Book Blitz: Second Chance Omegas by Will Okati (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Second Chance Omegas

Author: Will Okati

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: March 24

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 394 pages

Genre: Romance, New Adult, Action Adventure, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy, Gay, Second Chances, Sex/Gender Shifters & MPreg

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

Only You: Once upon a time a teenaged Alpha fell in love with a pretty Omega from the wrong side of the tracks. Zachary was everything Alex wanted — sweet, sassy, and sexy as hell. Alex would have married that boy if Zachary hadn’t run. When the secrets they’ve been keeping come to light, will they shatter their bond for keeps, or bring them together in a forever kind of love?

Yes, You Are: Everyone assumed petite Darian would be an Omega, and big, athletic Coby would be an Alpha. When they met as teenagers, they had no reason to doubt that was who they’d be. But everyone was wrong. Opposites attract like lightning and steel rods when they meet again in Second Chance, but do they have what it takes to overcome the unexpected for the long haul?

Come for You: Gabriel, a dreamer and a librarian, is so shy and introverted that he’s still a virgin Omega at twenty-five — but he can’t help wishing for a fairy-tale Prince Charming. Meet captivating quarryman Alpha Wynn. For them, it’s love at first sight. But the happy ending is harder to come by. Who will rescue who?

Take You There: Ethan teaches music at the university. He’s not looking for Mr. Right, just Mr. Right Now. A quick, dirty alley encounter should have satisfied him. But now Ethan can’t get Blue out of his mind. The smoldering musician who caught Blue’s eye and what they did in the alley, should have been enough. Until Ethan finds him. And then, everything changes. Again.


Copyright ©2023 Will Okati
Excerpt from Only You

“Coffee, sir?”

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

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

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

“About half an hour, at this point.”

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


Oh, God.

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

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


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

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

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

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

Alex. Oh, Alex.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let it go.

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

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

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

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


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Meet the Author

Will Okati (formerly known as Willa) has lived through a few Interesting Times, but come out the other side a little grayer, a little wiser, and ready to get writing. Still as passionate about coffee, cats, and crafts as ever, but knowing that to your own self you must be true. Also still one of the quiet ones to watch out for, but life — like storytelling — is always a work in progress.


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New Release Blitz ~ The Substitute Bride by Samantha Cayto (Excerpt & Giveaway)

The Substitute Bride by Samantha Cayto

Book 4 in the Treaty Brides series

Word Count: 50,438
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 182



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Book Description

Being a bride is a state of mind, not of body.

Lord Carwyn has come to the royal palace of Moorcondia to support his beloved cousin, Nora. The princess has been promised in marriage to bind a treaty between her country and the archipelago nation called The Southern Chain. Carwyn’s efforts to help her turn into a daring plan when he catches his first sight of Nora’s intended. The foreigner captivates him in a way no other man ever has.

Kai Aleki feels the fate of his people on his shoulders. As his nation’s military leader, he understands how duty always comes first and that a strong alliance is crucial to fight the vicious marauders known only as the Swarm. He has no interest in marrying a woman, but the delectable and attentive Carwyn captures his attention.

Carwyn has a solution that will satisfy everyone. He secretly takes Nora’s place and marries Aleki himself. A delighted Aleki sets off, determined to protect the known world from the Swarm after safely delivering Carwyn to his new home. Their imperative journey holds hidden dangers, forcing Aleki and his bride to join forces to defeat a common enemy.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, death and ordered suicide.


“This is so unfair!”

Carwyn watched helplessly as his dear cousin Nora, Duchess of Windham and Countess of Kenworth, raged against her fate while pacing her private garden.

“How can the king and my father do this to me? After all they promised, I’m to be traded away like a prize cow to a foreign prince now that I’m of legal age to wed.”

Carwyn had given up trying to keep pace with the furious girl. Her longer legs, fueled by anger, gave her an advantage. The best he could do was catch her attention with each turn leading back to his spot by the fountain. “They’re scared, Nora. This alliance with the Southern Chain is critical to bolstering a defensive line against the Swarm, as well as to find their source and defeat them.”

Nora turned furious eyes at him. “Ridiculous! The king is afraid of no one—and neither is my father.”

Carwyn knew better than to argue the point, but he could vividly recall the time when his cousin had come down with the pox and nearly died from it. The look in her father’s eyes was one of pure terror. No one was above being frightened—no one sane, anyway. And the Swarm was an enemy unlike any other. The mysterious people came from the gods knew where, completely destroying the places they attacked, killing, looting and burning everything and dragging those still alive away to an unknown fate—slavery probably, which was bad enough, but there were rumors of strange rituals and blood-drinking. He shivered at the mere thought of it, although his wiser self told him those were likely tall tales. At least he hoped so.

He chased after Nora’s back and taking her arm, pulled her up short. “Please, Nora, calm yourself.” When she turned her blazing gaze on him, he reminded himself that this was his liege lady as well as his kinswoman and friend. Swallowing back his urge to apologize, he pressed forward with telling her of the decision he’d come to only that morning. “I understand how hard it’s going to be for you to make your home in a distant land. That’s why I’m coming with you. If you’ll have me, of course.”

Letting go, he took a step back and braced for her response. Nora didn’t like being ‘handled’, and what he was suggesting had to be embraced as her idea more than his. He ignored the unease manifesting in his queasy stomach. He’d only just arrived at the Moorcondian capital, a life-long dream of his. Kenworth was beautiful, quiet and…boring. His eighteenth birthday had given him the courage to press his parents once more to let him come visit the king’s court and hopefully find a useful role there. They hadn’t wanted to let their youngest child go so far away. Although they hadn’t said as much, he knew his family worried that he was too delicate of mind and emotions to navigate court life. How much worse would they feel finding out that he’d sailed away to a distant land to live among strangers they knew little about?

Nora’s high dudgeon eased, leaving a sheen of tears in her eyes. “You’d do that? Oh Carwyn, you know nothing of these Chainers. You don’t understand how much your life would be different from what you’re used to.”

Carwyn swallowed his trepidation. “Neither do you. The traders who’ve been there say it’s spectacular and the people are friendly.” They also said the ‘Chainers’ were a fierce tribe of near savages. There was no point in bringing up that information, however. He took Nora’s hands in his own. “And we’ll have each other. If our childhoods taught us nothing else, together we are nearly invincible.”

Nora surprised him with a tight embrace. “Oh Carwyn, your parents will be grief-stricken at the idea. They will never allow it. It’s bad enough that Cariad is out to sea mapping those treacherous waters.”

“That’s different. What he’s doing is inherently dangerous.” Carwyn nevertheless took a moment to worry about his older brother. The bookish boy was ill-suited for such an adventure, but he was a wizard in memorizing topography and an excellent draftsman to boot. “And it’s not for my parents to say. If the king decides I should go, then the matter is settled. If you ask him, I’m sure he will agree, if only because your father will advocate it. He wouldn’t want you to be alone in this, Nora, and a whole army of maids at your side will never match the benefit of having a family member with you.”

Nora let go and stepped away from him. She twisted her fingers as she spoke. “I shouldn’t be so selfish, but I lack the courage to refuse your kind offer.”

Carwyn put on a bright smile. “It’s a plan, then. And who knows? Perhaps I’ll find a lover of my own. It’s past time I do so, and I have heard the Chainer men are gorgeous.” He fluttered his eyelashes.

Nora chuckled as he’d intended. “Remember how we used to dream of what our first lover would be like? I never thought I’d go to my marriage bed a virgin. What if he’s not kind to me?” As powerful as she was, Nora had the same worries and desires as anyone else of their age.

Carwyn clasped her arms and peered into her still-moist eyes. “Then we’ll find a way to castrate the bastard and toss his genitals into the sea.”

Nora rolled her eyes. “Well, if anyone can pull that off, it’s you, Carwyn.”

Before he could further soothe her fears, the heralds blared loudly. They both looked in the direction of the main entrance to the city. The Southern Chain prince had arrived. Kai Aleki. The Chainers had different titles. Once they were wed, Nora would be known as a kailisa as well as a princess, a duchess and a countess. He understood how important it was to her to have her own titles. The Chainers might not care about her independent positions. Becoming known only as an extension of her husband would grate on her. As a mere lord and not his father’s heir, he could only relate to her feelings on the matter academically. In his more wistful moments, he wished he could become like Prince Ronan—the adored wife of a powerful man. If he went with Nora, his dream could never be, probably. The Chainers customs were not well known. It was possible that his attraction to men would be frowned upon…or even illegal. If he thought about it too much, he might go back on his offer. Never. Sacrificing for the royal family had been bred into him, and being Nora’s champion had been his role in life for as long as he could remember.

Nora took in a shuddering breath. “He’s arrived.”

“Yes, and we must both get ready for the welcome banquet. Come… I’ll walk you to your apartment.” He took his cousin’s hand and tugged her along. Whether she knew it or not, Nora was literally dragging her feet.

He deposited her with her maids, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving. “Make yourself as stunning as always, and Kai Aleki’s eyes will pop out right in front of the court. You can do this,” he added in a voice only for her ears.

Having done his duty, Carwyn hurried to his less luxurious accommodations in the palace. As a minor member of the king’s extended family, he was entitled to be housed there, although he had to share. As he entered the room, two of his three roommates were entwined on a bed, flushed and puffing from their recent exertions. He paid them no mind. Those two were always going at it. He couldn’t understand why they were so enthralled with one another. Boys his own age didn’t interest him in the least. He wanted a man, someone strong enough to take charge and carry him off to bed. There was nothing arousing about holding on to a body as slender as his own. Carwyn craved muscle that could both mount him vigorously and be careful of him, too. Is there such a man even out there for me?

Heading for his own bed, he contemplated how he might style his hair. It was long enough to produce a decent braid and it would be a more formal look than leaving it down. He did love the feel of it swinging against his cheeks, but he wasn’t in Kenworth anymore. He needed to blend into palace life and represent his family well. His small chest of drawers held fewer outfits than he would have liked, and there was really only one that would do for such an occasion. The green velvet tunic and trousers with gold thread trim brought out the green in his hazel eyes and complemented his yellow hair. He laid them carefully on top of his bed and stripped off what he was wearing. The other boys started making noises that indicated they weren’t done with each other.

Carwyn tsked. “You’d best move your pretty asses. Princess Eleanora’s betrothed has arrived.” That news got them moving. They nearly tumbled onto the floor in their haste to leave the bed. Carwyn shook his head. At the same time, he admired how they’d been so engrossed in each other that they hadn’t heard the heralds. Such devotion was enviable. Still, there was no time to dwell on such matters. “And I need someone to braid my hair, please.”

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About the Author

Samantha Cayto

Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.

She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.


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New Release Blitz: Friends without Benefits by Evelyn Fenn (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Friends without Benefits

Author: Evelyn Fenn

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/21/2023

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 93300

Genre: Contemporary, ace, aro, non-binary, coming out, in the closet, over 40

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Academic Clare is in a rut. She is in her forties, her job is stressful, and she feels worn down by the personalities and politics in the university department where she works. She has also just broken up with her latest boyfriend.

During one of their regular get-togethers, Clare’s oldest friend shows Clare a newspaper article, pushing her into an exploration of what it means to be asexual.

As Clare figures things out, she meets homoromantic couple, Tristan and Matt, nonbinary Ollie, student Jack, aromantic Janice, and Matt’s cousin, Natalia.

Follow Clare and her new friends through a series of misadventures as they road trip, take part in Pride, suffer a series of misunderstandings, and forge new relationships.


Friends without Benefits
Evelyn Fenn © 2023
All Rights Reserved

I bagged a table. U get the drinks LOL!!!!

Clare keyed a quick ok, pressed Send, and dropped her phone into her bag. No matter how much she liked Louisa and how much she usually enjoyed their Tuesday evening get-togethers, Clare wasn’t looking forward to tonight. Only three days before, Clare had broken up with her long-term, long-distance boyfriend, and Louisa was sure to want details.

Clare took a fortifying breath and jogged up the steps that led to the pub’s front door.

The Quill and Scholar, a favourite hangout of postgraduates and lecturers, buzzed with the after-work crowd. Although the pub appeared older than the university, it had opened less than thirty years before when it had capitalised on a fashion for bottled lagers. Since then, the Quill had moved with the times, catering for fashions for real ales and craft beers and, most recently, craft gins.

When she had been a student, Clare had eschewed the Quill’s designer labels in favour of happy hours, Boddington’s, and flavoured schnapps served in test tubes by the chain pubs a couple of hundred yards down the road. Although Clare had never developed a taste for bottled beer and she hated gin, she liked the Quill’s ambience and décor. Plus, nobody could go wrong with the house Chardonnay. Besides, these days, the kinds of places marketed to undergraduates made her feel old.

Clare loosened her scarf, shoved her hat and wrist warmers into her jacket’s pockets, and fought her way through the crowd towards the bar. The room was full of people, many of whom she knew by sight and some by name.

Mikey, an astrophysics postgraduate who moonlighted as a barman, greeted Clare, and said, “The usual?”


He sighed theatrically. “One of these days I’ll get you to branch out. Some of our botanicals are amazing.”

Clare nodded and, not meaning it, said, “One day. Not today.”

While she waited for her drinks, she waved at Sam, an occasional drinking buddy, who was in the throes of writing up her doctoral thesis.

Clare exchanged notes for drinks and change, and then, holding her glasses aloft, she set out to find Louisa.

Clare and Louisa had nothing in common beyond a host of shared memories from their undergraduate days and a friendship that had endured across the years. Clare’s dad had once described Louisa as having more neck than a giraffe. On another occasion, he’d said, “That lass has got more front than the esplanade at Blackpool!” Given that Louisa had, when eight and a half months pregnant, worn a white dress as she headed down the aisle for her second marriage, seeking a blessing in the church of a god she didn’t believe in, Clare supposed Dad might have had a point.

Clare had taken an excessively long time to realise that Dad had a crush on her best friend. Mum thought it was hilarious. She had tried to explain it more than once, but Clare still didn’t get it.

Even though he’d only met her a dozen times over the years, Dad often asked after Louisa. Clare would say that she was fine, and Mum would laugh, kiss the top of Dad’s balding head, and say, “You can dream so long as you don’t trade me in for a younger model or buy a motorcycle!” Then Dad would colour slightly and answer that he was only being polite and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with the mother of his children.

Clare slalomed her way through the crowd and up the wide, wooden staircase that led to the first floor, where the rooms of the converted Victorian villa were smaller, quieter, and cosier. Her favourite, a former bedroom with a large bay window that offered good views along the busy street and thus afforded great opportunities for people watching, was at the front of the building.

Today, Louisa hadn’t been able to bag seats at the window and, instead, had parked herself at a table pressed against a wall, where she was now frantically working the screen of her smartphone.

In her business suit and heavy bling, her overcoat and accessories neatly arranged on a neighbouring chair, Louisa stuck out like a gemstone among pebbles. She had allowed her knee-length skirt to ride up slightly, thus emphasising her long, slender legs, and revealing kneecaps along with a hint of thigh. Thanks to genetics, a lot of self-discipline, soft lighting, and hair dye, Louisa passed for a good decade younger than her forty-and-a-few years. Louisa also dyed her eyebrows and eyelashes; Clare hadn’t known people did such things until they’d shared a flat in their second year at uni.

Even this late in the day, Louisa’s makeup appeared flawless. She wore matching vermillion lipstick and nail polish, the latter almost certainly the result of a mani-pedi, and her eye shadow and eyeliner looked as though they had been applied by a draughtsman.

Clare slid Louisa’s usual in front of her. Louisa glanced up and gave her the barest of acknowledgements as she continued working her phone.

The immaculate nail polish glittered with reflected light as she finished typing and sent a message. “There. Done. I’m all yours.”

“Everything okay?”

“Oh, yes.” Louisa brushed Clare’s concern away. “Just a teensy crisis at work. All sorted now.”

Knowing Louisa and the general nature of her job, Clare was certain that, whatever the crisis had been, there would have been nothing teensy about it. Only major crises got escalated as far as Louisa, who had always been able to make light of the most catastrophic emergencies. Clare envied her insouciant self-confidence.

There was a pattern to their evenings together. Glass one would carry them through an exchange of war stories and a sympathetic hearing of each other’s colleague-related character assassinations. Sometime during drink two, having got all their work angst out of their systems, they would move onto subjects of greater mutual interest. Glass three was when they got to the difficult topics, the ones that laid souls bare. Today was going to be at least a three-glass evening. They wouldn’t get to—let alone through—the interrogation otherwise.

Sure enough, when there was barely an eighth of an inch of liquid at the bottom of Clare’s second glass, and Clare’s perception was blurring around the edges, Louisa asked, “How were the in-laws?”


“You know. Gavin’s parents. The people you went to visit at the weekend? The parents of your SO?”

SO. Significant other.

“My insignificant other, you mean,” said Clare, doing her best to copy Louisa’s style of banter. “We split up.”


There was something in the way Louisa said, “Oh,” that made Clare bristle. “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well. You and Gavin. You’ve always struck me as a couple more in word than deed.” Clare tried to hide her shock at Louisa’s astute observation by gulping the dregs of her drink. “Did you even do it with Gavin? Ever?”

Clare’s silence spoke volumes.

“What was wrong with him?”

“With…him?” Clare asked. “You tell me. You set us up.”

“I don’t know him that well. So, tell me. What’s wrong with him?”

“Nothing, as far as I know. We went out a few times. We didn’t click.” She stood up. “I’ll get the next round.” If they were going to have this conversation, she was going to need that third glass, and maybe another after that.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

I lived in five different cities, spanning two continents, before leaving crowds and commuting behind and settling somewhere that official statistics describe as “Very Remote Rural”.

I have made up stories for as long as I can remember, and I have been writing them down for almost as long. I cut my creative writing teeth on fan fiction in the days of paper fanzines and, later, online. I had fun but eventually grew tired of playing in other people’s sandpits. Turns out, it’s more fun to create sandpits of my own.

I have worked in the public, private, and voluntary sectors, with roles ranging from number crunching and lecturing to mucking out cowsheds and toilet cleaning. I currently hold down a day job while daydreaming of writing full time.  Find Evelyn on Twitter.


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Book Blitz: Out in the Surf by Lane Hayes (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Out in the Surf

Series: Out in College, Book 10

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: March 21

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 41000

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

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The hockey player, the surfer, and a lesson neither can forget…


I love the beach, and I’m a good athlete. Learning how to surf should be a breeze, right?


In a twist, hockey is nothing like surfing. That’s okay—I just need a diversion to round out my new life in So Cal while I figure out what comes next. As long as I keep my head above water, this could be fun.

Bonus…my instructor is hot.


Teaching newbies to surf is easy money. Usually. My newest student is a wild card who seems to think his jock status should make him a natural at everything he tries, and I can see why. Luca is…special. He’s dynamic, energetic, and fun. It’s hard not to like him. But I like him a little too much.

This could be trouble.

Out in the Surf is a low-angst MM romance, bisexual-awakening story. When the teacher becomes the student, it may be time to come out in the surf.


I held out my hand, smirking when he stared at it suspiciously.


He pressed his palm against mine, shook my hand, and released it. No big deal, right?


My fingers tingled and my heart rate soared to the stratosphere. I played it cool, though. I hooked my thumbs in my belt loops, casually glanced up at the street sign before asking, “So…when do you want to schedule your next lesson?”

Luca barked a laugh. “I’m not doing that again. That was single-handedly the most traumatic thing that’s happened to me since I moved to Cali. A clear sign I should stay closer to shore and away from surfboards.”

“No, no, no. You’ve got that wrong,” I cajoled. “It’s like I tried to tell you…you’ve got to get back on that horse. Or surfboard. Don’t let fear win.”

“I’m not afraid of surfing. It’s more a matter of returning to the scene of the crime.”

“What crime?”

“The kissing crime!” He threw his hands in the air and paced a few feet away.

I pursed my lips to keep my smile in check when he came to a stop in front of me. “Are you going to do it again?”

Luca shrugged. “I didn’t intend to do it the first time around. But what if I accidentally stick my tongue down your throat? Don’t look at me like that. It could happen.”

“I’m willing to take a chance.” I chuckled. “How about Monday?”

He screwed his features into wide-eyed disbelief. “Really?”


“I can’t. School started last week and I can’t be late…yet.”

“Wise choice.” I stepped away from the crosswalk to lean against the building’s façade. “Okay, if you have any open mornings, we’ll make it work. Otherwise, I’ll make time for you on the weekend. Early.”

Luca furrowed his brow. “If I hypothetically agreed, what is ‘early’ to you?”

“Seven a.m.”

“Fuck that.” He snorted with a laugh. “I need my beauty sleep.”

It was on the tip of my tongue to assure him that he didn’t, but that was a strange sentiment coming from another guy. Wasn’t it?

“Early bird gets the worm and all that,” I singsonged.

“Hmph. I’ll think about it…someday.”

“Sounds fair. Gimme your phone number.” I handed over my cell and let him add his contact info. “I’m free tomorrow morning…just sayin’.”

I was teasing. I was more interested in coaxing an incredulous reaction than anything. And Luca didn’t disappoint. He put his hands on his hips and shook his head in mock consternation.

“You’re nuts. Certifiable. I wouldn’t want to hang out with hungover me if I were you.”

“I’ve seen you barf. Does it get worse?”

He opened his mouth and closed it. “Wow, I really was a mess that day.”

“You weren’t that bad,” I chided playfully.

“Liar,” Luca scoffed. “All right. Call me or text me. We’ll have a redo and next time, I promise not to kiss you.”

“I wouldn’t mind if you did,” I replied, unthinking.

We both froze.

I wasn’t sure who was more surprised. My jaw unhinged while he cocked his head and really looked at me for the first time that night, his eyes roaming my face as if searching for clues.

“So kissing might be okay,” he hummed, narrowing his eyes.

I felt his gaze like a physical touch. It had never occurred to me to wonder how another man saw me, but I had to admit, the flash of naked desire in his expression did something for me.

This was a new one. Luca was gay, or maybe bi. Either way, he was plainly interested in me…and I didn’t hate it. In fact, my jeans hugged my crotch a little too tightly, which meant my body appreciated his interest and maybe shared it. And that was pretty…gay.

Was I okay with that?

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, 2018-2019, 2020-2021 Rainbow Awards. She loves wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband and her fabulous pup, George.

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Book Blitz: Rhyme of Loss by Emily Carrington (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Rhyme of Loss

Series: Jack and Gil 2

Author: Emily Carrington

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: March 17

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 121 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Action Adventure, Paranormal, Dark Fantasy, Gay, Multicultural & Interracial, Shapeshifters , Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

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Jack is falling apart, but no one seems to notice. He’s transforming into an animal with the ability to rend flesh and kill with little thought, and there’s no one but Gil who can save him. But as Jack withdraws into himself, the tide of war rises. Jack must find a way to regain his strength and determination or SearchLight will fall. And he is convinced he must do it alone.

Gil has resolved never to leave Jack, but that’s hard when his beloved smells of another man and he keeps pulling away. Convinced he’s been replaced, Gil tries to play mean games, but his love for Jack trumps pettiness. Will change destroy them?


All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Emily Carrington

Gil sat in the business-class airplane seat and fidgeted. He’d put his bag up. His suitcase was under the aircraft. And now the Great Herd would enter the confined space and make him feel common and —

And do I really feel common? After being told I’m loved by such a man as Jack Sowerby?

No. What he felt was heartsore. Homesick for a place he’d never lived. Because where Jack was, there Gil’s soul and mind were also. He acknowledged he was putting on a front for himself, pretending to feel the arrogance that he’d worn as a shield for years. Which Jack had wiped away with three words.

I love you.

The first person Gil had ever bedded more than once, although three times wasn’t such a high number — he wished for three hundred or three thousand. He wished, in short, that either he wasn’t leaving the United States for South Africa or that Jack was with him.

He glanced to his right as someone human took the seat beside him. Here in business class, there were two wider seats to each row instead of three, but it still meant he had to share his personal space. He didn’t want to do that with anyone but Jack. Gil had purposely taken the aisle seat, hoping to feel less restricted.

The man was large and had a flushed visage. Gil smiled gamely at him, but the man totally ignored him and turned his face to the window. There was something in the man’s profile that looked familiar to Gil. He couldn’t place him, except that he was human, he wore an expensive suit, and he looked oddly slovenly in his finery.

I’m just being uncharitable again.

Maybe that was true. It was also true that the man’s appearance still struck Gil as familiar. He opened his eyes, gazed at the man for a moment, then closed his lids again. The chin was weak, the cheeks fleshy, and the hair was an odd shade.

In surprise, Gil realized where he knew the man from. Human television. The gent was some sort of politician, wasn’t he?

Huh, Gil thought. Well, I’ll just ignore him as he seems bent on doing to me, and we’ll pass this ungodly long flight in uncompanionable silence.

Someone made a startled noise up near the front door of the plane. Gil didn’t pay much attention. He tended to live by the adage “not my circus, not my monkeys.” It had served him well over the last two centuries. Probably the humans were jostling each other or grumbling over the rows and letters they’d been assigned.

There was another noise, louder than the first, which had been more like a gasp. This was a grunt. Mildly curious, Gil focused his hearing in that direction without opening his eyes.

“Go on. Open it.”

The snarled order had Gil looking toward the cockpit. There were a couple of humans directly in his path, but there seemed to be some sort of disturbance up in front.

Not my circus, he thought, not my —

There was a soft pop.

And the humans were shoving each other, trying to get either farther into the plane or back out of it. There seemed to be two currents, one pushing in each direction.

Gil was out of his seat and forcing his way through the straining crowd. He didn’t know that sound, but he felt the press of panic all around him. He ducked under one man’s arm and slipped sideways by a woman with terror in her deep brown eyes.

Now he was standing beyond the crush of people. Despite their struggles, none had quite dared to come close to the cockpit door. A flight attendant, identifiable by the uniform she wore, lay crumpled on the floor. Gil couldn’t see any reason for her to be down until he saw the small hole up near her hairline. She’d been shot.

There was another flight attendant between the person with the weapon and the sealed cockpit door. She was talking very fast, trying to calm the gunman down, Gil supposed. The hostile man waved the gun in her face, but she didn’t stop talking.

Gil launched himself on the man from behind. Just before his hands would have closed over the man’s wrists, the flight attendant’s eyes widened. By such a little warning was the man able to turn with what seemed to be speed only possible by magical creatures. He collided with Gil and tried to bring up his weapon.

Gil broke the man’s wrist with a quick movement born more of fear and instinct than training. The gun thudded to the floor. Gil waited for it to go off, but it didn’t. A small blessing.

But he didn’t have a firm enough grip on the assailant’s wrist. Proving that he had a magical creature’s strength as well as swiftness, the man seized Gil’s arm and tried to break it. The pain in Gil’s elbow was excruciating. He screamed and, again acting on impulse, slammed his free palm into the man’s nose, rocking his head back and spurting blood everywhere within a three-foot radius.

He took advantage of the man’s surprise to wrench his arm free. Then he was shoving his opponent backward, slamming him into the cockpit door.

Panting, he risked a glance at the flight attendant. “Call security.”

She had taken charge of the gun. Competent. She put it into a locker of some sort and stood guard with her back against the closed compartment hatch. “I already have. Plus, the captain will have radioed from the cockpit.”

Gil wasn’t looking at her anymore. In his grip, the assailant gave a tremendous jerk. Gil grunted in amazement at the other’s strength and shoved him harder. He recognized this was a difficult position to maintain and, risking losing his grip entirely, spun the struggling man around and smashed him face-first into the door. Then he seized both of the man’s wrists and pinioned them behind his back.

The right wrist, which had been broken mere moments ago, felt solid in Gil’s grip. He inhaled, trying to distinguish what kind of magical creature this was. And all he could smell was human. He inhaled again, caught a brief whiff of clay, and then all that was in his nose was the press of too many panicked humans in a small space.

As he set his feet in a wider stance, hoping to hold the — well, the whatever-he-was until security got here, Gil began to worry that two, three, or even ten guards wouldn’t be able to subdue this creature. Because Gil, a basilisk, strong and powerful, was having difficulty holding the man still. “Get the” — he swallowed the word “herd” — ”people to give me a little more space. I’m going to try and get him off the plane.”


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

Meet the Author

Emily Carrington is a multipublished author of male/male and transgender erotica. Seeking a world made of equality, she created SearchLight to live out her dreams. But even SearchLight has its problems, and Emily is looking forward to working all of these out with a host of characters from dragons and genies to psychic vampires.

Fantasy creatures not your thing? Emily has also created a contemporary romance world, called Sticks and Stones, where she explores being “different” in a small town.

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New Release Blitz: Like You’ve Nothing Left to Prove by E.L. Massey (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Like You’ve Nothing Left to Prove

Series: Breakaway, Book Two

Author: E.L. Massey

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/14/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66200

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, gay, interracial, new adult, sports, ice hockey, uni student, ice skating, professional athlete, physical disability, anxiety disorder, coming out, service dog, cooking/foodies, stanning, social media, hashtags, homophobia

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As the headline-stealing captain of the Houston Hell Hounds, nineteen-year-old Alexander Price has one goal: the Stanley Cup. He’s got the talent. He’s got the drive. But he’s also got an anxiety disorder and his therapist on speed dial. And, oh yeah, he’s gay. And he’s not willing to hide it anymore.

At eighteen, figure skater Elijah Rodriguez has already had his Olympic dreams crushed by an accident that left him with a seizure disorder and an existential crisis. Now a popular vlogger and freshman in college, Eli is trying to figure out what his new future will look like. Which is a little difficult because, oh yeah, he’s dating Alexander Price.

Eli and Alex are happy. It’s sort of a new state of being for both of them. But Eli is out, Alex isn’t, and their very visible “friendship” is already raising eyebrows. They have a plan: Alex will make their relationship public at the end of the season, hopefully with a Stanley Cup in tow. But what happens when that plan is derailed by an overzealous fan who outs them—right before the Hell Hounds’ playoff run?


Like You’ve Nothing Left to Prove
E.L. Massey © 2023
All Rights Reserved

The problem with dating a celebrity is that sometimes they have to do ridiculous things like take a call from their agent on Christmas Eve when they should be cuddling with their boyfriend.

Something about a sponsor and a New Year’s appearance and an upcoming photoshoot that had to be rescheduled? Eli lost the thread pretty quickly. He watches all of Alex’s games and has made an effort to actually understand hockey rules (though what actually counts as goaltender interference is still a mystery to him). He thinks his boyfriending duties are pretty well covered. He doesn’t need to know which jockstrap Alex is currently endorsing or whatever.

So Eli is reading Great Expectations, proud of himself for getting a head start on next semester’s readings, hoping his boyfriend comes to bed soon, and feeling very sleepy. Though that could be the Dickens. Actually, that’s not fair. He enjoys Dickens a fair amount. But Great Expectations is certainly no Bleak House.

He flips the page and glances up as Alex paces into the bedroom from the hallway, where he’s been in and out of earshot for the last half hour.

Eli’s parents are asleep at the opposite end of the house downstairs, and his sister, Francesca, is still awake next door if the music coming through the shared bathroom door is any indication.

“Hey,” Alex says, tossing his phone onto the top of the dresser. “Sorry about that.”

Eli waves Great Expectations at him in a conciliatory manner. “No problem. But since you’re up, I left my Chapstick in the bathroom.”

Alex gives him a fond look that Eli is still getting used to: a little squint, a little crooked smile, a raise of one eyebrow. “Is that a request?”

Eli tries to look as cozy and pitiful as possible. “Please?”

Alex rolls his eyes but slips through the bathroom door and switches the light on, painting the wood floor gold.

“I loved him against reason,” Eli shouts after Alex, “against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.”

“I already said I would get it,” Alex shouts back. “You don’t need to woo me with Dickens.”

“Ah, but I must always woo you, my love,” Eli argues, affecting a terrible English accent, “With Dickens or otherwise.”

“Can you do your wooing a little more quietly?” Francesca yells from her bedroom.

Eli stifles his laugh in the duvet.

Alex turns off the light, runs into the cedar chest, swears, and then crawls up to flop inelegantly on top of Eli. He tries, very ineffectively, to apply the Chapstick for Eli until, laughing even harder, Eli wrestles it away from him and does it himself while Alex pretends to pout.

“Hey,” Alex murmurs, smudging the words into Eli’s neck, “do you maybe wanna do that thing where you drag your fingernails up and down my back until I fall asleep completely blissed out on oxytocin?”

Eli slides his book and then the Chapstick onto his nightstand and moves his hands automatically to Alex’s shoulders. “How did you know? That’s exactly what I wanted to do.”

“Oh.” Alex makes a point of settling in further before going absolutely boneless. “Well, that’s perfect, then.”

The bruises on Alex’s side look particularly stark when painted in moonlight, and Alex is warm and sleepy and vulnerable. His curled fingers in the periphery of Eli’s vision make Eli’s chest ache in a way he can’t explain with anything other than love. This soft, tactile man, who smells like VapoRub and Eli’s detergent, is so far removed from the visceral, overconfident Alexander Price, whose skill and notoriety sell out hockey arenas. In the dark and the quiet of Eli’s childhood bedroom, it almost feels as if they’re two different people. Except Eli is the only one privileged enough to know this gentle night-time version.

“Mm,” Eli agrees, dragging his nails lightly, so lightly, up the expanse of Alex’s back. “Perfect.”


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

E. L. Massey is a human. Probably. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her partner, the best dog in the world (an unbiased assessment), and a frankly excessive collection of books. She spends her holidays climbing mountains and writing fan fiction, occasionally at the same time.

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Book Blitz: Absolute Perfection by Stephanie Burke (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Absolute Perfection

Author: Stephanie Burke

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: March 10

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 153 pages

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy, Gay, Multicultural & Interracial, shapeshifters

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Prince Taza is a seahorse, the sole male offspring of the Coushrin king, and heir to the throne. Sounds great, right? Not really. For one thing, two crazy female seahorses are vying to impregnate him and become the next queen of the Coushrin dynasty because seahorses mate for life. He doesn’t want to be just a breeder while his wife rules the seas. But if being the prey and intended brood-stallion of two insane females isn’t bad enough, Taza’s also being chased by a human who’s determined to attain immortality by eating him. Stir fried, easy on the garlic.

What does he do? Flee to a vampire bar on the surface world, where he meets Astika, a Hindu Naga god. Astika’s been dispatched on a fool’s errand, because his advice to his uncle and grandfather’s harems is causing mayhem in the kingdom. He wasn’t supposed to meet a seahorse prince, save his life, and end up mated in the process. But when Astika saves Prince Taza from the human who might just be crazier than the two seahorses chasing him, Taza does the only smart thing and pledges himself to the Naga. For life. Since they’re stuck with each other, Astika might as well see what it’s like with a seahorse. Together, out of the wildest circumstances imaginable, these two lovers create Absolute Perfection.


All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Stephanie Burke

“You’re a dick, and I don’t think I like you.”

Chris growled the words while leaning with arms braced on his bar.

“I have a mighty fine dick, thank you very much, and I really don’t care what you think.” Astika stared at the bartender as he answered with all the sarcasm he could muster. “I just need some information and some quiet, and in that order.”

“I can tell you the same thing I told your contacts. I don’t have the information you seek no matter what your family told you” — the bartender began to grin a little maniacally — “but boy, do I have the perfect drink for you.”

“I don’t drink.”

“Maybe you should start.” This came from what must be the bastard of a bartender’s wife, the Naga decided. She peeked out from behind the swinging doors to the kitchen before she disappeared again, no doubt to fry up some small, defenseless creature for consumption. “It just might soften your disposition a bit.”

Everyone knew that the vampires who operated this bar worked as a team, and it was said that the female was often more trouble than the male.

“I really don’t care if you do or if you don’t” — the vampire shrugged inelegantly — “but I have to agree with her and say that maybe drinking would improve your attitude.” Chris gave him his words back, smiling as a small frown curved down the corners of Astika’s rather thin lips. “You came into my bar tossing your name and title around and demanding things, Naga, and it’s my job as the best bartender in the tristate area to see to it that you leave with exactly what you need.”

“But not what I want.”

“Buddy, haven’t you heard that you can’t always get what you want?” called a youngish female voice.

Astika felt his frown grow deeper as he looked around the place. There were two small children staring back at him. It was the girl child who had spoken the sarcastic words, her dark eyes glowing as she stared up at him. Her brown hair was styled into two ponytails, and she had the same countenance as Chris, the bearded asshole of a bartender who refused to give him straight answers. She appeared to be around seven or eight — with vampires it was hard to tell the age of their young ones — but her eyes looked ancient.

The boy child was a bit smaller than her, with dark blond hair and green eyes and looked just like the female who’d popped out of the kitchen earlier to add sage bits of advice. The family resemblance was stunning.

But the young male vamp said nothing about the antics of the adults, merely shaking his head at their childish behavior. He absently rolled a chess piece between two fingers before boldly reaching out to the board that sat between him and the small female who could only be his sister. He then blithely moved her queen a box over before making his own move. “Checkmate,” he declared, his face looking as innocent as a preacher’s daughter.

“Cheater!” his sister squawked, turning back to their game, and then the familial arguing commenced as the pair proceeded to ignore the adults once more.

“You make that sound like a threat.” The blue-haired Naga disregarded the goings-on of the young ones and focused his attention on the bartender again.

“It sounds like fact to me.” Chris sucked at his front fangs as he reached for a collection of tall bottles and a metal shaker. “You would do well to listen.”

Then with a few deft moves, Chris made the bottles dance. It was an art form the way the muscular brunet juggled three uncapped bottles, tossing them over his head, behind his back, and twisting them in midair, never allowing a drop to spill where it wasn’t supposed to.

Finally, in short, controlled flicks of his wrist, measured amounts of liquor were poured midjuggle into a tall metal shaker. Once the proper amounts were reached, he flipped the bottles back into their places and took up the metal container.

The bartender capped it and began to shake it gently as he eyed the blue-haired man. After a moment and a few considering looks, he placed the shaker on the bar and retrieved a tall, frosty glass. He poured the pale-colored mixed drink with a flourish. And after a final squirt of juice from his bar gun, he whipped out a cherry from its dispenser and tossed it into the glass before he slid the drink in front of the frowning Naga.

“Not impressed?” Chris asked, flashing just a bit of fang from behind his neatly trimmed mustache as he grinned widely at his customer.

Astika just glared.

“Too bad.” He attempted to sound remorseful and failed. “And I gave you the free show and everything.”

“I don’t drink.”

“You’ll drink this.” Chris chuckled. “After all, it was tailor-made just for you.”

Astika reached out with long, thin fingers and tapped at the condensation beading up on the glass before him. He pulled it closer to himself, eyeing the slightly blue liquid, before inhaling deeply. He raised an eyebrow as he stared at Chris.

“I’m not getting anything out of you until I drink this, right?”

“Smarter than you look.” And from the look in Chris’s eye, his estimation of him put him somewhere between arrogant ass and airhead lackey.

He looked behind Chris to stare at the mirrored wall behind the bar and tilted his head, trying to see what the vampire was seeing.

He had long, flowing deep blue hair — not the electric stuff you find in bottles, but a deep dark blue that had subtle purple highlights. His eyes were beetle black, no light escaping and allowing no emotion to show. His nose was rather aquiline, his nostrils thin and flaring, his face narrow with a slightly pointy chin.

His body gave off a useless-pretty-boy facade as well; he was thin and tall with a model’s body and tight musculature. But most damning was that he was quite feminine in the face. He knew he was the epitome of the word twink. He appeared childlike but was saved from being almost too cute to be male by his height, the thin lips, and attitude.

“Gee, thanks,” he deadpanned before lifting the drink to his mouth. “What is this called, anyway?”

“Well, they don’t have a drink called jackass yet, so I did you one better. This, my friend, is perfect for you. It’s called an Absolut Fucker.”

“I’m not your friend.” The Naga paused with the drink in his hand, nearly to his lips. “And you may call me Astika.”


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

Meet the Author

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

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

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

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

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New Release Blitz: An Echo of Gods by Tallie Rose (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  An Echo of Gods

Series: Briar Constance, Book Two

Author: Tallie Rose

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/07/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 87200

Genre: Fantasy, Fantasy, family-drama, gods, blood magic, lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, witches, fae, murder, death, prime minister

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The Gods are back.

Briar knew it wouldn’t be easy dealing with Eliana, but she thought the other Gods might help her. This is their problem, after all. But they don’t want to answer her call, and when they do, it’s always the same answer—blood, sacrifice, loss. All the things Briar doesn’t want to hear.

Still, with Bastianna and her group of Believers breathing down her neck, Briar has to figure out some way to banish the errant Goddess. She just hopes she can do it without losing everyone she loves.


An Echo of Gods
Tallie Rose © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Sunlight caught on the handle of Briar’s drugstore dagger, casting her room in hues of pink and silver, like a grotesque disco ball. She’d had the knife for years, an impulse purchase at the register. It was cheap, its handle made of resin mixed with glitter and delicate flowers, hardly the right choice to call on another God, but using a kitchen knife seemed even worse.

She sighed—and nearly choked on the heady fumes wafting from the marble bowl beside her. Soren had handed her the satchel the day before, saying he picked up the herbs from some overseas religious order and they would help clear her mind. Ten minutes in and Briar was pretty sure she was just burning drugs.

Fingers close to trembling, she picked up the knife and pressed the blade into the crook of her arm until it bit into her skin. Blood pooled and dripped, sizzling against the smoldering herbs. Words, ancient and harsh, spilled from Briar’s mouth and her body tensed. The dagger tumbled from her fingers and clattered against the floor.

She closed her eyes against the smoke, continuing to chant. Her power built until it was pressing on every inch of her skin, demanding to leave. She did not need to open her eyes to know she was glowing once again.

Now, she just needed someone to listen, to give her direction. The Gods had not answered their pleas in the weeks since the attack. They were lost, stuck watching the news every night, unable to help.

“Please,” she murmured into the empty space of her room.

The blood dripping down her arm ceased flowing and her skin stitched itself together. The air in the room grew brisk and an unfamiliar scent hit her nose. Mulled apples, fresh tilled earth, evergreen, and sandy beaches. Somehow it was not unpleasant. She opened her eyes.

The Deity was a vision of the highest order. Buds bloomed in the air around them, swirling and protecting them from Briar’s full gaze. The scene changed: autumn leaves, then summer rains that turned to snow and ice.

Briar’s green eyes locked on to those of molten silver. Their face was a work of art, golden skin, full sensual lips, and high cheekbones. All of it was crowned by flowing coppery-red hair. They smiled and Briar’s gaze dropped. The robe they wore was sheer, doing nothing to hide the swell of their chest or the strength of their arms.

The Deity opened their arms wide, a welcoming gesture, and Briar cleared her throat, feeling anything but pious.

Their nostrils flared and their eyes widened ever so slightly. The falling leaves turned green, and they chuckled and dropped their arms, one hand resting on a hip Briar had just been admiring. “Bold.”

Briar shrugged.

The Deity laughed again, and the buds of roses bloomed in their eyes. Their body changed, hair shortening, legs lengthening, but they didn’t seem to notice. “You requested an audience?”

Blinking to clear the haze from her mind, Briar nodded, enchanted by the beauty before her. “What’s your name?”

“Oh.” Their eyes flicked toward the ceiling as if it was a question they had to think about. “I haven’t spoken to a human in so long. Nilaja. Do you mind?”

Briar had no idea what they were asking but nodded. She’d give almost anything to them if they would help her find something she could use to send Eliana back to their realm, or even better, end her entirely.

With each passing day Eliana’s death seemed a better option. Tensions had grown between witches and fae; fights were breaking out, shootings and murders. The sudden uptick in violence had not gone unnoticed by the general population but no one knew what was causing it. And if anyone had suspicions they only whispered them, the footage of the dead Beishan president too raw in everyone’s minds.

Nilaja dipped a finger into the bowl of herbs and stepped out of the mist as though it was nothing, leaving behind the changing of seasons that had engulfed them. Briar’s breath caught in her chest, and the freshly healed cut on her arm twinged.

The experience of talking to the Gods was something she would never get enough of. Her life had been spent searching for them, and now she had the truth. But could she tempt one to help her? She hoped this God in particular would be the answer she was spending all her days searching for.

As though it was ordinary, Nilaja sat on the ground across from Briar, pulling their legs beside them, their robes fanned out around their body. They waved a hand over the marble bowl and the smoke disappeared. “That is quite vile and wholly unnecessary. It is blood the universe calls for, no drugs required.”

“I’m friends with idiots but I try to indulge them.”

Nilaja chuckled again, the sound like the crackle after lightning. They pressed their hands against the floor, eyes shuddering shut. Briar didn’t know what to feel looking at them. They were the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, and power radiated off them. She knew she should be afraid but she was intrigued by them, by how casually they interacted with her.

Power danced in Nilaja’s eyes as they slowly opened them, burning silver like flashes of lightning. “So, Briar Constance, why am I here?”

“We need help with Eliana.”

Nilaja tilted their head and coppery leaves fell from their hair, disappearing when they touched the ground. “You have already spoken to Ivian. You know how she was contained before.”

“There has to be another answer, something that doesn’t involve sacrifice. It’s barbaric. That’s not how the world is now.” She and Soren had gone over it so many times, they’d talked until their conversations were nearly scripted, but there had to be something else. The world, the universe, could not be so cruel.

“Oh, sweets.” Nilaja reached out and brushed their thumb across Briar’s exposed knee.

Her whole body went rigid, every nerve on fire with the power blasting through her. It was pure magic, sharp and hot and intoxicating. She swallowed to keep from crying out, from grabbing them and demanding more, more, more.

Unaware or unmoved by the struggle inside Briar, the Deity continued, “The universe does not care how far you have progressed. It will always be old, cold, and uncaring. You want to stop Eliana, you will do it as your ancestor Cordelia did, by blood and tears. Eliana is too far ingrained in this world for the echo of our powers still left in this place to pull her out. She is a horror, and you will become one if you wish to destroy her.”

Despair pooled in Briar’s stomach.

“Oh, don’t look like that.” Wilted flowers piled in their lap, their petals crumbling to dust. “Maybe there is another way. What would I know, tucked away for eternity? There is much knowledge out there, things you have not dreamed of. I will hope you find another answer, but it is not one I know. We have no knowledge that we are hiding from you.” They stood and the air seemed to go with them.

Briar stood as well, the reverberation of their shattering power still clanging through her. She had so many questions she wanted to ask them. Could all Gods change their form? Did they watch the humans? And was there please, please, another answer? “Can I summon you again?”

Nilaja paused, a feline grin pulling their lips upward. “Why?” They took a step closer, and Briar’s body urged her both to move forward and to run, far, far away from the Deity she had summoned, one whose name she had never heard.

Struggling for words, Briar gave in to her desire, her head still swimming with whatever Soren had given her. Her body ached with each movement, spent from the power but craving more. She stopped a breath away from them. “I don’t know.”

Nilaja pulled at the bottom of one of Briar’s curls. “Well, isn’t that fun. See you soon.” They winked and were gone.

Briar fell backward onto her bed. What in Ortus’s fiery hell had just happened?


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Meet the Author

Tallie Rose lives in Charleston, SC with two kids, five cats, two goldfish, and one dog. She spends her spare time thrifting, watching bad TV, and reading books.

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New Release Blitz: Baby Steps by Gemma Johns (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Baby Steps

Author: Gemma Johns

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/07/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 63800

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, lesbian, sexual discovery, surrogacy, children, Australia, fake romance

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Fiercely independent Belle Andrews can’t quite believe where her life has ended up. Belle and Tash always thought they’d have three children, but after nineteen years and two children together, Tash walked out on her and Belle doesn’t want her heart broken ever again.

Now, two years later, they’ve established a positive co-parenting relationship, and having moved on with their lives, both agree they have no need for the embryos they created together.

Georgia has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant for many years now. She’s about to give up trying and move on. Her doctor told her that her only hope now is a donor embryo.

Belle expects her embryos are the perfect solution, but she soon learns Australian legislation mandates she can only donate to someone she’s in a relationship with.

Belle might have given up on love, but can she pretend to be in love to give someone their dream? And can Georgia pretend to be in a relationship with a woman to get the end result she’s always dreamt of?


Baby Steps
Gemma Johns © 2023
All Rights Reserved

“I thought Tash had the girls tonight?” Nikki asked quietly so that Cora and Ada wouldn’t hear her.

Belle shook her head. “We did a swap. She had something on tonight, probably with her new girlfriend.” Belle knew she was reinforcing what her best friend Nikki already knew—Belle had well and truly moved on from her nineteen-year relationship.

“She’s really got a new girl?”

Belle rolled her eyes. “Emily, I think she said. I don’t know. It surprised me, because she was so full on with Amanda. I thought they were it. But five minutes after their split, there was a bunch of dates with random women, and now there’s Emily. I really don’t care; it’s none of my business, except for the girls.”

Nikki instinctively looked toward the other room, where Belle’s daughters were going crazy, running and jumping. “What do you mean, except for the girls?”

“You know.” Belle followed Nikki’s gaze. “As long as they’re okay, constantly meeting new women in their other mum’s life. Must be hard.”

“Well, it’s not really constant. Hopefully she’ll stay with this one. She was with Amanda for, what? Two years?”

Belle nodded. “Depends who you listen to, but about that. But that’s half of Ada’s life. It just feels like a lot of change. Anyway, it’s irrelevant to me, and leaves me to date whomever I want.”

Nikki sarcastically stated, “Which you really take advantage of.”

The truth was, Belle had no real desire to date, and although she and Tash had split up over two years ago now, Belle had spent her time focusing on the children. She couldn’t say that Tash didn’t focus on the girls, though. Belle and Tash were fortunate that they managed to co-parent so well together, with very little tension between the two of them. Belle would be lying to say it had always been easy. In the early days, her heart broke every time she dropped the children to Tash. Seeing Tash and Amanda playing happy families just months after her relationship with Tash had ended nearly destroyed her. But, with time and perspective, Belle felt more and more comfortable and sometimes found herself even confiding in Tash at the end of a hard day.

Nikki picked up her plate and empty coffee mug and walked to the sink. “I was going to suggest a movie tonight, because I thought you were footloose and fancy free.”

“Why don’t we watch a movie on Netflix?” Belle asked, and Nikki screwed up her face.

“I suppose. Chances are I’ve seen it.”

Belle knew it was true. Nikki practically lived at the cinema.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Gemma Johns has always loved writing and wanted to write a novel since she first discovered how much she loved reading them. Her older sister told her she needed to ‘live a little’ before she wrote a novel. Years later, Gemma has now lived a lot, so finally decided to put pen to paper. Writing fiction is a part time gig for her, and she has a full time job in academia. Gemma lives in Australia with her wife and their five children. You can find Gemma on Facebook.


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Wrangling for His Love by Hayden West (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Wrangling for His Love by Hayden West

Book 4 in the City of Fountains series

General Release Date: 7th March 2023

Word Count: 18,084
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 83



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Book Description


When the dust settles…

Ben “The Dusty Demon” Mooney is a steer wrestler—one of the best in the world—but that title comes at a price, and it’s one that has to do with the color of his skin as well as his preference in partners. An incident at an event is the start of something that quickly turns far more personal, but is he ready for this opportunity and all that comes with it?

Matthew Jigs is harboring a long-time crush on Ben Mooney. Theirs isn’t a world in which it’s acceptable to advertise sexual preference, and if friendship is all he can get, he’ll take it. For now. But Ben’s hesitation makes Matthew try to see things from another point of view. He wants so much, and it seems like Ben is just holding on.

It all blows up and Matthew’s standing alone to pick up the pieces—or is he? Perhaps when the dust settles, everything will be as it should be.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of racism, homophobia, child abuse, sexual harrassment, the threat of violence, and blackmail.

General Release Date: 7th March 2023


The cheers in the arena echoed down the hall to where Ben sat, alone, on a bench. Part of his ritual before he went for his ride. Generally he had his sister out there as his support, but she was out of the country teaching a seminar.

Ben hadn’t realized how much he counted on her to be there, especially after days like he’d had, full of hate-filled rhetoric and more. Most days he was able to shove it where that shit belonged, in the crapper. However, today hadn’t been one of them.

Slumping back against the wall behind him, he stretched out his legs with a groan. It fucking sucked when he wasn’t feeling his night. Didn’t matter. Everyone had a job to do and this was his.

He opened his eyes and listened to the crowd roar. They sure as hell knew how to gather them here in Calgary. He truly did love what he did and made a damn good living at it.

Two brothers who had competed in the team roping event walked up the hall. They both nodded at him.

“Good luck tonight, Ben.”

“Thanks, Tim, James.”

They were good men and he enjoyed seeing them at events. They’d never batted an eyelash that he wasn’t white like a good portion of competitors. He’d met their families and could consider them friends. But he didn’t hang out with them after.

He got up and ambled his way to where his mount waited. Ransom was a quarter horse and Appaloosa-mixed gelding. Ben had seen the horse at auction and had saved him from going to the glue factory. He hadn’t needed another horse at the time but there had been something in the gelding’s eyes that wouldn’t let him leave without him.

After months of getting weight put on him and working with him, Ben had given him a try at being his mount around cattle. The horse had taken to it like a fish to water. He barely needed to hold the reins with this equine, he knew his job so well. Ben was delivered to the same spot every time.

And on the rare occasion he would lend him to another rider—it wasn’t unheard of, just odd for others to ask him for help—Ransom did the same to that rider. Where he’d once been a dull dark color and his white blanket dingy with brown spots on his rump, now the animal shone. No one would think he’d had anything but a great life.

“Ready, boy?” he muttered to his horse as he rubbed his head.

“I think that horse likes anything to do with showing off for the crowd.”

“He does, that’s for sure.” He took an extra moment to get his facial muscles under control before he turned to the one who had just walked up. Bullfighter Matthew Jigs. “How are you doing, Jigs?”

The man stood just under six feet and had a thin, wiry body. He spent his days, or nights, running and distracting bulls during the bull riding when needed, to keep the riders safe. Throwing himself in front of the rider at a moment’s notice.

Right now he wasn’t made up in his makeup, but just in shirt and jeans, his dark brown hair falling forward over one eye.

“Didn’t think you were going to be up here. I hadn’t heard you were coming.” A grin. “I’m good. You?” He sobered. “I heard some of the shit people were saying. You know you’re good here, we’ve got your back.”

Ben wasn’t so sure about that. But the sentiment was almost nice. “Appreciate it. Hadn’t planned on coming until my sister had said she was going to be here, so I came and now she’s out of the country.”

“Love Lorna, always off helping people. What country this time?”

He rolled his eyes. Everyone loved her. “Spain. I think.” He scratched Ransom. “What are you doing over here? I didn’t think you were on this side.” Generally the bullfighters hung out a bit farther away from the steer wrestlers, more near the bull riders.

“He was bringing me!”

That voice was welcome and he turned, arms open, even as the petite bundle of energy shot into his arms. Well, small to him. A woman who was his sister’s best friend.

“Debra, what are you doing here? We’re a sight away from Kansas City.”

She hugged him tight and kissed his cheek. “Lorna said she bailed on you last minute.” Debra Williams, a woman he looked on as his own sister, leaned back and grinned. “So you get me.”

“You came alone?”

“Nope. I’m here.”

“Deacon,” he said with a grin as Debra’s brother stepped into his line of sight. “Good to see you, man. I take it you both met Jigs.”

There were some looks between them all before nodding commenced. Ben wasn’t sure what to make of the look on Jigs’ face as he stared at Deacon. He pushed his hands into his pockets. “Good luck tonight, Ben. I’ll see you later. Good to meet you both.”

Debra, who was still comfortably settled against his chest, waved at Jigs. “Bye! Thanks for bringing us down here.”

“Sure thing.” He ambled off down the hall, not looking back.

Didn’t stop Ben from watching him go until a small throat-clearing reminded him he wasn’t alone.

“Yes?” He looked down at Debra.

She batted her eyelashes. “Nothing. What do you need us to do for you? How can we help?”

“Nothing to do. I’m the fifth out tonight. I’ll get Ransom saddled and wait. Where are your seats?”

“Where Lorna would have sat. Right in the front, you know so everyone can hear me cheering.”

Deacon snagged his sister’s arm and tugged. “We’ll see you after. Knock ’em dead.” Pulling Debra with him, Deacon left Ben alone with Ransom.

Somehow he knew that little spitfire was up to something. But it was brilliant to see them both. Focusing on his upcoming ride, he got Ransom ready. Feeling the emotion in the air and the excitement, his horse had already worked up a lather by the time he was loaded in the chute.

Leaning forward, Ben smacked him on the neck. “No broken barriers tonight, Ransom. Let’s show these people why I’m referred to as The Dusty Demon.”

Ransom’s response was to shift as he gathered himself for his explosive exit. In his peripheral vision on the right, Ben saw the hazer over the barrier. It was one he knew. The man gave him a nod and Ben’s world narrowed onto himself, his horse and the cow he was about to wrestle to the ground.

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About the Author

Hayden West

Hayden West lives in the Pacific Northwest, enjoys being outdoors, and hanging out with friends when not working on the next novella to be released.

Find Hayden at their website and blog.


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