A MelanieM Review: Demon Familiar (Wanted #1) by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Sometimes when you don’t know what you want, life gives you what you need. 

When Neil Markovic witnesses the murder of his mother by Bone Men his world is thrown into turmoil. On the run from the assassins that killed her, his sorcerer father and the police, Neil finds help in the form of a tall half fae alchemist named Malachai. Mal seems more accepting than most of Neil’s demon bloodline, but curiously immune to his charms.

Malachai Valentine, disgraced scion of a noble Leprechaun clan, back in the Old Country, is happy living as an anonymous scrap dealer. Using his talent for alchemy to make fuel and potions, most days he doesn’t even think of his ruinous past. When a scared young man with a fancy car crashes into his life, at first, Mal thinks he can do without the hassle. But as Neil begins to get under his skin, Mal starts to reassess his hopes and ambitions.

Harassed by megalomaniac fae and stalked by sorcerous killers at every turn, Malachai and Neil must fight to be free, and to find what they both truly wanted.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, murder and non-consensual sex.

When I finished Demon Familiar, I just wanted to do a little teeth gnashing.  Where, oh, where, was the next book in this series? Oh, wait…not to be published until August 2018.  Let the wails commence.  That’s because at the end of this gritty, sometimes tender, occasionally horrific but always, always riveting story I wanted nothing more than for it (and this couple and other characters) to continue.

Demon Familiar by Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham is the first in their new Wanted series and as such left some fairly large mysteries looming large while the overall arc for this story was resolved.  Yes, I was completely satisfied yet I knew just as Mal and Neil’s relationship was going to grow and deepen so would their journey that would continue to explain each of their back histories.  And I can’t wait.

The authors were masters at the tease here.

They gave us intriguing (and so often appalling hints as to events in Mal’s past and elements from Neil’s, that had our own speculations leaning from the tortuous to the downright insane.  And probably being right.  On top of that, they weave Gaelic mythology into an alternate city of  Detroit that’s just familiar enough to be both alien and mundane.  What a marvelous location.  It felt like a character itself with its atmosphere and vivid descriptions.

I loved the way the authors carefully built the relationship between Mal and Neil, while exposing both characters to the readers (alternating pov).  This is a big cast, full of fae, gremlins, demons, and more.  Not high fantasy but more urban fantasy,  the gritty underbelly of society for many.  Think pimps, drugs, whores and thieves.  And with that comes non-con for a section.  It’s only a section but its there and I expect to see it again for reasons I will not go into in the upcoming stories.  Maybe wrong but I don’t think so.  People and beings are in part a commodity in certain sections of town here.

They have just started their world building and it’s only going to get better because the foundation is already rock solid.

I thought it ended a little too soon but I’m hoping the next book picks up directly after the events of this one.  My mind is buzzing over a few clues here and there, and the mysteries left unsolved.  I want more of these characters and more of Mal and Neil.  I want their backstories and I want their future.  I can’t wait for this series to go forward.

Pick this one up which I highly recommend and join me in waiting for the next one to roll out.

Cover art: Posh Gosh.  The red head works for Mal but in no way does the dark haired character work for the incandescent youth Neil.

Sales Links: Pride Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 244 pages
Expected publication: June 19th 2018 by Pride Publishing
ISBN139781786516695
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesWanted #1

A Caryn Review: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra

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Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

I actually had a hard time rating this book, because there were pieces I loved, and pieces I hated.  Mental illness and mental health – I think its very important to mention that, since the MC is actually in successful therapy and making progress at controlling what has to be understood as a chronic illness – are the predominant themes of the book, much more so than romance.  Personally I like reading about that, but it might turn some readers off.

Reid is a 20 year old young man who had been struggling with mental illness for years before he was finally diagnosed and started receiving proper treatment.  He was a cutter – a behavior that left him increasingly isolated.  The years he went untreated, and his eventual breakdown that led to inpatient treatment, created an increasingly difficult environment at home, where he was constantly reminded of his failures, and could not find a way to break out of that mold while living at home with his parents in Wisconsin, near his on again, off again dysfunctional boyfriend.  His grandmother owned a condo in the Florida keys, and offered it to Reid so he would have a place to stay away from all the unhealthy influences at home, and have a chance to continue his recovery.

In Key Largo, Reid met Joachim who was teaching dive classes.  Both men were instantly attracted to each other, but dating, much less forming a relationship, was incredibly difficult due to Reid’s illness.  The fact that Joachim was a wanderer at heart and only in Florida temporarily compounded those difficulties.  When they did commit to each other and admit they were each in love – way to soon as far as I was concerned – they continued to work through issues.  The ending however, was pretty abrupt and unsatisfactory.

The author mentions at the beginning that this is an #ownvoices book, and I will be honest that I wasn’t quite sure what that was in relation to – was it ethnicity or mental illness?  Although there are two MCs, Reid – white, American – is clearly the predominant character in the book.  Joaquim is Brazilian, but to a large extent I felt that his character existed primarily to offset and highlight the struggles Reid went through, and that his character was not very well developed.  The descriptions of Reid’s mental illness – cyclothymia – how it affected his behavior, his perceptions, and his interactions with others was detailed, but sensitive, and definitely one of the aspects I loved.  Those descriptions were so well done, in fact, that it felt like the author must have lived through them – if not personally, then perhaps witnessing cyclothymia in a family member or friend.  I don’t know if it was because there was so much focus on Reid’s condition, but I found that I couldn’t connect well with either of the MC’s, and the romance did not feel convincing to me.  The fact that the book was written in present tense, however, is what really turned me off.  I find present tense obnoxious, a little pretentious, hard to read, and it brought my rating down, but if other readers don’t mind alternating POV in present tense, this would probably be a more highly rated read.

Cover art by CB Messer is just lovely, and I thought the small size of the divers in a wide expanse of ocean really played up the title.

Sales Links:

Interlude Press: store.interludepress.com

Amazon: http://amzn.to/2FbYh4V

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/791892

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-tiny-piece-of-something-greater/id1348808986?mt=11

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/a-tiny-piece-of-something-greater

Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781945053603

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1 edition, 264 pages
Published May 17th 2018 by Interlude Press
Original TitleA Tiny Piece of Something Greater
ASINB079YZ6XKW
Edition LanguageEnglish

KICKSTARTER BLOG TOUR for Themensha by MxKnowitall

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BLOG TOUR

JUNE 1 – 10

Book Title:   Themensha

Author/Artist:  MxKnowitall (a pen name of Morven Moeller)

Publisher:  Dreampunk Press

Genre/s: SciFi/Fantasy, Slice-of-Life, LGBT, Speculative Fiction, Fiction for a Cause.

Estimated Length: 120  pages

Themensha is a graphic novel written and drawn by a young artist in memory of their grandmother and for Dementia Awareness. Morven Moeller (pen name MxKnowitall) is the author and an artist who creates gender non-conforming art. The book is based on real events and in memory of their grandmother.  It’s about a grandmother with Dementia/Alzheimer’s and her interactions and legacy left on her transgender/non-binary grandchild. People will ‘pre-order’ the book through the Kickstarter for the first run. The publisher said they’d double the print run for anything over 100 orders. The author plans to sell any additional books in the Dreampunk Press online store or in-person at conventions (which they go to regularly to sell their artwork).  Morven is hoping for at least 60 pre-orders, or even better, 250 because it’ll be a better print quality. However unlike other pre-orders, these will cost the same as the actual book, $12 (plus shipping).

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Blurb

Themensha explores the themes of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, LGBT acceptance, family, and purpose.  Follow Leigh through the last month of their gramma’s life, where they find emotional strength, insecurity, and purpose.

KICKSTARTER BLURB

The purpose of this Blog Tour is to promote the Kickstarter project running from June 1 – July 1.

PLEDGE YOUR SUPPORT AND RECEIVE

AN EBOOK,  SIGNED PAPERBACK,

DIGITAL ART PACK, OR FOIL POSTER PACK

depending on how much you pledge.

See the link for more details

THE KICKSTARTER LINK  

Excerpt

“It’s sad, but it’s okay that it’s sad.  Because my love from my gramma becomes compassion for others in need.  Because my love for my gramma becomes advice for a friend. Because my love for my gramma becomes a new closeness to others.  And it’s love like that that heals and mends and brings us together. So, not a drop of my love from my gramma is wasted.”

A black and white page from the graphic novel

About the Author

MxKnowitall, aka Morven Moeller, is a young artist out of Hampton Roads Area of Virginia. They are agender, preferring they/them pronouns, however they don’t consider that a huge part of their identity and other pronouns are also acceptable.  They have a degree in Applied Mathematics and are finishing graduate study in Mission Analysis and Engineering. This may seem somewhat peculiar, but most things about Morven are peculiar. They have multiple LGBT novellas spanning from middle-grade to new adult genres and currently eat a lot of rice and veggies due to a cacophony of medically-necessitated dietary restrictions. They are a huge anime and animation fan, and that appreciation is often an influence on their work. Their interests often include LGBT topics, autism awareness, anime fandom, fanfiction, and their loving friends and family.

Social Media Links

Facebook PROJECT PAGE

Facebook Author Page

Author’s Amazon Page

BLOG TOUR SCHEDULE

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

On Tour with Jacqui the Cat Mysteries by Alexis Duran (Prowl ~Pounce~Roam) – Excerpts and Giveaway

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Jacqui the Cat Series

Alexis Duran has a new book out in her Jacqui the Cat cozy MM mystery series – “Roam” – and there’s a Giveaway!

About the Series

Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes. Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements. Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he’s drawn ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (you wish).


Giveaway

Alexis is giving one lucky winner a $10 Amazon gift card. Enter via Rafflecopter for a chance to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d4713/?


Book One: Prowl

Prowl

Jacqui Corleone is a fashion designer, a yoga-instructor and a concerned citizen who selflessly helps the police solve crimes.  Oh, and he occasionally turns into a small wild cat. Probably due to a wizard’s curse or an evil government plot to create super warriors.

Or, he’s a cat cursed to turn into a human and only the bite of a sexy alpha lion will allow him to remain in his superior form of Cat.

Jacqui does not have a split personality, but sometimes his cat personality can get rather loud.

Loud? You’re loud.

Jacqui Corleone is a cat shifter who doesn’t know why or how he turns into a cat. He lives a solitary life in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. He’s not afraid of intimacy (yes, he is) but sensibly refrains from potentially awkward entanglements.  Unfortunately, the sexy new deputy sheriff just moved in across the street and Jacqui’s vow not to get mixed up with island dudes is sorely challenged.

When the mysterious disappearance of three blue pots draws Jacqui to investigate, he prowls ever deeper into danger–and into the arms of Deputy Wyatt West (he wishes).

Prowl Excerpt:

Not that anything could make Jacqui a dull boy, but hours spent stooped over his sewing table had given him a kink in his neck along a strong urge to throw aside his needle and leap out the window.

Instead he sighed dramatically, pressed his palms against the edge of the heavy table and stretched his neck, tilting his head to one side and then the other. He arched his back, slouched, arched again. Not working.He stood, padded across the hardwood floor and slid open the glass door to his tiny balcony.

He’d been working for hours and still had two jackets to finish. Zee was arriving the next day to pick up the new outfits Jacqui had created. Everything had to be perfect. And complete. Complete and perfect and amazing. Because Zee was a rising star, and when the rabble got a look at the Cat’s Eye creations adorning Zee’s nearly famous bod, Jacqui would have it made. That was the assumption, anyway. Orders would flood his inbox, gobs of money would flow into his bank account, and he could hire an assistant and stop working these dog-awful hours.

Or not. After all, what else would he do with his time if not toil?

Right now, he had a strong urge to prowl.

Now is not the time, Cat. Now is the time of toil.

He stepped out on his second-story balcony and took a deep breath of fresh, slightly salty air blowing in off the water. His studio apartment overlooked Friday Harbor, and at the cusp of sunset, both town and harbor were bathed in a pinkish glow, doing that twinkly and picturesque as all get-out thing that happened on lovely summer evenings like this.

Must prowl.

No. The stitching had to be perfect. The lines exquisitely formed to Zee’s angular shape, the drape immaculate. The last version hadn’t been up to Jacqui’s exacting standards. He’d pulled out a day’s work in a pissy rage at himself, and now he was paying for it.

You’ll be more efficient after a prowl. And Zee’s seaplane won’t arrive until midday.

Jacqui made the mistake of looking down, letting his gaze wander across the street, to where a moving van had recently been parked.

Jacqui had a new neighbor.

Back. To. Work.

Jacqui’s new neighbor was Wyatt West, the new deputy sheriff in town. Yes, Jacqui had played around with the name in an endlessly juvenile fashion. Wild Wild West, with the broad shoulders, lean waist, and an ass to die for. Dark brown hair, amber eyes, and a crooked smile that made Jacqui’s heart do a little squeezy thing, leaving him breathless. How wild was West, Jacqui couldn’t help but wonder?

So they’d never spoken. Minor detail. Didn’t matter. Until this weekend Wyatt West of the exceptionally hot body was a live aboard, a local brand of lunatic who lived on a sailboat surrounded by fucking water. Jacqui wasn’t about to go sniffing around a mental case like that.

But now Wild Wyatt Hot Bod was Jacqui’s across-the-street-two-condos-down neighbor and required closer inspection. Because all neighbors required inspection. Because curiosity.

“Wait for it. Anticipation makes it all the more sweet.”

To hell with that. Do the change and let’s check Wild West out.

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Book Two: Pounce

Half-cat, half-human, all-awesome, Jacqui has spent his life avoiding getting too close to anyone.  But despite his best intentions, he just can’t stay away from the sexy deputy sheriff, Wyatt West, especially after Jacqui is the victim of a local band of thieves and turns to the police for help.

When the call of curiosity grows too insistent, Jacqui does a little prying around on his own, an activity that quickly leads him into danger.

Is this the end for our Furry Fashionista, or will the heroic and altogether too handsome Wyatt save the day? And more importantly, will they finally have sex?? Read Pounce, Book 2 in the Jacqui the Mysteries, to find out.

Pounce Excerpt:

Jacqui stretched out long, ass in the air, paws out in front of him. As Cat, he was strong, fast, invincible. He could see in the dark, leap tall fences in a single bound, smell and hear every nuance of change in his neighborhood, and spy on Wyatt without getting arrested for being a creeper. Everything about being Cat was good, except for doorknobs and dogs. And the inability to sew or make anything. And the fact that ordinary cats took one look at him and freaked.

He sat on the sidewalk outside his apartment. The gin had released its hold on his brain. The crowd at Wyatt’s had long ago dispersed, and Jacqui could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning, the street was empty of people. A possum rooted around in someone’s compost pile on the next block. Two cats were facing off in a yard behind the apartment building, still in the growling low stage. Bats zinged through the air, chasing bugs.

His ears twitched and his tail flicked back and forth across the pavement. From a long way off, he heard a bicycle. Because he had nothing else on his prowling agenda, he went toward the sound, vaguely curious to see who was peddling home in the wee hours.

He padded across the street and peeked into Wyatt’s backyard. If the tree in the corner were positioned differently, he’d totally be peeking into that bedroom window.

No. That’s just wrong.

Another reason why being a cat is better. Peeping is required. It’s a survival skill.

It’s creepy.

Jacqui peered into the dark rectangle of Wyatt’s patio door for a while, thinking back on how dangerously close to flirting they’d come. They’d flirted with flirting. He knew if he changed back into Jacqui and rapped on that door, Wyatt wouldn’t be surprised. Except for maybe the naked thing. And maybe Wyatt would think Jacqui was more than a little weird, but he wouldn’t turn him away.

Jacqui turned away. It kind of felt inevitable, this imminent collision of body parts and exchange of fluids, but it had to be carefully controlled and limited.

Okay, Wyatt, we can fuck, because we’re guys and that’s what guys do, but here are the rules:

One: No getting all up in my business.

Two: No looking at me funny when I have out loud arguments with myself.

Three: No asking me where I’ve been all night.

Four: No questioning why a guy who loves cats and volunteers at the local shelter doesn’t own a cat.

Five: No falling in love.

Six: No suggesting I see a therapist to address my fear of intimacy issues.

Seven: No prying into my life prior to two years ago.

Eight: No whining when I drop you like a hot potato for no reason whatsoever.

Nine: Who the fuck is that?

Jacqui stopped on the corner of Harrison and Oak to watch the Midnight Biker push his bike up the hill. He was a young dude Jacqui hadn’t seen before, with stringy blond hair poking out of a stocking cap. He wore a lived-in, slept-in, rolled-in-the-dirt-in dingy canvas coat and shredded jeans. He had a big pack on his back and his eyes darted this way and that, peering into people’s yards.

Suspicious? Oh, yeah.

Jacqui slipped into a convenient pool of shadows and watched the interloper trudge by.

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


Book Three: Roam

Roam

Being half-cat isn’t easy in a human world, and Jacqui’s life has just gotten a lot more complicated now that he’s dating the hot deputy sheriff who lives across the street. Wyatt’s brain might explode if he finds out his lover turns into a cat sometimes.

And even more unthinkable, Wyatt might REJECT Jacqui if he discovers that his boyfriend and Satan the feral wild cat are one and the same! As if Jacqui doesn’t have enough to worry about, he becomes the unwilling foster parent of a drooling dog, and soon discovers a nefarious plot involving marauding Rottweilers with a taste for Cat.

Follow Jacqui into trouble in his most exciting misadventure yet!

Roam Excerpt:

Several desperate phone calls did not procure any dog-sitter leads. Mei Lin was off island. Rose laughed derisively at the suggestion. Mary Lou, who ran the shelter, was ferrying visiting relatives around the island and just couldn’t possibly take in an extra dog, no matter how much she really wanted to.

When Sam pulled to a stop in front of Jacqui’s apartment, Jacqui’s spirits were low. All Cat could do was emit a low moan every now and then.

“I’ve got to give the beast a bath before I let it anywhere near my stuff.”

“Can I watch?” Sam asked, grinning.

“Help? Surely you meant to ask if you could help?” Jacqui said, turning a withering glare upon him.

“Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

Jacqui slid out of the truck and ran up the stairs to his loft apartment. He was half-tempted to lock the door, pull the drapes, and hope that Sam would give up and drive away with the dog.

Not likely.

He grabbed a bottle of expensive shampoo that he’d decided left his hair too dry, and a thick beach towel. Clutching these items, he looked around at his pristine upholstered furniture and shining wood floors with increasing trepidation. He set down the supplies, rummaged around for an old sheet, and threw it over the couch.

Jacqui didn’t have much in the way of old stuff. He quickly got rid of items that didn’t please him. In other words, he had little he was willing to sacrifice to the ravages of Stinky. Worst-case scenarios began to fill his mind: images of dog toenails shredding cushions, dog slobber staining silk, and so he forced himself to pick up the bath supplies and go back down the stairs.

Sam had found the hose the groundskeeper used and was playing a game of spray-Stinky-from-behind every time the poor dog turned around, which was constantly. The sight of the lumbering man-child and the soaking wet, hairy dog sent a shiver up Jacqui’s spine. He didn’t like hoses, and didn’t like the merriment with which men like Sam turned them on others.

“Put the hose down and step away,” Jacqui said in a low, hopefully menacing tone.

“What? Don’t want to get wet?” Sam asked with a grin, but when he saw the glower on Jacqui’s face, some glimmer of self-preservation stopped him in his overly playful tracks. He took his thumb off the trigger of the nozzle. “I promise I won’t spray you on purpose.”

“Not good enough. Put the hose down, Sam.” Jacqui reached for his best Clint Eastwood, steely-eyed glare.

Sam carefully lowered the hose to the ground and lifted both hands as he backed away a few steps.

“There’s the look that puts the fear into a Rottweiler.”

Stinky ran circles around Sam, barking gleefully, a sound that grated on Jacqui’s already taut nerves.

“This is not a game. This is not fun. We are going to clean that damn dog with no shenanigans. Understand?”

“No shenanigans.” Sam nodded and hung his head in fake shame.

Jacqui strode forward with confidence. Never let them see your fear.

He dropped the towel and the shampoo on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the road, and picked up the hose. He took a deep breath and said, “You hold the beast. I’ll douse him.”

Get it On Amazon/Kindle Unlimited


About the Author

Alexis Duran was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. At the University of Oregon, her fascination with people and relationships led her to major in Sociology, but her main love has always been creative writing.

She’s worked in museums, finance, film production and for several performing arts organizations. Her favorite job so far has been inventorying the collection of a haunted Victorian Mansion. She is the author of the Masters and Mages and Edge of Night m/m fantasy series as well as several stand-alone romances.

Her fiction has won awards including the Rupert Hughes Award from the Maui Writers Conference.

She lives with one dog and four and a half cats. She is currently working on the next Jacqui the Cat mystery and always has several new ideas brewing.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

Author Website: http://www.alexisduranblog.com

Author Facebook (Author Page): http://www.facebook.com/alexis.duran.18294

Author Twitter: http://twitter.com/AlexisSDuran

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8332457.Alexis_Duran

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/alexis-duran/

Author Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00L4KQU0Y#

Highlight Tour for Mercs by Dorian Dawes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Mercs!

Author: Dorian Dawes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 4, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 72100

Genre: Science Fiction, sci-fi, military, gay, trans, aliens, space

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Famous bounty hunter Talisha Artul is not having a good day. A hostile alien planet full of bandits and refugees, an entire group of mercenaries all told to kill her and take her armor, and it’s barely even noon. All she wanted was to earn a paycheck and make her mother proud. They’ve barely shared a kind word since she came out of the closet as trans and took her mother’s name.

Now she’s travelling with an android cowboy with split-personality issues and an eight-foot-tall warrior woman to beat a group of vengeful pirates and the galactic federation’s military forces to uncover an ancient alien temple. Talisha soon learns that despite her legal standing, there is little that separates her from these marginalized cutthroats and outcasts. They’re all victims here, all pawns in their shadowy employer’s game.

Excerpt

Mercs!
Dorian Dawes © 2018
All Rights Reserved

“Were these seriously the best mercs you could hire?” The cigarette moved in the corner of Madame Inspector’s mouth as she spoke. She flicked her fingers across the pile of folders strewn across her desk. “Absolute rubbish.”

A little man with lily-white skin stood fidgeting with his spectacles in the doorway, clutching a briefcase close to his chest. Madame Inspector scared the living hell out of him. She liked it that way and would have smiled at his discomfort if she thought it’d make him squirm just a little bit more.

He took a tentative step, but she held a palm up and he froze where he stood. Good dog.

“Madame Inspector, I assure you they are highly qualified.” The overhanging lamp cast a glare over his glasses. “I’ve assembled before you the most dangerous individuals in the galaxy.”

Madame Inspector scowled, spreading out the files and pictures of each motley outcast passing themself off as a mercenary. “These bozos are more danger to themselves than anyone else, Mr. Snidely. Crooks and ruffians.”

“That’s why they’re perfect for the position,” Snidely said. He mustered up the courage to give her a wicked smile. “They’re completely disposable. Should be easy to turn them on one another when we’re done.”

Madame Inspector leaned back in her seat. She tapped the ashes of her cigarette into the tray and stared at him until his smile melted into open-mouthed fear. She said nothing, waiting for him to wither before the cold deadlights of her eyes.

“Mr. Snidely,” she said, a voice like gravel. “Not once have I witnessed one with as much audacity…or initiative. Good work. You’re dismissed.”

Snidely bowed his head and ducked hurriedly out of her office. She frowned as he left. The kid had gumption, ambition. They could be useful qualities in the right doses. She’d have to test him.

Archimedes IV, a war-torn rock populated by refugees and outlaws. It’d been deemed unfit for life by the Council of Thirteen following a resource war that’d decimated the planet and irrevocably altered the landscape. Some forests remained, having evolved to meet the harsh environmental conditions. The trees had become predators themselves, feeding off unwary travelers.

With its constant dangers and inhospitable environment, Archimedes IV had been abandoned by the Intergalactic Peacekeeping Federation, which made it the ideal location for all sorts of criminal scum to stash their ill-gotten gains. So long as they hid away in backwater filth, the law paid them no mind. It was out of their jurisdiction.

Talisha Artul had no jurisdiction. If the job told her to go, she’d go. The IGF had found her as reliable a resource as her mother. Abandoned science station deemed too dangerous to send in a full squad? Talisha was there with her arm cannon and jet pack.

Becoming a space-faring licensed bounty hunter had a few perks. The pay was decent—a huge bonus considering over half her funds were split between expensive hormone treatments and helping support her mother’s orphanage. Being able to traverse the galaxy and visit other worlds definitely ranked high on the list. Getting shot at on a daily basis was a minor drawback in comparison.

Reservations about this latest assignment scratched at the back of her mind as she sorted through the information provided to her on her tablet. An anonymous corporate employer had contacted her, leaving the legality of the assignment in question. She’d have to make a call to the appropriate channels to make sure her licensing fees had been taken care of. New information presented itself that she’d be assigned to a task force after previous assurances that she’d be working alone.

She threw the tablet against the ship console. “Shit!”

Talisha preferred working alone for multiple reasons. Silence kept her head clear and victory assured in any firefight. Other people introduced far more variables than she was comfortable with.

Maybe Mom would know what to do.

Talisha grabbed the headset from a compartment just above her and slipped it over her head. She made a sour expression at the tablet as she slumped back into her seat. A few moments later, her mother’s voice crackled into her feed.

“Talisha? Thought you’d be on-world by now,” Ms. Artul said.

“Mom, when is it okay to back out of an assignment?”

“Uh-oh. What happened?”

Talisha filled her in on the particulars of the assignment, making notes of the new last-minute information.

Her mother thought about that one for a while. “Your reputation is pretty strong right now. You could probably afford to back out.”

“What about you?” Talisha asked. “How’s the orphanage doing?”

“Expensive. Feels like there’s new orphans every day. People keep dying and leaving behind their little ones. This planet’s in need.”

“Do you have enough to make it through the month?” Talisha propped her elbows against the console and scratched the back of her neck with one hand.

Ms. Artul muttered under her breath in Swahili, then spat out, “Don’t you dare. If you don’t feel good about this mission, don’t take it.”

“You can’t order me around, Mom. I’m just being stubborn and paranoid…like you.”

“I wish you hadn’t called then.” There was a lengthy pause. “Fucking hell, kid.”

Talisha’s eyes watered. These were the types of conversations that drove people to drink. She gritted her teeth and pursed her lips, fingers shaking.

“I’m taking the job,” Talisha said, then threw the headset against the console.

Bluebird had seen her fair share of overcrowded dung heaps in her time—claustrophobic messes violating every single fire safety law in the galaxy; easy places to get stabbed and looted before you even had a chance to know what had happened. Folks in a hurry could trample your corpse without even noticing. By contrast, the spaceport on Archimedes IV was practically empty. A dumpster left at the back end of the long passage looked like it’d been overflowing for years. Shit and graffiti marred the walls, and it was nearly impossible to see through the teller’s window for all the grime and filth covering it.

Bluebird sniffed. She might come to like it there. Smelled just like home.

The poor terminal worker did a double take at her through the glass. “P-p-passport.”

By this point, Bluebird had become well accustomed to most people’s reactions to her appearance. She was proud of the severe scarring that marred one side of her face, the mark of a fine battle. Bluebird also knew that most people had never seen a Karstotzkiyan in their lives and were unaccustomed to seeing eight-foot-tall women with striking blue hair and hardened jowls. It’s where she’d gotten the nickname Big Ugly Bluebird. She liked it.

“Identification provided!” She slammed a meaty hand against the counter and slid a thick wad of papers through the slot beneath the window.

He stared at the mess of documentation and sighed. There were official licensing documents in the scattered heap to be certain, but there were also receipts to fast food joints, hair salons, old concert tickets dating decades back, etc. Bluebird grimaced, feeling a twinge of guilt. It’d take this poor man hours to sift through it all. She rummaged around in her pockets from some additional cash and deposited it atop the mess of documentation.

He sighed. He gulped, staring at the blue veins bulging beneath her thick muscles and the giant satchel strapped to her back. She did her best to give him a reassuring smile but was certain she only came across as even more imposing. Oh well, it couldn’t be helped.

He put a stamp on top the chaotic mess of pages and handed them back to her. “You know what, this is fine. Have a lovely stay on Archimedes IV.”

“You are most efficient. Thank you!” She gave him a thumbs-up and snatched the documents beneath her arm. She sauntered out the spaceport with a satisfied smile.

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Meet the Author

Dorian Dawes is a self-described social justice witch and full-time gender disaster who never grew out of their goth phase. In addition to fiction, they have also written for tabletop rpgs and several published essays on feminism and LGBT issues. When not writing they can be found playing video games and plotting the revolution of the proletariat.

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