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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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.

Purchase

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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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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

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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 

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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.

 

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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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Book Blast – A Thread in Time (The Chronicles of Darius #14) by Jess Thomas (book trailer)

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BOOK BLAST

Book Title: A Thread in Time (The Chronicles of Darius #14)

Author: Jess Thomas

Publisher: Self-Published

Cover Artist: Jess Thomas

Genre/s: LGBT, Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Romance

Length: 86,456 words/472 pages

Release Date:

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Blurb

Trend is finally back with his clan and the man he loves, and the clan has grown into something that even the Jewel couldn’t imagine. He has a family that loves, cares for, and protects him. They will do anything to keep him safe, even go to the fourth. When Zihen, Vega’s mate, is taken, some of the elders of the clan have no choice but to try to get him back. Vega is determined to get him back and is bent on revenge, even if it means his life. 

Meanwhile, Darius is being cared for by Gak the family friend and physician in his medical facility. Vien, Issaguard, and Chin-Me are dispatched to watch over him while the search for Zihen goes on. The rest of the family left on Eiravia have taken the precaution of staying in the great library for safety in case of trouble, and have to deal with the uncertainty of what their mates are facing in the fourth while coping with personal demons. 

Come be a part of these adventures and more in Darius’s journey in A Thread in Time!

 

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Excerpt

This is my continuing journal about the people I love and of my life. I have a large family, and even though I don’t talk about all them in a particular journal or just mention someone once or twice, they are around me, interact with me, and I love each and every one of them. If I wrote everything that everyone said, my journals would fill our library shelves. Some have said they haven’t read very many books in my style; that it’s hard to get used to. I invite you to read a few of my chronicles and become part of my world. Be part of my family, because you see, this isn’t just a story, it’s a celebration of life.

My name is Darius or for those who knew me on Eiravia where I was born, Paden. It used to seem strange that I had two names but now it seems right. I don’t think I’d give up either name because it would be a part of my life that I’d have to leave behind, a part of my life that will always be precious to me.

I was taken off the planet of Eiravia with two other children, the last three born on a planet of immortals. Maybe it was nature’s way of saying we couldn’t populate the universe, maybe it kept us unique, or maybe it was just a fluke. They shoved us on a ship bound for our sister planet Earth to forget who we were and where we came from, but home always has a pull. Together with Cas, Garrick, and I made it back home and realized where we belonged all along.

 

About the Author

Jess Thomas was born in the mid-west and she has a natural love for nature and animals. A gentle creature born to loving parents who believed in seeing the world for all its beauty, she learned the imperfections in life were something to be treasured and seen as a learning experience. An artist from an early age, she went to art school where she got a degree in drawing and painting, photography, and in Art Education. In 2009 she laid down her paintbrush and she picked up writing and channeling her creative energy in a fresh direction. A new writer, she pours sensitivity and her love of the world she has created into her emotions and the characters who live there.

 

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New Release Blitz for Nectar and Ambrosia (Amaranthine Inheritance #1) by E.M. Hamill (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Nectar and Ambrosia

Series: Amaranthine Inheritance #1

Author: E.M. Hamill

Publisher:  Star Bard Books

Release Date: June 30, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male

Length: 81576

Genre: Fantasy, urban/mythical

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Synopsis

Callie, a Classics major, flees home to protect her family from a monster straight out of mythology.  Visions lead her to Nectar and Ambrosia: the weirdest pub on Earth, where inter-dimensional travelers with attention seeking issues get drunk in between the A-list celebrity lives they create. They can’t pretend to be gods anymore—not since a treaty with the current Supreme Deity promising they won’t intervene in human affairs.

The Doorkeeper of this threshold, Florian, rides herd on the rowdy Amaranthine and offers her shelter and a job. Callie likes the lonely, mysterious bartender more than she should. For Florian, her presence is a ray of light in the gray monotony of his sentence behind the bar, but he keeps a cautious distance—the truth of how he became Doorkeeper could change Callie’s perception of him forever.

When angels show up for a war council over Zeus’s irrational mutters about a comeback, Callie has uncontrolled visions of an apocalypse.  Ex-gods realize she’s the first Oracle Priestess in generations. All Callie wanted was keep her parents safe, and now it seems she must sacrifice her future to keep the rest of humanity safe, too. Ambrosia could be the key to harnessing her visions— or it could cost her life.

War is coming. The threshold between worlds has never been more fragile. Callie must discover who is pulling Zeus’s strings and avert the final battle—before the immortal vying to become the next Supreme Deity kills her first.​

Excerpt

Callie turned away, trying to decide if Florian and all his clientele were delusional or if it was some kind of big role-playing game for rich people. Folks could have a thing about dressing up in furry animal costumes. She supposed they could pretend to be gods and goddesses too. If it was a mythology RPG, they weren’t concerned with the classical part, except for the guy she saw yesterday afternoon. She was relieved to have a rational explanation for the horns.

Something moved outside the glass front door. Her heart seized in momentary panic. What if the monster still lurked out there?

Strange, visible turbulence seemed to ripple the panes. Callie squeezed her eyes shut to clear her sight and prayed it wasn’t the aura of an oncoming seizure. Cool relief extinguished the rising sparks of panic as the effect dissipated.

The door opened and revealed a spiky-haired, punk rock kid years too young to be in any bar. Callie was forced to squint in order see him clearly as he strode in, his outlines strangely blurred and soft. Sullen teenaged fluidity rolled in every line of his body. He surveyed the bar, narrow kohl-ringed eyes settling on the heavily intoxicated Zeus. A sneer comprised of equal parts contempt and satisfaction flickered over his mouth.

“There he is, the great king of the gods,” he muttered. He moved toward the bar, a glare of disdain sweeping over the other patrons. His eyes widened in appreciation as they passed over Callie, a little smirk growing as his gaze lingered too long on the front of her college t-shirt.

Despite her confusion on how he’d arrived, she gave him a thin smile and a cool nod, crossing her arms over her chest. He stopped short, an expression of shock on his face. Then a quick, sunny grin took over. His blurry outlines sharpened as he drew closer and she relaxed her squinted eyes, no longer struggling to focus on him. She decided it was a trick of the neon-tinted lights hanging in garish advertisement on the walls of the bar.

“My, my, my. Who have we here?” His voice, thick with Cockney vowels, dipped to an intimate tone as he approached. His body language changed to something more unsettlingly mature. He was older than he appeared. “Who do you belong to?”

“I’m Callie. I don’t belong to anybody, but I work for Florian,” she corrected him politely. “Can I get you something?”

“Well, for starters, tequila.” He smirked suggestively. “And your undivided attention.”

Callie resisted the urge to roll her eyes. No matter where she worked, the pickup lines were the same.

“I’m sorry, I’m busy working. I’ll ask Florian for your tequila. On the rocks, or a shot?”

“On the rocks, love.”

“I’ll need to see some ID first.”

“You are new here, aren’t you?” He flipped two fingers out, a driver’s license between them.  She took it. No stranger to fake ID’s, this one appeared to be real, and passed him as twenty-one. Still…

“John Smith, huh?”

He captured Callie’s fingers as she returned the license and kissed the back of her hand in old-fashioned courtliness, sea-colored eyes glinting in mischief. An odd, visceral twinge from her early warning system made her startle as his lips touched her skin. Goose bumps flecked her arms. A totally alien sensation overwhelmed her senses: it was as if something crawled off her skin toward his mouth. She shivered in response and tried to pull her hand away. His grin widened as he tightened his grip, apparently delighted by her discomfiture.

“Oh, ho. That’s a lovely surprise. Don’t mind me. I’m incorrigible. Call me Puck.” He scribed an expansive circular gesture with his free hand. “Welcome to the watering hole of the damned bored.”

Callie forced a smile. “Thank you. Now, if you’ll let go of my hand, I’ll get your drink.”

Puck made a mocking bow over her hand and released it, smirking again as he backed away, still admiring her in undisguised interest. Between them, a well-dressed man stepped directly into Callie’s path. He swerved with a graceful spin and apologized as Callie’s sneakers squeaked to an abrupt halt on the concrete floor.

“Sorry, hon. Good evening, gods and goddesses!”

“Herm!” came a shouted group greeting from the room at large.

“And fairies,” the man belatedly added, nodding at the punk rocker.

Puck offered him an extended middle finger and a dangerous smile. Callie’s mouth fell open, recognizing the Armani-suited guy from the previous afternoon.

“Jeeze, homophobic much?” she muttered.

“Trust me love, I am all fairy and he is far from homophobic. Sexual orientation has nothing to do with him being a prick.” Puck glared at the man’s back with undisguised hatred before another lightning-quick mood change and a devilish grin took over. “Make that tequila a double.” He winked at her, eyes making another head to toe rake of her body before he disappeared into the clump of huge Scandinavian-looking, Corona-swilling dart players.

Callie’s hair still prickled on the back of her neck even after Puck left, and she rubbed it, troubled. She turned back to the room, stopped short, and stared. More customers sat at tables and in the shadows of the booths, each group just a little stranger than the last. None of them used the door.

And the Armani guy—he’d stepped into her path. Right out of the air.

Something intensely freaky was happening that she couldn’t rationalize away, no matter how hard she tried.

Was Florian telling the truth?

Instead of fear, a deep, visceral excitement flip-flopped in her abdomen, butterflies on steroids.

She never pinpointed exactly when wonder began to crowd out her reservations. Rushing between the cooler and the tables, she caught snatches of conversation and shouted greetings when others appeared. Having to bite back questions when she delivered their beverages replaced the urge to roll her eyes. She fought to keep a professional demeanor rather than fangirl all over herself when Florian introduced the Armani guy to her as Hermes. Hermes! One of her favorite characters in Greek mythology.

Three hours into the shift, she took a quick bathroom break. Her back against the door, Callie put her hands over her mouth and muffled something that sounded suspiciously like a shriek. Whether it was fear or excitement, she couldn’t quite say. Her breath came fast and short until she got dizzy. She spun the tap on the sink and the shock of cold water on her face helped bring her back down.

“What the hell, Callie? Are you really going to believe this?” she muttered to herself in the mirror. She grabbed a paper towel to blot the moisture away and waded back out into the crowded bar.

Purchase

Star Bard Books | Amazon Kindle | Amazon Paperback |Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

Elisabeth “E.M.” Hamill is a nurse by day, unabashed geek, chocoholic, sci fi and fantasy novelist by nights, weekends, and wherever she can steal quality time with her laptop. She lives with her family, a dog, and a cat in the wilds of eastern suburban Kansas, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse.

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JP Jackson on His Writing Process and new release ‘Magic or Die (Inner Demons #1’) (guest blog, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  Magic or Die

Series: Inner Demons, Book One

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87300

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, paranormal, demons, witches, magic

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have J.P. Jackson here today on tour for his latest novel, Magic or Die. Welcome, J.P. Please tell us a little about what your writing process is like?

JP Jackson and My Writing Process

Writing for me is very organic, and raw. I choose not to outline or plot too much of the story in advance.

I take delight and pleasure in watching the words form their own worlds, and having the characters I develop come to life. They are the ones who dictate what action comes next. I have a general idea of where I want the tale to take the reader, but it’s the magical beings and demonic beasties who really own the book. After all, it is their story.

I’m fortunate that I can carve out free time to indulge myself in this creative art form. I love doing it, telling stories. Unlike some authors I know, I quite enjoy the spotlight. I’m 100% an extrovert, and it’s not uncommon to see me at parties and social gatherings ‘holding court’ as my husband would say. I like to gather people and regale them with our latest adventures. Writing is no different. I get to share my imagination and tomfoolery with anyone who’s willing to pick up one of my books.

Do you create an outline first?

I currently have two books out.  Daimonion, Book One of the Apocalypse, which is the first in a trilogy, and is my retelling of how the world ends, and then Magic or Die about a broken psychic teacher and the five students he’s charged with helping. Each of these were pantster created. No outlines, no cue cards with notes. I do write supporting documents, character sheets with details I can refer back to. I may or may not have written a spellbook or two – depending on the characters in the story.  I’ve even done timelines and maps, just to make sure that the story has progressed in an accurate manner. But as I mentioned above, I usually just create my characters and then set them free.

They run amok, creating havoc and chaos.

I just sit back, laugh maniacally and document their lives.

Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music?

Absolutely. I have a Tumblr account [(18+ only, please) http://canuckbear88.tumblr.com/} where I store images that inspire me. I also have Pinterest boards [https://www.pinterest.ca/jacksonbear88/] where I collect images that I pull and use for various characters. I have an extensive music library where I pull together a new playlist for each project. Every time I start a new work, I have to have new music too, so I’m always on the lookout for haunting music.  Here’s my YouTube channel and the Magic or Die playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLMD–CnQs723AsxRz1FEN4dI0Vkrg9rIV. All of this helps put me in the right mood to create fantastical worlds, intricate magic spells and creatures who are more likely to eat you than help you.

Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

As I said above, my writing is organic. I just let it all fall out. But then I’m also a little OCD and so I find myself writing a page or two, and then going back to edit and alter the writing. I hate the little squiggly red lines Word puts underneath things it doesn’t recognize. They drive me nuts, and I can’t look at them. So I have to go back and correct the word. Same can be said for the blue grammar and technical suggestions.  I need to see black and white. That to me is clean, and non-distracting. It allows me to read what I’ve written unencumbered. I know, I’m crazy.

Synopsis

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities, but left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. The problem is he still has one year left on his contract.

When James is forced to return to the CMRD, he finds himself confronting the demons of his past and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence, because if they don’t pass their final exams, they’ll be euthanized.

James also discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors, the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility. James and his students face impossible odds—measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

Excerpt

Magic or Die
J.P. Jackson © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Call Back
“YES, MIRIAM. YES, I know. I know it’s been over a year. I’m not sure I’m ready.”

The knuckles on my hand cramped from clasping my cell phone in a death grip. I glanced at my watch. This conversation had gone on too long. In the span of two minutes, Miriam had managed to exhume memories and history I wanted buried and forgotten. I sucked in a short breath as nausea surged like a tsunami of fear. Its behemoth wave washed bile against the back of my throat.

I slumped down the stained and weathered wall of the coffin-sized studio apartment I reluctantly called a home. It wasn’t a bad place to live, except for the cockroaches I found on a daily basis. I’m sure they considered it a veritable paradise. Absentmindedly, I toed an old pizza box near my foot while listening to Miriam. One of the insects scampered across the matted Berber carpet.

Gross.

Cody. A pale ghostlike face flashed before me. His hair, the exact colour of fall fallowed fields, hung listlessly over one eye, as blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. His chapped lips parted, asking me, “Why?”

I ignored the vision. Well, ignored wasn’t the right word, more like boxed it up with a heavy rock and pitched it into the abyss of my mind with all the other terrifying nightmares.

“I know. I owe you, yes. I’m just not sure—” I crawled over to the upended crate being used as a coffee table, grasping for my last pack of smokes. I lit one, enjoying the soothing crackle of the tobacco as it ignited, and then inhaled deeply.

Ah, yes. Hello, nicotine, my demon friend.

Miriam continued blithering while I half-heartedly listened to her soul-sucking voice. She was demanding my presence.

“What? You mean, tomorrow? Miriam, I don’t think it’s a good idea.” I drew in another steady stream of the toxic smoke. It burned my lungs as the addictive chemicals flooded through my body. I really need to quit. Scraping together the smallest ounce of courage, I attempted to defy her. “No, I can’t.”

A wraithlike hand, desiccated and fragile, inched its way across my shoulder and gripped my tense neck muscle. Its sharp nails dug into my flesh. Its bite, a warning.

Cody’s lifeless lips brushed my ear, sending cold shivers skittering across my back. Eruptions of goose flesh covered my neck and shoulders. His voice was a memory and a sound I would never forget.

“Don’t do this. You’ll kill me again.” His icy breath whispered to me.

Another box, a bigger rock, another addition to the pit of despair in my head.

“No,” I replied to one of Miriam’s inane questions. “There’s an Arcane too? I’ve never been good with them. They creep me out. No, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. Shit.” Miriam had just described a scene for me. My flesh turned buggy, as if I had chiggers nesting and burrowing deep into my skin. “Oh god that’s gross. It’s also not a good sign.” I pointed uselessly at the wall, waving my finger, trying to make a point to the caller. “I never took the exam for the third class.” Miriam had asked if I’d kept up my licensing. I instantly felt guilty. I should have done it years ago. One thing was becoming evident from the conversation—she needed my help. Help only I could give.

“All right, maybe, I think I can. Consult only. Do you hear me, Miriam? Just a consult.” I had tried desperately to stay the hell out of this. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go back there. “What time? Yes. I’m pretty sure. Miriam—” A thousand reservations ran through my mind, a wild stampede, unbridled, laced with dread and fear. “How many? How many in this class?”

The question sat like the world perched on my shoulders. The higher the number, the bigger the world, the more responsibility, an undeniable possibility of…

“Five! Are you kidding me? I can’t do five. No. No! It’s not possible.”

She was out of her mind.

“Yes, my sister is still on the streets. You know that’s close to blackmail, right?” I stubbed out the cigarette. The lacquer of smoke in my mouth tasted like I had just licked the bottom of an ashtray, and it was suddenly very hard to breathe. Why do I smoke again?

“Fine. Tomorrow. Yes. Ten a.m. Yes, I’ll be there. What do you mean dress appropriately?”

I looked at my cell phone, disgusted as the call ended.

I flipped the device onto the floor as if it had burst into flame and branded the conversation into my hand. I snorted. Like, I’d forget.

Stretching around to the other side of the crate, I grabbed blindly for a bottle I hoped was there. By all the gods’ great divine gifts, it was. And it still had liquid in it. In fact, it was surprisingly half-full.

I tipped the vodka bottle back, allowing its burn to strip away the cancer stick’s smoky film inside my mouth.

Swaying back and forth with my eyes closed, I tried to drown out the endless voices in my head. The words inundated my impending thoughts of doom and failure, and I could feel the chaos and panic mounting. Steadying myself and regaining my mental capacities, I gazed out the window. It was dark already and only six, early evening at best. Yay for daylight-savings time and late fall in Canada. Lights from the downtown cityscape lazily twinkled and danced before me. It should have been a pretty sight, but the darkness always seemed too oppressive, like a shroud. And I knew better. Things lived in the shadows.

I took another swig from the clear glass bottle. The burn hit my throat and disintegrated the bile that had crept up there.

Five very gifted students.

I rubbed the stubble covering my face and took yet another nip. Except it wasn’t a quick sip, it was a good one. A long one.

The window acted like a mirror, and my image reflected against the backdrop of the city skyline. I looked like shit. My short brown hair had cowlicks; thank god I kept it close. But the rest? No wonder Miriam instructed me to clean it up. The shirt I was sort of wearing was only half buttoned and stained in several spots. I had no pants on, but the pair of tighty-whities, which weren’t exactly white anymore, or tight, were ripped and showed more flesh than they were supposed to. Jesus.

How did my life get here?

Five young people had no control of their gifts.

And I had a sister who was lost out in the sparkle-light of downtown’s darkness, up to who knew what, and doing it with god only knew who, mired in her own addictions.

I glanced around my shit-hole apartment, wondering what the fuck I was going to do.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

 

 

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