Love Fantasy Romance? Check Out the Release Blitz for Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick (excerpt and giveaway)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Healing Glass

Author: Jackie Keswick

Cover Artist: Pavelle Art

Release Date: May 13, 2019

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M, Fantasy romance

Trope/s: friends to lovers, two against evil

Themes: fighting oppression, personal responsibility, love is stronger than tyranny, never piss off a man who has something to protect 😉

Heat Rating:  3 flames

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Blurb

A dying city.

An ancient, forgotten accord.

And two gifted men caught in a web of greed and dark magic.

Despite belonging to different guilds, glass master Minel and warrior captain Falcon are friends. Their duties keep them apart, but when Minel falls ill and chooses death rather than the only known cure, nothing can keep Falcon from his side.

As their friendship grows into more, old wrongs and one man’s machinations threaten the floating city and leave both Minel and Falcon fighting for their lives. Can they learn to combine their gifts to save the city and its magic, or will everything they know and love perish before their eyes?

Healing Glass is an LGBT fantasy adventure with its head in the clouds. If you like medieval backdrops, impressive world-building, three-dimensional characters and a touch of magic, then you’ll love Jackie Keswick’s socially-conscious adventure.

Buy Healing Glass to visit the floating city today!

 

Buy Links 

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Amazon UK

Amazon CA

Amazon AU

Amazon DE

 

Excerpt

Half a mile above the surface, a deep, rumbling groan rattled through Favin’s bones and turned his guts to water. The elevator jerked and shuddered—long enough for Favin to wonder whether he’d left his errand too late—before it resumed its stately progress up towards the floating city.

The groans and jerks came more often these days, on almost every journey. Despite the trickle of ice-cold fear, Favin welcomed the noise and stuttering ascent. He’d raised the alarm weeks earlier, but no one had believed the word of a servant. No one but Councillor Teak, who now clung to the transparent wall on the far side of the elevator, face grey and eyes wide.

The City Council would believe Teak.

“Is… this… why you wanted me to accompany you?” Teak spoke louder than necessary in the tight confines of the chamber bearing them aloft.

“Yes, Councillor. I reported it several times, but—” Favin stopped, loath to criticise the council. “I felt you had to know what’s happening.”

Teak, resplendent in a well-cut black coat and lace cuffs under his scarlet robe of office, didn’t belong in an elevator filled with rows of stacked crates, bins of cloth, and rolls of parchment, even when Favin hadn’t packed the space as full as he usually did. The councillor didn’t need the experience of a full cargo run, of squeezing into a gap just large enough to get in and out of. Never mind that he wouldn’t have fit. The servants joked that were the councillor hollow, one of them could fit inside his frame with space to spare.

Teak enjoyed his food as much as he enjoyed his status and privileges, but he hadn’t lost all sense of his responsibilities. When Favin had asked for his help, he’d only grumbled a little before agreeing to investigate the matter. Now here he stood, pressed against the transparent wall, gaze riveted to the crate in front of him, not daring to look down.

Favin watched the sea and the sky over Teak’s shoulder, wishing—as always— that he could see the city as they made their way towards it. The freight elevators didn’t allow for such a view, and Favin’s work rarely left him the leisure to sit on the beach.

Four levels of squat glass tiers and elegant spires connected by sweeping stairs and graceful bridges, suspended high above the waves by a raft of near-invisible columns… the floating city had stood waiting at the edge of the ocean when the Craft Guild arrived in need of shelter. Nobody knew its builders. Nobody quite understood how it worked. The city kept its occupants warm and dry, the glass walls closing or receding depending on the weather. Fountains supplied water in every square, and in all the buildings. The middle tier of the city—a wide, level space between the double-story, flat-roofed dwellings of the lower level and the skyward-reaching spires of the top tier—had been given over to growing food. All other goods the inhabitants needed came via the trade guilds and the Merchant Guild. The craft masters could have anything that fit into one of the eight large elevators, whether it came by land or sea, while men like Favin ensured the goods arrived where they were needed.

The groan came again, more of a pained shriek now, like the death cry of a material used too long and too well, as an abrupt slip downward hurled both Teak and Favin to their knees.

Then the sounds stopped.

The downward movement stopped.

And the elevator resumed its unhurried climb.

Sweat pearled on Teak’s brow and upper lip by the time the transparent cabin reached its goal. “Can we… not use this elevator?” He stepped off the floating disk before he turned to ask.

“It will delay deliveries, Councillor.”

“How many journeys do you make in a day?”

“Some days as many as fifty.”

“And the noise and the… jerking… have been getting more frequent?”

“Yes. I’m told the other elevators show the same signs of trouble. And in the upper city, the glass is said to be weeping.”

“Weeping?”

“That’s what I’ve heard, Councillor. I’ve not seen it.”

“No, of course not.” Servants of Favin’s class had no access to the upper levels. “Thank you, Favin, for bringing this to my attention.”

Favin bowed to the councillor before he set about unloading the cargo into the hands of the waiting servants. The council would decide whether to shut down the elevator or keep it running. He’d done as much as he could do, given his station. He’d said his piece and had had a councillor listen.

He continued with his work, until words drifting through a half-open door stopped him on his way to deliver rolls of parchment and ink to the council chamber.

“Weeping is the only way to describe it, Wark. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“And you think it’s going to be a problem?” The clipped tones were the regent’s and Favin froze where he stood, listening.

“Of course, it’s a problem,” Teak argued. “Go and see for yourself if you don’t believe me. There’s liquid glass welling up out of the column and trickling down its length. What do you think will happen if the glass wears away doing that? Or if the whole column turns to liquid? Will it continue to support the upper level in that state, or will it run into the sea and disappear?”

“Calm yourself, Teak. I’m sure there’s no need for panic.”

“You would know, of course.” Teak said snidely. “But I say you should listen. There’s more than one of those weeping spots in the upper city. The freight elevators jerk and groan, and servants are buying out their contracts, happier to make a life elsewhere than work here.”

Then it is serious, Favin thought, glued to his spot. More serious than I knew.Positions with one of the three gifted guilds were hotly sought. Only the king’s court paid better wages, and with the high prices in the royal city and port of Allengi, those wages didn’t go nearly as far.

“We must deal with this, Wark. Before it is too late.”

“Repairs to the city’s fabric are the task of the glass master. I will make sure he attends to the problem.”

“Minel is an outstanding craft master.” Teak bristled as if he had heard something in Wark’s comment that Favin had not. Something he disagreed with. “Most sought after, despite his youth. His list of commissions is near endless and he earns—”

“There are no other glass masters in the guild. Minel is our only choice if we want to fix the problem you’ve brought to my attention.” Regent Wark sounded oddly gleeful.

“No. You can’t— What if—?”

“You can’t have it both ways, Teak. You can’t bring me a problem and then object when I solve it. Minel’s work and his designs pay a large part of the city’s debts. I’m not so stupid I’d interfere with that. But if the fabric of the city fails, all the money and favours we’re owed will be no use to us. It’s fortunate that Minel cares about nothing but making glass. He doesn’t have the stomach for confrontation. I think… I think this will work out very well. Minel will accept that we direct his work and we can add another treasure to our collection. I have waited long enough.”

 

About the Author

Jackie Keswick was born behind the Iron Curtain with itchy feet, a bent for rocks and a recurring dream of stepping off a bus in the middle of nowhere to go home. She’s worked in a hospital and as the only girl with 52 men on an oil rig, spent a winter in Moscow and a summer in Iceland and finally settled in the country of her dreams with her dream team: a husband, a cat, a tandem, a hammer and a laptop.

Jackie loves unexpected reunions and second chances, and men who don’t follow the rules when those rules are stupid. She blogs about English history and food, has a thing for green eyes, and is a great believer in making up soundtracks for everything, including her characters and the cat.

And she still hasn’t found the place where the bus stops.

For questions and comments, not restricted to green eyes, bus stops or recipes for traditional English food, you can find Jackie Keswick in all the usual places.

 

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Giveaway

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Love Fantasy? Check out the Blog Tour for Unimaginable by Iyana Jenna (excerpt and giveaway)

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BLOG TOUR

Book Title: Unimaginable

Author: Iyana Jenna

Publisher: JMS Books

Cover Artist: Written Ink Designs

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M Romance

Trope/s: shifters, vampire

Themes: drama

Heat Rating:  3 flames

Length: 14 675 words/ 52 pages

The book is planned as part of a series but can be read as a standalone.

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Blurb

Callum Saxon wakes up to a totally different universe where all around him is water. Strangely he can breathe it as if it’s air. The bad thing is he can’t remember how he got there. He can’t remember himself, either.

Ainsley Carlisle is more than a man with long blond hair. He’s a unicorn shifter with secrets as widely stretched as the rainbow supposedly coming out of his rear. Ainsley won’t help Callum uncover who he is because Ainsley wants him to remember it himself.

In this new universe, Callum has to survive the creatures that live there, such as vampires, shifters, werewolves, you name it. But there’s more to Callum than meets the eye.

 

Buy Links

JMS Books

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BookStrand

Smashwords

 

 

Excerpt

Callum wasn’t completely unaware of where he was going. He recognized the place as the kind of pub Ainsley had showed him earlier. He wasn’t sure how he was going to pay for his drinks but the thought of losing himself in alcohol was as big of enticement as his desire to erase his mind completely — if there was any to erase.

Callum blinked his eyes, adjusting to the dim light inside. The place was quiet, practically empty. Perhaps it was still quite early. It wasn’t unlike other pubs he frequented — ha, he remembered that piece of information. The only thing keeping this one apart from the ones he knew was the slow moving thick water around him. Callum just hoped he wouldn’t get sick like some time ago when he first shoveled food down into his stomach. He gazed straight at the bartender. Now what could he say to get a free drink …

“Hello, gorgeous.”

He looked up. A literal tall, dark, and handsome was looming over him. Callum wouldn’t call himself short but compared to this man? He was a midget.

“What are you doing alone in this place, baby doll? Where is your, ah, partner?”

“What do you mean?”

The stranger waved his hand. “You know, that blond bastard?”

So he knew he’d been going about with Ainsley.

“Come on,” the man said dismissively. “Two pretty creatures like you? You were both strolling around the town like the happiest couple in the realm, making everyone jealous.”

Callum sputtered. “Jealous? We’re not a couple and I’m not sure about the pretty creatures …” Talking about pretty, he himself couldn’t tear his gaze away from … what was his name?

“Who are you?” Callum’s voice was as weak as he was feeling at the moment.

The man closed the distance between them and Callum sniffed his cologne. It was a scent he’d never smelled before. It was a mix of their surroundings, like ocean breeze as well as the old woods, added with citrus aromas and a trace of musk underlying all of those. It was strong but not too overpoweringly so or suffocating. It was more like the flow of the ocean water, soothing and lulling, spellbinding.

“Is a name that important to you?”

Callum felt like he was coming back from a long slumber. He looked up from the man’s strong, sculpted jaw, which sat at his eye level.

“Uh …”

“What’s yours, l’ange?”

It took a beat and Callum realized the man just called him angel in French. So they spoke French here, too, Callum mused. He wondered what other languages they spoke.

“Callum. Callum Saxon.”

“Your name is as pretty as its owner.” He practically purred.

“How about you?”

To Callum’s surprise, the man withdrew a little to make a deep bow with one leg pulled back and a hand waving low.

“I am usually called Patrice Deniau. I believe that’s my real name though it’s been centuries and I honestly can’t remember in which period of time I was named that.”

Callum felt as if all the air in his lungs was sucked out. Centuries. Period of time. What was this man whose name sounded French, too — Patrice Deniau? A vampire?

A shudder ran down his spine. Patrice did look like a vampire with his tall, slender figure, sharp chin, dark hair, and a pair of intense blue eyes that easily bewitched Callum.

“I, uh, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Deniau.”

“Mister?” Patrice’s laughter was soft and lilting. “Unless you are to call me Sir or Master, Patrice will suffice.” He stroked Callum’s jaw with his long fingers.

Callum let out an involuntary moan. He knew he had to pull back, move away. But he couldn’t. Instead, he leaned in and his eyes shuttered closed. He practically purred.

“Yes, all right, Patrice.” It was Patrice for now. Later, he decided, he might change to Sir, even Master.

“Very well. Good Lord, you’re so gorgeous. Has anyone told you that?”

“Oh, yeah, I guess.” Amidst his foggy mind, Callum heard himself replying, not that he knew exactly what he had been asked.

“Really? Who was that, someone special?”

Callum nodded. “Yes.”

“Someone you loved or someone who loved you?”

“Both. Love.” Why past tense? “He still loves me.”

“As you deserve, someone as captivating as you. May I know — I believe it’s that Carlisle boy? Ainsley?”

Ainsley. Callum’s cheeks heated up as the name was mentioned. He’d definitely developed a certain infatuation with the man. But love? They had not even declared their feelings to each other. Declare, because Callum was certain their feelings were mutual. He shook his head slowly.

“No?” Patrice sounded surprised. “You’ve only been here for, what, two days, three days at the most. I can’t believe you’ve been fooling around, let alone falling in love.”

But of course he’d not been fooling around. He’d barely met other people aside from Ainsley and his mother. Yet it was neither of the two who he had on his mind.

Kevin Travers.

Callum blinked as a name suddenly flashed across his mind. He shook himself inwardly and took a deep breath. The name sounded familiar. It had to be familiar. Otherwise, why would it turn up out of the blue?

“What is it, my dear? You look ashen.”

Callum was suddenly out of breath, near hyperventilating. “He was … he is …”

“Yes?” Patrice’s hand crept up at the back of his head.

“I don’t remember but … but he was important to me. I just know it.” Patrice stroked his scalp with knowing fingers and it was all Callum could do to stop himself from moaning.

“Is he still important now?”

 

About the Author

I’m Iyana Jenna and you can call me Iyana. I like writing, romance, and man-love, so you’re mostly going to find my stories as m/m whether they are for adults or young adults. They are not going to be too heavy on explicit sex, though, as many say that my stories are considered sweet romance.

When I don’t write, I teach English to children, teens, and adults. I also work in the curriculum and materials department in a language institution. Among my responsibilities are writing books and tests.

 

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Check Out the New Release Blitz for Where Song Replaces Silence by Layla Dorine

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Title: Where Song Replaces Silence

Author: Layla Dorine

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: April 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, abduction, anger, Brownies, faeries, gay, hurt/comfort, mythical creatures, nymphs

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Synopsis

Raze halts his midnight joy ride to give chase to twinkling lights that appear in the road before him and then lead him deep into a forest, where he falls into another world. There, magic is real, wishes are granted, and no one is considered odd or out of place.

Raze has never fit in anywhere in his own world and uses his angry attitude to keep others at bay and mask his anxieties and fears in this new place. A dangerous combination in Loas, where rudeness is frowned upon and foul language can land him in a dungeon.

Rurin, an inhabitant of Loas, tries to teach Raze about their world, its magic and its residents, but he faces Raze’s stubborn resistance at every turn. Bitter about his past, pessimistic about his future, Raze sees what could be, but he struggles to accept it. In the meantime, his encounters with the Fae range from hostile sarcasm to potential danger. While he attempts to keep the promises he’s made to Rurin and follow the rules laid out for him, Raze grows more and more curious about the place where he’s landed. It’s too bad he keeps making poor choices.

As the connection between them grows, Rurin works to keep Raze from being banished, but Raze may be cast out of the Loas before he has the opportunity to discover the true reason he was led there in the first place.

Excerpt

Where Song Replaces Silence
Layla Dorine © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Heavy, the steady thud, thud, thud of the base rocked the back windows, and poured from the open driver’s side where the scent of rain flowed freely, mist lightly splashing on Raze’s face. “Four Rusted Horses” blared from a radio cranked so high the rain-covered glass vibrated with the force of the speakers’ efforts.

Thud, thud, thud, “forbidden…” Raze growled along, more snarl than song. Thud, thud, thud, “heaven…” Every word committed to memory. Thud, thud, thud, “useless…” Despite the slickness of the road, he drove with just two fingers, his free hand tapping out a beat on the shifter. Thud, thud, thud, “hell…” Glowing red numbers on the dash flipped from 2:59 to 3:00, the witching hour, the night so dark the headlights struggled to pierce the dim and fog.

The old Charger’s purr was a gospel choir of spark plugs and gears. His steel and chrome baby was the only thing in life Raze worked hard to care for. Some might even say he worshipped her power and speed, stroked her like a lover, and spent more than one night curled against the supple leather of her seats. He called her Rhea, after Saturn’s second largest moon. As a kid, he’d had a collection of beautiful photos of the ringed planet.

For most, this might have been motivation to aim high, study astrophysics or astronomy, anything that might put them closer to the cosmos. Not Raze. If he was behind the wheel, space and time were irrelevant; the world shrank, melted, and faded away. The song reached its crescendo, and he drummed along, eyes half closed as he pressed harder on the gas, felt the wind snarl and tug at his hair—sharp, like cold teeth. Tensing, he belted out the final verse, barely keeping Rhea on the road.

Exhilaration warred with exhaustion, the miles piling up for hours. A quick glance at the dash showed the gas tank was drifting below a fourth, dangerous territory when he had no clue where to find the nearest station. Common sense said he should have stopped at the last place he saw, but the rebel flags in the window made him wary. He’d always had a tough time understanding how people could hate someone so absolutely over something as simple as the color of their skin.

His own varied, based on how much time he spent in the sun. Most days, his skin glowed like the beach at sunrise, the sand shimmering a glowing golden hue. In the summer, though, his skin grew three shades darker, and if he wasn’t careful, a crop of freckles would appear splattered across his nose. He hated them as much as he hated the odd, three-toned hues of his hair, and how, no matter how many times he dyed the messy mane, he could never quite get his locks to turn out one color.

The long strands needed another treatment, the rich reds were like blood and rubies, or at least, that’s how a multitude of people had described the color over the years. A few, being kind, had likened the shade to fall leaves or a sunset, but kindness hadn’t been a common occurrence growing up. His so-called oddities had always made others uncomfortable. Funny, but ever since he’d learned the meaning of normal the idea had freaked the hell outta him. One of the many reasons he was still drifting.

Shit!

Slamming on the brakes, he jerked the wheel, sending Rhea spinning through the dancing green-gold figure appearing out of nowhere, swathed in a halo of lights. Somehow, despite the rows of waving trees, he got Rhea stopped without clipping one. His throat hurt, and his chest was pounding, lungs heaving as he sucked in air. Breathing and trying to relax the death grip on the wheel at the same time was a struggle. His fingers ached. Stiff and cramping, they refused to cooperate, no matter how hard he focused. Shaking, he collapsed against the wheel, the weight of his body sounding the horn, the echo a forlorn cry above the howling wind.

Shit shit shit shit shit

The only word he could formulate, shit, a mantra, running through his brain. There hadn’t been a thud. He hadn’t felt one, hadn’t heard one, meaning he’d missed them, right?

He didn’t want to look, but he knew he had to. Maybe they’d tripped, fallen, dived out of the way, rolled. They could be hurt, but not as bad as if he’d struck them with nearly two tons of metal. Swallowing, he told himself to man up, jerked his fingers free of their grip on the wheel, and sucked in a deep breath as he fumbled in the darkness for his phone. Three bars. Good, he could get them help if they needed it.

He fumbled with the door, got it open on the second try, and practically fell getting out, his body rebelling with every movement. For a moment, he stood in darkness, disoriented as he tried to figure out which direction he’d been coming from. When he spotted the twinkling green lights over the road, he blinked and stumble staggered toward the glowing apparition, watching the fragments of gold swirl and take shape, hovering, the form human, but not.

The fuck?

About fifty feet away, he could hear laughter, a mocking, teasing jangle of bell-like notes.

“You missed me, you missed me.”

Huh?

Squinting, he struggled to assess the situation, even as the words continued.

“Now you gotta kiss me.”

Oh, hell no. Either he was hallucinating, or he’d smacked his head on something. Either way, he was gonna wake up in a few minutes to darkness, a whining engine, and a pounding headache even the best painkillers wouldn’t cure.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, he pressed his fingertips against his temples, counting to ten, but the laughter and singsong words continued.

“You think this is funny!” he roared, hands dropping to his sides, fingers curling into fists. He took a step forward and then another. “You could have gotten me killed; you could have fucked up my car; how fuckin’ stupid do you have to be, playing games out here in the middle of nowhere! Do you get off on fucking with people, huh? I swear to god, if there is a fuckin’ piston outta place in Rhea, you’re gonna pay to have her fixed.”

The laughter grew, even as he stalked the light. Only when he was within grasping range did it turn and flee toward the forest, glancing back every now and again to taunt him more.

“You can run, run, run, but when you’re done, you will never catch me.”

“Oh, you better believe Imma catch you, and when I do, Imma beat the sparkle offa you!” he screamed, crashing through the underbrush after it. It occurred to him, as he slipped and floundered, like as not, he was chasing swamp gas or some fucked-up idea of a joke involving holograms and projectors. They were probably sitting in a tree laughing at his stupidity. Didn’t stop him from continuing to give chase.

Tripping, he landed facedown in prickly brambles.

“FUCK! FUCK! FUCK!”

Yowling, he carefully tried to detangle himself while the laughter continued to grate on his nerves.

“Clumsy, aren’t we? My, my, my, that’s a very fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

“Me? You’re the one who led me into this crap.”

“If you’d been faster, or smarter, perhaps you’d have used your wings, instead of stumbling around like a blind Alp-luachra searching for its next joint.”

“Wish I was sitting somewhere warm and dry smokin’ a joint right about now,” he grumbled beneath his breath, even as the sparkling flake of glittery light continued to cackle, twinkling like a firefly with every high-pitched note.

“Ah, but your wishes matter little to me. I lack the ability to grant them, and even if I could, I wouldn’t, until we’ve finished our game, though you are a poor, poor chaser. Perhaps you would be a better seeker. Shall I hide and see if you can find me?”

“Please don’t; actually, no, wait; please do. Yeah, that’s brilliant. You go hide, and I’ll come find you…in a century or two.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Layla Dorine lives among the sprawling prairies of Midwestern America, in a house with more cats than people. She loves hiking, fishing, swimming, martial arts, camping out, photography, cooking, and dabbling with several artistic mediums. In addition, she loves to travel and visit museums, historic, and haunted places.

Layla got hooked on writing as a child, starting with poetry and then branching out, and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Hard times, troubled times, the lives of her characters are never easy, but then what life is? The story is in the struggle, the journey, the triumphs and the falls. She writes about artists, musicians, loners, drifters, dreamers, hippies, bikers, truckers, hunters and all the other folks that she’s met and fallen in love with over the years. Sometimes she writes urban romance and sometimes its aliens crash landing near a roadside bar. When she isn’t writing, or wandering somewhere outdoors, she can often be found

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If You Love Fantasy Check Out the Release Blitz for A Love Like Fire by Tricia Owens (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title:  A Love Like Fire

Author: Tricia Owens

Publisher:  Self-Published

Cover Artist: Tricia Owens

Genre/s: Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating:  4 flames

Length: 50 000 words

This is a re-written, re-edited version of the title, The Sorcerer’s Betrayal.

Release Date: March 14, 2019

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Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

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Amazon UK 

Blurb

When the mercenary Caledon meets a young man named Hadrian, he falls instantly, hopelessly in love with him. Black-haired and silver-eyed, Hadrian is unlike any man Caledon has seen before. His uncertain responses to Caledon’s advances only make the mercenary more determined to pursue and win him.

But Hadrian is a mystery, and harbors untold secrets. He hails from an island inhabited by sorcerers and has come to Caledon’s city to recruit the mercenaries for a well-paying job offered by Hadrian’s father. Except the job is a lie. Hadrian is far more dangerous than his disposition suggests, and what he wants with Caledon and the mercenaries of Rhiad will forever change the land and set in motion a prophecy that will bind two men together in love, lust, and hatred…until death.

A previous version of this book was published as The Sorcerer’s Betrayal. This book has been re-written and re-edited.

Excerpt

He could see now that he had erred when he had first tried to label Hadrian.

Caledon had been fascinated by the other man’s apparent inexperience and naiveté. But the truth seemed more incredible. Hadrian was untouched―untouched by affection, untouched by desire. How this had come to be, Caledon couldn’t imagine. But he knew it to be true. He felt it in his bones.

Nothing else could explain why Hadrian literally melted beneath his caresses. Every touch Caledon made upon the younger man’s skin left Hadrian trembling and breathless. Why has no one done this before me? Caledon wondered as he eased open the stall door with his free arm wrapped firmly about Hadrian’s back.

He should simply be grateful that it was he who had been the one to find Hadrian first. That was what his self-serving side told him. But a deeper, more empathetic part of him was saddened by the discovery. Everyone deserved the comforts of touch, of affection. Why hadn’t anyone offered those things to Hadrian?

Caledon’s body urged him to ignore the mystery. He wasn’t trying to develop a permanent relationship with the other man. Hadrian would be gone in a few days. This would be but an interlude for them both.

Even so, Caledon vowed to make it something worth remembering.

About the Author

Tricia Owens has been writing m/m fiction since 2000, after stumbling onto the term ‘slash’ and thinking it referred to horror stories. She is the author of the Sin City, A Pirate’s Life for Me, and Juxtapose City series, among several others. She lives in Las Vegas.

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Love Fantasy Fiction? Check out the Release Blitz for Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1) by Isobel Starling (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title:  Apple Boy (The Quiet Work #1)

Author: Isobel Starling

Publisher: Decent Fellows Press

Cover Artist: Valentine Pascadian (Lennel)

Genre/s:  Fantasy, M/M Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length:103 600 words/ 556 pages

Release Date:  February 15, 2019

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Blurb

After a traumatic event, Winter Aeling finds himself destitute and penniless in the backwater town of Mallowick.  He needs to travel to the city of Serein and impart grave news that will bring war to the Empire, but without a horse, money, and with not a soul willing to help him, he has no choice but to line up with the common folk seeking paid work on the harvest.  

As wagons roll into the market square and farmers choose day laborers, Winter is singled out for abuse by a brute of a farmer.  The only man who stands up for him is the farmer’s beguiling son, Adam, and on locking eyes with the swarthy young man Winter feels the immediate spark of attraction.

Winter soon realizes there is a reason he has been drawn to Blackdown Farm.  The farmer possesses a precious item that was stolen long ago from Winter’s family, and he determines to retrieve it.  He also cannot take his eyes off the farmer’s son, and as the young man opens up Winter can’t help wondering if Adam is just kind or his kind!

Excerpt

“Apple Boy” by Isobel Starling

CHAPTER 1

MARKET SQUARE

“You boy, aye, YOU.  Ain’t never seen ye round ‘ere before,” The farmer directed his bellow at me.  

It was sunrise, and at last, I’d found the courage to step out of my hiding place and join the common laborers who gathered in Mallowick market square.  We were waiting for the farmers’ carts to come by and choose their day workers.  I’d watched this ritual each morning for the past three days, peeking out from shadowed doorways, or while crouching behind barrels.  

It was harvest time, and it appeared to be routine for peasants to walk from the surrounding hamlets before dawn and assemble in the square to seek work on the farms.  There was wheat, barley, root vegetables, and tree fruits to be gathered before the weather turned. I was informed by a ruddy looking fellow in the tavern that anyone could get work on the harvest, and so, with my pride cut to ribbons and my pockets empty, I’d stepped out of the safety of my hiding place and joined the commoners.

“Does ye wants work or no’?  Look at me when I’m talkin’ to ye.  What’s yer name?” The burley farmer roared.  I looked up, stunned to be singled out from among all of these strapping men and hardy looking women, for I felt invisible.  Four carts had already passed and taken their pick of the young, strong peasants, but none of those farmers gave me a second glance.  I should have known something was afoot, for when this particular wagon turned up the women in the square shrank back into doorways, and men sidled away to lean against buildings.  On the side of the wagon, writ-large in bold off-white letters were the words BLACKDOWN FARM. There were around thirty of us left on view, like cattle.

I had never partaken in manual labor or any kind of work before.  I was a gentleman and far more familiar with spending my days relaxing, reading, attending social events in the city, or taking a horse for a gallop in the country.  But my life had changed since I’d become stranded here in the Pasturelands provincial town of Mallowick two weeks earlier.  Now I was living on my wits.  Each day was a fight for my life, and I’d sold all of my fine belongings, intending to pay for passage on the stagecoach from Mallowick to the city of Serein.  But I had not thought things through, and it did not happen that way.  My body’s needs took precedent. I’d become so ravenous, and therefore the meager coin I’d gathered from selling my finery was spent on what I could afford—basic rough barley bread and ale, just enough to stave off the gnawing pangs of hunger in my belly each day.  Now, I had no belongings, and the money was all but gone. I was no thief, and the only thing I had left to sell was my body. Looking like a wretch, I did not believe I could earn even a copper that way! Before I left on my travels, I was warned that the province of Erias had strict rules about men bedding other men and I did not want to tempt fate.  I was at a loss—hard labor or starvation were the only choices available to me. Gods, if my father could see how far I’d fallen in such a short time, he would be thoroughly ashamed.  I was living hand-to-mouth, and if I dared to seek out my reflection and observe my disreputable state of dress, I was sure I would see I was no longer a gentleman at all.

I assured myself that all would be well as soon as I could get to the city of Serein.  There I would attend my father’s depository and obtain funds from his account—as had been arranged, and then, I could find my way to my uncle’s residence and attend to a much grimmer business.  

So, with no other choice, I was here, standing in Mallowick market square with a bunch of rough-looking fellows and ruddy-faced women with just the ragged clothes I stood in to my name.  I wondered if my visage had taken on the same gaunt, starved, haunted look some of them wore.

“WELL?”  The farmer roared.

“Leave him be Pa; I think he’s a mute.  P… p… please don’t—” A swarthy young man urged, stepping to the farmers’ side.  The man appeared to be in his early twenties, with broad angular shoulders, slim hips, and wavy jaw-length hair that longingly reminded me of Montestein tea.  When the morning sunlight broke through the clouds and caressed him, the strands of his hair revealed all the shades of autumn.  It was beautiful.  His eyes were bright emerald green, and his skin bore the wind-burned tan of a man who spent his days working the land.  I met his gaze for a second that seemed to stop time, and I felt a flutter of longing erupt in my gut. I found myself mesmerized by him.  He appeared a little embarrassed, for himself or for me, I wasn’t quite sure. The farmer turned to his son.

“Shut that filthy mouth o’ yours, apple boy!” he spat.  His large meaty hands twitched.  He sneered and glared at his son in such a wicked way I knew it should have been followed up by a sharp slap.  I worried that the young man would endure further public humiliation at the hands of his father, but the farmer moved his disdainful glare back to me.  I shuddered with fear. I had a feeling that he was saving his son’s punishment for later—away from the prying eyes of the townsfolk. I did not like that thought, not one bit.  I did not know why the farmer was drawn to me, but he sized me up with a sweeping glance of consideration, then wrinkled his nose as if he’d sniffed a revolting stench—I hadn’t bathed in two weeks, so maybe I did smell a tad ripe!

“Is ye a mute?”

I shook my head.  I would say, if anything, I was deeply traumatized by the unfortunate circumstance I’d found myself in, but no, I was certainly not a mute.  I just wasn’t used to a lowly man speaking to me so roughly. Generally, men who dared to address me knew their betters and behaved appropriately.  But here in Mallowick, in the province of Erias, I was no better than a beggar on the street.  There was no one I could call on for favors, no one who, on hearing my family name, would loan me coin for the stagecoach or a horse to ride to the city and send word to my father.  

When I’d first arrived in Mallowick, telling the truth of my station had gotten me dragged down an alley where my finger and earrings were stolen, and I’d received a beating.  This farmer from Blackdown Farm had no idea who I was, and I would not make the same mistake again.

I took a breath and stepped out of line.  “Master Irwin Harding, sir. You may call me Win.”  I winced at hearing my own soft, well-spoken voice, with my accent, the clipped tongue of Thorn.  I had not used my real name and wished I had not used my true voice either.  The fact that I was the son of the Duke of Thorn meant nothing here.  Thorn was west of Erias, on the other side of the Silua Montis Mountain range, and I doubted any of these illiterate souls in Mallowick knew anything other than that folklore passed around by storytellers.

The farmer stepped to stand in front of me.  He was a big, bulky bastard of a man and stank of stale sweat and baccy.  He had a grizzled podgy face and thick dark hair shot with strands of silver pulled into an untidy tail.  The tension grew between us, and I worried I’d spoken out of turn. I looked down and watched my bare, filthy feet as if they held endless fascination.  I’d seen men like him before. He had hands like shovels, and I’m sure they’d done damage in their time. My father would have used a man like him well, probably as muscle to intimidate the city folk while the Royal Chancellor did the rounds collecting taxes.  

Afraid and sweating with anxiety, I glanced up and away, unable to look at the farmer directly and meet his fierce piggy eyes.  Instead, I looked left and caught the eye of his son. I felt another flutter of attraction. I was grateful for it because it dampened my fear a little.  The glance the farmers’ son sent me back was sheepish, apologetic. He shrugged and put a finger to his lips, signaling for me to hush. I’m sure now he knew what was coming.

Master, is it?”  The farmer gave a raspy malevolent chuckle.  “Well, well, well aren’t ye an uppity little scrote.  Such a pretty voice an’ all. Have your balls dropped yet, lad?”  

The townsmen men standing around me shuffled on their feet and snickered uncomfortably.  I could tell from the tentative laughter they were afraid of this man too. My chest tightened with fury, and I felt the flare of heat rush to color my cheeks.  If in Thorn I would have put this fellow in his place, but as directed by the farmers’ handsome son, I held my tongue.  

I dared to look up as the farmer scratched his grizzled chin and consider me.  It was then I saw it. A chill iced my bones. On his chubby right index finger, he wore a gold ring set with a large red gemstone that I was aghast to see held the intaglio engraving of a rose thorn—my family’s seal.  How had this disgusting Pasturelands farmer come upon my family’s ring?  Anger curdled my gut, but I forced myself to focus and fixed my features so as not to alert the man to what I was looking at.  That ring was more precious than I could say. It was not set with any common gemstone, oh no, the setting was Star-fall.  The legend was that mortal tools could not cut the rich-red Star-fall stone.  The gemstone was shaped by sorcery, and the power that carved into the gem was stored inside it as if the Star-fall was a reservoir for the magic.  It was illegal for any other than the Twin Kings of Osia to own Star-fall.  The king’s men had scoured the Empire to remove all traces of the priceless gem from common and aristocratic hands and possessing it was a death sentence.  Did this ruffian have any idea what he wore?

Not getting a rise from me, the farmer stepped yet closer and found out for himself if my balls had dropped.  He reached for my privates and squeezed.

Ahh, ye got some big stones de’re al’right, boy,” he said with a filthy sneer.

“Done any labourin’ before, lad?”  My eyes watered.  I shook my head and winced as the pressure on my most sensitive parts rose.  I wanted to shout and push him away, punch him in that bristly pug face. I’d trained in hand-to-hand combat and swordplay, but that was of little use to me now that I had no sword and was cast as naught but a commoner myself.  I stood frozen to the spot with fear, my cock, and balls in the hand of this brutish man. I was sure that clutching my nethers was not the best way to test if I would be a good apple picker.  

The farmer let go, stepped back, and looked me over again like he was sizing up a prize pig.  I wanted to keel over, hold my sensitive parts and howl, but, with my eyes watering, I kept my back ramrod straight and looked past the farmer, using his son’s regretful, pretty green eyes as my focus.  

I appeared to be a boy, but I am nineteen and about to make my majority.  I have a tall, willowy frame, and little muscle to show for my near twenty summers.  Weeks before, I was clothed in the silken garb of a lordling, but all I wore now were my stinky silk britches and a once-white linen shirt.  I’d even had to sell my fine leather boots. My flaxen hair hung loosely to my shoulders and was bedraggled. My mother had always told me my hair shone like a golden halo.  I guessed that was no longer the case. I had not seen my reflection in two weeks so I could only imagine how frightful I appeared to onlookers. My circumstance was terrible, but I refused to let it defeat me.  I was a son of Thorn, I was a gentleman, damn it, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to do to find my way to my destination and seek justice for all the ill-luck that had befallen me.  

“Right, scrote, up on the wagon,” the farmer declared.  “We can always do wit a few extra scurrier’s fer the windfalls.”

I had no idea what that actually meant, but strangely relieved to be selected, I nodded subserviently and then, ducking my head to avoid the farmers’ glare, I scurried to the wagon where I surreptitiously gave my aching intimate parts a gentle rub.  

I’d heard from a fellow in the tavern that harvesting wheat at Robinswood Farm was backbreaking, as was digging root vegetables at Windy Oakes Farm.  He advised that apple picking was easy work and if I could get employment at Weatherby’s or Blackdown Farm, they paid good coin.  He said the mistress at Blackdown was particularly well-liked and always gave laborers a bread and cheese luncheon with last season’s cider.  I was so hungry that bread and cheese sounded like a banquet. The fellow had neglected to tell me that the farmer was a brute!

The farmers’ son met me by the wagon and offered to help me aboard.  For a moment, from the look of consideration in his eyes, I thought he could see past the disheveled state of me to the gentleman I’d once been.  But that was ridiculous. The farmers’ son hopped up onto the back of the wagon with dexterous athleticism, and then offered me his hands. I took them without a thought.  His warm touch and the strength in those work-roughened fingers twisted my gut into uncomfortable knots. He fixed my gaze as he gripped both of my hands and tugged me up as easily as if he were lifting feather down.  He pulled me closed and pressed me to his hard chest.

“Don’t back chat him or it’ll be the worst fer you,” he whispered the warning to my ear.  Alarmed, I eased back from him and cautiously met his eye for a split second. In the look he gave me I saw that the warning was well-meant.  Bewildered, I nodded in thanks and understanding. I had no idea why this stranger was looking out for me, but the fact he was warmed my heart.  I choked back a tear. No one had looked out for me over these past weeks, and I had been so terribly lonely. I’d learned some hard life lessons on this leg of my journey, and I’d come to understand that here my title was irrelevant, and without money I was suddenly invisible; therefore small kindnesses meant more than I could say.

My adventure into the provinces had been made to appease my father for my supposed ‘lack of direction.’  I’d become bored with my easy life in Thorn, and not intending to marry; I’d told my father that in-light of my upcoming twentieth Bloomsday I wanted to tour the Empire.  If I were to one-day become Duke of Thorn, I needed to know a little of the politics of each province and so, pleased with my initiative and happy to be rid of me for a while, he’d set me on my way.  I’d toured the provinces of Terria, Corvay, and Reuss and then continued to the province of Osia, spending time in the capital city Altea, at the court of the Twin Kings, Kristoff, and Fabian Von Harte.  With this journey to Erias, I was to have the full set of provinces under my belt.  But fate was not on my side.

On benches affixed to either side of the farmers’ wagon sat fourteen men morosely staring at their bare, filthy feet, not a word of chatter between them.  They each owned a small pack of belongings and a wrapped blanket that each had stowed beneath the bench. At this moment they were better-off than me, for I did not even have a blanket to my name.  There was space for me and five more, totaling twenty men. The farmer chose from the remaining laborers with less consideration than I had been afforded.

“Right…  I’ll take Allin, Jed, Arthur, Bartram, and Matty, that’ll do me fer the week,” he hollered decisively.

The week?  I thought I’d promised myself for a hard day’s labor?  But then again, I considered the harvesters who were sitting in the wagon, and yes, they appeared to have prepared for an overnight stay.  Confused, I sat down as the other laborers were pulled up onto the wagon by their comrades, and then we shuffled along the benches until we were all seated.  I noticed the shoulders of the remaining men in the market square sag a little in apparent relief as if some mighty weight had lifted from them. I didn’t understand it.  I thought they’d wanted to work?

The farmers’ son clambered over into the front of the wagon.  His father climbed on, the man’s bulk shaking the timbers of the rickety wagon as he settled on the bench beside him.  The son handed his father the ribbons, which the farmer greedily snatched up, and then with a fearsome bellow of “Geddup” and a thunderous whip crack, the large mottled grey workhorse began its cumbersome trot down the main street and onto the dusty road to Blackdown Farm.

About the Author

Isobel Starling spent most of her twenty-year professional career making art in Ireland.  She relocated to the UK and, faced with the dreaded artist’s creative block, Isobel started to write and found she loved writing more than making art.

Isobel is currently working on her nineteenth book.  

“As You Wish” (Shatterproof Bond#1) narrated by Gary Furlong won the Audiobook Reviewer Award for Romance 2018.  It is the first M/M Romance audiobook to win a mainstream audiobook award.

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New Release Blitz for Foreign to You by Jeremy Martin (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Foreign to You

Author: Jeremy Martin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 11, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83900

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Young adult, fantasy, shifters, hunter, stag, forest, reincarnation

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Synopsis

The harmony between humans and fianna, a species of shapeshifting deer, begins to wither as racial tensions and deeply rooted resentment turns violent.

Ruthless hunter Finn Hail and prophesied liberator Adelaide may be heroes to their own species, but they are enemies to each other. With war on the horizon, the reluctant pair must team up to find the most elusive of prey: the god of the Forest.

As enemies press in from all sides, true intentions begin to show. For Finn to save the boy he cares for most, he might need to aim his gun at the very god he seeks. And Adelaide, with her festering hatred for mankind, will have to determine if peace holds true salvation for her people.

Excerpt

Foreign to You
Jeremy Martin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

It is strange to sit in the Forest with a rifle, bullets, and the intention to kill. The Forest is meant to be a place of harmony, where the order of things is meticulous, spontaneous, and beautiful.

I am a blemish in an otherwise blissful system.

My only justification for upsetting said balance is that I am here, with a gun, to silence another disturbance.

“To the right,” Jay whispers, his words turning into clouds similar to a furnace expelling smoke. His voice is so soft the branches seem to lean downward greedily, as if the leaves could catch each of his words like raindrops. With the meek backdrop of the Forest, Jay’s features are highlighted and prominent. His sturdy jaw, light stubble, and bright eyes were all a combination of classic handsome.

I, on the other hand, am classically average. Brown hair, dull eyes, and a nose that’s a little too big.

After waiting in the same spot an unholy amount of time, my body had sunk deeper in Pa’s musky leather jacket while my muscles and thoughts had stiffened from neglect. The slightest stirring from Jay startles me out of my daydreaming and from my cocoon of warmth. Unlike me in the present moment, Jay’s attention and energy are crisp and alert while his entire body leans forward in anticipation.

“Do you see him?” Jay murmurs with thinly veiled anxiety. He scrambles for his rifle with shaky fingers, brings the scope up to gaze through. I blame the cold, or my own fleeting concentration, but I cannot see what he does. The only abnormalities I see in the surrounding Forest are the slabs of meat Jay strung up on the branches like decorations to attract the ferals.

With a huff of frustration, he angles my line of sight with his rough fingers, squishing my cheeks, and gripping my head. Within an instant of the contact of his skin on mine, my mind sharpens.

Allowing my gaze to soften so I can absorb more of my surroundings, I finally see the tiniest of movements. A flash of white that doesn’t belong to the never-ending bark. A drifting smudge in the sea of stillness. Yet, the Forest is so dense the leaves tend to bunch together like armor, protecting its inhabitants from invaders. Between one blink and the next, the Forest returns to its previous state. Not a twig out of place. Nothing exposed.

“Found ya,” Jay says, his voice trembling. I study his nervous movements. Gloved fingers twitching individually. Teeth tugging at his bottom lip. Chest barely rising and falling as he forgets to breathe. For he has the skills of a great hunter, but not the heart for it. Jay was the boy who once found a rabbit with a broken leg and attempted to nurse it back to health. He was the same boy that cried for four days after his father snapped the creature’s neck to put it out of its misery.

I’m not good at vocalizing emotions, making them into pretty little words, which is a genetic trait from Pa. All I can tell Jay is, “Stay calm,” and that doesn’t sound like near enough. I wish I could tell him that we should head back to town, that he deserved much more than loud rifles and dirt.

But I don’t say those things.

I move past him, my boots squishing in the mixture of mud and snow. Each step is heavier than it needs to be, and my impatience starts to hum within my ears with each squish, squish. As I stalk, I strain to find the distortion of the brown that slipped away.

“It was probably a raccoon,” I tell Jay, despite knowing we are meant to be silent. Loud hunters gain no prizes. “I bet you got caught—”

A snort comes from my right, and as I turn, I find a beast stationed between two oak trees.

Its massive frame looms before me with red-rimmed eyes, thick and building black veins, patchy fur, and teeth bared. My eyes soak up every inch of the deer, my heart hammering in time with his exhales. From this distance, the beast is nearly magnificent, practically the size of a horse. His nostrils flare as he paws at the ground, catching all wayward smells while each muscle twitches and throbs. Unlike his cousins, this stag does not flee at the sight of a human. Instead, he lowers his brow defiantly, his antlers posed daggers.

It is an unholy combination of god and devil.

A loud crack fires off behind me, and before I can even blink, the bark of the nearest oak shatters into a thousand shards.

With fear leading it, the stag rears back onto his hind legs and lashes out with hooves strong enough to break bones. I attempt to leap backward, but my boots do not leave the mud willingly. As I fall onto the ground, my rifle skids across the Forest floor. I scramble for the dagger stored at my hip, but my gloves make the hilt as slick as a trout. As the stag brings down the weight of its body with an aggravated snort, I roll to my side so that the hooves bury themselves into muck, not flesh. I manage to free my knife and drag it across the beast’s torso before I make a dash for safety.

The buck, alarmed by the sudden pain, moves his eyes frantically, rolling them around his skull and exposing the whites. Its scream, a noise rivaling that of a horn being blown, attacks me even from a distance.

Another gunshot fires off too close, missing once more. As mud rains down from the misfire, the stag flees, taking blood and the stench of rot with it deep into the lush green.

Crawling out from the bush I dove into, I can hear Jay abandoning his usual stealth to reach me. His right boot slips in the slush as he nears me, causing him to crash down beside me. “Shit, Finn. Are you okay?” His hand creeps near my knee before stopping inches from it. “I thought—”

“What even was that?” I snap, pointing at the crude hole in the ground. Instantly, Jay’s cheeks flare red, his face hardening defensively. “You were aiming for it, right?” Jay is deadly silent. I work my jaw, hoping to alleviate the ringing still echoing in my eardrums.

Jay curls his fingers into fists. “Next time would you rather I let you go? You seemed to be handling it well,” he bites back with sarcasm.

At the lodge, Jay will find any reason not to pick up a gun. Instead, he studies the plants, tinkers with complex traps, and vanishes like a frightened barn cat at the sound of a rifle exploding. I shouldn’t be surprised he’s an awful shot, considering his lack of practice.

“Well, I’m alive,” I tell him, wanting more than anything to be on the move again, and to distance myself from the anger that quickly rose to the top. “But maybe leave the guns to me?”

After a quick smile, Jay squares his shoulders and flexes his hands as the facade of a hunter starts to settle back over him. As the best parts of him get stuffed away. “I’ll find him again,” he promises, and I have no doubt that he will. It’s often teased that Jay has a nose more acute than a hound. He carries a rifle for formalities, but his talents lie within his knowledge of the land. Animal droppings, tracks, and broken twigs are all parts of Jay’s trade. It’s what makes him valuable to a band of killers. “We are losing daylight,” he points out. “And we’re approaching Falling Rock.”

Are we that far out? I think, dazed. With Jay, time isn’t something I usually keep up on. When we were young, I would battle fatigue for one more hour with him.

I scratch at my neckline where sweat starts to bead. “Well, I left you a blood trail, so my portion of help is exhausted.” I let the edges of my lips rise, and Jay accepts it with a nod. This is how comrades treat one another.

Right?

Jay rises, body hunched close to the ground as he follows the red through the bushes.

Once upon a time, back when it became evident a gun only felt natural in one of our grips, Jay tried teaching me the art of tracking, taking great pride in his skill. But at that age, when I was young and full of pride, I pretended it didn’t interest me. Eventually, after I’d declined his guiding hand enough many times, Jay stopped trying to explain his methods to me.

Today, Jay is further removed, his words shorter than usual. The same tension sparking between us with the simplest of blunders, or the slightest of nods, because this is the first time Jay is tracking a feral.

The first time I have been tasked with killing a feral.

This feral is a rarity. The majority of the ferals stay in the Forest, killing what crosses their paths. Yet, this particular beast had entered human territory, killing a farmer and his wife before peeling back into the trees. It makes our mission important. It is more than just killing.

It is justice.

After a rough mile of trekking over minor cliffs and rocky outposts, Jay brings me to a halt with a snap of his wrist. As he shrinks down, I mimic him. Pointing at the snow, he shows me a large divot in the otherwise perfect layer of white. I don’t need to be a tracker to know the buck must have slipped on ice, crashing into the remaining snow and splashing against the fluff like a sponge full of red paint.

I pop two bullets into my rifle, check the safety, and snap the chambers shut. Slinging the gun onto my back, I notice that Jay’s eyes barely leave the blood, lost in the color. Doubt is starting to build upon his shoulders, gnawing at his edges.

“Are you ready?” I ask. He doesn’t know it, but the same uneasiness lines my stomach.

“We’ve come this far,” he tells me. He takes a bold step forward, and I can do nothing but follow. Despite the ground dropping away into a steep slope, it is clear the feral struggled up the side of the mountain.

Jay begins climbing first, taking fistfuls of roots and rocks, to propel himself along. As we move, the blood remains consistent on our right. Before long, Jay crawls over the top of the outpost, disappearing for a moment before reappearing to hoist me up. Once we are on even ground, I want to thank him, crack a joke, or anything, but my words are swallowed up as I look over Jay’s shoulder and across the plateau.

I follow red snow until I find the once four-legged stag wobbling on two legs, erect for a breath before plummeting onto his knees. There is blood all over his body, tainting his skin like a rampant infection. Even from here, I can see his muscles quivering and shaking, his body burning off the gentle flakes that land on his shoulders.

His frail human shoulders.

Every part of him seems at war as he spasms and writhes. Despite the fur drifting off his body in decaying clumps, his antlers still hang from his brow, holding steady in the air with crimson stains along the tines.

I snap my rifle in front of me.

When the stag turns to me, he tries to raise his hands. Hands that should be human but are jagged and blackened. A droplet of blood creeps from his eye and down his cheek and drips onto his bare leg.

It is clear he is suffering, caught between two bodies.

I hear him mumbling, but I can’t make out the individual words. Despite my head screaming, don’t get any closer, you idiot, I find my boots propelling me forward. As I near the fiend, his voice breaks like a young boy in puberty. “Begin again,” he raves. “Begin again, begin again—” he lets out a tangle of screams, his claws tearing into his cheeks. “Pain, pain, rebirth.”

“Finn,” Jay says, grabbing my shoulder with his giant hands, startling me from my daze. “It might not be too late. We might be able to help him.”

“He is sick,” I say. I stare at a point behind the beast, letting my words flood me with false confidence. “He is just an animal.” It is Pa logic. Town logic.

“Wait, Finn,” Jay pleads. None of the other hunters would hesitate to kill the feral, I want to tell him. Not after the feral’s hands were stained with blood. Blood from Norsewood.

“He’s changing—”

“It’s too late for that,” I tell him sternly. “He has already done enough damage.”

Jay looks away, squinting into the distance. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

Killing never feels right, I want to tell him. But in the seconds I take my eyes off him, the feral lunges at me, fangs angled at my throat.

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Meet the Author

Jeremy Martin, born and raised in Lancaster County Pennsylvania, considers himself to be a part-time writer and a full-time mess. If he isn’t nose-deep in a book, he’s obsessively playing video games, re-watching The Office for the umpteenth time, or lost in nature. Foreign to You is his debut novel.

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New Release Blitz for The Fairy Pond by Jason Black

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Title: The Fairy Pond

Author: Jason Black

Publisher: Self-pub

Release Date: 12/19/2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 29 pages

Genre: Fantasy, Horror, historical

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Synopsis

Nevan lives a simple life. He works hard in the fields with his brothers and his grandpa, and adores his mother wholeheartedly. He’s a good boy who usually stays out of trouble, but even when Grandpa warns him to stay away from the pond, he can’t help feeling curious about it…and the creatures that watch him whenever he’s near.

Excerpt

It had been a long day. Nevan had come out to the fields with lunch after helping with the home chores and stayed to work the rest of the day. He enjoyed this time alone with his grandfather. Each night they were the only ones who stayed awake for the ride home, Grandfather telling stories of times past while Nevan soaked it in like a sponge.

That evening, Grandfather was quiet, glancing around as if uneasy with the sounds of the coming night. Nevan turned to look out at the familiar shapes around them. In the distance, he saw the barn come into view and knew their destination wasn’t far beyond. As they finished rounding a grove of fruit trees, he could also see the small pond that sat next to the barn; home for geese, ducks, and fish. It also served as a cool respite on a warm summer day.

The lack of talk and the swaying of the wagon served to lull Nevan toward sleep. He let a shivering yawn pass his lips, his eyes again turning toward the pond. A splash, a movement. Nevan blinked, now fully awake, and squinted his eyes in disbelief.

“Grandpa?”

“Yeah, boy?” his grandfather answered in a hushed tone.

“There are people swimming in our pond!”

“T’ain’t no one out this late, boy. People be sleepin’.” Grandfather’s words had a finality to them that told Nevan not to argue.

Another splash and Nevan couldn’t hold his tongue.

“But… look!” His finger shot out toward the pond, now directly to the right of the wagon.

Nevan could clearly see the shapes of the figures in the water, even the gleam of eyes in the moonlight as they looked directly at them.

“Boy,” Grandfather said sternly, “Don’t look and don’t be talking about that no more.”

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Meet the Author

Jason Black lives in Texas with his partner and two roommates. He cooks. He writes. He’s an okay guy.

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Twitter – @J_HuffmanBlack

 

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On the New Release Tour with Valhalla by L.A. Ashton (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Valhalla

Author: L.A. Ashton

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 31, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 17900

Genre: Fantasy, Valkyrie, war, WWII, Norse Mythology, gay, historical fantasy

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Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

Valhalla
L.A. Ashton © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Sakuma stared down through the floor, past his feet, through the crack in his dimension. Beyond the collisions and splits of galaxies, Earth’s thrumming pulse called to him. There lay his charges—the human souls he would collect so they might rest easy in Valhalla.

He felt the tug in his chest, the pull of someone destined for his collection, and spread his wings wide before plunging through the rift that linked their worlds. With wings tucked at his sides, stars became burning streaks of light. The universe blurred and twisted, an orb of hazy blue its only clear constant.

Earth had erupted into a time of war, and Sakuma and his fellow Valkyrie labored for the sake of human souls. They saw the hidden crevices and shadows of war no one wanted to see. The world wilted before their eyes, and the bloodstained present turned the future bleak, and dark. But they also saw triumph, and sunrise after sunrise starting the day anew. They saw the look on every soldier’s face as they realized death wasn’t the end.

It was worth it.

Sakuma punctured Earth’s atmosphere, and the smells of the lands and seas gusted against his face. His eyes softened at the reflective sparkle of the ocean; it was a beautiful sight, an unchanging thing that rose and fell under the press of the moon rather than the press of humanity.

The ground approached fast. Sakuma felt the tremble of the soul before his eyes could discern who it belonged to, but then—yes. Sakuma’s wings flared outward, body halting so immediately it dissolved the idea of impossibility.

Tanks, empty bullet shells, and discarded guns were strewn across the ground. Machines and bodies littered the battlefield as if they carried the same value. The acrid stench of gunpowder resisted the wind and hung in the air, a trail left in the wake of Axis and Allies. Sakuma looked down at his charge. The man stared up at him, eyes wide and unblinking. He was bleeding, his uniform more crimson than not, and he shook with such ferocity that Sakuma could hear it in his breaths.

Sakuma knelt down and offered his hand. The man blinked, his lashes coercing loose the tears still clinging to his eyes.

“You’ve done well,” Sakuma told him. He held his outstretched hand steady as his wings flapped at his back. “Let’s take you away from this.”

The soldier gawked at Sakuma’s wings before bringing his eyes down to the offered palm. He immediately grabbed hold, the sensation firm and warm against Sakuma’s skin. Good. He’s ready.

Sakuma curled his fingers around the man’s hand and lifted. As the soldier rose, the flesh of his hand fell away and lowered to the ground. What was left gripping Sakuma’s hand were tendrils of light in the purest, lightest blue.

Strings of energy knit together to form fingers, and arms and shoulders wound away from the confines of a body to become iridescent limbs. Sparkling light ghosted from the soldier, lifting past his body as his human form sighed its last breath. The human didn’t notice the transition. He only smiled, and that smile was lit with the radiant energy of life. Sakuma grabbed his other hand to steady him, and there was a discernible purr of peace.

Sakuma spread his wings, took a breath, and shot them into the air.

He kept his eyes up as they sailed through the Earth’s sky and broke through the seal of the atmosphere. But once they were careening through space, breaking apart time and dimensions, he liked to watch their faces.

Every man thought he knew true beauty. And then every man saw the infinite expanse of space, and they realized they’d been wrong.

Gas, dust, and rock were turned perfect and ethereal in the silence of space, backlit by millions of stars. Galaxies wound into spirals, blues warmed into reds around a sun, purple and green congealed in overheated leftovers of a supernova.

Sakuma watched the faces of the humans he brought, their newly transcendent form experiencing their first taste of eternity.

Eventually, he left them at the gates of Valhalla. There they could take the seat reserved for them—a place promised to true warriors for the rest of time.

Hands now freed, Sakuma turned to gaze into the black. Somewhere beyond that void, there was a pulse. Another life had found a heroic end. Sakuma smiled, spread his wings, and plunged back toward Earth.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

L.A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams. They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap. Their official site can be found at http://www.LAAshton.com.

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Release Blitz – Hidden Depths (Mermen & Magic # 5) by L.M. Brown (excerpt)

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RELEASE BLITZ

Book Title: Hidden Depths (Mermen & Magic Book 5)

Author: L.M. Brown

Publisher: Pride Publishing

Cover Artist: Erin Dameron-Hill

Genre/s: Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, MMM Menage

Length: 79 500 words/237 pages

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Release Date: October 30, 2018

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Buy Links

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Amazon UNIVERSAL LINK 

Amazon US 

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Blurb

Lost beneath the ocean, Atlantis has become a myth. When it rises from the deep everything will change for Kyle, Finn and the merpeople.

Jake Seabrook, a human descendant of Medina, the Atlantean Goddess of Love, never asked for magical powers. Unfortunately, not only does he have them, but they are also growing stronger as more of the Atlantean gods wake from their long slumber.

When Jake develops the power to hear the thoughts of anyone thinking about love, lust or sex, it is strange and embarrassing, but also reveals cracks in his relationship with his mermen lovers, Kyle and Finn. If they are going to continue to live as a ménage, they will have to learn to be honest with each other.

With Jake’s powers out of control and their relationship on shaky ground, the last thing any of them need is a crisis in the sunken city.

The Atlantean gods want to regain the powers they lost when the Atlantean people were banished from the city, but the solution will leave the mer who live in the city no choice but to evacuate and search for a new home or risk exposing the existence of the mer to the whole world.

Kyle and Finn return to Atlantis to help with the evacuation and insure the safety of their families, but time is not on their side. When Atlantis rises, the consequences could tear apart their ménage forever.

 

 

Excerpt

Kyle’s hand on his thigh took him by surprise. His mermen lovers were very sexual beings, but they tended to avoid public displays of affection, particularly in front of Finn’s parents. Jake stilled as Kyle moved his hand higher on his leg, dangerously close to Jake’s groin.

At his other side, Finn moved his chair closer and leaned on Jake’s shoulder. To the others at the table, it might appear as though Finn were reading the menu. Jake could tell he was doing nothing of the sort. A few more inches and Finn would be crawling onto his lap.

Then, even more disturbing than having his two lovers getting very up close and personal in public, Jake felt a foot rubbing his ankle.

The angle was wrong for it to be either of his lovers, which meant it must be someone else at the table. Directly opposite Jake, Alex smiled at him and winked.

Jake jerked his foot, delivering a sharp kick to Alex’s leg.

“Fuck!” Alex swore and reached under the table to rub his ankle.

“Alex!” Malcolm snapped.

“Jake kicked me,” Alex muttered.

“It was an accident,” Jake replied easily.

Alex glared at him for a moment before his face transformed and he offered the table a bright smile. “I’m sure it must have been. Jake would never want to hurt me, would you, babe?”

Babe? What the hell had gotten into Alex tonight?

Finn growled beside him and shot his brother a venomous look. “Did you call my boyfriend babe?”

“A slip of the tongue,” Alex said.

“Alex, are you drunk?” Summer asked.

“I’ve not touched a drop.” Alex smiled at his new wife.

“Then stop winding up Jake and your brother.”

“What about me?” Kyle asked. “You think it isn’t annoying me when your husband calls my boyfriend babe?”

“Sorry, Kyle,” Summer offered. “You didn’t seem as angry about it as Finn.”

“Well, I am,” Kyle snapped. “Jake’s my boyfriend, too, even if you all seem to forget it half the fucking time.”

No one bothered to scold Kyle about his language.

“Okay, let’s calm down everyone,” Malcolm said. “We’re disturbing the other patrons, so let’s order our food and try to enjoy the evening.”

Jake nodded and searched for the waiter. Tim hovered right behind him, pad and pen in hand.

“What would you like to eat?”

Since Tim seemed to expect it, Jake chose what he wanted first. Finally, everyone had placed their orders and Tim, somewhat reluctantly, went to put them in.

“Would you like anything else, darling?” Finn mumbled under his breath.

Jake wrapped his arm around Finn’s shoulder and gave him a quick hug. “There’s no need for jealousy, so stop worrying.”

Finn kissed him in response and Jake had to restrain himself from deepening the connection. He reminded himself they were in public and not everyone was comfortable with seeing two men kissing each other.

“I guess I’m not going to be getting a kiss while we’re here.”

Jake knew, without looking, that Kyle had not spoken the words he had heard.

“Finn’s the public boyfriend and I’m…the other one, I guess.”

Jake frowned as Kyle’s words sank in. Was that how Kyle saw himself? He thought back on the times he had been out in public with Kyle and Finn and he accepted that Kyle might have a point.

He wasn’t sure how or when it had happened, but somewhere along the way, Finn had become the more traditional boyfriend. When the three of them were out together, Finn’s hand was the one he held as they walked down the street. When he introduced his lovers to someone, he referred to Finn as his boyfriend but occasionally had stumbled a little with what to call Kyle. People simply didn’t expect there to be more than two people in a relationship.

Jake realized he had been so busy trying to reassure Finn that he wanted him and that he wasn’t simply a substitute for Alex, he had been neglecting Kyle.

 

About the Author 

 L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances. She believes that there is nothing hotter or sweeter than two men in love with each other… unless it is three.

When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.

 

Author Links

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New Book Release Blitz for A Dance of Water and Air ( Elemental Magicae #1) by Antonia Aquilante (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: A Dance of Water and Air

Series: Elemental Magicae, Book One

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher: NineStar Press, LLC

Release Date: October 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83600

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, fantasy, trans, magic, elements, court intrigue, arranged marriage, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Edmund is heir to the throne of Thalassa and a wielder of Water magic. Devoted to his kingdom and his duty to it, Edmund can do nothing but acquiesce to an arranged marriage with the queen of a neighboring kingdom. The marriage and the child it is required to produce will seal an alliance between Thalassa and Aither that is vital to Thalassa’s safety, and far more important than Edmund’s personal misgivings.

Arden is the younger brother of Aither’s queen and a wielder of Air magic. Raised in the politics of the court to support his sister’s rule, he understands the alliance is important to Aither, even as he worries about his sister marrying someone she’s never met. When Edmund arrives in Aither to prepare for the wedding, Arden is tasked with helping him settle in at court. As they spend more time together, Edmund and Arden develop a close friendship, then stronger feelings, but with Edmund’s wedding approaching, they must hide their feelings, even from themselves.

When someone tries to assassinate the queen, Edmund is blamed, and Arden rescues him before he can be executed for a crime he didn’t commit. To prevent a war between their kingdoms and protect them from a dangerous enemy, Edmund and Arden will have to discover who wants to pit Aither and Thalassa against each other and mend relations between the two kingdoms as they evade those searching for them—all while finding a way to be together.

Excerpt

The Dance of Water and Air
Antonia Aquilante © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edmund swam, long limbs slicing through the clear, warm water. His mind quieted in the repetitive motion, in the weightlessness and the comfort of being surrounded by his Element. Everything washed away, leaving him calm and relaxed, the only time he ever was lately.

If only he could stay there.

He imagined it for a moment. Spending his life swimming and sailing. All his time in the soothing embrace of the water, or at the shore or bank, feeling Water’s power, learning to use its magic. It was a lovely dream. A lovely, impossible dream. With that thought, tension—the tension his morning swim had briefly dispelled—came flooding back. He stopped swimming and flipped onto his back, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath before letting it out in a long sigh.

The sigh had barely left him when he heard the scrape of a shoe against stone. He bit back another sigh and flipped over again to straighten and tread water in the center of the large pool. His secretary stood on the tiled terrace. Peregrine knew better than anyone that this time was Edmund’s and wouldn’t disturb him unless it was urgent. Disaster or grave injury were top of the list.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning, Highness.” Peregrine would never call him by name when someone else might hear, and Edmund would never try to convince him otherwise. Edmund was far too aware of the dictates of his own position. And far too grateful to have found a friend in Peregrine to quibble overly about how they had to behave in public. “I apologize for disturbing you, sir, but the king has called for you.”

A summons from Father certainly counted as a valid reason to disturb him, especially with the rising tensions between Thalassa and their neighbor, Tycen. It seemed Edmund would be cutting his swim short this morning. He struck out for the terrace where Peregrine waited, swimming with steady but unhurried strokes. He wouldn’t dawdle, but if there had been reason to rush, Peregrine would have said.

Soon enough, he reached the terrace and pulled himself up to sit on the edge. Peregrine handed him a towel. He wiped his face first and stood to strip off his soaking wet swim pants and dry the rest of him. Peregrine wouldn’t care about Edmund’s nudity, and he didn’t worry that someone else would come upon them. The pool he chose for his swims wasn’t the largest of the many on the palace grounds, but it was the most private. The terrace they stood on was the only one that connected to the palace, and it was shaded from view. The rest of the area was screened with trees and shrubbery. The smaller terraces on the side opposite them were even more secluded. He’d spent much time in the pool, which was fed by the same underground spring as the rest of the palace waterways, and on the terraces over the years.

Once Edmund was dry, Peregrine handed him the robe he’d left hanging over the back of a chair when he’d arrived. He’d also left a book there—he’d been far too optimistic about his time when he came down here, apparently. He thanked Peregrine and shrugged into the blue-green silk. It was new, something he hadn’t really needed, but he liked the color against his brown skin and the feel of the smooth, cool silk.

“Any idea what my father needs?” Edmund stepped into his sandals and picked up his book from the table.

“None.”

He raised his eyebrow at Peregrine in surprise. Edmund could always rely on Peregrine for more information than seemed possible about everyone from the maids to the king. He’d long since gotten over any misgivings about Peregrine’s seeming omniscience and begun to rely on it. For Peregrine not to have an inkling of what was brewing… Odd. And slightly disturbing.

“I guess we’ll find out.”

Not immediately, of course. A summons through official channels called for more formality. Edmund couldn’t appear in the king’s presence in nothing but a thin robe and sandals. Peregrine kept pace as Edmund walked to his rooms, informing him of other court news and gossip that he might find interesting or useful as they walked.

Edmund’s rooms were a floor up from the garden pool. A guard stationed near the door jumped to open it for Edmund as he approached. He nodded but didn’t slow as he sailed through the door, Peregrine at his heels. His sandals made soft tapping sounds on the green and white tile of the entryway. His sitting room opened up in front of him, curtains fluttering in the breeze blowing in off the ocean below. He had no time to relax there or even to eat the breakfast that was sure to be laid out in the dining room. Instead, he turned left, taking the short hallway leading to his bedchamber, dressing room, and bathing room.

He went directly to the bathing room. Wide windows let in sunlight over the large tub, empty because he usually bathed after breakfast. There was no time to fill it, let alone soak. He settled for rinsing the salt from his skin with water from the basin and briskly rubbed a towel over his shoulder-length hair. Having it drip all over his clothing while he met with Father just wouldn’t do. When he’d squeezed as much of the water from it as he could, he left the towel and went to the dressing room.

Peregrine was there, laying out clothes.

“That isn’t your job,” Edmund said.

“I’m aware.”

“I can select my own clothing.”

“I’m aware of that as well. Put them on anyway.”

Edmund laughed and did as he was told. Peregrine was only saving him time and knew what would be appropriate for him to wear, considering the meeting with Father and the day ahead. He pulled on undergarments and slim gray pants and dropped a sleeveless white shirt over his head. Peregrine held out a dark teal jacket for him, helping him shrug into the embroidered silk. Edmund murmured his thanks and fastened the jacket over his chest, fingers working quickly over the row of little silver buttons. When he was finished, he stepped into shoes and fastened the silver and aquamarine drop earrings Peregrine had just pulled from their box into his ears. It was the only jewelry Peregrine had chosen, and as he looked in the mirror, Edmund had to admit he was probably right in that. The clothing didn’t need more.

“Thank you,” Edmund said.

“My pleasure, Edmund.”

“Perhaps I should have you dress me every day. You have an eye for it. Much better than anyone else. Do you think you’d prefer it to being my secretary?”

Peregrine sent a stern frown at Edmund. “Funny.”

It was, for any number of reasons. Only one being that Peregrine was frighteningly efficient in his present position and far too good at it to do anything else. In fact, he was far too skilled to be anything except a royal secretary, and it was Edmund’s good fortune to have him.

“Shall we?” Peregrine didn’t mention that Edmund shouldn’t keep Father waiting, but he didn’t have to.

“Yes. Catch me up on any changes to my schedule as we walk.”

Peregrine did so, barely consulting his notebook. Edmund listened carefully as they left his rooms and strode through the palace corridors. His own wing, reserved for the rooms of the royal children, was quiet as it was only occupied by him and Kerenza. His sister would still be abed—she preferred to rise late when she had the opportunity—and he had no appointments that might bring anyone to his office until later in the day. When they passed out of the wing, the entrance marked by a three-tiered fountain decorated in mosaics of blue and green tiles, the corridors became more populated. But everyone gave way for the prince and his secretary, bowing as Edmund passed them.

Father’s office was near the council chambers and other administrative offices in the main block of the palace. He worked sometimes in the small private library attached to his rooms, but all his official meetings took place here. If Edmund had any doubt that today’s summons was serious and formal, it would have been dispelled by the location of the meeting.

Peregrine knocked when they arrived, and a moment later, the door was opened by Father’s secretary, who bowed and stepped aside. Edmund bowed slightly as soon as he entered the room, then walked closer to Father’s desk. Peregrine remained back near the closed door. Father looked up from the papers he was examining to study Edmund with a keen eye. Edmund was sure Father was cataloging every detail of his appearance from his attire to his still damp hair.

Father was dressed formally, as Edmund would expect. His jacket was green, heavily embroidered in gold and white, the color vivid against his dark skin. The circlet of his rank sat on his head amid black curls now streaked with gray. Edmund had not worn his own circlet, deeming it unnecessary for the day he had planned; he hoped he wouldn’t regret that decision. The set of Father’s features caused Edmund’s stomach to churn unpleasantly.

“You called for me, Father?”

“Yes. Come sit down. I need to speak with you.” The seriousness of his tone did nothing to alleviate Edmund’s sudden concern.

Edmund took the chair across from Father’s desk, hoping he properly concealed his anxiety. He’d been trained all his life to mask every emotion, so he’d best be able to. He looked at Father and waited for him to speak.

“As you know, we’ve been pursuing an alliance with Aither,” Father said.

And, of course, Edmund did know, though he hadn’t been involved in the negotiations. Aither sat at their western border. Theirs was generally a friendly border to begin with, trade flowing freely between the two countries, but Father and his council had hoped that the looming threat of Tycen’s aggression might worry Aither’s young queen as much as it had them and would tempt her into an alliance. Edmund hadn’t been informed about the state of the negotiations in some time. Had they gone horribly wrong?

“We’ve come to an agreement with Queen Hollis.”

“You—” Edmund stopped. He’d been so sure Father was going to say just the opposite that he couldn’t believe what he’d heard. “That’s wonderful, Father. Did the final agreement go as you’d hoped?”

“We got what we needed from it.”

“Good.” And yet the relief Edmund should’ve been feeling didn’t come. Father didn’t look as if he’d just concluded a successful negotiation, didn’t look as if he was pleased by the outcome. Or…no, not as if he was displeased, but too serious. “Is something wrong?”

“Not at all. However, the promises of increased trade and mutual protection were not enough on their own to secure the alliance we needed.”

Edmund wasn’t surprised, though he hadn’t been privy to the particulars of what Father wanted, aside from Aither standing with them should Tycen press their aggression. “What did they ask for?”

“Queen Hollis and her advisors required more assurance of our compliance, and truth be told, I wasn’t upset to have more of theirs. They’re Air wielders, so they’re different from us, but Water and Air are compatible. Even if I would have preferred an alliance with no deeper entanglements.”

“Father?” A rush of cold spread through Edmund’s veins.

“You and Queen Hollis will wed with the expectation of a child being born within two years. The alliance will be secured by blood and all the stronger for it.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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