A MelanieM Review: Valhalla by L.A. Ashton

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

 

Sakuma has served as a Valkyrie for centuries, smoothly escorting thousands of souls to the grand halls of Valhalla. While the world tears itself apart during WWII, he is summoned to retrieve the soul of a fallen Japanese soldier, Ishii Hiroshi. To Sakuma’s surprise, Ishii refuses his invitation to eternity.

The two meet again and again as the war repeatedly sends Ishii to death’s door, and what should have been a fleeting encounter becomes something much greater for the both of them.

Sakuma is determined to give Ishii the reward he so deserves, but Ishii’s stubbornness may condemn him to an eternity outside Valhalla.

I was lured in by this synopsis, a Valkyrie  sent to summon a soul of a soldier who refuses to die, believing his duty is not yet over.  And the emotional part of this story absolutely won me over.  The bond that grew between Sakuma and Ishii was powerful, based on a shared beliefs, and background even though they were centuries apart.  I found their relationship deeply moving and at the end, it had me in tears.

What kept this story from 5 stars was missed opportunity because, honestly it came close.    Ashton chose to have two Japaneses warriors as their main characters, both of which were shining examples of bushido, also known as “the way of the warrior”, a code of conduct for the samurai, which Sakuma was prior to his death.  In some ways, it is a way of life that both men exemplify to the core.

So why on earth do you mash that up confusedly with Norse mythology?  Surely with all the richness of Shinto major and minor kami, plus some from Buddhism or Taoism, why would you need to twist the maiden Valkyries of Odin  into “integrated” new Valkyries of both sexes. The argument here is because Valhalla had so many new bodies and souls the maidens couldn’t handle them all. Seemed specious and I never bought it. So many holes in this one from people from different religions being sent to a place where the gods of one religion (not theirs) rule.  That part, plus well Valhalla and the Norse religion with Japanese men who were deeply part of their country’s culture if not their emperor and the politics of whatever era they came from (July 7, 1937, to September 2, 1945 the invasion of China by Japan for Ishii).  It never felt like a good fit.  More like that puzzle piece someone kept jamming in that section because they needed it to fit there, rather than because it actually did.   No, for me, using Norse mythology in the place of Bushido and the Shinto religion was just a missed opportunity, especially with the well constructed Japanese main characters so essentially Samurai.

As it is, I still recommend Valhalla for the relationship between Sakuma and Ishii, two soldiers separated by duty and centuries and death.  It’s amazingly touching, watching Ishii persevere over and over battle after battle is heartbreaking and the ending is incredibly moving.  For this amazing romance alone I will be seeking out more stories by LA Ashton and recommending that you read Valhalla by L.A. Ashton.

Cover Art: Natasha Snow.  I love this cover.  Moody with the soldier outlined in the background and the light above which could either be a bomb blast or a Valkyrie.  Perfect.

Sales Links: 

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

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 68 pages
Published December 31st 2018 by NineStar Press
ASIN B07L9GSLGS

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Always Forward, Never Straight by Charley Descoteaux

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Rating: 2 stars out of 5

Baxter Bryan, who goes by the name of Bryan in this story, is a nerd who created a drone butler named Alfred to get his new company started.  As part of their marketing strategy, BaxCo is sponsoring the Rock and Roll half marathon in the Portland area and the over forty, out of shape tech guru has trained so he can participate.  Embarrassed about his age and body shape, and a poster child for low self-esteem, he has to think twice when a cute older guy flirts with him and then runs with him for the completion of the race.

The other man is Cay Nissen, former band member of Always Forward, Never Straight, father of a precocious teen named Mac, bisexual, also in his forties, and strikingly taken with Bryan.  The first part of the story moved along really well.  Everything was set up nicely for this romance between older guys, something I love.  Neither man shared their place of employment with the other, and though they talked about most things, work wasn’t one. Cay was embarrassed by his customer service job, and Bryan didn’t want to sound like he was bragging about being a CEO.  And though they dated quite a few times, they usually ended up at Cay’s place because Bryan had a history of abuse with his ex and, before pushing himself to participate in the race, had spent years isolated and often simply staying in his apartment.

So what could happen to cause these two distress? <spoiler>Why their jobs, of course. And here’s where the story took a nosedive for me. Cay’s boss finds out who he’s seeing and fires him. Why? Well his company is Bryan’s competitor. But, not only does he fire him, he accuses him of what amounts to corporate espionage. Now, the author has already established that the guy does customer service in a cube farm and never completed high school. But instead of realizing how bogus the accusation is and acknowledging it, he goes to Bryan’s home and rants at him about his job, and how could he have used Cay to get information, etc. etc. etc. Really?  This was so against the personality the author had built for Cay, I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t read it myself. He was deliberately cruel to Bryan, even knowing Bryan’s fear of being bullied and physically hurt, and he totally ignored the fact that he knows nothing about the tech other than how to sell it, whereas Bryan uses his knowledge and abilities to create the drones.  And this went on for a while. 

And then Bryan decides to fight for his man because he loves him. And after Cay calmed down he realized he loves Bryan too. Really?  So this was me through the whole second half: Really?  WTF? Love? Ugh. No. </spoiler> Too bad because they seemed to be going somewhere and the initial setup was sweet. 

I also need to note that there were several awkward scenes including one in which Cay held back on offering a kiss to his ex wife because he’d just given a blow job to Bryan and another in which Bryan, a blow job, thinks back about how he never showered the day before. What was the point to these two gross statements?  They totally removed any residual enjoyment of the story and dropped my rating lower.

Cover Artist: Rainbow Danger Designs. 

Sales Links:  Amazon Universal Link:  mybook.to/AlwaysForward

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 84 pages
Published January 1st 2019 by CeeTwo Publications
Original Title Always Forward! Never Straight
ASIN B07L6P9NTV
Edition Language English

Release Blitz for The Choice (The Faction #2) by Addison Albright (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: The Choice (The Faction, book 2)

Author: Addison Albright

Publisher: JMS Books, LLC 

Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs 

Genre/s: M/M, Contemporary, Paranormal, Romance, Vampires

Heat Rating:  2 flames

Length:  28 692 words

Release Date: January 5, 2019

Add on Goodreads

Buy Links

JMS Books

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Tagline

Will Albert’s indecision put the entire vampire establishment in danger? Or is redemption only a flamethrower away?

Blurb

As a freshly turned vampire, Neil had frozen in panic when he’d found himself face-to-face with his ex-boyfriend, Cameron. Neil thought that misstep and its associated danger was all in the past, but Cameron’s current boyfriend, Dennis, is like a dog with a bone, and a keen imagination. When the two men’s curiosity progresses to the point the vampires consider their secrecy to be endangered, choices must be made.

Now that faction leader Albert has a blood-mate, he finds himself second-guessing his decisions. Neil would be crushed knowing his mistake led to human deaths, but Albert shouldn’t factor that into the difficult choices he must make. Will Albert’s indecision put the entire vampire establishment in danger? Or is redemption only a flamethrower away?

Excerpt 

Neil closed his eyes and bit back a whimper. He’d been so happy these past months loving Albert, a man—vampire—that in many ways he barely knew, yet somehow he could see and truly understand the man’s fundamental essence. Albert’s core…what made him tick.

Although Neil wasn’t party to many of the details of faction business, he had made friends among the vampires, and he and Albert frequently socialized with other vamps of all “ages” and levels within the faction. Among their fellow moviegoers tonight had been one of the faction’s team leaders on one end of the scale, and a delivery driver on the other. Albert treated them all with the same respect and caring as he would likely give to fellow faction leaders or council members. If there was something within Albert’s power that would make life more enjoyable for his people without risking their safety, he did it.

Albert might have black blood flowing through his veins, but he didn’t have a black heart…he had a heart of gold. Neil knew that with every fiber of his being. But he also knew that Albert had to untangle ethical dilemmas that would make most people quake in dismay. At least, the good ones would flinch away from those concerns. Those with hearts steeped in foul malevolence would relish the decisions Albert faced.

Two men’s lives hung in the balance on one side of the scale versus a calculated risk to the lives of all vampires worldwide. Albert’s hand at Neil’s back steadied him as he wobbled. Neil reopened his eyes and stared into Albert’s.

It was as if Albert could read his mind. The look in the man’s eyes screamed that he understood Neil’s pain and would shoulder it if only he could.

Neil’s sorrow centered on knowing that two human lives were on the line because of his own screw-up. The downside to perfect recall was that he would never be able to forget his failure that day when he’d first been trusted out on his own as a fairly new vampire, delivering packages for the faction’s delivery service. He still had the occasional nightmare, reliving it…

The click of a door opening, and a light bark accompanied by the sound of footsteps, alerted Neil to a dog on the landing above him, heading down to be walked. This would be a little trickier than the incident this morning, since they’d be crossing paths in a narrow passageway, but he had his head in the right space now. He could deal with this.

He straightened confidently and slapped on a friendly smile. The dog came into view first, and Neil stutter-stepped, then froze when the man walking the Boston terrier—Hobbs was the dog’s name—came into view.

Hobbs whimpered but at least he didn’t try to dash in the opposite direction. Not that trying to bury himself in Cameron Ferguson’s shoes was much better. What the hell was his ex doing in this building? Cam ground to a halt and stared with his mouth hanging open.

Which was Neil’s own damned fault for freezing and looking guilty, because the changes to his appearance had surprised even himself for the first few days, any time he’d caught sight of his reflection in a mirror. It would not have jumped out at Cam if Neil had managed to keep his cool.

“Oh, my God. Phillip? I heard you died.”

Cam moved as if to embrace him, and Neil finally—fucking finally—broke out of his trance for damage control.

So yeah, it had been Neil’s mistake. If he’d kept his cool, given a disinterested nod or “how’s it goin’?” then Cam wouldn’t have taken a second look in his direction.

“Okay,” Neil whispered, since Albert seemed to be waiting for some sign that he had his emotions under control.

Albert tipped up Neil’s chin for a brief, gentle kiss that spoke more of his love for Neil than words could have done. Albert’s finger traced Neil’s jawline, while his eyes begged for understanding. Then he opened the door, and they stepped into the apartment.

The room, like the hall and stairs leading to it, was unlike most of the vampire-owned apartment buildings. At least, it was unlike the ones Neil had visited. This building was a loft conversion that had once been something else—a small warehouse or office building perhaps. The point that stood out to Neil was the highly polished concrete floor. The better to easily clean up DNA should the need arise?

Cameron and Dennis sat peacefully on steel stools in the otherwise-unfurnished vestibule. Doorways to the living areas were closed. If Neil were to guess, he’d say those doors contained heavy-duty soundproofing—a buffer between the apartment’s entryway and the outside walls and windows.

Cameron looked much the same as Neil remembered him. His dirty blond hair was subtly highlighted and cut short. Dennis had thick, straight, light brown hair, longer than Cameron’s, especially on top. Both pairs of brown eyes stared obliviously.

Four others stood waiting. Two men and two women. Vampires, obviously, although Neil wouldn’t have guessed that by their appearances, only by the fact they were there.

Albert quickly made the introductions. April and Lester had been on the street following them and communicating with Albert. Vinny and Bridget lived here.

“They’re prepped?” Albert asked.

Vinny nodded.

Albert glanced at Neil. “We have a tendency to inadvertently, and quite literally, scare the piss out of people, so it makes sense to have them ‘go’ while still under the influence.”

Neil winced. That did seem like a wise move, though, whether it was so the two could walk away inconspicuously or to minimize potential DNA on the scene.

Read THE RECRUIT #1  first to fully understand and appreciate #2. 

Blurb

Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live—if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

Buy Links

JMS Books 

Amazon US

Amazon UK 

About the Author

Addison Albright is a writer living in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, and paranormal genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a smidgen of drama/angst, and a healthy dose of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, french fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.

Author Links

Blog/Website

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Profile

Twitter

Google+:

Pinterest

BookBub

QueeRomance Ink

Amazon

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Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of two $10 Amazon gift cards AND a choice of ebook from Addison’s backlist.

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New Release Blitz for Is It Over Yet by L.A. Witt (excerpt and giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK Exclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 60,000 words 
 
Cover Design: Lori Witt
 
Blurb
 

Rhys Powell and Derek Scott are divorcing. Mistakes have been made, lines have been crossed, and there’s no going back. Both men are exhausted and ready to move on.


But their daughter is getting married soon. In the name of not putting a damper on her wedding, Derek and Rhys agree to keep the divorce on the down-low and show up as the happy couple everyone still believes they are.


And between a roller coaster of a road trip and the love and joy surrounding the wedding… Derek and Rhys just might remember why they fell for each other in the first place.


Are they only kidding themselves? Or can a rekindled spark really light the way to forgiveness?

 
Excerpt
 

Chapter 1


Rhys


The suburban Chicago house I’d lived in for the past six years came into view, and my stomach knotted tighter. It was the same feeling I’d had on my way to a job I’d hated a lifetime ago, when pulling up to the building made me groan out loud at the prospect of another shift in that godforsaken place. Didn’t seem right to feel that way coming home, but there it was, same as it had been for the past two months.


By the time I pulled into the garage beside the familiar red Corolla, my jaw ached from clenching my teeth. Probably because that’s what I’d been doing every night this week at the same time. Ugh. If I didn’t move out of this place soon, my dental bills were going to be astronomical. That was a good enough reason to step things up, wasn’t it? So I didn’t grind my teeth to dust?


As if I didn’t already have a laundry list of reasons why I needed to get out of here.


With an ache in my jaw and a sour feeling in my throat, I collected my coffee cup, lunch bag, and briefcase, and got out of the car. On the way inside, I couldn’t help limping a little, which added to my festering annoyance. It wasn’t unusual for my leg to be sore by the end of the day, especially after I’d been coaching basketball, but it wasn’t doing much for my shitty mood. I couldn’t think of much that would, though. Nothing short of substances that would get me fired. Or maybe finding a note on the counter that said I moved out. There wasn’t a plant on this earth that would get me higher than reading those three sweet little words.


But unless my soon-to-be ex-husband had won the lottery since this morning, he was just as stuck here as I was.


At the door, I paused for a deep breath to steel myself, then went inside. The kitchen and living room were empty. Derek’s car was here, so it was a safe bet he was home, but he was somewhere else in the house. Good enough for me. If I was lucky, he’d stay that way long enough for me to wind down.


I went through my usual motions—cleaning out my lunch bag, rinsing the Tupperware dishes, checking the cats’ food and water, perusing the mail. For years this routine had soothed me. Helped me shift from work to home so I could relax. Not so much these days.


Our long-haired calico, Lucy, hopped upon the counter and chirped at me, and I managed to crack a smile as I scratched her back the way she loved. She arched under my hand and purred. I chuckled, and I didn’t even mind that she was kicking the mail everywhere as she strutted back and forth on the counter.


“Hey, sweetheart. You miss me?”


More purring.


I kept scratching and petting her for a moment, trying not to think about the future. Or the fact that Derek and I still hadn’t come to a custody agreement about the cats. They were littermates, and though they could fight almost as loudly as we could, they were inseparable. There was no “you take Lucy and I’ll take Chico.” When this was all over and we finally went our separate ways, someone was taking both cats, and someone would be living without them.


I scooped Lucy into my arms, and I hugged her tight, which just made her purr louder and my conscience burn hotter. Guilt had been a constant friend for the past couple of months, and every time I thought about either losing my cats or taking them away from Derek, I wanted to cry. As if I hadn’t done enough of that recently.


I’m so sorry, guys. I buried my face in Lucy’s plush fur. I fucked everything up.


The click of a door at the opposite end of the house made my spine stiffen. Lucy tensed too. By the time Derek was halfway up the hall, she’d stopped purring. As he cleared the corner into the living room, she wriggled in my arms, and I sighed as I set her back down on the counter. She jumped to the floor and trotted out of the room, probably to the office where Chico was likely watching birds.


I watched her go, fresh guilt gnawing at me. Things had really gone to shit when even the cats didn’t want to be in the same room with the two of us.


Without the cat to hold my attention anymore, I turned to see where Derek was headed so I could make my own escape. I still needed to change clothes anyway, not to mention take off my prosthetic and sit for a while to give my joints a rest. If he was going to hang out in the living room, then I could go into my bedroom or join the cats in the office.


But Derek wasn’t heading into the living room. He was coming into the kitchen. And from the way his gaze was fixed on me, he wanted to talk about something.


I swallowed. “Hey.”


“Hey.” He slid his hands into the pockets of his jeans. “Do you have a few minutes?”


I struggled to hold his gaze. He didn’t seem like he was looking for a fight. There was some tension in his features, but it didn’t read as hostility or anger.


I shifted my weight, wincing at the vicious ache in my hip. “Yeah. Do you mind if we sit, though?”


“Sure. Yeah. Living room?”


“Okay.” I followed him out of the kitchen, and we sat on opposite ends of the sofa. As soon as I was seated, I leaned down, rolled up my pant leg, and disconnected my prosthetic. Derek didn’t speak while I removed it; for all our inability to coexist lately, he was still in the habit of giving me a minute to get situated, particularly when I needed to kick off the prosthetic after a long day on my feet.


I leaned the prosthetic against the end table and sat back, releasing a relieved sigh. Everything ached, especially my hips, knees, and right ankle, and taking some weight off them felt so good. I might’ve even relaxed if not for Derek waiting a cushion away to have a conversation. Ugh. God. What now?


Schooling my expression, I twisted toward him. I stole a second just to look at him. There would come a time in the very near future when all I had left of him was pictures, and even with the constant tension hanging between us, it hurt to imagine not seeing him anymore. Seeing him like this hurt too. The dark eyes that had tongue-tied me on day one were cold now. Beside his eyes and mouth were lines that deepened whenever he smiled or laughed, and they were barely visible now. The near-black hair I’d run my fingers through millions of times, the soft lips I’d tasted more times than I could count, that spot on his neck where a single kiss could make him shudder all over—it was all out of my reach now.


Maybe it was time to take my sister up on the offer to come stay with her. I wasn’t sure how much more of this I could handle.


Forcing back my emotions, I tried to sound casual. “All right. What’s up?”


He mirrored me, pulling his knee up onto the cushion and drumming his fingers on his inseam. “Um.” He stared down at his hand. “So, I talked to Vanessa this morning.”


My gut clenched. Instantly my mind was filled with a million worst case scenarios. I’d expected him to have something on his mind about us, not about our daughter, and panic shot through me. Had something happened? Was she hurt? Sick? “What’s going on? Is everything okay?”


“Yeah. Yeah. Everything’s fine.” He made a calm down gesture. “Nothing’s wrong.”


“Okay. Good.” I exhaled, my heartbeat coming back down. It wasn’t unusual for her to call him, but the whole “we need to talk” thing had me on edge. “So…” I raised my eyebrows. Oh God, had he told her? Did he finally tell her we were divorcing? He’d been dancing around that for two months.


Derek cleared his throat, and to my surprise, he smiled, though he still seemed guarded. “She’s, um… She’s getting married.”


I blinked. “She is?”


He nodded. “Corbin proposed last night.”


“Oh. Wow.” I actually laughed because I was so relieved that instead of something horrible, he was breaking the news that Vanessa was engaged. “That’s great!”


“Yeah. It is.” He met my gaze, but then he broke eye contact, and his smile faltered.


How could a conversation be this much of a roller coaster after thirty seconds? Oh, right, because it was us and we were a disaster. A disaster our daughter still didn’t know about.


Derek took a deep breath and sat up a little. “Here’s the thing—they want to get married sooner than later. Corbin is going to be transferring within the next year, and he’ll probably deploy at some point. So they want to get all their ducks in a row quickly.”


I nodded. “Makes sense. How soon is soon?”


“They’re thinking February.”


I whistled. “Really not letting the grass grow, are they?”


He laughed quietly. “No. But it’s still three months away. It isn’t like they’re eloping next week.”


“True.” And why was this line of conversation making me apprehensive? Like it was going somewhere I really didn’t want it to go? I was thrilled for our daughter and her husband-to-be, but something about this discussion with Derek…didn’t feel right. After nine years together, I knew him, I knew his tells, and I knew there was more to this than just telling me Vanessa was getting married.


Chewing his lip, Derek dropped his gaze and watched his fingers drumming on his knee again. There was definitely something on his mind. Something he needed to say, but either couldn’t figure out how to or couldn’t quite work up the nerve.


“Derek?” I nudged. “What am I missing here? You’re happy about this, right?”


“Yeah. Of course. I’m… There’s just…” He closed his eyes. Finally, he met mine again. “Vanessa still doesn’t know about, um, us.”


I winced. In the two months since we’d decided to split up, we’d debated more than once when and how we should tell her. The holidays were almost upon us, so that hadn’t seemed like the right time, and we’d agreed to keep a lid on it until after the New Year. She couldn’t make it out for Thanksgiving, and she was spending Christmas with her mom, so it wasn’t as if we’d have to play happy husbands right in front of her. Just keep up the illusion on social media and on the phone. Easy. Except for the part where it meant we’d had to keep it quiet from almost everyone else so no one accidentally let it slip on Facebook. And we were still stuck living together anyway because neither of us could afford to move out yet, so the whole fucking world thought everything was quiet on the home front. The closest we’d come to letting it slip was when a friend noticed our wedding portrait wasn’t on the mantle anymore. Derek had quickly said the frame had broken, and the subject had dropped. For now.


“Right,” I said. “So what does that have to do with her getting—” I tensed, then inclined my head. “Derek, please tell me you’re not going where I think you’re going.”


He looked at me plaintively. “It’s her wedding, Rhys. The next couple of months are going to be stressful as hell for her, and I’d rather all that stress be about planning her wedding. Not worrying about her dads splitting up.”


Closing my eyes, I pushed out a long breath through my nose. We’d been married for seven years, and even though our happier days seemed like a lifetime ago, I remembered the stressful months leading up to the wedding like it was yesterday. The thought of my parents dropping a bomb like that in the middle of all that chaos? Of trying to enjoy my damn wedding while I worried myself sick about making them be in the same room? Okay, yeah, I got what he was driving at. But…fuck.

L.A. Witt is an abnormal M/M romance writer who has finally been released from the purgatorial corn maze of Omaha, Nebraska, and now spends her time on the southwestern coast of Spain. In between wondering how she didn’t lose her mind in Omaha, she explores the country with her husband, several clairvoyant hamsters, and an ever-growing herd of rabid plot bunnies. She also has substantially more time on her hands these days, as she has recruited a small army of mercenaries to search South America for her nemesis, romance author Lauren Gallagher, but don’t tell Lauren. And definitely don’t tell Lori A. Witt or Ann Gallagher. Neither of those twits can keep their mouths shut…


Website: http://www.gallagherwitt.com
E-mail: gallagherwitt@gmail.com
Twitter: @GallagherWitt
Blog: http://gallagherwitt.blogspot.com

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New Release Blitz for There’s Something about Flying ( There’s Always Something #3) by Schuyler L’Roux (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: There’s Something about Flying

Series: There’s Always Something. Book Three

Author: Schuyler L’Roux

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 13100

Genre: Contemporary, Contemporary, Second chance, HEA

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

After walking away from Gerry, Thom is back home in Minnesota living his best life. He’s flying through the air, embracing the sexual power he reclaimed in a lonely dungeon with Gerry. Yet when Gerry arrives unannounced and full of inexplicable hope, Thom has another choice to make. Does he let Gerry go and finally close the book on their tryst? Or does Thom open up his heart to the reality of their past and the potential of their future? The third and final chapter of the There’s Always Something trilogy stays true to form: there’s always an ending.

Excerpt

There’s Something about Flying
Schuyler L’Roux © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Falling
Thom gave a thumbs up and fell face first to earth.

His hands gripped his parachute harness as he tipped forward. He could feel his tandem partner behind him let go of the plane, because suddenly they went from the relative safety perched on the edge of the plane, as safe as you get 12,000 feet high, to emptiness.

The surge of adrenaline was pure ecstasy. At least, that’s what Thom told himself since there was nowhere to run and nothing to fight. All he could do was enjoy the coursing flood of hormones and blood as he ripped through the sky, succumbing to gravity.

Thom did remember what his instructor told him to do fifteen minutes ago when they were still earthbound. The tall, skinny, dark-skinned man was standing in front of him, the large parachute pack in between them.

“When we’re first out of the plane, I need you to arch your back and lean your head into my chest. You’re going to want to look down, but you need to resist that urge, OK?”

“Sure,” Thom said, ridiculously aware of the overlarge blue and orange wind suit he was wearing. “But if my head’s back, how will I see anything?”

The instructor smiled and slapped Thom lightly on his shoulder. “My man, when the parachute goes out, you’ll have all the time in the world to see what you’re going to see. But for free fall it’s all about feeling, not seeing. Now when we fall, are you into spinning or would you like me to keep it stable?”

“You mean, outside the falling?” The instructor, who looked far more attractive in his red, formfitting wind suit than Thom felt in his trash bag aesthetic, laughed and nodded. “I’m here to fall out of a plane,” Thom said. “Anything else you want to do, I’m game.”

“Good man.” He picked up the heavy pack, hefting it to one shoulder. “Then let’s get hooked up.”

“Careful what you promise,” Thom said with a smirk, at ease with his newfound ability to flirt.

“Oh, I know what I said,” the instructor said over his shoulder. “And call me Tay, all right?”

Thom arched his back and pressed his head into Tay’s collarbone as they dropped. The wind roared in Thom’s ears, filling his body with a pressure he’d only ever experienced on the inside, not out.

Even though the wind was deafening, Thom could still hear Tay’s loud voice telling him they were going to spin around before popping the parachute.

Thom didn’t have a chance to reply before Tay took them on a dance through the light-blue sky. Thom’s stomach did lurch, but that was the only moment of hesitation, and after it passed, there was a nothing but lightheaded giddiness. Thom flew past everything on the ground, however momentarily, and he rejoiced.

Tay tapped him on the shoulder. Thom struggled but finally saw Tay was trying to show him the red altimeter. The needle was dropping fast, steadily approaching the 2,500 feet mark, which was where Tay had said again and again they’d open up the parachute. Thom nodded as best he could, quickly trying to prepare for the sudden rush to be over.

He didn’t want it to end. Not after the summer he’d had—the strange amazingness and awfulness of Gerry. Thom wanted to be stuck in the clouds, falling and flying with nothing waiting for him and nothing to run from. It was a ridiculous wish, but it’s what he wanted. And Thom was trying to be OK with accepting what he wanted. Wanting Gerry. Not wanting him. Walking away. Forgetting Gerry.

Struggling to forget. If he’d been successful, Thom doubted he would’ve been hurtling through an almost empty sky right now, strapped in with a stranger. A handsome stranger with a beautiful smile but still a stranger.

Thom squeezed his shoulder harness hard, anticipating the sudden pull of his parachute. But he wasn’t ready for the jarring stop. His head snapped forward, wanting, Thom was sure, to fall off and continue the headlong drop toward earth. But his head stayed attached, and he remained tethered to Tay.

The parachute unfolded above them with a massive sound, like a giant shaking out the wrinkles of a flat sheet before making a bed. Once the chute opened, Thom’s free fall shifted effervescently out of control to a moderate forty miles per hour rush back to earth.

The wind still raged, but the inevitability of catastrophe was gone, and with it went Thom’s giddy peace. All of a sudden, the same problems and turbulence Thom thought he left back on the plane came back to him. It was disappointing, though at least he had found sixty seconds of peace in the free fall.

And then Tay tapped him on his shoulder. “Smile for the camera,” he shouted.

Thom looked to his left. He’d forgotten Tay was wearing a GoPro on his left hand. It snapped Thom out of his depressive reverie. He smiled and meant it. He wasn’t going to let what was waiting for him influence his experience of this magical thing.

This floating. This flying.

Thom let out a yell as he looked out onto the flat, patchwork earth beneath him. Rivers crisscrossed roads and farms and fields filled with either cars, buildings, or animals. He could see all of it, imagining all those lives and experiences carrying on beneath him. His imagination gave Thom a titanic feeling like he had old power in the seconds that were trickling out of his hands like the sands of time.

Thom whooped again, this time Tay joining him. The adrenaline, almost threatened by the dam of worry, was still there. But so was the joy. His voice was already hoarse after the two yells, so he gave away to grinning stupidly.

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Meet the Author

A Southern boy deeply proud of his Welsh heritage, Schuyler L’Roux is a writer who passionately believes in the power of sex—funny, world-changing, scratch-the-hell-out-of-my-back sex. He’s a new author and cannot wait to join the world of erotica with his own brand of thoughtful characters engaged in meaningful interactions and entertaining situations. With lots and lots of sex, of course. When he’s not traveling, Schuyler currently calls Germany home.

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