Need a New Story to Dive Into? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Beyond Identity by Karrie Roman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Beyond Identity

Author: Karrie Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 2, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 74200

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, New Adult, college, depression,hurt-comfort, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

Noah Lancaster’s life is a mess. He doesn’t know much about his past or who is parents really were. When he’s beaten on the streets one night while sleeping rough, the attack doesn’t feel like just another random assault on a vulnerable target. Somebody wanted Noah dead. But who’d want to hurt him? He’s a nobody who doesn’t know where he came from or who he truly is.

Harry Cooper wants to launch his career as an investigative journalist by telling the stories of the hardships faced by the homeless. His latest subject was lucky to survive a brutal attack—the mean streets almost swallowing him up like so many others. Noah is a mystery to Harry and it seems to the man himself.

When Noah’s attack brings these two men together, neither could imagine they’re about to be pulled into a mystery one hundred and thirty years old—and half a world away. They’re about to discover a secret someone has already killed once to protect and one that might get them both killed.

Sometimes who you are goes far beyond who you thought you were.

Excerpt

Beyond Identity
Karrie Roman © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Noah had been here before. People didn’t have sporadic stints of living on the streets and expect to escape the occasional bashing. An assault could come from anywhere—another rough sleeper, a junkie, pimp, or sometimes from some teenage twat who thought they were being hilarious beating the shit out of someone whose life had already kicked them in the teeth. When someone was homeless, they were either invisible or a goddamn target. The fucking irony.

This was different though. This wasn’t some son of a bitch grabbing the nearest body and laying his fists into them. Noah had been stalked. He’d watched this bastard skip first one and then the next rough sleeper he’d come across in the alley until he’d spotted Noah.

Noah recognised what the man wanted, could tell by the tense set of his shoulders, the white knuckles of his clenched fists. He wanted to make Noah hurt. Sensing danger became heightened when surrounded by it day and night with no locked door to offer even the illusion of safety. So, when he’d first spotted this man, Noah had wanted to run, he’d never wanted to run so desperately in his life. But he had nowhere to go. He’d chosen poorly the night before—a rookie mistake, though he was no rookie to sleeping on the streets.

He’d been so damn exhausted, when searching for a spot to lay his head, he hadn’t cared that there’d been no second exit, no escape route in this alleyway. He’d trapped himself, and a monster had walked right into his trap. But Noah was the one caught in the deadly snare.

Noah could fight. He was scrappy, no finesse, no training, but he could throw a half-decent punch. He was capable of delivering a hit to make his opponent think twice about going after him, and if that didn’t work, he knew how to bite, kick, scratch; hell, he’d go for the balls if he had to. Another thing learned on the street if someone wanted to survive was to use every weapon in their arsenal.

The monster coming for him was tall, not the biggest man Noah had ever seen, but definitely the biggest one he’d ever had to fight. The darkness shadowed his features, but he knew the eyes were bleak, cruel; he’d seen a flash of them in the streetlight near the top of the alleyway, or maybe his imagination was making the man’s physicality as sinister as his demeanour. Noah felt those eyes on him. Glaring. And he wondered what the hell he’d done to this guy to piss him off so badly.

Noah stood, legs wide, shoulders high, chest out, trying to make himself appear as big as possible. From the man’s bearing and manner, it was evident he had next to no chance of scaring this guy off, but he had to try. Any fight he didn’t end up actually fighting was a win.

Much of his time on the street Noah was alone, but never more so than when some fucker decided to take a potshot at him. He didn’t really blame anyone for their indifference. They lived in a don’t-get-involved kind of world and when no one had their back having someone else’s could be very hard.

The man kept coming. He was close now, close enough to allow Noah to see him more clearly. His eyes were as cruel as Noah had thought, but the rest of his face he’d describe as a baby face, soft, almost sweet-looking. His cheeks were puffed as though full of cotton wool, a perfectly shaped snub nose sat above rich red cupid’s bow lips pulled into a sneer. Without more light he was unable to pick accurate skin and hair colour, but he’d guess fair for both.

Noah raked his gaze quickly down the man’s body. He was muscular but not hulk-like. He had no obvious weapon, though from the size of his hands, Noah suspected he’d be able to do plenty of damage with those alone.

He wondered if the man would speak. Sometimes they did, especially the arsehole teens who, for whatever reason, felt the need to justify why they were beating the shit out of their victim, all while bragging amongst themselves about how tough they were.

Faster than he’d have thought possible, the man lashed out. Noah’s head snapped back, and a spray of blood bloomed from his nose, the sickening crack turning his stomach. He hadn’t had a chance to move. The stranger’s speed and accuracy confirming to Noah this man was no amateur—and Noah was in big trouble.

Before his head had even righted, he took a blow to his stomach, the force of it doubling him over. He gasped for air, trying to suck in big gulps through his mouth. The man’s knee connected with his already broken nose before he could catch his breath, and the follow-up blow to the back of his head sent him to his knees.

Noah didn’t stand a chance; he understood how dire his situation was now. This man was a professional—he knew what he was doing.

His vision was darkening, tiny purple-black spots making it difficult for him to see clearly. He lashed out with a fist, connecting with what he thought was the man’s thigh. He wondered if his attacker even felt the blow there was so little power behind it.

The man aimed for his head again, but somehow Noah managed to dodge backwards so the blow was only glancing. Unlike in the movies, Noah knew a normal person couldn’t take too many direct, powerful hits to their head without substantial damage or worse. His focus was scattered, not sharp enough for him to decide what to do about the punches raining down on him though. Did he duck and cover, hope to ride out the attack while protecting his head? Or did he try to get up and fight?

He kind of roll crawled to put some distance between them but the man charged relentlessly after him. Noah kicked out with his leg. He tried to aim for the man’s knee, but his head was spinning worse than the one time he’d had way too much whisky. He wasn’t sure where his foot ended up connecting, but his attacker only grunted and kept coming.

Noah curled into a ball, pulling his head down to his chest and wrapping his arms around the vulnerable area. He felt a sharp hard kick to his back and then another. He tried to roll to his knees, but the bastard wouldn’t relent even a little.

“Hey! You there!” A booming voice called.

Noah’s attacker stopped immediately. He heard running footsteps and glanced out from beneath his arms just in time to see the man sprint down the alley, barrel into a man and woman at the opening, and keep right on running. He didn’t have the energy to move, much less chase after him or even call out for help. He closed his eyes and groaned.

He wasn’t quite sure what happened to time then—it either slowed down or sped right up. He was too out of it to know which. He heard voices, vaguely registered they were occasionally talking to him, but he couldn’t be fucked answering. He wanted to sleep. His eyes were welded shut—they had to be—but lights flashed continually behind them. There were more voices and then some arsehole was poking and prodding at him. It was the strangest thing—as though he was there but wasn’t.

One minute he was curled up on the cold, filthy concrete and then suddenly, he was being jostled around in some kind of vehicle. Ambulance, probably—at least he hoped it wasn’t a cop car. He smelled pee and knew it was his, but he didn’t have the wherewithal to be ashamed. He was amazed he was capable of smelling at all, given he was sure his nose must be shattered in a million pieces. Mixed with the acidic pee was the coppery stench of blood.

Someone was asking him for his name. He thought his name was Noah, but everything was a bit hazy. He couldn’t for the life of him think of his last name.

“Can you tell me your name?” the voice asked again.

“Shh. I’m sore,” he replied, though the words were so slurred he didn’t know if he’d be understood.

He heard a soft chuckle and then that damn voice again. “I know you’re sore, but can you tell me your name.”

“Noah,” he groaned, so the voice would shut up.

“Noah, do you have any allergies?”

Jesus fucking Christ, didn’t this idiot know he just had the stuffing beaten out of him? He didn’t give a shit about allergies. He groaned again. The fucker could take his whimpered reply however he wanted.

“I’ll take that as a no. I’m going to give you a shot of morphine. Have you had anything to drink tonight?”

“Don’t drink.” Fuck, the slurring was getting worse. He shook his head no to make sure this guy would understand him. He felt like his goddamn brain was rattling around in his skull.

“Okay, good. Here we go then, just a small pinch.”

Noah felt a bite—a fucking painful one—in his arse cheek. “Fuck,” he spat. Small pinch my arse.

“I know, sorry. Morphine shots kinda hurt.”

“Arsehole,” he groaned. Every part of him hurt, but hopefully the morphine would kick in soon. He knew he was being taken to a hospital but wished he wasn’t. He wished he could talk them into letting him out now. With his veins full of morphine to dull the pain, he’d be okay. He’d find somewhere to curl up for a while and sleep it off. But they had their duty of care and blah, blah, blah. He’d sign something to say they did all they could, and he’d happily take the blame if he died from his injuries on the street.

He hated hospitals, loathed anywhere really that put him on the radar. He was no criminal, and he wasn’t on the run, but the idea of anyone knowing exactly where he was sent shivers up his spine for no particular reason except that’s just the way he was made.

Hands busied themselves all over his body. He had neither the energy nor the ability to open his eyes and watch what they were doing. From the noises being made and the sensations on his skin, they were putting in an IV and attending to his wounds. Noah floated happily on his morphine cloud, content to lie back and let those hands have their way with him. He still wished he wasn’t headed for a hospital, but he’d keep the worry for when the drugs wore off.

He felt the cold air rush in when the doors of the ambulance were yanked open. His body was jostled around when the stretcher was pulled from the back, though he knew they were trying to be careful—that pesky duty of care. He really tried to peel at least one eyelid open when he heard voices gathered over him, discussing him as if he wasn’t there. He heard them say assault and concussion and lucky. He didn’t care about any of it. He was in no pain now, and all his other worries seemed far off, silly, unimportant.

He heard them say something about topping the dose, and then even the haziness in his brain faded as he drifted away.

Purchase

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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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Looking for that Next Romance Story? Check out the New Release Blitz for Coffee (A Cup of John #2) by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Coffee

Series: A Cup of John, Book Two

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 19. 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 69100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, British, trans, gay, queer, age gap, established couple, size difference, blue collar, disability, ableism, death and grieving, family issues, dirty talk, wedding, ownvoices

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Synopsis

When Chris’s stepfather passes away and leaves Chris a house and a wedding ring, it seems like the perfect opportunity to take the next step in his relationship with John.

So, they’re both in for a nasty shock when Chris’s mother is vehemently opposed to the idea. Despite three years of history to prove otherwise, she insists that John is only a temporary feature in Chris’s life, and a man like him can’t be expected to stay with someone like Chris in the long run.

Can Chris persuade her that she’s wrong in time for the wedding—or will there be an empty space in the photographs?

Excerpt

Coffee
Matthew J. Metzger © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Rather appropriately for the occasion, it had been raining all day.

Chris took in a deep lungful of smoke and exhaled it smoothly into the chilly afternoon. The memorial garden was blissful after the hustle and bustle of the funeral. The air was open and soothingly cool, not like the stuffy heat of the chapel. He could breathe again. He could gather the shards of grief around himself and try to put them back together, without having to think about his mother’s sobbing at his side, or the favourite song that had been played for Jack’s last journey, a song now stained with sadness.

The gentle patter of raindrops on the umbrella calmed him, and the far-off chirping of some irate bird provided a gentle counterpoint. Life slowed. From farther off, the chattering of friends and relations had finally died away, and Chris stubbed out the remains of the cigarette as he heard the crunch of gravel.

He’d never been here before, but the footsteps coming down the path were as familiar as his own. Thunderously heavy, an immense weight crushing each step into the ground even as the pace was slow and steady. That slight stress on one step, followed by lightness on the other. That dodgy knee from the rugby accident last year had left its mark in the form of a subtle limp and a tiny scar like a fish hook that made its owner go all shivery when Chris kissed it. Even the speed with which each step followed the other was familiar, like the tower of a body might collapse if the feet were spread too far apart. The hands that clasped Chris’s shoulders were as big as spades, and only one person in his life was tall enough to kiss the crown of his head without the use of a box to stand on.

Chris leaned back into the wall of a man who had arrived and lifted the umbrella to let him into the shelter.

“Your mum’s gone home with Lauren.”

The relief was bittersweet. Mum and Lauren had always gotten along, despite one being Dad’s ex-wife and one being Dad’s girlfriend. Lauren would look after her—even if it was Chris’s job. Even if he was supposed to.

“You did great.”

Chris swallowed thickly. “I think it’s just sunk in.”

It hadn’t been real. It had taken so long that it had never quite felt real until this moment.

Jack had died a long, slow, terrible death. Weeks in the hospice. Chris would never forget the gargling way his stepfather had breathed near the end, or the clammy coolness of his skin. The way Mum had cried, soft little sniffles at the corner of the bed on that final day. The gaps between the gurgles, until finally there had been nothing but the eeriest silence. The shaking in his fingertips was over.

Everything was over. The smell of cigar smoke on the tenth of March, the one day of the year Jack lit up. The shuffle of his slippers. The whirr of that deathtrap of a stairlift. The croaking way he’d chuckled, a noise that in a bigger man would have been a belly laugh. The little huff he let out when Mum was in one of her moods, followed up hastily with “Yes, dear, of course…” And Chris had never seen it, but he’d known Jack had flashed him little smirks across the table at such moments, conspiratorial understandings between the two men who were most subject to her fussing and flapping, the two men who loved her most. Gone.

“Jack’s gone.”

“I know.” The words were soft but firm. The hands on his shoulders rubbed down to his elbows and then back up in a long, smooth stroke. “But so is the pain and the suffering. He’s not hurting anymore. And if he was right, then he gets to see his daughter again now.”

Chris coughed a shaky laugh. It bubbled out of his ribs like water overflowing. “No such thing as heaven.”

“You never know.”

Chris sighed and leaned his head back. He closed his eyes and hummed as a kiss was pressed into his temple.

“I should go and see Mum,” he said.

But his chest ached. His ribs felt like they were going to cave in, and a red-hot pain followed the scar, as if he’d been wrapped in metal wire, melting against his skin. He hurt.

“I want to go home.”

The hands pulled. He was turned by the shoulders and drawn into a rain-damp embrace. The arms around his back made the pain worse, but Chris clung and burrowed into the embrace anyway. The kiss on the top of his head slotted two of the jagged edges together and sealed them shut again. The grief ebbed a fraction.

“Come on, then. Let’s go home.”

Purchase

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

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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Join us for the New Release Book Blitz for Stray by Nancy J. Hedin (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Stray

Author: Nancy J. Hedin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 12, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, New adult, contemporary, family drama, lesbian, gay, vet, farm, homophobic beating, church, politics, social worker, mystery

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Synopsis

Lorraine Tyler should be in vet school, but she stayed behind in her home town of Bend, Minnesota to care for her nephew, spend time with her lover, Charity, and give her momma a chance to complete nursing school.

Lorraine is content until her momma brings home a steady stream of bachelors to straighten her out. Charity is out of town more and more, and Lorraine’s brother-in-law is looking for a new mom for Little Man. To make matters worse there’re new people in town. A politician is drumming up fear and hate, a social worker is flirting with Lorraine, and Lorraine’s new friend, Ricky, is beaten into a coma.

Lorraine suspects Ricky was beaten because of being gay. Lorraine is determined to find out who did it, protect Ricky from the hater who might try to finish the job, and she’s worried she might be next on the hater’s list.

Stray is a story of politics fueling hate, competing romantic interests, and regular people examining their hearts, souls, and hormones. Will the people of Bend harbor the fear-rattled haters of some, or will they provide sanctuary for all?

Excerpt

Stray
Nancy J. Hedin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
It was supper time on a weeknight and there were two vehicles I didn’t recognize and a hearse parked next to our farmhouse. It wasn’t really a hearse, it was Pastor Grind’s tan Toyota, but any visit from him meant bad news. God how I hoped Momma had started a book club or extorted people to attend a Tupperware party. More likely she was bringing me a parade of potential husbands. She wanted to straighten out her queer daughter, me. I didn’t know if she was acting alone or if she’d again claim she had God on her side. Maybe she got Pastor Grind to agree to marry me to one of those men on the spot.

“Lorraine, Lorraine!” Momma came rumbling out of the house onto the open front porch, waving her arms. “Don’t change out of your college clothes. We have guests for dinner.”

It’s not like I routinely changed clothes in the yard. I parked my truck in between Dad’s beat-up pickup and Momma’s dented station wagon. Momma had parked on half the pink flamingo pair of lawn ornaments Dad had installed the day before.

“We’re having chicken. Ricky wants to learn to make my gravy.” Momma wiped her hands on her denim apron.

Before I could ask her who Ricky was—like I didn’t already know he’s some guy she found at college and deems him a good husband for me—the only requirement being a penis in his pants—she put her hands on her wide hips like she had more to say. “That Charity girl is here too, but she’s not staying.” Momma swiveled around and marched to the house.

My girlfriend, Charity, was there. Finally, some good news. At least it meant she was driving her dad’s car and he wasn’t with her. There was no way that holier-than-god man would come to the queer’s house and have his daughter with him.

Dad and my three-year-old nephew, Little Man, came out of the barn with the dogs, Sniff, Pants, and Satan. Dad was telling Little Man some damn animal story—something about what they can tell from smelling another dog’s pee. Little Man and the dogs came running to me. “Raine, Raine, we’ve been throwing balls for the dogs.”

Most days I took care of Little Man, but Tuesday was a school day for me at the junior college where I had enrolled in as many math and science classes as I could manage until I left for Grayson School of Veterinary Science in Duluth. Grayson wasn’t a top ten veterinary school, but it was my first choice because I didn’t have to have a bachelor’s degree before entering their program. That was good for me since I had already delayed my college entrance by a couple of years because of the needs of my family.

Grayson accepted two years of college level science and math and allowed degree candidates to take summer classes for the entire four years of pre-veterinary science programs. It floated my boat, but what really got me excited was if I was short on the college level courses, which I was, they’d let me take skills and knowledge testing which would count toward coursework. All those things I’d learned from helping Twitch with his vet business could be parlayed for course credits. Sweet.

Little Man hugged my legs. When I looked at him and Momma and Dad, I had a hollow ache in my chest for who was missing. My twin sister, Becky, was dead. She left behind a dope of a husband and the sweetest little boy I could imagine existed in the world. My brother-in-law Kenny’s truck was gone. He must have still been at work at the lumber yard.

I scooped up Little Man. He wore the matching blue and white T-shirt and pants I’d put him in early in the morning, but he was filthy from playing. As I kissed his doughy neck, I sniffed him to know what he’d done while I was away. I detected the scent of outdoors, dogs, dirt, and snickerdoodle cookies, an average day.

I dropped him off in the mudroom. He climbed the green plastic, frog-faced step stool so he could reach the mudroom sink to wash his hands, and I looked for Charity. Charity leaned against the kitchen counter. Damn she looks good. I forgot all about supper. My whole body hungered for her touch and the sweet things she always said to me. I wanted to wrap my arms around Charity and kiss her until my lips fell off.

No kissing for me. Momma came back in the kitchen looking like she owned and ran the place, which she did. Momma and Charity were as far apart from each other as possible in the room and despite the temperature outside being near eighty degrees, the air temperature between them was colder than a well-digger’s lunch, as my dad would say.

“Hi.” I touched Charity’s shoulder. “I’m glad to see you. Why are you driving your dad’s car? You about scared me to death.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand quick, her eyes glued on Momma. “Dad needed my truck to help somebody move some boxes or something.”

I smelled her shampoo and she’d just put on some lip gloss I wanted to methodically taste and remove.

Momma gave the queer girls only cursory attention. I almost snuck a kiss, but I realized half a man twitched and kicked on the kitchen floor. The other half of him was tucked in the cabinet under the sink. When the top of him emerged I about lost my mind.

Christ, she’s at it again. This time the man was old enough to have possibly signed the Declaration of Independence, or at least the Constitution.

“Momma, I hope you haven’t been trying to find a date for me again.” Next, I addressed the fossil under the sink. “Ricky, I’m sorry you come all this way for nothing but a busted sink.”

Just then Little Man came in the kitchen. Momma’s face brightened as she whisked Little Man into her arms. He dried his wet hands on the front of Momma’s good apron—the full-length one with chickens embroidered on it and pockets on both sides of the skirt. Next Momma pulled me into the utility room with her and Little Man. “Excuse us.” She slid the accordion door closed.

Oh Christ, she’s going to murder me. No. She wouldn’t murder me in front of Little Man and so many witnesses in the house, but there was a fair chance she was going to lecture me and possibly brain me with one of her sacred books. She appreciated the Old Testament shock and awe. She didn’t much go for the patient tolerance of God’s later work or “the mushy parts,” as she called them. However, she did like the way her slim New Testament fit in the oversized pockets of her denim apron, and she liked the way it fit nicely in her hand when she wanted to swat someone, usually me. But she didn’t hit me. Instead, she reminded me of the way her mind worked and how she got everything done with speed and efficiency.

“That’s not Ricky. It’s Harold. Has it ever occurred to you, Lorraine, that we needed the sink replaced?”

That’s Momma for you. She could probably kill more than two birds with one stone. She weaseled getting our sink fixed and paraded a bachelor for my appraisal. She was so efficient, I was surprised there were any birds left.

Momma continued, “Besides, you can’t marry Harold. He’s already engaged to a gal from the square-dancing club.”

“Square dancing,” Little Man said.

Little Man, at three years old, needed an interpreter. I caught most everything he said because I listened to him most days. He had acquired a new habit of repeating parts of whatever he’d heard somebody else say.

“Well, do-si-do and an allemande right if I’m not relieved.”

“Smarty pants,” Momma said. “Behave yourself. It wouldn’t hurt you to try to make friends with our guests. Supper is almost ready.”

“Great. I want to sit by Charity.”

“She’s not staying.”

What? Hadn’t we made any ground at all? Couldn’t my girlfriend at least enjoy a meal at our house? It’s not like we would make out at the dinner table.

Momma pushed me out of the utility room, put Little Man down with half a cookie, and helped Harold get up off the kitchen floor.

“Can’t you stay for supper?” I asked Charity.

Charity glanced at Momma. Then she looked at her feet and bit her lip.

Those lips. I knew how pillowy soft and warm they were. The first time she ever kissed me it felt like I had known her mouth forever.

Charity turned her back on Momma and she half whispered and half gasped, “Lorraine, are you ever leaving for college? This is too small, too much.”

“How can something be both too small and too much?” I tried to joke, but Charity wasn’t having it.

“I don’t know, but Bend is and you need to decide. I’m going home.” Charity headed to the door.

I wanted to remind her I was moving as fast as circumstances would allow. I’d enrolled in as many science classes as the junior college offered while I worked with Twitch…and I minded Little Man. But I didn’t speak up for myself.

“Are you still coming over tomorrow?” I whispered. “Little Man has some new plastic animals. I’m thinking of decorating the kitchen like an African safari.” My scheme kept Little Man busy and allowed me to study animal physiology and anatomy at the same time.

“See you tomorrow.” Charity called over her shoulder with very little enthusiasm.

I watched Charity through the window walking away. My heart raced. I almost ran after her, but then Momma grabbed me and harped at me to go sit in the dining room and talk to the guests. Why is everybody so mad at me? Why is everyone pressuring me to move faster or be different? Momma wanted me to not be queer and marry a man. Charity wanted me to leave Bend before I had Little Man settled. I took deep breaths and prepared to enter the dining room.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Nancy Hedin, a Minnesota writer, has been a pastor and bartender (at the same time). She has been a stand-up comic and a mental health crisis worker (at the same time). She wants readers to know that every story she writes begins with her hearing voices.

In 2018 Nancy’s debut novel, Bend was named one of twenty-five books to read for Pride Month Barnes and Noble, and was named Debut Novel of the Year by Golden Crown Literary Society and Foreword Indies Honorable Mention for GLBT Adult Novel of the Year.

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Love Listening to Your Love Stories? Check Out the Audio Tour for Out in the Field (Out in College #4) by Lane Hayes (audio sample and giveaway)

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Title: Out in the Field

Series: Out in College #4

Author: Lane Hayes

Narrator: Michael Pauley

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: July 11

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 5 hrs and 31 mins

Genre: Romance, New Adult, College, Coming Out, Baseball, New Adult, Humor, Opposites

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Synopsis

Max Maldonado loves baseball. He knows playing first base at a private college probably won’t get him to the big leagues, but he doesn’t mind. He loves the game and his teammates. If he has to stay in the closet until he graduates, that’s okay. Baseball comes first. Relationships are complicated anyway. And after his recent messy breakup, Max prefers to keep things simple.

Phoenix Bell is a fabulous theater geek. He’s excited about his recent transfer to a new school with an elite liberal arts program. Life has been on hold for a while, but this opportunity feels like the fresh start he was hoping for when he moved to California. And the chance reunion with the hot closeted jock is an unexpected surprise. The two men have nothing in common and their timing couldn’t be worse. However, when their unconventional alliance blossoms into friendship and perhaps something more, it may be time to make some hard decisions. And perhaps risk it all…out in the field.

Listen to a sample

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 were First Place winners 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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Meet the Narrator

Michael has well over 50 audio book titles currently available for purchase on Audible.com. He is versed in multiple styles and genres including fiction (novels and short stories) ranging from romance to science fiction to crime dramas to thrillers; business strategy books; health and wellness books; and even an occasional children’s book.

Fans of Michael’s narration are welcome to follow him on social media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and SoundCloud.

If you are interested in working with Michael to produce your next audio book, you can contact him directly at voice@michaelpauley.info

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New Release Blitz for Ignite (Unbreakable Bonds #7) by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Ignite

Series: Unbreakable Bonds #7

Author: Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

Publisher: Drake & Elliott Publishing LLC

Release Date: July 26, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 73,000

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

Two of Noah’s Army buddies are dead.

Someone has taken shots at Noah.

And now Noah’s former lover, JB, is a target.

Noah, Rowe, and JB team up to track down a killer trying to take out all of Noah’s old Army team in hopes of covering up a dark secret.

But this trip to Washington, D.C. threatens to unravel the perfect life that Rowe and Noah have built over the past three years. JB’s arrival in their lives have Rowe and Noah wondering if they want the same thing for their happily ever after.

Rowe is sure of one thing—nobody threatens his man. And he sets out to show anyone with a hidden agenda what a bad decision that was.

Excerpt

Noah smiled to himself as he watched Rowe drive them home. His hands slid easily along the leather wheel. Soon those strong hands would be stroking down his body. The way the man kept looking at him during the wedding had him half-hard all evening. He knew it was the wedding—all the romance in the air.

A lingering worry had nipped at him earlier in the day that Ian’s wedding would bring back painful memories of Rowe’s own wedding, but he seemed fine and Noah couldn’t be more thankful.

So, he watched those hands. Being touched by Rowe was like nothing else in this world. The man worshiped his body with an all-in intensity that frankly awed Noah. And he knew that wouldn’t change, no matter how long they were together. He took in his dark-red hair, lit by moonlight, disheveled as usual, and his ripped shoulders and arms. The man filled out a suit well, but he couldn’t wait to peel him out of it.

“Keep staring at me like that, and I’ll be finding a secluded spot to pull over,” Rowe murmured, giving him a steamy look.

“That’d be fine with me. Did I tell you how hot you are today? You should wear suits more often.”

“Soon as we get home, I’ll show you my birthday suit.”

“That’s my favorite suit of all.” Noah grinned.

Rowe pulled to a stop at a red light and turned toward him, his green-eyed gaze hotter than the sun. “You clean up nice yourself. Come here.”

Noah leaned over to kiss him. Brakes squealed sharply. Noah jerked his lips away from Rowe’s before they could touch. A car had pulled up, perpendicular to theirs, in the middle of the intersection. A loud bang quickly followed and the ping of glass breaking. Startled, he looked at the windshield to find a small hole in it.

“Shit, get down!” Rowe grabbed him and shoved him into the seat, covering him with his body just as another shot broke through the windshield.

“Someone is fucking shooting at us!” Rowe stretched over him to reach the glove box where he kept his gun. He yanked it out but stayed down. “Are you hurt?”

Noah couldn’t believe the man covered him, but that was Rowe. “No, I’m fine. You?”

“I’m good.”

Tires squealed again and the roar of the car engine grew softer. A knock on the driver’s window had them both jerking upright. Rowe aimed the gun in that direction, ready to put two in whoever was stupid enough to be standing there. Noah rose, ready to jump out of their truck and attack.

The woman outside screamed and ducked away from the window. “I was just making sure you were all right!” she yelled, and Rowe immediately lowered his gun. “The person shooting drove off, but I got a good look at the car. I’m beside you at the stoplight. The driver just pulled right into the intersection and someone shot out of the front passenger window. Is everyone okay? I called 9-1-1.”

Noah looked out the windshield to find the first hole directly in front of him. He turned and found a matching bullet hole in the seat. It would have pierced his heart. Whoever shot at them had one hell of an aim. Or at least, they would have if Noah hadn’t leaned over to kiss Rowe at that moment. <em>Holy fuck</em>, <em>that was close!</em>

His stomach was in knots as he met his boyfriend’s gaze. “What the hell?”

Rowe rolled down his window, apologizing to the woman for scaring her. “What kind of car was it?”

“A black Volkswagen hatchback.”

“Did you see anyone in the car? Could you tell if either person was a man or woman?”

“The passenger looked like a man. I’m sorry, I didn’t get a good look at the person’s face.”

Sirens sounded in the distance, getting steadily closer. Rowe put his gun back into the glovebox and they both got out of the truck to look at the damage. Two police cars arrived with a roar of engines. The first cop opened his door and stood with his gun at the ready.

“The shooter drove away,” the woman yelled. She was certainly helpful and brave to have gotten out of her car at all. Her red Honda was still parked at the light beside them with several more cars stalled there as well. None of those people had gotten out of their vehicles, but now they did as the police gathered.

Rowe and Noah answered questions but because they’d ducked, they had less to offer by way of explanation than the woman who’d witnessed the whole thing.

“Was more than likely a drive-by,” one of the cops said as he made a few notes in his little notepad. “We’ve had a few of them recently. I’m glad nobody was hurt this time. The others weren’t so lucky.”

But Noah had a feeling it wasn’t some random drive-by.

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Meet the Author

Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott have teamed up to combine their evil genius to create intense gay romantic suspense stories that have car chases, shoot outs, explosions, scorching hot love scenes, and tender, tear-jerking moments. Their first joint books are in the Unbreakable Bonds series.

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Tour for The Midspring Rebellion by Doreen Heron (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Midspring Rebellion

Author: Doreen Heron

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 25100

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fairies, royalty, magic, mythical creatures

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Synopsis

Things are amiss in the fairy court, made worse one spring morning when King Oberon’s wife decides to leave him. His decision to gather his thoughts in the human realm lead him into the path, and arms, of workaholic human Nick Chandler. But when Oberon’s throne is threatened, will he be able to retain his kingship and his newfound love?

Excerpt

The Midspring Rebellion
Doreen Heron © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
As it always did, the Wheel of the Year continued to turn.

Midsummer turned to Midfall.

Midfall to Midwinter.

Midwinter to Midspring.

The seasons changed. The years changed. But life in the Fairy Court remained the same.

And this left Titania dissatisfied.

“It is time for a change,” she announced one evening over dinner. Oberon had known something was wrong the moment she dismissed the waiting staff. It had been over three hundred years since they had eaten alone, and even that was because Titania had wanted to discuss the idea of adopting another Changeling. Not that the idea had gone anywhere, of course. Oberon had learned his lesson about taking human children long before that, and he had not been keen to repeat the experiment. It was natural, then, that he held his breath when Titania spoke, and he waited for whatever she was about to decide. “We have become stale.”

Oberon found it impossible to disagree. Being married for a millennium was certainly an accomplishment by anyone’s count—especially when fairy marriages were annulled and then voluntarily renewed on an annual basis. But one thousand years of an arranged marriage was going above and beyond in his royal duties, of this, he was sure.

“What do you propose?” he asked, not entirely sure he wanted an answer. A separation from Titania might allow them both to pursue other interests, but there was no denying that a split in the Royal Court could rip the whole of his already unstable kingdom in half.

“A separation.”

He nodded. He’d known where this was going, and he couldn’t say he was particularly unhappy about it. But he had questions.

“Why now? We’ve been living this same way these last three hundred years. Why propose this now?”

“It is the best possible time. The kingdom is at risk of civil war…”

“…Which is exactly why we should be united.”

“Or is it why this is the ideal time for a split? We would not want to needlessly disrupt harmony in the kingdom. Ergo, if we split while there are already fractures…”

“…we guarantee a split in the kingdom.”

“We hurry along a split we already know is coming.”

Oberon closed his eyes and shook his head. Titania had always been ruthlessly logical. It was one of the reasons his father had chosen her as a perfect mate, and—more importantly—a future queen.

“But…”

“I have met someone else.”

Well, that was the clincher, wasn’t it?

“I have fallen in love.”

“Love?” Oberon frowned at his queen, unsure of exactly what he was hearing. “What of love? We are a king and a queen. Love need play no part in anything.”

“Oberon, even the mortals have abandoned that way of thinking now. It is time for us to catch up.”

Oberon grunted. It pained him to hear Titania speak of love. She’d not as much as breathed the word in five hundred years, not since his trick to cause her to fall for the human Bottom.

“This love. It is not the human, is it?” he asked. “The actor.” His voice dripped with venom as he spoke, though he himself wasn’t sure if he was jealous that she had fallen with such ease or angry that his own magic had been the cause.

“Oberon, humans lead short lives. Bottom died many, many years ago.”

“Then who?”

This time, it was Titania’s turn to shake her head, causing blossoms of pink and orange to fall from her hair and hit the ground.

“Not important,” she said. She stood and pushed her chair back under the oak table, before walking delicately over and taking her husband’s left hand. “I release you.” She smiled. She turned a hand over and undid the leather strap that was tied at his palm. “I release you.” She unwound the leather from his hand, uncrossing the straps that worked up his forearm. “I release you.” She pulled the leather from his bicep, taut with the tension and stress running through his body. She leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Good luck to you, Oberon.”

He stood at the window of his tower, having vanished the glass to get a better look at what was going on. He watched as Titania loaded her trunks onto the glass chariot. He watched as a male fairy, face obscured by some of Titania’s trickery to stop him from being identified, helped to pile the heavier pieces of furniture. He watched as the two of them climbed into the chariot, and as the dragonflies took flight, pulling it into the woods and out of sight.

He thought he should shout. He thought he should swear. He thought he should cry. But he found himself empty. For a thousand years, he had known he could be temperamental or selfish or immature and Titania would always be by his side. Because she had had to. They had vows. But she had met someone better than him, and she was gone.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Ultimately, he chose to do what many do when they find themselves bereft, and he began to prepare himself for bed. He removed his emerald-green robes and ran a damp washcloth across his torso. His muscles contracted at the cold, tightening and becoming more defined than they usually were when hidden beneath his loose robes. Usually, he enjoyed the feeling of his tightening body, but even that was little comfort in the light of being left alone. He unwrapped the leather strap that ran across his waist—a symbol of his perpetual commitment to his kingdom—and draped it across the wooden dressing table. He dipped the washcloth in the water again before removing his loincloth and washing the rest of his body. It was only right to be clean before entering the kingdom of the DreamWeaver, and he was not about to abandon formality and politesse just because he would be alone in his bed tonight. Naked, but dry after patting the water away with a towel, he knelt by his bed.

“I give thanks to the earth, which bore me and gave me life. I give thanks to the great unknown, who guides me and shapes my fate. I give thanks to my ancestors, from whom I descend and for whom I live a life which is not mine, but which belongs to my subjects. These are my thanks.”

He stood and climbed into bed, pulling his mouse pelt blankets over him, and curled up into a ball. Scrunching his eyes together, he willed himself to sleep. It didn’t come easily, as visions of Titania and her paramour danced through his head, but eventually he found himself drifting off.

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Meet the Author

Doreen Heron is a writer who is finally living her dream in Cornwall, England. She is lucky to live in the county she loves, and to be using her writing to entertain her readers.

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the Book Blitz for The Exile Prince (The Castaway Prince #2) by Isabelle Adler (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Exile Prince

Series: The Castaway Prince, Book Two

Author: Isabelle Adler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 22, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 22900

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT fantasy, royalty, androgyny, gender-bending, cross-dressing

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Synopsis

Having chosen exile rather than face persecution at the hands of his family, Prince Stephan of Seveihar has finally found refuge in the south kingdom of Segor with his lover and former servant, Warren. For the first time in his life, Stephan is free to be who he really is, to explore his sexual identity and his fascination with all things feminine.

But it seems life has other plans, and the quiet happiness Stephan has run so far away to find is once again threatened by sinister forces from his past. Will Stephan and Warren’s newfound love be strong enough to weather the danger that could rip them apart forever?

Excerpt

The Exile Prince
Isabelle Adler © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The warm morning breeze carried the smell of sea salt, exotic spices, and the promise of a distant sandstorm.

Stephan breathed deeply, closing his eyes against the gentle currents, and leaned on the windowsill, offering his face up to the sun. It was not yet noon, but the heat was already building up. Soon the busy streets of the port city of Varta would empty, the denizens taking a brief respite during the midday hours to hide in the relative cool of their homes, away from the glare of the ruthless sun. At dusk, all activity would renew with rekindled vigor as the streets around the harbor filled with the cries of peddlers hawking their wares, the music of wandering performers, and the general hubbub of a large city going about its business. But for now, Stephan simply enjoyed the bright sunshine, which had been so rare in his native Seveihar, before he’d be forced to retreat to the shade of his rooms.

No, their rooms. He’d been living with Warren, his former footman and current lover, for the past six months, sharing the two cozy rooms in one of the quieter districts of Varta. The modest appointments were a far cry from the richness of his father’s royal palace in Sever, but luxury was low on Stephan’s priority list. These short months were the happiest he’d been in his entire life. Granted, at twenty years old, he was still at the beginning of his journey, but with his father gone and the rest of the family actively persecuting him, he’d had his fair share of misery.

Stephan sighed and closed the wooden shutters. Even so, the room was still softly illuminated, filled with translucent, soporific light. The hem of his white silk robe trailed after him as he made his way to the large writing desk, cluttered with sheaves of paper and different-colored inkwells. Warren, being the son of a merchant, was the one with the experience and a practical grasp for business, and he had been the one to suggest they invest the money left from selling Stephan’s extensive collection of jewelry in local commerce. For centuries, Varta, the second largest city of Segor, had been a crucial junction for the passage of goods between the deep south and the northern countries and provinces—including Seveihar and rival Esnia. With trade burgeoning in recent years, investing in independent shipping ventures seemed like a sound plan, although they were only now beginning to see any returns. None of it was enough to make a fortune, but for now, at least, they were able to live comfortably.

Stephan settled in a chair and pulled out a stack of letters he wanted to sift through one more time. While Warren was responsible for the finances, Stephan handled the records and correspondence. As a member of the royal family, he was well-versed in several languages, including Segati—a dialect spoken in Segor and along the long stretch of the southern coast. But reading and writing with a teacher weren’t the same as practicing the language among native speakers, and Stephan wanted to brush up on his communication skills as much as possible to be able to navigate the often-equivocal patterns of business negotiations with Segorian merchants and ship owners.

He was writing down some notes on a piece of paper when the door opened, and Warren stepped in, letting out a long-suffering sigh as he closed the door and took off his sweat-soaked scarf.

Stephan smiled as he rose to meet him. He threw his arms around Warren, planting a quick kiss on his lips. Warren’s skin, flushed and hot, still carried traces of salt and fish smell.

“I missed you,” Stephan said playfully.

Warren grinned in response, taking Stephan’s hand and kissing his fingers. “I’ve only been gone a few hours. And I still stink from the docks.”

“I don’t mind.” Stephan nodded at the leather-bound ledger sticking out of Warren’s coat pocket. “Any news?”

“The ship should arrive any day now. With the price of silk going up, we should make a nice profit off this consignment.”

“You might be the one to blame for the increase in prices,” Stephan teased. “You didn’t have to buy me quite so many dresses.”

“Of course I did. They make you happy. And I love seeing you in them.”

Warren let go of Stephan and threw the ledger on the desk. He was still smiling, but Stephan could sense tension in the rigid set of his shoulders and the way his smile quickly turned from genuine to strained.

“What’s wrong?” Stephan asked. “Are you worried about the ship being delayed?”

Warren shook his head and sat on the long bench beside a low dining table. He picked an orange from a fruit bowl and began peeling it.

“I’ve heard some bad news from Seveihar,” he said, avoiding meeting Stephan’s eyes.

Stephan sat back at the desk, tucking his long hair behind his ear in a nervous gesture. He knew he wasn’t going to like it.

“The war has started, hasn’t it?” he asked quietly.

Warren nodded. “Rumors spread fast in this city. It seems the first thing your brother did after ascending to the throne was declare war on Esnia.”

Stephan swore softly. His older brother, Robert, had been warmongering to garner political support, but until now, Stephan had clung to the naïve hope he wouldn’t go as far as actually starting a full-blown territorial war with their neighbor. Or at least that his advisers would stop him from making such a foolish move, if he wasn’t prudent enough to restrain himself. Even after fleeing his homeland and abandoning his title, Stephan couldn’t help but feel somehow responsible for the wellbeing of its people. Waging a war when most of them were already struggling with the increase in waterway taxes his uncle Rowan had decreed last fall would only add insult to injury.

“That wasn’t what got me worried, though. There’s more.” Warren dropped the peelings on the table and frowned at the naked fruit, as if surprised it turned out to be an orange after all. “There’s talk about Seveiharians in Varta. Apparently, an envoy arrived at the Governor’s palace two days ago. They were trying to keep it secret, but again, Varta is anything but surreptitious.”

Stephan shrugged. “So? They must be here to amend trade agreements. War changes demand, and the usual shipping routes would need to be altered if the Zenna River proves too dangerous now for regular transport.”

“No doubt.” Warren handed him a few orange slices, and Stephan popped them in his mouth. He flicked his tongue across his lips to lick away the juice, noting the way Warren’s gaze took on a familiar intensity as he followed the tiny movement.

Warren’s unmistakable interest sent a jolt of heat down his belly, triggering his own arousal. He licked his lips again, this time in an involuntary response to the thought of what he and Warren could be doing to while away the sultry midday hours. But apparently Warren wasn’t done yet.

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Meet the Author

A voracious reader from the age of five, Isabelle Adler has always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.

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Love Fantasy? Check Out the New Release Blitz for Through the Tears (Torn Between Worlds #1) by Leigh M. Lorien (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Through the Tears

Series: Torn Between Worlds, Book One

Author: Leigh M. Lorien

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 8, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56600

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, gray-ace/gray-aro, transgender, bonded, monsters, violence, anxiety attacks

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Synopsis

Huge, horrid creatures with a taste for human flesh have been invading Seacliff Manor and its surrounding lands for years. Ghouls are coming from another world through portals made of magic. No one knows why or how, but nothing good ever comes with them.

During a hunting trip, Eamon encounters one such monster and falls through a portal into the ghoul’s hellacious desert home world. Separated from his home, his friends, and his lover, with no magic of his own and no sign of other life, Eamon expects to die there…until an encounter with a lone stranger gives him hope. There is a way home. But can Eamon survive alone in ghoul-infested terrain long enough to get there?

Worlds away, the Lord of Seacliff Manor is determined to bring Eamon home. Despite all evidence to the contrary, Rafe knows his human lover is alive. It’s just a matter of finding out where. To that end, Rafe has a plan. It’s dangerous, perhaps even suicidal, but he’ll do anything to save the man he loves.

From different sides of the galaxy, the lovers fight monsters and seek magic with one goal in mind: reunion. Monsters aren’t the only things they’ll have to defeat to find their way back to each other, and the horrors uncovered along the way may be more than they can handle.

Excerpt

Through the Tears
Leigh M. Lorien © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Rafe

The body lay at the base of a maple tree in a crumpled heap of leathery gray flesh and black blood. Rafe studied it for a long time. Its fanged mouth hung open, eyes like black marbles gazing lifelessly at him, hands with hawk-like talons curled into loose fists in the grass. It was more than capable of killing a human—gods, it was probably capable of killing him. He turned away, forcing down the momentary surge of fear as he took in the scene, playing through the information he had.

Eamon, Lionel, Rose, and Tuomas had been hunting that morning, as Eamon had said they planned to do. Lionel was training a new bird. They were well armed. No one left the stronghold unarmed these days. Ghoul incursions were growing more frequent, and the filthy things were getting bolder by the day. Rafe had wanted to send an escort with them but let his lover talk him out of it. We’ll be fine. We’re barely going past the village.

But they weren’t fine. Lionel’s bird didn’t return when it should have. The ghoul had crept up on them while they were distracted.

Signs of the struggle were obvious all around the body. Broken twigs, displaced leaves, mud spatters up the trunks of the trees. The humans had come out victorious. Three of them had, anyway.

Thirty or so feet beyond the ghoul’s body, a cliff dropped into the sea. Ignoring his audience—the three humans who’d returned, as well as two of his rin retainers—Rafe walked past the ghoul’s corpse, inspecting the grass between the site of the attack and the edge of the cliff. Clods of soil lay in heaps where massive claws had raked it up. He wished there was some indication of Eamon’s movements, but the ghoul’s weight and erratic assault covered all sign of his human lover. Blood spatters painted the grass black. Rafe didn’t need to touch or taste the drying liquid to know it was not human. Not Eamon’s. The rotten stench of ghoul blood was as foul as raw sewage and, for once, he envied the humans their inferior senses. Someone had hurt it, and badly, right here. Eamon was not a close-quarters fighter. He was barely a fighter at all. If Rafe were a gambler, he’d put his money on Lionel and the longsword he wore.

“You say he fell,” Rafe stated. It wasn’t a question. Rose had spoken for the group, told their story in a quavering voice. If the two men were hoping Rafe would show mercy to a teary-eyed woman and thus to them as well, they were all mistaken.

“Yes, Lord,” Rose said. “Th-the ghoul tackled him, and they rolled, and…I’m not certain, I mean I-I didn’t see it myself, Lord, but…Eamon was gone when…”

Rafe walked to the very edge of the cliff and leaned forward to look down, grateful for an excuse to breathe air untainted by blood. The tension level behind him rose tangibly, but no one rushed forward to drag him back. He was their lord, not a child to be scolded for putting himself in danger. Hundreds of feet below, waves crashed and roared over a beach of jagged stone. Even with his sensitive rin hearing, little more than the faintest whisper reached Rafe’s ears from this distance. There was no question that a fall from this height meant no survival for a human. No matter what awaited at the end of the fall, no matter how strong the human.

And yet…

He had not felt Eamon die. Rafe had never had a bound companion die, so, he didn’t know from experience what it would feel like, but he’d heard others speak of it. He’d expected something…worse. He should have experienced fear as Eamon fell, pain as he crashed to the ground and his body shattered against the rocks below. It would have dropped him to his knees, put him in a state of shock.

Instead, there was a sharp surprise, fear, and then…an absence. Eamon simply was not there. He wasn’t alive, but neither was he dead.

“You are aware Eamon is bound to me?” Rafe turned to the humans, and they all bowed their heads, nodding and avoiding his eyes. “You should have protected him.”

The wind off the sea howled and whipped his dark hair around his head. Everything was cast in a dusky gray—the winter sun had not shown its face for days, and the choppy sea below was the color of cold steel. Standing at least a head taller than the tallest of the three humans, Rafe was no stranger to intimidation tactics. It wasn’t his preferred modus operandi—physical threats were so pedestrian—but it was easy, and with the gaping absence of Eamon distracting him, it was all he managed.

“I’m sure they did their best, my lord,” Kiran, his retainer, said softly.

Rafe continued to aim a cold gaze at the humans.

“I’m sure. Have search parties organized. Comb the beach and the forest in this area. I did not feel him die.” And if he was mistaken and Eamon was dead…The words hurt as they formed in his mind, but he forced them out. “If you find him, or his body, bring him home.”

Kiran bowed his head and rushed toward the manor to find willing and able individuals to carry out the command. Wind continued to buffet Rafe’s side and face, tangling his hair as it whipped around. In his imagination, Eamon was scolding him as he worked a brush through Rafe’s hair as he did every night. Would it kill you to tie your hair back once in a while? It’s like you tangle it on purpose.

If it weren’t tangled, I wouldn’t need you to brush it, would I? Rafe would reply and grin in the mirror at his lover. The thought of the familiar teasing almost made him smile. Almost.

“M-my lord,” Tuomas ventured, stepping forward as Rafe returned to the ghoul’s body. “We would like to join the search parties, if we may.”

Rafe shook his head. “No. Take this body to the manor. Have it burned.”

The three humans exchanged wide-eyed glances. The ghoul was larger than all three of them combined. Heavy as it was, it would take them hours to drag it to the manor. It seemed a mild punishment in Rafe’s eyes, for letting his lover fall over a cliff.

Tuomas and Lionel were unbound and had been for as long as Rafe had known them. Rose was bound to Elena, the manor’s doctor, and lived in the manor with her, while the two human men lived in the village outside the manor walls—together, if Rafe was not mistaken. Eamon had lived with Tuomas for some time, until he came to Rafe’s attention, and still spent the night in Tuomas’s village home on occasion. Perhaps it was cruel to punish the three of them in any way for what had happened. They were likely hurting as much as Rafe, but they were not bound to Eamon. They could not feel his absence, like the loss of a limb or an eye or an ear, like a crushing emptiness where, until mere hours ago, there had been a warm, bright presence every day for the past ten years.

“Stay with them,” Rafe instructed his second retainer, Orienna. “See that we lose no one else to rogue ghouls today.”

The woman bowed. “What of you, my lord?”

“I’m in a mood to rip something’s throat out,” he said coldly. “Let the filth try.”

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Meet the Author

Leigh M. Lorien is a queer author who got her start at the tender age of five, writing and illustrating her own Sonic the Hedgehog stories. Fortunately, her writing has improved in the subsequent decades. Nowadays, Leigh’s stories primarily lean toward science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy, but she has had some contemporary pieces sneak out of her head. Regardless of genre, her books will usually include sarcasm, strong relationships (romantic and platonic), polyamory/non-monogamy, magic, music, animals, mental illness, and less-frequently-represented queer identities.

When she’s not writing, Leigh enjoys gardening, photography, travel, music, Renaissance festivals, doing hair-color experiments in her bathroom, and going on any kind of adventure involving the outdoors (unless it’s cold, screw that). If you want to know her better or see pictures of her many fur-children, she’s most active on Twitter and Instagram.

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

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Title: Palm Trees and Paparazzi

Series: Gabe Maxfield Mysteries, Book Three

Author: J.C. Long

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 1, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61200

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

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Synopsis

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

A missing woman.

Delgado’s son.

A romantically awkward Grace.

Gabe’s parents.

It’s just another week for Gabe Maxfield.

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No one even noticed!”

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

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

“That old lady is enough.”

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

“She’s got it out for me!”

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

“She’s medicated.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Traitors.”

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

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

“Have you asked him out?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay, okay, you win. I’ll stop.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meet the Author

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

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Audio BLITZ for I Wished for You by Colette Davison and Piers Ryman (Narrator) ~ excerpt and giveaway

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Title: I Wished For You

Author: Colette Davison

Narrator: Piers Ryman

Publisher: Independently Published

Release Date: 6 June 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male Menage

Length: 06 Hours 24 Minutes

Genre: Romance, LGBT

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Synopsis

Three wishes.

Seb wants to be happy.
Matt wants to find ‘the one.’
Connor wants them.

Two drunken kisses.

Seb didn’t plan to kiss Matt and Connor, but he doesn’t regret it, even if it has changed their friendship forever.

Matt has never considered dating a man before, let alone two. Despite his confusion, being with Seb and Connor feels right.

One uncertain future.

Connor’s potential fate has stopped him living and loving. Can he face his fears to be with the men he loves?

***Contains explicit language and scenes***

Excerpt

“Wow,” Matt breathed as a shooting star shot across the now dark sky, trailing a tail of light behind it.

“That’s awesome,” Seb said. “Hey, aren’t you meant to wish on shooting stars or something?”

Matt stood, watching the sky intently. He’d finished his second can of beer and started on his third before he saw another shooting star.

“I wish I could find the one,” he yelled at the star.

Anything was worth a shot. Every girl he’d dated had held the promise of being the one, but every relationship had fizzled out within weeks or months. He was getting close to believing he’d permanently be shut in the friend zone by every woman he knew.

“My turn,” Seb said, leaping up to stand beside Matt. “Find me a star.”

“There might not be any more,” Connor pointed out.

A glance over his shoulder told Matt that Connor was still sitting, nursing a can of beer in his cupped hands. With their breath frosting on the air in front of them, Matt and Seb kept a fierce watch on the sky.

“There,” Matt said, pointing towards the far right as a star shot across the darkness.

“I wish to be happy again,” Seb yelled.

Matt turned to Connor. “It’s your turn.”

Connor shook his head.

“Why not?”

Connor met Matt’s curious stare. “I’ve already had one wish come true. I figure I’d be pushing my luck to make a second.”

Matt’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh? Do we get to know what this wish of yours was?”

Pink splashed across Connor’s nose and cheeks. He looked down, mumbling his answer. “I wished for friends. Someone I could count on. I met the two of you right after.”

Matt’s chest clenched. He tried to speak, but his voice stuck fast in his throat.

“Really?” Seb asked, staring intently at Connor as he sat in the middle chair.

Connor lifted his eyes again, staring at Seb and then at Matt. “Yeah.” He looked to the sky. “I mean… it was probably a coincidence, but I wished for you, and there you were.”

Tears stung Matt’s eyes. He ran his hand over them and down his face, sniffing loudly. “Well, fuck, Con…” He wasn’t even sure what it was he wanted to say. “I’m glad we met you, too,” he managed. “I’m glad we could help you when you needed us.”

“You still do,” Connor said softly. “Every day.”

“Okay, shut the fuck up now,” Matt said, trying not to cry. He flopped into the third chair. “I’m not nearly drunk enough to be getting this sentimental. More booze!”

Seb handed him a full can, and together, they sat and watched the occasional light show of falling stars as they drank into the night.

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Meet the Author

Colette’s personal love story began at university, where she met her future husband. An evening of flirting, in the shadow of Lancaster castle, eventually led to a fairytale wedding. She’s enjoying her own ‘happy ever after’ in the north of England with her husband, two beautiful children and her writing.

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