New Book Blitz for Bones and Bourbon by Dorian Graves (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Bones and Bourbon

Author: Dorian Graves

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 23, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 102000

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Ace, bisexual, trans, faeries, dark, immortals

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Half-huldra Retz Gallows is having an awful day. First, he wakes up in the middle of driving to who-knows-where with an angry unicorn head in his passenger seat. This is almost normal, thanks to a lifetime of sharing a body with Nalem, a bone-controlling spirit with a penchant for wicked schemes and body-stealing joyrides. It’s probably a bad idea to ask what else could go wrong.

Jarrod Gallows left home with plans to rescue his little brother from possession. Instead, he got saddled with a dead-end job as a paranormal investigator, a Faerie curse, and a daredevil boyfriend who might be from another world. At least he’s got a new job—except why is his brother Retz here and why does this sudden reunion feel more like a bane than a blessing?

This day’s going to get worse for the Gallows brothers before it gets better. To survive, they’ll have to escape the forces controlling them, as well as the wrath of carnivorous unicorns, otherworldly realms, and even their own parents. Only time will tell if they’ll make it out alive…or sober.

Excerpt

Bones and Bourbon
Dorian Graves © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Retz
I woke up right when the teeth clamped down on my arm, which made me crank the wheel and almost ram into a guardrail before I realized I was driving. Neither of these things surprised me because it wasn’t the first time I’d woken up just in time to feel the hurt for whatever it was I’d unconsciously done.

What did surprise me was the identity of my attacker: a lone unicorn head. No body to speak of, just flaring nostrils, bloodshot eyes, and two rows of long, sharp teeth that wouldn’t have looked out of place on a shark.

I did the stupid thing and kept driving while I tried to shake the unicorn head off me. Why? Because I’m Retz Gallows, and I’d learned by then that even if I had no idea what I was doing when I woke up, I needed to get the job done first and ask what the fuck happened later.

I focused on the teeth that had broken through my skin (and my favorite shirt to boot) and were just striking my arm bones. My first order of business was strengthening my skeleton so the unicorn’s jaw couldn’t snap anything in half. It took just a few seconds for the bones to fortify, heavier but sturdy as stone. The unicorn gnawed my arm as if it were a chew toy. It snorted in confusion, both because of the sudden change and the fact that there was no blood or muscles in the way.

In case such wasn’t obvious, I’m not human. Well, not all the way. My father was a man of flesh, blood, and too many weapons hidden on him at any given time. But my mother was a huldra; her body was hollow, but she could still punch hard enough to stop a truck in its tracks. I’d seen her do it before too, though sadly, I hadn’t inherited nearly the same strength.

I imagined how nice it’d be if the unicorn’s teeth were fragile enough to crumble. As I did, bits of teeth stayed buried in my arm as the pieces fell apart, and the unicorn’s head fell unceremoniously into the passenger seat.

No, I hadn’t inherited the ability to control bones, even though sensing them was as natural to me as seeing and hearing. It’s a power my family wishes I’d never been given. But since I was pretty sure the unicorn head was no longer a threat, I decided it was time to ask the source of my powers what was going on.

“Nalem, you’d better not be asleep. Mind telling me where the hell we are?”

A deep, smooth voice purred an answer back in my head, “If you had bothered to look at the sign we just passed, you’d realize we’re in Oregon.”

“In case you didn’t notice, I was a bit preoccupied.”

A chuckle reverberated in my skull, and I felt the false sensation of my arms stretching, the ghost of Nalem’s actions. “Of course I did. I can tell when you’re borrowing my powers—and besides, who do you think left the head in here in the first place?”

I rounded another corner as the aforementioned head tried to headbutt my arm, horn-first. I realized I couldn’t affect the horn with my powers—it wasn’t quite bone, but something more magical that slipped away from my senses whenever I tried. So I just hardened my bones again and ignored the attack as I took in the scenery. True enough, we were on a half-paved road in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by evergreens that tried to block out the bright blue sky. It was late July, so deep into summer that not even Oregon’s fondness of rain kept the heat away. My windows were rolled down, seeing as the AC in my ancient Buick had died out long ago.

“Two questions, then. Where are we going, and why do we have a unicorn head with us?”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Much like Sasquatch and other local cryptids, Dorian Graves can supposedly be found in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Few have ever seen Dorian, but investigators have found trails of plot notes scribbled on receipt paper if they followed the distant sounds of old Blue Öyster Cult albums long enough. There have also been reports of Dorian lurking around the Mills College campus in Oakland, CA, where Dorian was last seen scurrying away with a B.A. in English/Creative Writing. Dorian occasionally crawls out of the woodworks with offerings of fiction, strange and fantastical stories with equal parts humor and horror, but often retreats quickly unless bribed with coffee and bad puns.

When not writing or working “the other day job,” Dorian lives with a romantic partner and a mischievous cat. Dorian Graves can be convinced to sit still if given art supplies, games of all sorts, or a selection from the ever-growing TBR pile. Dorian can be more reliably found on http://www.doriangraves.com, where one can find artwork, fiction, and whatever inane topic Dorian feels like rambling about this week.

Website | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Year’s Day Release Day Blitz for The Calling by MD Neu (except and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  The Calling

Author: M.D. Neu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108300

Genre: Paranormal, paranormal, gay, dark, immortal, magic users, psychic ability, vampires

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Being a nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is “Called” to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking The Calling—a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long-deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long-dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?

Excerpt

The Calling
M.D. Neu © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
What is death?

I once believed there was only one definition: your body stops functioning, your soul leaves and what’s left turns to dust. That was what I thought, until it wasn’t.

I’ve discovered when you’re a nobody, the world can be an amazing place if you want it to be. Your life can change in a heartbeat and not make the least bit of difference to anyone but you, or so it would seem.

That was my case.

I’m by no means whining or complaining. I had a job, a small place to live, and friends, but no real family, and that was something I desperately missed and wanted. My life wasn’t bad and I was happy. However, I was just a random person, one of the many faces you see on the street and never glance at twice. It was dull. Of course, as with me, the majority of society didn’t know our world had hidden secrets, unseen by most.

The other important thing I want you to realize about me is that before I met her, I wasn’t a lucky man, not with money and certainly not with love. I made enough to live on, but never enough to take fancy trips. My idea of travel was staying at home and watching movies. That was my price range. And as for love, it was forgettable.

The day my life changed was like all the others, until it wasn’t. It was August 19. The year isn’t important. But we had finished celebrating the Olympics, and in a few short months, the country would be picking between the lesser of two evils for president.

I sat at an outdoor café in Santana Row. I’d spent the afternoon going on a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Once my stomach had started to growl, I decided to grab a bite to eat.

I had come to San Jose, California for a vacation that I couldn’t afford and didn’t particularly want to take. Why San Jose? Why not San Francisco or Monterey or Vegas or Yosemite? To be honest, I don’t know, but it’s like everything inside and around me pulled me there. Out of the blue, I got emails from the San Jose Visitor Bureau. My dreams were filled with images of the city and the surrounding hills and mountains. It seemed that old song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick constantly played. Still, San Jose isn’t the place most people consider for a ten-day vacation, especially someone alone who had never been to the Bay Area before.

Despite my appreh, from the moment I arrived, I immediately felt at peace. I’d never been this calm or relaxed anywhere before, not even at home. There was another reason for me coming here, one I didn’t understand yet, at least not on a conscious level.

I would find out why soon enough.

I don’t want to get things out of order, so back on point. I sat at this Italian-style outdoor café watching people walk by, enjoying the scent of roses and vanilla that filled the air. The aroma tickled the back of my brain. I smelled it everywhere, which should have been my first clue that something was different.

After enjoying my Italian-style chicken marsala, and while I sipped my strawberry lemonade, I felt a sharp pull in my brain. It wasn’t like I heard voices—it was more like vague images filled my head: a house, a woman, gardens, a gate, hills covered in trees, and a pair of eyes. My hands shook, and my glass fell to the floor and shattered. An intense pressure grew between my eyes, and I pinched the bridge of my nose to ease it.

When the tug came, three things happened to me at once.

First, I had the realization that I had an important meeting in Los Altos Hills. I had never heard of Los Altos Hills and even had to look it up on my phone to see if it was real. I would have to check my GPS when I returned to my rental. I knew the address of the house and who I was going to meet. She had blonde hair and mysterious eyes. I knew her, but I didn’t understand how.

Second, the waiter came to my table.

“Sorry about the drink,” I said.

He gave me an odd look and informed me my meal had been paid for and to enjoy my evening. Flabbergasted, I stared at the server.

I glanced around the café and wondered who paid the bill and why. I wasn’t even done yet.

“Mr. Alexander, are you all right?” The waiter scanned me up and down. “Do you need me to call someone? You look pale.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

How did the waiter know my name? Stranger still, when I checked the table, my drink sat there and nothing had fallen to the floor. I wasn’t sure what was happening.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Sorry. Just a headache,” I said.

“All right. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon.” He smiled and started to walk off but turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m supposed to remind you about your meeting tonight.”

A lump stuck in my throat, and I nodded. It was spooky, but I wasn’t scared.

The last thing: I got a text from my closest friend, Cindy Martin. Good luck tonight. I’m sure it’ll be you.

I remember thinking, What does she know that I don’t?

I’ve known Cindy for years, and for her to say anything that short and sweet was rare. In fact, I don’t suppose I ever got a message from her without any emoticons.

As bizarre as all of this was, I realized that no matter what, everything and everyone I cared about would be okay. Clearly, there was something more to this trip and my being here. I didn’t know what. But it wasn’t just some free meal. It was bigger than that. If I was selected for what? I had no clue. And if I wasn’t, then I would get to see them again. There would be no questions.

Part of me wanted to worry, but I wasn’t bothered, which in itself surprised me. I’ve been a pessimist for as long as I can remember. It probably had to do with the strange death of my father when I was a kid. A death never fully explained. So, for this not to make me worry was one more mystery. What was about to happen was something that would just be. Instead of freaking out and worrying, I was calm and accepting of whatever adventure or fate awaited me.

Even though I was short on time to get to the house in Los Altos Hills, I wanted to enjoy my lunch. Reflecting on it now, I’m pretty sure that was the cynical part of my brain trying to exert some kind of control. I took my time, finished my meal, and when I was done, I tipped the server and left.

I walked back to my rental car. I wanted to take in as much of the classical European architecture and lush landscaping of the outdoor mall as I could. I managed to get a few decent cell phone pictures of the place.

I stopped my lollygagging and got moving. I had someplace to be and what appeared to be no choice in the matter. Before you go crazy, understand this wasn’t like one of those stupid movies that you watch, shaking your head, yelling at the screen for them not to go into the dark forest or spooky house or whatever. It wasn’t like that.

I’d like to hope I’m explaining this well enough so you don’t sit there and think, “Oh this is stupid. I’d never do anything that dumb.” It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had to go—something compelled me to her. I had to meet this woman, calling me. It was hard-wired into me, no matter how much I tried to slow down or stall, I moved forward.

I moved toward her.

When I finally got in the car and took a breath, I wasn’t clammy or shaky, and my heart wasn’t pounding in my chest. I should have been anxious, but I wasn’t. I was fine.

Knowing without understanding what I had to do, I headed to the freeway.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of eighteen plus years.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

It’s the Release Day Book Blitz for Run in the Blood by A.E. Ross (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Run in the Blood

Author: A. E. Ross

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: December 25, 2017

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 78700

Genre: I

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Raised on the high seas as an avaricious corsair, Aela Crane has turned her back on her roots, but she can’t seem to stem the ancient magic that courses through her. Del is a soft-spoken soldier who seems to know more about Aela’s inherited powers than she does. Brynne’s the crofter’s daughter who’s reluctantly learning to become a princess, if she could just get a certain swashbuckling someone off her mind.

Originally hired on (okay, blackmailed) by the King of the island nation of Thandepar, Aela’s light monster extermination gig takes a fast turn into kidnapping-for-profit. Del tries to ignore family issues by searching for a long lost friend, and ends up getting both for the price of one. Brynne’s prepared to give up her heart for her country until her own personal heartbreaker shows up with the most terrible timing.

As the three of them become more entwined in their own political predicaments, and each other’s lives, they may discover that the legacies their parents have left them aren’t as solid as they seemed. In fact, they may just slip through their fingers, leaving all three fumbling to forge their own future, before the kingdom comes crashing down around them.

Excerpt

Run in the Blood
A.E. Ross © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

A sharp blast of seawater hit Aela Crane square in the face, soaking her curls. As she gripped the rim of the crow’s nest with dark knuckles, the surface of the ocean seemed to rise up to meet her as the brigantine listed at a dangerous horizontal angle. The captain was throwing out all the stops to catch up to the mercantile cog just ahead of them.

Just below, her shipmates flew through the rigging, raising and lowering the sails as the ship made a shuddering turn to the right. On the deck, she could see a familiar spark of flame as their archers held lit arrows nocked to their bows, ready to release them into the air.

The corsair ship, faster and sleeker, gained on the struggling cog. Aela knew that their captain, the infamous man named Dreadmoor, would not give up his quarry. He did not like to lose. She heard his voice call out gruffly from the fore as he ordered the archers to release the flaming shafts. The arrows arced up and over, some sinking into the cog’s starboard side with a dull thunk, while the truer ones found their targets. Screams rent the frigid air as the brigantine finally veered within spitting distance. Several grappling hooks sank into the cog’s side, stabilising the two vessels.

The dull sound of boots on soaking wood thundered below her as the corsairs swarmed across a boarding plank, their swords ruthlessly singing with the blood of the merchant sailors. Aela leaped down from the crow’s nest; her hands burned on the coarse rope as she swung herself down to the deck where her own salt-weathered boots landed with a wet thud. The rigging above her head shook as the lookout boy scrambled down, eager to cross the planks and join in the fray. He landed beside her and slipped a dull blade from his belt. Shaking back his shaggy red hair, he grinned up at her. She clicked her tongue in reply and hefted her speargun with muscular arms, scarred by the marks of a dangerous life. Knife wounds and near misses were etched into her powerful limbs, evidence of her trade.

A corsair almost since birth, Aela Crane had grown to womanhood in the crow’s nest, her only masters the sea and the sword. She and the freckled boy, Timlet, made for the gangplank and the merchant ship, but as Timlet took a step onto the cedar board, it lost its purchase on the other side and fell free, crashing into the ocean below. Aela grasped Timlet’s arm and pulled him stumbling backwards before he could follow the plank down into the waves.

“Thanks.” Timlet smiled graciously, blushing. Aela released him as he took several steps back, readying himself. He burst forward towards the side of the ship and then leaped off the edge and across the gap to land safely on the other side. Not a moment after landing, he flew into the fray, confronting a young merchant sailor who had naught but a trowel to defend himself.

Aela stepped back, considering the jump. The gap between the ships wasn’t large, but she didn’t have the same acrobatic knack as Timlet, and above else, valued style over substance. She aimed her speargun into the mast of the merchant ship and let it fly. The spear arced through the night sky, and the spear tip buried itself deep into the mast, pulling the line taut. Aela took a run and swung herself across the gap to land up on the aftcastle.

Knees bent, she scanned the action. Her fellow corsairs fought man-to-man on the deck below. She could see Timlet dodging the young sailor’s trowel, bobbing and weaving as he prepared his attack as she had taught him. He ducked and danced away from his opponent’s lunges, letting him tire until he could get in behind and slit the throat. As he pulled his knife across the boy’s neck and released his blood, the body fell backwards, collapsing onto Timlet. Aela shook her head. The boy still had a lot to learn. As Timlet struggled to free himself, another man fought his way along the deck, past the body of the young sailor.

The man swung and jabbed at every corsair he could reach, seeming to search the boat until his gaze met Aela’s as she stood on the aftcastle. Here was the captain of the vessel. It was clear in his purposeful stride, which hastened after he saw her and made his way towards the stairs. Trying to think quickly, she tugged on the line of her speargun and flipped the retraction lever as the steel tip came free of the mast. The line reeled back into the gun and the sharp metal shaft came shooting back towards her, clicking as it locked back into its place in the barrel.

The merchant captain was almost upon her as she pulled her long dagger from its sheath and turned to block his first swing. She scanned his form. He wore a vivid purple coat. Its crest featured the North Star, a sign of his patronage to the king of Thandepar, the frozen country in whose waters they currently sailed, and whose merchants they currently slaughtered. She smirked as he lunged again, and blocked him easily.

“Don’t worry. We’re here to relieve you of your extra cargo.” She grinned, lowering her gaze as she flicked his curved sword away with her blade. She circled him, daring him to strike again.

“What goods? We’ve nothing but a hold full of bodies, thanks to you.” His hair was grey, and his skin was sickly pale. Still, there was something familiar in the ridge of his nose and the set of his brow. The captain tried to gauge her skill as she stepped around him, dancing away as he tried another strike. She clicked her tongue at him.

“Oh come on. You’ve got to have something good down there, sailing in the dead of night like you are. No lights. No noise. Quiet as a thief.” She lunged in with her blade, not to cut but to tap him on his waist, teasing. Furrowing his brow, he jumped back out of his range, a curious look in his pale blue eyes.

“So quiet we were, one almost wonders how you found us.” He raised an eyebrow and stepped aside quickly as Aela pounced forward for a true strike. He was spry, which surprised her. He was much sharper than he seemed, in his delicate purple coat.

“Come closer,” she said, still taunting. “I can make you a free man.” Her tongue brushed her lower lip as she stepped in close, tucking her blade between his arm and abdomen. “One plunge of my dagger and you’ll have no king but the patron of the dead.” Aela jumped back rapidly as the captain struck at her shoulder. She was too quick, and his sword cut only air. He sneered.

“You corsairs are all the same. You think you are the only free people in this world.” His voice was strained.

“Yes, as that is the case.” She mocked him smugly as she sidestepped another blow.

“Ah, but is it? I have land, I have a lord, and I have—” He stepped in towards her, catching her off guard. “—a family.” He thrust his blade against her outer thigh, pressing its sharp edge through her rough trousers, splitting threads and drawing blood, but barely wounding. “And your lifestyle will not allow you those things. Is that freedom?”

Aela jumped back, feeling his blade slide free of her flesh. She gave a quick glance down to the deck to see Timlet scrapping with another sailor.

“What is it you people say?” the captain continued. “I pledge allegiance to the sea. Landless, lawless, honour free?”

She spat at his feet. “My crewmates are my family, and this ocean is my land.” She thrust forward, but the captain stepped free of her blow. She was becoming irritated, and she knew that it made her vulnerable to attack, but she pressed onwards, striking again and again but failing to land a blow. He had made her angry, and the heat rolled off her body, warming her blade, fueling her fire. She tried to blink it away, but it was too late—she could not recover her concentration. The captain lowered his sword as he gaped at her. She knew that her eyes had blazed from their usual deep brown to a candle’s twin. Blazing orange, flickering like a flame, and the pupil ringed with blue. Before this moment, she could have been any woman to him, from any place. Her complexion was not unusual; deep brown eyes with skin the colour of a sequoia tree, its strength echoed in her muscular frame. Her head was crested by a bluster of curls, the sides haphazardly shaved for ease of maintenance at sea. Besides the profiteer’s attitude, the sea-dog smell, and the uncanny bloodlust, she would have been passed without notice in any marketplace.

Monster.” He choked out the word. His eyes were locked on hers. She allowed herself a moment to hate the familiar fear in his gaze before she lunged forward, striking at him, forcing him to defend himself.

“Do you want to keep staring? A second ago, you wanted to kill me.” Aela sliced into his leg, letting the blade bite before ripping it back.

She burned on, forcing him backwards. She had him up against the railing of the aftcastle, her dagger at his throat, the sea at his back, ready to finish him off when she heard a noise behind her. She glanced back, expecting a sailor come to defend his captain, but she could see the battle had ended. It was only Timlet, scrambling up the stairs towards her. That one look back cost her the chance for a killing blow. The captain pushed her back, and before she could strike him, he leapt over the railing and into the sea, swimming clear of the rudder and away from the cog. Timlet joined Aela at the railing as they stared out at the sea and the merchant captain swimming away in the waves. Aela’s eyes still burned.

“You little bastard, you let him jump!” She swore at Timlet, and a red blush spread under his freckles as he edged away to avoid her wrath.

“It was an accident! I was only coming to make sure you were all right!”

“I protect you. It doesn’t work the other way around.”

“Well, he’ll never make it to land anyways! He’ll just bleed out in the water or get speared by a narwhal or somethin’,” Timlet stammered. Aela stepped towards him and he flinched as if expecting a blow. Instead, she let out a laugh. The fire faded from her as she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed.

“Speared by a narwhal? You’re ridiculous.” She gave him a slight push backwards and turned back to the sea. She pulled her speargun from its holster on her back and set it on the railing to steady her aim. She found her mark through the sight and pulled the trigger, sending the metal spear flying through the night. It landed with a thunk in the captain’s back, as his desperate swimming ceased with a shriek. His body bobbed on the frigid waves, spear sticking out like a dorsal fin.

She cut the rope that connected the spear to the gun. She would buy replacements on their imminent return to port, and had no desire to keep this one as a reminder that she had failed to keep her cool. Timlet squeaked behind her. She turned to see him rocking on his heels.

“He wouldn’t have made it far before drowning,” he remarked to his feet. Aela returned her gun to the holster and stepped towards him. She could hear the sound of the other crewmates’ celebratory hoots as they carried goods from the merchant ship back to the brigantine.

“Ah, but drowning is a long and painful death.” She shrugged and guided Timlet back down, across a new gangplank, and onto their ship. They would break the cog, sinking it with the sailors’ bodies inside, and find a less conspicuous spot to spend the night.

They chose a deep cove to drop anchor in until the morning. Its patchy evergreen forest was part of a small strip of land along the southern coast of Thandepar that its people referred to as the green belt. That coastline was one of the few fertile places on the northern continent where crops could be grown in abundance. The only others were a handful of deep river valleys tucked between the glaciers, the meltwater carving out hollows where the people of Thandepar had settled their major towns. It was a country made beautiful by its desolation. The valleys and the green belt produced the majority of the food for the small nation, but its trade wealth lay elsewhere.

Dreadmoor directed his corsair crew as they carried their bounty deep into the brigantine’s hold. It contained a rich cargo: gold from Thandepar’s deep mountain veins and vibrant dye squeezed from its tundra lichen. The refugees from Old Ansar had found it that way when their ships arrived on its shores. Empty. They came from southeastern lands of heat and spice, overcome with brimstone, to a world so penetrated by frost that it could scarcely feed their children. Gradually, they rebuilt their civilization, digging deep in the mountains for gold to trade and squeezing what little life they could out of the permafrost. Their capital, called Ghara, was built in the ruins of a stone stronghold they found etched into a high peak, its previous inhabitants long gone. But not entirely gone…

Aela floated on the surface of the ocean. Her evening swim was a chance for solitude. She could reflect on her thoughts without interruption. Heat radiated from her body, warming the water in her perimeter, another aspect she had inherited from unknown ancestors.

Tiny chunks of ice bobbed by, lazily melting as they entered her range. She tried to rein in her feelings, considering how the merchant captain had broken her practiced cool. He had known what she was, so she had killed him.

Aela dipped her head back into the warm water, letting it pool around her temples and in the hollows of her ears. It would have been a lot more therapeutic if she wasn’t jolted to reality by the sound of Timlet hollering at her from the deck. She jerked upright, flipped onto her stomach, and swam towards the rough rope ladder that hung down from the deck.

She climbed up, hoisted herself over the edge, and grabbed her worn pants and light-weight tunic from where they lay, then pulled them on as Timlet waited patiently. He had his usual expression of half-cocked excitement, but there was an odd pall behind his cheerful expression. He had seemed alarmed when she killed the merchant captain, although he himself had dispatched a young sailor only minutes earlier. He was easily her favourite crewmate, maybe because he was so different from the others. There was no question of their archetype—like her, life under the sign of the Corsair had made them reckless, charming and avaricious. Timlet, on the other hand, seemed like he might be more at home under the sign of the Merchant, working at a bakery or a grocer. He was a fair-weather fiend, but a true friend—almost like a younger brother. Aela didn’t think she’d enjoy her days half as much without the chance to ruffle his ginger hair or coax out his ragged smile. She meant what she had said to the merchant captain. Her crewmates were her family, for better or worse.

“Captain’s called a moot in the galley,” Timlet said, sweating slightly as he averted his gaze from the damp linen hugging her form. Aela considered him for a moment with a wry grin and then made her way to the meeting.

As soon as Aela stepped into the ship’s galley, she was hit with a hot blast of salt, sweat, and aging pork. The furnace was lit, the flames roaring behind Dreadmoor as he shouted orders at the crew.

“We’ll make port tomorrow morning at the city docks. If any one of you shit-brained amateurs draws the attention of the guard, you’re on your own.” Brine-aged ale sprayed from his tankard as Dreadmoor slammed it down on the table. Aela smirked. As much as he played the rough sea dog, she knew that the captain was a family man at heart. After all, he was the closest thing she had ever known to a father.

She rested her forearms on the cool surface of the ice box, listening to her crewmates chatter about the prospect of fresh food. After weeks of nothing but stale bread and salt pork, Aela was salivating at the prospect of a nice ripe orange or a handful of figs. She couldn’t wait to slip unnoticed through the dockside souk and grab some fresh piece of paradise, letting the juice of the fruit run past her teeth as she bit through its flesh. But those weren’t the only fruits she was looking to pluck. While every port had its own special delicacy, the city of Marinaken held her favourite—a crofter’s daughter by the name of Brynne. Aela traced her teeth with her tongue as she thought about the smell of hay and the warmth of sunbeams that highlighted scattered freckles, that thread of common themes came to Aela each night as she slept. She always woke with a fleeting internal warmth that could never seem to be replicated during her waking hours.

“Seabitch!”

Aela’s reverie snapped in half as Dreadmoor roared his name for her and shook his tankard. She wiped flecks of salty ale from her cheeks and bared her teeth at the old captain.

“Aye, Captain?”

“Something tells me you haven’t heard a word I said,” he barked.

“Memorized them, Captain.” Aela grinned, standing to attention. The captain gave her a dark, humourless glance.

“You better watch your shit-eating mouth. One more insolent word and I’ll declare open season on your hide.” His lips parted to show crooked, rotten teeth as Dreadmoor brokered a threatening smile. At his words, lude jeers and slurs erupted from the rest of the crewmen and women. Timlet shrunk back, appearing genuinely concerned. Aela peered around and raised her eyebrow at the hardened crew as she shifted into a defensive stance.

“Good idea, Captain. We’ve been riding a bit low with all the new cargo. Could stand to throw a few bodies overboard.”

Her hand rested against the smooth leather of her dagger’s hilt as she anticipated a brawl. Aela was used to the captain testing her ever since she arrived on the ship as a child. She had assumed he was trying to prepare her for the realities of corsair life, and if so, he’d succeeded. She moved into a crouch, ready to cut the first bitch or bastard to try to prove their mettle against her.

Before anyone could reach her, Dreadmoor’s tankard hit the slick deck like a shrapnel round, spraying ale and glass shards into jockeying crewmen.

“Get out of my fuckin’ sight, all of you!” he roared as his crew tried to flee from the blowback, piling out on to the deck. As they scrambled, Aela backed up and stepped discreetly down the narrow stairs that led below deck. She slipped into the belly of the ship, taking a shortcut through the cargo hold, and paused to run her hand over the looted crates. A surprisingly good haul for a mercantile cog of that size, especially one so close to the coast. Normally that kind of ship would be carrying food and supplies up to the river valleys, but the cargo in the hold was full of Thandepar’s best trade goods. Each crate featured a violet seal bearing the North Star, some holding high-value dyes, others good-quality seal pelts.

Aela poked and peeked, checking out the haul. Definitely one of their better ones in quite some time. Along with the crates were a couple of bulging gunny sacks. The first one made a clinking noise as Aela kicked at it with the tip of her leather boot. She raised her eyebrows and bent down, her suspicions confirmed as she opened the top to see that it was absolutely stuffed full of gold coins. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized she was looking at enough currency to establish a small estate. She picked up a gold piece, sliding her thumb across the design. One side bore the familiar North Star. The other side featured a profile of the Ansari king, his small tight mouth and high cheekbones standing out in stark relief. Aela stood up, flipping the coin across her knuckles, and tucked it into the lining of her tunic.

She left the hold, her head spinning over their newfound nest egg. Surely Dreadmoor had plans for it, but she had a few suggestions in mind now that they were apparently filthy fucking rich. But those could wait for tomorrow, she thought as she climbed up into the crow’s nest to watch the sun rise.

The clouds split open, bloody hues sinking down behind the buildings of Marinaken as the ship shuddered into its natural deepwater harbour. Reedy stretches of land reached out on either side of the boat as they slid up into the mouth of the estuary. Farmland spread out on either side, meeting in the middle at the crooked port. Like most towns in Thandepar, the buildings tipped the past into the present. Ancient stone foundations were topped by timber refits as the community built itself upon the bones of unfamiliar ancestors.

As the ship reached its mooring on one of the many rickety finger docks, Aela slipped down the rigging and landed on the deck with a thud.

She stalked across the ship, then vaulted over the side and down onto the salt-stained planks to help secure the brigantine along with the other crewman before taking a look around. After being so long at sea, the sounds of the harbour rang in her ears. The main marketplace for the country’s breadbasket, the dock area was full of every kind of salesman—fish, produce, baked goods, and those identifiable few selling something slightly more intimate. Aela smirked to herself. She had learned her lesson years ago in the southern ports. Young and hungry, she had handed her gold to the first woman to give her a peek, and ended up with a delicate and painful rash that made the local medic blush.

In the centre of the square, a crier stood on a raised platform, barking the horoscopical advice of the day for each of the archetypes. Not unusually, the Corsair was not included. Aela toyed with the gold piece from the hold as she approached the end of the dock, trying to decide which pastry seller seemed the most desperate. One sweet bun to get her energy up, and then her only plans involved freckles and moans.

As she stepped off the dock, she lurched forward, thrown off balance as Dreadmoor’s massive arm landed around her shoulder.

“Aela, dear. Spare a moment for an old sea dog?” He bared his ugly grin and offered a hand as she tried to regain her balance.

“Can it wait? I have somewhere I need to—”

“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that little ginger muff. Word on the cobble is that she’s up and moved.” He pulled Aela in conspiratorially.

“How do you know about her?” She knew that the captain didn’t give a shit what she did once she left the ship. She was instantly put off by the idea that he would bother to find out. Had he been watching her? Anticipation began to grow in her chest, prickly and strange. It was not a feeling that Aela Crane was used to. She tried to take a step away as he dug his fingers in tighter.

“Oh come now, pip. I know everything. What kind of captain would I be if I didn’t have all the information? After all, information is worth a lot.”

Aela’s stomach flipped as she stared at Dreadmoor. His blank expression was a threat. Not aggressive, not victorious—all business. Behind her, she could hear the townspeople scatter to clear the square at the sound of marching boots drawing near. The sound of the barker abruptly ceased as he quit the square, his monetary advice for followers of the Merchant abandoned midsentence.

Aela shuddered as she gazed past Dreadmoor onto the dock, where the crewman were lined up behind their captain. Not a single eye met hers—except for poor Timlet. He was peering around, concerned and confused. The idiot, he had no idea what was about to happen.

Aela knew. She knew that the person she trusted most had just bent her over a fucking barrel. She knew who she would see when turned around. She had his face tucked inside her tunic, imprinted onto the gold coin that rested against her skin.

“You sold me out,” she hissed at the captain, as she turned to face the king of Thandepar.

He was regal and refined. His skin wasn’t so different a shade from the coin itself. It was a deep bronze, his expression far from welcoming. The skillful etching on the metal’s surface had the same tight mouth and rigid cheekbones that framed a crooked general’s nose and two eyes like fine marble. His deep purple general’s coat matched the uniforms of the score of soldiers standing in formation behind him, the North Star insignia embroidered over their hearts.

The king cleared his throat pointedly in the midst of the awkward silence that had fallen as Aela looked him up and down, calculating. His attention lifted past her to rest on Dreadmoor, who still kept his arm firmly around his furious charge.

“I trust you received the payment?” His tone held no mirth. It was merely official, like chalk on slate.

“Like fish in a barrel.” Dreadmoor smirked. Aela shuddered at her own idiocy. Two full bags of Thandepardine gold on an inland trader? She bit her lip in fury, the taste of blood dancing on her tongue. Dreadmoor gave her a rough shove forward and she stumbled to her knees.

“Go south.” The king spat his words at the corsair captain. Clearly dealing with his kind left a poor taste.

“Move out, boys!” Dreadmoor shouted, herding the crew back towards the ship as the king’s soldiers surrounded their new captive. Aela tried to think quick, but her mind felt sluggish. She tried to rise, letting out a guttural cry as the nearest two soldiers slammed her to the ground, prone. The adrenaline fought its way through her veins, blocking out sight and sound. She hardly heard Timlet’s shouts. She only barely registered his body flying off the dock, knife bare, in the direction of the soldiers. What she did feel was the warm spatter as his arterial spray hit the cobbles of the dockside market.

“Up!” barked the king as the soldiers lifted her roughly to her feet. Now upright, she could see that he held the young sailor by the collar of his tunic as blood flowed loosely out of the gash in his neck. Red bubbles slipped out between his lips like glass orbs. Aela’s heart pounded viciously against her ribs as the taut string inside her snapped. She roared, furious and wild. Heat radiated across her face as her eyes ignited, burning as her veins caught fire. She lashed out with every limb, every ounce of strength remaining. The guard scattered and re-grouped, coming at her in fours and fives, overcoming her once again. They had order, control, and military training. She had only desperation and rage. She lunged her head and chest forward as two soldiers pulled her arms behind her, the metal irons ringing as they were clasped around her wrists.

“The longer you struggle, the less chance he has of surviving.” The king spoke evenly, devoid of emotion. Aela’s gaze snapped back to Timlet. He gasped raggedly. For a bare moment, his eyes met hers, projecting desperation. Breathing deeply, she tried to centre herself.

“What…do you…want from me?” She stumbled on her words as she tried to calm the bloodlust that controlled her. The soldiers’ grip held tight even as she swayed on her feet.

“I need your help with a task. And if you care about this misshapen pup as much as you seem to, you’ll agree to assist me.” He gazed down at her, his expression unreadable. This king seemed to have a knack for mystery. It suddenly occurred to Aela that she didn’t even know his name. Call it a perk of living the corsair life, but there was no need to pay attention to local politics. Aela turned from the inscrutable king to Timlet. Her instinct was to resist, to be self-serving and stubborn. But in the end, he was the only person from her so-called family that cared about her fate. The rest of the crew was already scrambling onto the ship, preparing to make sail.

“If I help you, you’ll get him to a medicinary?” she asked, hesitant to trust the strange monarch.

The king nodded.

Aela bit back the urge to keep fighting, her temperature dropping as she continued to breathe. “Then I agree.”

As two soldiers left the pack to carry her bleeding friend in the direction of the city’s healers, she cursed his idiocy under her breath. She always knew that he didn’t belong among the bruisers in their crew. There’s no place for a hero on a corsair ship.

With white-gloved hands digging into her arms on either side, Aela let herself be half marched, half dragged across the square to the nearby teahouse. A tiny bell hanging from the lintel chimed softly as they entered the fairly well-appointed establishment, startling a plump shop woman who dozed at the counter. The stone floors were covered with soft hand-woven rugs, giving an air of cozy sophistication. This was not the worst scrape that Aela had gotten into, as a career corsair. The prim atmosphere of the teashop was alarmingly calm, a juxtaposition given the events that led her there. It was not the kind of place that made Aela feel comfortable; she preferred the hay-and-piss stench of shithouse taverns.

The good shop woman mopped her gray bangs out of her eyes and then jumped up to bring her sovereign of a fresh pot of tea and two cups, at his signal. The high, strained whistle of a kettle sounded from the kitchen. She must have been in the process of making herself a morning cup, only to have it co-opted by the man to whom she already gave a quarter income in fealty. Thandepar was not a nation made rich by coincidence.

Jerked roughly into a chair at an intricately carved wooden table, Aela resolved to keep quiet until she figured out exactly what the king wanted from her. As he sat down opposite, he smoothed the rich fabric of his uniform and stared back at her, impassive. She studied his face, trying to pick out any thread of humanity that she could exploit. Like any good brigand, Aela knew that finding the human side of your enemy could mean finding their weak spot.

His fingers were slick, long creatures. He held the teapot in one hand, pouring it into two cups held with the other. She wondered about his family. She wondered who he asked for strength at night, when he scanned the stars. He had a military look, so perhaps it was the Guardian, but there was something about his demeanour that didn’t seem to fit. Aela had learned to pick out the constellation of the Corsair from a young age, though she had never stepped foot in one of his few blood-soaked temples. Dreadmoor taught her well in that regard. Aela flinched as she tried to squeeze that late fond feeling out of existence. Across the table, the king failed to hide a smirk. He had found her humanity first. She had lost their unspoken contest. He slid a cup of tea in front of her and signaled to her left guard. She heard the iron scrape as he unshackled her wrists. Aela resisted the urge to rub them as she stared hard across the table and repeated her question from the market square.

“What do you want from me?”

The king flicked his gaze up from his tea to meet hers as he took a sip. The steam from Aela’s own cup rose in front of her like a soft breath across her lips and nose. She took the cup in her hands, letting the warmth spring through her aching muscles. The king opened his mouth to speak, pausing slightly before his delivery.

“I knew your father,” he said.

Aela surprised herself by laughing sharply. Maybe she had overestimated this character if he thought that was going to help his cause.

“Congratulations. I didn’t.” Strangely, she thought she caught sight of a well-repressed smirk on the king’s lips as she took a sip of tea.

“Aela Crane, I have a proposition for you.” He poured himself a second cup as he waited for her to respond.

She didn’t.

“Perhaps you’ve heard of a little problem we’ve been having in the mountains surrounding the capital.”

Aela shook her head. “I’m afraid I haven’t been paying that much attention to the local gossip of your country.” Aela shrugged.

The king plowed on with his pitch. “The short version is that we’re having something of a pest problem. A certain type of beast that your family is particularly…proficient in hunting.” She didn’t like the way his gaze bored into her as he spoke.

Aela raised her eyebrows, skeptically. “Well, I don’t know what you’ve heard about me, but it can’t be much, because I’m not a hunter, and my parents didn’t teach me a damn thing.”

“Trust me, you may not know it, but you’re a natural-born hunter. And you’ll have four of my finest men to accompany you.” He gestured to his uniformed guards, standing in formation outside the empty tea shop.

“You mean guard me?” Aela glanced at the guards on either side of her chair.

“Not at all.” He paused to sip the tea. “You’d be leading the expedition.”

Aela stared at him, scrutinizing his every movement as he spoke, searching for a tell. She was waiting for the other boot to drop. So far nothing about this interaction added up.

“I’m sorry. Let me get this straight. You paid off my captain and crew to deliver me to your feet so that you could ask me for a favour?” Aela sat back, crossing her arms.

“Let’s just say you’re a difficult woman to get ahold of, and I was happy to do whatever it took to make that happen.” His cold expression wasn’t giving away any secrets as he spoke, so Aela decided it was time to push her luck a little. She kicked her feet up on the table and swigged the remainder of her tea.

“And what’s in it for me?” she asked, dropping some swagger. The king shook his head almost imperceptibly, his mouth tightening.

“A room in my household and a position as the Master of Hunt.” His lips twitched upwards at the corner as if he might attempt a smile. “The position your father once occupied.”

Aela pursed her lips, confused. This strange hard man was offering her something she had been purposely avoiding her entire life: security, patronage, and a link to her roots. Aela smiled, knowing her decision was an easy one.

“Sorry, man. That’s not really my thing.” She pushed her chair back and stood up. “But thanks for the tea and bloodshed.” The king signaled the guards to let her leave.

“Well, you’re more than welcome to go on your way. We’ll always be able to find you if we need you.” He broke into a truly terrifying facsimile of a grin.

Aela smiled. If that was the threat she was waiting on, it was one that she could live with. She shrugged and walked away from the table. Already, she formed plans in her head: a new crew, a new boat, and the waves beneath her once again.

As she hit the door handle of the tea shop, the king called out: “But I’d worry about that young friend of yours if I were you. Modern medicine can only do so much.”

Aela froze, her stomach dropping. Timlet. The king had managed to zero in on the one thing that made her human. Her blood flowed hot as she thought about the only person in the world she cared for, and realized that she should have let him die rather than be held over her head as a bargaining chip. She turned back to the king. He didn’t even have the decency to smirk victoriously. He was as blank as ever. It was the Bureaucrat, Aela realized. That was the patron that he looked to in the sky in times of need, if he even had any.

“When do we leave?” Aela said through gritted teeth.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

A.E. Ross lives in Vancouver, B.C. with one very grumpy raincloud of a cat. When not writing fiction, they can be found producing and story-editing children’s cartoons, as well as producing & hosting podcasts like The XX Files Podcast. Their other works have appeared on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Netflix (and have been widely panned by 12-year-olds on 4Chan) but the projects they are most passionate about feature LGBTQIA+ characters across a variety genres.

Website | Instagram | Tumblr

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

On Tour with Curses, Foiled Again by Sera Trevor (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Curses, Foiled Again

Author: Sera Trevor

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 27, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 98700

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, witches, undead, abduction, paranormal, addiction, ghosts, homophobia, immortal, magic users, dark, drug/alcohol use, dark, blood play, curses

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing. Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Excerpt

Curses, Foiled Again
Sera Trevor © 2017
All Rights Reserved

One: The Witch Boys of Sunset Boulevard

Someone smelled delicious.

Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.

He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.

The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.

As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.

He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.

“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”

He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.

Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.

“Have you put a spell on me?”

“No.”

“Then why can’t I attack you?”

“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”

Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”

“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”

Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.

They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.

After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.

Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”

“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”

Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”

“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”

“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”

The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.

Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!

“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”

The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”

“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”

“And that’s not the same thing?”

Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”

The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”

“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”

“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”

Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”

“You’ve got blood on your chin.”

Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.

The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”

The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”

Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.

“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.

“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.

Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—

—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.

Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”

There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”

This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.

A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”

Still no response.

With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Sera Trevor is terminally curious and views the thirty-five book limit at her local library as a dare. She’s a little bit interested in just about everything, which is probably why she can’t pin herself to one subgenre. Her books are populated with dragons, vampire movie stars, shadow people, and internet trolls. (Not in the same book, obviously, although that would be interesting!) Her works have been nominated for several Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, including Best Contemporary, Best Fantasy, and Best Debut, for which she won third prize in 2015 for her novella Consorting with Dragons.

She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a cat the size of three cats. You can keep up with her new releases and gain access to bonus content by signing up for her newsletter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail | Newsletter

Tour Schedule

11/27 The Blogger Girls

11/27 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/27 Bayou Book Junkie

11/27 Love Bytes

11/28 The Novel Approach

11/28 Divine Magazine

11/28 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/29 Stories That Make You Smile

11/29 Shari Sakurai

11/30 Erotica For All

11/30 Happily Ever Chapter

12/1 MM Good Book Reviews

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

A MelanieM Review: Crave (Brawlers #1) by J.M. Dabney

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

Welcome to Brawlers Bar…

A quick pit stop for a comfortable bed to sleep turned into an eight-year stay. Vincent “Crave” Butler hit the road the day after college graduation and hadn’t looked behind him since. He’d swore to never stop moving, but the night he drove into Powers, Georgia changed the course of his life. He’d hit a bar called Brawlers with its rundown exterior and pride flag beside the door, the next day he had a job. Second in command to the Head of Brawler security, Crave found the place he didn’t have to run from. No one would call Crave sane. He lived to make people as uncomfortable as possible just for his own twisted amusement. That all changed when a certain cute as fuck bartender walked in for an interview.

No one wanted Twitch Harrison around. He was small, femme and annoying on his best days, downright abhorrent on his bad ones. When college turned out to be a no-go, and the parents canceled his credit cards he’d needed a job. Walking into Brawlers, the roughest gay bar in his hometown, was like a game of pick the thing that didn’t belong—him. The two owners, Scary and Tank, hired him on and four years later he was still that thing that didn’t belong. No one made it more apparent than bouncer Crave Butler who didn’t hide the fact he barely tolerated Twitch’s presence.

Crave threatened every man who thought they’d get the pretty Twitch but would Twitch rather be in their beds than his? Only one way to find out and he hoped Twitch was ready for forever because that’s what Crave was determined to have.

Crave (Brawlers #1) marks the new start of my backwards journey towards the starting point of all of J.M Dabney’s interlocking series. I say new because (you all know I can start at the most awkward moments in a series) I actually found this author through their first story in their latest series The Executioners and that story blew me away.  That was Ghost, a remarkable introduction to the town of Powers, Georgia that was swiftly followed by the equally 5-star novel Joker (Executioners #2).  Yes, I was well hooked by the author, the town, and the backhistory of the people and couples I was meeting that I only had bits and pieces of.  Then I find out there’s not one but two preceding series that give me all the back stories and history I could want.  Be still my heart.  So here we go backward one series, one book at the time.

Brawlers is a bar/club and each story in the series is named after a guy who works there and forms a part of the Brawler family (note: Executioners is a band that plays in the club). J.M Dabney specializes in brutal, damaged men, people whose lives have been full of trauma and ugliness.  Their bodies often reflect the scars their lives have left on them emotionally and mentally.  Some are self abusers (cutters) and others have sealed themselves off, preferring isolation to emotional pain.  Crave is one of the huge, rough, scary ones.  Hired as a bouncer, he’s brutal, violent, loves to fight, and has his reasons to be this way.  The author is clear on this.  Her characters aren’t thugs but men twisted and harmed by life, redeemable under the facade. Unable to communicate like most people, when he does say anything, it’s with no filters and guaranteed to start a fight.  It’s very safe way to stay behind walls but it makes it hard when there’s someone you want to protect as Crave finds out with Twitch.

Twitch is tiny, complicated and in pain.  I fell in love with this character immediately. He telegraphs both his vulnerability and the utter devastation he feels. He’s trying in so many ways to work through the damage done to him by his upbringing and more. Twitch has found the unlikeliest of homes and support at Brawlers if his past will leave him alone.

Dabney takes these most unlikely of mates, brings them together in somewhat combustible circumstances (a bar like Brawlers  where fights are common and the local police are corrupt at this point in the series) and makes it believable and heart wrenching.  Both men damaged in very different ways and yet looking for real love and stability.  Crave is someone who not only know what those scars are on Twink’s wrists and sides, but recognizes what they stand for.  He understands the dark places he see in Twitch because he has them as well.   This is not an easy romance.  It can’t be with characters like these and surrounded by others just as broken or out of the norm as they are.  There are fights, misunderstandings, pain galore.

I also found it fascinating because as the first story in the second series, many of the elements that make Ghost and Joker so great are being laid down here, so I’m watching the evolution of a town and “family”,  one I’m already familiar with as I started with a present time novel.  So I’m getting a time capsule effect here.

J.M Dabney has three connected series. Twirled World Ink (a tattoo shop) which is the first series which spun off into Brawlers the bar/club and now into Executioners which is the band who plays at Brawlers.  All the characters appear in all the stories so it helps to read all the books. I see the potential for another here after the Executioners with a Security Company. Right now each has four books each.  I’ll be reviewing them all.  It’s quite the universe!  The stories are gripping, the sex is hot and the characters are unforgettable.

If you love your hurt/comfort, your damaged men looking for love, you will love this story, this series and this author.  Follow along as I lead you through the books and loves of the men of the connected series of J.M Dabney!

Cover art is perfect for Crave.  Love it.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 129 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by Hostile Whispers Press, LLC
  • Executioners – third series

On Tour with ‘The Vampire’s Protege (A Vampire’s Angel’s story)’ by Damian Serbu (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  The Vampire’s Protege

Series: From the Vampire’s Angel universe

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: August 21

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 99600

Genre: Horror, paranormal, abduction, action, blood and gore, cisgender, contemporary, crime, dark, death, gay, paranormal, vampires

Add to Goodreads

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Damian Serbu today on his tour for The Vampire’s Protege. We have a wonderful author’s interview, excerpt and giveaway.  Don’t miss any of it, starting below!

✒︎

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Damian Serbu ~

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

I wrote my first novel after several years of contemplation and fascination with the concept.  I was completing my doctorate in history at the time, and would escape from the concrete world of facts and past events by writing fiction.  That particularly story was inspired by the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask.”  It eventually became Dark Sorcerer Threatening, which is currently out of print but I hope to reprint someday.

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

Because I have full time job, I maintain a pretty strict schedule or I would never get around to it!  I write at least twice a week, for a good chunk of time.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I am way too much of a historian, even in my writing of novels, to go without an outline!  So I sketch out the entire story before I begin.  For a long time before I outline, I keep notes and jot down ideas for the story, then I take that mess of ideas and shape it into the outline, which I then edit several times.  That being said, the outline serves as a general guide, not something written in stone.  I let the muse take me where it will, which often necessitates tweaking the outline as I go.  As for inspiration, I let that hit me wherever it appears.  Sometimes it’s a movie or song or picture, but more often than not it comes out of nowhere and just blasts me in the head.  It seems to happen a lot on my morning jog.  And I just let the words flow when I write – but that requires going back and doing a pretty thorough edit.

Where did the desire to write LGBTQIA+ stories come from?

From being gay!  It’s what I know, it’s what I like to read, and so it’s what I want to write.

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

The amount of research for the story depends on the story, really.  When I set it in the past, I do a great deal of research.  For example, I’ve written about the French Revolution, Antebellum America, and pirates.  Those all took extensive research to get the history correct.  That’s where my academic background comes in handy!  I know how to gather books and articles that give me solid history, and then weave that reality into the writing.  I do all of that research before I even start outlining.  But other stories, including The Vampire’s Protégé, don’t require as much research.  There, I may need to research something that pops up.  For example, this time I suddenly found myself writing about Bitcoin, which I didn’t know a damn thing about.  So off I went to learn a tad so I didn’t make a fool of myself!  But my novels set in a contemporary setting don’t require as much extensive research.

Synopsis

A sinister vampire offers Charon a choice he can’t refuse: play a deadly game of winner takes all, losers die.

Charon relishes the competition and molds himself into a sexy vampire who defies vampire law, savoring his power and embracing the role of villain. He also loves surrounding himself with hot young men. But when an alluring vampire stalks him and threatens to turn him into the Vampire Council unless he helps with a seemingly impossible task, will Charon risk his perfectly narcissistic life on the challenge? Does he have any other choice?

Excerpt

The Vampire’s Protege
Damian Serbu © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Introducing Charon

Everyone thinks they adore the Vampire Council with its rules and regulations that allegedly govern all vampires and thereby ensure the safety of virtuous humans. People want to lose themselves in the tales of the Council members: Xavier and Thomas and their love; Anthony and Jaret and their guarding of humanity; Catherine and Harriet and their whims within a righteous vampiric empire. Most of all, the Vampire Ethic provides comfort with its guarantee that goodness protects an individual from a vampire attack, with its promise that all vampires defend innocence.

Vampires accept this reality because it gives them a collective soul. The ethic protects them from the stereotype of evil incarnate preying upon humanity. Or, in the least, obedience to it keeps them alive, lest the Council hunt them down and murder them for transgressions against it.

Humans desire the Council’s laws to maintain their fantasy of security from the supernatural realms. Who would dismiss a hidden force of vampire police that might swoop in at any sign of danger and annihilate the perpetrator?

Yet deep inside, so many long for something different, something that avoids this utopian trope and perfect world, all tied up in a pretty bow. Part of everyone, that piece so desperately stamped down and derided, seeks an alternative story.

To be sure, many will deny it. Fight against these words and honorably cast them out as the devil’s temptations. Yet no proof of Satan or such demonic forces presents itself. Because even those thoughts really stem from the inner being in everyone, that secretly locked-up atom inside a person that pines for freedom and seeks release, even as the goodness scolds it.

Still people contest these words. Deny them.

Yet a fascination with villains thrives in America. Think of the great antiheroes of history and their legendary fame. The Wicked Witch of the West. Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. The Joker. The infamy of historic figures such as Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy or the Son of Sam. The people who don the costumes at Halloween of Lord Voldemort, Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler because it empowers them for a night with beautiful wickedness. People laugh at Scar, Ursula, and even Mr. Potter. They read the tales of Lex Luther and Cujo, privately wishing they would eventually triumph over the heroes of the story and bring a bit of destruction to the globe.

Jack the Ripper lives through the ages because he successfully hid himself, true. But also because his perfect malevolence went unpunished. People want that for themselves. His legend draws them back again and again to that story with the hope of their own misdeeds going unchallenged.

Thus, whether admitted or not, people long to meet Charon. Yes, so many cry out for Charon and his story. People want him. Readers desire him, need him, really. The world will have no choice but to love him. All will embrace him as they have these other villains of history. They will celebrate his perfect treachery.

Unlike those obedient to the Vampire Council, Charon hardly worries about a bit of notoriety from time to time. Fear of retribution never enters his vocabulary. He need not concern himself with the Vampire Council and its regulations. Nor does Charon often fret over any other person or entity cracking down on his masterful empire.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He previously authored several novels now out of print, and is excited to reignite his writing with Ninestar Press!

Facebook | Twitter

Tour Schedule

8/21    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 

8/21    Outrageous Heroes of Romance

8/22    Shari Sakurai 

8/22    MM Good Book Reviews

8/23    Drops of Ink

8/24    love bytes reviews

8/24    QSF     

8/25    The Novel Approach

8/25    Bayou Book Junkie

8/25    Erotica For All

8/25    Happily Ever Chapter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Save

Save

A Lila Audiobook Review: Tall, Dark, and Deported by Bru Baker and Dorian Bane (Narrator)

Standard

Rating: 3.75 stars out of 5

Crossing the border into love.

Snap decisions and misguided ideas bring Portuguese national Mateus Fontes and businessman Crawford Hargrave together at the Canadian border crossing.

Mateus is caught in a catch-22. With his almost-expired tourist visa, entrance to Canada is denied, but the US won’t let him back in either. Crawford thinks he’s solved things when he tells the border agent they’re engaged, and it works—except now they have to actually get married before either of them can get back into the United States. But Crawford has been burned by marriage once, and he’s determined not to make that mistake again.

Neither of them expects real feelings to bloom out of their fake marriage, but they do. And the two of them have to learn how to be honest with each other to make things work, which is especially hard when their entire marriage is based on lies.

Tall, Dark, and Deported is the perfect example of green card “fake marriages” trope stories. In that aspect, the author met all the expectations, creating an entertaining love story with three-dimensional characters and beautiful settings.

I love the premise of this story and how their first meeting went. The way they take turns taking care of each other is lovely and their relationship with their family members add to their appeal. This is a slow burn, sweet, fluffy goodness story. Perfect if you want something light and engaging without much angst.

I really like Crawford and Mateus individually. They’re nice characters with great depth, and a lot of potential, but have a hard time connecting to each other. The plans they have for their relationship and what they want from each other work, but when they try to put it together there’s no chemistry. It’s like having two good friends trying to make a relationship work. It gets resolved in the end, but it takes time.

In some parts, it reads a CliffsNotes version of a longer book–rushing to achieve an HEA–when the reader wanted the same amount of detail than before. It felt a little superficial, but it has to do more with length restrictions than lack of development. Overall, this isn’t a detrimental to the actual love story.

Dorian Bane’s narration worked for the story. All the characterizations fit well except for Mateus’s. He sounded more Hispanic than Portuguese, but overall, it was enjoyable.

The cover by Bree Archer follows the Dreamspun series and shows Mateus in front of an orchard–fitting for the story.

Sales Links: Dreamspinner | iTunes | Audible

Audiobook Details:

Narrator: Dorian Bane
Length: 6 hours 30 minutes
Published: June 19, 2017 (Audio Edition) by Dreamspinner Press
ASIN: B071GV8BCT
Edition Language: English

Blog Tour: Moro’s Price by M. Crane Hana (character bio, excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Moro’s Price

Author: M. Crane Hana

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: June 26

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male

Length: 107000

Genre: Science Fiction, sci-fi, aliens, abuse, captivity, abduction, dark, slave

Add to Goodreads

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have M Crane Hana here today on her Moro’s Price tour.  She’s brought along a little bit more information on one of the main characters for our readers! Enjoy!

♦︎

Character Bio – Valier Antonin

Valier’s mostly human Camalian species carries a sentient colonial symbiont linking all members in greater or lesser mental and emotional contact. Val’s family are the genetically engineered rulers who can control and absorb the emotional overloads caused by that linkage.

He is one of the few Camalians who can mindspeak directly to Cama, the symbiont’s apparently-female guiding consciousness. He is the only Camalian who can actually twist Cama’s will to his own, without her even knowing it. Fortunately, he and Cama get along ridiculously well. She tolerates his quirks and tries to be a stabilizing influence while Val indulges his love of nano-technology, explosions, sexy gladiators, and his very-much-frowned-upon sadomasochistic tendencies. Val redeems himself by being a mostly kind and generous person, struggling to find the good in urges that no peace-loving Camalian should ever have.

He’s a budding genius with a fear of boredom and a knack for combining nano-tech with his obliging symbiont. Val’s gifts, curiosity, and manic tendencies get him into (and out of) trouble, often causing disaster for the people around him. Because his accidental control of Cama nearly shattered the Camalian empire when he was a teenager, Val knows his own parents might decide to execute him if he ever really steps out of line. Bisexual, Val grew up knowing there were half a dozen Camalian female Potential mates who might be his emotional match, but they were carefully hidden from him to protect them until he matures.

After saving Moro and fixating emotionally on him, Val begins to grow up…and has to decide if his responsibility to Moro is more important than his mother’s empire.

Val stands about 5’6”, with a wiry, lightly-muscled build. His skin is medium bronze, with rounded Afro-Asian features, his family’s genetically engineered pale gold curly hair and pale golden-yellow eyes (it’s a marker to tell other Camalians to look out!)

For Val’s look, I was somewhat inspired by British male model Phoenix James, American actor Jon Michael Hill, and the DC character Aqualad (Kaldur’ahm).

Synopsis

Crown Prince, techno-geek, and secret sadomasochist Valier has lusted for years after the gorgeous gladiator called “The Diamond.” Meeting the escaped slave on a rooftop, Valier discovers Moro Dalgleish wants suicide before his former masters can reclaim him.

Infected with a deadly symbiont, Valier proposes empty sex to satisfy his urges and grant Moro’s release from a horrible life. Neither man plans for Moro to survive, or how the morning after will shake three empires to their foundations.

Excerpt

Moro’s Price
M. Crane Hana © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1

A thousand spectators watched Jason Kee-DaSilva, the Leopard of Saba, ruin his career two minutes after his comeback victory.

The Golden Cage Arena spanned the top floor of a gaudy casino skyscraper in south Cedar-Saba. At the center of the domed auditorium, a thirty-foot circular steel floor slowly revolved to the right. An airy dome of gold-plated steel filigree mesh arched thirty feet over it. The mesh was stronger than a spaceship’s skin. Two gates led into the Cage. Once a fight began, they’d stay locked until one man lost and yielded to the other.

DaSilva had broken two men already tonight: two in credits, the last in flesh.

The deceptively delicate dome had just lifted from the bloodstained circular steel floor to let a cadre of medics through. Huge holo screens in the dome played highlights from the first rounds of battle or lingered over shots of the Leopard swiftly claiming his last victim. He hadn’t been brutal, merely thorough. The orgasm he’d wrung from the other man had been as much a symbol of victory as the final punch-down.

In better days, DaSilva had been a glorious bronze godling of the Cage, always dressed to show off his sleek muscles, dapple-bleached short hair, and the leopard-spot tattoos covering his shoulders and spine. He’d regained most of the muscle, though it was still pared down from illness. Haunted hollows showed around brown eyes, and his hair was growing out to plebian brown curls. His knee-length kilt was simple grayish-brown poly-silk, without Garibey Shemua colors or concentric teardrop pattern.

Now DaSilva looked up angrily, shrugging off the lackluster attentions of his own single hired attendant and the man’s low-budget medical kit. In place of DaSilva’s legendary anthem, a rights-free generic martial score rumbled in the background from expensive speaker systems.

In the first tier of seats behind the three red-clad referees, a bald man in Garibey Shemua’s purple and silver robes tapped studiously at the keyboard manifesting across his left sleeve. He glanced at DaSilva, as if just now noticing the fighter’s thunderous expression.

DaSilva glared at the Shemua official and then pointed toward the nearest speaker. “I paid, damn you. I wrote my anthem years ago!” he shouted, stepping aside to let the medics work on the other fighter.

“While you were under contract, Sero DaSilva. We’re happy to lease the rights back to you for single-use or month-to-month,” the bald man said with a mild tone, pitched to carry perfectly past the low music. The hovering audio drones made certain his words were broadcast over the whole arena.

“I paid yesterday.”

The Shemua official’s polite, calm expression never wavered. “Which was applied to last month’s fees. Which were in arrears, I’m afraid. It’s a new month. Your employment liaison should have told you to pay today, too.”

“My liaison went on a convenient fishing trip to Lariden Lake last night and couldn’t be reached. What the hell do you people even want?”

The Shemua official lifted a red metal collar from his right sleeve and waggled it in the air. The collar clasp glittered with purple enamel and white diamonds in Shemua’s concentric teardrop emblem. A concerted gasp came from the spectators who knew what it was: the Leopard’s Red-Band bonder’s collar he’d worn while being owned by Garibey Shemua.

“This can all work out for the best, Sero DaSilva, if you’d just see reason and come back.” Until the previous year, the Leopard of Saba had been one of Shemua’s feted, pampered bondslave fighters. Their star.

DaSilva stepped a pace backward.

The crowd moaned as one. Another onlooker began slowly, derisively clapping: a huge old man clad in a brilliant white suit, sprawled a dozen seats down from the referees. The camera drones focused on him, then longer on the silent, nearly naked man kneeling in front of him.

A buzz ran through the crowd.

“The Diamond.” A whisper from a few hundred hushed voices, as everyone was reminded of who else had watched every moment of DaSilva’s three comeback fights. The silent man’s black collar indicated a murderer or traitor under arena sentence. His odd black-and-white coloring marked him as a legend equal to the Leopard. Heavy cosmetics rimmed the man’s eyes, exaggerated his refined cheekbones, and shaped his lips into a courtesan’s scarlet smile.

Flinching at the sight of himself on the giant screens, the painted man lowered his head in a spill of long black curls and huddled against his master’s legs.

Everyone in the vast room saw how long the Leopard looked at the Diamond.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M. Crane Hana lives in a flat place filled with cactus. She writes romances in all flavors, spends too much time world building her sword & planet fantasies and space operas, and makes museum-grade artifacts from cultures that never existed. Publishing credits: (as Marian Crane) ‘The Blood Orange Tree’, Such A Pretty Face anthology, Meisha-Merlin 2000. ‘Saints and Heroes’, Thrones of Desire anthology, Cleis Press 2012.

Website | Twitter | eMail | Tumblr | Wattpad

Tour Schedule

6/26    Bonkers about Books

6/27    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

6/28    MM Good Book Reviews

6/29    Boy Meets Boy Reviews

6/29    Love Bytes

6/30    Erotica For All

6/30    Dean Frech

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Save

Save

A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Cold Shadow (Cold Country #2) by Mercy Celeste

Standard

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

This story was powerfully moving, deeply chilling, and amazingly complex. But before I even begin to review it, I need to share some of the triggers that may be problems for some readers. I know I was caught off guard by a few of them and, though they are definitely issues for some people, I was honestly shocked that they didn’t turn me away from this riveting drama.

So proceed with caution if any of these are your triggers because the scenes are vivid and realistic in many of these situations: descriptions of past rape, abuse, and torture; dubious consent; rough, often violent, sex scenes; cheating—on multiple occasions; ménage, and with it, double penetration.

Where to start? First of all, to understand this story you really need to read book one first: In From the Cold in which Nathan Truman was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and brutalized at the hands of a law enforcement coworker turned monster. Nathan’s high school best friend and lover, now deeply closeted—but still involved with him—country western superstar, Quinn Anders, was able to save Nathan’s life with help from FBI Agent, Drew Walker, a secondary character in book one. As book one ended, Nathan and Quinn had made plans to be together quietly and out of the limelight, but to be committed and to raise Quinn’s daughter by an early marriage together. Their relationship would be low profile to the world at large, but known to those closest to them, and Nathan would go back to work in law enforcement. It would be for the local sheriff’s office after he had time to make peace with what happened and heal both physically and, hopefully, psychologically from the trauma.

And that’s where this book opens, but the quiet life they planned falls apart early in the story as someone is kidnapping and maiming Hispanic workers from Truman Steel and the FBI sends in an undercover officer to assess the situation. The officer they send, complete with lip piercings and a whole lot of attitude, is none other than Drew Walker, the Feeb from book one. Apparently his mother is Hispanic and he was raised in a household of Spanish-speaking family members so he’s able to fit in comfortably. Assisting him in getting into the plant is Nathan’s sister, Natalie, who’s now the manager, and Natalie’s boyfriend, the Hispanic foreman.

The story is way too complex to try to condense in any sort of detail in a review, however, it’s easy to sum up in generalizations. First and foremost, there’s apparently a lot more going on with Nathan’s and Quinn’s relationship than most people know—both now and in the past. Quinn not only loves rough and violent sex, he’s participated in it during many past occasions and has not remained faithful to Nathan. In fact, there’s a history there between he and Drew, the man who was portrayed as straight in book one. And Nathan is sexually attracted to Drew as well. As mentioned before, this story features ménage—some pretty hot ménage, to be sure—including a scene of double penetration. But it’s the violence that might turn some readers away. Though they ostensibly love each other, there is very little tender sex between Nathan and Quinn. In fact, it’s most often brutal.

Add to that, Nathan’s nightmares of his past kidnapping, and Quinn’s behaviors when he was addicted to drugs and alcohol early in his career and sold himself for a high, and you get the picture. Now, with the new round of kidnappings and mutilation of the victims, the terror comes closer when Natalie’s boyfriend goes missing. When one of the men is then taken while out hunting the kidnapper, all will have to put their personal needs, plans, and lies aside to bring the killer to justice. And though the culprit may be a shocker, the danger is not lessened when booby traps get triggered.

Honestly, as I write this review, I wonder how I can say I enjoyed the story so much, and yet I did. That indeed is a tribute to the author who dragged me into every scene and gave me a new appreciation of her talent. Unfortunately, the end of the story didn’t have the twist I’d hoped for. I held out the hope until the very last sentence of the story when the statement made totally disappointed me. It may have been 4.5 stars if not for that. I can’t go with 5 because of the cheating that was not mentioned in any of the blurbs or advanced summaries I read. Plus, even after I went back to the previous story and searched for indications that Drew was more important to these men than appeared on the surface, I can’t shake the feeling he was a very minor character in the first story and much of what is revealed in this one as having taken place during the time of the first one doesn’t have a firm foundation in the first book. (Sorry if that sounds confusing.) So a 4 star review here. But overall, I do recommend it to those who like a dark and/or kinky story and can forgive the cheating.

Cover art shows the muscular, bare-chested Nathan in the forefront with the shadow of a man with a guitar in the background, an obvious representation of closeted Quinn.

Sales Links:  Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by MJC Press
ASINB071DL35K3
SeriesCold Country #2

A MelanieM Release Day Review: There’s this Guy by Rhys Ford

Standard

Rating: 5 stars out of 5

theres-this-guy-by-rhys-fordHow do you save a drowning man when that drowning man is you?

Jake Moore’s world fits too tightly around him. Every penny he makes as a welder goes to care for his dying father, an abusive, controlling man who’s the only family Jake has left. Because of a promise to his dead mother, Jake resists his desire for other men, but it leaves him consumed by darkness.

It takes all of Dallas Yates’s imagination to see the possibilities in the fatigued Art Deco building on the WeHo’s outskirts, but what seals the deal is a shy smile from the handsome metal worker across the street. Their friendship deepens while Dallas peels back the hardened layers strangling Jake’s soul. It’s easy to love the artistic, sweet man hidden behind Jake’s shattered exterior, but Dallas knows Jake needs to first learn to love himself.

When Jake’s world crumbles, he reaches for Dallas, the man he’s learned to lean on. It’s only a matter of time before he’s left to drift in a life he never wanted to lead and while he wants more, Jake’s past haunts him, making him doubt he’s worth the love Dallas is so desperate to give him.

What can you say about a book that opens up on the darkest moment of a man’s life, that point where he see’s no hope, no light and then carries you and him on a journey that see’s him safe, in love and with a future that burns as bright as the sun?  You say that you love it and cherish the man and couple you have been reading about.  That’s what you say.

Jake Moore is that man.  His life is one long night of pain, bloody beatings and unmeasurable sorrow.  And it hasn’t ended by any means.  The person most responsible is still barely alive, punishing Jake even from his dying bed.  The hell that this vicious man has made Jake’s life is brought vividly alive through Jake’s confused thoughts and memories of his past, his mother, conversations…his anguish bleeds off the page and into your heart.  He’s a welder by trade, also an artist which is where he pounds out his anger and confusion that he feels over his life and sexuality, welding pieces from the bits left over in the shop and things that he finds to bring home.

Then Dallas Yates and his best friend (and all around wonder) Celeste come into Jake’s life via the renovation of a Art Deco building across the street.  Between the two of them, Dallas who makes Jake yearn for everything he’s been told was evil and Celeste, flamboyant, feminine and proud of who she is (and how far she’s come), makes Jake think  past other boundaries he’s always been provided with.  It’s never downplayed how broken Jake is or that he needs professional help to recover, an important element I really loved here.  The relationship build is slow as Celeste questions Dallas on his ability to and his reasons for being attracted to Jake (there is a past element here for Dallas).  Layers upon layers here, like the detritus that has to be removed from the Art Deco building before she can shine, have to be peeled back before Dallas and Jake  can be a couple and have a future.

I almost gave this 4.75 stars over things as small as not seeing the opening of Bombshell, and other such things that really are extraneous.  Would I have loved them here?  Absolutely.  But were they necessary to the plot?  I don’t think so (although I do think they are in some cut pages somewhere on Rhys Ford’s computer).  I got the men, I got their love and their journey and that was deeply moving and so memorable.  I loved them so, and all..well, most of the secondary characters too.  From Celeste to the Yates family.

Want a story full of hope?  Want a story full of recovery, love and a journey towards a brighter future for a man who thought a future was something he didn’t deserve?  There’s This Guy by Rhys Ford is the story for you.  But let Rhys Ford put it better.  From Rhys Ford’s Foreword on There’s This Guy:

This book is for anyone who has stared into the abyss and wondered if they can or should go on.

You should.

Take that next step forward and go on.

And should you need help finding the strength for that step, reach out. There are people and places who will help you.

Keep walking until you find the sun on your face and until you can see the stars again.

You are worth that step. Worth that journey.

The world is a better place with you in it.

OK, I’m about to start crying all over again.  Probably will pick up the story and start reading it again as well.  Get the idea? Yes, I highly recommend it.   How I love this author!

Cover art is ok, but honestly I don’t know what I wanted for such a complex story and character.  Color me confused.

Sales Links 

Book Details:

ebook, 220 pages
Expected publication: March 17th 2017 by Dreamspinner Presss
ISBN 1635334993 (ISBN13: 9781635334999)
Edition LanguageEnglish