New Release Blitz: Fighting Chance by Anni Lee (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Fighting Chance

Series: Fighting Chance, Book One

Author: Anni Lee

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, music industry, reality TV show, romantic comedy, rom-com, age gap, enemies to lovers, college, battle of the bands, billionaire

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Description

How can you write a love song before you’ve felt one?

Roland Finley is convinced he has what it takes to win the Battle of the Bands, a reality TV show where up and coming musicians compete for a record deal. But between college, work, and band practice, he hasn’t had time to experience any of the romance he sings about, and his amateur writing needs a lot of work. This is never more apparent than when a stranger in the park stumbles upon his notebook and tells it exactly like it is.

Jay McClintock wanted nothing to do with this silly reality show, but as the head writer for ALIVE Records, his boss had other plans. After being tasked with writing and coaching one of Roland’s biggest rivals behind the scenes, the only thing keeping him sane is teasing the strange (and low-key talented) young writer he encountered in the park.

Writing for the enemy should have been no big deal, but the more Jay accidentally (and not-so-accidentally) runs into Roland, the harder it is for him to come clean about his involvement with the show. Fortunately, there’s one medium through which they both know how to communicate: Song.

Excerpt

My heart was beating in perfect time with the crowd’s applause. Quick, loud, chaotic, completely out of control. A bead of sweat slid down my cheek, caught on my jawline, and dripped off my chin. I didn’t know if it was from my nerves or the heat of the blaring neon lights overhead. I can barely believe we’ve come this far. Would I be here if not for him?

No. Don’t think about him right now. I can’t. He doesn’t deserve a place on this stage with me. He never did. This is my one chance, and I’m not going to screw it up because of him.
I gripped the mic firmly and swallowed hard.
“I hope you’re ready to rock, Los Angeles!”

*

Three Months Ago

“Habanero Marmalade? What kind of a name is that?” Logan shoved another bite of garlic bread in his mouth, mumbling words between chewing.

“It’s the kind of name that people will remember. A little ridiculous, but also…deep. Poignant. Clever.” I leaned forward over the table, and I mentally deconstructed all the signs in the food court to spell our name. Using the Habanero from Habanero Juan’s and the Ma from Mama’s Pizza made for a fairly respectable logo.

“And fucking stupid.”

My guitarist had no class at all, clearly.

“Well, what do you want to call us then? If you’ve got a better idea, I’m all ears.”

“How about Death Ringer or Dragon’s Fury or something badass like that?”

“What? No. We’re not a metal band. We’re supposed to sound edgy, not like we eat children.” I stole a piece of garlic bread out of his tray and crushed it between my teeth as a symbolic display of my disappointment. Also, as a less symbolic display of the fact that I couldn’t afford lunch that day. “Look, as the writer and lead singer, I think I know more about what sounds good to people than you do.”

“Whatever, Roland.” Logan waved a hand in the air as if to knock away my self-importance. “You can have all the say you want as soon as you come up with something better than Hot Orange Jelly.”

“Fine.” I rolled my eyes. “But we need to have this settled by Friday if we’re really going to audition for the Battle of the Bands.”

“That’s four whole days away. Plenty of time.” Logan crammed an impressively large spindle of spaghetti into his mouth before he stood to toss out his tray. “All right, back to work.” He ran a hand through his hair and retied his bun to make sure it was neat and kempt enough for the jewelry shop. He was so tall, lean, and good-looking. I could only imagine how many diamonds he sold with his smile alone. Or how many relationships he broke up with a well-placed wink.

He gave me one last grin before he headed back. “The girls’ volleyball team has a game today. Go walk on over and find something more inspiring than your grandma’s pantry.”

Right. Because a bunch of jocks knocking a ball around is so inspiring. But despite my protests, we were going to have to agree on something if we were going to enter this competition. The Battle of the Bands was more than just a silly reality show. It was a chance at a dream in a world convoluted with fellow dreamers. If we could stand out there, we could stand out anywhere. But I needed Logan to take it seriously first. And I needed to figure out a name.

We had been through a couple of names already: Cheese and Cracker (my idea), Log Rol (his idea), Raining Soup (my idea), Dos Vikings (his idea), PIE-tastophic (my idea. In hindsight, I should probably stop coming up with band names while I’m starving). Having had no success with building a fan base doing local gigs, we both agreed that it would be good to get a fresh start for our TV debut. But I swear to God, coming up with names was the hardest part of being an artist.

I shook my head and grabbed my notebook. He was right about one thing, anyway. A walk would do me some good.

I left the mall and strolled back toward campus, cutting through the park on the way. I always liked this park. Birds chirped and whistled in the trees, creating the perfect ambience for deep thinking. Birds were what inspired me to sing in the first place. All those days sitting in my mother’s garden, listening to their high-pitched calls, watching them fly wherever they wanted to go. Their voices were the battle cry of freedom. Singing was freedom.

I glanced at the trees and whistled my best mockingbird call. Almost on cue, a mockingbird took to the sky. It flapped its wings to the music. Beautiful. I whistled again, and it came toward me. Closer. Closer.

Wait a second—too close! The bird swooped down and knocked into me with its wings. My notebook flew from my hands as I instinctively swatted it away. I always forgot that mockingbirds were assholes.

Once the bird flew off, I collected myself and looked for my notebook. A man stood before me, tall, poised, and sophisticated. He had frameless rectangular glasses that sat on a perfect nose, framed with light-brown hair that fell stylishly unkempt around his face. One of his black leather dress shoes sat pointedly atop my open notebook.

He reached down and picked it up. I watched on, dumbfounded, as his sharp blue eyes moved back and forth over the pages.

“Don’t read that—that’s private!” I heard my voice ringing entirely too loudly in the air, causing the remaining nearby birds to scatter. Something about the sky full of fleeing sparrows, surrounding this dark figure, felt like an image out of horror movie. Like he was an evil sorcerer learning all my secrets before promptly taking over the world.

“I can see why.” His voice was deep and smooth. “I wouldn’t want to share this drivel with anyone either.”

“It’s not…” I was too shocked to figure out how to respond. There was months of work in that notebook. My prized lyrics. My potential band names. Hand-scrawled sheet music. Everything that made up my hopes and dreams.

“I’ll shoot right past the goalie of your love. My puck in your net. Points on the headboard… Are you fucking serious?” He shut my notebook and tossed it over his shoulder, shaking his head in disgust all the while. Hearing my lyrics recited out loud was triggering all my fears and insecurities. Who the hell does this guy think he is?

“It’s supposed to be provocative…” I mumbled under my breath, averting my gaze so he couldn’t read the hurt in my eyes. “Th-that’s just the first draft. It was going to get way better before the competition.” I didn’t know why he was being so harsh anyway. Any words would sound like garbage if you said them like that. Any words… Right?

He walked past me with his hands in his pockets, his eyes hidden by the glare of the sun on his lenses.

“Find another hobby. You’re wasting your time.” He gave me one last kick in the heart before he stepped out of earshot. I watched as he walked away.

Purchase at NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

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New Release Blitz: Far Patrol by Alex Powell (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Far Patrol

Author: Alex Powell

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 59300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, LGBTQ lit, fantasy, dragons, rebellion, class system

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Description

Will war tear their family and their country apart?

Ignius Lockden and their companion Kathely are ready for adventure. Joining Far Patrol was only going to be the beginning—they were right, but in all the wrong ways. Suddenly, there’s a war on the horizon and the two of them are stuck in the middle. Ignius wants to do what’s right, but it isn’t easy to tell what actions will lead to the correct ending. How is one young dragon supposed to change the course of history?

Excerpt

The first thing the dragon remembered seeing was the golden light right beyond the shell in front of them, flickering and lighting up tiny red and silver specks on the surface of their chamber.

It must be time, then.

They scrabbled at the curved inside of the shell, scratching away and scoring the surface. They felt the little nubs of their claws catch on the roughened inner surface. The dragon stopped, waiting to regain their strength. It was tiring work, and presently, the dragon fell asleep again.

They repeated this cycle in longer and longer increments, scratching away at the inside of their chamber. Waiting was over for them, and it was time to emerge. Sleep, wake, sleep.

Again, the light woke them, brighter this time. There were voices outside, and with some excitement, the dragon heard the voice. The one was here. It was definitely time now, and the dragon would stop at nothing to finally greet that voice.

It was a high voice, and it penetrated the shell unlike all the other voices outside. The dragon didn’t care about those ones. They needed to reach the one. Kathely.

The one. Their one.

That voice had started coming a long time since. The moon had cycled countless times, and the dragon knew it well, the voice of the one who spoke to them from outside. That one whispered things to them, told them all about life on the outside. The dragon liked these stories, and even though they couldn’t yet make complete sense of them, the outside called. Kathely was calling, right now.

“Ignius.”

The dragon rocked against the wall of their chamber, pushing as hard as they could. The shell, weakened by their earlier efforts, gave a little under their struggles. It was tiring, but Kathely was there, calling.

“Ignius, you have been Named. It is time to come forth.”

Ignius coiled their tail, lashing it against the weak spot of the shell. Then they struck again as they felt the shell fracture above them. The spikes on their tail made short work of breaking through, and once again, Ignius clawed at the shell, finding the opening. They forced it farther open, lifting their snout to the hole in the shell, taking their first deep breath of air.

They couldn’t see yet, but after a few sneezes to clear their lungs of fluid, they could smell those around them. The nearest person was Kathely, and their one smelled divine, like home.

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Meet the Author

Alex is an author of LGBTQ+ romance. They live in northern Canada where it snows six months of the year. Currently, they are pursuing a PhD in English, but that won’t stop them from writing about space vampires or cyberpunk hackers or whatever else pops into their head. Mostly a SFF writer, Alex sometimes dabbles in other genres including contemporary romance.

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New Release Blitz: In Search of Angels by Ashley Wade (Excerpt & Giveaway)

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Title:  In Search of Angels

Series: Nephilim, Book One

Author: Ashley Wade

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 45700

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, nephilim, angels, fallen angels, foster care, powers, urban fantasy, adventure, friends to lovers, immortality, psy-powers, mythical creatures, soulmates, psychic ability, road trip, chosen family, fostering a child

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Description

It was just supposed to be a standard surveillance job for Lea, but as she falls deeper for her subject, she discovers secrets and darkness surrounding her job. In a world filled with angels, nephilim, and magic, can she keep the ones she cares for safe while running from something darker than any of them can imagine?

Excerpt

Agent Aaliyah “Lea” Shield sat on the dog-park bench. She watched the woman lean forward, gather her shoulder-length cocoa-colored hair to the side, and take a long sip from the bubbling water fountain spout. How cool and refreshing the water must be on a day like today—the radio announcer had said the temperature would be in the high ’90s. Even more refreshing: the woman herself, Sophie.
Lea found it challenging to maintain a single train of thought. As an agent, she was all business all the time, but now her thoughts danced between how cool the water must taste and how beautiful Sophie’s lips were: a conflict, to say the least. As her objective stood, Lea hastily regrouped, focusing on her task again.

Sophie studied the area around them, cornflower-blue eyes piercing the distance between them, causing Lea to shudder. Her eyes were uncommonly soft and caring, the depths of which were deeper than the deepest lagoon. Lea couldn’t look away despite knowing the direct eye contact could possibly blow her cover. The shared gaze captured her soul—and her fear was that it would not let go.

Lea grew uncomfortable the longer she held Sophie’s gaze. Although quite skilled at undercover work, she was a bit out of her element at the dog park. Everyone around her was outfitted in running or exercise gear, as was Lea unfortunately, but she felt seriously out of sorts and regretted not just wearing her three-quarter-sleeve indigo tunic and slacks like she’d wanted to. Her line of work normally called for more than a pair of shorts or yoga pants and tank top, a more buttoned-up kind of look, but from time to time, it also required her to be inconspicuous. And despite her great discomfort, she was on the job despite how much she wished she weren’t in such tight and revealing attire, definitely not her style.

Lea focused on Sophie as she ran her hand through the fountain and then swiped it across the nape of her neck. Lea sighed, captivated as the woman reached down to pet her large beast of a dog’s head, the tank she wore sliding up her torso and exposing her tawny-colored midsection. Lea quietly cleared her throat as Sophie stood, stuck her free hand in the front pocket of her denim shorts, and led her dog down the path in Lea’s direction.

Lea hastily transitioned back into her cover as an everyday dog-park visitor, reaching down to interact with the mutt at her feet while keeping watch. Hopefully, it wasn’t obvious she’d been watching Sophie instead of the curious panting terrier Lea had borrowed from her best friend, Eileen.

Sophie meandered farther down the trail, closing the gap between them. Lea’s heart leaped and fluttered as she fought to maintain focus and clarity. Since the first time she’d seen Sophie, Lea had attempted to read her and been unable. Finally though, she connected with the woman’s mind. The mismatch of images that assaulted her were confusing and slightly overwhelming as she tried to discern and navigate through them. And then they stopped abruptly as though she’d been kicked offline and changed to something like a blank screen, the blue screen of death, if you will, on a laptop in need of technical support.

The first time she’d seen her, Lea had no idea they would become such a huge part of each other’s worlds. But now, she knew how deeply intertwined their worlds would become—and there was no turning back.
*
Sophie strolled by without even a glance in Lea’s direction, leaving her shaken and trying to understand why she could connect with the woman this time unlike all the other times before. Lea tried to shake the feeling off as made her way back to the car to give her report for the week. After dropping the borrowed dog at her bestie’s house, she headed into the office.

The headquarters of the Angelic Order of Nephilim, AON for short, was tucked into a quiet business park on the up-and-coming northwest side of San Antonio. The office they occupied had been there nearly twenty years. The building with the connecting garage stood seven-stories tall. The top five floors were AON offices, while various businesses and an attorney’s office filled the bottom two levels.
Unbeknownst to most in the building, security was crucial to AON. Anything above the fourth floor was only accessible by a passcode obtained from security via a camera and speaker.

Lea wiped her brow as she stepped into the stuffy elevator. The citrus smell of a freshly cleaned space greeted her. She pressed the button to take her to the sixth floor, glanced up at the camera, placed her right index finger on the barely noticeable print reader, and positioned her head for the iris scan. Once verification was complete, a disembodied voice from the speaker relayed the passcode that would allow her access to the higher floors.

Using an app on her iPhone, Lea entered the passcode and then leaned against the cool mirrored wall of the elevator, trying not to notice her disheveled appearance, complete with sweaty mousy-brown locks, in her reflection. Next time she had an assignment in the field, she would make sure she changed into something a little more appropriate before coming by the office. It was important to her to always appear professional to her coworkers even if she had just finished a sweaty stake out. Lea hummed along to an instrumental version of a song she recognized playing overhead.

The elevator door opened to a flurry of activity. Lea shuffled past several others in suits and work attire as she moved through the carpeted maze of cubicles to the secure area that housed her desk, all the while extremely self-conscious about her outfit. They’re all wondering what the heck happened to me. She shouldn’t care, but she did.

After an additional iris scan, she gained entrance to her division’s area of the sixth floor and made her way to her cubicle. Unlike most desks she passed, hers was absent of decor, only her books and manuals present on the desktop. No family photos or cute odds and ends decorated her cubicle. Aside from the fact that Lea wasn’t close to her family, she wasn’t at her desk enough to enjoy décor of any kind even if she’d wanted to.

Realizing she hadn’t grabbed a cup of tea on the way in, she padded toward the breakroom, mug in hand. Lea glanced down to avoid making eye contact with anyone on her way. She didn’t care for frivolous conversations about life outside of work—a life she didn’t really have, if she were honest. She’d sooner extract her own tooth than partake in a conversation about the latest episode of The Bachelor or the latest going-ons of the Kardashian clan. Instead, she kept to herself, speaking when spoken to unless it was work related.

Once settled back at her desk, Lea slipped off her running shoes and grabbed a thick folder from a drawer. Lea was eager to review the file on her mystery woman. Although she’d practically memorized every detail in it, she was afraid she’d missed something. Why was this woman of such interest to the Order? It was unusual for her to question the assignments she was given. But after being in the woman’s mind, there was no way she could just take orders without knowing more.

Ever since Lea had learned about AON, she’d made it her goal to work for them after she’d finished college. Shortly after turning twenty-one, she’d been accepted into AON. The past five years had been a lot of work, but she’d progressed through the ranks and become a full-fledged field agent just six months before. After she’d received her first permanent assignment at the South-Central Texas district office located in San Antonio, Lea had packed her car, her Persian cat Angel, and hit the road. She hadn’t looked back on her small East Texas hometown or her disapproving family since.

Her responsibilities, thus far, had mainly been field work: the tracking and apprehending of both unregistered and fallen nephilim and angels. Like angels, nephilim were special creatures. According to the laws set forth by the Council, the governing body established in the beginning to keep the species in check, all nephilim—and angels for that matter—were to keep the secret of what they were from most humans. Those who opted to couple with humans had to be registered and have their relationship vetted by the Order to ensure those humans would adhere to the same regulations nephilim did. It was controlling in a day and age where you were free to love who you wanted, but there were solid reasons for the laws.

Over the millennia, humans had become a great threat to the nephilim. After discovering the nephilim possessed abilities like no other, many sought to harness such powers for their own use. Humans—and other factions such as demons or fallen angels—experimented on the nephilim, attempting to harness their powers for evil purposes. Some believed that the nephilim, half angel and half human, held the key to everlasting life, and they were determined to utilize this key for themselves.

As Lea sipped her tea, she perused the open file in front of her. What is so important about this case…this woman? On the surface, Sophie—known to the Order as Sophiel—was an average, law-abiding twenty-three-year-old, and a recent child-psychology graduate with aspirations of leaving her mark on an ever-changing world. She’d just started a job with the Angels Rescue Center, an organization under the jurisdiction and ultimate control of the Order and Council, specializing in placing children of the winged variety in safe, secure homes for possible adoption. The minors placed had either been removed from or never had a proper nephilim or angel household who could properly deal with the gifts they possessed.

Lea set the file aside and made the decision to do some additional digging via the internal network on the organization itself, also known as ARC. According to the Order’s records, ARC was founded by Zacharael and Dazielle St. James. The couple established the agency twenty years ago after a tremendous need arose for homes that could accommodate children born from the unique union of nephilim or angels with humans, or even with each other. As time progressed, it became apparent even a “blessed”—as approved unions were thought of—joining did not always ensure a proper home for a child with special abilities.

Nephilim were each born with special gifts and abilities, and as Lea scrolled through page after page of electronic records, she contemplated how gifted some of the children the agency came into contact with really were. She knew from spending each summer growing up at a camp for young nephilim how extraordinary a nephilim’s range of abilities were. And the nephilim handled by ARC seemed just as gifted if not moreso.

“Agent Shield,” a deep voice said from behind her.

“Yes?” Lea spun her chair toward the voice.

The large-built, maple-wood-skinned agent stood at the entrance to her cubicle. If she recalled correctly, his name was Simiel. But she didn’t know him, or really anyone she worked with, that well.
She did notice though, the man wore enough cologne to give Lea a migraine, and she tried not to inhale.

“Sorry to startle you, ma’am. You’re wanted in Supervisor Marco’s office when you have a chance.”

Simiel swiveled on his heels and marched off, reminding Lea of a robotic soldier.

Lea nodded to herself, pulled her sneakers on, and stood. She’d give her end-of-the-week briefing, and then it’d be time to call it a day. She grabbed her backpack and strolled to her boss’s office. She had plans to head to the lake with some friends for the weekend. A handful of her childhood friends—also nephilim and angels—had organized a last-minute lake-house trip to break the monotony of city life. She wasn’t sure how she’d handle the time free from watching every move Sophie made, but she needed the break. And despite her angst about missing out on Sophie’s weekend, she knew she needed the time to herself.

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Meet the Author

Ashley Wade, affectionately known as Ash, is a native Texan who has five dogs and three cats. She’s been writing since she can remember, and her mother kept every single piece she ever wrote—even the ones you can hardly read. This is her first book release, and she’s excited to share her world of nephilim with readers. When not reading, writing, going to school, or just relaxing, Ashley is a full-time editor. The written word inspires her on a daily basis.

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New Release Blitz ~ Sun, Sea and Surprises by Larissa Vine (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sun, Sea and Surprises by Larissa Vine

Word Count:  31,135
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 139

GENRES:

COMEDY AND HUMOUR
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

Summer of surprises…or summer of love?

Tessa feels like pinching herself. She’s going to be a bridesmaid at the wedding of the summer on an exotic island in Thailand. Finally, this is her chance at the A-lister life and the glitz and success that are sure to follow. All she has to do is shape up enough to look stunning in her bridesmaid’s dress. Easy, right? Especially with the super-hot and super-famous fitness star Josh Jordan to train her.

Josh Jordan can’t wait to coach Tessa. Not only will he get to spend time with her, but he’ll be doing what he loves, training people—the grass roots of his fitness empire. His summer’s starting out nicely, apart from one thing. He’s inherited a greedy, slobbery dog that seems hell-bent on shedding hair and chewing up every goddamn stick of furniture in his penthouse apartment.

As Josh and Tessa begin their workouts, their lust for each other blossoms. But with the wedding looming, Tessa still has a lot to achieve, and Josh continues to be at loggerheads with the dog.

Their summer turns out to be one surprise after another…but can they turn it into a summer of love?

Excerpt

Tessa drew a breath and flicked her dark hair back from her shoulders before running up the steps to the bar. Sounds from the party—slightly drunken voices, rising laughter—came from inside. And it wasn’t just any party. It was Bridgette’s engagement party, the social event of the year. Or so Bridgette had described it to Tessa, who still couldn’t believe that she’d been invited.

At the doors, Tessa stopped. Her stomach growled. She’d come straight from work and hadn’t had a chance to eat. But that was okay. It was a party—there was bound to be food. After hesitating for a second, she strode into the wall of sound.

The place was packed with about two hundred people, the women all Bridgette-wannabes, impossibly tall and skinny. Clearly, Bridgette found it comforting to surround herself with clones. The men resembled Bridgette’s fiancé, Brad, and were cookie-cutter handsome.

Tessa scanned the crowd for Bridgette. She needed to congratulate her. Huge displays of flowers looked down from pedestals and at the front of the room, Bridgette had created an Instagrammable photo opportunity by installing a rainbow arc of metallic balloons. Tessa half expected to see ice sculptures or for a fire breather to wander past.

She weaved through the guests on the hunt for Bridgette. In her head, she practiced what she was going to say to her. Congratulations? No, too lame. It had to be snappier to compete with the A-listers. Bridgette, wow, I’m so happy for you. But that remark could come off as insincere seeing that she hadn’t seen Bridgette since they’d left high school.

Bridgette, I— Tessa reached the food table. There was so much good stuff that she didn’t know where to look first. Tiny goat’s cheese quiches laden with caramelized onions lay next to open sandwiches with thick layers of pink salmon. A cheeseboard jostled with mini ramekins of tapenades and oh-so-plump grapes.

There was no one else at the table. Tessa reached to get a plate. It was so small that it would only fit a couple of things. Clearly, A-listers weren’t meant to eat. She loaded it up with as much as she could and was just about to walk away to find a quiet alcove to eat when her gaze fell onto the slices of cornbread. She loved cornbread. These were bursting with chives and sundried tomato. It would be suicide to drink on an empty stomach.

After glancing over her shoulders, she opened her purse. Then she picked up a couple of slices of cornbread, wrapped them in a napkin and dropped them into her bag.

“What are you doing?” a voice close by said.

Tessa nearly jumped out of her body.

She whipped her head around. To her horror, Bridgette was towering over her in skyscraper heels, scowling with all the wrath of her Viking heritage.

“I said what are you doing?” Bridgette’s voice rang out into the party. “OMG, Tessa! Were you stealing food like a poor person?”

Tessa blushed so hard that her earlobes burnt. “Don’t be silly, I…” she began. Bridgette stared at her, clearly waiting. Tessa felt the brunt of her blue-eyed gaze. The noise level in the room had dropped. People had abandoned their conversations and were openly eavesdropping.

“Well?” Bridgette said loudly.

Tessa wracked her brains.

Well?” Bridgette repeated.

“It’s just, the thing is…” Tessa wished there were a trapdoor beneath her feet that could open up. Then, at last, inspiration came. “I wanted to feed the seagulls,” she blurted.

“The seagulls?” Bridgette cocked an eyebrow.

“That’s right, the gulls.”

Bridgette made a sound that was not unlike a seagull squawk. “Oh, Tessa. You’re so quirky. I remember now. That’s one of the things that I love about you.”

Tessa was laughing too but with relief. “That’s right,” she replied. “You always said I was weird.”

Bridgette stooped and linked her arm through Tessa’s. “Well, my little zookeeper. Let’s go outside and find you some birdies to feed. There’s something that I want to ask you.”

Tessa’s stomach dropped. Something else? A sixth sense told her that it would be worse than the stolen bread.

Arm-in-arm, they walked through the crowds and onto the patio. Tessa caught her breath. Vancouver had never looked finer. They had a panorama view of the Pacific Ocean, which was bathed in the evening light that reflected off the windows of the skyscrapers, causing them to twinkle and sparkle like jewels. The mountains across the harbor were caught up in the same glorious golden glow.

To her left, multi-million-dollar cruise ships bobbed at the dock, waiting to whisk to Alaska people who’d flown in from around the world.

“What a view,” Tessa breathed. “It’s perfect. Bridgette, you’re so lucky.”

Bridgette smiled. “You have to make your own luck. Like with my fiancé, I could have chosen anyone. Not wanting to boast but I had my pick. I settled on Brad because he’s kind and caring and runs his own private medical practice. And when I saw him, I thought, why wait? I mean when you know, you just know, don’t you? That’s why we’re getting married next month.”

“You make a stunning couple.”

Bridgette nodded. “You’re not the first person to say that. When we announced our engagement on Instagram, nearly all my ten thousand followers liked my post. Followers from all areas of my life. And it got me thinking, who better than my oldest, dearest high school friends to be my bridesmaids? Vix has already said yes and I hope—”

She shot Tessa an expectant look.

“I said,” she repeated, her tone slightly sharper, “who better to be my bridesmaids than my dearest high school friends?”

“Oh, you mean Isobel and Christine,” Tessa said.

They were the girls who used to follow Queen Bee Bridgette around at school. Isobel was now an actress and Christine had gone on to be a model.

“No, not them,” Bridgette said. “Guess again.” She looked directly at Tessa.

Tessa shrugged. “I don’t know. I give up.” Bridgette had a whole line of A-listers to pick from.

Bridgette raised a perfectly plucked eyebrow and kept looking directly at Tessa.

Tessa swallowed. “You can’t mean…me?”

She expected Bridgette to burst out laughing because she must have misunderstood or maybe this was a prank. But Bridgette didn’t laugh. Her expression was serious. She tucked a strand of her Norwegian blonde hair behind her ear and fixed Tessa with her china-blue eyes.

“You did understand,” she said, her voice solemn. “I promise you, Tessa—and I’m not kidding here—you are going to be my bridesmaid at the event of the summer.”

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About the Author

Larissa Vine

British-born Larissa Vine spent way too long traveling before settling in Vancouver, Canada. Now she lives close to the ocean and the mountains with her ever-patient family and her army of cats. Larissa tries to write what she loves to read – books which are tender, cheeky, even dirty sometimes. Books which are, above all…fun!

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New Release Blitz ~ Sun, Sea and Satisfaction Guaranteed by Hannah Murray (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sun, Sea and Satisfaction Guaranteed by Hannah Murray

Word Count: 49,054
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 193

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

What’s a vacation without a fling?

The last place Clio Reed wants to be in the middle of July is on a cruise ship in the Caribbean, but when the matriarch of the Reed family calls for a family vacation, everyone listens. Clio figures this vacation will be an exercise in annoyance and frustration, but she didn’t count on her great-aunt’s new husband—or his son…

Fox may be her new step-cousin, but after one look at the dark-haired, green-eyed hottie with the perpetual grin and amazing forearms, her feelings for him are anything but familial.

Maybe this cruise won’t be such a drag after all.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of anal sex.

Excerpt

Clio Reed closed her eyes, drew in a deep breath, and reminded herself that she was on vacation.

The little cabin was perfect. Nestled in the woods on the edge of Lake Michigan, it was accessible only by an unmarked dirt road hidden so well that even the people who owned the cabin would have trouble finding it. The wide porch was screened to keep the bugs out, and held a pair of thickly cushioned lounge chairs which were perfect for lazy summer days. She could stretch out after a morning swim in the lake with Cecil, snuggle into the thick cushions with her e-reader after lunch, and watch the sunset over the lake with a glass of wine after dinner. Cecil would stretch out on the deck’s wooden planks, snoring as he slept off a day of romping in the water. She’d sleep cozy and comfortable in the king-sized bed, and the next morning, they’d get up and do it all again.

She could take leisurely walks, play with her dog and read as many romance novels as she wanted, blissfully alone. If she concentrated hard enough, she could almost smell the lake and the rich, loamy scent of the woods.

The knock on the door made her concentration waver, but she ignored it and drew another deep breath. She imagined she could hear the sounds of the woods, the chirp of crickets and the gentle rush of the wind through the trees, the creak of the porch boards under her feet as she walked to the lounger and settled in to read—

Knock, knock, knock.

Her vision wavered, nearly disappearing at the three hard raps. She grunted, an annoyed rebuke for whoever was pounding on her door forming on her tongue. She swallowed it down, wiggled to settle more firmly into her cross-legged position, and pulled the image clear into her mind once more. There was her cabin, lovely and perfect. She was lying on the lounge chair, Cecil’s furry bulk on the chaise beside her, no one around to inter—

Knock, knock, knock. “Come on, Clio. I know you’re in there.”

“Leave me alone,” she mumbled under her breath, eyes still closed, mentally in her lakefront paradise, an e-reader in her hand and her dog at her side. “I’m on vacation.”

“Mom wants everyone out on the upper deck for a family meeting. She sent a message on the family chat, so I know you got it.”

No, I didn’t, she thought smugly. Because her phone was tucked away in a drawer, turned off as a hedge against just such a maneuver.

“You were supposed to be there ten minutes ago. You’re holding everything up.”

This floating nightmare isn’t even underway yet, and it’s already started. Ignoring her younger brother—and the small pang of guilt—with the ease of long practice, Clio rolled her shoulders, straightened her spine, and tried to find paradise in her mind once again.

“Dammit, Clio.” Bam! Bam! Bam! “I’ve got better things to do than be Mom’s errand boy.”

“Tell her no,” she shot back, then bit her lip.

“I heard that,” he crowed.

“Shit,” Clio muttered and opened her eyes.

Instead of the rolling waves of Lake Michigan lapping at a sandy shore, she saw the industrial carpet, cream-colored walls, and impersonal décor that made up her stateroom on the Duchess Dream cruise liner.

Since it was a third of the size of a budget hotel room, stateroom was a stretch, but calling it a floating cell had earned her a disappointed look from her mother. Cam knocked again, then rattled the knob. “Come on, Clio. You know if I go back up there without you, she’s going to come to get you herself.”

“I’m coming,” she called, resigned and resentful, and slid off the too-soft bed to open the door.

Her brother’s handsome face wore a predictably smug smile, which went perfectly with his frat-boy-on-spring-break outfit of a Ron Jon Surf Shop T-shirt, board shorts, and flip flops. “What took you so long?”

“Ha,” she replied, and walked back into the room, leaving him to follow.

“Wow,” he said, looking around. “This is small.”

“I know.” She sat down on the tiny couch, which was really just a wide, shallow chair with two small, hard cushions. The couch was too hard, the bed was too soft—she felt like Goldilocks on the cruise from hell. “Mom says it’s my fault for making my reservations at the last minute.”

“She’s not wrong.” He wandered over to look out of the porthole over the double bed. “If you’d booked when Tara and I did, you’d probably at least have a window.”

“I was hoping Mom would cave.”

“What an optimist.” Cam sat beside her, wincing as he settled on the hard cushion. “It won’t be so bad. She’s been pretty mellow, actually.”

“Which is why she sent you down here to fetch me.”

“Okay, so mellow is probably an exaggeration.” Cam patted her knee in sympathy. “But I’ve got something that might help.”

“A prescription for tranquilizers?” she asked hopefully.

“I’m not medicating our mother.”

“I meant for me.”

“I’m not medicating you either.” He pulled a small velvet box out of his pocket and flipped the lid open. “I’m going to ask Tara to marry me.”

“Holy crap, Cameron.” She stared at the ring. “Is that Grammy Reed’s ring?”

“Yeah.” He turned the box so the diamond caught the light. “Dad gave it to me when I told him I was going to propose. I wanted to make sure that was all right with you.”

She blinked in confusion. “You want my blessing?”

“No. I mean, I’m happy to have it, but I’m talking about the ring. You’re older than me, so technically, it should go to you.”

“Technically, it should go to Carter,” she countered. “He’s the oldest.”

“Dad said he’d offered it to him when he and Gabe got engaged, but they didn’t want it.”

Clio looked at the ring again, its delicate gold filigree and central stone gleaming in the light. “Yeah, I don’t think it would fit Gabe.”

“Dad told them they could keep it for their kids, but Carter said he was fine with it going to one of us.”

“Cam.” She reached up to cradle his face in her hands. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks.” He squirmed a little, delighting her. “You’re not going to get mushy, are you?”

“Hell, yes,” she said, and pinched his cheeks for emphasis. “It’s absolutely okay with me if you give Grammy’s ring to Tara. It’s perfect for her.”

“Yeah.” He looked down at the ring again, his smile going sappy. “Yeah, it is.”

“When are you going to ask her?”

He snapped the box shut and tucked it away. “Tonight, at dinner. I can’t wait to see Mom’s face.”

Clio started to point out that it wasn’t their mother’s moment, then bit her tongue. If Cam and Tara didn’t mind, it was none of her business. “She doesn’t know you’re planning to propose?”

He shook his head. “I asked Dad not to say anything. You know she can’t keep a secret.”

Clio snorted. “He better hope she doesn’t find out about that.”

“I know.”

“Although if she’s mad at him, she won’t have time to nag me this week,” she mused. “Would it make me a terrible daughter if I threw him under the bus?”

“Yes.” He pushed to his feet and held out a hand. “Speaking of which, we better go.”

She made a face and allowed him to pull her to her feet. “Can’t you just tell them I took a sleeping pill and I’m too groggy to come out on the deck because I might lose my balance and fall into the ocean?”

“No.” He dragged her to the door.

“Wait!” She tugged her hand free and ran the three steps back to the bed for her long-sleeved shirt and wide-brimmed sun hat. “Okay, I’m ready.”

“You know it’s ninety degrees out, right?”

“Believe me, I’d prefer fewer layers.” She hated covering up the cute pink top, and could have gone without the sweat she knew would gather under the brim of the hat and soak into her hair. Shorts would’ve been nice, too, instead of the loose cotton pants, but at least this way, she wouldn’t fry to a crisp in the Florida sun.

Being a natural redhead, with the accompanying pale-as-Casper skin, could be a real bitch. Especially when both of her brothers, her parents, and every other member of her family except for Great-Aunt Francine looked like they’d just stepped out of the pages of a surfing magazine after five minutes of sun.

“Can’t you just wear sunblock? You look like somebody’s grandma.”

She smacked him on the arm. “I’m wearing sunblock, you ass. I still burn.”

“Like a vampire,” he muttered, wincing when she smacked him again. “Ow. Quit hitting me.”

“Quit being a dick,” she shot back and smacked him one more time for good measure. “Let’s get this over with.”

“Wait.” He turned back at the door. “Tara asked me to get her a bottle of water. Can I have one of yours?”

“I don’t have any bottles of water.”

“What’s that?” he said, pointing past her to the nightstand.

“That’s distilled water.”

“So?”

“So, it’s for my CPAP.”

“Your what?”

She pointed at the sleek little machine on the nightstand. “The thing that helps me breathe while I sleep?”

“Oh, right. Can’t you refill it at the sink?”

“No, jackass, I can’t. I have to use distilled water, or the minerals in the tap water fuck up the machine.”

He frowned. “That sounds made up.”

She shoved him out of the door. “You can’t have the water, Cameron.”

“Then I have to go back to our room to get one of ours.”

She checked her pocket to make sure she still had her key card, then pulled the cabin door shut behind her. “So go. I’ll meet you up there.”

He narrowed his eyes, suddenly suspicious. “Give me your key.”

“What? No.”

“I don’t trust you not to go back in there and bar the door.”

She rolled her eyes as though she hadn’t been considering exactly that. “Get a grip, Cameron.”

She headed down the narrow hallway, Cam on her heels. “Listen, our room is on the deck above you. Why don’t you come with me? You can have a bottle of water, too.”

“I don’t need a bottle of water, I’m very well hydrated.” She bypassed the bank of elevators in favor of the wide central stairwell and began to climb. “Go, Cam. I promise I won’t run away.”

“Okay. Tell Mom I’ll be right there.”

She waved a hand and continued up the stairs as he veered off. Half a flight later, she heard footsteps behind her again and stopped climbing with an aggravated sigh.

“Cam, I said I would go,” she began, turning to confront her brother, and found herself face to face with a stranger. “Oh. You’re not Cam.”

“No, I’m Fox,” he said, and smiled. “Hello.”

“Hello,” she replied automatically, while her brain sounded the hot-guy alert.

Seriously hot guy. He was big, towering over her even though he stood two steps lower, and handsome. He had dark hair curling over his ears, misty green eyes, and a jaw covered in dark stubble that looked like a vacation beard in the early stages. He wore a plain black T-shirt, khaki cargo shorts and flip flops, and a smirk on a beautiful mouth that, aside from his hair, looked to be the only soft thing about him.

She blew out a breath and tried not to drool.

She didn’t speak, and would’ve sworn that her expression didn’t change even a smidge. But his smirk deepened and his eyes lit with amusement, and it made her want to kiss him and punch him at the same time. To prevent herself from doing either, she said, “What kind of a name is Fox?”

“Family name.” His gaze flicked down then up again, and she fought the urge to squirm in her long pants and long sleeves and grandma hat. “It’s Foxworth, but since that makes me sound like one third of a tight-ass accounting firm, I just go by Fox.”

“Good call,” she said, and with nothing to say besides can I sit on your face?, turned and began climbing the stairs again, automatically keeping tight to the rail so he could walk past her.

He didn’t.

“Who’s Cam?”

She paused and turned to frown at him, still two steps below her. “What?”

“Who’s Cam?” he repeated. “You said, ‘you’re not Cam’, so who’s Cam?”

“My brother,” she said absently, trailing her gaze down his body again. His shoulders were broad, his chest and arms thick. He had actual, visible muscles in his forearms, which were tan like the rest of him and dusted with dark hair. Forearm porn of the highest caliber, she thought hazily and turned to continue up the stairs, holding on to the railing so she wouldn’t fall, trip him, and drag him on top of her.

“What’s your name?” he asked, keeping pace behind her.

“None of your business,” she replied automatically, because really, it wasn’t.

“True,” he said easily, her don’t-fuck-with-me tone having no effect on his friendly cheer. “I only asked because it’s expected. Social niceties and all. I don’t really want to know.”

That was just what she needed, sarcasm from a hot stranger. She sniffed and kept climbing, trying not to be annoyed because her ass looked flat in these pants.

“I don’t need to know, anyway,” he continued. “It’s not like we’re family or anything. Hell, we’ll probably never see each other once we get out of this stairway.”

“If there’s a God,” she muttered, already mourning the loss of his forearms.

“Unless we want to see each other outside of this stairway, of course.”

“Why would we want that?” she blurted out without turning around.

“I don’t know.” He was, annoyingly, not at all out of breath from the climb. “Maybe because you think I’m hot.”

She missed the next stair and stumbled, barely catching herself on the railing in time to keep from falling on her face.

“Careful there,” cautioned a young man in a crew uniform coming down the stairs. He had soft brown eyes, a pretty face and what looked like a pleasingly muscled form under his crisp uniform. “You all right?”

“Yes, thanks.” She smiled at him, and his smile broadened in return.

“Here, let me help you.” He stepped closer, holding out a hand.

“She’s fine,” Fox said from behind her and hauled her up with a strong arm around her waist. “Aren’t you, darling?”

“Peachy,” she said through gritted teeth and resisted the urge to kick him.

“Right.” The young man’s smile went from warm and interested to coolly polite. “Keep hold of the railing, now.”

“Thanks,” she said, watching as he continued down the stairs, taking her first prospect of a shipboard hookup with him. Annoyed, she turned to glare at Fox. “Do you mind?”

“Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all, and pulled his arm from around her waist. “Just trying to help.”

“Cockblocking me from the cute sailor is not helpful,” she muttered under her breath and started climbing again.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“Nothing.” She stopped on the stairs again and turned to glare at him. “What did you say?”

“I said ‘sorry, what was that?’,” he replied with a frown. “Did you hit your head?”

“No, I did not hit my head. Before that, when I fell. You said something.”

“Oh.” His frown faded and the smirk reappeared. “The part about you thinking I’m hot?”

She tried not to stare at the way his shoulders moved in the black t-shirt. Or the way his forearms flexed as he shoved his hands into his pockets. And she certainly didn’t remember how it had felt around her waist, thick and hard and deliciously restraining. “I don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t think you’re hot.” Liar, liar, pants on fire.

“You don’t?”

She planted her hands on her hips and scowled. “No.”

“Oh.” He shrugged and smiled, unconcerned. “Sorry. My mistake.”

“Don’t mention it,” she replied, oddly disappointed, and started up the stairs again.

“I probably shouldn’t have assumed that,” he continued, “just because you were staring at me.”

I wasn’t staring. In fact, I made a point not to stare.

“The fact that I checked you out doesn’t mean anything either,” he went on blithely as she ground her teeth together. “I mean, I did check you out, but that certainly doesn’t mean I find you hot.”

Clio kept silent as she reached the top landing, biting her tongue to keep quiet, and crossed to the doors leading out to the deck.

“Not that you’re not attractive.” He followed her out, unfortunately catching the heavy door before it slammed in his face. “You seem lovely, even in those clothes. Are you a member of some kind of religious order that prohibits shorts or something?”

She jerked to a stop and turned to him, her scowl not at all feigned this time. “Yes, actually. Sister Theresa Grumpy Pants of the Order of Perpetual Boob Sweat. Nice to meet you. Would you like a brochure?”

He flashed a grin, quick and delighted. “Hey, you do have a sense of humor.”

“I’m a fucking laugh riot,” she muttered and kept walking, completely unsurprised when he fell into step beside her. “Is there a reason you’re following me?”

“I’m not following you,” he told her. “I’m meeting my family up here.”

“Right.”

“Seriously. Not everything is about you, Theresa. Can I call you Terry?”

She refused to smile. “Sure. Foxworth.”

“Touché.” He leaned forward to peer at her face, keeping pace with her easily. “Are you sure you don’t think I’m hot? We could have dinner later. Maybe play a game of shuffleboard.”

“Are you using ‘shuffleboard’ as code for some deviant sexual act?”

“Would you say yes if I was?”

She just might. He was hot, and charming, and she figured he owed her an orgasm or two for cockblocking her with the sexy, brown-eyed crewman. The possibility of a shipboard romance with a handsome stranger—and by romance, she meant wild sexual romp with absolutely no feelings involved—was the only thing keeping her from diving over the side of the ship and making a break for it. Well, that and the knowledge that her mother was a very strong swimmer, and would no doubt come after her.

She sent him a speculative glance, taking in his cheerful grin and handsome face. There was a slight breeze out on the deck, making his hair float up around his head like a dark halo. And his forearms were still flexing, porn-like.

He caught her eye and sent her a saucy wink. “Okay, just dinner. We’ll find a secluded table for two and you can tell me all about perpetual boob sweat. Who knows? Maybe I’ll join the order.”

“I only have to get two more recruits to win the toaster oven.” She refused, absolutely refused to laugh. “Are you always this chatty?”

“Depends on how much the other person talks,” he said easily. “Though I am sometimes very, very quiet.”

She gave a skeptical snort. “When?”

“When I’m sleeping, eating, or performing cunnilingus.”

The laugh burst out before she could catch it, and he grinned.

“There it is,” he said. “I knew you had at least one in you.”

“Have you been trying to make me laugh?”

“Sure. People are always more willing to say yes to things when they’re in a good mood.”

“What are you trying to get me to say yes to?”

His grin was wicked. “Me.”

“Of course,” she said, more than tempted to say yes to dinner and cunnilingus. A tongue that got as much exercise as his did was bound to have stamina. But she could see her family ahead, her mother’s blonde head next to her father’s blond head, her other blond relatives nearby, and the anxiety that had been surprisingly absent since he’d said, “No, I’m Fox,” in the stairwell was creeping in again.

It was remarkably difficult to say, “I’m afraid I’ll have to pass.”

“You sure? Satisfaction guaranteed. I’ll even wear a gag if you want.”

She managed to choke back another laugh. “Intriguing, but yeah. I’m here with my family.”

“Ah. Well, if you change your mind, I’ll be around. It was nice to meet you, Sister Theresa.”

“Likewise, Foxworth.”

“And who knows? Maybe our paths will cross again.”

They were only a few feet away from her family now. She shook her head. “I doubt it.”

“Never say never,” he said with a wink, just as a tall figure with bright red hair broke free from the crowd.

“Darling, there you are!” Aunt Franny, resplendent in a flowing orange caftan with purple flowers and gold trim, came flying toward them. She wore chandelier earrings that brushed her shoulders, blue eyeshadow, and her bright red hair—cut in the same Dorothy Hammel hairstyle she’d been wearing for as long as Clio could remember—was topped with a tiara that sparkled in the late afternoon sun.

“Aunt Franny,” she began, then stood stock still, her mouth open in shock, as Franny’s outstretched arms wrapped Fox in an enthusiastic hug.

“Hi, Mom,” he said and winked at her over Franny’s silk-covered shoulder.

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About the Author

Hannah Murray

Hannah has been reading romance novels since she was young enough to have to hide them from her mother. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband—former Special Forces and an OR nurse who writes sci-fi fantasy and acts as In-House Expert on matters pertaining to weapons, tactics, the military, medical conditions and How Dudes Think—and their daughter, who takes after her father.

Find out more about Hannah at her website and blog.

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Hannah Murray’s Sun, Sea and Satisfaction Guaranteed Giveaway

HANNAH MURRAY IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 27th July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz ~ Sun, Sea and TV by Alyssa Rabil (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sun, Sea and TV by Alyssa Rabil

Word Count: 30,541
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 148

Genres:

CELEBRITIES
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Taylor is an actor on a show called According to Us and Everett is one of his costars. They’re best friends until one day, after filming a kiss on set, their relationship changes into something unexpected. Fans of the show have wanted their characters to be together for years. Only after the kiss is cut from the show does that relationship seem like a possibility.

Unfortunately, Taylor is engaged, and after he develops feelings for Everett, he must make a choice—his fiancée, or his best friend.

Everett has loved Taylor for years. Their kiss is something he will cherish forever. But is it the only moment they’ll have together?

After someone finds out about their feelings for each other, Taylor and Everett take to the sea for an adventure. They must learn to navigate the waters of their new relationship and survive a potentially deadly storm before finding true happiness.

Excerpt

Taylor

The waves thrashed against the boat, threatening to capsize it.

Taylor held Everett against his chest and said a quick prayer. If they made it through the storm, they’d be all right. If Everett would wake up. If Taylor could get the navigation system up and running.

They were huddled together below deck in the cabin.

Taylor bowed his head. He wasn’t a believer in higher powers. Maybe that was why he felt so alone in the darkness of the storm.

He wasn’t sure what was wrong with Everett. Lightning had struck near the boat. Everett had been up and barking orders one minute, then down the next. He’d grabbed Everett as soon as he’d seen him fall. He wasn’t even sure Everett hadn’t been hit by lightning. He hadn’t waited to make sure Everett wasn’t electrically charged.

Everett had fallen right after the strike. Taylor had panicked at first, but Everett was breathing and that was most important. He wasn’t bleeding. There was a small cut on his forehead, but that had already clotted.

The lights were out completely. The motor was dead, and he had no idea how far away they were from shore.

This had begun as a quick getaway—a few days on the open water to clear their minds.

Taylor, Everett and their friend George worked on a sitcom called According to Us. They played three unlikely best friends who had to navigate life in a small southern town. Taylor’s character had moved to town in season one and met George, the local, in the first episode. They’d become fast friends. Then a stranger had visited in season three, a Yankee from New York. He’d come to town to see family. That was how Everett had gotten onto the show.

Somehow, over the years, fans had gotten the impression that Taylor’s character and Everett’s character were in love, and George was happy to tease them about it every chance he got.

It didn’t help that Everett was a naturally intense person and had a tendency to stand too close to Taylor and make prolonged eye contact. The problem was Everett’s eyes were so deep and the most beautiful dark brown. The other problem was Maria, Taylor’s fiancée.

Everett’s character was named Charlie and Taylor’s character was named Jason. Their fandom had smashed the names together to create ‘Jarlie’. That was the unofficial name of their ship, or character relationship. While the mainstream media never acknowledged their chemistry, the fans talked about it constantly.

George’s character was named Matt, but he wasn’t part of the ship. For some reason, no one ever thought Matt and Jason made a good pair. No one ever gossiped about George and Taylor getting dinner or hugging.

If they managed to make it back to shore alive, they were going to have a whole media circus to contend with.

Why were they on a boat together?

Why didn’t Maria know where her fiancée was?

Why did Taylor lie about where he was going?

That was another problem. Why did he lie about where he was going? He wasn’t cheating on her. Not yet, anyway.

Everett knew about Taylor’s feelings and Taylor knew about Everett’s. They’d kissed a few times. In his head, he’d already broken up with Maria. They weren’t getting married. Of course, she didn’t know that yet.

She’d know after this.

Taylor had told her he had some extra work to do though it was the middle of summer and there was hardly ever extra work to do. She’d bought it, though.

Taylor had packed a bag and met Everett at the marina. They’d taken Everett’s boat and prepared for a peaceful retreat.

The storm had surprised both of them. It wasn’t like Everett not to be prepared.

Lightning struck again and flashed bright and blinding across the open water. It illuminated the cabin, if only for a second. The light was a welcome change from the imposing, lonely darkness.

Taylor gritted his teeth. He’d dragged Everett into the cabin after he had been knocked unconscious. He hadn’t been up top since the lightning had hit them.

He needed to get to the radio, though, and see if he could get it back online.

The waves heaved and tossed the boat so that it was almost airborne. It felt like they were in freefall for a split second, then the boat came crashing back down into the water.

Taylor braced himself as the boat rose again with the swell. He wrapped an arm around the base of the table, which was bolted to the floor, and held Everett as tight as he could. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up as he anticipated the fall.

“I’m not ready,” he said. “I’m not ready to die.”

The boat fell back to the ocean.

Then again, if he had to die with someone, he wanted it to be Everett.

He wondered what Teddy would think if he knew that Jarlie were prepared to die together.

Teddy was one of the show’s producers, and he’d somehow become the unofficial mediator between the cast and the network executives. He complained constantly about being in the middle, but Taylor had always suspected he liked the attention.

George would find a way to make a joke about how gay it was, them being trapped on a boat together.

Taylor realized he didn’t care what George thought. George had a big mouth and too many opinions as it was.

Thunder roared.

Taylor shivered. It was a miracle the boat wasn’t underwater already.

George was right about it being gay, though. This certainly wasn’t a platonic getaway, not to mention George knew how Taylor and Everett felt about each other.

He’d seen them kiss at Taylor’s birthday party. He’d given Taylor until the end of June tell Maria.

If they made it out of this alive, Taylor wouldn’t have to break the news to her. Hell, she probably already knew something was going on.

That was wishful thinking.

They weren’t going to make it out alive. No one knew where they were. Everett probably hadn’t told anyone where he was going. Taylor had lied to the one person who was most likely to sound the alarm. They were screwed.

This wouldn’t have been a problem if Everett had kept his big mouth shut. If he’d never told Taylor how he felt, Taylor wouldn’t have known he was in love with him and he wouldn’t have lied to Maria about where he was.

Another bolt of lightning.

That was a stupid train of thought, desperate in the face of fear. And he was afraid, terrified. He’d never been so close to death and he wasn’t prepared to go out this way.

Thunder ripped through the sky.

He needed to get to the radio.

He waited for a break, for a moment when the ocean wasn’t churning so violently.

Taylor carefully moved Everett to the middle of the floor. Then he maneuvered to the top deck.

Dizzy from rocking back and forth, he welcomed the cold rain on his face. It helped him focus. The gale-force winds howled in his ears.

He made it to the helm. He checked the radio and GPS, but nothing was working.

Frustrated, he slammed his fist against the controls. He half expected that to trigger something. He wished he had any idea how to navigate without their equipment.

A large wave slammed against the side of the boat and Taylor found himself teetering over the side. He managed to pull himself upright before the next wave hit.

He hurried below deck and returned to Everett.

He was still out cold.

Taylor wedged himself back under the table and clutched Everett tight to his chest. They were going to make it. They had to.

He thought back to their kiss, when this whole mess had begun.

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About the Author

Alyssa Rabil

Alyssa has always had a love for fiction. She read her first romance novel from her mother’s collection. Her first love story was about a tiger that fell in love with a zebra.

Alyssa lives in a wild west with her cats. She loves cooking and writing. Follow Alyssa on Facebook and Twitter.

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Alyssa Rabil Sun, Sea and TV Giveaway

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New Release Blitz ~ Sun, Sea and Spotted Squid by Kristian Parker (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sun, Sea and Spotted Squid by Kristian Parker

Word Count: 33,523
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 145
Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

 

Sam came to Spain for a summer with squid—but found a Wolfgang…

University graduate Sam is looking forward to a summer internship at Valencia’s world-famous Oceanogràfic Aquarium, but it’s fellow intern and flatmate Wolf who captures his interest.

Tall, handsome redhead Wolfgang is also aloof, and Sam burns to know what makes him tick. Being paired with him on a project has Sam imagining them spending their days out on the ocean in the aquarium’s boat, but Wolfgang only has eyes for the rare spotted squid they’re assigned to study. Charming.

But Sam won’t take second place to a cephalopod mollusc, even one with spots. He sets his sights on cracking Wolfgang’s shell…only to discover the sexy German is so far in the closet that his address could be Narnia House, Narnia Street, Narnia.

Can Sam help Wolfgang find the strength to be true to himself and his desires, or will their relationship be like the squid they’re seeking and plummet to the depths of the seabed when summer’s over?

Excerpt

France lay below like the skin of a huge beast, veins interlocking across it, but if I really squinted, they became roads with little cars and lorries zooming along them. From the first time I’d been on an aeroplane as a kid, I’d loved to stare out of the window at the world below. All those lives being played out beneath me sent my imagination rolling.

“And what is it you’re doing in Spain?” asked Mrs Talkative, my seat neighbour who was oblivious to my turned shoulder.

“I’m going to be working at the Oceanogràfic,” I replied, cursing myself again that I had left my headphones at the bottom of my bag, out of reach.

“Oh yes, I know what that is,” she said, holding up a guidebook as evidence. “That’s the aquarium near the beach.”

I nodded and gave her a weak smile.

“I’m surprised that your mother is letting you come out here for the summer,” she continued.

I had just turned twenty-five, so my mother didn’t really have much of a say in what I did. She had cried buckets at the departure lounge, of course. I had tried to explain to her that I had been away from her longer than eight weeks when I’d lived at uni, but nothing had stopped the waterworks.

“She just wants me to be happy,” I told Mrs Talkative.

“She sounds like a wonderful mother.” She popped her mini bottle of prosecco with a shriek of glee and poured herself a glass. “Bottoms up. Here’s to happy holidays.”

I took a healthy swig of my beer while she sipped her fizz as though she had never done anything so wild in her life.

* * * *

Two hours later and I found myself in the back of a taxi to take me to the rooms in the old town that the aquarium had arranged. I had managed to lose Mrs Talkative at the baggage carousel—otherwise, I think she would have insisted on coming and checking out my room. I half suspected her to be a sleeper agent dispatched by my mother to keep watch.

The view from the taxi seemed like any other European city. Huge furniture shops gave way to bigger supermarkets which gave way to vast warehouses. Even so, I had my nose glued to the window while I took in the city that would be my home for the next eight weeks.

As we came closer to the centre, the modern buildings slowly changed to older, more dusty ones. People on the street replaced the hard shoulder. Young people crowded around a motorcycle. Three women gossiped on the corner. A group of men were making their way into a bar. And I couldn’t wait to dive into it.

I had been to Spain before, but my family preferred an all-inclusive hotel to a city break. I had wanted a new experience…and I’d got one.

“There is a kite festival soon as well,” said the taxi driver, who had taken it upon himself to give me a running commentary.

I’ll be here for the whole summer. I can go to that festival and I’m not even bothered about kites.

The car turned onto a busy road and to my left were treetops on a level with the car.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Ah,” said the driver, puffing up his chest. “That is the Turia Riverbed Park. The jewel in our crown. Down below the road, where the river once flowed, lies a beautiful park.”

I frowned. “What happened to the river?”

“Years ago, they were sick of the flooding, so they simply rerouted the river. They made that park from land. My grandfather worked on it, you know.”

I hadn’t been too great at doing my research into the place—after studying hard for my Master’s, I’d struggled to find motivation to pick up yet another book. But I had read online that the park led to the Ciutat de les Arts i de les Ciències which held the aquarium I would be working in.

“Is the aquarium there?” I asked.

“Ah yes, so many buildings down towards the sea.”

I craned my neck behind to see if I could see the huge buildings I’d studied on the internet, but couldn’t see anything.

“You won’t see it like that. You want me to detour?” the driver-turned-tour-guide offered.

As tempting as it was, I declined. I wanted to find my digs and my fellow workmates.

I had never been the type who had wanderlust. I had been happy to wave my school friends off when they went to find themselves in far-flung places. I’d settled on finishing my studies. I’d had plenty of fun on the way too, so I didn’t feel too sorry for myself. But today made up for all that lost excitement, especially now we were on the cobbled streets of the old town. I peered out of the windows, trying to get my bearings. People were on both sides of the narrow street, jumping onto the pavement as we drove past.

Eventually we stopped outside a nondescript bar with a couple of people outside smoking. The sign seemed to be half hanging off and the rusty yellowy-white furniture in front of it had seen better days.

“We’re here,” announced the taxi driver.

“We are?” I echoed, my stomach sinking.

I rustled in my bag to get out my letter from the aquarium and checked the address. We were here. Perhaps it would be better inside. The letter said to use the door to the left of the bar.

Standing in the street once I’d paid the driver, I looked up at the grimy windows. The smokers outside the bar watched me with interest. Putting on the best confident face in my repertoire, I picked up my spectacularly heavy suitcase and made my way through the door and up the filthy staircase that greeted me.

By the time I reached the top, I had to lean against the wall. I regretted packing nearly every item of clothing I owned. I had agonised over the outfit to wear today, but first impressions counted, so I’d settled on jeans and polo shirt, tight to show off my slim waist. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the top of the stairs—my dark curls had gone a bit frizzy, but other than that, I didn’t look too bad.

A stunningly beautiful girl appeared out of one of the doors.

“Hola,” she said, staring me up and down.

“Hi. I’m Sam Davis.”

“Ah, typical Brit. Doesn’t know the language and expects us all to know his,” she said with a smirk.

“Hola. Encantado de conocerte. Soy Sam Davis.”

She had the decency to give a little embarrassed laugh. “Silly me. I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, should I? I’m Astrid Ström.”

We stood there staring at each other for a second before she realised she had barred my way.

“Come in,” she said.

I followed her down the corridor. To my horror, my feet were sticking to a carpet which clearly hadn’t seen a decent vacuum cleaner in decades.

A door on my left lay open. Inside, another girl was busying herself hanging up clothes.

“Maria, this is Sam,” Astrid called.

Maria stopped pulling clothes out of her suitcase long enough to give me a wave.

We carried on to the end of the passage, which had three more doors. Before I could ask about the winding staircase next to the third door, which must lead to another floor, Astrid pointed to the door on the left that had a poster of a rock band called Satan’s Flesh peeling off it. “That’s Genevieve and Paul’s room. They are in there doing things that couples do.” She giggled.

The overwhelming smell of old fried food had started to make my eyes water. I couldn’t work out if it came from one of the rooms or from downstairs.

Astrid seemed to be taking charge of everyone. How had they managed to form a tight group already? I hated being the last to turn up anywhere. I would much rather be the first and let things build around me, but I couldn’t do anything about it now.

Astrid pushed open the middle door to reveal the smallest kitchen I had ever seen. A gas cooker covered in stains and a tiny larder fridge told me I would probably be eating out a lot of the summer. The smell doubled in here. I knew I shouldn’t turn my nose up, but this had not been what I had imagined when I’d heard I would be living in Valencia’s famous old town area.

Behind the final door, she showed me a matching tiny bathroom. “I’ve given it a good clean,” she said. I clearly hadn’t hidden my first impressions. My friends always said I would be a useless poker player.

“Thank you,” I said.

That meant my room must be up the steep stairs I had glimpsed.

“We thought we’d go out for something to eat. See you in an hour?”

“Oh, okay.”

With that, she set off down the corridor to her room before stopping halfway. “Oh, choose whichever of the two rooms upstairs you like. The final member of our little group doesn’t arrive until later.”

I took a deep breath and half carried, half dragged my case up the stairs. It caught on a piece of the peeling wallpaper and managed to rip it off, sending some plaster scattering onto the threadbare carpet. At the top lay a small landing with three doors.

I peeped through one into the room it led to. It had to have been a storeroom at some point—the proportions were tiny. So much for attics having the biggest rooms. A quick peek through the middle door revealed a shower room. I opted for the final door.

I pushed it open and discovered what would be my home for the next eight weeks.

A lumpy bed sat against one wall with a black lacquer bedside cabinet to the side. A wobbly looking desk and wardrobe completed the furnishings. This is just a place to sleep. You’ll be out most of the time.

I plonked myself down on the bed and took a minute. I had made it to Spain. The view from the window showed the rooftops of the town stretching ahead to the cathedral in the distance. It reminded me of when I’d first arrived at the halls of residence at university. Some people had been nervous, but I couldn’t wait to get going and find out what adventure I had signed up for.

I took a picture of the view and sent it to my Mum.

Greetings from España. It’s lovely here. Can’t wait to get started.

It wouldn’t be a good move to show her my room. She would go mad. My case sat in the corner—I should probably unpack. But I had all the time in the world. Instead, I sat up on the windowsill and watched all the people coming and going. A bit of peace felt great.

An hour later, I ventured down to the kitchen. I hadn’t braved a shower—something told me that would need all my strength. Instead, I’d washed in the sink and changed my clothes, discovering that the bathroom was for my room and the other bedroom, meaning I’d have to remember to lock both doors when I used it.

In the kitchen I found a couple feeding each other pieces of ham.

“Bonjour,” said the girl when she saw me come in.

“Bonjour,” I replied.

“This is our Brit, then,” said the man. “I am Paul and this is Genevieve.”

“Sam.”

We put our hands in our pockets and kind of stared at each other awkwardly. “Where shall we eat?” asked Paul, breaking the stalemate, much to my relief.

“Oh, we have to have paella,” said a voice behind me. Astrid beamed away at us. “We are in the birthplace of it, after all.”

“Do you like paella?” Paul asked me.

“I love it. I do eat more than egg and chips, you know,” I said. “In fact, I make a mean paella myself…but probably not in this kitchen.”

They all laughed. Always a good sign.

“Paul has been reading about the best paella place in Valencia,” said Genevieve, staring adoringly at him. “It’s only a few streets away.”

“That’s settled then,” said Astrid.

“Ready,” said Maria over Astrid’s shoulder.

Our merry little band were all together for the first time. “Time for a selfie,” I said. Everyone got in for the picture.

“We will have to do one when the other guy comes,” said Maria.

I’d almost forgotten about the missing member. “What’s his name?”

“Wolfgang,” said Astrid. “I saw it on the email.”

Wolfgang? That sounded butch. What would he be like? I’d find out soon enough.

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About the Author

Kristian Parker

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

Follow Kristian on Facebook.

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Kristian Parker’s Sun, Sea and Spotted Squid Giveaway

KRISTIAN PARKER IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND YOUR FREE KRISTIAN PARKER ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 27th July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

New Release Blitz: Long Night at Lake Never by Eric David Roman (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Long Night at Lake Never

Author: Eric David Roman

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/12/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50100

Genre: Contemporary Horror, LGBTQIA+, horror, horror fiction, queer horror, queer lit, lgbt horror, gay horror, gay lit, dark horror, revenge, slasher, scary, supernatural, camp horror

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Description

Welcome to Camp Horizons, where they pray all day…and get slayed all night!

Nestled against scenic Lake Never, recently outed Tyler Wills has arrived at the secluded conversion camp, where the delusional staff of counselors believes he and his fellow camper’s queer affliction can be healed solely through the power of prayer.

After a full day spent rallying against sadistic deprogramming therapies, the deranged camp director, and planning his escape, Tyler discovers a larger problem—a mysterious stranger has rolled into camp with a grudge to settle and a very sharp axe.

When night falls, the terror and body count rise. And Tyler, along with his fellow campers, find themselves trapped between a brutal, unrelenting killer and their holier-than-thou prey as they desperately search for a way to survive the Long Night at Lake Never.

Excerpt

Long Night at Lake Never
Eric David Roman © 2021
All Rights Reserved

God Hates Faggs

Tyler Wills had not gazed out the car’s window for a solid hour, but when he finally did, those three words angrily mocked him. Each word with its own crudely hand-painted sign, and each one staked in the ground along the roadside. The message, along with the overall cheap tackiness of the signs, churned his stomach.

And they couldn’t even spell it right. Assholes.

After tilting his head back, he nestled against the leather headrest of his father’s Mercedes and rolled his eyes, thinking about life and its accompanying bullshit. How much he wanted to be free—eighteen was ten months away. How much easier everything would be once on his own. Life, his way.

A glance out the window and another sign met his eyes, this one reflective green. It announced they were twenty-five miles from their destination: Camp Horizons. The crude signs, which at first appeared random, now made more sense. Tyler could have groaned or sighed loudly, but no one cared or listened. His parents remained silent the entire three-hour trip, and no noises Ty made were going to change that fact in the last thirty minutes. No radio. No small talk. Only the car’s interior noises, their collective breathing, and the curt driving directions of the British-voiced GPS.

Nadine Wills sat stone-faced and stared out the windshield, only letting the occasional sniffle escape her nose to show she was still alive. Tyler expected a ride filled with screaming and admonishments against his character, but instead, he got the Wills silent treatment. In the two weeks since the night Tyler was brought home by the police, she hadn’t acknowledged him once. She did not listen to him that night either. Once the door opened and she saw Ty there looking small and pitiful with the bulky police officer behind him, she slapped his face and demanded he go to his room. He didn’t, remaining hidden on the stairwell, giggling to himself, as the cop explained to his parents their seventeen-year-old son had been caught in the park giving, as the officer described, “vigorous oral sex.” He emphasized the word vigorous multiple times, either driving home the point he’d witnessed the offensive act, or to show how impressed he’d been by the skills displayed but remained obligated to uphold the law.

Tyler lamented life was not more like porn. If his had been, the cop would gladly have joined in, and Tyler wouldn’t have faced his third strike with Michael and Nadine. The previous two were for his attitude, minor offensives, but this infraction came with the threat of an indecent exposure charge, for which he got let go with only a warning. However, the more significant issue was the revelation their only son was queer. He knew the ordeal would cost him this time, which it did.

One day after the incident, as the event became referred to, Michael barged into Tyler’s room, a disgusted look etched into his worn and wrinkled face, and his laptop clenched in his hands. Tyler rolled his eyes as his red-faced father, livid at his only son for being a filthy fucking cocksucker (his exact words), showed him the website for Camp Horizons, a “rehabilitation” center for homosexual youth. Tyler understood exactly what a pray-the-gay-away-style conversion camp consisted of. He was an educated young man and was aware of what kind of rehab went down at places like those. The blood drained from his face as Michael smirked at Ty’s horrified reaction. Nadine wasn’t present for Michael’s fiery antihomo tirade about how the camp would be healthy for him. Tyler figured a silent or else came attached to the demand he agreed to be fixed. He hoped Nadine would swoop in for a rescue, tell her husband he was being ridiculous as she had in the past and that would be all. But Ty didn’t count on her this time; he knew she wouldn’t leave the safety of the bedroom where the surplus of Xanax kept her numbed and staring at the ceiling in mindless wonderment.

The week until they left for the camp had been hell. They took everything from him: the car went first, the phone next, along with all the electronics, and like a prisoner, his remaining freedoms were stripped away. Tyler spent the week locked in his near-empty bedroom. The severity of his punishment pissed him off and it wasn’t due to premarital sex or getting caught by the police. If he’d been blown by a girl, sure there would have been some yelling and tears since Nadine cried at fucking everything. But once she settled, his father would have come into his room and congratulated him on becoming a man and probably expunged any punishment with a hearty high-five.

No, their anger, their disgust came from the fact Tyler was gay. What infuriated them more, Ty had no issue with his sexuality at all. To them, being queer equaled unacceptable, and yet, he held no shame whatsoever. For the past two years, he’d tried on multiple occasions to come out but always retreated at the last minute. He understood the truth: Michael and Nadine were bigoted archaic assholes. The kind who spoke disparagingly about queer people whenever they showed up on a television show or in a movie. “Ugh, do we need more of them?” Nadine would say as she fidgeted in her spot until the offensive parties left the screen. His father would mumble fags under his breath, and so Tyler would sit there being hurt and annoyed by the two people who were supposed to love him more than anything.

And he thought, foolishly, he could make it to eighteen and get out before he ever had to tell them. His libido thought otherwise. The allegations were true. He’d done everything the cop accused him of—and more—before the offensive flashlight so rudely shined on them in the plastic playhouse atop the slide. Tyler picked at the seams on his jeans and thought about Daniel, his long-time crush, who had finally agreed to meet him.

Closing his eyes, he pictured Daniel’s slender face, his deep eyes, and his full lips, which felt as nice as Ty had hoped. Without any of his devices, there’d been no way to see how much trouble Daniel had gotten into with his family. And no means to apologize or tell him how he’d not stopped thinking about their brief night. Nadine and Michael hadn’t merely sent Tyler away; they’d successfully cut him off from the world. He wouldn’t know if there may have been something more with Daniel than a few quick make-out sessions behind the lunchroom and a sloppy half-finished blow job.

He opened his eyes when his father’s voice demanded he wake up though he had not been sleeping. A large wooden sign filled the front windshield as they passed, declaring they’d reached Camp Horizons. In the camp’s heyday, the hand-carved sign had been brightly painted with yellows and blues, depicting a serene sun setting on a group of cabins. Each ray of the sun became a cross the closer to the camp they reached, but the current state of the sign showed those days were long gone. Now the sign’s faded paint showed off how dried and cracked the wood had become. The sign hung crooked, drooping on one side from damage to one of the posts, which no one had bothered to fix. Past the broken sign were a few hundred more feet of dense forest, which sent a chill, cold and icy, traversing up Tyler’s spine and sent shudders through his body. The camp was more isolated than he realized, and the fact unsettled him. An apprehensive knot formed in his chest and told him this place wasn’t right.

The Mercedes followed the curve of the camp’s driveway, and Tyler saw a trio of cabins nestled together along the rim of the circular drive. Behind them, sloping down the uneven terrain to the edge of Lake Never were several more. From the window, Tyler spotted a round-faced man in his late thirties, with a short beard and thinning hair, wearing a bright-yellow shirt and tan khakis, waving happily at them. Michael pulled the car around until he faced the way they’d come in. He shoved the gearshift into park, pissed off at it and blaming everything in the world for his son being a queer.

Michael turned to face Tyler in the backseat. For a moment, Ty thought his father would finally speak to him, and he did, but not with any words. The anger and disappointment were painted all over his face as they’d been for days, and the look told Tyler without question, you’d better not fuck this up too. Tyler blew him a kiss and flung his car door open, happy for the fresh air. As his parents slammed their doors, the man from the porch trotted down to them.

“The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day, hasn’t he? Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Wills. Welcome to Camp Horizons,” he said warmly, his greeting coated thickly by a Southern accent as rich as syrup smothering a stack of pancakes. He extended his hand and shook Michael’s, and then Nadine’s, who barely registered a response. “Robert Kendall, the camp director here at Horizons. But please, Bob is fine. Been going by it for years. And this young man must be Tyler.” Bob swung his hand over to Tyler, an obviously super fake grin smeared across his round face.

Tyler refused to shake any hands. Instead, he let his focus drift around the camp as Bob spoke to his parents. If Horizons had any glory days, they were long gone. There was not one cabin which didn’t need some form of repair or wasn’t boarded up. Every surface needed a paint job, and the grounds were overgrown, except in the prominent areas along the front to keep the entrance looking deceptively beautiful. Tyler’s sneakers dug into the gravel of the drive, his thoughts only on running away, as Bob led them to the office sitting to the left of the largest cabin, which he referred to as Integrity Cabin.

For a religiously run camp, Tyler found there was not much around touting the place’s pious nature past the crosses on the camp’s entrance sign. In his head, he half expected to see nothing but crosses—hung to everything, twenty feet tall—but the camp appeared subdued.

He recanted this opinion once inside Bob’s office. The room was adorned with an obscenely large and ornately framed painting of Jesus Christ on the rear wall. Between the pictures of the camp through the years were photos of the Guides who had worked there, small but ornate crosses, placards with scripture quotes, and religious-themed motivational posters, which encouraged all to Pray it Away with the power of God.

Situated at his desk, Bob was tiny in front of the looming Jesus, who glared down on them, and the desk was covered with files, papers, and a complete set of apostle bobbleheads.

The Wills family sat quietly as Bob beamed at them with a righteous awkwardness for a silent minute. Exhaling loudly, he leaned his head up to the heavens as he began, “The Lord is here today. Yes, he is. He is always present when one of his disciples begins their Journey.” The word, said often, was always accompanied with a pompous weighted reverence. “Tyler, Horizons exists to restore those trapped within sexual sin. Our program is specifically designed to cater to those that have fallen prey to the sinful cult of homosexuality.” He bowed his head, raised his right hand, and shook like an evangelist on Sunday morning television, casting away queerness like one would cast off the evil eye.

“Homosexuality is a vile disease, and through the power of prayer, we can get Tyler onto the path of righteousness and return him to the arms of our Lord.”

“Kinda thought the idea here would be getting me out of the arms of men, but hey, who am I to argue?” Tyler could do nothing but laugh off the absurdity around him.

“God sees you, Tyler Wills, and your soul is in peril. Do you want to spend eternity in damnation and hellfire? Let’s try to approach this with some decorum. Our mission here is to save your soul.”

Tyler rolled his eyes at the idea of his soul needing saving—an impulse reaction but one that earned him a hard smack across the back of his head from his father.

“How long does this process take, making them straight again?” Michael asked with an annoyed tone, suggesting he expected to literally drop the offensive party off and leave. Nadine sat quietly, not looking at her son, husband, or Bob’s suntanned face. She stared up at the large painting of Jesus, dopey eyed in her sedated state. “Tyler had an incident,” she whispered softly.

“I got caught vigorously sucking some cock,” Tyler boasted as his father fumed, and Nadine covered her mouth and shook her head.

“An incident,” Michael spoke over him, “that concerned us enough to bring him here for treatment.”

Bob put his hands together in a prayer stance and once again sounded like a preacher. “The path to religious righteousness is a thorny one. Romans 12 tells us, ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’” He quoted the Bible with the slimy ease of a used car salesman trying to offload a lemon.

Michael rudely cut through the religious platitudes. “And what kind of time frame does that entail?”

“Bob,” Tyler interjected before the camp director answered, “my parents are extremely uncomfortable. Neither of them is religious enough to know what Romans means. What they want you to tell them, and in the simplest words possible, is how long this introduction will take. They’re so uncomfortable. I mean, look at how much they want to leave.” The retort was worth the second smack to the head.

“The Journey is two and a half weeks, but they are laborious weeks for sure.” Bob cleared his throat. “Now I’m required to make clear that neither I nor my Guides are actually licensed therapists. We’re merely servants of God, who’ve gone through the Journey and are invested in keeping the camp running so other young people will have a safe space to embark on their own path back to the Lord.” He rattled off a few other disclaimers rapidly before sliding across the desk three papers he advised were confidentiality agreements, each stating the Wills would not divulge their therapeutic techniques.

Tyler figured his father listened and honed in, as Tyler had, on the unlicensed and unregulated part, which to anyone else would have been a huge red flag. He hoped that would have shown his father how ludicrous the entire idea was, and how potentially dangerous. Except Tyler imagined his father hoped the so-called techniques included a little bit of physical punishment. “Fucking kill them all, and we wouldn’t have this problem,” Michael Wills had once proclaimed at the breakfast table in front of his son and wife after becoming annoyed with the ongoing coverage over the fight for marriage equality.

“We here at Horizons have developed our own patent-pending, seven-step rehabilitation program, which will take Tyler on a voyage of self-discovery where he will once again find, through prayer, and our assistance, God’s eternal love. And in that love, he will find the courage to reject these deviant homosexual impulses, falsely implanted within him by Satan.

“All of our Guides have taken the Journey. They are trained to assist other young men and women going through the process. Luckily for Tyler, our attendance is rather low this cycle, which is all the better to give those here a truly one-on-one, immersive experience, which will return him to our Lord and Savior. Through God’s beautiful bounty, we are blessed to be here providing this service to his flock.”

“I’m pretty sure this shit is illegal.” Tyler’s already upset stomach tied itself in more knots listening to the eerie way Bob referred to God so subserviently that it didn’t seem to Tyler like they had the healthiest relationship. Whomever Bob was referring to wasn’t the God Ty knew, and everyone in the room would be gutted to know how well Tyler was versed with the Bible, but he kept that to himself.

“Language,” Bob chided. “We keep our words G-rated at Horizons.”

“Fine, I’ll reiterate—isn’t conversion therapy illegal?”

“No laws have been passed as of yet…in this state anyway,” Bob quickly pointed out smugly before shifting his attention to Michael and Nadine. “As you may have observed driving in, Lake Never is rather large. We are secluded here on the south side. As such, there is no access to the internet. No televisions. No radios. No distractions. And any fraternizing, in a physical manner, is strictly forbidden.”

Tyler sat back in his chair, believing he had found his way out. The first guy he found to be willing—bam—he’d get kicked out.

“Expulsion is not the punishment,” Bob declared as if reading the blueprints of Tyler’s escape plan directly off his face. “The program resets, and our Journeyer must begin again. And if this causes them to go over their allotted time, there will of course be a small fee. We will need to collect Tyler’s phone and any other electronic devices he may have. There is a landline here in my office. If you are so inclined to check on Tyler’s progress, you may call, but the Journeyers are not permitted access to it.”

Tyler laughed. They wouldn’t give a shit about his progress once they drove off. “Don’t have to worry about that, Bob. These assholes don’t care if they hear from their faggy son or not.”

“Language.” Bob’s demeanor flipped, and the word came with a more pointed tone making it clear foul language wouldn’t be tolerated again.

“Tyler, shut up,” his father demanded. “And after these two weeks he will be straight, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Bob assured Michael. “We here at Horizons are God’s mechanics, determined to help fix our brothers and sisters who’ve been led astray.”

“There is nothing fucking wrong with me. I happened to luck out and got these two braindead assholes for parents.” Tyler went to stand up and storm out. Michael proved quicker, snatching his arm roughly, forcing him down into his seat.

“Sit the fuck down right now,” Michael yelled, never once looking at his son. “You will take this seriously. You will follow the rules, and you will not come home until—”

“Until what?” Tyler pulled his arm back. “Until I magically like pussy? There is nothing wrong with me the way I am.”

Michael wound up his hand again and started to say something when Bob jumped in. “Mr. Wills, please. Tyler, we will not accept this kind of talk or behavior at Horizons. That is no way to speak to your parents. One of the commandments is to honor thy mother and father. They are your moral compass.”

“You’re fucking joking, right?” Tyler sat up in the chair and laughed. “Moral compass? My mother over there dopes herself every day to ignore the fact that my father is sticking his dick into every woman he meets. She doesn’t care about this as long as her meds are refilled, and the credit card doesn’t get declined. I do believe gluttony, infidelity, and generally being a shitty person are sins too, are they not? Where’s the rehab camp for these asses?”

Nadine shifted in her seat and exhaled loudly as she turned her face away when Michael sent the back of his hand across Tyler’s face, effectively silencing him. Bob didn’t comment on the slap, waiting a moment until the air settled before he continued.

“We are not here to discuss semantics, Tyler. We’re here to talk about you starting your Journey toward being a straight and God-fearing member of society.”

Tyler rubbed the side of his face, still hot from Michael’s hand, and shrugged the slap off. “I get your gig; you pick and choose what parts of the Bible you feel like enforcing. The rest doesn’t matter, right?”

Bob, still sporting his Cheshire-cat-like phony grin, studied Tyler as he slid the confidential agreement across the desk toward Michael. Bob motioned to the pens in the cup in front of him. “We are going to require our fee up front.”

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Meet the Author

Eric David Roman.com spent twenty years wandering the wrong paths; he tends to get lost a lot (he’s from Florida). He worked the wrong jobs (as it turns out, streetwalking is not a profession for just anyone) and avoided his true passion—writing, or as he refers to it, devouring sleeves of gluten-free Oreos in a dark closet whilst crying. After hitting a low point while trapped in retail management hell (a harsh rock bottom), he rearranged his thinking (now with 75 percent less anxiety and depression) and switched his focus fully to writing; well, as much as his gAyDD allows. And now, you’re reading his bio, so things are progressing nicely. He is the author of the outrageous novella Despicable People, the new novel Long Night at Lake Never, and multiple upcoming works. Eric remains socially distant in Northern Virginia (don’t stalk him, you’d just be disappointed), where he lives, writes, and loves a mix of all things horror, campy, and queer. He spends the days with his adoring husband and loveable cat (both of whom remain indifferent to his self-proclaimed celebrity).

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Book Blitz: The Silver Cage by Ana Raine (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Silver Cage

Series: Restrained #1

Author: Ana Raine

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: July 9, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Thriller/Suspense, Science Fiction, 2nd Chance Romance, Shapeshifters, Werewolves, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy

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Synopsis

Danny barely remembers who he is, let alone his mate. After being taken from his pack years ago by a group of overzealous hunters, Danny identifies only as “Wolf” — the pet of the pack who helps track down other shifters for the hunters’ sport.

When Danny tracks down a female wolf, he hesitates to help imprison her male companion. At first Danny doesn’t remember this wolf, at least not logically, but his senses are completely overtaken and he’s sure he’s met this Alpha before.

This wolf isn’t just his former Alpha. Jamie is also his mate, and after years of believing Danny dead, Jamie’s not going to let his mate go ever again. Even if it means working together to kill each of the hunters so they can never take their lives again — or come between their mating bond.

Excerpt

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Copyright ©2021 Ana Raine

I followed him silently, not that there was much of a chance to use words in our wolf form. I was beyond surprised I still drew breath, but I wasn’t going to let him in on that.

He was an Alpha. He was born to be a leader the way all Alphas were. Strong, fierce and with a natural desire to protect. As soon as he’d sniffed me, he’d let out a low growl that had me belly-up on the ground. His nose nudged my neck in acceptance, and then he headed toward the woods with nothing more than his Alpha voice in my head telling me to follow.

I knew he could talk to me with more than just basic commands. At least, he could if he were so inclined. I’d always wondered how powerful the boy who should have been my mate would have been had he been given a chance.

The hunters were behind us, but I knew at least a few would stay with Langdon. Langdon Sr. wouldn’t, though. He would want to come after me and bury a bullet in my brain himself.

Until there was blood, my blood, this wouldn’t be over. I whined and pawed the ground and drank more water than I needed in my effort to get the Alpha to release me. A faint thought popped into my mind that if I crawled back and begged for mercy, Langdon wanted me enough to stop my death. Then we’d go live whatever fairy tale he’d drawn up.

At least it was a life where I knew the outcome. This one with the Alpha just reminded me how out of touch I was with my kind. And with myself. Each step I took without feeling a whip against my flesh was a reminder I no longer remembered what it was to be free.

We ran part of the way, farther and farther from the female wolf who had to have been his mate. The little bit of her blood I tasted on my paw from when I brought her down smelled just like him. Why he was bothering to lead me so far away, I had no idea.

Eventually, the darkness overtook even our wolf eyesight, forcing us to retreat to a mostly empty stable. There was an old horse covered in a wool blanket and chewing some hay lazily.

She either had a death wish or wasn’t fazed by creatures of the night seeking shelter in her barn because she barely batted an eye before going back to her dinner.

An entire side of the barn was empty and had enough closure to keep us warm against the chill. I almost expected him to bark at me to go back outside to keep watch while he slept. Even though Alphas were supposed to act in the best interest of their pack, it didn’t always work out that way. And I wasn’t his pack, not really anyway.

I saw his body twist and contort as the sound of bone snapping and muscle stretching filled the silence of the barn. Fur receded as his skin became visible. With a barking cough that morphed from beast to man in a moment, there was now a man standing in front of me. He had his back to me, obviously not worried I would attack him from behind.

I saw his beautiful pale skin had been marred by a Hunter’s blade. I’d been cut enough myself to know how the scars looked when they faded. It had been years since his flesh had found the end of a blade, but it was there, just visible enough in the moonlight.

He was tall, so much taller than me, and I found myself staring at his legs, the curve of his ass. I longed for him to turn around so I could stare at what I was sure would be the most beautiful wolf I’d ever met since my mate was taken from me.

Hair as red as fire was loose around his shoulders, the same color he’d been as a wolf. I found myself feeling utterly insufficient to even be in his presence. My hair, blond and boring in comparison to his fire.

Just as I was thinking of backing out of the stable to give him space, his command stopped me. “Phase to a human.”

And oh, how I wanted to immediately do what he asked. To phase and to converse with him, but there was more than fear that I’d come across as stupid. There was also the fear I wasn’t enough. And I wanted to be.

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Meet the Author

Ana is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life, although social work seems to be the most likely. Her best friends are a box of chocolate and her kitten who always sit beside her while she writes. When Ana was in high school, she often wrote about the LGBT community, but now her work is less…innocent. Ana enjoys writing anything and everything, including BDSM, dragons, shifters, magic, and more.

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New Release Blitz ~ Sun, Sea and Summer Vibes by Zoe Allison (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Sun, Sea and Summer Vibes by Zoe Allison

Word Count:  49,961
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 196

Genres:

CELEBRITIES
CHICK LIT
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MULTICULTURAL
SECOND CHANCE

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Book Description

Sometimes first impressions are far from the truth…

Nina Darwish is a scientist who likes to proceed with caution and careful deliberation. When she arrives at the party destination of Ibiza to play PA for her best friend international pop sensation Isla Starr, she has trouble adapting to the carefree and easy-going vibe on the island. The situation isn’t aided by Isla’s seemingly surly yet irritatingly attractive music producer, the world-renowned dance DJ Logan Wild, known by his real name—Cameron—to his friends. Plus, Nina’s run-ins with, and repeated rebuttal of, an extremely entitled and very annoying male singer named Zac don’t help aid her mood.

Unbeknownst to Nina, Cameron remembers her from the past, when he was a geeky student who admired her from afar. Unfortunately, it’s clear that Nina considers him ill-natured, no doubt due to his natural awkwardness, which he masks using a stage persona. However, even if that weren’t the situation, he’s involved in a dead-end relationship with his celebrity girlfriend Ash. Plus, Nina’s eye appears to have been drawn onto Ash’s no good ex-boyfriend, Zac, therefore there’s no point in believing anything could ever happen between them.

But despite all that being the case, for some reason, he just cannot stop thinking about her.

Excerpt

Nina rolled her eyes as the racket from the rowdy young men at the rear of the plane grew louder. The stewardess marched down to tell them off for the second time. Nina didn’t envy the job of the plane crew at the best of times, never mind with that rabble.

She lifted the laminated flight menu and fought the urge to gag at the images of the greasy cuisine. I suppose that’s par for the course on a cheap airline. The stewardess came back to the front and recommenced loading the trolley in the galley.

One of the young men from the group staggered down the aisle toward the toilet. He tried the door, despite the very clear ‘engaged’ sign, then let out an exasperated noise when it didn’t open. He eyed the stewardess. “Can’t we just have one more drink?” he slurred.

She looked at him. “No. You’ve had enough. There’ll be plenty more alcohol for you once we get to Ibiza.”

He slouched against the wall. “For fuck’s sake, who put the rod up your arse?”

The young mum next to Nina put her hands over her small child’s ears. Nina gritted her teeth, unbuckled and stood. “Don’t speak to her like that.”

The guy did a double-take, clearly not expecting anyone to challenge him. “Mind your own business.”

“I am minding my business,” Nina said. “This is my flight as much as yours.” She pointed to the young mum and her daughter. “And theirs.” Nina gestured to the elderly couple in the row behind. “And also theirs. We didn’t pay good money to sit and listen to your crap. And the staff are trying to get on with their jobs. They don’t have to put up with your abuse.”

He opened his mouth.

“Shut it,” Nina said. “Shut your mouth, use the toilet, then go back to your seat and keep it shut. That stewardess has the power to instruct the pilot to turn back to Glasgow, land this plane and throw you all off. Then you’ll get the forty-thousand-pound bill to pay for the disruption to the flight.”

The guy glanced at the stewardess, who smiled and nodded.

Nina folded her arms and stared at him. He broke eye contact to glance at the floor. The toilet freed up and he nearly tripped in his hurry to get in there.

Nina took her seat again to the sound of applause from the people who’d heard the exchange.

The mum next to her touched her arm. “Well done.”

Nina smiled and waved her hand in an ‘it’s nothing’ gesture.

The stewardess came over and checked that the mum and her little girl were okay. She smiled at Nina. “Hi, I’m Laura. Can I get you anything? It’s on the house.”

Nina smiled back. “I’m fine, thanks. I’ll wait until we land.”

Laura perched on the staff seat across from her. “These summer Balearic flights are always the same—too many unruly groups who can’t wait until they arrive to get leathered and live it up. Sorry they caused a disruption.”

Nina shook her head. “It’s not you who should apologise.” She paused. “I did tell a white lie, though. I got this flight for free.”

Laura raised her eyebrows. “Oh?”

“My friend is out in Ibiza for a few weeks,” Nina continued. “She’s a singer and her new label is paying for me to go out as her PA.”

“That’s really cool,” Laura said. “Would I have heard of her?”

Nina nodded. “Maybe. Her name’s Isla Campbell, but her stage name is Isla Starr.”

Laura’s eyes widened. “Wow, I love her. She’s totally famous.”

Nina smiled, pride rising in her chest. “She’s really talented. I always knew she’d make it big.”

“What’s she doing in Ibiza?” Laura asked.

“There’s some hot-shot dance producer who’s asked her to do the vocal on his track. Her new label is massive with loads of contacts, so I think this is the start of her becoming known internationally.”

Laura sighed. “That sounds so glamorous. What do you do? Are you in the music industry too?”

Nina laughed. “Nope. I know nothing about music. I was a project manager for a drug company, but I just got made redundant…hence being available for this trip.”

“Sorry to hear that,” Laura said. “But I’m sure you’ll have a ball on Ibiza.” She sighed. “Anyway, I’d better get on with the trolley service. Shout if you need anything.”

Laura went back to work, and Nina stared out of the tiny window. She was pretty exhausted from the last few days, and only being given a couple of weeks’ notice about the trip had made the preparations very rushed. She smiled. Typical Isla.

Once they’d landed, Nina was among the first to leave the plane, getting a wave from Laura and her colleagues as she went. On the way through the airport processes, she tried to ignore the grumble of her stomach. She’d stop and get something once she got out into the arrivals hall.

Nina pulled her suitcase along and through the automatic doors toward the exit. Isla was always late, so when Nina locked eyes on a sandwich shop, she started toward it. A man holding a sign caught her eye. The placard said ‘Nina Darwish’.

Nina paused. Could it mean a different Nina Darwish? She went over to him. “I’m Nina, but I’m not sure if you’re here for me? My friend was supposed to meet me.”

The man nodded, saying something in Spanish then taking her suitcase and making toward the exit. Nina ran a few paces to keep up. This had better be for me, because goodness knows where I’ll end up otherwise. She wished she’d paid more attention in her Spanish class, but all she could remember was how to say ‘two beers, please’.

Out in the pick-up area, Nina expected a small taxi to await her but her jaw dropped when she clocked the guy putting her case into the back of a limo. There has definitely been a mistake. The driver held the door for her and she tried to ask him again if she was the right Nina Darwish, but he just ushered her into the vehicle.

Once inside, she scrabbled around in her bag for her phone and turned it on. She waited while it roamed to connect to the local service then brought up Isla’s number.

Isla’s face appeared on screen. She was among a crowd of people and there was a heavy bass line playing in the background. “Nina!” Isla shouted above the din. She flashed her megawatt smile. “You on your way here?”

“I’m on my way somewhere but God knows if it’s to you,” Nina said.

Isla’s frowned and flipped her red hair over her shoulder. “What do you mean? Didn’t you get the limo we sent?”

A wave of relief washed over Nina. “Yeah, I did, but I was confused. I didn’t think it was for me.”

Isla blinked, and her green eyes appeared a little glazed.

Is she drinking already? It’s only three p.m.

Isla shook her head. “The guy was meant to have a sign with your name on it.”

“He did,” Nina said. “But, you know, I still wasn’t sure.”

Isla rolled her eyes. “For goodness’ sake, you need to loosen up and stop second-guessing everything. I thought it’d be a nice surprise.”

Nina’s relief morphed into guilt. “It is a nice surprise. Sorry… I didn’t mean it that way. Thank you.”

Isla raised her arm in the air as she moved in time to the music. “Open the mini fridge.”

Nina leaned forward to do so and found a half-bottle of champagne. There was a glass in a holder next to it.

“That’s for you!” Isla called out over the music. “Drink up. You’ll be here soon.”

“Where’s here?“ Nina said, but the call cut off. She sighed. She was starving. Oh well. I’ll get something once I arrive. She lifted the champagne and popped the cork, pouring a glass. it was typical that Isla was fully embroiled in the Ibiza party atmosphere when she’d only been on the island a little over twenty-four hours.

It was hardly ten minutes later that the limo arrived outside a beach bar on Playa D’en Bossa, and Nina climbed out. She made to pay the driver, but he waved his hand, indicating that the fare had been pre-paid. He said something in Spanish and pointed along the road, but Nina was at a loss. Then he pulled away, leaving her outside the bar holding her bottle of champagne, minus her luggage. I have no clue what’s going on.

She turned to the bar and decided to go find Isla. Maybe she could solve the mystery of the kidnapped luggage. Nina walked inside, scanning for her friend. Crowds of very beautiful, scantily clad people milled around. The women were wearing bikinis and the men tiny beach shorts and Nina found herself averting her eyes. She glanced at her vest top and linen trousers, feeling overdressed.

Nina stopped in the middle of the bar, her hunger perpetuating her frustration. She took a glug of champagne from the bottle, leaning against a pillar and feeling like some sort of reprobate. She caught movement out of the corner of her eye. There was another room leading off the bar, manned by a burly bouncer holding a clipboard. Nina took another sip then steeled herself for embarrassment, because there was no doubt she’d be turned away.

She approached the bouncer. “I don’t suppose my name’s on there? It’s Nina Darwish.”

The bouncer looked her up and down with a raised eyebrow then scanned his list. He nodded and shifted to the side. For a moment Nina was frozen with surprise. Then she remembered herself and walked past him, impulsively offering him a sip from her bottle as she went. He shook his head, a bemused expression on his face. She shrugged. “Suit yourself.” I think this champagne is going to my head. She paused, trying to spot Isla. Finally, she laid eyes on her, in the middle of a dancing crowd. Nina made her way over, excusing herself through the throng. “Isla!” she shouted over the music.

Isla turned. “Nina!” She threw her arms around Nina, causing her to nearly drop the bottle.

Isla released her. “I can’t believe you’re here. It’s been months.”

Nina smiled. “I know. I’ve missed you.”

Isla grinned. “Me too. I’m so glad you made it.”

“Yeah, but my luggage didn’t,” Nina said.

“What?” Isla frowned. “The airline lost it?”

Nina shook her head. “The limo guy took off with it.”

Isla laughed. “He’s taking it to our hotel, you idiot.”

Realisation dawned on Nina. She really did need to loosen up and not think the worst.

Isla grabbed the bottle from her and drained the last of it. “Come on. Let’s go to the bar.” She took Nina’s hand and pulled her through the crowd.

Isla leaned against the bar and gestured to the barman for another full bottle of champagne.

Nina nudged her. “I wish you’d told me I was coming straight here. I would’ve dressed up.”

Isla laughed. “Dressed up? Everyone’s in beach wear.”

“Yeah,” Nina said, eyeing a beautiful woman passing by in a tiny white bikini embellished with jewels. “But they’re still more glamorous than me.”

“Bollocks,” Isla said, drinking straight out of the bottle the barman had handed her, then passing it to Nina. “You look effortlessly awesome, as per normal. Come on. Let’s have a dance. Then I’ll introduce you to some people.”

Nina took a swig and huffed out her breath. I’d rather go to the hotel and stuff my face, then have a lie-down.

She followed Isla onto the dance floor. They took turns to drink from the bottle, and before long, Nina’s head was swimming from both the alcohol and Isla spinning her around. She paused to get her bearings and took Isla’s arm. “I need to go to the loo. Back in a sec.”

Isla nodded. “Take this back to the bar on the way.” She handed over the empty bottle.

Nina stumbled through the crowd. Did we finish it already?

After using the ladies’ room, she returned to the bar in order to get a soft drink, plus some snacks to soak up the alcohol. She was just stuffing herself with the remnants when someone nudged her arm. She glanced over and a guy was standing next to her, grinning. “Wish I was that packet of chips,” he said.

Nina frowned. I haven’t got any chips. She studied him for a second and was nearly blinded by the whiteness of his teeth. Her alcohol-addled brain took a couple of moments to process. He’s American. They call crisps ‘chips’. “Okay,” she said, for want of a better response.

He sidled in closer. “You’re English? That’s sexy. Can I get you a drink?”

Nina’s sixth sense told her that he was the sort of guy who’d feel entitled to whatever he wanted in return for buying a female a drink.

“No thank you,” she said.

He frowned, clearly not used to hearing the word ‘no’. “Don’t you know who I am?”

Nina rolled her eyes. Does that line ever get him anywhere? Even if she did know who he was, she still wouldn’t be interested. “I know you’re a dickhead,” she said, aware that the drink had loosened her tongue but figuring he deserved it after that arrogant statement.

He laughed. “Your loss.” He took his drink from the barman and turned to leave.

“Thank God for that,” Nina muttered. She glanced up and locked eyes with another man across the bar. He seemed vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t think when she’d have met a guy as handsome as him before. He had hazel eyes and sandy, sun-tinted hair. Before she had a chance to smile, he looked away and moved from the bar.

Dammit. Why couldn’t he have been the one to offer me a drink? Someone nudged her arm and she sighed. “For God’s sake, I said no, okay?”

“What?” Isla said, leaning in next to her. “What’re you talking about?”

“Oh. Nothing.” Nina said, glancing behind to check that white-teeth-guy had gone.

“Were you talking to Zac before?” Isla said.

Nina frowned. “Who?”

“Zac,” Isla said. “Like, the hottest male pop star on the planet.”

Nina raised her eyebrows. “Hottest, as in most attractive—or as in most popular?”

Isla smiled. “Both.”

“I’m not sure,” Nina said. “Has he got wavy bleached-blond hair with short sides that comes over his forehead, nearly obscuring his ice-blue eyes and bright-white-teeth that nearly blot out the sun?”

Isla sighed. “Yes.”

Nina frowned. “Then I think I might have spoken to him. I told him I didn’t want a drink and he wasn’t impressed.”

“You turned him down?” Isla said. “Are you mental?”

Nina shook her head. “I didn’t find him attractive. He was an arrogant prick.”

Isla craned her neck, clearly hoping he might return and buy her a drink instead. “Then you must be the only woman on earth who thinks so.”

“Doubt it,” Nina said.

Isla turned back. “Anyway, you need to come meet Cameron.”

“Who’s Cameron?” Nina said. She rubbed her stomach. Maybe eating those crisps so quickly on a bellyful of champagne hadn’t been a good idea.

“Cameron Wild,” Isla said. “My producer? His stage name is Logan Wild. Don’t tell me you’ve not heard of him either.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard of him,” Nina said. It wasn’t a lie. She vaguely knew of Logan Wild, DJ and dance-music producer, but had no idea what he looked like or any details regarding his background.

“Come on,” Isla said, grabbing Nina’s hand and leading her through the throng.

The sudden movement caused Nina’s stomach to lurch and her niggling nausea intensified. She took a deep breath in an attempt to quell it.

Isla weaved them through the crowd toward the back of the room where a small group was conversing. There was one guy with his back to them who Nina assumed was Cameron, mainly because the rest of the group was female. As they approached, she realised it was the handsome man she’d locked eyes with across the bar. That did nothing to aid her nausea.

Isla tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned. His eyes struck Nina. Up close they were even more intense.

“This is my friend Nina,” Isla told him. “The one I was telling you about. “Nina, this is Cam.”

He surveyed her with a cool expression then held out his hand for a shake. But before Nina could grasp it, she gagged and slapped her hand over her mouth. She turned and fled for the ladies’ room and only just made it to the toilet before vomiting profusely.

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About the Author

Zoe Allison

Growing up, Zoe Allison loved stories about falling in love. But rather than being rescued by a knight in shining armour, she imagined herself fighting dragons alongside him, battling supervillains as heroic allies, or teaming up to dive into perilous waters in order to save a loved one from drowning. Once Zoe did grow up, she became a doctor. But as time went on, she craved a creative outlet to counter the soul sapping burnout that her career inflicted upon her, and also to achieve those happy endings that were so often lacking in the real world. She wanted heroes who truly love and value women, who find their true love inspiring, are fascinated by her, want to connect with her as a soulmate and fully open themselves to her on an emotional level. And so, Zoe began to write her romances.

A Zoe Allison novel promises a heroine who is not only her hero’s equal in ability and intellect, but whose hero equals her in emotional intelligence. Her characters overcome conflict infused with spine tingling sexual tension to forge a deep connection as soul mates as well as lovers, and ultimately, they both rescue each other emotionally. Even if they might begin their journey as enemies…

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Zoe Allison Sun, Sea and Summer Vibes Giveaway

ZOE ALLISON IS GIVING AWAY A BEAUTIFUL BLUE SARONG TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN AND GET A FREE ZOE ALLISON ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 20TH July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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