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.

Website | Twitter

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On Tour: E.M. Hamill on Writing, and ‘Dali’, (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Dali

Author: E.M. Hamill

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 8/7/17

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85200

Genre: science fiction, space travel, third gender, interspecies sex, kidnapping, genderfluid, space opera

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♦︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host E.M. Hamill here today. Thank you for taking time to sit in our author interview chair. The author also brought an excerpt and giveaway.  Don’t forget to check both out after the interview!

♦︎

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words E.M Hamill Interview ~

 

  • Do you write on a typewriter, computer, dictate or longhand?

Computer. It keeps up between my brain and my fingers better than pen. I used to do data entry and I type really fast.

  • How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Six months for the first draft of a full length novel, usually. You can’t rush editing, though. I average about a year before it’s ready to try and publish.

  • Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?

Oh, gods, yes…just keep plugging away, is all I can do. Even a few words a day is better than none. Eventually it cracks. I may start an entirely new section just to get flowing again. Worst case scenario, walk away from it for a week or so and then come back.

  • What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Writing is such a subjective thing. There are books I disliked, which were beautifully written and are someone else’s absolute favorite books. A review is simply the manifestation of personal taste. When someone’s taste coincides with mine and they love the story I’ve told, it’s a warm and wonderful thing. A bad review can really crush my ego, but if it’s constructive, I try to take those things into account.

  • What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Be the change you want to see in the world.

  • What is your favorite quote?

“We are the music makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;—

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems. – Arthur O’Shaughnessy”

Synopsis

Dalí Tamareia has everything—a young family and a promising career as an Ambassador in the Sol Fed Diplomatic Corps. Dalí’s path as a peacemaker seems clear, but when their loved ones are killed in a terrorist attack, grief sends the genderfluid changeling into a spiral of self-destruction.

Fragile Sol Fed balances on the brink of war with a plundering alien race. Their skills with galactic relations are desperately needed to broker a protective alliance, but in mourning, Dalí no longer cares, seeking oblivion at the bottom of a bottle, in the arms of a faceless lover, or at the end of a knife.

The New Puritan Movement is rising to power within the government, preaching strict genetic counseling and galactic isolation to ensure survival of the endangered human race. Third gender citizens like Dalí don’t fit the mold of this perfect plan, and the NPM will stop at nothing to make their vision become reality. When Dalí stumbles into a plot threatening changelings like them, a shadow organization called the Penumbra recruits them for a rescue mission full of danger, sex, and intrigue, giving Dalí purpose again.

Risky liaisons with a sexy, charismatic pirate lord could be Dalí’s undoing—and the only way to prevent another deadly act of domestic terrorism.

Excerpt

Dalí
E.M. Hamill © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

Human beings are assholes. I should know. I’d become one in the last few months.

You’d think the near extinction of our entire species after the pandemics and global poisoning our last world war inflicted might let us all pull together. Even with galactic war breathing down our necks, when almost everyone realized the human race constituted less of a threat to each other than some of the other things out there, we continued to be dicks.

Those attitudes started problems—in particular, Europan attitudes, of the New Puritan variety. I no longer possessed the self-control or sufficient fucks to avoid adding fuel to their fire.

His voice floated over the excited din of the crowd and the pregame show on the holographic screens above the bar.

“Abomination.”

I sighed and turned my head. The Team Europa-jacketed hulk next to me exuded a cloud of loathing against my empathic nets. I raised one eyebrow at him.

“Really? You can’t come up with anything more original after fifteen minutes of shit-talking?” The conversation behind me started as a diatribe against the rally for third-gender rights, held outside the arena and glimpsed on the main holo screen. I didn’t pay attention to either until the comments got louder and were meant for my ears.

“Faggot.”

“How very twentieth century of you.” I downed another of the six shots the robotic bartender dispensed in front of me. I wasn’t looking for trouble, only anesthetic. Outside, a cluster of media bots interviewing star athletes had driven me into the bar to hide. The presence of mechanized paparazzi still unsettled me. I didn’t want them in my face.

The annual Sol Series tournament games between Mars and Europa bordered on legendary for their savagery. No one took rugby as seriously as a gritty Martian colonist or a repressed New Puritan, and the bar overflowed with both, waiting for the station’s arena to open. Spectators gathered around us in the bar, drawn by the promise of a fight, glittering eyes fixed on us. My empathic senses drowned in their excitement and fear, even with the numbing effects of synthetic alcohol.

He invaded my personal space and leaned closer, face centimeters from mine. His breath carried a trace of mint and steroid vapors. Great. A huffer, his molecules all hyped-up on testosterone. He stood over a head taller than me, about twenty-five kilos heavier. His fists would do damage. His minions stood at either side, more meat than smarts. Neither spoke. Their mouths hung open while he harassed me, and I expected shuttle flies to crawl out at any time.

“You’re nothing but an A-sex freak.”

“Better. Still lacks originality.” I threw back the last shot. “How about androgynous freak? Hermaphrodite? No, those words are probably too big for you.”

The titter of laughter from the crowd only pissed him off. “Go fuck yourself.”

“Technically, I can’t. But I can fuck anybody else in this room. Can you?”

Shocked laughter rose from the circle of spectators. The guy clenched his fists and flexed his muscles. I continued, “Do I scare you?” I swiveled on the stool to face him and changed posture, crossing my legs in demure modesty. My voice rose into a husky, suggestive alto as I leaned one elbow on the bar. “Or do you want to find out what’s under my kilt?”

I hit a nerve. His eyes went blank, black, and his rage flooded over my senses. The crowd gasped and took a step back. Minion One caught his rising fist and spoke. “Jon, don’t you know who…”

Jon’s lip curled. “It’s an atrocity. It should have been killed at birth.”

“I prefer the term changeling.” I stood, and the circle around us got wider. The potent mix of hormones surged through my bloodstream as they altered my chemical makeup and bulked strategic upper body muscles. I let a cold smile form on my lips and dropped into a Zereid martial arts stance. Jon took half a step back as I became more definitively male in ways he recognized. “Oh, go ahead and hit me, by all means. A good fight is almost as good as sex.”

“Break it up.”

The crowd parted into nervous brackets with security’s arrival. Caniberi lumbered into the midst of the circle with the boneless roll space-born started to get after generations in orbit. He cast a sour eye in my direction.

“Dalí, why is it always you?”

“Just lucky, I guess.”

The constable growled at me. He turned to Jon. “You can’t play in the tournament if I throw you in the brig for violence. Move out.”

Jon stared at me a minute longer. The threat of not getting to beat the hell out of some hedonistic Martians made him reconsider. He and the minions moved away, but he threw one more sentence in my face like a javelin.

“You’ll be alone, changeling.”

The truth in his words knifed through me all the way to my gut and cut me deeper than any microsteel blade. “I’ll be waiting.”

Caniberi squinted at me as the crowd began to disperse. “Dalí, do I need to talk with the Captain?”

“No, sir. Leave my father out of this.” He’d dealt with enough from me already. My mother was now away on the diplomatic mission I’d been suspiciously—but rightly—deemed unfit to assume. Without Mom there to buffer the uncomfortable presence of my grief between us, Dad was lost.

“One of these days you’re going to push the wrong buttons and end up hurt, or worse. Some things the medical officer can’t fix.” His gaze softened. “Drinking and getting the shit beaten out of you won’t bring them back.”

“I’m well aware of that, sir.” My voice came out sharper than I intended. One of the best officers on the station, Caniberi had known me a little over a decade, and he never hesitated to kick my ass if I deserved it, no matter what gender I chose at the moment. This time, he just stared at me with an odd expression. His pity broke in tepid surges against my senses.

“Get out of here. I don’t want to arrest you again.”

I turned and left the bar. With the bots still hovering outside, I ducked my head to foil their facial recognition apps and fought my way upstream from the arena.

The shakes hit me in the aftermath of the hormone flood. The synthetic alcohol in my system warred with my normalizing chem levels and sour nausea threatened. I grabbed one of the rails lining the corridor and took several shuddering breaths as my muscles cramped, rearranged, and settled back into the lean, sexless frame where I am most at home.

The crowd jostled around me and headed toward the game. My empathic nets buzzed dully with their anticipation and excitement, but the sense of being watched pushed at the back of my mind. A familiar presence tripped a memory and an emotion.

The watcher knew me.

I turned my head. The Zereid made his way toward me, head and shoulders above everyone else, long, muscular limbs wading with passive grace through a river of human bodies as the crowd shifted for him. An eddy of cautious glances swirled and vanished downstream.

Oily quicksilver eyes without lids narrowed, their shape signifying the equivalent of a smile. His resonant voice buzzed in my ears. “He is the size of a cargo bot, you know. Even the arts we learned can’t change gravity. He might kill you.”

“I won’t let it go that far.” I shrugged. I actually hoped I’d bitten off more than I could swallow this time.

But the presence of my childhood friend undid me. A lump rose in my throat, pressure in my head, and I closed the distance between us. He gathered me in against cool flesh. I was locked in arms capable of crushing a human like a piece of foil but which held me with careful tenderness. Against his enormous chest, I felt like a small child, even though in developmental terms, Gor and I are the same age. His concern brushed my mind with affectionate familiarity.

“I see you, Dalí,” he murmured. “I mourn with you.”

I breathed in the scent of Zereid. Gor smelled of his homeworld—rain and earth and copper clung to his leathery turquoise skin and short, downy fur even in absentia. Homesickness washed over me.

I’d lived on Zereid most of my life. My mother, Marina Urquhart, served as ambassador for fifteen years. Dad’s career required he return to Sol Fed, and rather than separate our family, Mom resigned her appointment. My differences were clear, even to my third-gender mother, but there, we were aliens. I wondered what it would be like to have more friends who blinked.

When we got back to our own kind, I found out I was still an alien.

Gor pulled away. In the tarnished silver of his eyes, like antique mirrors, my unkempt reflection stared back at me. His dismay at my mental and physical state, impossible to miss, sighed against my mind.

“How did you hear?” I said.

“Your mother. “

“Of course.”

His head cocked. “I tried to come sooner, but the travel permissions into the colonies are daunting.”

“No, I understand.” I wanted to sit and talk with Gor. I eyed the bar, but couldn’t go back in there yet. “Come on. We can go to Dad’s quarters. He’ll be on the bridge.” My own cramped space wouldn’t accommodate Gor’s height or his bulk.

We squeezed into the private lift and rode up to the command deck. My thumbprint opened the door to the Captain’s suite, and Gor made a sound of wonder as he ducked through the port.

Three levels of transparent alloy shielding overlooked the U-curve of Rosetta Station. Shuttles buzzed in and out of bays like honeybees in the hydroponics domes, ferrying passengers to huge starliners docked on the outer limbs.

“An inspiring view.” Gor gazed out the window.

Ochre planet-shine from Jupiter’s face illuminated the room, the swirling storms in the gas giant’s atmosphere familiar to me now. I never found them beautiful, only an echo of the chaos in my head. I dropped into one of the chairs facing the viewport.

Gor eased himself into the seat opposite me. “You’re in crisis, Dalí.”

I couldn’t hide anything from him. Even if I wanted to, he was a telepath; his empathic senses much more attuned than my own modest abilities. Our friendship spanned far too many years, our trust well established. Lying to him would betray our oath of crechemates, a Zereid custom similar to old Earth tradition of blood brothers.

“Today would be the second anniversary of our wedding.” I stared at my hands. I still wore a ring on each of them, the ones Gresh and Rasida gave me.

“I remember. The love between you and your mates deserves celebration.”

Triad marriages with two members of the same sex and one of the opposite were common. The female population had not rebounded as fast as the male. But mine was the first triad marriage to include a changeling spouse under the new laws we helped to bring about. The legislation was both praised and vilified by hundreds of other citizens while we exchanged vows beneath the domes of the lunar capitol. My parents, Gresh’s mother, and Gor celebrated with us. Rasida’s mother refused to attend the wedding of her only daughter.

The three of us had been inseparable, invincible. Without them, I staggered, incomplete.

Our child would have been three months old now.

“Don’t say it.”

Gor’s eyes elongated in confusion. “What?”

“That they wouldn’t want me to be like this.”

“I did not come here to admonish you for grieving.”

I gave a short laugh. “What did you come here to scold me for?”

“For ceasing to live. Abandoning the larger destiny for which you trained.”

“Ambassador?” I dug a vape out of the pocket of my coat and thumbed the switch, inhaling illegal chemicals deep into my lungs. His gentle reproach against my empathic nets rebuked me without a word.

“You were sure of your calling as a peacemaker six months ago.” Zereid reverence toward conciliation is, ironically, unforgiving and unbending.

“I was certain of a lot of things then.” I exhaled a cloud of spicy mist. If any of the scent remained, I’d catch hell later for vaping in Dad’s quarters.

“There are always those who work against peace, even in their own hearts. As you are doing now.”

“I don’t know if I believe in peace anymore.”

“Because you do not possess it.”

“Stop feeding me platitudes, brother.”

He spread six-fingered hands wide. “What would you have me do? Tell me. Your pain is mine to share, beloved friend. Allow me to help you. Your rage is fearsome but undirected. You point it at yourself.”

“I was supposed to die, not them.” I cursed the terrorists who missed their target by eight minutes. When I decided not to address the media bots and chose instead to hold a private farewell with my family, I put myself ahead of schedule. I should have died with them. Even though the bastards failed to kill me, they destroyed me.

“Come home.” Gor waited for me to answer. I didn’t. He continued. “Madam Ambassador thinks Zereid would be a place of healing for you. You can study at the temple with me again, be teacher and student. This year’s crop of younglings is a challenge.” His vocal pipes fluted in laughter. “As we were.”

“That isn’t much of an incentive.” A grin tried to tug at the corners of my mouth, stiff and out of practice with the expression. “I’ll think about it.”

“Will you?” His doubt hovered between us.

The port slid open again and my father thundered in—Captain Paul Tamareia—“The Captain” to everyone on the station, even me at times. I stood at automatic attention, swaying a little. Gor rose too.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded. “And turn that goddamned vape off.”

I complied. “A misunderstanding, sir.”

“Misunderstanding, my ass. Six shots of the synthetic piss that passes for whiskey says it wasn’t.” He turned to Gor and bowed. “Welcome aboard Rosetta Station, honored friend. Forgive me for not greeting you first.”

“Captain Tamareia.” Gor bowed back.

“How long will you be staying? I insist you use my quarters as your own. Stop by the constable’s office and he will register you for my door. I’m afraid most of the cabins are small, and we’re overcrowded with the tournament.”

“My thanks, sir. My travel clearance is good for the next two weeks, and then I must return.” Gor nodded at us. “I should collect my belongings now. I will go to your constable on the way back.”

“It’s good to see you, Gor.”

“You as well, Captain.” He put one enormous hand on my shoulder. “Dalí, please think about what I said.”

Gor let himself out. Dad and I both understood he made a graceful exit so we could shout at each other in peace. Zereids don’t carry a whole lot of baggage. They don’t wear clothes.

“Did you need to pick a fight with the number eight of the bloody Europan rugby team?” He tossed his personal data device on the table. “Do you even know who he is?”

“Other than a prick, no.”

“Jon Batterson. Does the name ring a bell at all?”

“Batterson.” I blinked through mental processes made sluggish by the vape. “As in President Batterson?”

“Light dawns. The heir apparent to his self-righteous little robotics empire.” He ran both hands through his hair. I inherited my dark-brown waves from him, but Dad’s customary high-and-tight showed little hint of curl. Mine now fell to my shoulders in a shaggy, tangled mane. “Do you realize the mess I would have had to clean up if you really let loose on him? Even if he is built like the ass end of a freighter, you could put him on the injured list.”

“It wasn’t my intent.”

“From what Caniberi told me, you were about to unleash hell on him. You sure stirred up some crap. The president is coming to the game tonight. The constable didn’t know who he was either, or he might have thrown you in the brig to prove a point.” He sat down with a thud on the steel bench and sighed. “Dalí. Come here.”

I sat next to him and braced myself.

“It’s been six months. Your leave from the diplomatic corps is finished, and if you don’t return, you’ll be dismissed. This has to stop. When you go back to your life, you’re going to encounter people like Batterson on a daily basis. Your reputation and your career are at stake. You can’t do this anymore.”

“That life’s over.”

“Don’t throw it away. You did so much in so short a time. You have a gift for understanding, and you will be a formidable ambassador. Sol Fed needs you in the negotiation chamber at the Remoliad. Luna is a better place because of your work.”

“Because of Gresh’s work. Because of Sida and our child. They were my reasons for everything. I’m not sure I feel as strongly for the rest of the human race.”

“Then you need to find another way to deal with their deaths. I won’t watch you destroy your future. You worked too hard for it.”

“Tell me how, sir.” My fury rose. “Tell me how I can deal with it because I’m looking for an exit.”

He stiffened. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing.” I rose and stalked away. He started to call after me, but the communication tones went off.

“Captain Tamareia, report to the bridge. The president’s shuttle is incoming.”

“On my way. Dalí!”

I ignored him and ducked through the port.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

E.M. Hamill is a nurse by day, sci fi and fantasy novelist by night. She lives in eastern Kansas with her family, where they fend off flying monkey attacks and prep for the zombie apocalypse. She also writes young adult material under the name Elisabeth Hamill. Her first novel, SONG MAGICK, won first place for YA fantasy in the 2014 Dante Rossetti Awards for Young Adult Fiction.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Blog

Tour Schedule

8/7      MM Good Book Reviews

8/8      Love Bytes reviews 

8/8      Boy Meets Boy Reviews

8/9      Bayou Book Junkie

8/9      Divine Magazine

8/10    MillsyLovesBooks

8/10    The Novel Approach 

8/11    My Fiction Nook

8/11    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

8/11    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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Love a Thriller Romance? Check Out ‘Saved’ by KL Roman (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Saved

Author: Karrie Roman

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 10

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70000

Genre: Romance, gay, kidnapping, law enforcement, criminals, PTSD, thriller

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Karrie Roman here today.  Karrie has brought along a book  playlist for our readers.  Welcome, Karrie.

✒︎

Book Playlist by Karrie Roman

I have a Jack playlist which is mostly what I call sexy rock. It’s the kind of music I imagine Jack listening to and when I imagine Jack walking around just doing his thing, this is the music I imagine as his soundtrack.  Creedence Clearwater Revival: Born on the Bayou, Fortunate Son, Run through the Jungle.  Bob Seger: Hollywood Nights, Night Moves. A bit of ACDC: Back in Black, Who Made Who, Thunderstruck.

I also have a Will playlist which is more classic, soft rock. Will is more mellow than Jack. He is less overtly sexy but still has a little something going on so these songs are what I imagine to be his soundtrack. Dragon: Are you old enough?, Aprila Sun in Cuba. Van Morrison: Here Come the Night, Brown Eyed Girl, Jack Wilson Said. Don Henley: The End of the Innocence, Boys of Summer, Leather and Lace.

And of course I have the sexy/ romantic playlist. This is the music I imagine Jack and Will listening to together or when they are just being together and it’s playing in the background. Ginuwine: Pony. Van Morrison: Days Like This. Angus & Julia Stone: Get Home.

Synopsis

Detective Jack Mitchell is not a people person. After fourteen years dealing with the monsters of society, he has learned to keep people at arm’s length. Failing is his biggest frustration, and on the case of his career, he is having no luck hunting down a copycat serial killer…or the one man who survived the original case.

Six years ago, Will Blaikie was taken by a monster who changed his life forever. Narrowly surviving, he has become a prisoner in his own home. Friendless and alone, he watches in horror as a new monster emerges who only wants to copy the murderous deeds of Will’s monster…including taking Will.

When these two men are thrown together, and the monster comes for them both, one must learn to feel safe and protected, and the other must learn to feel love and peace.

Excerpt

Saved
Karrie Roman © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Will Blaikie didn’t often watch the news. It wasn’t because he preferred to bury his head in the sand about the world. More often than not, he was just protecting himself. He knew very well what happened out there, and he didn’t often want to be reminded of it. He had one television in his house, a smallish thirty-four-inch flat screen that was mounted over his fireplace. It was rarely on other than for movies or, of course, for The Walking Dead.

Tonight Will needed the background noise though. So he had left the TV on after watching a repeat of last season’s final episode before the new Walking Dead season kicked off in a couple of weeks. He would proudly admit to being a diehard fan if anyone asked. He could hear the news broadcast begin from the kitchen where he was whipping up a quick stir-fry. There was no point in elaborate and complicated meals if you were only ever cooking for one. The breaking news item immediately caught his attention and left him cold.

Hesitantly making his way to the TV, he picked up the remote and rewound, wanting to have misheard. He hit play when the giant red breaking news banner crossed the screen. Will stood listening as a flawlessly presented, heavily made-up woman, who smiled entirely too much throughout her report, confirmed his worst fears.

“Police have yet to confirm the discovery of a second body with the all-too-familiar cross carved into the chest. Having viewed the body found in a semirural field today, I can confirm that a cross was indeed carved into the deceased’s chest. An unnamed police source unofficially confirmed that this was the second body found bearing the cross. Sydney-siders will remember the Beecroft Butcher from six years ago when the city was paralysed with fear during the yearlong killing spree. Twelve men were killed before the killer, Russell Coburn, was finally—”

He only just made it to the bathroom before the entire contents of his stomach came up. Will draped himself over the toilet seat, heaving and sweating as he vomited into the bowl until nothing but bitter bile remained in him. He could still hear the low mumble from the television, but thankfully, no words were clearly audible. He’d heard enough—too much. His entire body shook, and he imagined his mind would look a picture of complete panic and chaos if he could peer inside it right now. He lay on the cool tiles, curling his body around the toilet bowl, unconvinced there would be no more vomiting. He felt a wet nose snuffle against his arm and reached back to give a reassuring pat to Henley. The furry dog took up his position, laying himself practically on top of his master. Protecting him as always, not just from physical harm, but from the mental hurt Will was now threatened with.

An hour and a half later, both Will and Henley were still curled up together on the bathroom floor. Though his body was still wracked with tremors, they were easing as was the chaos in his head. Could this really be happening again?

Purchase

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

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.

Website | Twitter | eMail

Tour Schedule

April 10th – MM Good Book Reviews

April 11th – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

April 11th – The Novel Approach

April 11th – Oh My Shelves

April 12th – Love Bytes

April 12th – MM Book Escape

April 12th – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

April 13th – Urban Smoothie Read

April 13th – Erotica For All

April 14th – Happily Ever Chapter

April 14th – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews  

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In the Science Fiction Spotlight: Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields (exclusive excerpt)

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Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields
Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: February 27
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34109678-ardulum

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host J.S. Fields today on tour with Ardulum: First Don.

Synopsis

 

Ardulum. The planet that vanishes. The planet that sleeps.

Neek makes a living piloting the dilapidated tramp transport, Mercy’s Pledge, and smuggling questionable goods across systems blessed with peace and prosperity. She gets by—but only just. In her dreams, she is still haunted by thoughts of Ardulum, the traveling planet that, long ago, visited her homeworld. The Ardulans brought with them agriculture, art, interstellar technology…and then disappeared without a trace, leaving Neek’s people to worship them as gods.

Neek does not believe—and has paid dearly for it with an exile from her home for her heretical views.

Yet, when the crew stumbles into an armed confrontation between the sheriffs of the Charted Systems and an unknown species, fate deals Neek an unexpected hand in the form of a slave girl—a child whose ability to telepathically manipulate cellulose is reminiscent of that of an Ardulan god. Forced to reconcile her beliefs, Neek chooses to protect her, but is the child the key to her salvation, or will she lead them all to their deaths?

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Pairing: Female/Female
Length: 83500

Genre: Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, NineStar Press, LGBT, lesbian, bisexual, space opera, aliens, bonded, captivity, coming of age, criminals, kidnapping, pilot, religion, science, slow burn, smugglers, space, spaceships, telekinesis, telepathyExcerpt

 

Ardulum: First Don
J.S. Fields © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

 

Exclusive Excerpt

In this excerpt, Neek, the pilot of the tramp transport Mercy’s Pledge, stumbles into a battle between the supposed sheriffs of the Charted Systems, and an unknown alien species. This is a significant event, because the Systems have been at peace, absolute peace, for years, so conflict of this magnitude is unheard of. Something is clearly of value on the Risalian ship, and crew of the Pledge are about to have that ‘something’ dumped into their laps.

“Get those skiffs off our tail!” Captain Yorden Kuebrich yelled as Neek rounded the corner.

She looked out the viewscreen just in time to see the Pledge—her engines dead—exit the Callis Wormhole into the middle of a much-unexpected dogfight. A wedge-shaped Risalian skiff zipped past the Pledge, catching the edge of the ship on its wing, and started her into a slow spin. A pod, deep purple and about half the size of the skiff, chased the skiff and grazed their starboard flank. Neek braced herself against the console and heard Yorden tumble into the wall behind her, his substantial girth denting the aluminum.

Mentally cursing the ship’s poor artificial gravity, Neek launched herself into the pilot’s chair, grabbed the yoke, and scoured the latest damage report. “Aft stabilizer is shot,” she called out after checking the computer. Other skiffs near them suddenly swooped back into a larger group, and the Pledge was, for the moment, left alone. Neek released the yoke and let her fingers move deftly over the interface. “Those new spray-on cellulose binders for the hull are holding, but only just. What’s left of the Minoran armor plating is now officially cracked beyond repair.”

She swiveled to see the captain buckling himself into a much larger version of her own chair. His brown hair puffed about his head, per usual, but his body language spoke of surprise and tension. That concerned Neek because Yorden was old enough to have lived through actual conflicts. If anyone knew how to react in a situation like this, it was him.

“Were we just attacked?” she asked incredulously. Neek took a closer look out the viewscreen. The rectangular cutter that sparkled with pinpricks of light and the wedge-shaped, agile skiffs were Risalian. The pods—both the smaller purple ones and the frigate-sized, maroon ones—were unfamiliar. Their formations were just as strange, stacked in columns like stones on a riverbank instead of in pyrimidal and spherical formations like Systems ships would. “Are those all Charted Systems ships?”

Yorden threw up his hands in disgust. “They’re not just Charted Systems ships—they’re Risalian ships. The cutter and skiffs are, anyway. No clue on the pods. What those blue-skinned bastards are doing out here with fully weaponized ships, I can only guess. However, they’re firing lasers. If we lose our armor and take a hit from any of those, we are space dust.”

“Comforting,” Neek mumbled. She hadn’t noticed the laser ports on any of the ships, but now that she looked closer, all of the vessels were covered with armor plating and had at least two laser turrets each.

Neek continued to watch as the pods begin to cluster around a Risalian cutter. A pod ship zipped beneath the cutter, firing wildly at its underside, before making a quick right turn and heading back to a larger pod. Five others followed suit. The cutter’s shielding began to splinter, but the ship remained where it was.

Neek leaned towards the viewscreen, still unsure what she was seeing. “The Risalian ships aren’t chasing, they’re just defending. What is going on? If they’re going to appoint themselves sheriffs of the Charted Systems, they could at least fight back.”

Yorden smacked his hand against the wall, loosing a shower of dust. “Something on that Risalian ship is holding their attention. Get us out of here, before either of them gets any closer.” He pointed to a cluster of ships to Neek’s right, and her eyes followed. Little flashes of bright light sparked and then died intermittently as ships were destroyed, their flotsam creating an ever-expanding ring. A large piece of metal plating floated past the Pledge’s port window. The edge caught and left a thin scratch in the fiberglass as it slid off.

“What are they protecting that is so damn important?” Neek wondered out loud and then snorted. “Something worth more than our hold full of diamond rounds and cellulose-laced textiles?” she added cheekily.

Scowling, Yorden pushed Neek’s hand away from the computer and began his own scan of the Pledge’s systems. “Communications are still up, but I don’t think either party is listening right now.” Frustrated, he kicked the underside of the console. “Try one of them. Better than being crushed.”

“Captain, come on. We are dead in space. If another one comes at us, why don’t we just fire at it? It’s better than being rammed.” She pointed upwards at a circular hole in the ceiling. “What’s the benefit of flying a ship so ancient it falls apart if you’re not taking advantage of the grandfathered weapons system?”

 

Meet the Author

 

Author Links

 

Website: http://www.chlorociboria.com/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/galactoglucoman

eMail: chlorociboria@gmail.com

 

Tour Schedule

 

2/27 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews – http://wickedfaeriesreviews.blogspot.com

2/27 – Books,Dreams,Life – http://staceyschneller06.wordpress.com

2/28 – Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words – https://mollylollyauthor.wordpress.com

3/1 – Queer Sci Fi – https://queerscifi.com/

3/1 – Celticlady’s Reviews – http://www.celticladysreviews.blogspot.com

3/2 – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cent – http://fangirlmomentsandmytwocents.blogspot.com

3/3 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words – https://scatteredthoughtsandroguewords.com/

3/4 – Love Bytes Reviews – http://lovebytesreviews.com/

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One lucky winner will receive an ebook of their choice from NineStar Press
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In the Historical Spotlight: The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple by K.A. Merikan (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple:

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Release Date: 7th of February 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 140,000 words

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Historical – 18th Century Cornwall, Highwayman, Kidnapping, Forbidden love, Violence

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Writing historical books requires a lot of research, otherwise they might will feel washed out. Because of the theme of this particular novel, we needed to look into the legislation of the period and find out how laws were applied.

Executions used to be major attractions at that time, with spectators filling up Bodmin every time a hanging was taking place. People’s morals must have been very different from ours, because convicts weren’t only killed for murder or highway robberies with violence. No, people had been hanged for stealing someone’s spoon, or a sheep. This shows how ferociously the wealthy protected their possessions, and how little human life meant in comparison. On the other hand, in case of livestock, one could argue life was at stake. Sometimes, a cow or a goat was vital to the survival of a poor family, so losing it meant malnourishment, and possibly even death. Either way, reading through a list of public executions from the eighteenth century is a bizarre experience.

Around the period the book is set (1785), the executions were moved closer to the new gaol in Bodmin. The previous location, known as the Five Lanes for its convenient location where roads from several towns converged, had been utilized since the mid-sixteenth century at least. I went through the list of 1785 executions to make the descriptions as true to reality as possible, and I discovered something shocking.

Talk about coincidence! A man named William Hill had been executed at the Five Lanes in Bodmin on July 23rd 1785–a date corresponding to the timeline of The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple–for the murder of none other than John Pascoe. There wouldn’t have been anything unusual about it if it weren’t for the fact that this is the name of our book’s villain. I swear we picked his name at random. We looked through lists of people who lived in eighteenth century Cornwall to pick up a surname that was local to the region.

I’m not even gonna check who that particular John Pascoe was, because that is just too freaky for my taste 😉

Have you ever had this kind of bizarre experience when reading something related to history? A known name, or a vaguely familiar face in an old photo?

The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is the kind of book that just needed to be written, despite our already tight schedule. The idea first came to us when we watched a documentary about highwaymen, but we promised ourselves to wait. And then we went to Cornwall for a month, and initial plans collapsed. As we walked through the woods, watching the lush nature and the old stone cottages peppered on both sides of a valley where we were staying, the characters and story steadily came to us. Our aim was to write a historical book that provides as much excitement as readers learned to expect from our contemporary romance.

RELEASE DATE: 7th February 2017

If you want to see our inspiration photos for this book, check out the ‘Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple’ Pinterest board:

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The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is our baby. It’s been a year since we started working on this book, and to celebrate its release, we’re organizing a quiz for readers who follow The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple blog tour. Answers to all questions will be provided in the blog posts, and we will then randomly pick the lucky winners. You can win:

  • a signed paperback of The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple + a selection of Cornish treats (main prize – for one person)
  • 3 ebooks of choice from our backlist + a surprise treat from Cornwall (will go to 3 more people)

For a chance to win, follow the instructions in blog posts and solve the quiz, which will be published on our website on 1st February 2017. Please, send answers to kamerikan@gmail.com with ‘Black Sheep Quiz’ in the subject line of the email.

 

Winners will be randomly chosen from readers who sent us correct answers by 17th February 2017.

LINKS TO ALL POSTS:

02/01 THE QUIZ

02/03 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

02/06 We Three Queens

02/07 Boy Meets Boy Reviews

02/08 Prism Book Alliance

02/09 The Novel Approach

02/09 Joyfully Jay

02/10 The Zipper Rippers

02/10 The Book Bella

02/11 Divine Magazine

02/12 Bayou Book Junkie

Synopsis

“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.

When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime,
Genre: Dark romance, historical
Erotic content: Explicit scenes

Length: ~140,000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists.

Excerpt

The sun was high up in the sky by the time the desynchronized orchestra left Julian’s skull. There wasn’t enough space to properly lie down anywhere in the carriage, but he managed to obtain a comfortable position by resting his legs up the wooden wall while his upper body occupied one of the benches. He still felt like the filling of an enormous rattle as the carriage bent in all possible directions on the uneven road leading away from the coast.

Horace didn’t even make an attempt to hold back his disapproval, but after delivering several biting comments and a lengthy speech about duty, he at last leaned against the side of the carriage in the seat across from Julian and closed his eyes. It was difficult to say whether he was truly in need of a nap or if it was Julian’s face that he didn’t wish to look at.

With his headache out of the way yet not quite well enough to read, Julian opened the curtains in hope of amusing himself with the views, but so far, he merely got to see the side of a narrow gully—all dirt and grass.

He couldn’t understand why Father was being so implacable about having his youngest son marry a title. Couldn’t it wait a fortnight so that Julian could finish that new novel he came up with last night? This one could truly be the breakthrough Julian had been waiting for, the one that would make the Reece family known for more than fabric trade.

Inspiration was a moment in time when Julian’s friend Martin emerged from the darkness of an alley behind the tavern. In that very second he had not resembled himself but a man made of bronze, dreamlike and yet of substance, with strong hands that could crush Julian if they wanted. The novel would start with a similar encounter somewhere in the narrow back alleys, just off the Colosseum. Haunted by the ghost of an ancient gladiator, the protagonist would be believed to be slowly descending into madness, when in reality his awareness of the supernatural would become a vehicle for truth.

Julian was not yet certain of the exact message he wished to convey, but the events would be presented from several points of view, through letters written by the protagonist, his friends, and an official of some sort who’d represent the stale world order.

He’d already had several beautifully evocative ideas for metaphors describing the gladiator himself, but they became somewhat blurry after a night of cards and drink.

Oh, if only he could travel to Rome to let the atmosphere of the city soak him all the way to the bone—without a wife fighting for his attention and pulling him away from work because of feminine fancies.

He looked out of the window with growing disdain. Who in their right mind traveled on Sunday, and so early at that? Julian would have much preferred listening to a sermon at church to spending the day in what was effectively a hearse carrying one of the brightest literary talents just waiting to be discovered.

Now that Julian was feeling better, he was upset with himself about not asking for a day’s delay on religious grounds. He’d never been as devout about prayer as he was about his art, but if the Christian faith could postpone his commitment to a woman he never met, he would gladly kneel and pray. And Miss White wasn’t even a woman but a girl of fifteen, quite pretty in the portrait Julian had been shown, and a viscount’s only daughter at that, but surely as hungry for her intended’s attention as the bawdy house wench who’d become sweet on Julian some years ago.

Back then, he still visited Madame Canard’s establishment to do what everyone else did when they visited a school of Venus. These days, Julian had neither the overwhelming desire nor patience to handle a cunt, no matter how lovely the lady it was attached to. He still enjoyed having a drink with the harlots, and no card table within twenty miles was as lively as the one at Madame Canard’s, but at twenty-five he’d much rather handle needs of the flesh in solitude.

Sweet perfume made his nose itch, the act itself made him unpleasantly sticky—with his sweat and hers—and while he would not dare to ask, it was his suspicion that the friends who usually accompanied him to the brothel were only whoring so much because of pride and bravado. It was a sign of status to be able to afford women and decent wine daily, and so fucking and gambling was the thing you did as a social activity.

Julian’s eyes darted to Horace, who slept with his head thrown back and leaning against the side of the carriage. His wide-open mouth was asking for a distasteful prank, but Julian was far too upset to think of amusing himself at Horace’s expense. So far, the day’s joke was on him.

In the years past, he’d been mocked by his father and siblings over not taking on a profession that they deemed worthy of a gentleman, but with the family being very prosperous, Julian saw no reason to divert his focus from his one true calling.

Despite frequent threats, he’d hoped that Father—having four willing sons and three daughters—wouldn’t push Julian into marriage, but it seemed a lost cause. Soon it would be a wife nagging Julian to stop wasting his time following intellectual pursuits and instead turn his attention to practical matters. As the head of his own family, maybe he’d even be pushed to join the family trade, one step farther from traveling abroad to meet the great artists of the continent.

The carriage started a steep climb up a hill, and Julian cursed, pushing the soles of his boots against the wall to keep his body from rolling off the narrow bench. How long would it take for them to reach London at this pace? It was over two hundred miles away, so a week perhaps? The last time Julian had made the journey, he was so intoxicated most days that he couldn’t properly count them.

But out of nowhere, as the slope of the hill became gentler, the ugly dirt and grass that had been Julian’s only source of entertainment for the last half an hour were replaced by lush greenery of tree tops. He grinned and glanced at Horace, but the fat sod was too busy snoring to notice the change in scenery.

A wicked plan was starting to take shape in Julian’s head, and he quietly removed his feet from the side of the carriage and lowered them to the floor. Pulling himself upright was easy enough after that, and he stalled, eyes transfixed on the permanently flushed face of his brother that was an unappetizing contrast with the white wig he wore, and made him look like a man many years his senior. Julian might be less inclined to business, less sedate than his siblings, but at the very least he had good taste and flair most of Julian’s family lacked, buried deep in the stern world of pretense and money.

Horace didn’t even stir. The old pig was fast asleep, and if that wasn’t Julian’s chance to save his life, he didn’t know what was. Careful not to make any sound, Julian gathered his valise and the coat he’d earlier taken off because of the heat, stilling when the carriage came to a halt. His eyes immediately darted to Horace, but his brother only smacked his lips in his sleep. Hunt could have stopped to relieve himself. What an opportunity this was!

Julian could feel his heartbeat in his throat when he softly pressed on the door handle. Still distinctly aware of his brother being close enough for their knees to touch, were Julian not careful enough. He opened the carriage and left it in a soft stride before closing the door with care.

A warm breeze combed through his hair, wiping away the unpleasant wetness of sweat, and his lungs filled with fresh air, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.

The shining muzzle of a pistol was grinning at him from inches away.

Despite the warm weather, Julian’s whole body was shaken by a chill when his gaze met a pair of eyes so dark they might as well have been lacquered coals. The man had a tricorn hat pulled low over his forehead, and a black scarf obscuring the lower half of his face.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t try to scream, or I will blow your brains out.” The man squinted and lowered his gun to Julian’s pupil. “Through the eye.”

Julian opened his mouth as his throat closed, robbing him of breath. He wanted to look back, suddenly wishing Horace weren’t such an easy sleeper, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen either. Heat washed over Julian’s body, making him stiffen as if he were made of clay. Had this man hurt their coachman? If so, where was the body?

“What do you want?” Julian whispered, resting his hand on the door handle when his knees softened.

“These.” A hand in a leather glove gripped Julian’s sweaty fingers and slipped off his rings. “And all your other valuables.” The man didn’t even blink, his voice dark as if dragged through tar.

Julian stared, and his mind finally came up with the answer for what this was. “You’re a highwayman…”

“And you’re cork-brained to travel on a Sunday when the roads are empty.” The man’s gaze drifted away to Horace for a split second, but he must have judged him as no threat, and when Horace snored from inside the carriage, the highwayman chuckled quietly.

Julian’s lungs emptied, and a silly grin emerged on his face, encouraged by the highwayman’s amusement. “Ah, I should have gone to church after all.”

The smile died on his lips when the robber poked Julian’s temple with his gun.

“Your valuables,” he urged.

Julian clenched his teeth when they threatened to clatter. He needed to keep calm. His father believed his friends to be villains, so he could handle one. “I’ve been taken out of the tavern this morning with nothing but the clothes on my back. I lost everything at the tables. You should try my older brother. He’s Father’s heir. He should have a healthy sum on him.”

The highwayman gripped the front of Julian’s waistcoat and pulled him forward so hard Julian stumbled straight into the man’s arms. He was much taller than Julian, with wide shoulders that were so strong their size couldn’t be just padding. His clothes smelled of leather and horse sweat, and Julian found himself staring into the eyes above the black scarf.

Before he could say a word, the man turned him around, and pressed the gun to the side of his head.

“Go on, wake up your brother.”

Julian breathed in and out, stiff with discomfort at the warm body pressed against his back as if the highwayman was seeking warmth. The gun provided some relief against heated skin. Its presence made Julian’s blood speed through his veins. It wouldn’t go off. Murder wasn’t in the robber’s interest, but if that was the case, then where the hell was Hunt?

Then an idea illuminated Julian’s mind. “I have a proposition, Mister—”

The highwayman stilled. He’d be lying. Of course. “Noir,” he said in the end. “What kind of proposition can you have, pretty boy? With no money in your pockets.”

Something about Noir’s tone sent a hot shiver through Julian’s ribcage, but he ignored the condescending words and slowly looked back into the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. “I don’t have much on me, but you must know my father. He’s William Reece, the cloth merchant. You could take me and ask for ransom. We could split it between us like two gentlemen,” he whispered and gave Noir a polite nod. Appealing to the highwayman’s self-importance should do the trick. His kind were known for a love of opulence and status they didn’t deserve.

He must have managed to surprise the thief, because Noir’s grip on him faltered. “How much could I ask for a son who hates his father?”

Julian exhaled in relief when he felt Noir’s aggression turn away from him. “A lot. He needs me. I’m worth more than you can imagine,” he said with a small smile.

Noir stole another glance at Horace sleeping in the back of the carriage, and his gloved hand slid to Julian’s neck, squeezing around his nape in a way that had Julian rising to his toes. “You better be. You scream, or try to run, and I will kill you.”

Julian swallowed against the warm, soft leather. It felt surprisingly expensive. Might have been snatched from a gentleman. “I don’t doubt that,” he lied. “However, we share a common goal, friend.”

“Call me ‘friend’ once this is all over.” Noir shook his head and pushed Julian behind the carriage, where a gloriously jet-black stallion awaited its rider, and watched Julian with eyes as dark as Noir’s.

“I hope you haven’t hurt our driver. He’s a good fellow,” said Julian, smiling at the huge beast in front of him.

“He’ll live. Your brother will find him once he wakes up.”

Julian was sure there had to be a hint of a smile under that black scarf. When Noir put the gun inside his coat, Julian tried to assess the man more thoroughly.

The black leather riding coat was worn but of good quality. Could have been stolen too, but the clothes underneath, as black as everything the man wore, were clean, suggesting the highwayman wasn’t sleeping rough somewhere. Unless he dressed up for robbery.

Julian opened his mouth to comment on the beauty of the horse, but Noir spun Julian around and pulled back his hands.

“Good heavens. We’re partners,” Julian whispered with distaste. Hot and cold sweats were hitting him in rapid waves, and he couldn’t tell whether he was scared or excited about this new development. Once he got out of this, he could write a novel about the peril of travellers attacked by rogues while driving through a dark, rainy forest, and with a bit of poetic license, call it a true story.

“I haven’t decided on that yet,” said Noir, and a cold shiver went down Julian’s back at the proficiency with which the man tied his hands. A former sailor perhaps? That wouldn’t bode well, as those types rarely possessed the intellectual capability for complicated schemes. His speech was also far too refined to have been only recently acquired. Damnation!

“Mr. Noir. I’d much rather ride with my hands free. You see, I’ve been incapacitated by gin just this morning, and I don’t feel secure enough without my hands to assist me yet. I assure you, I am harmless.”

Once Noir had tied Julian’s hands, he turned him around. “Now you are. Up.” And just as Julian was wondering how exactly he was supposed to climb atop the tall beast, the scoundrel grabbed his legs and picked him up. Julian barely refrained from screaming. It was no way to handle a gentleman, and yet he couldn’t help but be amazed by Noir’s physical prowess.

Definitely a sailor. A naval officer, perhaps.

Julian’s face flushed with heat when he imagined his bottom sticking out like a whore’s ass at a party. Good grief, what had he gotten himself into? What was next? Being kidnapped by pirates?

His foot found the stirrup, and he exhaled with relief, pushing his other leg over the horse’s hindquarters until he straddled its back. “I see no reason for this kind of treatment, considering it was I who came up with a most lucrative opportunity for you.”

“Keep that up, and I will gag you.” Noir was quick to get on the horse himself as soon as he’d attached Julian’s coat and valise to the saddle. Julian felt completely overwhelmed when the man reached for the reins, all but embracing him.

Julian shuddered and curled his shoulders to not be in the way, though no matter what he did, the shape of the saddle brought them close together. “You’re a scoundrel. Another man in your profession would have treated me right.”

Noir laughed darkly. “You are correct, sir. How could I have forgotten.” Even though the mockery had him exaggerate the polite accent, Julian was becoming certain that Noir’s natural speech was not that of someone uneducated.

Before Julian understood what was happening, Noir pulled a burlap sack over his head.

“I will scream,” whispered Julian, staring through the dots of light in the smelly thing. He squeezed his hands into fists and pushed them hard against Noir’s stomach. His mind was rattling again, as if the drunkenness returned with full force.

“No one will hear you where we’re going.”

“Julian?” came a sleepy voice from the carriage.

Noir’s thighs tensed, and he must have urged his mount to rush, as it went almost straight into gallop.

Julian screamed at the top of his lungs. “Horace!”

The stallion flew forward, and without the aid of his hands, Julian was forced to hang on to it with his legs alone, shaken like a rattle. The rapid gait moved him back and forth over the front of the saddle, making Julian stiffen and push back against the firm chest behind him. Without seeing where they were going, Julian tried to hold on to anything he had on hand, and as it happened, it was probably Noir’s waistcoat. If the horse tripped, at least they would stumble and break their bones together. Or maybe the villain would cushion Julian’s fall in a well-meaning act of God.

It was Sunday.

 

Meet the Author

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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A Stella Review: Three More Wishes (Three Wishes #2) by Sean Michael

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RATING 4 out of 5 stars

three-more-wishes-rainbow-islandCome to Rainbow Island, where all your sexual fantasies will come true.

James, Guard and Damien are back, still running their resort, where every fantasy, no matter how perverse, may come true. The three men continue working out the bumps in their threesome, but when it comes to their clients, they’re a well-oiled machine. Which works perfectly for the three new couples arriving in paradise.

Cameron is losing his sight, and he knows that he’ll be useless once it goes completely. He’s cashed in everything to leave his life behind for one last fling. Xander is on the island for a fantasy, too. He’s looking for someone to love on, someone to care for and Cameron seems to be the perfect match, but can they make it work?

As a writer, Ben always writes the script, which is why his fantasy is to give up control. He’s told his fantasy can’t be fulfilled, so he settles in for a relaxing vacation on an island paradise instead. Is he really as safe as he thinks he is?

Finally, Leo is a consummate top, always wanting to better his technique. He wants to know what it’s like to be a sub, but it won’t be easy for a Dominant to bottom for five days. Leo will do his dead-level best to measure up—his only worry is who the boys choose to be his fantasy top…

Don’t miss out on these fantasies come true.

Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of fisting as well as scenes of kidnap and dubious consent

I’m a huge fan of Sean Michael, once a month I need to read something by him, a re-read or a short, anything is good.

Three More Wishes is the book two in the Rainbow Island series, incredibly I missed the first one but apart for some more details about the relationship between the three hosts of the island,  James, Guard and Damien (which I would love to know), this re-release worked well as a standalone to me. If you already have read this author, you’ll know what to expect. Sean Michael is great at writing very hot scenes, sexy and dirty just how I like them. And the sex is never pointless, it’s just the guarnish to lovely and sweet plots.

In Three More Wishes I get to know three new couples and their relative meetings and starting of new relationships.

Cameron and Xander were probably the sweetest couple, they are a match made in heaven. One blind, desperate man, ready to end a life with no sight and with no possibilities for him to survive, meet Xander, protective, already trained up on the world of the blind people. It was very emotional seeing Cameron first so resigned and then start to believe in Xander and the reality of a future together.

Ben and Tip relationship was more adventurous, Ben is a writer interested in knowing what it means to be kidnapped. Things don’t go exactly how Ben expected, on the contrary he will find the unexpected Tip. And I can assure you, since I didn’t read the blurb before starting the book, for a moment I truly thought he was kidnapped.

The last couple was probably my favorite. Leo and David story was hot and cute. Leo is a dom looking for another dom who will help Leo better understand sub’s minds. That dom is David but David is also in love with Leo since forever.

I enjoyed Three More Wishes a lot. Of course there are four stories in just a little more than two hundred pages, there is no space for a lot of development but what I got greatly satisfied me. I can’t wait for the next installment, especially cause I want more  James, Guard and Damien scenes.

Just a note, read the warning at the ending of the blurb, if you’re not comfortable with those triggers, better stay away from the book.

The cover art by Posh Gosh is just okay, I like it but in my opinion it’s not fitting. I can’t understand who is the couple depicted. For this book a cover with no people at all would have been a winner. In fact I like more the cover of the old edition.

Sales Links

Pride Publishing

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BOOK DETAILS

  • Reader Advisory: This book contains a scene of fisting as well as scenes of kidnap and dubious consent.
    Publisher’s Note: This book has previously been released elsewhere. It has been revised and re-edited for re-release with Pride Publishing.

Kindle Edition, 2nd edition, 222 pages
Published August 9th 2016 by Pride Publishing (first published September 13th 2011)
ASIN B01HQ4N2NO
Edition Language English

Rainbow Island Series

  • Three Wishes #1
  • Three More Wishes #2