New Release Blitz ~ Bound by Fear by Jayce Carter (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Bound by Fear by Jayce Carter

Book 1 in the Dark Sanctuary series

Word Count: 67,969
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 256

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
REVERSE HAREM

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Book Description

One night of submission to prove she doesn’t crave it, and three sexy Dominants eager to call her bluff.

Sunny has come a long way in the years since escaping the abusive Dom who made her life hell. Still, when Sunny can’t shake a frighteningly strong need inside her, she decides one night at a local BDSM club, Sanctuary, will prove she doesn’t want that in her life anymore.

Instead, she meets three masked men there who give her pleasure she couldn’t have imagined and twist everything she thought she knew about BDSM. Rather than the proof she thought she’d get, that the lifestyle wasn’t for her, Sunny is further drawn to what had nearly destroyed her before.

When fears that her ex-Dom could be after her again occur, Sunny and the men are forced to confront the dangers of her past and the scars it left behind. Can Sunny risk everything for the men she’s fallen for, or will she let her fears rob them all of a future?

Reader advisory: This book includes scenes of violence to people and a dog and mentions of an abusive relationship. There is a scene involving attempted kidnapping and attempted murder. 

Excerpt

“You don’t look like you belong here, little fox.” The man who spoke—tall, lean and dressed like a devil—was the epitome of everything Sunny had feared she’d find inside the BDSM sex club called Sanctuary.

Her breath sped, and her chest tightened as the large room shrank to nothing.

This is a horrible mistake. What was I thinking?

“Do you want to come sit with me and talk?” Devil-man asked, his lips curling into a smile below the line of his black mask. It wasn’t a vicious smile, at least on the surface, but it sure felt sinister.

The desire to say no perched on her tongue, but she couldn’t make it come out. She’d learned that saying no was dangerous, that it never got her what she wanted. The lesson was one that had stuck with her no matter what.

So, instead, she darted her gaze toward the crowd of people and pretended to spot someone she knew, waving in that direction.

The man stayed in his spot, letting her go, and she made a quick path for the bathroom. Once safely inside—the one place where no man would try to talk her into anything—she set her hands on the white porcelain sink and stared into the mirror.

Maybe a fox had been a stupid costume. She’d tried on a few different ones that radiated strength, but they had felt like a lie. Sunny was as soft as they came, so when she’d tried on the little white sundress, along with the fox mask that obscured her eyes, and some drawn-on whiskers, she’d known it was more her. Foxes were smaller than other predators, but quick and clever. She connected with that, understood it. At least, it had made sense until she’d walked into a club full of lions and tigers and dragons.

Suddenly, her fox didn’t seem so clever.

One night. Prove that you don’t want this anymore.

She nodded and straightened herself, pulling her shoulders back. She was here for a reason. She’d go out there, find someone to play with, and by the end of the evening, she’d know that she was done with all this nonsense. She could wake up tomorrow sure of herself, able to put this behind her. The plan helped her move forward.

The door to the bathroom opened as a woman in lingerie and a cat mask walked in, the music from outside deep and rhythmic. Her hair was blonde and beyond stunning, so pale it was nearly white. Even from behind the half-mask, her almost gray eyes shone brightly.

The woman approached, a smile across her pink lips, the color smeared as though she’d been kissing someone just before. “It’s so much fun tonight, right?”

Sunny nodded despite not feeling quite so sure. “Yeah.”

The woman glanced down at Sunny’s wrist, at the cuff the receptionist at the door had placed there with a white ribbon. “Oh, you’re new? Is this your first time?”

First? Try only. Instead of saying that, Sunny tried to smile. “Yes.”

The woman stuck her hand out. “My name is Kat.” She winced as soon as she said it. “I know—it’s a masquerade party—it’s supposed to be all anonymous. You don’t have to give your name. I’m just not good at the whole secrecy thing. And yes, I know, Kat—cat costume—cliché, but why not, right?”

Sunny had trouble understanding Kat. She’d figured the sort of people in a place like this would terrify her. The men would be scowling brutes, lumbering around just looking for a victim, and the women quiet, frightened little things who cowered at everything. That’s what I was…

Kat wasn’t anything like that.

Sunny shook the offered hand, unsure how to answer, other than the fact that she wouldn’t be giving her name. That would negate the entire point of her coming here on this night. Sunny needed to do what she’d come to do then leave—no ties threatening to trap her.

Kat chuckled, as if she could read the nerves that poured off Sunny. “Afraid of the big bad Doms? Come on—you can hang out with me. Safety in numbers, you know.”

Sunny wanted to say no—it felt too much like putting herself into a life she was trying desperately to get out of. Still, having a partner next to her did feel better.

“That would be nice,” Sunny admitted softly.

Kat asked her to wait a moment so she could use the restroom, then washed her hands before tucking her arm through the crook of Sunny’s. It was an oddly safe feeling, as though Sunny had found a guide to this absolutely terrifying place. Sure, Kat wasn’t all that intimidating, but at least Sunny wasn’t alone.

They walked out, with Kat holding securely to Sunny’s arm. “I love the last Saturday of the month. Something about dressing up makes everything more fun, plus it’s the day we let the new folks come. It gets boring with the same old folk every weekend, and new blood is always good.”

It also let Sunny move around the club with a sense of privacy, without feeling everyone was looking at her, could see her.

Sunny’s gaze couldn’t settle on any one thing. The bodies that moved on the dance floor, the groupings of people, the colors and costumes and activity, all fought for her attention.

And it all overwhelmed her. Sunny’s world was quiet, calm. She’d worked hard to create a haven away from the craziness of everyday life.

So what was she doing here?

She turned her attention back to Kat, to the cuff around her wrist—identical to Sunny’s except for the fact that it had a myriad of ribbons on it. Red, teal, green and yellow striped—they meant nothing to Sunny. She vaguely recalled the receptionist explaining it to her as she’d signed in, but Sunny hadn’t heard any of it. Her anxiety had been far louder than rules or color coding.

“What do the ribbons mean?” Sunny asked, trying to find something to fill the silence with.

Kat held up her wrist to show the leather cuff with the colored ties. “For members, we use these to identify what people are looking for and what limits they have. We still ask of course, just to make sure, but these make it obvious right from the start. If someone hates something you love, you know it may be a bad fit before even trying. Nothing worse than a hardcore masochist falling for a Soft Dom who doesn’t like to even raise their voice. Makes everyone unhappy when people don’t click.”

Sunny frowned when the explanation didn’t make any sense to her.

Doms never care what their subs want.

However, she kept that to herself. People saw what they wanted, and Kat seemed the type to let romantic notions blind her to the truth. No doubt she’d say the Doms here were different, that they were somehow exempt from the reality Sunny had experienced before. There wasn’t any reason to argue over it, so Sunny let the topic drop.

They went to one of the tables set out with coffee and snacks, and Kat filled a small plate with items for them both. “I love your costume. You sure do fit in with the whole primal and prey thing.”

And that made the damn panic creep up again. She hadn’t thought of the fox as prey. It was a predatory creature, just smaller than some of the others. It seemed others saw it differently.

Kat looked past the table and locked eyes with a man across the room, one who wore a black mask with horns and a smirk. He crooked his finger to call her over. She let out a sigh full of want. “I’ll be right back…” She pulled away before Sunny could answer, leaving Sunny with the plate of food and no backup.

A pit started in Sunny’s stomach at the way Kat had followed the demand, at the memory of how many times Sunny had done the same thing, when she’d dropped everything she’d wanted and done as she’d been told. She remembered a crooked finger, a silent demand that came a split second before anger, before violence.

It sickened her, threatened to drag her under so many worse memories.

“There you are, little fox.” The devil-man from earlier came up from behind Sunny, his voice already tattooed on her brain.

She jumped, those overactive nerves of hers taking over, struggling to separate him from her past.

He’s just a person. You’re fine.

Right, because telling herself that made it reality… Saying it didn’t make her safe, didn’t do anything.

Still, she turned toward him, her shoulders hunched forward in on herself to make herself smaller. “Hello.”

This is why you came. Don’t chicken out now. Just one night.

He smiled, but she couldn’t shake the way her brain screamed danger at her. Whether he was actually dangerous or not didn’t really matter. Her body had decided, and it wasn’t listening to her. It went off history, off what she knew to be true—men, especially dominant men, couldn’t be trusted.

“Why don’t you come on over to the couch there? We can have a talk, get to know each other. I’ve been watching you since you came in, and you look amazing.”

Sunny tried to swallow down her fears, her doubts, but they stuck in her throat. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, unable to shake all the ‘hell no’ swirling in her head. No matter how many times she reminded herself that she was here for this, she couldn’t get herself to agree, to even want to agree.

He wrapped his fingers around her wrist, the one with the cuff, and tugged gently. “Come on, little sub, I don’t bite too hard—at least not unless you beg.”

Sickness churned in her stomach, the room becoming stifling, the air thinning.

He didn’t yank, didn’t tighten his fingers to the point of pain, didn’t show any sort of violence or anger, yet she couldn’t catch her breath. She couldn’t stop herself from seeing him as the devil he had dressed as.

She followed, her body frozen and unable to fight back, to just yank and tell him no. What the hell was wrong with her?

Fear. It was what was always wrong with her, that beast she couldn’t kill no matter what she did. Even when she thought she had it under control, it always reared its ugly, unwelcome head and turned her into this.

“I saw you the second you walked in,” devil-man said. “You look like prey, and I am a man who likes to chase.”

“I’m a man, Sunshine, and I have needs.” The voice that haunted her dreams came back to her. It ran in her head as clear as if the monster from her past stood there right then, and the room blurred.

Just when she was sure she’d pass out, that she’d fall to the floor there in front of everyone, a large hand grasped devil-man’s shoulder.

It wasn’t violent, but it was a clear message of stop. “Hold up there, Jordan.”

Devil-man—Jordan?—paused and turned toward the man who’d spoken, someone who made Sunny want to pull even farther back. This new man was tall, his body lean but strong. He wore a silver mask that covered his eyes, and his lips were pressed into a tight, unhappy line.

She did not want that sort of displeasure directed her way.

In fact, right then, going off with Jordan sounded like one hell of a good idea. His lean build would do far less damage than what this new man could dish out. It was like being faced with two monsters and picking the one with the smaller teeth.

“Yeah?” Jordan asked, his tone confused but not upset.

“Does she look like she wants to go with you?”

Jordan tipped his lips down, then took another slow look at Sunny, his expression lacking anger. “She didn’t say no.”

“Sure she did, just not with her lips. Come on now, take a better look at her.”

Jordan peered down—as if just noticing the way Sunny were as far back as her arm would allow, how she leaned away and not toward him—and released her instantly. “I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice softening and losing the sharpness it had before. It seemed he’d slipped from his Dom role. “Without the eyes, I have some trouble reading cues, I guess.”

Silver released Jordan. “We’ll talk about it later.”

“Of course.” Jordan looked at Sunny, somehow managing to have shrunk from the devil-man he’d been to a regular person, deflating before her eyes. “I’m really sorry, Miss. Can I get you something? A drink?”

Sunny shook her head, afraid her voice wouldn’t work if she said anything. Even though he wasn’t the monster he’d been moments before, her body had already thrown itself headfirst into panic.

“Why don’t you go grab her something warm and sweet, Jordan, as an apology,” the new man said.

Jordan nodded and rushed off, leaving Sunny there with only the man in the mask, the one who made Jordan look more like a cub. “Hey there, fox. Breathing helps, you know?”

The words struck Sunny as entirely asinine, until she realized…she wasn’t breathing. She gasped in a breath, and right away her head cleared some. Just how long was I holding it?

“Better,” the man said, then gestured toward a couch near the back, but one in view of the rest of the room. “You want to sit down before you fall down?”

I never should have come. She never should have tried to prove she was better, or that she didn’t need this. Why couldn’t she have stayed in the nice, safe little rut she’d spent years creating?

“I should go,” Sunny said, her voice so soft that she doubted he could hear her over the music.

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About the Author

Jayce Carter

Jayce Carter lives in Southern California with her husband and two spawns. She originally wanted to take over the world but realized that would require wearing pants. This led her to choosing writing, a completely pants-free occupation. She has a fear of heights yet rock climbs for fun and enjoys making up excuses for not going out and socializing. You can learn more about her at her website.

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New Release Blitz ~ No Easy Catch by Jaqueline Snowe (Excerpt & Giveaway)

No Easy Catch by Jaqueline Snowe

Book 4 in the Cleat Chasers series

Word Count: 81,189
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 308

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
ENEMIES TO LOVERS
EROTIC ROMANCE
SPORTS

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Book Description

A jock and a party girl teaming up—makes total sense, right? Actually, maybe…

Ambar Henderson is a senior communications major who has no idea what she wants to do in life. She spends most of her time working on her blog after gaining a lot of readers with a story she wrote junior year and…never followed up on. The last thing she expects is an angry jock accusing her of involvement in a scam that could shake the college to its foundations.

Jeff Maddow should be focused on his senior season of baseball and not the suspicious activity happening on the team. It’s his time to shine and get drafted, but after seeing incriminating evidence, he can’t not investigate. And his first lead is the campus blogger…who’s related to a name in the document he saw.

Ambar’s been coasting, writing about campus fashion and hook-ups rather than politics and economics, but when Jeff shows up at her place spouting wild accusations, she agrees to help him just to prove the stubborn athlete wrong.

Long nights, impassioned arguments, close quarters…both Jeff and Ambar find opposites more than attract when things heat up.

Publisher’s note: This book was previously released by Finch Books.

Excerpt

Convincing the hostess to let me into the second semester sports fundraiser was easier than it should’ve been. With one little promise of featuring her on my blog and bam, the young girl ushered me into the ballroom where the school’s biggest and best athletes mingled with coaches, alumni and the press.

Ah, the things people do for attention.

I tapped my pen against my lip while I took in the surroundings. It wasn’t black tie, but it was fancier than a casual get-together and I sent a prayer of thanks to my roommate who’d convinced me to wear a sleek black dress. It was a little tight and I kept running my hand down to the side to make sure my love-handles weren’t bulging out. My coordination was abysmal and I tripped over my own two feet sometimes, but at least I didn’t stand out—which was the goal.

I needed a new story to boost views on my blog or I would be shit outta luck. No views meant no affiliates, which equaled less money, and with my less-than-stellar first two years at school, I had no internships or job opportunities waiting for me at the end of the semester. The real world was knocking with graduation looming and I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to or could actually do.

But, I did have a clue about what the student body loved to gossip about more than any other topic—the latest on the hot jocks. Girls, guys, scholarships and walk-ons. Readers loved hearing about the latest flings or scandals and this fundraiser was hot-jock central.

“Ambar Henderson?” A familiar voice caught my attention and I glanced at my left to see Peyton Gentry smiling at me. “What are you here for? Sneak in for the free booze?”

“Ha ha.” I plastered on a fake smile despite the flash of hurt. Peyton and I had become friends freshman year—right in the smack of my party days—and he always brought it up no matter how much I had changed since then. “I’m here for a story, not the booze.”

“Right.” He smirked and lowered his voice. “Is it a juicy one?” He slung an arm over my shoulder in a quick hug and, while I didn’t dislike Peyton, I was glad when he removed his arm. “Heard there’s something weird going on with the volleyball team with one of their new freshmen.”

“Yeah?” I waited for him to respond, but his attention drifted elsewhere and he gave me a weak wave before heading off. “Great to see you too, Peyton,” I mumbled to myself. He was an average player on the soccer team but always managed to make himself seem bigger, better, more handsome. I snorted to myself at the headlines I would love to write someday.

Athletes and their egos—size does really matter

The bigger and not better—egos exposed

I took a deep breath, gathered as much courage as I could and walked about the event searching for anything that could be of interest. There were a couple of girls I recognized from the volleyball team, but they seemed normal, laid-back even. Each table had a large tented sign with the sport listed and it amazed me to see how much attention was given to athletes at our Division I school. Were there events like this for scholars? For those who made the Dean’s List year after year? Doubtful.

Schools spend money on sports, not smarts

Yeah, that headline wouldn’t sell shit. I derailed those thoughts and tried to ignore the tinge of jealousy weaving its way through my body. All these athletes had futures after college. They had tutors, scholarships, teams that supported them and, as someone who came from the opposite end of the spectrum, it was easy to envy them.

A loud cackle exploded near the front where the baseball players sat talking to what I assumed to be the coaches. They wore polos with the school logo, were significantly older than them and had the whole coaching vibe with the hard face and knowing eyes. Zade Willows, Tanner Johnson and Aaron Hill all wore suits and smiles and a part of my stomach fluttered. They were so handsome and such decent human beings I wished I could’ve written a million stories on them. Their faces alone would get readers. But I’d already done a story on Aaron and his girlfriend, so that well was dry. Plus, they were my friends and I refused to cross that boundary.

Moving on to another sport, I weaved through tables, trying to listen to conversations for something to spark motivation. Fifteen minutes passed without any luck and the familiar sensation of failure washed over me. How can I pass my senior classes when I can’t even write a stupid blog post without getting writer’s block?

God, I wish I could drink.

It wouldn’t hurt anyone if I snuck one bottled water and I blended in with the crowd as I approached the refreshment table. That was the good thing about being average-looking. No one really noticed me like they did my beautiful and tall roommates. I undid the cap and took a huge gulp when I felt someone staring at me.

Water spilled down my mouth and onto my dress when I found cold, unamused gray eyes narrowing at me. Jeff Maddow. He defined my perfect male specimen with his honey-brown hair styled just enough to be cool, his massive broad shoulders that went well with his defined pecs—perfectly showcased in the dark-gray dress shirt plastered across his chest. Good lord.

Shit, did he say something?

Did I?

His light gray eyes were framed by perfectly dark eyelashes and, God damn, those cheekbones were enough to make me forget my own name. He blinked and tilted his head to the side with impatience as he approached me. “Ambar Henderson, how the hell did you get into this event? You are neither an athlete nor a sponsor.”

“I have my ways.” I jutted out my chin and ignored the sweat pooling down my back.

“Did you sneak in? No, wait, let me guess. You bribed someone.” He smiled like it was a joke, but his tone made it clear he was not happy. “I should call security.”

“Really, Jeff? Come on.” I hated how my fingers shook when I ran them through my hair, trying to act nonchalant. “I didn’t bribe anyone.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you.” He brought up a glass of champagne to his mouth and held my gaze as he took a sip. It was annoying to be attracted to someone who thought so little of me, but, alas, that was life.

“What do you care if I’m here? I’m not bothering you or anyone for that matter.”

“False.” He finished the glass and took a step closer to me. For one stupid second, I wondered what it would be like to feel his full lips against mine, but the look on his face sobered that thought. “You are a known campus blogger who finds out information about people to get views. You’re no better than a tabloid magazine for a college. Athletes have enough to worry about with how hard we have to work. They should feel safe here, celebrating and networking, not worrying about being featured on a girl’s pathetic blog to get attention.”

“You know that’s not what I do, Jeff,” I defended myself but my voice lost its gusto. “I’m here for ideas…more like motivation. Nothing more.”

“Right.” He shook his head and tensed his jaw as he scanned the room. “Motivation to find out who’s sleeping with who? Who has a better batting average when they’re in a relationship versus being single?”

I gritted my teeth and willed my skin to not turn red. My cheeks burned when I attempted to defend my reasoning for writing those blogs. “It was for entertainment, Jeff. Plus, the stats didn’t lie.”

He gave me a look like many of my professors had. Disappointment. “Do you ever think about writing something credible or for a good cause?”

“The story about Hilly and Greta was—”

“Fine, sure.” He waved a hand in dismissal and gave me a look that made me feel even smaller than my just-over-five-feet frame. “But you could actually spend time writing stories that matter. Not dumbass pieces that exploit athletes and encourage cleat chasers to come after us.” He pressed his lips together and let out an aggravated sigh. “Stay away from my team, Ambar.”

Then he stalked away to the front of the room, his stiff shoulders telling me everything I needed to know. He wasn’t a fan of what I did or who I was. It wasn’t news, but his words hit one of my deepest insecurities. What am I even doing with my blog? My life?

God damn it. Find a story! I finished the water and tossed the bottle into a trash can when a familiar deep, masculine laugh caught my attention. That’s my Uncle Martin. My mood lifted instantly and I headed toward him. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and had his hand on a shoulder of a middle-aged man I didn’t recognize. He finished telling a joke—a specialty of my favorite family member—before he noticed me and ushered me over. “Ambar Henderson.”

“Martin Rhett,” I replied, mirroring his hugging stance and smiling into his chest when he wrapped me in a bear hug like he had since I was a child. “I don’t even know why you’re here, but I’m so glad.”

“Business partners in the community. We love supporting athletes!” He kept his arm around me and introduced me to the gentlemen around us. “This is my favorite niece, fellas. She’s a senior this year and is a hell of a writer.”

Various hellos and greetings echoed around me and I relished my uncle’s words. A hell of a writer. He never made me feel stupid or unremarkable. He’d encouraged me my entire life and seeing him at the event gave me the necessary boost of confidence.

“Nice to meet you all,” I said, looking all five of them in the eye and shaking their hands. There was a brief moment where I faced the direction of the baseball table and met Jeff’s gaze, but I forced myself to not stare or think about why he was watching me. “Anyone have a good story for me? I’m looking for a topic on my senior project and could use some ideas.”

“Ah, my girl is always working.” Uncle Martin laughed and led me away from the group with a smile that had taken years to practice. Once we were out of earshot, he changed his expression. “How did you get into the event, Ambar? I thought this was for athletes only.”

“See, the thing is… I was on my way out.” I gave him a cheesy smile. “Lunch next time you’re in town?”

“Of course.” He pulled me into another hug. “Stay out of trouble, okay? You have four more months of college and I don’t want anything more to happen. You know?”

Like my little drug and drinking binge freshman year?

Or my academic probation?

“I know, I know.” I frowned and felt every ounce of shame in my bones. “I’ll head out. I really did come for ideas. Nothing more.”

“I believe you. Now go through the side door. I’ll cover for you.” He indicated the large black double-doors and winked. “While I can’t condone you sneaking into an event, it does bring me joy to know you do have a little Rhett in your blood.”

“See you later, Uncle.” I smiled and snuck one more glance around the ballroom before leaving. It didn’t mean anything when Jeff continued to stare at me with an unreadable expression on his face. If anything, he should’ve been happy I was leaving his precious party. Ugh.

New headline.

Jeff Maddow should pull the stick out of his own ass to get a better batting average.

Buy Links

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First For Romance

About the Author

Jaqueline Snowe

Jaqueline Snowe lives in Arizona where the ‘dry heat’ really isn’t that bad. She enjoys making lists with colorful Post-it notes and sipping coffee all day. She has been a custodian, a waitress, a landscaper, a coach and a teacher. Her life revolves around binge-watching Netflix, her two dogs who don’t realize they aren’t humans and her wonderful baseball-loving husband.

You can take a look at Jaqueline’s Website and Blog and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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New Release Blitz ~ Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Loving Summer Rain by Megan Slayer

Book 1 in the Love Me Do series

Word Count: 40,091
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages:  163

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

A match made in heaven? More like a match made in Norville and made to last.

Arthur Burton wants a lover and partner, but no man seems to want to be with the local insurance agent. He’s not the bland two-dimensional man on the billboards, but he hasn’t been given the chance to show his colors.

Summer Rain Davis embodies the bohemian lifestyle. He loves his arts and crafts. He’s always had a thing for the buttoned-up professional types and when he’s set up with Arthur, sparks fly.

Love is possible in a small town if Arthur and Summer Rain are willing to give their romance a try.

Can these two men, seemingly total opposites, find common ground and love to last a lifetime? Or will their differences keep them apart?

Reader advisory: This book includes mentions of non-nurturing parenting, mentions of suicide of a family member, and expressions of homophobia.

Excerpt

Arthur Burton stepped away from the printer and up to his computer. He’d been told using the standing desk was better for his figure. Standing all day wasn’t fun and by the end of his shift, all he wanted to do was sit down. Oh well. All in a day’s work, right? He’d completed his workout before he’d arrived at the office, so at least he’d burned off calories.

He stared at the notification on his computer. One new review. Despite his better judgment to delete the notification, he looked. He prided himself on doing good business and being the best insurance salesman in Norville. He groaned. This review wasn’t positive. The wording was downright negative and mean. He cringed—he wanted to do right for people who came to his office.

A dull throb started behind his eyes. He sold insurance for a living, which made him the butt of jokes in the dating world. For some reason, guys didn’t see him as a sexy man. They saw him as trying to sell them something. He might have been a personable man, but he was lonely. He’d dated a few times and thought he’d found love in college, but no. Kevin wasn’t in it for the long-term. Kevin wanted to play around and hadn’t loved Arthur in return. He’d also said Arthur should go by his middle name, Lee. Why? He liked his first name.

He’d been told he was too sensitive. He cared too much about what others said and having the correct appearance. The business was his livelihood. If he didn’t keep it going and thriving, then he’d lose everything he’d worked for.

“Boss.” Kathy, his secretary and one of his few friends, rested her knuckles on his desk. “Wow. Okay. First, you need to close that tab. You’re not going to please everyone. Second, I remember the person who wrote that review.”

“She claims I didn’t pay attention to her. I didn’t correctly create her quote.” He rubbed his forehead. “I think I remember her, too. It was for a truck she wanted covered that she owed money on. She wanted minimum coverage and we can’t offer that if she has a loan on it.”

“Right.” She closed the tab on his computer. “She’s upset over something we can’t change.”

“Maybe.” One bad review wouldn’t kill his business, but he didn’t want any negativity like this. He strove to fix all problems and make them right. He couldn’t fix this. He sighed. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I need to let this go.” He needed to remember not everyone would be happy.

“I know you try to make everyone happy and most of the time, it works. You’re a good man and you work hard, but some people can’t be placated. Besides, you’re going to give yourself an ulcer.” She leaned forward and stared at him. “You also seem to have forgotten you’ve got an appointment at Dye Hard Style in half an hour.”

“I do?” She was right—he didn’t remember the appointment. “In thirty minutes?”

“Yes.” She stood tall. “And it sounds like you need to have a chat with James.”

“Why?” Normally, his secretary didn’t get this involved in his life, but she did care about him, so he should listen to her. “What do you think?”

“You need to get laid.” She shrugged. “You need to see James to have him work his magic on your hair and your love life. I also believe you need to relax. You keep yourself so buttoned-up and proper—so much that you’ll make yourself sick. Stop doing that.”

“I need to stay business-like.”

“I know.” She rested her hands on her hips. “But there’s a difference between being professional and being an automaton. You have so much personality and you hide it. You don’t even wear crazy socks or ties. Doesn’t bland blue and brown get boring?”

Yes. “No.” He groaned. “People expect me to be a certain way. I can’t get silly.”

She rolled her eyes. “There’s silly and there’s ridiculous. You’ve never been ridiculous. That said, wearing argyle socks or a patterned tie won’t make you look silly.”

“I’ll think about what you’ve just said.” He rounded his desk. He wanted to say more, but he wasn’t sure how. She’d made her point—a good one, too. “I’ll head over to Dye Hard. Thanks.”

“Good.” She sighed. “I’ll prod you toward the right direction, but you need to get moving.”

“Thanks.” He needed all the help he could get. He watched her leave his office. If he were into women, he might have tried to make a play for her. But he wasn’t. He preferred men. The tattooed, purple-haired woman didn’t fit into his visual ideal of a secretary, but Kathy did her job well. Despite her ink, piercings and wild-colored hair, she managed to look professional. He admired her freedom and confidence. She looked happy and didn’t seem to care what others thought. He needed more of that confidence in his life.

He ensured he had his keys, wallet and phone tucked into his suit coat, then turned his computer screen off. “Kath?”

“Yes, sir?” She appeared in his doorway. “What’s up?”

“I’m going over to the salon. Maybe James is running ahead.”

She snorted. “That’s not going to happen, but you know that and should still get moving. The fresh air on the walk will do you good. Might even help you clear your mind.”

“You’re right.” He glanced back at his desk, then left his office. “I’ll return as soon as I can.”

“I’ll hold down the fort.” She clapped him on the shoulder. “I’ve got this.”

“I know you do.” He trusted her more than she knew. If she were licensed, he’d make her his co-agent. “I’ll be back.”

“See you.” She waved. “Come back sexy.”

He laughed. “I doubt that’ll happen.” But he could let James try. He left the office and walked the three blocks to Dye Hard Style.

Along the way, he drank in the views of Norville. His hometown wasn’t a big one. Norville had a state-of-the-art softball complex for the girls’ softball teams, wonderful parks and a pretty circle in the center of town, but not much else. The townsfolk alternatively loved and hated the roundabout. The statue at the center of the circle was supposed to be the image of the town founder, Clarence Norville, but the nose had long broken off and one arm had been damaged in a windstorm. People claimed the statue was the spirit of Norville, rather than any one person.

Spirit aside, nothing much happened in Norville. The festivals were long gone and people tended to gather for the yearly softball tournaments and football seasons. The girls’ softball team dominated each year, often winning at the state events. The high school football team wasn’t so hot, but the players tried and the town was dedicated to the sport.

The one thing the town did have going for it was the architecture. Almost all the buildings along the main drag were over a hundred years old, looked their age, but still managed to be structurally sound and beautiful. All had ornate carving in the brickwork and names embedded at the apex of each. Many featured stone entryways and flower boxes that the business owners lovingly kept full of blossoms all spring and summer. Arthur worked hard to make his storefront shine along with the rest.

The one building that stuck out was the old movie theater. Movies hadn’t been shown there in years, but the neon and chrome on the building still glimmered. The neon was the signature look for the salon that had taken over the building. The concession stand served as the counter for buying hair care products and scheduling appointments. The rest of the room belonged to the styling stations. The auditorium had been turned into an event hall for weddings and social gatherings. He admired the owner’s decision to keep the original façade for the building and worked with the spirit of the space, rather than changing it. The modifications ensured the building was used and appreciated. No one knew the owner, though. If he’d come to the chamber of commerce meetings, Arthur had never seen him.

Everyone in town knew to visit Dye Hard Style. James, the head stylist, did wonders with all sorts of hair. He also knew how to couple people up.

Arthur opened the door to the salon. A scruffy dog trotted in beside him and strode right past the scheduling station. Arthur frowned. Did the dog belong to the owner or James?

“Hi.” Clarke, the receptionist, beckoned from the ticket counter. “Did you bring your pup along? He’s rough around the edges, but cute.”

“He’s not mine. I don’t know him.” He stopped at the counter. “I have an appointment.”

“Arthur.” Clarke grinned. “James is ready for you.”

“He is?” He was early.

“He is.” Clarke frowned and opened the gate. The dog trotted in first and made himself comfortable strolling along the styling stations. Clarke snorted. “Looks like the dog wants a style, too.”

“I guess so. Maybe James knows him.” He ventured over to James’ chair.

James knelt in front of the dog. “You’re back.”

“I just got here.” Arthur petted the dog. “Or do you mean him?”

“Him.” James scratched the dog behind the ears. “He’s shown up every day this week. No tags, no collar. I even asked around and no one has ever seen him before.”

“Maybe he’s adopted you.” Arthur folded his arms. “He might have. Do you want a dog?”

“I never thought about it.” James stood and retrieved a bowl. “I’ve fed him and he gets water.” He filled the bowl with water. “Let me finish here and wash my hands.”

“I bet he adopted you.”

“I think you’re right.” James gestured to the chair. “Now, you’re here for a cut and style.” He washed his hands. “Sit. Do you know what you want? Any ideas for your style? Tell me your troubles. Remember, I’m like Vegas. What’s told to the stylist stays with the stylist.”

Arthur took his place in the chair and waited until he’d donned the cape. “I need to think about anything but the semi-crappy day I’m having.”

“Then let’s polish you, beautiful.” James turned the chair around and tipped it back. “What happened, doll? Why is your day semi-crappy?” He turned on the water, wetting Arthur’s hair.

“It’s silly really.” He loved when someone washed his hair. The act relaxed him. He bit back a sigh as James shampooed him. “I got a bad review and I let it get me down.”

“Oh, honey. We get the odd bad reviews, too. You can’t make everyone happy.” James rinsed Arthur’s hair. “They get a color they begged for but don’t want, or say they want everything cut off then change their mind after the haircut. I can work miracles, but not every one of them will be miraculous.”

“I get it.”

James sat him up and covered his head with a towel. “So, forget the review, honey. Focus on what you can change.”

“I’ll keep doing my job, then.” That sounded easy enough.

“Then there you go.” James turned him around to face the mirror. “So, what are we doing?”

“A trim and polish. Just neaten me up.” His heart sank. He was too buttoned-up already and not getting out of his comfort zone wasn’t helping much.

James stared at him through the reflection in the mirror. “May I try something? It won’t be too drastic, but I want to try a slightly different look for you.”

James had the ability to style individuals to make their uniqueness shine. If he had an idea for Arthur, who was he to argue? “Okay.”

“Yeah?” James grinned. The piercing in his bottom lip sparkled. “You’re sure?”

“I am.” He needed something. This could be the small change required.

“Good.” James combed Arthur’s wet hair. “Why do you look so lonely and sad, doll? Not because of that review? Talk to me.”

He kept so much bottled up. If he couldn’t tell his stylist, who could he tell? “Because I am lonely.”

“Why? You’re handsome, have your own business, are smart…” James parted Arthur’s hair, then began trimming. “What’s not to like about you?”

“I don’t know, but I don’t give myself the chance to look for guys, that’s one thing.” He cringed. “That sounds doofy.”

“No, you sound scared and like you need a little help.” James continued cutting. “You need a matchmaker.”

“I do.” He shouldn’t have admitted that out loud, but oh well.

“What do you want in a guy?” James asked.

He sighed, buying himself some time to think. “I want a man who is kind, considerate, who will work with me and make me better. A partner. I want a guy who isn’t afraid to date an insurance agent. Someone who sees beyond the shell and won’t let me get complacent.”

“And looks?” James stared at their reflection. He narrowed his eyes, then resumed cutting. “You must have a type.”

“Not really. I like guys based on their attitude and ability to empathize. It’s about being drawn to the man,” Arthur said. “You know? If there’s a spark when we’re talking, then that’s the thing. If there isn’t, then I don’t bother.”

“I do.” James finished cutting, then combed Arthur’s hair. “Sometimes, you just know the guy is right.”

“Yes.” That was it exactly.

James stopped touching Arthur. “Well…try this.” He turned Arthur away from the mirror, then finger-combed Arthur’s hair. “Okay, this.” He swiveled Arthur back to face the mirror. “Well?”

Arthur stared at himself. He looked like him, but the haircut with his part on the left looked more correct. It accentuated his eyes and appeared professional. “That’s awesome.”

“Yeah?” James plunged the comb into the blue solution and his scissors into the sink. He wiped his hands. “About your dating situation…go to Club Jester on Friday at nine. Dress like you, but be casual. I want you to meet my friend, Summer Rain.”

“A girl?” He’d never heard of anyone named Summer Rain.

“No, he’s a guy.” James removed the cape. “A great guy who ticks your boxes.”

“Named Summer Rain?” It seemed like an odd moniker for a man.

“Yes, and trust me. I have the golden touch.” James picked up a tablet. “Do you want a two-month appointment or six weeks?”

“Six weeks.” He set up his next slot with James, then offered his credit card to pay. “You said nine on Friday night?”

“Yes. Club Jester. His name is Summer Rain. It’ll be great.” James swiped the card. “If you don’t hit it off, then the next appointment is on me.”

He had nothing to lose. “Okay.”

“You’ll be meeting your destiny.” James handed him back the card. “Plus, you look fierce. Any man would be nuts to pass you up.”

He wasn’t sure he believed James, but why not? “You’re right.”

“I know I am.” James winked. “Feel better?”

“I do.” Almost like he could conquer the world. He handed James a twenty as a tip.

“Then there we go. Thank you and I’ll see you in six weeks.” James grinned. “Maybe I’ll have named the dog by then.”

“I’ll bet you do.” Maybe he’d find love by then, too. It couldn’t hurt to try.

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

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

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

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

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New Release Blitz: The Gemini Strand by L.J. Hasbrouck (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Gemini Strand

Author: L.J. Hasbrouck

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 12/28/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 91600

Genre: Science Fiction, sci fi, family-drama, futuristic, dystopia, gay, ace, professional assassin, cloning, Mars

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Description

Life on Mars is no fairy tale for Morgan, a scrappy adventurer who plunders Earth’s carcass in search of loot—and evidence of an elusive scientist. She hopes he can cure her father’s dementia, but instead he kidnaps her father and flees into the deceptive dreamlands of Mars. During her frantic search to locate them, Morgan begins experiencing strange hallucinations that make her think she’s losing her mind.

Meanwhile, Nil, a tormented killer struggling to repress his humanity, thinks his hallucinations are a flaw in his system. Soon his pesky emotions roar back to life, throwing a dagger into the whole “cold-blooded assassin” thing. While he pursues his next mark, a witty hacker trying to save Nil’s other victims, he battles with his disorienting visions and burgeoning emotions.

What he doesn’t realize is that he’s falling in love for the first time—and the hacker he’s falling for is also the scientist who kidnapped Morgan’s father.

Drawn together by their common target, Morgan and Nil harness their mysterious visions to find each other amidst holographic recreations of Oz, Wonderland, Neverland, Atlantis, and Camelot. Before she loses her father forever, Morgan must work with a killer and kidnapper to discover the sinister truth behind her father’s illness and her bond with Nil. And Nil is forced to decide between protecting the man he loves and helping the girl he’s inexplicably linked to.

Because they share more than disorienting hallucinations—and what they share will change everything they thought they knew about themselves.

Excerpt

The Gemini Strand
L.J. Hasbrouck © 2021
All Rights Reserved

NIL

I don’t know why I kill. I’m ordered to, true, and it’s all I’ve been trained to do. I’m good at it.

But that doesn’t mean I like it.

Lately, I’ve been losing my touch. Each time I suffer an emotional episode, my handler remedies it by sending me in for reconditioning. The guilt goes away, my efficiency improves, and the nightmares stop.

But the guilt always returns. And so do the nightmares.

Up to the point I awoke at the Guild’s headquarters, all I remembered was a dim, murky muddle of nonexistence. My eyes opened to a roomful of shadows. Vague shapes hovered over me, surrounding me in a nebulous circle. My vision remained hazy, my awareness cloudy—I mistook what would be my first memory for a chilling dream.

“Good morning, my son,” a cold but cajoling voice said. Lilith. My handler. “Your slate has been wiped clean. Let’s see if you do better this time.”

I was floating. But when I moved my arms, I displaced something thicker than air: water. My bare, pale limbs drifted in the translucent pool. Reflecting on it now, it was my birth. And the darkness delivered me.

Which makes Lilith the closest thing I have to a mother.

Tonight, she’s ordered me to slip into the Emerald City, Oz’s entertainment subdistrict. The buildings are green and glittery, disorienting like the rest of Mars’s vast and vacuous districts. Citizens stumble along a yellow brick road nestled between fields of red and pink poppies. A tiny dog frolics through the field alongside his mistress, an adolescent girl in a gingham dress and silver slippers. She darts in front of me, but I walk right through her. The image shimmers, light particles interrupted by my mass, until she reassembles and skips off without a sound.

None of it is real. It’s a projection, both literally and metaphorically, an idealized vision of our world according to the minds who invented it. A fantasy brought to life. All I’d have to do to destroy it is smash the lenses installed on the construction’s framework, strip the taciturn gray structures of all their glimmering emerald, and reveal the ordinary bricks beneath the yellow. Dorothy and Toto would disappear. The poppy fields would vanish, expose barren cayenne clay and ashen rock.

At least shadows are real. Honest. I slink into them, darting between hologram-cloaked buildings and grappling to the rooftops. Ads promising the improbable—the cure for any ailment, all at the low cost of submitting yourself to the Pantheon’s experiments—glint and glitch at the skyline’s zenith. I set up a zipline to the adjacent roof and grapple from rooftop to rooftop, leaving as many lines as I can in my wake. Haste isn’t necessary when entering the target zone, but a speedy exit is crucial.

As I traverse the rooftops, I scan for thermal signatures beneath and behind me. No one’s noticed me. Good. Though I pass several Bouncers patrolling below me on the street, they’re all underneath the Guild’s thumb and therefore instructed to ignore us. Even if a civilian sees me, they’d never see my face again—or see it at all. I use a different shroud on every job, but I sometimes leave them turned off in lieu of the full black bodysuit, which means I resemble some subverted superhero creeping and swinging through the night, mask and all. Not the most outlandish sight on Mars, believe it or not.

I send Isabeau off to survey the area around the soaring spires of the Emerald Castle, my target’s last known location. The synthetic falcon launches from my shoulder, wings shimmering as she slices through light beams shining in the air. I close an eye and perceive what she sees, one camera transmitting an image to another. This eye isn’t mine; it’s a replacement implanted with a chip. I don’t recall how I lost mine, but Lilith says it had something to do with the traumatic incident that sabotaged my memories.

I’m not sure I believe her, but I can’t question the woman who controls my life—unless I want to risk losing it.

Isabeau perches on a ledge outside the building. She monitors the area through a faux stained-glass window, her viewpoint displaying in my cybernetically enhanced eye. Inside the Emerald Castle, writhing clubgoers surround my mark.

I activate my shroud and shimmy down the side of the building with my grappling hook. The regulator installed in my chest controls the speed my heart beats at, keeping my pulse and temperature low at all times. Makes it tougher for thermal imaging and pulse readers to pick up on my signal. There shouldn’t be many people around with tech that can outdo mine, but a few paranoid denizens carry them as a precaution.

Not everyone trusts the Pantheon. With good reason.

I glance into a compact mirror to ensure my shroud works, then stow my gear and waltz into the street, blending with the crowd. The music inside the club vibrates beneath my feet as I approach the front doors, so I prepare my ears for the decibel assault. I nod at the Bouncer, make eye contact, press my palm into the scanner. It approves my print and accepts my false identity with a beep.

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Meet the Author

Knowledge-seeking animal-lover, supporter of diversity, and OG Floridian. Lifelong gamer who grew up drawing Disney characters, whales, and dinosaurs. Proud INTJ (which I share with the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Batman, and Ellen Ripley).

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New Release Blitz ~ Fallen Angel by Katy Hunter (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Fallen Angel by Katy Hunter

Book 2 in the Half Blood series

General Release Date: 28th December 2021

Word Count: 17,268
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 83
Heat Rating: Sizzling

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL

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Book Description

 

We all have our demons, but some women have a warlock and an angel too…

Cal’s really not having a good day.

She convinced her lovers, Travis and Max, to leave their safe house in Montana and fly over to Budapest to save someone, but it was a trap.

And her relationships haven’t exactly been harmonious since Max found a new lover and Travis got a little too hot and heavy in the bedroom.

Now she’s tied up, she’s only got a handsome, weakened angel for company and she needs all her energy to defeat Seth Shaw once again.

Can Cal summon her lovers, escape from her binds and fix her love life before she comes face to face with her nemesis—or has this angel fallen for good?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence.

Excerpt

I squirmed as Max traced the feather across my chest, brushing it between my trussed-up breasts and down to my crotch. He stopped short of my pubic area, apparently deciding instead to skip the interesting bit and trail it up my inner thigh instead.

Cheeky bastard.

I couldn’t see it, my head down, my hands bound, but he had to have that satisfied smirk on his face—the one that said he was in charge.

Damn it and him. I hated it, but I loved it too—playing, teasing, longing. It was what kept our love life from tipping over into domestic boredom. I knew that. I knew why we’d set up the damn swing in the first place.

It’d be worth it. Of course it would. The man was a maestro. But, God, the frustration was killing me. I needed to come.

I closed my eyes, concentrated hard on Max’s body and zeroed in on his dick, already hard and ready for me. I swirled my tongue around my mouth, opened my lips…

“What the fu…Cal? When did you learn to do that?”

“I’ve been practicing,” I replied, losing my concentration for a second.

“Well, stop. It’s weird. Hot, but weird. Damn.”

I let out a throaty giggle. “Stop teasing me then.”

“That’s half the fun,” he murmured, slowing it right down.

I inhaled, taking in as much of him as my astrally projected mouth could manage.

“Okay, okay. Damn, you’re going to make me come, and I haven’t even started yet.”

The crank clicked, tick, tick, tick, as he lowered me down to his level. The feather gone, and I felt the soft touch of his favorite flogger circling my butt.

“Spanking?”

“Well, you don’t seem to want to behave today.”

A shot of adrenaline ran up my body simply at the idea of it. It wouldn’t hurt, not hurt hurt.

Max had gone soft since the three of us had moved there and fallen more in love. The days of using my safeword were gone. Ever since the incident where Travis and I had nearly died, Max had become wary of our pain. It no longer brought him joy—not in that way.

He gripped my thigh with one hand, swung my prostate body toward him and rested just the very tip of his cock against my core. The warm sensation of his tongue swirled around my clit.

“How…?”

He paused. “Two can play at your game,” he whispered, licking his lips and getting back to what he was best at.

Slowly, sweetly, he sucked and nibbled at me, entering me as I warmed for him. The ends of the flogger brushed across my butt as he filled me. Tickling… Caressing…

I let out a gasp as he thrust into me, propelling me forward, only to swing me back onto him. The flogger slapped down onto my cheek, the sting bursting through my body. “Yes!”

“Quiet,” he whispered once again, the individual strands of leather tracing their way up my spine.

I writhed underneath him, fighting against the restraints at my wrists, desperate to touch him, to feel his hard, smooth body as he pummeled into me, bringing me closer and closer.

“Please,” I begged, desperate for release. Once again, the sensation of his tongue hit my clit…frenzied, slapdash.

My ass cheeks stung as he thwacked them once again—one side, then the other, then the first again. I threw my head back and came on his cock as he filled me, clenching tightly as I trembled and shook beneath him.

“Fuck, Cal.” The flogger clattered to the ground as he grasped the chains, holding me to him, his legs giving way. I would never tire of the thrill of bringing this strong, confident man to his knees.

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About the Author

Katherine E Hunt

Katy Hunter lives on a mountain in France with her husband, kids and two dogs.

When she’s not writing you can find her curled up in front of the fire, book in one hand and a glass of chardonnay in the other.

Follow Katy on Instagram and sign up to her Facebook reader’s group. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter

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New Release Blitz: All the Wrong Reasons by Sebastian Hansen (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  All the Wrong Reasons

Author: Sebastian Hansen

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 12/28/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 111700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Romance, urban fantasy, action, family-drama, superheroes, gay, nonbinary, trans, BDSM, secret identity, billionaire, Dom/sub relationship

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Description

The day after telekinetic supervillain (and billionaire philanthropist), Stetson Nadenheimer dies, he wakes up on the autopsy table and falls in lust with the man hired to cut his cold, dead corpse open. The problem is that the forensic pathologist is Doctor Julian Dandridge, the part-time superhero, Scatter. It’s probably a bad idea for a supervillain to get into bed with a superhero. Probably.

Not that it stops him, but trying to start a relationship with a reluctant hero without getting caught turns out to be easier said than done. Between midnight meetings over games of checkers and kinky secrets, Stetson and Julian begin a tremulous romance. Unfortunately for them, there’s an actual villain watching from the shadows, waiting for Stetson to stumble.

Excerpt

All the Wrong Reasons
Sebastian Hansen © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
STETSON

The last thing I remember seeing before I died was the garish gold and orange spandex-clad fist of Major Bigstuff flying at my face at something like a million miles an hour. I lost my telekinetic grip on the wall I was holding. The debris came down on my head, which the masonry squished like a rotten melon. Brains all over the place. Bones shattered. Totally dead.

Not my finest hour.

A day later, I woke up on the medical examiner’s slab. Nobody knows why this happens. It’s a super-thing. Superheroes come back from the dead all the time. It’s practically a requirement for the job. Like when you go to get your physical at the Hall of Good Guys Forever and they stab you in the heart to make sure you’ve got what it takes to come back. I’m not entirely sure this is true, but you hear rumors.

What’s odd about me waking up is that I wasn’t a superhero. I was kind of the opposite. The anti-superhero.

My name is Stetson Nadenheimer (it’s not my fault), and before my timely death, I was a supervillain. They call me Jester. Nice to meet you.

It’s not that supervillains don’t come back from the dead. We do, but it’s usually the big-time ones. The “build a death ray and hold the world to ransom for all the money” ones. I’m not even Major Bigstuff’s main rival. He just happened to be flying past the bank I was robbing on his way home from Denny’s.

That’s what I did, by the way—rob banks. No building death rays, no kidnapping or killing people. I’d never even held anyone hostage. My Fortress of Evil is more like a Penthouse Belonging to That Mildly Irritating Villain.

But I liked robbing banks. Since most super-people are what you’d call physical (strength, size, agility, speed—you know, that kind), they don’t know what to do when someone’s power is mental. Mental powers aren’t common—and they’re not popular. Telepathy isn’t as flashy as super strength and doesn’t play well on camera. Hence, nobody’s figured out anti-telekinetic security.

Besides, I liked to flirt with the tellers. They had no idea how to handle a tall, handsome man in a sleek (cheap) black tux and white masquerade mask. I’ve got some killer green eyes too. Alas, while my black hair is long enough for a ponytail (tellers love ponytails), I kept it bound up and hidden in a hat. I’ve never wanted to take over the world, but I’m damned charming. It drives superheroes up the wall.

Anyway, back to the ME’s slab. Right. So. After knowing for a fact that my brains are all over the floor of the First United Citizens Bank on Twenty-second Street, I open my eyes. What’s the worst thing you’ve ever woken up to? In my case, it was a whirring bone saw in the general vicinity of my head.

I screamed. Well, wouldn’t you?

The bone saw immediately stopped, and I quickly became aware of someone laughing. A glance to my left confirmed that I wasn’t alone. A young man in green scrubs with tousled blond hair was turned away, covering his mouth to hide his grin.

“Works every time,” he said and set the saw down on a table just out of my reach. Then he turned to look at me, and I stopped breathing again.

In addition to the adorable hair, the man was indeed young with deep-blue eyes, dimples, and the prettiest smile I’d ever seen.

The smile faded quickly. “Welcome back.” He narrowed his eyes and watched me carefully.

My mouth opened to say something, but my brain hadn’t caught up. It was still trying to imagine what the man would look like in my bed. I’m an uncomplicated person like that. It might not have been love at first sight, but lust? Certainly. The problem currently facing me was this: I was obviously in a morgue of some kind, half-naked, drenched in my own blood, and sitting on a frigidly cold metal table. The place smelled of chemicals—formalin (I found out later) and bleach.

Forget flirting. This man had seen me dead, which is so much worse than naked.

Eventually, I managed a strangled, “Hello.”

The corner of his mouth quirked, and the smile came back slightly. He nodded and walked away from me toward the far wall, where he dug a clear bottle of water out of a cooler. He held it up for my inspection. “Thirsty?”

I nodded. My voice was still on the fritz, and he thought it was because my throat was dry instead of…oh…any other reason. I was thankful for it. Anyway, my mouth was parched. I took the bottle gratefully and drank half in one go before finding my voice again.

“Do you often wake people up in the morgue with a bone saw?”

He smiled. I wanted to melt. God. I can’t describe that smile and do it justice. Accept for a moment that it was stunning, will you? If it helps, compare it to rainbows on sunny spring mornings. Like the sun rising at dawn. The light of his smile forgave all sins, watered all crops, and brokered world peace.

The hyperbole is necessary. Everything that happened after that night started with his smile wrapping me up and turning my world on its head.

“Only people like you.” The smile didn’t budge.

“People like…me.”

“Dead people who aren’t dead anymore.”

“Oh.” I blinked. “So, you do it to heroes, too, then?”

He pursed his lips and rolled his eyes thoughtfully. “Mm-hm. They don’t like it either—Mistress Tidal broke one on me, but there’s something about the sound. It tends to bring people around quickly.”

“The alternative is getting our heads cut into.”

He laughed. Please insert a description of silvery bells and songbirds here. He had a pleasant voice. “I wasn’t going to cut you open. You were already breathing.”

“I…was?” I glanced around, certain I knew where I was now. I looked down at my blood-stained hand. “Tell me, were you able to get fingerprints off my corpse? I’ve never been arrested before, so I doubt they’d do you any good.”

“No.” He shook his head. “And no DNA either.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Ah. And now we’re just waiting for reinforcements to arrive, aren’t we?”

“Are we?” He smiled again, and my reply stuck in my throat. “It’s nearly ten o’clock on a Thursday night. Nobody’s around.”

“Ah…and you’re alone here with a formerly dead supervillain because you’re, what? Confident in your medical plan?” I asked with a snort.

He laughed again. “I don’t think you’re going to hurt me. I’m pretty durable. My name is Dr. Julian Dandridge. I’m a part-time superhero. They call me Scatter.”

Ah, Scatter. I’d heard of him, but never run up against him. He belonged to the Guild, which was Kinsley City’s very own organization of superheroes. A sort of Hall of Self-Righteousness. Major Bigstuff ran the show over there.

Well, that put a wrench in my dream of having him tie me to my bed.

I frowned. The revelation that Dr. Julian was a lost cause stung more than it should have, considering we’d just met. Still, he was in the Guild, and that wasn’t good for me by any means.

The Guild didn’t typically bother about me. I was small-time and didn’t offer much in the way of a challenge. When I did run into one of their members, I tended to extract myself from the situation as quickly as possible. I can fly—and over my months-long bank robbing spree, I’d gotten good at evading the Guild’s fliers.

I glanced around, getting my bearings. A few pencils on the desk behind Julian rolled on my command, and I breathed a little easier. My telekinesis was up and ready to go.

I smiled. “You know what they call me, I’m assuming.”

“Jester.” He shrugged. “So, here’s what’s going to happen—”

I held up a hand to forestall him and started talking. It was important to prattle on so his attention focused on me and my mouth. That way, he wouldn’t notice me telekinetically prying the window out of its frame until it was too late.

“There’re a couple ways this could go. The first is dull and causes more of a mess than its worth. You call your Guild. They show up, we have a spirited scrap, and maybe I end up dead again. If not, and you manage to throw me in SuperMax, I call my astronomically overpriced lawyer and make bail in under an hour. Then we spend weeks wading through red tape, and in the end, I get a slap on the wrist, some community service, and maybe a fine. I’m not the kind of supervillain who makes headlines, Scatter, and you lot have bigger things to worry about than someone like me. Death rays and such.”

He crossed his arms.

“Of course, there’s option number two.” Grinning, I simultaneously lifted myself off the table and out of Julian’s reach and crooked my finger at the window, popping it out of its frame and setting it gently aside. “Which involves me escaping. You can’t fly, can you?”

“If I could, I’d have you down already.” He shrugged. Then he did something I did not expect.

He winked.

I paused near the ceiling. “You’re letting me go?” I asked, incredulously.

“Letting you go? Oh no. No. What kind of superhero would I be if I let a villain escape?”

“A very bad one.” I pressed my hands against the ceiling and stared down at him in disbelief.

He frowned. “Do you want me to stop you?” The tone of his voice implied that he could. I believed him.

“Not particularly.”

He looked away, thinking, arms crossed, then glanced back at me. “Then do me a favor and knock over some tables on your way out.”

“So it looks like we got into the aforementioned tussle?” I asked.

“Plausible deniability.”

I blinked.

“Look, either go or don’t. Let’s just say I’ve seen some things, Jester. Supervillain?” He smirked. “Sure.”

“You’ve seen some—”

He waved me away. “Get out of here. If I see you near a bank in the future, you can be sure I won’t be so nice next time.”

I stared at him for a few more seconds, but his expression suggested that his patience was wearing thin and the invitation to escape wouldn’t last indefinitely.

So, stunned and unsure if what had happened was real, I flew out of the window. But I made sure to knock over two sets of shelves and a table on my way out.

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Meet the Author

Sebastian Hansen (she/her) is a non-binary mess of a person. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and herd of opinionated cats, where she spends most of her time playing video games, reading comic books, and writing about superheroes. She likes strawberries and is easily frightened by the Internet.

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New Release Blitz ~ Various Distractions by AE Lister (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Various Distractions by AE Lister

Book 2 in the Persuasions series

Word Count: 69,144
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 286

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
TRANSGENDER

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Book Description

 

When life is perfect, you know it’s gonna throw you a curveball…or four.

Nic and Vincent have been riding the high of a new romantic relationship that works so well they are on the verge of officially moving in together—but then the distractions begin. Their friend Daphne needs a temporary dungeon space, and Nic’s basement seems the perfect solution. Vincent’s gay seventeen-year-old cousin, Taylor, needs a safe refuge from his uber-religious parents. When Vincent suffers an unexpected injury, Nic asks Daphne to suggest someone to help with domestic duties around the house.

These combined circumstances lead to a less-than-ideal home life for Vincent and Nic, who struggle to find alone time. But life has a way of giving people what they need, and the arrival of Matteo to help with chores around the house sets into motion an opportunity the three must decide to follow to its logical conclusion or abandon in order to maintain the emotional safety of all the participants.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of food play, minor incidents involving a Domme and public sex There is reference to the abandonment of an older teen by religious zealot parents, puppy and kitty play, and a suggestion of suicidal ideation. This book is best read as book two in the Persuasions series.

Excerpt

Taking afternoon tea at Daphne’s on Sundays had become a regular event.

Vincent wore a pretty pair of panties beneath his clothes, either at my direction or of his own choosing, and Daphne had him strip when we arrived. We had agreed Daphne could take charge of Vincent while we were in her home. I didn’t mind. I enjoyed watching him respond to her. He’d told me it was much more exciting for him, now that I was involved.

The first few weeks, she’d made Vincent perform some relevant service in his lacy underthings, like setting up the finger sandwiches and cakes on her tiered stand or making the tea or coffee.

Now that this visit had become a weekly ritual, his duties had expanded into other, more delectable, areas.

We took turns feeding Vincent small bites of cake or bread, giving him sips of tea from our cups and otherwise treating him as our amusing and beloved pet. He grew more and more aroused, and I caught him eyeing Daphne’s magnificent tits more than once. He said he didn’t like the clichés of femininity but, honestly, who didn’t appreciate a great pair of boobs?

As if on cue, a piece of the cake Daphne was eating fell into her cleavage, and she giggled. “Oh dear!”

I raised my eyebrows. “Vincent, did you see that?”

Daphne refrained from digging the morsel out of her blouse as her cheeks heated. The woman could set off a fake blush on cue. She winked at me with a grin.

“Yes, Sir,” Vincent said, gazing at me with wide eyes.

“Would you like a taste of that delicious cake?” I asked devilishly.

Vincent made a small sound and nodded, licking his lips.

“I thought so. Why don’t you snuffle that crumb out from between Daphne’s tits? If you can find it, you can have it.”

Daphne giggled, pulling her blouse down and leaning toward Vincent. Vincent blushed and looked at me to make sure I knew what I was asking.

I nodded. “Go ahead. It’s all right.” I gestured at Daphne’s generous offering. “I’ve been there too, y’know,” I whispered, as if it were a secret between me and him.

Something flashed in his eyes, and he smiled, then turned to Daphne.

“Mistress?” he asked.

His utter politeness sent a jolt of desire through me. He was so well-behaved, as if I had trained him to this, when, really, it came so very naturally.

“Go ahead, Vincent. Hands behind your back, please. You’ll probably need to use your tongue.”

My eyes widened as I watched my sexy twenty-four-year-old boyfriend lean forward slowly, hands behind him as requested, and gently push his face into the tantalizing crease between Daphne’s breasts.

She made a small noise and looked at me over Vincent’s head as his velvet tongue darted and licked to find the morsel of cake.

“Oh, goodness.” She stroked Vincent’s cropped ash-brown hair while he cleaned her up. “What a soft tongue you have, Vincent.” She gasped. “I’d forgotten, my dear, how adorable you are.”

Vincent made whimpering noises as he chased the crumbs and no doubt inhaled Daphne’s particular scent of jasmine and roses.

I glanced at the black lace boy-shorts he was wearing today and noticed he was hard, which was par for the course with Vincent. The boy was a priapic miracle. A savant perhaps? He got hard at the drop of a hat and came on command. What more could a Dom ask for?

Lots more, it turns out.

When Vincent finally located the piece of cake and swallowed it, pulling reluctantly away from Daphne’s warmth, I smiled at him, pleased.

“Good boy. I’m sure Daphne is very relieved that her little accident has been rectified.”

Daphne looked anything but relieved. She looked like she’d like to tie Vincent to a chair and ride him for a couple of hours. But she’d had her chance with Vincent, and now the boy was mine.

I watched him stand and start to tidy the dishes, while flashes of memory came through of using the single-tail the previous evening. I’d strapped Vincent to the spanking bench and lashed his buttocks and thighs lightly, just enough to push his arousal to the brink of tipping over. Then I’d released him and sucked his cock until he’d come, howling, down my throat. He’d wanted to touch me, but I’d forbidden it, and I wouldn’t forget the sight of his fingers clenching and unclenching while I worked him furiously to orgasm.

“Are you finished, Sir?” he asked, and it took me a moment to realize he was speaking about the cake and not asking if I was done reliving our encounter.

I cleared my throat. “Yes, thank you, Vincent.”

He took my plate and I leaned back in my chair, checking the time on my phone. It was only four-thirty, but we needed to get home and have a light supper. We had a gallery show to attend this evening. My friend Juno was exhibiting their artwork for the first time, and I’d promised them Vincent and I would drop by.

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First For Romance

About the Author

AE Lister

AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.

“Sensual and visceral BDSM.” – Amazon.ca

Find out more about AE Lister at their website, and follow them on Instagram and Patreon.

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Book Blitz: Silent Knight, Sleepless Knight Duet by Gale Stanley (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Silent Knight, Sleepless Knight Duet

Author: Gale Stanley

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: December 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 142 pages

Genre: Romance, Christmas Romance, Contemporary, Multiple Partners, Gay

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Synopsis

Silent Knight: Paul Stanton thought he had it all — until his lover dumped him for another man, forcing Paul to rethink his life. But when a trip home for the holidays goes predictably wrong, Paul ends up stranded in the woods. There’s more to Andy Reynolds than meets the eye. But is a chance encounter enough to bind two men who have nothing in common except their sex?

Sleepless Knight: When the two-year itch infects their relationship, Andy arranges a much needed vacation. Andy will do anything to make Paul happy, even if it means bringing another man into their bed. But is a threesome really the answer? Or will it drive them further apart?

Publisher’s Note: Silent Knight, Sleepless Knight (Duet) contains the previously published novellas Silent Knight and Sleepless Knight.

Excerpt

Andy moved through the woods in a slow stalk. Nothing beat hunting in the snow. Most Keystone State hunters called it quits by late December, but Andy was a hardheaded optimist. Besides, he enjoyed the solitude, and dealing with winter’s stark elements provided an extra challenge. There were other pluses as well. Even a novice hunter could follow the deer tracks, and the light wind dispersed Andy’s scent and covered any sounds he made.

But the wind picked up, blowing the snow sideways. Deer tended to lay low during high winds. It looked like this hunt would end with no game. Good thing these hunting trips weren’t all about the kill. Andy hunted for food, but mostly to get out, and be a part of nature. The experience took him back to a happy time when his parents were still alive. He and his dad spent a lot of time in the woods. No TV, no cars, no other people, just the two of them hanging out and having a good time. Half the time they came home empty handed, but it didn’t matter. Andy’s mom would welcome them home with a good, hot meal.

God, he missed them. At least they’d died together. A car accident. Never knew what hit them, according to the coroner. Andy had come home to bury them a year ago and never left.

Snow on an overhanging branch dropped white bombs on Andy’s head. He brushed it off, and looked around. No animal life disturbed the spectacular view. No sound, except for the howling wind. He felt insignificant in these surroundings, yet more alive than he did in the city.

Andy packed up his gear and started backtracking toward his ATV. The wind blasted him and drove him off his path a few times, but finally the gusts eased and the ATV appeared in his sights. It occurred to him he might have to leave it, but old reliable started right up. Andy nosed it around and got back on the road, recognizable because it was the only stretch clear of trees. Mishaps were more common in the winter, but the white stuff didn’t intimidate Andy. He knew these backwoods like the —

Andy swerved to the left to avoid the man in his path. The ATV slammed into a car, and Andy catapulted feet over head. One second he was behind the wheel, the next he was flying through the air. Andy landed face down in a snow covered hill of pinecones that cushioned his touchdown. Everything happened so fast. For a few scary seconds he couldn’t breathe, then someone grabbed him and rolled him over.

Before Andy could react, a hand gripped his chin and tilted his head backward. An ear covered his mouth.

“What the fuck!” Andy cried out. He opened his eyes just as the other man jerked his head back. When Andy’s blurry vision cleared, he saw a pair of worried eyes staring down at him. Snowflakes drifted around the stranger’s head, and stuck to his long dark lashes. The sound of the wind faded into the background, and the silent snowy woods provided a surreal backdrop behind the green-eyed stranger. Andy sucked in a frosty breath. In the midst of the chilling temperatures, heat sparked in his groin.

“Are you okay?”

The voice brought Andy back to reality. “No thanks to you.”

Andy attempted to get up, but Green-eyes gripped his arms and held him down. “Don’t move, you might have broken something.”

“Don’t even try playing white knight. This is your fault, asshole.”

Green-eyes backed off and held his hands up in surrender.

Andy struggled to a sitting position and glared at the other man. “I’m fucking freezing, and you want me to lay here.”

“Sss-sorry.”

Andy stared at the man’s stuttering lips. They were blue. The color didn’t go well with his eyes. Oh hell! His white knight was in worse shape than he was. “Gimme a hand,” Andy barked. “We need to get outta this storm before we both freeze.”

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Meet the Author

Gale Stanley grew up in Philadelphia PA. She was the kid who always had her nose in a book, her head in the clouds, and her hands on a pad and pencil.

Some things never change.

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Book Blitz: My Dragon, My Dom by Dulce Dennison (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  My Dragon, My Dom

Series: Southern Dragons #1

Author: Dulce Dennison

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: December 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 91

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Christmas, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Shifters, Interracial, BDSM, Urban Fantasy, First Responders

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Synopsis

Officer Corbin Richters has gone through more partners than he can count. They all claim he’s difficult to work with, but he knows better. They’re scared being gay might be something they can catch. Idiots. When he’s assigned yet another partner, his inner dragon perks up and takes notice. Josh is different from anyone he’s ever met. Unfortunately, he’s also human.

When the two are tasked with getting Christmas trees for families in need, they never count on growing close. The more time Corbin spends with Josh, the more certain he becomes the man is his mate.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Dulce Dennison

Corbin Richters watched the sexy-as-hell man walking through the door of the precinct, his blue uniform fitted snugly to his shoulders and chest, silver badge gleaming under the fluorescent lights, his stride powerful and purposeful as he approached Captain Meeker. The dark hair on his head stood out in disarray but it was artfully done, the waves beckoning to be touched in an intimate caress. His eyes looked green from this distance, and they took everything in with a swift assessment that said he was ready for whatever danger that might be lurking within the precinct walls. Whoever he was, he wasn’t a rookie. No one got that hard-edged look, the look of a predator, the first day on the job.

Corbin’s heart kicked in his chest and his hands clenched on top of the desk. What he wouldn’t give to peel away that uniform and see what lay beneath the crisp, blue material. He unconsciously licked his lips as he thought about trailing kisses along those broad shoulders. Corbin’s skin heated and his cock twitched in his pants. He felt his scales ripple under his skin and fought for control. Hell, here he was fantasizing over the man, and he wasn’t even sure if the cop was into men or women. Or both. It had been a long time since he’d had such a reaction to someone on first sight, and he wanted to explore the feelings a bit more.

“Damn.” He sneaked a quick glance around. Had he said that out loud?

Corbin watched as the officer shook hands with the captain and then as Captain Meeker pointed at Corbin. Why on earth was the captain sending Mr. Sexy his way? Not that he was going to complain! Still, he had to admit to being curious. What did the man’s voice sound like? Would he offer to shake hands? Would that small contact arouse Corbin’s dragon even more? The beast was already more than a little intrigued.

The object of his desire strode across the room with panther-like grace, his movements fluid and beautiful, and stopped at the edge of Corbin’s desk. The officer flashed him a smile, one that had his dragon — lusty beast — perking up considerably, and held out his hand.

Corbin stood and shook it, an electrical current shooting up his arm, swirling down through his chest, and settling in his balls, making them draw up tight. His cock gave another jerk, but if the officer noticed — and something told Corbin that he had — he wasn’t commenting on it. Corbin had thought the man would pack a punch, but it still took him by surprise, this visceral reaction. He couldn’t remember the last time his dragon and he had been in total agreement on their choice of bed partners.

The man’s voice was crisp and clipped as he introduced himself. “Josh Myers.”

“Corbin Richters.” Corbin released Josh’s hand reluctantly before he did something stupid, like jerk him closer for a different sort of embrace. As it was, he wanted to bury his nose against the man’s neck and inhale that incredible scent that was teasing him.

“It seems I’m your new partner,” Josh said.

Partner? Corbin shot the captain a look. No one had said anything about a new partner. Corbin had only been part of the Blueberry Hill Police Department for a little over a month, having been lucky enough to land the job within a week of hitting town. And yet he’d already gone through two partners. The men had claimed Corbin was too rough and rude, but he knew the truth. They didn’t care that he was black. They hadn’t wanted to work with a gay officer. Probably afraid it would rub off on them or some stupid shit like that.

“I take it this is news to you,” Josh said, that gorgeous smile flirting around his lips again. Lips that looked full and soft, the kind of lips a man could kiss forever.

Corbin cleared his throat, hoping to get better control of himself. “Yeah, I hadn’t heard that I was getting a new partner today.” He met Josh’s gaze. “But I’m glad you’re here.” Too direct?

Josh’s smile broadened and there was something in his eyes, a warmth that told Corbin his advances might be welcome. He supposed time would tell. It was possible the guy was just being friendly and he was reading into things.

Corbin pointed to the desk butting up to his. “That will be your space. There should be some supplies in the drawer, but if not, we can ask the receptionist on our way out.”

“Hitting the streets early?”

“I thought we’d swing by Espress Yourself and grab some coffee. There’s no charge to officers for a regular brewed cup, and they usually have a few different flavors going. You have to pay for those fancy drinks though.”

Josh smiled again. “Sounds good. I can check out the desk when we get back.”

“The black SUV near the back is ours.”

Josh scanned him from head to toe. “I’m guessing your size has something to do with us getting the biggest vehicle. What are you? Six foot four?”

Corbin grinned. “Six-six.” Not that Josh was short. He had to be at least six-two.
They strolled out of the rear precinct door and headed to the SUV. Corbin popped the locks with the key fob and slid in.

“So…” Josh glanced his way as he snapped his seatbelt into place. “Your place or mine?”

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

Meet the Author

Dulce Dennison is a pen name for gay and LGBTQA+ themed love stories from best selling MC romance author Harley Wylde, AKA award-winning science fiction/paranormal romance author Jessica Coulter Smith. From cowboys to shapeshifters, Dulce/Harley/Jess believes in love in all shapes and sizes, and that everyone deserves a happily-ever-after.

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

Title:  Voice

Series: Crossing Nuwa, Book Three

Author: Sean Ian O’Meidhir, Connal Braginsky

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 12/21/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 62500

Genre: Paranormal Romance, LGBTQIA+, pride, parade, bears, action/adventure, drag queens, vampires, shifters, magic, mind control, urban fiction, plus sized

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Description

After an unfortunate mishap, Robbie has to learn how to use his Command abilities. Just when he thinks that it’s safe to turn them off entirely, he is challenged in a way he never imagined and is faced with the decision to use his abilities or lose his beloved cousin for good. His growth puts a strain on his budding relationship with Theo who is already stretched thin with his own dilemmas. Will the couple grow from their individual struggles, or will this be a final dividing point?

This is the third book in the Crossing Nüwa series and a continuation of Robbie and Theo’s relationship growth and struggles.

Excerpt

Voice
Sean Ian O’Meidhir and Connal Braginsky © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Robbie

“Oh shit!” I cursed, spitting out the flavor of another man’s unwanted lips on mine and chafing my lips as I fervently wiped my mouth on my sleeve.

With small bony hands, he grabbed both of my arms. “Robbie,” Brent said. His high-pitched nasally voice, which had always annoyed me a little, now grated on every nerve. “You know you want me as much as I want you. Stop playing hard to get.”

I couldn’t believe this was happening. At school! I glanced around the empty college hallway for anyone to potentially save me, but classes were in session. I felt more than saw Brent lunge in for another kiss, and my lua training kicked in. Thrusting into his solar plexus with one palm, I snatched his wrist and wrenched. As he fell, I twisted him, catching his chin in my left hand, and by stretching him out I was able to face him away from me.

“Oooo,” Brent cooed, kneeling from the ground. “You like it rough. Robbie, I never knew.”

Disgusted, I dropped him and tripped back into the wall. “I thought we were friends,” I managed pathetically. Confusion swirled around me. We were supposed to be on the way to class. We were supposed to be working on a project for class. We were supposed to be studying for finals. We were supposed to be doing anything but what he had just done. Brent had been my closest friend since I started college. While he had asked me out that first week, he backed off when I told him I had a boyfriend.

Brent pulled his small frame up, standing and looking up at me with a twisted smile that made me cringe. “You know we’re more than that. I don’t know what you see in that fat dude you call a boyfriend. You’re so much hotter than that. Deserve someone like me. Come on; let’s cut biology and get out of here? They know we’re working on that project anyway.”

I caught him as he moved in again. The scent of his sauerkraut-covered hot dog lunch wafted from his breath, making me shudder in revulsion. “Just stop!” I shouted, not caring if someone overheard, and pushed him back with all my strength.

He hit the other wall looking stunned and then slumped to the ground.

“Oh,” I exhaled. Nüwa are stronger than humans. What if I…?

Bending down, I gingerly pushed him, almost expecting a horror film scene of him grappling me down. He just rolled over, looking peacefully asleep.

Scrambling, I stumbled away. And then ran.

Chapter Two
Compartmentalize, compartmentalize, compartmentalize, I chanted to myself. Brent was okay. I had just knocked him out. Someone would come along and find him passed out in the hall. Or he’d wake up and…and what? Call me? I glanced apprehensively at the phone mounted to the overly cheerful artichoke-shaped charging station in our kitchen.

I had thrown myself into cooking the moment I got home. Ms. Gomez, our live-in housekeeper and cook, kindly let me use the kitchen while she took off to the store. The new pasta maker I got online dominated my attention until it started slipping back to Brent. Maggie’s voice rung out in my mind, reminding me to compartmentalize—to put this experience in another box in my mind. And shut it. Lock it. Learning to tuck away the memories from childhood that left me feeling vulnerable had kept me sane this past year.

The memory of holding my mother’s lifeless body after she had sacrificed herself to save me came unbidden to my mind, and once again, I was awash with that guilt. The deep cleansing breath helped to center me, and I imagined settling the top on that box again.

As I thought more about it, it seemed like I was compartmentalizing other things too. The time we spent in San Diego lived in one box and my time spent in the oasis of my home with Theo in yet another. I found that I was a different person in each context. With Theo I was most at ease. He knew me better than anyone, even Maggie, though I had spared him the sordid details about my childhood. There was never any guesswork with Theo. He loved me unconditionally and was always there for me. I could be myself with Maggie and Abi, too, but felt a wall with them. I know it’s because they’re women and Nüwa, and Mother and my aunt instilled in me a fear of both and an internal need to be deferential. So, I knew what the wall was; I just didn’t see a way of getting past it. And part of me didn’t want to. They were both amazing, and loving, and kind. And nothing at all like Mother and my aunt. So, they deserved my respect and deference.

And college was another box. I groaned loudly, channeling my fury into my whisk, hitting the sides of the bowl in a frenzy. The cream sauce I was making from scratch for the Italian sausage lasagna spun around in a vortex inside the bowl. How could I go back if Brent was there? The idea of confronting him… But the idea of not going back to college left me with a sense of dread.

“Hey ya, sugar.”

I let out a yelp and spun around to see Theo casually leaning on the counter. How long had he been there?

“What’s up?” His question had a cautious tone.

“Cooking,” I muttered, turning my back to him and focusing on pouring the sauce into the pan that I had already layered with pasta, meat, and cheese. Heat stained my cheeks with just the thought of telling Theo about the kiss.

The weight of his stare on my back was a tangible thing, and I was relieved when his phone sounded. He let it ring longer than he normally would, but then answered and left. Relief slumped my shoulders. I would put this whole thing in a box. The Brent box. It belonged on a shelf with all the other bad memories and mistakes. Tonight, I was going to have dinner with my family: Kat and Theo. But first, I would need to meditate and get calm. All this rumination was getting me absolutely nowhere.

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Meet the Author

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

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

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