New Release Blitz ~ The Art of Getting Off by Alexandra Alan (Excerpt & Giveaway)

 The Art of Getting Off by Alexandra Alan

Word Count: 15,425
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 62

GENRES:

COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

 

A blizzard, a crush and a gallon of innuendo heat up a cabin…

Sign up for skiing lessons, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Ha!

It’s taken one month for Kalie Bowen to realize she hates bruising both her ass and her ego on top of a frigid mountain. It’s taken her less than a month to develop a colossal crush on her skiing instructor, Dex McCann.

He’s not only handsome, but also patient and supportive, whether she’s face-planting into the snow in front of him or having to be talked off a ski lift. He’s even rearranged his schedule so he can accommodate her request for a lesson on Christmas. Katie can’t help but wonder what he looks like without his goggles…and his clothes.

When a blizzard rolls across the mountains and forces Kalie and Dex to seek shelter in his cabin, the sparks between them fly faster than the ones in his wood stove. Kalie finds that Dex is very happy to teach her the art of getting off—even when there’s no ski lift involved.

Excerpt

“You can do this.”

“N-no.”

“Come on, Kalie.”

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“There’s no way. No way.”

“Just relax. Take a deep breath. Let go.”

“But—”

“I’m right here. I’ll catch you.”

Kalie Bowen tightened her grip on the brightly painted pole on the side of the padded chair. Even through her thick mittens, she could feel the coldness of the metal.

This was how she was going to die. And it would be horrible and embarrassing, because even though she’d never heard about anyone dying after getting stuck on a ski lift when they were dangling in the air barely higher than the outstretched fingertips of their super-attractive ski instructor, this was how it was going to happen anyway.

There was a good view, at least. Snow-capped peaks jutted into a crystal-blue sky, bushy pine trees sagged under the weight of fresh powder, and skiers carved perfect ‘S’ curves into the slope.

Oh, and on top of everything else, today was Christmas.

She was going to die on Christmas Day, falling eight feet from the ski lift meant to take children up the bunny slope.

When she’d signed up for private ski lessons a month ago, she’d filled out the questionnaire with her address and insurance information and signed on the line that said she wouldn’t sue the crap out of the resort if she broke anything. She’d skipped over the section for listing any pertinent information her instructor should know. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to write ‘not super okay with heights,’ but of course, when she’d been filling out the paperwork, it hadn’t seemed important.

The first few times she’d gotten off the lift had been shaky, but acceptable.

“There’s an art to it,” her instructor, Dex, had said. It was all about relaxing. Easy for him to say.

A gust of wind, which on the ground would have been refreshing, rocked the chair. Kalie’s stomach settled into her ski boots, and her mittened grip tightened on the chair’s pole.

“You can do this,” Dex said again.

Kalie whimpered.

It would be much better if Dex weren’t super attractive. Sure. That could make a difference. His body was achingly tall and breathtakingly wide. Golden-blond hair tumbled effortlessly out from underneath his helmet and brushed against his lips, and he looked as if he’d been transplanted from a surfboard onto a snow-covered mountain. His mirrored goggles perched on a strong, wide nose that always seemed a few sunny hours away from getting burned. Then there was his voice.

Dear God, his voice.

Whatever he said in that deep, rumbling baritone made her tingle all over, whether it was ‘Try it again, but slower this time,’ or ‘Stick out your butt a little more,’ or ‘Snow.’

Yeah, so she had an enormous crush on her ski instructor.

It was stupid, honestly, because she’d only known him a month and only been to six lessons, and—the stupidest part of it all—she still hadn’t even seen his eyes. How was it possible to have a crush on someone without knowing that pivotal detail? She managed to, in any case.

And because she had said enormous crush on said super-attractive ski instructor, her mind drifted right as she was supposed to stand up and get off the ski lift, so instead of thinking about getting off the ski lift, she was thinking about getting off with him.

A small crowd formed around the lift tower, murmuring and pointing at her. She’d already been on the receiving end of enough double-takes for being the only adult on the kids’ slope. A bit of irritation joined the panic.

And she wasn’t even high enough to warrant a ladder.

As soon as he noticed she hadn’t disembarked, Dex had shouted something to the attendant and the lift had jerked to a sudden, gut-wrenching halt. He’d talked Kalie through undoing the bindings on her skis, and once those had fallen to the snow, he’d speared them onto the slope a safe distance away, then gone about trying to convince her to fall.

Large, gloved fingers closed around the toe of her boot.

“Just let go,” Dex said now.

The ground lurched below her, and Kalie let out another whimper.

“What’s stopping you?”

So much.

If she fell, she might break a leg. She might land on the compacted snow with enough force to snap her femur or crack a tibia or rip her ACL in half, then she would be stuck on a couch with crutches and powerful medication. Trapped inside, only able to stare regretfully out of the window.

“It’s far,” was what she finally managed to say.

Dex twisted his mouth in a suppressed smile. A dimple creased one cheek. Kalie focused on the dimple, because it seemed to lurch less than the ground.

It wasn’t just the fall that scared her. Falling in front of this man scared her, because she couldn’t bear to look like an idiot in front of him.

Of all excuses, it wasn’t the most logical. He undoubtedly already thought she was an idiot ever since the second lesson when she’d been unbalanced and nearly out-of-control and he’d shouted, “Pizza! Pizza!” and Kalie had shouted back, “Maybe later!” unaware he’d actually been telling her to angle her skis into a wedge so she could slow herself down.

Dex wiggled her boot gently. “You work on engines, right? That must be a lot harder than this.”

Fuck, and he even remembered what she’d told him about her job, although he’d left out a key detail—Kalie designed engines from behind the organized safety of a computer. There were too many moving parts inside an engine, and too many opportunities for pinched fingers, ripped-off arms, and grease stains that soaked into her skin like tattoos. Maybe she could blame her childhood for this, because when someone’s bitch of a grandmother told them that their dirty hands were the real reason behind their lack of friends, those words tended to set up residence in their brain and never want to leave.

Yet Dex remembered her job, and it gave her pause.

After her third lesson, he hadn’t had anyone scheduled after her, so they’d sat together on a sun-blasted picnic table right outside the lodge and sipped watery hot chocolate. It had been light conversation—jobs, pets, favorite vacations. She’d found out that, at twenty-eight, he was two years her junior. When he didn’t teach ski lessons, he was a trail-running guide, or a mountain-biking instructor, or he volunteered for the local trail-building crews. Kalie had asked him if he ever left the mountains, and he’d answered, “Only when dragged away. Or when I need groceries.”

He just needed a wild beard—which, judging from the stubble she’d seen a few weeks ago, would be a reddish gold—and he’d fit every mountain man stereotype. Kalie would bet he owned an ax. And looked great in plaid.

The ski chair swayed on the cable when a stronger breeze gave it a nudge, and Kalie let out a squeak as her arms cinched tighter around the pole.

“Okay,” Dex said beneath her. “Tell you what. If you jump down, I’ll buy you a drink after the lesson.” When Kalie frowned at him, he continued, “An alcoholic drink. Not that crappy hot cocoa. Come on.” Arms outstretched, he gestured toward himself with his gloved fingers.

“Are you trying to bribe me?”

“Yes.”

She hated to admit it, but it was working. She’d been wanting to ask him out for a drink since that third lesson, but nerves had always gotten the better of her. It had been a while since her last relationship, and the very concept of boldness made her shake nearly as much as being stuck in a swaying lift chair.

He’d just given her an opening.

She inched forward on the vinyl seat and moved her hands to the thinner metal that formed the armrest.

Do it. Just fucking DO IT.

Kalie took a deep breath to prepare herself for dropping, but when she did, her body shifted just enough that the smooth fabric of her snow pants slipped off the snowmelt-slicked vinyl. She fell with a shrill yelp. Something twinged in her shoulder and she barely managed to keep a tight hold on the armrest. Strong arms wrapped around her thighs to support her, stilling her thrashing legs.

“Let go, Kalie.” He sounded muffled, and when she looked down, she realized why—his goggle-clad face was buried in her crotch.

Surprise short-circuited her thoughts and for a split second, she forgot she was high off the ground and released the chair. Dex took that moment to stumble backward out of reach of the swinging metal seat and loosened his grip so the front of her body slid down the front of his body. With her long underwear, her fleece, and both of their bulky ski jackets, it was a lot less erotic than it should have been. Her boots thudded on the packed snow.

A few people cheered. Someone whistled. Another person clapped, the sound muted by a pair of fuzzy gloves.

Before she could get too used to the feel of his—unfortunately—professional embrace, Dex gripped her shoulders and held her steady at arm’s length.

Her own reflection shone back at her from the iridescent lenses of his goggles—chapped lips, long nose and a few black curls escaping from her hat. The day wasn’t quite breezy enough to blame the wind for her flushed cheeks.

“You okay?” he said.

Kalie nodded, trying not to get distracted by the woodsy smell of him or how right it had felt to have his face in her—

“Put your skis back on.”

“What?”

She was sure he was giving her an unamused look underneath those shining goggles.

“If you fall off a horse, you get back on,” Dex said. “If you get stuck on a chair lift, you ski down the slope then get back on the lift so you can practice getting off of it.”

“Um,” Kalie said, “I’m not sure that’s the best—”

He interrupted her with a wry twist of his lips. One of his eyebrows was probably raised. “Yeah? How long have you been teaching people how to ski?”

As they made their way down the children’s slope, Kalie decided the only bad thing about wearing mittens was that when she flipped someone off, no one could tell.

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About the Author

Alexandra Alan

Alexandra lives in Colorado with her partner and two very strange cats. Her nerdiest experience was when she had a heated discussion about Star Wars during a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Though she’s always on the lookout for more hobbies, some of her favorites are drawing, knitting, archery, rock climbing, brewing mead, and scrimshaw. The most badass she has ever felt was when she took jousting lessons for a year. She has never met a bad pun she hasn’t adored, and loves to read books that make her heart race.

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Alexandra Alan’s The Art of Getting Off Giveaway

ENTER HERE AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 17th August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz ~ The Billionaire and the Escort by Evelyn Mahony (Excerpt & Giveaway)

The Billionaire and the Escort by Evelyn Mahony

General Release Date: 3rd Aug 2021

Word Count: 81,084
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 283

Genres:

BILLIONAIRE
CELEBRITIES
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FAKE RELATIONSHIPS
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

In the world of high-end escorts, getting personal is never part of the arrangement.

When Josh Roberts became a male escort, there was no room for emotions. They went against the job description. He had a full appointment book and enough clients to pay the bills. There was definitely no time to get attached to an older, extremely successful, incredibly gorgeous man who paid for his services.

But Josh can’t turn down the money that has started rolling in, along with the gifts and the opportunity to live in the lap of luxury as the man flies him around the world to play pretend as his boyfriend. How on earth is he supposed to say no? Especially once he starts falling for his client.

James Barnwell is the successful CEO of Winter Luxury Resorts who stumbled upon Josh Roberts in a dark, high-end bar in midtown Manhattan. The young man was cocky, young, beautiful and offered James exactly what he was looking for—the chance to be with a man who knew the ropes and offered no opportunity to get attached. James had a lucrative business to run and meetings all over the world to attend. Having someone by his side would just weigh him down—or so he thinks, until he finds himself caring deeply for the man he pays for companionship, and it completely changes his world.

Two men are trying to play make believe—until they realize their sham might be closer to reality than they thought.

Excerpt

The bar wasn’t too busy for a Friday night. Soulful jazz filled the air of the midtown Manhattan hot spot that attracted wealthy businessmen and young, single, gold-digging women. Not many people came here unless they were looking to settle a big business deal or celebrate one—or, of course, if they were looking for one of those drunk, happy, successful men to take them home.

Which was why Josh Roberts was here tonight. He didn’t necessarily belong there. He wasn’t on Wall Street, wasn’t a millionaire, wasn’t a CEO or even someone who worked for a CEO. No, he was a college graduate with an art degree…and a booming business as an escort.

He hadn’t always been an escort. It was a fairly new profession he’d taken up by accident. It was a strange story to tell someone he didn’t know, and honestly, the industry was so hush hush that not many asked. But he didn’t mind getting paid for taking people out and sleeping with them. It had been odd at first, but it paid the bills—and beyond—and he was good at it now. He had a pretty full calendar, already booked a month out with regulars who took very good care of him financially. At twenty-four years old, he was well on his way to paying off his school loans and saving for the art gallery he hoped to open one day. And he was able to help pay his mother’s mortgage on the Brooklyn townhouse he’d grown up in. That alone made it worth it.

His mother didn’t know what he did—of course she didn’t. She couldn’t. He wouldn’t allow her to refuse his money. He didn’t live at home anymore, but she was his only family. He couldn’t risk losing or disappointing her. She was beyond supportive and would give him the benefit of any doubt…unless she knew he was being paid for sex. She wouldn’t be able to understand that. And honestly…sometimes he wasn’t sure he did. But it was satisfying his bank account, keeping food on the table, a roof over his head and more—so he kept it up. His art couldn’t pay him the way this could.

As he leaned against the end of the long mahogany bar, he surveyed the men in attendance, sipping his Old Fashioned. He wasn’t too much of a drinker and he needed to keep his wits about him when he was working—especially in a place like this. Class meant everything.

There weren’t many options this particular evening. Josh had a way of seeking out the ones who might be susceptible to his services. He worked with a lot of referrals, but tonight he’d been open and available, so he’d decided to head out and offer his services to someone in need of a good time. So far, that hadn’t been playing out too well for him. Most of the men were older, wearing rings or a little too drunk for Josh’s liking.

His gaze settled on a handsome guy in the middle of the bar who was sitting with a pretty blonde woman to his right. When Josh had first watched them, the man had been engaged as the woman had approached. He’d offered her a smile and invited her to join him.

That had been about an hour ago, however, and now the man looked somewhat tortured. He’d downed three Scotches in that time frame and was asking the bartender for another. A man in a suit stood a few feet behind him, but Josh suspected he was security of some sort, as that man had an earpiece and hadn’t had a drink all night. It made Josh curious as he watched, wondering who the guy was and why he’d need security in a bar like this. And if the man standing behind him was security, how come he wasn’t saving him from the ditz currently droning on and on about some nail polish line?

Josh finished his drink and was about to pay his tab and try his luck elsewhere when the blonde excused herself. He couldn’t hear if she would be gone for a minute or for the night, but he watched the guy’s shoulders sag slightly in what looked like relief as soon as she was a few feet away. Josh had a moment to make up his mind. Give it a shot or head out…?

The man was beautiful, about six feet tall with thick, dark hair that matched his beard. Even in the dim light, Josh could tell his temples were graying. It was a good look on the guy…fitting. Josh could see laugh lines around his eyes, no ring, a royal blue suit with a white shirt underneath and no tie. He was well dressed but not stuffy.

Josh glanced down at his own chocolate-brown three-piece suit. Being so young, he had to overcompensate to fit in. But for the man across the bar, the unbuttoned collar of his white shirt and the playful mid-range blue of his suit gave off the opposite feel, and it worked well for him. Is he into men? Josh couldn’t tell from where he stood. But he was visibly bored of his female companion, so Josh took a chance and headed his way.

“That looked brutal,” he remarked as he stood a barstool’s distance away from the man. The guy peered up at Josh with a raised eyebrow, taking Josh by surprise.

“Was I fakin’ it poorly?” The attractive man—even more attractive up close than he had been from across the bar—winced with a half-smile. Josh glanced up at the woman over his head, watching her gait slow as she returned from the direction of the restroom and saw Josh standing in her place.

“Well, she’s coming back, if that helps you feel any better about your acting skills.” His new companion cursed under his breath and took a long swig from the rocks’ glass.

“Maybe she’ll think we’re talkin’ business and find someone else to talk to?” He looked up at Josh, questioning, and he raked his gaze subtly over Josh’s suit. He wasn’t sizing Josh up. He was actually looking him over. Josh felt a little proud as he pretended not to notice. “Need a drink?”

“Sure.” Josh took the invitation coolly to avoid seeming eager and settled into the seat the woman had occupied before him. Her expression was clearly one of annoyance, but he watched her turn to find another rich man to fawn over. Phew. “Old Fashioned. Rocks. Thanks.”

The man nodded and quickly grabbed the bartender’s attention. Drink ordered, he turned back to Josh, seemingly still curious. “Nice suit.”

“Thank you.” Josh couldn’t stop the flush that heated his cheeks. Compliments always did him in, especially when the man was looking at him with those haunting steel eyes in a way that Josh hardly ever noticed his own clients looking at him.

“I appreciate you saving me,” he began, settling his gaze on Josh’s face. Josh held his look with the smallest of smiles. “Not many men would do that. They’d probably just enjoy watching me be miserable.” He huffed a laugh, and raised one side of his lips in a true half smile. “It’s not that she was a terrible gal or anything. She just…isn’t my type.” The way he said it gave Josh everything he needed to know to push on with his own agenda.

“I couldn’t bear to watch you sit through another monologue about wearing blue nail polish in the fall.” Josh mimicked her slightly, and he was pleased when the attractive man chuckled. He sipped his beverage, thoughtful. “Don’t like small blondes?” Josh then asked, licking his lips and savoring the taste of his new drink. He said it a little teasingly but was surprised when the guy just looked toward him and eyed him up and down slowly.

“I think I prefer them…bigger.” He didn’t sound so sure as he responded, and Josh had to wonder what that meant. Josh was, of course, blond, but he couldn’t be referring to him… Could he?

“You think?” Josh pressed, tilting his head as he regarded the man.

“Well, they’re usually her size, but I’m thinking of trying something new these days…”

Oh. Well, that was an interesting development. Josh hadn’t expected this to go so well.

The guy toyed with his rocks’ glass, spinning it in his fingers before turning completely to look at Josh, his body now sideways. Josh leaned against the bar, facing the man the same way. “Josh Roberts.” He extended his hand with a slight smile, roaming his eyes around the man’s gorgeous face.

The guy took Josh’s hand in a firm shake with zero hesitation. “James Barnwell… A pleasure to meet you, Josh.” He gave Josh a half smile of his own, and Josh couldn’t get past how beautiful the man was—one of his more handsome endeavors, for sure.

“So you’re looking to try something new?” Josh decided not to beat around the bush now. He’d go right in for the kill. James nodded with a lick to his sinful bottom lip. Josh wouldn’t mind kissing it. He definitely wouldn’t mind.

“I’ve uh… I don’t have any experience, but it’s been on my mind for a while.” James seemed slightly nervous now, but Josh wanted to reassure him there was no need. He gave Josh a look that was almost adorably unsure. Josh couldn’t help his own confident grin.

“Well, as it happens, I’m very well versed in such activities.” He nibbled on his bottom lip, tilting his chin down and looking up at Barnwell through his lashes. He wanted this sale, wanted to show this man a good time—especially now, knowing he’d never been with another man before. It became a challenge that spoke to Josh’s competitive soul.

James’ eyes widened a fraction and he seemed to consider the statement. Then he laughed, throwing Josh off a little. “You must think I’m some fuckin’… I’ve gotta be at least ten years older than you, and I’ve never experimented like that. I mean I have…with my—you know—but I’ve never actually been with a man. You’ve gotta be getting a kick out of this.”

Josh didn’t know which part he should be getting a kick out of—the fact he’d never been with a man, the age difference or the fact that James was insinuating that he’d played with himself. Josh was eating it all up, if he were to be honest. He’d never taken a man’s virginity, but he was up for the adventure and knew he was a safe bet as the man’s first. He knew just how to do it right and gentle, make it worth James’ time. “Well, if you think I’m judging you, you’re wrong. I’m in the wrong business to judge anyone.” Josh kept his voice low so he didn’t make a spectacle of their conversation. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what you’ve done or not done. If you want an experience, you wanna try a taste, I can give you one. I’m happy to do it.”

Josh wasn’t one to play games. He was straightforward and as honest as they came. He pulled one of his sleek matte cards from his pocket and slipped it across the bar to James, who picked it up and looked it over, a look of surprise and a flush covering his high cheekbones as he seemed to read the word printed under Josh’s name on the card—Escort.

James cleared his throat, biting his bottom lip as he set the card back down. Josh noticed that he kept it close and he took that as a good sign. “And here I thought you were just picking me up.” James laughed a little and Josh liked the sound.

“In a way I was. You’re a handsome man. I couldn’t tell from afar whether you’d be interested in men or not, but I took my chance anyway.” Josh offered him a gentle grin.

“Do I look like I need to pay someone for sex?” James cocked his head to the side and regarded Josh through squinted, guarded eyes. He might have even been slightly offended. Josh held his ground, undeterred.

“You look like you wanna sleep with a man—but you haven’t yet and don’t know how. I’m sure you have women dying to sit on your cock. But that’s not what I’m here for.”

“And if I wanna sit on your cock, is that what you’re here for?” Hearing the word fall from James’ lips made Josh want to squirm a little. He definitely wanted that. It was always a bonus when he was physically attracted to his clients and that they had chemistry. It was often not the case.

“You can sit on anything you want, Mr. Barnwell. That is, in fact, what I’m here for.”

James grew silent at that, dropping his gaze to his glass. Apprehension bloomed in Josh’s chest, but he sipped his drink and watched the man mentally battle over whatever waged inside his mind. He took the moment to let his eyes roam the broad shoulders, the peek of chest hair, the gray on his temples. This man had to look exquisite naked, judging by the way that suit jacket pulled in all the right places.

James lifted his gaze back to Josh’s, and Josh could feel the heat and question that lingered in those blue-grays. “I’m not familiar with…your business. What’s it you want? How much do you get paid? Do you do weekends in exchange for money, gifts?”

Josh couldn’t help but chuckle…amused. “I mean, I don’t have an ad saying ‘sugar daddy wanted’ on my back, but if you’re offering…” Confusion then amusement dawned on James’ features. “Money is how I’m usually paid. I can be booked for any length of time. I can be a date to an event, a party or a companion on a trip. It’s really whatever the client wants. Whatever they want.” He stressed the word because he catered to any and all whims. He had a few hard limits but had experienced a lot. And at this point, he’d say yes to anything with James out of pure curiosity.

“Whatever they want? Give me an example, please.” He spoke quietly as he asked, as if unsure if he should. Josh was an open book. He never gave names, but he’d absolutely give examples.

“Sure. Most women want to be dominated in some way, but most men want to dominate me. I’ve gone to Hawaii on a business trip with a woman who only needed me to pretend I was her fiancé. I’ve been collared and expected to crawl on my knees like a dog. I had a woman who would pay me for one weekend a month of as much sex as she could handle. I have another woman who just wants me to sit in my briefs and rub her feet. I’ve had a few men who prefer roleplay, and I’m decent at it.” He shrugged lightly. “The ‘usual’ is I show up to the client’s place and we have sex, I fulfill whatever their fantasy or need is and I’m out of the door afterward. But like I said, it’s the dealer’s choice. Whatever the client feels like, needs or wants from me, I give. I haven’t had a single complaint.” Josh felt more than confident in his track record and his services. Sure, when he’d started, he’d had some catching up to do, had to learn his ways around certain kinks and scenes, but now he had zero issues. He felt at ease behind closed doors.

James was intrigued, if nothing else. It was written all over his suddenly expressive face. “So…kinks? Toys? Trips? Everything is on the table?”

Josh nodded. “I draw the line at violence, degrading play and extreme, potentially harmful things. Marks are fine, spanking is fine, but you can’t hit me—and I won’t hit you. You can call me names, but you can’t shove my face in a carpet or make me lick your shoes. Luckily, no one I’ve been with has tried to punch me or worse.” Josh smiled ruefully. James looked a little disturbed by that.

“Well, at least you’re taking care of yourself,” he replied with a concern that surprised Josh.

“I get tested monthly. I’m careful. It’s my job to deliver a safe and fun experience.” He wanted to make sure James knew all the details and his intentions. This business relationship had to be based on trust.

“What do you cost? Is it by the service or…?”

Josh pulled out his phone, opening the app he used to take payment. He set it down on the bar for James to see. He had no secrets. “I don’t do it by the service. I do by the hour. You can have whatever you want in the time frame you pay me for—and there’s fifty percent off your first experience, no matter the length. If a person comes back, which I can usually guarantee they will, it’s full price after that.”

James whistled low at what he saw on the screen. “You certainly are looking for that sugar daddy, aren’t ya, pal?”

Josh blushed at the term but laughed too. “I think it’s a fair trade. Good money for great sex.” He shrugged. James eyed him.

“You think you’re that good, huh?”

Josh simply smiled, nodding once. “Yes, sir. I’m that good.”

James glanced back at the security guard a few feet away then to the bartender. Josh, for a brief moment, wondered if he was about to be physically removed from James Barnwell’s presence. Then James was laying down crisp cash from his wallet on the bar and standing.

Josh followed his every move, his hopes deflating. He’d really enjoyed their banter. It had been a long time since he’d been shot down—and by someone like Mr. Barnwell…

“I’ve got a car out front. We’ll go back to my place. That’s how it works, right? My call? My place?” Josh stood before James could finish his questions.

“Absolutely, sir. Your call. Everything is your call.”

“Good. We’ll go back to my place, I’ll pour us a drink then I want you to take over. Understood?”

Josh was surprised by the expectation, but it was nothing he couldn’t handle. In fact, he looked forward to blowing this man’s mind…and hopefully more. “Yes, sir.”

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First For Romance

About the Author

Evelyn Mahony

Evelyn has been writing since middle school, constantly getting lost in creating a whole other world (usually loosely based on a fandom of some kind) and falling in love with those characters. An avid reader, she never leaves home without a well-worn book and a notepad for thoughts. She writes almost entirely on her phone, because it’s small and easy to pull out at a moment’s notice, when the idea for a scene hits. As the wife of a busy husband and as the mother of a young daughter, two big dogs, and a horse, there’s not always designated writing time. Writing is her passion and whenever she finds a window of free time, that’s what she’s doing!

Check out Evelyn’s website and follow her on Instagram.

Giveaway

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Evelyn Mahony The Billionaire and the Escort Giveaway

EVELYN MAHONY IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 17th August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz ~ In a Devil Bind by Makayla Roberts (Excerpt & Giveaway)

In a Devil Bind by Makayla Roberts

Word Count: 66,127
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 242

GENRES:

 ACTION AND ADVENTURE
ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME AND MYSTERY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MYSTERY
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

It has been one hell of a week.

With a serial killer on the loose and her carnal needs spiraling out of control, the last thing Detective Cheyenne Wilcox needs is to be deterred. As her cursed fate would have it, she gets the biggest hindrance of all when she winds up drugged with a spell that prevents her from moving more than six feet away from none other than Thorne Lucifer—an egotistical playboy whom she hates more than anything. Perhaps it was a good thing he didn’t remember her from the past, because the moment they manage to find a way to break the spell, she’s going to go above and beyond to erase all traces of him from her life…again.

Chey is one hot succubus, but her detached attitude is nothing but a nuisance to Thorne. Plus, having her following him everywhere presents a threat to his hard-earned reputation as Elysium’s most eligible bachelor. However, he can’t deny the sizzling attraction between them, or the fact that her feistiness only makes him eager to have her submit to him.

There’s a fine line between lust and love, and though Chey seems determined to keep things casual until the spell is broken, for the first time in his life, Thorne is leaning more toward the latter.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, stalking and murder. It is best read as book two in The Lucifer Brothers series.

Excerpt

Waking up in a stranger’s bed was nothing new to Thorne Lucifer. At age eighty and some change, sex was one of the few things he had to keep from dying of boredom most days. If someone asked him to count how many lovers he’d taken in the past year alone—hell, the past month—he couldn’t even give two names. They all came and went—pun intended.

On this occasion, however, he couldn’t recall a day in his life when he’d awakened chained to a stranger’s bed with a splitting headache and a bad case of nausea, having been stripped down to nothing more than his socks. With a grunt, he squinted his eyes open, sighing with relief when the only lights he could make out were from a handful of dim candles that had been placed on top of a wooden dresser. He didn’t think his hangover would be very kind to him if he’d been encased in full illumination. A faint orange glow shone from the open door across from him—a bathroom, most likely.

He soon became aware of his other senses. Something smelled like mildew, piss and the very ass of hell. There was the sound of shuffling and scraping, though it was very light. It was distant, perhaps coming from another room.

Something cold and wet soaked one side of his head, so he turned a bit to spot a clear zipped bag filled with water, though the outside was coated in condensation.

Aw, his lover had been considerate enough to give him an ice pack for his hangover. How sweet.

With a snort, he waited until his vision cleared further before taking in his surroundings—moldy walls with chipped paint that had lost color long ago, a busted bubble-back TV, a crooked painting of a bland flower and furniture covered in stains that came from only-the-gods-knew what. Even the bed he was on was lumpy and uncomfortable, resulting in a deep ache in his lower back. A pile of sharp rocks would have been preferable.

He crinkled his nose in disgust. While he wasn’t as particular about his sex partners as his uptight brothers were, he was damn sure not down with doing business in raggedy motel rooms. He was a classier dude than that. He’d screw his partner in a dark alley and send her on her way before bedding down in one of these shitholes.

What gives?

He frowned, images of the previous night coming back in bits and pieces. He’d gone to one of his favorite bars on the east side of town after leaving work. It had been a slow Saturday, so he’d wanted to go out for some drinks to pass the time. He was a big drinker, so throwing back shot after shot hadn’t even given him a buzz. Instead, it’d put him in a horny mood, and he’d been scanning the crowd for the hottest woman to take home for a night of fun. If he were lucky, he would have found two of them.

It hadn’t taken long before he’d spotted a petite blonde sashaying toward him. She hadn’t been the only one interested, of course. Despite being a Lucifer, his devilishly handsome looks and easy smile always aided him in attracting the opposite sex. But that woman had been a nymph—his favorite. He’d sensed that right off the bat and wasted no time ordering a drink for her while they made small talk.

Everything went blurry from there. He vaguely recalled her leading him to the dance floor, grinding against his dick in tune with the music. Then they were outside and…everything went blank.

Frown deepening, he realized the wench must have slipped something into one of his drinks. He glanced down at his naked body, checking for any damage. Nothing. Not even a little nick from a needle drawing blood. He grunted, pushing himself up the musty pillows.

Well, damn. If she hadn’t cut him open in his sleep, what the hell had she drugged him for? He’d already planned on screwing her brains out, so if she’d thought to use him for sex, it was pointless.

“Yo, nympho. You there?” he called, his voice rough from waking up. “You can unchain me now.”

Of course, he didn’t receive an answer. However, there was another collection of shuffling and thumping from the other room. He tugged on the chains binding his wrists in a way that made him look like he was being fucking crucified. A quick glance around showed a key on the nightstand next to him, and he sighed.

An ice pack and the key to free himself. How freaking considerate of her.

As he unlocked his chains, he grumbled a series of expletives under his breath, all directed at the vixen who’d caused this. While he didn’t mind being used for sex, he’d be damned if he’d let it slide that someone had drugged him and left him in such a dank room. He didn’t even know where he was. The blondie better pray he didn’t find out her identity. He might be known as a pretty laid-back man, but he damn sure wasn’t one to be crossed.

Freed, he stood and bent his body this way and that to inspect his backside for any blemishes. It wouldn’t surprise him to find his back and ass ate up by bed bugs. He didn’t see any, but he wouldn’t hold his breath on that one. The longer he stood in the room, the grosser his skin felt.

He spotted his pants and shirt thrown over the back of an armchair and swiftly donned them, sneezing as a chill washed over him. Great. Not only were his surroundings filthy beyond repair, but there was also a draft. The top of his head felt cold as ice, despite the rest of the room feeling like a damn furnace. He pulled on his shoes and spotted his leather jacket tossed on top of the half-broken dining table. Next to it sat his cell phone and wallet, and a quick check showed that his battery had a little juice—and nothing was missing from his wallet, not even a single torq.

Before he could reach for his jacket, he paused at the sound of someone knocking—not at the front door but the one that connected his room to another.

Tensing in preparation to kick someone’s ass, he strolled over and unlocked the latch, then threw the off-white panel open. “You have two seconds to explain what—”

Thorne stumbled backward as someone crashed into him. “Fuck,” a female growled against his chest before shoving him away. Dressed only in a black bra and panties, she clutched the side of her head, her hand coming away with blood. “Fuck! I’m going to kill them. Ohhh, someone is going to fucking die tonight.”

He stiffened when she looked at him, her dark eyes mere slits of coal. She bared her teeth like a wild animal. “Did you have something to do with this?” She flashed him her palm.

He cocked one eyebrow and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “I just woke up tied to the bed, lady. Not sure what the hell’s going on.” He narrowed his eyes, taking her in. She wasn’t the nymph, that was for sure. That woman had been blonde with sparkling green eyes and alabaster skin. The one before him was the total opposite. “Did you have something to do with this?”

She grumbled a curse and rushed over to his bathroom, dismissing his presence. Despite the strangeness of the circumstances and the amount of blood and dirt covering her, Thorne couldn’t help the way his gaze dropped to her rear. Hey, he was a man, after all, and he’d always loved his women with bigger assets—special emphasis on the ‘ass’ portion.

The thong she wore was shaped against her like a custom fit, the lush globes jiggling with each step she took. Her lower back had two dimples, another thing he’d always liked on women. What bits of almond-colored skin he could see looked smooth to the touch, everything tight with lean muscles that spoke of a regular exercise routine. Her raven hair was parted down the middle and pulled into two thick braids that fell nearly to her waist.

His dick grew a bit hard while he followed from a safe distance as she entered the bathroom.

Snatching up a half-empty water bottle from the sink, she grabbed a washcloth and wet it, then began to dab at her wound with light touches. “Those motherfuckers,” she jeered, wincing in pain when she applied pressure.

Thorne leaned against the doorjamb of the bathroom. “Do you have even the slightest clue what’s going on here? I can’t remember shit from last night.”

She scoffed. “That’s because somebody drugged you.”

“No shit. I’m asking who did it—and why.”

She tossed the bloodied towel aside before turning to face him. He tried to keep from gaping at her full breasts, which were barely contained by her lacy bra. She pouted, then planted one fist on her hip with no shame whatsoever at her lack of clothing. “Do you see this?” She pointed to her bleeding temple.

Forcing his gaze away from the breasts, Thorne grimaced at the deep gash struggling to knit itself closed. It was a wonder she was even conscious, given how much blood soaked her. A wave of nausea rolled through him. “Yeah, that’s gross.”

She twisted her lips into a grim line. “Those bastards are dead when I get my hands on them. Do you hear me? D-E-A-D.” Before he could ask what she meant, she eyed him with caution. “You’d better get yourself checked. From what I know about devils, you guys can regenerate, but you can still catch an infection.”

He frowned, doing everything he could to keep himself from throwing up. The bleeding had slowed to a stop, but the raw pink tissue lying beneath was what sickened him. “What are you talking about? I’m fine.”

She lifted a brow, peering at the top of his head. “Sure, you are, Thorne.”

With that, she slid past him and made her way back to her room. Thorne frowned after her. “How do you know my name?” He didn’t bother trying to hide the suspicion in his voice. He’d be lying if he said she looked familiar. He’d come across so many women in his life that there was no telling who she was. Then again, there were few people who didn’t know him. He was a Lucifer, after all. Their name was known far and wide as they sat atop the pillar of the Big Four families in Sheol. “Have we met before?”

She snorted in derision. “If you have to ask that, then no.” She didn’t even hesitate as she stepped over the threshold.

Thorne meant to follow her to get more information, but he paused at the sight of himself in the broken mirror. All the color drained from his face as he blinked at his reflection.

There, on the top of his head, was the worst monstrosity he’d seen since…since…hell if he knew. He couldn’t even think of the proper words to compare it to, but it was disastrous.

His horns. His beautiful, six-inch, curved horns that held engraved patterns that were a proud sign of maturity and virility…

One was missing. Gone. Cut from his head, leaving him looking like a lopsided freak of nature. Like a fucking unicorn or something.

At the top of his lungs, he bellowed, “What the fuck! 

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About the Author

Makayla Roberts

Makayla’s love for reading began at the age of twelve when her mother introduced her to the world of mystical creatures. From then on, she discovered a talent for turning her own imagination into words. From fanfictions to short stories to full-length novels and novellas, if she wasn’t focused on school activities, she was either reading or writing.

Raised on the coast of Mississippi, Makayla juggles her everyday life between work and being a mom. In her free time, she enjoys binge watching criminal suspense shows, shopping, painting, wood burning, and of course, working on her books.

Makayla enjoys writing stories with strong elements of romance, adventure, and paranormal. Vampires, shifters, fairies, dragons—she loves them all!

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New Release Blitz: You’ll Be Fine by Jen Michalski (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  You’ll Be Fine

Author: Jen Michalski

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 77900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Romance, contemporary, family-drama, bisexual, lesbian, comedy of errors, second chances

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Description

After her mother dies of an accidental overdose, Alex takes leave from her job as a writer for a Washington, DC, lifestyle magazine to return home to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There, she joins her brother Owen, a study in failure-to-launch, in sorting out their mother’s whimsical and often self-destructive life.

Alex has proposed to her editor that while she is home she profile Juliette Sprigg, her former high school fling, owner of a wildly popular local restaurant, and celebrity chef in the making.

While working on the story and trying for a second chance with Juliette, Alex meets Carolyn Massey, editor of the town newspaper, and wonders if there’s more to life than reheating leftovers.

Enter Alex and Owen’s Aunt Johanna, who arrives from Seattle to help with arrangements. When Johanna reveals a family secret, Alex may have to accept her family for who they are rather than who she hoped they would be. And just maybe apply the same philosophy to her heart and herself.

Excerpt

You’ll Be Fine
Jen Michalski © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Even though Owen never calls her, especially at 7:30 on a weekday evening, when Alex sees her brother’s name in the caller ID, she drops her phone back into her purse and waits for her metro stop. She figures he’ll just leave her a message about his cat. It’s been almost the entirety of their relationship the past five years. The week before, he’d texted her a picture of Tortoise, his Himalayan. She was wearing a suit of herbs with terra cotta-colored felt legs. She looked like a chia pet.

I am my own catnip receptacle, Owen had texted underneath Tortoise’s picture.

The chia pet text had come after midnight, a time when Alex (like most people) was asleep and susceptible to tragedy, like a call from the hospital, from the roadside after a car accident, or, for Alex specifically, a call from her mother when her mother was completely wasted, one glass of wine away from falling down the steps or worse, keeping Alex on the phone for hours about years-old, completely fabricated grievances.

She hadn’t responded to Owen that night, either, mad he’d woken her up about his stupid cat. That he didn’t understand she got up at five in the morning for her job as a features writer at the Capitol Metropolitan or that her apartment in Adams Morgan was expensive as hell or that the amount of her grad school loans equaled a house mortgage. That she had a life, didn’t still live at home with their mother, and didn’t have a cat for a best friend.

As she gets up to make her way to the doors of the metro, her phone vibrates again.

“Owen, I just got off work—can I call you back?” She presses the phone to her cheek as she follows the other commuters up the stairs of the station.

“No, Alex—listen.”

“You know—I was just thinking about Tortoise—I was worried maybe it meant she had died or something,” Alex jokes, cutting him off, even as her hands begin to sweat. She wonders what their mother has done this time to warrant a call from Owen.

“Alex.” Owen is silent for a minute. “It’s Mom. Mom’s dead.”

“Dammit, Owen, you shouldn’t joke.” But she knows he isn’t joking. She stops in the middle of the sidewalk. People brush against her, clipping her leg with their totes, her shoulder with their purses and messenger bags, as she tries to remember what day it is again, when she talked to her mother last. What she wishes she could take back.

“You should come home.” Owen’s words have awkward pauses between them, as if he’s too choked up to speak. “Can you come home tonight?”

“I can’t.” What the hell is she saying? Still, she hears herself go on. “I really can’t. I mean—”

“What do you mean, you can’t?” She imagines Owen’s face on the other end of the line, scrunched like a balled-up tissue. “Mom’s dead. What’s wrong with you?”

“You’re right—all right, okay,” she hears herself agree, her voice far away and warbled, like she’s in a dream.

As she wanders from the Woodley Park metro station toward the general direction of her apartment, she feels suddenly like an alien life form. I am experiencing a tragic event, she wants to tell the dog walker with five French bulldogs who passes her or the woman jogger who pauses at the intersection, drinking from a clear pink plastic water bottle. She wants to grab on to someone, anyone, like a body snatcher, and switch places, away from the kettle ball in her chest, away her knotted intestines and her numb appendages.

Alex has never really done death before. She’s thirty-six and never met her grandparents; their father left when she was four. And although their mother had turned sixty a few years back, it was more like Madonna sixty than Medicare sixty. Were Alex and Owen supposed to call Aunt Johanna, other forgotten, faraway relatives in Wisconsin and Arizona, their father, wherever he was? Was some kind of funeral needed for a mother who had flitted between atheism, Wiccan, new age-y crap, and pharmaceuticals like she was at a metaphysics salad bar?

And beyond the details, which Alex is good at, what about the other, more feely things? Like the way her mother had made her feel? (Incidentally, like a neon sign, a composition of gasses and other toxic compounds compressed into a fragile glass tube that she has managed to bend into the words Alex Maas, Successful Person Who Does Not Give a Fuck.)

Except now she has to give one.

“Crap,” she says under breath as she waits for the elevator in the lobby of her building. She brings up her ex Kate’s number in her phone doesn’t press call, not only because she can’t talk to Kate anymore, but because she realizes she can’t talk to anybody. If she opens her mouth and voices the words my mom is dead, she knows any adrenaline humming through her from the shock will dissolve, adrenaline she needs to get into her apartment, throw a few days’ worth of clothes together, call Rowan at the magazine, and get to the Greyhound terminal at Union Station to catch a bus home early the next morning.

Did Owen even mention how she died? In her apartment vestibule, Alex digs her phone out again. She can’t remember how they ended the conversation, anything he had said after the words dead and come home.

“I’m so sorry.” Rowan, her boss, sounds like he’s outside. “Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?”

“No—but thanks,” Alex says as she walks in a circle in her bedroom, staring at her opened suitcase. “I just don’t know…I don’t know how much time I’ll need. A few days? I don’t know what’s supposed to happen—she always talked about being cremated. But it’s not like she wrote a will—she didn’t even believe in grocery lists.”

“But if you need anything, you’ll call, right?” he prods, as if they’re friends. Maybe, in some way, because she spends most of her time with him, most of her time at the office in general, he’s her friend. It’s not like she has many, anyway. Her fingers shake as she opens her underwear drawer.

“Yes, of course. I’m going to get off the phone, though, before I cry.”

“Sure, sure. Although you can cry on the phone—it’s okay.”

“Oh—I might need more time on the ballet company story. Can you give it to me?”

“Don’t worry about the story, Alex—we’ll find something else to run.”

She hears one of Rowan’s kids—his little girl—talking excitedly in the background. Then she thinks about the other person she had wanted to call after she got off the phone with Owen. The only person she’s ever been able to tell anything.

“Hey,” Alex says casually, as if she’s just thought of it. “What about Juliette Sprigg—didn’t you want someone to interview her?”

“You mean the profile about her restaurant? I thought someone else would cover that.”

“Yeah, but…” Alex moves into the bathroom, just in case she might throw up. “Sprigg Restaurant’s, like, five minutes from my mom’s house. I went to high school with Juliette.”

“Don’t worry about that. You’re going home to take care of what you need to take care of—not work on another story.”

“No, it’s okay—I can take it. I want to do it.” She knows Rowan will give in—he has before—four magazine awards for her stories will do that. “Can you e-mail me her contact information?”

“No,” he sighs. “I’m not. You’re taking time off. You work too much as it is.”

“Jesus, Rowan—are you really saying no?” Her voice rises, like helium, up an octave. “After all I’ve done for the magazine?”

“Alex,” he sounds defeated, like he’s speaking to his now-crying little girl. “Your mother just died.”

“Fine—I quit then.” She hangs up on him and turns on the faucet in the bathroom. As she splashes her face with water, her phone beeps. She hits the speaker with her wet hand as she reaches for the towel. “What?”

“You’re not quitting, and I’m not assigning you the story.”

She takes a breath and holds it a second before exhaling. “I’m doing the story, or I quit.”

“Hi, honey, what sweetie? Will you stop screaming? Daddy can’t understand what you want if you’re screaming.”

Suddenly there’s silence, and Alex wonders if Rowan has hung up on her this time.

“Rowan, are you there?” she whispers, her neck so tight her head pop off.

“Sorry, Alex, I’m just having some, uh—you know what? Fine, do the story. Only because I have to get off the phone. I’ll e-mail you the info of the editor at the newspaper down there—really nice woman. She paired us up with a local photographer when we did that feature on that horse whisperer guy.”

“Great.” Alex exhales and dabs tears out of her eyes as she sits on the toilet lid.

“—But I really don’t want you to do it at all.”

“I’ll be fine—it’s how I get through things.” It’s been how she’s been getting over Kate all these months. And now she’s offered, at the supposedly worst time of her life, to interview Juliette freaking Sprigg too.

As she hangs up, her stomach pushes up into her esophagus like peasants storming the Bastille. She sets her phone on the edge of the tub and wraps her arms under her knees, head on her lap, like people in the airplane safety cards do, and focuses on her breathing. Remain calm. Remain seated. Brace for impact.

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Meet the Author

Jen Michalski is the author of three novels, The Summer She Was Under Water, The Tide King (both from Black Lawrence Press), and You’ll Be Fine (NineStar Press), a couplet of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books), and three collections of fiction (The Company of Strangers,From Here, and Close Encounters). Her work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Poets & Writers, The Washington Post, and the Literary Hub, and she’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize six times. She’s also the editor of the online literary weekly jmww.

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Book Blitz: Out for the Holidays/Out for Gold by Lane Hayes (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Out for the Holidays/Out for Gold

Series: Out in College, Book 9

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: July 26

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 30k

Genre: Romance, Contemporary MM Romance, Sports Romance, Bisexual, College Romance

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Synopsis

Out for the Holidays

A Dream Come True…

Derek-

This is it! I’m finally opening my own bistro. I’ve spent the last two years getting ready for this moment. I can’t decide if the holidays are the perfect time to begin a new venture, but I’m excited. It would be nice if my family were on board too.

Gabe-

I play water polo. I don’t know anything about the restaurant business, but I want to make sure Derek’s grand opening goes according to plan. I’ll rally our friends, send out invites, and yeah…I’ll even deal with his mother. He’s my number one person and I’ll do whatever it takes to be sure we’re out for the holidays.

Out for the Holidays is a low-angst MM romance featuring Derek and Gabe from Out in the Deep…and a host of friends from the Out in College books!

Out for Gold

Chance of a Lifetime…

Gabe-

Winning a spot on the Olympic water polo team is my lifelong goal and guess what?…I made it! Of course, nothing goes smoothly. This is a bad time for a shoulder injury and an even worse time for my dad to show up out of the blue. I might be doomed.

Derek-

Family isn’t easy. Trust me, I know. But in my experience, ignoring obvious issues only makes them more challenging in the long run. I can’t solve Gabe’s problems with his dad, but I’ll help if I can. Win or lose, my man is going out for gold.

Out of Gold is a low-angst MM romance featuring Derek and Gabe from Out in the Deep in a full-circle quest for the ultimate prize…love.

*OUT FOR THE HOLIDAYS was originally featured in the holiday collection, Gifts for the Season. Since the anthology is no longer available, I wanted to publish it on my own and add new content. OUT FOR GOLD is a brand-new novella that really brings the whole story full-circle, featuring Gabe and Derek from Out in the Deep.

Excerpt

The early July air was balmy with just a hint of chill. We changed into sweats and rode two blocks to the deserted beach. We spread a blanket and sat facing the ocean with our bare feet in the cool sand. Stars glittered above us and a crescent moon did its best to cast some light, but the darkness was kind of therapeutic. And there was something poetic about the roar of the Pacific and the silent beach. I could almost imagine Mother Nature had been waiting for us.

“This is nice. We haven’t done this in a while,” I commented, crossing my arm over his as I leaned back to watch the waves breaking in the distance.

“We’ve been busy.”

“It’ll get better, Der.”

“I know…”

“But?” I prodded when he didn’t continue.

“You need to talk to your dad, Gabe.”

“I talk to him all the fucking time lately.”

“You let him talk at you. You need to tell him how you feel.”

I groaned. “That’s the last thing I need.”

“It’s exactly what you need. You’ve given him rent-free room in your head. No…you’ve cleaned out space and invited him to take a little more from you. I get it. He’s got a strong personality, and he’s your father. You’re confused, but excited too, and you’re grateful, but you’re also still pretty damn angry with him. And not dealing with those feelings is wearing on you.”

What could I say? It was true.

“Yeah. It is.”

“Sharing your experience is one thing, but giving it away is another. You don’t owe that to him or your mom or me or anyone. <em>You </em>worked your ass off for this chance. <em>You</em> did it, babe. It was all you,” he whispered fiercely.

I didn’t expect the prick of tears behind my eyes. I blinked wildly and squinted at the horizon.

“He’s not easy, Der. He’s not a villain, he’s not my enemy. I’ve talked to countless therapists and I’ve conquered the worst of my anger, but I wasn’t prepared for this. I need to read the handbook about what to do when the guy who abandons you as a kid returns with a vengeance when you’re twenty-fucking-six,” I huffed derisively. “The thing is…he isn’t going to change. He won’t suddenly turn into Dad of the Year. And if he does, it’ll be for half brothers I barely know. How is that fair?”

Derek leaned into my side. “No one said it was fair, Gabe. But he can’t fix what he doesn’t understand. And maybe he’ll never get there. That doesn’t mean you should lose sleep over old pain or worries. Let that shit go. For your sake. For your sanity.”

I gave a humorless half laugh and nodded. “You’re right.”

“I’m pretty smart,” he boasted playfully. “And I have some experience with pushy parents.”

“Your mom is nothing like him. She loves you so much she can’t see straight sometimes. And my mom is like that too…to a less obsessive degree.” I teased.

“True.”

We chuckled, then let the silence fall like a gossamer blanket. I didn’t want to break it, but now that the cork was off my emotional bottle, I couldn’t help voicing one of my greatest fears.

“I don’t want to be like him, Der. If we ever have kids, I just…please let me know if I—”

“Stop.” Derek shook his head vehemently as he shifted to face me. “You are not your dad. You’re not going to turn into him the day you become a father. You know that. Someday, we will have kids, and they’re going to be really damn lucky to have two dads who love them unconditionally. You’ll probably be the fun dad who lets them get away with everything, and I’ll be the uptight one who keeps track of bedtimes and homework assignments.”

I caressed his jaw lovingly and bit his bottom lip. “Is it crazy that I’m not even a little freaked out that we so casually talk about having kids? Like it’s a foregone conclusion.”

He kissed me and rested his forehead against mine. “It is. You’re going to the Olympics, and then one of us will propose. We’ll close escrow on our house, get married, and talk about starting a family. Sound good?”

My heart was practically bursting at the seams, but I played it cool. “Yep. Sounds perfect. How many kids do you want?”

“Two. At least.”

“Same. And how will we know who should do the proposing?”

Derek smiled. “We’ll know.”

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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New Release Blitz: Concussion and Contentment by Liz Faraim (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Concussion and Contentment

Series: Vivian Chastain, Book Three

Author: Liz Faraim

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 87500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, family-drama, interracial, lesbian, polyamorous, ex-military, bartender, Christmas, New Year, established couple

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Description

Vivian, an adrenaline junkie and U.S. Army veteran, goes about her life as a bartender, avid runner, and polyamorous lesbian. Her life in Sacramento, California, is going well until she is blindsided by unforeseen financial issues that lead her to consider a new career.

In an attempt to recharge and take a break, Vivian goes on a motorcycle trip with her best friend, Bear, but the adventure does not turn out to be the carefree break Vivian had hoped for. She returns to Sacramento where her partner, Ang, tries to push her down rather than help her pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Vivian takes big steps with her other partner, Audre.

Vivian has an epiphany about what line of work she wants to pursue. As things start to stabilize, one of Vivian’s partners commits an act of grave violence, resulting in life-changing consequences for all concerned.

Surrounded by friends, Vivian turns over a new leaf and finally finds the contentment she has sought for a lifetime.

Excerpt

Concussion and Contentment
Liz Faraim © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Spring 2006, Sacramento, CA

Sweat dripped and bass pulsed as hundreds of women writhed and bumped to the music. Tick, the club DJ, was killing it. The vibe was so good that I was high on it. There was a line at my station ten people deep, customers jostling for position while dancing and shuffling forward each time I finished a drink order. One of my regulars stepped up and waved a twenty-dollar bill at me. She was in her forties, sporting a bowler hat and forearm tats.

“Viv, show me them titties and tats!” she shouted over the thumping and chatter.

I had already stripped down to my sports bra, with my beater hanging from the back pocket of my Dickies. It was hot for April, and the press of sweating, dancing bodies had made the nightclub a sauna.

“Aw, Tig, you know I can’t do that,” I said with a smirk and turned my back to the crowd. Behind the bar was a wall-to-wall mirror. I gyrated my hips to Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty,” which had become a club favorite. I made eye contact with Tig in the mirror as she jumped to the beat, still waving the twenty-dollar bill at me. Shoving down the shyness that crept up, I slapped on the façade of the confident butch barkeep I wore to work. I pulled my sports bra up, just a bit.

She hollered to her friends, “She’s doing it, she’s doing it!”

Amidst the chaos, they leaned to the side to see my reflection in the mirror, their mouths agape, eyes laser focused on me. I kept the tease up for a minute, dancing to the song, pulling my bra up a bit and lowering it again. Each time I lowered it, there was a chorus of “Awwwww’s” behind me. I finally relented and pulled my sports bra completely off. Their hoots and hollers made me grin, and I continued dancing for myself in the mirror.

Just as the song was ending, a bright light flashed in the mirror, reflecting straight into my eyes. I traced the light back along the mirror and saw it was coming from near the front door. Buck, our bouncer, stood on the rungs of her barstool by the door, flashing her Maglite at me. When we made eye contact, she tapped the top of her head three times, which was the sign that the cops were coming. I shimmied back into my sweaty sports bra, which was no easy feat, and turned back to my customers.

Tig pulled me into a hug across the bar. She tucked the bill into my waistband, her rough fingers lingering far too long on my skin. “Thanks, Viv. Looking good. Those tits and tats, you are so fucking hot. If I weren’t married, things’d be different.”

I patted her cheek and ended the hug, doing my best to keep my cool and stay in my role.

“Good to see you, Tig. The usual?”

She nodded and I poured her an Irish Car Bomb. She slapped some more cash on the bar, dropped the shot glass of whiskey and Bailey’s into her pint of Guinness, and chugged the whole frothing mess while her crew cheered her on. She slammed the pint glass down, wiped her mouth on her bare arm, belched, and disappeared into the fray.

Jen, the barback, bounced up to me with her usual level of cheer, and began unloading glasses fresh from the washer. “Tig still trying to get into your pants?” Her voice dripped with disgust as she fingered the American Spirit cigarette tucked behind her ear.

“Always.” I uncapped some beer bottles and rang up my next customer. “You know, I’ve been doing this job a few years now, and know that there’s a certain level of shit we have to put up with if we want those tips. And I need those tips. But it’s getting less amusing when people forget we are human and not a piece of meat.”

Jen nodded knowingly. “How much did she give you this time?”

“Twenty bucks. More generous than usual. She must have just gotten paid.”

“Well, don’t include it when you tally up your tips tonight. When you tip me out, I don’t want any of that. You earned it.” There was a pitying turn to Jen’s lips, and I nodded at her slowly.

We turned to watch as the police pushed their way past the line of women waiting to get into the club. Buck stopped them in the entryway at her lectern. She stood tall, her perfectly pressed uniform shirt tucked into her Wranglers. Jen slapped my ass and hustled back out to gather up empty glasses and beer bottles and likely drop her weed and pipe into one of the potted plants.

I spotted Sheila, our manager, mingling in the press of bodies and waved her down. I pointed toward the cops. She nodded and slithered her way through the crowd the way any seasoned bar or restaurant worker does. Sheila and Buck eventually convinced the officers to leave, which was a relief. Uniformed police in a queer nightclub were bad for business.

The frantic pace kept up until last call. Eventually Tick turned on the house lights and Buck worked her way around the place, breaking up lingering conversations with her usual: “You don’t have to go home, but ya can’t stay here.” As she escorted out the last couple and locked the doors behind them, I posted up on a bar stool and counted out my tips and cash drawer.

My hip itched and I remembered the money Tig had put there. I pulled the sweaty bill out of my waistband and dropped it into my tip bucket with disgust. The rant I had been holding back burst forth to no one in particular.

“Who do the fuck do they think they are, putting their hands all over us like they own us? Like we’re in a fucking petting zoo!”

“Pipe down, Viv.” Sheila lit a cigarette and watched us like a hawk as we counted the club’s money. I grumbled. “It’s just part of the job. It’s part of the atmosphere here. Remember what I told you way back on your first day?”

I turned and made eye contact with Sheila. Her brown eyes challenged me, a crinkle at the corners, her right eyebrow cocked just a hair. She took a long drag on her cigarette and blew it at me. She knew I was a runner and hated cigarette smoke, so I took it as a blatant sign of disrespect.

Speaking through clenched teeth I recalled, “On my first day you said: Know your place, stay in your role. Desirable. Flirty. Available but not attainable. Is that right?”

“Bingo.” She pointed a nicotine-stained finger at me. “If you don’t like it, you know there are a dozen other gals ready to take your spot. This is the only lesbian nightclub in Sac and it’s hoppin’. Adjust your attitude or get out.”

I went back to counting out my drawer. The bills were soggy with a combination of spilled beer and boob sweat. It was amusing how many women used their bras as a wallet, but at the end of the night the damp bills weren’t so cute.

My relationship with Sheila had taken several hits because I had disappeared on her a few times. Once friendly and warm, my boss now barely tolerated my presence, and only because I brought in big money. The customers loved me. Sheila would be an idiot to fire me, and clearly, she resented the fact.

Over the last two years I had beat a thieving customer to a pulp, disappeared because I had to go into hiding after witnessing a heinous crime, and gotten myself hospitalized with sepsis. My attendance at work hadn’t exactly been great because of all that, and Sheila didn’t seem to trust me anymore. Since returning from my bout with sepsis the previous year I hadn’t missed a single shift. That fact alone made me mad that Sheila hadn’t warmed back up to me. Work used to be one of my favorite places to be, Jen and Buck were some of my favorite people, but Sheila giving me the cold shoulder and my growing discontent with grabby customers were souring the pot.

Jen went about clearing the glasses, beer bottles, and trash that had been left all over the bar. Occasionally she would groan and announce whatever disgusting detritus she had found: used condoms and gloves tucked into the potted plants, puke in the corner, empty baggies, whippit canisters, and even someone’s thong underwear.

I finished my count, my drawer balancing out perfectly, and shoved it across the bar to Sheila. I grabbed my gear and walked into the back bar to find Jen and give her a cut of my tips. Buck unlocked the door and followed me out. We walked down Twenty-First Street, which was mostly deserted at the early hour, aside from the occasional person sleeping in a doorway. We reached my truck and I fished out my keys. Buck wasn’t much for small talk so when she cleared her throat, I was surprised.

“Things’ll settle down. Stick around.” Her gravelly voice tapered off as she gave my back a hearty thump, spun on her heel, and headed back to the bar.

“G’night, Buck.” She looked over her shoulder at me and nodded, her mullet flapping in the breeze.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Liz is a recovering workaholic who has mastered multi-tasking, including balancing a day job, solo parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor.

Liz lives in the East Bay Area of California, and enjoys exploring nature with her son.

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Book Blitz: Only You by Willa Okati (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Only You

Series: Second Chance Omegas #1

Author: Willa Okati

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: July 30, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 100

Genre: Romance, paranormal, urban fantasy, sex/gender shifters & mpreg, second chances, action adventure

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Synopsis

Second Chance — a small town where anything can happen — and does.

Once upon a time, a eighteen year old Alpha named Alex fell in love with a pretty Omega boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Zachary was everything he’d ever wanted — sweet, sassy, and sexy as hell. Alex would have married that boy and raised baby after baby with him — if Zachary hadn’t run away when Alex popped the question.

Alex doesn’t give up easily. When a train derails on its way to Alex’s hometown, he’s finally got another shot at the one who got away, and he’s not going to waste it. Now he’s got Zachary in his sights, and he’s never letting go again.

It killed Zachary to let Alex go the first time. He loved that man as much as Alex loved him, and he’s never fallen out of love, but he left to give Alex his best chance at living his best life. Zachary can’t — won’t — be sorry for that, no matter what it cost him.

Stranded in Second Chance with nowhere else to go and no way to get there, Zachary’s got no choice but to accept the help and shelter Alex offers. The chemistry’s still there. The desire. The connection. The yearning. But when the secrets they’ve both been keeping come to light, will they shatter their bond for keeps, or bring them together in a forever kind of love?

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Willa Okati

“Coffee, sir?”

“As much of it as you can fit in a cup. No cream but double the sugar. Please.”

The train attendant shook his head, but with a smile and a finger briefly pressed to his lips as he passed over not one but two Styrofoam cups filled to the brim. He was an Omega too, in his mid-thirties by the look of him, and he wore a black jet widower’s ring instead of a wedding band. Things weren’t much easier for the widowed than the unmated or separated. He understood.

Zach took a grateful gulp, not caring that the coffee was hot enough to scald his throat, and asked, “How far behind schedule are we?” Stretching his legs at the next station would do him good; they ached when he stayed still for too long.

“About half an hour, at this point.”

Wishing wouldn’t make the wheels turn faster, but with nothing to look at outside in the dark, Zach adjusted his position so he could get a better view of the passengers in his car. Like most Omegas, he wasn’t very tall. Some new folks had gotten on and others disembarked while he’d dozed, and he liked wondering what their stories were. Two young Alphas who acted like frat bros; interesting, they weren’t the usual size for Alphas, but small and compact and they weren’t at each other’s throats but laughed and joked like best friends. A couple that had to be recently married from the way they could barely resist climbing all over each other; an Omega with a contented smile, probably on his way back home, and —

Oh.

Oh, God.

Zach’s heart jumped into his throat and wedged stuck there even around the burn of his beverage. Three rows ahead, dark wheat-blond hair and a profile almost as familiar as his own turned to smile at the attendant as he refused their offer of coffee. It couldn’t be, it couldn’t be, he hadn’t seen that profile since he was eighteen, but — He’d changed — well, he’d grown up, the way everyone did, the bones of his face maturing from soft boyish cuteness to strong, masculine definition. A short beard, trimmed and shaped, that suited his strong, stubborn jaw. The kind of casual suit that would have cost the equivalent of a month’s rent in Manhattan. Elegant hands with sturdy knuckles and deft fingers, and a smile that lit up the train.

He did and didn’t look a thing like the boy Zach remembered but it was, it was, it was him.

Alex.

Zach would have known him anywhere, even if he’d shaved his head and started scowling instead of smiling. If he closed his eyes, he could feel those hands on the bare skin of memory. After all, you never forgot your first.

“I love you. And I know you love me too.”

He should stop staring. Alex would sense it any second now, and he might look around, and —

His gaze drifted back up, drawn like a moth to a flame.

Alex. Oh, Alex.

Zach’s body twitched with the first pangs of arousal, wanting what he’d had once upon a time. He remembered it all, and he remembered it perfectly. He dreamed about it, when he slept. The taste of Alex’s skin, the softness and hardness of his mouth and how his eagerness had nearly rubbed the insides of Zach’s thighs raw. The fullness, almost too much and too tight, when he slid inside Zach.

“I love you. And I know you love me too.”

Anger slowly took alarm and unhappiness’s place – anger, and frustration with himself. Zach should have sensed this train was to be avoided. Dodged. Something! And Alex, sitting there as if he didn’t have a care in the world – it was everything Zach had wanted for him, the entire reason he’d left Alex in the first place, but seeing it in the flesh opened all those old wounds back up and made them bleed afresh. The pain from that moment of saying no to what Alex had offered with all his big, warm heart cut sharper than any knife – but he’d had to. You didn’t do that to your first boyfriend, did you? Take him up on a marriage proprosal and tie him down to a shitty life based on a few promises made in the afterglow?

He’d done the right thing by saying no, leaving, and giving Alex his freedom. Zach knew that. Was sure of it. Even if none of that had ever made him feel any better about it.

They must have been traveling farther and faster than Zach had realized, or he was more out of it than he’d known. Between one blink and the next the train’s PA system crackled to far-too-loud life again, announcing they’d reach their next station at Second Chance in ten minutes. Second Chance? What kind of name was that for a town?

Alex looked up at the speaker, nodded in an absent sort of way, and stood to open the overhead compartment. He took out a bulging messenger bag and slung it over his shoulder and stuffed a pair of thick gloves and a warm knit hat in the pockets of his coat. This would be his stop.

Zach caught his lip between his teeth, torn between – it was pure foolishness, the idea of going to him — and sanity, staying right where he was.

Let it go.

Zach would have, really he would. But as Alex walked past him – always so eager to do things, that one; he would start heading for the exits before the train had even come to a halt — he only made it two steps past Zach’s seat before he stopped. As Zach’s heart sank down past the pit of his stomach he saw Alex pause, then turn to look back.

He stopped, just like Zach had, blank with surprise. “Do I know you?”

Zach held his breath. Could he lie? Yes, but this new, matured Alex would have the life experience not to believe him, and he hadn’t changed nearly as much as Alex had. He opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

“I do know you. I know your face,” Alex said. His voice had matured with the rest of him as he aged, going from sweet to firm with a raspy vocal fry on the edges. “Zach?”

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

Meet the Author

Willa Okati (AKA Will) is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, a whole lot of flowering plants and a lifelong love of storytelling. Will’s definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for, though he — not she anymore — is a lot less quiet these days.

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New Release Blitz ~ Red Rock Romance by Jane Colt (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Red Rock Romance by Jane Colt

Word Count: 78,512
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 292

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CRIME
CRIME AND MYSTERY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MULTICULTURAL
MYSTERY
PARANORMAL

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Book Description

A brilliant Native American archaeology student and her Brit ‘bad boy’ professor find the key to love, hot sex and…what? A lost civilization?

Cocheta ‘Cat’ White Eagle is a Native American archaeology grad student on a mission to prove the existence of her ancestral Lost Tribe. A vision tells her it’s somewhere high in the treacherous mountains of Sedona. The only problem is she’s afraid of heights! Trying to conquer her fear through pole dancing—of course—she attracts the attention of a bad boy Brit. He’s exciting, brilliant and sexy but totally off-limits. He’s her new professor, a hound, and if he recognizes her as the girl behind the mask of ‘The Contessa’, her career will be over before it begins.

Colin Tucker is a drop-dead-gorgeous Londoner who is rocketing to the top of his field. Alas, the sandy-haired, blue-eyed wunderkind has a weakness for sexy women—including the French Ambassador’s daughter, no less. Banished to the Colonies, he finds himself torn between the exotic stripper and his brilliant student. After being put to a sexy test, he gives his heart to Cat, his student. He pledges to help her in her search, they join forces and live hap—

But wait! Smugglers, deception and danger… Oh my! Colin breaks up with Cat to keep her safe, gets arrested for stealing artifacts and helps the thieves trying to thwart her quest.

Is that really how to win the girl?

Reader advisory: This book contains explosions, death threats, outdoor sex and minor instances of racism from a secondary character.

Excerpt

The tremor in her arm was the first sign Cat was reaching her limit. Her labored breathing was the second. She’d pushed so hard during this climb that every bit of clothing she wore—her long-sleeved gray jersey, her sports bra underneath, her long black climbing tights—was soaked. Sweat ran down from her sopping bandana into her eyes. The salt stung. She clenched her jaw.

I can do this.

The fear she’d fought so hard to ignore disagreed. ‘No, you can’t,’ cackled the demon within.

She fought back.

Hang in there. Stay here for a minute and rest. We’ll be okay. Relax. Just don’t look down.

She took a deep breath and gripped the red-hued rock tighter. Her gloves weren’t thick enough to protect her from its knife-like edge. It bit back. “Ow!” The burn spread through her arms. She kept shifting her right foot to find a more secure foothold.

Better. Worse. Better. Worse. Damn!

The struggle only added to the strain on her upper body. Now both her arms were shaking. Stop! she commanded. They ignored her. She took a series of deep, hard breaths, hoping to get oxygen to her muscles. Her throat burned from the effort.

Put the weight on your left foot to get a better grip.

The black rubber sole slipped off the rock and shot into mid-air. She grunted and instinctively tightened her grip even more, which only increased the pain.

Defying the agony, she pulled herself up a few more inches. Her heart thundered against her chest. Straining, she gasped for air. Safety was within sight. If she could just grab the next handhold, she could regain her balance and give herself a chance. She gritted her teeth and stretched—but it was just out of reach.

She put all her weight on one leg and explored the rough surface with her free foot. Miraculously, she found a foothold that would let her lift herself.

I can do this!

She shifted her weight onto that side.

Stretch! Push! Pull! Fight! Just two more inches.

But the pressure on her leg was too much. The pain in her calf was instant and searing.

Fuck! A cramp!

The muscle tightened with a mind of its own, oblivious to the fact that it was bringing about its own destruction. With her legs now useless, she shifted back to her arms. Drained, they shook. Even her hands had nothing left.

No! No!

She gulped as dread washed over her. But she still struggled.

It will be okay, she lied.

Her heart pounded as her fate became undeniable. Her throat tightened and her face flushed. She didn’t know which felt worse—the pain in her hands from gripping so hard? The searing burn in her muscles? The terror at being so high? Shame at having overreached and being the author of her demise? Swallowing hard, she knew that, given what was about to happen, the question was academic.

Her trembling arms told her that she had only seconds before her body betrayed her. She closed her eyes tight, clenched her jaw, kept fighting and prayed for a miracle. But her final bit of energy evaporated.

Even as the cold, merciless hand of Death pried her fingers from the rock and pulled her to her tragic destiny, she refused to surrender.

No! No!

But gravity pulled her backward like a rag doll.

No! No! Please, God! No!” she screamed into the void.

She plummeted.

Three feet.

The sturdy black safety harness snapped sharply around her. She grunted in reply, and her friend slowly lowered her to the gym floor.

Lauren greeted her with a big smile and a warm hug. “Twenty feet. That’s a new personal best, Cat. Congratulations. Of course”—she laughed—“it doesn’t change that you just died again. What is that…five times today? But it’s still an accomplishment. High five!”

Cat’s arms were so spent that she couldn’t raise either one in response. As her friend helped her out of the harness, she hung her head and wiped her face. “I know you’re trying to be encouraging, but being so weak and terrified only twenty feet off the ground is humiliating. I’m such a failure!” She began to cry.

Her friend covered her in an oversized pink towel to sop up the perspiration. “They’ve got the AC blasting, sweetie. You’re drenched from going all out. You don’t want to catch cold.” She put her arm around her as they walked to the locker room.

As she and her friend dressed in the pristine locker room after showering, Lauren pointed to the sopping mountain of heavy, colorless, sweat-soaked fabric in front of Cat’s locker. “That’s at least one problem you could solve in one stroke. You’d be cooler and more comfortable climbing in shorts and a sports bra. All that wet cloth makes you overheat and drains your energy.”

Cat winced. She was a failure as a climber. Now she couldn’t even dress right.

“I’m sorry, Cat.” Lauren hugged her. “You know I’m your biggest fan. I’m just trying to help. Let me treat you to coffee. I’ll even spring for a chocolate croissant. The good news is that since you’re now nearly a ghost, calories don’t count.”

Cat mustered a weak laugh.

“Seriously, it takes real guts to face your fears like this. You should be proud. You’re a fighter!”

“Sure, a fighter without a punch,” she replied dejectedly.

Lauren wrapped Cat in another big hug, and Cat laid her head on the comforting shoulder, took a deep breath and relaxed into her warmth.

“You’re the best, Lauren. I’d have given up weeks ago if it weren’t for you.”

As they left the gym, Cat squinted at the bright sunshine and winced at the heat then she tossed her bag into the trunk of her old canary-yellow Toyota. It was a glorious day in Sedona. The spectacular blue sky perfectly framed the red rocks glistening in the distance. Normally, Cat took comfort in the natural beauty around her—especially the rugged red mountains that reminded her of her heritage and her mission. Today, defeated by the climbing wall yet again, she barely acknowledged her surroundings. Her friend pointed to the mountains. “You have my word,” she said resolutely. “You’re going to own those rocks.” Cat shrugged. She was too tired to argue.

They walked the few blocks to the café arm in arm. Lauren wore cute pink shorts and a tight white sleeveless top. Cat had on long, loose-fitting black track pants and an oversized, long-sleeved, gray, Red Rock University T-shirt. Pressed down by the weight of her exhaustion, the best she could manage was a slow trudge.

As she reached for her coffee on the white stone counter, her arm still shook. She had to use both hands to pick up the red paper cup. She carefully placed it on the sturdy wood table so it wouldn’t spill. As she started to sit down, however, her leg began to cramp again. She lost her balance and jostled the table. The cup rocked, but Lauren grabbed the drink before it could tip over and stain the red-and-white checkerboard tablecloth. Despondent, Cat plopped into a chair and stretched out her leg to stop the cramp. Once the pain had passed, she picked up a sugar packet—but tore it so badly that it exploded over a pair of cute guys walking by. As she brushed the white powder off her gray T-shirt, she noticed that they looked her way then chuckled. She flushed hotly, put her head on the table, covered it with her arms and sighed.

“They thought it was cute,” Lauren said quietly. “Sit up. They’re hanging around. They want to come over and chat.”

Cat sat back up, shook her head and mumbled something incomprehensible.

Lauren caught the guys’ eyes and shrugged apologetically. They picked up their drinks and headed out. “Okay, the coast is clear.”

Cat shook her head in disgust. “See? I can’t even manage a cup of coffee and cute guys. I’m pitiful—a pathetic sack of fears destined for failure. I’m an aspiring archaeologist who’s afraid of heights. Even after presenting at a bunch of conferences, I’m still terrified of public speaking. I hate it when anyone even looks at me. Those guys were gawking at adorable you. They noticed me only because what I did was stupid. I have ‘career fiasco’ and ‘relationship nightmare’ written all over me. I’m hopeless.” She slumped again.

Lauren took her hand and gave her a warm smile. “Are you kidding? Bumping into the table and not being able to open the sugar are signs that you went all out on your climbs. You don’t do things halfway. I admire that about you.” She put her finger under Cat’s chin, raised it and looked directly in her eyes. “Now, tell yourself you’re a fighter…and mean it! That’s an order!”

She sighed. “Fine. I’m a fighter,” she murmured sullenly.

“Cat!” Lauren replied.

“Okay, okay. Despite my unbroken string of miserable failures and despite the obvious futility of continuing to try, I stupidly haven’t given up,” she said.

Lauren laughed. “If that’s the best you can do, I’ll take it. And also tell yourself that you’re a beautiful, sexy woman. I’ve seen you naked at the gym. Those guys were checking you out because you’re hot—even when you insist on dressing like a nun.”

Cat managed a weak smile then the tears started again.

Lauren reached into her white backpack and handed her a tissue. She stroked Cat’s arm gently. “I know it doesn’t feel like it, sweetie, but you actually had a good day. Once you get past the fear of heights, you won’t waste so much of your energy gripping so tightly. And weight work will give you the strength you need.”

Cat wiped her eyes and made a face, recalling how embarrassing her recent sessions at the gym had been. “I struggle so much, even with small dumbbells, that I get that pitiful look from everyone around me. They ask me if I’m okay, like I’m coming back from major surgery or something. I’ve even tried to go when no one else is there, but then the trainers come over. I can see it in their eyes. They’re worried I’m going to hurt myself then sue them. I’m so self-conscious that it’s humiliating.”

Her friend paused, a frown furrowing her forehead, and looked down at the table. She sat quietly for a few seconds, pursed her lips and moved the saltshaker from a red square to a white one as deliberately as if she were playing chess. She glanced back up at Cat. “Maybe…you…” She took a sip of coffee. “It’s just…”

“What?”

“Nothing.” Lauren looked down and took the pepper shaker this time. Staring in its direction but not really looking at it, she rhythmically tapped it on the table as she pursed her lips.

Cat sighed. “Come on. I can take it. You’re going to tell me I’m stupid to think I can do this. I need to face facts and give up.” She closed her eyes and covered her face with her hands as though someone was going to punch her.

Lauren gently took Cat’s hands and put them back on the table. “Look at me, Cat. I am not going to criticize you. You do that too much already. How do you forget so quickly that you graduated summa, won a great graduate fellowship and are on a fast track to your Ph.D.? Didn’t the school just send you to that conference in Greece where everyone raved over your presentation? You’re awesome! You’re the only one who doesn’t know that. I wasn’t going to criticize you. Actually”—she looked out of the window—“I might…have an idea,” she said hesitantly.

Is there hope?

Looking back at Cat, Lauren sat quietly. She leaned in, lowered her voice and spoke. “I have a thought…about a Plan B…to solve your problems. It’s unusual, but…” She left the sentence incomplete.

Cat leaned forward excitedly. “A Plan B? Really? Tell me.”

Lauren looked into her coffee and stirred. She took a deep breath and sipped. Then her face tightened and turned red. Quickly looking down at the crusty croissant in front of her, she said abruptly, “Boy, this coffee is hot.” Flustered, she tore off a piece of her pastry. “And this looks great.”

Cat was startled. She didn’t believe that hot coffee could make her friend’s face turn scarlet. What is she not saying?

Lauren looked away and pulled her long blonde hair behind her. “Um. Not weights.” She looked down and tapped her fingers on the table. Her face tensed, and—to Cat’s surprise—she bit her lip and held her breath for a few seconds. When she exhaled, she almost imperceptibly shook her head.

After a few seconds, she looked up and glanced out of the window. “I mean, let’s figure out why you’re so afraid first. If we can reduce your panic, you’ll be more relaxed and will climb better,” she said, looking back at Cat. “Then we’ll worry about body strength. So, where does the fear come from? And if you’re so terrified, why are you so committed to learning to climb?”

Everything—Lauren’s cadence, expression, posture—screamed that she’d deliberately changed the topic.

Cat frowned. If there were another way to tackle her fears, she didn’t understand why her friend wouldn’t tell her. But it was obvious that pressing for an explanation was the wrong thing to do. She’d respect Lauren’s wishes. At the same time, she wasn’t ready to confide everything to Lauren yet about her embarrassing fears and weird obsessions—at least not in a public coffee shop where she could be overheard. “I promise I’ll explain—but let’s save it for a day when I haven’t fallen to my death so many times.”

“Fair enough.” Lauren smiled. “But enough with the sad stuff.” She leaned in with a naughty smirk and lowered her voice. “Tell me all about the conference. Any cute guys?”

“I told you I’m not interested in anything that could distract me from my work—and certainly not a relationship until after I have my degree.”

“That’s not what I meant, and you know it. Did you follow my suggestion”—she nudged Cat conspiratorially—“and engage in some wanton revelry? God knows you deserve it after how hard you’ve been working.”

“Wanton revelry?” Cat looked puzzled.

“Sorry. Too much Shakespeare. When you got to the conference and unpacked, you must have found my strapless red dress I snuck into your bag. Did it work? Did you get laid? Surely there were any number of hot young studs happy to service you.”

Cat laughed. “Hot young studs? Have you ever seen what archaeologists look like?”

“Sure. Indiana Jones. The hat. The whip. The bedroom eyes. Bedroom hands. Bedroom you-know-what.” She playfully raised her eyebrows a couple of times.

“Sorry,” she chuckled. “That’s the movies. Real life archaeologists are nerd city.”

“Wait a minute. Didn’t you text me that there was some drop-dead gorgeous guy all the women were drooling over? The one who’d made some sort of amazing discovery?”

“Oh, him. The Brit who found an ancient Grecian vase that’s going to rewrite the history of the period. Because my flight got delayed, I got to the conference after his lecture, and he was nowhere to be seen. I don’t believe he was as good looking as everyone said. Nobody’s that handsome! Even so, I wouldn’t be interested. He’s not my type.”

“Not your type? Handsome and brilliant? He’s every woman’s type!”

“No, I mean he’s a hound.” She waved her hand in the air dismissively and grimaced. “He pursues women with the same vengeance he uses to look for artifacts. We’re just prizes for him. The rumor mill said he was bed-hopping the entire conference. Colin Tucker is the last man I’d ever be interested in!”

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About the Author

Jane Colt

Jane Colt began writing romances to deal with the stress of a ‘day job’ that’s mainly about examining the various ways people treat one another badly. An incurable romantic, her stories give her hope that we really can live happily ever after—even if only in our imaginations. She writes erotic romances because, having been raised in a morally rigid home, she wants to encourage in her readers a healthier, ‘sex positive’ outlook. She especially wants her heroines to be as sexy and passionate as they desire. You can count on the fact that her couples end up in love and having great sex!  … OK, maybe they have the sex first!

Her stories aim to be light-hearted, fun, upbeat—and sexy! No dark, brooding, broken, tortured guys who need fixing. Just great, handsome, smart, sexy, ‘real men’ whose only weakness is being unable to resist the women she pairs them with. Think Lifetime or Hallmark movies plus hot sex!

She’s lived on both coasts of the U.S., recently leaving the beaches of Los Angeles to return home to the glorious autumn foliage of western Massachusetts. Married, she and her spouse are happy to be the devoted servants of two adorable cats. She loves traveling. Favorite cities: San Francisco, Boston, Venice, London, London, London!

By the way, anyone who knows her would be shocked to learn she writes erotic romances. “Jane Colt” is a pen name. So, shhhhhh.

Find out more about Jane at her website.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Jane Colt’s Red Rock Romance Giveaway

JANE COLT IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 10th August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz ~ Sharing His Submissive By Hannah Murray (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sharing His Submissive By Hannah Murray

Word Count: 56,687
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 222

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

When Nick said he wanted to make all of Rebecca’s fantasies come true, he wasn’t kidding.

Nick and Rebecca are madly in love, kinky as hell and ready to push the boundaries a little. As her Dom and her Daddy, fulfilling all her desires is both Nick’s responsibility and his privilege, but while Rebecca loves the idea of Nick sharing her with another Dom, she’s not sure if she’s ready to turn her fantasy into reality.

Nick is eager to facilitate the threesome of her dreams, but it’s no hardship to wait until she’s ready…and, in the meantime, maybe give her a hint of just what two Doms can do for her.

With a small taste of the very sexy possibilities, it doesn’t take long for Rebecca to get on board, especially since she’s developed a small, harmless crush on Nick’s preferred co-Top, his good friend and fellow Dom, Cade.

Nick and Cade have teamed up before, so he knows they can deliver on the promises Nick has made. Together, they’ll be sure to give Rebecca a scene—and a night—none of them will ever forget…

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of erotic humiliation and multiple partner sex.

Excerpt

Rebecca crumpled up the last bit of newspaper and tossed it into the box she was using as a makeshift recycling bin. “Last box, all empty.”

“Nice job, love,” Nick said, slipping his arm around her from behind. He kissed the back of her neck, his beard tickling her skin, then rested his chin on her shoulder. “Let’s haul this out, then I’ll order dinner.”

She leaned into him and surveyed the unpacking debris that had taken over one side of the living room. “How about you haul it out, and I’ll order dinner?”

“A traditional division of labor?” he mused. “Very Donna Reed of you.”

“Donna would make dinner, not order in,” she reminded him, and tried not to giggle when he gnawed playfully on her neck. “And anyway, I did most of the unpacking.”

“Because you didn’t trust me to put your stuff in the right places.”

“True.” She turned her head to smile at him. “But it still counts.”

“Hmm.” He narrowed his eyes, the bright crystalline blue darkening slightly. “I’ll take out the recycling, but you have to eat dinner naked.”

She forced a frown, even though her pulse began to pound in anticipation. “That’s not one of the rules we agreed on.”

His lips twitched in a smirk. “It’s not a House Rule, it’s a Now Rule.”

“A Now Rule?” she parroted, and frowned harder to keep the smile off her face. “What is that, something you get to invoke anytime you want something not covered by the House Rules?”

“It’s a spur of the moment negotiation for a specific situation. If you want me to haul all that away by myself, you have to eat dinner naked.”

She eyed the broken-down boxes and wadded-up packing material that covered half the room. After a day of unpacking and arranging her belongings in his—now their—loft, she was ready to sit down and relax, and eating naked didn’t sound like too big a price to pay to do it. But she wasn’t going to tell him that. “Eating naked is dangerous. What if I drop hot food on myself?”

“Order sandwiches,” he suggested.

She looked at him with a horror that wasn’t entirely feigned. “Have you ever had breadcrumbs in your crotch?”

“I can honestly say I have not.” He arched an eyebrow. “Have you?”

“Well, no,” she admitted. “But I’ve had sand in there, and I’m guessing crumbs would be just as bad. I want a napkin for my lap.”

“For a napkin, you’ll have to wear a butt plug.”

I’ll need a napkin for under me, too, she thought. Her pussy was wet just thinking about him plugging her ass. She sighed heavily, the picture of a beleaguered, long-suffering submissive. “Fine.”

“Fine,” he echoed, and bent to capture her lips. The kiss was quick, with a just a teasing hint of tongue. When he lifted his head again, his gaze was bright with amusement. “You’re not fooling anyone, you know.”

She forced her eyes wide and blinked, projecting innocence for all she was worth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Uh-huh.” He slid his hand from her waist to her breast, where her nipple was trying to poke through her T-shirt. He gave it a firm tug, sending a quick bolt of sensation straight to her pussy. “You’re sure that’s the story you want to go with?”

“Give me a minute to think of a new one,” she managed, and he laughed.

“Order dinner, then take a shower,” he said, his hand light on her breast. She wanted to lean into him for firmer contact, but that would give him the advantage. Not that he didn’t already have it, but still. “When you come back, bring the blue butt plug and the alligator clamps.”

She was nodding before she caught the last part. “Wait. You didn’t say anything about clamps.”

“That was before you tried to fool me,” he said, and squeezed her nipple hard enough to make her squeak. His grin was pure perverted delight. “Infractions require corrections, baby girl.”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” she said, breathless from the spike of pleasure-pain.

“Want to make it a butt plug, alligator clamps, and a vibrating egg?” he asked, his fingers still tight on her nipple.

Shit. She shook her head.

“Then say, ‘yes, Daddy’,” he advised, his eyes gleaming, “and do what you’re told.”

“Yes, Daddy,” she parroted, and bit her lip when he released her nipple. She couldn’t decide if she was relieved or disappointed, and gave him her best pout.

It just made him grin. “Good girl,” he said, and kissed her one more time before striding to the pile of boxes.

Rebecca shook her head and walked around the free-standing wall that served to separate their sleeping space from the rest of the loft, her body humming with arousal. It was amazing what that man could do to her with those two magic words. Sometimes she wondered if he could good girl her to orgasm, using nothing but his voice and the approval she craved to get her there. She didn’t think it was possible, but she wouldn’t bet against Nick, or the powerful, incendiary effect he had on her.

It might have been embarrassing if she didn’t like it so much. But she did, and so did he, and knowing that made everything okay. Besides, she had the same effect on him—he was just better at controlling his responses. Hell, he was better at controlling everything…including her.

She wondered just how he was planning to control her tonight, and pulled out her phone to order dinner.

With the sandwiches on their way—estimated delivery time, twenty-two minutes—she stripped out of her moving-day clothes of yoga pants and a T-shirt and headed into the bathroom. There were a lot of things to love about the loft—the high ceilings, spacious rooms with plenty of natural light, and secure, covered parking were all great—but her very favorite thing was the bathroom.

It was the size of the bedroom in her old apartment, and almost embarrassingly luxurious. There was a soaking tub long enough to fit Nick’s lanky form with room left over for her, or she could just swim laps in it by herself. Two sinks on opposite sides of the room meant she didn’t have to share counter or cabinet space, and while it didn’t have a place for her to sit and do her makeup, she liked to do that in natural light, anyway.

There was a shower with rainfall showerheads in the ceiling that she could turn off with a touch of the state-of-the-art instrument panel when she didn’t want to get her hair wet, and more shower heads set into the marble-tiled wall. There was even a bench, wide and deep enough to seat two people side by side—or two people with one on the other’s lap—and massage jets set in the wall behind it.

The matching tile covering the bathroom floor was heated, the lights under the cabinet edges were motion activated so she never stumbled in the dark, and, best of all, the toilet was in its own separate frosted-glass-enclosed room. Not that she was particularly embarrassed by bodily functions, but sometimes a body needed to sit for a spell.

And on those occasions, it was really nice to be able to close the door.

She handled those bodily functions first, then stepped into the shower and tapped the wall panel to activate the rain showerheads. Moving day had left her feeling grimy, and even though it still felt like winter outside, she’d worked up a sweat. She might have lingered in the shower, letting the jets and hot water wash away the dirt and soothe sore muscles, but her stomach felt like it was trying to eat itself. Lunch had been several hours of physical labor earlier, and she was hungry.

She cleaned up quickly, washing her hair and scrubbing the sweat from her skin, then grabbed a fluffy towel to dry off. She wrapped it around her hair to soak up the excess water and keep it out of her way while she slathered on moisturizer, then hung it over the heated towel rack and dragged a comb though her dark locks. Her hair was getting to the long-enough-to-be-annoying stage, and she made a mental note to schedule a trim. She’d taken Monday off, assuming she’d be tired from a weekend of moving and organizing, so maybe she’d see if her stylist could squeeze her in.

She left her hair down to air dry and pulled on her robe. A moving-in present from Nick, the thick cashmere was soft, warm, and killer, fuck-me red. He’d said it had caught his eye because it was the exact color of her favorite lipstick, the one she always wore when she wanted an extra boost of confidence. She’d worn the lip color a lot in the three years she’d worked for Nick, and apparently, he’d become somewhat obsessed with it.

She didn’t work for him anymore, and she rarely needed a boost of confidence these days, but she still wore the lipstick. It had a delightfully predictable effect on her lover, one that usually ended in multiple orgasms for her.

She debated putting some on now, but decided it was too much trouble. She left the bathroom and crossed the bedroom to Nick’s side of the bed. He kept the toys they used most frequently in his nightstand, the butt plug and nipple clamps she sought sharing space with leather cuffs, dildos and butt plugs in a variety of sizes, a rechargeable wand vibrator and a leather paddle.

There were other toys in the hope chest at the foot of the bed, just transported from her old apartment that morning, and in Nick’s fully stocked toy bag in the walk-in closet if he wanted a more involved scene. But he liked to improvise, so he kept the basics close at hand.

She tucked the plug and clamps into the pocket of her robe, then shoved a small bottle of lube into the other. He hadn’t asked for it, but maybe she could score some points by anticipating his wants.

She’d take all the good-girl points she could get.

She walked into the living room just as Nick was opening the door to the food delivery, and the open floor plan of the space meant that both Nick and the young man in the open doorway saw her. She kept her hands in the pockets of her robe, fighting the urge to draw it more tightly around her. The fact that it covered her from neck to toes didn’t make her feel any less exposed, and the objects she carried only added to the feeling. Nick knew, of course. It was in the gleam in his pretty blue eyes, in the quirk of his lips as he smiled at her. And, being Nick, he took advantage.

“Hey, baby,” he purred, reaching out a hand in a silent order to come to him. She obeyed it without hesitation, her pulse pounding in her throat. “You remember Adam?”

“Sure,” she said with an easy smile, her fingers tight on Nick’s. “How are you?”

“Good, thanks,” Adam said, his throat bobbing as his cheeks flushed. He was young, in his early twenties, working as a driver for several food delivery services to help meet his college expenses. Their neighborhood was his territory—if they ordered food, there was at least a fifty percent chance that Adam would deliver it.

He had a small, harmless crush on her, which Nick found amusing. Rebecca found it sweet…and when she was wearing a bathrobe with sex toys in the pockets, awkward.

She squeezed Nick’s fingers again in silent admonishment before reaching for the bag Adam held. “Thanks for coming so fast. I’m starving.”

“I had them throw in an extra pickle, just for you.”

“Thanks.” She smiled at him, holding the bag to her chest. “I love pickles.”

“I know,” he said, and flushed tomato red.

She cut her eyes to Nick, who winked back and pulled a couple of bills out of his pocket. “Thanks for the speed, Adam.”

Adam took the tip, his eyes widening a little at the amount. “Hey, thanks, Mr. Saint, Ms. McBride.”

“See you next time, Adam,” Rebecca said with a little wave as Nick closed the door. As soon as it was shut, she shook her head at Nick. “You’re terrible.”

Nick merely grinned. “Seeing you in that red robe probably made his day. If you’d come out naked, he’d have passed out.”

She rolled her eyes and headed for the kitchen. “Good thing I’m not going to do that, then, isn’t it?”

He took the bag from her and unpacked it, setting the sandwiches, chips, and pickles—two for her, one for him—on the plates she laid out. “And if I told you to?”

She pulled a couple of bottles of beer out of the fridge and met his raised eyebrow with one of her own. “Involving other people in a scene who have not explicitly consented to being involved in said scene falls under the heading of Things I Will Use My Safeword For.”

“God, I love it when you get prissy.” He grinned and smacked her ass. “Reminds me of all those times I wanted to bend you over my desk and fuck the sass right out of you.”

She resisted the urge to rub her stinging butt and scooped up her plate. They didn’t have a dining room table yet, because Nick had never seen the need and her old place hadn’t had room. They were going to go shopping for one together, but in the meantime, their dining options were the living room or the breakfast bar. “Where do you want to eat?”

“Living room,” he decided, and followed her over.

She was lowering herself to the sofa when he said, “Don’t sit.”

She glanced down, thinking she might have been about to sit on the television remote, but there was nothing there. “Why?”

“Because.” He set his own food on the coffee table, grabbed one of the pillows from the corner of the sectional, and tossed it on the floor at her feet.

Her belly fluttered as she contemplated the cushion on the floor. “This is new.”

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About the Author

Hannah Murray

Hannah has been reading romance novels since she was young enough to have to hide them from her mother. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband—former Special Forces and an OR nurse who writes sci-fi fantasy and acts as In-House Expert on matters pertaining to weapons, tactics, the military, medical conditions and How Dudes Think—and their daughter, who takes after her father.

Find out more about Hannah at her website and blog.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Hannah Murray’s Sharing His Submissive Giveaway

HANNAH MURRAY IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 10th August 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz ~ Starting Over in Cedarwood by Megan Slayer (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Starting Over in Cedarwood by Megan Slayer

Book 15 in the Cedarwood Pride series

Word Count: 50,247
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 195

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQ

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Book Description

Starting over might just bring them the love they deserve.

Shaun Fallows came to Cedarwood to start over. He wants to be done with dating, but the moment he sees Kevin, the sparks are off the charts. He can’t get the sexy man off his mind. So much for not wanting to get involved. Kevin is the man of his dreams. Can he convince Kevin to give him a try or will the romance end before it gets the chance to begin?

Besides, there’s the small issue of Kevin’s cat…

Kevin Keiser did the dating thing and ended up burned. One of the few bright spots in his life is his cat, Leo. The animal might be a bit prickly, but he’s been a good meter for who Kevin should date and who he should avoid. He wants a boyfriend who isn’t put off by his pet. Shaun sure seems to fit the bill. Is he just another man or the love Kevin’s been waiting for?

Reader advisory: This book contains mention of emotionally abusive exes, homophobia, and financial crime.

Excerpt

“What a great day to visit the ballfield,” Shaun Fallows said. He breathed in the fresh air and scent of freshly cut grass. “The weather’s perfect, there’s a slight breeze and just the right amount of clouds and sun.”

Warrick rolled his eyes. “You’re too invested in this already. We’re just here for the newspaper. If old Mr. Nicholas weren’t so busy playing house, he’d be here, too.”

Shaun shrugged to hide his excitement. He’d been to ballfields before and had even covered a couple of games for his high school paper as well as his hometown paper, but those had been small fields and tiny teams. This was the Cedarwood Wildcats. This was the bigger time. Besides, he didn’t give a shit if Mr. Nicholas, the head of the paper, was home with his husband. More power to them.

“Sucks. Mr. N should be here and directing this, not us.” Warrick pointed to the luxury boxes. “We’re up there.”

Shaun whipped his card out and showed the attendant, then strode through the gate to the executive level. The ballfield wasn’t that big, but he didn’t care. He’d arrived. “We’re supposed to be enjoying ourselves.” He drank in the view. The manicured field stretched out before him and the seats were filled with fans. Flags waved out beyond centerfield and the scent of bread lingered in the air. “We must be near the bakery.”

“The bun warmer,” Warrick grumbled. “If Mr. N wanted to treat us, then he could’ve given us a bonus, not made it newspaper day at the ballfield.”

“You’ll complain about anything, won’t you?” Shaun wandered up to the glass windows facing the field. “This is fantastic.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and listened to the noise from the crowd as well as the pregame announcements. Once he heard the jingle for the newspaper, his heart swelled.

Ever since he’d nabbed the advertising head position with the paper, his life had seemed to turn around. He had a stable job, a decent apartment and his man trouble wasn’t so bad—granted, he didn’t have a man, but so what? He’d worry about dating later.

“Everyone.” Remy Nicholas, the infamous Mr. N, clapped his hands. “Everyone.”

Shaun turned his attention to his boss. Unlike Warrick, Shaun liked Remy. He appreciated Remy’s unconventional approach to the paper, printing and having the main version online. Remy had instituted audio versions and pdf versions sent to the schools. He’d even created a video channel for special content.

Remy clapped his hands again. “I know this wasn’t the newspaper appreciation day you were all looking forward to, but I wanted to do something different. This year, we’ve managed to improve circulation and add jobs. Hits on the website are up and the feedback we’re getting is off the charts. Thank you to those who helped with the school supply collection. That went so well. The kids of Cedarwood will appreciate your hard work. For those who are assisting this Tuesday with the food drive, know your help will make the difference. People are paying attention to the social media posts and the little live events, so keep it up.”

Shaun applauded. He hadn’t been able to donate time to the school supply drive, but he’d signed up to help with the food one.

“Now, the reason for having the newspaper appreciation day here at the field was to give back. I want you to have a nice day at the ballpark, but also to get us into the community. Enjoy yourselves. The bar is open and food is ready. Thank you for being the best staff and for continued great times with the newspaper,” Remy said. “Thank you.”

“God, he gets long-winded,” Warrick said. He applauded, but sighed. “I hate baseball.”

“I don’t care.” Shaun wasn’t a fan of negative people. He’d had enough of that in his relationship with Jonah. No matter what he’d done, Jonah hadn’t been happy. Never the right clothes, the right shoes…his hair wasn’t cut properly or was too long…and the arguments. He didn’t miss the arguments.

Two men in black shirts and trousers wheeled a cart into the room. One man took his position behind the hot dog stand and the other wheeled the empty cart out. The man pushing the cart caught Shaun’s attention. He had a thing for tall, dark and handsome men. The way the guy’s brown hair flopped over his brow and his eyes glittered sent a shiver along Shaun’s spine. The man turned and, when he smiled, the dimple in his cheek became more prominent and Shaun noticed the beauty mark along his jawline. Warmth enveloped Shaun. He hadn’t had a reaction like this in so long.

“Who is that?” Shaun murmured. “The guy with the cart.”

“That?” Warrick chuckled. “That’s Kevin Keiser. He runs the food service center here at the ballfield. Quiet guy. I think he’s single and I’m fairly sure he’s gay.” He elbowed Shaun. “Are you gay? I never asked.”

“It wasn’t your business, but yes, I am.” Shaun swept his gaze over Kevin again. Kevin looked trim in his food service outfit, but strong, too.

Cara, one of the girls from the accounting department of the paper, sidled up to Shaun. “Are you eyeballing Kevin?”

“Maybe.” He bowed his head to stop gawking. “Is that bad?”

“Other than you look like you want to eat him, you’re staring so hard?” She laughed. “No, it’s not bad. He’s a nice guy.”

“I hear he’s quiet.” Shaun managed to get through the food line, but didn’t see Kevin again. Instead of sitting with Warrick, he ended up at the table with Cara. “Do you know Kevin?”

“Went to school with him.” She nodded and settled next to Shaun. “He doesn’t talk much. Never did. I think it’s because he got teased so mercilessly in school. Everyone but him knew he was gay and teased him, then it got worse once he came out. It was bad, but he seemed to keep his head up, especially once he admitted he was gay.”

“I see.” Shaun watched the baseball game, but stole glances over at the service stations in case Kevin came back. Shaun nudged Cara. “Do you think he’d give me the time of day if I asked him for his number?”

“You?” She coughed, then sipped her water. “Honey, you’re sexy. If he doesn’t, it’s because he’s scared.” Once she cleared her throat and finished her water, she nodded. “I mean, he’s shy, so he might not say ‘yes, I want your number’, but he’d be crazy if he turned you down. You’re handsome.”

“Handsome doesn’t mean much sometimes.” Shaun finished his hot dog and toyed with his fries. He managed to smear ketchup on his fingers. “Do you have a napkin?”

“Nope. I forgot to grab one.” Cara groaned. “And I need one. Please?”

“Sure.” He left the table and headed toward the service station. “Hi, I could use some napkins.”

The teenager offered up a stack. “Sorry. They stick together and don’t clean up much unless you have five.”

“Thanks.” He accepted the bundle, then glanced over his shoulder. Kevin still hadn’t come back. Maybe he’d been an apparition. Shaun settled at the table with Cara and divided the napkins. “Good?”

“Very. Thank you.” She blotted her mouth, then groaned again. “Not today.”

“What?” Shaun balled his paper, then glanced about the room. “What’s wrong?”

“Warrick’s being a pain in the ass.” She massaged her forehead. “He’s complaining about the food.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Shaun said. “Standard ballfield food, but it’s not bad.” That said, his coworker wasn’t a happy man and could find something wrong with a perfect twenty-four-carat gold ring.

“Excuse me. Do you have soggy buns, too?”

Shaun froze, then looked at Cara, who’d gone pale. She hadn’t been the one to ask the question and the speaker didn’t sound like Warrick. Shaun turned his attention to the one who had spoken. Kevin. Shaun’s breath lodged in his throat. The man was even more handsome up close. Shaun noted the sprinkling of hairs on Kevin’s cheeks and the lines crinkling at the corners of his eyes. Were those flecks of silver at his temples, too?

Kevin cleared his throat. “I’m sorry. The other table is complaining about the buns being subpar. Are your dining choices up to your standards?”

“Uh…” Shaun had to sound intelligent, not silly, but he couldn’t manage to form a normal sentence.

“They’re great,” Cara said. “Thank you.”

“Are you sure? We’re here to provide a fine dining experience,” Kevin said. “At decent prices.”

“You sound like you’re a walking advertisement,” Shaun managed. He balled his hand on his thigh under the table and drew in a deep breath to center himself. He’d never had problems talking to guys before now. “I don’t think our buns are soggy.” He smiled and met Kevin’s gaze. “But I would like to ask you a question.” Christ. Confidence, don’t fail me now.

“Do you need more ketchup? Some of the bottles are low.” Kevin shook his head, then reached across the table to retrieve the bottle. “I let Buzz handle it and he only filled about half of them.”

“No.” Shaun touched Kevin’s forearm, stopping him. The move also sent tingles along Shaun’s nerve endings. His synapses stood at full alert. “I… Would you like to grab a beer sometime?”

“Oh.” Kevin froze and confusion clouded his eyes. “You want to go out with me?”

“I do.” Shaun mustered his confidence. “I know it’s a strange time to ask you that, but I wasn’t sure if I’d get to see you again. It’s just beers or coffee, but I’d like to go out sometime with you.” Christ. He’d managed to stumble over everything he’d just said.

“Uh, sure.” Kevin stood at his full height and clasped his hands together. “But you’re sure you’re happy with the food?”

“Very.” Shaun scrawled his number on a piece of paper. “Call me when you’re free. I’d like to buy you that beer or coffee.”

Kevin tipped his head and a slight smile curled on his lips. A crooked smile. “I will.”

When Kevin walked away, Shaun considered what he’d done. “I asked him out.”

“You did.” Cara elbowed him. “Good for you.”

“I asked him out,” Shaun repeated. He hadn’t wrapped his mind around what he’d done. Holy shit.

“It’s the crooked smile, isn’t it? He is adorable.” She collected the trash on the table. “He got that smile when he was a kid. Auto accident, I think. It messed up his jaw and he’s got a scar. I think he had surgery to have the damage made less visible.” She stood. “I’m going to toss this then sit along the window. Care to join me?”

“Sure.” He picked up his beer and followed her over to the window. The game was already in full swing. “Who’s winning?”

“We are, by two.” She settled on one of the chairs. “If I wasn’t neck-deep in kids and getting mine through junior high, I’d toss my hat into the dating game, but I have no time.”

“Give it a shot.” He sat beside her. “So you went to school with Kevin? Has he been single long?”

“A year, I think.”

“That’s a shame. He’s cute.” No, he was fucking hot—not that he’d tell Cara as much. Most of the cute guys he knew were already married or in long-term relationships.

“The shame is that he’s too picky.” Cara laughed. “Not that I can complain. I’m forty-one and not remarried or even dating.”

“You don’t look your age.” So Kevin was roughly forty-one, too? Only a year or so younger than him. Good. “What do you mean, he’s picky? Being selective is good.”

“He doesn’t date anyone who isn’t approved by his cat,” she said. “You hate cats, so you’d better just have one beer with him and cut your losses, now that I think about it.”

“I don’t hate cats.” He hadn’t found one that liked him, but that was beside the point. “Are he and the cat that close?”

“Very.”

Shaun shrugged. Cara was probably exaggerating. She tended to when she discussed something dramatic. The car accident was always the worst she’d ever seen or her kid scoring a goal was always the best goal ever in the history of eighth grade hockey. “I’ll give him a chance.”

“Who?” Warrick found them and sat beside Shaun. “Dave? Don’t date Dave. He’s full of himself. Plus, you’ll smell like you’ve bathed in his cologne.”

Shaun shrugged again. Their co-worker, Dave, did tend to wear his aftershave a bit on the thick side. Everyone who hugged him tended to smell like him.

“Shut up,” Dave said. “I heard our Shaun gave Kevin Keiser his digits.”

“Keiser? He’s so quiet,” Warrick said. “He’s gay? Oh wait. I knew that. He had a guy…Kyle someone or another. I guess they had a falling out.”

“Over the cat,” Cara said.

Shaun gritted his teeth to keep from speaking. Kevin’s personal life wasn’t their business. “You need to leave him alone.”

“Why? He had a fight with a guy over a cat. The critter hated Kyle, I think,” Warrick said. He shrugged, then downed some of his beer. “If I can’t find a woman to get along with Patrice, then it’s a nonstarter.”

“Your dog?” Dave snorted. “It’s just a dog.”

“Might be to you, but she’s a good dog,” Warrick said. “She’s more loyal than you’ve ever been.”

Shaun snorted. “You two.” He ignored the rest of the conversation in favor of the baseball game. “Kevin seemed nice and I went out on a limb. It might not work, but I won’t know unless we go out, so there.”

“You should give him a shot,” Cara said. “You’d be good for him. You’re quiet and smart like him. Maybe you’d bring each other out of your shell.”

“Maybe.” His thoughts turned to Kevin. He hadn’t felt sparks like that in ages and he liked the rush. He missed the delight of being with someone and being wanted. Hell, he liked being part of a relationship.

Besides, he was tired of the one-night stands and pretty boys who only wanted him to pump up their ego or be their sugar daddy. He was only forty-two, but sometimes he felt ancient. He worked hard for his money and the paper. Could Kevin be the one he’d been looking for?

He hoped so.

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.

Find out more about Megan on her website, and sign up for the newsletter here. You can also check out her Blog, Amazon Author Page, Bookbub and Instagram.

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