A Free Dreamer Review: Hawk In The Rowan (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #4) by Sam Burns

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.

Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.

This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA.

Devon and Wade from book one are back in this fourth installation of the series. They’re my least favourite couple of the three. Devon is just too genuinely nice. While we do find out a little more about his heritage and how that influences his character, I still just can’t quite bring myself to like him.

Nor am I too fond of the relationship dynamic. It always reminds me a little of the big bad Alpha (Wade) and the poor helpless little twink (Devon). It doesn’t help that Wade is actually a werewolf, which makes the whole dynamic even more pronounced. We do see some moments of Devon standing up for himself, so I might just come to like him one day…

“Hawk in the Rowan” mostly focuses on Devon and Wade and their relationship woes. There’s also a storm and some other ominous things happening around town. But overall, it definitely showed that this is the shortest book of the series so far. It felt like we were only just getting started on the real plot at the end. It just wasn’t quite satisfactory and felt more like a little short story between two “real” books. A shame, because I think even Devon and Wade have great potential that just got lost due to not enough pages.

I’m usually very bad at keeping up with series I start, especially if they have more than three or four parts. But something about “Rowan Harbor” just has me coming back for more. While this fourth installation was a bit of a disappointment, I’ll definitely read book five and hopefully the rest of the series as well. I just hope the books will get longer again instead of shorter…

Cover Design: Melanie Harlow @ Clause & Effect.   The is beautiful. I really like it and it fits the story perfectly.

Sales Link:  Universal Buy Link

  
The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series
 
Book #2 – Wolf and the Holly
Book #3 – Fox and Birch
 

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 152 pages
Published May 3rd 2018
Original TitleHawk in the Rowan
ASINB07CQ8M5H1
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Rowan Harbor Cycle #4

A Free Dreamer Review: Fox and Birch (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #3) by Sam Burns

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Fletcher Lane wants to protect people. It was why he became a deputy. A month ago, it was why he killed a vampire who kidnapped one of his friends. Now, that death has started a cascade effect that’s tearing his life apart, leaving him possessed by magic that whispers to him in ancient Gothic.

While he’s already fighting for control of his own mind, he has to hold it together when strangers come into town looking for the dead vampire. They say they’re bounty hunters, but Fletcher knows that’s a lie. They’re the same kind of murderers who killed Fletcher’s mother. When one of them puts up a kind front, Fletcher knows that people who hunt the supernatural can’t be trusted. However nice Conner Mason seems, the worst thing Fletcher could do is fall for his act.

First of all, “Fox and Birch” is not a standalone story. While we meet the third (and final) couple in this book, the events in the previous books are too important for the overall story arc to just skip over and still understand what’s going on in book three.

I liked Fletcher. He’s very different from our other MCs, much more vulnerable but also so very strong. We don’t learn much about Conner, his love interest. But that’s okay, it’s their first book and I’m sure we’ll find out more about him as the story continues.

However, since we really don’t know much of anything about one of our MCs, the romantic feelings were a little hard to follow. They barely know each other and Fletcher has every reason to distrust and even hate Conner. Conner coming across as a genuinely nice guy just wasn’t enough for me to understand Fletcher’s feelings. Even though there’s no magic zap like the werewolves of Rowan Harbor get when they meet their fated mates, this smacked awfully of insta-love, something I can’t stand.

Aside from the love story, I quite enjoyed this book. Fletcher’s abilities are really interesting and so very different from what we’ve seen so far. I’ve never read about a fox shifter before and I can’t wait to find out even more about him and his unusual talents.

This was my second favourite book in the series so far. I liked book two a little more because there was more focus on the world building. And I think Fletcher might actually be my favourite character of them all. So I’m eager for the next book about him.

The cover by Melanie Harlow is nice to look at. Maybe a little too nice, because the overall tone of the book definitely felt more sinister to me.

Sales Links:  Universal Buy Link

Book details:

Kindle Edition, 166 pages
Published March 8th 2018
ASINB07B6P29KP
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesThe Rowan Harbor Cycle #3

An Alisa Review : Five Dares by Eli Easton

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible duo” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Nantucket. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities-including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.

I enjoyed this story and loved how I got to see bits and pieces of their past together to help picture these two characters together.  Andy is a daredevil and everyone loves him but the one person he wants to have the attention of is Jake.  Jake has spent the last few years trying to mentally and emotionally separate himself from Andy knowing that they will be separating after college and knew he needed the time to actually do it.

They end up with a few more months together when they injure their hands and Andy starts to push Jake in ways he never thought.  They are both suckers for dares and don’t want to say no.

I liked both of these characters, maybe not the things that they have always done but I love how easy it was to love these guys and see how they are feeling.  They just need to learn to talk about their emotions.  I could feel their pain at having to be apart and how hard it was to navigate their lives without the other.  I loved watching Andy come to the conclusion that he has always loved Jake but didn’t realize that’s what it was and how one that happened he jumps in with both feet.  I loved their reunion scene and the future that they are building together.

The cover art by Nathasha Snow is great and I love the picture of these two together.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 232 pages

Published: 2nd edition, April 2, 2018 by Pinkerton Road

Edition Language: English

Book Release Tour: Eli Easton on Robbie Riverton: Mail Order Bride (excerpt and giveaway)

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Robby Riverton Excerpt – Robby Meets Rowena
 
By Eli Easton


AUTHOR’S NOTE – In “Robby Riverton”, set in 1860, a young actor is forced to go on the run after witnessing a murder. He ends up disguising himself as a mail order bride, “Rowena”, to escape his pursuers. In this scene, Robby is trying to make his escape when he’s confronted by Trace, the local sheriff and brother of Rowena’s fiancé.

Robby looked around for a saddle. He checked every space in the barn and was surprised not to find any tack at all, not even the reins or harnesses for the wagon. All he found was a door with a big padlock on it near the horse stalls.

Was this the tack room? Why would they lock it? It felt ominous, as if they were trying to hold him prisoner. It did nothing to ease his creeping sense of dread.

He jiggled the padlock. It was solid and heavy.

He was about to turn away when a hand closed over his mouth and a strong arm wrapped around him, grabbing him tight. A scream got stuck in his throat.

“Quiet!” drawled a man’s voice in his ear. “It’s me, Trace. I’m not gonna hurt you, Mr. Riverton.”

* * *

Trace wasn’t sure if he wanted to strangle the young man in his arms or tuck him under his wing and protect him. But he did know he needed answers. And, by God, he was going to get them.

Riverton was still in the woman’s get-up, that green dress and bonnet. But there was nothing feminine about the tight muscles against his chest, or against his arm where it was pressed to Riverton’s taut waist. He didn’t fight. He just stood there, frozen.

“I’m just here to talk to ya. All right?” Trace whispered, annoyed at the way the huge brim of the bonnet got in his way.

Riverton nodded once, and Trace let him go.

He turned, slowly, raising his hands. Trace kept his hand near his gun and took his time studying Riverton’s face by lantern light. He looked defiant—and fearful. And he was just as damned attractive as Trace remembered. Only now that Trace knew he was a man, that objective appraisal of handsomeness hit him in an entirely different way, caused a warm tightening in his gut. Not that it mattered a whit. Trace was fit to be tied.

“Well, Mr. Riverton. I’ve seen some sticky situations in my life, but this one takes the prize.”

Riverton slumped back against the wall of a horse stall, instantly defeated. “Bollocks. I swear I didn’t mean for this to happen. I was just trying to evade the Bowery Boys.”

Trace’s gaze flickered to the horses. “That may be. But you steal a horse from Pa, and even God won’t be able to help ya.”

Riverton covered his face with his hands. He slid down the wall until he was sitting on the stable floor. And Trace… Trace actually felt sorry for him. He was still irate, but sympathy was edging in too.

He squatted down a few feet from Riverton, elbows on his knees, and pulled out a smoke. He rolled it between his thumb and finger and lit it. He took a drag and offered it to Riverton, nudging his knee to get his attention.

Riverton looked at the smoke and shook his head. “It’s bad for your voice, and… I’m an actor.”

“Kind of figured that. What with the [WANTED] poster and all,” Trace said dryly. “Robby Riverton. That even your real name?”

“Yes, it is my real name. But just call me Robby, if you please.” Robby searched Trace’s face, as though trying to judge how mad he was. His eyes were desperate, his face drawn tight in the lantern glow. Trace felt an urge to reassure him, but he hardened himself to the feeling.

“Here’s the thing, Robby. I don’t like trouble in my town, much less in the midst of my own damn family. It’s too much work. And this here is a whole stinkin’ mess of trouble. I’ll give ya one chance to tell your side of the story. And I wouldn’t lie, if I were you.”

Robby nodded vigorously. He seemed eager to talk. He told Trace about witnessing a murder in New York City, and about how he’d thought he’d slipped the gang members until they caught up with the wagon train two days ago. He told Trace about Miss Fairchild, and how she’d left with a new beau in Dodge City. He’d put on her clothes in desperation.

“I planned to slip away in Santa Fe. But then the Bowery Boys caught me, and you came along, and then Wayne and Marcy. And now…here I am. No matter what I do, the hole just gets deeper.” Robby’s voice was a hiss. “Believe me, Sheriff, there’s no one sorrier about this situation than me!”

Trace wanted to believe him, and he mostly did. But there were parts of it that didn’t quite hang together. He thoughtfully smoked his cigarette down to a nub, then ground it out on the stable floor and put the remnant in his pocket.

“Well?” Robby asked, voice shaky. “Are you going to give me away or help me? Because if you’re going to give me away, maybe you should just kill me now!”

Trace snorted. “Calm down there, Beauregard. I ain’t gonna kill ya. I’m just orderin’ things in my mind. Give me a minute.”

Robby held his tongue while Trace thought about it a little more. Dang. It really was a shit stew. Looked like he could wave good-bye to his nice, quiet existence.

“What did Pa make of ya today?”

Robby grimaced. “No one seems suspicious, if that’s what you mean. But Pa-Pa was pushing to have the wedding tomorrow. I told him I was sick, and I went to bed early. But I don’t know how long I can hold him off. Can you take me back to town with you? I’ll pay you for your trouble.”

Trace scratched his neck. “I’m not sure that’s the wisest course. I have a feelin’ those, whaddya call ’em, Bowery Boys, will be coming to Flat Bottom lookin’ for ya. And if they hear Miss Fairchild absconded, they’ll smell a rat. If they don’t suspect you’re Riverton already, that’d do it.”

Robby’s brow furrowed, and he clenched his arms tightly over his chest. “Why would they come to Flat Bottom? I answered their questions. Or rather, Rowena did. Surely they’ll go back along the trail, maybe to Fort Union.”

Trace heaved an unhappy sigh. He wanted to light another cigarette. He wanted to reach out and comfort Robby. He did neither. “Look here, before I left Santa Fe, I did some checkin’ up on that wagon train of yours. Learned a man was found with his throat slit behind the saloon. His name was Stoltz.”

Robby flinched. “Oh no. No, no, no.”

He slumped over, head to his knees, and Trace didn’t curb the impulse to reach out and lay a steadying hand on his shoulder. For a moment, Robby just breathed in harsh pants, head hung low. He seemed overcome by fear or maybe rage.

If this reaction was a charade, it sure was a convincing one. Even for an actor.

After a bit, Trace pulled back his hand. “Ya knew Stoltz?”

“He owned the wagon I rode in. It’s my fault he’s dead.” Robby’s voice was wrecked.

“No, now, come on.” Trace grasped Robby by the arms and stood, bringing them both to their feet. “Pull yourself together, son. I’m surely sorry for your loss. But it’s not your fault they came after ya, not your fault there are bad men in the world.”

Robby looked at him doubtfully, his eyes damp. “Do you think they… Do you think they got him to confess before…?”

Trace shook his head. “Stoltz was stiff and cold when I saw him, so he must have been dead when those men waylaid ya in the street. Seems to me they didn’t know ya were Riverton then. But they sure are determined. If they went after Stoltz that hard, I figure there’s a chance they’re not done with Miss Fairchild either.”

“Why won’t they just stop?” Robby asked fiercely. “Why the hell would they chase me all this way? I don’t understand it!”

Yeah, that was the part that didn’t smell right to Trace either. He watched Robby’s face. “You sure ya didn’t skip a few details? Like maybe ya got somethin’ that belongs to them? A pile of their money, maybe?”

“No!” Robby pulled away from Trace angrily. “I told you, I saw Mose McCann commit murder from across the alley. I never even got close to them! The only thing they want is the memory in my head.” He tapped his temple pointedly.

“Well.” Trace shrugged. “You’d best stay put for now. I’ll see what I can find out. In a couple days, we’ll reassess the situation.”

“In a couple of days!”

Robby looked so stricken that Trace felt doubt. He didn’t like leaving Robby at the ranch, fooling his family. He knew how much of a stubborn jackass his father could be. And Clovis… Probably the less time “Rowena” spent around Clovis the better.

God damn. Trace wondered what the heck Clovis made of his intended, anyway. The pair of them were as mismatched as bees and bears—in either of Robby’s forms. But the idea that Clovis might fall for his new bride-to-be was unsettling.

But there was an urge, deep down in Trace’s bones, to protect Robby. Those Bowery Boys—the way they’d treated Miss Fairchild on the street, the way they’d slit Stoltz’s throat… Robby didn’t stand a chance against them. No. Trace might not trust Robby completely, but he didn’t want to see him dead. And if protecting him meant causing his family a bit of inconvenience for a few days? Well, there were worse problems.

He wrapped his fingers around Robby’s forearm without really meaning to. Worry softened his voice. “Look, I don’t much care for the setup myself, but this is serious. So, tell me honestly. Do you think ya can fool Pa and the others a bit longer?”

Robby blinked at him. “Can’t we just explain things to your Pa?”

Trace barked a laugh. “Hell, no. Wayne said Pa paid two hundred dollars to get Clovis a wife.”

Robby snorted. “Yes, he mentioned that only a dozen times tonight.”

“Well, if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make Pa feistier than a nest of riled-up hornets, it’s wastin’ money. If he finds out ya ain’t Miss Fairchild, you’ll be out on your fanny so fast, your head will spin.”

Robby sighed and frowned. Then he sighed some more. His arm turned in Trace’s grasp, and his fingers grabbed Trace’s coat. It seemed unconscious, like Robby was depending on him. The small move brought a lump to Trace’s chest.

“I guess I can keep this up for a few more days,” Robby admitted. “As long as I can hold off the wedding. I get the feeling everyone’s on their best behavior. I suppose we’re in the wooing stage.” He smiled wryly.

Trace nodded. “That makes sense. Pa will want to make sure his investment pans out. That’s good.”

Robby moved a little closer. His green eyes seemed to glow in the lantern light. “But couldn’t you just hide me in town?”

“Look, I’m tryin’ to save your hide. I need to check on some things, and I can’t be watchin’ over ya at the same time. My pa and brothers might not be fancy or sophisticated, but their orneriness is in our favor. If those men show up here makin’ demands and wavin’ guns, they’ll be in a world of hurt.”

Robby’s expression relented, and he nodded. “Very well. The show will go on.”

“All right, then. Be polite and keep your head down. And whatever ya do, don’t argue with Pa. Now—can ya do this? Tell me true.”

“I can do it.”

“And just stay away from Clovis,” Trace insisted, a muscle in his jaw ticking. He felt something like jealousy. Which was ridiculous.

Robby smirked. “I don’t think that’s a problem. So far, he hasn’t said a single word to me and Pa-Pa seems to want it that way. He said something about propriety, but he probably thinks the less I know about my betrothed the better. No offense to your brother.”

Trace liked that Robby could joke a little, even in the midst of all this. He felt the corner of his own mouth tug up. “Good.”

He realized Robby had moved closer still—or he himself had leaned in. It was far too close for two men to stand together, even if they were whispering.

His hand was on Robby’s arm. Out of pure, wicked curiosity, he moved his thumb in a small caress to see what would happen. Robby’s eyes widened in surprise. He licked his lips and leaned forward a tiny bit in silent invitation.

Trace’s heart commenced to pounding. His blood flared so high, he felt like he was about to go into battle. Hell, maybe he was. He raised one hand to Robby’s cheek and brushed the back of his fingers along the strong jawline. “I’ll say this for ya; you’ve got a set of steel balls. How old are you, Robby?”

“Twenty-four.” He touched his own cheek. “And to think I used to hate that I couldn’t grow much of a beard.” He was trying to joke, but his voice was unsteady. He leaned into Trace’s hand a little.

Oh, yes. He was definitely a man of Trace’s predilections. Which was not gonna simplify matters at all.

Trace stared, taking in Robby’s long face and square jaw, those wide, pouty lips, and half-lidded eyes. He truly was the most beautiful man Trace had ever seen. Funny, he could still picture that poster the Bowery Boys had shown him. It helped him imagine Robby without the bonnet and all that nonsense.

“Ya make a pretty gal. But I sure would like to see ya the other way ’round.”

“You would?” Robby’s voice dropped to a breathy whisper. “Think you’d like me better that way?”

“I know I would.” Trace’s voice sounded like he’d swallowed rocks.

Desire sparked hot in Robby’s eyes, and Trace’s body answered. Lust sang loudly in his veins for the first time in a very long time. Not just mechanical need but true desire, an aching want for the man in front of him. At that moment, he’d have scaled a six-foot fence to get to mating, like a heat-crazed horse.

There was a bang outside as a gust of wind sent a loose shutter flying. Trace snapped out of his daze. What the hell was he doing? He pulled back abruptly. What if Pa or one of his brothers saw the light and walked out to the barn? How could he explain being caught sparking with Clovis’s intended—who also happened to be a man? This was dangerous as dancing with a rattler. And twice as stupid.

“Much as I’d like to oblige us both,” Trace growled, “we’d best keep our heads on straight.”

 
Cover Design: Dar Albert @ Wicked Smart Design
 
Length: 65,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

Being a fugitive in the old west shouldn’t be this much fun.


The year is 1860. Robby Riverton is a rising star on the New York stage. But he witnesses a murder by a famous crime boss and is forced to go on the run–all the way to Santa Fe. When he still hasn’t ditched his pursuers, he disguises himself as a mail order bride he meets on the wagon train. Caught between gangsters that want to kill him, and the crazy, uncouth family of his “intended”, Robby’s only ally is a lazy sheriff who sees exactly who Robby is — and can’t resist him.


Trace Crabtree took the job as sheriff of Flat Bottom because there was never a thing going on. And then Robby Riverton showed up. Disguised as a woman. And betrothed to Trace’s brother. If that wasn’t complication enough, Trace had to find the man as appealing as blueberry pie. He urges Robby to stay undercover until the danger has passed. But a few weeks of having Robby-Rowena at the ranch, and the Crabtree family will never be the same again.


April 26 – Loves Bytes
April 28 – Padme’s Library 
April 30 – My Fiction Nook
May 7 – Diverse Reader
May 14 – Joyfully Jay
 

About Eli


Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, and organic farmer, Eli has been a m/m romance author since 2013. She has over 30 books published.


Eli has loved romance since her teens and she particular admires writers who can combine literary merit, genuine humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, bulldogs, cows, a cat, and lots of groundhogs.


In romance, Eli is best known for her Christmas stories because she’s a total Christmas sap. These include “Blame it on the Mistletoe”, “Unwrapping Hank” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Miggles”. Her “Howl at the Moon” series of paranormal romances featuring the town of Mad Creek and its dog shifters has been popular with readers. And her series of Amish-themed romances, Men of Lancaster County, has won genre awards.


In 2018 Eli hopes to do more of the same, assuming they reschedule the apocalypse.


Her website is www.elieaston.com
You can email her at eli@elieaston.com

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Review Tour and Giveaway for Hawk In The Rowan (The Rowan Harbor Cycle #4) by Sam Burns

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Length: 45,000 words approx.



Cover Design: Melanie Harlow @ Clause & Effect

 
The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series
 
Book #2 – Wolf and the Holly
Book #3 – Fox and Birch
 
Blurb
 

Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.


Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.


This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA.

 

About The Author


Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.


If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.


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Book Blast – Survivors by Jessie Pinkham (excerpt)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: Survivors

Author: Jessie Pinkham

Publisher: Evernight Publishing

Cover Artist: Jay Aheer

Release Date: May 8, 2017

Genre/s: Romance, M/M Romance, Erotic Romance, Post-Apocalyptic

Length: 62,000 words/190 pages

This is a standalone book.

Goodreads 

Blurb

As a farmer Lee Johnson is well-situated to survive in the aftermath of a plague that killed most of humanity. As a gay man in a small community he’s resigned himself to the probability of lifelong bachelorhood, at least until his sister returns home with handsome Army veteran Nate Schlessinger.

Sparks fly between the two men but nothing is easy following the collapse of civilization. Nate claims to be celibate despite his clear interest, Lee tries to keep his neighbors from starving, and the threat of attack looms constantly. Can love triumph in the ruins of the world as we knew it?

Buy Links

Evernight

Amazon (Universal)

Bookstrand

Smashwords

Excerpt

Nate looks skeptically at the carrots he pulled up. “Are these carrots supposed to be yellow?”

“Yes. You’ve never seen yellow carrots? They’re the best.”

“How many colors do carrots come in?”

“We grow yellow, orange, and purple, but there are red and white too. White carrots don’t have much flavor so I don’t see the point.”

It’s a nice morning for harvesting. Nate and I are working on carrots while Lily is one field over gathering onions. Every couple of minutes the wind carries over a few words of whatever song she’s singing to herself. The dogs are amusing themselves playing tug of war with a piece of rope I knotted for that purpose.

My shoulders are a bit stiff from helping Stan move yesterday, therefore I’m not harvesting carrots quite as quickly as I could. The fact that Nate is new to pulling carrots is a convenient excuse to slow down. It’s not a difficult concept to yank carrots out of the soil and Nate’s doing a fine job, though he’s the first person I’ve ever seen harvest carrots with a handgun holstered on.

“Yellow and purple carrots. Orange tomatoes. What next,” he asks, “red pumpkins?”

The orange tomatoes were an heirloom variety Mom decided to try this year which are worth growing again. I’ve saved a good amount of seeds, plenty for us and the neighbors. Genetic diversity in crops will serve us well.

“The pumpkins are all orange.”

“Good. I like some consistency in my life.”

“Getting up every morning to take care of the animals isn’t consistent enough for you?” Livestock guarantees a certain level of routine in our lives.

“I like plenty of consistency.”

“Farming is good for that.” I make sure I’m quiet for my next question, something that’s been nagging me. “Do you think we have a good chance of defending ourselves?”

“It depends on a lot of factors. We have the advantage over a small, maybe mid-sized gang unless they have really impressive weapons, but we can’t hold off an army. Fortunately, I think small gangs are more likely at this point.”

“Have I mentioned that my dad kept his great-great grandfather’s Civil War sword? It’s in the chest in the living room.”

“Let’s hold that as a last resort, okay?”

“Works for me. Damned if I know how to use the thing.”

“Now, a Civil War cannon might have more potential.”

“I think we’re stuck with the bows.”

“On the plus side those don’t run the risk of blowing up in our faces.”

“That’s a very big plus,” I say. Nate has his first homemade bow complete now, though it doesn’t shoot very far.  

“Our biggest advantage, I think, is that I can probably shoot people as they approach. The military helmets will help a lot there.” He ignores the carrots in favor of looking at me, all weighty responsibility. “I’m going to do everything I can to protect us, to protect you and Lily.”

I demonstrate my appreciation with a kiss. “Thank you. Just remember you’re not doing it single-handedly, okay?”

“You’re a decent shot. That will help.”

He’s being generous. I’m a decent shot at close range with a slow-moving target, and my abilities degrade from there. Like I said, I went bird hunting with my dad sometimes, but it was never my favorite and that shows in my skill level.

“Lily can shoot too,” he says. “Even if she’s not a great shot it will create more chaos and give them more bullets to dodge.” Guns aren’t her favorite, but there’s no doubt she’ll do whatever is necessary. “I think we’ll be alright, barring some property damage.”

“I hope we’re alright. And that any property damage is minor.”

“I’m not going down without a fight,” he says, which I already knew. Nate’s just like that. “I’m happier than I thought I could be after Severny destroyed everything. Not that it isn’t hard, and I don’t miss people all the time, but somewhere along the way I realized I need to let myself be happy, you know?”

“Yes.” I really, really do. It’s easy to fall into survivor’s guilt until you realize that nobody who died would want us to spend the rest of our lives miserable. That doesn’t mean I don’t have my bouts of survivor’s guilt all the same. It does make it easier to move forward and feel okay about it when I smile and laugh.

“You’re a big part of my happiness. You do know that, right?”

“I know.” I kiss him again. “And I feel the same way. You’re awesome like that.”

“Keep throwing around adjectives like awesome and I’m gonna get a big head.”

“Which head are we talking about?” I ask with an unsubtle glance at his crotch.

“I was talking about the one on my neck.”

“Past tense. I can work with that. Let’s hurry up and get these carrots harvested so we can go inside, where I can admire your other head.”

“If I didn’t know better I’d say you only want me for my body.”

“Since you do know better there’s nothing wrong with heartfelt appreciation.”

Nate raises his eyebrows. “Sure, pretend your heart is in charge at the moment.”

“You say that as though it’s a bad thing, but you’re picking carrots faster.”

About the Author

Some kids have imaginary friends. Jessie grew up in rural Maine where she needed to entertain herself, so she created an imaginary village and she has been dreaming up stories ever since. These days she writes romances which reflect her love of hot guys and a good happy ending.

Married to her own Mr. Right, Jessie gratefully acknowledges his support and encouragement. She enjoys exploring the diversity of the universe and therefore cannot commit to a single subgenre of male/male romance. She’s also a chocoholic, avid reader, and travel enthusiast. Too often she rushes out at the last minute because she lost track of time while writing.

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