New Release Blitz for Big Man by Matthew J. Metzger (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Big Man

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 9, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, YA, coming-of-age, bisexual, trans, high school, sports/martial arts, depression/grieving, #ownvoices

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Max Farrier wanted to follow in the family footsteps and join the Navy once, but he’s better off focusing on just surviving his last year of school and going to work in Aunt Donna’s shop once it’s over.

After an incident at school puts Max in the hospital, Aunt Donna’s had enough. She signs him up for private lessons at a Muay Thai gym. Boxing—she says—will change everything.

But it’s not boxing that starts to poke holes in Max’s stupor—it’s his sparring partner. Cian is fifty percent mouth, fifty percent attitude, and isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with a bully in the street. Cian takes what he wants, and doesn’t let anyone stand in his way—not even himself.

Excerpt

Big Man
Matthew J. Metzger © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
This was how everything started—on a Friday afternoon, at the very end of school, three days into the summer term and in the middle of an unreasonable, unseasonable heatwave. It had been a Friday like any other until Tom Fallowfield stuck his boot in.

Literally.

It went a bit like this, to Max’s admittedly patchy memory of the entire incident.

At three thirty-one, the bell rang, and he was dismissed out of his maths class. Friday was a notorious day for people being bored and at a loose end, so Max had (as was his habit) hurried off to his locker to try to get out of school before anyone caught up to him.

At three thirty-six, Max reached his locker. His fingers fumbled with the lock in a hurry, the metal loose in his grip because it was so ridiculously hot. Sweat was dampening the hair at his temples.

At three thirty-eight, his fingers slipped on the waxy cover of his geography textbook and sent the whole pile tumbling to the floor.

And at three thirty-eight and a half, a dirty Adidas trainer pressed down on said textbook just as Max reached for it.

That was kind of when Max knew he was a bit fucked.

“All right, Fatso?”

He didn’t have to look up. The trainer narrowed it down to one of two people who would stomp on the textbook he was trying to pick up, and the deep, drawling voice—like some villain out of a film—narrowed it down to one. Jazz Coles. And Jazz Coles was bad news.

Max swallowed convulsively and gathered the rest of his things to his chest protectively. He staggered back to his feet and turned to shove them all back in his locker. His hands were shaking. There was sweat breaking out on the backs of his thighs and under his arms, pooling in the joints and fleshy bits.

“Oi. You gone deaf, Fatso? All that grease clogged your ears?”

“M’just in a hurry, Jazz,” he mumbled.

“You what?”

“I said I’m just in a hurry,” he said a bit louder and squashed his other books into the locker haphazardly. The corridor was slowly emptying, and the emptier it got, the faster his heart was beating.

“You’re fucking rude, you are. You ought to look at someone when he’s talking to you. You want Tom to teach you some manners? Tom’s good with manners.”

“Sorry,” Max mumbled, turning hastily before the threat could be carried out. The metal of his locker bit uncomfortably into his back, pressing grooves into his skin, and he could feel his shirt beginning to stick to him. “I’m in a rush, that’s all.”

All three of them were there. Jazz Coles, Aidan Hooper, and Tom Fallowfield. Fallowfield was in Max’s year, the other two the year above. They went to some football club or something together—Max wasn’t sure. All he knew was that Jazz was the clever one, with the orders and the insults, while Aidan was the sidekick who screeched like a hyena and kept them supplied in fags and weed on a regular basis from his older brother’s grow. And Tom…

Tom was the dangerous one. When the insults stopped, Tom started. And nobody wanted Tom to start anything.

“Not got time to talk to us, then?” Jazz drawled. “Why’s that? You busy?”

“I—yes. Yes, just busy, that’s all, busy weekend…”

“Busy doing what? Got a new girlfriend?”

Tom snorted. Aidan cackled and said, “Eurgh, Jazz, man, I’ll bring up my lunch.”

“Imagine that sweaty sack of lard slithering and grunting on some poor girl. You’d crush her, wouldn’t you, Farrier?”

Max’s face heated up, and his hair stuck to his scalp. He could faintly smell his own underarms, and the metal gluing shirt to back was beginning to heat up too, at Jazz’s cool, slow delivery.

“Fatso Farrier, the flat-fucker. ’Cause that’s what she’d be once you were done. Best stick to boys, yeah? Let your boyfriend fuck you, then nobody’ll suffocate.”

“I don’t have a girlfriend. Or a boyfriend.”

“Would you like one?”

“I—no, I, uh—”

“Just as well,” Jazz continued blithely. “Nobody has a drowning-in-folds fetish. So if it’s not a girlfriend or a boyfriend with some sick kinks, why’re you too busy to talk to us?”

The corridor was empty. Max started to panic.

“Answer me, Farrier!”

“I—just—plans, you know, plans…”

“What plans? Sale on at Greggs?” Jazz asked. “New bakery opened up? Or is Mummy taking pity on her lonely little wobblebottom, and baked you a chocolate cake?”

Aidan gave a whooping cackle, and Jazz kicked the forgotten geography book towards Max. It skittered across the dusty floor, hitting Max’s shoe with a dull thump.

“Best not leave that here,” Jazz said. Hands in his pockets, pale face regarding him through narrowed blue eyes, he looked calculating—and Max couldn’t figure out what he was calculating. “Oi! Fatso! Pick it up, then.”

“Thank you,” Max mumbled, hoping it would buy him a bit of a reprieve from…whatever Jazz was planning, and stooped to pick it up. His fingers scrabbled uselessly on the plastic cover, wet with anxiety.

“Thank you?” Jazz echoed. “Very polite, Fatso. Might want to make it sound fucking sincere next time.”

“Here, Jazz, fancy a game?”

That deep rumble was the only warning Max got before Tom’s boot—because of course Tom, totally mad, sadistic Tom Fallowfield, wore boots to school on a regular basis—connected with the side of his head.

Hard.

Max would have liked to say that pain exploded in his head, that he saw visions of God or heard the heavenly choir, that it was like dropping into a Tim Burton movie.

Actually, he just heard a massive bang.

And then he woke up in the back of an ambulance and knew he was in deep shit.

That was how it started.

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.

Website | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz: Midnight Twist by Rian Durant (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Midnight Twist

Author: Rian Durant

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018U

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19700

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, fantasy, humor, demons

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Jaydon can’t afford to lose a bet he’s made, so when the sweet as sin Eluin offers him The Contract, it may be exactly what he needs. Or is it? Things get a little twisted with the cheeky demon being around.

The number of demons in Jaydon’s apartment grows, with Eluin’s big brother Eluel and his wayward lover Sam showing up. The couple is at a breaking point in their own on/off relationship and this time getting back together seems as probable as hell freezing over.

Excerpt

Midnight Twist
Rian Durant © 2018
All Rights Reserved

It all started with an espresso machine, even though I’d seen him drinking espresso only once in all the time we knew each other. Then he complained for three days that he hadn’t tasted such swill in his whole life. The fact that I’d made it for him with all my love didn’t cause him to show an ounce of tact.

I felt in my gut it was a tremendous mistake to enter the mall, but even if I’d tried to avoid it, I doubt he would’ve taken my opinion into account. He would’ve thrown a temper tantrum of magnificent proportions, which wasn’t a pretty sight. I’d been a witness and a victim of such antics once, only it was in front of a restaurant, which I hadn’t dared come close to ever since.

The glowing look in his eyes while we passed by the shop windows made my heart sink, because I couldn’t afford most of the things he stared at, especially with the plans we had for the rest of the week. My lovely boyfriend possessed a seductive appearance and a good heart, but his perceptions were terribly distorted due to eighteen years of systematic spoiling at the hands of his parents. He used to reassure me this wasn’t going to come between us since he was madly in love with me, but he couldn’t be further from the truth. After the ironic remarks I had been subjected to in the past few weeks, I knew I wasn’t going to get away with it.

I didn’t want to lose him, but it was clear that if I didn’t overcome my financial issues, his love for me would vanish into thin air together with his rebellious spirit, and he’d settle with any of the “appropriate partners” his parents tried to match him with. Once, one of his father’s business tycoon friends with his three hot lovers landed in front of my door and pounced on me, obviously not familiar with the appearance of his intended chosen one. I led a fierce battle using all means possible, which ended up being the shoehorn lying next to the shoes at the front door, in order to preserve my honor. Things deteriorated when Lyte came out of the bathroom in his short, sexy bathrobe to check why I was wreaking such havoc. We had to barricade the door and listen to a serenade for more than an hour before the police came to take them away.

I turned to Lyte with a smile, intending to remind him of that time the tycoon came calling, but when I caught his hand, he didn’t react at all. He had already seen it. He gazed at the window with an oblivious smile, and then raised his finger and pointed at it. A second later he issued a brief statement with a determination I’d rarely heard in the voice of another human being.

“I want it!”

At first, I couldn’t understand what the item in question was, wavering between a weird CD player, a hat rack, or Darth Vader’s helmet. But when the price tag next to it caught my attention, I shivered.

“You want an espresso machine? What do you need it for, sweetheart?”

“It will look great in the kitchen, don’t you think? The color scheme is the same, and besides, it’s so fancy with all these buttons!” He clapped. “You are going to buy it for me, love, won’t you?”

“But you don’t even drink coffee, sweetie.”

“It doesn’t matter. I can make tea in it. I mean, I’m sure it has such a function.”

I was positive it had a TV-watching function at least, judging by the price, which caused me severe trauma. I tried to sound as gentle and as reasonable as I could.

“We can’t buy it now, dear.”

His amazing blue eyes shot a quick malicious look at me, and he pouted. “So it wasn’t enough for you to turn me into a housewife, was it? Now you refuse to buy me this little sweet espresso machine. Did I understand you correctly?”

I didn’t know why he was always harping on it, given that there wasn’t an ounce of truth in his accusation, unless lying on the sofa with the remote control all day long was termed housekeeping these days. If it wasn’t for me, we would’ve both been dead by now because of the weird things he tried to cook a few times right after he’d moved in with me. I hardly let him do anything around the house, as I preferred to leave him enough free time to study. Week in, week out, he’d go to class to sit for some exams. There was a time when I suspected he was taking them in another way, not fit for a mixed audience, but he finally succeeded in persuading me in the opposite by quoting the declaration of human rights by heart.

I looked at him with regret and repeated to myself he wasn’t guilty in the least. His parents had driven him to this state of mind. I tried to hug him, which, naturally, I was denied.

“Are you really going to be mad at me over some stupid espresso machine?”

“It is not stupid!” he snapped. “You are stupid.”

I laughed, hoping he was joking like he sometimes did, but this time it was different. I suppose this was the proverbial last drop, so when we got home, he locked himself in his room without giving any explanation. After about an hour, he came out dragging his big red suitcase behind him.

“Eh? Sweetie pie…”

He hissed in my face like a kitten deprived of its food, with an expression showing me that if I breathed a word, anything I said would be used against me as he stomped past me, out the front door, slamming it behind him. Apparently, he’d realized there were two alternatives to obtaining his beloved espresso machine. One was to go back to his family, and after an enlightening reprimand on how he shouldn’t choose penniless partners like me, they would give it to him as a present. The other was to use his infinite charm and extort some other idiot with enough money into buying it for him.

I could get a credit card and buy the accursed gadget, but his leaving was a mixed blessing. I might’ve gotten him back, but next week he could decide he couldn’t live without some other splendid invention of modern science, and I couldn’t count on giving in and buying him every single thing he set his heart on.

Part of me wanted him back, but another part insisted that walking away was the best thing he’d ever done for me. We’d had great moments together, especially in the beginning, but to be honest, I’d wondered whether it wasn’t better we called it a day. Exhausted by all the thoughts swarming inside my head, I went to bed. The most difficult part was sleeping alone under the cold sheets after having someone to cuddle with for such a long time.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Rian is one of those who are both blessed and cursed by the insatiable desire to write. Short stories, sometimes longer stories and yeah, primarily M/M (you can insert more Ms if you like) romance stories.

Always having a plot in mind sometimes proves being hard when having a day time job but Rian manages them both for the time being, assisted by the
priceless support of her soul mate, large amounts of coffee and pure obstinacy.

What makes Rian smile is a sunny day, a beautiful flower, a piece of chocolate, a nice song, a good book and anything that could be the reason for that spark in the eyes, accompanied by the exclamation: “Oh my, I just saw something!”

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for On a Summer Night by Gabriel D. Vidrine (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  On a Summer Night

Author: Gabriel D. Vidrine

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56200

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, contemporary, YA, trans, bisexual, asexual, coming-of-age, coming out, family drama, HFN, #ownvoices

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Casey is determined to have fun this summer going to camp with his best friend, Ella. His overprotective mother frets that attending this one instead of trans camp like he’s always done will cause problems, but Casey has his heart set on going stealth anyway.

His mom just might be right.

All Ella wants is love for her best friend, and she’s determined to set him up with someone, despite Casey’s protests that he just wants to have fun, not get involved in a summer romance. But things get complicated when camp bully Ryan focuses his energies on the two friends. At least Casey’s cute bunkmate, Gavin, appears interested in getting to know him better, making Casey rethink the whole romance thing.

Until he finds out Gavin and Ryan are good friends.

Summer camp turns into so much more when Casey has to decide if Gavin is worth pursuing, friend of a bully or not.

There’s just one more problem: Ryan knows Casey is transgender.

Excerpt

On a Summer Night
Gabriel D. Vidrine © 2018
All Rights Reserved

“Do you have your socks?” my mother called up the stairs.

“Yes, mother!” I shouted back down at her. Of course I had socks. But I double-checked the large footlocker anyway, scrabbling through it until I found them. They were buried under my binders, but there they were.

“Don’t forget towels!” came another shout up the stairs.

She knew me well. I always forgot something. I went back to my bathroom and rummaged around in the linen closet until I found enough towels for the trip.

When I got back to my room, Mom was staring down into my trunk, her hands on her hips. “Anything else?” she asked, eyeing how much was in it.

“I hope not.”

I tossed the towels in the trunk, only to be crushed into a hug from her. “I’m going to miss you Casey,” she said into my hair.

I patted her awkwardly. She meant well, but ever since I announced my desire to transition two years ago when I turned twelve, she’d gotten super overprotective and clingy. “I’ll miss you too, Mom.” I did mean it, but it was going to be a relief to be away from her for almost two weeks. Even though I’d never been away from my parents that long before, not even at trans camp.

She squeezed me harder until I gasped and then let me go. “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“For the millionth time, yes,” I said, rolling my eyes.

“Okay. I’ll get your dad to get this down the stairs,” she said, and then she was gone in a whirl of brown hair and scarves.

I shook my head at her back and pulled out my phone to text my best friend, Ella.

Me: Almost ready. U?

I knew she wouldn’t answer right away (she actually hated her phone, the weirdo), so I nervously went through my list again to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything. I needed a distraction.

While I was rummaging, my dad, a big guy who had prematurely gone bald so he always wore an ugly hat, had lumbered up the stairs and was frowning down at my trunk. “Are you sure you need all that?” His voice was very deep.

“Yeah, Dad.” My phone buzzed in my pocket, but I ignored it. “It’s almost two weeks.”

“Twelve days,” he said.

“Yeah, I know.” I scratched at my head, slightly embarrassed to talk about my transition stuff with my dad. “I, you know, need some extra stuff.” I thought of the binders lying next to my socks.

He glanced at me and nodded, and then looked quickly away. He hadn’t been as supportive of my transition as my mom. When I first told him, he blurted, “But you’re a girl.”

We stood there in awkward silence for a moment as I wondered what I should say to him, father to son. But he hadn’t yet called me his son.

He cleared his throat, still not looking at me, and then crouched and heaved up the trunk onto a roller cart he’d carried up the stairs. It was going to be a pain getting it down on the cart, but at least he wouldn’t kill his back picking it up this way.

I helped him maneuver it down the stairs, wishing not for the first time I could start hormones. I wanted to be as strong as my dad, but I wasn’t old enough yet. Well, I was, but my parents wouldn’t approve it until I was sixteen. I figured Dad was the one holding out, because Mom would give me whatever I wanted.

Two more years.

When we finally got the trunk down the stairs, I pulled my phone out. Ella had texted back.

Ella: Yeah, loading the car. Are you ready?

Me: Yes! Just gotta say bye.

Ella: We’ll be there soon.

“Ella and her parents are going to be here soon,” I told my parents.

Mom had argued long and hard about how I was getting to camp. She wanted to take me, but I wanted to go with Ella and her parents. My friend and her brother had been going to this camp for years, and her parents knew exactly how to get there. Mom pursed her lips and crossed her arms over her chest. “Okay. Are you sure you have it all?”

Annoyance flared up. “Yes!” I said.

“Don’t take that tone with your mother,” Dad warned.

I closed my mouth and let the anger subside. It wouldn’t do to get into an argument with them now. They’d probably not let me go, whether or not they had already paid for my spot. And summer camp wasn’t cheap; I’d seen prices on the website.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, and Mom pulled me into another hug.

“Be safe, okay?” she said. “I wish you wanted to go to the trans camp instead.”

“Mom, please!”

“Okay, okay, I know. You want to go to regular camp like any regular boy.”

“I went to trans camp last year,” I said.

“I know, and you loved it. That’s why I wish you’d go again.”

“Stop worrying so much, Mom,” I told her. “The kids won’t hurt me.”

She didn’t look convinced when she finally let me go. It was true; trans camp had been fantastic. But everyone there knew I was trans. I wanted to go someplace where I didn’t always feel trans. I knew it was impossible, but I wanted a shot at it. All the other kids at trans camp had loved it, because they’d said they could shed their trans identity there. Since everyone was trans, we got to talk about other things. It made it less special, which was, in reality, a relief.

And that was the problem for me. I just wanted to be like any other boy. And all the other boys went to summer camp like the one I was going to, not to trans camp. I wanted to be a boy with the other boys.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Gabriel D. Vidrine is a trans masculine scientist, dancer, and writer but is working towards reversing that order. They teach and perform belly dance all over the country, but still manage to cram in writing time whenever and wherever possible.

They are an avid reader and writer, and love science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal romance, but will give any genre a try.

Gabriel lives with their husband, video game systems, and ridiculous cat, Selina, in Chicago, IL.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for Bank Run (Expanding Horizon #2) by Alli Reshi (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Bank Run

Series: Expanding Horizon, Book Two

Author: Alli Reshi

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: April 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19400

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, science fiction, disability/PTSD/post-traumatic stress, military, hurt/comfort, interracial/intercultural, crime, HFN

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Mark Noland doesn’t know how he always ends up in these situations. All he wants is a few quiet days on Rescon with his new boyfriend Gavnson. But he’s just finished a job, and the rest of his team wants their pay.

A simple trip to the bank shouldn’t be much trouble, and then it’s back to peace and quiet. What could possibly go wrong? The answer to this is apparently robbery, kidnapping, and a foot chase across town. A run to the bank takes on a whole new meaning when you also have to thwart the bad guys.

A simple crime unravels to something much more. Amidst the chaos, Mark and Gavnson not only end up with new friends, but a renewed focus on Gavnson’s ongoing PTSD issues—once they finally have a moment to themselves.

*Bank Run is the second installment in the Expanding Horizons series and is best read after book one, Oops, Caught.

Excerpt

Bank Run
Alli Reshi © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Fire and metal shrapnel rained down, pinging off the roof of my small fighter ship.

“Everian Gavnson— The second Squadron is surrounded by the enemy. They are also advancing against the third. What are your orders?” Caspian Dal’s voice came crackling over the damaged coms line.

“Fourth squadron— Provide support for the second. Come in from the enemy’s right, and you can break up that dogfight. My men with me. We’re going to come in from the low left across the gorge. We can bottleneck the enemy there and stop their advance,” I called the orders across the channels.

A resounding “Yes, sir!” was the answer as the other fighter ships split off in their new assignments.

I angled my ship across the sky, leading the first squadron toward the swarm of ships. Blue mixed with white, though the blue was slowly overtaking the other. The infiltration of Zux pilots was taking its toll on my men. The battle for Rescon had already cost us so much. Our objective was to stop them in the skies so they couldn’t get to Rescon’s surface. Swooping under the belly of a few blue Zux ships, I opened fire on them, ripping through the metal and breezing by the ships as they crashed. The added forces were pushing back the opposition.

“Sir, your six!” the warning whined on the line. Reacting before glancing over, I angled my ship away from the oncoming attack. When I did look, I realized no amount of quick maneuvering would save me. A ship from higher up had collided with those below it, dragging and catching them as the tangled mess of metal fell from directly above me toward my ship.

Pushing the thrusters hard, I moved as far away from the trajectory as I could. I wouldn’t clear the area in time, but if I could minimize the damage, I could make an emergency landing. The wreckage struck the side of my ship, tearing the wing clean off. One of the engines ignited in the impact. Fire spread across the windshield. All I could see was fire. The fire. Fire everywhere—burning, trapping, killing.

I bolted awake, off-balance, and confined. I fought against the restraint, pushing and tugging until I felt cold air against my skin. Then, something was on my shoulder holding me. Pushing me back. I lashed out an arm against it.

“Gav, Gav hold still. Calm down. You’re all right; breathe, Gav. Can you hear me?” a voice said. Mark’s voice. The initial panic slowly faded from my mind. It was Mark’s hand on my shoulder. The sheets from my bed were tangled around my legs. Taking a deep breath, I reached a hand to Mark’s, suddenly realizing how shaky my own was against his steady one.

“Yes, I’m fine,” I said, clearing my throat.

“You sure? You’re trembling. Was it that dream again? You wanna talk about it?” Mark asked, leaning toward me. I shrugged off his hand, pulling away.

“No. Everything is all right, Mark. I’m going to take a shower. You can go back to sleep now.” I pushed off the blankets and forced myself to walk steadily to the adjoining bathroom.

After locking the door behind me, I turned on the shower and sat on the tile floor in the far corner of the room, my back against the wall. Curling in on myself, I was no longer able to fight the shaking of my body. My vision blurred, and I couldn’t focus on any one thing around me. All my senses screamed that everything was too much, too loud, too everything. Hopefully, the sound of the water muffled any sobs that escaped. My chest hurt from phantom pains and how hard it was to breathe. It was as though my lungs had forgotten how to, or not wanting to, would rather stop and close in on themselves.

Worst of all, I could feel the fire burning on my arm, searing through flesh. The cold wall behind me did little to help. The war was over, yet I couldn’t escape it, dogged by fire and failure in my sleep.

I don’t know how long it was before I could focus again and the shivers stopped. The burning on my arm had lost intensity, fading rapidly as I focused on taking deep gulping breaths, even though it stung. Mark hadn’t come knocking at the door, so it couldn’t have been that long.

Stripping off my sweat-dampened clothes, I finally stepped under the freezing spray of water. I found that I much preferred cold showers after the war and the hospital. I also refused to own another sponge of any sort, throwing them and any kind of liquid soap out in favor of bars and rough towels if necessary.

It had been about a month since Mark and I had agreed to start this relationship. Even with the time we spent apart for our respective careers, it was working out well. Better than I could have hoped. My off-planet missions were few, as I preferred to stay close to home. There was more than enough to keep me busy here with Stella Corps, while Mark chose any jobs across the quadrant that caught his fancy. Being that Mark’s starship was his home, when he wasn’t out on a job, he spent most of his time with me at my home. His team didn’t seem to mind the extra time spent on Rescon either.

Having Mark with me was a welcome change from the silence that permeated the building without him to fill it with laughter and conversation, however it didn’t stop the nightmares. I always felt guilty for waking him; it was unfair to him after all the help he gave me. Especially on nights like last night when he came in late, tired from a job, and well-deserving of some rest. He didn’t need me waking him up over something I should have long gotten over. In truth, I had been lucky; I knew that.

I had come home when so many hadn’t. I only had scars where so many had lost limbs. It was pathetic to still be holding onto fears when the danger had long passed.

I quickly finished my shower and turned off the water, not wanting Mark to worry and come investigating.

Drying off, I glanced at my reflection in the mirror. Dark hair plastered against my forehead. A once perfect complexion was now littered with appalling scars. Thankfully, the ones on my face were hardly noticeable if you didn’t know to look. The rest of me had not been as fortunate.

The burn marks were far more distinct over my left side. Trailing from my neck to almost my hip in patchy grooves, they also took up most of my arm and spread across my chest. I turned away from the mirror, tying the towel around my waist.

I should have the mirror removed the next chance I had—a sentiment I always had after a shower, but never managed to go through with. It was too easy to indulge in the shame of what my image now was. In any case, Mark would question it, and that was something I would rather avoid. I paused at the door, listening for any noise coming from the outer room.

Hearing nothing meant Mark must have either left the room or gone back to sleep. I cautiously opened the door, and the sun’s morning light filtering in through the window showed an empty room. Faint voices floated in from the direction of the kitchen.

I dressed quickly, worried that Mark might walk into the room before I was ready. A long-sleeved thin shirt hid the worst of the scars and simple pants covered the few on my legs. Having not yet let Mark see all of my scars, I was careful to always be clothed around him. Mark had said that he wouldn’t mind seeing them, but I was not ready to show more of myself to him. I still worried about his reaction. After combing my hair into something respectable, I walked toward the voices, steeling myself to greet the added guests.

“I’m just saying you don’t even know his first name, man. I’m not complaining about not having to listen to you talk about your sex life all’o the time now. But you sure ’bout this, boss? Relationships ain’t one-night stands—you gotta be serious here. Gotta be able to trust a person.”

I recognized Ken’s voice without having to turn the corner and paused in the shadows. I shouldn’t have to eavesdrop in my own house, yet I wanted to hear the honest conversation that wouldn’t happen with me there. Wanted to know what his teammates thought of me, though it did not appear to be a conversation in my favor.

“Dude, are you still harping on this?” Mark huffed. “Ken, let it go. The name thing is cultural, okay? Lots of Resconians don’t say it until they’re married. It’s like a super personal thing, and I can respect that. Stuff like this takes time, you know. Ain’t like I’m laying all my secrets out on the table either. You gotta build the trust slowly, and I trust him to tell me when he’s ready.” I could imagine the scowl he had as he crossed his arms.

Considering that Mark was more given to casual and informal mannerisms, I had been surprised at how easily he had adapted when I explained why Resconians only used surnames. It was an old social norm that revealing a given name was the truest form of trust and love. It gave me a small thrill to call Mark by his name privately—knowing it was his preference as well as a sign of his trust. I found it endearing how he mixed his habit for nicknames yet considered my preference. Still, our relationship was far too new to tell him my given name, or call him by his while in company.

“I believe what our esteemed mechanic is trying to say, is that we worry about you. You’re not only our boss; you’re our friend as well. As a friend, we want you to be in a healthy relationship. Given your previous lovers, this is a drastic change.” The higher-pitched voice chiming in told me that Tamaroa was here too.

“I know it’s different,” Mark said, his voice strained. “It’s weird for me sometimes, too, you know. Coming back to the same place all the time. And missing him. Lonely is something I’m used to having an instant fix for, but I can’t do that anymore because Gavnson matters. I want it to work with him. So, let me figure it out myself and drop it, all right?”

Knowing he missed me when he was away—same as I missed him—was an odd comfort. And it was reassuring that he would defend me, even though I sometimes thought his coworkers might have a more accurate opinion of me. After a few moments of silence, it was obvious they had dropped the topic. I might as well greet my guests properly.

Rounding the corner to enter the kitchen, I saw Ken and Tamaroa at the table, while Mark was standing by the stove, making something in a pan. Rescon had more than its fair share of interspecies travelers. But that still didn’t take away the strangeness of having others at my table.

I was so often alone in this room that the brightness of the fox’s dark blue fur and the woman’s rich orange skin would take some getting used to.

“You didn’t tell me your team would be visiting this morning, Noland,” I said, not wanting to sound accusing, but a warning would have been nice.

“Sorry, I didn’t know either, and some people don’t know what manners are. So, they invite themselves anywhere.” Mark sighed and gave Ken a pointed look. He momentarily abandoned breakfast to come to my side and give me a hug. His warmth was a welcome balm to my unsettled nerves. “Are you feeling better now? Is it okay for them to be here? I can kick them out if you want, no problem,” Mark whispered and then kissed my cheek.

He had no concern with showing affection any time he wanted. For the most part, I liked the attention too much to scold him for it when there were others around.

“No, it’s fine; I don’t mind,” I said quietly, giving him a one-armed hug in return before letting him go back to the stove. “It’s a pleasure to see you as always, Tamaroa, Ken.” I greeted the two as I sat at the table across from them so I could watch Mark.

“Sorry for the intrusion,” Tamaroa responded, brushing back her hair, a dark red against her skin. “Ken can be quite demanding when he wants something. Mark never said, but how did everything turn out on your end with our last joint effort? Was there any information missing?” It was easy to forget that Mark’s well-spoken navigator was also a highly trained assassin.

“No, you both did admirably,” I said. “As far as our technicians have found, nothing was leaked and all the files were still intact. Thanks to all your efforts, you prevented the potential exposure of a number of secret operatives.” I had assumed Mark would have told them about the successful conclusion of our mission long ago, but this at least gave me the chance to thank them in person.

“I imagine Stella would have just as many enemies as allies, and any information about your movements could go for a high price.” Tamaroa’s tone was far too light for a matter that could have been life or death to many officers. Then again, perhaps I shouldn’t expect differently from a woman in her profession.

“Unfortunately, yes,” I said. “Since Mark is always very vague about his work, I don’t suppose you’d be willing to make a few things clearer?” I could feel Mark’s eyes on me, and even though we’d both agreed that sometimes there were parts of our jobs we couldn’t talk about, it didn’t always stop professional curiosity. Tamaroa’s only response was a small smile that said I would not be getting any answers from her.

“All right, enough chitchat,” Ken huffed, his tail thumping against the leg of his chair. “I want Mr. Domestic over there to hand over our share of the pay from the last job. I ain’t looking to spend the day with no Stella officer in a stuffy house. Just ’cause you’ve turned sweet on the military sort, don’t mean I have. I got shit to do.” Ken had not warmed up to me nearly as much as Tamaroa had. Mark reassured me this was friendlier than Ken got with most.

“Hey, that Stella officer is my boyfriend, and I like his company. So, shut your muzzle. Besides, we just got here, and I’m sorry, but some of us like to sleep. Banks don’t even open until, like, nine anyways—so hold your tail.” Mark slid what was in the pan onto a waiting plate. Ah, he was making those fluffy flat breads he called pancakes. Terran food was odd.

I don’t think I had seen him cook anything that didn’t require some breed of fowl eggs. And he was always complaining they weren’t the same as chicken eggs, whatever those were. Mark had tried to describe chickens to me once, and for as much as I recognized that fauna was different across the galaxy, small flightless birds were not something I could easily conceptualize.

I knew that some planets domesticated their fowl, but the fear of them had been ingrained in me since childhood. It wasn’t an ungrounded fear, as the Ioxerous birds were as large as the average man and viciously carnivorous. They were the smallest breed of bird on Rescon. Thankfully, the mountains were the only place you would find them. These differences had led Mark and me to a have a few circular discussions about the merits of domestication of fowl.

Mark insisted on cooking, going so far as to favor old-fashioned methods of manually making the food, instead of letting the automatic kitchen equipment prepare the dishes for him. I had no love for cooking, so I left him to his strange cuisine.

“Oh, I’m sure you and pretty boy did plenty of sleeping. Then again, you were awful quick to open that door, and all rumpled too,” Ken said, winking at Mark. I tensed at the unknowing reminder that I had awakened Mark this morning. Even though he was still tired from his last mission, he hadn’t said anything about it. Yet, I could see the weariness as he moved about. It appeared I was nothing more than a bother.

“Okay, you’re done. Out. We discussed this— No suggestive or lewd comments that make Gav uncomfortable. So, out now. Before I skin you, and we’ll have a side of fox to go with breakfast.” Mark waved the spatula at Ken, whose fur bristled in offense.

“I think we’ve stayed long enough.” Tamaroa stood. “Enjoy your morning, Mark, and a pleasure to see you again, Gavnson. We’ll be on our way now.” She grabbed Ken by his scruff and lifted the four-foot Vanaska fox easily, ignoring his demands to be put down as they left the house. Mark chuckled at the antics.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Alli has always had a love for just about any story she can get her hands on. Be it from books, TV, or even video games—if there’s a good story, she will love it. Given that, it’s easy to see how Alli moved on to making stories of her own.

Raised in a small Colorado town, Alli also has a love of the outdoors and enjoys hiking. Nowadays she lives in a bigger city and fits in just fine there too, liking how close and comfy everything is. Often at home with her two cats, Alli is never far from her computer whether for work or for play. She believes the truth is a multifaceted thing and always works to write the world, and subsequently the truth of the world, as she sees it.

Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for The Vampire’s Angel by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  The Vampire’s Angel

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 106400

Genre: Paranormal Romance, LGBT, historical, gay, paranormal, vampire, revolution, magic

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

As Paris devolves into chaos amidst the French Revolution, three lives intertwine.

Xavier, a devout priest, struggles to hold on to his trust in humanity only to find his own faith threatened with the longing he finds for a mysterious American visitor. Thomas fights against the Catholic Church to win Xavier’s heart, but hiding his undead nature will threaten the love he longs to find with this abbé. Xavier’s sister, Catherine, works with Thomas to bring them together while protecting the family fortune but falls prey herself to evil forces.

The death, peril, and catastrophes of a revolution collide with a world of magic, vampires, and personal demons as Xavier, Thomas, and Catherine fight to find peace and love amidst the destruction.

Excerpt

The Vampire’s Angel
Damian Serbu © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: Angel Sighting
14 May 1789

The night at last darkened as Thomas wandered the Parisian streets, feeling the people’s anger. Though the current French environment shunned the wealthy, Thomas’s commanding presence allowed him to walk about with little resistance. Besides, if his personality failed to assuage someone, his American citizenship placated them soon enough. Coming from a land that had already tossed out a king provided him a certain reverence.

The evening proved calm, however, with no one shouting or rioting. Perhaps later, Thomas might venture to the salons for conversation, but for the moment, he watched the common people as he headed from his flat along the Seine toward the Bastille. He sought the poor that evening, not the stuffy rich who bored him even in their nastiness.

Thomas dodged a puddle of mud and almost ran into a wealthy woman.

She grunted but then smiled when she looked up at him. “Pardon me.”

“It was my fault.” Thomas bowed. “I should apologize to you.”

She giggled and walked away, but not before turning around to glance at him one more time.

His reflection in a nearby window reminded him why so many women and men stopped to admire him. His muscular frame, his long black hair tied in a bow at the base of his neck, and his all-black attire, which defied the contemporary fashion of men wearing bright colors, combined to create an allure. Thomas knew he possessed a sex appeal. He captivated them so much they seldom commented with their usual prejudice on his darker complexion.

He turned onto Rue St. Louis and headed north. The houses there were dingier, the streets narrower, and the people dirtier. He traveled well into a residential area and found a secluded corner, the perfect place to watch for that night’s prey.

A few workers stumbled by, already drunk and searching for their homes, then some children frolicked along with a group of women. Still, nothing tempted him. Next, a soldier patrolled the streets and stared at him with suspicion, a prey that proved more to Thomas’s liking. Unfortunately, he saw goodness in the soldier’s face. He would not tempt fate with that one. The young man brushed a lock of blond hair out of his eye and passed as Thomas watched and marveled at his beautiful tight backside when he faded into the night.

Thomas nearly lost his breath when he turned and looked the other way. An angel?

The man had short brown hair, piercing hazel eyes, and soft skin. He carried the slight tone in his muscles, which so attracted Thomas, with a hint of nervousness. Not too masculine, but neither too feminine.

As the gentleman passed, Thomas fell in behind to study him further.

Only after Thomas almost drooled over the beauty in front of him did the clothing hit him. A priest. Thomas shook his head. How on earth did a godlike creature end up serving that vile Catholic Church?

He followed, anyway, hiding among the buildings and trailing so quietly that the priest never suspected a man behind him scrutinized every angle of his body beneath the black robe.

As they passed a narrow street, the priest turned and peered toward the cramped passage, then dashed down it. Thomas rushed to follow and hid in a doorway nearby.

“Can I help you?” the priest asked. “What is it?” He knelt before a young girl, perhaps no more than four, and placed his hand on her shoulder. She sobbed and slumped against the priest, who wrapped his arms around her. “Talk to me. You’re safe. What can I do?”

Her breathing finally slowed. “I’m lost.”

“What’s your name, dear?”

“Delphine,” she whispered.

“Well, Delphine, we’ll find your home. Can you give me some clues?”

Thomas listened as the priest quizzed her. She relaxed as the conversation continued and giggled as the priest joked and moved down the long alley with her, talking to her until he stooped down and picked her up while continuing to chat.

“Do you think we’re close?” he asked.

“I think so.” She looked around, clinging to him.

“Ah! Delphine!” A woman ran toward them, so the priest put the girl on the ground and stood aside as she sprinted to collapse in the woman’s arms.

“Mama,” she shouted.

“I’ve looked everywhere for you,” her mother replied. “What did I tell you about wandering away? We have just moved, after all. You’ll get lost in this big city.” Then she crossed herself. “Abbé, God intervened yet again to save my daughter.”

“Merely one of his servants, Madame.” The sound of his resonant voice sent waves of passion through Thomas.

“How can I repay you?” she asked.

“You owe me nothing,” the priest said as he turned to Delphine. “And you, little one, you must be careful in Paris. You can get lost easily, so stay close to your mother.”

She giggled as he tickled her stomach. “I will, Abbé.”

After they left, the priest turned and his eyes widened when he saw Thomas. He paused.

“Monsieur, pardon me. I didn’t see you.”

“I didn’t mean to startle you, Father. Good evening.” They gazed at each other for a long moment.

“No harm. Good evening, sir.” The priest nodded and walked away.

Too good to be true. Thomas stalked the priest as he turned the corner and entered the gate of a small church. There, Thomas leaned against a building, breathing heavily from the passion that erupted inside him, a longing he must satisfy. He wanted to stand outside the church and wait for the priest, or even knock on the door and talk to him again, but he was too unsettled. He remembered an establishment nearby that would serve his purpose well, so he raced to it, slammed through the doors, and sat before he fell, when a young man of about eighteen years approached him.

“Monsieur, you look unwell. Can I assist you?”

The youngster wasted little time. He needed a bath, but otherwise presented an adorable face and solid little body.

“What are you offering?” Thomas smirked.

“Come, I’ll show you.” He grabbed Thomas’s hand and pulled him up a stairway and into a dimly lit room. “I assume you know this’ll cost you, and that I don’t play the passive role.”

“Quite the entrepreneur. I can pay what you charge.” Thomas closed the door and embraced the youth as he kissed him. With great speed, he threw the youngster onto the bed and tore off both of their clothes.

“Slow down,” the young man pleaded.

Thomas did so and kissed the boy’s neck. His fangs descended, and he softly pricked the dirty skin to taste the blood before he took their interaction further.

“Do you enjoy biting?” the boy asked.

“Only momentarily,” Thomas replied before he plunged his fangs into the vein for a deeper taste.

As the hot liquid flowed across his lips, images of the boy’s life saturated Thomas’s mind. The vision confirmed what Thomas already ascertained. The young man prostituted himself part-time and was a useless degenerate who attacked and robbed innocent people. He assaulted children, including his brother, for sport. Ah, yes. And, of course, he murdered without remorse.

He grabbed the young man’s hair and kissed him, then rolled him over against his will. He struggled for the first time, but Thomas held him tightly.

“I told you,” he said, “I don’t—”

Thomas clamped his hand over the victim’s mouth. “Relax.” He stopped squirming and Thomas let him go. “What if I double the price? Or triple it, even?”

The lad contemplated for a moment. “Triple? Just to bugger me?”

Thomas petted his hair. “Yes.”

“Fine. But I won’t like it.” Yet he ground his ass into Thomas’s crotch.

Thomas thrust inside of him and pounded. The young man wriggled and bit his lower lip, but he never tried to stop Thomas until the vampire finished, his tension released as he exploded inside the nice bubble ass.

Sated, he released the lad, who pushed him off, cursing. “I told you, and I warned you, you ass.” He scrambled off the bed and snatched a knife from under the mattress, and in his nakedness came toward Thomas.

When the youth tried to stab him, Thomas grabbed his wrist and squeezed hard until the blade dropped to the floor. He pulled the young man toward him and stared into his eyes, his expression terrified.

“I thought we had an agreement? Besides, you can’t win. You won’t haunt this city anymore. Go peacefully.”

Thomas bent the boy’s head to the side and plunged his fangs back into the flesh, sucking the delicious blood until the youth’s heart stopped.

Thomas kissed the puncture wounds to heal them and flung the corpse to the floor before dressing, loving that a large city meant no one questioned yet another death. Sexually satisfied and fed, he brushed his clothing off before hurrying down the stairs and out the door without anyone noticing.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He previously authored several novels now out of print, and is excited to reignite his writing with Ninestar Press!

Coming this fall, his latest vampire novel: The Vampire’s Protégé. Keep up to date with him on Facebook, Twitter, or at http://www.DamianSerbu.com.

Website | Facebook | Twitter

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for The Moth and Moon by Glenn Quigley (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  The Moth and Moon

Author: Glenn Quigley

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 63000

Genre: Alternate Universe, Historical, LGBT, historical, gay, friends to lovers, sailor, baker, pirates, family drama

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

In the summer of 1780, on the tiny island of Merryapple, burly fisherman Robin Shipp lives a simple, quiet life in a bustling harbour town where most of the residents dislike him due to the actions of his father. With a hurricane approaching, he nonetheless convinces the villagers to take shelter in the one place big enough to hold them all—the ancient, labyrinthine tavern named the Moth & Moon.

While trapped with his neighbours during the raging storm, Robin inadvertently confronts more than the weather, and the results could change everything.

Excerpt

The Moth and Moon
Glenn Quigley © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Mr. Robin Shipp pulled his cap lower as he took a deep breath of salty morning air and watched the sun emerge from behind the headland. Stepping from the pier into his little boat, he ran his heavy hand across the prow, catching his coarse fingers on the loose, chipped paintwork. He picked a jagged flake off the wooden frame and held it up to the light, the vivid scarlet catching the pinks and oranges of daybreak. He let go and it drifted through the air, carried away on the gentle breeze, before settling on the soft, lapping tide. Most of the paintwork was in some state of distress. Deep cracks marbled the entire hull, belying the fisherman’s profound affection for his vessel. Bucca’s Call had seen better days.

“I’ll paint you tomorrow, Bucca, I promise,” he said.

He made this very same promise every morning, but every day, he found some reason to put it off. Before too long, he was humming to himself and hauling his well-worn oyster dredge over the stern of Bucca’s Call.

“Beautiful!” he said as he emptied the net into a nearby tub. The shells clattered against one another as they fell. The boat bobbed about gently on the waves while gulls screeched and circled overhead. Her nameplate was missing a couple of letters and her white sails were truthfully more of a grimy beige these days, but she was as reliable as ever.

He was close to the shore and could see the whole bay—from the headland to the east, down to the harbour, past the pale blue-and-white-striped lighthouse that sat out at sea on its desolate little clump of rocks and scrub, and over to the beautiful sandy beach curving around and out of sight to the west.

The little fishing village of Blashy Cove sloped up the hills beyond the harbour, and with his gaze, he traced the low, stone walls lining each cobbled road. It was the only significant settlement on the tiny island of Merryapple, the southernmost point of a little cluster of islands nestled off the Cornish coast. The village had everything one would expect to find, except a place of worship. No lofty cathedral had ever been built there, no church of granite and glass, not even the smallest wooden chapel. When the empire of the Romans had fallen a thousand years earlier, its church had fallen alongside it. The invaders hadn’t lingered long on the mainland, and had never set foot on these islands. Once they were gone, the people picked through the remains, seeing the value in certain aspects and thoroughly disregarding the rest, scouring the regime clean from the face the world and consigning it meekly to the tomes of scholars and students. In its absence, the old gods returned to their forests and deserts, their mountains and streams, their homes and hearths. Spirits of air and land and sea. Woden and Frig, The Wild Hunt and the Bucca, piskies and mermaids, the Green Man and the wights, all were changed, made kinder and gentler by their brief exile. On these islands, the old ways had been the only ways, but even these had mostly died out, sloping into traditions, superstitions, and habits. It was now August in the year 1780, and people believed in themselves.

At this time of morning, sunlight hit the brightly painted houses and sparkled on the gentle, rolling waves. The village’s livelihood mainly revolved around the sea, but there was more to life than just luggers and lines and lobster pots. The Cove had long been a haven to those of a more creative bent. Painters and sculptors, engineers and inventors, they all found their home there. Some of them had come from the nearby Blackrabbit Island, which wasn’t known for its love of the finer arts. This abundance of skill, and the nurturing of it, meant Blashy Cove had adopted some innovations not yet common in the rest of the world.

Robin had been out for some time by now and, as usual, had already eaten his packed lunch. Soon, his substantial belly rumbled and he decided it was time to head back to port. Packing away his nets, he heaved in his empty lobster pots, secured the tub filled with this morning’s catch, and sailed the small craft homeward. As he did, he noticed a thin, grey line on the horizon.

“Looks like some bad weather on the way, Bucca,” he muttered to the little boat.

The stern of the curious little craft sat low in the water, due equally to the weight of the morning’s catch and the significant heft of Robin himself. While at first it appeared to be a traditional lugger, the kind of boat used by most fishermen in this part of the world, Bucca’s Call was actually much smaller and faster, a one-of-a-kind built many years previously.

Huge ships from the mainland drifted past, their enormous sails billowing in the breeze. Merryapple was part of a small group of southerly islands, and the last sight of land some of the mighty vessels would see for weeks, or even months.

Merryapple Pier was the oldest one anybody knew of. The brainstorm of a local fisherman many years earlier and copied by many other villages since, it might well have been the first of its kind. This clever fisherman realised if there was a way for larger boats to offload their cargo directly, rather than having to put it onto smaller vessels to ferry back and forth between harbour and ship, it would increase the traffic through the little port. The pier stretched out past the shallower waters near the coastline. Little sailboats like Bucca’s Call could dock right up close to the beach or even on the sand, if need be, while bigger fishing vessels could use the far end, in deeper waters. The pier was constructed from huge boulders hewn from the island’s cliff face and supported by a framework of long wooden poles from the woodlands. In the evening, bigger boats from the village fleet usually dropped anchor in the bay, while smaller vessels stayed moored to the pier.

At the shore, some children were chasing each other around a pile of crab pots, hooting and hollering while May Bell finished her deliveries for the bakery. May was around the same age as the other children, but she was of a more industrious bent. She saw Bucca’s Call approaching and ran to help Robin secure his mooring line as he lugged the tub of oysters onto the pier. When he clambered up the weathered stone steps, he steadied himself with a hand against the wall. The steps were wet and slippery, with dark green mould threatening to envelope his heavy boots should he linger too long.

“Morning, Mr. Shipp,” the girl called as she finished tying the worn rope around an old, pitted stone bitt.

“Mornin’, May! Thanks for your ’elp,” he called back, waving to the girl as he lumbered past. Taller than any man on the island, he dwarfed the little girl, drowning her in his shadow.

“Time for food already?” she asked.

“Oh yes,” replied Robin, “an’ I know just the place to get some!”

His legs were stiff from sitting in the boat all morning. He knew he was supposed to get up and move around a bit every once in a while, but when he was out on the water, the chatter of the gulls, the lap of the waves, the smell of the sea air, it was all so relaxing he just didn’t notice the time going by. Only his stomach growls marked the hours.

Mrs. Greenaway, wife of the village doctor and a friend of May’s parents, happened to be passing by on her way home from the market. Seeing their exchange, she scrunched up her face, adjusted the bow on her bonnet, and seized the little girl by the arm, leading her away from the pier and avoiding Robin’s disappointed gaze. He knew May from the bakery, as the master baker was one of his very few friends, but it wasn’t uncommon for people to avoid him.

Robin heaved the awkward tub full of oysters up and marched towards the bustling market, which was a collection of simple wooden stalls selling everything from food to clothes to ornaments. He edged his way through the crowd, past various stallholders and shoppers as he struggled with the heavy container. Finally, he reached the largest stall, which sold all manner of fresh seafood, all caught in that very cove. Robin specialised in inshore fishing, whereas the other boats concentrated their efforts farther out to sea. He was one of only two oyster fishermen in the village. The other, Mr. Hirst, was ill and hadn’t been out in his craft for almost two weeks. He was married, with a young family to feed, and the village had rallied around to help and make sure they didn’t go hungry. The lack of competition, however, meant Robin was securing a bumper crop.

A tall, thin man in a white coat was scribbling notes onto a wad of yellow paper. In front of him lay a collection of various local fish, in everything from buckets to barrels to battered old copper pots.

“Got a nice batch for you this mornin’, Mr. Blackwall.” Robin beamed, holding up the tub so the fishmonger could get a good look.

“Yes, these will do fine, I suppose, Mr. Shipp. Put them down at the front.” Mr. Blackwall was notorious for not getting too hands-on with the product or with much of anything, really. He kept his distance from the beach and fairly resented having to be even this close. Wet sand upset him greatly, as it had a tendency to cling to his shiny boots and sometimes it even marked his pristine coat. He didn’t do any of the actual work with the fish, instead leaving it to his assistants. He’d often said he didn’t see the point of having a stall at all when he had a perfectly good shop on Hill Road. But the market was a tradition in Blashy Cove, and so he had no choice but to participate or lose out. He jotted some numbers down on his paper and then chewed the end of his pencil as he tried to add them up. He always did this, and he never did it quickly. Robin stooped and laid the tub on the ground as instructed, grunting as he straightened.

“Joints sore again?” the fishmonger asked out of sheer politeness, not looking up from his calculations.

“No more’n usual,” Robin replied, rubbing the small of his back and rotating his shoulder. Working the sea wasn’t easy, and it had taken its toll over the years.

Ben Blackwall reached into his inside pocket and produced a fistful of polished coins, which he delivered into Robin’s large, callused hands. Robin nodded appreciatively and stuffed them into the pockets of his calf-length, navy-coloured overcoat. Tipping his floppy, well-worn cap to his long-time buyer, he turned and headed away from the dock.

He passed by other villagers going about their morning routine and jumped out of the way of a horse and cart loaded with apples from the orchard over the hills as he headed straight for the immense building dead ahead. It was a massive, ungainly lump, set in the centre of a spacious courtyard, all crooked wooden beams and slanting lead-paned windows. Every now and then, a shabby bay window or wonky dormer jutted out at funny angles. It was hard to tell exactly how many floors it had. Five, at least, the topmost of which sat like a box that had been dropped from a great height onto the rest of the structure. Rumpled, uneven, and crooked, this odd addition had one large, circular window on each of its four walls. On the ground outside, wooden tables and chairs were arranged, and heavy planters overflowed with hardy, perennial shrubbery. A couple of fat seagulls noisily argued over a few crumbs dropped near the windbreakers. This pair were here so often, they seemed to be part of the building itself. The locals named them Captain Tom and the Admiral. Captain Tom was the leader of a particularly noisy and troublesome band of gulls, and the Admiral was his main rival. They would often fight over even the tiniest scraps left on the ground, and both were marked with more than one battle scar.

As he pulled on the heavy oak door, the sign hanging overhead creaked and groaned in the wind. Painted on chestnut from the nearby wood, the bulk of the sign was older than the village itself, but it had been modified many times. Formed of several expertly carved layers, it now looked more like a child’s pop-up book rather than the simple plank of wood it had once been. The overall effect was of peering through a forest, out over the cove at night. The outermost tier resembled a ring of tree branches, gently moving up and down. Behind that layer were the turbulent waves, which clicked from side to side. Finally, there was the static crescent moon with a single cerulean moth flying slowly around, completing one revolution every hour. The whole sign ticked and whirred endlessly as its springs and cogs went about their work, and had to be wound up twice a day using a long, metal key kept tucked behind the tavern’s main door. The name of the establishment was weaved around and through the artwork in gold.

This wasn’t simply a place to drink or gather with friends; it was a place to conduct business, a place where people married, and a place where people mourned. It was a refuge from bad weather and jilted lovers. This was the heart and soul of the little village.

This was the Moth & Moon.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Glenn Quigley is a graphic designer originally from Dublin and now living in Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He creates bear designs for http://www.themoodybear.com. He has been interested in writing since he was a child, as essay writing was the one and only thing he was ever any good at in school. When not writing or designing, he enjoys photography and has recently taken up watercolour painting.

Website | Twitter

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for Tomboy by Janelle Reston (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Tomboy

Author: Janelle Reston

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 19, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 17000

Genre: romance, historical, LGBT, Historical, lesbian, 1950’s, tomboy, student, blue collar, mechanic, NASA, scientist, friends to lovers

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Some kids’ heads are in the clouds. Harriet Little’s head is in outer space.

In 1950s America, everyone is expected to come out of a cookie-cutter mold. But Harriet prefers the people who don’t, like her communist-sympathizer father and her best friend Jackie, a tomboy who bucks the school dress code of skirts and blouses in favor of T-shirts and blue jeans. Harriet realizes she’s also different when she starts to swoon over Rosemary Clooney instead of Rock Hudson—and finds Sputnik and sci-fi more fascinating than sock hops.

Before long, Harriet is secretly dating the most popular girl in the school. But she soon learns that real love needs a stronger foundation than frilly dresses and feminine wiles.

Excerpt

Tomboy
Janelle Reston © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The first time I met Jackie, I thought she was a boy. Of course, she was only eight then, an age when most humans would still be fairly androgynous if our society didn’t have the habit of primping us up in clothes that point in one direction or the other.

Jackie was in straight-legged dungarees, a checkered button-down shirt, and a brown leather belt with crossed rifles embossed on the brass buckle. Her hair was short, trimmed above the ears.

“Who’s that new boy?” my friend Shelley whispered as we settled into our desks. It was the first day of fourth grade, and Mrs. Baumgartner had made folded-paper name placards for each seat so we’d know where to go. Shelley always sat right in front of me because our last names were next to each other in the alphabet. She was Kramer; I was Little.

I looked at the blond cherub in the front row. He—as I thought Jackie was at the time—had his gaze set toward the ceiling, eyes tracing the portraits of the US presidents that hung at the top of the wall. A cowlick stuck up from the back of his head. He reminded me of Dennis the Menace, the mischievous star of my new favorite cartoon strip, which had debuted in our local paper that summer. I liked the way Dennis talked back to adults but somehow never got in trouble for it. I wished I had the same courage.

Mrs. Baumgartner walked into the room. The class fell silent and we straightened in our chairs, facing her. “Good morning, class. I’m your teacher for this year, Mrs. Baumgartner.”

“Good morning, Mrs. Baumgartner,” we answered in unison. She spelled her name on the chalkboard in cursive and asked us to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Back then, the Pledge didn’t have the gist of a prayer like it does today; “under God” wasn’t added to “one nation indivisible” until three years later, after Eisenhower became president. I wiggled my toes around in my hand-me-down saddle shoes as we recited the words.

The trouble began when Mrs. Baumgartner started to take attendance. “Jacqueline Auglaize?”

“Here, Mrs. Baumgartner,” Dennis the Menace answered from the front row.

Mrs. Baumgartner narrowed her eyes. “New year at a new school, and we’re starting with the practical jokes already?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Will the real Jacqueline Auglaize please speak up? This is your only warning.” Mrs. Baumgartner’s eyes scanned the room. I craned my neck around. I hadn’t noticed any new girls in the classroom before our teacher’s arrival, but maybe I’d been distracted by the Dennis the Menace boy.

“I’m Jackie Auglaize, ma’am,” Dennis the Menace piped up again.

Mrs. Baumgartner’s face screwed up as if she’d accidentally sucked on a lemon. “What you are is on the way to the principal’s office, young man.”

“I’m not—”

“And a detention for talking back.”

Mrs. Baumgartner called on one of the other boys to escort the new, nameless student to his punishment. From chin to scalp, Dennis the Menace’s face turned red as a beet. His flushed ears looked almost purple against his pale hair.

Kids playing pranks didn’t blush like that.

“I think that really is a girl,” I whispered to Shelley. But if she heard, she didn’t respond. She knew better than to turn around in her seat when a teacher was already angry.

An hour later, Mrs. Baumgartner was quizzing us on our classroom rules when the school secretary appeared at the door. In tow was a student in a frilly cap-sleeved blouse, knee-length blue corduroy jumper with a flared skirt, lace-trimmed white bobby socks, a pair of shiny black Mary Janes—and short blonde hair.

The cowlick stood like a sentinel at the back of her scalp despite the hair polish that had clearly been combed through since we’d last seen her.

An audible gasp filled the classroom. Actually, it was multiple gasps, but they happened in such synchronization that they had the effect of a single, sustained note.

“Mrs. Baumgartner,” the secretary said, “Jacqueline Auglaize is ready to return to the classroom. We’ve explained the school dress code to her mother. The behavior of this morning won’t be repeated.”

“Thank you, Miss Hamilton. Welcome back, Jacqueline.”

Titters filled the room as Jacqueline walked toward her desk. Mrs. Baumgartner slapped her ruler against her desk. “Does anyone else want a detention?”

We went quiet. Detentions are never an auspicious way to start a new school year.

We spent the rest of the morning learning how to protect ourselves from atomic explosions. Mrs. Baumgartner said this knowledge could save us now that the Soviets had the bomb. “When an air raid siren goes off or you see a bright flash of light, duck and cover underneath a table or desk, inside a corridor, or next to a strong brick wall. Then pull your sweater or coat up to cover the back of your neck and head,” she explained.

We all squatted under our desks as instructed. My father said the Russians weren’t stupid enough to bomb us, that they loved the common people and wanted to protect us. But Mrs. Baumgartner seemed to think they were. She went on in excruciating detail about the things that could happen to us if we didn’t duck and cover. Glass from broken windows could fly in our faces, we could get a terrible sunburn from the blast; pieces of ceiling might drop on our heads. I wasn’t sure whom to believe about the bomb—my dad or Mrs. Baumgartner. I didn’t want to think about it. I shut out my teacher’s voice and stared at my scuffed saddle shoes, pondering how a boy could magically turn into a girl in the wink of an eye.

“She’s not a girl,” Shelley insisted as we walked out to morning recess. “Girls can’t have hair like that.”

“They can if they cut it.”

“But no mother would let a girl wear her hair so short.”

“The school wouldn’t let a boy wear a dress to class.”

Shelley must have been won over by my logic, because the next thing that came out of her mouth was, “Maybe she has a little brother who likes to stick gum in people’s hair.” Shelley’s brother had done that to her once, but since he only got it on the tail end of her braid, she hadn’t lost much length to the scissors when her mother cut it out. “Or she got lice. Yuck.”

I didn’t like the direction of Shelley’s last comment. As it was, the new girl was guaranteed to have very few friends after the morning’s clothing incident. If the lice rumor spread, she’d have no friends at all. I’d been new once too.

“She doesn’t look dirty,” I said. “Maybe her hair got caught in an escalator and they had to cut it off.” I was terrified of escalators. My mother had warned me never to play around on one or my clothes would get snagged between the steps and I’d be pulled in, then smashed as flat as a pancake. Back when she worked in a department store, before marrying my dad, she saw a lady get caught by the scarf in an escalator’s moving handrail, and it would have been death by strangling if an alert gentleman with a penknife hadn’t been nearby to free her. I still get a little on edge every time I step onto one.

We got in line to play hopscotch on a board a couple other girls had drawn earlier that morning. I looked around. The whole school was out on the playground, and it was harder than I would have expected to find a short-haired girl in a blue jumper. There were lots of blue corduroy jumpers darting around the swings and monkey bars and jungle gym. Wanamaker’s must have featured them in its back-to-school sale that year. My dress wasn’t new. It was a hand-me-down from my older sister, with a ribbon tie and a skirt made with less fabric than the newer fashions. Shelley and I had done a test run of our first-day outfits the previous week, and no matter how fast I spun around, my skirt failed to billow as dramatically as Shelley’s.

Still, I tried to make the skirt swing gracefully as I hopped down the squares. I had no desire to be dainty, but I liked the aesthetic of fabric twirling in the air. We went through the hopscotch line four times before I finally spotted Jackie. She was over by the fence, poking at the dirt with a stick. Alone.

That last bit was no surprise.

It took three more rounds of hopscotch before I worked up the nerve to go find out what she was doing.

“Where are you going?” Shelley called as I marched off.

I didn’t answer her, afraid I’d lose my momentum. It was risky talking to an outcast. On the one hand, it was the only way to turn her into not-an-outcast. On the other hand, it might turn me into one too.

“What are you doing?”

Jackie looked up. “Thinking about digging a hole to China.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Janelle Reston lives in a northern lake town with her partner and their black cats. She loves watching Battlestar Galactica and queering gender. You can keep up with her at http://www.janellereston.com.

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

Release Blitz: Three’s the Charm (Maths #3) by P.A. Friday (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Three’s the Charm

Series: Maths, Book Three

Author: P.A. Friday

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: February 12, 2018

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 57800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, menage, college professor, musican, film-maker, promiscuity

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

James, Laurie, and Al are settling into a surprisingly easy life as a triad. Finally, things seem to be going well for them. But when an unscrupulous journalist takes advantage of Al’s blossoming film career and the men’s unusual relationship to write an exposé article, cracks begin to show. Can the three survive with their love, their careers, and even their sanity intact?

Excerpt

Three’s the Charm
P.A. Friday © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Al

The text was brief and to the point.

I hope you’re behaving yourself. L.

Al glared at his phone, as if it were his boyfriend Laurie himself. Up until that point, he’d been fairly successful at forgetting that he’d been driven to the point of madness the night before by his lovers, who had made him beg and then refused to allow him the satisfaction he was craving. Okay, that ‘forgetting’ bit wasn’t entirely true. He’d managed to deal with the fact that he was absolutely fucking desperate for a wank, or to get off in some form or other. And then bloody Laurie sent that, just reminding him. Rubbing it in.

Al wanted to rub one off, not have things rubbed in. But Laurie, who was not ‘just’ a boyfriend but—when they both chose—his Dominant, had ordered him not to. To wait for this evening. Scowling so hard at his phone that his boss, Fenella, asked him what the matter was (“Nothing”), he sent a one-word reply.

Yes.

There was silence for an hour. Laurie was probably giving a lecture at the university about filmography or something. Probably doing it well, too—Al had been to a couple of Laurie’s lectures in the past, and he was a good speaker, and knowledgeable. Al should know, as well: he was a prominent short film-maker on a minor level, though it was not a career which allowed him to devote himself to it full-time. Hence the job in the wine shop. During the text silence from his boyfriend, therefore, Al talked to various people about wine, advising them on which bottle might suit them best, and managed to ignore the worst of his frustration. Then the phone buzzed again.

Are you hard? L.

Al seethed. Well, if he hadn’t been before, he was now. He was bloody hard and fucking desperate. Laurie knew it—he knew precisely what he was doing, damn him. Al was tempted not to answer, to just leave Laurie hanging. But on the other hand, Laurie would be in charge once he got home. Provoking him to further teasing was a seriously bad plan. Hating his boyfriend, he sent the same one-word answer.

Yes.

The ‘fuck you’ wasn’t explicitly written afterwards, but Al was pretty sure Laurie would get that too. Ruffled, he texted James. James, his other boyfriend. Laurie’s boyfriend, too.

Your boyfriend is a fucking sadist.

Al smiled apologetically at Fen, who was looking unimpressed by the amount of texting going on in work time.

“There’s no one needing serving at the moment,” he offered.

She snorted and shook her head. “I suppose you’re texting your many partners,” she said, trying to sound grumpy but not quite managing it.

As far as Fen was concerned—and it was fairly close to the truth—Al slept with pretty much anyone who offered. He certainly had sex with a lot of people, but not only did he live with James and Laurie, he was also in love with them, which made rather a lot of difference. And, he admitted grumpily, the sex was best with them. Partly because Laurie was the best Dom Al had ever come across, and the only one he’d thoroughly trust with the submissive part of himself; and partly because…well, (a) they were both bloody marvellous in bed, and (b) all right, yes, because he was in love with them and it turned out that that did make a difference, just as everyone claimed. Damn them all.

His phone buzzed again.

Needing a wank? J.

Al had the distinct temptation to smash his phone hard against the counter. James was supposed to be showing a bit of sympathy. Which that was not.

Fuck off.

He got another hour, that time. An hour in which to calm down and to think about wine, and talk sensibly to a customer about which white wine might be the optimal choice to go with a nice fish dinner (“What sort of fish?” “Dead,” said the customer, helpfully.)

It was Laurie, again, when the text came.

You’re going to have to beg. L.

Al hated how much that turned him on. How much he wanted to be on his knees to Laurie, pleading to be allowed to come. Hated the visions which were flooding his brain after reading it. Fen was giving him a peculiar look, and he excused himself to the toilet. Not to touch—he knew better than that—but to try to compose himself a bit. He could hardly serve customers with a raging hard-on, and at the moment all he could think about was sex. Fuck. Bloody, fucking Laurie. Fuck. Al pushed a hand firmly (painfully firmly) between his black jeans-clad legs, squeezed his eyes shut, and tried to think about other things. Awful things. Running out of money at the end of the month. Stepping in a deep puddle and getting a trainerful of water. Anything. Anything but the thought of Laurie making him beg. Jesus. Eventually, he knew he’d have to come out or face Fen’s wrath.

“Sorry,” he said apologetically. “Not feeling my best.”

“Hmm.” Fen’s lack of belief would have been mortifying at any other time, but at the moment, Al was too busy trying to deal with his rebellious cock.

You’re hot on your knees. J.

Al hadn’t even heard that text come in. He’d picked up the phone to check the time—to see how long it was before he could go home and persuade his boyfriends (his absolute bastard boyfriends) to allow him to get off. He’d not replied to Laurie’s last text—potentially dangerous in itself, but he was damned if he was going to plead over his phone. Bad enough that he knew bloody well he’d break down and do it in person the first second he saw Laurie; he was not going to humiliate himself in writing as well. And now James, too. James, who knew him too damn well, and knew what a text like that would do.

Thought I told you to fuck off, he wrote.

The response was quick; presumably James was home from work.

Sorry. Thought you asked me to fuck you. Or was that last night? J.

It wasn’t murder if your boyfriends had asked for it, was it? Al had a sudden memory of the previous evening, where he had indeed done as James had suggested. And James had acted like he was going to give in, and then not done so. Fucking tease.

Al gave an involuntary moan, and Fen looked at him, eyebrows raised. “Anything wrong?”

“Told you,” Al said, hoping he wasn’t blushing. “Not feeling great.”

Unexpectedly, she looked sympathetic. “You can head home early if you like?”

Oh, bloody hell, that was worst of all. Laurie and James would rip the piss out of him something chronic if they knew about this. Fen offering to send him home early because he was so ‘unwell’. He’d never live down the fact that he’d been so desperate for them that he hadn’t been able to finish a day’s work.

“No,” he said, knowing his face was definitely red, and quite probably radish-coloured. “I’m fine. Honestly.”

“Okay. Let me know if you need to leave, though, Al. Honestly, you don’t have to suffer.”

Tell that to my boyfriends, Al thought bitterly. Apparently they delighted in making him suffer.

“Thanks,” he said curtly.

Thankfully, they left him alone for his last hour at work. Al was beyond relieved: today had been more of an ordeal than he’d ever had at the wine shop. It wasn’t taxing work, and usually he enjoyed the banter with customers; but today, with the constant erection pushing at his trousers, distracting his attention, making him need things he couldn’t have…it had been horrendous. He was halfway out of the door before the final text came.

Come in, take off your clothes, and kneel by the sofa. L.

Laurie had timed it deliberately for the moment he left work. It left a strangely warm feeling in Al’s chest that Laurie knew to the minute when he would be leaving the shop; he was angry with himself for getting so much pleasure from that thought, but at the same time it was very hot. The texts, he realised, showed that he’d been on Laurie and James’s minds as much as they’d been on his. They wanted him. His cock throbbed hard at the thought.

When he got to the flat, there was no one in the sitting room. Obeying his instructions, he folded his clothes up and knelt naked by the empty sofa. Where were they? What were they doing? As Al got used to the sounds of the house, he realised that Laurie and James were in the kitchen. He could hear voices, and then the sloppy sounds of kisses. The noises got closer, and he glanced up to see that they were in the doorway between the sitting room and the kitchen, arms around each other, frotting up against one another as they kissed passionately. God, they were hot like that. And, Al realised, with frustrated fury, they knew he thought so. This was a show put on entirely for him…well, maybe not ‘entirely’—James and Laurie were shamelessly obsessed with each other at any time—but the fact that they were simulating sex somewhere he could see them and not be part of it… They were deliberately teasing him, even more than they’d been doing all day. A frustrated growl burst from his lips.

James looked over, the faintest smile tracing his lips.

“Al’s home,” he told Laurie, as if it were a surprise.

“Mm-hm?” Laurie sounded supremely uninterested, going back to touching and snogging James as if there was nothing more he wanted from life.

And Al was going to bloody die if he didn’t get any attention soon. His lovers were stripping each other’s clothes off, kissing any part of each other which they could reach as they did so. James’s mouth on Laurie’s nipple, Laurie’s head thrown back in pleasure, a hand behind James’s head, encouraging him. James’s hands busy on Laurie’s trousers as he sucked, pushing them down, exposing Laurie’s hard, heavy, large cock. They were distracted enough that they wouldn’t notice if Al just had a quick touch. He couldn’t bear it any longer. His left arm slid round from its required position behind him to take himself in hand, and he gave the tiniest hiss of relief at the sensation of fingers against his erection. Too quiet for anyone else to hear, you would have thought. Except that Laurie, with some psychic instinct, was suddenly gazing down at Al, a feral expression on his face.

“Oh, no, Al,” he said, his voice dark and measured, his hand slipping from James’s head. “That won’t do at all. Did yesterday teach you nothing about obedience?”

James turned to look at him too, and Al swore under his breath. He was so, so fucked now.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

P.A. Friday fails dismally to write one sort of thing and, when not writing erotica and erotic romance of all sexualities, may be found writing articles on the Regency period, pagan poetry, or science fiction. She loves wine and red peppers, and loathes coffee and mushrooms.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Book Blitz for Ibuki by Kathryn Sommerlot (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Ibuki

Author: Kathryn Sommerlot

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 26000

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, lesbian, fantasy, cleric/priestess, magic users, abduction, royalty

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Ibuki: the gift of healing through breath. Chiasa has possessed the ability since childhood and shares it with her father as they care for their Inuru community. Chiasa has never doubted the stability of her simple life. That is, until Namika, a water-gifted priestess, shows up outside the Ibuki shrine gates with information promising Chiasa’s doom.

With Namika’s help, Chiasa is determined to find the secrets behind the ritual that will claim her life, but her growing feelings toward the other woman reach beyond her control, adding to the confusion. Time is rapidly running out, and Chiasa can’t seem to sort out the lies woven through the magic of Inuru and its emperor.

Caught in a tangled web of immortality, betrayal, and desire, Chiasa must find the right people to trust if she hopes to stop the ritual—or she will pay the consequences.

Excerpt

Ibuki
Kathryn Sommerlot © 2018
All Rights Reserved

When Chiasa first saw the young woman standing outside the shrine, her throat seized in fear around a single thought: the emperor is dead. A moment later, she realized the woman appeared far more nervous than grief-stricken, and she relaxed, only to wonder why a seseragi priestess would be on her doorstep before the sun had fully risen.

The woman was unmistakably one of the water-chosen. Her hands were fidgeting and pressing tiny creases into the telltale blue of her silk robe, its pale folds hanging uneven above her shell-lined sandals, and above the short collar, a silver clip in the shape of an ocean wave held her hair in two overlapping plaits. She glanced down either side of the empty road, shoulders bowed, before starting up the stairs.

Chiasa hung back to observe.

It took the woman a minute or so to climb the steps that led to the small fountain, and with the shrine deserted, her footsteps echoed through the grounds. Her hair seemed to have been hastily done as an afterthought—long strands had come free and hung down her back like splatters of black ink across parchment.

She did manage a jerky half bow when she reached the slotted board holding the wooden ladle, though most of the water she then tried to pour over her hands ended up splashing onto the front of the blue silk, a testament to the shaking in her arms. Chiasa let her continue without interruption until she reached the top of the stairs and clapped her hands together before the silver bell. Any farther, and the seseragi priestess would make her way inside the sanctuary, to where the ibuki power-stone was held, and the thought was unsettling enough to push Chiasa forward.

“If I can help you with something,” Chiasa began, slipping out from her hiding spot between the side of the sanctuary and the hall of worship where she spent many hours praying in solitude.

The young woman started, nearly tripping on the hem of her robe. One hand went to her mouth as she stared far longer than was comfortable, and then she bowed again, the force of the action throwing the loose tendrils of hair over her head.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t send word, and…well, I know it’s strange for me to be here, but I must speak with an ibuki priest, please.”

Chiasa took a step back, one corner of the hall’s intersecting wall panels jabbing between her shoulders.

“My father is the head priest, but he’s not here. He’s out with the herbalist to tend the sick. If you wish, I can leave him a message for when he returns—”

“It’s urgent,” the other woman whispered. “Please.”

At a loss, Chiasa looked around the shrine grounds she knew by heart. There was no one else to summon. Her father wouldn’t be back until much later, perhaps even after midnight, and old Isao was seldom of much use anymore, relegated to menial groundskeeping tasks and selling talismans. As the morning breeze broke through the tree line and nipped at the exposed skin of her cheek, she felt acutely alone.

Chiasa tried to imagine what her father might do were he present as the young woman, still bent in an awkward bow, began to shake with the exertion of it. Chiasa, afraid she would topple over entirely, sprang forward and dropped the broom she was holding, the tool clattering noisily across the pathway.

“He’s not here,” Chiasa repeated, though she wanted to help the woman when she was in such a state. “But please don’t panic, I will not send you away. If you’d like, I could make you some tea?”

“Yes,” the woman said. Her hands went to her face, cupping cheeks that were tinged with an uneven smattering of powder. As Chiasa watched, her gaze seemed to get lost in nothing, until she finally blinked and focused once again, settling on Chiasa’s face. Again, there was something sparking in her eyes that Chiasa couldn’t entirely read. The woman lowered her hands and nodded. “Yes, I would appreciate it. I’m sorry to intrude.”

Chiasa thought briefly of disagreeing, but it felt best to avoid lying. Instead, she led the seseragi priestess into the hall of worship and through to the small back room where they kept a low, small table and supplies unrelated to the shrine itself. There was a heavy iron kettle, which was so old that one side of it was slightly lower than the other, making the whole thing lopsided. Chiasa placed it onto the small fire in the center of the room with care and waved the smoke up into the open flume built into the roof’s small, soot-blackened bricks. Her strange guest knelt at the table, smoothing her silks beneath her knees.

“I don’t know when my father will return,” Chiasa apologized as she waited for the water to bubble. The other woman deflated somewhat, her shoulders curving in and over on themselves as she ran a finger over the grain of the table.

“Is there no one else?” she asked. Then, a half second too late, her eyes snapped up, wide and frightened. “I didn’t mean… I meant no offense. I’m sure you are quite capable at the breath—”

Chiasa waved her apology away. “I’m not offended. But I am afraid there is no one else. It’s only my father, myself, and old Isao.”

“Then, your father is part of the emperor’s circle?” the woman asked. The expression on her features changed from nervous to suspicious, and Chiasa couldn’t follow the reasoning behind it. Her guest tapped her fingers against the tabletop as she pursed her lips together, and her gaze shifted away from Chiasa and the teakettle. “Perhaps it was unwise to come here. I thought there were more in the ibuki shrine.”

The kettle whistled its completion, and as she poured the fragrant hibiscus blend, Chiasa frowned, puzzled by the transformation in both the conversation and the woman’s demeanor.

“My father is not advising the emperor today,” she said, again, in case it had been missed, as she handed the other woman the small teacup of hollowed bone. Her guest held the cup between her fingers, but didn’t sip from it. Her gaze seemed lost again, her eyes focused on something far beyond the table and the crackling fire pit, in a place Chiasa could neither see nor touch.

After quite some time, the woman raised her head once more. “My name is Namika. I suppose with your father too close to the source I should not have asked for him at all. You are the youngest within the shrine?”

“Yes,” Chiasa answered, though she regretted doing so in the next heartbeat when the oddness of the question fully registered.

Namika’s brow furrowed as her fingers knit together around the bone cup. “Then I must tell you of my discovery.”

“Discovery?” Chiasa repeated.

“I’m afraid it’s not good news,” Namika said and grimaced. “I was tasked with sorting through our cellar, where many of the old texts and records are kept. The majority of them are simply logs of visitors to the shrine and the actions our priests performed at the emperor’s command. But within the piles, I discovered what seemed to be a set of entries detailing the truth behind the emperor’s longevity.”

“The gods have seen fit to bless him with immortality,” Chiasa said, but she felt suddenly very cold, crossing her arms over her chest and running her hands over her sleeves. The small room seemed to constrict even further around them, squeezing the air from Chiasa’s lungs until she was gasping for it. They should not even be discussing the emperor. They were far too young and unimportant to think they had more wisdom than a man who had been ruling Inuru for nearly three hundred years, and despite their solitude within the shrine, Chiasa got the distinct feeling someone, somewhere, could hear them. The sensation sent toe-curling shivers down her back.

“No,” Namika said. She leaned forward, like she, too, was reacting to the sudden chill permeating the air. “It’s unnatural, his lifespan— He is stealing it, all of it; he is stealing his life.”

“That’s impossible,” Chiasa snapped. “No magic could grant a mortal so much time.”

Namika shook her head and set the cup of tea down, still just as full as when Chiasa had handed it to her. “He is stealing it through blood. He’s drinking blood to absorb the life within it and add it to his own.”

Chiasa stood so suddenly that the table shook, splashing tea across the surface. The scent of steeped flowers and herbs grew even stronger.

“You’re lying,” she said through clenched teeth, hands curled into fists at her side. The flash of indignation that flared up beneath her skin came from a source she couldn’t identify, but she knew from years of practiced obedience that it was necessary. “My father is on the emperor’s circle, and he would never allow such a thing, even if it were possible.”

“But that is why I had to come!” Namika exclaimed. “It’s written in the documents, by the seseragi high priest himself. I swear to you I did not come here with a lie!”

Chiasa wove her hands through her hair, tugging bits of it free from the tortoiseshell clasp holding the twist snug at the nape of her neck. Her father couldn’t possibly be implicated in such a monstrosity—and beyond that, the insult to the emperor weighed like a stone within her gut. The emperor protected them all. The emperor loved them all.

“It’s impossible,” Chiasa said, letting her hands fall back down to her sides. “What blood could possibly grant such—”

“Those with the breath!” Namika cried out and then sat back on her heels, cheeks flushed and pink. As Chiasa stared at her across the table, the unwanted and uninvited woman with the poison-tipped tongue of lies inhaled deeply and then pushed the air back out, slowly, through red lips.

“He is drinking your order,” she said. Her voice was far quieter, filled with something that sounded an awful lot like sympathy. “He is drinking the blood of ibuki priests.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Kathryn Sommerlot is a coffee addict and craft beer enthusiast with a detailed zombie apocalypse plan. Originally from the cornfields of the American Midwest, she got her master’s degree and moved across the ocean to become a high school teacher in Japan. When she isn’t wrangling teenage brains into critical thinking, she spends her time writing, crocheting, and hiking with her husband. She enjoys LGBTQ fiction, but she is particularly interested in genre fiction that just happens to have LGBTQ protagonists. You can find Kathryn on her Website.

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2

New Release Blitz for Sweethearts by Gemma Gilmore (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

Title:  Sweethearts

Author: Gemma Gilmore

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 29, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 62600

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, YA, high school, friends to lovers, alcohol use, visual arts, coming out, teen pregnancy, coming of age, slow burn

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

When seventeen-year-old Ingrid Harper realizes she may not have the talent to pursue a scholarship for the most prestigious art school in Australia, she turns to pink hair dye as a distraction.

Her new hair captures the attention of a fellow art student, Kat, who introduces Ingrid to the LGBT clubbing scene, and although Ingrid enjoys partying with her new friend, she becomes caught up in confusion about her sexuality. Her fear is overwhelming—she can’t think about anything else.

Until her best friend, Summer, reveals that she is pregnant.

As her best friend faces the realities of being pregnant at seventeen, Ingrid is shown the true definition of courage. It motivates her to come out about her sexuality—she likes girls. Only girls. Now she just has to work out what that means for the other areas of her life.

Excerpt

Sweethearts
Gemma Gilmore © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
I am desperately trying not to attract attention.

My arms are folded across my chest. My chin is tucked into my neck. I am leaning against the brick wall as I watch her sing. It takes every ounce of strength I have to keep my face still, hiding any expression that bubbles to the surface. Any reaction I have to her lilting voice is shoved down, adding to the pit in my stomach.

The younger students are sitting respectfully in their seats. They are still too naive to question the teachers when they are told they must be present. I know better than to think that this school performance is anything special to Amber Freeman. She’s been singing since before she could walk, and although I am always the first viewer, her YouTube videos are gaining more and more popularity with every upload. This is just practice to her. A warm-up.

The spotlights are trained on her, and she throws her hands up whilst the climax of the song cascades from her talented lips. I let my eyes flicker shut and Amber’s voice surrounds me, caressing my ears as she sings deeply. Her voice is crashing through me, tingling across the skin on my arms and seeping through my body, calming me.

My head has fallen back against the wall, and I remain frozen there as I listen to her sing. In this moment, nothing else matters. With my eyes closed, she’s right next to me. Singing softly, untying the knot that’s sunken deep into that pit in the bottom of my stomach.

“Ingrid? What the hell are you doing?” The voice that hisses right next to my ear jerks me out of my daydream.

I jump with shock and wrench my eyes open, tearing myself away from the peaceful moment. In front of me, my best friend Summer stands, her arms folded across her chest and her eyes wide in that you are busted expression.

“Jesus,” I mutter. “I thought you had better things to do than sneak up on people. Way to give me a heart attack.”

“I thought you had better things to do than stand here creepily at the back of the gym listening to Amber sing,” Summer challenges me, an amused smile dancing across her full lips.

“You snuck up on me and you’re calling me the creep?” I snort. “Come on, let’s get out of here.”

The quicker I can get Summer outside of this gym, the quicker I can shove away the fact that she caught me watching Amber’s performance. We duck behind the last row of seating and out of the door in the corner of the room, swiftly ignoring the Emergency Exit Only sign. We’ve done this so many times now that it’s like second nature.

Outside, the rain lashes against the building. The wind howls so loudly that I’m surprised no one noticed our little escape from the gymnasium—then again, they never do. For Summer, there’s more to life than just sitting in a desk at school. Any chance my best friend has to escape the mundane restrictions of life is an opportunity she must take. She’s never been the kind of girl to follow the traditional paths.

Then again, neither have I.

My thoughts still spin as we duck through the car park and head out to the tin shed at the back of the school. Summer knew exactly where to find me during Amber’s performance. She knows that I watch Amber. While everyone else in our grade snuck off to make out in abandoned classrooms or smoke cigarettes behind the main building, I followed the crowd into the gymnasium with one intention.

Why did I need to watch her?

“I had a headache and the gym was dark.” I shrug off Summer’s curious stare as we take shelter under the tin roof. The rain really lashes down now, bouncing off the pavement and whipping through the trees. “It was better than watching you make out with Jackson for an hour straight.”

My snide comment is low but, right now, I’ll do anything to take the attention away from me.

“You had a headache, so you decided to listen to Amber sing?” Summer rolls her eyes at me. “Makes sense.”

She fidgets with her oversized tartan scarf, staring out into the rain. Maybe I’m not the only one who is trying to avoid things today.

“You were in there too,” I argue half-heartedly. “What’s your obsession with her?”

This time, Summer does turn to me. “I’m obsessed?” She snorts. “Ingrid, honey, if I’m obsessed, then you’re deranged.”

“Then I’m deranged.”

Summer rolls her eyes, signalling the end of that particular conversation. “Whatever. Your deeply disturbing issues are the least of my problems right now. Look, Ingrid, I think I’m going to have to take a test.”

Red splotches gleam against Summer’s pale cheeks, and I watch her carefully. She tugs on that scarf like it’s strangling her.

“Like an STD test?”

“Are you stupid?” I know her voice is harsher than intended, and I brush it off with a blunt laugh. “A pregnancy test.”

“Oh, for god’s sake, here we go again. You and Jackson really need to invest in some efficient birth control because this I’m pregnant freak-out that you have every month is getting boring.”

“Trust me, I know.” Her tone is suddenly tense, and she blinks back emotion. “But right now, I’m pretty sure I have the devil’s spawn growing inside of me, so I’m allowed to freak out. I’m two weeks late.”

I raise my eyebrows. She’s never been this late before. “Jackson is not the devil’s spawn. You know he loves you. But I highly doubt you’re pregnant. It’s all the stress from thinking you’re pregnant every month starting to get to you.”

“Yeah, okay, whatever.” She says, throwing her hands up in defeat. “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything. I don’t know what you’re moping about—we got a free class and you got to watch Amber singing. It’s a damn good day for Ingrid Harper right now.”

“Listen, I really did just have a headache. I don’t care about Amber’s singing. And you and Jackson were quite obviously distracted. You didn’t seem to have pregnancy on your mind during that public make-out session. Or maybe you did. Either way, I think it’s a damn good day for both of us, don’t you think?”

I know what Summer is doing. She is the ultimate denier of reality. More than that, she is aware that I will follow along with every topic change she throws at me. I get distracted easily, apparently.

Summer laughs, but the smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes. Distraction is inevitable right now, for both of us. These are not issues we should be faced with at seventeen years old. Summer’s mother is getting married soon, so that’s just one more thing to top off what I’m coining Summer’s Distressing Summer.

We stand silently as the rain pours over the sides of the flimsy tin roof. Muddy water pools right to the edges of the door. It’s mid-December. While politicians are throwing around the term climate change like it’s currency, I stare at the pools of water near this emergency exit, wondering if our town has sufficient flood safety plans.

“Come over tonight,” she murmurs. “Please, Ingrid.”

“You’re buying me McDonald’s.” I sigh in return. The truth is, I have my own things to worry about, whether Summer is pregnant or not. She’s been with Jackson for three years—that’s three years they have successfully been together and prevented pregnancy. It’s not a possibility. It just isn’t.

Summer is wild, just like her name. Her light-brown hair is constantly tangled, but her dominating blue eyes seem to distract everyone.

But today, she stares out at the grey sky and nervously chews at her lip, clutching that damn scarf so tightly that I know she’s already certain about this pregnancy. More so than I’ve ever seen before. Her blue eyes don’t seem so bright today.

“I heard Jackson was thinking about transferring to the art school. I didn’t think that boy had an artistic bone in his body.” I smirk, desperately trying to relax Summer. I don’t know what to say when she’s so shut off like this. My lie is smooth, slipping off my lips easily.

“Yeah, he does comics. I don’t know, I guess they’re funny.”

“It’s our last year of high school. Surely he’s left it a bit late?” I frown in earnest now.

What Summer doesn’t know is that I’ve known Jackson a lot longer than she has. I know that he’s been wanting to do art since he started high school, but his military-driven father would never allow it—he’s all about physical education, mathematics, and science. He used to drill that into Jackson every time I was around; none of this fairy fluff nonsense, he would say pointedly.

“Look, Ingrid, I don’t really want to talk about Jackson right now,” Summer snaps, finally releasing the titan grip on her checked scarf and running a frustrated hand through her frizzy hair.

“Do you even want me to stay tonight then?” I throw back. “I can’t deal with you when you’re being like this. Either let me in or let me go. I’ve got shit to do.”

To my complete surprise, Summer snorts as she turns to face me. “Just shut up and come and sleep over at my house. I need your brutal honesty, but I also need you to do literally everything I say right now. You know I’d do the same for you.”

I don’t bother telling her that to be in her position, I’d actually have to get closer than two feet to a guy, but I think she already knows that.

“Look, I don’t like that you called Jackson the devil before. I don’t care if he’s annoying sometimes, if you are…pregnant…it’s definitely not the devil’s spawn that could be growing inside of you. And that’s all I’m going to say about that,” I huff.

“Okay, I didn’t know you were Jackson’s number-one cheerleader, but whatever.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Gemma Gilmore is graduated from university with a degree in Journalism and a passion for writing and travelling. In 2016 she was awarded a highly competitive residency with the Tasmanian Writers Centre. When she’s not writing YA fiction, she’s spontaneously booking trips across the world so she can draw inspiration from new cultures and places.

Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

 

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Blog Button 2