Book Blitz: Off Base by Annabeth Albert (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Off Base

Series: Out of Uniform #1

Author: Annabeth Albert

Publisher:  Carina Press

Release Date: January 9th 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 73,000

Genre: Romance, Military, SEALs, Contemporary, Roommates-to-lovers

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Synopsis

After trading the barracks for a fixer-upper rental, navy SEAL Zack Nelson wants peace, not a roommate—especially not Pike, who sees things about Zack he most wants to hide. Pike’s flirting puts virgin Zack on edge. And the questions Pike’s arrival would spark from Zack’s teammates about his own sexuality? Nope. Not going there. But Zack can’t refuse.

Pike Reynolds knows there won’t be a warm welcome in his new home. What can he say? He’s an acquired taste. But he needs this chance to get his life together. Also, teasing the uptight SEAL will be hella fun. Still, Pike has to tread carefully; he’s had his fill of tourists in the past, and he can’t risk his heart on another, not even one as hot, as built—and, okay, yeah, as adorable—as Zack.

Living with Pike crumbles Zack’s restraint and fuels his curiosity. He discovers how well they fit together in bed…in the shower…in the hallway… He needs Pike more than he could have imagined, yet he doesn’t know how to be the man Pike deserves.

Book One of the Out of Uniform series

This book is approximately 73,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise

Excerpt

“What do you mean they’re not coming?” Zack tried hard to sound like the badass navy SEAL he was now. He’d passed all sorts of interrogation training—there was no reason he couldn’t hide that he didn’t particularly like this guy. Or this fancy bar where he and his nontrendy clothes and military haircut were out of place. He’d agreed to go out for drinks with a group. His friend Ryan had promised him a drink for finishing his SEAL qualification training and getting his trident, and Zack had figured dealing with the rest of Ryan’s crowd wouldn’t be horrible. But tolerable was a far cry from being stranded alone with Pike freaking Reynolds without Ryan as a buffer.

“They blew two tires getting out of Santa Monica and are waiting on a repair truck now. Ryan said to have fun without them.” Pike looked harmless enough—shorter than Zack with a lean build and bright red hair and freckles that made him look too young to drink—but Zack knew from experience he was anything but benign. Pike was the type of guy who would flirt with wallpaper, but he seemed to have singled Zack out for special attention ever since their first meeting at a LAN party.

Which was all well and good, but unlike a lot of Ryan’s crowd, Zack wasn’t openly gay. And what Zack hated was that Pike seemed to see through all his “no, really I’m straight” protests and see things Zack refused to even think about. And a whole night with Pike? Torture. And that was coming from someone who’d been tossed into frigid water with his arms and legs bound. Repeatedly.

But he’d happily endure another round of drownproof training if it meant an easy out of this situation.

“Is Landon coming?” Please say it’s not just us. Surely, Pike’s omnipresent sidekick would be there to bail Zack out.

“Nope. He’s doing research at the Hadron Collider for the next few months. Just us, I think.” Pike grinned at him. “Alone at last, right?”

Zack guessed that the Hadron was one of those supersmart things Pike’s crowd just assumed everyone else knew about. He certainly wasn’t about to appear dumb and ask. “You don’t have to stick around on my account,” he said instead.

“Dude.” Pike smacked him on the shoulder. “I’ve had a shit week. Another three interviews for jobs for the fall, another three fuckups on my part. Don’t make me drink alone.”

“I guess I could do a beer.”

“On me, right? We’re all super stoked that you passed SQT.” Pike gave him another of those disarming smiles.

Ba-deep-deep. Zack’s phone chimed. Sure enough, there was a message from Ryan apologizing for bailing. Have fun with Pike, Ryan ended. But whatever you do, don’t let him talk you into shots. He looks scrawny, but he can drink you under the table. Trust me.

Zack shoved his phone away. Nope, no way was he doing shots with Pike. Last thing he needed was to get drunk and forget himself around the guy.

“So what’ll it be? They have a whole selection of craft beers here.” Pike offered him one of the little bar menus artfully strewn around on the huge antique wood bar.

“A Bud’s fine,” Zack said. He’d never developed a taste for the fancy stuff. This whole place was fancier than he was used to, what with the exposed hardwoods everywhere, the prettified bar food emerging from the kitchen, and the painted inspirational quotes behind the bar. Even the name, Mellow, was a far cry from the hole-in-the-wall places he’d drunk at in college or even Big Ted’s, the little sports bar right off base that his fellow SEALs favored.

Pike signaled the burly bartender, who frowned at them after Pike gave their order for a Bud and some fancy-ass beer Zack had never heard of. “Hand stamps, please. Both of you.”

Zack stuck his hand out, showing that the bouncer had indeed checked his ID. Pike put his arm right next to Zack’s—way too close for comfort. “See, look at us, finding things in common.”

“Getting carded is hardly something to be proud of,” Zack mumbled as he pulled his arm away. Back in San Diego, when he went to the bars with his friends, they never got carded anymore. And he liked that—he was twenty-three now, for crying out loud.

“Of course it’s not for you, Muscles.” Pike did that whole standing-too-close thing again, moving over so others could get to the bar.

Zack really shouldn’t like that Pike noticed what the past few months of training had done for his physique. He’d always been lean, but days of log- and boat-carry drills had carved out muscles he hadn’t even been aware he had. Zack accepted his beer from the bartender, then followed Pike to one of the little high-top tables ringing the bar area.

“Seriously, you are jacked now.” Pike winked at him, giving him the sort of once-over Zack’s buddies gave girls in bikinis. “Look at those shoulders. It even makes you look taller.”

Flattery was not going to work on Zack. Not even a bit. Besides, Pike was the short one, probably five seven or so. But Zack was a perfectly respectable five ten. In your boots.

“Truth, man. I just call it like I see it.” Pike shrugged. And that right there was the whole problem with Pike—he had absolutely no filter and a way too keen sense of observation.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

annabeth-avatar

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open—no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.
Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Annabeth’s Angels | Sign Up for Annabeth’s Newsletter!

 

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Blog Tour: The Spires of Turris by Christine Danse (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Spires of Turris

Series: London Wells, Book 1

Author: Christine Danse

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 2nd

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 116000

Genre: Romance, Action, sci-fi, futuristic, suspense, age gap, aliens, drug/alcohol use, prison, military, PTSD, scientist, secret agents, slow burn, UST, cyberpunk

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Synopsis

Dr. London Wells, linguist and adventurer, has the unique ability to understand any language in the universe, including the languages left behind by the ancient dead races of the Lost Planets – making him an intergalactic celebrity. But London likes his privacy—and he always works alone. No assistants, no entourage. When he goes on expedition to a Lost Planet, it’s just him, the memory of dead aliens, and the resident man-eating fauna. He’s a self-sufficient sharp shooter whose insatiable curiosity can stand up to any danger.

Until he breaks his head falling from a cliff. That changes everything.

Now, after a long recovery, London is onto the greatest discovery of his life: a language to prove a connection between the Lost Planets. In order to investigate further, he’ll need to travel to an unforgiving alien planet. But he can’t go alone. That’s his dean’s last condition: either he travels with a research assistant, or not at all.

Unfortunately for London, graduate student Chas Chambers is not the only unexpected element on this trip…

Excerpt

I appeared at the Humanities ballroom at 1800 sharp with everything but literal bells on. The suit fit snugly. A folded piece of vellum was tucked into my vest pocket.

Small knots of people stood scattered around the bright antechamber. The yellow and blue crystals of the chandelier threw geometric patterns of light around the room. A student waved from one of the corners.

I waved back and strolled to the double doors of the ballroom. The sound of chamber music drifted out with the din of voices and a sweet smell, like champagne.

I scanned the drifting mass of bodies but didn’t see Sita. There seemed to be a pretty clear path around the wall; I could make a quick circuit around the room to find her before I collected a glass of bubbly and started the tribal ritual of bumping elbows with students and fellow faculty.

The student waved again, vigorously, from the corner of my vision. I realized she stood next to a research poster. Damn, and she’d already caught my eye. I smiled and approached.

It was Aelia who saved me, three student posters and twenty minutes later.

“London!”

I glanced back to spot her approaching in a slim red dress, waving at me with a champagne flute already half-emptied.

“Please excuse me,” I said to the undergrad who had been telling me about Tuvan time orientation. I turned and bowed. “Doctora Capra.”

She flushed. “Dr. Wells, you’re looking…dashing.” Her dark eyes traveled up and down the length of me. “Look at your shoulders in that suit.”

“And you look extraordinarily stunning, my lady.” An Italian beauty, with olive skin and a cascade of mahogany curls. I’d’ve been head over heels. If. Her red lips quirked, like she knew it too. I offered her my elbow. She took it, and we walked arm in arm toward the ballroom.

“A top hat and everything,” she said. Her eyes danced at me.

“Do you like it?”

“It is very you. Very…Victorian gentleman.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” I said, and touched the brim.

We grinned. Then we pressed into the sea of sound and bodies through the ballroom doors. I bent my head to her ear. “Have you seen the dean?”

“Somewhere around here,” she half shouted. “Don’t worry. I’ll vouch that you were here.”

“Very kind of you.” I patted her hand. “Hey, I think that’s her. I hope you will excuse me, my lady.” I raised her fingers, kissed them, exchanged a wink with her.

Sita, if that had been her, had already disappeared into the crowd when I turned. I wove through, hoping to catch sight of where she’d turned. I froze.

I thought perhaps I was just seeing things, the Ghost of Faculty Mixers Past, but then he turned his white smile to someone next to him and I caught an unmistakable look at his profile. The Roman nose and the square chin that, on another person, might have looked like a caricature artist’s joke. He made it imperious.

Felix Mata.

He began to look up, and I pushed back through the crowd. My heart banged—but not in anger, as it should. Ridiculous. He should have been the one running, not me.

This wasn’t “running,” though. This was tact. If I collided with Mata tonight, I wasn’t sure I could control my expression or my mouth. I was here for Sita.

“Dr. Wells? Would you like a glass?”

I realized I stood next to the champagne bar. An ex-student watched me hopefully and expectantly, waiting to place her own order. Half a dozen other people watched me, too. They probably thought I’d skipped the line. I touched my hat in silent apology and said, “The asti, please.” I could use it.

The student dazzled me a smile and repeated the order to the bartender. A minute later, drink in hand, I was safely ensconced in a group of students with my back to the wall and no Felix in sight. Also, no dean, but I could be patient, especially now that Mata had already shaved the edge of immediacy from my excitement. None of the students asked me about research assistantship, certainly a plus.

I drank, nodded to the conversation, and kept an eye on the crowd. Felix Mata. What would he be doing at a faculty mixer? The first and obvious answer was too distressing to consider. Of course, I might have been mistaken, as I’d only caught a flash of him. But a flash was all I needed to recognize that aristocratic profile and black mane of hair. He still wore it down and unbound. He must be near fifty now. What self-respecting man of fifty wore his hair down like some twenty-year-old Don Juan? There was a shot of gray in it. I wanted to feel smug about that, but the fact was, the color suited him. Everything suited him.

I drained the last of my champagne. I realized the small circle of students had gone silent and stared at me. Someone had asked a question.

“I’m sorry,” I said.

“Will you be offering another section of Advanced Lost Languages next semester?”

“You’ll have to ask the dean. And tell your friends to ask, too. Courses are offered if enough people show interest in them. If you’ll excuse me.”

I ducked out and skulked for the doors to catch a breath of fresh air and regroup. I was sweating under the suit, and the edges of a headache threatened.

Out in the antechamber, the din of voices dropped back like a curtain. Once there, I knew I’d be calling it a night. I’d made my appearance, and I could show Sita my discovery tomorrow.

“London, there you are.”

And there was the dean now, parting the crowd with her slight form. She looked handsome in a classic black dress, hair twisted into a slick bun. I thought she’d scold me for leaving early, but she smiled with glossy maroon lips.

I’d tucked my top hat under my arm to make myself less of a target in the crowd, an attempt not to be noticed by Felix. As I turned to meet her, I placed it back on with a twirl of my wrist.

She held out her hand. “I’ve been looking for you, London.”

I squeezed her fingers. “Dean Tiwari. Afraid I would bow out?”

“Never, if you know what’s good for you. Look at you. You look like you stepped right out of a Victorian sim.”

I bowed low at the waist and kissed her knuckles. She smelled of sandalwood and cardamom. The piece of vellum in my breast pocket burned a hole there. I straightened, lips parting to ask if we could move somewhere quiet to speak. My gaze rose to the man standing at her elbow and the words died.

Sita’s smile widened. “London, I’d like you to meet someone. Chas Chambers. He’s a master’s student in Language Studies. Chas, this is Dr. Wells.”

Suddenly I felt a fool in my costume, a big kid playing dress up. My hand went to my hat. I removed it.

“Chas,” I said, taking the big hand he proffered me. This time, it was dry and warm. My all-too-helpful gentleman caller from yesterday cleaned up well in a charcoal suit. Its sharp angles accentuated his high cheekbones and trim waist. Almost alarmingly trim, under the broad chest and arms. The suit contained him neatly, but just. He looked powerful but sophisticated. In short: classy. He smiled at me, and a trace of the self-consciousness remained, but there was confidence in his demeanor this time. His other hand was tucked into his pants pocket.

“We had the pleasure of meeting just the other day,” I said with a nod to Sita, as if he hadn’t walked in on me nearly toppling from a ladder. “Language Studies, huh? You’re a new student, then.”

“This is my third semester,” he said.

That would put him nearly halfway through the program. I did the math. He must have begun the program the same semester I set out for Anemoi and had completed nearly half of it since then. It hit me then just how much time had passed. It also hit me, in a strange way, how expendable I was. I was director of Language Studies; in my absence Sita must have admitted him herself. Life went on without me. The wheels continued to turn.

Into my own dumb silence, I said, “Well. And what’s your focus?”

“The Lost languages.” Then, in carefully clipped Oblitian, he said, “This is my favorite of the languages. I fell in love with it while reading Words in the Wilderness.”

It was the first time I’d ever heard anyone else speak a full statement in the language. Sita smiled, not because she understood Chas’ words, but because she understood the expression on my face.

“You know it well,” I responded in the same language.

He nodded. “I admire your work.”

Right. Well. “Thank you.”

Sita looked between the two of us, her smile quizzical.

In Basic, I said, “Good luck with your continuing studies.”

“Thank you. It’s really good to meet you. Properly, this time.”

Now why did I feel like such a chump for turning him down for a research assistantship that had never existed?

“London,” said Sita. “Would you meet me in my office in an hour? There was something I wanted to talk to you about.”

My hand went to my vest pocket. “I wanted to talk to you, too.”

“It’s a date, then.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Christine lives with her writing partner in the wilds of urban Oregon, where they raise weeds, worms, and eyebrows.

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Tour Schedule

1/2      Books, Dreams, Life

1/3      Love Bytes Reviews

1/4      Prism Book Alliance

1/5      Bayou Book Junkie

1/6      IndGo Marketing & Design

1/19    Special Appearance on Queer Sci Fi 

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Book Blitz: A Collision with Reality by Storm Duffy (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  A Collision with Reality

Series: In Like Flynn

Author: Storm Duffy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 2nd

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 7100

Genre: Erotica, contemporary, UK, D/s, kink, businessmen, online chat, workplace relationship, erotica

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Synopsis

Flynn’s new boss is so hot he can’t wait to get home to tell the chatroom how much he wants Dom’s cock down his throat. By Friday, he’s shared quite a few thoughts on what he’d like his boss to do to him. But he’s not as anonymous as he thinks, and Dom’s intent on disciplining him for breaching company policy on social networking. Dom gives him a choice of put up or shut up: he can play out the fantasy in real life, or he can walk out of the office without a word to HR as long as he never talks that way about Dom again. Flynn chooses “put up”—but he’s forgotten about one of the things he said he wouldn’t mind doing.

Excerpt

The new manager was really something: tall, dark, and handsome, with a superb arse that looked great in a suit. Flynn wouldn’t mind seeing what it looked like out of the suit. Unfortunately the suit was respectably cut at the front, making it impossible to tell without staring whether the guy dressed to the left or the right, let alone how big his cock was.

Not the sort of thing one ought to be thinking about while listening to the big boss introduce the new manager. He barely caught the guy’s name—Dominic.

“Pleasure to meet you all,” Dominic said. “I look forward to getting to know you better over the next few weeks.”

Flynn looked forward to it as well. He particularly looked forward to getting to know him better in the gents, at least well enough to idly glance down and check out the cock. A pity he wasn’t likely to get to know Dominic in the gents any better than that, not in real life; but it was his own business what he did in the privacy of his own head.

And in the privacy of his favourite board online that evening. No wallet names, no ID. Not even your location listed unless you wanted it out there in the hope of hooking up with someone for a night’s fuck. A safe place to talk about just how much he fancied the new boss.

[New boss arrived today. Absolutely bloody gorgeous, if you like older men. Wouldn’t mind having him discipline me for poor performance.]

[Better if he disciplines you for good performance] an anon said.

[Oh, I think I could perform well for him.]

Flynn could think of a number of ways he could perform, starting with:

[Down on my knees with my mouth open.]

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NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords

Meet the Author

Storm Duffy has a number of erotica shorts published under that and other names in a variety of venues, including “The Mammoth Book of Quick and Dirty Erotica”. As Jules Jones, she has written several erotic romance novellas and novels, including the first M/M romance published by Loose Id.

Amongst the 2500 or so books on shelves in her house, there is room for rather a lot of cross-stitch thread and entirely too many balls of wool. There are also more bits of computer kit than is quite reasonable for someone who doesn’t do that for a living. The two microscopes, on the other hand, are entirely in keeping with a career in science.

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Book Blitz: Oops, Caught by Alli Reshi (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Oops, Caught

Series: Expanding Horizon

Author: Alli Reshi

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 2nd

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 16500

Genre: Romance, sci-fi, aliens, captivity, action/adventure, shoot-out/gunfire, PTSD/post-traumatic stress, hurt/comfort

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Synopsis

Mark Noland can’t figure out how he got into such a fix. How does an ex-mercenary (okay, an almost-reformed mercenary) get himself caught, stuck in a holding cell, on a hostile alien planet? Held captive by strange bug-like creatures who’d just as soon eat him as look at him. How can a simple mission go so awry? To make matters worse, Noland’s not alone. His fellow prisoner, a certain high-ranking, elite Stella officer holds him responsible for their failed plan. Yeah, it was supposed to be a quick in and quick out sort of mission. But no… Officer Gavnson just can’t let it go.

It’s not so easy trying to plan an escape when Noland keeps getting distracted by how his mission partner so very nicely fills out his uniform. And he suspects Gavnson is hiding something, too. As tensions run high, secrets are revealed that will change the both of them. There’s nothing like gunfights and running for your life to make that special bond.

Excerpt

I sat against a wall, watching as my companion paced the length of the cell. Groaning, I leaned my head against the concrete, bored now that we had been caught and taken out of the main action.

At least I had an excellent view to keep me occupied. I could finally appreciate what everyone liked about a man in uniform. My cellmate’s pants were very complimentary to certain areas of his anatomy. With his hands clasped at his lower back as he paced the room, I had the pleasure of an alternating view of his broad back and the strong frame of his chest.

The stern look almost marred his handsome face as he stared at the locked door, set into a row of bars. But his strong jaw, highlighted by a twitching muscle, somehow added to his appeal. Men usually didn’t interest me as much, but having a galaxy of choice opened one’s view of preferences, and to be honest, I had admired worse.

I wondered what his thoughts on a tall, broad-chested, human man were. Would there be any interest on his part, or did he only prefer his own kind? Maybe he had someone back home. A slim-waisted Resconian woman who cooked him warm dinners. Would that be more to his taste? Then again, maybe being an elite Everian-ranked officer in the Stella Corps galactic military didn’t leave much time for romance. I pushed the thoughts away before I could get too involved in them.

“So, Gavnson. Found our way out of here yet?” I asked, watching him make another pass in front of me as he headed for the left side of the jail cell. He ignored that question, like he’d ignored all the others I’d asked.

Our part of the mission had been a distraction tactic that hadn’t worked as well as I had hoped. In any case, it should have given enough time for the rest of our team to break into the other side of the compound where the data center was located so we could take back the information the Awoknains had stolen. Lists of undercover agents and stealth plans weren’t something you wanted up for grabs among enemies. I knew it would be a matter of time until Ken, my master mechanic and sometimes arsonist, broke us out. Though it seemed Gavnson wasn’t content to be patient.

He reached for one of the hinges at the top of the door. Bolting forward, I wrapped my arms around his waist and pulled Gavnson back before he could touch the knot of metal. We slipped off balance, and I tried to take a step back to regain my footing, but it was useless; we tumbled to the floor in a heap. The wind was knocked out of me, and I gasped for air. Gavnson was heavier than he looked.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing, Noland?” Gavnson yelled. He rolled off me effortlessly and sat up, directing a harsh look at me.

“Saving your ass. Don’t touch those; they’re electrified. Not enough to kill you, but it’s a hell of a shock that’ll give you nasty burns,” I said, wheezing as I sat up. I didn’t miss his flinch, though he tried to hide it. I was instantly curious, but ignored the itch to question. Starting a fight with Gavnson wouldn’t help us break out.

He was silent after his near miss with the electrified hinge. I was glad he was finally sitting still. The constant nervous motion wore on my nerves. No matter how fine an ass he had.

The silence that followed made my skin crawl; it was the quiet before the storm hit. I was tempted to ask Gavnson any random question, but if the tension in his body was anything to go by, he obviously wasn’t much in the mood for conversation.

I stared at the far wall through the bars on the door, hoping Ken would hurry his blue ass up and break us out so we could be done with the job. He had been part of the retrieval team. Footsteps echoed down the hall, headed in our direction, but I didn’t recognize them. There were more corpsmen as part of Gavnson’s team; hopefully, that would be some of them. Luck was not on our side, though. Our insect-like captors now stood in front of our cell, their green skin and horns gleaming.

“You. Up now. Come.” The raspy demands issued from mouths that didn’t move. That would never not be creepy. I didn’t have time to think on that, though; the guards motioned at Gavnson to get up.

“No, you can’t,” I said. I grabbed Gavnson’s shoulder to stop him from moving.

“Why?” The attention of the two guards flicked to me. A simple question with complex implications. Think fast, Noland.

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Meet the Author

Alli has always had a love for just about any story she can get her hands on. Be it from books, TV, or even video games—if there’s a good story, she will love it. Given that, it’s easy to see how Alli moved on to making stories of her own.

Raised in a small Colorado town, Alli also has a love of the outdoors and enjoys hiking. Nowadays she lives in a bigger city and fits in fine there too, liking how close and comfy everything is. Often at home with her two cats, Alli is never far from her computer, whether for work or for play. She believes the truth is a multifaceted thing and always works to write the world, and subsequently the truth of the world, as she sees it.

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Cover Reveal: Hipster Brothel by K.A. Merikan

Title:  Hipster Brothel

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

Release Date:  24th of January 2017

Heat Level: 3

Pairing: M/M

Length: 50,000 words

Genre/Tags: Contemporary Romance, Erotic Romance, M/M Romance, Hipsters, sex work, friends to lovers, bisexuality, post-break up issues, coming out, first time, alternative lifestyles, lumbersexual bear, commitment

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Synopsis

— The lumberjack of his dreams is now available for rent. —

Mr. B has always been a safe guy for Jo to crush on. He’s the cutest bearded lumber-god to salivate over. Add to that his friendly, outgoing personality, and Mr. B might just be the first guy Jo would be willing to kiss. Fortunately, Mr. B has been in a relationship for years, and Jo is no home-wrecker.

But when Mr. B breaks up with his partner and all of a sudden is single, available, and talks about his plans to be sexually adventurous, Jo isn’t so sure anymore if he has the guts to come out as bisexual.

After a sour breakup, Mr. B wants to show his ex that he’s independent, exciting, and can do very well without him. His best friend Jo is there to the rescue, and they come up with a great new business venture. One thing they lack to start their own line of artisanal boozy jams – money for the investment.

After a drunken brainstorming session, Mr. B finds a way to both gather the cash and show the middle finger to his ex. He will create a one of a kind Hipster Brothel – The Lumbersexual Experience – offering wood chopping lessons, pipe smoking, and a reclaimed wood bed where the magic would happen. It’s bound to be a success… if only Mr. B can go through with it, because the mixed signals from Jo are making him wonder if his best friend is as straight as he always seemed.

WARNING: Explicit content, strong language. A shameless amount of buzzwords. May cause second-hand embarrassment.

Meet the Author

K.A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

e-mail: kamerikan@gmail.com

More information about ongoing projects, works in progress and publishing at:

K.A. Merikan’s author page: http://kamerikan.com

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Book Blitz: Seasonal Sentiments Anthology *Giveaway*

Title:  Seasonal Sentiments

Author: Anthology

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 23rd

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 154000

Genre: Romance, Erotica, Fantasy, Science Fiction, 10 short stories, multiple holidays represented, gay, cisgender, ace, bi, pan

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Synopsis

NineStar Press 2016 Holiday Anthology

Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper

Dave Cunningham hates the rampant consumerism that’s come to dominate his family’s Hanukkah celebrations. But a chance to bring a bit of a holiday happiness to his long-time crush, Amit Cohen, helps put him in a more festive mood.

In the quest to craft the perfect gift, Dave tries to urge a few personal details out of stoic Amit. Unintentionally, he learns the Cohen family’s secret: Amit is a golem. But Amit has a problem that runs deeper than his magical origin, and a Hanukkah miracle might be the only thing that will keep the budding flame between him and Dave from going out.

2 Days Later by CM Corett

Nate Beckett doesn’t expect much from life, and he definitely doesn’t believe in New Year’s celebrations or resolutions. A happy New Year? Not likely. As the manager of McGee’s bar, the best he can hope for is a drama-free night. One glance at the sexy young man on the dance floor and that hope is long gone. Once again, his young neighbor Justin is back to tempt and torment him. Despite the undeniable attraction, Nate knows he’s too old and jaded for someone like him, so the time has come to reject Justin. It’s for his own good!

Justin may be young and inexperienced, but he knows what he needs. His New Year’s resolution—to tempt and win Nate over. One lame seduction attempt later, and he’s on his way home in a cab. Alone. But later that night, Justin wakes up battered and bruised on Nate’s doorstep, and Nate insists that Justin stay with him. The big, beautiful man’s protective and caring instincts are definitely kicking in.

Maybe, just maybe, there’s a chance for a happy New Year after all!

Of Christmas Past by Teryn Day

Jonathan Barthes has always been able to see—and speak to—the dead. Unfortunately, restless spirits tend to be somewhat needy, and his “gift” has cost him everything from a promising acceptance into med school to a long string of failed relationships. Unable to find a purpose after a terrible autumn semester, he accepts his aunt’s offer to become the caretaker of one of the estates his great-uncle left her over the holidays. He expected the restless spirits: the little girl, the mean governess, and he especially expected the ghost of the vindictive young man who calls himself Cecil.

Cecil’s handsome enough when he’s not making the mirrors bleed or the radios speak in tongues. As the year crawls on and reaches its end, however, Jon begins to help Cecil uncover the mystery of his life—and his tragic death. Jon had a dream of helping the living—but maybe, just this once, when he helps a ghost, that ghost will help him back.

Tow Trucks & New Year’s Kisses by Lila Leigh Hunter

A Jag with out-of-state plates is the last car Scott DeLaney expected to find when answering a tow call as a favor to his drunken godson. But, the tall man in the fedora seems like a nice reward until Scott finds out the stranger’s destination. Yes, he’d take care of the brooding man, but he has a selfish reason for it.

Finding himself in a ditch after dodging a deer is the least of Patrick Samuels’s problems when his rescuer arrives, wearing a tuxedo and driving a hot pink flatbed. Perhaps his older brother’s scheme will benefit Patrick after all.

Who knew that a New Year’s kiss is far more efficient than any boardroom strategy to seal a deal?

New Year’s Eve Unzipped by J.C. Long

Colby, a caterer, is working New Year’s Eve at the Crestview Hills Country Club, a place full of rich, uppity people, promising a boring night. The night becomes a lot more interesting when he starts receiving erotic messages on Unzipped, a hook-up app, from someone who happens to be at that very party.

Stone and Shell by Lloyd A. Meeker

Eight-year-old Howie Evinger is convinced that his dad would be happier if he found a new husband. Howie would be happier, too. And somewhere out there in the city of Vancouver, there’s the right man for his dad to love. But how to find him? That’s a problem, especially if you’re just a kid and your dad says he doesn’t want another husband.

With the help of his quirky aunt, Shanna, who calls herself a Buddhist Wiccan, Howie builds his very own solstice altar with cool symbols to support his search. It has a candle, a feather, and a twisty stick, plus an agate for his dad, and a scallop shell for his new husband. Share Howie’s solstice adventure as he learns how real magic requires courage and patience as well as symbols.

One Wish by Caitlin Ricci

Christmas is supposed to be a time of happiness and family, but after a tragic accident the year before, Callen is left feeling the complete opposite. He’s sad, miserable, and angry at everyone and everything.

Harry is an elf sent to bring Callen some joy. It’s one thing when a child stops believing in Christmas—that happens all the time—but Callen loved everything about Christmas, and Santa needs him back. Harry is there to grant Callen one wish in the hopes of making him feel better. One wish to bring Christmas back to a man who hates the very thought of it.

Ibiza on Ice by Gillian St. Kevern

Tired of being ridiculed as the man dumped in favour of an ugly Christmas sweater, Aston is determined to get revenge–by having his dream vacation at Ibiza’s hottest clubs! He’s even planned a social media campaign to make sure his ex, Dan, knows exactly what he’s missing.

When a snowstorm strikes, and Aston’s media campaign takes off before he does, he finds himself propositioned by his unwelcome roommate Mike: trade vacations, or Mike will out Aston as a fake. Desperate to save his reputation, Aston finds himself in Finland–and falling hard for a man with a sweater almost as terrible as Dan’s. Worse, Laaksonen cares as little about impressing people as Aston cares about being nice. Aston knows he has too much self-respect to fall for a man so hazardous to his reputation. But the long Polar Night poses the ultimate test to his Ibiza club dreams…

Epiphany by L.A. Stockman

Khafra has spent more than three thousand years wandering the Earth, fascinated by humanity and its many rises and falls. When he meets a young student at Cambridge, he is utterly unprepared for the effect Alfie has on him. Eager and open and full of wonder, Alfie is perhaps the perfect submissive.

While the sex is spectacular, the real surprise for Khafra is his growing love for Alfie. Such unions are grand while they last, but inevitably doomed to time and mortality. Can he open his heart one more time, for a beautiful young man whose defiance of custom and courage in the face of danger are so captivating? Or will he continue as he has for so long, living on the fringe?

Everything depends on the outcome of Epiphany.

A Christmas for Oscar by Alex Whitehall

Oscar has never liked the holidays and all the surrounding rigmarole, but that doesn’t stop his best friend from dragging him along for her Black Friday shopping spree. The only perk of the day is that he meets Nathan while he’s there.

With sparkling blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a smile that won’t stop, Nathan is a Christmas elf in the flesh. He even spends his days in a workshop! But Nathan is more than his bright smile, and he may be just the right person for Oscar. Assuming, of course, Oscar doesn’t drive him and his holiday spirit away first.

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Blog Tour: Uprooted by Gillian St. Kevern (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Uprooted

Author: Gillian St. Kevern

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: Dec. 26

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 118000

Genre: Romance, paranormal, vampires, demons, mystery

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Synopsis

Recovering vampire Ben is discovering that life after death is hard work. It will take more than a reflection to impress his boyfriend Nate’s religious mother. And Nate’s twin brother, Ethan, openly resents Ben’s presence at the family farm. Nate is confident they can build a normal life together, but Ben’s not even sure he knows what normal is. He can’t face his reflection, let alone his past, while Nate refuses to divulge his family’s supernatural secret. Can they build a future on such shaky foundations?

When a supernatural hunter is found dead on the family farm, Ethan becomes the main suspect in a murder investigation that puts Ben and Nate at odds. Nate wants to protect his family and stay silent about what he is, but Ben knows no one is safe until the demonic agent responsible for a string of murders is caught. Defying Nate to investigate alone, Ben can’t let the demon claim another victim. But as his investigation continues, he discovers links to a past he thought he’d buried—and a past Nate refuses to acknowledge. With a desperate killer on a deadline, Ben must face the literal demons in his past if he wants to have any chance of saving himself and Nate from a fate worse than death.

Excerpt

Heat burned a line across his exposed skin.

Ben startled awake instantly. He knew he was in trouble, even before he saw the dim light filtering through the drawn curtains. No ordinary light. Sunlight. Death.

Ben grabbed the blankets lying around him, tugging them over his body as his heart raced.

How did this happen? I never take chances! Other vampires might play chicken against dawn’s slow approach, but Ben was always back in the crypt well before daylight. Along with the fangs, the blood lust, and the lingering sensation of something missing, being a vampire brought with it an ever-present awareness of the coming sun. Ben’s body should have screamed at him, every sense straining with the awareness that dawn—and a horrible second death—approached. Instead, he felt nothing beyond the adrenaline of his near escape.

Ben dug deeper beneath the blankets. Something is seriously wrong—

He collided with something warm. It shifted, murmuring a sleepy protest.

Ben froze. That was a body. A warm, living body—

A rough hand reached out to wrap around him, pressing him against the almost indecently hot body lying beneath the blankets. Naked, Ben realized. And most definitely male.

Most definitely aroused male.

“Not a morning person?”

The words were slurred, but Ben was confident he understood them. His heart switched gears, accelerating in a different way. “Says the guy who sounds more asleep than awake.”

Nate chuckled, shifting to press a sleepy kiss to Ben’s neck. His movement dislodged the blankets covering Ben, leaving him exposed to the light, but Ben didn’t try to hide.

I’m alive. The sun couldn’t hurt him now. Alive.

Ben turned his head to catch the next kiss on the full. Nate’s mouth was just as hot as he remembered, searing like the sun but infinitely kinder.

Nate seemed happy to share a tender moment, too sleepy or too content to pursue needs beyond the reassurance of Ben’s presence. When Nate broke the kiss to burrow back into the pillow at Ben’s neck, Ben left his eyes open. He followed the curve of the sheets over Nate’s body to the sliver of sunlight coming through the curtain that made his dark hair shine. Everything about Nate was warm, from his healthy tan to the heat of the arm around Ben’s waist.

Their first night together, he’d watched Nate sleep, but he’d retired to the crypt before Nate woke, leaving Nate to be unceremoniously bundled into a taxi. That should have been it. A simple tryst Nate didn’t remember and Ben didn’t regret. And here they were. Him, a vampire, lying in sunlight next to a man who looked human but remained a mystery.

Ben shifted so he could study Nate’s sleeping expression. Nate made a vague sound of protest but relaxed as he realized Ben wasn’t going anywhere.

This shouldn’t be possible. Ben frowned, reaching out to stroke his fingers through Nate’s hair. I shouldn’t be awake at all. And Nate…

Ben looked quickly away, but the memory came too fast to avoid. Nate, paler than he should ever be, lying still in the dirt, his blood mingled with the dead leaves and his throat—

Ben’s fingers stilled to a halt. Nate shouldn’t be alive.

ARX had a clear procedure for encountering an unknown supernatural being. Ben sat up, mentally running through the checklist. First, assess the immediacy of the threat.

Ben bit his lip. Unless the threat is never getting out of bed again, I’m safe. Nate clung to the pillow with the dedication of a poor swimmer to a flotation device. He didn’t bat an eyelid, even as Ben shifted and the crack of light fell directly on him.

That’s dedication. Ben studied the rise and fall of Nate’s chest and the slight flutter of his eyelashes until, with a guilty start, he remembered step two—gathering all available information.

What do I actually know about Nate? Apart from the fact that he is incredibly distracting, even when half-asleep? Ben considered his companion.

When they’d first met, Nate displayed the sleek, self-satisfied confidence of a well-fed tomcat, too smug to know he should be ashamed of himself. Given his job as an escort, it made sense. Nate was polished, confident, and annoyingly, gloriously sexual. Ben had disliked him purely on principle. He could never have imagined that Nate concealed a thoroughly selfless heart, or that he would risk his neck—literally—for Ben’s right to feel.

Now that Ben looked closely, he could see traces of the intense strain of the last week. There were exhausted shadows beneath Nate’s eyes, bruises on his arm from their narrow escape in the cemetery. Holding his breath, Ben leaned forward to get a closer look at Nate’s neck.

Where there should have been an ugly gash, there wasn’t even a scar.

Not even a werewolf heals like this. Nate made a plaintive grumble, and Ben settled back, thinking hard. A skilled magic user might have been able to pull it off, but there was no way they could do it without leaving their magical traces all over Nate. The only thing Ben detected was a warm, gooey feeling that he suspected had its origin less in Nate’s magical state and more in Ben’s proximity to him. Which leaves what Nate told me. He healed himself.

Purchase

NineStar Press | All Romance

 Meet the Author

Gillian St. Kevern writes anything from YA to contemporary comedies, but her first love is always the paranormal. Her stories feature quirky characters, twisty plots and often travel in unexpected directions.
Gillian has just returned to New Zealand after eleven years teaching English in rural Japan. From being entirely surrounded by rice paddies, she is now entirely surrounded by sheep. She is attempting to stave off reverse culture shock by finally learning to drive, playing with her adorable niece, and, of course, writing!

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Tour Schedule

12/23    Love Bytes Reviews

12/26    Alpha Book Club

12/27    Purple Rose Teahouse

12/28    Bayou Book Junkie

12/29    Prism Book Alliance

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Blog Tour: Catch and Release by BA Tortuga (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Catch and Release

Series: The Release Series book 3

Author: BA Tortuga

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: December 19, 2016

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75000

Genre: Romance, cowboys, ex-con, lawyer, sweet romance

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Synopsis

Dakota Landry just got out of prison after twelve years. If anyone can understand how that feels, it’s his new friend, Sage, who is determined to help him get used to life on the outside—and believes Dakota didn’t commit the crime he was in for.

Jayden Wilson is a former prosecutor who agrees to look into the case at the request of Sage’s lover, Adam. He sets out to prove Dakota is just another “innocent” ex-con, but once they meet, Jayden is more and more convinced Dakota just didn’t do what everyone thinks he did.

Trouble follows Dakota, and nothing is easy as he struggles to figure out how to live, now that he has choices. And Jayden isn’t sure how Dakota, or any lover for that matter, fits into his life. Their path from friendship to romance is a slow one, but Dakota begins to believe he deserves a chance at life, and Jayden falls a little more for Dakota every day. Now they just need to tell each other how they feel.

Excerpt

“One wallet with six dollars and eighty-three cents. One pair of jeans, T-shirt, pair of boots. Belt with buckle. Sign here.” The paper bag was shoved over to him, and Dakota Landry scratched his signature on the paper, his hand shaking harder than he wanted to admit.

One wallet with six dollars and eighty-three cents.

One pair of Wranglers.

Twelve years, three months, and eight days.

Dakota sighed and rolled his shoulders. The Unitarians had donated a gently worn pair of tennis shoes, a button-down from the Walmart, and a pair of new jeans, which hung on his scrawny ass like a bad costume. They were what he had, though. He’d lost seventy pounds since he was twenty, and he read way more bull rider than bulldogger these days.

The rest of the processing flew by, and he walked out of the gate half an hour later, blinking at the late-afternoon sun. He was gonna puke.

He had a suitcase of his shit from his cell and this paper sack and….

A white pickup pulled up, the window rolling down to expose this weathered face peering out from under a straw brim. “You Landry?”

“Yessir.” He braced himself, waiting for a barrel to appear from the window. God hated him, he had no doubt, and it would be just like the evil bastard to have one of the McCarthys come to shoot him as soon as he walked outside as a free man.

It wasn’t a pistol that appeared, though. It was a gnarled cowboy hand. “Sage. Sage Redding. You want a ride, man?”

A lump lodged in his throat. Sage. Okay, he knew this guy from letters and the occasional call. When he knew he was getting out, he’d been assigned… what? Sage was no counselor. He was a godsend, though. “I do, yeah.”

“Cool. Come on. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”

“Please.” He climbed up into the truck, breathing in the smell of horseshit and Old Spice and hay, and suddenly he was thirteen again and had a whole summer in front of him and all these dreams and….

“Hey.” The word was short and sharp, dragging his attention right to Sage’s face. “Stay here. Stay with me, man. You start thinking and the fucking world goes straight to shit.”

“I just….”

“We’ll go to the next town over, and we’ll grab some burgers and a Coke. You ain’t a vegetarian, are you?”

“I’m pretty fucking sure they put all of them in minimum security.”

Sage hooted, the sound natural as breathing. “I bet so.”

“Thanks. I didn’t expect….” He hadn’t known what to expect. He had the numbers for the Salvation Army and a halfway house, neither of which he intended to call.

“No sweat. I been there.”

“Yeah.”

Manslaughter, Sage had said, and the man never once claimed to be innocent. But he was out and living on a ranch, doing his parole and writing prisoners in this exchange deal. Dakota wasn’t sure what the fuck Sage got out of it, but it looked good to the parole board, and to his credit, Sage had written a letter to them.

Sorta like the murderers speaking for the rapists. Whoopdi-fucking-doo.

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her sisters, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friend, Sean Michael, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting GLBT romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

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Tour Schedule

December 19 – Dog-Eared Daydreams

December 19Andrew Grey

December 20Divine Magazine

December 20Happily Ever Chapter

December 20Prism Book Alliance

December 21 – Because Two Men Are Better Than One

December 21BFD Book Blog

December 22 -Two Chicks Obsessed with Books and Eye Candy

December 22 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

December 22 Bayou Book Junkie

December 23V’s Reads

December 23 – Dean Frech

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Book Blitz: A Christmas for Oscar by Alex Whitehall (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  A Christmas for Oscar

Author: Alex Whitehall

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 19, 2016

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20400

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, holiday

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Synopsis

Oscar has never liked the holidays and all the surrounding rigmarole, but that doesn’t stop his best friend from dragging him along for her Black Friday shopping spree. The only perk of the day is that he meets Nathan while he’s there.

With sparkling blue eyes, curly blond hair, and a smile that won’t stop, Nathan is a Christmas elf in the flesh. He even spends his days in a workshop! But Nathan is more than his bright smile, and he may be just the right person for Oscar. Assuming, of course, Oscar doesn’t drive him and his holiday spirit away first.

Excerpt

Alex Whitehall © 2016
All Rights Reserved

“Come on, Oscar, don’t be such a grouch.”

He glared at Marie. “That is so original.”

She shrugged, merry as ever.

He grumbled as they were forced to swerve around another mother with two shopping carts. “If you didn’t want me grumpy, then maybe you shouldn’t have dragged me out shopping on Black Friday.”

“You’re my best friend—”

“Which means you shouldn’t torture me like this.”

“Who else am I going to take?”

“Your mother?”

Eye roll.

“Your sister-in-law?”

Eye roll.

“Cindy?”

“I love the girl, but she doesn’t really know my family. And she can’t spot a sale to save her life.”

“I can’t spot sales!”

“But you know my family. Oh! I wanna hit this one.”

He sighed as he was dragged—yes, dragged—into Another Store. Under his breath, he muttered, “You could go alone.”

She continued on, oblivious. Or at least very good at faking it. He hoped this earned him some major points.

“What do you think of this?” She held up a cashmere-blend sweater in baby blue.

“For who?”

Her lips puckered in moue. “Me.”

“I thought we were shopping for your friends and family.” He mock glared. Well, mostly mock.

Marie flapped her hand at him. “Just tell me.”

He sighed and glanced over to the picked-through selection. “It’s gorgeous, but is it even in your size?”

She bounced—like she hadn’t even considered that, somehow—and twirled back to the rack, furiously searching through the remaining sweaters. She chirped and pulled out a much larger size in what Oscar could only call puce, folded it over her arm, and returned to the baby-blue ones. “I’ll have to ask if they have more in the bac— Oh my god, look at that sale!” She tossed the blue sweater to him. “Can you find a salesperson, and ask if they have a small? I need to be over there!”

And she was gone. Which left him with two options: say no and be a horrible friend, or say yes and tear through the crowds to find an overworked, overstressed salesperson. Joy.

With a sigh, he searched for someone in the store’s dress-coded uniform, and wasn’t sure if it was a blessing or a curse when he spotted the cute guy smiling winsomely, surrounded by a mob of people. The most attractive thing was that his mob was smaller than the mob surrounding all the other salespeople.

Gritting his teeth, he clenched the sweater and elbowed his way over through arguing women, grumbling men, and a few screaming children. And that was only across six feet.

When he finally arrived at his destination, he noticed his salesperson was six inches shorter than him, with curly blond hair, and wearing an elf hat. He had shimmering blue eyes and apple-round cheeks. He couldn’t possibly be real.

The bright-blue eyes flashed up to Oscar with a literal sparkle in his eye, although that had to be the overhead lights. “Hello! How can I help you?”

Despite his elfish appearance, the dude’s voice wasn’t high-pitched. In fact, to keep with the ridiculous metaphor developing in Oscar’s mind, it was more like caramel or hot chocolate. It was almost enough to make him forget where he was.

And then some jackass elbowed him in the back, hard, and he was shoved forward. He growled and pushed back, not taking his eyes off his little elf helper. “Hi. I was wondering if you have more sizes of this in the back? I need a small.” He held up the sweater in question.

The little elf’s lips puckered in thought. “I can check, sir, but I think what we have out is all we have. Wait right here.”

He was gone in a flash, and Oscar was left standing there, blinking at the space where the man had been.

“Ex-scuse me,” a woman lashed out. “Can we not stand in the middle of the aisle, puh-lease?”

He heaved a sigh and stepped back—the six inches he could—to let the woman pass. She scrunched her nose at him and hurried on to the next big sale. Restraining another sigh, he wished he could close his eyes and sink into the floor, or vanish, or at least run the hell out of here. But no, he waited, like a good friend, for the salesperson to return. And it seemed to be taking forever, but he was sure that was his imagination—and frustration—playing tricks on him.

Glancing around, he checked on where Marie was, because today he wouldn’t put it past her to leave without him or the sweater, and found her almost swallowed up in the jewelry section. He nodded and looked back to where his elf had been, only to find his helper had reappeared, cheeks rosier, curls somehow unrulier, and elf hat slightly crooked.

“Good news! There was one small tucked behind another bunch.” He held up a slightly rumpled blue sweater. “Looks like it may have gotten missed when the stock was brought out. It doesn’t look damaged or anything, but feel free to inspect it and let me know…”

The guy trailed off, probably because Oscar was staring at his hat. It shouldn’t have been humanly possible for a disheveled hat to make him that much cuter. But it did. Oscar slung the sweater he was still holding over his shoulder, reached out, righted the salesperson’s hat, and then tucked a particularly rebellious curl under the rim. There. He smiled. Much better.

“Uh, sir?” the guy asked, not quite squeaking, but definitely breathily.

Oscar’s eyes shot down to meet those sparkling blues. “Oh! Sorry. It was… You must have knocked it when you were getting the sweater. So I… It was only right that I help. Thank you. For the sweater.”

Certainly not for the pounding of his heart. He held out his hand for the top.

The elf’s uncertain, wide eyes scrunched up with his grin. “Thank you for fixing it.”

He really had the bluest eyes. It seemed like they would have to be contacts, but Oscar didn’t think even a company could manufacture that pure a blue.

“Ex-scuse me!”

Oh hell, it was the woman from before. Oscar couldn’t move much and was about to tell the woman she could probably go around, but the little elf flashed a customer’s-always-right expression and glided over, clearing the aisle and putting not much between them but the sweater.

Oscar’s breath caught. The little elf beamed up at him.

“Is there anything else I can help you with today, sir?”

Oscar had some ideas. Some very dirty ideas, actually. But then the elf blinked, casting a glance at the chaos surrounding them, and Oscar remembered now wasn’t a good time to be hitting on a salesperson.

And that he was waist-deep in Black Friday. He groaned and slid his fingers around the small sweater, gently taking it.

“I think this will be all. Thank you very much,” he murmured—well, as much as he could murmur and still be heard in this mess.

The elf’s smile widened—if that was possible, and somehow it was—and his eyebrows lifted with the excitement strewn across his face. “Well, I hope you have a good day. And I really hope you come back again sometime.”

Then, just like that, Oscar’s helpful little elf was swallowed up by the crowd.

The cheerful good-bye was probably a standard store requirement, Oscar told himself as he turned to hunt down Marie. It almost certainly wasn’t to entice him to return just to see his elf again. The guy probably wasn’t interested.

Oscar sighed. Though his eyes had seemed to light up when they’d been pressed together. And he hadn’t minded Oscar taking certain privileges with his hat. And he had been so very helpful. Which, yeah, it was his job, but…

A tiny tot ran into his shin, the mother glared at him, probably for standing in space that her child wanted to occupy. When he looked around, he realized he’d lost where Marie was.

“Goddamn it!”

Several glares were shot his way. He didn’t care, though.

“Did you find someone?” popped Marie’s voice from behind him.

He spun around, clenching both sweaters to his chest. “Jesus!”

“You found one!”

“Yes, I found one,” he snapped, shoving the smaller size at her. When his hand was free, he began searching out the original location, but even with his height advantage, the store was a swirl of bodies and colors. He glared at Marie. “And you can put the other one back.”

She pouted. “But you’re supposed to be helping me—” She clicked her jaw shut at his glare. “I mean, you found one in my size, so thank you so much! Let’s go return this one to the rack.”

She led the deceptively easy way back to the sweaters and hung it up. “Okay, with that done, let’s get on with the day.”

He groaned, knowing that the best part of the day had already walked away.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

If there are two types of people in the world, Alex Whitehall probably isn’t one of them, despite being a person. Their favorite pastimes include reading, horseback riding, sleeping, watching geek-tastic television, knitting, eating, and running. And wasting time on the internet. And spending glorious afternoons laughing with friends.

While Alex prefers sleeping over doing anything else (except maybe eating), sometimes they emerges from the cave to be social and to hunt for food at the local market. They can be found blogging, searching the Internet for more books to read, and tending after their aloe plant Cornwall. That’s a lie; the single plant has become an entire forest.

Pronouns: they/them

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Book Blitz: Hearts Alight by Elliot Cooper (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Hearts Alight

Author: Elliot Cooper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 19, 2016

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 26700

Genre: Romance, paranormal, holiday

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HeartsAlight-f

Synopsis

Dave Cunningham hates the rampant consumerism that’s come to dominate his family’s Hanukkah celebrations. But a chance to bring a bit of a holiday happiness to his long-time crush, Amit Cohen, helps put him in a more festive mood.

In the quest to craft the perfect gift, Dave tries to urge a few personal details out of stoic Amit. Unintentionally, he learns the Cohen family’s secret: Amit is a golem. But Amit has a problem that runs deeper than his magical origin, and a Hanukkah miracle might be the only thing that will keep the budding flame between him and Dave from going out.

Excerpt

Elliot Cooper © 2016
All Rights Reserved

Nothing made Dave Cunningham want to hibernate in his apartment for the winter quite like shopping for Hanukkah gifts with his brother-in-law. He stared up at the shelves full of brightly colored toys with an internal groan. Only another hour, he told himself. Two if he was unlucky. He fought the urge to plug his headphones into his ears to drown out the omnipresent Christmas music filling the store.

“What d’you think of this LEGO set?” Jake held up a large box depicting a desert island playset, complete with pirates and skeletons. His wide brown eyes looked frantic, panicked. He shook the box and pulled a face at the heavy rattling. “Shoshie loves pirates, but she’s probably too old for LEGOs. Or…I mean, is anyone ever too old for LEGOs?”

“She’ll love whatever you get her.” Dave half glared at Jake but caught himself and shook his head. It wasn’t Jake’s fault the delightful minor holiday of their youth had been swept up in consumerism. “You shouldn’t have to get her anything. We go through this same torture every year.”

“It’s not torture; it’s fun. It’s festive!” Jake insisted and flashed a bright smile. “Just thinking about her face when she opens the big one on the eighth night? I love it. And, more importantly, she loves it.”

“My sister likes getting presents,” Dave said. He couldn’t help but blame her for the deterioration of their family’s Hanukkah celebrations. There wasn’t any malice left in his blame, though, just an understanding of the sad truth. In trying to keep Shoshana invested in and excited about her Jewish heritage, their parents had put them on a dark path to celebrating materialism.

It had started when he was in high school and Shoshana was in middle school. First, with her upset at her Christmas-celebrating friends and their incredible hauls of gifts. Then the growing jealousy over not being able to participate in the Santa-spangled sweep of dominant American culture. Finally, they’d all endured one too many crying fits and months-long debates about whether or not modern―or historical―Christmas was even about Jesus’s birthday.

Their mother and father decided to do what some of their friends had done: one small gift for each night of Hanukkah. And since their father had grown up in a Christian family, he liked the idea of gifts exchanged between everyone, not just from parents to children.

For the first few years, the new tradition seemed all right. Shoshana’d been made happy. Dave had even enjoyed helping pick out gifts for his sister and parents. But as time went on, the presents got bigger, and their importance in the scheme of the holiday celebrations almost usurped their father’s latkes. They’d definitely overshadowed the lighting of the menorah and family game time.

“Don’t act all high and mighty like you don’t like gifts,” Jake said, arching a brow. He glanced back at the second box he’d picked up―a pirate LEGO set of a huge ship. “Ship or island?”

“Ship, so she can display it after it’s built.” Dave didn’t bother looking at the boxes or their respective price tags. Jake made plenty good money running Gin Teal, his hipster bar downtown. “I’m not saying I don’t like gifts or that she shouldn’t. Just that Hanukkah isn’t about gifts. It’s the festival of lights. Celebrating the rededication of the Temple. The miracle of the oil. Spending time with family and―”

“You’re saying you don’t want a totally secular Hanukkah, I get it. But Shoshie does.” Jake put the ship set in his shopping cart and headed down the aisle toward the board games. “She’s an atheist. I’m agnostic. It works for us and we can celebrate with old traditions and more modern ones. Without guilt, even.”

Dave plucked at the fringe on his blue-and-silver-striped scarf, his mind a jumble of rebuttals. There was more to it than the consumerism, the secular chokehold. He didn’t mind a dash of either. Modernity wasn’t the problem. It was the lack of balance. And the horrible pressure to be thoughtful and tasteful and have enough money to bring material happiness to his loved ones. He’d tried not giving gifts the year before, after explaining his tight budget and distaste of the focus on presents. No one had batted an eye; they’d all been understanding. And then they’d lavished him with gifts and, without meaning to, had made him feel terrible for not being able to reciprocate. It was a vicious cycle he couldn’t break.

“Maybe I should just celebrate on my own this year. I could open up my schedule to take more evening shifts at work, make a little extra money. Business is picking up with people wanting to do pottery-painting parties to make holiday gifts. And we’re booked up for three of our five holiday-themed painting classes,” Dave said as he trailed after Jake, hands thrust deep into his jeans pockets.

“You just said Hanukkah is about families celebrating together.” Jake shot him another look, pursing his lips in disbelief. A slow smile crept across his lips. “Oh, I know what this Scrooge act is about.”

The gleam in his eyes was the same one Shoshana and his mom got when they tried to set him up on dates.

“Don’t say it!”

“You’re lonely. Romantically lonely.” Jake picked up a game box and skimmed over the descriptions on its side and back. “Hiding at work and in your apartment isn’t going to change that. Besides, no one’s going to be doing art classes the week after Christmas. You’ve told me before your Valentine’s customers don’t start until after the first of the year.”

Dave groaned and picked up a Magic 8 Ball, flipping it over a few times without reading the message in the inky window.

At least Jake hadn’t said the dreaded “you need to find a woman.” Dave had tried dating women, but it had never worked out, for one reason or another. He was too oblivious. Too attentive. Too observant. Not observant enough. And, once, he’d been so lackluster in bed that his girlfriend had told him to stop, thanked him for his time, and walked out of his life.

Dating men hadn’t gone much better, if he were being honest with himself. He was no towering gym-honed testament to manhood, with his short stature and soft middle. He wasn’t highly educated, having done a failed stint at one of the local community colleges. He didn’t have much money, though he did have a decent job at his dad’s art studio. Since he’d gotten his own place, he’d been treading water. No one wanted to stick around and join him in his ambitionless pool.

“You should swing by the bar Saturday night,” Jake said after placing a dice game in his cart. He smiled at Dave with the brotherly warmth that had been there since high school, when they’d only been best friends, and then reached over to grip Dave’s hunched shoulder. “I’ll buy you a beer if you’ll just show up. You don’t even have to talk to anyone. Just…be present.” He smirked and cocked his head to the side, putting one fabulously thick sideburn and wooden earlobe plug on display.

“Har-dee-har. Let’s see what the oracle has to say. Should I go to Jake’s hipster haven on Saturday?” Dave shook the Magic 8 Ball, still secure in its packaging. When he flipped the ball over, the answer floated to the window. Dave sighed. “It is decidedly so.”

“Good!” Jake pushed his cart down toward the seasonal area of the store, beyond the tinsel trees and endcaps bursting with foil bows and rolls of wrapping paper. “Just a heads up, my uncle Amit’s working that night.”

The man was physically everything Dave wasn’t: chiseled muscles, strong chin, tall, huge hands, and slightly wavy black hair that swept perfectly to one side. Amit Cohen straddled that maddening line between men Dave wanted to be and men he wanted to be with. So what if he was a reclusive workaholic?

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Elliot Cooper writes speculative fiction featuring queer characters. His novels and novellas come with hopeful and happy endings, though his short fiction runs the gamut of styles and genres. He strives above all to make his readers feel, while also increasing positive representation of LGBTQ characters and their stories.

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