Join Us for the New Release Blitz for Winter Masquerade by Kevin Klehr (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Winter Masquerade

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 20, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 32800

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT Romance fantasy, gay, party, musicians, mythical creatures, trial, judge, alternative universe

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Synopsis

Ferris wakes on the Sea Queen, an enchanted cruise ship sailing on a chocolate sea. He has no idea how he got here, but he desperately wants to go home to his boyfriend.

The alchemist is the only person who can help Ferris, but he’s been kidnapped. The ransom is high tea with scones and jam.

Meanwhile, the passengers are gearing up for the Winter Masquerade, a ball where love and magic reign.

With a murderous musician, an absent boyfriend, and a mystical party, Ferris soon learns that Wednesday is not the day to fall in love.

Excerpt

Winter Masquerade
Kevin Klehr © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Pitch black. Then candlelight. One lonely flame lit the face of a plump-faced man in a robe.

“How did I get here?” I asked.

“That’s not important right now,” the monk replied. “It’s where you’re going.” He reached for a journal, which sat on the stool to his right, and set the candle in its place. He flipped several pages and held it to the flame. “Are you fond of voyages?”

I shook like nervous prey. “I really need to know how I got here.”

“You’re a troubled man in need of rest and recreation. And a healthy dose of self-reflection.”

“But—”

“I wish you’d stop asking questions. You’ve never bothered listening to those who’ve responded.”

Harmonious chants filled the silence. These men’s voices calmed me, even though a dozen questions still needed answering.

Another light appeared coming from a round window. I shuffled toward it. There I was in the dark on the other side. I lay sleeping.

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Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.

His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Love a Time Travel Story? Check Out the Blitz for Out of Time (Out of Time #5) by C.B. Lewis (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Out of Time

Series: Out of Time, Book Five

Author: C.B. Lewis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 20, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 113100

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT science fiction, time travel, gay, bisexual, asexual, British, dirty talk, family drama, PTSD, panic attack, unending innuendo and teasing

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Synopsis

For Ben Sanders—traitor, thief, and temporal orphan—time is running out.

After three years as a fugitive, with the police task force led by Lysander O’Donohue and Jacob Ofori hot on his heels, Ben has to resort to desperate measures to evade capture and find the key to locating his missing father, lost in time for over two decades. With secrets and conspiracies at every turn, the net grows ever tighter around him.

Haunted by the people he betrayed, the loved ones he left behind, and the lives he ruined, it’s too late to stop now. But no matter what Ben does, there’s no escaping his past.

With this exciting conclusion to the Out of Time series, it is recommended to read the first four books for full enjoyment.

Excerpt

Out of Time
C.B. Lewis © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The house was unnaturally quiet.

It looked the same as usual: portraits of a family—mother and baby, father and toddler—on the walls, a scatter of Lego and jigsaw puzzles on the floor, a forgotten coat slung over the bannister at the top of the stairs.

The man walked onwards towards the staircase.

It was too quiet.

All he had to do was call out and break the silence, but he couldn’t.

Run and hide.

That was what his dad had told him. He had done what he was told.

The front door was cracked open, a thin slice of pale morning light cutting across the patterned tiles on the hall floor. It stretched on towards the lab, which was impossible. The sun was too high for it to stretch so far.

Something wasn’t right.

The stairs creaked underfoot as he crept down. The tiles in the hall were cold. His clothes were soaked. He didn’t remember why. They were wet, and he was cold, and it was all too quiet.

He saw—did he?—the body. A sheet. A shoe on a foot from under it. He saw it. A glimpse. He walked closer, and the sheet was still there. He reached out and grabbed the sheet to see the face of the one who did it.

There was nothing there. No one. The sheet fell from his numb fingers, vanishing before it hit the floor, and he walked onwards.

The door was open, no longer secret. They had cleaned the bloodstains, but he’d heard them talking quietly when they thought he couldn’t hear, and the handprints were back, smeared on the wall. Whose? He didn’t know.

Light shone up from the basement. The walls were white where they weren’t red. It wasn’t silent down there. The electric crackle of power hummed around him as he made his way down. It should all have been bigger. When he was there the first time, it all seemed so much bigger. He remembered the crackle, too, and knew what it meant.

Their secret, something no one had ever known.

He crossed the floor of the laboratory, ignoring the computers and the information all over them. The sound was coming from the next room, and he knew what he was going to see.

The temporal gate connected, blazing with light. The man standing before it, barely more than a silhouette.

“We’re running out of time.”

The voice was familiar, but it was wrong too, not the voice he remembered. Too many years without. Too many years of his memories being worn away. He couldn’t remember it now, not exactly, not the intonation, not the lilt or the accent.

He tried to speak, but his throat was closing up. He reached out towards his father, trying to catch him before he did what he always did. His fingers passed through his father’s shoulder as if it was nothing more than a shadow; then his father stepped through the gate. The world blazed white, dazzling him.

“No!” He ran towards the gate only to collide with a solid wall. Wall on all sides. Enclosed. Trapped. He was somewhere safe. Safe and closed and dark and alone until Dad came for him. The door was sealed and there was no way out, and in the dark he screamed—

Ben Sanders jolted, sitting bolt upright, panting. Iron bands squeezed his chest. He twisted frantically towards the glowing nightlight on the stool beside his bed. Staring at it, he counted down from thirty until his heartbeat evened out, and he could breathe again. He always kept the lighting low throughout the studio in case the nightlight failed. A shaft of white cracked through the ajar bathroom door. Not dark. Never dark.

His sheets clung to him, soaked with sweat. He pushed them aside and got out of the bed on unsteady legs. It took more effort than he liked to make it to the bathroom. He sank to the floor to sit by the toilet. The porcelain was cold as he propped his elbow on the seat, his fingers sinking into his sweat-matted hair.

Every night, it was getting worse. He knew why. How could he not? With every day that went by, he took another step closer to the day that would ruin his life. Time, time, time. That was what it came down to.

His stomach clenched, and he vomited, acid burning in his throat.

Any day now.

He got up and filled a glass of water at the sink. His reflection seemed more like someone half-dead, pale, with deep shadows beneath his eyes. He needed to rest, but not now. Not with his heart still pounding and the faint echo of his father’s voice lingering in his ears.

There was still so much to do.

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Meet the Author

C.B. Lewis is small, Scottish and writes pretty much anywhere, any time. She loves to travel and tends to bring home at least four new plot bunnies from every trip she goes on. She’s very excited to continue the adventures of the Out of Time series.

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Love a Cozy Mystery? Check Out the New Release Tour for Boiling Over (The Caro Mysteries #2) by Thea McAlistair (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Boiling Over

Series: The Caro Mysteries, Book Two

Author: Thea McAlistair

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 73800

Genre: Historical LGBT, gay, historical mystery, cozy mystery, age gap, established couple, mental illness, anxiety, PTSD, private detective, New England

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Synopsis

On the run from trumped-up murder charges, Alex Dawson and his boyfriend Sev settle in a small town in Vermont on the recommendation of Sev’s mob-boss cousin Bella. Chickadee is so tiny that it has only one major employer in the depths of the Great Depression: Trask & Co. Maple Sugar Mill. It’s a quiet place. That is, until Walter Trask is found in his own maple grove with his head smashed in.

Alex doesn’t want to have anything to do with the death, but things get much more personal when Bella is falsely arrested. Determined to free her and even the scales, Alex scours the town for clues as to what really happened. He quickly learns that small towns have big secrets that people may be willing to kill for. And if that weren’t bad enough, Alex and Sev’s once-sweet relationship is turning bitter under the combined pressures of isolation, anxiety, and jealousy. Alex needs to find the true murderer quickly before Bella is turned over to the feds, or worse, Sev walks out of his life forever.

Excerpt

Boiling Over
Thea McAlistair © 2020
All Rights Reserved

When Sev first asked me to run away with him, he’d mentioned exotic places like India and Australia, warm countries far away from the seedy city we were living in. It had sounded romantic and wonderful, and when we finally left—well, fled—I had hopes of going somewhere like that. Instead, we ended up in Chickadee, Vermont.

Chickadee was a small town, about a half-hour drive from the Canadian border and about a six-hour drive from our old home in Connecticut. In all my twenty-three years, I’d never set foot in the countryside, and now there was all this empty space. Blue sky. Trees. Cows.

“Bella wants us to stay here?” I asked as I gaped at the maple forest flashing by the car window. “It’s so…rustic.”

“Well, just think, Alex,” grumbled Sev, his faint Italian accent tinged with unease as he guided the rickety borrowed Oldsmobile over bumps on the dirt road, “it’s better than the alternatives, yes?”

Considering the alternatives were dead and arrested for murder, he was right. Less than a month ago, I’d been living my dull life, writing during the day and serving as a bodyguard for the mayor in the evenings, and then all hell broke loose. Now nine people were dead, including my friends Martin and Donnie, and the corrupt cops wouldn’t even think of hearing my side of the story. Targeting the big guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of New England was almost too easy for them.

“It’s pretty here!” chimed Pearl from the back.

I twisted to look at her. She perched on the edge of the seat, her already-large eyes expanded in wonder. Her cat, Daisy, sulked in a metal cage next to her. I still wasn’t sure it’d been the brightest idea to take a six-year-old on the lam with us, but it was too late now. At least she seemed to be enjoying the trip. And why wouldn’t she? She wasn’t the one running from murder charges.

“Bit different from the city, huh?” I asked, careful to keep my voice cheerful for her.

She nodded and returned to staring at the trees.

I slumped back into my seat, grateful she didn’t seem to share my unease.

Sev nudged my arm. “Which road do I take?”

I straightened and peered out the windshield. We were coming up on an intersection, if a split of one dirt track into two could be called that. I scrambled to unfold the map I’d crumpled in my distraction. Sev’s cousin Bella—the most notorious gangster in Westwick—had given us these directions and all our fake identification papers first thing that morning.

Why Bella had chosen Chickadee to hide us from the cops was a mystery. She hadn’t given me a straight answer when I asked, only that she had friends there and Sev would be working with one of them. Most likely the location had something to do with the rum-running routes she’d controlled until about six months ago. While the end of Prohibition had cut the bottom out from under her main moneymaker, there were many other ways to make an illegal living, and why leave when she already had a foot in the door?

“Left,” I said, tracing the hand-drawn line with my finger. “Looks like another mile and we reach town.”

Sev obeyed, taking the left fork. The car turned in a wide arc around yet more trees. Both sides of the road were obscured by underbrush and shadow. Sev swore under his breath in Italian and slowed even more.

“They should clear this,” he muttered. “Someone’s going to get hit one day.”

“Who’s going to get hit?” I answered. “There’s no one out he—”

Sev slammed the brakes as a figure darted from between the trunks. I jolted forward and got the wind knocked out of me as I smacked into the dashboard. Pearl screamed, tumbling into the back of my seat. The rattle of the cat cage almost drowned out Daisy’s yowls.

Blinded by pain, I groped for Sev. “Everyone okay?” I gasped.

He grabbed my hand and squeezed. “Fine,” he said.

Pearl wailed. I turned, ignoring the objections of my bruised ribs. She huddled in the space between the back bench and the front seat, clutching her wrist. My already-pitching stomach dropped. I’d brought her with us to get her away from all the pain in her past, and now here was more. I scrambled out the door and around the back to get her.

“You’re all right; you’re all right,” I mumbled in an effort to convince myself my assurance was true. “Can I see?”

Pearl snuffled and presented her arm. Already her wrist was red and swelling. I held back the curses bubbling in my mind. In a flash of anger, I whipped around to see what jackass had done this.

To my surprise, I only saw a girl straddling a sturdy bike. She was maybe sixteen or seventeen, wearing men’s dungarees and a gingham shirt. Freckles were splattered across her face, and ash-blonde braids draped down her back. She gnawed on her lip, her eyes huge with fear.

“I’m so sorry,” she squeaked. “There’s almost never anyone out here—”

“Alex?” Sev called. He sounded muffled. I looked at the driver’s side door. He had gotten out and had one hand curled around the lower half of his face while the other scrambled in a pocket. “I think I might have been mistaken when I said I was fine.” He pulled out a handkerchief, and I saw both his nose and his upper lip were bleeding.

Fear, anger, and unbidden memories tangled up in my mind, freezing my mouth in one slack-jawed position, keeping me mute.

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Don’t miss Book #1 in the Caro Mysteries series, No Good Men, available from NineStar Press

In 1934, almost everyone struggles to pay the rent, and Alex Dawson is no exception. To support his writing habit, he moonlights with his mentor Donnie as a bodyguard for the mayor. It’s dull work, until the night a handsome, golden-eyed stranger catches his eye–and both his boss and his mentor are killed when his back is turned.

Jobless and emotionally adrift, Alex vows to find the murderer before the corrupt police can pin the blame on him. But he soon discovers he’s in over his head. The golden-eyed stranger turns out to be a mob boss’s cousin, and a suspicious stack of money in Donnie’s dresser leads Alex to discover that his mentor and the mayor were involved in something more crooked than fundraising dinners and campaign speeches. As the death count rises amid corruption, mob politics, and anarchist plots, Alex realizes that the murders aren’t political or even business. This is the work of a spree killer, and Alex and his new boyfriend are the only ones who can stop them.

Meet the Author

Thea McAlistair is the pseudonym of an otherwise terribly boring office worker from New Jersey. She studied archaeology, anthropology, history, architecture, and public policy, but none of those panned out, so she decided to go back to an early love – writing. She can often be found muttering to herself about her latest draft at completely inappropriate times.

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Don’t Miss Out on the New Release Tour for Love on the Spectrum by Alec Nortan (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Love on the Spectrum

Author: Alec Nortan

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 37900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT Contemporary, romance, gay, Asperger syndrome, burns victim, France, Paris, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort, therapist

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Synopsis

Hervé has Asperger’s, a specific kind of autism that makes him unable to interact with other people.

Luc has been severely scarred by fire and flees human presence to avert the way people glare and frown when they see him.

It was impossible for them to meet, but life sometimes likes to cheat the odds. Is it just a trick or a way to bring together two men who could be each other’s lifeline?

Excerpt

Love on the Spectrum
Alec Nortan © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
During their life, everyone meets thousands of people. Some of these encounters are fleeting, like the person you ask for directions in the street, and others last a lifetime. Each of them, as short or as long as it is, can change your life for the better or for the worse.

I’ve encountered maybe two hundred people. And that’s with a generous margin for error. A very generous margin. And yet I’m thirty-four and should have met a lot more. If I haven’t, it isn’t because I don’t want to, on the contrary. If I only consider the meaningful encounters, well, I’m down to a figure I can easily display with my fingers. The last one took place two years ago. His name is Pascal, and he made my life better. A whole lot better. We met through the Internet, the way of getting in touch with people I’m most comfortable with. Taking our time, we got to know each other, and he became an important part of my life. It wasn’t always easy for him, but he managed to accept my difficulties, and for the first time in my life I discovered what being in a relationship was really like. We weren’t quite ready yet to live together, but we were getting close.

And then, six months later, he dumped me. There was no fight, no argument, but it devastated me all the same. My problems had eventually gotten too tiresome for him. He simply couldn’t cope anymore, and I don’t think any less of him for that. Living with someone like me isn’t always easy. Quite the opposite. He had done all he could, but it hadn’t been enough.

My relationship with Pascal helped me understand one thing: I will spend my life alone. I’m not being dramatic; it’s just a simple observation. Even I can’t bear myself at times. If I can’t, who could?

What is my problem? To make it easy to understand, let’s say I am unable to interact with people. It probably sounds stupid put like this, but when sarcasm, irony, implied speech, and body language—well, all those elements that allow a conversation to take place—are completely foreign to you, a simple discussion with another human being can be quite hazardous to negotiate. And if on top of that you really cannot stand physical contact and noise, like me, you’re on a slippery slope toward the deepest pit of hell. I begin to slide as soon as I have to say hello…

When I say I have autism, in a desperate attempt to evade embarrassing situations, here are some of the answers I usually get:

“But it doesn’t show.”

Or

“Can it be cured?”

Or the most common reaction:

“That’s great! Can you count playing cards?”

No, I am not Rain Man, and most of the people who suffer from the same problem—Asperger syndrome—don’t have any kind of superhuman capabilities. And you can’t cure it. It would be like asking a one-legged man if he can be cured. No, it’s just a part of me. That and the fact you can’t see it when you look at me only makes it more difficult for people to understand. A one-legged man doesn’t have to explain that he only has one leg. A white cane or a service dog is usually enough for a blind person to be recognized as such.

I always have to justify myself.

Luckily for me, I’ve been going to a psychologist once a month for years. His specialty is autism, including Asperger syndrome. He helps me learn all those social rules that completely elude my grasp, and cope with my difficulties.

But it’s also because of him I’m standing here.

It’s a fine day. The weather is nice, the street is mostly empty. Although it’s almost noon, a few people pass by, and they walk purposefully, taking no notice of me except to avoid me. I’m standing still, almost stuck to the wall behind me, a white-stone building blackened by years of pollution. The sidewalk is barely wide enough for two people and gives way to a long line of parked cars and then a two-way street. On the other side is the same chain of cars, the same sidewalk, and the same dirty façades.

Despite all this, this part of the city welcomes lots of tourists, but this particular street is a little too far from the main avenues and the famous monuments to get their attention. If it were to be described by a saying, it would be “a secret life is a happy life.” Maybe that’s the reason why I like it. Because it likes to stay hidden. Just like I do. And this is definitely one of the reasons why I’m standing here right now.

The other reason is the small restaurant facing me. I’ve been looking at it for a little while now. The frontage isn’t very long, but a wide French window occupies almost all of it. Painted on the glass, blue letters spell out the words “The Scullion Restaurant–Traditional Cooking”. The text isn’t perfectly centered. It is about three inches too high for that, and the “C” and the “U” of Scullion are slightly too close to each other. The first “T” of Restaurant is also slightly tilted.

I am pretty certain no one else notices these imperfections, but they kind of jump out at me. I wonder if I shouldn’t have chosen another place.

But I’ve thought about this choice for a very long while, and I’ve even had to negotiate bitterly with my psychologist. The objective of the test is simple enough: having lunch at a restaurant. But he knows me too well to stop at such a simple goal. Without any further rules, I would have chosen the worst restaurant in the city, in a deserted part of town, to make sure there would be as few other clients as possible. I would even have gone in the early afternoon, when all the NTs have long since finished their meal—NT is short for Neurotypical, “normal” people as opposed to Aspies, the nickname for people like me with Asperger Syndrome—to have the greatest chance of seeing no one else other than the waiter, which is quite enough for me.

Knowing if he let the reins go I would choose an empty restaurant, which I have to admit would have rendered the exercise moot, my psychologist fought hard until we reached a compromise (more acceptable for him than for me) and chose a popular but small venue and a “normal” lunchtime.

This negotiation took place two days ago, and I’ve been anxious ever since. This morning, I woke up with my insides twisted. I almost broke into tears thinking about having breakfast alone at my place because it reminded me that my next meal would be a trial. When I was about to leave home to come here, instead of opening the door, I was sorely tempted to make sure it was safely locked and go hide in my bedroom under my blankets.

But here I am, in front of the restaurant. Inside, I feel like a gelatinous blob mounted on a drill. I still evaluate the chance of my running away before the time comes to enter at one in two.

I take a look at my watch.

12:58

My psychologist made the reservation—one of his dirty tricks to prevent me from bailing out—for one o’clock. He knows perfectly well I can’t stand lateness (or earliness) or an appointment cancellation without calling beforehand, and, as a consequence, I would never do that to someone else.

12:59

It’s too late to call the restaurant and cancel now. I stifle an emerging sob and move to the pedestrian crossing on my right. There are no cars passing, but I never cross a street elsewhere.

Just like every time I’m nervous, I’m tempted to embrace my old habits again. Right now, this means not stepping on the white paint of the crossing. I don’t know where I got that from, but it took me several sessions and a lot of training to be able to ignore the color of the ground I walk on.

I bite my bottom lip and stare straight in front of me so I can’t see my feet. I reach the other side of the street without further ado and walk the short distance to the entrance of the restaurant.

12:59

13:00

I open the door with a racing heart and step into my worst nightmare: a crowded public place.

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Meet the Author

Alec Nortan is a French social services worker. Though he learned English at school, he chooses this language to write in. His works are gay-related fictions, varying from young adult, science fiction or fantasy adventure, to romance.

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Join Us for the New Release Blitz for Wounded Martyr by Courtney Maguire (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Wounded Martyr

Author: Courtney Maguire

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 16, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 54300

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT Contemporary, gay, rock star, musicians, tour, drug/alcohol use, addiction, friends to lovers, hurt/comfort

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Synopsis

Ice is an asshole, but he’s working on it. He’s two years sober, no small feat when you front a heavy metal band facing waning popularity and dismal ticket sales. But the pieces of a life torn apart by alcoholism are finally coming back together. His band, Wounded Martyr, has written a great album with the potential to launch them back into relevancy. And Ricky, probably the biggest, most important piece, has finally forgiven him for the wreck he made of their relationship. There’s only one problem.

Ashton.

It was to be expected. As his best friend and bandmate for almost twenty years, it’s only natural they should find each other in the loneliness of the road. Ricky knows about their one night together, but he doesn’t know that Ice can’t stop thinking about it, about his long body and whiskey-flavored lips, and the guilt of it has him on the brink of backslide. Now that Wounded Martyr is poised for a long tour, Ice must find a way to resist temptation or risk blowing their last chance and destroying his relationship with the two most important men in his life.

Excerpt

Wounded Martyr
Courtney Maguire © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Everything hurt.

Hiding in our dingy dressing room toilet, back pressed against the wall between the sink and the urinal, I read wall graffiti to take my mind off my sore joints. Black Sharpie marker slander tucked between worn band stickers. Jake is a pussy. For a good time, call. Someone had scrawled SUX over a Wounded Martyr sticker in the corner. An old one. Apparently, we’d played here before. I couldn’t remember.

House music vibrated through the wall, and I pressed my shoulder blades into it. I gave a no-smoking sign the finger and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of my pocket. This used to be my favorite part, the anticipation in the moments before we hit the stage. Now, I shook with a mix of adrenaline and dread that made me queasy.

“Ice!” A familiar voice cut through the din followed by a rapid knock on the door. “Dude, you in there?”

I popped a cigarette between my lips. “Fuck off, I’m taking a shit.”

The door opened anyway, and in slipped Ashton. Ash. Hair in his face and dark liner around his eyes. Deep lines framed his mouth, but his too-long limbs made him appear perpetually boyish. The way I would always see him. The sixteen-year-old kid playing bass in his garage.

“You can’t smoke in here.”

I scowled and shoved the cig back in the pack.

“Dante is going to lose his shit if you don’t get out there,” he said, closing the door behind him. Dante, our self-appointed fearless leader. If he wasn’t such a goddamned great guitarist, I’d kick him in the teeth.

“Dante can suck my cock.”

“Pretty sure he’s not into that.” We shared a laugh before his eyes pinched in concern. “How’s the voice?”

“Tired,” I answered on the tail end of an exhale.

“You can make it, man.” He stepped toward me. “Just three more shows, and we’re home.”

“Have you seen the house?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it full?”

He pressed his lips together, and those lines around his mouth deepened.

“Shit.”

“Don’t sweat it.” He squeezed my arm. “It’s a big house. It would be hard for anyone to fill. Besides, we’ve played smaller.”

I nodded, but my stomach dropped into my toes. Sure, we’d played smaller. I remembered playing crowds of twenty people, ten of whom hated us. But we were eighteen with nowhere to go but up, and nothing to lose. It felt different now.

Ash’s expression softened. “What do you need?”

A drink.

“A blow job from John Stamos.”

“You and me both.” He hooked his hand around the back of my neck and pressed our foreheads together. “You’ll be great,” he said. “You are great. Just another day at the office, man, you got this.”

I leaned into him and released a long breath. Just another day. Another day I got to play rock and roll. Living the dream, most would say. But even dreams didn’t last forever.

“What the fuck are you two doing in there? Put your dicks away, and let’s go,” Dante’s gruff voice shouted from the other side of the door. Ash shot me a mischievous grin and dropped to his knees just as the door swung open. “What the fu—”

“Be right out, Boss,” I said, but he’d already stomped off, spitting and cursing the whole way back to the dressing room, his bright copper skin dark with an angry flush. I gave Ash a kick with my heel, and he rolled over backward, tangled in his own legs and howling.

“Homophobes are fun,” he said between gasps.

“You’re a prick,” I said, but I was smiling, my earlier dread carried away in the stream of his laughter. Dante had left the door open, and the house music pounded through me, ringing the tuning fork inside. It was still there, thank God. I offered Ash a hand and hauled him up.

“Ready to go?” he asked, his hand still wrapped in mine.

“Let’s get to work.”

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NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author

Courtney Maguire is a University of Texas graduate from Corpus Christi, Texas. Drawn to Austin by a voracious appetite for music, she spent most of her young adult life in dark, divey venues nursing a love for the sublimely weird. A self-proclaimed fangirl with a press pass, she combined her love of music and writing as the primary contributor for Japanese music and culture blog, Project: Lixx, interviewing Japanese rock and roll icons and providing live event coverage for appearances across the country. Her first novel, Wounded Martyr, is a 2019 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in the Contemporary Romance: Short Category.

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A MelanieM Review:The Shoreless Sea (Liminal Sky Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth

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Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5

Liminal Sky: Book Three

As the epic trilogy hurtles toward its conclusion, the fight for the future isn’t over yet. It could lead to a new beginning, or it might spell the end for the last vestiges of humankind.

 

The generation ship Forever has left Earth behind, but a piece of the old civilization lives on in the Inthworld—a virtual realm that retains memories of Earth’s technological wonders and vices. A being named Lilith leads the uprising, and if she succeeds in setting its inhabitants free, they could destroy Forever.

 

But during the generation ship’s decades-long voyage, humanity has evolved. Liminals with the ability to connect with the world mind and the Inthworld provide a glimmer of hope. They’ll have to face not only Lilith’s minions, but also the mistrust of their own kind and persecution from a new government as homotypicals continue to fear what they can’t understand.

 

The invasion must be stopped, the Inthworld must be healed, and the people of Forever must let go of their past and embrace what they’re meant to become.

I have been waiting to see how this very talented author was going to wrap up his  Liminal Sky trilogy.  The preceding stories (The Stark Divide #1 and The Rising Tide #2) were both marvelous feats of LGBTQIA science fiction, carrying me along a journey of epic proportions.  So what would the conclusion bring?  A finale to a story that, for the author, has really been decades in the making (read the author’s note).

So into The Shoreless Sea (Liminal Sky Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth I dove!

Well, this is one of those circumstances where I wish I could leave a rating off.  Why?  Because 3/4 of this novel is brilliant, living up to its predecessors.  For the majority of this story, Coastworth has a clear vision, moving his narrative smartly forward towards a highly passionate, suspenseful, action-packed climax.  New characters are introduced, indeed entire new revelatory elements have been brought in, layered and over layered to the existing foundation of the seed ship Forever and its inhabitants moving through space. Past history is reintroduced, skillfully I will add, for those that might have forgotten some of the past.  And new horrific villains have risen.

The author had me hooked.  I was turning those pages, needing to know what was happening next, so thoroughly in the moment with those people, from Destiny (the author’s binary character), to Andy, Gordy, Aine, and all the rest.  They were, and are magnificent, and perfectly realized.   The sciences behind the workings of Forever is still just as fascinating and incredibly visualized as anything I’ve read.  All the people and their various gender identities were handled just as one would hope for a society that advanced. Or should I say a world trying to be a society to be more advanced.

I just loved this story.  Especially that climax!  Just outstanding?  So what is my issue here?

Well , after I got through cheering and thinking about just how perfect I thought that climax was and how neatly I thought Coatsworth had tied up the ending of his story and the trilogy, I noticed something.  And my heart sank a little.  I wasn’t finished yet.  There was more to read.  Sign.  I was, facing more chapters…after a perfect ending.

That’s the hardest thing for authors.  How to let a story go, knowing when to release your characters and say goodbye.  Especially when you have lived with them in your head and your heart for such a long time.

There was another chapter, another villain, another smaller, less effective denouement, just to give a beloved character a send off.  One that, in my opinion, she had already received prior with her partner and heartmate.  This one?  Sort of diminished that which had gone before. So very anticlimactic.  And it also muddled the waters of the fantastic  ending/send off Coatsword had written in the other chapter as well. Just didn’t make as much sense.

And then there was yet another chapter after that.  One that could have easily been set aside as one of those side stories the authori talked about when he said he might be revisiting this universe in the future.  You could also feel the author just not wanting to let go of this trilogy….not yet…just one more paragraph….one more line.

So how to rate this?

The Shoreless Sea (Liminal Sky Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth was mostly a magnificent finale.   Full of passion, great characters, wonderful science, and imaginative plot, and suspenseful ideas and plot, I enjoyed it right up to the first climax and ending.  That was the perfect story for me.  It was there I should have stopped.  And taken the rest as additional short stories later on.

But that’s not how the author wrote it and that’s not his vision.  His vision includes all the chapters and for me, that’s several too many.

I still think the Liminal Sky trilogy is a remarkable series and this was author’s loving tribute to his characters and a story that he’s loved and now finished.  I think he did a rmarvelous job and highly recommend it.

Cover art: Aaron Anderson.  I have loved all the covers for this series and this one is no different.  Just outstanding.

Sales Links: Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | QueeRomance Ink

Book Details:

Kindle Edition
Published October 15th 2019 by DSP Publications
ASINB07T5C8DWY

Liminal Sky Trilogy:

The Stark Divide
The Rising Tide
The Shoreless Sea

 

 

Don’t Miss Out on the Release Tour for The Shoreless Sea (Liminal Sky Book 3) by J. Scott Coatsworth (excerpt and giveaway)

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The Shoreless Sea - J. Scott Coatsworth

J. Scott Coatsworth has a new queer sci fi book out, the final book in his Liminal Sky trilogy: “The Shoreless Sea.” And books one and two are on sale!

As the epic trilogy hurtles toward its conclusion, the fight for the future isn’t over yet. It could lead to a new beginning, or it might spell the end for the last vestiges of humankind.

The generation ship Forever has left Earth behind, but a piece of the old civilization lives on in the Inthworld—a virtual realm that retains memories of Earth’s technological wonders and vices. A being named Lilith leads the uprising, and if she succeeds in setting its inhabitants free, they could destroy Forever.

But during the generation ship’s decades-long voyage, humanity has evolved. Liminals with the ability to connect with the world mind and the Inthworld provide a glimmer of hope. They’ll have to face not only Lilith’s minions, but also the mistrust of their own kind and persecution from a new government as homotypicals continue to fear what they can’t understand.

The invasion must be stopped, the Inthworld must be healed, and the people of Forever must let go of their past and embrace what they’re meant to become.

Series Blurb:

Humankind is on its way to the stars, a journey that will change it forever. Each of the stories in Liminal Sky explores that future through the lens of a generation ship, where the line between science fiction and fantasy often blurs. At times both pessimistic and very hopeful, Liminal Sky thrusts you into a future few would ever have imagined.

Dreamspinner | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | QueeRomance Ink | GoodreadsGet Books One and Two on Sale!

Liminal Sky Series sale

The eBook for book one in the Liminal Sky trilogy, “The Stark Divide,” is just 99¢, and book two, “The Rising Tide,” is $1.99 at all vendors:

The Stark Divide Buy Links – 99¢Dreamspinner | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play

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Giveaway

Scott is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour, along with three eBook sets of his Oberon Cycle trilogy. For a chance to win, enter via Rafflecopter:

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Excerpt

MEME-Shoreless-Sea-03

Kiryn Hammond-Clarke floated in the darkness of space, stars he’d never seen in person twinkling against the velvety black depths.

The voice came to him from out of nowhere. “Can anyone hear me?”

In his dreams, he could hear. Like when Belynn let him ride in her mind.

The voice repeated, sounding stretched and thin. “Is anyone out there?”

In the distance, a single star glowed brighter than all the others, though it was still just a small golden dot.

Kiryn reached out toward the light, his hand naked to the cold of the void.

Ice crystals formed on his arm, hardening it in place. The cold reached into his bones like knives of frozen glass. It raced up his bicep, the burning cold fire of the void.

He snatched back his arm, but he was too late. The freezing grip reached his heart, and he screamed silently—

Kiryn awoke with a start, sitting up in bed in his dorm room drenched with sweat. He ran his hands through his dark hair, letting them come to rest clasped behind his head.

First Light flashed past in the trees outside his window, brightening up the room.

The world was utterly silent.

The silence, his constant companion since birth, was particularly soothing after his rude awakening. It wrapped itself around him like a blanket, a suit of armor, a barrier between him and the hustle and bustle of the outside world.

Between him and emotion.

He held his arm out for inspection, half expecting it to be blackened by the void. Instead, it looked perfectly normal. Warm and tan, halfway between his mothers’ sepia and white skin tones.

He shivered at the memory.

The bed moved under him, and his date from the night before sat up, his mouth moving soundlessly.

The man was handsome, a Thyrean sent to the university at Micavery for his higher schooling—long limbs, blond hair shaved short, warm brown eyes.

His name was Dax. Or Zack. Or something.

Kiryn’s lipreading was decent, but he hadn’t bothered to spend too much time learning this one’s name. Dax or Zack hadn’t seemed to mind much.

Kiryn pointed at his ear and shook his head.

The man’s mouth closed, and he blushed. “Sorry. I forgot.”

That one was easy enough to read.

He grabbed the piece of cotton paper and a pencil Kiryn kept at his bedside just for that purpose and scribbled something out longhand, then handed it over to him.

It’s Dax. And are you okay?

Kiryn stared at him. Did you just read my mind? Maybe there was a little Liminal in him. He laughed, wondering not for the first time what it sounded like from the outside. It felt clunky and awkward on the inside.

He sighed and took the paper and pencil.

Dax’s hand lingered over his for an extra second before letting go.

Bad dream. Class in fifteen minutes. He hesitated, then scribbled, Dinner?

Dax took the paper, and a grin lit up his face. His eager nod needed no translation. I work at the hatchery until six. Meet me there?

Kiryn nodded and grinned.

Dax slipped out of bed and pulled on his trousers and white shirt, the V-neck showing off his chest to perfection.

Kiryn sat back with his hands behind his head, admiring the view.

He leaned over, kissed Kiryn on the cheek, and mouthed, “See you.”

When Dax left, Kiryn grabbed a change of clothes and headed down the hall to the dorm bathroom. He hopped into the shower, using the aromatic red berry soap bar his mom and mamma had sent him from the Estate. The smell transported him, and he closed his eyes and imagined himself standing among the long, even rows of red berry vines that arched across the hillsides.

His parents worried about him, out here alone, but it was Andy who had insisted he go.

When Kiryn had been born congenitally and profoundly deaf, Andy and Shandra had learned sign language from the world mind in vee.

There were so few other deaf people in Forever. So few like him.

The day before he was set to leave for university, to catch the public wagon headed for Darlith and then Micavery, he’d had a huge panic attack.

His parents had sat him down along with his sister, Belynn:

 

“I’m scared. Why do I have to go away?” He was fidgeting, nervous.

“You have to go. There’s nothing here for you.” Andy indicated the Estate, where the family had built a thriving agricultural business on the backs of Trip’s and Colin’s earlier work.

You’re here.” His hands signed it while his knee bounced up and down.

Andy shook her head. “This is our place. You need to go.”

He flushed. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was such a burden.”

“No.That was emphatic. “That’s not what I meant. We don’t want you to get trapped here, working on the Estate for the rest of your life. There’s a whole world out there for you to explore.” She looked up at Shandra, who nodded.

“I’ll go with him,” Belynn said and signed it at the same time, but he could hear her inside his head too.

Mom could do that, too, of course, but she had to touch him to do it.

“You’re not ready.” Shandra glared at Belynn and shook her head.

“I’ve been with Kiryn in every vee class since I was born. I’m only two years younger than he is. Let me go with him to help.”

Kiryn frowned. He wasn’t sure he wanted his little sister tagging along after him, cramping his style. If he decided to go.

Belynn’s hand found his, palm to palm, and he could feel her emotions. We can take care of each other. That thought was private, just for him, inside his head.

Maybe so.

Andy looked at Shandra. “They could take care of each other.” She echoed Belynn’s thought and touched Shandra’s hand. Something passed between them.

Shandra looked at him and then at Belynn, uncertainty clear on her face. “We could… try it.”

Belynn squeezed his hand. “Yes!”

“For a semester.” Andy kissed Shandra on the forehead.

Kiryn thought about it. It would be nice to have someone close by, just in case. Someone who really knew him. “Okay.” And it would be a lot less scary.

Now he was here, and Belynn wouldn’t be far behind.

Where are you, big brother? Belynn’s insistent voice.

I’ll be back in a minute. He pulled the towel from its wooden peg, dried off his hair and shoulders.

A couple of the other guys in the dorm, Stave and Trevor, waved on their way to their own showers. Cute as hell, but straighter than the old antenna on Micavery’s village green. Well, except when Stave got drunk on red berry wine….

Kiryn grinned. He pulled on his trousers and shirt and padded back to his room. Belynn was waiting for him on his bed. “How did you get in?” he signed.

They touched palms, the emotions flowing between them and synching.

“Easy. Aric at the front desk is a sucker for a pretty girl.”

“Like I said, how did you get in?”

She stuck out her tongue at him. “Come on. We’re going to be late.” She tugged him off the bed, and Kiryn barely had time to grab his carry sack before she had him out the door and down the hall.


Author Bio

J. Scott Coatsworth

Scott lives between the here and now and the what could be. Indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine, he devoured her library. But as he grew up, he wondered where the people like him were.

He decided it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at Waldenbooks. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s brain works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He seeks to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

A Rainbow Award winning author and Science Fiction Writer’s Association (SFWA) member, he runs Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction reflecitng their own reality.

Author Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Author Facebook (Personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Author Facebook (Author Page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Author Twitter: https://twitter.com/jscoatsworth

Author Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

Author QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Author Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ/

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New Release Blitz for Clueless Cabot by André D. Michaels (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Clueless Cabot
Author: André D. Michaels
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: September 16, 2019
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 25900
Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, friends to lovers, first time, hurt-comfort, gay, bi, family drama

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Synopsis

Young gay professional Cabot MacCrae has been in love with his sexy best friend, Lloyd, since high school. They’re in perfect sync on almost everything. The only problem is that Lloyd is straight.

Cabot resigned himself long ago to pining hopelessly. Then Lloyd, a roofer, takes a bad fall and injures his collarbone. When he needs some TLC, there’s no question that Cabot will be the one to nurse his friend back to health. But Lloyd’s scantily clad presence in Cabot’s house brings out Cabot’s old longings.

But when Lloyd’s well-meaning mother and aunt fix Cabot up with a blind date, Lloyd reacts like a jealous boyfriend. Lloyd’s reaction makes Cabot wonder if those longings are as unrequited as he’s always assumed. What if Lloyd has been pining for him all these years? Has Cabot just been clueless all along?

Excerpt

Clueless Cabot
André D. Michaels © 2019
All Rights Reserved

DISH

Half an hour before Club Sandwich closed, Cabot McCrae knew he wasn’t going home with anybody. Once again, he’d sat in the corner, nursing his two drinks, eyeing the crowd for someone, anyone, who might be worth pursuing. And once again, as the ice cubes melted in the glass, he sat and did nothing while the few who drew his interest paired up with others and went off into the night. One or two drinks were sent his way, but the guys who sent them seemed creepy and stalkerish, and Cabot declined as politely as he could.

How the hell do guys find each other?

People talked about what a meat market this bar was, but if so, then Cabot was definitely not USDA Choice beef. Maybe not even leftover bologna.

“Thanks, Hank.” He dropped a five on the bar. Hank gave him a casual salute.

The cute Italian busboy didn’t even meet Cabot’s eye. The burly bouncer barely grunted as Cabot left the club. The darkness and cold, relative silence outside brought relief from the flashing lights, steamy heat, and pounding bass inside.

Cabot got in his car and checked his phone. Ring me, said the text from Lloyd.

At 1:45 in the morning, Cabot wasn’t about to call his best friend. He texted back: In the a.m. Beat, dude.

Immediately, Lloyd texted back. Understood. Hope you made out.

Cabot smiled grimly and started the car to head home. No, I didn’t make out. I never make out. Nobody wants to make out. But he wasn’t going to text that to Lloyd, either.

Lloyd always got lucky at the drop of a hat. He’d slept with more women than Cabot could count. He even juggled several girlfriends at a time, managing somehow to keep them all happy and coming back for more.

Not Cabot. He hadn’t gone on a date in—how many months? And he and good ol’ Rosie Palm were better acquainted than ever before.

The lights of the warehouse district behind him, he pulled into the garage below his apartment complex and parked the car. He sat there for several minutes, running his hands over his face. People tell me I’m cute, he kept repeating in his head. But he sure didn’t feel cute after one of these nights. No one talked to him. No one approached him.

No one wanted him.

His phone buzzed. Another text from Lloyd: Sweet dreams dude.

Back in his apartment, Cabot showered and padded naked into the kitchen. The blue calla lilies he’d bought himself were withered in the vase on the table.

He could have another drink. And unlike drinking at the bar, getting drunk at home wouldn’t make him go home with somebody he’d be embarrassed to wake up next to. Well, unless you counted waking up with yourself.

He virtually never wore clothes around the apartment. Nobody could see in. Nobody came to visit except Lloyd, and Cabot usually remembered to pull on some shorts or sweats when Lloyd visited. And when he didn’t remember, Lloyd didn’t care. Why would he? Lloyd was straight.

And besides, since he didn’t get much sex with anybody else, being a nudist at home gave him easy access to the one man who always enjoyed his lovemaking: himself.

His phone by the door buzzed again. Jesus, Lloyd, give it a rest already.

The text read: Yo dude, call me, man. Really.

Okay, that was scary. Cabot hit the call button.

“Hey,” said Lloyd’s sleepy voice.

“Hey. You okay, bro?”

“Sure. Kinda. No.”

“Okay, that’s three answers. What’s going on?”

“Just flirting with the nurse, man. He says I have to talk to you later.”

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. You’re flirting with a male nurse? What the hell is going on, Lloyd?”

“What? He’s cute.”

“Uh…you’re straight. What kind of drugs do they have you on?”

Lloyd sighed. “Just c’mon to the ER, man. Central MC. They’ll release me if I have a ride.”

“ER? What the fuck happened?”

“Tell you later. You gonna be my ride?”

“You got it, man. Be there in like five seconds. Four point nine.”

“Thanks, Cab.”

Cabot grabbed his keys and wallet and headed for the door, and then remembered he should probably put on pants. He pulled on a pair of basketball shorts and shoes and grabbed a clean shirt out of the drawer. No waiting for the elevator; he took the stairs.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Having held jobs as varied as wedding caterer, IT guru, nanny, construction worker, librarian, historical reenactor, screenplay consultant, and birthday party clown, André now writes poetry, plays, and romances and erotic fiction about men loving men. A lifelong bibliophile, André lives in a renovated 1800s parsonage in Ohio, with a variable number of cats and an invariable number of husband.

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Giveaway

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Love Mystery With Your Romance? Check Out the Blitz for Palm Trees and Paparazzi (Gabe Maxfield Mysteries #3) by J.C. Long )excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Palm Trees and Paparazzi

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries, Book Three

Author: J.C. Long

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61200

Genre: Contemporary Mystery, LGBT, gay, mystery, romance, contemporary, establishes relationship

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Gabe Maxfield remembers Manuel Delgado all too well—since investigating him nearly got him killed. He’d be very happy never to see him again, but that’s not in the cards for him. When the mother of a missing socialite seeks out Paradise Investigations to find out what happened to her daughter, Gabe and best friend Grace Park are going to be thrown right back into Delgado’s world. Personal lives begin to interfere, as well, and soon they’ve got more on their plate than they can handle.

A missing woman.

Delgado’s son.

A romantically awkward Grace.

Gabe’s parents.

It’s just another week for Gabe Maxfield.

Excerpt

Palm Trees and Paparazzi
J.C. Long © 2019
All Rights Reserved

There was a time when throbbing music, frenetically moving bodies, and expensive cocktails would have been my scene—a time that passed a few years back, I’d guess. Actually, you know what? Scratch that. I’ve never been one for clubs. And with my twenty-ninth birthday merely two months away, it was really time for me to close that chapter of my life, anyway.

It was the second week of January, and some people still hadn’t lost the edge from New Year’s Eve. The club was packed full of people even though it was a Wednesday—thanks, no doubt, to ladies’ night and slightly discounted drinks for men.

My best friend, Grace Park, and I managed to snag a table that was far enough from the speakers that we wouldn’t be deafened for days to come by the outing.

Grace sat at the table, stirring the thin black straw in her vodka tonic, which she’d barely had half of. I’d volunteered to drive us tonight so Grace could have a few drinks, and she hadn’t finished her first one in the hour we’d been there.

“You look miserable, Grace,” I said, nudging her with my shoulder. “If you want to go home, just say the word. Really, we don’t need to stay here on my account.”

“I’m fine, Gabe,” she insisted stubbornly, even though I knew her well enough to know she wasn’t. She’d been down ever since New Year’s Eve. She’d been invited to a party by Jin Hamada, our private investigation firm’s resident tech expert and object of Grace’s affection, and had assumed it was a romantic invitation only to show up, dressed to the nines and ready, to discover it was a casual thing he threw for the people who lived in his apartment building. Jin hadn’t noticed, but Grace had been mortified.

It didn’t help that our assistant, Mrs. Neidermeyer, who lives in Jin’s building, did notice and teased Grace about it every chance that she got.

Privately, I thought Grace was taking it a little hard, but who was I to judge? I literally fled the continent to escape a breakup. That didn’t put me in the running for the category of most reasonable reaction to something.

“I thought coming to this club would cheer you up a little bit,” I said, taking a sip of my ginger ale—no alcohol for me, since I was driving. “I hate seeing you so down. I know how much you love music and dancing and clubs.”

Grace snorted. “When we were in college, yeah. But you know, maybe…maybe we’re a little old for this crowd.”

“I was just thinking the same thing,” I admitted. “When did that happen, though? When did we get old?”

“Kind of sneaked up on us, didn’t it? Here we are, just around the corner from thirty. Remember when we watched Friends in high school and we thought they were all overreacting about turning thirty? Now that we’re looking it in the face, I’m starting to think maybe they weren’t overreacting that much after all.”

“It’s not that bad,” I said consolingly. It was a weird reversal for us; usually Grace was the one doing her best to make me feel better, not the other way around. “Think about how high life expectancy is? Nowadays people don’t even really get started before they’re thirty.”

“Not so bad? Come on, Gabe. We’re almost thirty and I’m still single. I do want to have kids someday, you know? That’s getting more and more unlikely the longer I stay single.” She picked up her vodka tonic, tossing it back as if she could wash away the dour thoughts with it.

At least she drank it; that cost me six dollars.

“Don’t you think you’re taking this whole thing too seriously Grace? So you made a mistake and misinterpreted his invitation. You think you’re the first person to ever make that mistake?”

Grace scowled at my reminder. “I looked like an idiot.”

“No one even noticed!”

“Mrs. Neidermeyer almost has an aneurism from laughing every time she sees me!”

“Okay, so no one but Mrs. Neidermeyer even noticed.”

“That old lady is enough.”

“I don’t understand the rivalry you two have.”

“She’s got it out for me!”

“No, she doesn’t. She’s just spirited.”

“She’s medicated.”

I decided to drop the Neidermeyer discussion. It was a sore spot for her, and one that wouldn’t go away—particularly since I basically hired her to annoy Grace. The last thing I wanted to do then was to bring Grace down even more by talking about something that she hated.

I surveyed the bodies on the dance floor, taking in the sights, wondering if I could get a jolt of energy from them by proxy. Everyone seemed to be having so much fun, but then again that’s what clubs were, right? There were no doubt a large number of tourists among the crowd, people itching to get away from the tourist elements of Honolulu and into something that they were familiar with. Sure, the locale might be different, but a club was a club, whether it was in Seattle, New York, Pontiac, Michigan, or Honolulu.

“We’ve got company,” Grace said, drawing my attention from the crowd. I spotted my boyfriend, Maka Kekoa, making his way toward us around the perimeter of the room. A wide smile stretched my lips when I saw him. He was tall, his skin a sun-kissed brown that proudly displayed his Native Hawaiian heritage. His body was lean, hard muscle, kept that way by his rigorous exercise routine, his frequent surfing, and his job on the police force.

Walking behind Maka but still casting a shadow over him was one of Maka’s best friends, Hiapo, a big guy with an even bigger heart who ran an exclusive and popular lu’au on the island. Hiapo was without a doubt one of the cheeriest people I had ever met.

“Yo, howzit?” Hiapo greeted, his naturally loud voice easy to hear over the drone of techno dance music blaring in the background, a remix of a remix of a Cher song, if I had to guess.

“Hey, guys,” I greeted, moving my seat a little so Maka could make room on the other side of the table for himself and Hiapo.

Maka smiled at me, a look that always somehow managed to look sultry and goofy at the same time.

“Hey.” He planted a gentle, chaste kiss on my lips.

Beside me, Grace made a strange sound, a cross between a harrumph and a tsk. Maka cast an amused look her way. “I see your plan to cheer her up is right on schedule.”

“I don’t need cheering up,” Grace huffed.

“Girl, you still pining over that IT guy?” Hiapo asked.

“No,” Grace said at the same time Maka and I said, “Yes!” earning us both glowers.

“Traitors.”

“Listen, you need me to put something together for you? Plan a nice romantic package, like I did for these two here?” He indicated Maka and I with a thumb.

“I appreciate the offer, Hiapo, but that won’t be necessary. I don’t even think he likes me.”

“Have you asked him out?”

Grace squirmed in her seat. “No. But we’ve known each other for three years, and he’s never asked me out in all of this time. I think if he was interested, he would have done something about it already, right?”

“I see one major flaw in that logic, Gracie,” I said. “You like him, but you haven’t done anything about it, either.”

Grace’s brow furrowed as she struggled to come up with a comeback, but I could see in her eyes that she couldn’t. “I just don’t want to waste any more time on someone who might not even like me back. That’s time I could better spend going out with people who are interested.”

“But who you’re not interested in,” I added.

Grace threw her hands up in the air. “Is this beat up Grace night? Are you trying to cheer me up by making me more depressed?”

“Okay, okay, you win. I’ll stop.”

We stayed there for another hour, doing our best to get Grace to cheer up with very limited success. Finally we decided to call it a night. Maka and Hiapo left together, and I took Grace home.

We rode without talking, listening to various covers of songs by the Dynamos. As crazy as it might sound, I hate the Dynamos but really enjoy the songs themselves. I just can’t stand hearing them do the singing.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore, and just before reaching the neighborhood she lived in I asked, “Are you really going to give up on Jin?”

Grace heaved a sigh, looking out the window, hand propped up under her chin, elbow on the door. With her sitting like that, I could imagine Grace being in a movie, with a deep, soulful soundtrack—maybe something by Adele—playing in the background.

“Don’t you think I should? It seems clear to me that he isn’t interested.”

“It’s not clear to me,” I said, pulling my car to a stop in front of Grace’s place. “Not until you ask him.”

“I’m not going to just waltz up to him and ask him! Don’t be ridiculous.” Grace unbuckled her seatbelt and pushed open the car door.

I shrugged nonchalantly. “Okay, then, fine. Let Mrs. Neidermeyer win.”

She took the bait, just like I knew she would, stopping halfway out of the car and fixing a stern glare on me. “What is that supposed to mean?”

“You’re always saying that she’s against you and doesn’t want you seeing Jin,” I reminded her. I hoped that the best way to build up her confidence was to give her an enemy that wasn’t herself. I didn’t feel too badly about it, considering she pretty much disliked Mrs. Neidermeyer the moment she set eyes on her. “If you just give up without really knowing, all you’re doing is giving her exactly what she wants, right?”

“I’ll think about it,” Grace said after considering my words. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Grace.” I sat in front of her place until she was safely inside before driving home. I really hoped Grace did think about what I said and finally took the leap and asked Jin—that or move on, because working with her in this sort of funk was beginning to get a little tiring.

And, if I was being completely honest, it felt really juvenile, like high school all over again. I was ready for Grace to go back to her normal self. Maybe that made me a bad friend, but I looked at it a different way. Grace pushed me to get out of the condo and out into the world of the living once more after I arrived in Hawai’i, and I was returning the favor now.

I only hoped she would appreciate it as much as I did.

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Meet the Author

J.C. Long is an American expat living in Japan, though he’s also lived stints in Seoul, South Korea—no, he’s not an army brat; he’s an English teacher. He is also quite passionate about Welsh corgis and is convinced that anyone who does not like them is evil incarnate. His dramatic streak comes from his life-long involvement in theater. After living in several countries aside from the United States J. C. is convinced that love is love, no matter where you are, and is determined to write stories that demonstrate exactly that. J. C. Long’s favorite things in the world are pictures of corgis, writing and Korean food (not in that order…okay, in that order). J. C. spends his time not writing thinking about writing, coming up with new characters, attending Big Bang concerts and wishing he was writing. The best way to get him to write faster is to motivate him with corgi pictures. Yes, that is a veiled hint.

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Looking for Your Next Romance? Check Out the New Release Blitz for A Cordial Agreement by Ryan Loveless (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: A Cordial Agreement

Author: Ryan Loveless

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: LC Chase

Ryan Loveless Artist: Alexandria Corza of Seeing Static

Release Date: May 17, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 118 pages

Genre: Romance, BDSM, age gap, gay, asexual, bisexual, contemporary, rich/poor

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Synopsis

Can a wealthy but frustrated CEO and a guilt-ridden stripper find what they need in a consensual, nonsexual whipping boy arrangement?

Billionaire mogul Grant Jessup, fifty-three, buries his sexual tastes and the reasons behind them—the stresses of his business empire and family. In contrast, Jim Sieber understands the regret that makes him seek pain and penance. As an asexual averse to erotic touch, Jim sets strict boundaries. But as the relationship evolves, Grant struggles to respect them, and both men realize for their association to continue and perhaps grow into real feelings, they’ll have to explore new ways to satisfy each other.

Excerpt

JIM SIEBER kept his attention on the television in front of him, pretending to be engrossed in the telenovela playing. He didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to know Ricardo was in deep shit with Sofia. Occasionally he caught a glimpse of the bartender in his peripheral vision and doubled down on his TV viewing. Behind him, a steady slap of leather against bare skin pulled a rich, throaty holler from a man. Jim sat at the corner of the bar, loosely surrounding his double whiskey with his long fingers. He sensed a few stares, but people left him alone. He’d figured they would after his first time when a man had snaked his hand around Jim’s neck and called him boy. Jim had twisted the man’s thumb so far back he’d almost broken it. “Not your boy,” Jim had said, after he’d forced the man to his knees in pain. Evidently, word had gotten around. No one had approached since.

It was his own damn fault. He didn’t know why he’d come to an S&M club if he wasn’t going to get involved. He hadn’t come to watch. Hell, he wasn’t watching, not anything except the telenovela. The beatings going on behind him could have been happening on another planet. But he had to stop himself from flinching with every stroke he heard, and curled his fingers into his glass with every scream. He’d come here because he’d wondered if pain would make him forget. No, not forget. He’d come here because he’d wondered if pain would absolve him. Sure, he could have tried boxing or started a bar fight, but he didn’t want to be arrested, and his boss got huffy about facial injuries. A respectable S&M club had seemed like his best option. Except for the red flag that Jim hadn’t considered, and which had stopped him from taking action. As the subs walked past after their sessions, hugged against their Doms, he knew why he could never do that. Aftercare involved touching. It might turn sexual. Jim’s skin prickled at the thought, a march of ants that he couldn’t shake off.

So he stared at the television and talked to no one.

“Hey. Hey!” Jim jumped and blinked. The bartender was talking to him. He thumbed to a set of stairs leading up to a balcony and a single door. “Boss wants to see ya.”

“Boss?” Jim asked.

“Wouldn’t keep her waiting,” the bartender said.

Jim looked around, expecting to find some muscle waiting to haul him up, but he saw a clear path to the stairs. “Okay.” He considered his glass.

“I’ll keep it for you, if you want it later.” The bartender pulled it off the bar. So that settled it. Jim headed for the stairs. At the top, he knocked. The door flew open. A woman with an olive complexion and straight black hair reaching to the middle of her back beckoned him in. He’d expected leather, lace, and high heels. She wore smart black slacks and a maroon shirt tailored to hug her waist and not strain at her bust. The amount of cleavage on view from the two open buttonholes would have been acceptable in any corporate boardroom. Instead of heels, she wore what looked like bedroom slippers. Not the sexy kind, either. More like the “home alone with a Harlequin novel and a mug of hot chocolate” kind. He relaxed instantly. The image reminded him of many pleasant nights spent with his mother when he was a child. With almost nothing between her feet and the floor, the top of her head barely reached Jim’s nipples. As soon as she closed the door, the sounds from downstairs disappeared.

“Soundproofing?” Jim asked.

The woman smiled and extended her hand. “I couldn’t concentrate without it. I’m Tanya Wyatt. You can call me Tanya or Miss Wyatt, whichever you’re more comfortable with.”

“Jim Sieber.” He left the implication that she could likewise call him whatever she wished unsaid. They shook hands.

“Come sit down, Mr. Sieber. Take the seat of your choice.”

He followed her back to her desk. As she sat in her chair, he noticed his options—a straight-backed wooden chair or a pillow on the floor. He chose the chair. If Miss Wyatt noticed his fraction of a second of hesitation, she didn’t comment.

She folded her hands and made a serious expression.

He waited.

“Mr. Sieber, when a new person comes to the club and doesn’t engage in activities, whether that is actively, voyeuristically, or simply socially, for a week, we understand. This is a new experience for them, and we appreciate their need to acclimate at their own pace. Some people can take two or three weeks before they are ready to take the next step.”

Jim’s throat tightened. “So?”

“You have been coming for nine weeks, and aside from nearly breaking Henry’s hand, you haven’t spoken to anyone.”

“So, you called me up here because I haven’t made any friends?”

“I’ll put this bluntly. My staff and clients are starting to wonder if you’re police. Are you the police, Mr. Sieber?”

“No, ma’am, I’m not.”

“Then what can I do to help you achieve your goals here? Because unless you’re here to improve your Spanish, I’m guessing that you’re not getting what you need out of your visits.”

Jim wished he’d brought his drink along. He stared down at his hands, which had subconsciously assumed the position like they were gripping a glass. “It’s hard to explain.”

“I want to help you.”

On the cusp of voicing his needs, he felt stupid. “I should go. I’m sorry. I won’t come back.”

“Truffle?” Miss Wyatt asked. Jim blinked in surprise as she opened a box on her desk and offered a tray of cocoa-dusted chocolate drops to him.

“Thank you.” He took one and popped it in his mouth before he could think about it.

As he chewed, she spoke. “People come here for a variety of reasons. They aren’t all what you might suspect. So, if you’re thinking that you’re out of place because your reasons don’t match what you believe they should, believe me when I tell you that you are wrong. Look at me.” She gestured at herself. “I’m a heterosexual woman who owns and operates an exclusively male S&M club. What are my motivations? Why do I do this? I bet they aren’t what you think.”

Jim wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer. He stopped chewing to let the chocolate dissolve on his tongue.

“Delectable, isn’t it? A good friend goes to Belgium on business. He always brings me a box. He’s a considerate man. We won’t talk about his personal life.” She offered a bland smile that Jim interpreted as “I’m sure you know what I mean.”

“Is he a client here?” Jim asked.

“He’s a dear friend.” She smiled again. “Another?”

Jim shook his head. “No, thank you.”

“I’ll have one.” She closed her eyes as she chewed. Jim watched her jaw and throat move. She didn’t seem to be putting on a show. For a moment, he wondered if she’d forgotten him.

“I, um, I’m not sure I’m comfortable here.”

Miss Wyatt opened her eyes with the laziness of a cat waking. “In the office or in the club?”

“Here.” Jim gestured, taking in everything. “Everything’s so sexual. If you knew what I do for a living, you’d think I’m weird to say that, but….”

“But sexual is not what you want from your experience here,” she finished.

He nodded.

“So what do you want? Pain? You said not sexual, so I assume you don’t want pleasure?”

“Sex isn’t pleasurable for me.” He cringed. He hadn’t meant to share that.

“Mr. Sieber, if you’ve suffered a trauma and you’re here to work through it, I have to advise you against this. I can direct you to other resources—”

“I wasn’t traumatized. I’m not interested in sex. I don’t like… being touched like that. It makes me uncomfortable.” That put it mildly.

“Well. You might be the first asexual we’ve had here that I know of.”

“I don’t sign autographs.”

She laughed. “All right, you’ve explained why your goals aren’t sexual. Let’s talk about why you’re asking for pain. Are you a masochist?”

“No, ma’am.” He dug his heels into the carpet as she unraveled him.

“But you want to be hurt.”

She sounded sure. He glanced up, wondering if he should put up a front and demand to know why she’d jumped to that conclusion instead of asking if he sought to hurt someone. Her thoughtful expression shut him down. She looked ready to explain his life for him. And worse, she would be right.

“Yes,” he said, instead of the protest he’d halfheartedly intended. “I want to be hurt.” He said it aloud, slowly, to hear himself.

“Why?”

One look at Miss Wyatt told him she already knew why. She wanted him to say it.

“Because I deserve it.” He swallowed.

She kept eye contact and gave a small encouraging nod.

“Because I’m guilty of something and I… I want to be absolved.”

“Mr. Sieber, are you a fugitive?”

“No, nothing like that.” He realized what he sounded like, talking of guilt and absolution with such fervor.

He fell back in relief when her lips twitched into a smile. She reached across the desk. He grasped her hand.

“Mr. Sieber, I give you my word that I will match you to a client who will respect your boundaries. As for the absolution you desire, I’m afraid you’ll only find that if you’re willing to let yourself.”

“Thank you.” He began to shake with relief. He’d have what he needed soon. Everything would be okay.

“Now. Let’s go downstairs so I can introduce you properly to our bartender, Noel.” She pulled a pair of heels from beneath her desk and quickly swapped her slippers for them. “You have a lot of paperwork ahead of you, young man, and you’re going to need a soda to help your nerves.” He jumped when she touched his shoulder. “This is a big step.”

“I’m ready.” He stood up and walked to the door, where he waited for her. “Thank you, Miss Wyatt.”

THREE MONTHS Later:

Tanya Wyatt never failed to add excitement to his day, so Grant Jessup had allowed himself a rare nonbusiness lunch when she’d invited him out. Of course Rory had scowled at him. His leaving meant she needed to cancel a meeting on his account, but it was a one-on-one and it involved spreadsheets. Frankly, Grant was glad to be free of it. He still had heartburn and acid reflux from the day before after two acidic meals, one featuring citrus and the other tomato sauce. It had worsened overnight.

A new box of chocolate truffles sat on the table between Grant and Tanya. Grant had dutifully handed them over upon arrival, kicking off a conversation about his most recent European business trip. Then, when the waitress carried away their entree plates, Tanya slipped the truffles into her bag. Recognizing the significance of the action, Grant glanced around for eavesdropping ears.

“So, what’s the occasion?” he asked.

“There’s a young man I want you to meet. He started coming into the club about five months ago. I haven’t been able to match him yet. He’s breathtaking but asexual. He only wants to be beaten, but the Doms I’ve paired him with get handsy. It’s counterproductive to his needs.”

“So you think I could keep my hands off him?”

“You have a considerable amount of restraint. You are possibly my last hope. Plus, given what you’re currently looking for, I think he’d be a good match for you as well.”

Grant considered it. “How attractive?”

“Greek god.”

“Mercury or Hercules?”

“Narcissus.”

Grant arched an eyebrow as his heart clenched with a mix of youthful guilt and nostalgia. Tanya had touched a nerve she couldn’t possibly know about. Unless… she’d been to Grant’s home. She could easily have seen the painting of Narcissus that hung in Melanie’s former office. Melanie had left it and a number of other paintings behind after the divorce. Tanya might have guessed it belonged to Grant.

“You’d trust me to work out my frustration on his ass? I know how protective you are of your clients’ bottoms, Tanya.”

“Oh, you won’t touch him until you and I have spent at least forty hours together and I’m positive you know how to recognize when your temper isn’t in check.”

Grant gave a light snort. “Please. I didn’t get this rich by losing my cool.”

“That’s my point. You’re so good at hiding when you’re about to boil over that I wonder if you even know when you’ve reached the point before it’s too late. I’m not about to put a whip or any other implement in your hand before you’ve proven yourself to me, especially considering your reasons for doing this. You can keep your temper in business interactions, but you’re talking about family.”

Grant sighed. He didn’t care for Tanya’s methods, but he respected them, and if this plan worked out, it would meet a need he’d been looking to fill for a few years. “Fair enough. I suppose you’ll want to start this training the usual way.”

“Naturally.”

“You know, I think it’s hilarious how you’re protective of everyone’s ass but mine.”

“Darling, no Dom gets in my club without getting whipped by Miss Wyatt. You know that. If you can’t take it, there’s no reason I should let you dish it out.”

He sniffed. “I don’t see why one needs to give repeated proof. You’re a perverted woman.”

She grinned. “If you made yourself more of a regular, I wouldn’t have to keep reassuring myself.”

“Come on, Tanya. I can’t exactly be seen there, no matter how discreet you insist everyone is. My family is already in the tabloids more than I’d like.”

“I know. So, I’ll see you at mine at ten tonight?”

“Fine.” He dug into his pocket for a pillbox and pulled out an omeprazole tablet. “When do I meet this young man?”

“Heartburn or ulcer?” Tanya asked. She nodded at the tablet as Grant put it into his mouth and swallowed with a bit of water. It wouldn’t be as effective with food already in his stomach, but it was better than not taking it.

“Heartburn, but ulcer is around the corner I’m sure.”

“What does the doctor say?”

“Says I have too much stress in my life and I need to cut back.”

“Are you going to listen to him?”

He smiled. “Why do you think I take so many trips to Europe?”

“Grant, I know you take pride in your job, but—”

“It’s not a job. It’s a career. It’s the family business that I built on my father’s framework, so whatever you’re about to say, stop.”

Tanya put her hand up and changed the subject back. “He works at a strip club in upper Manhattan. I don’t want you to meet him yet, but you can send one of your spies to check him out.”

“And by ‘spy’ you mean Rory?”

She smiled. “I do. See you tonight, babe.”

Grant sighed, already anticipating the pain in his ass the evening would be.

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Meet the Author

Ryan Loveless is the author of numerous M/M romance novels and short stories. She is honored to be recognized as a Rainbow Book Award winner (several titles), an Epic eBook Awards finalist (In Me an Invincible Summer), and a Florida Author and Publisher Association bronze medalist (Ethan, the young adult adaptation of Ethan, Who Loved Carter). She lives in New York with her family, a sentence that brings her great joy to write.

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