A MelanieM Release Day Review: Sweet Clematis (Being(s) in Love #9) by R. Cooper

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

Can a curse be a blessing?

Clematis works hard to embody every fairy stereotype. He can be a sulky prince or a submissive flirt, slutty and arrogant or silly and soft. He makes himself into whatever causes someone to want him. Combine that with beauty that’s incredible even for a fairy, and everyone wants him sooner or later… just not for long.

Well, everyone except the fairy Clematis secretly adores. But then, he’s never expected happily ever after, not when he’s spent years burying his emotions and making himself unlovable to push people away and protect his heart.

But his curse changes all that, and Clematis can no longer prevent his feelings from rising to the surface. He’s terrified that when his few friends see him for who he really is, they’ll abandon him, just like his parents did.

It’s hard to imagine friends who see past his act to the sweet person within, but maybe happiness has been in front of him the entire time, waiting for the real Clematis to break free and blossom.

So it’s not often a story has me sobbing by the first 18 pages, well, ok, not a story by R Cooper.  I adore R Cooper.  This author has a definite style and approach to  writing and their stories, especially this series.  It flows very naturally, with ebbs and eddies, long lovely narrative winding strolls through storied forests and a town occupied by humans and magical beings alike.  From the first novel, Some Kind of Magic, the author has been building an amazing universe and ever increasing,  always interlocked ,cast of characters.  And they flit, sometimes on gossamer wings or growl or stomp or what have you through each other’s stories, making appearances both large and small.

The romances take  time to come to fruition, slow like the seasons, but eventually, love and the couples find a way.  And it’s amazing.

But I don’t find myself sobbing in the first couple of chapter.  Nope, nuh uh.  But then again there’s no one quite like Clematis.

You see, Clematis has impacted just about every character, often badly, within this series. And we’ve always seen the ramifications of Clematis’ actions from the perspective of the other person/being’s life.

Until now.

Now we see the tragedy, the pain, the victim that is Clematis.  And I’m here to tell you that it’s shattering in R. Cooper’s totally quiet, disquieting way.

I spent most of this book reaching for tissues because just when I thought his gentle acceptance of  victimization,  of his state of awful existence for such a long period of time  had gotten to a point where I could see him working through issues and trying to see what those around him did, R Cooper delivers a blow, not with a strike of a hand, but with the cut of a narrative feather. One that goes so much more quickly straight to the heart.  To the reader and to the other characters finally getting a true picture of the fairy in their midst all this time.

What an incredible talent that exists in this writer!  In this one story, Cooper takes one character that has existed throughout all the series and now reveals Clematis to have been not the being represented at all, but a new truth uncovered.  And some of the beings from the other stories?  Well their actions don’t seem quite so shiny in retrospect given the new revelations here.

These aren’t novels where you can relay details because the plots are too complicated and linked with other beings and their stories.  Suffice it to say, the characters/beings are created so realistically that they come alive from the moment you meet them.  They shower glitter, shed fur, and weep tears that leave tracks that shine into your heart.

This is the ninth book.  I don’t know if there will be a tenth.  So many characters from all the stories appeared here that it almost felt as though the author was wrapping things up. Excerpt that, R Cooper style, they also stirred up things as well.  So your guess is as good as mine.

I love this series. Sweet Clematis (Being(s) in Love #9) by R. Cooper certainly shook things up in many ways.  I’m going to have to restock my  tissues, that’s for certain.

I will say it has a wonderfully happy ending for all the tears that was shed.  Just as I hoped for.

For those new to the Being(s) in Love series, I have no idea what to tell you.  Without the foundation of the other stories, you might be somewhat lost here, but it takes time to read all eight stories (which I adore) before getting here.  I do recommend you do that,  Just pick a lovely  spot, take you time, get comfy, and be prepared to go on a wonderful journey.  You’ll end up here.  For now.

Cover art: Paul Richmond.  Love this  cover but…somehow something is missing. Read the story and you will know what I’m talking about.  Because that’s not Clematis. Read and find out who it is.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 306 pages
Expected publication: November 27th 2018 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 139781640808188
Edition Language English
Series Being(s) in Love #9

A Boy and His Dragon

A Beginner’s Guide to Wooing Your Mate

Little Wolf

The Firebird and Other Stories

Frangipani and the Very Shiny Boy

A Dandelion for Tulip

All the Futures That Could Be

Treasure for Treasure

His Mossy Boy

Sweet Clematis

 

An Alisa Release Day Review: Blood for the Spilling (Studies in Demonology #3) by TJ Nichols

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Sheets of ice are spreading across the human world, ushering in an ice age as the magic drained from Demonside turns that world into a desert. Angus and reluctant warlock Terrance have defected from Vinland to the Mayan Empire—a land of dark and potent magic. But the Mayans aren’t offering sanctuary for free.

Nor is the world willing to stand back as Vinland attacks, and the backlash will affect all magic users.

Mage Saka has no tribe. He is now just another refugee fleeing the dying Demonside. He knows the conflict brewing now will be worse than the first demon war. Countries are banding together—not just against Vinland, but against all magic. Where will the powerful Mayan Empire stand?

Angus might have the power to fight Vinland and the Warlock College, but the cost will be terrible. Saka is torn between helping Angus and stopping him. And Terrance would do anything for Angus, but he’s terrified of the man Angus is becoming, even as Saka is warming to the idea of a relationship between the three of them.

No matter what choice they make, victory will be bittersweet, and when the ash settles and the snow melts, nothing will be the same.

I have been waiting for this book ever since I finished the last one, it ended with such a cliffhanger.  Angus, Saka and Terrance are trying to navigate their new normal while dealing with the suspicions of the Mayans.

The story continues to focus on rebalancing the magic in Demonside and how to fight Vinland.  Angus accidentally finds out that he can survive a “clean sweep” which no one with any magical powers has been able to do.  He finds a way to end the problems in Vinland but it’s going to take the support of Saka and Terrance along with many other mages and priests.

We get to see all three of the main characters’ points of view which doesn’t leave me guessing as to how they feel.  Terrance does a lot to redeem his actions from the previous books and it actually gives us a chance to get to know him.  I loved watching Angus and Saka continue to push against the status quo for what others think magic should be.  I could feel for them as they pushed back and tried to find the right solution.  Angus’s sacrifice was huge and changed him forever, I would love to see how this will change things in the world.

Cover art by Catt Ford is great and I love how it connects with the story.

Sales Links: DSP Publications | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 280 pages

Published: November 27, 2018 by DSP Publications

ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-882-9

Edition Language: English

Series: Studies in Demonology #3

An Alisa Release Day Review: Secretly Dating the Lionman (Cowboys and Angels: Book Two) by Sue Brown

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Can a man burdened with family drama find his way into the arms of a happy-go-lucky stripper called Lionman?

Cris likes a drink at Cowboys and Angels bar after his shift at the strip club—until one night when a trashed young guy named Mikey tries to kiss him. He’s not Cris’s type, but Cris is good enough to see the kid home safely. There he meets Mikey’s handsome older brother, Bennett, and there’s an immediate spark between them.

But Bennett might not be in a position to start a relationship, let alone with the carefree Cris. He’s trying desperately to hold his family together, with a younger brother who’s running off the rails and hostile parents who will never accept not just one, but two gay sons.

When Cris is unexpectedly fired and Bennett’s family drama escalates, they turn to each other for support. But can a shoulder to lean on develop into something much closer, something they both deserve?

I enjoyed this story just as I did the first in the series.  We saw Cris in the first book and there was no way I would forget the man with a mane of red hair.  He has become more frustrated with his job and finally reaches a breaking point.  Bennett has tried to be the perfect son and keep their family together for years but as his brother continues to spiral out of control he needs support from somewhere.

Cris has worked hard to not rely on his family but that has meant not exactly having a job that his family thinks highly of.  Bennett has openly denied himself for years though seeing his brother he knows h won’t be able to forever.

I liked both of these characters and was rooting for them the whole time.  I loved seeing Bennett give up all of his control and allow Cris to support him and be there for him when he needed him most.  I was glad the Cris was able to get out from under his horrible manager thought Gideon became a big part of that.  I am hoping the next book focuses on Bennetts brother.

The cover art by Kanaxa is great and I love how it follows the style from the first book.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

Book Details:

ebook, 200 pages

Published: November 27, 2018 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-651-1

Edition Language: English

Series: Cowboys and Angels #2

E.J. Russell on Parallel Timelines and her new release Vampire with Benefits (Supernatural Selection #2) (guest post and giveaway)

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Vampire with Benefits (Supernatural Selection #2) by E.J. Russell
Riptide Publishing
Cover art: LC Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host EJ Russell here today  talking about the release of her new book, Vampire with Benefits. Welcome, EJ>

✒︎

Hello and welcome to the blog tour for Vampire With Benefits! I can’t wait for you to meet Rusty and Cas, the second mismatched couple in my Supernatural Selection series (part of the Mythmatched universe). Thank you to all of you and to this blog for helping me celebrate the book release!

Parallel Timelines

By this point in my writing life, I’ve penned several series: Art Medium, Legend Tripping, Enchanted Occasions, Fae Out of Water, and now Supernatural Selection. In most of these, the books in the series progress chronologically—in other words, the second book’s events occur after those of the first book, the third book’s events after the second.

Supernatural Selection is the first series I’ve written where the events in the first two books occur contemporaneously. As a result, I was twisted into a brain pretzel for much of my writing process!

The events of both books are set in motion in Single White Incubus when Ted and Quentin sign a blood mating contract without checking the fine print. At that point, the clock starts ticking—and their relationship has to build and mature within the time leading up to the full moon, when they’ll be able to marry their intended perfect matches, Rusty and Casimir.

So I knew where Vampire With Benefits had to start—the day Quentin and Ted accidentally married each other. Rusty and Cas had to meet that same day, and their relationship had to build and mature in the identical timeframe, culminating at the full moon, when all of them needed to be back at Supernatural Selection.

The “build and mature” part of each equation was the easy part—during the two-plus weeks where they’re saddled with the wrong spouse, they have only each other and their extended friends-and-family group to deal with. In Rusty’s case, that’s his clan, particularly his ex-boyfriend. For Cas, it’s Kristof Czardos, the head of the vampire council (who made his first appearance in Cutie and the Beast), as well as a few other significant others.

The kickoff wasn’t too bad either—just get ‘em to the Supernatural Selection office and slap them into each other. Piece of cake, right?

But the timing of the final scenes at the Supernatural Selection offices? Oy.

Conversation with myself: “Who’s in the building now? Are they upstairs or in the lobby? Where’s Zeke? Where’s Quentin? Where’s Ted? Where’s Rusty? Where’s Cas? What the hell was I thinking?”

It was definitely a blood-pressure-raising exercise, but it was kinda fun too. I enjoy logic puzzles, and getting everything to work out in the end was sooo satisfying—although I may have turned my editors’ hair gray!

My hair, of course, was already there.

 

About Vampire With Benefits

A match between a vampire and shifter could be deadly—but this broken beaver doesn’t give a dam.

Silent film actor Casimir Moreau had imagined that life as a vampire would be freewheeling and glamorous. Instead, he’s plunged into a restrictive society whose rules he runs afoul of at every turn. To “rehabilitate” him, the vampire council orders him mated to an incubus with impeccable breeding who’ll mold Cas into the upstanding vampire he ought to be. Or else.

As an inactive beaver shifter, construction engineer Rusty Johnson has fought—and overcome—bias and disrespect his entire life. But when his longtime boyfriend leaves him for political reasons, Rusty is ready to call it a day. Next stop? Supernatural Selection and his guaranteed perfect mate, a bear shifter living far away from Rusty’s disapproving clan.

But then a spell snafu at Supernatural Selection robs both men of their intended husbands. Rusty can’t face returning to his clan, and Cas needs somebody on his arm to keep the council happy, so they agree to pretend to be married. Nobody needs to know their relationship is fake—especially since it’s starting to feel suspiciously like the real thing.

Now available from Riptide Publishing!

About Supernatural Selection

Are you a shifter who’s lost faith in fated mates? A vampire seeking a Second Life companion? Or perhaps you’re a demon yearning to claim a soul (mate)?

Congratulations! Your search is over!

Welcome to Supernatural Selection, where our foolproof spells guarantee your perfect match.

Until they don’t.

Check out Supernatural Selection today.

 

About E.J. Russell

E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.

E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.

Connect with E.J.:

Website: ejrussell.com

Blog: ejrussell.com/bloggery/

Facebook: www.facebook.com/E.J.Russell.author

Twitter: twitter.com/ej_russell

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ejrussell/

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Vampire With Benefits one lucky person will win a $25 Riptide Publishing gift card and an ecopy of The Druid Next Door, the second title in the Fae Out of Water series, also from the Mythmatched universe! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on October 27, 2018. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

New Release Blitz Tour for Santa is a Vampire by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Santa is a Vampire

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 26, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male

Length: 76800

Genre: Paranormal, vampire, elf, humor, satire, reindeer

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Simon the Elf wants to tell you the true story behind Jolly Ole St. Nick. Yeah, he’s a vampire. But that alleged gift giver and lover of children hides more than that fact from you. And what about Mrs. Claus and Rudolph? Venture into a world of enslaved elves, enchanted animals, and death wrought by Santa himself. With his sharp wit, Simon will lead you into the darkest realms of Christmas. Warning: Simon cusses a lot. But you would, too, if Santa held you captive.

Excerpt

Santa is a Vampire
Damian Serbu © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Jolly old St. Nicholas. What a laugh.

If you only knew the real story behind Santa Claus. He keeps it buried for a reason, after all. Because you’d hunt him down up there in his North Pole ice castle if you even had a remote idea regarding his real identity.

Mrs. Claus and Rudolph too. Well, maybe not the missus. It’s complicated. But more on them later. Back to Santa.

Let’s peek in on this esteemed man who brings gifts to children and represents the blessed holiday of Christmas, shall we? He would kill me if he found out I leaked this information. Well, I intend to leak it, no matter the consequences, because I’m keeping this in a journal. If you’re reading it, I probably succeeded. Which means dead Simon the Elf, for sure, if he discovers me telling people any of this information. But death might improve my situation since this enslavement sucks big ones. I started this secret blog and will release it without concern for my well-being.

So, if you’re reading it, I’m probably dead.

This first little story will tantalize you, get your feet wet with everything I want you to learn.

It’s late November, so Santa moves around a lot more freely because everyone expects to see him out there, greeting the children and gathering their Christmas orders. A lot of fools dress up like him to please the little kiddies or earn a buck. Everyone sees these fake Santas everywhere they go. Good enough for the real Santa Claus, because it hides him. He appears as another of the fool Santas walking about during the holidays.

That and his silly outfit disguise him—What a costume he picked!—but again it serves his purpose well. The ridiculous beard and red outfit mean Christmas cheer, presents, and a happy fat man coming to spread joy. Of course, he manages a real beard and authentic outfit to intensify the experience when people meet him.

Do you know why he wears red? I do. It hides the blood stains better. Okay, confession time. I’m throwing out my theory, but don’t ask for proof. He never said that or explained the red. It just makes sense to me. Even though he usually cleans the blood up. Oops. Getting ahead of the story again. Let’s take a deep breath and refocus.

By the way, in case you require my credentials, I’m an elf. Trapped against my will to do Santa’s bidding. More later.

Okay, focus. Late November. Turkey Day’s come and gone and Santa enters prime time. He creeps out of the ice palace, chains the poor reindeer to the sleigh, and speeds away, with a couple of elves, including me, enchanted in the sled against our will. We never know, until he issues a command, what he intends for us. Sometimes we ride along to keep him company; sometimes we get clean-up duty; sometimes we have to help.

We fly over various parts of the world, almost land in Germany until Santa spies one of those Secret Hunters. “Dangerous. Let’s go someplace else.”

“Scared, are ya?” I glance over at him. “Ouch!” Santa backhands me. It’s another curse of mine, but one I came to elfdom with. See, I’m a bit of a smart-ass and can’t hold my tongue. Gets me in trouble a lot.

“Let’s find someplace more hospitable.” Santa instructs the reindeer to change course and never answers my question. But I suppose the slap upside the head could be considered an answer, of sorts.

To America, the land of advancement and scientific reasoning. I recognize the coastline right away. Why, even the hardcore Christians dismiss Santa as a legend based on an alleged saint from the past. Saint, indeed. But such thinking helps hide his true identity.

We swoop over New York, but Santa seldom likes to hunt there because it doesn’t really present a risk. Masses of people living on top of each other, often killing and dying without his assistance. Where’s the challenge in hiding a body in that mess?

Moving right along, the reindeer glide over the little town of Wilmington, Ohio. It offers Santa everything he desires. I know from experience. Remote. Tranquil. Peaceful for the most part. Until a dead body materializes right in the midst of the holiday cheer. Santa’s way of taking a dump on Season’s Greetings in a happy little community.

So Santa guides the sleigh over Wilmington College and sets it down in the town cemetery. We can’t land on roofs yet, without people wondering if Santa’s calendar got all out of whack. Few people enter a cemetery in the midst of a cold November so we can hide out here.

He orders the reindeer to shut up, except Rudolph, who gets to run and do his own thing. He trots off with his bright-red nose high in the air. The other reindeer stay here. I often wonder if anyone questions the sudden appearance of reindeer manure where no reindeer exist. Of course, even if they thought about it, no one would come to the conclusion that Santa hid his sleigh and reindeer in the cemetery for a spell. Because most over the age of seven don’t think he exists.

Once he gets the reindeer squared away, Santa tells a couple of my fellow elves—two I think are big assholes, so you know—to watch the sleigh and get the hell out of Dodge if anyone shows up. Santa can summon us from afar, so no worries there.

Me? I get the distinction of tagging along with him. He makes me his personal assistant on these sublime missions because he knows how much I despise it. The killing. The secrecy. And his perfect disguise of being Santa. Well, this pains me to admit, but I think he also enjoys my company for some twisted reason, especially my mocking of him and constant chatter. We have a complicated relationship, to put it mildly, compelling him to keep me close, no matter how much I detest it.

My compadres snicker as I run along to keep up with Santa. I take a second to stop, turn around, and give them the bird.

We saunter right down Main Street and wave at the passing cars when they honk. I almost puke every time he lets out a jovial, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Little kids run up to him and say hello, followed by asking for presents. He feigns delight and interest while holding back an inclination lurking beneath the surface. Sweet little kid blood.

We get far enough away from prying eyes to meander down a residential street. Then we wander around while Santa scouts the houses and makes an assessment of our target. This goes on for a couple hours, until most children lie sleeping in bed. Even most adults are passed out by now.

One car zooms past. I wonder what they think, seeing Santa amble down the road amidst these houses, lit up for the holidays. Do they think it’s someone’s dad, surprising the kids in disguise? A hired dude going to a party? Maybe it’s a stripper, dressed for the occasion until the ladies (or men) demand the pants and coat come off?

Nope. It’s the Real McCoy. And the lady behind curtain number one, alone in her house as she waits for her husband to get home from the night shift, just became dinner. Okay, I have no idea if a husband on a night shift exists. I lied to make the story better. But the woman sits alone in this normal-sized house. Looks like she’s dusting or cleaning something.

Sometimes Santa walks right up to the front door. Knocks or rings the bell, and the fools open it for him. Listen, even without Santa’s hidden reality, who opens their door for a dude in a Santa outfit unless you’re expecting the stripper I referenced?

Anyway, no front door this time. Or back door. Instead, he touches the side of his big-ass nose, grabs me by my neck, and yanks me along as we fly through the air, land on the roof, and plunge into the chimney. He could get in the fucking house any way he wants, by the way. He does the blackened chimney thing for two reasons. One, for effect. You know, back to living up to the legend and playing by the rules. Despite the fact the sleigh and reindeer remain hidden among the dead in the cemetery and not up here on the roof with us. No one will question a big guy in a Santa costume plopping into their fireplace and shouting out a “Yo!” It may startle them, but since it conforms to the legend, people tend to go with it. Idiots. Two, he does it tonight because I hate it. I hate heights. I hate flying. And I hate when he touches me.

We hit the fireplace grate and roll out onto the carpet in the living room, where we stand in triumph before the poor woman, who gives a yelp. Actually, she screams bloody murder.

“Shh, my dear one. Shh!” Santa puts his finger up to his lips and winks at her. “Nothing to fear. I imagine you didn’t believe in good ole Santa anymore? Adults so seldom do these days. But as you saw from my arrival through your chimney, I do, indeed, exist!” Santa sweeps his arms out with a flourish, to indicate his body and presence in the flesh.

The woman stops screaming, thank God, before my eardrums rupture.

“And this here is my worthy assistant, Simon.”

“I’m not here because I want to be—” Santa clamps his hand over my mouth and glares a warning. Right. I’ll stop, because getting locked in the ice dungeon when we get back to the North Pole totally sucks.

“Is he all right?” she asks him and points to me.

This is what gets me so pissed off. Stupid fucking people. I want to shout back at her. Hey! Lady! Wake up! A big fat ass plunged down your chimney with a little elf under his control. You scream, but because he wears a red suit and laughs and has a crazy beard, you relax and engage him? Trust me. You do not want to engage him!

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published The Vampire’s Angel and The Vampire’s Protégé with NineStar Press. Coming later this year from NineStar: The Vampire’s Quest and Santa Is a Vampire.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Love Your Contemporary Romance with a Touch of Angst? Check out Rough Trade (Woodbury Boys #3) by Sidney Bell (excerpt and giveaway)

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Rough Trade (Woodbury Boys #3) by Sidney Bell

Publisher: Carina Press

Release Date (Print & Ebook):

Ebook: Monday December 3

Print (mmp): Tuesday December 25

Length (Print & Ebook):

Ebook: 496

Print (mmp): 496

Subgenre:

Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Male/Male Romance

Reader warnings: Childhood sexual abuse, angst

All buy links or pre-order links:

Synopsis:

Quick-witted hustler Ghost is no stranger to living dangerously; survival has always been the name of the game.

He’s just always gone it alone.

Now he’s got the wrong people breathing down his neck, and the only way out demands placing his trust in the unlikeliest of heroes: Duncan Rook, a gruff cop whose ethics are as solid as his body.

Cozying up to a criminal is hardly what Duncan’s reputation on the force needs—especially when that criminal is temptation personified. Ghost is Duncan’s polar opposite, and the last person he expected to fall for.

So then why does every imaginable scenario for taking down their common enemy end with Ghost in his arms?

This book is approximately 122,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

Excerpt :

He turned around with his jaw set and put both hands on Duncan’s chest. He pushed gently, so gently that Duncan couldn’t interpret it as anything but a question, and a nonthreatening one at that, so he found himself playing along until his back hit the concave wall of the tunnel. The cement seeped cold through his own thin, sweat-dampened T-shirt, making him shiver.

Or maybe it was Ghost nudging at Duncan’s feet with his toes until Duncan widened his stance, making room for Ghost to step closer still, until their thighs brushed, until Ghost’s tilted-up face was only inches away, his breath on Duncan’s lips. Ghost’s hands trembled against him. That small vulnerability made Duncan hurt deep in his belly, hot and sweet and aching.

“What are you doing?” Duncan whispered.

“You asked why.” Ghost cupped the back of his skull, trying to coax him to lower his head, and Duncan stupidly, stupidly, went along with it. Ghost’s mouth, when it pressed against Duncan’s, was dry and tentative and awkward.

He should move. He should push Ghost away. It was an act. It was bullshit. At the very least, it was manipulation. It had to be. He should run for his life and sanity and soul, but he couldn’t. He was stuck in place by nothing more than two hands resting on his sternum and the slow realization that this was Ghost kissing him, not the sly seducer, not the innocent victim, not the wry pal up for a convenient good time. This wasn’t the empty distance of disconnection that Ghost had given him before when he’d gone doll-still and creepy. It wasn’t the confident, knowing, arousing seduction of the kisses that had preceded Ghost’s fugue that last time, either.

This was new and uncertain and heavy. It reminded Duncan somehow of climbing down the outside of the parking garage, the terror of looking at a long drop and a messy landing if he couldn’t figure out what he was doing.

It was the waiting, maybe, that made it so overwhelming. He’d been waiting for this all along, wanting this all along. He’d tried not to think about it, but it’d been there, and now that Ghost was here and it was happening, he felt strung tight as a rubber band, on the verge of snapping, because this tiny, tentative, closemouthed kiss, was a cup of cool water after a day in a desert, enough to tempt, but not nearly enough to sate.

About Sidney Bell:

Sidney Bell lives in Colorado with her amazingly supportive husband. She received her MFA degree in Creative Writing in 2010, considered aiming for the Great American Novel, and then promptly started writing fanfiction instead. More realistic grown-ups eventually convinced her to try writing something more fiscally responsible, though, which is how we ended up here. When she’s not writing, she’s playing violent video games, yelling at the television during hockey games, or supporting her local library by turning books in late.

Connect with Sidney:

Giveaway: Win 1 of 5 Paperback of HARD LINE and LOOSE CANNON (Woodbury Boys series) by Sidney Bell! (North American addresses only)

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