in Girl About the House for Disney. That was a while back. I did an ep of Sands of Time—”

“The soap?”


“That was canceled a year ago.” Now the baritone sounded impatient; his precious time was being wasted by the nonevent of Jack’s career.

But the woman sounded interested. “How about recently?”

“I was in True West. HBO.”

“Oh?” This elicited a hint of interest from the man. “Which character?”

“Um, day player.”

The interest evaporated. “An extra.”

“Yeah, but I’m good with horses, so they wrote up the part a bit.”

“But no lines.”

Jack shook his head.

“Anything else?”

“You want to know about the theater I’ve done?”

“God no,” the man said. “Just give him the copy.”

A disembodied hand darted into Jack’s pool of light and thrust a page at him.

“Can I have a minute…?”

“From sight,” the man said. “I’ll cue you.” He read in a monotone: “‘You wouldn’t mind living in the nicest house in town. Buying your wife a lot of fine clothes, going to New York on a business trip a couple of times a year. Maybe to Europe once in a while?’”

Jack’s eyes darted over the page trying to find the place. He realized he was squinting and eased the tension from his face.

Keep it simple.

“‘I know what I’m going to do tomorrow and the next day and next.’” The words were familiar. They triggered a faint memory of something rare and bright in a shadow-filled childhood. He couldn’t pin it down without losing concentration, but the emotion it generated was a gift to an actor. “‘And I’m going to build things! I’m going to build airfields! I’m going to build skyscrapers a hundred stories high! I’m going to build a bridge a mile long!’”

“Okay, that’ll do,” the man said.

Jack turned the page over and back, then peered into the void beyond the camera with a puzzled frown. “Isn’t this from It’s a Wonderful Life?”

“We just want to see how you handle dialogue,” the man said.

Jack smiled his easy, all-American smile. “Can I take it again?”

The request was ignored. There was a whispered exchange in the dark. He strained to catch the voices.

First the baritone: “…strictly an under five…”

Then the woman: “…exactly what I want…”

A little more muttering and then a firm “I know what I want!” from the woman.

“You’re a good-looking guy,” the man said. It sounded more like an accusation than a compliment. Jack lowered his head modestly anyway. “Can you be in Flagstaff by noon tomorrow?”

“Flagstaff, Arizona?”

The baritone sighed. “It’s the only Flagstaff I know. It’s not a big part. You’ll have to get there on your own.”

Realization hit—he’d got the part!

A chair scraped as the woman rose, and Jack heard the sound of her high heels as she crossed the concrete floor to an exit. A stagehand opened the door, and Jack saw her trim silhouette as she left the stage.

“Be there twelve noon on the dot, or we’ll have to cast a local,” she said as she vanished into the light.


3:21 p.m.

The office that fronted the dilapidated sound stage was a sterile recent addition. No boastful movie posters adorned the walls, but the extravagantly tattooed girl at the desk more than compensated for the absence of decoration. Having ascertained Jack was “between agents”, she shoved a basic agreement across the desk. The money wasn’t great, but given his circumstances, food stamps would’ve been a plus.

Jack winced a little as he noted the girl’s pierced tongue and wondered if it got in the way when she kissed or ate. It certainly made a mush of the rote information she imparted.

“Twelve noon for makeup and wardrobe.”

Jack was relieved he was not expected to provide his own costume.

“Sign here, initial here, and here.”

He wanted to tell someone about his good fortune but realized, with no rancor, there was no one. Everyone to whom he’d been close had deserted him—his actor boyfriend for a good-looking realtor with an income, his roommate for a fringe theatrical production in Riverside, and his agent, who had cut him loose three weeks ago with spurious sympathy and a brief observation on “the state of the business.”

Fuck them all! He had a job. With dialogue. No billing, but maybe this could lead to something. He signed “Jackson McCauley” with a flourish. The girl provided a call sheet and directions to the location and the one-star motel where they would accommodate him during his week’s work.

Done with the formalities, he took the crisp, new-looking script and hurried out of the office into the searing Southern Californian sun. He punched the air and shouted a joyous, “Yesss!” as he ran into the street to the shady spot he’d found to park his car.

The spot was there, but the car was gone.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Barry Creyton has worked extensively in British and Australian theatre and television as actor, playwright and director. His plays are produced in more than twenty languages. Awards include the prestigious Kessell Award for his outstanding contributions to Australian theatre, the L.A. Ovation Award, and the Noel Coward International Writing Award. He resides in the United States. Find out more on his Website.


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New Release Blitz: Stolen From Tomorrow by Fox Beckman (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Stolen From Tomorrow

Series: Trust Trilogy, Book One

Author: Fox Beckman

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/25/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 64600

Genre: Paranormal, Romance, urban fantasy, interracial, gay, nonbinary, time travel, monsters, witch

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Ravi Abhiramnew’s job is simple: hunt down and neutralize supernatural threats. That is until he meets Cayenne, a charismatic time traveler who claims to know everything about him—even his most closely guarded secrets.

Going to dinner with Cayenne is probably a bad idea, and a romantic island getaway definitely is.

When a monster picks their resort as its hunting ground, Ravi’s combat skills and Cayenne’s time magic should make it a breeze to kill the monster and get their vacation back on track. But it turns out the real danger lurks much, much closer…


Stolen from Tomorrow
Fox Beckman © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Carefully peering down the sights of his 9mm, Ravi squeezes off a shot. It strikes true, lodging deep into the monster’s exposed heart. The creature doesn’t falter in the slightest, snarling in his direction as if he were a particularly irritating gnat. A perfect shot, and it isn’t good enough. Typical, really.

In all his years hunting monsters, Ravi has never seen anything quite like this before. Strips of flesh hang off grayed bones between swathes of icy-white fur, a looming eight-foot-tall humanoid crowned with twisted icicle horns, baring a mouthful of jagged fangs while the freezing air steams with its breath. The heart seems to be the obvious target, a stark knot of dark ice threading around exposed ribs into the monster’s chest, but nothing the team has thrown at it has had any effect. Val’s giant double-handed maul would surely put a crack in it, if they can get her close enough for a hit, but any time they try, the giant beast summons up a swarm of ice serpents from the surrounding snow, keeping the hunters at bay. Because being a giant, slavering behemoth with no obvious weaknesses wasn’t enough; it’s got magic too. Again, typical.

Ravi curses and ducks back to rejoin the rest of the group as the monster lets loose another bellowing roar, snaking out a many-jointed arm to rip up a huge chunk of earth and fling it at Ravi and his team. Val, eyes burning blue-white behind mirrored sunglasses, calmly steps forward and deflects the projectile with a blow of her maul. It shatters into a shower of snow and icy dirt.

“Little cover, Constance?” Harry suggests. She lowers her gun after Ravi’s shot hit dead center to zero effect, looking supremely annoyed. “Also, if you’ve got any idea what this thing is, that would be really useful.”

Constance steps forward, hands working feverishly as she pulls a tangle of thorns from her satchel and slaps it together with a handful of hastily procured dust from another pocket. A thick wall of thorns rises from the ground, cutting them off from the monster and granting a momentary reprieve. “I hast ne’er beheld such a beast ’ere, mine niece.”

“Getting a little ye olde there, Constance,” Harry tells her ancestress.

Dropping her hands, Constance turns toward the rest contritely. “Ah, yes, my apologies. I have no knowledge of this creature. Hey, nonny-nonny,” she adds with a flash of mischief.

“I think it’s a chenoo?” Nate pokes his head out from behind one of the torn-up tree trunks, still intrepidly wielding his hockey stick. He slaps one of the ice serpents away as it gets too close. “Fuck! These things are quick.”

“What’s a chenoo?” Ravi asks, eyes darting from the thorn wall and scanning the snow for more serpents. “How do we kill it?”

Nate winces. “I’m pretty sure it’s like an Algonquian version of a wendigo.”

Everyone groans. Wendigos are the worst. Harry shakes her dark hair, gun hand gesturing to the chenoo. “Okay, Professor, so how do we take it down?”

“Is it not the heart?” Val asks, peering up on her toes over the thorn wall. She’s so tall she barely needs to stretch. “It is on the outside of its body.” She ducks back down as the chenoo tears another skeletal tree right up by the roots and sends it crashing against the thorn wall.

Constance grimaces, rocking on her heels as if she’d been dealt the blow. “I cannot keep this wall up for much longer, my comrades.”

“Noted,” says Harry, forehead furrowed.

“A direct hit to the heart did nothing,” Ravi reminds her. “You’d think fire would do it, but Constance’s first spell did nothing except melt some snakes.”

Nate shakes his head. “I’m not sure what will kill it. Usually, you get the Ojibwe version of these things here in the Midwest, and the heart shot would have killed one of those. I’d have to do some research. Would have been nice if the client gave us this info before sending us here, don’t you think?”

“Take cover!” Val bellows as a massive tree trunk flies their way. Ravi grabs the person closest to him. He drags Harry out of the way while Val snatches up Nate and Constance and teleports them out of sight just as earth and bark crash down through the thorn wall onto the churned-up snow where they had all been standing.

Ravi helps Harry to her feet as they take cover behind a tangle of fallen oaks. “I guess it would have been too easy if this ice monster was vulnerable to fire, huh,” she says wryly, kicking at an errant ice snake. “If I could talk to it, I might be able to figure out what it wants. We’ve talked down monsters from a fight once or twice before.”

“If it’s like a wendigo, it just wants to eat people. I could set up a sniper nest,” Ravi offers. “There are decent vantage points there”—he points up at a pair of snowy hills—“and there.”

Harry gives him an incredulous look. “Is that what you have in that big bag, a friggin’ sniper rifle? Where’d you learn to snipe?”

“Israel,” he answers shortly.

Her eyebrows lift. “What were you doing in Israel?”

Mourning. “Training,” he says. “The Trust has a few consultants in Mossad.”

Harry rolls her eyes. “Of course you do. I bet all you covert agent types get together for regular potlucks and barbeques.” She scans their surroundings. “No rifles. Let’s try to keep any more gunplay to a minimum,” she says with regret. Ravi knows how she feels. The two of them are the marksmen of the group, and sometimes it’s not easy being overshadowed by an Amazonian angel warrior with a big magic hammer and a spell-slinging sorceress. At least the new guy just has a hockey stick.

Ravi watches her face, sees where she’s looking, thinks he can intuit her plan. “You want to give Val an opening?” It’s standard ops to get a team’s main damage dealer where they’ll do the most harm, and Harry has surprisingly good instincts for team dynamics, considering she operated as a lone PI before all this supernatural shit entered her life. She nods decisively, and he holsters his gun. “Good plan. I’ll back your play.”

“Okay. Let’s do it.” She breathes out, then they both burst into motion. Harry grabs a couple of branches, hands one to Ravi, and, wielding them like clubs, they wade out into the open. The ice snakes are quick and agile, but only take a hit or two before they shatter. The pair fan out in different directions, smashing and stomping, creating a pie slice toward the others. “Constance!” Harry cries out. “Distract it!”

Constance runs forward into the cleared space, bright energy already swirling around her hands. While she gathers up her magic, Harry nods at Ravi. He nods back and moves to cover their witch, stomping an approaching ice snake’s head under his oxfords before it can get too close to her. “Where’s Nate?”

“He went down the embankment,” Val intones. “He claimed he had an idea.”

Constance finishes her spell, speaking an unfamiliar word and pulling her hands up into twin claws. Fire spreads up from cracks in the ground in front of the chenoo. It reels back, roaring with fury, and turns toward the fire, leaving its back open and unguarded.

“Let’s hope the Professor is right,” Harry mutters, thwacking a pair of ice snakes. “Val, got your wings on?”

“Always.” Val’s sunglasses reflect the blaze, and white, feathered wings appear from nowhere, unfurling behind her. With a flash, she teleports behind the creature, raises her war hammer, and slams it down onto the monster. A solid hit. The pained screech of the thing is so piercing and terrible it raises the hairs on everybody’s arms. All the ice snakes stop their advance and writhe in place.

Ravi takes the opportunity to stomp a few more of the snakes before they recover as Constance throws open her satchel. “To battle, my familiar!” Her cat, Griswold, leaps from the bag and pounces on the nearest ice snake with a bold, strident battle cry.

“Take that, loathsome serpent! Have at thee, villains!”

The cat sinks his fangs into the back of the snake’s head and shakes fiercely.

It’s a weird team, Ravi admits, but it works.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Prone to diving way too deep down research rabbit-holes and absolutely incapable of working without a curated playlist in the background, Fox Beckman lives in the Twin Cities and has far too many irons in the fire. Fox is writer, an artist, an occasional wrangler of kangaroos, a longsword fencer, an archer, a roller of dice, and a forager of mushrooms that aren’t deadly (probably).

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