Release Day Blitz for Valor (Until You #4) by Karrie Roman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Valor

Series: Until You, Book 4

Author: Karrie Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 14, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85800

Genre: Contemporary, law enforcement, shark photographer, kidnapping, attempted murder, older MC

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Synopsis

Years ago Asher Winsome almost lost his life in the jaws of a great white shark. It was the scariest moment of his life—until his four-year-old nephew is kidnapped. Called home to be with his family, who see him as the black sheep, Asher must rely on every bit of his courage if he’s going to help get his nephew back. But this is not an ordinary kidnapping. And the outcome will leave Asher running for his life.

Former FBI agent Alec Banner buries himself in his work to forget everything that’s missing in his life. His job, at a private company run by an old friend, locating missing children can be tough and brutal, but Alec is no stranger to working with the worst of humanity. From the minute he’s called to help on the Winsome kidnapping he knows something is different.

Thrown together under such difficult circumstances Asher and Alec are drawn to each other’s unrelenting courage even in the face of their fears. But a relationship begun under such impossible stress can’t survive. When his job is finished Alec runs from Asher and his growing feelings, but the danger hasn’t passed, in fact it has only just begun. And both men will need to be brave if they are to survive.

Excerpt

Valor
Karrie Roman © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Jesus Christ, he couldn’t get out of that happy, fucking home quick enough. The fact he’d put a bullet between the eyes of an abusive monster less than twenty-four hours ago wasn’t what had Alec Banner’s heart aching, his breath stuttering, and his legs itching to run. No, he’d had little trouble doing that.

What had him fleeing from the company of a man he considered his best friend, and three other men who’d become very important to him, had been all the fucking love wafting around the room—infecting everyone but him.

Alec had been friends with Ben Cronin for well over a decade. Though they’d lost contact for a few years, they’d reconnected close to a year ago. These days, he spent plenty of time with Ben. They’d been working together for several months now, locating missing and abducted children. Working at Chasing Hope was grueling, but very rewarding. Alec didn’t regret leaving the FBI to join Ben’s company at all.

It wasn’t Ben he was fleeing, though. Nor was it Ben’s partner. Ethan was a fucking dreamboat, but Ben was the lucky asshole who’d snagged his heart. Alec had no problem admitting he had a tiny crush on Ethan. Would it ever cause trouble between him and Ben? Fuck no, because no matter what, there was no way Alec would ever do anything about it. Alec Banner had a lot of faults, but disloyalty wasn’t one of them. He’d pine away for Ethan like a miserable bastard until he—hopefully—found a dreamboat of his own to love.

No, despite his messy feelings, the reason Alec was fleeing Ben’s brother’s house before he completely fucking lost it was because he couldn’t stand to see how happy the two couples there were. He’d witnessed the love between Ben and Ethan for months, and despite them going through a really rough time, they’d been going through it together. Alec had seen firsthand what it should be like to have a real partner. Someone to love, to care about. Someone who’d have your back no matter what.

Instead, he was expected to fucking sit back and watch how happy Ben’s brother, Cameron, and his lover, Zach, were? He couldn’t do it. Selfish maybe, but he was nearly forty years old and he’d had one boyfriend who’d lasted six months and a nine-month relationship with a woman, which had been explosive but ultimately fizzled out because she wouldn’t walk down the aisle with him. Her refusal had hurt like hell at the time, but looking back on it, years later, he was so glad Heather had rejected him. He was pretty sure he’d be a divorced father of three by now if she hadn’t.

Here was Zach, who was twenty-fucking-two and had found the love of his life in Cameron, and try as he might, Alec couldn’t shake the jealousy. He wanted that; he wanted what those men had.

There was only one thing Alec knew of to help when life went to shit, and that was work. He never turned to the bottle or eating his feelings when he was miserable, like some people did. Alec’s choice of pick-me-up was to tuck his head down and his ass up and get stuck into as much work as possible.

He pulled out his phone and thumbed through his contacts. Ryan Lowe was near the top of his list. Ryan was the brains and bank behind Chasing Hope, the company Alec worked for locating missing kids. Ryan had told Alec earlier he may have a job for him, and as he hit the call button he hoped to god Ryan did. Alec desperately needed something to keep him busy.

“Alec, how’d it go?” Ryan answered without preamble.

Alec knew Ryan would have heard from Ben or Ethan that they’d rescued Zach from Cameron’s crazy ex, but he wasn’t exactly sure if they’d have told him how far they’d gone, so he offered only a concise answer. “Good. All done. What else have you got for me?”

“Well, I’m sure we’ve got a case, but I’m waiting to hear back. I’ve already got Jacey putting a file together for you. Little boy, four, was taken this morning from his local park. The family is affluent and well-known in their community. The mother is certain there’ll be a ransom demand. She wants the cops called, but she’s getting pushback from her husband and the in-laws. I think you should head out to them ASAP, see what you think and be ready to act.”

His phone beeped as Ryan spoke, likely to signal the arrival of the file from Jacey. She was an absolute genius with technology, and he expected she’d have provided him with information, not only about the immediate family but the extended one, including friends, staff, and coworkers. Knowing Jacey, he’d even get information on the people the parents went to kindergarten with. She’d have dug up whatever dirt there was to find in a short amount of time, and no doubt she’d already be digging through old data to find even more.

“Got it. Where am I headed?”

“Del Mar. Get a flight to San Diego. I’ll get a hotel booked for you in Del Mar and text the details.”

“On my way.”

“Hey…you okay, Alec?”

Ryan was a sweetheart, tender and caring and far too innocent for this line of work. And yet he’d dragged himself into the misery of missing kids because he wanted to help—and found himself in a position where he could. He was one of the good guys, but Alec worried how it would all affect him. Alec had been dealing with scum for years; he knew the horror stories, and he’d hardened his heart to them, but Ryan? Alec worried about him.

“Tired, that’s all. I’m fine, Ryan, but thanks for caring.”

They exchanged a few niceties regarding Ryan and his partner, Lucas. Alec repeated several more times that he was, in fact, all right, despite the events of the past twenty-four hours, when Ryan asked before hanging up.

Alec made his way to the airport and settled in to wait for his flight. Getting in and out of Cody, Wyoming, wasn’t always easy. He didn’t mind curling up on one of the uncomfortable chairs common to most airports while he waited, though. He pulled out his tablet and opened the file Jacey had sent him.

The Winsome family of Del Mar wasn’t simply affluent, they were filthy fucking rich. The patriarch was one Edmund Winsome, who was a founding partner of one of the biggest law firms in Southern California. Matriarch Phyllis Winsome had brought her family’s considerable wealth to the marriage and together they had built a formidable empire for their two sons. From the images Jacey sent, they were an austere-looking couple who screamed wealth from every perfectly coiffed hair on their heads.

Oldest son—and father of the missing boy—Kane Winsome worked for his father’s firm. He hadn’t quite made partner yet, but from what Alec read, he was well on his way. Alec found the photo Jacey had sent and studied the image of Kane Winsome. He was a younger version of his father. Light-brown hair was cut to within an inch of its life and was gelled into what was probably the latest style, steel-gray eyes glared at the lens, and thin lips pursed to show their impatience with whomever had taken the photo. Alec tried not to judge a book by its cover, but if he had to, then the title would be Pride and Prejudice. A more modern day Fitzwilliam Darcy he couldn’t imagine finding.

Kane’s wife, Madeline, came from a wealthy family herself, though not on the scale of the Winsome’s wealth. She worked as a florist and could not look more opposite to her husband if she tried. She had a mane of flowing, dark, almost black hair that perfectly matched her dark skin. Her eyes were a deep brown but were lit by what Alec suspected was her natural joie de vivre. It was hard to tell from a photo, but she looked petite. Alec had no doubt she would be a lioness, though, when it came to her loved ones. While her husband glared and pouted at the camera, Madeline Winsome laughed and flirted with it.

He scrolled to another image—this one of Kane and Madeline together each holding hands with a toddling child he assumed to be the missing Jack. The photo must be at least a year old given that Jack was now four. The family looked—happy. Gone was Kane’s stern face, replaced with a beaming smile, his gaze fixed on his son. Madeline looked the same as in the solo photo as she, too, stared at her son. The little boy was adorable. His smile matched his parents’ as he seemed to be frozen in an attempt to take an ungainly step. The photo captured more than a simple image of family—it portrayed love, purely and simply.

Alec would read the file more thoroughly on the plane and over the days to come, but for now, he only wanted to get a feel for this family. He couldn’t even begin to imagine the hell they must be going through.

Movement around him alerted him to the fact that his flight was boarding. Alec took his place in line, greeting the staff politely as always. He was a firm believer in catching more flies with honey than vinegar, and a pleasant exchange with airline staff had him either sitting in an exit row or with an extra beverage more times than he cared to remember.

He made his way to his seat, delighted to see an almost empty flight. With luck, the two seats beside him would remain vacant so he might be able to get a couple of hours sleep. He settled in and took another look at the files while he waited for takeoff.

Next in the file was the second son, Kane’s brother. As Alec skimmed his bio, he realized instantly that Asher Winsome was the black sheep of the family. He too had studied law, as his father and brother had, but Asher’s most recent job was listed as marine photographer, location—varied. Interesting.

Alec scrolled to the attached photograph, his eyes popping like some kind of cartoon character. Jesus Christ, he’d never seen anyone more gorgeous. Asher Winsome was drop-dead stunning. The photo wasn’t even a good one, so he could only imagine how devastating the man would be in real life. His hair was a few shades darker than his brother’s, and he wore it long, just scraping his shoulders. His gray eyes were lighter than Kane’s. Alec couldn’t wait to see them in person to find out if they were as silver as they appeared in the photo. His smile was crooked and shy; his entire demeanor coy. Alec was insanely jealous of whoever had taken the photo and coaxed that look out of the man.

He knew he’d sat there staring too long when the flight attendant had to actually tap his arm to get him to prepare for takeoff. He shut down his tablet and fastened his seat belt. He leaned his head against the fuselage, letting his eyes drift shut. Glimmering gray eyes and a crooked smile followed him into sleep.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Karrie lives in Australia’s sunshine state with her husband and two sons, though she hates the sun with a passion. She dreams of one day living in the wettest and coldest habitable place she can find. She has been writing stories in her head for years but has finally managed to pull the words out of her head and share them with others. She spends her days trying to type her stories on the computer without disturbing her beloved cat Lu curled up on the keyboard. She probably reads far too much.

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Love Coming Out Romance Stories? Check out ‘Out in the Offense (Out in College #3) by Lane Hayes (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Out in the Offense

Series: Out in College #3

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: January 10, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 54k

Genre: Romance, New Adult, Bisexual, College romance, Football, Coming out

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Synopsis

Christian Rafferty is a talented quarterback with a big secret. He’s determined to make the most of his final season on the football field, and if possible, avoid any confrontations with his conservative parents about his future. It shouldn’t be difficult; he’s become adept at keeping his public and private lives separate. However, when a math class threatens to derail his plans to graduate on time, he realizes he may need outside help.

Rory Kirkland has a reputation for being a tough guy. He’s a former wrestler and recent college graduate who needs a real job. Until he finds one, tutoring is a decent temporary gig. Luckily, his brain is his biggest asset. Rory is a genius. He credits his sport for helping him deal with angst and rumors about his sexuality when he was younger, but he doesn’t care what others think anymore. He likes his new status as an out and proud bi man; and he recognizes something of himself in Christian. But Rory didn’t count on falling for him. When an unlikely friendship collides with intense attraction, both men begin to realize that coming out on offense just might be the surest path to love.

Excerpt

“Can I do anything to help?” I asked, setting my backpack on one of the two barstools at the narrow counter space.

“Nope. As soon as the veggies are sautéed, we’ll be ready to eat. Want something to drink?”

“Yes, please. Water is fine. Where’s Buttons?”

Rory pulled a water bottle from the small fridge behind him and handed it over, then pointed at a basket next to the sofa.

“She’s hiding behind that basket. She’ll make an appearance if she decides you’re worthy. In the meantime, there’s bread in that basket on the counter next to your bag. Help yourself. I’ll bring dinner out.”

I thanked him, then twisted the cap from the water bottle and took a generous sip before rounding the corner in search of the bread. I was ravenous. I bit into the baguette with gusto before turning to check out my surroundings.

Rory’s apartment was tiny. Probably half the size of mine and much older. But unlike the rough exterior, it was…pleasant. Surprisingly so. A short wall delineated the narrow kitchen from the main living area. There was just enough room for a sofa, an ottoman, a TV console, and a smallish television. Two barstools were tucked under the small peninsula by the cut-out in the kitchen wall. The palette was basic “dude”…dark leather against stark white walls, though a large red throw rug anchored the room and provided a nice splash of color. It was simple—but tidy and very clean.

“Your place is cool,” I commented when he entered the room, carrying two plates and a large bowl.

“Thanks. Let’s sit on the sofa. We have more room to eat there,” he said decisively as he set his burden on the coffee table. “Help yourself. I’ll get some forks, napkins, and extra veggies.”

I obeyed and quickly got to work, scooping chicken fettucine Alfredo onto both plates. Rory joined me a minute later, handing over the silverware before taking a seat next to me. I shot a bashful sideways glance at him as I reached for a napkin.

“Do you eat like this every night?”

“It’s really nothing special. I make sauces in bulk and freeze them. Then it’s just a matter of adding protein and veggies. By the way, this Alfredo is a healthy version. If you want to drown it in parmesan, feel free. I won’t be offended. Cheers.” He tapped his water bottle against mine and winked.

“Cheers. And thanks again. This is incredible and very unexpected.” I smiled as I twisted the pasta around my fork.

“You’re welcome. You sounded anxious, but you said we’re cool. Are we?”

“Of course.”

Rory tilted his head and shot me a challenging look. “Then kiss me.”

“Um…now?”

“Yeah, now. The other night could have been a fluke. Instead of wondering, let’s get it over with. One kiss should be enough to tell. C’mere,” he commanded, leaning sideways.

I set my fork down and met him halfway until our noses brushed. Then I waited for him to make the next move. He stayed stubbornly still. When I couldn’t stand the growing tension, I pressed my lips to his. And wow…amazing.

Rory was a great kisser. He had the simple art of give-and-take down to a science. He molded his mouth to mine and gently pushed his tongue inside. The connection was sweet but bold. It was more about discovery than possession. I hummed as I snaked my arm around his neck, pulling him closer. He sucked my tongue, then bit my bottom lip playfully before pulling back.

“Definitely not a fluke,” he said with a devilish grin.

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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New Release Blitz for There’s Something about Flying ( There’s Always Something #3) by Schuyler L’Roux (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: There’s Something about Flying

Series: There’s Always Something. Book Three

Author: Schuyler L’Roux

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 13100

Genre: Contemporary, Contemporary, Second chance, HEA

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Synopsis

After walking away from Gerry, Thom is back home in Minnesota living his best life. He’s flying through the air, embracing the sexual power he reclaimed in a lonely dungeon with Gerry. Yet when Gerry arrives unannounced and full of inexplicable hope, Thom has another choice to make. Does he let Gerry go and finally close the book on their tryst? Or does Thom open up his heart to the reality of their past and the potential of their future? The third and final chapter of the There’s Always Something trilogy stays true to form: there’s always an ending.

Excerpt

There’s Something about Flying
Schuyler L’Roux © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One: Falling
Thom gave a thumbs up and fell face first to earth.

His hands gripped his parachute harness as he tipped forward. He could feel his tandem partner behind him let go of the plane, because suddenly they went from the relative safety perched on the edge of the plane, as safe as you get 12,000 feet high, to emptiness.

The surge of adrenaline was pure ecstasy. At least, that’s what Thom told himself since there was nowhere to run and nothing to fight. All he could do was enjoy the coursing flood of hormones and blood as he ripped through the sky, succumbing to gravity.

Thom did remember what his instructor told him to do fifteen minutes ago when they were still earthbound. The tall, skinny, dark-skinned man was standing in front of him, the large parachute pack in between them.

“When we’re first out of the plane, I need you to arch your back and lean your head into my chest. You’re going to want to look down, but you need to resist that urge, OK?”

“Sure,” Thom said, ridiculously aware of the overlarge blue and orange wind suit he was wearing. “But if my head’s back, how will I see anything?”

The instructor smiled and slapped Thom lightly on his shoulder. “My man, when the parachute goes out, you’ll have all the time in the world to see what you’re going to see. But for free fall it’s all about feeling, not seeing. Now when we fall, are you into spinning or would you like me to keep it stable?”

“You mean, outside the falling?” The instructor, who looked far more attractive in his red, formfitting wind suit than Thom felt in his trash bag aesthetic, laughed and nodded. “I’m here to fall out of a plane,” Thom said. “Anything else you want to do, I’m game.”

“Good man.” He picked up the heavy pack, hefting it to one shoulder. “Then let’s get hooked up.”

“Careful what you promise,” Thom said with a smirk, at ease with his newfound ability to flirt.

“Oh, I know what I said,” the instructor said over his shoulder. “And call me Tay, all right?”

Thom arched his back and pressed his head into Tay’s collarbone as they dropped. The wind roared in Thom’s ears, filling his body with a pressure he’d only ever experienced on the inside, not out.

Even though the wind was deafening, Thom could still hear Tay’s loud voice telling him they were going to spin around before popping the parachute.

Thom didn’t have a chance to reply before Tay took them on a dance through the light-blue sky. Thom’s stomach did lurch, but that was the only moment of hesitation, and after it passed, there was a nothing but lightheaded giddiness. Thom flew past everything on the ground, however momentarily, and he rejoiced.

Tay tapped him on the shoulder. Thom struggled but finally saw Tay was trying to show him the red altimeter. The needle was dropping fast, steadily approaching the 2,500 feet mark, which was where Tay had said again and again they’d open up the parachute. Thom nodded as best he could, quickly trying to prepare for the sudden rush to be over.

He didn’t want it to end. Not after the summer he’d had—the strange amazingness and awfulness of Gerry. Thom wanted to be stuck in the clouds, falling and flying with nothing waiting for him and nothing to run from. It was a ridiculous wish, but it’s what he wanted. And Thom was trying to be OK with accepting what he wanted. Wanting Gerry. Not wanting him. Walking away. Forgetting Gerry.

Struggling to forget. If he’d been successful, Thom doubted he would’ve been hurtling through an almost empty sky right now, strapped in with a stranger. A handsome stranger with a beautiful smile but still a stranger.

Thom squeezed his shoulder harness hard, anticipating the sudden pull of his parachute. But he wasn’t ready for the jarring stop. His head snapped forward, wanting, Thom was sure, to fall off and continue the headlong drop toward earth. But his head stayed attached, and he remained tethered to Tay.

The parachute unfolded above them with a massive sound, like a giant shaking out the wrinkles of a flat sheet before making a bed. Once the chute opened, Thom’s free fall shifted effervescently out of control to a moderate forty miles per hour rush back to earth.

The wind still raged, but the inevitability of catastrophe was gone, and with it went Thom’s giddy peace. All of a sudden, the same problems and turbulence Thom thought he left back on the plane came back to him. It was disappointing, though at least he had found sixty seconds of peace in the free fall.

And then Tay tapped him on his shoulder. “Smile for the camera,” he shouted.

Thom looked to his left. He’d forgotten Tay was wearing a GoPro on his left hand. It snapped Thom out of his depressive reverie. He smiled and meant it. He wasn’t going to let what was waiting for him influence his experience of this magical thing.

This floating. This flying.

Thom let out a yell as he looked out onto the flat, patchwork earth beneath him. Rivers crisscrossed roads and farms and fields filled with either cars, buildings, or animals. He could see all of it, imagining all those lives and experiences carrying on beneath him. His imagination gave Thom a titanic feeling like he had old power in the seconds that were trickling out of his hands like the sands of time.

Thom whooped again, this time Tay joining him. The adrenaline, almost threatened by the dam of worry, was still there. But so was the joy. His voice was already hoarse after the two yells, so he gave away to grinning stupidly.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

A Southern boy deeply proud of his Welsh heritage, Schuyler L’Roux is a writer who passionately believes in the power of sex—funny, world-changing, scratch-the-hell-out-of-my-back sex. He’s a new author and cannot wait to join the world of erotica with his own brand of thoughtful characters engaged in meaningful interactions and entertaining situations. With lots and lots of sex, of course. When he’s not traveling, Schuyler currently calls Germany home.

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New Book Blitz for My Fake Canadian Wife by M. Hollis (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: My Fake Canadian Wife

Author: M. Hollis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 25600

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, lesbian, student, waitress, photographer, holidays, immigrant, Brazil, Canada, fake marriage

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Synopsis

When Dora receives a letter from the immigration service in Canada saying she will be deported soon, as her visa is expiring, a friend suggests she marry a woman. Since she doesn’t currently have a girlfriend, faking a relationship might be her only option since she can’t muster the desire to return to school for advanced photograph studies.

Abby is a reserved librarian who seems enthusiastic about helping with the marriage plan. As the two girls get to know each other through dates in snowy Toronto and meeting Abby’s family for Christmas, Dora starts to wonder how much of this relationship they are faking and how much is real.

Excerpt

My Fake Canadian Wife
M. Hollis © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
My hands shook around the letter, the words blurring before my eyes. This couldn’t be happening. Not to me. Almost two years living in Toronto, without any complications, and now I received notice I was going to be deported. Thrown out of the place I was learning to love as my own. And honestly? I was to blame for missing the expiration date on my student visa.

Now, I had to race against time to legalize my immigrant status, or I’d have to go back to Brazil. To a home I barely thought about anymore.

I sat on the couch, letting the letter fall to my lap. I was screwed. Completely screwed.

My roommate, Julie, came out of her room, stopping in her tracks to give me a curious glance. “Geez, you look like someone died,” she said. “Don’t you have to go to work?”

When I didn’t say anything, Julie gave up and walked to the kitchen. I heard mugs being moved around and cupboards opening and closing. A few seconds later, she came back, a small frown creasing her forehead.

Julie was a cute tomcat bisexual girl who was into indie movies, the ones with barely any dialogue, where one watched people live through a vintage faded screen. Some of them were actually nice, if one was in the right mood to understand its meaning behind the many layers of subtext.

Technically, the apartment we shared belonged to her. She was the rich kid of a famous Canadian producer, and her mother was a well-known director in the Toronto film community, so her family paid for most of her expenses. Or, well, now our living conditions. I couldn’t really complain since I had a bedroom to myself, a cozy living room, and a kitchen large enough for more than two people to move around comfortably.

What more could a girl like me ask for in life?

Right, citizenship.

“Okay, please tell me no one actually died,” Julie said, her bangs falling in front of her dark eyes.

I shook my head, finally coming back to myself and jumped from the couch. “I need to go to work.”

“Well, you can still get there in time.” And then Julie was back to her morning coffee rituals.

I had a life to take care of. This situation wasn’t going to fix itself if I sat around, missed work, and stared at this letter all day. I moved quickly, shoved the letter into my backpack before grabbing my keys and my bike helmet.

“Have a good day!” Julie said from the kitchen as I opened the door. “And be careful with the traffic.”

I rolled my eyes at her worry. Julie had been struck by a car last year when she was biking around the city, and now she believed bicycles were monsters from hell, instead of realizing drivers can be the real assholes. She even tried to get rid of my red beauty, but I obviously didn’t let her touch my baby.

“Don’t worry! You have a good day too,” I said as I closed the door behind me.

Racing down the stairs, I almost tripped over someone. I took a step back, cursing to myself when I caught a glimpse of dark blonde hair. It was our neighbor from downstairs, Carol.

“Hi, Dora,” Carol said with a sly smile. “Haven’t seen you in a while.”

She played with her hair in a flirtatious way, leaning closer. I tried to get past her, but she was quicker and trapped me against the wall.

So maybe I had slept with our super-hot neighbor when I had just moved in and desperately needed to get laid. I still regretted the decision. Not that the sex was bad, but Carol didn’t seem to get the message that casual sex with her wasn’t something I was going to make a habit of.

I pushed past her to gain a little breathing space. “You know how it is. Super busy with work and life.”

Carol’s mouth formed a little pout. “If you ever have free time, you know where to find me. I’m right under you.” She winked at me and waved before saying, “Bye, bye,” and walked the last steps to her floor, swaying her hips suggestively.

I blinked a few times, trying to bring myself back to reality. Work. I needed to get to work. I ran the last steps, opened the garage door, grabbed my bike, and left the building.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M. Hollis could never decide what to do with her life. From the time she was a child, she has changed her ideas for a career hundreds of times. After writing in hidden notebooks during classes and daydreaming during every spare moment of her day, she decided to fully dedicate herself to her stories. When she isn’t scrolling around her social media accounts or reading lots of femslash fanfiction, you’ll find her crying about female characters and baking cookies.

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New Release Blitz for Tea (A Cup of John #1) by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Tea

Series: A Cup of John, Book One

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 76800

Genre: Contemporary, contemporary, British, trans, gay, age gap, blue collar, disability, ableism, body dysphoria, PTSD/mental abuse/self-image issues, family issues, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

John only went into the cafe to have a brew and wait out the storm. He didn’t expect to find love at the same time.

And it really is love at first sight. Chris is like nobody John’s ever known, and John is caught from the start. All he wants, from that very first touch, is to never let go. But John is badly burned from his last relationship and in no fit state to try again. When Chris asks him out, he ought to say no.

But what if he says yes instead?

Excerpt

Tea
Matthew J. Metzger © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Fark this,” Rhodri said, “fer the ace o’ farking spades.”

John grunted, busy watching a Facebook slanging match unfolding on his phone. It had started to snow, which—despite Sheffield getting snow on a regular basis in the winter—ensured everyone promptly forgot how cars worked.

A fact that Rhodri backed up by leaning out of the van window and bellowing, “Who taught yer to farking drive, yer daft cunt!” at a middle-aged man in a BMW.

John snorted, grinning, and squinted out of the slush-smeared windscreen. They were nearly at the high street.

“I can walk from here,” he said. “Turn around and use the ring road, if you don’t want to be here all night.”

“Fark the ring road,” Rhodri grumbled in his thick, garbled accent. “It’ll fark the suspension.”

“You mean it’s not already?”

Rhodri snarled a defence of his beloved, twenty-year-old death trap of a van, but John firmly stuck by his assertion as the rust bucket was hauled over to the side of the road, and the handbrake screeched like a banshee in an opera house.

“Monday for the renovation?” John asked as he curled his coat collar up.

“Yeah. Gazzer’s looking fer a spring sale.”

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

John grinned and slammed the passenger door on the pseudo-affectionate dismissal. The day Rhodri Campbell started talking nice to his friends was the day hell froze over.

Mind you, John thought, squinting at the black sky, that might not be too far off.

He was supposed to meet his older sister for dinner, but she’d be at least another hour. Grimacing at the weather, John decided to find a café and settle in to wait out the snowstorm. Hunching his shoulders, he broke into a jog, aiming for the first sign he saw, and soon shouldered his massive bulk through the glass door of a tiny, heavenly warm coffee shop.

It was busy inside. Everyone else had had the same idea. The floor was crowded with shopping bags, a buggy thoroughly blocking one aisle. John’s absurd size earned him some dirty looks that were hastily wiped away when he glanced back. Even the barista, when he asked for a large tea, sighed and popped her gum like it would be an enormous bother to cover her wide-eyed stare. The prickle of unease rose under his skin, and he forced it back down.

“Keep the change,” John told her as he handed over three pounds and folded his arms to wait, knowing that—even in Sheffield—a man with biceps like the steel ropes on a suspension bridge was not going to be left waiting for long. Especially if he folded his arms.

That was when he messed up.

He stepped back to glance around for a table, and in doing so, bumped the one directly behind him. A cup banged. Someone swore. And John felt the hot flush of shame flood his face, even as he spun on his heel to try to fix the damage.

“I’m so sorry. I—”

“It’s all right. I think it missed me.”

“Here, let me get you another—what was it?”

And then the man looked up from patting down his jeans and T-shirt with a napkin and smiled right into John’s face.

And John just stopped.

Staring.

The way the man smiled was…breathtaking. Literally. The air caught in John’s chest, his lungs seizing for a brief moment, when a crooked smile spread across narrow features, creasing a pale face from good-looking into gorgeous. It was like the sun bursting over a still sea, like the car dashboard when the ignition was first turned in the dark. A sudden spark lit behind an attractive face to make it utterly beautiful, and John stared.

The stranger was tall and lean, with a halo of messy black curls that surrounded his face and threw the ethereal beauty of that smile into sharp relief. The smile itself was formed out of the most ridiculously kissable mouth John had ever seen. And the face. God. It blazed with the brilliance of that beam, and above it lay the burn of eyes the colour of an endless summer sky.

Damn.

“A mocha with peppermint and a double shot of espresso.”

“A…what?” John asked, still staring stupidly.

The man chuckled, and John died. His soul ascended into heaven on the back of that sound. Jesus. Holy goddamned Jesus.

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

The touch of his hand was like a cattle prod. John felt it all the way up to his brain, and the most inappropriate parts of his brain too. He had to learn how to breathe again. His heart was pounding. He wanted—desperately, stupidly, urgently—to reel Chris in and kiss him as if they were the only two people in the room.

He didn’t.

Obviously.

He let go and ducked back into line to ask for the guy’s regular. Tipped double. And when he took it back to the table, John knew for his own sanity and safety he should apologise once more, take his tea, and go.

Instead, he said, “Mind if I join you?” and instantly hated himself for it.

And then didn’t, when Chris smiled a little wider and said, “Please.”

“I am sorry about that. I’m not usually that clumsy.”

“Just an accident. It sounds busy in here.”

“It…is,” John said slowly and frowned.

Then it clicked. That brilliant blue was as vacant as a summer sky too. And he’d never once looked John quite in the eyes. John glanced about. There was a cane leaning up against the table. A glint of a gold medical bracelet around one thin wrist. And the way Chris slid his hand across the table, heels together and fingers spread, until he found the coffee cup…

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

“Uh, yeah,” John said, snapping out of his reverie. “It’s snowing. I’m supposed to meet my sister for dinner later, but I’m stupidly early, so…here I am.”

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

“Sorry, sorry.” Chris waved a hand. “Ignore me. Big important family dinner, is it?”

“No, not really. She probably just wants to have a whine about our mum. Mum’s—well, Mum.”

“Let’s pretend for a minute I don’t know your mum…”

John chuckled, ducking his head. “Mum’s…she loves us, she wants the best for us, but her best and our best doesn’t always mesh, you know?”

“Ah, one of those. Yes, I know.” Chris raised his cup in a saluting gesture. “To parents running interference.”

“She’s very practical,” John said. “Very—you know, we ought to all marry well-off, well-educated folks with careers and good ankles. And Nora—my sister—she’s cocked that up a bit.” Then he winced at his crass phrasing and started to apologise.

Chris talked right over it. “Cocked it up how?”

“Well, she’s currently divorcing her well-off, well-educated, well-ankled husband for a bloke who makes sandwiches.”

Chris snorted and laughed. The coffee cup wobbled dangerously before he set it down to put a hand over his mouth and laugh a little harder, and John curled his toes in his boots. A warm flush spread from head to toe. God, he wanted to touch that. Wanted to reach out and curl his fist into that wild hair and kiss him like the world was ending.

John wanted him.

“Well,” Chris said when he’d recovered, “if your sister has a voice anything like yours, then that’s the luckiest sandwich man in the world.”

“Uh—”

“What about you? Ditching your missus for the maid?”

John’s stomach twinged. “There’s no missus.”

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

“Sorry,” Chris said again. “I guess I’m being a little too hopeful.”

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

“Yes.” Chris raised both eyebrows. “Don’t tell me that doesn’t happen often.”

“Well…it’s been a while,” John admitted. “And not usually in coffee shops.” Or from men. John wasn’t exactly good-looking, and in his experience, it was mostly women who were into the huge and hulking thing rather than men.

“Where does it usually happen? I could always try doing it there, if you like.”

John barked a startled laugh. “Er—well—clubs. Here’s—here’s nice though. Here’s fine.”

“I refuse to believe it doesn’t happen often.”

“It doesn’t.”

“Really? Hm. Local clubbers need to open their ears, then.”

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

“No,” John interrupted quickly. “I just—I’m…not used to this.”

Chris turned the coffee cup around in his hands, biting his lip.

“You sounded…I don’t know. You sounded like you saw something you liked. And I felt something when you shook my hand.”

“You…you don’t want to be trying me out,” John said carefully.

Chris smiled.

It wasn’t the bright, beautiful smile. It was a slow smirk, devious and dirty. And John’s cock swelled fiercely in his jeans. His dick didn’t care about Daniel and his damage. His dick just wanted to have that incredible body around it, and to hell with the risks. Oh, God. That was a dirty trick, and judging by the way Chris lounged in his chair, pure sex, he knew it.

“You have a voice,” Chris said, “like the hot afterburn of whiskey.”

“I—”

“Smooth, liquid, and so easy to bask in. Like being drunk and not caring.”

John swallowed again. He was half hard. Chris spoke so slow and soft, so very deliberately, that it was turning him on even though he wasn’t saying anything filthy at all.

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

John wanted to look away. But he felt incapable of not looking. He was spellbound, completely captured by this stranger’s wide smile and fluttering hands. They were large hands, but thin. John wanted to call them spidery. Long fingers, but narrow palmed. He wondered wildly what they felt like. John’s hand were rough from his trade, but Chris had a completely smooth paleness to his skin tone, and his face was impossibly young, not weather-beaten and wind burnt. His hands, John decided, would be just as smooth. They would be cool, too, like refreshing water against John’s calluses.

And then they slid over the table and hooked casually over John’s thumb.

John’s heart hiccuped and clenched again, and the flood of pure want was so powerful that his vision flexed, like a fisheye lens homing in on this stunning man. He wanted to kiss him, hold his hand, say yes, something. And yet he felt paralysed—moths to flames, deer to headlights, whatever. He was caught.

“If you’re really not interested, then that’s fine,” Chris said. “But—”

“That’s definitely not it,” John muttered.

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

The smile softened into something sweeter. More hopeful. More—

John’s dick softened. Because his heart tightened, his stomach clenched, and his throat opened.

He should say no.

He was still a mess from Daniel, still wounded after nine whole months, still unable to so much as flirt on Grindr without questioning himself, his motives, how he came off. There was no way this was a good idea. Not with anyone, and least of all this brilliant, beautiful, blind guy.

After all, if Daniel were right—

If Daniel were right, if there had been any truth in the things he’d said, then John was the last person who should be going out to dinner with a blind man.

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

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Meet the Author

Matthew J. Metzger is an ace, trans author posing as a functional human being in the wilds of Yorkshire, England. Although mainly a writer of contemporary, working-class romance, he also strays into fantasy when the mood strikes. Whatever the genre, the focus is inevitably on queer characters and their relationships, be they familial, platonic, sexual, or romantic.

When not crunching numbers at his day job, or writing books by night, Matthew can be found tweeting from the gym, being used as a pillow by his cat, or trying to keep his website in some semblance of order.

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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.

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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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Love Shifters and Romance? Check out Ta Weezo’s Blues by Layla Dorine (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Ta Weezo’s Blues

Author: Layla Dorine

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 24, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 24800

Genre: Paranormal, college, professor, student, shapeshifter, teacher’s pet, poet, author, ferret shifter

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Synopsis

Sabre never had any intentions of becoming the teacher’s pet. In fact, most of his school years have been spent trying to avoid attention. The scar that mars his cheek has made him wary of strangers, their questions and prying eyes leave him feeling exposed in ways he’s uncomfortable with. Accustomed to blending in, he lurks around the shadows in the back of classrooms, turning in exemplary work but rarely taking part in discussions.

Professor Locklear’s Native lit class is different though. Sabre’s interest in the subject matter, coupled with a dedicated scholar’s need to turn in the best work possible, leads him to seek out a more advanced reading list, much to the delight of Professor Locklear. When he comes across Sabre reading material beyond even the advanced list, Professor Locklear invites on a fieldtrip to a nearby village. Along the way he learns more than just the knowledge contained in the books. He learns about trust and discovers that there are others out there just like him— shapeshifters.

What he believed was an individual anomaly turns out to be something beyond legend and lore, a whole different culture he’d never known existed. The only way he can move forward is to let his shields down long enough to trust the man whose conversations he’s come to enjoy, but to do that, he’ll have to stop distancing himself from everyone.

Excerpt

Ta Weezo’s Blues
Layla Dorine © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The hallway smelled of old dust and coconut curry, setting Sabre’s stomach growling as he trudged the last few feet to Professor Locklear’s door. Instinctively, he pulled his hood low, casting a shadow over his eyes, and with practiced ease, he swept his hair forward. It would have to do. Sucking in a deep breath, he counted to five before letting it out slowly, then licked his lips, and knocked on the door.

“Come in!”

The voice was slightly muffled by the wood that Sabre partially shoved open, only enough to poke his head in about halfway.

“Excuse me, professor, do you have a minute?”

Sabre kept his head angled, watching Professor Locklear out of the corner of his eye. Several moments passed before his professor stopped writing and placed the pen beside his notebook, raised his head, adjusted his glasses, checked the clock, and then brushed a stray strand of hair back from where it had fallen over one eye.

“I have a few, so you might as well come in. No sense hovering half in and half out of the doorway.”

Sabre shuffled forward, carefully keeping his eyes lowered as much as possible.

“So, what can I help you with? Are you in one of my classes?”

“Yes sir, I’m in your ten o’clock Introduction to Native Literature class.”

“Ahh, you must be the one who sits in the corner by the emergency exit, where it’s nice and dark. I have to admit, when you first chose that spot, I assumed you were looking for a place to nap, but you’ve since proved me wrong. Whenever I look your way, you’re focused intently on me or the power point.”

“Yes, sir. I enjoy the material and some of the discussions are pretty fascinating.”

“Really? In that case, why is it that you’ve never taken part in any of them?”

Shuffling from one foot to the other, Sabre carefully contemplated the question before responding. “I try to let my papers speak for me. I’m bad at public discourse. I get tongue-tied and trip over words or end up being so hesitant that people talk over me. When I’m writing, I can organize my thoughts and present a more complete analysis of what I’ve read.”

“Sounds as if you are extremely self-aware. Not a common trait these days, I’m afraid. Still, if you feel you have something to add to a conversation, then I hope you won’t refrain from doing so, er… I’m sorry. You’ll have to help me out with your name.”

“It’s Sabre.”

“Ahh, yes, one of the more unique ones this year. You’re right; your papers are remarkably organized, well thought out and quite complex in their reasoning. I must admit, you’ve had me rereading a few things I haven’t gone through in years just to understand why you’ve presented some of your comparisons in the manner in which you’ve organized them.”

Sabre grinned, a surge of pride rushing through him. “Thank you. That’s actually why I stopped by. I was wondering if you had any books you could recommend, similar to the required material for the course. I’ve finished reading everything on the syllabus, plus the referred texts I came across when I was researching; killed a couple piles of sticky notes and pens in the process, too, so now I’m hoping for more.”

The professor’s eyes went wide and he steepled his hands on the desktop calendar, tapping his fingertips together as he slowly scrutinized Sabre, making him shuffle more and tug at his hoodie to ensure it shadowed his face.

“Try as you might, I don’t think you’re going to change colors and blend into the woodwork. If you do, I think I’d have to take a half day off and schedule an immediate exam with my optometrist,” Professor Locklear remarked with a chuckle. “You can grab a seat, you know. I’m not a fire-breathing dragon about to roast you for stepping into my lair, though I wish I could singe a student or two when I catch them snoring.”

Sabre chuckled softly but didn’t come any closer.

“I guess not. Well, I must say your question caught me a bit off guard. It’s not one I’m used to, at least not from someone who wasn’t required to take my class. Are you considering adding Native Studies as a minor? You are a junior, correct?”

“No, sir. I’m a senior.”

“Ahh, okay. So are you looking for something specific?”

“Well, I, umm, really enjoyed Reservation Blues, so I found the other Sherman Alexie books and read them too. I loved the myths and legends book you assigned, and Fools Crow and Love Medicine were extremely fascinating. I read House Made of Dawn twice, not because I didn’t understand it the first time, but because it resonated with me, and I was compelled to reread it. I didn’t dislike any of the assigned reading if that helps at all?”

A long, low whistle emanated from the professor, who cocked an eyebrow at him, clearly impressed at all the reading Sabre had already done in just the first five weeks of the semester.

“It does, though there was no reason to finish the course load in a few weeks’ time; wouldn’t want you to burn yourself out.”

“It was easy, though. I always work ahead. My work-study job is in the library, shelving books and working at the research center desk, answering phone calls and emails. I usually have a ton of downtime and write most of my papers there. Plus, I’m carrying a light course load, four classes, since that’s all I need for graduation.”

“Well then, let me see what I can do to find you something.”

Rummaging around on his desk, Professor Locklear began moving neat stacks of paper until he finally found something of interest. Sabre watched as he perused the list before finally holding it out for him to take.

“Try these; it’s the reading list for my Native Literature 103 class, since I’m pretty sure between your papers and what you just told me, you’ve read most of the books for the 102. See if any of these interest you, and if you have any questions or would care to discuss them, please feel free to come back, or you can stop in my Native Lit discussion group. We meet in the atrium every Wednesday night at eight. Who knows? Perhaps you’ll be inspired to participate.”

“Thanks, I’ll umm… I’ll think about it,” Sabre said, still staring at the proffered paper. Reaching it meant he’d have to move closer, into the brighter lights above Professor Locklear’s desk. Biting his lip, Sabre took the three steps to the desk hesitantly, keeping his eyes on the paper and not the man.

“Are you okay? Is something wrong?”

The concern in his voice was what made Sabre raise his head, and the moment he realized what he’d done, he ducked it again, took the paper, and backed away until he felt the door at his back. Twisting around, he fumbled for the doorknob.

“Wait.”

Pausing, Sabre gripped the knob, never turning back.

“If you’re hiding in the shadows because of that scar, please know it isn’t necessary.”

Sabre touched his cheek, stroking his fingertips along the rough edges of the raised, puckered skin as the memory of moonlight striking glass from a busted bottle flashed through his mind. Almost instantly, his breathing picked up, and his chest felt tight as the first stirrings of panic surged through him.

“I’ve got to go,” Sabre muttered, nearly smacking himself in the face with the door as he wrenched it open. “Thanks, professor.”

“You’re welcome, but…”

Sabre took off before he heard the rest, sprinting up the curry-scented hall, the stench making him gag. Bursting through the outer door, the fall air hit him like a gut punch, carrying with it the scent of dying leaves. He gagged, bile rising in his throat. Skidding to a halt beside a bush, he vomited, grateful nothing but acid remained in his stomach. By the time he finished, he’d broken out in a cold sweat and felt gross and tired, wanting nothing more than to get back to his dorm room and take a long, hot, shower and climb into bed with a movie.

Glancing at the slightly crumpled list he gripped in his fist, Sabre sighed before smoothing it against his thigh, folding it carefully, and tucking it into the pocket of his hoodie. Shoulders slumped, he turned and trudged back toward his dorm, grateful the day was at an end. All in all, it had been both a success and a disaster. Next time, he’d just email his request, he decided, as a cold wind made him shiver and debate what the hell he’d been thinking, going to see his professor in person.

“Stupid,” he muttered as his short walk came to an end at his dorm.

For a so-called genius, he sure could be an idiot sometimes.

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Meet the Author

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

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

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Love Contemporary MM Romance? Start Your Shopping Early! Two Robert Winter Novels on Sale! (giveaway)

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Don’t wait until Black Friday to take advantage of holiday savings!
Start your shopping early with this great sale on two amazing books.
The sooner you buy, the more you save!

Amazon US

November 17, 2018 at 8:00 AM (PST) $0.99

November 18, 2018 at 9:00 PM (PST) $1.99

November 20, 2018 at 10:00 AM (PST) $2.99

Amazon UK

November 17, 2018 at 8:00 PM (GMT) £0.99

November 19, 2018 at 8:00 AM (GMT) £1.99

Sale ends on November 22nd

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Title: September
Series: Pride and Joy #1
Author: Robert Winter
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Original Release Date: Dec 9, 2016
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 304 Pages
Genre: Romance, May-December, Contemporary, Provincetown, Washington DC

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Synopsis

David James is smart, successful, handsome… and alone. After the death of his lover, Kyle, from cancer, he buried himself in his law practice and the gym. At forty-eight, he is haunted by his memories and walled off from the world. When David injures himself working out, he’s assigned to Brandon Smith for physical therapy. The vibrant young therapist is attracted to David and realizes he needs a hand to get back into dating. What begins as a practice coffee date escalates to friendship, passion, and maybe something more, as they navigate a new relationship in Washington, DC, and the gay mecca of Provincetown.

But David remains trapped behind the barrier of fear and guilt. Will he remain loyal to Kyle’s memory if he moves on? Can he and Brandon manage a twenty-two-year age gap? Brandon thinks he understands David’s concerns, and for him, the answer to those questions is yes. He wants to be with David, and he believes he can overcome David’s barriers. But Brandon fails to account for the world’s reaction to a handsome young man attached to an older, wealthy lover.

David’s memories, Brandon’s pride, and an unexpected tragedy might cost them something very special…

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Title: Every Breath You Take
Author: Robert Winter
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: May 5, 2017
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 221 pages
Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

When Zachary Hall leaves Utah for a job in Washington, it’s finally his chance to live as a gay man and maybe find someone special. In a bar he meets Thomas Scarborough, a man who seems perfect in and out of the bedroom. But Thomas never dates. He never even sleeps with the same man twice. Despite their instant connection, he can offer Zachary only his friendship, and Zachary is looking for more.

Thomas is tempted to break his own rules, but years before, he became the victim of a stalker who nearly destroyed his life. Even though his stalker died, Thomas obsessively keeps others at a distance. Despite his fascination with Zachary, he is unable to lower his barriers. Frustrated, Zachary accepts he will never have what he wants with Thomas and soon finds it with another man.

But young gay men in Washington, DC are being murdered, and the victims all have a connection to Thomas. Once again someone is watching Thomas’s every move. Can it be a coincidence? When the depraved killer turns his attention toward Zachary, Thomas must face the demons of his past—or lose his chance to open his heart to Zachary forever.

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Meet the Author

Robert Winter is a Rainbow Award-winning author who lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of seventeen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

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Release Day Blast for Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree by Jeanne G’Fellers (excerpt and giveaway)

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Mama Me and the Holiday Tree

Jeanne G’Fellers is sharing the cover for her new enby/pansexual queer paranormal fantasy book: Mama, Me, and the Holiday Tree.

A dozen handmade holiday ornaments, that’s all, but it might be an impossible task.

Centenary Rhodes and her mother are at constant odds. It’s one of the many reasons Cent left home when she was eighteen. Mama’s difficult for anyone to manage, but now that Cent’s back home, she has to try. Mama, however, won’t acknowledge who Cent’s become, even though she’s repeatedly been shown the truth.

It’ll take more than popcorn strings and paper snowflakes to heal the rift that’s formed between Cent and Mama. It’s going to take bushels of patience, heaps of magic, and assistance from everyone on both sides of Embreeville Mountain to reset the Balance between them.

But with Yule and Christmas just around the corner, it might already be too late.

Join Cent and her Mother for a heart-warming, magic-filled holiday tale of acceptance, family of choice, family of blood, love, magic, and patience all served with a queer Appalachian twist.

Warnings: This novella broaches the subject of mental illness, specifically Schizophrenia, within families and the relationships struggles therein.

About the Series:

Four elements plus one, four seasons, over a hundred lives – Centenary Rhodes has returned home to discover she isn’t who she thought. Join her on a journey through history, family of blood, family of choice, and love that renews. The mountains are alive, y’all, everything hinges on the Balance, and a little moonshine can cure what ails you in this identity-exploring, imaginative queer Contemporary Fantasy series steeped in Appalachian magic and folklore.

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Excerpt

Mama Me and the Holiday Tree

Chapter One

A Cedar in the Corner

December 19, 2017: 5:30 p.m.

This is what I get for marrying an earth elemental.I stare with dismay at the dirt trail leading across the porch and through the front door. I don’t get rare gems or sparkling geodes placed lovingly at my feet by my elemental spouse. No, I get a cedar tree, bare roots caked with half-frozen mud, wedged into the living room corner.

Stowne’s dragged a holiday tree into our home while I was at work today.

“No one saw you do this?” I scratch my head as I consider the leaning mass of fern-like, scaly, sticky needles. “And I thought we’d talked about getting a tree tomorrow.”

“No one was here.” Stowne’s grinning ear to sandy ear. “It is a surprise. You have worked so hard lately that you have forgotten how close it is to Yule.”

Yeah, Yule. About that.This is my first Yule with Stowne. No, let me correct that. This will be my first Yule celebration thislife, and they’re trying to make it special for me, so I can’t sound as upset as I’m feeling at present. “Two days. I know. Thanks, honey, but can we do something about the mess?”

 

“I’ve got it.” Stowne’s fire elemental friend, Pyre, rolls into the living room on a cloud of white smoke, and they’re holding the old half-barrel planter from beneath my Aunt Tess’ trailer’s back porch. “I found something to line it.” Pyre holds up a faded canvas tarp they’ve found Gods know where.

“Thank you.” Stowne’s smile still spans their face. They’re happy about this, about the tree in the corner, the leaky planter, and faded tarp, so I try my best to look happy too. “Go to the kitchen, relax, and drink some coffee, Centenary. Pyre and I will finish setting up the tree.”

“Sure.” I tuck my messenger bag under my arm and head to the kitchen, where Rayne is waiting for me, an earthenware mug of steaming coffee in their translucent, watery hands. Water elementals make wonderful coffee, by the way. Rayne claims the secret is spring water filtered through their form, and I’ve no reason to doubt them.

“Stowne’s really excited about the tree.” Rayne gives me the mug and takes my bag, setting it on the kitchen table. It’s a huge piece of well-loved furniture, a good eight-foot-long trestle, and handmade from American Chestnut, a species that’s widely considered extinct. “They’ve been looking for the perfect one since Samhain.”

“They have?” Who knew there was so much to Yule? Certainly not me, at least that I can remember. See, I’ve got this whole multiple-lives thing I’m sorting through. Most of those lives, I’ve been with Stowne, and I remember a lot, but some issues, like their excitement over holidays, have eluded me. I’ve been reading about different Yule traditions online and in the stack of magical books I left behind, but I feel I’ve barely scratched the surface, and I’ve been asking Stowne questions every night while we cuddle in bed. “They’ve gotten excited every sabbat and esbat since we’ve been together, but they seem even more excited about Yule. Why is that?”

“You don’t remember?” Rayne shifts the lower portion of their form to what resembles flowing blue pants, making it easier for them to sit. “You’ve celebrated Yule with Stowne for centuries, and during your last two lives, you actually let them bring in a tree every year as long as it could be replanted afterward.”

“Yeah, Stowne told me.” I sip my coffee then rise from the table in search of the quart of cream we keep in the homestead’s old Kelvinator fridge. “But that doesn’t explain why they’re so happy.” I add three heaping teaspoons of sugar to my cup, deep in thought as I stir. I remember that Stowne and I built this homestead together in the early nineteenth century. That version of me was Irish and desperate for a home that resembled Ireland, and this place certainly looks like pictures I’ve seen. My motivations might change each life, but I’m in many ways the same, and I always try to come here, to reach Stowne and this mountain. That’s what I’m told, anyway, but I don’t actually know.

My heart, however, says this is correct.

Here’s the thing about me and my memories. This life, I left Northeast Tennessee when I was eighteen years old. Actually, I didn’t just leave, I ran. I ran from my mother and her chronic mental illness, from everyone I thought wouldn’t accept me as genderqueer, from the magic I wasn’t ready to understand, from the looming pile of memories I’m now sorting through. But mostly, I ran from myself. Now I’m back, and I’m trying to cram three thousand years into my head, but I sometimes think space is running out.

“Stowne loves every sabbat, but especially Yule.” Rayne shrugs hard enough to fling water across the table top. “Oops.”

“It needs cleaned anyway.” I return with a dishrag, sitting across from Rayne as I wipe up. “Why Yule?”

“It represents rebirth.” Rayne stares at me with their blue eyes wide and one pale, translucent brow cocked, the look they always give me when I should be remembering something. “Re-birth.” Their stare becomes hard.

“Oh.” I bite my bottom lip to hide my embarrassment. Sure, rebirth. Myrebirth. Stowne sees Yule as a chance to celebrate my return to Embreeville Mountain. I’m almost thirty years old, a tiny blip in the grand scheme of time and infinitely younger than Stowne, even when you add all my lives together, but they want to celebrate like it’s something new. More so this year because it’s our first Yule together as eternal lovers.

Yeah, I’m immortal now too, but that’s a story for some other time.

“So…” I take a deep breath and scratch beneath my undercut at the stubbly hair that’s already growing back. “What do I need to do?”

“Act happy and don’t get in their way.” Rayne takes the dishrag to the old enamel sink, wrings it out, and drapes it over the side before turning to face me. “All elementals love the Winter Solstice, what you call Yule. Even death elementals like Exan. But you don’t remember that either, do you?”

“Afraid not.” I finish my coffee and go to the sink to stand beside Rayne, looking out the window to where the mountain rises behind the house in shades of tired brown splashed with winter evergreen. “I wish I did.” And I really do. It might help me to understand all this. “It’s like Christmas, isn’t it? I mean they’re similar, right?”

“In some ways, yes. But others…” Rayne shakes their head, this time slinging water from their deep blue locks. “Drains and dribbles. I’ll call it back.” They chant low, drawing the water to their form, smiling as it disappears into their bare, puddling feet. “I think you need a holiday refresher.”

“A refresher?” The house smells like cedar so I breathe deep. It’s not a bad smell. In fact, it’s fresh, clean, and familiar. Yes, I remember having a tree in this house before and Stowne’s joy each time. “Are you going to tell me about all those holidays?”

“You’ll do best to remember for yourself.” Rayne smiles as they glide toward the living room. “That tree needs water.”


Author Bio

AUTHOR PHOTO - Mama Me and the Holiday Tree - Jeanne GFellersBorn and raised in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Science Fiction and Fantasy author Jeanne G’Fellers’ early memories include watching the original Star Trek series with her father and reading the books her librarian mother brought home. Jeanne’s writing influences include Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, Isaac Asimov, and Frank Herbert.

Jeanne lives in Northeast Tennessee with her spouse and their five crazy felines. Their home is tucked against a small woodland where they regularly see deer, turkeys, raccoons, and experience the magic of the natural world.

Author Website: https://jeannegfellersauthor.com/

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New Book Blitz for Green Death by Madeleine Ribbon (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Green Death

Author: Madeleine Ribbon

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: November 2nd

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 100,000 words

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Dystopian/post apocalyptic

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Synopsis

As poisonmaster to the Oligarch, Tryg Sant knows a lot of things others shouldn’t. But when he discovers his family’s darkest secret, his brother tries to kill him.

When Tryg’s lover pushes him out of a helicopter and into the poison-filled Exclusion Zone, Tryg finds himself trapped in a dangerous new world, entirely different from the one he expects. Now, Tryg has to learn to survive nearly-feral humans and his own disintegrating mind. Luckily, he’s found an ally in Riot, one of the victims of the Green Death…

Excerpt

Everything felt muffled. My injuries, my emotions, my thoughts, the sounds from outside. The heavy, rhythmic, mechanical thumps from somewhere above me were so loud they radiated through my chest. My mind barely registered the noise, even if my sternum did—maybe because there was something strapped over my head, digging into the top of my skull and trapping warm, sweaty air over my ears.
All I cared about, in the moment, was that I wasn’t being hit.

The ground shifted under me, tilting just slightly, shooting my equilibrium all to hell. The only things that kept me from toppling over were a wall on my left, propping me upright, and straps across my shoulders and chest and hips. They dug into my bruises with a steady, fuzzy, ache.

I tried to tug at the straps, hoping to release the pressure, but my arm didn’t work right.
I should have hurt a lot more. I was pretty damned sure I ought to be screaming from just trying to move my arm, but all I felt was thick haze and a low heat over almost every inch of my skin.

“Tryg, wake up.” The headpiece I wore transmitted the words directly into my ears, but even with the amplification, I could barely hear it over the whump whump whump coming from overhead.
I opened my eyes. Well, my left eye, since the right lid didn’t seem to work.

I tried looking around, but my neck didn’t want to move either. So far, the only thing responding to me was a single eyelid.

Someone had given me something—a drug or a poison of some sort. That was the only reason I wasn’t writhing on the ground, screaming. I could feel my injuries, the places my brother had cracked bones or ripped into my skin with his obnoxiously large ring, but only a little. Like a wad of cloth had been shoved somewhere between the injuries and my brain, so the signals from my nerves couldn’t make it through at full strength.

I tried to focus, tried to direct my wandering mind to the list of substances Vodayn had requested from me over the last ten years I’d run the laboratory.

Nothing. Probably just strong painkillers, unless he had outside sources for a new poison.

Outside sources. My blood ran cold. Is that what Arris had been talking about, when I overheard them a few days ago? This pricked at my pride. For a moment, it didn’t matter that my brother had starved and kicked the shit out of me and was sending me to my death. I was angry at him for going elsewhere for poisons when I could make him almost anything he wanted, a hundred times better and far more discreetly than anyone else.

But I’m not his poison master anymore. The thought came crashing down around me, heavy on my shoulders. I slumped forward, though the straps kept me from folding in half.

And then realization struck me, harder than any of my brother’s blows had.

He’d always planned on getting rid of me. Even before I’d found the damning documents. If he was looking elsewhere for poisons, he’d been looking for a replacement. That’d been what Arris’s comment to him had been about.

“Come on, Tryg. I hate that I have to do this job, but it’s a damned good thing for you. Anyone else would have just pushed you out by now. I want you to be functional.”

Arris. My whole body started to shake. Arris was here. He’d save me. He’d make sure I was okay. He cared about me, as much as anyone ever had. More than anyone, since Dad died.

I finally managed to twist my neck a few inches. Arris’s scarred, tanned face slowly resolved before me, headset obscuring his short black hair.

He was frowning just a little. It was the most emotion I’d seen on him, outside of sex.

“There we go. Welcome back.” He leaned forward and brushed his thumb over my cheek. Searing fire ran though my face. I hissed and tried to jerk back, but most of my body still didn’t want to obey my directives.

“You… Why?”

My words slurred. Apparently my lips worked fine, though my tongue was taking its sweet time catching up. I hoped the drug didn’t wear off too soon. I wasn’t prepared to face the damage done to my body. Not until I knew what in the dark depths of hell Arris was planning.

Arris watched me with soft eyes. He never had soft eyes. Passionate while we were fucking? Yes. Inquisitive? Rarely. Ice cold when in his official capacity? Always. But never soft.

“This is occurring because Vodayn demanded that you die. Telling him what you found was a stupid move. The stupidest. He’s been increasingly paranoid over the last year. Surely you haven’t missed that, as smart as you are?”

“Paaa…noy?” My half-numb tongue fumbled over the word. I shook my head. I hadn’t had time to notice anything.

For the last year, Vodayn’s requests of me had gone down, yes, but when he did give me a project, he had been making obscure and incredibly difficult demands I’d worked hard to fulfill. A substance that, once ingested, made hair change color permanently, with no other effect. One that made the victim cry irrationally for days. One that mimicked a heart attack’s symptoms perfectly. I’d succeeded in crafting them all, though the crying draught lasted for only thirty-six hours.

I’d been proud of my success. I’d managed everything he asked.

Arris hummed a little. “Very paranoid. You always were a bit too focused when you were working.”

“How’djou know?”

The lines between his brows grew deeper. “Know what?”

“What I told him.” Words were slowly becoming easier to pronounce.

“Because I was there when he received your report. I only got a glimpse of it while he read it, but I know what it means. We suspected that the Sants had been behind the poisoning ever since it happened. There’s a reason I was stationed in the household, and my father before me. I was supposed to find proof. And you hand-delivered it to him.”

The words Arris spoke now did not match up with what I’d known of him over the last few years. My heart seemed to think that now was a great time to start thundering as fast as it would go. “Who’s we?”

“The resistance.” Here, Arris smiled, and the deepest scar, the one that ran over his cheek, pulled and wrinkled in a dozen places.

He’d been my brother’s right-hand man and main assassin for almost three years, and never once had I seen him smile. It scared me more than anything else. I wonder if all his victims got to see this horrible, wonderful expression.

Because that’s what I would be. His victim. He was letting me see another side to him, now, and that meant I was a dead man.

And then the meaning of his statement filtered into my mind. The resistance. That’d been wiped out with the bombing, hadn’t it? Or tainted with the poison, at least, and driven crazy?

“The resistance survives? Truly?”

He nodded. “We have been trying to find justice for almost a hundred years. The exclusion zone is still the center of it. Most of us had family there, when it was poisoned. My great-grandfather’s entire family got walled inside, except for him. He’d been at a friend’s for a sleepover during the bombing.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did any of them… survive?”

“A few, for a while.” He looked away from me, and then his face tightened, the smile vanishing. “We’re almost there. You’re getting dropped in. I pushed for this, instead of using the Black Daydream on you until you were crazy enough to cut your own throat. Vodayn wanted you to die in agony, and I argued this would be the most effective and ironic way. He came around to my line of thinking eventually.”

“Where? Dropped in where?”

He reached past me and tapped on the surface to my right.

I turned my head, my neck still protesting the motion. I suspected that without the painkillers I’d been given, the movement would hurt a lot more.

A window. And beyond it, the sky. Clouds. We were high. I’d never been so high. I never had permission to leave the Sant compound, much less go somewhere that required air transport.

Then again, if all air transport was like this strange, rusted, rickety, noisy vehicle, I doubted I’d missed much.
Arris leaned forward. “You’re wearing a parachute. Do you think you can pull the ripcord yourself once you’re out?”

My heart clenched. I tried to flex my hand, and then lift it. All I managed was a finger-twitch. “I don’t think so.”
“The drug?”

“Yeah. What is it?”

“Just a mid-level painkiller from Professor Marita’s lab.”

“Oh.” Marita—there was that name again. Professional jealousy twisted through me. “Thanks.”

“I’ll pull your ripcord for you when you jump, if you’re not up to it now. We’ll be so low nobody will notice the parachute, thanks to the poison.”

“The—oh green-damned hell, the poison.” Arris’s statements finally sank into me. He’d asked my brother to dump me into the exclusion zone. And my brother had agreed, even before he’d started to beat me senseless.
“Here. Hang on to the handles if you can.” He lifted my arms up, his grip gentle, and hooked my hands over smooth, cool plastic. “This will steer you once you’re in the air, if you can find the strength. Pull which way you want to go. Try and land in a flat place, but close to the taller buildings. You won’t be able to get out of the exclusion zone and go back to regular life, but you’ll have a good chance to survive down there if the right people find you. I’ve already put out an alert. I can only hope you make it, Tryg. I don’t want you to die. You’ve been the closest thing to a friend I had in that mansion. Please believe that.”

Arris looked so damned serious, giving me my death sentence with such care. I knew I wouldn’t last. I wasn’t a fighter—not without my poisons, anyway.

“Don’t pull the chute,” I said, holding his gaze. “Let me fall. It’s kinder.”

Arris shook his head. “I can’t, even if I agreed with you. You have to live. You’re our best hope now. I didn’t want to do this to you, but it’s the only way for Vodayn to leave you in peace.”

A blast of static filled the compartment, and Arris scowled and leaned back. He tilted his head. Whatever he listened to, it didn’t repeat in my headset. I tried moving my neck again, and this time I was able to turn maybe an inch farther to the right. More glass and sky.

The transport vehicle had to be well over three hundred years old, if it still had glass windows and rotors that made this much noise. The Eastrend military forces had used these to monitor the huge political protests, way back before the Green Death happened. They’d been passed on to other government agencies, like the one that monitored the poison levels here. Nobody would think this air transport looked out of place. At least not until I got pushed out of it. And Arris seemed to have already thought of that.

I pressed against the window and looked down. The only thing below us was a foggy haze, the green color lurid against the gray of the surrounding city. It was the hue present on some of the creatures in the Menagerie, almost acid-bright.

We were over the exclusion zone. A dozen small drones in a variety of styles hung just over the fog, film crews focusing on the action down below. There had to be another riot, if so many drones were out here. I hated watching the news on the nights they focused on Greenies fighting, but the rest of Eastrend seemed to love eagerly watching the violence, treated like war footage from somewhere unreachable.

All around the green air, a tall wall—bleak and gray and three city blocks thick at its narrowest point—rose a hundred feet higher than the fog, trapping the Green Death into what had once been a hotbed of political resistance. The place where Arris’s family had once lived.

I looked away. Seeing the exclusion zone—really seeing it, not just on a documentary or the news—made me want to scream. My great-grandfather had singlehandedly caused it. All the pain and agony, all the rage, all the violence—he’d created the chemical that caused it. And I might have, in another life, been able to create a way to neutralize it.

Not anymore.

“I truly am sorry, Tryg. You’ve been the only reason I still have my sanity, working for Vodayn.” Arris tilted his head, gaze sharpening, and then turned to the window next to me. “The fighting has died down. The drones are moving out. Three minutes and we start moving too.”

“Won’t the drones catch me getting pushed in?” I stared up at Arris. My lower lip wobbled in an embarrassing fashion, and I dropped my gaze. I was twenty. I didn’t need to cry. Especially not in front of him.

“The drones will be over the wall by then. Any remaining behind will already have their cameras off or pointed away. The fight’s over. They have their news clips for the day. If Vodayn tells them not to talk about it, they won’t. But if an unregulated source does draw attention to your drop-in, the story is that you’re a researcher sacrificing yourself for data on the Green Death and what it’s doing to the environment. It wouldn’t be the first time an idiot has gone in willingly and can’t get permission to go through the wall. Researchers never get permission.”

“Oh.” I shuddered. Vodayn was probably the reason for the research block. The darkness of our family secrets bled into so many other people’s lives.

Arris frowned, and then he dug something out of his belt. He held up a small, black handgun, the kind that shot little bursts of plasma—the same weapon he’d dug into my back days ago, when arresting me in the lab.

“It’s fully charged, but the safety is on. Red’s dead.” He flicked the little lever back and forth, showing me a red dot beneath it. “Only use it if you absolutely have to. The sound will call all the wild ones to you if you don’t watch out.”

“Wild?”

“They’re the most violent Greenies. They have no tattoos on their faces,” he said. “I’m tucking the gun in your back pocket. I really do want you to survive. I know you haven’t fired one often, but you’re smart. You’ll figure it out. I’ll do my best to check in on you when the Oligarch isn’t watching my every move again, okay?”
He kissed me, bruising, no more than a clash of teeth and lips.

That, more than anything, broke me. We’d never been kissers. I didn’t mind the denial, despite desperately wanting to feel what a kiss was like, mostly because I’d never imagined him being the kissing type. And now, when my banishment and potential execution was so near? Now he gave me what I wanted for so damned long.

When he pulled away, his face was a blank slate, and the chill in his gaze reappeared.

I repressed the urge to scream, to grab at him, to beg to stay in the transport. He might have been my lover, but right now, he was my brother’s top assassin.

These well-wishes and the gun would be the best I’d get from him.

“It’s time” he said as he shoved the gun into the back pocket of the torn, filthy protective work pants I still wore. “There. Brace yourself.” Arris hunched over and fiddled with the metal panel below my window. He grabbed the straps across my chest, and then a great whooshing noise filled the cabin, and the thumping of the rotors above us increased to an alarming volume. Air buffeted my face, ice cold against my cheeks.
And there was no longer any glass between me and the Green Death.

Arris shifted my weight until I sat just on the edge of the seat, tilting out into the nothingness around the transport. The haze hung just below us, the cloudy surface broken in a few dozen places by narrow metal tubes.

“Live, Tryg. Fight for it.” His words rang loud in my ear. Then he yanked my headset off. The noise beat at my eardrums, nearly pounding me senseless.

He shoved, and I was flying.

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Meet the Author

Madeleine began writing professionally in 2012. She loves stories with hints of paranormal, fantasy, or sci-fi in them. When she isn’t writing or working the day job, she homebrews beer, attempts to cook, and plays video games. She loves going to Renaissance faires, anime conventions, or beer festivals on the weekends.

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