A MelanieM Review: Bloodlines (Boystown #7) by Marshall Thornton

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

WINNER LAMBDA AWARD GAY MYSTERY

In the seventh book of the best-selling Boystown Mystery series, Private Investigator Nick Nowak finds himself simultaneously working two cases for his new client, law firm Cooke, Babcock and Lackerby. A suburban dentist has been convicted of murdering her adulterous husband.

Nick is asked to interview witnesses for the penalty phase of the trial—and possibly find the dead man’s mistress. At the same time, he’s deeply involved in protecting Outfit underboss Jimmy English from a task force out to prosecute him for a crime he may not have committed. While juggling these cases Nick slowly begins to rebuild his personal life.

In Bloodlines, Nick Nowak is slowly putting his life back together after the shattering events of Murder Book.  He’s back in the investigative business and working for his friend Owen’s law  firm on several cases at once, one of which he has personal ties to.

On the home front?  Several things have shown him its more than time for him to find a new apartment,  issues with teenager Terry  arise and Mrs. Harker becomes an ever bigger part of Nick’s life.

Thornton’s ability to weave so many different emotional threads through his stories, keep them all vividly alive and connected at the right places to NIck and the reader, while pushing through not one but two murder/mystery cases?  Just amazing!

Plus in Nick’s awkward, “yeah, that’s not working well” sort of way, a romance or at least a burgeoning relationship is trying to take some baby steps.  Of course, with Nick, that means sex immediately. For the other person?  Not so much.  Which leads to issues and  some very frustrating times.

The cases that Nick is working on have very deep moral/philosophical questions behind them if one is the type to ask them (as Nick is).  One case involves the older mobster Jimmy English, who has always been good to Nick, and while he may not have committed this particular murder, has most certainly committed many others in his past.  And the other case?  A woman who refuses to talk about why she killed her philandering husband.  Owen wants Nick to find out anything that will make a jury more sympathetic.  Two muddy, convoluted cases, full of roadblocks, and craters before Nick can find any answers.

How each investigation unrolls won’t be discussed but they are compelling, moving, and the results of each astonishing.  One I guessed halfway through partially but it was only a half of what was to come.  As is with most of Nick’s investigations, Marshall Thornton uses his knowledge of human behavior, and gives us another Nick Nowak novel that contains both the bittersweetness of life and some hope for the future.

Thank the gods for the perspective of Nick Nowak.  His voice makes the series. It’s caustic, knowing, rueful, determined,  reasonably kind, and always human.  I can’t get enough of it.  Bloodlines, the path to his recovery, is a great example of that. Yes, I can see why it won the Lambda Literary Award but then I don’t see why the others didn’t.

I highly recommend this story and all the others in the series.  But read them in the order they were written.  None are stand alone stories and follow along the narrative order.

Cover art matches the others in the series and works emotionally.

Sales Link: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 194 pages
Published March 6th 2015 by Kenmore Books
ASINB00TCZK428
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesBoystown #7
Literary Awards Lambda Literary Award for Gay Mystery (2016)

Series:

Boystown Bundle 1 – 3 – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #4 A Time For Secrets – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #5 Murder Book – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #6 From The Ashes – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #7 Bloodlines – Amazon US | Amazon UK (ON SALE for 99c)
Book #8 The Lies That Bind – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #9 Lucky Days – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #10 Gifts Given – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #11 Hearts Desire – Amazon US | Amazon UK (PREORDER

A MelanieM Review: Born of Air (Dragon Soul #4) by Sean Michael

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Meet the Beteferoce brothers: five dragon shifters, each with a strong elemental power. And each with a fierce desire to find his soul mate…

He said he was flying on a silver dragon. He called me “Markus-meine.” Who would know all that? Who? And how?

SWAT cop and dragon shifter Mark Beteferoce had—and lost—a soul mate. He’s finally at the point where he can get through the days without thinking about what used to be…until he tastes Quincy O’Brien’s doughnuts and takes him home to play.

Quincy O’Brien is a gifted baker, but at night he dreams of soaring through the sky on dragonback and being topped by the perfect Dom. Mark satisfies the kinky urges Quincy has only explored in his subconscious, pushing his limits and caring for him afterward.

From the start, their connection was more than sexual. It’s known; it’s familiar somehow. And it’s slowly driving Mark insane. What shouldn’t be possible most certainly is, and the bond between himself and Quincy runs deeper than either of them could ever have realized.

The fourth in the Dragon Soul series, Born of Air is Mark’s story, the Betereroce brother I’ve been waiting for.  Mark lost his soul mate long ago when he was murdered and since then, he’s seen little of his brothers or their new soul mates because of the memories and pain it brings up.  Mark believes there is only one soul mate and he’s lost his  forever.  Until he meets a baker who dreams of flying and a silver dragon.

Born of Air departs from the other three stories because Mark has already found and lost his mate.  In the three previous books, all three brothers needed to find their mates and had help courtesy of a tattoo and  an elf.  That  didn’t happen here. The connection that Mark and Quincy make is a familiar one and  one that Mark immediately rejects as impossible.

That impossibility will bring all the other brothers and their mates into this story to help the bonding and the relationship survive, a element I just love.

Another hallmark of this series?  The incendiary sex scenes between Quincy and Mark.  Hot, hot, hot.  Here and in every story.  These brothers have a love of kink and bdsm.  Each story should  come with its own fan or two.

I wish there had been more back history to  Mark’s previous relationship and it’s ending but perhaps that’s coming in the books yet to be released.  I hope so as I get the feeling Sean Michael is building up to some big event here when all the brothers have found their soulmates.

I don’t really feel these are standalone stories but one that builds upon the others so if you are new to the series start with Branded by Flames and work your way through all the books.  They are quick reads, very entertaining and very, very, hot!

I definitely  recommend them all.

 

Cover art is interesting and works for branding the story.

Sales Link:  Carina Press | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 246 pages
Published June 4th 2018 by Carina Press
Original TitleBorn of Air
ASINB07B519L19
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Dragon Soul

A Jeri Review : Believe (Skins #3) by Garrett Leigh

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Hmm. Well. I liked it. I can say that. But it’s another case of “I wanted more.”

We pretty much know Rhys’s background because his brother lived it as well and was the previous book. And where his brother seemed to thrive in life, Rhys was just kind of muddling through, thinking he doesn’t deserve much- especially love. Which I really didn’t understand at all. But hey, the psyche is a strange thing.
So Rhys just works a job that is a passion for a lot, but just a paycheck for him- again, I don’t really get that because a lot of schooling is involved with becoming a medic- but ok. And when he isn’t working he is just drinking and sleeping around. Then he meets Jevon.
Jevon- the total opposite of Rhys. Jevon’s job is his absolute passion. And his personal life is super tame compared to Rhys. In fact, he recently discovered that he wasn’t bi like he thought- he was gay. Definitely gay. But with very little experience. Rhys is just fine to let Jevon explore.
So they have a really hot night together and walk away.
And then begins the bumping into each other thing, which is kind of cool but neither one would really say how they were feeling. I wanted to clock their heads together.
Ultimately, I wanted more angst from Rhys. He just seemed like a wet noodle when he wasn’t with Jevon. And Jevon being the guy that he is, I just didn’t see him putting up with Rhys. But he did, obviously.
There were appearances by the other two couples from the previous books, which is always welcome. But the resolution was a little bit far fetched for me. It actually would’ve worked more if Rhys seemed to care about his job at all.
Cover art by Black Jazz Design.  Perfect for branding  the series and the storyline.
Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book Details:
Kindle Edition, 1st edition, 229 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by Fox Love Press
Original Title Believe
ASINB07DPSFR89
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesSkins #3

Review Tour and Giveaway – Believe (Skins #3) by Garrett Leigh

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 55,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Black Jazz Design
 
Skins Series
 
Dream (Book #1) – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Whisper (Book #2) – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb

Flight paramedic Rhys Foster is hooked on adrenaline. By day it’s blood and guts, by night it’s the thrill of the club. With a different face in his bed most nights, he doesn’t have time to be lonely…right?


Entertainer Jevon Campbell is a play therapist like no other—dancer, magician, acrobat, he brings it all to his global mission to help children in need laugh again. He’s on a rare home visit when he encounters enigmatic Rhys in a London bar.


Their connection is instant, but Rhys fast realises Jevon’s easy confidence doesn’t stretch as far as the bedroom. He has no idea how mesmerising he is—how beautiful—and Rhys resolves to show him.


They grow closer, but time isn’t on their side. Rhys seems unable to articulate how he feels, and with Jevon’s imminent departure from the UK hanging over them, their separate commitments could tear them apart forever.


As the days slip by, Rhys must learn to believe he’s worth the happiness Jevon is offering.

 

Garrett Leigh is an award-winning British writer and book designer, currently working for Dreamspinner Press, Loose Id, Riptide Publishing, and Fox Love Press.


Garrett’s debut novel, Slide, won Best Bisexual Debut at the 2014 Rainbow Book Awards, and her polyamorous novel, Misfits was a finalist in the 2016 LAMBDA awards.


When not writing, Garrett can generally be found procrastinating on Twitter, cooking up a storm, or sitting on her behind doing as little as possible, all the while shouting at her menagerie of children and animals and attempting to tame her unruly and wonderful FOX.


Garrett is also an award winning cover artist, taking the silver medal at the Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2016. She designs for various publishing houses and independent authors at blackjazzdesign.com, and co-owns the specialist stock sitemoonstockphotography.com with renowned LGBTQA+ photographer Dan Burgess.


Website: http://www.garrettleigh.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/garrettleighauthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Garrett_Leigh

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Geoffrey Knight on Writing Action/Adventure Series and his new release ‘The Temple of Time (Fathoms Five #5)’ (guest post, excerpt and giveaway)

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 Temple of Time Tour Banner

TEMPLE OF TIME

FATHOMS FIVE SERIES, BOOK 5

GEOFFREY KNIGHT

GAY ACTION & ADVENTURE

RELEASE DATE: 06.17.18

TempleOfTime_FINAL_cvr 

 

COVER DESIGN:  Adrian Nicholas

AMAZON US: https://amzn.to/2ISL6pG

AMAZON UK: https://amzn.to/2tUSNqU

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Geoffrey Knight here today, on tour with his latest novel The Temple of Time.  Welcome, Geoffrey.

♦︎

Pack Your Passport, It’s Time for Adventure!

by Geoffrey Knight

Hi there, and thanks so much for having me! I’m so excited to be here talking about my new Fathom’s Five book – The Temple of Time.

For anybody who isn’t familiar with Fathom’s Five, it’s my series of gay adventure novels featuring five hunky treasure-hunters who journey across the globe in search of ancient relics and the clues to solve some of the greatest mysteries of all time. To give you an idea, the first book in the series – The Cross of Sins – was aptly described by one reader as ‘Gay raiders of the lost da Vinci code’. That just about sums things up.

By way of introduction, our five Fathom’s heroes are Jake Stone, a New York adventurer and treasure hunter  who has problems learning how to care about anyone but himself; Dr Eden Santiago, the clever and courageous Brazilian biologist and physician; Shane Houston, the Texas cowboy who has a knack for maps and cartography and a love for animals; Luca da Roma, the Italian fashion model and art history expert whose skills uncover the secrets hidden in works of art; and Will Hunter, the college quarterback and ancient history major who knows his way around a pyramid just as well as he knows his way around a bedroom.

Combined, they have all the skills they need to solve some of the greatest mysteries of all time.

Of course, to write an adventure series like Fathom’s Five, there are certain boxes I needed to tick:

  • Hot gay heroes ready to outsmart, outwit and outrun trouble? Check.
  • Insanely over-the-top chase scenes and action sequences? Check.
  • Bad guys oozing with villainy? Check.
  • Far-flung exotic locations full of peril and intrigue? Double check.

In fact, that last point is where I have the most fun with my Fathom’s Five books.

Coming up with the locations for each story is my favourite part of writing an adventure tale. Where will I send my boys next? What will they find there? What kind of action scene can I set in that place?

And so, to give you a little taste of what I mean – but without giving any spoilers away – I thought I’d list my 10 favorite exotic locations (in order of books in the series) that I’ve chosen for some of my Fathom’s Five adventures.

ANKARA, TURKEY

The Book – The Cross of Sins: Fathom’s Five Book One

The Scene – While chasing down a villain who tries to kill him, cowboy cartographer Shane Houston realizes he needs a mode of transport fast or he’ll lose his target. With no car, he grabs the first thing he can find – a camel – to race through the Turkish capital of Ankara creating chaos in the streets.

VENICE, ITALY

The Book – The Cross of Sins: Fathom’s Five Book One

The Scene – Trapped in an underground chamber right beside the Grand Canal, the Fathom’s Five boys must figure out a way to escape. But the clock is ticking, for the chamber wall has a crack in it and soon a trickle of water from the canal turns into a gush, flooding the chamber with our heroes trapped inside.

SIBERIA, RUSSIA

The Book – The Riddle of the Sands: Fathom’s Five Book Two

The Scene – I kick start the second Fathom’s Five adventure with a visit to the remote Laptev Strait Prison, a fictional jail that houses the most dangerous and psychotic criminals in the world. Unfortunately for Shane, the Professor, and British reporter Daniel West, a dramatic prison break frees the prisoners and puts all their lives in peril.

CAIRO, EGYPT

The Book – The Riddle of the Sands: Fathom’s Five Book Two

The Scene – While trying to find a legendary lost pyramid, our hunky heroes find themselves in a forbidden steamy bath house in Cairo where they’re about to get more than they bargained for, in particular Jake Stone whose masseuse has murderous intentions.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

The Book – The Curse of the Dragon God: Fathom’s Five Book Three

The Scene – In order to get closer to a man who has vital information needed to solve the mystery, Jake must enter a deadly dune buggy race over the sand dunes of the Dubai desert where losing is not an option.

BEIJING, CHINA

The Book – The Curse of the Dragon God: Fathom’s Five Book Three

The Scene – Trapped in a seedy gay strip joint called Beijing Betty’s, Shane is drugged and thrust upon the stage, forced to dance and strip his way to freedom if he has any chance of solving the Curse of the Dragon God.

MAURITIUS, INDIAN OCEAN

The Book – The Tomb of Heaven: Fathom’s Five Book Four

The Scene – In the underwater lab of a crazy scientist, Jake, Shane and Daniel find themselves in a flooded section of the facility surrounded by man-eating sharks. Sharks… why did it have to be sharks!

KARACHI, PAKISTAN

The Book – The Tomb of Heaven: Fathom’s Five Book Four

The Scene – Pursued by hooded villains, Jake, Shane and Daniel end up in a bizarre chase in a crowded Pakistani bazaar that sees them make a getaway in a tiny car that barely fits their bulky bods.

LONDON, ENGLAND

The Book – The Temple of Time: Fathom’s Five Book Five

The Scene – The opening scene of The Temple of Time is a flashback that features a young Professor Fathom and explains how he lost his sight while being pursued through the streets of London to one of the city’s most famous landmarks.

THE MATTERHORN, SWISS ALPS

The Book – The Temple of Time: Fathom’s Five Book Five

The Scene – Desperate to outrun a merciless mercenary on the snowy slopes of the Matterhorn, Luca, Sister Margarita and the Professor’s housekeeper – the beloved German cook Elsa – must think outside the square and use a rather unconventional getaway vehicle when it comes to escaping the mountain alive.

So… feel like packing your passport for some globe-trotting action? Then perhaps a Fathom’s Five book is your ticket to adventure. I hope you have some fun, but be warned, the books are very sequential. To get the most out of the series, please read them in order to fully experience the world of Fathom’s Five… there are a lot of little subplots along the way that pay off later in the series.

Happy reading!

BLURB

There is a civilization that vanished without trace. There is a lost temple that can change time as we know it. There is a fragile fraternity that protects the most important secret in human history. And there is one man who will destroy everything and anyone to know the truth—his name is Caro Sholtez.

In his possession are the four pieces of the most powerful mythical clock in the world, and the only person who can stop him from finding the Temple that can unlock Time itself is Professor Fathom.

And so it seems to Caro Sholtez that distractions, kidnappings, killings are necessary to disperse the Professor’s men to keep them from stopping him from finding the one thing he wants—the power to control the passage of Time.

From the markets of Marrakesh to the pot parlors of Amsterdam, from the landmarks of London and Prague to the very cradle of Mayan civilization, join hunky New York adventurer Jake Stone, Brazilian biologist Eden Santiago, Texas cowboy Shane Houston, Italian art expert Luca da Roma, and Californian college quarterback Will Hunter on their greatest adventure yet.

**Please note: This is the fifth book in the Fathom’s Five adventure series. It is recommended to read the series in order to fully appreciate the sequence of events.

 The Temple of Time Teaser 1

The Temple of Time Teaser 2

 EXCERPT

Big Zettie walked toward the dining table with a large tray of tea. Her hands were shaking so much from the news that the cups clattered loudly. Will helped her ease the tray down before returning to his nervous pacing.

Everyone had gathered around the table.

Elsa sat beside Luca, rubbing his back as a mother would care for a distressed child.

Daniel sat beside Shane, squeezing his hand for reassurance.

Jake stood in the doorway, side-stepping from one foot to the other as though ready to make a move as soon as the Professor gave the green light.

At the head of the dining table sat the Professor with Eden by his side.

In front of them were three opened envelopes, and beside each of these was a short letter.

Eden read them aloud one by one for the Professor.

“This was the message left at Will’s house,” Eden said by way of explanation.

“I expected to see Felix,” Will interrupted, his anxiety evident by his quivering voice. “He’s always there, always telling me to slow down… or finish my homework… or eat my goddamn vegetables. The house was so quiet and empty. It was so fucking empty without him.”

Jake grabbed Will’s shoulder and hugged him tight.

The Professor nodded for Eden to continue. “Please read me what it says.”

Eden took a breath and delivered the message. “Dear Master Hunter, if you ever wish to see your faithful Felix Fraser alive again, you’ll solve this riddle… Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might.”

Silence filled the room. “What the hell does that mean?” Jake said, his brain refusing to function and the fuse of his temper quickly burning to its frayed end.

“Patience, Jake,” said the Professor, himself trying to remain calm and composed. “He wants to rattle us. He wants to cloud any sense of clarity we might have with anger and fear. Our emotions are our weakness right now.” He turned to Eden. “Please, Eden. Continue.”

Eden picked up the second letter. “This was the letter left for Shane.”

“That goddamn asshole Claudius Welles handed it to me while I watched the home my father built burn to the ground,” uttered Shane through gritted teeth. “That stupid coward saved himself rather than try to save my mother.”

Daniel clutched Shane’s hand tight. “We’ll get through this. We’ll find your Mom and we’ll all get through this together.”

The Professor said nothing to Daniel’s comment. He could already see how this was playing out. Caro Sholtez was indeed about to divide and conquer in a somewhat ruthless and spectacular fashion.

“Eden, please read on,” the Professor said.

Eden held the second message in his hands. “Dear Mr. Houston, if you ever wish to see your beloved mother alive again, you’ll answer this riddle… Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

“I think I see where this is going,” said Daniel, his mind clearly ticking over.

“I’ve no doubt you’re correct, Daniel,” said the Professor. “Eden, would you mind reading the final riddle?”

Eden picked up the third letter, the one addressed to Luca.

Luca said nothing. He had replayed the words over and over again in his head so many times he didn’t need to hear it again. He turned away.

“Dear Signor da Roma,” Eden read aloud. “If you ever wish to see your cherished Bride of Christ again, you’ll answer this riddle… My colors I change, by day and by night. My fury is dark, but my silence is bright.”

A sniff escaped Luca. He lifted his face to reveal his glazed eyes and numb expression. After a moment, he uttered quietly, “Sky.”

“What did you say?” asked Jake, unable to hear Luca’s mumbled words from his place in the doorway.

“The answer to the riddle is ‘sky’,” Luca replied in a monotone voice. “I’ve read it so many times, I’ve thought of every possible answer, and the only one that makes perfect sense is the sky. The sky changes color every hour of the day. Yellow at dawn, pink at dusk, blue at noon, black at midnight. When there’s a storm it’s dark and angry, but on a calm, quiet day, the sky is clear and bright.”

Daniel, the puzzle-solver of the group, stood nodding. “He’s right. All the answers are part of nature. Voiceless I howl, toothless I bite. Cities will crumble in the wake of my might. That’s the wind. The answer to Will’s riddle is the wind.”

“It howls and bites and tears buildings to shreds in a tornado,” agreed Will, some hope finally returning to his voice.

“And as for Shane’s riddle, that answer is water,” said Daniel. “Angry I run, cold I am still. But when I am hot, the air I will fill.”

Shane nodded, understanding the references now. “Raging rivers run. Ice is still. And boiling water…”

“Rises into the air as steam,” finished Jake. “But what does it all mean? Sky, wind, water… the answers just leave us with more questions and no clues what to do with them.”

“The clue is in Caro himself,” the Professor said. He turned his head toward Jake and Will and gestured for them to stop pacing and join the others at the table. “Please, gentlemen, take a seat. It’s important I tell you everything there is to know about Caro Sholtez. Or at least everything I know about him.”

“If it leads to Felix and the others,” said Will, quickly pulling up a chair, “then hit us with everything you’ve got, Professor.”

“There is a Temple somewhere in the Mexican jungle known as the Temple of Time. Nobody knows where it is, at least nobody left alive today. The last known sighting of it was by a man named Hernando Cortez in the late sixteenth century. Cortez was a thief who stowed aboard a ship in the Spanish Armada, posing as a Conquistador. He was after gold and silver and bragged that he had plundered a lost temple in what is now known as the Lacandon Jungle in Mexico. Unfortunately for Cortez his bragging was short-lived. The natives soon realized what he had done and quickly captured him, sacrificing him to their gods for his crime. But legend has it Cortez found more than simply gold and silver… according to the stories, he found—and stole—the four pieces of the clock inside the Temple of Time. The natives were furious. They put safeguards in place to stop anyone else from finding the Temple, but the damage had already been done. The pieces of the clock were gone, and Cortez… well… he had no idea how close he came to finding the greatest discovery in human history. You see, according to legend, the Temple holds the key to unlock time itself.”

“What do you mean, unlock time?” asked Daniel.

“I’m referring to the ability to control time. Bend it. Contort it. Travel through it,” said the Professor. “It is a place of untold power.”

“Travel through time?” Shane asked. “Are you serious?”

“I’m deadly serious. And so is Caro. Finding the Temple has been his entire life’s obsession. He has murdered his way across continents to fulfill his quest.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Geoffrey Knight is the author of more than 30 gay fiction novels, novellas and short stories, ranging in genre from gay adventure, gay romance, gay suspense and gay comedies. He is the recipient of two Rainbow Awards including Best Mystery Winner and Best Overall Gay Fiction Runner-up. His work has been featured in several anthologies including Best Gay Erotica 2013, and he appeared as Guest of Honor at the inaugural Rainbow Con in Florida, 2014.

Geoffrey has worked in advertising, politics and journalism, but nothing is as fun as telling stories. He lives with his partner, their baby daughter, two dogs and two cats in a rambling old house in North Queensland, Australia, where the paint is fraying and life is good.

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New Release Blitz for Love it Like You Stole It by Ki Brightly (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Love It Like You Stole It

Author: Ki Brightly

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 9, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 99400

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, blue-collar, mechanic, classic car love, age-gap, mobsters, crime, family drama

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Synopsis

Michael Levine is backed into a corner. He started tearing apart cars for the local mob with the best of intentions—to save up money to pay for his mechanic certifications and impress his crush and mentor, Ben. But Michael soon finds himself in way over his head. He knows stealing is wrong, but it’s only cars, and the insurance will pay to replace them, right? What started out as a small job to make some extra bucks soon turns into a nightmare he’s not sure he’ll ever be able to find his way out of.

Ben Jelen isn’t sure where his life is going. On the surface everything looks fine. He has a successful business, he’s raising his niece into a strong person, and he has a boyfriend most guys only dream of—sexy and rich. But nothing feels right. The only things that really keep Ben’s attention anymore are his classic Road Runner, his niece, and Michael—his Meeko. Ben took him under his wing forever ago, and their love of old cars and fast driving has forged a strong bond. Ben’s days don’t feel right if he doesn’t get to see Meeko at least once. But something seems drastically wrong in Meeko’s life, and Ben hopes he can put the pieces together to help him before it’s too late.

Excerpt

Love It Like You Stole It
Ki Brightly © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
BEN JELEN

“It’ll be a month, Bennet.”

I clutched the small silver bolt so hard it cut into my palm. The pain wasn’t enough to distract me. Rick’s bottom lip jutted out. It always did when he was on a roll. He crossed his heavy arms, eyes shadowed by his ball cap. With a sigh, I ignored my big brother, cutting my attention to the object of our current bitchfest. Vandi, his daughter, lounged nearby with tiny pots of fingernail polish out on the dusty, paperwork-covered desk.

“I’ll be good, Uncle Ben,” she chirped, her bow mouth turned up into a wide smile. She almost wasn’t a little girl anymore. It wasn’t long ago that I’d sit with her and do the painting. The sun cutting into the garage through the open bay door lit up her gold curls making them shine brightly. Her eyebrows furrowed in concentration as she dabbed a little brush covered in pink paint at her thumb. In her white summer dress, she couldn’t have looked more out of place.

I bent back over the motor of the beat-up, blue Ford Taurus and stared at it without seeing much of anything.

“It’s damned good money. They need mechanics for when the machinery goes down. If her mother hadn’t—”

“Rick,” I warned. Vandi’s head snapped up at the mention of her mom. I had no intention of mopping up tears today. He leaned a hip against the front quarter panel of the car and rested an elbow there, sending me a winning grin. It was the same bullshit one I used when trying to get my own way. “I’ve known you your whole life. That shit don’t fly.”

He chuckled, but his smile didn’t waver as he leaned in close, pushing his cap back with a thumb. I caught a whiff of the cologne I used and sighed. He’d raided my dresser again. Looking at him was like looking in a mirror—his brown eyes and long face with its blunted nose were just like mine, except mine was cocked a little to the left. He wiggled his eyebrows, and I blew out a hard breath.

“Those oil rigs are dangerous, and ask next time you steal my stuff.” I poked him on the shoulder with my ratchet as he shrugged, not at all bashful about his thievery.

“It’s a month on, three weeks off. And with the bonuses, I could be pulling in over a hundred grand next year. We can get the garage set up right, get more clients in…I won’t do it forever.”

I frowned and rubbed at my chest. He winced and scowled right back, like maybe he understood why I was upset. The idea of Rick being away for more than a few days made me nauseous. We’d always been a little too close, and it only got worse after Mom died. I sneaked a look at Vandi to see what she was thinking about all this, but she didn’t seem to be listening.

“I’m not sure it’s worth it,” I muttered. Shit. Money. We sure could use more of it.

A low humming started up from Vandi—a familiar song from the radio. “Check it out!” She flashed her pink fingernails at us. Rick turned and nodded at her.

“Real pretty, baby doll,” he said fast, not quite covering up the irritation in his tone. Her smile vanished.

I smacked his arm, but he was back to cajoling me with his half grin. I smacked him upside the head, sending his ball cap flying, but he ignored it and patted my cheek.

“I want this garage to get off the ground,” he said, “and so far, we’ve only been getting in about five or six people a week because we don’t have a lift. I had to send Mrs. Hopper to fucking Firestone because we didn’t have the right size tires.” He waved his hand toward the empty space stretching out behind us that practically begged to be filled with equipment. “We don’t have half the shit we need…”

“What if you’re out there in the middle of the ocean and there’s a hurricane or a blowout or—”

“Get back here you four-eyed fuck!” someone shrieked from outside. The low voice cracked on the swear word.

“What the hell…” I turned to look over my shoulder, and the bolt from the oil filter slipped from my fingers. With a ting, it disappeared into the abyss of hoses in the engine. “Shit.”

I slammed my ratchet down on the motor casing, and the air compressor at the rear of the work area chose that moment to kick on, filling the old cement-block garage with its chugging clatter. I strained my ears, but the voices outside were drowned out. “Turn that off, Rick.”

Nodding, he headed back to flip the switch. Vandi craned her neck forward to look out the wide door.

“He thinks he’s too good to talk to us. Mickey Mouse won’t open his mouth.” The bully’s voice dipped deeper on that last word, and an instinct for trouble sent me striding out the door into the gravel parking lot, past the few sad vehicles waiting for their turn in the repair shop.

Across the small side street, three teen boys surrounded another one on the sidewalk. He was hunched in on himself with his arms crossed protectively over his gut, his stance practically screaming, “Hammer me.” One of the boys—short, with a mean twist to his lips and a cheap buzz cut on his carrottop—smacked the glasses off his prey. Sparkling in the late afternoon sun, the lenses sailed in an arc and landed in the street.

“Should we do something?” Rick’s long shadow loomed near mine, arms crossed.

“Come on, hit ’em back,” I muttered, clenching my fists. “Protect yourself.”

Instead, the kid just rubbed at the bridge of his nose with one hand. He was coltish and stretched thin, like he’d grown too fast. But he was tall, and if he would throw a punch, he’d have reach. He didn’t move to defend himself or say a word, though, simply stared at his feet. I glanced at Rick, but when I looked back, the tall boy was shaking his head. Sunlight caught and glimmered on blue highlights in his black hair. The short asshole shoved him hard while the other guys circled, grunting out guttural encouragement that puffed up Mr. Attitude.

Outrage propelled me toward them at a fast clip.

“Ooooh, fuck,” Rick said on a chuckle.

I hadn’t planned on anything more than bitching out the bullies—until the short kid threw a hard jab. The tall one gasped and staggered back a step at the blow, but one of the kids in the circle shoved him upright so he could take more abuse. Wincing, the tall kid shook his head so hard he seemed to make himself dizzy. He staggered to the side but righted himself at the last second.

“You’re no better’n me—us.” The short kid hopped up and down imitating a wet chicken, darting his gaze around the circle. “You’re no better than us!” He screamed out a war whoop as he lunged forward to land the next punch. The tall kid took it on his left cheek and—pow!—crumpled to his knees.

“You little shits! Knock it off!” I ran toward them, hands pinwheeling, but had to slow down as a car shot by, going way too fast on the narrow street, separating me from the teenagers. Crunch. I winced and sighed as I jogged past the flattened glasses. No coming back from that.

The kids stilled as I approached—became panicked, malicious little statues. But when I stepped onto the sidewalk, fists balled up at my sides, my shadow fell across them, and the obnoxious brats scattered, helter-skelter—like I might actually chase them down and dish out a taste of their own medicine.

“You better run, you little pricks. Stay off my block!” I yelled after them. “I’m badder than you’ll ever be!”

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Meet the Author

Ki grew up in small-town nowhere pretending meteor showers were invading aliens, wild flowers were magic potions, and secret agents hid around every corner. (Ki probably read more than was healthy.) They had one amazing best friend, one endlessly-out-of-grasp “true love,” and a personal vendetta against normalcy.

College was a catapult out of that sleepy little hamlet into a slightly larger, more entertaining city—Erie, Pennsylvania.

In their adopted hometown they enjoy the sandy beaches, frigid winters, and a wonderful fancy water addiction. Ki shares life with two sweet Muses, their Sugar Plum, and two children. Every day with these wonderful people is full of adventure.

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