New Release Blitz: Moonlight and the Monarch by Evelynn Carver (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Moonlight and the Monarch

Series: The Moonlight Curse, Book Two

Author: Evelynn Carver

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/11/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 73100

Genre: Fantasy, romance, fantasy/paranormal, mystery, magic/magic users, demons, kidnapping, captivity/imprisonment, action/adventure, family drama, shifters, political intrigue, HFN

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The exciting adventures of The Moonlight Curse series continues when family loyalty comes up against love.

Brand’s curse remains, his family estranged, and his carefully constructed plan gone ridiculously awry. He’s fallen head over heels for the powerful mage and temperamental socialite, Valentino Vicari, the descendant of the witch who cast a dark curse on his family.

Is Brand prepared to give up everything, crown and consequences be damned, for an excellent pair of legs and a scalding tongue?

The decision is taken from him when Brand and Valentino are captured by agents of Brand’s father, the ruthless King Lykanos, and the newly built trust between them is shattered.

Valentino is forcefully conscripted, thrown into yet another unwanted engagement, his precious pride rubbed in the dirt and stomped on. Left feeling utterly betrayed and powerless without his magic, Valentino can’t help but hope that, somehow, he’ll get a chance to burn the whole castle to ashes and escape. Will his fledgling relationship with Brand survive the fallout?

Brand will have to think two steps ahead of his watchful father, enlist the help of some unlikely allies, and climb through a couple of sewer pipes to scheme his way out of the castle and back into Valentino’s heart.

Family drama, trouble-making ex-lovers, and political intrigue provide the backdrop for a test of our heroes’ newfound love amidst the rising tide of war in this second installment in the series.


Moonlight and the Monarch
Evelynn Carver © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Somewhere in Kaenys

Valentino awoke to darkness. He blinked his eyes open, but he still could not see. Paralyzing panic took him, and suddenly he could barely breathe, barely think. Had he gone blind? With a start, he realized something covered his face. Some sort of rough fabric. He could shift slightly, but a rope encased his wrists and ankles, bound tight.

What in the White Valleys of Hell?

A hand grabbed his shoulder, and he flinched.

“Don’t move,” Brand whispered urgently. “Just lie still and pretend to be unconscious.”

“What in the…?” Valentino groaned.

“Is he awake?” an unfamiliar voice asked, startling Valentino into silence.

“No, just moaning in his sleep, I suspect,” Brand answered. “Is it much farther?”

“Just a block or two off.”

Valentino held stock-still, but his mind raced. He focused on the faint sounds of a wagon creaking and shaking under him. They moved quickly through bumpy streets, each gap in the cobbles giving him a jolt, but the other occupants in the wagon were still and silent, just the faint sounds of breathing and horseshoes hitting stone coming to his straining ears. No light filtered through the bag over his head, so it must still be night or perhaps early morning. That left a considerable gap in his memory. The last thing he remembered was he and Brand standing in their room together, about to share a meal. Brand had just confessed everything, his lies, his hidden royal heritage, the suspected origin of the curse, and how none of that mattered, that Valentino was enough.

It had been terrible. And wonderful.

They were going to make a plan, a life, together. They were going to toast to new beginnings, and then… What? Valentino distinctly remembered removing his pants at some point, but his trousers and things appeared to be in place now, and for that, he was grateful. When had he gotten dressed? Had Brand dressed him? He couldn’t remember.

The clinking of chains and a crash resounded outside. A drawbridge falling? Valentino listened closely as the wagon rolled up a ramp and over uneven ground, the hollow sound of horseshoes clattering over planks muffled by the fabric over his head. Men called to one another, their voices echoing as if in a large space, water splashing in the distance. The wagon lurched forward again, a short sudden drop making his stomach churn. Had they crossed a moat?

Valentino continued to feign sleep, the sound of his own heart pounding in his ears so loud he couldn’t believe no one else had noticed it. What was going on? Had someone captured them? The only place in Remira he remembered with a moat was the castle. That would mean they were going into the Rock Keep, and that would mean terrible things.

After a lot of clank and clatter, the wagon came to a halt, and Valentino yelped as something struck him.

“Wake up, you!” a rough voice demanded. “If you can’t walk, we’ll drag you.”

“He’s still disoriented from the draught,” Brand said and roughly lifted Valentino up and onto his shoulder. “I’ll carry him in.”

The other man snorted. “Suit yourself, Your Highness.”

The address made Valentino’s blood run cold, and he could only allow himself to be hoisted like a sack of potatoes, his heart in his throat.

Right. Brand is a prince.

It still didn’t seem quite real. Brand, the man who had shoveled horse shit with him in a barn in the middle of nowhere, the man who had taken a bullet for him, had lain beside him, kissed him, fallen in love with him over the past two moons was actually bloody royalty.

“Don’t do anything stupid,” Brand said into Valentino’s ear. “Just go along, and I swear I’ll figure this out.”

Valentino squirmed slightly in acknowledgment, though he wanted to kick and scream. If Brand had brought him into the keep, what did that mean? Surely, he hadn’t really given him up to the crown after all? After everything they had been through together?

Other men gathered around them, barking orders and expressing excitement and amazement.

“Out of the way, out of the way you lot!” the other man yelled good-naturedly. “Cain’t you see the prince here has his hands full? Clear off!”

The crowd continued their barrage of questions, closing in on them, shouting and laughing. Valentino tried desperately not to vomit.

“Do you no longer follow orders?” a deep voice bellowed from off to the side, authority and stern command clear in her tone. “Get back to your duties this instant!”

The crowd grew silent and dispersed.

“Dyana,” Brand said stiffly.

Brand’s sister. Was she in on this too?

“I see you’ve had a change of heart,” she said evenly, and Valentino could almost feel her eyes crawling over his person. “You’ve brought in the Vicari mage, after all?”

That’s what I want to bloody know!

Brand went quiet. “Let’s speak of this matter inside,” he said finally, his normal country drawl completely absent. It was jarring to hear him speak so formally.

“As you will,” Dyana said slowly. “Father is waiting to meet you in the vestibule. Come this way.”

Valentino swallowed. Brand paused, the tension in his back buzzing against Valentino’s belly. He shifted, hesitating, before moving in the direction of Dyana’s voice as she barked orders to the guards. Brand’s shoulder pushed into his stomach with every step, but Valentino tried to stay limp and still as the sound of boots crunching on gravel changed suddenly to a more even rhythm of steps on stone. A heavy door closed behind them. They must be inside the castle now.

Suddenly there was a rush and a scuffle; loud voices shouted, and armored bodies descended upon them. Valentino didn’t have the time to react before someone wrested him from Brand’s hold and slammed him against a wall, knocking the air from his lungs. They ripped the bag off his head and snapped something around his neck before he could do so much as blink. He tried to scream but sputtered and retched instead.

It was as if they had stuffed cotton wool in his ears and nose, clogging his senses and filling his head until it became as heavy and dense as a brick. This was exponentially worse than any illness he’d ever endured, and the sudden shock of it sent him reeling. He gagged again, bile rising in his throat as they dragged him away through a long hallway, down a set of stairs, and threw him into a dark room. He looked around blearily, the walls shifting in his vision. It was like being drunk on the worst cheap liquor but remaining completely self-aware and, therefore, deeply, horrendously terrifying.

Where did Brand go? Why had he allowed this to happen? Surely this was a mistake.

The guard reached for him again. Valentino jerked away and tripped, what he’d intended as a quick-footed dodge turning into a lead-footed stumble. The guard pushed him against the wall again and slapped heavy iron manacles on his arms and legs. The cold metal stung his skin.

“What is this? What have you done to me?” Valentino choked out.

The guard answered with a rough laugh. “This is a special bit of jewelry for talented little troublemakers like yourself.”

Valentino tried to reply but could only retch. The bastards must have put a mage collar on him—a magical dampener of the worst sort. Valentino knew the stories, but he’d always assumed they were simply fairytales meant to scare disobedient children from misusing their magic. They weren’t real. They couldn’t be. Desperately, he reached deep for his magical reserves, but it was like reaching into a pocket thought to be full, only to find it empty with a hole at the bottom.

His knees buckled and he slid to the ground, arms held in place above him by the chains. “Why are you doing this? I’m a guest of your prince!”

“You’re not a guest.” The guard laughed again. “You’re a prisoner.”

With that, he slammed the door, leaving Valentino alone in the darkness and unable to light so much as a matchstick.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Evelynn lives with her partner, child, and dog in the Deep Dark South (also known as Atlanta, Georgia). She studied art in school and is somehow still deemed employable. In her free time, she reads genre fiction, plays video games, watches cartoons, and engages in other related unseemly behavior. She’s been writing and drawing stories since she was in grade school and would one day love to grow up to be a Real Author.

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Book Blitz: Flash Point by Lena Austin (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Flash Point

Series: Protect and Serve

Author: Lena Austin

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: July 7, 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 46 pages

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Action Adventure, RomCom, Paranormal Women’s Fiction, Gay, Shapeshifters

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When fireman Dustin Hardesty saves a scruffy tomcat from a fire, and then a neutering at the shelter, he has no idea he’s just moved a cat shifter named Tigs into his life.

Tigs figures he owes Dustin, so he’ll hang around to give Dustin some good times. He doesn’t count on Dustin never wanting to let go of his alley cat.


All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2023 Lena Austin

My name is Tigs, and I’m a cat shifter. Don’t get smart, it’s not short for Tigger or anything stupid like that. I don’t fucking bounce or lisp my words, and I’m a gray tabby. I usually work construction and home renovation, me and my crew. We’re all shifters of one type or another, but we get along most of the time.

I’d let the rest of my crew go home early while I coiled up extension cords, locked up the tools, and cleaned up our work site. The old deli used to be the coolest little place when I’d been a kitten, but that’d been years ago. The guys would be waiting for me back at the warehouse we rented for the equipment, six blocks away — it also served as our home. The place was “guarded” by two dogs — a rat terrier and a Rottweiler mix along with three scruffy cats and that didn’t mean anything to the absentee landlord. Long as he got his cash, he didn’t give a shit.

Speaking of shit, we may look scruffy, but we’re good neighbors. We used the litter box or took a walk outside. The dogs “walk” each other, so that’s cool, and they curb themselves like responsible citizens.

Anyway, I smelled the stink of burning wood and rubber first. Figured some homeless guy had lit up the contents of a trashcan to keep warm nearby and didn’t give it another thought. This wasn’t the best neighborhood, but most poor don’t foul their own nest, ya know?

So, I finished coiling up the last extension cord and tossed it into the storage locker. Two seconds to snap the padlock, and I was ready for some of Pete’s Tuna Steaks on the grill back at our place.

No such luck. The smoke from the fire was coming up the stairs when I opened the door, and I bent over coughing my lungs out before I could shut the damn thing. “Who the fuck set a real fire in this stinkin’ joint? It can’t be for the insurance.” Didn’t matter. The entire downstairs — such as it was — was engulfed, and the floor was heating up. Damn near burned me through my boots, which meant I had seconds to get my ass out.

I took the easy road and threw a piece of scrap two-by-four through one of the windows we hadn’t removed yet. Single pane, painted shut, so it shattered easy as pie. Then I shifted, abandoned my clothes to their fate, and leaped for the limb of a scrub pine just in time. I hit the branches, yowling in pissed off feline at the loss of a perfectly good pair of steel toes.

Naturally, that was the moment the fire truck showed up. How convenient. I’d bet the arsonist called in the fire as soon as he got a safe distance away, after ensuring the place would be a pile of ash. So, a professional job. Not my problem, except some asshole owed me some new boots.

What surprised the fuck out of me was the ladder that slammed up against the tree. Tree wasn’t that big, being an inner city volunteer from some bird’s ass that happened on an empty lot. The whole thing shook.

I might have backed up a bit, but it wasn’t fear. I just didn’t want to get grabbed like some wuss who didn’t have sense enough to know how to get down.

The human wearing the standard issue fireman’s hard hat and a million pounds of gear climbed the ladder with casual ease until we were damn near face to whiskers.

“Well, hello bay-bee!” Okay, so it came out as a yowl loud enough to burst eardrums. Any other tom would have recognized my interest in the biggest pair of grass-green eyes in a tanned face I’d seen in a long time. Okay, so they were red-rimmed and tired. If I’d been human, my dick would have lifted my ass so far I’d have fallen out of the tree. I wanted me a piece of that man!

Once handsome Grass Eyes stopped wincing from my loud mouth, he hitched himself up one more rung. “Hey there, you could replace our siren with that set of lungs, dude.” He checked the fire, now close enough to us that I was getting more than a tad warm, ya know? “I really hate to interrupt your serenade, but unless you want to burn down with this tree, we need to go.” He reached for me.

On reflection, I realized Grass Eyes didn’t have a clue that I was a shifter, nor did he mean to insult Da Tigs. At the time, all I cared about was swatting his hand. Encased in the gloves and shit, he wasn’t even hurt, but I’d made my point. I could jump down anytime, if he’d move that fucking ladder.

Grass Eyes shook his head. “Man, I don’t want to leave you, loudmouth. Come on! This tree’s gonna go, shit head.”

Yeah, he had a point. I ignored his hand and jumped on his shoulders. I’d be damned if I’d be carried down like some frou-frou case from Cat Fanciers magazine.

“Okay, if that’s the way you want it.” Grass Eyes had the sense to know when he’d been elected as the vehicle of my ride down and made his way back to the base of the tree. I kept on riding, even while he helped his buds put the ladder away. Clearly, the old deli was a total loss, so they concentrated on keeping the rest of the local trash-pit buildings from coming down. Not all that difficult, and I couldn’t blame them for not working too hard at saving what wasn’t worth the effort.

Grass Eyes stood over to the side, talking on his radio and leaning against the big-ass red fire truck. He’d scrub his face with his hand now and then.

One of his buddies came by, lugging shit back to the truck. “It was arson, Dustin. Betcha the dogs sniff out accelerant.”

Dustin, which was Grass Eyes’ real name I guessed, sighed. “Yeah. This place was being renovated too. I drive by here daily and see the workers. They’ve been putting their backs into cleaning this place out, and they’re clean as a whistle about putting away equipment. I’ll tell the inspector the same when I see him. I doubt it was them being careless.”

Hey, a compliment. Very cool. I purred and rubbed up against Dustin’s ear for that.

“Yeah, I like you too, loudmouth.” He reached up and I let him give the backs of my ears a rub. I closed my eyes and purred louder, just to let him know he was doing a good job.


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

Meet the Author

Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”

Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?

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New Release Blitz: Amid the Haze by Jessica Cranberry (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Amid the Haze

Series: Hazel & Maeve #2

Author: Jessica Cranberry

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/04/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 85900

Genre: Contemporary, genre fiction, contemporary, new adult, historical (early 2000s), bisexual, F/F, cisgender, college mystery, crime, suspense, law enforcement, police academy, slow burn, toxic masculinity, hazing, sports team, power imbalance, therapy

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Maeve Drakos and Hazel Fischer continue their college journey, moving back to the city and starting the peace officer training program at the community college. They pick out their first apartment, and everything seems awesome. Until they meet the neighbors.

Members of Oakley University’s men’s lacrosse team live in the big house behind them. After many late-night parties and several instances of vandalizing the girls’ apartment, Maeve has had enough. She decides to confront them on their own turf. Except while there, she discovers team secrets far darker than broken windows and spray-painted walls. Yet they all insist it’s nothing—just tradition. The captain’s a nice guy; they’re all good guys. Yeah, no.

Maeve thought she and Hazel were supposed to be the perfect team—in more ways than one. But when she approaches Hazel about reporting the guys, Hazel doesn’t necessarily see what’s happening next door the same way. And she’s hardly ever home anyway, because she’s been spending loads of time with her friend Doug. All this leaves Maeve doubting herself and questioning everything she thought she understood so clearly their freshman year.

Yet there’s no time to figure anything out before Maeve and Hazel find themselves embroiled in another murder mystery. Who has time to care about a crush when there’s a rotting corpse in the basement?


Amid the Haze
Jessica Cranberry © 2023
All Rights Reserved


April 7, 2001

Cool blasts of April air blew her hair around the car, swirling around her head, whipping against my cheek every now and then. It had grown longer, the weight of it suppressing some of her natural wave. We were headed to Indy—just the two of us. Behind us had been hours and hours of nothing but long, straight road, pumping music, those crispy, fried, onion-flavored chips, and countless cigarette butts streaming out the windows as I drove full throttle across I-70. Acres of farmland surrounded us, mounded rows extending beyond the horizon, prepped for corn or soybean seed, until a new city emerged with tall buildings cutting through a span of sky and a falling orange sun. As we navigated through downtown, through the maze of asphalt and concrete, the open fields fell away as if they ceased to exist.

Hazel flicked the radio off and lit another cigarette. She’d started smoking again, and I wasn’t going to complain about it. That probably made me a shitty friend, but I was glad to have a smoking buddy.

“I brought you something.” I reached into the backseat blindly, keeping my eyes on the road, and felt around in my bag until my fingers grazed the thin pages of the city newspaper. “Check out page three.”

Hazel unfolded the Ledger Dispatch and found our story, the one Gayle Jackson had interviewed us for, detailing last autumn’s campus murder of Ryan Newsome (asshole and sexual predator, although most media outlets left those bits out) and how we’d pieced it all together…not totally unscathed.

“Good for her. She said she wasn’t going back to the Echo after they canned her last year.” Hazel carefully refolded the paper along the creases as if it contained nothing more than the crossword.

“You’re not gonna read it?”

“I know how it ends.”

Hazel hadn’t gone back to school after Newsome’s murderer attacked us. She needed time to heal—physically and emotionally. We all did. But I couldn’t escape the feeling something else was keeping her away, distant. Before today, I hadn’t seen Hazel since October, the morning I’d followed her into the police station to give a statement. We’d been emailing back and forth, but neither of us ever mentioned what had happened all those nights ago—what it had been like seeing her blood soak through her clothes, fear as thick as fog, a death so close you could taste it on the air like the salt and sand of a new shore. No, we’d skirted around all of that.

It didn’t stop me from wondering how she felt or what she thought about it. Hazel could be a bit of a mystery to me. Most folks I could see right through, not her. She kept everything wrapped up so tight inside herself, I didn’t think I’d ever break through. And maybe that was okay. Maybe even better than okay.

“I haven’t been in a real city for months. I forgot how pretty they can be,” she said. “All the bustling around. Life, I mean, you can see it happening.” Her cigarette bounced with the motion of her lips. She tucked it between her fingers and blew out a long, lingering exhale as though she’d been born knowing how to do that.

“Have you been here before?” I asked.

“As a kid, we hit up the children’s museum.”


“Yeah, when my parents… We used to live right on the border of Illinois and Indiana.”

I still couldn’t believe it took her so long to tell me what she’d lived through. But knowing the ways people have been hurt changed relationships—sometimes for the better, sometimes not. So I got it; she didn’t want pity anywhere near us.

“You’re a regular child of the corn, then, huh?” And this seemed to be how we handled the big traumatic things, poking fun around what caused the most pain. Joking. Deflecting. Sidestepping anything that hurt.

“I told you my middle name, didn’t I? It’s Malachi.”

I laughed and pressed the cigarette lighter. Hazel instinctively reached for the pack in the cup holders and got one out for me. I rolled down my window just as the lighter popped back up, its coils burning orange and hot.

“Do you know where we’re headed?” she asked.

“Not really. I printed out a MapQuest for it though. It’s in the glovebox.”

She took out the directions and spread the folded papers over her lap. “What street are we on?”


“We’re close. If you can find a place to park, do it.”

Brake lights glowed red in front of us. I slowed down and watched the last of the sunset, streaking pink and purple behind the high-rise buildings of the Midwestern city. The air smelled of exhaust. I followed the inching traffic into a parking garage.

“You think all these people are going to the same place we are?” Hazel asked.

“Maybe? She has a following.”

By the time I parked, night had fallen. Streetlights clicked on and cast the sidewalks in a tangerine glow. Hazel folded the directions and tucked them in her hoodie pocket.

We ended up not needing the map. A decent-sized crowd of mostly women seemed to all be going in the same direction. We just fit in and followed. As we got closer, a line had already formed, and we waited, stuck behind a rowdy group of college-aged kids with dark lipstick and short flowery dresses. They were probably the same age as Hazel and me. They seemed so much younger, though, with all the laughing and the squealing.

Hazel surveyed them; her right eyebrow cocked the way it always did when she tried to puzzle out someone’s behavior. I handed her the silver flask I’d slipped in my jacket pocket. Elbowing her, I told her to relax.

“I’m relaxed,” she said and took a swig of the peppermint schnapps.

Spring flowers and just…joy scented the air. Yeah, that was it. Joy. After such a dark year, I barely recognized the feeling. The line shuffled forward. Ani DiFranco’s name, in black block lettering, stood against the marquee’s glow.

“I can’t believe you scored tickets,” Hazel said.

“I told you we should go.”

Hazel’s expression lightened whenever I pressed Play on Living in Clip, and in the middle of all the shit that had gone down at school last fall, there’d been a notice in the paper about this tour. I figured right then and there I’d pay whatever price to get Hazel to this show if we made it out of that mess.

“I didn’t really think it would happen. Especially, in the middle of…everything.”

“So, how’ve you been dealing with all of that?” Asking was a risk, but I wanted to take it. While I gave her a pass on talking about her family, I needed to know about this because the nightmares hadn’t stopped for me. I still woke up in a sweaty panic, Shirlee’s glowing glasses disappearing and reappearing like pieces of the Cheshire cat.

Hazel shoved her hands into the pockets of her hoodie and stared at her feet. “Honestly, I don’t know that I am.” Her eyes met mine. “I just ignore it mostly.”

“Me too.” Time heals all wounds. Unless it didn’t.

She fiddled with her hair, braiding the ends absentmindedly. We moved forward a few more steps. At the double doors, security guards shined flashlights in purses and patted down coat pockets.

Hazel pushed her hair back from her face. “I feel kinda frozen in place, ya know?”

“I do.”

“Aunt Liddy says not to rush anything. That everything will settle back to normal in time. But what if it doesn’t?”

“Maybe this is the new normal.”


“They haven’t filled your space in our dorm yet. You could always come back.”

“No. I withdrew.”

“You did?”

She laughed in that self-mocking way she had sometimes. “You know I’m not meant to be anybody’s teacher.”

The thought of her surrounded by little kids made me laugh too. “There are other programs.”

She shook her head. “I don’t belong there. I knew it on day one. The only good thing that happened was meeting you and Doug.”

“You guys still talk?”

“Yeah, through email mostly. Like with you.”

“That’s cool.” But my heart said, Oh.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Jessica Cranberry lives in the Sierra Nevada foothills and spends most days striking a balance between parenthood, teaching, and writing suspense novels or eclectic short stories. Learn more on Jessica’s website.


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Book Blitz: The Bathhouse by Gale Stanley (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Bathhouse

Series: It Should Have Been You 2

Author: Gale Stanley

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: June 30. 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, 2nd Chance Romance, Gay, Contemporary, Multicultural & Interracial

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Reed Barton is a millionaire who can have anything he wants, except the one thing he desires most. His first love. He’s spent years trying to recreate the night they met in a San Francisco bathhouse. The image of the beautiful Filipino man who took his virginity is never far from his thoughts.

Reed’s life is turned upside down when his long-lost love reappears — and not in a good way. Joseph Castro is not quite what he seems. Time and experience have changed both men, and there’s no going back. But maybe, together, they can go forward.


Reed Barton had last minute jitters about going to the bathhouse. The men might be old and creepy. His visit might get back to his family. The list went on, but they were just excuses, soon cast aside in favor of discovering what he’d been missing.

Nineteen, almost twenty, and still a virgin. He had little experience with sex. Educated at authoritarian male boarding schools, there wasn’t much time for fooling around. Lessons started early and finished late, and afterwards the boys were kept busy with homework, sports, and dinner until bedtime. Still, he’d witnessed a few incidents. He’d seen one boy sucking another’s penis in the bathroom. At the time, Reed had been appalled, but titillated as well. He pictured himself on his knees, forced to suck another boy’s cock, and longed for the reality, but no opportunity presented itself.

In college, Reed felt the inexplicable draw of chemistry, but only toward other men. To his family he presented a picture of heterosexual “normalcy” but in fact, he took to visiting a bar where gay men hung out. He engaged in several hurried blowjobs in the bathroom, but nothing more. One of his nameless encounters told him about the bathhouse. Bathhouses had once been a rite of passage for gay men, but many had closed through the years. Somehow, this one had survived and Reed was determined to take advantage of whatever it had to offer.

The taxi deposited Reed in a downtown Frisco area known for muggings. Many of the buildings were abandoned and there were no signs or addresses. Confused, Reed questioned the driver. The man pointed down an alley and held out his hand for the fare.

A few working streetlights cast eerie shadows as Reed entered the back street. He felt uneasy, but the sense of danger excited him as well. He’d always been tempted by the forbidden.

A sudden downpour pelted Reed with stinging drops. He picked up his pace, ignoring the beer cans and fast food containers underfoot, and spotted a heavy wooden door with a small sign affixed to it that read <em>Rock Hard Gym</em>. Relieved, Reed pushed the door open and entered a small foyer.

A young man sat behind a window. He scrutinized Reed carefully before selling him a membership. “Do you want a locker or a private room?”

“A locker. I don’t know how long I’ll stay.”

“Fifteen for the membership. Five for the locker.”

Reed exchanged a twenty-dollar bill for an ID card, a white towel and a plastic wristband with a locker key.

“There are condoms and lube in the locker room.” The clerk buzzed Reed through another door.

The heady scent of sex intoxicated him. He didn’t care that the floors were old and slippery with water and body fluids. The lockers were rusty and the walls badly in need of paint, but Reed couldn’t see past the naked male bodies.

Men stood, sat, and lingered in stages of undress, manspreading on changing benches, tiny towels intentionally parted. Reed found it hard to look away from the smorgasbord of flesh so openly exposed.

While searching for his locker, he became aware of the lingering looks he attracted, but none of the men appealed to Reed, not even in the dim lighting. He wanted to explore and he made quick work of undressing.

Wrapping the towel around his hips, Reed left the locker room. There was a gym, small and ill equipped, but a gym nonetheless. Reed bypassed it. Straight ahead he encountered an area where men of all ages and sizes, naked except for their towels, stood around and watched gay porn. He watched the film for a few minutes, then he moved on, entering a series of corridors where men prowled the hallways looking for acceptable partners.

He passed door after door, some closed, many open. Grunts echoed from the shadows. Reed caught glimpses of men grinding and thrusting. Moans filled his ears. Hushed words, frightening and thrilling. Blood rushed to Reed’s dick. It was electrifying to be surrounded by so much sex.

Reed stepped around men who didn’t care about getting a room. Heart pounding, he watched them giving blowjobs or having anal sex in the hall. A few invited him to join in, but he wasn’t ready — yet.

Like a kid in a candy shop, he wandered the labyrinth, taking it all in. Everything astounded him — the soundscape of grunts, moans, hissing, gagging, slapping skin on skin… The halls reeked of sweat and semen.

Reed’s palms were damp with nervous energy. Was he really prepared to do what he’d come here for? Yes. He’d come too far to back off now. He wanted to explore his sexual self.

Reed’s path ended at the steam room. Excitement floated on clouds of vapor. A dozen heads lifted to size him up. Feeling suddenly timid and embarrassed, Reed backed up, intending to leave. Just then, a group of boisterous frat boys arrived and carried him along with them. Reed separated himself and took a seat on one of the wooden benches.

The warm, wet air enveloped Reed’s body, and loosened his tense muscles. He closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of relaxation, but the atmosphere changed with the new arrivals. Suddenly the steam room became a hotbed of lust. All wet, slithering bodies sliding up against each other. A strange body pressed up against Reed and startled him. He wished he could be as liberated as these men, but he was too new, too green. There were too many horny men. He needed to find a quieter space.

Reed got as far as the door, but was brought up short by a hand on his shoulder. For a moment, he was too shocked to move. Then he turned.

The man in front of him was shorter. His black hair framed dark eyes, a flat nose and a smiling mouth. Reed scanned the length of him, eyes widening at the tent in his towel. Under it had to be a rock-hard erection. Reed dragged his fascinated gaze back to the man’s exotic face, his broad cheekbones and deep-set eyes.

The stranger’s alluring lips curled in a seductive smile as he spoke. “I don’t blame you for wanting to leave. It’s so noisy in here. A man can’t hear himself think.”


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

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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New Release Blitz: Havana Bay by John Patrick (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Havana Bay

Series: Tides of Chage #3

Author: John Patrick

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 115200

Genre: Historical, historical, Cuba, age gap, male models, prostitution, gender bending, interracial/intercultural, tobacco farming, cigar production, college students, humor, politics, sexual awakening, virgin, public sex

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“Cuba, 1952.

Twenty-year-old Ernesto Ruiz is determined to save his family’s cigar business by exporting directly to the American market, but he’ll need to learn about American customs and lifestyles first. That’s why he takes a part-time job at an American guest house.

Hank Mannix, a beefcake magazine model, enjoys his carefree life in Havana, where new men come and go every week. But his immediate attraction to the new gardener is different. He’s drawn to the young man in a way he’s never experienced before.

A fateful encounter in the garden results in a misunderstanding that upends both their lives. As they begin to acknowledge the true depth of their feelings for each other, they must navigate through a city and country on the brink of revolution. Ernesto and Hank strive to secure their own happiness in a world where the future is uncertain, and their love is forbidden.

With vivid historical detail and memorable characters, Havana Bay is a captivating story of love and revolution in a time of change.”


Havana Bay
John Patrick © 2023
All Rights Reserved

March 1952

Ernesto paused in his work to watch the spectacle unfolding on the beach.

He leaned his rake against a palm tree and raised a hand to shield his eyes against the sun’s glare. Next to him, his cousin Ivan placed his pruning shears on top of a high stone wall and squatted to rest in its shade.

His father’s admonition echoed in his mind. “Never slouch or squat, Ernesto. Always stand tall; otherwise, you’ll look like a peasant.” And Ivan did look like a peasant, with his sweat-stained T-shirt and worn cotton pants, cut short at the knees.

Ernesto wore denim pants, but they were clean—more or less—and fit properly. His lime-colored button-down shirt highlighted his amber eyes, and his black hair was oiled and slicked back from his forehead accentuating its silkiness.

Ivan was several shades darker than Ernesto and had features pointing to an African ancestry. Ernesto leaned more toward the Spanish side of the island’s genetic mix. It wasn’t supposed to matter—not in modern postwar Cuba. Not in 1952.

But it did matter, of course.

Both of them were darker than los gamelos blancos—the white twins—as the workers at Casa de Ada called them. They were wrestling on the beach, wearing tight bathing trunks, even whiter than the twins themselves. A film crew circled them, rolling their cameras and calling out directions in English.

Ernesto knew English, but Ivan had never tried to learn. There was no need to translate, however; the action was self-explanatory. The twins grappled in an easy way, more for show than dominance. Their oiled torsos gleamed in the sharp morning light, and their hands moved quickly, gripping a bicep, cupping the back of a head, sliding down a flank.

They weren’t really twins. In the few months Ernesto had worked at Casa de Ada, he’d learned to distinguish between its two most famous residents. The one who sometimes looked at Ernesto—looked him right in the eye—was slimmer than the more muscled one and not as hairy. He was beautiful, and when he did catch Ernesto’s eye and offered a knowing wink, it was terrifying.

He didn’t see him every day. Ernesto only worked a few hours in the mornings, cleaning up the gardens before most of the guests were up and about. But the twins were sometimes out early—when the light was best for photographs and filming.

They sank to their knees, and a wave washed over them, soaking their trunks, rendering them nearly transparent. Ernesto steeled himself against reacting.

Below him, Ivan snorted. “Locos,” he said and laughed as if he were watching a comic before a movie show.

Ivan was right; they were all such curious creatures, these Americanos who passed through Casa de Ada—the young, handsome ones as well as the older, rich ones. Who could say why they did what they did? Why they lay in the sun for hours even though their pale skin blistered and peeled. Why they drank so much, even in the mornings. Why they acted like girls sometimes and called each other “dear” and “darling.”

On the beach, the director called out instructions. “Mannix, flip Cordero over and get on top.”

Mannix. That was his name, the one who saw him.

The men switched places and Mannix pinned Cordero. He was looking up, away from his opponent and the cameras, across the beach and into the gardens. He caught Ernesto’s eye, and they locked gazes. Mannix offered a cocky grin and raised an eyebrow.

“Good,” said the director. “Good. Nice. Now push up into him, Cordero.”

Ivan turned to Ernesto. “What is he saying?” he asked.

“Nothing. Just giving directions,” Ernesto responded. “We should get back to work.”

“Sure.” His cousin stood and wiped his hands against his pants. “This is our chance though. What I told you about. Look at them.” With a nod of his head, Ivan indicated the mostly older white men—guests at Casa de Ada—who had gathered around to watch the show. They were transfixed by the white twins.

“That’s a wrap,” the director called. Mannix reached a hand down to help Cordero up. A soft smattering of applause rippled through the onlookers.

“Remember what I told you,” Ivan instructed. “Don’t make eye contact, but be certain they see you. Take one of the secluded paths into the deep parts of the garden. One will follow you.”

Ernesto wasn’t convinced he wanted to do that. Sure, it was easy for Ivan; he always talked of girls and all the sex he claimed to have had. He would view whatever happened at the end of a garden path, hidden behind a hedge, as purely transactional.

It was different for Ernesto. He couldn’t quite picture what Ivan had described went on in the thickets, and when he tried, it was all too close to what he thought he might enjoy anyway if the right boy were to come along. He thought about Mannix’s eyes, and his knowing smile.

“It doesn’t mean anything, Ernesto,” Ivan assured him, as if he were reading his mind. “It doesn’t make you a maricón. It only makes you a Yankee dollar richer. And you just have to stand there; the Americans do all the work. You don’t even have to look at them. You can close your eyes and think of a girl.”

Ivan reached up to retrieve the shears from atop the wall, and Ernesto took a step back. Ivan smelled ripe—a stronger odor than a morning’s work would account for. It was as if he hadn’t washed with soap and water in days. Ivan had come to stay with Ernesto’s family in the city, and failing to wash properly wasn’t the only bad habit he’d brought with him from his family’s rural tobacco farm.

It was absurd to think someone, even a loco Americano, would pay money to…do things…to Ivan. Ernesto wanted no part of it.

Still, a dollar…and maybe many more dollars if he didn’t find it too objectionable.

And he needed the money. That was without a doubt. If he did get into university—this time—there would be textbooks to buy, new shoes, supplies of all sorts, not to mention tuition. Ernesto’s father insisted they’d find a way to pay, but it was difficult to see how.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Author John Patrick is a Lambda Literary Award finalist living in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband). An introvert, John can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So his love of nature is tempered—he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods.

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New Release Blitz: Deepfake by Joe Rielinger (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Deepfake

Series: Terry Luvello, PI, Book Two

Author: Joe Rielinger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/13/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 78100

Genre: Contemporary Suspense, contemporary, lit/genre fiction, transgender, private detective, mystery, crime, criminals, arson, explosives, computer nerds, law enforcement, financial terrorists, dark humor

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Having just completed a challenging case, private detective Terry Luvello was hoping for some rest. Instead, a 3:00 a.m. visit from a thirteen-year-old neighbor is a prelude to what will soon become the most perplexing case of his career. The girl’s father, the director of the Cleveland Federal Reserve, has just been accused of murder. Even worse, the police are in possession of evidence that seems to confirm the father’s guilt.

Reluctant though intrigued, Terry is soon thrust into the world of deepfake videos—fabricated recordings so real they are virtually impossible to disprove. Shortly after Terry begins his investigation, similar videos implicate four other individuals with ties to high finance.

With the help of his partner and girlfriend, police detective Hannah Page, Terry soon realizes that disproving the videos is only half the battle. In a case filled with misdirection, Terry and Hannah must determine the true motive behind his client’s frame while matching wits with an unknown adversary willing to kill anyone who stands in his way. As they learn more about their enemy’s true intentions, Terry and Hannah race against time to prevent a crime on a scale far greater than they could have ever imagined.

A transgender male with a uniquely wry sense of humor, Terry seeks to solve his case while continuing with the clinical transition he began months earlier. As the investigation reaches a climax, he must decide just what he is willing to sacrifice to save the woman he loves.


Joe Rielinger © 2023
All Rights Reserved

The climax of every magic trick, the word abracadabra is derived from “avra kehdavra,” an ancient Aramaic phrase meaning “I will create as I speak.” As an origin theory, it makes more sense than most—the magician is attempting to create an effect as they wave their magic wand.

My first encounter with illusion occurred when I was nine years old as I followed my usual route home from Saint Jerome’s Grade School. The short, gray-haired man wearing an old-fashioned top hat appeared as if from nowhere, standing behind a small table in front of one of Mayfield Road’s many coffee shops.

Fascinated by the man’s rapid, precise movements, I watched along with three adults as one ball, then two, then three passed through the seemingly solid bottom of one of the three cups standing before him on the table. My adult companions clapped as the trick was completed. Two placed dollar bills in a glass jar already half full with cash.

The grown-ups in the crowd soon moved on, but I continued to watch. In part, I was fascinated by the man’s hands. More importantly, I wanted to know if I was right.

After readjusting his cups on the table, the old man became aware of the child still in his audience. Likely realizing I had no money, he continued his preparations, finally choosing to address me as he finished.

“I suppose, young one, you want to know how it’s done?”

I thought I already knew the answer, but I was afraid he wouldn’t tell me. Even at nine, I knew magicians never revealed their secrets.

“I’m guessing you had a fourth ball. I saw you move the bottom cup toward you, and I figured that’s when you stuck the ball in. After that, you kept doing the same thing over and over until three balls were on the bottom.”

The magician looked at me with an odd grimace as if he suspected I was some sort of double agent. His next words verified the accuracy of my guess.

“How come you didn’t tell any of the others? Most kids your age would have.”

“I figured they’d rather not know. Me telling would have just ruined it.”

He gave me that odd look again, but by then, another small crowd had moved in front of the table. The magician resumed ignoring me as he moved effortlessly into his next act.

He continued performing in front of his coffee shop perch for nearly a month, and I stopped every day to watch his exhibition. Some tricks I could figure out, others I couldn’t. For those tricks I couldn’t fathom, the magician enlightened me after the rest of his audience had moved away.

While I imagined an audience of my own, I never became as good as my teacher. Armed with his knowledge, I still couldn’t match the old man’s patter or the fluidity of his movements. Despite considerable practice, my misdirection skills remained second-rate.

My magical aspirations dashed, I discovered I could still make adult use of my illusionist training. Though private detectives rarely perform feats of misdirection, identifying them is essential to the trade. As Terry Luvello, private investigator, I managed to do so in cases that included cheating spouses, embezzlement, missing children, and, in one notable instance, a priest who spent his off-hours mentoring a serial killer.

But what if in doing your job, you found that one trick, that one con, where the right way to look is only a mirage? What if the misdirection was just another illusion, and the magician himself was never really there?

And as far as abracadabra is concerned, there is another, darker origin story that many now believe to be true. Instead of “avra kehdavra,” some scholars maintain the chant was spawned by “avada kedavra,” a very different Aramaic phrase popularized by Harry Potter and meaning “let the thing be destroyed.” Not being a linguist, I couldn’t say which claim was correct.

Though based on recent experience, I was betting on the latter.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Joe Rielinger lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife, Lisa, and their two fun-loving, though often borderline crazy golden retrievers. With a lifetime love of mystery, crime, and detective novels, Joe is currently working on a sequel to his first book, And God Laughed. When he isn’t writing, Joe likes to cook, read, and pretend he might someday learn something about training his two dogs.

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Book Blitz: Beer Truck by Emily Carrington (Excerpt & Giveaway)


Title: Beer Truck

Series: It Should Have Been You 1

Author: Emily Carrington

Publisher: Changeling Press, LLC

Release Date: June 9 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 103 pages

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Rockstar, Second Chances, Gay

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When TJ, a famous country star, finds out he has cancer, he retreats to his hometown to heal away from the paparazzi. Uncomfortable living with his parents, he gets a job as a beer truck driver.

Harvey is the owner of a local bar. He’s been following TJ’s career because the two of them used to be lovers. But TJ insisted on being in the closet. Now that Harvey’s older, he can’t imagine burying himself like that ever again.

But when TJ walks into his bar, both men are shocked by the attraction that still blossoms between them. But neither will budge in their beliefs. How can they possibly find happiness in each other’s arms?


Copyright ©2023 Emily Carrington

The music for the gathering was the weirdest mix Harvey had ever heard. As he served drinks for the extremely co-ed bachelor party, he heard the Carpenters, Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Evanescence, Lily Allen, and a host of others that he didn’t know. He knew the music had no significance for one of the bachelors, Peter, because Peter was completely deaf. So, maybe Abe, his soon-to-be husband, had chosen everything? That didn’t seem likely. Peter and Abe were a team and rarely did anything solo anymore. Ever since their first night, when they’d met in this very bar, they’d operated almost as one unit, or at least that was how it looked from the outside.

Harvey remembered fondly approaching Abe, pronounced Ah-Bay in the Japanese style, on Christmas Eve a few years ago, asking if he and Peter wanted to be Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Considering that Abe was the shorter and smaller of the two, Harvey had presented him with the blond wig and belted jacket/skirt combination. Abe had asked Harvey to wait to offer Peter the other half of the costuming, but Harvey had jumped right in, loving Christmas in general and especially Christmas Eve at Maurice’s. He’d fumbled his explanation because even though at the time Peter could still hear the low thrum of a loud bassline, he hadn’t been able to hear speech and Harvey couldn’t sign more than “I love you.”

It had gone off rather smoothly after Abe stepped in. Harvey would never forget the way Peter’s eyes widened with obvious appreciation and lust as he’d viewed Abe in that red skirt.

Now, here they were, ready to get married in a couple of days.

Harvey pressed his lips together and turned away from the sight of the couple swaying on the dance floor, Abe guiding Peter with discreet touches that looked only slightly sexual. But from the shine of Peter’s eyes, he was feeling the full effects of his lover’s motions.

Being grumpy at a couple’s bachelor party wasn’t kosher or polite, so Harvey refocused on pouring drinks. Or would have, if anyone had been there asking for more. Instead, everyone, damn, every single person in the bar, was paired up and dancing.

Harvey bit his tongue to keep from frowning or showing any other sign of displeasure. He wasn’t actually displeased, just feeling left out. Granted, on nights like this, he or whoever was tending bar usually made a hefty surplus of tips, but he hadn’t wanted to be here for this. He had been invited, told he could bring a plus one. But he had to work instead. His business partner, CeeCee, was busy. Her daughter had some sort of medical emergency. And the regular Saturday afternoon bartender had COVID.

He tried to focus on thoughts of CeeCee’s daughter, who was like a niece to him, but he honestly couldn’t, and not just because CeeCee hadn’t revealed the nature of her teenager’s medical issue.

It was the sheer number of couples. From Mike and Aidan Delaney, easily the oldest pair in the room, to their nonbinary young adult, Ash and Ash’s lover, Theresa, the youngest, everybody was in a twosome. He wasn’t jealous. Or at least he refused to be where anyone could see him. But, damn, he missed having someone in his life.

All right, that wasn’t exactly true. He had occasional flings. But nothing serious. Not since college. Even his three-week, whirlwind relationship with CeeCee had ended, although not badly. They’d both decided working and sleeping together wasn’t for them. During that time, he’d casually referred to CeeCee as his partner, more out of desperation to have someone in his life than because he’d actually thought they had a hope in hell of making things work out. When they’d broken up right after Christmas, he’d blushed to think he’d given her that title.

He longed for a return to the days of his early twenties, when life had been a song and —

“And I was trapped in the closet, banging a man who dropped me the first chance he got.” Realizing he’d been speaking aloud, if softly, Harvey shut his mouth. And here came Aidan, almost the tallest man in the room as well as the oldest. Okay, oldest among the partygoers. At forty-two, Harvey had a year on him. And, damn it, he was the only single person here.

Forcing a smile, knowing the blind man couldn’t see it but also understanding the expression would carry in his voice, Harvey asked, “Get you anything, Aidan?”

“Just wanted to check on Dustin and CeeCee.”

That made Harvey’s smile genuine. “Dusty has the VID, which he’s probably tweeted to half the town by now because he’s so bored. He doesn’t have many symptoms but knows our zero-tolerance policy. CeeCee…” What could he say when he knew so little and wasn’t sure what she wanted bandied around? “She’s okay.”

Aidan nodded. “And you’re okay?”

Damn it, the man was too perceptive for someone who couldn’t see light or dark. Or maybe it was just a casual question. Maybe Harvey was just being paranoid because he’d had run-ins with Aidan’s intuitiveness before. So, instead of lying, because that might be caught, he asked, “How’s Mike? Are you two really going to go for a third adopted child?”

Aidan grinned. “Mike’s fabulous, and yes we are.” Then he sobered. “But are you okay?”

Damn. He should’ve known he couldn’t fly under the radar. “I’ll be fine.”

“Anything I can do?”


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

Meet the Author

Emily Carrington is a multipublished author of male/male and transgender women’s speculative fiction. 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. And in the contemporary world she’s named “Sticks & Stones,” Emily has vowed to create small towns where prejudice is challenged by a passionate quest for equality. Find her on Facebook at Shapeshifter Central or on her website.

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New Release Blitz: Magic, Monsters, and Me by Timoteo Tong (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Magic, Monsters, and Me

Series: The Magicals’ Alliance, Book One

Author: Timoteo Tong

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/06/2023

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 126400

Genre: Fantasy, YA, coming of age, LGBT, angsty, supernatural, magic

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Sixteen-year-old Elijah Delomary wants to be a normal boy, riding his skateboard, reading his favorite books, and playing with his familiar, Boxey. His mother expects him to practice magic and fight the monsters who are hurting ordinaries, but he’d rather spend time with his new best friend, Austin.

As their friendship deepens and an old nemesis—Devlina, the Queen of the Gloom—threatens to destroy the universe, Elijah has to decide what’s more important: magic, family, or love?


Magic, Monsters, and Me
Timoteo Tong © 2023
All Rights Reserved

Fifteen-year-old Austin Kang Jr., well over six feet tall, lean and lanky with a mop of black hair falling over his eyes, adjusted the thick black glasses on his face. He studied the white stone and glass mansion jutting out over a hillside on North Sunset Canyon Drive. The house appeared to have good feng shui, with a Southern exposure to allow absorption of positive chi, a panoramic view of the Valley below, and a clear path to the front door.

Feng shui was important to Austin and his parents. They believed it helped center their family and keep them grounded and safe. Austin and his parents were descended from a long line of Magicals called Glimmerers who could tap into a glimmer of magic and twist, turn, and manipulate it as if it were hot ore being turned into a sword.

Coaugelus, as they were known in the Old Language, the mother tongue of the Magicals, were a class of warriors. They defended Magicals and Ordinaries, or humans without magic, from dark forces, creatures, and monsters that lived in the dark shadows of Earth—a place called the Gloom.

Coaugelus, Magicals, and Ordinaries lived in the light in our world, also known as the Shimmering. Everywhere that the sun touched was part of the Shimmering. Austin, his parents, even the people driving by in cars, walking their dogs, and watering their lawns shimmered and lived in the light.

Long ago, the Gloom and the Shimmering met face-to-face in a great war that killed and destroyed countless Ordinaries, Magicals, and monsters. The war raged on and reached a crescendo. A Pàcifimenta, a treaty among Ordinaries, Magicals, and the Gloom was signed. The war ended. Peace settled over the Shimmering and the Gloom.

Still, many in the Coven, the collective of monsters in the Gloom, did not agree with the Pàcifimenta. They didn’t like that they had to sacrifice feeding on Ordinaries or haunting, possessing, or simply terrorizing them. Others wanted power to control the Coven, and to defeat the peace created by the Pàcifimenta. Some creatures didn’t like peace as part of their nature. These monsters were fought by Coaugelus like Austin and his family.

Austin loved three things in life: playing soccer (known as football back home in Hong Kong), listening to grunge music like his dad, and fighting the Coven. For Austin, being a Coaugelo gave him a purpose in life and a place where he felt like he belonged. He particularly enjoyed kicking, punching, and using Xem Sen Ou, the ancient martial art from Minerva in Old Earth in the Seventh Dimension where all Magicals came from.

He also fancied his PlasmX, a purple plasma staff that folded into nondescript metal object akin to a lighter that he always carried with him. He had used it only last night while hunting down a group of rather angry werewolves, or Malloupus, that were attacking tourists at the night market in Kowloon. Austin enjoyed watching the pure purple plasma slice through the heads and arms of werewolves that were in the middle of reaping the souls of innocent Ordinaries.

Austin loved saving Ordinaries from monsters.

“What’s our assignment?” Austin asked his parents.

“Trouble is breaking out within the Coven here in Los Angeles,” said Austin Sr.

Austin and his family spoke with posh accents, a holdover from when Hong Kong was a colony of the UK. “We’re here to investigate and report back to XAQ2,” continued Austin Sr.

“Bleedin’ hell,” Austin complained. “XAQ2 are wankers. Full of rules. Can’t we simply report to the Anti-Coven League and be done with it?”

“Xutactiendo Allégansa Qu’elicallen Duzo have moved more operations of the League from the clandestine to the legal,” said Austin Sr.

“What does that mean?” Austin asked.

“The Alliance is strained and weakened. As leaders of the Alliance, the Còngréhassa are trying to placate their counterparts in the Coven and maintain the Pàcifimenta. Part of that entails relying more on formal procedures. The League works in secret, whereas XAQ2 works through formal channels as the official body of the Alliance.”

“Tossers,” Austin said. “XAQ2 can all go to hell as far as I’m concerned.”


NineStar Press | Books2Read


Meet the Author

Timoteo K. Tong grew up in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles dreaming of living in a rambling Victorian mansion. He currently lives with his husband and way too many plants in San Francisco. He is obsessed with cheese pizza, drinking cola, and daydreaming about magic. He sold his first book when he was age eight, a story about his beloved stuffed animal named Crocker Spaniel. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators International.

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New Release Blitz: A Love So Dark by Rien Gray (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  A Love So Dark

Series: Fatal Fidelity, Book Four

Author: Rien Gray

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/06/2023

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/NB

Length: 49900

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, romance/ noir, suspense, nonbinary, queer, bisexual, interracial, established couple, assassin, artist, Mafia, imprisonment, courtroom drama, FBI agents, revenge, graphic violence, #ownvoices

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The visceral conclusion to the Fatal Fidelity series.

After Justine and Campbell’s beachside vacation is interrupted by the FBI, Campbell is arrested for murder and arson. The evidence leaves them in an impossible position: either take the fall for an assassination they didn’t commit or confess to a killing they already got away with.

When an aggressive federal agent starts uncovering Campbell’s secrets, it’s only a matter of time before the other bodies they’ve buried come back to the surface. With Campbell behind bars, Justine can’t prove their innocence, but she can take matters into her own hands.

She just has to commit the perfect crime—before they both lose everything.


A Love So Dark
Rien Gray © 2023
All Rights Reserved


I’m on a beach fifty-two hundred miles away from home, and the person I love the most is doing unspeakable things between my legs.

Campbell started much lower, massaging every last ounce of tension out of my calves, a kiss placed on each unraveled knot. They’re too damn patient, spending as much time offering worship to the hollow where calf meets knee as they do running the hot length of their tongue up a quivering cord of need along the inside of my thigh. From above, the view is perfect—broad planes of muscle moving through their back like a beautiful puzzle, interlocking pieces I’ve memorized with nails and teeth—and there’s a singular pleasure in watching Campbell crawl toward the border of shadow draped across my hips.

We’re out in the open with no cover but an umbrella and a long white towel, although the pitch-black sand around us is mercifully empty. Campbell paid extensively for our solitude; privacy comes at a premium in Viña del Mar. I’ve never been comfortable with the thought of strangers waiting on me hand and foot, but a very distant lifeguard who promised to look the other way? Turns out to be the unexpected key to indulgence.

Teeth scrape over the string of my bikini, clinging to the swell of my hip, and I shudder. “You’re torturing me.”

“Am I?” Gray eyes flicker upward, burgeoning with desire intense as the tide. “Torture usually makes you scream.”

I bite off oh god on my tongue when Campbell finally strips me bare, dragging my bottoms down and out of the way. Not that the swimsuit was covering much to begin with. For the first time in my life, I dressed for the vacation of my dreams, with a wardrobe designed to distract my notoriously focused assassin from everything but touching me. A flawless execution thus far; we’ve shared an animal mood since touching down at Santiago International, cycling between eating and fucking until exhaustion forces us to sleep.

After this morning, I should be sore, yet the memory of Campbell handcuffing me to our hotel bed and taking me from behind sends a renewed pulse of heat to my clit. Hiding my arousal is impossible when they part me with their fingers and trace a slick, clear line down to the entrance of my pussy. Logically, I know no one can see us, but the idea that someone might be watching as I arch my back and moan ignites another intense frisson of heat through my body, echoed again when Campbell wraps their lips around me and sucks.

Keeping my hands still is a pointless exercise. I find a hold in the back of chestnut hair, running my thumb across the dark velvet of Campbell’s freshly buzzed nape. They muffle a groan against oversensitive skin, and I gasp, tightening my grip. Their tongue darts inside me just long enough to earn a whimper, but Campbell’s mouth is everywhere: spreading me open, kissing swollen folds, painting circles over my clit. Hungry, starved, a beast I’ve leashed around the heart and refuse to let go of.

Rolling my hips into the constant friction only makes the feeling sharper, bliss spiking across my nerves as a brutal electric spark. Whenever I catch a glimpse of Campbell’s gaze, their eyes burn through me, seared black with need. My entire world collapses to salt and heat—sweat and the ocean colliding with noonday sun, and the fire Campbell continues to stoke, low and visceral. The next time I clench, two of their fingers push into me, curling deep enough to force a cry from the bottom of my throat.

“Fuck, Campbell—” I almost choke on their name, riding that tight, trembling spiral on the edge of release. So close I can taste it, but held out of reach. “Please, make me—”

Our games fall away with their next rough thrust. Ecstasy eclipses my vision, bursts of chiaroscuro behind every staggered heartbeat. Campbell moves without remorse, drawing out my orgasm until I can’t do anything but breathe and sob, the pressure from within and without meeting at a white-hot point deep inside me. My nails bite into the back of their neck, a brand of warning, and the seal of their mouth breaks with a truly obscene sound.

I shiver in the aftermath, coming back to myself. Campbell rises from between my knees to claim a kiss, messy but sweet, sweat rising off their skin. Telling them to lay still and get doused in sunscreen earlier was fun, especially when I had to make sure it got everywhere—wouldn’t want them to burn, after all.

They’re comfortable enough to be out here shirtless, which is new. Another bonus of our pure isolation is Campbell wearing nothing but a sinfully tight pair of swim shorts with subtle triangle cuts around the thighs, fabric straining with every flex of muscle. I take advantage of our position to give their ass a firm grope, which startles a low laugh from their lips, faint but genuine.

“Ready to go again?” Campbell asks.

Despite the temptation to tease, I need a breather. “No. I’m just appreciating the view.”

For once, they’re the only thing I have to think about. Two months ago, I sold my ownership stake in the art gallery to Dalia at a friendly discount. She and her ex-girlfriend—now wife—plan to split the space between displaying art and an experimental photography studio so Nia can establish her career stateside. After years long spent building her portfolio across Europe and Asia, she agreed with Dalia to settle down, and I signed the contract for the happy couple with a smile.


NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Rien Gray is a queer, nonbinary writer who has worked in ghostwriting, TTRPGS, and video games. They have a treasured (and ever-growing) collection of LGBTQ+ history books as well as a deep, abiding love for Greek myth. Rien has an upcoming short story in Neon Hemlock’s Baffling Magazine. They live in Ireland.



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Book Blitz: Sympathy for the Devil by Stephanie Burke (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Sympathy for the Devil

Author: Stephanie Burke

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: May 26, 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male

Length: 412 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Action Adventure, Rockstar Romance, Multicultural & Interracial, Bisexual Pansexual & Multisexual, Gay, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal

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The rock gods of the band Abadon are falling hard, but their would-be killers are getting closer…

Charle (Sympathy For the Devil 1): Reporter Charle Lexington latest gig is covering the last leg of Abadon’s American tour. After a confrontation at a concert, he loses himself in a one-night stand. Now he’s finding it hard to forget the stranger he screwed, even if he never saw his face.

Abadon (Sympathy For the Devil 2): Abadon is a Rock god… literally. He’s discovered a way to ease his depression — mindless sex with complete strangers. He’s becoming obsessed with the snarly reporter who’s covering him and decides showing Charle how to party will be the perfect distraction from the one who got away. But Charle’s getting out of control. Abadon is falling hard, but Charle just wants to have fun.

Rise By Sin (Sympathy For the Devil 3): Python, the god of the moon, is more than just the quiet guitar god from the band. In another time, in another place, he was pure Sin. Orion’s not like the other boys — in fact he was born a she, but he never let that get in the way of a good time. Now he’s sure he’s met the man of his dreams… he just never expected that man to be a god.

Bang One Out (Sympathy For the Devil 4): Being on the flight crew on a private jet will give Aika a lot of material to work with… like the sexy-hot crazies from the band Abadon. But what’s a woman to do when the man she’s crushing on big time saves her life — and claims to be an ancient god?

Mischief Managed (Sympathy For the Devil 5): Apollon, the god of mischief, wants to get back to living his best life, but the pale god can’t catch a break. The FBI is asking questions about the plane crash, social media is amazed the band survived, and their would-be killers are getting closer. But even he can fall in love… which begs the question, can Mischief ever be managed?


Excerpt from Charle

“You just plain suck.” Charle Lexington stared at his ex, and the bitch he’d cheated on him with… and the friend of the bitch he had cheated with’s best friend, whom he was also fucking.

Now would be a good time to let the floor open up and swallow him whole.

“Maybe if you learned to do that a bit better, I wouldn’t have to go and find Andy and Candy.”

Instead of opening his mouth and letting the asshole have it with both barrels, Charle rolled his eyes, crossed his arms over his Iron Man Pony T-shirt, and silently imagined the worst happening to his ex.

Then something, a strange awareness in him, poked him hard in the self-esteem. He couldn’t let the spray tanned asshole get away with embarrassing him like this. He was better than that wannabe Dr. Dre any three hundred sixty four and three-fourths days of the year. He wanted war? He was going to get it.

“Well, if you had something a little bit bigger than a thumb to practice on, maybe I’d be better,” he mused aloud, giving Dick a bright smile that showed all of his surgically corrected teeth. “I’m not saying you have a small dick, but when the whole thing fits in my mouth and can’t even reach the middle of my tongue… well…” He let his words trail off as he grinned at his ex-Dick. “You’re the only Richard I know who wants to be called Dick. Overcompensating much?”

“Bitch,” Dick growled, rising to his feet in an attempt to be intimidating, but it was kind of hard to be intimidating when you had to wear lifts in your classic throwback Adidas to reach the coveted six-foot height… a height that guaranteed that not too many people would notice his receding hairline.

Except Charle was six-feet three inches in his bare feet. Sometimes life was good.

“Yes, I am,” Charle purred. “I learned it from watching you.”

“Like anyone else would want you,” Dick growled as the twins twittered from behind their hands, their matching neon nails making glowing trails that threatened to give him a headache in the low light of the venue.

The Stage was a small studio/auditorium that catered to the elite in the rock world. Everyone from the Stones to the Who, from Prince to Snoop Dogg had played private gigs there. Usually the invitees received an email on the same day as the event, inviting them to come and take place in the making of history. Established bands used the venues to announce tours, introduce their hottest new discoveries, showcase new or replacement talents, or to just kick back and jam without the complications of stage make-up, rock personas, and screaming groupies to get in the way of the fun. Tonight Abadon had taken the stage to announce the last leg of their American tour and that they would be taking a small hiatus afterwards to create a new sound.

Charle had gotten his email late, as he was out interviewing the latest stripper- turned-female-rap-sensation, and didn’t get to check his emails on his phone until his three hours were up with Miss Thang.

She was surprisingly intelligent and forthright about her career goals, her past, and what she intended for the future. She also demanded his full attention as she strutted around the basement studio of her new house, complete with stripper pole, while they talked politics and fashion.

He had raced to get to The Stage and had missed the performance and announcement by minutes. But that was okay. He could still interview those who were invited, pick up a press packet, and watch The Other, Abadon’s warm-up band, perform. The Other was a small alternative rap band, kind of like Twenty One Pilots, that was gaining quite the name for itself. The members were entertaining as hell to watch on stage. They kind of made the audience feel like they were part of one big joke instead of condescending to them. Charle didn’t think that Dick would be here or, with misplaced sarcasm and snark, he would intercept Charle on his way to find a seat.

“Oh, a lot of people want me, Dick,” he snickered, while trying to control the inner bullshit meter that was ringing quite loudly in his head. “It’s hard to be so sexy.”

Charle had been dateless and even worse, sexless since he discovered Dick fucking the twins in the backseat of his car years ago. His ’69 Pontiac Firebird was his baby and to have it so defiled by that fool in the velour sweat suit sitting there…

He mourned the abuse of his car far more than he mourned the explosion of their relationship. He did have fun marching up to his studio apartment and activating his LoJack, reporting that his car was the victim of a break-in, which it technically was. He had never given Dick the keys or permission to even breathe on his car, let alone set his cheap materialistic ass inside of it.

Dick had not been amused when the police showed up and arrested him for breaking and entering, public nudity, lewd behavior, and engaging in sexual acts in public. Charle got to play shocked lover who had no idea that his boyfriend of three years had broken into his car and was cheating on him.

The officers, who were very sympathetic even if subtly grossed out, were all too happy to arrest Dick and talk to Charle about pressing charges. No, Dick didn’t live with him. He did not have permission to be at Charle’s apartment or in his car. He was a reporter who had been covering Aerosmith all week and had only moments before arrived at his home. See? There was his plane ticket and photographs of him and Steven Tyler at breakfast that morning. They all agreed that it was a passive-aggressive way to break up and from the way Dick was cursing at him, it could turn violent. Tall, thin Charle would be no match for his thicker, angry ex in a fight, so maybe he should go upstairs and let another nice officer take his statement and see about a restraining order.

Charle did that before he took his car to get deloused and detailed.

Dick’s shocked face would have been almost comedic if it wasn’t so tragic as a trio of officers cuffed and stuffed him in the back of a police car with just his long T-shirt covering his modesty while the twins were taken away in a second car with a lesser charge of accessory to breaking and entering and public lewd behavior.

Ever since then, he had been singing Pink’s You and Your Hand Tonight to himself. Then there was his Bob… Battery Operated Boyfriends were the best. They didn’t cheat on you or defile your most prized possession, and when you were done with them, you cleaned them off and threw them in a drawer.

Now he was kind of regretting that as he really didn’t have a final comeback for Dick or the ability to lie worth a damn.

“You couldn’t get laid if you bend over, spread your cheeks, and tattoo <i>cum dump</i> around your asshole. You are pathetic, Charle, a pathetic sad, lonely old man in a twig of a body.”

Charle could respond in kind or he could be mature, walk away, ignore Dick, and try to enjoy the music that was coming.

And there was the third option, throwing a punch.

Charle decided to throw a damn punch. The drink that Dick spilled all over him and his companions was just a bonus as far as he was concerned.

In the midst of the squealing and bodies flying around — the twins — and blood gushing from noses — well, one nose that belonged to Dick — Charle ducked down and slipped away in the darkness of the gathering crowd.

No one in their right mind would think that prim and proper Charle Lexington would throw a punch much less get into any conflict. Charle was considered a good guy, nonconfrontational, maybe even sweet and innocent, definitely not one to start trouble. Security moved right past him and he ducked into a quiet dark room, hoping to find a place to chill out while Dick ether settled down or left. The rich producer had already taken a beating in the papers after his arrest and the reasons for it were made public and even though years had passed, he couldn’t afford another scandal, especially one involving a so prim and proper, upstanding gay black man like his poor cuckolded ex.

He had no idea the room was occupied until the first moaned complaint reached his ears.


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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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