A MelanieM Release Day Review: Barricades by Dem Had

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Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

They were raised to hate each other, but love has other plans.

When introverted bookworm Orestis escapes his homophobic parents and abusive home for a night out with friends, he meets artist Emir, and the passion between them is instant and explosive. But Orestis is a Greek Cypriot and Emir is Turkish, and neither society nor their families will accept their love. If they want a romance that lasts beyond one fiery, forbidden night, they’ll have to face the backlash.

Let me say immediately that Dem Had has a wonderful story here, with a location, situation, and main couple I really hadn’t seen before.  If the full promise indicated by the blurb isn’t fulfilled, mark that up to the shortness of the story.  Given the writing, the gritty details, the research, and many of the facts and emotional layers to Barricades, had it just been extended further, this would have been a remarkable novel.

As released, Barricades by Dem Had is a contemporary romance that takes us to the divided island of Cyprus, a tiny paradise that’s currently in the middle of a economic boom …on the Greek side.  Yes, its divided by religion and countries, Turkey and Greece, Islam and Christianity. And in between lies a border and years of hatred.  All on one small exquisite island.

Had uses Cyprus’ division and pasts which will always extend into its present as a foundation for Barricades and it’s main couple, one a Greek Cypriot and the other a Turkish Cypriot.  Four words that are almost swear words depending on which side of the border you live on.

While Had brings the fanatical animosity between the two factions alive, she never really accounts for the depth of feeling for being a Cypriot which I know from being friends with someone there.  Their love for Cyprus, in this case they never say Cyprus , no its always, always, “Im a Greek Cypriot”, is on a cellular level.  Away, the word pining for his town and land is entirely accurate . His pride in returning after getting his degrees abroad?  Beyond words.  In the story, you get the anguish and the bitterness of both mens’ situation.  The cultural divide that brings the bullying and endless harassment feels real, especially as they live so close to the border (which my friend never mentions, it’s as though that part of the island does not exist).

It’s as though we are only getting part of their story and you feel the hole because of the richness of what remains. These are terrific characters.

Orestis with his physically abusive father, comes in for twice the hatred, he’s gay and his boyfriend is Turkish.  His pain and fear on the page is visceral. His father treatment of Orestis includes the way the father feels the family is now seen by everyone around them, that the son has “failed” them. A real situation there.Emir is the one that needs more layers.  You never see the full artist in him, yet supposedly he’s successful commercially.  But that part of his character never feels real or part of the story.  He’s clearly a conflicted person emotionally over his sexuality, driving him to cheat and have anonymous sexual encounters behind Orestis,’s back.  That part of their relationship or should I say Emir’s conflict within himself is never resolved satisfactorily.  It can’t be within this short a story.

Yes, readers who have problems with a mc that cheats is going to have issues here.

Had is dealing with so many legitimate issues here.  She could have filled a 500 page novel with this couple and their relationship alone with dealing with their backgrounds, the issues of their differences in religion which never arises, the culture of hypermasculinity that exists in Greece and Cyprus, the idealization of Greek sons within the family and the family’s high expectations, domestic and child abuse, along with LGBT rights which are admittedly shaky there.

All of which made the ending extremely puzzling because there was no foundation set for it.  Had the author built the groundwork, ie shown the readers that the men truly loved  their island and why (the places, their homes) we would have understood the choice better.

But perhaps this is just me seeing so much promise in this story and characters and wishing for more.  As written, I do recommend it,  It’s different, terrific, and will make you think while enjoying a romance with its feet on an island both torn and exquisite.

Cover Artist: Brooke Albrecht.  Dramatic and eye catching.  Great job.

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, World of Love #27, 85 pages
Expected publication: May 24th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN139781644052266
Edition Language English

An Alisa Review: How to Heal by Susan Hawke

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Rating:  4 stars out of 5

Take one former bully, unable to forgive himself for the sins of his past…

Clark Danvers is a wild twenty-one year old who’s trying to prove he’s an adult. With a two-year degree in hand, he manages the family car dealership and seemingly parties by night. Given the amount of times he’s been pulled over for speeding by Deputy Rick Matthews, public opinion seems to be right. But what people don’t see are the scars he carries both inside and out. Scars from a past he can’t run away from and will never be able to atone for, no matter how many times he beats himself over it.

Add one no-nonsense cop who longs to be a Daddy for the right boy…

Jericho “Rick” Matthews never expects the bratty kid who gets on his last nerve to pull at his heartstrings. When he finds Clark battered and fighting for his life in a motel room, Rick’s Daddy mode is instantly engaged. Before he can think of anything else, he must first comfort this hurting boy.

To equal a pair of men who might just be what the other needs.

The two men who thought they couldn’t stand each other are drawn together after a date gone wrong. While Rick tenderly cares for Clark, he decides what this brat needs is a Daddy… someone to help him break free from the past and embrace the promise of many happy tomorrows.

Note: Possible trigger warning for mentions of self-harm and a scene involving a man who’s consented to having himself tied up. What he didn’t agree to was being left that way for an entire weekend. This highly emotional scene is the catalyst to evoke “Daddy’s” protective mode in a tale filled with themes of hurt and comfort and the struggle of overcoming a difficult past.

This was a good story and I was so glad for Clark to find something good.  When I saw what he was going through as a teen that cause his actions when he was younger I felt for him but to see that years later he is punishing himself and even others are still holding it against him broke my heart.  I liked Rick previously, even if he was a little overbearing but I was glad he was able to admit he had been wrong in his initial assessment of Clark.

Though Clark gets support from his mother it really take the support and friendship of Rick and his family to help Clark feel like he is worthy and should have some happiness.

I could feel these character’s emotions and while things pretty much went right once they started a relationship I enjoyed it.  Most of the book showed how Rick was able to read Clark and support him to become the man he should be and not be hiding from the world anymore.

The cover art is nice, following the style of the series and gives a great visual of Clark.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 277 pages

Publication: April 14, 2019

Edition Language: English

Series: Lovestrong #5

An Alisa Review: Undisclosed Desires by Carly Marie

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Rating:  5 stars out of 5

Caleb Masterson is, by all accounts, a successful adult. He graduated college, found a job he loves, and has a place to call home. Unfortunately, he knows what he desires in a relationship is considered too “high-maintenance” for most men and he has decided to not even bother looking. He’s happy with his decision until a sexy man with salt-and-pepper hair limps into his physical therapy office and turns his world upside down.

Careful attention to detail and a need to be in control have helped Travis Barton become the owner of a successful construction company. But that same desire for control is what has pushed his past boyfriends away… Travis knows what he’s looking for in a relationship isn’t easy to find, and the last place he expects to find the man with the potential to be everything he’s ever hoped for is in his physical therapist’s office. But when Travis overhears an intriguing conversation between his cute physical therapist and a co-worker, he’s suddenly not so anxious to be back at work.

Is it possible for two men, both content in their lives, to find what they’ve both needed in a partner in the most unexpected of places? Or will their desires be too much for the other to handle?

This was a wonderful story and I was able to get my Daddy kink fix at the same time which makes it even better.  When we first meet Travis he is a bit grumpy about doing therapy but is immediately intrigued by Caleb.  Caleb has always known he was a Little but other than his best friend, Dex, he has never let another seen that side of him.

Travis hasn’t had a boy in a long time and can’t help but feel drawn to Caleb and I loved watching him break down all of Caleb’s walls as their relationship grew.  I was heartbroken for Caleb when he was so sure that he would never find someone who would accept his Little side let alone embrace it the way Travis did and I was glad that Travis was determined (as a good Daddy is) and wasn’t going to walk away from Caleb no matter how scared he could be.

These two were perfect for each other.  It was even better that Caleb’s relationship with Travis brought more people into his life, Dex is great and only wants what is best for Caleb but it’s always good to have others to lean on and accept you.  I loved Caleb and Dex’s relationship and how open they were with each other and that Caleb could relax and indulge his Little side a bit when they were together.  I look forward to other books that would focus on the friends in the book as they look like they may have stories to tell too.

The cover art by Soxational Cover Art is nice and I love the picture of Caleb.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 232 pages

Publication: May 16, 2019

Edition Language: English

Love a LIttle Urban Fantasy? Check out the Blog Tour for Eight Lives: (Match Made in Hell #1) by Autumn Breeze & Ashley Chamblee (excerpt and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Eight Lives: Match Made in Hell #1

Author: Autumn Breeze & Ashley Chamblee

Cover Artist: Raven Brooks

Release Date: May 20, 2019

Genre/s:  Urban Fantasy, M/M Romance

Trope/s:  Friends to Lovers, Roommates to Lovers

Heat Rating: 3 flames

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Buy Links

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Amazon UK

 

Blurb

Two Hearts. One Curse. Zero Time.

A century ago, a spiteful witch cursed Edmund.

Ever since then, he has lived as an immortal house cat—short one life.

Anselm is a mildly depressed vampire with a soft spot for the feline he calls friend.

They live together as equals, companions for eternity—or so they hope.

But their lives take a dark turn when the witch who cursed Edmund long ago dies.

And suddenly, he is human again.

In a race against time’s cruel hand, Anselm and Edmund must make a decision.

Do they find a dark witch and re-enact the curse that plagued Edmund so they can be together for an eternity? Or . . . does Edmund give up forever as a cat to be with Anselm for now as a man?

 

Excerpt

I clenched my jaw. If this stranger had hurt Edmund, there would be hell to pay.

My immortal cat, as irritating as he could be sometimes, was my best friend. We’d been a pair since the beginning of the twentieth century and . . . in reality, he was all I had.

Everything changed but not Edmund. Nor me.

He was a cursed cat, once a young man in the prime of his life. I was the vampire he called friend.

“Edmund,” I called, dropping the bags I held. The fresh fish and blood I’d bought cascaded to the floor. Some of the packets burst open, but I didn’t care about the mess the blood would make or the smell that would linger for days; I cared about my best friend. “Edmund?!”

The stranger turned; his sharp gaze followed me though he was rooted to the spot.

I rushed through the living room, heading deeper into my home, knowing that if my heart still beat, it would be pounding against my chest like a sledgehammer.

Where was Edmund? Why wasn’t he answering?

Hunting through the rooms, I checked in all of Edmund’s favorite hiding spots—on top of the bookshelf, on my side of the bed, behind my pillow, in the perfect patch of moonlight that streamed through the bay windows in my office—but Edmund was nowhere to be found.

He was missing, gone, disappeared.

“Where is he?!” I demanded as I raged into the living room and caught the stranger by the throat. My fingers tightened as my anger—my fear—tainted the air, sending the thick stench of decay curling around us. The strange young man’s lips parted, opening and closing like a fish out of water as he grasped my wrist and fought for breath. “If you hurt him—” I couldn’t even finish the thought, much less the sentence.

The very idea of not having Edmund, of being without him . . .

I shook the man impatiently. “Where is he?!” I bellowed, shaking the boy.

He appeared desperate as he clutched my wrist and tugged on my arm, attempting to remove my hold, but my grasp was absolute as my fingers tightened around his neck.

Panic danced across his face. His wide eyes shined, a familiar neon blue that I knew.

My lips parted. “Edmund?”

I loosened my hold. It wasn’t possible. Edmund was . . .

The man I held by the neck trembled in my grasp, one minute a man, and in the next, thick black fur sprouted out of his transformed body.

“Y . . . You choked me,” he gasped as I gathered him close.

“You turned into a-a-a man!” I pulled him away from my chest, inspecting him as I did so.

How was this possible? He was cursed by a witch to live the rest of his life, or at least nine lives—eight now that he’d died once—as a cat. Right now, the fluffy black thing I peered down at looked like my housecat, but seconds ago . . .

 

 

About the Authors

Autumn Breeze

Autumn Breeze is a bestselling LGBT+ author, and current Radish Content Provider. She is also the winner of a 2015 Watty Award, a former Wattpad Star, with more than 70K followers on Wattpad who was featured in Cosmo in 2017 “My Lessons with the Sexy Dance Instructor.” In 2017 she worked as a Freelance Writer for 20th Century Fox on, “A Cure for Wellness: Seeking A Cure.”

 

Blog/Website

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

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Wattpad

 

Ashley Chamblee

Ashley Chamblee is a bestselling author with 10+ years of experience who specializes in writing horror, fantasy, paranormal, and romance with LGBT themes. Currently, she has 35K+ followers on her combined Wattpad accounts EzraWinn and HonestDying. When Ashley isn’t writing she is either working with special needs adults, playing video games, reading or spending time with friends and family. 

Blood Prize, her bestselling novel is available on Amazon. 

Twitter 

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DJ Jamison on Five wedding traditions that Appear in Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss #1) (guest blog and giveaway)

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Five wedding traditions that make an appearance in Surprise Groom

When I first came up with the idea for my release, Surprise Groom — Book 1 of a new series called Marital Bliss — I didn’t realize just how much “wedding planning” I’d be taking on! But where there are weddings, there are wedding traditions. Here are five that make an appearance in the book. Keep in mind, Surprise Groom takes place on a wedding resort, so there are plenty of weddings to go around!

The bouquet toss!

Watch out. Those flowers don’t always end up where intended! Or maybe they do? You’ll have to read Surprise Groom to find out.

Toasts, so many toasts!

Don’t ask me why, but even when writing the toasts myself, I get all misty-eyed. I think they’re even better in fiction than real life. There’s just something so moving about someone sharing what’s in their heart with a room of full of people. Maybe I should start a tradition of holding toasts at my own family dinners!

Something borrowed…

And sometimes something lost. Caleb has mastered the skill of soothing panicky brides and grooms, though, so don’t worry.

Wedding favors!

And sometimes a whole lot of ribbons to tie around them. But hey, if you do it with the right partner, it can be fun. Maybe? Sometimes? Caleb and Julien thought so. Or maybe they just enjoyed what they did before tying those knots 😉

Wedding photos!

Gazebos bedecked with flower petals, burbling fountains, beaches with ocean views, horse stables, courtyards with gardens designed to bloom year-round. There’s no shortage of photo opportunities on Bliss Island.

I have at least three more books to write in this series, and many more wedding traditions to tackle! What’s your favorite tradition in a wedding/reception?


Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 89,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Garrett Leigh @ Black Jazz Design
 
Blurb
 

Can two men fake their way to marital bliss?


Caleb Taylor is shocked to learn his family could lose Bliss Island Resort — their home and livelihood — unless he makes use of a clause to marry the child of investor Louis Chastain. Sofia Chastain is more like a sister than a love interest, and Caleb isn’t ready to sign over his future. But Sofia has a brother, and Caleb has a plan …


Julien Chastain was disowned at fifteen and has made a life as a go-go dancer in Miami, but he lives paycheck to paycheck. When his childhood friend proposes an outlandish marriage contract, he thinks he’s crazy. But it’s a chance at a future that’s tough to pass up.


Caleb and Julien must present themselves as an authentic couple for the legal loophole to work, but the lines between “fake” and “real” keep shifting as they navigate intimacy, public scrutiny, and sabotage.


Love isn’t part of the plan, but plans change. If they can outsmart Julien’s father and prove their love is worth more than a transaction, they just might find a true happily-ever-after.

Author Bio
 

DJ Jamison is the author of more than a dozen m/m romances, including the Ashe Sentinel series and the Hearts and Health series. She writes a variety of queer characters, from gay to bisexual to asexual, with a focus on telling love stories that are more about common ground than lust at first sight. DJ grew up in the Midwest in a working-class family, and those influences can be found in her writing through characters coping with real-life problems: money troubles, workplace drama, family conflicts and, of course, falling in love. DJ spent more than a decade in the newspaper industry before chasing her first dream to write fiction. She spent a lifetime reading before that, and continues to avidly devour her fellow authors’ books each night. She lives in Kansas with her husband, two sons, two fish and, regrettably, one snake.

 

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Check Out the New Release Blog Tour for Want Me by Neve Wilder (excerpt and giveaway)

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Want Me

Neve Wilder

M/M New Adult Romance

Release Date: 05.08.19

Want Me Cover

BLURB

Two roommates. One calculus exam. A whole lot of extracurricular activity.

Nate

Living with four other guys, it’s bound to happen.

Every guy’s been caught taking care of business at least once, right?

It shouldn’t be a big deal.

But I don’t know Eric as well as my other roommates, and things are a little awkward now.

He’s a loner. A mystery. Quietly confident. Smart.

Sexy as hell.

I’ve been happily subsisting on the typical frat guy diet of booze and sorority girls.

But the way Eric looked at me that night?

There was something there.

Something that’s got me curious.

Something that’s stirring up feelings I thought I’d left behind for good.

Something that’s making me think I’m not as straight as I thought I was.

I can’t get him off of my mind.

I don’t think I want to.

So when he offers to help me study for a midterm I’m convinced I’m going to fail,

I take him up on it.

It’s innocent.

Probably. Maybe.

There’s no way I could’ve known what it’d start…

This is a super steamy standalone new adult/college mm romance with HEA that unfolds across six “episodes” following Nate and Eric. Now bundled up in one collection with a bonus episode for a seamless reading experience. 87,000 words.

Amazon US: http://bit.ly/WantMeNeveWilder

Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/WantMeNeveWilder_UK

Want Me Graphic 2

Want Me Teaser 2

 

EXCERPT

“You all right?”

“Yeah, stressed, as usual.”

“Calculus? I can help.”

“Nope, philosophy this time.”

He wrinkled his nose in sympathy, then laced his fingers behind his head. I turned my focus back to the page I was reading, then realized I’d read the same sentence three times in a row. I could feel him watching me, and when I turned my head to check, I was right. His gaze trickled down from the crown of my head to my lap, slow as a drop of water down the glass of the window behind me. My cock jumped in my pants, and I shifted my legs restlessly. The thing needed a leash.

“You want some stress relief?” he offered.

No. It was on the tip of my tongue to say it, because I was frustrated by the whole situation, but fuck, the way he was sitting there so casually, his legs sprawled, his thickening cock starting to push at his fly… I inhaled deeply through my nose, and as I exhaled, found myself saying, “Like what?”

“Not sure yet,” he mused, posture straightening. He moved to the edge of his seat, scooting his chair in closer so he was right next to me, and even though I kind of knew what was coming, I still flinched when he laid his hand over the top of my thigh.

“Not right here,” I said, lowering my voice. But fuck if I didn’t widen my legs in the same breath, a taboo thrill running through me at being in public. Shit, regardless of Eric, I was starting to think I really did have a thing for being watched—or the threat of getting caught, at least.

Eric palmed my crotch, spreading his fingers over the bulge in my gym shorts. His warmth seeped through the silky mesh fabric and woke my cock right the fuck up.

I glanced around. There was no one to either side of us, and behind me was just a bank of windows that looked over the main quad below. But there were a trio of heads in the carrels across from me. I could hear them when they whispered or turned a page in their books, and I had to muffle a growl when Eric tucked his hand behind the waistband of my shorts, grazing his fingertips over my swollen head.

“No?” It was practically a purr, and it rolled over my skin like warm oil and flooded me with furiously spreading heat that tightened my balls.

He took my silence for the assent it was, and I clamped my lower lip between my teeth as he wedged his hand deeper into my shorts and wrapped it around the base of my cock, giving it a sharp, pulsing squeeze that made me suck in a breath.

“Freeballing?”

“Yeah,” I stuttered out, my dick jumping in his hand as he squeezed again.

“Good deal.” He gave me a few light, feathery strokes that had my hips surging up into the contact, and then his hand tightened like a vice around my shaft, thumb tracing my head in a tantalizing sweep as he leaned in. His whisper washed over me like pure, searing desert heat, the ownership in it shooting straight to my core and making me dizzy. “I want that nut you’re working up right now.”

“Fuck,” I hissed so loud that when I glanced up, I could see the person in the carrel across from me trying to subtly peer over the divider.

I hunched over my desktop to conceal the view of Eric’s hand as it plunged deeper, scooping up my balls and kneading them.

“That sounded like a yes to me.”

“Not here,” I whispered again and yanked his hand from my pants. Even though by then, shit, I was definitely seeing the appeal in letting him get me off right there. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay quiet enough, and though the thrill of possibly getting caught was hot, the reality of a charge for public indecency was not. I needed some ninja skills for that, or a lot more experience, and the whole novelty of getting off with a dude who knew what the hell he was doing was still so keen-edged that I didn’t have a shot.

“Spoilsport. I was enjoying the challenge, but I guess you’re right.” Eric picked up his sucker again, stuffing the wrapper in his back pocket. “You’re a noisy fucker, so maybe a little more buffer is a good idea. Come on.”

wilder_logo_4_flat

Neve Wilder lives in the southern US, where the summers are hot and the winters are…sometimes cold. She is a mom to three rambunctious weebeasts who have joined forces in a mission to carpet the family home with toys and small items that really suck to step on at six in the morning.

She reads promiscuously across multiple genres, but her favorite stories always contain an element of romance. Incidentally, this is also what she likes to write. Slow-burners with delicious tension? Yes. Whiplash-inducing page-turners, also yes. Down and dirty scorchers? Yes. And every flavor in between.

She believes David Bowie was the sexiest musician to ever live, and she’s always game to nerd out on anything from music to writing.

And finally, she believes that love conquers all. Except the heat index in July. Nothing can conquer that bastard.

Web site: www.nevewilder.com

FB author page: www.facebook.com/nevewilderwrites

FB Reader Group: www.facebook.com/groups/WildersWildOnes

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Neve-Wilder/e/B07HY29JMG

Bookbub Author page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/neve-wilder

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18429115.Neve_Wilder

Instagram: www.instagram.com/nevewilder

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Top Shelf

A Seacroft Novel

Allison Temple

M/M Romance

Release Date: 05.20.19

Top Shelf Cover

Blurb

Martin is a ghost. Well, not really, but he might as well be. Job gone, home gone, self-respect gone, and no one even seems to notice. The only person who really sees him is Seb, the artist who lives above the used bookstore.

Seb haunts the edges of Seacroft in search of beauty. He knows how to excavate the hidden value in abandoned things—whether it’s in the pages of forgotten books or in Martin’s stuttering attempts to rebuild his life—and transform them into works of art.

Two lost souls, Seb and Martin discover the strength they need to face eccentric townies and their dysfunctional families together. But as friendship sparks toward something more, neither man wants to risk what they’ve only just found. It takes two to fall in love, but it will take the whole community to bring their beauty to life.

Top Shelf is an 81k slow burn friends-to-lovers MM romance. It features an anxious professor, a drama queen artist, a bookstore that might be haunted, and a full-blown heart-eyes HEA.

Amazon: http://bit.ly/Top-Shelf_

International: http://mybook.to/TopShelf

Top Shelf Teaser 2

Top Shelf Teaser 1

Excerpt

The distinct sound of footsteps had him freezing in place again. Martin’s breath went shallow, and he clutched at the phone. Was it inappropriate to call the police on his first day of work? There was someone in the store, and Martin was very sure he had not seen anyone come in since Cassidy had left.

He moved in between the shelves as his mind raced. What if someone had snuck in? Broken in?

Why would someone sneak in to steal used books?

Martin grabbed a cookbook off a shelf labeled ‘Everything is Better With Salt’ and hefted it, testing the weight. If someone was back there, and that someone was up to no good, Martin could use the book as a weapon.

There was a soft sound of someone humming, and it made the hairs on Martin’s neck prickle. He tripped at the edge of the next shelf.

“Cass, is that you?”

Martin froze with the cookbook half-raised to his shoulder. Every part of him went on alert at the sound of a man’s voice, much closer than he’d expected.

Another book dropped to the ground.

He peeked around a shelf. The first thing his brain registered was white, and it was almost enough to convince him that he was seeing a ghost. His fingers tightened around the cookbook.

A long pale arm reached up and lifted a book off the very top shelf.

It was a man.

He wore faded jeans and a gray T-shirt. His hair was bleached blond. If he was a thief, he was a terrible one, because he flipped through the book, then let it drop to the floor next to what must have been the other ones Martin had already heard fall.

He was a man though, whoever he was. Tall and solid. Not a ghost. Martin lowered the cookbook. Assaulting a customer on his first day would be a bad career move.

“Excuse me,” he said, but it was drowned out as the next book thumped to the floor. Martin hopped back a step, but gathered himself and tried again. “Excuse me. I’m closing up.”

“Sure thing,” the man said as he stretched up on his toes again, reaching for another book. His shirt lifted from the waist of his jeans, and the skin underneath was so pale it enhanced his ghostly appearance.

When Martin didn’t leave, the man glanced over his shoulder, and his face made Martin’s heart stop. He wasn’t a ghost or a thief, but whoever he was, he was handsome. Blue eyes flicked up and down once, like he was trying to decide the kind of threat Martin might pose.

As Martin inhaled to assert himself again, the man turned back to the shelf.

“You—” Martin swallowed hard, willing himself to stand firm. “You’ll have to go.”

Those blue eyes darted toward Martin again, like a wrist flicking at a fly. The man grinned, a slow sly grin that made Martin’s insides twist.

“You’re new, aren’t you?” the man said.

Martin’s ears burned. He knew a dismissal when he heard one.

“If—If there’s something you’d like to buy, I can help you cash out. Otherwise, we’ll be open again on Monday at—” What time did they open? It had been nine o’clock on Saturday. Was it the same time on weekdays?

The blond man frowned, and Martin’s heart lurched under the stranger’s scrutiny. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had really looked at him. For all his rising panic at the feeling of being alone in the store earlier, he very much wanted to return to that solitude right now. It was so much better than being the center of this man’s attention.

“How long have you worked here?” The strange man’s voice was soft and low, rippling through the space between them.

Martin shivered and had to focus to keep his feet planted. “We’re closing and—”

“Where’s Cass?” The man glanced over Martin’s shoulder, giving him a moment to breathe.

“Cassidy? She went home.”

“What’s your name?” Those eyes were on Martin again in an instant, making him light-headed.

“Martin.” Too late, he wondered if he shouldn’t have introduced himself, particularly when the other man made no effort to return the favor.

“Well then, Martin.” The man took a step forward. “It appears no one bothered to inform you—”

“I’ll call the owner.” Martin was losing ground and needed to fix this quickly. Calling Mrs. Green to resolve a grumpy customer was absolutely a bad idea, but he was on the verge of being run out of his own bookstore, so there weren’t many options left.

To illustrate that point, the blond man’s eyes widened and his lips formed into an ‘O’.

“No no. Please.” He held his hands wide, as his mouth pulled into another grin. Everything about it made Martin want to shrink into himself until he was nothing but a speck of dust on a bookshelf.

“I’m sorry,” he said, giving it one last go. “But we close at six and—”

The man didn’t appear to hear him. He toed through the pile of books at his feet.

Martin winced as pages bent under his shoes. “Please don’t—”

Thin fingers pinched the crumpled pages together and lifted them in the air, the book’s heavy covers flopping to the sides. There was the soft sound of paper tearing.

The man tucked the book under one arm. “Don’t worry, sweetheart. I’ll pay for it.” He put a hand in one of his pockets, then actually swaggered toward Martin, whose vision wavered as the man’s fingers brushed against his own. Martin gasped at the hard weight of something metal in his palm. The silence of the bookshop was broken by the sound of coins tumbling out of Martin’s frozen hand and onto the floor.

“That should cover it.” The man whispered it low. The feeling of his breath on Martin’s skin made him turn into a Martin-shaped statue, frozen in place as the other man slid past him.

“Nice to meet you,” the man said. “I’m sure we’ll see each other again.”

It felt like hours, but it probably was only a matter of seconds before he trembled and broke out of his daze. The floorboards creaked as the man walked away. Martin knelt and collected the coins he’d dropped. They were all nickels and dimes, and they totaled up to just under two dollars.

A door closed and the shop fell quiet.

Martin wound his way back the way he’d come. Nerves boiled inside him, and he hesitated around every blind corner between shelves, half expecting the blond stranger to leap out at him like some deranged Jack in the Box. He stumbled into the open space at the front.

He was alone.

Martin went to the door. It surprised him that the hinges hadn’t made their booming wail as the man left.

His hand stopped as he reached for the deadbolt. It was still in position. The door was locked.

Where had the man come from? And where had he gone?

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Allison Temple has been a writer since the second grade, when she wrote a short story about a girl and her horse. Her grandmother typed it out for her and said she’s never seen so many quotation marks from a seven-year-old before. Allison took that as a challenge and has gone on to try to break her previous record in all her subsequent works.

Allison lives in Toronto with her very patient husband and the world’s neediest cat. She splits her free time between writing, community theater stage management, and traveling anywhere that has good wine. Tragically, this leaves no time to clean her house.

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