New Release Blitz: Franklin in Paradise by John Patrick (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Franklin in Paradise

Series: Paradise, Book One

Author: John Patrick

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/31/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 84200

Genre: Postapocalyptic fantasy, LGBTQIA+, New adult, MM romance, postapocalypse, autism, neuro-diverse, gray ace, demisexual, apocalypse, pandemic, anxiety, panic attacks, dark, humorous, men with pets

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Description

Life is good for eighteen-year-old Franklin. He lives on the spectrum, structuring and organizing his days, avoiding messy situations and ambiguity. But what he really wants is a boyfriend.

Twenty-one-year-old Patrick has a past he can’t seem to shake, and a sexual identity that’s hard to describe—or maybe it’s just evolving.

When a manmade virus sweeps the globe, killing nearly everyone, the two young men find themselves thrust together, dependent on each other for survival. As they begin to rebuild their world, their feelings for each other deepen. But Franklin needs definition and clarity, and Patrick’s identity as asexual—or demisexual, or grey ace?—isn’t helping.

These two men will need to look beyond their labels if they are going to find love at the end of the world.

Excerpt

Franklin in Paradise
John Patrick © 2021
All Rights Reserved

I finished cleaning my bedroom before lunchtime. Not that it needed it. I’m not the kind of guy to leave his dirty socks and shorts lying around. But I dusted behind the headboard and vacuumed the corners of the ceiling in my closet, removing the neatly labeled boxes from the top shelf first, before dusting those, too, and restacking them in alphabetical order: beads, crystals, fly hooks, etc., all the way down to screws.

I tugged the bed aside and vacuumed the carpet underneath, carefully nudging the bed frame back into the existing carpet indentations when I was finished.

I was ready.

Right after my parents left that morning, I even shaved. Not that there was any real need for that either. Even though I’ll be eighteen in a couple weeks, I’m hardly rocking the facial hair, just a few soft black wisps curling under my chin.

Nothing to do now but wait for Tyler.

I walked to the picture window in our living room and stared out into the gloomy March evening. Across the dirt road, Mrs. Knudson’s front porch lights came on. If I leaned forward and craned my neck to the right, I could almost see the intersection with State Highway 27. I waited at the window until I saw a sweep of headlights illuminating the deep forest along the road, silhouettes of oaks and pines picked out one by one as Tyler’s pickup bounced through the ruts.

I stepped away from the window and moved to the front door. The throaty rumble of his truck died, and a moment later a door slammed. Footsteps on the side deck were followed by a shout of “Yo, open up.” I silently did a slow three-count, then opened the door.

“Dude, here, take these. Back in a sec.” Tyler thrust three large pizza boxes into my arms and headed back to the driveway. I carried the boxes across the living room to the counter separating it from the kitchen, the scent of hot cheese, tomatoes, onions, and pepperoni filling the air. By the time I laid out each box in a neat row on the counter, Tyler was back, kicking the door shut behind him.

He had a gym bag looped across his shoulders, and he was carrying a case of Sam Adams.

He came around the counter and into the kitchen, put the beer on the table, and dropped his bag on the floor by the counter. “Woo-hoo! Sweet Sixteen!” he said, as he shrugged out of his jacket.

Sweet Sixteen? What…? Oh, right. March Madness. Sweet Sixteen round. That’s what we’re doing tonight, right?

“Your folks get off okay?” he asked.

“Yep, they got there already and texted me an hour ago. It’s 75 degrees in Puerto Rico right now.”

“Good for them, man.” Tyler used the opener on his key chain to pry the caps off two bottles. He handed me one. “And they’re good with us doing this?”

“Yeah, of course. You’ve slept over lots of times.” Even as I said that, I felt a blush rising in my cheeks. I hoped tonight would be different than all those other times. “Besides,” I continued, “Mrs. Knudson will be keeping an eye out. She knows I’m alone this weekend, and my folks told her I wasn’t allowed to have any parties.” I was embarrassed my parents had asked our eighty-year-old neighbor to spy on me. “How about your folks? They know you’re staying the night, right?”

“Right. No problem. They just don’t know we’re alone.” He waggled his eyebrows.

*

Tyler and I have been best buds since fourth grade, but lately, I’ve been thinking about him in a…well, I guess romantic way would best describe it. I was pretty sure he felt the same about me, too, because more and more, Tyler has been lightly touching me. A pat on my head, a tap to my arm. He knows touching is a “thing” for me, and he’s been really good about too. Signaling it would happen so I could be prepared without making a big deal about it.

Two years ago, my first and only girlfriend, Maya, let me know I was gay. I hadn’t thought about it, one way or the other, up until then. I didn’t like the whole idea of dating. Turns out she was right, of course. She was so pushy when it came to the physical stuff, even though she knew I was…sensitive…to that kind of thing. “We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do,” she’d say. But then she’d try to kiss me or grab my hand.

One night, the last time I saw her, we were sitting in her parents’ basement, and she asked if she could hold my hand. I didn’t want to, but I knew this was what boyfriends and girlfriends did, and I was trying so hard to be normal, so I let her. Before I understood what was happening, though, she guided my hand down to her thigh and under her skirt. When I discovered she wasn’t wearing underwear, I’d gasped and yanked my hand away, waving my fingers in the air as if they’d been burned. I might have gagged a little too.

“Uh-huh. I thought so,” she’d responded immediately. “You’re gay, you know, Franklin. Right? You do know that? I’d hate to see you waste the next couple of years ‘struggling’ to understand yourself. You should just blow your buddy Tyler right now and get it over with.”

Fair enough. But I didn’t blow Tyler, and as much as I was convinced we had a future together, I was pretty sure I didn’t want to blow him, or at least not yet. But I’d been thinking about kissing him, and although it made me a little uncomfortable, I thought I might be ready for that.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

John Patrick lives in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband).

John is an introvert and can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So, his love of nature is tempered; he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods. After such travels, John invariably comes down with a cold. During a trip to Japan in 2019, he was amazed by how many people wore surgical masks in public to protect both themselves and others from viruses. “Gosh,” John thought, “wouldn’t it be great if we’d do this in the US?” John sometimes regrets the wishes he makes.

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SIGN UP: June 12th – 18th Scorned Gods Box Set by Mychael Black BLITZ

Author: Mychael Black
Cover Art: Bryan Keller
BIN: 009847-03194
Genres: Action Adventure, Box Sets, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Suspense, Urban Fantasy
Themes: Gay, Multiple Partners, Multisexual & Pansexual, Rock Star Romance, Vampires
Series: Blood & Fire (#3)
Multiverse: Blood & Fire (#1)
Book Length: Box Set
Page Count: 154

Music isn’t all that Scorned Gods has to offer.

Iconoclast (Scorned Gods 1): Death metal group Scorned Gods needs a new singer. Firestarter’s former lead singer Jason Summerfield and his lover Julian Kristados are back in the United States, and Jason is itching to get back on stage. What he gets, however, is far more than that — and not all of it is good.

Delirium (Scorned Gods 2): Jason and Julian have acquired a new lover, Scorned Gods’ bassist, Saul. But a cult of vampires is hell-bent on starting a war between mortals and vampires. Its first prime targets are psychic vampires like Jason’s bandmates…

Shackled (Scorned Gods 3): With help from an Abaddon ally, Jason and his bandmates will have to act quickly to stop Harlan Yates. The escaped mortal, Daniel, is the unwilling beacon that can bring destruction upon them all.
Karma’s Brutality (Scorned Gods 4): With their allies from Abaddon, Jason takes the fight directly to Yates. Jason and his bandmates from Scorned Gods are about to discover combat is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone will come out unscathed, but that’s the nature of war.

Publisher’s Note: Scorned Gods (Box Set) contains the previously published novellas Iconoclast, Delirium, Shackled, and Karma’s Brutality.

SIGN UP: June 4th – 10th Bonfire Bright by Alexa Piper BLITZ

Author: Alexa Piper
Cover Art: Bryan Keller
BIN: 009832-03189
Genres: New Releases, Paranormal, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy
Themes: Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Multiple Partners, Multisexual & Pansexual, Vampires, Werewolves
Series: Elvenswood Tales (#3)
Multiverse: Fairview (#2)
Book Length: Novella
Page Count: 136

Charlotte “Charlie” Bisset, born to witches but without any magical power whatsoever, is slowly settling into her relationship with medical doctor and vampire Hugo and with Laurette, Elven royalty and passionate baker. While Charlie is reluctant to commit to moving in with her Elf, New Elvenswood is plagued by unnatural vermin attacks.

Hugo is not a possessive vampire, or at least he tries not to be when it comes to his lovers. Yet, his human lover in particular regularly brings out Hugo’s wilder vampire side even if all he wants for her is sweet, fairy-tale love. Odd attacks on unsuspecting people in their city only leave Hugo more unsettled.

Will the Elf Laurette finally get to claim both his lovers publicly as the thruple approaches the next step in their relationship? Will the vermin defeat our heroes in this urban fantasy romantic comedy? Approach the bonfire and find out… if you dare.

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

Fang by Ellen Mint

Book 2 in the Coven of Desire series

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

How can Cal live when the monster remains in the mirror?

Cal is struggling. After his past unraveled into a torment that claimed nearly his whole family, how could he not be? The only good left in his life is Layla, even if she comes with a pain-in-the-haunches incubus. Dealing with Ink is one more problem he’s ignoring, until the werewolf issues he’s refused to face come for him.

A second pack is hunting him and they’re threatening his mother. Cal has no choice but to travel back to Santa Fe and confront them, or lose the last family he has left. While a road trip with Layla sounds nice, Ink has to come along, and the demon keeps driving a growing wedge between Cal and his tenuous grasp on humanity.

Cal, Ink and Layla come face to face with an enemy Cal once believed to be nothing but a myth, his claws and fangs useless against their firepower. What do they want with the witch, werewolf and demon? And, most of all, how can they be stopped?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, peril, near death, blood and gore. There are references to a cult, abusive and violent parents, and references to patricide.

Publisher’s Note: Everyone who buys a copy of Fang will receive the short story Snow Print free. Set between the events of Claw and Fang in the Coven of Desire series, Cal’s struggling to overcome the loss in his life is interrupted by a snowman army.

Excerpt

A crack shattered the silence, trying to pry my locked jaws apart. Shadows clipped across the single floodlight above the floorboards.

Diesel, gun oil, salted pork and…old leather. Every scent filled my sinuses and I whimpered.

“Cal…”

No! I spun in the tight space, clamping my filthy fingers onto my brother’s mouth. Even in the muddy crawlspace, I could see his eyes blazing above my palm. Eli’s entire body shivered, his shoulders rising to shield himself from every clip of the boot above our heads.

“We have to keep moving,” Mark spat in my ear. I cringed at the loogie sliding down my face while the eldest brother easily spun on his haunches. Even with his messed-up leg duct-taped to a fence post, he crawled quickly under the floor.

The boards above our heads stopped creaking and the light vanished. Had he gone to bed? This was it. Mom had put me in charge of getting Eli. All we had to do was…

Blinding white punctured the world. The ceiling above us shattered, splintering my heart. A massive hand slammed down right in front of my face. I reached my foot back, prepared to kick and break a finger, when the entire house collapsed over Eli.

Another crack. We all flinched as he took it. Three more lines added to the ones crisscrossing his back. Growls rumbled from Mark, pinned by his mother to stand and watch. I tried to twist away, but my head wouldn’t leave. If I didn’t watch, I could be next.

“Ah!”

A single cry escaped from Eli, and both Mark and I screamed, “No.” If he made a sound, it started all over.

The belt hung against the five-year-old’s back, Eli straining to reach over the apple crate he bent over. Crimson wicked up his burlap cassock. The blood would be left to dry for days as a reminder because the scars weren’t enough.

“This is what happens to disobedient boys,” boomed the voice through my ears, up my feet and into my blood. I tried to spit it out, the scent of him merging into a putrid taste boiling down my throat. Leaning over, I tried to retch it away—diesel, gun oil, salted pork, old leather, and blood. A spray of it erupted from my lips, staining the floorboards of the great room. No one turned to me, no one noticed I was vomiting in front of them.

Every eye gazed upon him. The father. Our great leader into the next stage of existence.

“Cal!”

“Eli…?”

His dirty, matted hair began to lift. As it did, crimson paint dribbled down the sides. “I don’t wanna be here, Cal!”

“I…” Damn it. My gaze plummeted to the floor, tears threatening to burst. Slamming my lids closed so no one could tattle on me for crying, I said, “I’ll get you out of here, Eli. When it’s done, I’ll get you.”

“Forget it.” It wasn’t the soft cry of a kid, but the dead acceptance of an adult. Even with my eyes shut tight, I saw Eli rise from the box. He trampled it down with his foot, shattering the crate we’d all been whipped on. Eli stood tall, stretching far above my head.

“Weak,” the voice of my unending nightmares thundered. “All of you.” His face burned hot like the sun and I could only stare at the black gun extending from his hand. He pointed it at the followers standing in a ring around us.

“The time of the Moon is nigh,” the rotten bastard said. “Destiny, child. Blood.” He aimed his gun at Eli. A flash turned my brother’s head into a wolf’s skull.

“Eli!” I screamed, running for him. But my feet couldn’t get any traction. Every step kept me pinned in place, unable to reach my brother slowly tumbling to the cement ground.

“You cannot escape it, Calvin.” The asshole’s hand clamped to my shoulder and he pressed me down to my knees. I tried to fight it, but my bones were matchsticks against his might. They buckled, my nose pressing into the dirt.

A wind howled through the trees, parting the stricken branches to reveal the yellow-blue light forever beaming down upon us. Itching rippled under my skin, one no amount of scratching would solve.

“Give in,” he chanted almost serenely.

I shook my head, feeling fur and not hair brush against my shoulder. “No,” I declared, the words warping as my gums receded. Pain clawed up the roots of my teeth sharpening to fangs.

“You cannot escape, Calvin.”

Squeezing my eyes tight, I willed the wolf back. My teeth flattened. I patted my head, finding only the shaved hair. Lashing my arm back, I burst from his grip and took two steps forward. “I’m never changing again!” I shouted.

A low chuckle caused me to freeze. My body betrayed me, terror beckoning me to turn. Lucien bent down, half of his skull exposed, the skin ripped like paper, the muscles rotted away. The eyeball in his fleshless socket was milky white. “Child.” A squishy, flapping sound followed his words. Red and purple tubes flapped out of a massive wound in his throat. I wanted to scream, but my mouth drowned with hot liquid.

“You cannot escape your blood.”

Fuck!

I shook awake, my whole body slamming forward to try to escape. Instead of hurling myself off the bed, I almost knocked my teeth into a soft shoulder. Layla’s hair provided cushioning to stop me, and I buried my face in it. I opened my mouth in a rictus and gave all the force of shrieking without letting a single sound escape.

My tongue tasted of copper and salt, of Lucien’s blood that I had ripped from his throat. My brain thundered with the scents of his body, his boots, his instruments of terror. Get out of it. He’s not here. He can never be here.

Burrowing my nose farther into her hair, I pulled in the deepest whiff imaginable. Cereal marshmallows. We’d gotten into a pointless food fight last night and I’d flicked them at her as she laughed. Amber. She’d used my soap to wash her hands and face. Me. The long night I held her safe in my arms. The air right before a thunderstorm struck. Layla.

My body tightened around her as it recognized the fullness of her. And she was stirring. Damn it.

“Cal…?” she croaked. Most of the time her voice was lush and lyrical, but in the morning it sounded more like a smoking frog.

I placed my lips to the nape of her neck, kissing over her curly hair to try to find the skin below. The taste of her replaced the lingering memory of blood. “Sorry to wake you,” I said.

The wolf inside me was restless. No, angry. It wanted vengeance even though we’d already gotten it. I winced and started to slide away. If I stayed in bed, no matter how tempting, it could rip through me. Take over my thoughts and push me to its side. I slid my hand up Layla’s stomach and over her hip, having to abandon her to calm down.

I was fairly certain she’d passed out and I slipped to my feet, when her fingers crested over mine. Through the shadows of the old house, I couldn’t see much, but the silhouette of her breasts tumbling together out from under my blanket almost drove me back in with her.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

No. But I’ve never been okay my whole life. “You stay sleeping.” I bent over and kissed her lips. I wished her taste and touch could chase away all the nightmare, but it clung to me like a filthy sack caked in blood. Rising to my feet, I stumbled out of my room. The wolf inside me howled.

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About the Author

Ellen Mint

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

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

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Ellen Mint’s Claw Giveaway

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New Release Blitz ~ To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker (Excerpt & Giveaway)

To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker

Book 1 in the Speak Its Name series

Word Count: 19,038
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 82
Genres:

EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
HISTORICAL

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Book Description

 

Frank never thought he would find love…until he met his friend’s servant.

It’s 1922 and Frank Harris has finished his exams at Cambridge. He had planned on going home to his parents’ Midlands shop until his friend Charlie Fitzwilliam issues a surprise invitation to stay at his family’s stately home.

Frank has nursed a secret attraction to Charlie since their first meeting and can’t resist a chance to spend time with him, but once there, it’s Tanner, a manservant, with whom he instantly falls in lust.

Charlie tries to force a local girl on Frank, and although Frank knows he should keep up appearances, it’s Tanner who sets a fire in him.

To Frank’s astonishment, Tanner is attracted to him too, and their mutual passion kindles, then burns strong. Only, their feelings must remain a secret—discovery would mean the ruin of them both.

But how long can love that blazes this bright be hidden?

Excerpt

Cambridge, 1922

“Come on, Harris. Don’t be a chump. You can read your precious architecture books at my place. I don’t know why you’re bothering, anyway—we’ve done the blasted exams.”

So spoke Charlie Fitzwilliam the third…or maybe the fourth, standing there in all his glory. As usual, the rest of his gang flanked him and glared at me. It didn’t do to say no to Charlie. I had been in awe of him for four years at Cambridge.

The polar opposite to me, he could make a boy feel awkward just by entering a room. Blond, muscular and his parents owned most of one of the bigger counties just outside London. I, on the other hand, had dark hair, could have been described as a little on the skinny side and certainly didn’t come from the right side of the tracks.

“Go on, Harris,” said one of his henchmen. They followed him everywhere, doing his dirty work and hoping against hope some of that Fitzwilliam magic would rub off on them. “Charlie will be bored if you don’t.”

“Why don’t you go and entertain him then?” I said gruffly.

It had been made clear when we started at university that I would be the lackey of the group and it didn’t do to let me forget it. Charlie’s lot were Harrow boys for whom Cambridge had been a natural next step. My place had been paid for by my parents saving hard and me getting the best marks possible at school.

My parents had several shops in Leicester, the middle of England, where I’d grown up and nothing ever happened. When I’d come to Cambridge, I’d been an awkward eighteen-year-old who had no idea how to use the right cutlery or which wine went with fish. Charlie had taken me under his wing, the others had been jealous and so my runt-of-the-litter position had become firmly cemented.

Charlie had more money than he would ever know what to do with. University was just a diversion, a chance to drink heavily, romance often and generally live a crazy life. The dire state of the economy didn’t come anywhere near him, happening only to other people.

An invitation to go to his house in the country could not be refused, and I found myself tempted by some time alone with him. Besides, I couldn’t apply in earnest to architectural partnerships until I knew my marks for my degree. We had sat our final exam last week and could only wait until August, when we would graduate.

I had planned to go home and help in the shops, but I would only be taking hours from our workers who needed them more than me.

“Just think of it. You can dig around my father’s books to your heart’s content.” Charlie clapped his arm around me, causing me to blush. He knew he had his fish on the line, and a grin creased the sides of my face.

“Fine. A week, no more.”

Charlie held up his hands. “A week is all I want from you. Mummy has demanded my presence in bloody Portugal after that. I’ll be dragged around endless vineyards in search of the perfect grapes for the perfect port. Oh, well done, old man. I hate being stuck in that house on my own. It’s just so boring.”

Having made the decision, I told my parents, and they were fine with it. They wanted me to get as much out of life as possible. Me having the chance to hobnob with a load of posh people would be a talking point for my mother for the rest of the year. God help her customers. They would soon be sick of hearing it.

With a heavy heart, I packed away my books, to send them home to my parents. I would never stand in this bedroom again. I had been lucky to get a set of rooms to myself—most of the other undergraduates shared. I would miss this tiny bit of independence. It might be cliché, but I had arrived a boy and was leaving a man. Charlie and his cronies were still like boys and probably always would be.

I had never gone in for the carousing life. Charlie had a reputation for smuggling girls from the local town into our halls. More than once he had persuaded me to let him use my room for a bit of privacy. As usual he had a henchman, or two, standing guard, and I would find a corner and retreat into my books. It amazed me why Charlie and his gang bothered with me at all. I must have been so boring to them, but Charlie had somehow bonded with me. On his own, when he wasn’t being an insufferable show-off, he could be quite good fun. We were both studying architectural history together. Charlie didn’t know his Christopher Wren from his Antoni Gaudi, and we’d spent many a late night sorting out his essays. In reality, I would write them for him, but I used to live for those nights. Charlie generally sat on the window ledge smoking and chatting while I scribbled away. The public image of Charlie could be hard to get past, but when he did let a person in, a decent chap lay beneath..

Buy Links

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First For Romance

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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New Release Blitz ~ Each and Every Summer by L A Tavares (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Each and Every Summer by L A Tavares

Word Count: 76,038
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 297

GENRES:

CHICK LIT
CONTEMPORARY
ROMANCE
SWEET ROMANCE

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Book Description

Time heals some wounds.

The first time Lyla Savoie Kenney found love—boundless, passionate love—it wasn’t with a person but a place. She found deep-rooted endearment there, and in keeping with tradition, it caused her first real heartbreak too.

Lyla grew up on the beaches at Begoa’s Point, a campground she and her father visited each summer for seventeen years. She spent each non-summer month counting down the days until she could return, until going back was no longer an option. Begoa’s Point closed with no explanation.

Fifteen years later, now a widowed mother with a child of her own, Begoa’s Point is reopening its doors. Lyla is surprised when she is abruptly moved off the waiting list and given a reservation at the camp, but even more surprising is what she finds when she arrives.

Weston Accardi, the first boy Lyla ever gave her heart to, is the proud new owner of the Begoa’s property. He has changed—and not just because a prosthetic leg now exists where a natural limb once did. He is no longer the carefree rebel he used to be but has grown into a responsible businessman.

Their past, however, refuses to remain such, cycling back to smother the fire they’ve tried so hard to rebuild since her arrival to the reopened campground.

Excerpt

The campground was quiet. Not silent, but quiet. Silence on the grounds was a rarity. Birds chirped and critters snapped twigs and crunched leaves as they ran through the abundant foliage, sounding off their small, happy-to-be-out-of-hibernation squeaks. The fire Weston Accardi kept lit continuously, day and night, crackled and popped as it chewed into the pieces of wood he fed it.

Soon the soundtrack of the campground would transform from its current nature-inspired sounds to a blend of noises that belonged to the incoming camping families. Children would run and play, shrieking at decibels specific to summertime. Their laughter and yells would echo through the plush pine trees as parents unpacked the camping gear and essentials from the overloaded trucks to prepare the site that they would call home for the duration of their stay. Music—both played through Bluetooth speakers and strummed on old guitars—would travel from the dirt driveways beneath each RV and become one with cloudless blue sky above.

Each currently bare site would have a tent or RV secured on it, and every available rental trailer or cottage would have people occupying them. Every single one, Weston thought as he thumbed through countless pages of reservations. He’d requested the bookings be printed and delivered to the site he’d claimed as ‘The Owner’s Headquarters’ during the off-season renovations. The rest of the employees had WiFi access within the offices and laptops or tablets to view the information and spreadsheets, but Weston found nostalgic peace of mind by holding the printed reservations in his hand the exact way his father before him had done while sitting in the very same chair. A half-grin slid onto Weston’s cheeks. He was pleased with the turnout of reservations for the grand reopening of Begoa’s Point Family Campground. His father would have been too, had he been alive to see it.

Weston tucked the most recent reservation listings into the worn-out openings of the accordion-style folder and tossed it inside the door of his RV, which was situated in a wooded area well away from the hustle and bustle of the main grounds. When his parents had owned the campground more than fifteen years before, they had chosen a site at the center of the grounds directly within earshot of anything and everything going on within their property’s perimeter. They’d preferred it that way—involved, hands-on. In many ways, Weston liked that too, maintaining full control, but when the sun went down, he preferred a hushed space to retreat to in order to separate himself from his work and enjoy the serene nature that surrounded him.

“Achilles.” Weston followed the call with a quick, wet-lipped whistle and a pat of his palm against the thigh of his cargo shorts. He grabbed a leather leash from the picnic table with a clink as the metal clasp sounded against the tabletop. The dog’s ears perked up like antennas receiving a signal. His tail picked up speed, wagging in long, swift motions that swept the sand off the patio mat that covered the land just outside the RV. “Want to go on a run?”

The dog leaped from the shaded dirt area he could usually be found in—a spot he’d claimed to hide away in from Maine’s hot summer rays. He darted toward his owner and pushed his large head into Weston’s hips with a force that almost knocked him over.

“I’ll take that as a yes.” Weston used his palm to ruffle the fur between the German Shepherd’s ears. Achilles bounded around in circles with an impressive agility comparable to that of a show dog. With his energy and antics, no one would guess he was missing part of his hind leg. Then again, like pup, like owner. Most people hardly noticed that Weston was an amputee as well. He was a man who ran multiple miles per day, every day, with his dog stuck to his side. He walked all over the campground and was hardly ever seen in a golf cart unless there was an emergency that he needed to handle sooner rather than later. He maneuvered around using his left leg prosthetic as if it were his own natural limb.

Weston stretched out his back and his existing leg before clipping the dog’s leash around his waist. The dog usually ran free, but the leash stayed on Weston’s person in case the need arose for him to use it. Weston took off down the winding dirt path into a long trail of cookie-cutter cottages—empty now but soon to be filled with families ready to embark on their summer camping adventures. There would be some newcomers, but most of the reservation list was composed of returning families from his parents’ time of owning and operating the same campground prior to its untimely closure.

He and Achilles ran uphill, turning a corner to jog past the recently updated tennis and basketball courts, as well as a newly renovated shower and bath house. A custodial worker waved as Weston came around the bend of the road and jogged past.

“Good morning, Larry!” Weston called. Larry tipped his hat in Weston’s direction. Weston had made it a point to learn the name of every employee—a rule of his father’s that he’d inherited and valued. He continued his journey down the pathway toward the beachfront bar and restaurant, stopping where Mark Jenson was readying the place for the upcoming grand reopening. The outdoor bar itself was a new addition, built while the cabins and sites were being remodeled, but Mark was an original employee. A longtime friend of Weston’s father, Mark had run the bar and restaurant during Begoa’s Point’s first run and had agreed to come back to manage the new facility.

“Morning, boss.” Mark moved large boxes of glasses from the ground to the bar top as the sun beat down on the tiki-themed hut while he worked. He wiped his brow on his forearm. His sweat-soaked shirt clung to his skin at his chest and back. “What are we having today?”

“The usual will be fine.” Weston slowed and came to a full stop. Achilles followed suit, coming to a halt, then lying down in the small bit of shade the bar provided.

Mark grabbed a silver bowl from a below-bar cabinet and filled it with water before stepping out from the service area and coming around the bar to serve it to Begoa’s Point’s most prominent VIP. Mark stayed on one knee for a moment, scratching below the dog’s chin. Achilles stood and started lapping water from the bowl, leaving more water on the ground in a messy puddle than he’d swallowed.

Mark returned to his position behind the counter, filled a cup with ice and water and slid it across the bar into Weston’s hand.

“Where are you headed to today?” Mark leaned into the bar.

“All over the grounds, I think. The usual path.” Weston paused to take a sip of the ice-cold water. “At least as far as the marina. I just want to make sure everything is ready to go for the opening.”

“That’s what you said yesterday.” Mark raised an eyebrow. “Then again, it’s what you will probably say tomorrow and the day after that too.”

“I like to be prepared.” Weston sent his now-empty plastic cup back across the bar.

“You will be. You are your father’s son, after all. I wouldn’t expect anything less.”

Weston looked at Mark, analyzing the new lines that sank into his skin, but other than a few signs of aging, Mark looked almost the same as he had when Weston’s parents had owned the campground before its closure, leaving Mark and many others without a job.

“Thank you for coming back, Mark. This place wouldn’t be the same without you, even after all these years. I’m sorry we ever put you out of a job in the first place.” Weston turned his eyes downward in sadness.

“It’s not your fault, Weston—”

“It is, actually,” Weston interrupted, adjusting his ballcap, with his gaze still glued to the floor. He watched the dog, if for no other reason than to avoid Mark’s eyes. “You know it and so do I.”

“It’s not. You knock that off right now.” Mark’s voice teetered on scolding, and he wagged one aging finger in Weston’s direction. “You know that your dad used to come down to the old bar every night for last call. Every night. He sat on the same barstool each time, and you know what he told me?”

Weston shook his head. He had been only seventeen when his parent’s ownership had come to an end, so he’d not reached the legal drinking age where he could spend those waning nighttime hours with his dad, occupying Mark’s bar stools. His ‘no’ wasn’t an entirely honest answer to Mark’s question, however. He knew what Mark was going to say—what his dad had used to say—but he wanted to hear it. If he couldn’t hear it from his own father, Mark’s affirmation was the next best thing.

“He said it was his dream to see you run this place. So maybe it didn’t happen as he’d expected, but it’s happening, and you should be proud of that. You’re not a kid anymore, Weston. You’ve grown and should be so proud of who you’ve become. Your father would be.”

“I remember that. He used to come down here every night but never had a sip of alcohol.” Weston smiled at the seemingly small memories of his father, but they were anything but insignificant. They were everything.

“I remember watching you run around these grounds, from learning to walk all the way to chasing after the girls on the beach in your teenage years.” Mark continued to speak, but Weston’s mind was elsewhere, time-traveling down a winding path to his childhood.

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L. A. Tavares

When it comes to romance, L A doesn’t have a type. Sometimes it’s dark and devastating, sometimes it’s soft and simple – truly, it just depends what her imaginary friends are doing at the time she starts writing about them.

L A has moved to various parts of the country over the last ten years but her heart has never left Boston.

And no, the “A” does not stand for Anne.

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New Release Blitz: This Vow by J.R. Hart (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  This Vow

Series: This Love, Book Two

Author: J.R. Hart

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/24/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 59100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Romance, contemporary, family-drama, wedding, apartment fire, recipes, chef, established couple

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Description

Nicholas and Alex know one thing for sure: they want to spend their lives together, and now that they’re engaged, they can start planning their big day to make that happen. The only hitch? Both of them have very different ideas on what that means.

Nicholas has been all about a grand wedding since he was a teen, carefully planning every detail from floral arrangements to the perfect cake. He has big dreams and a bigger budget to make it happen. But Alex? Despite finding the love of his life, he’s still a little jaded, and he’d rather elope at the local courthouse, keeping the start of their married life low-key.

Can they set aside their different ideas on their big wedding and compromise to make it the wedding of their dreams, or will a major tragedy be the final blow after they struggle to see eye-to-eye?

Excerpt

This Vow
J.R. Hart © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
“Nicholas, there’s a fire, in the kitchen! We have to go!”

Bleary-eyed from sleep, Nicholas didn’t grasp what Alex was saying. “Fire?” He didn’t comprehend the box of recipes in his hand, why Alex was shoving them at him frantically. Drowsiness from cold medication and the deep sleepfulness of his nap didn’t help matters, a slur of loud, blaring alarms sounding in his mind as he tried to pay attention to what Alex was telling him.

“In the kitchen! We have to get out of here, Nicholas. Carry the recipes! Let’s go!” Alex insisted.

Fire? His brain repeated the word. Fire. Fire! Oh gosh. He glanced around him, trying to take stock of what they might be able to save. “Okay, um…” They had to get their things, important memories and items from around the apartment. Why was Alex in the bedroom instead of grabbing their photos off the walls and the box of notes they’d written each other early in their relationship out of the closet?

“Nicholas, we don’t have time to get stuff. It’s spreading too fast. We have to go.” Nicholas followed Alex’s eyeline up to the smoke entering the bedroom, watching as he raced toward the living room, and the urgency finally started to click into place. A fire. An actual fire. Not the hypothetical “what three items would you save in a fire?” kind of situation, but a real-life, honest-to-God fire. “Oh no.” Stumbling out of the bedroom and closing the door out of habit, he could see the flames now, the bright-orange flickers of light in the kitchen. He started toward the source of it, the location of most of his prized possessions, but Alex yanked him back by the arm.

“Crawl!” Alex urged him. “We have to crawl over there.” Alex ducked down, tugging his shirt up to cover his mouth and nose. Nicholas followed suit, grasping the recipe box and moving ahead, trying to get to the door and open it while Alex scanned the room. Halfway there, the half wall dividing the kitchen from the entryway shook with a loud bang. Something in the kitchen exploded. “Oh my God!” Alex yelped.

“What was that?” Nicholas assumed the explosion came from some pressurized can like cooking spray, or the bottle of their favorite whiskey they enjoyed on poker nights with the girls. His brain lagged behind the urgency of the situation, focused on the things being consumed by the fire creeping closer.

“I don’t know!” Alex’s words jarred him back into the moment. “Let’s go to the balcony,” he pleaded. The fire escape there hadn’t worked in years, but Nicholas agreed that outside, regardless of a way down, was the safer bet. If anything, they could breathe fresh air out there instead of toxic smoke in their apartment.

Alex crawled in the other direction and Nicholas followed, watching Alex slide the glass door open and let him through. Both of them stood and closed the door to seal the blaze behind them. “Now what?”

If the fire got any closer, Nicholas figured the heat could shatter the glass. Was it the movie Backdraft that happened in? He didn’t know why his mind focused on Hollywood hypotheticals instead of on the reality of what was happening to his home, his life. Maybe because his brain was on a delay, hadn’t fully registered the intensity of the situation.

Alex pushed their mostly dead succulents in front of the door and nestled Nicholas against the railing of the balcony that didn’t line up with the glass, putting them out of harm’s way. He must have been thinking the same thing about the glass shattering. “Call 9-1-1,” Nicholas told Alex. Drilled into his head from countless school fire safety classes, he didn’t have to even think. But then the reality of what was happening hit him all over again. A lot of their beloved belongings continued to burn. Maybe they had time… “We forgot—”

“Nicholas, we can’t go back in,” Alex reminded him. “Whatever we’ve forgotten, it’s not important.”

Right. Good enough. Getting out alive had to be good enough. Nicholas nodded, tearing up as Alex pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“What are you doing?”

“Telling Jade to pull the building fire alarm,” he said. Their own smoke alarm only sounded in their apartment, barely loud enough for the neighboring apartments to hear. This was a good thing when the alarm sounded for minor problems, like grease popping around eggs, but not a great feature when it came to a real fire. Then, Alex’s voice switched to no-nonsense mode as he called 9-1-1, waiting till he was connected and then explaining the fire to the dispatcher.

Nicholas could hear the fire alarms blaring clearly now. Jade must have done as he asked. From the balcony, Nicholas saw the edges of the flames licking at the picture they’d hung on the wall after their engagement. He turned away. He couldn’t bear to look at the fire taking away everything they owned, every precious memory they’d shared in the apartment. Looking down at the ground, he spotted people filtering out of the front doors of the building, staring up to them on the balcony above. “What the heck happened?”

“I was trying to make you soup,” Alex admitted, followed by, “I’m so sorry.”

The guilt in his voice was palpable, breaking Nicholas’s heart. “Baby, it’s all right.” As the trucks backed up, ladders extending, Alex cried against him, his free arm around him. Alex sobbed harder than Nicholas had ever seen him cry.

“I’m so sorry,” he repeated and then he turned toward the ladder, heading down with Nicholas climbing after him, cradling the recipes in his arm. He listened to the sound of the crackle through the sliding glass door as the contents of their lives went up in smoke.

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Meet the Author

J R Hart is a queer 30-something novelist passionate about telling romantic and erotic stories about LGBT+ characters. When J R isn’t writing, you can find her at the science museum with her son, cheering for her favorite soccer team, or at The Bean Coffee Co plotting her next work. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram as @jrhartauthor, or on her website at jrhartauthor.com.

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Book Blitz: Stylite: Mystery by Tag Gregory & Lily Marie (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Stylite: Mystery

Series: The Stylite Chronicles – Book One

Author: Tag Gregory & Lily Marie

Narrator: William Pierre

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: 5/1/21

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 05 Hours 48 Minutes

Genre: Romance, Mystery, History, LGBTQ, Contemporary Gay Literature

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Synopsis

Book One of the Stylite Chronicles. A curious art history student disturbs a lonely recluse holed up in an historic building in downtown Pittsburgh’s “Golden Triangle”. Together, they investigate the mystery behind the building and in the process unearth evidence of a long-dead, illicit love affair. Will that ancient romance help kindle a modern one for our history sleuths at the same time?

It’s a Mystery, History, Romance.

Excerpt

Egbert seemed quite taken by the end result and my ego swelled several sizes as he looked at the pictures, even asking me to make them bigger at times so he could see certain details better. I started to explain some of the various techniques I’d employed and why I’d added some of the different elements.

“I like this part,” he said, his finger shaking slightly as he pointed towards a particularly detailed part of my painting that incorporated some of the details from the cornice work of the building.

I beamed once again. Having him like my work meant a lot to me; which was odd, because usually, as long as I liked my work I didn’t care so much what others thought. But all of a sudden it mattered what THIS guy thought. That was different. It made me uncomfortable, but uncomfortable in a good way maybe. I’d have to think on why, exactly, that was. Later, though, because I was too busy bragging to my man to worry on it right then.

“. . . Yeah. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out and all,” I summarized when it seemed like we’d talked the painting to death finally. “Now I just have to hope that my professor agrees when I turn it in tomorrow.”

“So, as of tomorrow, you’re done with the project?” Egbert asked, sounding a little disappointed by that prospect.

“Yeah. Which is good, too, because I have to get started on studying for finals for my other classes, all of which I put off while I was working on this monster.” When Mystery Man looked away, seeming to hesitate about whatever it was he’d been about to say, I felt like I’d said something wrong. To backtrack I asked, “why? Was there something else? Something you think I missed?”

“No. No, nothing like that,” he stumbled over whatever it was he meant to say for a moment or two until it seemed like he just decided to blurt it out. “It’s just that, when you seemed interested in that old letter and the drawing, I remembered that my grandfather had a file of old records he kept that he’d found when he bought the building, and I thought you might be interested in looking through them. But, if you’re done with the project, I guess you wouldn’t be interested . . .”

“No! I mean, yeah, I’m finished with the project, but I would definitely love to take a look at whatever you’ve found. Really. If you’re okay with that?”

He looked relieved when I insisted I was still interested and I watched as he unlocked one of the drawers of his desk and pulled out a huge leather binder, filled to the brim with ageing papers. I was surprised that the file was one of the least clean things in the entire building. There might have even been some dust on the jacket of the folder. But, since it was dust that had been in the building for a while, as opposed to dust that came from some stranger outside, maybe it was safe enough, because my man just swiped at it perfunctorily with one of his wipes and then seemed good.

He placed the folder on the desk and pushed it towards me. “Here, knock yourself out.”

I paused briefly before making my way over and running my hand along the smooth leather surface of the file folder; it was so soft. “Wow.”

“You can . . .” He cleared his throat once again. “You can take it home with you to have a look through if you’d like. I just . . . I need it back.”

I couldn’t seem to control my face around this man, I don’t think I’d smiled this much in years. He was basically inviting me back! Well, that’s what I was taking from it anyway. “You know, I might have questions while I’m looking through this stuff. If I can’t figure it out, maybe I could come back and you could go over it with me? You might know more about the history, after all,” I suggested.

He shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly, like it didn’t bother him either way, but I knew that he liked my suggestion. “Sure. I could make time,” he replied, trying to sound all cool and unconcerned even though I could detect a smile hiding in that beard of his. “I’m . . . I’m not busy tomorrow afternoon.”

I wondered when he was ever busy, seeing as he didn’t seem to ever leave the building, but I didn’t think our relationship was ready for that line of questioning yet. “Sounds great. I should be done with classes by around three tomorrow. How about I come back after that?”

“Okay,” he agreed readily enough. “Although, I suspect this is probably the first time in history someone invited their burglar to come back for more.”

“I’m not a burglar. Just . . .”

“Just a brat. I know,” he teased me with that glint of humor in his eyes that I was starting to get to like.

“Good thing you like brats, huh?” I replied, because, yeah, I WAS a brat and, as a brat, I wasn’t about to let him get the last word like that. Then I picked up the binder full of documents and my bag and started for the door before he could say anything more. “See you tomorrow, Egbert.

“Later, Brat.”

In my head I was already planning out what I’d say when I saw my Mystery Man the following day as I galloped down the stairs and out the lobby doors. I felt a little giddy – which was a word you really don’t understand until it happens to you, but which I now totally GOT, because I felt giddy as a fucking school girl and that was really pathetic, I know, but it was how I felt so deal with it, okay…

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Meet the Author

Tag Gregory and Lily Marie are the co-authors of several exciting romance series, including the Time Adventures Series and The Stylite Chronicles. Tag has been writing for almost a decade, bringing an eclectic background as a lawyer, microbiologist, all-around nerd, and adventurer. Lily has also been writing for several years, is a resident of the UK, and is the more visually creative of the two. Together they bring an off-kilter sense of humor, unbounded curiosity, a love of details, and astonishing powers of research to all their writing. If you are looking for a gripping story, with compelling characters that deal with real world issues, then you’re in the right place.

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New Release Blitz: Give Me Grace by Bethany A. Perry (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Give Me Grace

Author: Bethany A. Perry

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/24/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 85300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, urban fantasy lgbt, contemporary fantasy, witch urban fantasy, demon paranormal, demon witch, demon lgbt, lgbt fantasy fiction, friends to lovers, nuns, magic, amnesia fantasy, angels

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Description

It’s been six weeks since Halloween. Six weeks since Grace stumbled into the ER, almost dead and begging for help. Six weeks since she lost every single memory, including her own name.

Taken in by the mysterious Sisters of the Order of Saint Raphael the Healer, Grace’s wounds are dressed and she is assured her memories will return—in time. But does Grace want her memories back? Maybe she’s chosen to forget them, maybe there’s a reason. The sisters hide things from her. They whisper things about her.

When a demon forces its way into the convent, it declares that Grace is a demon too. Grace demands answers. Answers that may reveal not only who she is, but that the sisters might not be who they say they are, either.

Excerpt

Give Me Grace
Bethany A. Perry © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Grace knelt on the kneeling bar, whatever it was the sisters called it, and folded her hands together behind the pew in front of her. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “Sister Monica.”

The novice nun kneeling beside her shook her head a millimeter, her curls almost bursting through her headscarf, and clenched her hands tighter. Her lips moved over a prayer, her eyes squinched closed.

Grace grinned and scooted closer. She did close her eyes, though, making a clumsy sign of the cross over her shoulders. An approximation, at least. Her inability to get it right exasperated the sisters on a damn near hilarious level. “Are we doing your coming-of-age ceremony today?”

Monica’s lips stopped moving, and she pressed them together. They didn’t disappear into nothingness the way the mother made hers do, but by the time Mon was Mother Mary’s age, she’d be able to do it better. She leaned, her umber skin mellow in the low light of the sanctuary, and whispered so quiet Grace had to listen with all she had to catch it. “Either shut up and pray or leave and meet me in your room.”

Grace swallowed, the blood rushing to her cheeks. “Sorry, Mon. I didn’t mean to upset you. I just wanted to take communion with you, if you were going to take your vows.”

Mouth dropping open, Monica turned to her. “Why would you want to do that?” Her voice echoed off the vaulted ceiling, the walls, and the windows, including the lone stained-glass window in the sanctuary.

One of the other sisters, Eliana probably, shushed. The shush was so sharp it may have cut the air as it sped across the cavernous room.

Monica stood, stuffing her rosary under her robes, and grabbed Grace above the elbow. She tugged, not unkindly.

Grace held her abs with one hand and stood. The twinge as she did brought back her first memory with force. The splat-splat-splat of her own intestines as they hit the floor of the hospital emergency room. Everything before that moment, including how she’d been gutted, was a deep well of nothing.

Her next memory, which was much nicer, was of Monica, sitting next to her hospital bed and assuring her that her full memory would return in time.

As the sanctuary doors closed, the chilly hallway enveloped them. The morning sun hadn’t had a chance to penetrate it yet, and the walls radiated last night’s cold.

Grace shivered and shook her head to clear it of the slapping sound her guts had made when they hit the tile. For all the good it’d do. “Sorry. I thought you were going to get your habit today and stuff. Take your vows. All that.”

Monica shook her head with a frown. “Mother Mary told me I’m not ready yet. I guess I have more study to do.” Still walking, she looked Grace up and down. “How’re your wounds?”

“Healing.”

“You’re a fast healer.”

“Only because you help me.” She rubbed the scar below her stomach. “Glad we finally got the bandages off. How long have I been here again?”

“The Order took you in from the hospital about”—she drew out the u, squeezing her eyes closed—“six weeks ago?”

“Weird. I feel like I’ve known you a lot longer than that.”

They turned a corner, bright sun flooding the next hallway—Grace’s favorite hallway—dust motes dancing along the shafts, and stopped before the only other stained-glass window in the place.

Raphael the Archangel stood outlined in pinks and blues, gold shining all around his head and shoulders, what the sisters called his halo. His glowing hands rested on the heads of two penitents who knelt before him, their eyes bleeding.

Monica smiled. “The feeling’s mutual.” Cheeks tinged red, she crossed herself, curtsied to Raphael, and continued down the hall.

Grace cast a glance at the window. Raphael’s face wore an out-of-place expression of serenity while blessing two people who cried tears of blood. Despite the eyes, she found peace in the scene.

She caught up to Monica, running her hand through the two inches of hair on her head, the healing scar a line slashed through it. “That library is the darkest room in this convent. You’d think they’d want windows so you could actually see the words in the books.”

“The books are old, Grace. They’d react badly to sunlight. We’ve had this conversation.” She stopped, one hand on an enormous door handle. “Did you want to keep me company today?”

“I was serious about the communion, Mon.” Grace bit her lip. Six weeks’ worth of changing bandages and chatting and following her around the convent made Grace feel close to Sister Monica. Like a real friend. This ceremony was a Big Deal to Mon, and Mon was a Big Deal to Grace. It only seemed right to do it with her, even if she wasn’t Catholic.

Monica eased the creaking door open. “I’ll speak to Mother Mary.” With the hand not holding the door, she brushed her fingertips along Grace’s cheek.

Grace’s heart tripped a beat. Something about the way her fingers moved like butterfly feet made Grace lose her breath.

“Thank you. You’re a good friend. I hope you’re still here when I take my vows.”

Brows knit, Grace peeked into the library. She lowered her voice. “Where would I go? I don’t even remember who I am, much less where home is.”

Monica shrugged, her robes shifting with a soft sigh. “If your memory comes back, you’ll probably want to leave.” She sucked a sharp breath over her teeth. “Not that I don’t want you to get your memory back. I just meant—”

“I know. I hope I’m still here too.” Grace smiled, lips stretched tight. “If I remember who I am before then, I’ll come back just to share your communion. Okay?”

Frowning, Monica lowered her eyes. “I’d like that.”

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Meet the Author

Bethany is a southern transplant in the west, where she’s made her home with her kids, partner, pets, and several hostages…er…houseplants she hasn’t killed yet. Poetry was her first love, and she’s been writing since she could hold a pencil. Horror is her sweet spot, but all things sci-fi and fantasy are also deeply entrenched in her heart.

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New Release Blitz: The Dragon Bond by Elizabeth Coldwell (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  The Dragon Bond

Author: Elizabeth Coldwell

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 05/24/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 21800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, estranged couple, holidays, tattoos, tear-jerker, reunited, contemporary m/m romance

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Description

When Trey tells Rainn he’s giving him a very special Christmas gift, he never dreams it will be a tattoo. The matching dragons on their bodies is the sign of a bond never to be broken – at least that’s the plan, until a sudden moment of violence changes everything and Rainn and Trey’s relationship is torn apart.

Returning to his hometown after seven years, Rainn finds that everything is different now, not least where Trey is concerned. Having moved in with his cousin, Marcie, and her husband, Dave, he tries to pick up the threads of his old life as best he can and make the most of the second chance he’s been given.

The holiday season is a time for remembrance and forgiveness for past mistakes, and while volunteering at a Christmas dinner for the homeless, Rainn has an unexpected opportunity to rekindle the bond between himself and Trey.

Excerpt

The Dragon Bond
Elizabeth Coldwell © 2021
All Rights Reserved

December 23, 2009

He would remember this evening for the rest of his life. The strings of colored lights twinkling in the window, the industrial rock playing on the battered old boom box and, most of all, the scratch of the needle as it traced over his shoulder blade.

It hurt, but not in the way he’d been expecting. This was a good pain, not like the time he’d fallen while climbing a tree at the age of six and broken his wrist. That had been agony, and even though the fracture had long since healed, he still recalled how he’d yelled for his mom as he nursed his injured arm. Now, as the tattoo artist continued to work and the machine buzzed, endorphins kicked in and Rainn felt high, the way he did when he ran for miles through the woods surrounding the town.

Still, he couldn’t believe he’d agreed to this. When he and Trey met up, Rainn had expected their usual Friday night out. A couple of beers at O’Malley’s and then a good, hard, bedspring-rattling fuck in Trey’s apartment or Rainn’s bedroom in the home he shared with his mother. Even, if they couldn’t wait until they made it to either of those places, the back seat of Trey’s car. So, when Trey turned to him, blue eyes shining, and said, “I’ve got something special in mind for us. It’s my Christmas present to you,” he hadn’t known what to expect.

As they drove, Trey went on, “You know this is our six-month anniversary, right?”

Rainn nodded. He couldn’t believe the time had passed so quickly since the night he’d looked up from the pool table in the back room of O’Malley’s and seen the tall, dark-haired stranger standing in the doorway, clutching a bottle of Sam Adams. When their eyes met, Rainn had felt an instant connection. He knew it sounded crazy to talk about love at first sight—that didn’t exist outside those soppy Hallmark movies his mom watched—but even then, he’d known this guy was the one.

He hadn’t bothered to finish his game of pool. He’d stuck his cue back in the rack on the wall, walked over to the stranger, and said, “I’ve not seen you in here before.” Not much of a pickup line, but it had worked. Five minutes later, he and Trey had been sitting at one of the bar’s rickety tables, talking and laughing like they’d known each other all their short lives. They’d had their first kiss on the way out to Trey’s cherry-red Nova. They hadn’t stopped kissing, or laughing, since.

“So, you’re taking me for dinner at that fancy French place on Cooper Street?” Rainn asked, pondering the nature of Trey’s surprise. “Or maybe you’ve booked us into that swanky B and B over in Winchester, the one where they bring you breakfast in bed in the morning?”

Trey snorted. “On my wages? You know I’d love to, Rainn, but even with the overtime I’m putting in right now—” Trey had a job in the canning plant on the road out to Winchester, stacking boxes in the delivery warehouse. Hard work had given him a physique Rainn never tired of admiring, with firm biceps and a flat, well-toned belly, but it didn’t pay anywhere near well enough for expensive treats.

“It’s okay, I’m only teasing,” Rainn assured him. “As long as I have you, I’d be happy with a ham and swiss on rye at Dottie’s diner and a night camping out under the stars.”

“Well, it’s the wrong time of year for sleeping under canvas,” Trey pointed out. “There’s snow on the ground, or hadn’t you noticed?”

“When you’re around, I can’t pay attention to anything else but you. So, come on, what’s the surprise?”

“Another minute and we’ll be there. Oh great, looks like there’s a parking spot right outside…” Trey flashed his turn signal and brought the car to a halt.

The part of Prospect they were in had seen better times. Many of the stores on this stretch of Main Street had signs on the windows advertising clearance sales or, in the case of what had been a video rental place, had gone out of business altogether. At first, Rainn couldn’t understand why Trey would bring him here. Was he trying to score drugs for the two of them, or get them both robbed? Then Rainn registered the name on the storefront where they’d parked—Hellheart Ink—and the vivid designs etched on the plate glass window.

“This…is a tattoo parlor.”

“Well, ten out of ten for the deduction work, Sherlock.” Trey grinned and pushed a stray lock of black hair out of his eyes. “Come on. Our appointment’s for seven o’clock sharp, and Hunter doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”

“You booked us…” Rainn sat, trying to process what Trey had said. Hadn’t he once told Trey he hated the fad for tattoos? All those Chinese characters that didn’t mean what their wearer thought they did, and those cheap-looking tramp stamps so many girls had inked just above the crack of their ass… There’s making a bad decision, and then there’s making one that’s bad and permanent. No thank you. “I don’t want to go ahead with this.”

“I know what you said, Rainn, but Hunter’s an artist. And I’ve asked him for a design that means something to us. Something to show how strong the bond between us really is.” Trey placed his hand on Rainn’s and gave his fingers a gentle squeeze. “A good tattoo doesn’t fade, and neither will my love for you.”

Coming from anyone else, the line would have made Rainn throw up in his mouth a little, but he knew Trey to be sincere. “So, this design…”

“We’ll talk about it inside. Hey, you trust me, don’t you?” Trey got out of the car before Rainn could make any other objections. Sighing, and still unsure he was doing the right thing, Rainn unbuckled his seat belt before following Trey inside the store.

Hellheart Ink was brightly lit, with a couch running along one wall where clients could wait for their appointments, and posters showing all manner of tattoo designs, from well-known cartoon characters to elaborate Celtic knots. Rainn tried his best to ignore the faint antiseptic smell of the room and the anxiety churning in his gut.

You trust me, don’t you? Of course, he did. What he and Trey had was special, and he knew his lover wouldn’t do anything to hurt him or make any decision on his behalf that might have unpleasant consequences.

“Hey, how can I help you?” The short, shaven-headed man who greeted them was a walking billboard for his own services. He wore a black tank top that revealed both his arms were tattooed all the way to his shoulders, and his left earlobe was stretched by a silver tunnel piercing. “I’m Hunter.”

“Trey. And this is Rainn.” Trey gestured to Rainn, who uttered a quiet hello. “We have an appointment for seven o’clock.”

“Sure, come through.” As Hunter led them deeper into the shop, Rainn wondered if there was time to change their minds. Does Trey really want to go through with this? Do I?

The back room of the shop contained an industrial black tattooing chair, designed to allow the person being inked to sit in comfort while giving Hunter access to all parts of their body, and padded bench seating along one wall. Trey and Rainn sat, while Hunter picked up a ring binder and set it on the bench beside Trey.

“Before we go any further,” Hunter said, “I need to make sure neither of you is under the influence of drink or drugs right now. If you are, then I’m sorry but, legally, I can’t tattoo you.”

“No, we’re both good,” Trey assured him.

“Great, well, why don’t you take a look through the designs and find something you like?”

“Oh, I already know what we want,” Trey said, surprising Rainn even further. “This one here.” He had flipped through the pages of the binder, and now he pointed to a stylized image of a Chinese dragon in solid black, with long, sinuous curves and a burst of flame issuing from its snout.

“Good choice,” Hunter commented.

Why a dragon? Rainn wanted to ask, but Trey was already outlining the reasons for his choice. “Yeah, I like it because it’s simple but it’s classy, you know? And I read somewhere the dragon is supposed to be the Chinese symbol of good luck and prosperity—and we could all do with a bit of that, right?” He winked at Rainn. “But most important, Rainn and I were both born in 1988, which is the year of the dragon.”

“Is that right?” Rainn had never paid the least attention to horoscopes or fortune-telling or any of that mumbo jumbo. Basing your life around something that might happen simply because you’d been born on a certain day of the year didn’t make any sense to him.

Trey nodded. “And I wanted something special to both of us. To show we have a bond that can’t be broken.”

“Okay, so now we’ve decided on the design, which one of you is going first?” Hunter asked.

“I will.” Rainn hadn’t realized he’d spoken until the words were out. He hadn’t intended on volunteering, but deep down he must have wanted to get this over with.

“Right, if you want to get in the chair and make yourself comfortable.” Hunter started looking through his stencils to find the one he needed; then he turned back to Rainn. “Wait, where did you say you wanted the tattoo again?”

“I didn’t.” Before Trey could make the decision for him, Rainn said, “On my shoulder blade.” That way, if he had any regrets, the tattoo wouldn’t be somewhere he could see it unless he looked in the mirror. More importantly, it wouldn’t alert other people to how foolish he’d been to let Trey talk him into this.

“Sure. And the same for you?” Hunter looked over at Trey.

“Yeah.” Trey smiled at Rainn as he spoke. “Exactly the same.”

Rainn had stripped off his shirt and sat in the chair so that his back faced outward.

“Right, the first thing I’m going to do is clean the area…”

He caught a faint smell of rubbing alcohol before Hunter wiped the skin he was about to tattoo. Then the stencil was applied to his shoulder. Rainn took deep, slow breaths, doing his best to center himself. This would only hurt more if he was tense.

Hunter set rock music playing, the beat heavy and insistent. It did nothing to drown out the high-pitched buzz of the tattoo machine somewhere near Rainn’s ear.

“I’m not going to tell you this isn’t going to hurt,” Hunter said, “but if it gets too much for you at any point, I want you to be sure and let me know.”

The needle bit into his skin, and Rainn swallowed a curse. For a moment, heat flared in his nerve endings, but then it died away, only for the sensation to be repeated a split second later. At first, he didn’t know how he would endure this. Then the pain ebbed and sweetened, and he realized everything was going to be fine. Trey wouldn’t make him face something he couldn’t handle. Like he’d said when they’d walked in, this was all about trust.

Tears pricked Rainn’s eyes, and he swiped them away, hoping Trey hadn’t noticed.

“You okay there, buddy?” Hunter asked, concern clear in his tone. His voice sounded like it came from a long way away. Rainn supposed it wasn’t unusual for people to cry on the tattoo table, but it wasn’t pain making him emotional. It was love for Trey, pure and simple.

“I’m fine,” he muttered and closed his eyes.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Coldwell is a multi-published author and the former editor of the UK edition of Forum magazine, where she was responsible for publishing a number of now very well-known authors for the first time, as well as honing her own writing.

She lives in East London, is a season ticket holder at Rotherham United, and a keen cook. Her recipe for peanut butter brownies is available if you ask nicely… Learn more on Elizabeth’s Website.

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