New Release Blitz ~ Drifting by J Calamy (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Drifting by J Calamy

Book 1 in the Diving In series

Word Count:  45,970
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 188

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

Two men starting over, and the discovery that could shatter their worlds.

Artist and antiquities expert Cole Hadley is in a good place. Assistant Cultural Attaché to the US Embassy, Cairo, he’s over his divorce, rebuilding his confidence after years of fat-shaming and misery and checking off the first of his bucket-list items, SCUBA diving in the Red Sea.

Hank Ashton, bearded, built, the best—and meanest—divemaster on the Sea, is stranded in the dying town of Al’Shahin. He owes a local gangster a pile of money and is stuck teaching basic classes at a failing hotel to pay the debt, the dream of his own dive shop slipping further away every year.

Cole’s joy and wonder at Hank’s world cracks his carefully constructed shell, forcing him to realize how lucky he is. In turn, Hank’s lust for Cole’s body and care for his happiness go miles toward healing Cole’s bruised heart. Their shared passion for the marvels of the undersea world spills over into a sizzling affair…one they both know has an expiration date.

Until, in exploring the sea, they make the discovery of the century, one that could change both their lives. But their very different plans reveal just how little they know each other. Cole and Hank have to decide exactly what’s important to them and be brave enough to get it, if they’re to have any hope of resurfacing together.

Reader advisory: This book contains mentions of bullying including fat-shaming and homophobia, as well as reference to gangster activities.

Excerpt

It wasn’t fair to be this cold on the shores of the Sahara. Despite the broiling heat trying to claw its way through the cracks under the doors, the air conditioning of the Hotel Grande Al’Shahin was arctic, setting Cole’s teeth chattering and chilling his clammy shirt to his back. Hugging himself, he didn’t catch the concierge’s spiel.

“I’m sorry, what?”

“Our pool has a dance show every night at six o’clock.” She pressed a stack of brochures into Cole’s hands then glanced at his belly…again. He managed not to tug at his shirt this time as her voice dropped into a conspiratorial murmur. “We have the best in-house gym, and the spa has an amazing detox wrap. Takes inches off. Incredible results.”

How delightful. Cole couldn’t muster a single response, his mind clicking like a car with a dead battery. None of his canned responses, perfected over the last two years, were coming. Only his therapist’s “You don’t always have to educate people. Sometimes it’s okay to ignore them.”

“I’m more interested in diving lessons,” Cole said, trying not to clench his teeth. “But thank you.”

Her face went blank, but not before assuming a brief look of incredulity that didn’t help with the teeth clenching at all. “Diving? We have a full-service dive shop,” she said. “They do intro classes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and twice on Saturday. If you…know how to swim?”

“Sounds great,” Cole said, sliding away. That was enough BS for one day. The flight from Cairo had been short but brutal—he didn’t need this on top.

Despite his grand-sounding title—and the State Department loved titles—as the Assistant Cultural Attaché to the United States Embassy, Cairo, Cole had flown in a middle seat. On the return flight I’m upgrading. Never letting the morale office book me a flight again. He’d pretended to be asleep to avoid seeing the faces of his row-mates. Legs and arms clenched tight, seatbelt cutting his hips despite the extension, Cole had barely breathed the whole flight.

The heat and salt marsh air of Al’Shahin had slapped him the moment he’d staggered off the plane onto the shimmering tarmac. Clean air, to be sure, but also hot. Broiling, unbelievably hot. And humid! Trapped against the Sinai, Al’Shahin stewed in the evaporation off the Red Sea. Less than a year in Egypt, and he thought he had mastered the heat. Humidity had not even occurred to him.

Neither had freezing to death in a hotel lobby. It was eleven a.m., and he was exhausted. A backhanded insult about his weight wasn’t the welcome he’d imagined. Three years ago, he would have broken down in tears. A year ago, he would have given her a lecture. But present-day Cole shrugged it off, making for the doors. They always mean well, don’t they? And maybe I’ll get the fucking wrap anyway. Maybe I wanted to before she even said anything. So there.

He took a deep breath before pushing out onto the patio. The heat clawed him with greedy fingers, sun blazing cheerfully away overhead. Three steps, and he could feel the heat in his mouth. Five, and he could sense it through the soles of his shoes. The back of his neck burned, and he looked around, trying to shake off the feeling of being watched. Stared at. You are being paranoid. It’s just the heat.

The pool shimmered, a mirage of blue. Darker sunglasses, they were first on the shopping list. Christ, and he thought Cairo was hot? Still feeling eyes on him, he tried to walk quickly but not too quickly, ignoring the rattle of his suitcase wheels over the pebbled walk. The sweat on his lower back itched. A shower. A shower and a nap then I can reassess. Hands slick, he bobbled his phone, dropped it and his sunglasses both. Someone laughed. Cole flinched, even as his brain registered the sound was happy, flirtatious laughter. Not look at that loser laughter.

“You are not a loser,” he muttered, gripping his phone and straightening his sunglasses. He gave his shirt a sharp tug over his belly. “You have never been a loser. Those were Donnie’s words.” He hadn’t needed that mantra in a while. Cairo was…good. Busy, interesting, professionally validating and really fricking good. Living in a cramped Cairo apartment? Not so much. But who cared? It was Cairo! The geography and antiquities nerd dream.

But now here he was, thinking of his ex, feeling eyes watching him, hurt and slipping into intrusive thoughts. Why? Just because people were laughing?

“All right, all right, quit messing around,” a rough voice barked out, making Cole fumble his phone again. The happy laughter cut off in a chorus of groans. “I don’t care how tired you are! You clean your gear, then you can relax.”

A small building squatted on the far side of the pool, with a thatch roof and an open central arcade, shaded and tiled in blue. The dive shop. The sign over the opening was faded, a shark curled dimly under the Grande logo. One of the million old pickup trucks littering Africa was backed up to the arcade, and a group of young people passed equipment back and forth like hurrying ants.

The bark belonged to a tall, scowling man standing in the bed of the truck with his hands on his hips and glaring straight at Cole from behind a pair of mirrored aviators.

Tanned from the sun, with wide shoulders, he wore a wetsuit unzipped to the waist and hanging around his legs. He had a shaved head and short scruffy beard, brown heavily threaded with gray. The harsh lines of his face made art deco angles with his jaw as he shouted at the divers scrambling around the truck. Whoever this pissed-off jerk thought he was, he was staring at Cole.

Taking a slow deep-oven-hot breath, Cole straightened his sunglasses, glancing back over out of the corner of his eye. His championship record of making a fool of himself in front of hot straight men made him cautious, but he didn’t miss the way the guy in the truck glanced his way again. Busted.

“It ain’t complicated, doll.” The divemaster sneered at a pretty blonde girl with her hands on her hips. “You rinse the salt off your gear, you hang it up, and then you can eat.”

What an absolute dick. Cole knew trouble when he saw it. Hopefully that guy wouldn’t be the divemaster for Cole’s certification. Cole was in no mood. He kept walking.

His room was one in a long row of little villas. Did a one-bedroom with en-suite count as a villa? The brochure certainly said it did. And for Cole, who only intended to use the room to sleep after days of adventure, it was pure luxury. A quick walk-through revealed air conditioning, a huge bed piled high with blue pillows and a tiny bathroom. Bright and cheerful, it was certainly bigger than his airless shoebox in Cairo.

The back door opened onto a small limestone courtyard, high walled and full of plants. The back of the house blocked the blazing sun. Stepping onto the tiles, Cole gave a whoop of joy, seeing an outdoor shower, the showerhead as big as a tennis racket. Cole had no trouble ignoring the rust and the slightly crooked pipes. He turned on the water and after some screeching rattles, it gushed a monsoon. Cole needed no further prompting. He stripped right there, laying his clothes on the shelf by the towels and toiletries.

“Heaven.”

The blue sky, the reaching plants, the patter of water on the stones… Cole took the first relaxed breath of his leave. Shampooing absently, he realized the sound that had been in the background wasn’t air-con—it was the sea!

I’m here! I’m on the Red Sea! The Sinai! Six years in that dank basement office at Smithsonian, trying to get a Foreign Service posting, and now I’m on the Red Sea!

So why was he so jittery? Letting the water flow over him, cooling his sweat-itch skin, he took a moment to assess. Why had the hotel clerk bothered him so much? To the point that he’d nearly had an anxiety attack by the pool?

“I am tired as hell,” he said. “I worked like crazy to be able to take a whole two weeks.” Not enough sleep. What else? “I’m hungry. I missed dinner, and only had airplane coffee.” It made more sense when he thought in those terms. His therapist always insisted he run through basic logistics as a first step to challenging negative thoughts. Hungry, dehydrated, sleep deprived, not enough time outside—these were all things that had to be taken care of before he could work on emotions.

“Three triggers at least didn’t help.” Flying was always difficult for him. Then the clerk. Then the mean-faced guy staring at him. His reactions put into perspective, he could finally loosen his shoulders. Relief and gratitude, those glorious balms, filled him as he took three breaths in then gave a long slow exhale, over and over, rocking side to side under the water. Better. Much better.

Running soapy hands over himself felt taboo under the open sky. He gave a brief thought to the big scuba instructor by the pool. He was hot and probably wasn’t staring. Thinking about Donnie threw me off. Three years, give or take, since the divorce, and Cole sometimes went a whole month without thinking about his ex. This seemed like the perfect place to continue that trend.

“I am about to cross something off my bucket list. This is going to be the best vacation of my life, and I am sure as shit not letting him spoil even a minute of it.”

Him could be Donnie or could be the mean-faced divemaster. Either way. Under the blue sky with the sea calling? Cole’s spirits soared. This trip was about adventure, and he was not wasting any of it.

After a bottle of water and a protein bar from his bag, Cole didn’t need a nap. He was ready to explore. He threw on clean clothes and, grabbing a hat this time, headed back out to the patio. He wanted to see the water. A whole year in country before his first vacation, he hadn’t seen the Red Sea since he’d arrived in Cairo. He tucked his dive paperwork into his back pocket. Since his path took him by the dive shop, he would sign up while he was there. Adventure was calling!

A cascade of wide sandstone steps led to the sea. Umbrellas and chairs dotted the beach in neat rows, broken up by a large bar with a thatch roof. A jetty divided the beach and led straight out into the blue. Nearer shore were a mix of reef and sandy stretches where people could swim and snorkel. Could swim. But were not currently swimming. Only one couple used the chaises. A family peered at the reef from the end of the jetty, their voices echoing off the stone walls. The rest of the sandy spar was deserted. Even up on the pool deck, there were only a handful of people. A man sunbathed with an armed bodyguard standing discreetly apart, watching everyone, though there was no one to watch besides some college kids and an elderly couple. Tinny music played over speakers mounted to the dusty palm trees. It echoed strangely, cheerful in the near silence.

The Regional Security Chief had warned him about this. “You’ll get a great deal—you can stay in a really big resort for the cost of those little places a couple years ago. They’re in a hard patch. Arab Spring, then the terrorist attacks a couple of years ago, and the economy tanking—there is a lot less business. It’s a great time to go. But I worry about those guys. Tourism is everything and that coast is a gem.”

The Chief had been right. Spread out before Cole was a perfect deep blue sea, surrounded by red and brown mountains dropping all the way down into the water. The waves were small, crashing against the reef rather than the moon sliver of sand. Overhead, a wavering dome of white-blue barely tinged to pink as the sun arced to the mountains behind him. Cole did a slow turn, wonder bubbling up. The resort was an oasis of carefully cultivated green cupped in the barren hills, dotted with clean rows of white buildings, his own little villa among them. A gem.

Was this much happiness possible? Physiologically speaking? Would he burst into flames? He had a sense that just out of his peripheral vision, or maybe just beyond his fingertips, was a new stage of his life. If he turned, or reached for it, it would disappear. It danced on the tip of his tongue. Laura said I needed to fill my well. Despite the torrent of jokes that followed about what he could fill his well with, she’d had a point. I’ll never paint again if I don’t slow down.

That might be what he was feeling, the itch in his fingers, the change standing just behind him. Maybe it was a muse. The headlong rush into the foreign service was done. He was settled. It was time to breathe. To be still long enough for his muse to find him.

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About the Author

J Calamy

J Calamy is a queer, disabled veteran and foreign service wonk who spends a good part of the year bouncing down dirt roads in the back of range rovers with men with guns. Coffee, romance novels, and embassy scuttlebutt are her last remaining vices.

Check out J Calamy’s website here.

Giveaway

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New Release Blitz ~ Badge by Ellen Mint (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Badge by Ellen Mint

Book 4 in the Coven of Desire series

Word Count:  80,841
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 305

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
MULTICULTURAL
PARANORMAL
REVERSE HAREM
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

They’ve found her.

Layla’s life is a mess. Thanks to Ink’s big mouth, Cal knows that she knows about the big red wolf, and he is pissed. She can’t find a way to bring Daniel back from death and even worse, Ink seems to think that’s the perfect time to dissolve their bond. Naturally, the second she’s abandoned by her guys, the witch hunters strike.

After yet another argument between his bond and her wolf, Ink’s grown exhausted with their arrangement. He has every intention to break their bond and return to his old hunting ways, until Layla goes missing at the hands of his greatest enemy. If they harm her, he’s on a one-way trip back to hell. Enraged, Ink enlists the help of both wolf and ghost to try and track her down. But the cursed hunters have learned. Anti-demon wards cover every surface of their underground lair. His only hope to save her is by wearing a cloak of mortality.

For the first time in his existence, Ink not only knows pain but the true threat of death.

When Layla arrives in the Witch Hunters’ bureau, Detective Stone comes to her not with a torch, but a job offer. If she doesn’t agree to work with them, then she’ll die. How will she escape from a trap-filled dungeon crammed with already captured monsters? Are her guys hunting for her, or is she truly alone? And why does Stone make her blood boil in all the wrong ways?

If she gets out of this alive, there will be hell to pay.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, and a dream scene including dubious consent.

Author Giveaway

Enter to win this awesome ‘Coven of Desire’ giveaway containing over $70 worth of amazing witchy goodies!

Click HERE to enter

Contest ends on June 24th, 2022

Excerpt

Ink

A hand pierced the grave, shattering the witch’s pentagram as it strained for the sky. Lightning crackled through the dark clouds above, the fully emerged arm somehow perfectly lit despite the night around it. While the sorceress cackled in glee, the dirt fell away, revealing a face of ashen pallor with minor skin inflammation and a withered nose.

“Ah, he suffers from the great pox,” I said aloud, and a shushing broke from the blubbery lips beside me. There was no doubt a person was attached to said flopping skin bags, but I could not discern them in the darkness. The air bulged with barely coherent desires, the shadow in the chair beside me wishing only for my death.

A shame, for after two thousand years I had yet to ascertain any way to cause such an end. I began to lean over the divider keeping us separate, when a palm graced my knee.

The chasteness of the touch nearly caused me to chuckle, when my bond whispered, “Watch the movie.”

I folded my arms. Having already dispatched the box of chocolate balls, I had grown bored of this display of flickering images ten minutes in. I tipped my head to her, spotting the blond locks of the wolf to her other side. He seemed to be enraptured with the tinny trite, a full fist of popcorn raised to his mouth. I intended to tell her I’d had my fill, when her eyes darted to me.

Please let me enjoy this.

Her desires did not require my talent of reading through the colored fogs surrounding the gray mass of humanity. I felt her request singing through every nerve and a smile replaced my smirk. Taking her hand, I raised it to my lips and whispered against her knuckles, “As you wish.”

She rubbed my knee once more and left her palm upon my thigh. The greens and purples of the giant screen reflected off her fingers, each digit delicate and also hard as stone. She’d chipped a nail recently, no doubt the damn specter’s doing. I clasped my hand over the back of hers and held tight when a finger jabbed into my shoulder.

The wolf had raised his hand from Layla’s shoulders in order to prod me. “This is the best part,” he said in a harried but exuberant voice.

I jerked my gaze to the grumbling guardian of silence beside me, but it remained resolutely still. I see, so Calvin can speak whenever he wishes, but I must be held to a higher standard. Humans never could wrap their minds around the concept of justice.

Rather than pick a fight, I turned my gaze to the screen. The syphilitic man was moaning, no doubt from the pain he now found in urinating. Around him circled the sorceress, her silver cloak flapping in a wind that did not move the trees in the background. She spoke gibberish Latin and lightning lit up the white sky. In an instant, all of the graves cracked open like elevator doors and people climbed out.

“Is she attempting to build an army of undead?” I scoffed. “No villain worth their salt would waste time with such a foolish plan. You have, at most, three days before rot causes your army to bloat, then explode. Even less in the summer.”

“Will you shut the hell up?” My neighbor greatly disapproved of my logic, even if it was sound. Humans were basically walking candles—one light and the whole of the army would go up in smoke, leaving the sorceress alone and awkward on the battlefield.

“Ink…” Layla leaned closer to me when the man with the pox leaped forward and bit off the sorceress’ nose. As I said, a very foolish endeavor. My smug righteousness only lasted a moment when Layla gasped and clung tight to my leg.

My heartbeat increased with hers, a flush of those endorphins she devoted her study to rushing from her to me. While the undead man crunched on the offscreen sorceress’ body, my bond turned to look at me. Pink tinged the soft tan of her cheeks, the dark depths of her eyes wide in shock.

She glanced to where her nails tried to dig through my flesh and blanched. “Sorry,” Layla said, but before she could retract her hand, I pressed it tighter.

“You need never apologize for that,” I said, catching her chin. I pulled her closer and whispered against her lips, “I am built for your punishment.”

The kiss sent a wave of spicy pink desire through me. It radiated down my tongue, encouraging said nimble organ to toy with Layla’s lip. As I plunged deeper and tasted of her mouth, the desire pulsing from her transformed to a sultry fuchsia. I let my touch land on her shoulder, all manner of horrific undead attacks forgotten. Each traipse of my fingers winding down the ribbons on her blouse toward her breast sent a touch of satiety through me. It was little more than a bite, a nibble really, but the fuel fed my fire.

Layla’s wily hand had found itself trailing up my thigh then retreating. She fought the internal war far too many of my prey carried the mantle for. What I desire versus what society deems proper. Ever at odds, never satisfactory. The whole concept of morality had been invented to keep people anxious, unsatisfied and in search of a cold bath. But within my bond, the electric desire was winning out.

I took her breast in my hand and Layla bit down to silence her moan. That seemed to shatter the mood and she froze, causing my elaborate dance to pause as well. “Ink, we should…”

“Take advantage of the flickering ambience of mutilated corpses in this foreboding dungeon?” I whispered, tucking back her hair and tracing around her ear. She closed her eyes, lost in the simple pleasure of my touch.

Alas, it was my neighbor who once again could not cease to thrust himself into my affairs. “Will you shut your fucking mouth already?”

I scoffed and shook my head. “No. I do not believe I shall, and you are the better for it.”

The man, for his visage grew more evident in the rising light of the screen, folded his hand into a fist. He popped it up as if he intended to knock my teeth out, which only caused me to smile. Whatever nerve he thought to have had fled, and the man rose and abandoned his seat in the back of this darkened theater. As he stomped his feet and cursed under his breath, his shadow cast over the screen, hiding away the funeral march.

“Down in front,” I called to his retreating form.

“Now you’ve done it.” The cursed specter slipped into the vacated seat, proving I was never afforded a moment of peace in this world. He managed to look smug despite being without a body and forced to stand in the aisle.

“What? You think he will challenge me to a duel? Even with two of his sturdiest gentlemen at his side, it will be nothing more than a jumping behind the pub.”

The ghost only stared ahead, not saying a word to me, but his eyes flickered to Layla who was quickly losing the thread of desire. That would not do. I had seen little of her in the past week, though I’d had more than my share of the vagrant ghost we’d acquired. Whenever I would reach for her, either the wolf or the dead man would be there first. Typically, I could work with such a scenario, but the ghost was without form and the wolf…

I sighed, staring askance at the man doing his best to ignore his own animalistic urges and the tenting in his trousers. What everyone needed was to break this tension with a day-long celebration of the joy only three bodies could bring. The ghost could sit and watch for all I cared.

“My bond.” I pulled aside her spirals and breathed heavily in her ear. That sent the heat rolling once more and she clenched her fingers tighter to my thigh. “Why hesitate?”

Her deep eyes opened wide and she stared as if in shock that I could yet read her mind. “I know…” Gently, I dropped my finger to the top of her cleavage.

“What you truly…” I swept it down between her breasts and over her belly.

Where her thighs split, I clutched onto her skirt, and began to raise it. “Desire.”

Layla squirmed in her seat, her eyelids heavy as she succumbed to my logical charisma. I abandoned any prelude of remaining in my seat and turned to press my cock against her thigh. She struggled to fight a gasp and I drew my touch up the hot spread of her underthings. I never needed to test if she was wet, but I quite liked the glide of the proof of my pull and how she flexed to let me in.

As I tugged aside the edge of her panties, I leaned into her ear. “Go on,” I whispered, toying with the succulent lady lip at my finger. “Tug on him.”

The wolf turned, his eyes blazing with a hunger I knew he too was fighting and failing to ignore. For him, it ran either burning red or muted yellow. Tonight, it burned hotter than the flames of Hades. Cal took Layla’s cheek and pulled her in for a kiss just as she reached for the waistband of his jeans…and slipped under. His groan trembled through my hunger, smelling of a feast but failing to satisfy. I paid it barely any heed, Layla’s response to him far more delectable.

Her body burned with a rising tide of desire, and my innocent little flick of the bean wouldn’t do. I abandoned the seats entirely and took a knee to the floor. The wolf was trying to not thrust his hips in his seat even as he rolled a hand over Layla’s breast and panted. Their deep kiss broke and she looked at me in shock.

“What are you doing?”

“I’d think it’d be rather obvious,” I answered. Her heart thundered like a rain of timpani. I wrapped my hands under her thighs, clenched her hips and pulled her to my mouth. The underthings meant nothing to the slip of my tongue or the press of my lips. I licked and sucked around, under and over them, soaking her already drenched panties to total saturation. Layla raised her leg and placed it on my shoulder. As she did, Cal reached over to run his hand over her thigh and lift it higher.

Her hand worked fast under his jeans, bringing the unresolved tension to a proper crescendo. I too felt the swell inside, the only way I knew sex to feel. The slumbering hunger sharpened its fangs, my metaphorical mouth drooling while my literal one supped upon the beautiful woman’s clit. She arched her back, pressing more of herself to me and pulling her head down the chair.

I glanced up a moment, delighted by the response, when I spotted the ghost standing behind watching. No, he was whispering words to her, no doubt ones stolen from better men. But they seemed to be working to bring Layla to a frenzy. I dipped deeper, every pulse of my tongue filling my body with the strength of a dozen men.

When she began to clench, nearing her climax, my first instinct was to stop. Not in pleasuring her—that I could do for days without end. No, I nearly paused in pulling her energy lest I take too much. But that was the joy of taking a witch to bed—there was never an end. Her magic fed me, letting me feast without risking her loss.

“Ink…” Layla whimpered. With one hand, she clung to the wolf’s impressive John Thomas. With the other, she wrenched on my hair, ordering me to finish her off. Gladly.

I dipped back for the last taste that’d fill me to bursting when a bright light blinded me. Blinking against the harsh rays that highlighted the nearly empty theater seats ahead of us, I turned to find a man not yet old enough for a hair on his chin dressed in a crimson uniform with his arms crossed and a glower on.

“Hello, my good man,” I said, rising to my feet. He flinched as I held my hand out to him. “Would you care to join us?”

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About the Author

Ellen Mint

Ellen Mint adores the adorkable heroes who charm with their shy smiles and heroines that pack a punch. She recently won the Top Ten Handmaid’s Challenge on Wattpad where hers was chosen by Margaret Atwood. Her books, Undercover Siren and Fever are available at Amazon as well as a short story in the Lucky Between The Sheets anthology. Married, she lives in Nebraska with her dog named after Granny Weatherwax. Her hobbies include gaming, painting, and halloween prop making. The basement is full of skeletons because they ran out of room in the closets.

You can find Ellen at her website here and also on Bookbub.

Giveaway

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New Release Blitz: Novas Got Nerve by BL Jones (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Novas Got Nerve

Series: Liquid Onyx, Book One

Author: BL Jones

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 165500

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, family drama, sci-fi, fantasy, superhero, gay, government agents, magic, slow burn

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Description

He’s got far too much nerve. He can blow things up with his mind. Yeah. The world should probably brace itself for this one.

When Rex Nova was four years old, he became one of the world’s first superhumans.

When Rex turns twenty, he feels the drive to use his scientifically given abilities to protect the world. He leaves home to become a member of the Secret Superhero Security team, alongside three of his friends and Danger City’s own superhero, Polaris.

Rex fights murderous Mages, evil organisations, criminal mafias, his agency appointed psychiatrist, his own weird brain, and the most frightening of all, his attraction to a certain blue-eyed superhero.

Excerpt

Novas Got Nerve
BL Jones © 2022
All Rights Reserved

This Is It. This Is Our Hero

Right then. Let’s kick this off with some hardcore exposition and a whole lot of bizarre shit.

My name is Rexley Xander Nova.

Yeah. I know. Just. It’s a weird name. I have a weird name. I have weird friends. I have a weird family. I have a weird existence. No lie, this is pretty much how things are gonna be all the time going forward. So. For the sake of full disclosure. Beware.

Fun fact number two, I live in a little seaside town named Colbie.

Colbie is small, like barely there tiny. We have one school, one church, one town hall, one strip of shops, and one park. The rest of Colbie is cottages and beach. It’s the kind of place you get lost in because Google Maps has it out for you, not somewhere you’d go on purpose. The most memorable thing about Colbie is probably the town’s residents. You’ll understand what I mean by that later.

Fun fact number three, a lot of people are raised by the subspecies known as parents. I ain’t got those. I do, however, have a Roux and a Lady Mars.

Roux is my uncle, and, I gotta be honest with you, he’s one of the strangest men alive. He’s also very annoying. Prepare yourselves. Mentally. Emotionally. Possibly physically if you’re one of life’s throwers. Like, if you tend to throw things when you’re frustrated. Or afraid. Or hungry. I don’t know. Emotions are hard. And yeah, I hear you, “hungry” isn’t an emotion. But. I can’t be alone in thinking it really should be.

Maybe part of you is worried this is gonna be the start of me whinging about my bothersome parental figure. I get why you’d think that. I’m twenty and a person and, regardless of age, I think it’s just how we do sometimes. But nope. That is not it, I swear. You haven’t met him yet. And now I feel bad for you. Because if you keep going with this whole thing then you will have to meet him. So. I mean. Good luck with all of that noise, you masochists.

The other half of my parental unit is Lady Mars. She and I aren’t family in the traditional, biological sense. But we are family in all the other ways that matter.

If I tried to really, properly, describe the pure personification of epic that is Lady Mars to you, then we would probably be here forever. So, I’m gonna knock it down to the basics for now.

Lady Mars is the local “eccentric” woman who lives in the scary looking cottage and who everyone secretly thinks is a witch. The town hag if you will. Those are her words by the way, not mine. The old hag part I mean. Lady Mars isn’t old or a hag. She is a witch though. Or at least, she comes from a family with magic in their blood.

Magic runs in bloodlines, and most magical families call themselves Mages.

The existence of Mages is a secret. Not a lot of people know magic is a real thing, which is probably just as well.

Roux isn’t fond of magic. He says people cause enough of their own problems without throwing something as unstable as magic into the mix.

Lady Mars doesn’t mind people calling her a witch. I think she enjoys having everyone fear her a little bit too much. On Halloween, she dresses up like a “normal person” and tells everyone Halloween is the witch equivalent of a bank holiday. She also likes to do stereotypical witchy things like collecting crystals and wearing hooded cloaks and using made-up words when she does magic even though she doesn’t need to.

As for me, I’m not a Mage. I’m the dramatic result of a science experiment gone very right or very wrong, depending on who you ask.

I have powers. Superpowers. Most of my close friends also have abilities as a result of the same science experiment.

My father was Dr Alexander Nova. He was a massive dickhead. And also a mad scientist. He created a superpower chemical that was eventually given the name Liquid Onyx. Genuinely. Liquid Onyx. No joke, I’m basically a Powerpuff Girl.

Alex started out by experimenting on adults. Every single one of those people either died or succumbed to extreme levels of mental instability within days of being injected.

It wasn’t until he accidentally experimented on a child of fourteen that he reached a turning point. The boy’s name was Tyler Kane. He was a runaway foster kid who happened to look a lot older than he was.

Tyler survived the initial injection of Liquid Onyx, and it took nearly a month before the first signs of mental and physical sickness began to show.

Maybe some people would have seen this as yet another failure. But to a man like my father, a truly brilliant scientist, progress was progress.

Alex determined Tyler’s youth was what made the difference. With that discovery fermented in his mind, he kidnapped and injected a load of children, including his own son, with the highly dangerous and potentially lethal substance.

He discovered children under the age of ten were more likely to survive. Moreover, children under the age of five were more likely to avoid the insanity that had overtaken his previous subjects.

Some of the children died. In agony. Some of them didn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones who crawled away with my body intact.

My mind, on the other hand, is something we could argue about all day.

Those of us who did survive Liquid Onyx found ourselves able to do impossible things. Superpower type things.

Along with an individual superpower of our own, all Liquid Onyx survivors have enhanced senses, superior physical capabilities, and accelerated healing.

My father went full-on supervillain, and now I’m a superhuman who can blow things up with my mind.

I’m a character from a bloody comic book. And not a particularly good one either.

So. Yeah. That’s my baggage. Well, part of it. Definitely the biggest suitcase on the trolley anyway.

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Meet the Author

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

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New Release Blitz: Queen by J.S. Fields (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Queen

Series: Hidden Earth, Book One

Author: J.S. Fields

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 95200

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, action/adventure, lesfic, scientists, kidnapping/abduction, sand pirates, beetle riders, crazed bunnies, spaceships, AI shenanigans, grief/grieving, HFN, intersex

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Description

Nobody leaves Queen. On the tidally locked planet, a vulva and an authority problem are the only immigration requirements. Emigration is banned.

Ember spends her days cruising Queen’s endless sand dunes, hunting sand pirates and wallowing in memories of her dead wife. After an ambush, Ember is dragged to the pirate camp and learns her wife’s biggest secret—before her death, she’d joined the pirates, built an illegal spaceship, and plotted to leave the planet.

Ember, Nadia, and the sand pirates must take back the planet and expose the corrupt New Earth mining. Taming giant beetles, wrestling stinkhorn fungi, and enlisting Queen’s rabbit population in a high-stakes aerial battle are just part of the hijinks that will determine Queen’s fate as a galactic player, as well as the futures of all its conscripted inhabitants.

The newly minted outlaws must also grapple with Queen’s narrow concept of “womanhood” and where trans and intersex people belong in its future.

Excerpt

Queen
J.S. Fields © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Mornings on Queen always looked like blood. Ember stood at the edge of the habitable zone of the tidally locked planetoid. She scanned the crimson and rust horizon all the way to the perpetual sunrise. Her wife’s body was out here somewhere, buried in the coarse red sand. Desiccated, mummified, likely stripped naked by the roaming packs of sand pirates Ember was out here to track.

Well… Track. Kill. The line was blurry when it involved a spouse, and it wasn’t like the presidium—the administrative body of Queen—really cared one way or the other. Ember had cared, once, but she was on day seventeen of perimeter duty, and her whole plan of dealing with Taraniel’s death by shooting grave robbers was starting to look a little thin.

A rabbit shot across her field of vision, registering in a halo of blue inside the face shield of her envirosuit. TOPA—the suit’s AI—scrolled data across the screen, but Ember ignored it. Without thinking, she yanked one of the wide, flat stones from her exterior right thigh pocket (they were supposed to keep her calm, according to Nadia) and threw it at the flash of white, fluffy tail with precision honed from years of dealing with Queen’s nuisance rabbit population.

The rabbit’s hind legs skittered out from beneath it as it slipped on the sand. Ember wrapped her fingers around another stone, preparing to hit the head this time, when the damn thing started digging with its front feet, sand funneling around it, so that Ember lost her clean shot.

She stepped forward, grinding her teeth with an adrenaline surge that would again see no release if the little shit got away. She wiped sand from her face shield with a gloved hand, smearing red across her vision.

The area where the rabbit had dug settled flat with a slight pock. Tiny fans on the outside of Ember’s face shield blew the particulate from her vision.

The rabbit was gone and her stone along with it.

Ember cursed, the words bouncing around the inside of her rabbit-hide envirosuit, wasted on recycled air and a generic TOPA. Queen didn’t have stones like that—perfect for skipping over lakes that didn’t exist on the barren planetoid. Those she carried in her pocket were some of her last reminders of Earth. And the rabbit… Ember knelt at the soft indent in the sand. It’d descended into one of Queen’s giant beetle galleries. Of course, it had.

TOPA pinged as she reached a gloved hand into the depression. Ember debated the possibility of Queen’s native beetles—approximately the height of a small school bus and twice the length—grabbing her wrist and pulling her down in pulp-era sci-fi fashion. She dismissed the idea. If beetles hadn’t accosted her yet at this site, it meant the gallery was abandoned and being used by the feral European domestic rabbit population. They’d been brought over as food stock on the colony ships. Some had escaped. Big surprise.

Please read your notes, scrolled across the interior of Ember’s face shield, in lettering so large it blocked most of the landscape from view.

“The rabbit got away. I was stupid for throwing a rock that can’t be replaced. I wasted oxygen on the exertion. That about cover it?”

TOPA didn’t respond directly, but it did fire up a series of reports.

Landmass stability: within ten meters radius: moderate.

Sand for at least three meters below the surface with scattered hollow tunnels reinforced with clay from the temperate zone. Sand transitioning to silt loam noted in geographic surveys, with increasing occurrence toward the colony dome.

Silica content of the air: unbreathable.

UV index: ten point five.

Ember snorted. That did explain the suit smell.

She balled her hands as tightly as she could in the double-layered leather of her gloves wishing, not for the first time that day, that Gore-Tex was still a thing. Leather didn’t breathe, though both the buffer and the electrical linings of the suit were supposed to. Nothing from Earth breathed outside the habitable zone, and as much as the filters of her suit tried, they couldn’t filter out the smell of human, slowly marinating in her own sweat.

Awaiting input. Continue scan?

“Yeah. Sure. Why not?”

Ember stood, swallowing the dry air the suit pushed at her. The AI had a newly installed personality patch, but Ember would need to get a lot more bored before she turned it on. Instead, she pivoted on her right foot, keeping level with as much of the horizon as she could see, and let the suit feed data into the AI. Dunes and small valleys surrounded her, and TOPA disassembled each for content.

Silica: 100%

Silica: 97%, Chitin: 3%

Silica: 78%, Cellulose: 10%, Lignin: 10%, Chitin: 2%

Suggest moving 1.7 chains northeast for better visibility.

“Picturesque view?” Ember asked TOPA. Maybe a body?

“Hey, Ember!”

The red dunes faded into a semitransparent image of her sister, Nadia, displayed on the interior of the face shield. Ember clicked her right canines together to increase volume. The winds were too fierce outside the colony dome to hear much of anything without enhancement, even when the sound came from inside the suit. That wind was the same reason the damn rabbits tended to stay in the beetle galleries. Wind screwed with everything out here.

Nadia’s transmission showed her just outside the dome, her image picked up by one of her suit’s sleeve cameras. Sand licked her calves. Her goggles were up but her face shield down, and red soil caked her envirosuit. The only parts of her skin visible were her lips, chapped but grinning as she tapped the front of her shield and instructions scrolled across the inside of Ember’s own face shield. At the bottom of the message was a clear add-on from Nadia.

Your sentry duties now extend to Outpost Eight. Leave immediately.

–Dr. Narkhirunkanok

Hope you enjoy the sand. I’ll make you dune-nuts when you get home. Extra sprinkles. Served on a tablecloth of rabbit hide since you love the little shits so much.

Ember read the short message and scowled—a facial contortion Nadia would see in detail from the camera inside Ember’s suit. Puns and throwaway comments about the excess rabbit population had no place on an official director request. If Nadia was willing to deface government messages, it meant she was worried. But she wouldn’t say she was worried because, historically, the sisters’ ability to communicate was right around “bug and speeding windshield.”

“Leave for Outpost Eight? I’m supposed to be here for another three days.” Ember cinched her mouth into a caricature of a frown. “TOPA will be heartbroken. It hasn’t cataloged every dune within a one hundred-chain radius.”

“There’s been a change. Director Narkhirunkanok thinks the mella pirates are going to hit one of our storage units, the one where we keep sticking all the glassware we probably don’t need but can’t get rid of. We need a sentry. You’re the closest.” The wind whipped her words away, but the auditory sensors on Nadia’s suit caught them anyway.

This time, Ember did frown. It was one thing to watch for the mella and daydream about shooting one so you could avenge your wife, who didn’t actually need avenging because she’d been about to die from cancer and had chosen to walk into a sand dune. Chasing the mella to one of their targets, even if only to spy on them, so they could shoot you, was something entirely different. She didn’t have a death wish, just a need to see her wife’s body and maybe punch someone.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and always up for a Twitter chat.

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New Release Blitz ~ The Heart to Lead by P. Stormcrow (Excerpt & Giveaway)

The Heart to Lead by P. Stormcrow

General Release Date: 14th June2022

Word Count: 70,896
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 284

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME
EROTIC ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

Three years of mourning. One night of pleasure. It might be a new beginning, but only if he is willing to submit.

Three years ago, Lani McMillan lost her submissive, and she has been running from her heart ever since. She may rely on the occasional scene to scratch the itch, but no other has come close to arousing her dominant instincts to claim them as her own.

That is, until she meets The Playgrounds’ latest security contractor, Nathan Pelletier.

He is everything she didn’t expect—ex-military, ex-cop, a fighter, a leader and very much confused by why submitting to her fulfills his deepest desires. So why does she want nothing more than to wrap her hands around his tie and pull him closer?

But time is running out for them to explore their new, tenuous bond, as the demons of both, real and imagined, emerge from the shadows and threaten to consume them. Now they must decide what they are to each other if they are to survive their pasts and their own desires.

Because it takes more than the will of a Dominant to lead.

Reaser advisory: This book contains kidnapping and scenes of violence and torture. It is best read as book three in a series.

Excerpt

Lani McMillan curled her lips into a smile of amusement when the town car the hosts had hired for her pulled up to her destination. A masquerade party to celebrate a renewal of vows… She had been to enough weddings and celebrations in her lifetime, but this was a new twist. As she emerged from the vehicle, she smoothed the long black dress with a thigh-high slit and adjusted the teardrop diamond pendant hanging on a white gold chain just below her collarbone.

Her stilettos clicked against the stone steps of the venue as she walked. The happy couple had rented a sprawling heritage estate thirty minutes out from the city. Laughter spilled out from the opened windows, lights illuminating the entire place against the setting sun. As she approached the door, she settled the Colombina mask over her face, covering her eyes and cheeks. She brushed her fingers over the midnight lace, trailing over a row of black and silver beads before she tilted her chin up. With a last check to ensure that her red curls remained pinned in a loose knot above her head, she readied herself. Showtime.

“Good evening, Ms.”

“Evening.” With inherent grace, Lani presented the invitation to the suited gentleman at the door who was sporting a much plainer version of her own mask. In fact, most staff seemed to wear the same face covering, like it was part of the uniform.

“Excellent. Welcome to the party, Ms. McMillan.”

Lani gave him a polite smile and dipped her head before entering. The hosts, prominent members of society, had spared no expense in celebrating their renewed love for each other in the most public way possible. A large crystal chandelier dominated the expansive foyer. Below it, water gurgled from a fountain.

To both her left and right were smaller reception areas, each lit by their own rows of mini chandeliers. Music from a string quartet drifted from the distance, and it was what helped Lani decide which direction to go.

An abstract ice sculpture stood as a centerpiece, hinting at two figures embracing. Lani’s lips curved into a bittersweet smile. When the couple had arrived at her office all those months ago, they could barely tolerate sitting next to each other, with nothing but betrayal and hurt wedged between them. They had come a long way, and it made her happy to have had a hand in that as their relationship counselor. Since the accident three years past, she had dedicated herself to helping people find second chances, something she herself had never gotten. Death was the cruelest Mistress of them all.

“Champagne, Ms.?”

Lani tore her gaze away from the sculpture to flash the waitstaff a small smile and took the glass in hand. Most other guests were already in masks, enjoying the additional air of mystique the costume pieces provided. As she sipped her bubbles, savoring the sweetness, she scanned the room then stopped as she beheld a particularly delicious specimen. He wasn’t towering tall, perhaps half a head or so more than her and her four-inch heels. Powerful muscles strained against the black suit he wore. Although the plain staff mask covered a part of his face, it only brought out his square jaw and chiseled features further. With dirty blond hair spiked up and faded down on the sides and back, he could almost pass as a male model.

Their eyes met, her hazel to his steel gray, and Lani inhaled. Something sparked between them, and though he dressed like any other security staff at the party, Lani knew she would have no problem picking him out of a crowd anywhere. He held her gaze, neither of them willing to look away first until he reached for the wire and earbud in his right ear. With a polite nod of acknowledgment toward her, he moved aside. Duty called.

Lani suppressed the urge to seek him out so that she could twine his tie around her fingers and pull him close. She shook her head. If only this was that type of party instead.

“Oh my, is that you, Lani?”

She turned to the older woman, readying her professional smile. “Diane,” she greeted and accepted the hug that followed. Another one of her clients. This social circle had made her business very lucrative over the years and funded the move to the new office she adored, not to mention her growing shoe collection. Soon, she had amassed a small group of men and women around her.

“Ladies and gentlemen, if you will, the ceremony is about to begin.” Another staff member ushered them deeper inside the house, where they had set up the hall similar to a more traditional wedding venue. Lani had to admire the bouquets of flowers that lined the aisle. Although lavish decorations adorned the room, nothing was over the top. If she had to design her wedding, though, she would have it more subdued, smaller. That chance, however, had long passed. Commitment was not for her anymore.

The couple exchanged their vows with beautiful heartfelt speeches, and soon all the staff herded the guests upstairs once more to another banquet hall. Out of the corner of her eye, Lani glimpsed that same security guard from before. When he stayed within her field of vision, she realized with a start that he was hovering.

Seated with the same group she had been speaking with at the reception, Lani made polite conversation but, to be frank, she was growing tired. From the beginning, she’d had no illusion that this was anything but a work function, an opportunity to network. These people with their yachts and mansions were not her kind. She worked for a living, for one thing. Still, what she wanted was to curl up at home with a mug of tea and process the melancholy mounting within her, to stare at the photos of the last man she’d ever seen a future with—a man who had passed away three years before.

Perhaps coming here was a mistake.

At least dinner was delectable. From the appetizer of crab and shrimp cakes molded into heart shapes to the aromatic lobster bisque then to the main course of miso-based black cod, the seafood option she chose took her on a journey of oral delight. Then there was the chocolate mousse… Lani had to refrain from retrieving her phone so that she could take photos. Her close friend, Luna, would have wanted pictures.

Soon, dinner gave way to more festivities as the doors opened to a dance hall with a band set up on stage. Lani’s eyes lit up before she remembered she had brought no date with her. Had she known, she might have cajoled Darryl or Jacob to come with her. A small sigh of regret escaped her lips as the music began.

Others at her table had already excused themselves to join the growing company of dancers on the floor as the band struck up their first song, a stately number. Left alone with her thoughts, she cast a longing glance at the door.

“Lani!”

Great. With another smile plastered on her face, she rose from her seat to find the hosts approaching. She allowed Sharon to pull her into a hug.

“Oh, don’t you look fabulous!”

Lani smiled. “Thank you. Nothing compared to you, though. Just like a beautiful blushing bride.”

“Isn’t she?” Eric wrapped an arm around his wife and pulled her to him. “We’re glad you could make it tonight.”

“Of course. I’m so happy for you both.” Lani wasn’t sure if it was a shot of envy that twisted her gut.

“We wouldn’t be here without you. Thank you.”

Pride came with swiftness to replace that envy—pride in her work, pride in having been able to help.

“I may have guided, but you two put in all the effort.”

The couple turned and beamed at each other before another woman approached Eric. It was the perfect opportunity. Lani smiled and inclined her head. “If you’ll excuse me.” With the soft murmur, she made a quick escape.

Five steps. That was as far as she got.

“Leaving already?”

The deep baritone came from her left, and she spun on her heels to face its owner full on.

He kept a respectful distance, but up close, his gaze held an intensity much more than the one they had shared earlier across the crowd. The impulse to pull him to her, to fist his hair this time, returned, and she had to clamp down on her dominant instincts. This was not the place for the Domme in her to come out and play.

“Perhaps,” she replied instead, accompanied by an enigmatic smile.

He stepped closer, and she quirked a brow in response. This one was bold. She liked it.

“A dance before you go?” He offered her a calloused palm. As far as pick-up lines went, he lacked sophistication, and Lani wondered if it was something that the man may not be used to. Still, she had been lamenting the lack of a partner earlier.

“Sure, why not?” She gifted him with a brilliant smile, placed her hand in his and allowed him to lead her to the floor.

It was the kind of dance that had him place his hand on the small of her back, and for her to put hers on his shoulder. They held each other’s gaze, neither willing to back down again, as if resuming their earlier interrupted contest of wills. Lani registered the subtle tension in the muscles rippling under the suit.

“So, how much time have you bought yourself, sneaking off duty?” She could not help but tease. He seemed so very serious.

A slight rise and fall of shoulders. “My shift for the night ended fifteen minutes ago. If they need me, they’ll call.”

“I see. And yet you’re still here.” Lani found her smile growing wider.

“So are you, despite not being in the mood.”

At that, she raised a brow in question but allowed the silence to stretch on.

Her mysterious partner sighed before turning them around in a spin in time to the music. He was a skilled dancer and led well enough. Lani had not expected that for a man of his size and demeanor. And that she let him lead at all was a bit of a miracle in itself.

“You smile and play their games, but there’s something you’re sad about…like you’re in mourning.”

Her heart skipped a beat, but neither her steps nor her smile faltered. Instead, she followed his lead, allowing him to twirl her again. Only when he caught her in his arms once more did she give a small laugh in response. “Very perceptive, Mr.…?”

“Nathan.” He nodded at her praise. “It’s my business to be.”

“I see.”

“If I may, since both of us have a lack of reason to stay, would you like to get out of here?”

Lani thought she heard a tinge of hope in his tone, but the desire she saw smoldering in his eyes overshadowed any hints of it.

Bold indeed. But the prospect of spending the night sulking alone did seem rather bleak. Lani knew what Nathan was offering and found it to be palatable—maybe beyond just palatable. It had been a while since she had scratched that itch, even if it wasn’t to play as a Domme. Besides, she was curious about all those lovely warm curves she felt beneath his suit.

“Mm-m, I believe I can be persuaded.”

“This way then,” he whispered in her ear, then stepped back to lead her out of the party into the darkening night.

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About the Author

P. Stormcrow

P. Stormcrow has always been an avid reader across the fantasy and sci fi genres but early on, found herself always looking for the love story in each book. Coming to terms with her love for love later in life, she now writes steamy romances that examine social norms and challenge conventional tropes of the genre, usually on her phone. And yes, she has walked into walls and poles doing so.

When she’s not reading or writing (or even when she is), she enjoys copious amounts of tea, way too much sugary treats, one too many sci fi / fantasy / paranormal TV shows (team Dean all the way) and every otome game she can possibly find.

You can find out more at P. Stormcrow’s website.

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New Release Blitz: The Last God by Gillian St. Kevern (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Last God

Author: Gillian St. Kevern

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 41700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, action/adventure, gods, clerics, knights, military, religion, reunited, mythology

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Description

Kel, a former prince turned gravedigger, serves the Unknown God. Bitter about the gods’ neglect of their people, Kel’s limited patience with the divine is tested when his former lover, now a famous general, shows up in the tiny town of Farport. Done with being the gods’ plaything, Kel quits the priesthood—only to discover that the unknown god has plans for him and his ex.

Iscar’s shocked to discover that the prince who was too good for a lowly soldier now follows the god of outcasts. He’s even more shocked when the unknown god declares himself to be War and claims Kel as his high-priest. Having experienced all war’s horrors, Iscar is determined to free Kel from the god, escorting him to Celestial City in an attempt to win Kel away.

Kel fights his attraction to Iscar and struggles with his duty to his god. Iscar’s belief that the gods are just, and reward those who are deserving, is challenged by their journey. His allegiance is no longer to the gods, but to his love. But Kel, consumed by doubt, cannot see what a man—or a god—would want in him.

Excerpt

The Last God
Gillian St. Kevern © 2022
All Rights Reserved

The Kindly One Speaks

The dead man’s eyes reflected the chill grey sky. The wind dragged at his tunic, giving him, for an instant, life. But the gods, though cruel, had yet some mercy. Kel was alone in the burning village.

“Earth Mother…” The words stuck in his throat. They meant nothing to him. They meant even less to the corpse.

Kel’s dirt-caked hands locked around the handle of the shovel. None but him saw the observations made; none cared. The man’s family would not return to the village until the death rites had been completed—if they returned at all.

Smoke stung his eyes. The fire was dying now, too, burning itself out in the ruined house at his back. Beside it lay the two yet to be buried.

The accusation in their dead eyes was too much to bear. “Earth Mother. From clay, you made us.” It was not as if she listened. As if any of them listened. “Sky Father. You breathed us into life.” Bile rose in his throat. Burying the dead was the lowest task anyone in the Nine Lands could do, and he couldn’t even do that right.

“The dead need no counsel.” His cheeks burned. Two years on, and Jayna’s words still stung. He’d confessed his doubt in the gods to the head-priest, and this had been her solution. “Go tell Samel, the gravedigger, you relieve him of his duty.” His horror must have shown on his face because her expression softened. “Serving the Unknown God is not easy. Other gods reward their servants, but we must find reward in our service. Make your work your purpose.”

Kel drew a deep breath. Digging graves was all he had. “Mighty Sea. You bestowed on us the life fluids. From three, we are one in life. In death, we become three again.”

There was something in the familiarity of the words. He scattered a handful of soil into the grave. “Rest peacefully in the embrace of Mother Earth.” He’d found a knife nearby the man’s body and cleaned it. He placed it on the man’s chest so he might cut free of his shadow. “May your shade descend without obstacle to Gentle Death’s kingdom.” Finally, the three tin coins. “May your spirit soar, free of earthly debts, to join the gods in perfect communion.” He shut his eyes. “I ask this, in the names of the Eleven and the one as yet Unknown.” The secret names of the gods came easily to his lips, sealing his prayer.

Kel began filling in the grave. A priest without faith was good for one thing at least. Maybe in time this would be enough…

How many deaths would it take for him to be satisfied with his fate? Kel saw the years stretch out ahead of him, a succession of empty graves to fill, until he was as numb inside as the dead were cold. The shovel slid from his grip.

The distant thunder of hooves was a relief. The North raiders back to finish the job. Kel looked over the waterlogged rice fields to the riders, distant but steadily growing closer, the cloudy sky flashing on their weapons.

Mechanically, he reached for the shovel. He searched within himself for fear but found only resignation. Had he known this was coming? Ever since news of the attack had reached the Farport temple, he’d felt a strange sense of dislocation, as if his shadow and breath already strained to leave his mortal body. Being struck down suddenly was no hard thing.

If it was sudden. Kel’s legs tensed. The godless North raiders took special delight in torturing priests. His death would not be quick, nor would it be final. No one would bury him.

Well, that’s just fine. Kel pushed his shoulders back, hefting the shovel. Grave dirt still clung to it, coating his grey cloak, now his funerary garment. He took a deep breath, beginning his recitation of the funeral rites again. There was one comfort at least. His existence could not possibly get any worse than this.

But as Kel raised his gaze to the rapidly approaching horsemen, he glimpsed gold on blue. His blood chilled. He licked numb lips, blinking, but there was no denying the burnished copper of their breast plates. The North raiders rode out draped in animal pelts. Armour meant soldiers. Blue and gold meant—

Kel’s chest pounded painfully. Sky’s soldiers—in this deserted village? He looked around, but there was nowhere to hide. The raider’s destruction had been thorough.

Do not be a fool. Kel drew a breath, forcing himself to hold it. That they were Sky’s soldiers meant nothing. Iscar was a general. Would Sky send his war-maker to protect a few peasants? Hands shaking, he pulled the grey hood of his tunic low to mask his face.

One of the riders outdistanced the others, dark hair streaming out behind him as he urged his rowan forward. The cloud danced on the tip of his raised spear.

Not long now. Kel gripped the shovel.

With a clatter of hooves, the horse stopped before Kel. The spearhead pressed against his chest. “What brings you to land raided by the Northmen? Do you have treaty with them?” Less than half Kel’s age, the soldier radiated a confidence Kel would never possess. “Speak!”

“I serve the Unknown God.” His voice trembled. “I bury the dead.”

The other soldiers reached them, horses and riders milling on the edge of Kel’s vision. He did not dare look. Sky’s servants were notoriously arrogant.

His interrogator narrowed his eyes. Hazel like Kel’s own, but lit with a fire Kel had long since lost. His features were regal, naturally warm skin toughened by years of service beneath the sun’s rays. “What proof can you offer?”

“Proof?” Kel gulped. “I have only myself.”

“Only an uncommonly brave man would spend time alone in the company of the dead or territory so recently visited by the North raiders.” This voice was older, but no less powerful. Every word revealed the iron will that formed them. “Or one with uncommon dedication to the gods. Respect the robe he wears, Sol.”

Iscar! Kel’s world spun. A thousand needles pierced his chest. Heat rushed to his face and then drained just as abruptly. He could not breathe.

His interrogator scowled, leaning his spear against his shoulder. “Uncommon is right. Something is strange about him.”

“Sol.” Iscar had never had to raise his voice to exert control. His subordinate bowed his head, urging the rowan onwards.

Kel stared at the dirt-stained edge of his robe. Implacable Death, claim me now! Take me to your kingdom of shadow where none might recognise me!

Over the thundering of the pulse in his head, Kel realised Iscar was speaking to him. “News can you give us?”

“None.” His voice wobbled. The humiliation to come made him sick. “The Northmen departed as suddenly as they came.”

“Leaving only death.” Iscar’s tone was grim.

Kel risked a glance. Iscar surveyed the surrounding land. His profile was unchanged, its new lines accentuating the mighty set of his jaw. His dark hair was cut short like that of all Sky’s soldiers, and any grey hairs were not immediately apparent. He moved as one yet in his prime, countenance alert and assured.

Sol snorted, his horse flicking its ears. “Little here to tempt a raiding party.”

“Indeed.” Iscar swung himself off his horse. Tossing the reins to a second soldier, he looked down at the grave without flinching. “These people do not have enough even for themselves.”

Was it possible—he hadn’t recognised him? Kel licked his lips, scarcely aware of what he said. “The harvest was poor. Rain rotted the root vegetables in the ground. If the Northmen hadn’t claimed these villagers, the winter may well have.” There had not been a day, a single day, in which he had not thought of Iscar. He could not have failed to know him. That he did not know Kel…

It was well. He dug his fingers into his skin, trying to regain command over himself. Better unrecognised than have his shame uncovered.

But to be forgotten… The pain was all-consuming. He’d not believed he still had the capacity to hurt so much. But then, no one had ever hurt him like Iscar.

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Meet the Author

Gillian St. Kevern is spending Christmas in her native New Zealand, where the seasonal festivities include pavlovas, walks on the beach, and a distinct lack of sweaters, seasonal or otherwise. She will almost certainly get sunburnt at some stage.

Gillian reads and writes a variety of genres. She’s a huge fan of paranormal with an emphasis on vampires. The third and fourth books in her vampire series, Thorns and Fangs, are due for release in January and February 2018. She also explores Welsh Mythology in the on-going Deep Magic series. In 2018, she plans to explore another beloved genre―vintage mysteries. She loves discovering new books and authors, so please get in touch if you have any good book recommendations to share!

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New Release Blitz ~ Breached by Sira Banks (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Breached by Sira Banks

General Release Date: 14th June2022

Word Count: 80,293
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 304

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

When a cop falls for a suspect in her latest case, she has to look into the abyss of her own desires.

Sharon Richards, a cop working for the NYPD, has to investigate a murder in one of the city’s BDSM clubs. A young woman was shot. No one heard a thing, no one saw a thing. A difficult case, complicated further by the instant attraction between her and the club’s owner, Simon Carter. Who is this man who’s not only attractive and intelligent but challenges her on every level?

It’s hard for Sharon to resist the temptation of this man, even harder not to give in to the urge to fulfill her curiosity. Why do people frequent a place like this? Can pain equal pleasure? She’s afraid to find out, yet unable to stop herself from falling deeper and deeper into a world where new desires threaten to destroy life as she knows it.

Will she solve this case and be able to protect her career as well as her heart?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of murder, past CSA and murder of a child, and the HIV diagnosis in a minor character.

Excerpt

Suppressing a sigh, Sharon Richards wondered why she hadn’t decided on a different job.

Murder was always a grisly affair, but some days it was harder to deal with than others. This time the location, more than the crime itself, had her on edge.

Surrounded by the sights and scents of death, she scanned the place where a young woman had lost her life only a couple of hours earlier.

The room was decorated in deep shades of red and black, advertising the fact that it wasn’t a common bedroom, but a place meant for seduction. Although she wasn’t sure that seduction had played a large role in the murder.

If it weren’t for the two spotlights brought in by crime scene technicians, the lighting would be dim, with only a small chandelier on the ceiling and a lamp on a bedside table. There was no daylight, the window hidden behind heavy burgundy drapes. She suppressed a snort. Of course there wasn’t. She couldn’t imagine the people coming here wanting any spectators. Although who knew, really?

Scanning the room’s contents, she tried not to let her uneasiness show. The last thing she needed was her colleagues thinking she was squeamish. Anders and Jones, the two crime scene technicians, were nice guys. She had worked well with them on previous occasions. Still, if she showed too much of a reaction, word would spread throughout the precinct at the speed of light.

Turning her back to them, she focused on the rest of the location instead of the people crowding it right now. Even though the space was bigger than her living room, there was scant furniture. Well, cabinets for the fine china and a coffee table with a vase of fresh flowers weren’t needed in a room like this. Not when its sole purpose was to help people find release. Release of a special kind.

Why? Why do it this way? She twisted a lock of her hair around a finger before she realized what she was doing. She crossed her arms over her chest and hoped Anders and Jones hadn’t seen her.

She couldn’t let her feelings get in the way of what really mattered—the victim.

Looking over at the victim for a moment, Sharon tried to ignore the pang of sorrow in her gut. She pried her eyes away.

The murder itself must’ve happened quickly, as everything inside this place seemed to be untouched, especially the four-poster bed. That didn’t show so much as a crinkle on the sheets. Sharon’s hands, sweating inside the cursed latex gloves, itched to touch the sheets to find out if they were indeed satin, as she believed. Ridiculous.

The bed was sturdy, with an upper panel but no curtains. There was no pillow, no extra sheet for warmth, nothing to indicate any measure of comfort. It was so damned impersonal, almost a caricature of what a bed should look like, in her opinion. At least the lush carpet underneath the bed—black again—looked comfortable.

Instead of giving in to impulse, she looked at a bench on one side of the room and the pair of rings attached to the wall behind it. Rings to shackle someone. Who would want to lose their freedom to another man or woman, to be helpless in front of somebody promising not to hurt them? Still, isn’t pain the main part of the experience? a tiny voice inside her mind piped up.

A selection of what Sharon assumed were toys was placed on a rudimentary wooden table next to the bench. She counted several paddles, a whip and some other things she couldn’t place quite as easily. Well, she could always ask. Yeah, right.

As she took a deep breath, the coppery smell of blood permeated the air so strongly that she fought the need to retch. The first and last time she’d thrown up had been when she and her partner had investigated the death of a prostitute, Cindy. The woman had been stabbed to death and left to bleed out beside a dumpster. The mixture of scents had been too much, and she’d only been able to take a few steps to the side before she’d thrown up.

Reining in her wayward thoughts, Sharon walked over to the victim, kneeling down in front of the body. So young, so beautiful and so untimely deceased.

Making sure she didn’t touch the corpse, she focused on the gaping wound caused by a bullet, tearing skin and ending a life within seconds.

The shot which had taken Marlene Davis’ life had left a barely discernible pattern of blood on the dark red wall. If it weren’t for the fetid air, the woman lying like a broken doll on the floor and her glassy eyes, nothing would’ve said this was a crime scene.

Sharon crouched down in front of the wall next, trying to see the crime, to understand what had happened. She looked closely at the blood spatter. It wasn’t hard to interpret. She’d seen patterns like this one often enough to know the shot had been delivered from close range. Most likely from a person Marlene had trusted.

She got up and walked a few steps around the body. It was easy to imagine how somebody had stood in the spot she was now, close to Marlene. Had Marlene and her murderer laughed, argued? One thing was clear—at some point the perpetrator had pulled the gun and fired it at the unsuspecting woman. The bullet entering Marlene’s chest had gone right through her body, spraying the wall behind her with her blood. It would’ve been a quick death, at least. The bullet was still stuck in the wall, waiting for the crime technicians to remove it. A small caliber, most likely a semi-automatic, if Sharon had to guess.

So they knew how it had happened, but had to answer the question of why next.

They could do it, and they would do it. While a crime like this always caused drama, suffering and pain for those left behind, in a twisted way, it was routine for Sharon. Eight years of working in homicide had dulled the edge of walking into a crime scene. There would always be a moment of pity, but she’d learned to be objective, to see the crime scene first and foremost. She had to detach the emotional part of herself, or her work would consume her.

Hell, it was the job. Her job. Every murder was a puzzle she was hell-bent on solving. She would solve this one. The only question was when.

She smiled, almost calm once more. Her work had led her to a lot of places throughout the last years, but in all her years in this city, she’d never been in one of the city’s BDSM clubs—not for work reasons and certainly not for private ones. There really was a first time for everything.

At the end of the day, this was just another workplace. A place where a murder had been committed. How ironic that the victim had been shot when so many weapons had been so readily available.

She walked over to the table and picked up one of the paddles. Pictures had already been taken, so she didn’t have to worry about mixing up anything. The paddle was heavier than she had expected. How much pain would it cause when it touched human skin?

At that moment, Sharon sensed him behind her again, and the fine hairs on her neck stood up.

He was watching her—she didn’t need to turn around to confirm it. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt such an instant disquiet in the presence of someone else.

There was only one thing for certain. When a main suspect was such a distraction, it was a sure sign of trouble. Putting the paddle down, she turned.

As she’d known, Simon Carter, the subject of her musings, was watching her process the scene, his dark eyes following her every movement. As the owner of this club, he had a vested interest in her investigation, yet she’d have preferred it if he had let her work in peace.

She couldn’t afford to let herself be perturbed. Trying to focus on the crime scene instead of the man, she hoped the effort wouldn’t prove futile.

Carter radiated charm and danger in equal measures. One look and she had understood he wasn’t someone to mess with. She shouldn’t find him attractive either, but she couldn’t ignore the way his deep blue shirt didn’t quite hide his muscles, how the dark pair of jeans fit his otherwise lean frame.

Carter’s eyes twinkled. Hell, he didn’t even try to hide his amusement. From the very first moment of meeting him, his knowing smirk had told her he knew about her discomfort.

In his business, Carter needed to know how to work people, how to charm or placate them. He wouldn’t charm her. She wouldn’t let him.

In contrast to her, he stood there calmly, as relaxed as anybody could be in the face of such a tragedy.

No, she didn’t like him, if only for the fact there had been a spark of interest the moment they had shaken hands. Not that she had to like him. She was here to investigate a murder, and he could be the killer. As the owner of this establishment, he was at least a main suspect.

Ignoring him for the moment, she concentrated on the medical examiner who’d entered the room and had just called out to her.

“Hey, Richards. I’d like to bag her now. If that’s okay with you.”

She returned his smile. He looked tired, and she wouldn’t be surprised if he’d had to pull a double shift again.

“Sure. When do you think you’ll have first results?”

“Whenever I’ll have them.” He raised a hand to forestall the complaint he knew would come. “I know you need answers and need them quickly, but there are two autopsies before this one. I’ll call you, okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Amaro.”

She stepped aside so he could do his work. She’d seen enough. Looking at the body for the last time, Sharon silently promised Marlene she’d find the one who had killed her.

She turned around again and faced the man still watching her. “Mr. Carter, I need to ask you some questions. Standard procedure. Do you have an office where we could talk?”

Sure, they could talk here, or she could let him come to her office for a formal interview, but truth be told, neither place held any appeal to her. She didn’t have time to waste.

“I do.”

He gave her a look that was longer than necessary, sending a shiver down her back for no good reason. As he passed her, his arm brushed against hers, and she bit down on her bottom lip. Damn, had it really been that long since she’d gotten laid?

It was either that or the man itself, a notion she didn’t like to entertain.

He led her to a different part of the house. Hearing someone scream—a man—she stopped, but Carter didn’t break his stride. Another scream—it lay on the tip of her tongue to speak out.

“No one’s getting hurt. Not in this club. Not in a way that’s unwanted. What you’re hearing is a vid someone forgot to turn off. We’re closed for today, after all.”

She hurried to keep up with him.

“Do you think Marlene Davis was of the same opinion? That no one gets hurt here unless they want it?”

“Marlene Davis is dead.”

“And there you’ve just made my point.”

“Whatever happens here is consensual.”

People meeting to inflict and enjoy pain. She shook her head, put her hands in the pockets of her blazer. It took all kinds. They reached the end of a long hallway and opened the last door on the right. He gestured for her to enter.

Again, Sharon was surprised. In contrast to what she’d seen of the rest of the house, this room was all about business. It wasn’t sumptuous. It didn’t scream sex. Dark, sleek furniture ruled its center. There was a desk sporting a phone, a laptop and other accessories to run a business. Along the wall were filing cabinets and a print of a city alleyway. It was a spartan room, one that echoed her own basic tastes.

Carter rounded the table and sat down, gesturing to the seat on the other side of the desk.

“Can I offer you something to drink? Water? Coffee? Something stronger?”

The smell of fresh coffee tempted her to accept his offer.

“This is not a social call, Mr. Carter.”

“Call me Simon.”

It was unsettling how his eyes rested on her. His gaze was piercing, focusing on her in a way that made her think he could see right through her.

“I don’t think so, Mr. Carter. And the sooner we start, the sooner we’ll be finished, and I’ll be out of your hair for the time being.”

“Interesting. You really don’t feel comfortable here.”

She took a deep breath to steady herself and made a point of holding his gaze. She’d been a cop for too many years to be easily intimidated, even if her poker face needed some work.

“Did I say that? And what I feel or don’t feel is not the point. Marlene Davis is. Was she a regular customer?”

“What unsettles you about this business?”

She didn’t snarl, but she came close to it. This man had missed his calling. He should’ve become a cop. They always needed more detectives with good intuition who knew how to corner someone in interview. Only this wasn’t his interview, and she didn’t like being cornered.

“Just answer the question, Mr. Carter.”

“Yes, she was what we call a regular customer. She didn’t visit on a regular basis, but she was here about a dozen times. I’d have to check our appointment book to be sure. We’re not the kind of club that you can just walk into.”

Appointment book? It made sense, but the thought of people scheduling sexual activities of this kind as they would a dinner date was hard to grasp. She’d been aware that there were people with rather specialized tastes. It didn’t mean she’d taken the time to think through the details.

Carter’s eyes still rested on her. Although she was proud to keep his gaze, it was as if he could still read her. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

“If you could check the dates and get them to me, it might help. Did she always prefer the same company?”

“You mean, did she have her own personal Dom?”

“Dom?”

“A Dominant. The male equivalent of a Dominatrix. Davis was masochistic. To answer your question, no, she didn’t meet with one of our employees. She only used our premises and scheduled her own appointments. At least for the last few times.”

At her questioning look, he elaborated. “Her first few times here, she had appointments with Marco. That’s why I know she was a sub.”

“Sub as in submissive?”

He nodded, a slight smile grazing his lips that was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

“But even so, you must’ve seen who she was with. Her…Dom. I saw the security camera at the entrance.”

“It doesn’t work that way. We have another door at the back of the house. Only someone already in the house can let you in through the second entrance. This door only works one way. It’s not covered by a security cam. Our clients value their privacy. Everything happening in the back of this house is private.”

He was one of those who had an answer to everything, wasn’t he? She held his gaze for a long time, remaining silent. It didn’t faze him. He didn’t so much as twitch. Nobody was that calm. They all had cracks in their armor. The only question was, what was his weakness?

“Doesn’t mean you can’t have a hidden security cam, or cams for that matter,” she finally spoke.

“If anyone gets wind of a secret cam, our credibility will suffer.”

“Having someone murdered on your premises won’t help business either.”

His lips curled upward in a slow smile. “Touché.”

“So do you have any kind of security cam covering this area?”

“No, we don’t. When I started the business, I didn’t plan on anybody being murdered here.”

“All right, let me get this straight. Davis booked a room and met with someone she let in herself.”

“Yes.”

“Did she come in through the front entrance or did she have someone let her in?”

“I already checked our cam. Yes, she came in through the front. You’ll get a copy of the data.”

“Thank you. But tell me, aren’t you worried that your customers could let in more than just their personal guests?”

“Are you asking if I’m worried our clients have big orgies or let in thieves?”

“Thieves, murderers, yes. If it were my property, I’d make sure I was protected. It’s one thing to ensure people’s privacy, but I’d also make sure it’s not my butt in the sling if things go south. I’d be the one in control.”

Another smile and her pulse sped up.

“Control can be a burden. One reason for places like this one. But this will only be a sanctuary if people can trust us. If they can’t, they won’t be able to let go.”

“They need a safe environment, knowing there’ll be no pictures of their naked glory in the paper next morning,” she mused. She had to admit it made sense.

“Yes. It doesn’t mean there aren’t safety measures. Each room has a panic button. If something’s happening that the client isn’t comfortable with, or if there’s an intruder, the client can summon help.”

“I didn’t see one in the room we found Davis in.”

“Under the bed. Davis knew that, and one of the crime scene techs dusted it for prints when I checked earlier.”

Sharon was annoyed she hadn’t spotted this herself. A slip like that was unacceptable. She ignored the thought. She could beat herself up over it later.

“Davis knew how to call for help,” Carter repeated.

It was a nice concept, in theory. But help was not in the cards for guests that found themselves literally tied up. She focused on Carter again and relayed the thought to him.

“Everyone tied up is in control of his Dom at all times. And if a Dom breaks the rules and actually hurts his sub, they’ll be banned for life and, depending on what happened, we’d file a report with the police.”

“Has that happened before?” She would check, and he had to know it.

“No, it hasn’t. But I wouldn’t hesitate a second.” His face got hard. “Safe and sane are the key words here. And if I find out who did this—”

He left the thought unfinished. So he didn’t like when something, someone, slipped by his control. His chink in the armor.

“Someone got around your security measures.” She shrugged. “There was a hole and he or she used it.”

“Only known guests, or guests cleared by them, are permitted outside the private rooms. We have bouncers to ensure no one wanders the premises.”

“You still trust your system?”

A smile made his lips curl. It was as enticing as it was dangerous. “Our business is all about trust.”

She shouldn’t take the bait. Although when had she ever done what she should do? “Trust? Didn’t Marlene trust your system too much? Someone used her, killed her.”

“No offense, Sharon. You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He shouldn’t use her first name, and it shouldn’t affect her that it had.

“It’s Detective, and I think I know enough. I know a woman got killed here, and it’s my job to find out who. You don’t have to like this investigation. Just know, I won’t rest until I have answers to my questions. Speaking of which—where were you for the last five hours?”

She hadn’t shaken him or his composure. If anything, his smile had become a bit more taunting. For a second, she contemplated how his lips would feel pressed against hers, then she snapped out of it. She hoped her face hadn’t shown her struggle. It was bad enough the thought had been there in the first place.

“I was right here. Before you ask, during that time I spoke to various employees, wrote emails, took calls and made some calls myself. In short, I worked. I suggest you check for yourself. But you’re smart enough to have figured it out on your own. I could have snuck out to meet Marlene. It wouldn’t have taken long to kill her, but I didn’t. Sorry to disappoint.”

“You sound pretty relaxed, Mr. Carter.”

He leaned back in his seat. “Well, that’s because I am. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sorry about Marlene, and I’m pissed that someone killed her. This shouldn’t have happened. I’d do anything to undo it, but I can’t.”

His eyes had narrowed, but then he took a deep breath, his smile back in place. “I might not be able to prove I didn’t kill Marlene, but you won’t be able to prove I did it, either. I’m innocent, at least when it comes to that.” His dark eyes sparkled with challenge. “It’s your task to find out who murdered her. I can only offer you my help. If you want it, that is.”

Something told Sharon they weren’t only talking about the case. She didn’t like it. Not one bit.

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About the Author

Sira Banks

Sira Banks is an European author who is utterly in love with reading and even more so with writing. Always daydreaming, she began writing short stories as a young adult as the characters occupying her mind didn’t stop poking her until their stories were told.

Participating in NaNoWriMo one year, she started her first novel, and after a lot of hair-pulling, too much coffee and chocolate, she finished it some time later. Finding out that writing longer stories is addictive, she’s not quite sure she could quit it now.

She likes strong female characters with flaws who are not afraid to tackle their problems head on and male characters who are actually willing to listen and communicate.

When she’s not writing, she works as desk jokey and manages her small family, consisting of a preteen daughter and a cat aspiring to become the world’s most efficient hunter.

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New Release Blitz ~ Greedy Boy by M.C. Roth (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Greedy Boy by M.C. Roth

General Release Date: 14th June2022

Word Count: 68,622
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 257

Genres:

BILLIONAIRE
BISEXUAL
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS

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Book Description


After kissing his boss, a client and his roommate all in one day, Simon finds that his love life is about to heat up.

Getting a beautiful man to look Simon’s way is usually the hard part, but that’s before he breaks his own set of rules—his ‘off-limits’ list that keeps him sane and stable. In a single day, he kisses his boss, a client and his not-so-straight roommate.

Maybe Simon is a greedy boy who sees the best in them, but he can’t help but want all three of them in his heart and his bed. Yet beauty can be deceiving. One man betrays him, leaving him with the devil and the devil’s worst enemy. Simon’s first priority is keeping them from killing each other, but when lives are threatened and the city turns against him, it may become an impossible task.

 

Excerpt

The building probably had more light switches than any other in the city, but with night pushing against its windows, it was nearly pitch black except for the tiny bleak emergency lights spotted along the stark walls. Within the compartmentalized offices, a few computer screens buzzed, with their colorful screensavers bouncing along with dizzying monotony.

Simon could switch the lights on as he crept through the building, but then someone might look up from the street below and wonder what was going on.

The office building emptied at six o’clock sharp every day. One by one the light switches were flicked off, so the entire building went dark as people filed out at the end of their shift. The neighboring condos were bound to contain a few curious souls who would call the cops at the first sign of something out of the ordinary.

Which was something he didn’t wanted to risk when he wasn’t supposed to be in the office in the first place.

There were only a few company rules that he’d discovered since he’d started working in the grand building a few years before. The strictest of them all was that he was never allowed to work late. His boss had called it a perk. He probably hadn’t thought to warn Simon that the deserted halls looked like the inside of a haunted house after dark.

Not that I haven’t broken enough rules today.

The biggest rule should have been that he wasn’t allowed to kiss his boss. It should have been printed in giant gold letters at the top of his orientation papers, which he’d signed for human resources on day one. There had been the salary information, the confidentiality agreement and the listed restrictions to keep employees from stealing clients and going rogue.

There had been nothing about kissing.

Maybe he should have tried harder to pay attention to the sexual harassment video they’d made him watch that had been thirty years out of date? The boredom had been so complete that he had almost passed out in the tiny plastic folding chair.

The kiss hadn’t been his fault!

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Choose Your Store
First For Romance

About the Author

M.C. Roth

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Find out more about M.C. Roth at her website.

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New Release Blitz: A Curse of Blood and Water by Laurence A. Clarke (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  A Curse of Blood and Water

Author: Laurence A. Clarke

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 94400

Genre: Historical Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Victorian Era, MM attraction, selkies, shifter, mystery, arcane arts, occultism, magic

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Description

James Marshall moved to Serenity Sound expecting a quiet and idyllic village, but that peace is quickly shattered by his discovery that something is stalking the streets of the sound. He is determined to get to the bottom of it, even if he must join forces with Mr. Garten, a handsome but secretive manservant.

James’s investigation draws him into a world of myths and magic—and entangles him in the lingering and deadly legacy of a mysterious tragedy.

Excerpt

A Curse of Blood and Water
Laurence A. Clarke© 2022
All Rights Reserved

I came to Serenity Sound in May because I’d been assured that the worst of the rains would be over by then, and the house well prepared for my arrival. Despite all this, we approached the town in a fine mist of rain. I felt constantly obliged to wipe the windowpanes clear of condensation with my sleeve until it was quite as damp as the out of doors.

Eventually, I tired of watching the woods go by, all the same lush and sodden greenery. I turned to my companion, a Mr. Robert Kleine, who had been the one to put everything in good order and had kindly come personally to fetch me to my new abode in his own carriage.

I was gregarious by nature and already missing conversation, but Mr. Kleine had so far sat stoically and silently across from me, head nodding in either drowsiness or contemplation, and I had been loath to interrupt. Now, however, sheer boredom drove me to do so, with a comment on the abundance of wildlife I had seen outside the misty window.

“To be sure,” Mr. Kleine agreed, opening his eyes and straightening a little. “It is to be expected. The sound is all woods on three sides, and sea on the last—but you are from the city, born and raised there, I presume?”

I acknowledged that this was so.

“Then no wonder,” he said amiably, his German accent coming through strongly with the w. “I suppose we get used to it here. You will also in time. Perhaps you will join the hunt this autumn? It brings many men from the city every year, all hoping to bag a fine buck. I myself seldom miss the season. Do you hunt?”

“I do not,” I admitted. “Though I might be convinced to try it.”

“Even so,” Mr. Kleine said, “I think you will find the atmosphere of the forest very refreshing after city living.”

“Peaceful?” I was thinking of the name of the place, wondering how apt it was.

“Yes, very. Mostly.”

I raised my brows, hoping to convey that I wished more clarification on that point, but Mr. Kleine chose instead to change the subject.

“Even if you find the forest not to your taste, we are not so isolated as one might presume. Dawson Island is out in the sound, and on sunny days people row over to picnic there. There is a village there now, around the old Manor. It is rather charming.”

“I had not known there was a manor house.”

“Well, it was originally but was not again until recently. It was turned into an asylum for a good while before the family bought it back. Of course, nobody wished to live there until the family took over again. But now there is quite the cheerful little place—The Rocks, they call it, or something like that, though I believe its proper name is simply that of the island.”

“I hope I shall get to see it during my stay! And what else might there be?”

“Well, there is another village, a few miles down the shore, called Lyreton, which has what some might consider healthful baths.” A slight sniff at the end of this sentence made clear exactly how healthful, in his opinion, these baths really were. “It’s popular with city folk, as well. They’re meant to be excellent for gout, although that might also be the exercise—one must walk a few miles to get there, unless they hire someone to carry them or take the coach.”

I had never been to a bath, or a spa, or an island, for that matter. A whole new world, it seemed, was suddenly opening before me. “Well, then, I haven’t got gout, but it might prove diverting.”

“Indeed? Well, there is also the convent nearby the sound. They make excellent sheep’s cheese, and beer.”

I glanced at the window and gave it a half-hearted swipe with my sleeve. “What is there for entertainment?” I inquired, turning back to my companion.

“Mostly we make our own,” Mr. Kleine said.

“No theatre, or music halls, or cafes?” I pressed, perhaps a little desperately.

“Music halls? Oh no, definitely not. The bigger houses often do dances however. There are also some good public houses. The Crab and Oyster, in particular, does up marvellous fish and chips.”

I sat back in my seat. Suddenly, the rain and trees around me seemed very oppressive. Still, I tried to keep good cheer. After all, the point was to “get away from it all,” to refresh my spirits. Long walks in the woods and along the shores to study the poetry of nature, quiet evenings of contemplation with my books—that sort of nonsense. It would also help to be well away from my dear family, who as of late had begun to drive me to distraction.

I thanked Mr. Kleine for this intelligence, and then we lapsed into silence again. By the time the carriage was rattling over the cobbles of the main street, Mr. Kleine was most decidedly asleep.

He awoke with a whooshing gasp as the carriage rocked to a stop. “Well, well,” he murmured, blinking. “Here already?” He leaned forward and pulled back the curtain, peering out through the rain. “Yes, here we are. How excited you must be!”

I nodded, suddenly aching with the desperate need to stretch my legs and, in my haste to stand at last, nearly tumbled out of the carriage when the door was opened. I walked slowly a little ways down the street to get the stiffness out of my limbs, looking up at the house alongside as I did.

It was a large house, tall and relatively narrow, separated from the rest by a gated garden and high hedges. On either side, other houses, smaller but similarly proportioned, pressed near each other, colourful shutters closed against the rain. I realized that the big house was at the apex of a small hill, giving it further distinction. You could tell it had been built by a man who had some money and wished everyone to know it. The accents were almost ostentatious, all elaborately carved frippery about the gables and gutters, in the shape of baroque-style curlicues and medieval foliage reminiscent of old family crests. Indeed, above the door there was such a coat of arms, though like the rest it had been painted black, likely either in respect for the dead master, or on account of embarrassment in hindsight. Against the black accents, the rest of the house looked very starkly white, all freshly repainted before my arrival. Even the door knocker, when I reached it, looked to have been well polished.

The door was opened for us by a maid, and I came in to find all the servants lined up in the hall before me. I doubt I could hide my consternation at having to suddenly address such a large assemblage, and it was to my eternal gratitude that Mr. Kleine took over for me. He introduced me as their new master, as the renter of the place and all its accoutrements, and specifically added that I was a dear friend of the absent heiress. I nodded at them and tried to look sufficiently stern. The servants at last made their bows and filed out to continue their work, and the housekeeper herself came to speak to me personally.

She introduced herself as Mrs. Morning. Mrs. Morning was a very tall lady, at least my height, which no doubt assisted her in imposing household law. From the perfect coif of dark hair beneath an immaculate cap, to the polished tips of her shoes, she was domestic order incarnate. I immediately professed my belief that all would be well in her hands, and that she was to continue to make decisions as she had been, which she seemed to find not only acceptable, but expected.

“We shall, of course, be consulting you regarding anything meriting your attention,” she said crisply. “I shall bring the budget to you tomorrow morning, if that time is agreeable to you, to see it approved and to discuss anything involving the house funds.”

I understood that she needed money—naturally, the staff continued to require income, and Miss Drummond had obligingly already approved the dispensation of such through our man Mr. Kleine. I agreed to this, and perhaps seeing that I was fatigued, she called a manservant to take me to my rooms.

In Mr. Kleine’s notes, which I had read prior to his arrival, I remembered seeing that this man, Mr. Garten, had been the late master’s personal aide. It was up to me, the notes had said, if I wished to retain his services as such. I wasn’t certain. He was polite and efficient, but his presence brought home to me the sudden and tragic death of the previous occupant of the very rooms to which he led me, and it seemed to cast a pall over the both of us. I very quickly thanked him for his attentions and sent him away.

The master bedroom was large and comfortable. The fire had been lit to ward off the rainy evening chill, and the floor was covered in soft, well-worn carpets. The bed seemed enormous, and I realized that despite the availability of a nearby lady’s chambers, it was built to comfortably hold two. I went to it and pulled back the heavy down comforter, revealing clean, tight sheets. I doubted very much that I would find somebody to share my bed here. In such a small town, it would be impossible unless I suddenly decided to marry. The idea of imposing on the servants for so base an activity was a notion that I quickly dismissed. I would simply have to live as did the nuns in the nearby convent Mr. Kleine had mentioned.

Resigned as I must be to celibacy, I nevertheless, with an attitude of defiance, took comfort in the lesser sin of self-pleasure. After the weariness of the long journey, it was all that was required to send me immediately to sleep.

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Meet the Author

Laurence A. Clarke is a stereotypical bi trans man living near Vancouver, Canada. He loves history, fantasy, and historical fantasy. This isn’t his first novel, but it is the first that he is allowing to see the light of day.Laurence A. Clarke is a stereotypical bi trans man living near Vancouver, Canada. He loves history, fantasy, and historical fantasy. This isn’t his first novel, but it is the first that he is allowing to see the light of day.

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Book Blitz: Witch Wolf by Alexa Piper (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Witch Wolf

Series: Elvenswood Tales 6

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: June 10, 2022

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 142 pages

Genre: Romance, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gay, Alternative Universe, Shapeshifters, Romantic Comedy

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Synopsis

Will is a witch wolf, a werewolf who can do magic, but his life so far has been anything but magical. He was sold by his own pack and for four years, Will suffered as a slave to his captors — who used him any way they wanted. Now, after a leap of courage has brought him to Colin’s doorstep, Will’s past should be just that, his past.

Colin can see the new apprentice he’s supposed to teach magic has been hurt. Colin wants to comfort the young werewolf who takes to magic much more easily than he takes to human contact. Their attraction seems mutual, but how can Colin be certain Will even knows what he wants?

As slow affection grows between Colin and Will, Will’s magic does as well, and he allows himself a sliver of happiness. Except the dark past Will thought he escaped from is not quite done with him, and now, it’s not just Will’s life on the line, but also Colin’s, the witch Will’s heart is beating for.

WARNING: Witch Wolf contains references to past sexual assault (with none of it happening on the page), which may be triggering for some readers.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper

Will

Once upon a time, Will had sent wishes to the full moon with his howls, but what had come true for him were the slick slaps of skin against skin, stinking breath against his face, the taste of his own blood and other, unspeakable things. Will, instead of meeting a prince under the full moon, had been sold to beasts.

Will carefully turned away from the large form next to him in the bed. Everything seemed so loud in the darkness, the other man’s deep breathing, Will’s own, panicked heartbeat which had not slowed while he had waited for the small hours of the morning, refusing sleep. Will moved, inch by inch, away from the other man. Will refused to think what the other man — Ed — would do if he found Will sneaking out. What Ed had done was already more than Will wanted to think about.

Will had considered packing a small bag, but that would have been too dangerous. All he had dared was leave clothes under the bed, in such a way it looked incidental, forgotten laundry.

The floor was cold against Will’s naked feet. Carefully, he stood. He could say he’d just wanted to go to the bathroom if Ed woke now, but Ed was still sleeping, and so Will got his clothes, slowly pulling them up and onto his arms. He could not make too much noise. He had to get this right.

Will didn’t dare put the clothes on in the bedroom — loup-garou hearing was sensitive. He walked through the dark house and to the kitchen, grabbing his shoes on the way. There were shards of a glass on the floor. Ed had thrown it in fury when Will had been too slow in getting Ed his beer. Will walked around the broken thing and quickly cleaned himself with a wipe. He gave one last look to the dirty dishes in the sink, then pulled on his clothes, more concerned with doing it as quietly as he could than about doing it neatly.

Before he turned the knob, he listened to the house, but it was quiet. Ed was still sleeping, and so was his pack of three, all of them loup-garous, all of them vicious. They might still hear the door, but if Will was ever going to run, then this was it.

He opened the door and crossed the threshold. Now, if they found him, they would know without a doubt that he had tried to run, and they would punish him.

Will closed the door as carefully as he could, but the mechanism made a small sound. Behind the house, the alley was dirty. Trash bags rustled in the wind, soda cans rusted and collected dirt. Will had to watch where he stepped so he didn’t make any more noise. His heart was thundering in his chest.

Out on the street, Will quickly broke into a run. He knew he had to put as much distance between himself and them, because they could shift and just hunt him down, and he couldn’t without the moon being full.

Winchester Boulevard, on foot, was quite a walk. It took Will an hour, and he ran most of the time, so when he finally got there, he was sweaty from running and trembling with the cold whenever he slowed down to catch his breath. The house he wanted had a large planter by the front door with a red and white plastic windmill in it. Ella had said the windmill would be there. It was such a silly thing, and there wasn’t even any wind to move its spokes, but Will nearly broke out in sobs with relief.

Will was scared to knock, but at this point, it was this or wait for Ed and his pack to hunt him down. And Will knew they wouldn’t just kill him. If it had been that — if he’d known that would have been the worst he’d have to fear — he might have given up at any point over the past four years, might have just accepted death. Everything else the loup-garous would enjoy doing to him — that was what Will feared.

He was huffing when he stood in front of the door, but he didn’t hesitate to knock.

Will looked over his shoulder as he waited to be let in. This neighborhood was one of the nicer ones for New Elvenswood. The whole city tended to be largely clean and touristy, even if Will had never been allowed to see all that much of the place. The dilapidated house Ed and his pack had rented was the exception more than the rule as far as Will could tell.

Across the street, there was a light on in an upstairs room. Will imagined whoever was up was awake at this hour because of their own choosing. He imagined they were working late or maybe just reading. Just living their life. Will hadn’t lived in such a long time. All he’d been doing since he’d met Ed had been surviving.

The door opened, and Will flinched.

“Yes?” the vampire asked.

Will had known it would be a vampire, but still. This one, his sheer presence absolutely spoke to Will’s wolf nature, and the vampire’s demeanor made Will want to show his belly and submit. He was stunning to behold too, but in a sharp way: almost white-blond hair, icy eyes that had a hard darkness to them, a thin mouth set in a pale face.

With a last shallow breath, Will forced the words he’d prepared in his head out of his mouth. “Ella said you can help people in trouble. I… there’s a pack of loup-garous, and I need to get away from them. I can’t pay you, but I’ll do what you want. I’ll work for you.”

Will’s voice nearly gave out on the last part, because he started shaking violently. It occurred to Will that the vampire looked like a Viking, and his cold eyes were growing only more glacial in their regard. Will doubted the man had laughed for more than a minute in the last hundred years. And he wore nice clothes, really nice clothes. Will knew the vampire was a lawyer, but he felt silly now for asking for help. He expected the vampire to tell him to go and fuck off, just with nicer words.

“Come inside,” the vampire said instead and opened the door wider.

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Meet the Author

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter or TikTok, and subscribe to her newsletter!

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