A Collection of Contemporary Romance Stories Cooked Up for You? Check Out the Review Tour and Giveaway for Recipe For Romance by Ari McKay

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Blurb


Four couples, four different stories — and one spicy Recipe for Romance from author Ari McKay!


Welcome to Montgomery House, Charleston’s finest restaurant. When you walk in the front doors of the stately former mansion, you’ll be surrounded by true Southern charm. Owner Rhys Montgomery will personally welcome you, while the tantalizing scents of Executive Chef Stephen Pierce’s latest culinary masterpiece linger in the air. Enjoy a walk in the gardens or an elegant meal in the dining room, as you watch the love stories play out around you…


Bay Leaves and Bachelors — Clay Turner’s heart was broken by a wealthy man who said he was boring. When rich, outgoing restaurateur Rhys Montgomery sets his sights on the quiet academic, drawn in by Clay’s intelligence and sex appeal, he finds he has an uphill battle to win Clay’s trust. Can Rhys burrow his way into Clay’s heart, or will Clay’s insecurity become a wall between them that not even true love can break down?


Fennel and Forgiveness — Seven years ago, Max Boyd broke Darius Cooper’s heart. Darius wanted a commitment, and Max wanted to focus on his career in Georgia’s television industry. Their ten year difference in age and experience tore them apart, but fate throws them back together when Max arrives at the Montgomery House, where Darius now works. Will Southern Wedding Belles bring them a second chance for love or is Darius’s trust too shattered for Max to heal?


Ginger and Gentlemen — Ian Pierce has lived in his older brother Stephen’s shadow his entire life, always feeling second best. His best friend, Matt Davis, is the only person he trusts to be on his side. Despite being in dire financial straits, Ian wants to refuse Stephen’s request to film an episode of Mouth of the South at Ian’s restaurant, but the bonus money offered in the contract is too much to resist. He accepts without knowing the hefty bonus comes from Matt, not the production company. Will Ian feel betrayed by the one person he trusts above all others when he finds out, or will Matt’s desire to help Ian succeed even at his own financial risk take them from friends to lovers at last?


Cinnamon and Seduction — Chef Stephen Pierce has talent and a determination to succeed that is matched only by his fierce temper and prickly personality. Yet his long-suffering personal assistant, Robert Logan, has carried a torch for Stephen since the day they met. Everyone around Montgomery House knows Robert is in love with Stephen — everyone, that is, except Stephen himself. Can Rhys, Clay, Darius, Max, Ian, and Matt find a way to make Stephen see that Robert is the perfect man for him, or will even Robert’s legendary talent for matchmaking fail to win him the man he loves?




Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Release Blitz and Giveaway for Recipe For Romance by Ari McKay

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Blurb


Four couples, four different stories — and one spicy Recipe for Romance from author Ari McKay!


Welcome to Montgomery House, Charleston’s finest restaurant. When you walk in the front doors of the stately former mansion, you’ll be surrounded by true Southern charm. Owner Rhys Montgomery will personally welcome you, while the tantalizing scents of Executive Chef Stephen Pierce’s latest culinary masterpiece linger in the air. Enjoy a walk in the gardens or an elegant meal in the dining room, as you watch the love stories play out around you…


Bay Leaves and Bachelors — Clay Turner’s heart was broken by a wealthy man who said he was boring. When rich, outgoing restaurateur Rhys Montgomery sets his sights on the quiet academic, drawn in by Clay’s intelligence and sex appeal, he finds he has an uphill battle to win Clay’s trust. Can Rhys burrow his way into Clay’s heart, or will Clay’s insecurity become a wall between them that not even true love can break down?


Fennel and Forgiveness — Seven years ago, Max Boyd broke Darius Cooper’s heart. Darius wanted a commitment, and Max wanted to focus on his career in Georgia’s television industry. Their ten year difference in age and experience tore them apart, but fate throws them back together when Max arrives at the Montgomery House, where Darius now works. Will Southern Wedding Belles bring them a second chance for love or is Darius’s trust too shattered for Max to heal?


Ginger and Gentlemen — Ian Pierce has lived in his older brother Stephen’s shadow his entire life, always feeling second best. His best friend, Matt Davis, is the only person he trusts to be on his side. Despite being in dire financial straits, Ian wants to refuse Stephen’s request to film an episode of Mouth of the South at Ian’s restaurant, but the bonus money offered in the contract is too much to resist. He accepts without knowing the hefty bonus comes from Matt, not the production company. Will Ian feel betrayed by the one person he trusts above all others when he finds out, or will Matt’s desire to help Ian succeed even at his own financial risk take them from friends to lovers at last?


Cinnamon and Seduction — Chef Stephen Pierce has talent and a determination to succeed that is matched only by his fierce temper and prickly personality. Yet his long-suffering personal assistant, Robert Logan, has carried a torch for Stephen since the day they met. Everyone around Montgomery House knows Robert is in love with Stephen — everyone, that is, except Stephen himself. Can Rhys, Clay, Darius, Max, Ian, and Matt find a way to make Stephen see that Robert is the perfect man for him, or will even Robert’s legendary talent for matchmaking fail to win him the man he loves?

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Love Holiday Stories? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Designer Holiday by Ari McKay! (giveaway)

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Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Length: 40,000 words approx.
 
Blurb
 

It’s never too late for a second chance at love… or is it?


Rayne Sadler left the tiny town of Holiday Pines and his childhood sweetheart, Emilio Rives, to make a name for himself in the world of interior design. For twelve years, he never looked back. Now he has the successful career he wanted, but no one to share his life.


Emilio isn’t happy when Rayne returns to Holiday Pines to renovate the local playhouse. The town wants to stimulate the failing tourist industry, but Emilio has no interest in reviving the ashes of his relationship with Rayne.


Yet shared memories and experiences are powerful things. As the playhouse is restored to its former glory, the friendship between Rayne and Emilio slowly returns as well, and their chemistry is as powerful as ever. Rayne has designs on Emilio’s heart, and he sets out to prove it. Will the magic of Christmas thaw Emilio’s heart, or will it remain as cold as mountain snow?

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Website

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Review Tour – Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

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Length: 55,188 words
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
 
Walker Boys Series
 
Book #1 – Striking Sparks – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Breaking Bonds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret.


Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.


While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and a car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

 

Excerpt
 
PAUL MERCER stood in front of the full-length mirror mounted on the closet door and checked his tailor-made navy suit for lint or wrinkles before he left his cabin, which was more like a small hotel room than he’d expected. But Triton Cruises prided itself on being one of the more upscale cruise lines, and Poseidon’s Pearl was one of their top ships.


The suite was luxurious enough that Paul could have spent the entire trip inside, maybe reading on the private deck, which was big enough for two lounge chairs with a small table between them. But Paul wasn’t on vacation.


He’d been sent by his father, who was the CEO of Triton Cruises, to assess the ship and its crew and to report on whether the crew was adhering to company standards. To do so, he was posing as Paul Bailey, a new executive with the company who needed to learn about the cruise line. He was using his mother’s maiden name to help avoid anyone making a connection between him and the company’s founding family.


He glanced down at his pants, which were loose enough to hide the fact that he wore a prosthetic on his left leg below the knee. He’d covered the prosthetic foot with a shoe, and looking down at his dress shoes made him feel almost normal again. He had a slight limp, especially at the end of the day when he was tired, but most people were tactful enough not to ask about it, if they even noticed.


The other reason Paul had been sent was because he’d never been on a Triton cruise before. Hell, he’d never been on any cruise before. The cruise line was strictly eighteen-plus so Paul was never allowed to go with his parents when they took their annual trip while he was growing up. Then he’d gone away to college, and after graduation he went straight into grad school for his MBA. After that, he’d started working his way up the ladder at Triton and hadn’t taken much time off except for a few long weekends here and there. Then the accident happened. So the trip was a way for him to experience a Triton cruise from their guests’ perspective. It was also the last trip Paul would take anywhere in a while. Andrew Mercer was ready to retire, and he had put Paul on a fast track to taking over after Paul finished rehab and was cleared to return to work.


Focusing on his reflection, Paul smoothed his hand over his dark brown hair, which was cut short and neatly styled, its natural wave tamed with product. It was too early to go to the dining room, so Paul decided to visit the bar for a while instead.


While most cruise lines these days seemed intent on going the megaship route—huge vessels that could accommodate almost seven thousand passengers—Triton catered to a different clientele. Ships like Poseidon’s Pearl and her sisters carried a maximum of nine hundred passengers, with a crew of nearly six hundred, and every stateroom on the ship boasted a private balcony. The decor in the common areas was just as posh as it was in Paul’s cabin. As he left his cabin on Deck 7, it was only a short walk to the Seafarer’s Lounge.


He heard soft piano music—live, not recorded—as he entered the two-story lounge, which was set in the fore of the ship. It had glass windows from floor to ceiling on three sides that offered a magnificent, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico and the serenely blue sky above. The room was large, with stairways on the port and starboard sides giving access to the second level. Small clusters of loveseats and chairs were set around low tables, allowing for intimate groups to engage in conversation, while the rear of the room was lined in bookcases housing the ship’s library, which was large enough to cater to almost any taste. The plush carpet underfoot was patterned in tones of deep blue and gold, which set off the cream of the upholstery.


In the center of the room was a semicircular bar topped with polished mahogany, surrounded by comfortable high seats. As with everywhere else on the ship, the trademark of the line—a three-pronged triton—was subtly worked into the decor, such as the patterns of tile fronting the bar and the fabric covering the seats. There were no more than twenty or so people in the bar, broken into groupings around the room. Everyone was well-dressed, and conversations were muted, giving the room a relaxed and welcoming feeling.


As Paul approached the bar, he caught sight of the bartender, who was tall with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist emphasized by his tailored uniform vest. He had high cheekbones, a square jawline that looked sharp enough to cut paper, and skin with a rich copper glow that seemed to result from a combination of genetics and sunshine. His dark, thickly lashed eyes were crinkled at the corners as he flashed a dazzlingly white smile and handed an olive-garnished martini to his customer. His midnight-black hair was pulled back from his face and hung in a thick braid that reached all the way to his waist.


As soon as the bartender had scanned the customer’s cruise card and returned it, he turned to Paul, who had claimed a seat at the end of the bar, and Paul got the full effect of his smile. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m Devin. How can I make your day even better?”


The intense charisma behind that smile made Paul almost believe Devin meant the greeting for him alone, but he sternly reminded himself that the ship employees were supposed to say such things to all the customers.


“I’d like a glass of Malbec, please,” he said.


“Excellent choice,” Devin replied. He retrieved a bottle from the wine rack, and after uncorking the wine, he placed a crystal wineglass on the bar, then held an aerator over it as he poured a stream of the rich, dark wine from the bottle through it, making a bit of a show of the process. Then he set the bottle and aerator aside, placed a gilt-edged paper napkin in front of Paul, and served the glass of wine.


“Thanks.” Paul picked up the glass and took a sip, and he was pleased by the quality of the wine.


After cleaning up and recorking the bottle, Devin returned to Paul, favoring him with another smile. “How do you like it? Triton prides itself on the quality of the wines it serves, even the ones they use in the kitchen.”


Good to know, Paul thought, making a mental note for his report. “It’s good, thanks.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge, but he must not have seen anything that needed his attention, since his gaze returned to Paul. He tilted his head to one side, looking at Paul with a slightly puzzled expression. “If I may ask, sir, have you cruised with us before? You look familiar.”


Paul smiled as blandly as possible and shook his head. Full-sized portraits of Andrew Mercer and Abraham Mercer—Paul’s grandfather and the founder of Triton Cruises—hung in the atrium, so Paul wasn’t surprised one of the employees had picked up on the family resemblance.


“No, this is my first cruise,” he said, assuaging the slight pang he felt over deceiving the crew with the fact he was telling Devin the truth.


“All right, then. I’m very good with faces, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.” Devin grinned. “Especially since you’re almost as tall as I am.”


“Almost?” Paul raised one eyebrow. “I’d say we’re about even.”


“I’m six-foot-five,” Devin said. “In the lower areas of the ship, I have to be careful not to smack my head on the conduits.”


“Then we are in fact even,” Paul said. “I was in high demand for basketball teams all through school.”


Devin chuckled. “If that Charleston accent hadn’t already told me you weren’t from Texas, the basketball comment would have. I was in demand too, but as a wide receiver.”


“I’ve heard rumors that football is the state religion of Texas, but I’ve never played it myself,” Paul said, taking a sip of his wine. “I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, and I played intramural in college.”


“Nice,” Devin said. “I played in high school, then was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M, but football was never more than a hobby. I wanted to go to culinary school, and they don’t have football teams.” He lowered his voice. “Although we often played badminton with food that didn’t turn out very well. It’s amazing how much overdone chicken Kiev resembles a hockey puck.”


Paul chuckled. “How did you go from culinary school to tending bar on a cruise ship? Have you worked here long?”


“Six months, and it was a matter of opportunity,” Devin said. “My best friend and I took a cruise after… well, after I went through a bad breakup, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the ship, and the sea, and the travel. I’d never even been out of Texas before, and the travel bug bit me hard. I did some research, and Triton is far and away the best cruise line to work for. They have people lining up for jobs, and it took me almost two years to get my foot in the door, and then it was because I’d also trained in bartending. Of course I hope to work in the kitchen someday, but when they offered me a position I jumped on it, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.” Devin’s smile was rueful. “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”


“Not at all.” Paul thought it was helpful for the staff to be friendly, especially on longer cruises like this one. It would promote the family atmosphere that Triton Cruises wanted to cultivate. “I don’t want to monopolize your time, though.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge. “It’ll be slow in here until after dinner,” he said. “The action right now is up by the pool. But once the sun goes down, everyone will come into the Seafarer to socialize and listen to the cruise director’s talk about our ports of call.”


“I should probably come back for that,” Paul said. “I don’t know much about the ports we’re visiting, and I don’t want to wander off without a plan.”


“There are some great shore excursions,” Devin said, his brown eyes shining with interest. “They have some for people who like to be physically active, like diving trips and hiking tours, and some for people who prefer to relax on the beach and play in the waves. They also have activities for people who want to experience the culture of the various islands. And if you’d prefer to be on your own, they’ll have maps to help you out.”


“Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem finding something fun to do.”


“I’m sure you’ll have a great time,” Devin said. “If I may make a suggestion, there’s something you can do tonight. Just before midnight, go up on Deck 9. They have an open area to do outdoor yoga. The captain always turns off all the extra lights on the ship for several minutes, and we’ll be well away from land by then. You’ll be able to see more stars than you ever thought the sky could hold. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.”


“If I’m still awake, I’ll check it out.” Paul glanced at his watch, then slid off the bar stool, taking his wineglass with him. “I should probably head to the dining room.”


“Be prepared for a real treat,” Devin said. “I recommend the beef Wellington, and the triple chocolate torte with Chambord for dessert. Although you won’t go wrong with any of the selections. The food on the Pearl is fantastic.”


“You had me at triple chocolate,” Paul said, lifting his glass to Devin. Then he headed out of the lounge. He wanted to get there in time to take a few notes about what he had observed so far before dinner, but if the rest of the ship had the same kind of staff and atmosphere as the lounge, his assessment would be a glowing one.

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words review for Seeking Solace here

Release Blitz for Seeking Solace (The Walker Boys #3) by Ari McKay (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

 
Length: 55,188 words
 
Cover Design: Alexandria Corza
 
 
Walker Boys Series
 
Book #1 – Striking Sparks – Amazon US | Amazon UK
Book #2 – Breaking Bonds – Amazon US | Amazon UK
 
Blurb
 

All hands on deck for a shipboard romance—with a secret.


Like his cousins, Devin Walker aspires to be a chef, but he wants to indulge his wanderlust while feeding his customers, and working a cruise ship seems like the solution. Since he can’t find an opening in the kitchen, he’s happy to start out in a position behind the bar.


While onboard Poseidon’s Pearl, Devin is assigned to shepherd a visiting executive. Paul Bailey is quiet and unassuming, and a car accident that cost him his leg also shattered his confidence. He doesn’t think he’s attractive to other men anymore, and Devin is eager to show him just how wrong he is. Paul has a surprising secret that might sink their passionate affair before it even leaves port.

 
Excerpt
 
PAUL MERCER stood in front of the full-length mirror mounted on the closet door and checked his tailor-made navy suit for lint or wrinkles before he left his cabin, which was more like a small hotel room than he’d expected. But Triton Cruises prided itself on being one of the more upscale cruise lines, and Poseidon’s Pearl was one of their top ships.


The suite was luxurious enough that Paul could have spent the entire trip inside, maybe reading on the private deck, which was big enough for two lounge chairs with a small table between them. But Paul wasn’t on vacation.


He’d been sent by his father, who was the CEO of Triton Cruises, to assess the ship and its crew and to report on whether the crew was adhering to company standards. To do so, he was posing as Paul Bailey, a new executive with the company who needed to learn about the cruise line. He was using his mother’s maiden name to help avoid anyone making a connection between him and the company’s founding family.


He glanced down at his pants, which were loose enough to hide the fact that he wore a prosthetic on his left leg below the knee. He’d covered the prosthetic foot with a shoe, and looking down at his dress shoes made him feel almost normal again. He had a slight limp, especially at the end of the day when he was tired, but most people were tactful enough not to ask about it, if they even noticed.


The other reason Paul had been sent was because he’d never been on a Triton cruise before. Hell, he’d never been on any cruise before. The cruise line was strictly eighteen-plus so Paul was never allowed to go with his parents when they took their annual trip while he was growing up. Then he’d gone away to college, and after graduation he went straight into grad school for his MBA. After that, he’d started working his way up the ladder at Triton and hadn’t taken much time off except for a few long weekends here and there. Then the accident happened. So the trip was a way for him to experience a Triton cruise from their guests’ perspective. It was also the last trip Paul would take anywhere in a while. Andrew Mercer was ready to retire, and he had put Paul on a fast track to taking over after Paul finished rehab and was cleared to return to work.


Focusing on his reflection, Paul smoothed his hand over his dark brown hair, which was cut short and neatly styled, its natural wave tamed with product. It was too early to go to the dining room, so Paul decided to visit the bar for a while instead.


While most cruise lines these days seemed intent on going the megaship route—huge vessels that could accommodate almost seven thousand passengers—Triton catered to a different clientele. Ships like Poseidon’s Pearl and her sisters carried a maximum of nine hundred passengers, with a crew of nearly six hundred, and every stateroom on the ship boasted a private balcony. The decor in the common areas was just as posh as it was in Paul’s cabin. As he left his cabin on Deck 7, it was only a short walk to the Seafarer’s Lounge.


He heard soft piano music—live, not recorded—as he entered the two-story lounge, which was set in the fore of the ship. It had glass windows from floor to ceiling on three sides that offered a magnificent, panoramic view of the Gulf of Mexico and the serenely blue sky above. The room was large, with stairways on the port and starboard sides giving access to the second level. Small clusters of loveseats and chairs were set around low tables, allowing for intimate groups to engage in conversation, while the rear of the room was lined in bookcases housing the ship’s library, which was large enough to cater to almost any taste. The plush carpet underfoot was patterned in tones of deep blue and gold, which set off the cream of the upholstery.


In the center of the room was a semicircular bar topped with polished mahogany, surrounded by comfortable high seats. As with everywhere else on the ship, the trademark of the line—a three-pronged triton—was subtly worked into the decor, such as the patterns of tile fronting the bar and the fabric covering the seats. There were no more than twenty or so people in the bar, broken into groupings around the room. Everyone was well-dressed, and conversations were muted, giving the room a relaxed and welcoming feeling.


As Paul approached the bar, he caught sight of the bartender, who was tall with broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist emphasized by his tailored uniform vest. He had high cheekbones, a square jawline that looked sharp enough to cut paper, and skin with a rich copper glow that seemed to result from a combination of genetics and sunshine. His dark, thickly lashed eyes were crinkled at the corners as he flashed a dazzlingly white smile and handed an olive-garnished martini to his customer. His midnight-black hair was pulled back from his face and hung in a thick braid that reached all the way to his waist.


As soon as the bartender had scanned the customer’s cruise card and returned it, he turned to Paul, who had claimed a seat at the end of the bar, and Paul got the full effect of his smile. “Good afternoon, sir. I’m Devin. How can I make your day even better?”


The intense charisma behind that smile made Paul almost believe Devin meant the greeting for him alone, but he sternly reminded himself that the ship employees were supposed to say such things to all the customers.


“I’d like a glass of Malbec, please,” he said.


“Excellent choice,” Devin replied. He retrieved a bottle from the wine rack, and after uncorking the wine, he placed a crystal wineglass on the bar, then held an aerator over it as he poured a stream of the rich, dark wine from the bottle through it, making a bit of a show of the process. Then he set the bottle and aerator aside, placed a gilt-edged paper napkin in front of Paul, and served the glass of wine.


“Thanks.” Paul picked up the glass and took a sip, and he was pleased by the quality of the wine.


After cleaning up and recorking the bottle, Devin returned to Paul, favoring him with another smile. “How do you like it? Triton prides itself on the quality of the wines it serves, even the ones they use in the kitchen.”


Good to know, Paul thought, making a mental note for his report. “It’s good, thanks.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge, but he must not have seen anything that needed his attention, since his gaze returned to Paul. He tilted his head to one side, looking at Paul with a slightly puzzled expression. “If I may ask, sir, have you cruised with us before? You look familiar.”


Paul smiled as blandly as possible and shook his head. Full-sized portraits of Andrew Mercer and Abraham Mercer—Paul’s grandfather and the founder of Triton Cruises—hung in the atrium, so Paul wasn’t surprised one of the employees had picked up on the family resemblance.


“No, this is my first cruise,” he said, assuaging the slight pang he felt over deceiving the crew with the fact he was telling Devin the truth.


“All right, then. I’m very good with faces, and I’m sure I would have remembered you.” Devin grinned. “Especially since you’re almost as tall as I am.”


“Almost?” Paul raised one eyebrow. “I’d say we’re about even.”


“I’m six-foot-five,” Devin said. “In the lower areas of the ship, I have to be careful not to smack my head on the conduits.”


“Then we are in fact even,” Paul said. “I was in high demand for basketball teams all through school.”


Devin chuckled. “If that Charleston accent hadn’t already told me you weren’t from Texas, the basketball comment would have. I was in demand too, but as a wide receiver.”


“I’ve heard rumors that football is the state religion of Texas, but I’ve never played it myself,” Paul said, taking a sip of his wine. “I was on the varsity basketball team in high school, and I played intramural in college.”


“Nice,” Devin said. “I played in high school, then was offered a scholarship to Texas A&M, but football was never more than a hobby. I wanted to go to culinary school, and they don’t have football teams.” He lowered his voice. “Although we often played badminton with food that didn’t turn out very well. It’s amazing how much overdone chicken Kiev resembles a hockey puck.”


Paul chuckled. “How did you go from culinary school to tending bar on a cruise ship? Have you worked here long?”


“Six months, and it was a matter of opportunity,” Devin said. “My best friend and I took a cruise after… well, after I went through a bad breakup, and it was just what I needed. I fell in love with the ship, and the sea, and the travel. I’d never even been out of Texas before, and the travel bug bit me hard. I did some research, and Triton is far and away the best cruise line to work for. They have people lining up for jobs, and it took me almost two years to get my foot in the door, and then it was because I’d also trained in bartending. Of course I hope to work in the kitchen someday, but when they offered me a position I jumped on it, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.” Devin’s smile was rueful. “I hope I haven’t bored you to death.”


“Not at all.” Paul thought it was helpful for the staff to be friendly, especially on longer cruises like this one. It would promote the family atmosphere that Triton Cruises wanted to cultivate. “I don’t want to monopolize your time, though.”


Devin glanced around the nearly empty lounge. “It’ll be slow in here until after dinner,” he said. “The action right now is up by the pool. But once the sun goes down, everyone will come into the Seafarer to socialize and listen to the cruise director’s talk about our ports of call.”


“I should probably come back for that,” Paul said. “I don’t know much about the ports we’re visiting, and I don’t want to wander off without a plan.”


“There are some great shore excursions,” Devin said, his brown eyes shining with interest. “They have some for people who like to be physically active, like diving trips and hiking tours, and some for people who prefer to relax on the beach and play in the waves. They also have activities for people who want to experience the culture of the various islands. And if you’d prefer to be on your own, they’ll have maps to help you out.”


“Sounds like I shouldn’t have any problem finding something fun to do.”


“I’m sure you’ll have a great time,” Devin said. “If I may make a suggestion, there’s something you can do tonight. Just before midnight, go up on Deck 9. They have an open area to do outdoor yoga. The captain always turns off all the extra lights on the ship for several minutes, and we’ll be well away from land by then. You’ll be able to see more stars than you ever thought the sky could hold. It’s beautiful and humbling at the same time.”


“If I’m still awake, I’ll check it out.” Paul glanced at his watch, then slid off the bar stool, taking his wineglass with him. “I should probably head to the dining room.”


“Be prepared for a real treat,” Devin said. “I recommend the beef Wellington, and the triple chocolate torte with Chambord for dessert. Although you won’t go wrong with any of the selections. The food on the Pearl is fantastic.”


“You had me at triple chocolate,” Paul said, lifting his glass to Devin. Then he headed out of the lounge. He wanted to get there in time to take a few notes about what he had observed so far before dinner, but if the rest of the ship had the same kind of staff and atmosphere as the lounge, his assessment would be a glowing one.

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Release Blitz and Giveaway for His To Save (Candy Cane Club #2) by Ari McKay

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Buy Links:
 
Length: 60,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: Dianne @ Lyrical Lines



Candy Cane Club Series


Book #1 – His To Serve – Amazon US | Amazon UK


Blurb


He’s the perfect sub — gorgeous, responsive, and yet aloof, and every Dom at the Candy Cane fantasizes about claiming the sub who calls himself Saiph.


Nick Tierney sees through the facade of utter submission Saiph projects, and his instincts tell him Saiph has some complicated issues. He would love to help Saiph, but his desire seems hopeless in the face of Saiph’s adamant refusal to do a scene with any of the gay male Doms. Then Saiph offers himself up at the Candy Cane’s charity auction, and Nick seizes the opportunity to claim Saiph for himself, if only for a single night.


The chemistry between them is electrifying in its intensity, but Nick also comes away convinced Saiph needs help. Can he convince Saiph to take a chance and let down his guard enough for Nick to discover a way to help him heal? Or will Nick’s rapidly deepening feelings drive Saiph away for good?

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.


Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.


McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.


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Love Historical Romance? Don’t Miss ‘The Quality of Mercy (Bent Oak Saga #2)’ by Ari McKay (guest post and exclusive excerpt)

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The Quality of Mercy (Bent Oak Saga #2) by Ari McKay
Dreamspinner Press

Cover by Reese Dante,Website: https://www.reesedante.com

Preorder Links: Dreamspinner Press: eBookPaperback:  

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to welcome back McKay of Ari McKay, here to talk about their latest release The Quality of Mercy.

♦︎

Hi, everyone! I’m the McKay half of Ari McKay, and I’d like to thank Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting us on our blog tour for our new historical Western, The Quality of Mercy. This is the second book in our Bent Oak Saga series, set in Texas in the late 19th century.

Today, I’d like to share an exclusive excerpt from the book, one that shows the uphill battle Carlos faces in winning Jules’s heart. I hope you enjoy it!

Exclusive Excerpt

“Tonight we have something new and special for the harvest festival,” Miss McManus announced. “In honor of the season, our schoolmaster, Mr. Jules Wingate, will read a selection of seasonal poetry for us, accompanied by the beautiful music of one of Mercy’s favorite cowboys, Mr. Carlos Hernandez.”

Miss McManus stepped aside and the audience applauded politely. Jules removed several sheets of paper from his coat pocket; he’d copied all the poems down in case nerves got the better of him. He waited while Carlos readied his guitar. Carlos sat down in the chair that had been provided for him, tuned his guitar, and smiled warmly at Jules when he was ready.

Jules began with the Browning poem he’d chosen, modulating his voice to reach to the back of the room so everyone could hear him. Carlos’s music suited the poem perfectly, adding its own beauty to the measured lines of verse. When they finished, there was loud applause. So it went through the other seasonal poetry. Carlos found the perfect accompaniment to enhance the spoken words and make them seem richer and more vibrant. Each was given enthusiastic acknowledgment, and Jules was pleased the people of Mercy were so receptive.

After a brief pause to let the applause die away, Jules recited “Annabel Lee.” The poem had been one of his favorites since school, the pathos of the tale elevated to something transcendent by a poet without peer. It meant even more to him after losing Carlos, for the yearning, even in the face of incredible pain, was something he knew all too well. To have loved and lost made the poem resonate with him in ways that nothing else did. To know the love he had lost and missed so deeply sat only a few feet from him somehow made it all the more heart-wrenching, and he knew the depth of his own loss was reflected in his voice.

When he finished speaking and the last beautiful, melancholy chord of Carlos’s guitar died away, there was utter silence for several moments. Jules looked out on the people who had come to listen, seeing tears glistening in more than a few eyes. Then the applause began, and it shook the very timbers of the building with its power.

Stunned, Jules took a step back, drawing in a deep breath and glancing at Carlos.

“I think they liked it,” he said, pitching his voice to not be lost in the thunderous clapping.

“Of course they did,” Carlos replied with a little nod. “You are a captivating speaker. You always have been.”

Jules smiled, feeling his face grow hot at the compliment, which warmed him far more than it should. “Thank you. But I think your music gave it that extra something.”

“Thank you.” Carlos turned away briefly to pack up his guitar, and then he stood up and moved closer to Jules. “Our talents are well matched,” he said, and a heated gleam appeared in his dark eyes before he leaned over and murmured in Jules’s ear, “We were well-matched in several ways, as I recall.”

Memories of the two of them entwined in passion rose to torment Jules, no doubt as Carlos intended. Jules felt himself flushing again, and he shook his head, taking a step back to put some distance between them, glancing quickly at the audience to make certain no one was paying attention to them. “That was a long time ago.”

“Yet not so long ago that I have forgotten the pleasure of your touch or the sweetness of your kisses,” Carlos said. He winked at Jules before picking up his case and sauntering away, seeming to put a little extra swagger in his step for Jules’s benefit.

Jules wished he could smack Carlos. Carlos knew exactly what he was doing to Jules, and Jules was frustrated with himself that he wasn’t immune to Carlos’s tactics. He watched Carlos walk off, unable to keep from thinking about how different Carlos’s body would be now that he’d filled out, all broad shoulders and lean hips.

Jules bit off a growl. Rather than dwell on it, he joined Al to watch a skit put on by the older students from school, as well as the musical performances to follow. He tried to enjoy himself and put Carlos out of his mind, but he found his gaze straying throughout the evening, watching Carlos as he interacted with other people. He couldn’t seem to help himself, and every time Carlos noticed him looking, he gave Jules a heated smile.

A young cowboy, perhaps a few years older than Al, approached Carlos, and Jules was experienced enough to recognize the subtle flirtation in the way the handsome blond stood a bit too close to Carlos and leaned in whenever Carlos spoke. He wasn’t certain if Carlos was uninterested in the young man or if age had schooled him to more discretion, but Carlos didn’t appear to give the young man any encouragement. Still, the sight gave Jules a pang he had no right whatsoever to feel. It reminded him that Carlos probably hadn’t spent the past ten years alone the way Jules had, and that even if Carlos wanted him now, Jules wouldn’t be able to hold his interest for long.

The performances ended, and Jules rose, ignoring Carlos and the other young man. Feeling deflated, Jules made himself nod politely and accept the compliments of those around him for his own part in the evening, but he didn’t linger. Instead he decided to help the group of people who were cleaning up the tables outside, keeping busy instead of dwelling on what could never be.

Blurb

 

Gil Porter and Matt Grayson’s Bent Oak Ranch in Mercy, Texas is a rare haven for gay men in the 19th century, and their friend Carlos Hernandez will need it when a man from his past unexpectedly comes back into his life.

Jules Wingate hopes to start over in Mercy as the schoolmaster after a scandal sent him and his son fleeing their former home. But he discovers he’s left one bad situation for another when he encounters his former student and lover, Carlos. No matter how Jules tries to resist, he yearns for the passionate connection they once shared… before Carlos broke his heart.

Carlos knows his foolish, immature actions hurt Jules, but he desperately wants a second chance and to show Jules he’s changed. But trust so badly broken is hard to repair. While he works to earn Jules’s forgiveness, someone else at the ranch has his sights set on Carlos—and he doesn’t care how many lives he has to ruin to make Carlos his and his alone.

About the Authors

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

AUTHOR CONTACTS:

Website: http://arimckay.wordpress.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mckay/266185570179748

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ari.mckay.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AriMcKay1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6153630.Ari_McKay

Ari of Ari McKay on Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows (Lawyers in Love #2) (guest post and exclusive excerpt)

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Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows (Lawyers in Love #2) by Ari McKay
Dreamspinner Press
Cover art by Bree Archer

Buy Links: Dreamspinner Press Amazon  | Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Ari of Ari McKay here today talking about their latest release Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows.  Welcome, Ari.

✒︎

 

Hello everybody! Ari here, of Ari McKay. I’m very grateful to the folks at Scattered Thoughts for having me on the blog today, and to you for reading it!

I’m here to talk about our latest released from Dreamspinner Press, Fortune’s Slings and Cupid’s Arrows. This is a re-release of an older story, and one that we have substantially rewritten from the original. So if you read the first edition of the story, you might be surprised at how much has changed!

The story concerns Dane Coulter, a lawyer who is intelligent, handsome, charismatic… and also under the thumb of his overbearing father, who owns the law firm where Dane works. Dane’s father is one of those nightmare parents that I hope no one reading this has had to deal with. My mother was such a parent, and believe me, it’s not easy to break away when you’ve been raised your entire life to feel that you are subject to the whims of a parent. Dane has been repressed to the point that he denies his own sexuality, and feels that he has little choice when his father pushes him toward marriage in order to provide an heir for the Coulter dynasty.

The one bright point in Dane’s life is his friendship with Cal Monroe. Cal is out, proud, head of a rival law firm and an avowed enemy of Randolph Coulter. Cal is also in love with Dane, though Dane doesn’t know it. Cal has kept his feelings to himself, not wanting to add to Dane’s problems by making Dane feel he’s being pressured into a relationship in order to retain Cal’s friendship and support.

Things come to a head, however, when Cal reads Dane’s engagement announcement in the New York Times. Cal reveals his feelings to Dane, and now Dane finds himself caught between two strong men. The decision Dane reaches about his future and what he does about it… well, that’s what we want to give you a chance to find out!

And now, here is an exclusive excerpt from the story. We hope you enjoy it!

Exclusive Excerpt

Cal spoke briefly to his secretary, then made his way to the elevator lobby. When the car arrived, he was surprised to see Dane inside. He entered quickly, wondering if fate was somehow smiling on his plan. It was one thing for him to confront Randolph, but even better for Dane to be able to see it.

They were alone in the car, and Cal made a sudden decision. He reached past Dane and flipped the toggle that set the car from “run” to “stop”. The elevator abruptly ceased its downward motion.

He regarded Dane for a moment, noting the lines of strain on Dane’s face. Of course Dane often looked stressed, which was another bit of Randolph’s doing. Offering Dane a smile, he stepped closer. “Hey. How are you doing?”

Dane’s answering smile was sweet and shy as he glanced sidelong at Cal. “I’m okay. How about you?” he asked, a hint of worry creeping into his voice.

It was all Cal could do not to drop his briefcase and pull Dane into his arms. Now that he’d told Dane how he felt, he didn’t want to maintain the careful distance he’d kept for the last two years. He wanted to hold Dane and soothe the line from between his eyes, to kiss him and tell him everything was going to be all right. But he told himself that now wasn’t the time; Dane didn’t need another man making demands on him that he wasn’t ready for and might not welcome.

“I’m fine. Preparing for battle,” he said, his smile turning hard. “I’m actually on my way to take on your father. Since you’re here, too, I wanted to warn you, so that you can step back and maintain plausible deniability.”

Dane’s eyes widened in alarm, and he touched Cal’s arm lightly. “Are you sure you want to go through with this? I don’t want you or your career to suffer because of me.”

Cal reached up to cover Dane’s hand with his own, giving his fingers a gentle squeeze. “I absolutely want to go through with it. I’ve not changed my mind, Dane. I love you, and I’m going to fight for you. I’m going to show you that your father can be beaten.”

Dane lowered his gaze and gnawed on his bottom lip. “I hope you’re right,” he said softly. “I’m not sure I could live with myself if something happened to you. It would be my fault.”

“No, it wouldn’t.” Cal moved his hand, running his fingers over Dane’s cheek in a brief, gentle caress. “I’m making this decision, right? You aren’t forcing me, you didn’t even ask me to do anything. By rights, you could even be angry at me for butting into your life. I really hope you aren’t, but either way, nothing that happens is your fault. I meant what I said, Dane. The only thing your rat bastard of a father can do to hurt me is to hurt you.”

Dane looked up at Cal, and although he didn’t seem entirely convinced, he nodded. “I’m not angry. I’m worried. But I know better than to argue when you’re wearing your war plaid,” he said, smoothing his fingertips along the length of Cal’s tie.

“Girdin’ meself for battle, laddie,” Cal replied in an exaggerated brogue. He chuckled. “Don’t worry. I’ve been taking on men worse than your father for years. Speaking of which…” He reached out, and flipped the elevator back to “run”. “He’s on his way back to the office now, and I don’t want to miss him. I just didn’t want you caught in a crossfire between he and I.”

“Should I pretend to ignore you or try not to let Father spot me in the area?” Dane asked.

Cal considered for a moment. “Just ignore me. I’m not your friend anymore, right? I’ll act frosty to you and you can return the favor. All the better to let him see we’re at odds, rather than just having your word for it.”

“He’d definitely want proof,” Dane said, a hint of bitterness in his voice. “He wouldn’t take my word for it.”

“Yeah,” Cal smiled mirthlessly, then glanced up at the floor indicator, which slid from 4 to 3 to 2. “Showtime. I’m hoping I timed this right. He’ll probably have his normal retinue, so there should be plenty of witnesses.”

With a last smile at Dane, Cal turned to the door, then assumed a hard expression, as though he were angry. As the elevator doors slid open he strode out quickly, moving brusquely past people who were waiting enter the car. He didn’t look back to see what Dane was doing, because to his immense satisfaction he spotted Randolph Coulter standing in the lobby, holding court with a small cluster of young men from his firm who seemed to be hanging on his every word. His timing had been just about perfect.

Blurb

Blurb

Successful attorneys Dane Coulter and Cal Monroe are rivals in the courtroom and friends behind the scenes. But can they be more?

 

Cal’s always carried a torch for Dane, but Dane is so deep in the closet, he can’t even admit that he might be gay. His father, a raging homophobe who rules the family with an iron fist, forces Dane into an engagement—to a woman. Dane goes along with it to keep the peace and protect his mother, but for Cal, it’s the last straw.

 

He can’t let Dane make a mistake that could ruin the rest of his life, and he only knows one surefire way to make Dane admit what’s in his heart. But confessing his feelings to his friend could backfire, driving a wedge between them. And even then, the choice must be Dane’s—to live the life his father wants, or to give up everything he has for a chance at happiness in Cal’s arms.

About the Authors

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

CONTACTS:

Website: http://arimckay.wordpress.com

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ari-Mckay/266185570179748

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ari.mckay.7

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AriMcKay1

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6153630.Ari_McKay

Ari McKay on Their New Novel & Series. Check out ‘Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1) by Ari McKay (guest post and excerpt)

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Out of the Ashes (Asheville Arcana #1) by Ari McKay
Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Aaron Anderson

 

Buy Links:  Dreamspinner Press AmazonBarnes & Noble 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Ari McKay here again talking fae, werewolves and romance with their latest novel Out of the Ashes! Welcome!

✒︎

Hi, everyone! A big thank you to our hosts here at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words for hosting us today, and to you for joining us! Ari here again, bringing you an excerpt from our latest release, Out of the Ashes, the debut novel of the Dreamspun Beyond line and book one of our new series, Asheville Arcana! To say we are excited is definitely an understatement! We’ve been looking forward to this for months, and we’re over the moon that it’s finally here!!!

Out of the Ashes is a love story, and a mystery, and a drama, and a comedy, all built around a world where the creatures of myth and legend exist beside but unknown to the mortal world. We wanted to build a unique setting that was all our own, one where elves and dwarves, werewolves and wizards, ghosts and vampires and demons all play a part. At the same time, though, we had to balance our world building with the strictures of length and structure of the Dreamspun Beyond line, and we hope you enjoy this story, and that we give you enough of a glimpse of the bigger picture to make you want to come back for more! I’ve talked a lot in other places about how and why we came to this story, so today I want to just leave you with a taste of what we have to offer, to hopefully entice you into giving us a try! Enjoy!

MOST nights, Arden slept like a baby. Once his head hit the pillow, he was out like a light. Unless, of course, someone was sharing his bed, which happened with less frequency over the last ten years or so. He still had an active social life, but he’d begun working longer hours after building his second resort, the Hilltop. When he felt the need for intimacy, he tended to gravitate toward Whimsy and Julian and one or two other longtime partners, rather than jumping in to find someone new and exciting.

But after having dinner with Whimsy, Arden had kissed his friend good night and gone to bed alone. He told himself it was because he’d had a busy day, and the next day promised to be even worse, but the fact was that he couldn’t sleep for thinking about Eli Hammond.

The werewolf was gorgeous—there was no denying it. With a positively leonine mane of dark, sun-streaked blond hair and crystal-blue eyes, Eli was enough to make even someone as used to beauty as Arden sit up and take notice. He was also huge and buff, and Arden was desperately curious to see what Eli looked like naked, although his imagination insisted on supplying plenty of images to taunt him. But it was more than just his stunning looks that appealed to Arden, and more, even, than the tragedy of Eli’s plight. There was something special about Eli, and Arden felt drawn to him like a moth to flame.

Arden had, of course, noticed Eli’s aura at once, and it had nearly knocked him out of his seat. Not all supernaturals could see auras, but Arden, like his father, had been born with the gift. Other supernaturals—such as Julian—learned to do it after a great deal of study and meditation, but most couldn’t see them at all. And what Arden saw was stunning.

Every creature had a unique aura, determined both by what they were and who they were. Vampires, like Julian, all had a misty, silvery aura with different shapes and tones based on their age and if they were a good, bad, or neutral type of person. Elves tended toward golden, and dryads, not surprisingly, were usually green. Werewolves had deep crimson auras, but while the core of Eli’s had been red where Arden observed it close to his body, it quickly became a beautiful, multihued halo that was almost like looking at the sun. No one Arden had ever seen had looked so bright, and that was part of why he’d known he had to help Eli, no matter what the council or anyone else said about it.

But thoughts of Eli kept Arden awake most of the night. He felt himself pulled to the werewolf, as though there was an invisible connection between them. It was odd, but Arden found himself wanting to go check on Eli in the middle of the night, to make certain he was all right and didn’t need anything. Which was probably stupid, considering that Eli was an alpha werewolf who could obviously take care of himself quite well. Eli would probably think there was something very wrong with Arden wanting to cuddle up to him, run his fingers through Eli’s hair, and just be close to him.

He finally gave up trying to sleep and went to his office, immersing himself in paperwork until his watch beeped at him at his normal waking time. Taking himself off to the kitchen, he ordered up an enormous breakfast of bacon, sausage, ham, fried eggs, hash browns, grits, and toast. When the cook had prepared the tray, he picked it up and carried it out to Eli’s cabin, balancing it carefully as he knocked on the door.

A few moments later, Eli opened the door. His long, wavy hair was a sleep-tousled mess falling around his broad shoulders, and he wore only a pair of jeans that rode low on his hips. His chest and feet were bare, giving Arden an unhindered look at the sculpted pecs and washboard abs that had been hidden beneath his clothes yesterday.

Eli blinked sleepily at Arden and rubbed his neatly trimmed beard, but when he saw the loaded tray, his eyes widened with surprise.

“I didn’t order breakfast.”

For a long moment Arden couldn’t speak; it wasn’t every day that he got to see a warm, sleepy, nearly naked hunk of buff hotness up close. In fact, he couldn’t remember ever seeing anyone as gorgeous as Eli before in the whole of his three hundred and six years of life.

Thanks so much!

Arionrhod and McKay

BLURB:

In their differences, they’ll find strength—and love.

Alpha werewolf Eli Hammond returns from a fishing trip to discover a nasty surprise—five members of his pack murdered and the rest missing. He needs help locating and rescuing his pack mates, but the supernatural council in Asheville, North Carolina, turns him away.

Except for one man.

As they work together, Eli is stunned—and not especially thrilled—to discover half-elf Arden Gilmarin is his destined mate. But as Arden and his friends struggle to help Eli in his quest, Eli surrenders to the demands of his body—and his heart. They’ll need to bond together, because the forces opposing them are stronger and more sinister than anyone predicted. The evil has its sights set on Arden, and if Eli wants to save his mate and the people he is entrusted with protecting, he’s in for the fight of his life.

About Ari McKay

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

CONTACTS:

Ari Mckay on Breaking Bonds (guest post and excerpt)

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Breaking Bonds (The Walker Boys #2) by Ari McKay
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reamspinner Press

Buy Links

 Dreamspinner PressAmazon  | Barnes & Noble

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Arionrhod of Ari McKay here today talking about the second book of their  Walker Boys series, Breaking Bonds.  Welcome!

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Hello, everyone! Thanks for taking time out of your day to spend a few minutes with me today. I’m Arionrhod, the “Ari” half of Ari McKay, and I’m here to talk a bit about our upcoming release on June 1, Breaking Bonds.

This story is the second involving one of the Walker Boys, our fictional family of Texas hunks who love cooking. Like his cousin Beau from Striking Sparks, Liam Walker was born with a spatula in one had and a tasting spoon in his mouth. But Liam’s path takes him out of Texas, to the cutthroat culinary world of New York City, where he spends almost a decade working his way up the ladder. He has the good fortune to be discovered by a famous celebrity chef, Marco Cabrisi, who makes Liam the executive chef of one of his premiere restaurants. Yet even as Liam stands only one step away from the dream of opening his own restaurant, his temper lands him in hot water. Marco tells him to take a vacation to cool off, and so he picks a resort at random — and finds himself taking up the role of savior for handsome resort owner Carter Galloway.

Carter has some issues of his own, trying to fulfill his dream of owning his own resort, against the wishes of his domineering parents. The Overlook has potential, but Carter is cash-strapped and stretched incredibly thin. He knows he’s taking a risk when he hires an inexperienced chef, but he doesn’t know just how bad things are until Liam Walker complains about the food. He’s desperate enough that he accepts Liam’s offer of help in getting the restaurant turned around, and can’t help being attracted to Liam playing white knight.

As the two of them work together, they realize they have great chemistry, but they both have obligations that prevent them from acting on it. Carter isn’t going to fuel the prejudices of his homophobic parents by engaging in a short term fling — no matter how much he really wants to — and unfortunately, Liam has a life and commitments in New York, so he can’t offer anything else. That is the central conflict of the story — both men finding a way to cut the chains binding them to the past in order to embrace a future together.

It’s not all conflict, of course! There is a real connection between Carter and Liam, and they each recognize the passion in the other, and the desire to succeed. Plus there is great food, amazing scenery, and a lot of Southern charm.  We hope you’ll give Breaking Bonds a try — this was one of my favorite stories that we’ve ever written, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

Here’s a little taste, to whet your appetite. Bon appetit!

After they were loaded up, Liam asked Eckhart for recommendations for meat markets, pulled out his phone, and made note of the information.

“I think that takes care of everything here,” Liam said. “Shall we tackle the meat now? I think Rocky can handle lunch. We’re keeping it simple, and I made the soups during breakfast.”

Carter knew Liam’s comment about tackling the meat wasn’t meant to be suggestive, but that he wanted to snicker like a twelve-year-old meant that he’d probably been celibate too long. “Meat tackling sounds good to me,” he replied as he started up the van.

Liam turned in his seat, raising one eyebrow as if he’d read something of Carter’s thoughts in the tone of his voice. “It sounds good to me too,” he drawled. “I normally frown on mixing business and pleasure, but considering I’m not really your employee, I suppose it doesn’t cross that boundary.”

Carter shot a wide-eyed look at Liam, startled that Liam had not only picked up on his innuendo but had also responded with such bluntness. At least that answered the question of Liam’s sexuality.

“I—uh—” Carter floundered for a way to respond that wouldn’t offend Liam, because he couldn’t get involved, not even short term. He had too little time in the day as it was, and besides, he was fighting enough hard battles with his parents already. He didn’t have the energy to start waging another one. “I’m sorry if that was inappropriate. You’re an attractive man, but you’ve made it clear you’re only here for two weeks, and I don’t do flings.”

Liam looked at him for a long moment, then shrugged. “Sure,” he said, not seeming offended, though there might have been just a touch of disappointment in his voice. “To be honest, part of the reason I said it was because I caught the flirtation last night. I was trying to see if that was actual interest or if that’s just your way.”

“A little of both,” Carter replied, deciding he might as well be honest. Liam was attractive, and under different circumstances, Carter would have taken him up on the offer, but the timing was all wrong right now. “I’ll stop if it bothers you, though. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”

With a snort of amusement, Liam shook his head. “I’ve spent the last ten years in New York City, working as everything from a dishwasher to an executive chef. I’ve seen it all, son—and been hit on by half of it.” A slight shadow crossed his face, but it was gone quickly. “It takes a lot more than an innocent bit of flirtation to ruffle my feathers.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Carter smiled, relieved to know he hadn’t damaged their working relationship. “So which of the meat markets do you want to try first?”

BLURB

From the frying pan into the fire.

After a critic’s review attacks both Chef Liam Walker’s culinary skills and his personal life, Liam can no longer take the heat of the cutthroat New York City restaurant scene. He needs to get out of the kitchen—at least long enough to cool down and regroup.

At the Overlook Resort in North Carolina, Liam meets owner Carter Galloway. Carter has a passion for the hospitality business to rival Liam’s own, and it’s not hard to see where their shared interests—and attraction—could lead. But Carter has no interest in a fling, and Liam has no intention of walking away from the career he fought so hard for. If they want a taste of happiness together, they’ll have to find the courage to break the bonds threatening to pull them apart.

About the Author(s)

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure. Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

Arionrhod and McKay

CONTACTS: