In the Holiday Spotlight: A Christmas Kiss by Annabelle Jacobs (giveaway)

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A Christmas Kiss – Annabelle Jacobs

Author: Annabelle Jacobs
 
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh
 
Release Date: November 18 
 
Length: 38,000 words
 
 
Blurb

Keeping secrets from your best friend isn’t right, but it’s easier than admitting you’ve fallen in love with him.

Sharing a late-night kiss with his best friend, Alex, is Riley’s dream come true. Waking up to discover Alex was too drunk to remember anything is more like a nightmare. Scared the truth could destroy their friendship, Riley keeps quiet and pretends nothing happened.

Alex can’t shake the feeling that he said or did something stupid on their group’s drunken weekend away—why else would Riley be avoiding him? Although the explanation he finally gets sounds plausible, Riley’s still acting strange, and trying to figure out why that is unearths emotions Alex has worked hard to bury.

Riley knows not telling Alex how he feels is probably selfish, but he wants one last normal Christmas before he has to come clean and face the potential fallout.

He should have known it wouldn’t be that easy.


 

 

Author Bio

Annabelle Jacobs lives in the South West of England with three rowdy children, and two cats. An avid reader of fantasy herself for many years, Annabelle now spends her days writing her own stories. They’re usually either fantasy or paranormal fiction, because she loves building worlds filled with magical creatures, and creating stories full of action and adventure. Her characters may have a tough time of it—fighting enemies and adversity—but they always find love in the end.

 
Twitter ñ https://twitter.com/AJacobs_fiction
Website ñ www.annabellejacobs.com
Email ñ ajacobsfiction@gmail.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ajacobsfiction

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Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway: Glass Tidings (2016 Holiday Charity Bundle) by Amy Jo Cousins

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Glass Tidings (2016 Holiday Charity Bundle) by Amy Jo Cousins
R
iptide Publishing
Cover art by L.C. Chase

Read an Excerpt/Buy It Here

About Glass Tidings

Eddie Rodrigues doesn’t stay in one place long enough to get attached. The only time he broke that rule, things went south fast. Now he’s on the road again, with barely enough cash in his pocket to hop a bus to Texas after his (sort-of-stolen) car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Midwest, USA.

He’s fine. He’ll manage. Until he watches that girl get hit by a car and left to die.

Local shop owner Grayson Croft isn’t in the habit of doing people any favors. But even a recluse can’t avoid everyone in a town as small as Clear Lake. And when the cop who played Juliet to your Romeo in the high school play asks you to put up her key witness for the night, you say yes.

Now Gray’s got a grouchy glass artist stomping around his big, empty house, and it turns out that he . . . maybe . . . kind of . . . likes the company.

But Eddie Rodrigues never sticks around.

Unless a Christmas shop owner who hates the season can show an orphan what it means to have family for the holidays.

Available from Riptide Publishing. http://riptidepublishing.com/titles/glass-tidings

About Amy Jo Cousins

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series.

Connect with Amy Jo:

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Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Glass Tidings, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on December 10, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

An Alisa Review: The Perfect Bite by J.D. Walker

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

the-perfect-biteGabe Villagran has been an outcast since birth. The large purple birthmark on the right side of his face has ostracized him from family and community, leaving him with little self-esteem. So, imagine his delight when, at the age of eighteen, vampires come out to the world. Finally, he’s not the only freak of nature around.

 

Five years after leaving home, Gabe meets Pierre Sangre outside his gay vampire club quite by chance. Meaning, he rescues Gabe from becoming vampire food. A vampire himself, Pierre sees something in the young man before him, and wants to keep him close. Pierre hires Gabe as a sort of boy Friday at the club and Gabe, grateful to his savior, accepts and falls irrevocably in love.

 

For ten years, both men dance around their attraction to each other until a night of misunderstandings clears things up. All it takes is the perfect bite.

 

This was such a sweet story.  Gabe has always been an outcast first in his hometown and now as the only human employee at a gay vampire club.  Pierre has been watching Gabe since he saved him ten years earlier, but never had the courage to actually pursue him.

 

Gabe doesn’t feel he is worthy of anything, let alone the love of Pierre, he is determined to keep it to himself.  Pierre has finally let go of his love that had died centuries before, but needed to figure out the best way to approach Gabe.  Gabe was so innocent, even though he worked at a gay club for years he has no experience himself and quickly misinterpreted many of the signs he is given, almost causing his own heartbreak.  When Pierre shows him he is worthy they connect perfectly.

 

The cover art is great and eye catching.

 

Sales Links: JMS Books | Amazon | ARe

 

Book Details:

ebook, 36 pages

Published: March 31, 2016 by JMS Books

ISBN: 9781634860925

Edition Language: English

An Alisa Advent Calendar Day 6 Review: Matthew’s Present (2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug) by Sarah Hadley Brook

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

 

matthews-presentMatthew Blick is almost thirty years old, and he hates the thought of another holiday alone. He has become a bit of a wet blanket when Christmas rolls around every year. So much so that even his five-year-old niece, Hannah, knows something needs to change. She asks the department store Santa to bring her uncle a man to love, and when Santa sees her uncle, he formulates a plan to set that possibility in motion.

 

Santa shows up at Matthew’s house and at first Matthew can’t place him, but then the memories of his first kiss flood his mind and he is shocked to find that Santa is the man he has carried a torch for since high school. Will this twist of fate help Matthew change his view on the holidays? Only a kiss can tell.

 

This was such a sweet story.  Matthew was hurt badly by his college boyfriend and since he hasn’t felt the Christmas spirit since.  He can’t help but keep thinking of Santa from the store and how much his eyes called to him.

 

These characters are so sweet, both having thought about the other for years without being able to find out who the other was.  Them unexpectedly meeting like this is really one of those meant to be things and gives them both a chance for the love they have always wanted.  This is one of those stories that has a nice HFN ending, but it would have been great to see a glimpse of their future.

Cover art by Paul Richmond is the collection cover, still wonderful.

Sales Links

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Book Details:

ebook, 23 pages
Published December 1st 2016 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635331684 (ISBN13: 9781635331684)
Edition LanguageEnglish

Series2016 Advent Calendar – Bah Humbug

A Stella Review: Heartifact by Aisling Mancy

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

heartifact-by-aislang-mancyHarper Kidd is a highly respected marine archeologist. Yet, with the economy in a slump, he’s trapped working in an oil company’s exploration division. Now, at the ripe age of thirty, Harp is disgusted with his employer’s damage to the undersea world he loves, tired of his ATM-card-filching ex, and tormented by beautiful dreams of an undersea lover. It’s time for a change and when his best friend, Stick, pleads with him to assist on a deep-sea dig in the Mediterranean, he jumps at the chance.

Harper’s sprits are high when they discover the ruins of an ancient civilization, and soar to the heavens when they discover a statue of an ancient pelora, a mysterious hybrid creature said to mediate between the worlds of reality and fantasy—and the very lover who holds the starring role in his dreams.

When the crew discovers the site is teeming with unexploded ordnance from the conflicts in the Middle East, and the excavation turns deadly, Harper must choose between saving his best friend and the pelora he’s fallen in love with.

The net proceeds from this book benefit The Trevor Project in the US, le Refuge in France, and Arcigay in Italy.

Once in a while, stories like this one, dreamy, mystical, unreal, are exactly what I need. The union of a really well done writing and an intriguing plot made Heartifact really interesting. Till the end I had no idea how the author could give Harper an HEA but Aisling did really great. A wonderful ending full of wonder and so cute. I liked Heartifact a lot, there wasn’t a moment of pause in the research and divings, there was some action that kept me on the edge and some too hot sex scenes which increased my delight. The details of the expedition were never boring and the pairing of the sea, which I deeply fear, and the archeology, which I adore, was a winner from the start.

I have to say I wouldn’t say no to a sequel, to see how Harper and Dion will be together on a more realistic setting

Don’t forget, the proceeds from this book will be donated to charities, one more reason to give it a chance.

The cover art by Timmy Ashton is simply not a favorite of mine, I would have preferred something more eye catching.

Sales Links

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BOOK DETAILS

Kindle Edition, 88 pages

Published November 24th 2016 by Men over the Rainbow (first published October 13th 2016)

ASIN B01N0BHXXV

Edition Language English

A MelanieM Release Day Review: Wrapped Together (Portland Heat #5) by Annabeth Albert

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Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

wrapped-together-by-annabeth-albertIn the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected .

Annabeth Albert swings her wonderful Portland Heat  series into the holiday  season with Wrapped Together, a joyful mix of twins, seasonal angst and hot sexy romance with a kink!

It all starts with the mournful Hollis of course.  A twin himself, unlike his sister with her family to anchor her, he finds himself unable to move forward after the death of their parents.  All Christmas does is remind him of his loss and its quietly had devastating effects on what little social life he had.  Now there’s none.   Albert does a beautiful job of painting the portrait of this grieving man with his spare elegant shop of pens and stationary.  Then the boisterous Sawyer Murphy comes bounding in with all the enthusiasm of a golden retriever and I could see him just as clear as he deliberately barges into Hollis’ isolation.

While you might want to peg this as a enemies to lovers, its not quite that simple (it never is in an Annabeth Albert story).  These two men and their siblings have long been intertwined and remain so to the present day as Sawyer’s twin brother is married to Hollis’ twin sister.  Oh  what a marvelous tangle Albert has to unwrap here.

Of course its not just the pain of the deaths of the Alcott twins parents, but much more to take into account.  There’s a holiday bet, holiday store windows and a gradual emotional thawing that hits so close to the heart that you will find yourself clutching the Kindle or whatever device tight in happiness.

The sex scenes are hot, a cat who answers to the name Bunny to Hollis’ consternation and so much more.  Its a jam packed literary stocking just for all lovers of contemporary romance, fans of the Portland Heat series and Annabeth Albert, all rolled into one.

Do I recommend it?  Absolutely.  I love this series and wish I was sitting in the Peoples Cup getting ready to wander the streets of Portland looking at the  store fronts and gazing at the window displays.  Tis the season for holiday stories!  Put this into your holiday reading pile as soon as possible!

Cover art is an absolute delight.

Sales Links

Kensington Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

 

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 112 pages
Expected publication: December 6th 2016 by Lyrical Shine
Original TitleWrapped Together
ASINB01CWYTJUS
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series: Portland Heat #5

In Our Author Spotlight: Julia Talbot on Catching Heir (Dreamspinner Press guest blog and author interview)

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Catching Heir  by Julia Talbot
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Art by Bree Archer

Buy Links

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Julia Talbot here today to answer some of our author questions and talk about her release Catching Heir, one of Dreamspinner Press’ Dreamspun Desire titles, a favorite here at STRW.  Welcome, Julia!

~

Hey y’all! My name is Julia Talbot, and I’m here today because of my first Dreamspun Desire, Catching Heir! It’s a missing heir tale of a professional snowboarder who inherits an old hotel in Colorado, and falls for the geeky hotel manager.

  • Where do you normally draw your inspiration for a book from?  A memory, a myth, a place or journey, or something far more personal?

I usually start with a what if! What if there was this guy, or girl, and what if they wanted to find a jewel or a lover or a big cat? Then I go for the characters and the plot. Or I start with a title. What if a missing heir trope story was called Catching Heir because catching air is a snowboard term and the snowboarder inherits an old hotel?

  • Are you a planner or a pantzer when writing a story? And why?

Oh, I used to be a pantzer. Then my wife found me kind of fiction equivalent of the five paragraph essay that worked so well for me in non-fiction academic writing. I can do discipline if you make it a game. Like Weight Watchers, right? So now I plot using, not a formula, but I sort of gant chart. It helps me make sure there’s at least some conflict, which I suck at.

  • If you had a character you’ve written you would write differently now at this time in your writing career, who would it be and why?

One of my very favorite books I’ve ever written, one of the characters has a terrible break up mid series. So many people loved the SO he broke up with, that if I had to do it again, I would start his story when he broke up, rather than letting people get to know the other guy.

  • If you were to be stranded on a small demi-planet, island, or god forbid LaGuardia in a snow storm, what books would you take to read or authors on your comfort list?

My Kindle is stocked for this now. Funny story, a snowstorm did strand me in Newark once, and I had to buy a Stephen King novel at the hotel. Now I carry a Kindle in my carry on with Sean Michael, BA Tortuga, Andrew Grey, Samantha Kane, and Joey W Hill stocked on it. Oh, and Stephen King.

  • How early in your life did you begin writing?

When I was seven I wrote a story for my grandma about powering the whole world with popcorn.

  • Were you an early reader or were you read to and what childhood books had an impact on you as a child that you remember to this day and why?

I was an early reader, but I moved the summer between first grade and second, and went from a progressive school to a very conservative, religious area in North Carolina. They were still reading Dick and Jane, and I checked out for almost a year, stubbornly refusing to read. A book called Meg of Williamsburg, a mystery story much like Nancy Drew, but with a younger, hipper protagonist, drew me back in. I have a copy of it in my office. I love mysteries to this day because of it, and it got me reading for fun again.

Thanks so much for having me, and I hope y’all love Catching Heir!

XXOO

Julia

About Catching Heir

Is he in love with an old hotel—or its new owner?

Professional snowboarder Cullen Patrick is successful and kinda famous. So when he inherits an old Colorado hotel from an unknown relative, he really should leave well enough alone.

Matt Nathanson has been managing the Treeline Estates since college. He loved the elderly former owner, and he stands to inherit the place if no one claims it in the next week. Of course, Cullen shows up, and Matt thinks it’s time to move on. He doesn’t want to like Cullen, no matter how engaging the guy is, or how hunky.

Cullen has grand ideas for the Treeline, but he doesn’t want to implement them without Matt, and he’s not sure he’s ready to give up snowboarding. Can Matt convince Cullen that putting down roots is worth it… and maybe catch his heir at the same time?

About the Author

Julia Talbot lives in the great Southwest, where there is hot and cold running rodeo, cowboys, and everything from meat and potatoes to the best Tex-Mex. A full time author, Julia has been published by Samhain Publishing, Dreamspinner Press, and Changeling Press. She believes that everyone deserves a happy ending, so she writes about love without limits, where boys love boys, girls love girls, and boys and girls get together to get wild, especially when her crazy paranormal characters are involved. Find Julia at @juliatalbot on Twitter, or at http://www.juliatalbot.com

Its Release Day for Wrapped Together by Annabeth Albert, Another in her Portland Heat series (giveaway)

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Title: Wrapped Together

Series: Portland Heat #5

Author: Annabeth Albert

Publisher: Kensington Books

Release Date: December 6

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 35,000 words

Genre: Romance, contemporary, friends-to-lovers

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Synopsis

In the bustling restaurants, shops, and cafés of Portland, Oregon, things really heat up for the hard-working men behind the scenes when the holidays come into town . . .

For a stationery store owner, the holidays are great for business. But for Hollis Alcott, Christmas reminds him of the tragic events of three years past, and the last thing he wants to do is take part in Portland’s over-abundance of festive cheer. But Sawyer Murphy, a hunky gift shop owner whose brother is married to Hollis’s sister, has made it his mission to pluck Hollis out of his holiday blues. And his plan is beginning to work. Wrapped in the warm glow of newfound passion, the former business rivals hit up Portland’s finest holiday traditions—and Hollis’s icy attitude begins to melt like snowflakes on his tongue. But he isn’t sure he can trust anyone with the only gift he has—his heart—without breaking it like an antique ornament. Unless he can find the courage to take a leap with the one lover he never expected . . .

Excerpt

This excerpt comes from chapter one of WRAPPED TOGETHER, when Hollis and his long-time frenemy Sawyer engage in a friendly bet sure to put their holiday cheer to the test!

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I took a sip of my now tepid, almost-gone tea. Ugh. The good barista was on duty, the one who went with Ev from the knitting store and who always happily made my tea with the same care he did the fancy coffee drinks. I left the group, happy to have the excuse of needing a refill, but as I stood in line, Mary Anne joined me.

“Hollis Alcott, we almost never see you at these things!” Her voice seemed to ring out above the din. “Will you be participating in the contest this year?”

“I doubt it. My fall display is already set.” I tried not to sound too dour—she always had the best houseplants and had custom-ordered the rare fern I’d wanted.

“Ah, well, that’s too bad. You let me know if you change your mind. I’d be happy to lend you some poinsettias or other decor. I know you could do a splendid, tasteful window.”

It was my turn to order, so I gave her a smile as a reply before handing Brady my stainless-steel tumbler for tea and ordering a scone to go. I had to wait down at the other end of the bar for my order, and as I was waiting, Sawyer came loping over, a smile on his boyish face. His wide shoulders stretched the hoodie in distracting ways.

“Hollis! Did I hear you say you’re not decorating?”

“You did.”

He frowned. “I know how much you hate the holidays, but I bet you’d get an uptick in sales if you decorated. I heard Mary Anne offer to help. I could, too. I’ve got gobs of lights.”

“Thank you but no.” Truth be told, I could use the increase in sales, but it wasn’t enough of a motivator to get me ready for the onslaught of red and green.

Sawyer’s head tilted, considering. Oh no. I knew that look too well. A Sawyer who was scheming was downright dangerous. “We should bet, you and I.”

“No,” I said firmly. I stepped away from the coffee bar to let Mary Anne and others wait for their orders, but Sawyer kept step with me, effectively pinning me in between two tables on my path to the door. I sighed and repeated my objection. “No. The last time we bet, I believe you cracked a wrist.”

Sawyer waved a hand, dismissing my concern. “We were fifteen. We’ve had other bets since then.”

We had, but there was one in particular I was determined not to remember right at that moment. This was the peril of having known someone for almost two decades. “How precisely would one even bet on this?”

I let my inner musings escape before I could rein them in, and Sawyer smiled. He knew he had me. Whatever nervousness and shyness captured my tongue around large groups did not, unfortunately, extend to Sawyer. “Well, I was thinking whichever of us makes it into the top three is the winner of our bet, and then the loser has to do whatever the winner wants for an evening.”

Oh, I did not like this. “Anything?”

“That wasn’t a no.” Sawyer’s grin showed the sort of charm that made him so darn popular. “And I wasn’t thinking of something kinky. Trust me here, Hols.”

“Don’t call me that.” And I most certainly did not trust him. I was pretty sure the always-affable Sawyer didn’t have a kinky bone in his body, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t up to something. “But I could get you to do any task of my choosing?”

See, the thing about me that Sawyer knew was that I have a very hard time resisting a bet. Always have, hence the aforementioned bet freshman year of high school about jumping over auditorium seats during drama class. I’m also notoriously cheap. And as it turned out, I did have a job for him.

He nodded. “Anything.”

“I have a bathroom I want painted at my store. Including the trim.”

Sawyer, to his credit, didn’t look remotely pained. “That’s fine. I’m good at painting.”

“And you? What would you want?” I had no idea why I was asking. I certainly wasn’t planning on agreeing to this ridiculous plan.

“A surprise.” He winked at me.

“I don’t like those.”

“I know. Which is why you need one. But if it makes you feel better, I’ll specify no sex or nudity involved.” Sawyer had mercifully dropped his deep, clear voice to softer tones. I still bristled at the thought of anyone overhearing this.

“Or humiliation, public or otherwise.”

“Oh, Hollis, you know me better than that.” He held up his hands. They were big, capable hands, and I had to blink to get my eyes to look away. “Now, come on. I dare you. Bet me.”

Purchase

Kensington Books | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

 

Wrapped Together Teaser 1

Meet the Author

Annabeth Albert grew up sneaking romance novels under the bed covers. Now, she devours all subgenres of romance out in the open— no flashlights required! When she’s not adding to her keeper shelf, she’s a multi-published Pacific Northwest romance writer.

Emotionally complex, sexy, and funny stories are her favorites both to read and to write. Annabeth loves finding happy endings for a variety of pairings and is a passionate gay rights supporter. In between searching out dark heroes to redeem, she works a rewarding day job and wrangles two children.
Represented by Saritza Hernandez of the Corvisiero Literary Agency

Website | Facebook | Twitter |
Goodreads
| Facebook Group | Annabeth’s Mailing List

Giveaway

One lucky winner will win a $20.00 Amazon Gift Card!

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Victoria Sue on Writing Paranormal and ‘Five Minutes Longer’ (Dreamspinner Press Author Guest Blog, excerpt and giveaway)

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Five Minutes Longer by Victoria Sue
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reamspinner Press
Cover Artist: AngstyG

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Victoria Sue (Sirius Wolves series, Pure series) here today to talk about writing and her latest release, Five Minutes Longer.  Welcome, Victoria!

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“I tried to write a contemporary but it grew four legs and a tail.”

Victoria Sue.

I didn’t get the idea for Five Minutes Longer and then write the characters. I started out with Finlay Mayer and wrote him a story.

All about Finn and making him a hero or why a B-average student gets a job with the FBI.

Finlay “Finn” Mayer is 24 years old. He comes from a small town and at fourteen his dyslexia is quickly turning him off school. He’d already started missing days. Homework deadlines fell by the wayside and his excuses were a bigger work of fiction than the stories he’d been asked to write in the first place.

The senior college uptake rate at his high school is abysmal and the graduation levels weren’t all that impressive so the new principal arranges for people with “cool” jobs to come in and talk to the Freshman year. A bored – well on his way to a life of crime –14-year-old Finn walks into the school hall to listen to two FBI agents come to talk about their careers. He walks out a different person. His dream of joining the FBI starts at that moment and he starts his ten-year-long battle to make it happen.

His dad had come home from the Vietnam war in a wheelchair and battled depression every single day.

His mom was only ever concerned with appearances. Her hair. Her nails. Her committees.

His brother Deke – 37 years – lazy. Homophobic and convinced that Finn needs to forget his insane idea of going to college and come and work for him in his insurance business.

For personal reasons Dyslexia and its challenges are important to me so it was something Finn was going to have. It’s quite common for bright kids to only start struggling in middle school or above, and Finn has two huge obstacles to his dreams by this time. He knows that less than 7% of applicants actually get chosen for the FBI and a lot of forums say that number is actually much lower. He is convinced a diagnosis of dyslexia would make his tiny chance completely disappear so he keeps under the teacher’s radar. Assignments are always diligently carried out. Never a missed deadline. Never a missed class.

It’s just his test scores that are crap, and nothing he ever does will bring his averaged out grades any higher.

By fifteen he knows he is gay. He has also read that while the FBI don’t actually discriminate against it, apparently it’s something people might get blackmailed over, so Finn buries that as well. He even takes a girl to prom.

Then we have the FBI interview and selection process.

After the four-year college degree and a minimum age of twenty-three for applicants there are only five areas of experience/expertise that the FBI take from.

Language, Law, Accounting, Computer Science, or a mix of them.

Back to the undiagnosed dyslexia – computer science, Law and languages were huge obstacles. I originally had Finn’s brother a deputy sheriff and him joining him, but then I decided that was too convenient and the Finn that I now knew wouldn’t do that.

Dyslexia and being clever with numbers aren’t mutually exclusive, and are often quite common. Different sides of the brain tackle these two areas, so I make Finn clever because Dyslexia isn’t a synonym for stupid – often the reverse, and Finn becomes good at Math. His four-year degree and experience qualify him for the FBI.

So, my shy lovable geek gets his dream job in a very roundabout way – and why not?

The excerpt below is on Finn’s first day:

Gregory nodded and turned off the screen. “To summarize, you’ve all met Finn. We have four weeks to prove this can work. I expect your cooperation and your assistance, but that starts tomorrow. Finn has some short profile tests to sit this morning, and later you will all be in the gym.” Gregory smiled and walked out as a few of the others got up. One or two murmured something pleasant to Finn, but he didn’t hear a word of anything after the word “test.”

His heart pounded, and his earlier breakfast suddenly threatened to make an appearance. Fuck. What if he messed up? How important was this test? Was it written, or maybe physical? He swallowed.

“S’up, kid?” Talon stood, frowning at him.

Finn licked his lips. “What, umm, sort of test is it?”

Talon shrugged. “Basic behavioral insight, so they can see what you might spot automatically. Or more importantly what assumptions you have that you have to unlearn fast.” He looked assessingly at Finn. “It’s no big deal. I think you just read the questions and pick an answer. It’s timed, but it’s not like you get graded or anything.”

Finn felt sick. It was timed. He’d expected there to be tests at Quantico, but not on his first day, and not when every single person on his team wanted him to fail.

“You okay, kid?”

Finn looked up at Talon, who was looking puzzled, and gulped. He needed to calm down. “Yeah.”

“Good. Come on. Let’s get this over with, then.” Talon led him into yet another room and gestured to a chair next to a desk.

Finn could already feel his palms sweating and his heart pounding, and he tried to breathe slowly. He’d done all sorts of breathing exercises to prepare for his SATs and at one of his interviews. He knew to start with the questions that had the most marks attached. When he was younger, he made the mistake of always starting at the beginning, and because it took him longer to read the questions, he always ran out of time. It just seemed harder now that he knew the stakes and knew everyone wanted him to fail.

Talon didn’t seem to notice his anxiety, however, and picked up a folder from the table and dropped it on the desk. “There’s actually no right or wrong answers. We just need to get a feel for your thought process. So we know your starting point. Don’t forget we’re condensing eight hundred hours of training into four weeks.” Talon shrugged. “Some of the things I may ask you to do will seem difficult to understand.”

Finn looked blankly at the folder. Of course there were right and wrong answers. Even he wasn’t stupid enough to believe this wasn’t something else he could fail at.

Talon sat back down and rubbed his face, trying not to hiss when he caught his lip. He didn’t know how he felt, and it was confusing the hell out of him. He was always convinced having enhanced and regular humans working together wasn’t a good idea. The basic tenet of his team was trust. Knowing each of his guys had his back and wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger to save his life. His first trainee didn’t even make it through the test Finn was currently looking at. Fifteen questions, all designed to see if the trainee would fail to respond as quickly if the victim was regular or enhanced, and not just that straightforward. Sometimes candidates would try to go the other way, be too preferential for enhanced to try to win favors.

That scenario didn’t cut it with any of his team either. None of the questions used the words “regular” or “enhanced.” The clues were more subtle, and someone a lot cleverer than Talon had put the questions together. He glanced at the clock. Twenty minutes for the first round of ten questions. Five pretty simple ones, and five that required a little more thought. Then there were some basic math problems as well.

He stood and wandered over to where Finn was sitting, then stopped in surprise. Finn was looking at the last page. Had he finished it already? Talon narrowed his eyes as he looked at Finn. His hand shook as he turned a page, and Finn hadn’t so much as picked up his pen. What was it? Nerves? Was that the reason Finn hadn’t done so well on his exams in college?

Talon absently filed the thought away. It wasn’t his business, and he wasn’t here to babysit someone he wanted out anyway. Served him right if he did fail the test. Talon leaned back against the wall and stared at the ceiling. He smiled a little as he remembered the vid with Finn’s voice declaring he was a federal agent. Even if he wanted him gone, he was happy to grudgingly admit the kid had balls.

Talon glanced over at Finn again and was suddenly struck by the mask of desperation on his face. What the fuck was wrong with him? He knew he could read. There was no way he would have gotten through high school without that, and Finn had a fucking degree. Talon blinked. He’d read the glowing reports from his tutors. Finn’s dedication. His single-mindedness, almost. What he told him in the café. Why would someone put himself through all that and not study his ass off 24-7 to make sure his grades were good?

Unless there was another reason.

Talon stood. “How are you getting on? Halfway through,” he added in case Finn just needed a kick up the ass to get started. He’d also seen some trainees overthink things to the point that it nearly paralyzed them. No decision because they were frightened of not making the right one. That was sometimes even worse. Being an agent meant split-second choices. Talon looked at the clock. Eight minutes left. Eight minutes and Finn would be gone, and they wouldn’t even need all the scenarios the team would put on for him this afternoon. Eight minutes and the brass might concede to what he’d been telling them for months—that the unit should be enhanced only.

He glanced over to see what Finn was writing and frowned. Absolutely nothing. Talon took a step and fisted his hands. Don’t fucking ask, Talon, he told himself sternly. Then the defiant voice of Finn challenging the bastards who attacked him yesterday came into his head, and he sighed. What the hell? He could ask, right?

Talon sat on the desk and picked up the paper. “Your pen not working, kid?”

Finn pushed himself upright. “I’ll go.” He lowered his eyes, but not before Talon saw the frustration and disgust darkening them. He looked at the question that had gotten Finn so worked up. It was a scenario that subtly lead the trainee to favor the enhanced over the human. Not because it was the right thing to do for the situation, but to weed out reverse favoritism.

Talon read the question out loud and lowered the paper. “Why are you having problems with that?”

Finn jutted his chin out. “I’m not,” he said, and he reeled off the best answer.

Talon narrowed his eyes. “Then why didn’t you put that down?”

Finn shrugged.

Talon took a breath as a thought filtered into his mind. “What about this one?” He read off the next question, and Finn answered it promptly and correctly. Talon nodded to the typed instruction fixed to the bottom of the portable scanner cart. “What does that say?”

Finn looked over, and a dull flush crept over his cheeks. “I can read,” he ground out.

“What does it say?” Talon repeated. “Count to ten in your head and then tell me.”

Finn blinked at him, puzzled.

“Take three deep breaths first,” Talon instructed.

Finn did as he was asked and then calmly read, “Please put the power cable away after use.”

Talon scowled. “Why the fuck did you not tell any of us you are dyslexic?”

Finn scowled. “I’m not.” He turned to the door.

Talon nodded. “Let me guess. You anticipate. You find some fonts much easier to read. That’s why your course work was so much better than your written tests.”

Finn stood still, feet planted, hands shoved in his pants pockets. He didn’t turn around.

“Text to speech? It’s an allowed resource,” Talon continued.

Finn turned slowly. “How—how do you know all that?”

Talon debated for about ten seconds. He didn’t share, ever. “Because my little brother’s dyslexic. And when I say little, I mean by one year. He’s currently a prosecutor in the Washington DA’s office. A successful prosecutor,” he added.

Talon picked up the test and started reading the questions. Finn rattled off most of the answers, and by the time they were halfway through the last section, he was writing his own.

“You’re actually better than Sam,” Talon said. “He wouldn’t be able to work out the last question even with his breathing techniques.”

Finn looked up, and Talon’s belly squeezed a little at his eagerness. “It only bothers me when I’m timed or under pressure most of the time now. Even then I can anticipate the simple stuff. We had an old computer in the library at college that had a darker screen than the rest. Everyone hated it, but it was the easiest one for me.”

Talon nodded. “It helped Sam if we overlaid the screen with a blue tint.” He sighed. “I don’t get how I missed your diagnosis, though. I read your file and….” Understanding slammed into Talon. “You’ve never been diagnosed, have you?” He shook his head. Of all the stupid, irresponsible….

Finn’s smile faded.

“You could easily have put your teammates’ lives at risk by not declaring this,” Talon ground out. It was incredibly selfish, and as far as Talon was concerned, the last nail in the coffin.

“I thought once I got into Quantico, I could find someone to talk to about it,” Finn mumbled, and Talon opened his mouth to rain down a world of hurt on Finn.

Then he stopped. Because the fact that Finn wasn’t at Quantico wasn’t his fault. He would have had twenty weeks to sort it out. It wasn’t Finn’s fault they only had four.

Fuck.

This was his excuse. This was exactly what he had wanted. The perfect reason to get rid of the regular human and push for a solo team of enhanced. Finn was handing him the reason on a plate.

Sam’s face swam into his head. How Talon found him in their tree house, crying his eyes out because some dick of a kid called him a retard because he couldn’t read when it was his turn at school. But Sam had their family behind him. He had a huge support network, and what did Finn have? His brother sounded like a complete lazy asshole. His mom, on the surface, not too bad, but at the same time, if she’d let Finn go through school without getting any help….

And his dad. His dad who came home from Vietnam in a wheelchair and finally blew his brains out. And Finn found him.

Talon grimaced. He’d give him a week.

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Blurb – Five Minutes Longer

Talon Valdez knew that when he transformed into an enhanced human, his life and his dreams were finished. Reviled, mistrusted, and often locked away, the enhanced are viewed as monsters, despised by the public, and never trusted to serve in the military or any law enforcement agency.

Years later he gets a chance to set up a task force of enhanced to serve in the FBI, but with one proviso: each enhanced must partner with a regular human.

Finn Mayer dreamed of joining the FBI since he was fourteen and made every possible sacrifice to make it happen, including living with his selfish mother and bullying homophobic brother and never having a boyfriend. But his undiagnosed dyslexia stopped his aspirations dead in their tracks. His last chance is to partner with Talon, an enhanced with fatal abilities who doesn’t trust regular humans with their secrets and wants Finn to fail.

Four weeks to prove himself to the team. Four weeks for the team to prove itself to the public. And when another group threatens their success—and their lives are at stake—four weeks for them to survive.

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About the Author

Victoria Sue

Wrote her first book on a dare from her hubby two years ago and he says he has regretted it every day since. Loves writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best, and especially with either a paranormal or a historical twist. Had a try at writing contemporary but failed spectacularly when it grew four legs and a tail. Loves her wolves!

Is an English northern lass but is currently serving twenty to life in Florida – unfortunately, she spends more time chained at her computer than on a beach.

Loves to hear from her readers and can be found most days lurking on facebook.

www.victoriasue.com

@vickysuewrites

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Giveaway

Victoria Sue is giving away one ebook from her backlist to one lucky reader.  Please leave a comment below along with your email address where you can be contacted if you are chosen by Victoria.  Giveaway ends at midnight, November 30th.  Must be 18 years of age or older to enter.

Blog Tour & Kindle Giveaway – Operation Better Tomorrow by Brandi Evans

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Title: Operation Better Tomorrow

Author: Brandi Evans

Release Date: November 29th 2016

Publisher: Loose ID

Genre: MM Romance

BLURB

The interview of a lifetime.

When Aaron Strickland’s assigned to write a feature article on Caleb Douglas, the first openly gay soldier to receive the Medal of Honor, he’s over-the-moon. Meet a sexy, real-life hero? Yes, please. And in the weeks leading up to their interview, the former soldier becomes a recurring player in Aaron’s fantasies.

A man Caleb can’t forget.

Years earlier, lost in the throes of depression and PTSD after an ambush left his body and soul scarred, Caleb was on the brink of giving up when a magazine article changed his life forever—an article written by Aaron. Emerging from the depths of his pain, Operation Better Tomorrow—part homestead, part halfway house for those down on their luck—was born.

Tragedy lurking on the horizon.

As the days pass, Caleb and Aaron’s tragic pasts bind them in ways they aren’t prepared for, but it also leaves them vulnerable. Pushing forward means breaking down walls they’ve built to protect themselves, and just as they’re poised on the precipice of happiness, a darkness descends on the homestead, a hatred that will leave one man clinging to life and the other willing to risk everything to save him.

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Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N1MHFEB/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_7UKpybWN1WY55

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iBooks: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/operation-better-tomorrow/id1181197629?mt=11

Watch the Operation Better Tomorrow Book Trailer

EXCERPT

Resisting the urge to follow Aaron, Caleb unlatched the wicker picnic basket from the left saddlebag, grabbed the thick blanket from the right, and traipsed deep into the waist-high colors. Blues, purples, and yellows dotted the greenery and swayed in the late-summer breeze. The meadow smelled sweet and made him think of peace and tranquility. The area, along with Aaron’s article and daily meditation, were the best anti-depressants Caleb had ever had.

He set the basket and Aaron’s bag down and unfolded the blanket. Considering the height and density of the flowers, laying out the cloth was an exercise in frustration management. A step-and-tug here, an expletive or twelve there, he inched the material down until he created a makeshift hideaway.

Before taking his seat and disappearing into the overgrowth, he glanced around until he found Aaron. The other man was zoomed in on a yellow bud, and Caleb smiled. He liked the idea of sharing this place with Aaron. It was the perfect backdrop to delve into his pain.

He unclipped his walkie and set it on the corner of the blanket before dishing food onto the thin, floral plates that had come with the basket. Thick turkey sandwiches with blue cheese and fresh tomatoes, fruit salad, and oven-baked green bean crisps—green beans drizzled with olive oil, salted, peppered, and then baked until they were crispy. To complement the meal, he’d chosen a Château Timberlay Bordeaux. It wasn’t a full-on red, but it had a deep, lush flavor he really liked.

He uncorked the bottle, removed one of the wineglasses fastened to the inside of the—

“Oh, God, Caleb. Don’t move.”

Caleb froze, Aaron’s soft command triggering an ingrained response from his Army days. When a commander told you to freeze while on patrol, you fucking froze. Period.

No debate. You obeyed or you could die. But what danger was there out here? Had the other man seen a snake or something?

“Don’t move a muscle.” Click. Click, click. “It’s breathtaking.”

Caleb breathed a sigh of relief. Aaron was just taking pictures. “Aaron—”

“Shh.” Click, click. “Not even a muscle. This shot’s gorgeous. You’re fucking gorgeous. I can’t… Your profile’s…” Click, click. Click. Click. “Oh my God, look at yourself.”

Caleb turned toward Aaron’s voice as the other man emerged from the flowers and crawled onto the blanket in an awkward “three-legged” motion, holding out his camera. Blades of grass and broken flower petals stuck in his perfectly messy hair, and his smile was eight times more breathtaking than any Caleb had ever seen. The intensity, the passion on Aaron’s face, matched what was stirring inside him.

Aaron settled beside Caleb and held the camera so they could both see the screen on the back, but Caleb couldn’t take his eyes off the man beside him, watching Aaron as he looked at Caleb’s image on the screen. The pleasure on Aaron’s face, as cliché as it was, stole Caleb’s breath, and when Aaron turned his head, Caleb captured that incredible mouth in a quick, hard kiss.

Caleb pulled back and drew his thumb over the bottom lip he’d just claimed. “Thank you.”

Aaron’s eyebrows drew together. “For what?”

“Just…thank you.” Caleb tapped his lips to Aaron’s again and then forced himself to pull back before the moment spun out of control. He wanted Aaron, but doubt was malevolent, constant. The idea of exposing himself at all was terrifying, but here, in the open, in the light of day, it positively petrified him. Not out here. Not like this. But if ever there was someone to take a chance on…

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*****GIVEAWAY: Win an Amazon Kindle!!!!*****

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About the Author

Brandi Evans was raised by a caravan of traveling Gypsies. She spent her days learning the ways of her people and her nights lost in legends as old as time. Okay, not really, but that’s way more interesting than the truth!

In reality, Brandi grew up the oldest child of an ordinary family. Grade school, middle school, high school. Nothing extraordinary happened until she left the nest. She joined the military, went to college, got married, and became a mom. And somewhere along the way, she discovered she liked to read—and write!—stories hot enough to melt eReaders.

These days, she calls The Natural State home where she lives with her hubby, two beautiful daughters, two dogs and a cat who has yet to realize she doesn’t own the place. Soldier. Wife. Mom. Multi-published smut writer. Brandi’s life might not be “traveling Gypsy” interesting, but she’s had fun. And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters?

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

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