A MelanieM Review: All The World’s An Undead Stage (Offbeat Crimes #6) by Angel Martinez

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Old actors never die shouldn’t be literally true.

Carrington Loveless III, skim-blood vampire and senior officer of Philly’s paranormal police department, has long suspected that someone’s targeting his squad. The increasingly bizarre and dangerous entities invading their city can’t be a coincidence. So when a walking corpse spouting Oscar Wilde attacks one of his officers, Carrington’s determined to uncover the evil mind behind it all.

As a rare books librarian, Erasmus Graham thought he understood some of the stranger things in life. Sharing a life with Carrington’s shown him he didn’t know the half of it. They’ve survived attack books and deadly dust bunnies together and got through mostly unscathed.

Now his world and his vampire’s appear ready to collide again. Books are missing from the rare books’ collection—old tomes of magic containing dangerous summonings and necromancy. He’s certain whoever’s been stalking the Seventy-Seventh is composing their end game.

It’s going to take a consolidated effort from paranormal police, librarians, and some not-quite-authorized civilians to head off the impending catastrophe.

As I said before, I’m sort of running out of superlatives here.  Angel Martinez and this series, Offbeat Crimes, has given us wildly imaginative and perfectly wonderful in every way characters, over the top creatures like ginormous pills bugs from space and lethal flying verse spitting books, an overall arc and villain to literally die for.  Of course, some of the main characters here are already dead, including Carr, aka  Det. Carrington Loveless III, a vampire who has a real distaste for blood and lives off a “blood lite” version that he still finds barely edible.  Oh and he’s in love with a rare books librarian Erasmus Graham.  What a couple, a great one among quite a few memorable ones with this series.

In All The World’s An Undead Stage (Offbeat Crimes #6) Angel Martinez brings this  particular arc to an end, although I’m hoping with all my heart not the series.  A evil mage has been targeting the Seventy-Seventh Precinct and we are soon to find out who and why.

And it involves  zombie actors spouting verse coming to kill them.  Nods.  Of course it does.  Makes perfect sense.  In an Angel Martinez world.

And that’s just the opening act as they say.

Because there are layers and layers to these stories.  It’s never just about the villain and his nefarious plans for…well…whatever.  It’s also about relationships, romantic ones, working dynamics, interspecies communication, even something beyond that here as the Precinct is made up of all types of intelligent beings even if we aren’t quite sure of their origin.  All The World’s An Undead Stage is about the beings inside of it, working together to survive, go forward, and yes, thrive while loving each other and keeping the world safe.

That’s a tall order when you are facing evil of this magnitude.

And I’ve come to care deeply about everyone, every character here due to the author’s superb characterizations and writing skills.  How else do you explain me sobbing away here:

Carrington took a quick glance back at Hunter and LJ.  They held each other tight–strange orphans abandoned on the darkest possible of nights. LJ lifted a sleeve in a wave and Carrington returned it with a salute.  They were, without a doubt, the bravest jackets he had ever met.

We are talking about animated clothing here.  Two jackets…a couple, (LJ a leather jacket and Hunter, a pea coat) who have become two of the characters I’m fondest of.  At that imagery?  I’m bawling like a baby.  Especially if you knew the rest of the context.  The author has over the course of this series given these jackets life and personality.  Oh, yes, love and a relationship. You forget you are crying over flying bits of linen and leather but recognize them as beings that levitate and love each other, that have pride in being part of the Seventy-Seventh Precinct and show fear of loss.

Extrapolate that depth of characterization to the cast of beings, the humans with quirky “talents”, the wolf cursed to be a human, the vampire who can’t stand blood, the firestarters, the shakers and quakers, all the couples and the ‘animals’ who make up the Seventy-Seventh.  They are all here in amazing detail and dimension, alive, vivid and believable.

Carrington and Erasmus are at the top of this story as they focus on their relationship while adding up clues, hunting missing books, and dealing with Carrington’s mother.  All the various story threads flow easily together, weaving in and out, like some weird, wonderful supernatural tapestry.  I arrived at the end far too quickly, a little shaken, counting all the characters to make sure everyone arrived safely (still not sure I counted right).  And now I’m squinting at some of those lines of the authors.

Hmmm.

I mean, it’s quite all right for 42 to be the answer to life, the universe and everything.  But really, “Someone feed the gouramis!”  Damn pesky fish.  More books, Ms Martinez, more books are definitely needed because as we all know carp are never to be trusted!

Read it…it will make sense..I promise you.  But if you are new to the series, don’t start here.  Read them all in order.  It’s such a pleasure watching the men, women, beings of the Seventy-Seventh learn to come together from a shaky beginning to the solid unit they are here that depends and yes, feels deep affection for each other (more for the couples).  For me this is a must read series.  I highly recommend it.

Cover art: Posh Gosh.  I like the covers and the way it brands the series.

Sales Links:  Pride Publishing | Amazon

Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages
Published January 2nd 2018 by Pride Publishing
Original TitleAll the World’s an Undead Stage
ISBN139781786516602
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Offbeat Crimes – Add it to your Goodreads now:

A Free Dreamer Review: Light by Nathan Burgoine

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

 

Kieran Quinn is a bit telepathic, a little psychokinetic, and very gay—three things that have gotten him through life perfectly well so far—but when self-styled prophet Wyatt Jackson arrives during Pride Week, things take a violent turn.

Kieran’s powers are somewhat underwhelming but do have a habit of refracting light into spectacular rainbows for him to hide behind. Even so, it’s not long before Kieran is struggling to maintain his own anonymity while battling wits with a handsome cop, getting some flirting in with a hunky leather man, saving some drag queens, and escaping the worst blind date in history. It’s enough to make a fledgling hero want to give up before he even begins.

One thing’s for sure: saving the day has never been so fabulous.

This book was simply amazing. “Light” was funny, unique and had me hooked in absolutely no time.
I liked Kieran from the very first sentence. He has a telepathic bond with his cat (Seriously, how awesome is that?), having created certain images and signals to represent the various activities in a cat’s life. Other than that, he only uses his (all in all rather underwhelming) powers on his clients to find out where and why they are sore, making it a lot easier for him to massage those aches and pains away.


Kieran is not really a hero, he has never used his powers openly and doesn’t achieve any heroic deeds with them. That is, until a bunch of religious nutters show up at Ottawa Pride Week, the highlight of every year. Their “prophet” Stigmatic Jack is a psychokinetic that has a gift for randomly cutting “sinners” without needing a knife. That’s when Kieran really uses his powers for the first time, by bending the light around him and blinding Stigmatic Jack and his followers. From this moment on, the mysterious saviour is known as “Rainbow Man” or “Disco”, names that Kieran really can’t stand.


So the plot is a little different from your average superhero novel – no superhero heroically saving the lives of innocents on a daily basis. No, Kieran is a perfectly normal man with somewhat limited powers, looking for the love of his life. His friend Karen keeps setting him up for blind dates with some of the weirdest men in the history of dating.


While religion certainly does play an important role in this novel (the religious nutcases obviously make Kieran think about the way he sees religion), I never felt like the author was trying to force his believes on me.


At times, “Light” was simply too funny to be true, without ever getting ridiculous. I spent a large part of the novel snickering at some remark or another. My favourite scene has to be during the annual Drag Off. I nearly fell out of my chair.


At other times, especially during the great showdown, I found myself breathlessly chanting “nononononono”, completely ignoring everything around me.


The only thing I wasn’t too fond of was the whole “love at first sight” deal. But since it wasn’t overdone and seems to be an extremely common phenomenon in romance novels, it didn’t bother me too much.

To sum it up, “Light” is an ingenious work full of humour and suspense that should appeal to any lover of paranormal romances that enjoy heroes that aren’t all that heroic after all.

Cover: I quite like the cover. It’s definitely not your run-of-the-mill m/m romance cover. The colours are beautiful.

Sales:   Bold Strokes Books | Amazon

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 190 pages
Published October 13th 2013 by Bold Strokes Books
ASINB00FVHFGEW
Edition LanguageEnglish
CharactersKieran Quinn, Sebastien LaRoche settingOttawa, Ontario (Canada)

Literary AwardsLambda Literary Award Nominee for LGBT SF/F/Horror (2014)

A MelanieM Review: Finders Keepers by N.R. Walker

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Needing a change of scene, Griffin Burke moves from Brisbane to Coolum Beach to start a new job. The beautiful white sand, aqua-coloured ocean, blue skies, and summer breezes are everything he longs for. What he finds is a mud-covered dog, lost and hungry, with a nametag and a phone number.

Dane Hughes is stuck in Surfers Paradise at a week-long work conference when he gets a phone call from his distraught mother. His dog, his fur baby, Wicket, has run away. Unable to leave and feeling helpless and miserable, he gets a text from a guy. “I think I found your dog…”

Griffin and Dane start talking, and Griffin agrees to look after Wicket until Dane can collect him. With a few days left before his new job starts, Griffin takes Wicket on some coastal adventures and sends Dane photos of their fun, and so the start of something new and kind of wonderful begins.

Griffin might have moved to Coolum in search of a new life, but what he finds is so much more. What he gets to keep just might take some four-legged help.

Ever see a cover and know immediately you must, must read that story?  That, without ever having to read the blurb, something (in this case an beyond adorable dog and his master) grabs you by your ever lovin’ romantic heart? Finders Keepers did that and then doubled down with a blurb that had me all blubbery.  As a dog owner, one of the worst fears is losing your dog…trust me.  So I could instantly transport myself into Dane Hughes’ shoes and emotional turmoil when he finds out that Wicket has escaped from his Mom’s house.  I teared up in empathy. Yep, NR Walker had me hooked before I even started the story.

Oh what a story Finders Keepers turned out to be!  The very definition of heartwarming, and romantic, and utterly real.   This is a book I will be sinking myself into over and over again.  I’ve definitely found myself a new comfort read in Finders Keepers and a new favorite couple or family, because that includes Wicket, a small dog with tons of personality.

The special wonder of this romance is the manner in which  NR Walker has it conducted.  Through a series of texts and pics between the men…the connection between them being Wicket, that irresistible canine cupid.  This format works for them and us as it intimately lets us into both  men’s lives and thoughts.  We get to know them as they get to know each other.  And their anticipation becomes ours as well when the time arrives to actually meet.  How my heart thumped wildly too.

One of the many things that I have always loved about NR Walker’s stories is her superb characterizations,  That continues here.  It’s not just Griffin Burke and Dane Hughes, two men who meet over a dog but understand each other on so many levels, including their jobs.  No it’s Bernice and K, who for me are also main characters.  Vibrant, real, by turns hilarious and poignant, these two memorable individuals almost cry out for their own story to be told.  I love them with equal enthusiasm.  Trust me you will too.

Finders Keepers can make you laugh, hiccup with nervous anticipation, sniffle with the thought of loss, and make your heart swell with the sheer amounts of love and happiness that bubble over throughout the story, especially at the end.  That’s what I call great storytelling and a wonderful romance.  I’ll be rereading this when I need a pickerupper.  But I highly recommend it now for everyone who hasn’t found it the first time.  You are in for a real treat!

Cover art: Humble .  I adore this  cover.  Eye catching, heartwarming!  A Hug in cover art.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Expected publication: February 2nd 2018 (first published January 31st 2018)
Original TitleFinders Keepers
Edition Language English

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Spanking the Boss (An Office Kink Novella – Book #1) by Hunter Frost

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Charlie Reynolds is the new guy at NetSmash, a marketing research firm, but though he might be fresh out of college, he’s already thirty-five years old.  He went to prison for a foolish loss of temper that led to an assault charge when he was young and he’s determined to become a better man now.   Always conscious of people’s perceptions of ex-cons, Charlie hesitates to reveal that he’s not the janitor when he’s caught using the executive suite restroom during the company Halloween party.  Then again, his janitor costume, sporting the nickname he used when he worked his way through college as a janitor, would lead anyone to believe it true—including the CEO, the incredibly handsome Trent Davis. 

Once caught, the attraction sparks fly, and before he knows it, the CEO is bent over with his pants down and Charlie behind him “spanking the boss.”   This is a fun romance between two unlikely lovers—the new guy, Charlie, not long out of prison, recent college grad, and highly ambitious junior account manager—and Trent, gorgeous, smart, driven young exec who never gives up control to others.  It was pure pleasure to watch the way Charlie, in his guise as Chaz the janitor, takes charge of Trent for a full night of kinky pleasure.  When morning comes, as the two parted, I was rooting for more interaction between them, and though it took awhile to overcome some—many!—obstacles, the author brought us to a very satisfying ending with a happy ever after in their future. 

I was impressed with the character development for such a short story—and not just the main characters—the secondary characters as well.  We have everything from female bestie, to nasty VP boss, and a sexy, envious VP who could potentially make a play for the exec job someday.  I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, and since the author identified the characters who will get the next romance, I’m hoping for a super-fun enemies-to-lovers story.   

Highly recommend.

Cover by James of GoOnWrite.com is a photo of a man’s tie set against a light purple background. It’s both attractive and pertinent to the story.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 104 pages

Publication: January 31, 2018

Edition Language: English

Series: An Office Kink Novella #1

Release Blitz for Dead Fall (Dead Things #2) by Meredith Russell (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 66,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Meredith Russell
 
Dead Things Series
 
Dead Things (Book #1) – books2read.com/DeadThingsMR– (CURRENTLY FREE)
 
Blurb


Since the events in Chicago, Devin and Noah dare to believe that a future is possible, and there is hope. For them and humanity.

Noah struggles to find his place at Devin’s side. Stricken with survivor’s guilt and a driving need to make a difference, Noah leaves his lover to investigate the only lead he has to stop the undead. Himself.

Devin has fought to stay sane in a world of horror for too long and his one shining light is Noah. When Noah heads off on some misguided venture to search for answers, Devin knows he can’t bear to be the one left behind again.

They are two men who have nothing, and everything, to lose.

 

 
Excerpt
 

Chapter One

“Finger off the trigger,” Devin Reid instructed.

Noah rested his index finger on the side of the trigger guard, and stared down the makeshift gun range. He lowered his head, frustrated by his failure to hit all the targets set out for him.

“You just need to relax a little.”

Noah glanced at Devin. “You said to grip it tightly.”

With a nod, Devin said, “I know. But not so hard your hand shakes.” He pushed away from the front of the car, and came to stand beside Noah. “Grip. Ease off slightly.” He squeezed his hand around Noah’s, then relaxed it as he gave his instructions.

Devin’s hand was warm and clammy but Noah didn’t care. A small smile curled the corner of his mouth at Devin’s touch.

Devin’s breath was shaky as he lowered his head.

Things had been strange between the two of them over the last seven weeks. Both of them were figuring out where they fit in the world, and in each other’s lives. They had spent more time together, though Devin remained somewhat distant, not that Noah blamed him. Devin had lost the man he’d loved at the start of the monster-filled nightmare they found themselves in. He understood that Devin struggled with the lack of closure he still felt, despite knowing there was no coming back for Connor. The man Devin had known was dead. But it was about more than Connor. It was about Devin not thinking himself strong enough to go through that kind of loss all over again. To leave himself open to such grief and despair if he got close to Noah only to lose him as well. 

Noah closed his eyes as he felt the warmth of Devin’s breath on his neck. His heart ached as he longed to have Devin close. He remembered the warmth of Devin’s touch, the lines of his body, and the feel of Devin’s skin on his during the night they’d spent together in Chicago.

Chicago. He wondered what had become of the people they’d left behind. Were they safe? Was Chicago still able to offer them protection?

Sometimes he felt guilty that he didn’t care more. It wasn’t as if he knew them, not really. He wasn’t sure he remembered their faces anymore. Them or the people who had died on the journey there.

The journey for a cure. Had anything come from the blood sample they’d taken from him, of the vaccine or biological weapon against the undead they hoped to create?

His blood had saved Devin, had created a serum that could battle the infection, but it wasn’t a true solution. It could happen again, to Devin, to everybody.

Silence fell between them and Noah opened his eyes. Devin was looking at him through his shades, one crooked eyebrow raised above the frames.

“It helps if you keep your eyes open.” Devin smirked and reached down, taking Noah’s other hand in his. “Support your grip with your left.”

“Like this?” Noah waited as Devin checked his hold. He shifted his footing, steadying himself as he battled the frustration over only being able to hit the target two times out of five. “I don’t get why I’m doing this. I managed perfectly fine without a gun before you showed up.”

Has it really only been seven weeks? It feels like longer. A lot had happened since the day Devin had turned up at the Weber family’s farm. Noah remembered the shouting and gunfire, of coming across Devin and his partner, Kerry, desperately fighting off a small group of the undead monsters created by some twisted virus. He hadn’t hesitated when Devin was attacked. Noah had run headlong into the fray, determined he wasn’t going to see anyone die that day.

“Trust me, I know.” Devin frowned as he nudged Noah’s arms higher. “But if you’re going to be out here with me, then I prefer to cover all bases. You should be able to protect yourself in every possible way.” He stopped and peered over the top of his sunglasses. “I want you safe. You may be immune, but you’re not invincible.” He hesitated, then gently turned Noah’s wrist. They both checked the old scars—jagged marks left by the mouths of hungry monsters. “You could easily find yourself in a situation you can’t fight your way out of with just your bare hands.”

Tensing his jaw, Noah inspected Devin’s hand on his arm. Devin had scars of his own. With a breath, Noah focused back on the gun. Devin’s words were sobering. He knew he should be taking the training seriously, but all he could think was that they shouldn’t be wasting ammunition for him to practice, not when the bullets could be better spent by giving them to someone who could already hit their mark.

“Have you been dry firing like I suggested?” Devin leaned in close and looked along the sight of the gun.

Noah nodded. Devin had given him a snap cap to use to practice his aim. Devin was close enough that Noah could feel the beating of his heart when he leaned his chest against Noah’s biceps. Did Devin realize just how distracting it was to have him near?

“Good,” Devin said. He stepped back, nudging Noah to raise his arm higher. “You see the front sight? That’s where I want you to focus.”

Noah didn’t argue the fact he’d already been trying to do that. “Okay,” he agreed with a sigh.

“This is important.” Devin touched Noah’s forearm and waited for Noah to face him. “Please?”

Noah closed his eyes and took a breath. “I just don’t like the idea of wasting ammo.”

Devin shook his head. “What good is ammo if no one’s around to use it?”

He guessed Devin had a point. Noah’s gaze drifted from the gun sight to his forearm and the bite marks. So many people had died in the last year. 

Why am I still alive? What makes me so special?

“If you want another reason why we’re doing this, then it’s about protecting others. Not just yourself.” Devin cleared his throat and stepped back. “Things can go to shit in the blink of an eye. There’s not always time for you to run in and play hero.”

Noah glanced along the range to where five splintered wooden boards were propped up about twenty yards away. He knew Devin was right. Time was critical if there was an attack. He eyed the boards and the crudely painted words in red on some—Zombies grrr, Feed me brains, and Romero was wrong. He wondered who had painted the words. He didn’t figure it for something Devin would have done. There was very little Devin found funny. He eyed the third board. 

Romero was wrong.

He’d seen the original movies, groups of shambling undead somehow catching up to and overpowering characters as they stood and stared, and seemed to scream for a full ten minutes before getting their tasty, soft, internal organs devoured. The reality of the dead rising was a little different, or at least it had been in the beginning. The freakish monsters were hungry and fast, and unnaturally strong. It was only now that some of the first to have turned, after severe decay, showed signs of slowing down and immobility. Could they just outlive the monsters? Hide away until they rotted to nothing more than bones?

“Okay,” he said on a sigh, then set his sights on the center target. He steadied his aim and inhaled. Blinking, he readied himself to release his held breath, but Devin brought up his hand and held it over the gun, halting the practice.

Noah glanced at Devin, who had set his gaze on the horizon. “What?” He narrowed his eyes and scanned the area. “Did you see something?” 

Although the yard the range was set up in was considered clear and secure, there was no guarantee something might not stray into the area and beyond the protective wire mesh of the fence.

“I don’t know. I thought I heard…” Devin thumbed the catch of his holster as he surveyed the area.

The land surrounding the yard was mostly flat and open, ideal for reducing the chances of being caught unaware.

Devin shook his head. “I guess it was nothing.” He didn’t turn away at first, and eyed where the fence met the edge of an abandoned warehouse. “Let’s call it a day, okay?”

“Okay,” Noah agreed. He rubbed his stomach as it made a hungry growl. Hopefully, they would make it back to the prison in time for the afternoon meal. They had traveled several miles from the penitentiary to what could have been described as the middle of nowhere, to ensure the sound of gunfire didn’t draw any of the infected monsters to their door.

Handing Devin the gun, Noah shifted his attention to the building. “This place was cleared, right?”

Devin held the gun at his side. “A few weeks back.” He ran his hand over his unshaven jaw, then removed his shades, hooking them onto the front of his dark T-shirt.

Could anything have gotten in since then?

“The fence was secure. There was no evidence anything had got in or even tried to.” Devin sounded his thoughts. He scanned the yard. “I guess we should check it out.”

“Really?”

Devin quirked an eyebrow. “Really.” He set his silver gaze on Noah.

The intensity of Devin’s stare sent a shiver down Noah’s spine. He would never get over how strange, yet fascinating, Devin’s eyes were. He thought he would miss the clear blue Devin had studied him with when they’d first met, but all he could think about was how grateful he was Devin was here to look at him at all. Devin had been bitten. He’d been dying.

To Noah they were beautiful.

“Okay.” Noah shook away the memories of Chicago, trying to ignore the tightening of his chest. He walked to the car, where he took a red-handled fire ax from the trunk. He balanced the weapon in his hands, accustoming himself to the weight and feel of it. Though he felt uneasy, he knew they couldn’t leave without being sure. Neither he nor Devin would forgive themselves if anybody got hurt because they had dismissed their concerns and walked away.

Together they proceeded to the large warehouse. Clouds slowly drifted across the sky, blotting out the sun and casting a hazy gray glow over the yard. They began their investigation at the corner of the premises, where the fence met the steel shell of the warehouse. Wooden pallets leaned against the side of the building. Old blood stained the light colored wood. 

Devin edged toward the fence and wrapped his fingers in the wire mesh. Arching his neck, he examined the length of the building.

“I don’t see anything,” he stated. “If this place is compromised, it’s not from this side.”

Noah walked across the front of the warehouse. He stopped outside the large metal double doors. Idly, he reached out and pulled on the padlock attached to a chain, which secured the doors. “Should we break it?”

Devin shook his head. “There’s a door round the side.” He pointed to the other end of the steel structure. “Check that first.”

They made their way to the side entrance. Devin stepped forward and examined the broken handle. He tilted his head and looked grim. “There’s blood.” He took a step back.

“Do you think it’s one of them?” Noah tightened his grip on the ax.

“Freaks don’t usually go around smashing locks. But…” He raised his gun and pointed at the dried blood. “If someone was bitten, and sought shelter… They could have turned by now.”

“Okay.” Noah didn’t know what else to say.

Devin hesitated, then edged forward, leaning against the door as he listened. “I don’t hear anything—” A crackle of static and Jack Torres’s voice over the radio startled them both. 

“Devin, you there?”

“Christ.” Devin pressed his hand to his chest and stepped away from the door. He pulled the radio from his belt. “Great timing there, Jack,” he said in a hushed voice

Noah smirked as Devin shot him a despairing look.

“Why are you whispering?” Jack asked.

Devin cleared his throat and moved farther away from the building. “No reason. Just checking something out. Everything okay?”

“Yeah, just wondered if you guys were heading back soon?” Jack sounded edgy.

“Is there a problem?” Devin narrowed his eyes. He glanced at Noah as he talked to Jack.

Quickly, Jack dismissed Devin’s question. “No, no problem. I just need to talk to you about something.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, yeah. It can wait. Come find me when you get back.”

“Sure. See you in an hour maybe.” Devin secured the radio onto his belt.

“What was that about?” Noah asked.

Devin shrugged and fixed his attention back on the busted lock. “Let’s get this over with, then we can find out.” He held his gun in front of him. With his free hand, he pushed. “Something’s behind it,” he said when the door didn’t budge. “Stay sharp, okay?”

Fear mixed with a rush of adrenaline as Noah flipped the ax over in his hand. He waited as Devin used his weight to shoulder an opening. There was a scraping sound. Whatever had been used to secure the exit was forced across the concrete floor of the warehouse. Eventually, Devin stumbled forward as the barricade fell away with a clatter.

Noah peered over Devin’s shoulder, noting more of the wooden pallets. The building was dimly lit. Sunlight shone through overhead skylights, illuminating dust that hung in the air. They held off entering the building for a moment, waiting to see if the noise drew the interest of anything nonhuman. When nothing came of their, less than subtle, entrance, Devin took the lead and headed inside.

The temperature in the warehouse was cooler than outside, and Noah shuddered as he examined the interior of the building. The space was high, higher than it seemed from the outside, and was filled with rows and rows of empty pallets. He looked at Devin who had stopped a few feet in. Noah examined the ground, noting what Devin had already spotted. There was more blood. Someone had been hurt, but not gravely, if the small amount of blood was anything to go by. Gravity had caused circular spatters where droplets had hit the floor, marking a path toward the front of the warehouse. Devin didn’t say anything and followed the intermittent stains.

The silence was unnerving and Noah checked behind them. Content there was nothing there, he shifted his focus back to Devin and the row of pallets they were following to the front of the warehouse. Devin raised his gun as they neared the end of the aisle, stepping out as he turned the corner. He stopped, seemingly surprised. He glanced at Noah, his expression softening.

Curious, Noah took the corner, catching sight of a woman and a young boy huddled together on the opposite side of the building. Though frightened, they appeared okay.

Devin lowered his gun, and raised his other hand. “We aren’t going to hurt you. Are you injured?”

Noah studied the pair along with Devin. The boy was pale and scared, but there was no obvious sign of injury. 

When neither replied, Devin took a step toward them. “Are you alone?”

Devin’s question was answered with an angry cry and blur of motion from his left. A man lunged at Devin, wielding a crowbar. Devin barely swerved the attack. The metal edge struck him on the shoulder, and unbalanced, he fell with a grunt to the dusty, hard ground.

“Stop,” Noah yelled, putting himself between Devin and the desperate man. He raised the ax, aware there was a second person standing in the shadows. “Look, we’re not here to hurt you.” He shifted his weight as a teenage girl stepped forward. She held a dented aluminum baseball bat in her hand. “Devin? You okay?” Noah kept his gaze fixed on the two people in front of him.

Devin coughed. “Yeah, I’m fine.” He cleared his throat and got to his feet. He rotated his shoulder, then joined Noah in the awkward standoff. He raised his gun and pointed it at the man.

“What do you want?” the man asked. His voice was shaky. He edged closer to the teenage girl, favoring his right foot.

“Are you hurt?” Noah said, drawing everyone’s attention to the poorly wrapped bandage above his left knee.

“It’s nothing.”

“Were you bitten?” Devin nodded toward the man’s leg.

“He wasn’t.” The teenage girl jumped to the man’s defense. Her dark hair had been cropped into a short uneven bob, which formed a rough line along her jaw.

Devin pursed his lips. “He your dad?”

The girl nodded.

“How about we all lower our weapons and figure this out, okay?” Devin glanced at Noah, indicating for him to go first.

Though wary, Noah did as Devin instructed. “Fine.” He loosened his hold, lowering the ax to his side, and stepped back to put space between him and the still-armed father and daughter team.

“Okay?” Devin returned his handgun to its holster. “We didn’t mean to scare you.”

The man glanced at his daughter. “It’s okay, T.” He dropped his weapon, and encouraged his daughter to do the same.

“I’m Devin, and this is Noah. We’re sorry if we scared you.”

Hugging his daughter close, the man said, “Kirk. This is my daughter, Tatum.” He pointed in the direction of the woman and boy, who were still sitting together. “My wife, Marie, and our son, Samuel.”

Devin seemed to relax when the man shared his and his family’s names. He kept his hand at his side. “Have you been here long?”

Kirk blinked rapidly. “A couple of days. My son is sick. We needed somewhere safe.”

“Sick?” Noah eyed the boy. “Sick, how?”

“I don’t know.” Kirk’s shoulders dropped as he gazed at his boy. “He hasn’t eaten properly in days, and when he has, he’s thrown up soon after.”

“I’m sorry,” Devin offered. He settled his sight on Noah. It was clear that he was considering what to do. Since the incident with Corden, they no longer had the luxury of taking people at their word. They had to be sure of who they were letting into the prison, no matter how adamant people were in claiming they were okay, or arguing that their injuries were from anything other than a bite.

The father gave a strained smile at Devin’s voiced sympathy. “It’s been hard. No food, no shelter. Always moving. It’s hit him the worst.”

Each member of the family appeared unkempt, dirty, and tired. Noah sucked on his teeth. These people needed help, help they could offer them. “Devin.”

Devin raised his head. There was doubt in his eyes.

“Please.” They were just people. Scared and exhausted people.

Devin stared at the ground. “How did you hurt your leg?” he asked. “I can help your son, but you have to tell me the truth.”

“On the fence.” Kirk looked from Devin to Noah. “I swear.” He wrapped his hand around his daughter’s. His face seemed brighter almost, as if he had been gifted with something amazing—the fact that maybe there was some hope and goodness left in the world after all.

“And the kid? He’s just sick?”

“Yes.” He nodded emphatically. “You’re part of a group? You have somewhere safe?”

There was a beat before Devin confirmed they did have somewhere. “We can help. We can look at your leg too, stop it from getting infected. But we’ll have to check you over. All of you. Properly. We can’t risk letting anyone who’s been bitten in. You understand, right?”

“We understand. Do what you have to do, but please, help us.”

Kirk’s desperation cut at Noah’s heart. If only it was just the undead monsters they had to deal with, but even now, despite all the horror and bloodshed, they were faced with the uncertainty of one another, of the danger other human beings still posed to them. Who should they trust? And who should they keep at arm’s length? He had fallen foul of people he thought were his friends, his neighbors. Distrust for others was why he had been alone when Devin had found him and why he had wanted to return to the farm, his farm, and be in a place he knew, not with Devin and the others at the prison. It was the reason he had survived for so long. But now, he couldn’t imagine anything else. He was glad Devin had shown up at the farm that day, even though his arrival had flipped everything he’d known on its head.

He had put his trust in Devin.

Noah looked from one family member to the next, then at Devin. They both knew this was the right thing to do. This was the human thing to do.

 

Meredith Russell lives in the heart of England. An avid fan of many story genres, she enjoys nothing less than a happy ending. She believes in heroes and romance and strives to reflect this in her writing. Sharing her imagination and passion for stories and characters is a dream Meredith is excited to turn into reality.

Website/blog: http://www.meredithrussell.co.uk
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Email: meredithrussell666@gmail.com

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Release Blitz and Giveaway for Louise Lyons ‘ The Short Stories Collection

Standard

 

 
Length: 45,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

A collection of three short stories.


In Darkest Peru


When shy and geeky Rhys White is ditched by his boyfriend of five years, and made redundant from his job in the space of one week, he decides to make some changes. Tired of being boring and hiding being his computer, he throws caution to the winds and buys a plane ticket to Peru.


The adventure in Peru starts out well, but then disaster strikes when the bus he is travelling on is held up by thieves. Rhys loses everything, including his passport, wallet, and phone.


Stranded in Cuzco, not too far from the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu, Rhys tries to find someone to help him. Just when he begins to lose hope, sexy Brazilian, Rafael, comes to his rescue, and his desperation situation takes a turn for the better.


One Snowy Night


After yet another failed date, Keith Brambles’ luck turns from bad to worse, as he tries to drive home in heavy snow and crashes his car. With no phone signal, no warm clothes, and the weather worsening, he fears freezing to death overnight.


But help is at hand in the form of a knight in a white van. Mike Talbot stops to help Keith, and takes him home to warm up—in more ways than one, when the pair’s mutual attraction kicks in.


Mike is everything Keith has ever dreamed of when he thinks of his ideal man. But can Mike really be Keith’s dream come true, or is their night together just another bit of fun?


Lost and Found


When author Philip Johnson loses his much-loved dog, Prince, he buries himself in the fantasy world of his latest novel. But as his heartbreak gradually lessens and he focuses more on the happy times he had with Prince, he realises the hole left in his life needs to be filled with a new puppy.


After responding to an advertisement for a young dog, Philip is surprised to find the owner is none other than Edward Manby, the very good-looking vet who took care of Prince in his last hours. Philip is delighted to discover his attraction to Edward is returned and despite the twenty-year age gap between them, their love for their pets brings them together and leads to romance

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Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy.


Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late twenties. Posting stories based on some of her favourite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.


Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad dog called Casper, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races home afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.


Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and job, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.


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Giveaway

Giveaway: Louise is giving away a signed paperback copy of her 2015 fantasy/vampire romance novel, The Eye of the Beholder, which is no longer available for sale. Please comment on any of the Release Blitz posts to enter. Available for worldwide shipping.

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