A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: One-Eyed Royals (Seven of Spades #4) by Cordelia Kingsbridge

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Rating: 5 stars out of 5

OMG! Get ready for an exciting roller coaster ride, right from the beginning!  Every page held drama. Every. Single. Page. I am so excited by this series—it’s incredible.  I want everyone to read it so I can chat with them about all the emotional twists and turns, ups and downs, and the heartwarming and gut-wrenching action that takes place between these pages.  It’s incredible that the author can continually best the previous book in the series and hold my attention for the length of the book.  I never, repeat NEVER, sit still to read an entire book, but here, except for a few hours of sleep, I did not put this one down.

Where to start?  Well, if you read the previous books you know the strain Dominic and Levi are under—not just from the Seven of Spades who continues to F up their lives, but also with each other. Have no fear though—just because they aren’t together, they manage to find their way to bed a few times and survive the morning-after guilt. 

There’s two concurrent plots going in this one: a kidnapping/extortion ring who murder one of their victims and the Seven of Spades exacting revenge, on behalf of Levi, on the four men who beat him senseless in a gay-bashing when he was in college. They were never IDed, never caught, but Seven finds them and offers them to Levi one by one as a birthday gift.  Oh, joy. 

Those kidnappers, meanwhile, are continuing to kidnap and when payment isn’t made quickly, they gouge out the eye of their victim and send it to the family. The author isn’t satisfied with getting Levi’s and Dominic’s paths to cross multiple times during this investigation, she adds to the drama by having someone close to them kidnapped.  Not saying who, ’cause spoilers…  And then, of course, Dom’s losing his possessions left and right to pay his outstanding gambling debts and to have seed money for more.  Levi’s losing too. He’s losing his temper, losing his appetite, and ultimately losing his job.  There’s so much packed into these pages that’s it’s impossible to even highlight all of it. It just doesn’t stop. Not for a minute. Skip a page and you’ve missed another plot twist.  I love this story, did I mention that?  Love it! 

Don’t despair, however. If you love these guys, hang in for the ending. It’s a pip and thankfully not as much of a cliffhanger as the last one. But, let’s face it, with one more book to go, there’s no way I’d miss a chance to read it, no matter how this one ended. 

Honestly, if you are looking for high quality action adventure, a mystery that spans a five book series—who is the Seven of Spades?—romance, hot sex, addiction and recovery, anger management, murder, mayhem and more, this is the book—and series—to pick up.

The cover by Garrett Leigh, like others in the series, features playing cards, in this case, the cards are set against a dark background and blood is dripping from them onto the floor. 

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 366 pages
Published September 10th 2018 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN139781626496392
Edition LanguageEnglish
Series Seven of Spades :

Kill Game

Trick Roller

Cash Plays

One-Eyed Royals

A Chip and a Chair – coming soon the last book in the series.

New Release Blitz for Deadly Dorian (Ward Security Series #3) by Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Deadly Dorian

Series: Ward Security Series #3

Author: Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

Publisher: Drake and Elliott Publishing LLC

Release Date: April 13, 2018

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 87K

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

Someone is trying to kill Marc Foster.

Attempted poisoning was bad enough, but when the would-be killer messes with the brakes on Marc’s precious Porsche, the art dealer admits he needs help. He just wasn’t expecting help to be quite so dark and sexy.

Royce Karras loves his job at Ward Security. He’s making up for a lifetime of bad decisions and a bloody past he’d rather forget. But Marc isn’t the spoiled rich boy he thought he’d be protecting. Sticking close to Marc as his “boyfriend” gives Royce insight into his toxic family, but it also reveals a brilliant, compassionate man who completely disarms Royce. Against his better judgment, Royce finds himself falling.

But can they find a way to make it work when Royce’s past threatens to tear their lives apart? Their future hinges on a lost Renaissance painting, six Bichon Frises, and a pornographic Robin Hood.

No worries, right?

Excerpt

Marc Foster rose from one of the outdoor couches and came toward him with his right hand out. There was no missing how he shifted his left hand slightly behind his body, but Royce already caught sight of what looked like a bandage. He stood taller than Royce by several inches, his shoulders broad, his body slim. He wore a fashionable suit that probably cost more than a month of Royce’s salary.

But his damn face—that was going to be a problem.

He had the most fascinating combination of features Royce had ever seen. Sharp was the first description that came to mind. He had thick, black, slanting eyebrows over piercing, blue eyes, bladed cheekbones and chin—all of it coming together to form a stunning, intense face that was completely belied by the softest-looking, fullest lips he’d ever seen. The dichotomy of severe and overly sensual startled, sending a punch of surprising lust into Royce’s gut. Marc wore his dark brown hair long on top, and it looked like he’d been running his hands through it, because it curled back off his face in soft waves with one strand falling over his eye.

It was the perfect length for gripping.

“Royce Karras?”

“Yes.” He wanted to say more, but he felt momentarily tongue-tied and shocked. Rich playboys were far from the kind of men he usually liked to get rowdy with, so his gut reaction to this one made him feel off. He’d never been much of a talker, though. He hoped the man didn’t want a chatterbox for a pretend boyfriend.

The smile that stretched those full lips revealed teeth that went along with the program: sharp and flawlessly white. But the smile softened his features, making him seem more welcoming.

And…somewhat devastating. Royce would have no trouble pretending to be attracted to this man.

Marc nodded then, his gaze running down Royce’s body.

Royce wondered what he thought as he took in his black vest over the white button-down shirt tucked into dark jeans. Black motorcycle boots completed the look. He’d also rolled up his sleeves, leaving the tattoos on his left arm in plain sight. He’d trimmed his black beard close to his chin. Normally, he wore the company’s polo or T-shirts on jobs, but Andrei had asked him to “hot it up” a little so he’d appeal to a rich playboy.

He watched that rich playboy now as he eyed him, then turned back to Quinn. Royce followed his gaze to find his coworker standing silently, watching them with a funny smile on his face.

“He will work,” Marc said in a no-nonsense tone. “My acquaintances won’t question me wanting him.”

That particular word choice sent a blast of heat to Royce’s groin, and he ruthlessly ignored it. But the image that had surged into his mind had been this gorgeous, haughty man kneeling before him, and that was harder to push aside. He’d look so pretty like that, his head back, mouth open, waiting on instruction.

Royce knew, without a doubt, that he could have this man on his knees, that he could easily overpower him despite his taller form. If there was one thing that always played out in Royce’s favor, it was the steely strength he carried in his compact body. It had been the reason he’d been a very successful shylock for a bloodthirsty bookie in Virginia. He came with the element of surprise—always underestimated, always triumphant in a fight. He didn’t have the special martial arts training of a lot of his coworkers, but that didn’t matter. There was something to be said for sheer determination.

“You aren’t going to question if he’s big enough to fight someone off for you?” Quinn asked. “He gets that a lot.”

Marc smirked and brought those astute blue eyes back to him. “I have absolutely no doubt this man can protect me. Anyone paying close enough attention would see that he could easily take them down.”

Royce hoped the lust coating his last three words was only in his own imagination. A quick glance at Quinn told him it was not. And the IT guy was finding this situation highly amusing as he lifted one eyebrow behind his black-framed glasses.

Purchase

Drake and Elliott Publishing LLC | Amazon

Meet the Author

Who are Drake & Elliott?

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

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Robert Winter on A Virtual Tour of Locations in ‘Every Breath You Take’, his latest novel (guest post and giveaway)

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Every Breath You Take by Robert Winter
Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Release Date: May 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male
Length: 221 pages
Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Robert Winter here today. Robert is going to give us a tour of the locations in his novel, Every Breath You Take.  Welcome, Robert!

✒︎

A Virtual Tour of Locations in Every Breath You Take by Robert Winter

Every Breath You Take is set in Washington, DC, where I have lived for more than 25 years (with a few breaks to live in New York). The city has grown and changed tremendously in that time. When I moved here in 1990, the population was on the decline as people fled to the suburbs in Virginia and Maryland. Most recently, census figures from 2016 show Washington’s population has reached a 40-year high.

That growth shows itself everywhere in new construction and in lots of traffic, but in some ways Washington retains its charm. There are lots of pretty bicycle trails, for example, such as this one that connects DC to Maryland.

There are also moments when you see a famous building, like the Capitol or the Washington Monument, and realize what a beautiful city DC really is.

In Every Breath You Take, Zachary Hall works for the Treasury Department. Although no scenes take place in his office, I’ve always thought Treasury has one of the more attractive buildings.

When Thomas Scarborough picks up Zachary at a bar, he brings him back to his condo. I let Thomas live in a swank development called CityCentreDC, which houses several high-end fashion stores, great restaurants, and condos with great views. Thomas lives on the top floor, of course.

On a memorable Sunday, Zachary visits the National Gallery of Art with Thomas and another character, Randy Vaughan.  Before he meets them inside, he sits for a while near a fountain. In the story, it had not yet been turned on, but I’m including a picture of the working fountain and its accompanying display of azaleas.

While he wanders on the Mall, Zachary also spots a building called the Newseum. Not only is this place a museum related to the freedom of the press and the other rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, but it also houses some famous relics including a piece of the Berlin Wall and an antenna from the World Trade Center.

It develops in the story that Zachary begins dating a man named Sam who has an apartment in an attached building called the Newseum Residence (to the left in the picture above). Sam lives on the top floor. I’m not saying anything more, but after you read Every Breath You Take you might want to take another look at that top balcony!

The last stop on our virtual tour is one that I didn’t use in the book, but that any lover of mysteries and intrigue might particularly enjoy – the International Spy Museum. My favorite feature is a collection of tools of the spy trade, including a tube of lipstick that converts into a derringer. I’ll have to find a way to use something like that in a future story, maybe one about a drag queen spy…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the DC in which Zachary and Thomas find love and danger. If you know DC and I’ve missed one of your favorites, please tell us about it in the comments! You can find out more about my experiences in DC at my website.

Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

Across the street the man with the silver-framed glasses stood back in the shadows and stared at the front window of the garden apartment. He could see the back of his quarry’s head as he watched a small flat-screen TV.

Time passed.

Eventually the head nodded forward and then jerked up. When it happened a second time, the creature turned off the TV and then the lamp and headed to bed.

The man waited for another half hour with his back pressed against an alcove formed where two brownstones met. The street was quiet. Almost no one walked by, and the lone person who came down the street failed to notice him in the shadows.

The man felt his breath grow hoarse, and blood rushed in his ears as his heart began to pound. He cultivated that sensation as he reached into his coat pocket for the screwdriver that rested there and made himself imagine the creature’s hands touching the Beloved’s face. Stroking his body. He curled his fingers around the screwdriver and then clenched and unclenched rhythmically. Its thick handle felt rough against his palm because of the grooves and sharp edges he had chiseled into it. He had ideas for other implements that would serve his purpose, but for now, this would do just fine. This would make his point.

His throat was dry, and his eyes burned from focusing on the darkened window, but he felt invincible. The tension in his body climbed exquisitely, and when he could take no more, he slipped across the street and stepped down to the locked gate. It opened easily with his small set of picks. The gate made no noise when the creature went through it earlier, so he was confident and quick and didn’t bother to lock it behind him. Child’s play, he thought as he worked the lock on the apartment door.

The tumblers clicked into place.

He stored his lockpicks, slipped inside the darkened apartment, and then closed the door behind him as silently as he could. Streetlight came through the slatted blinds the boy had failed to close completely. He waited quietly until he heard a faint snore from the back and then removed his glasses and tucked them in an inside pocket of his jacket. The scarf his quarry had been wearing caught his eye, and the man bared his teeth as he lifted it off the coat tree and tugged it tightly between his hands. It was well made. It would hold. He smiled.

He slid through the gloom toward the room where the creature lay sleeping. He was hard, and the blood in his erection pulsed in time to the pounding of his heart. That boy had dared to touch his Beloved. He had probably even been fucked by him. But that wasn’t enough—oh no. He came back for more.

It had taken the man so long to find his Beloved and interpret his subtle clues. He finally understood what was required of him. The undeserving gnat must be chastised, and he would be the Beloved’s angel of retribution. He was conscious of the weight of the screwdriver in his pocket, the scratch of the wool scarf in his hands, and the power in his arms.

He reached for the boy on the bed.

Meet the Author

Robert Winter is a recovering lawyer who likes writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants.

Robert divides his time between Washington, DC, and Provincetown, MA. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | 
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May 8 – Stories That Make You Smile | Books, Dreams, Life
May 9 – two chicks obsessed Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews
May 10 – Oh My Shelves | Butterfly-o-Meter Books
May 11 – Bayou Book Junkie | Boy Meets Boy Reviews
May 12 – Urban Smoothie Read | Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

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In Our Contemporary Spotlight: Every Breath You Take by Robert Winter (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Every Breath You Take

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: May 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 221 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

Across the street the man with the silver-framed glasses stood back in the shadows and stared at the front window of the garden apartment. He could see the back of his quarry’s head as he watched a small flat-screen TV.

Time passed.

Eventually the head nodded forward and then jerked up. When it happened a second time, the creature turned off the TV and then the lamp and headed to bed.

The man waited for another half hour with his back pressed against an alcove formed where two brownstones met. The street was quiet. Almost no one walked by, and the lone person who came down the street failed to notice him in the shadows.

The man felt his breath grow hoarse, and blood rushed in his ears as his heart began to pound. He cultivated that sensation as he reached into his coat pocket for the screwdriver that rested there and made himself imagine the creature’s hands touching the Beloved’s face. Stroking his body. He curled his fingers around the screwdriver and then clenched and unclenched rhythmically. Its thick handle felt rough against his palm because of the grooves and sharp edges he had chiseled into it. He had ideas for other implements that would serve his purpose, but for now, this would do just fine. This would make his point.

His throat was dry, and his eyes burned from focusing on the darkened window, but he felt invincible. The tension in his body climbed exquisitely, and when he could take no more, he slipped across the street and stepped down to the locked gate. It opened easily with his small set of picks. The gate made no noise when the creature went through it earlier, so he was confident and quick and didn’t bother to lock it behind him. Child’s play, he thought as he worked the lock on the apartment door.

The tumblers clicked into place.

He stored his lockpicks, slipped inside the darkened apartment, and then closed the door behind him as silently as he could. Streetlight came through the slatted blinds the boy had failed to close completely. He waited quietly until he heard a faint snore from the back and then removed his glasses and tucked them in an inside pocket of his jacket. The scarf his quarry had been wearing caught his eye, and the man bared his teeth as he lifted it off the coat tree and tugged it tightly between his hands. It was well made. It would hold. He smiled.

He slid through the gloom toward the room where the creature lay sleeping. He was hard, and the blood in his erection pulsed in time to the pounding of his heart. That boy had dared to touch his Beloved. He had probably even been fucked by him. But that wasn’t enough—oh no. He came back for more.

It had taken the man so long to find his Beloved and interpret his subtle clues. He finally understood what was required of him. The undeserving gnat must be chastised, and he would be the Beloved’s angel of retribution. He was conscious of the weight of the screwdriver in his pocket, the scratch of the wool scarf in his hands, and the power in his arms.

He reached for the boy on the bed.

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Robert Winter is a recovering lawyer who likes writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants.

Robert divides his time between Washington, DC, and Provincetown, MA. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

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Books, Dreams, Life
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A Caryn Release Day Review: Every Breath You Take by Robert Winter

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Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

One sexy, wealthy player with a painful past.

One idealistic newcomer with an untapped dominant streak.

One psychopathic killer.

Thrillers as a genre, especially with serial killers, are not something I usually go for, but I couldn’t resist the chance to review Robert Winter’s second book after being so impressed with his debut book, September.

Sooooo worth it.

Thomas Scarborough seemingly has it all.  Stunning face, body to die for, successful and influential career doing what he loves, intelligence, and wealth.  He’s an incredible lover, with a different man every week, but never with the same man twice.  He tells himself that it’s enough, that casual sex is better than a relationship, and the most he hopes for is gaining a friend when the hook up is over.  He’s been not just hurt, but utterly traumatized by events in his past, and doesn’t trust himself or anyone else to get close.

Zachary Hall has just landed his dream job in the U.S. Treasury, and moved from conservative, suburban Utah to Washington D.C.  He’s been closeted his entire life, and is looking forward to recreating himself as an openly gay man enjoying a thriving gay community.  He’s a little shy, a little inexperienced, but open hearted and enthusiastic.  When he walked into the piano bar Mata Hari, he had that classic moment of locking eyes with the most handsome man he’s ever seen across the crowded room.  It’s not his usual thing, but a few hours later he went home with Thomas, and connected with him not just sexually, but emotionally, in a more powerful way than he ever experienced before.  Thomas felt it too, but still told Zach it was one and done.

And all through the night, the killer watched the apartment, and Zachary, and Thomas.

The killer was really creepy.  In an over-the-top, brutally violent, Silence of the Lambs kind of way, with just a little bit of Gollum thrown in.  He’s obsessed, resourceful, and ruthless, and just waiting for the right moment to reach out and take his treasure.

Both MCs really grew throughout the story – Thomas started out closed off and wary, but was eventually able to find the courage to not only confront, but defeat his demons.  Zachary may have seemed innocent and naive, but found a surprising depth of strength and confidence in himself.  Although I took a while to warm up to Thomas – the author did a great job of portraying him as an asshole who is eventually redeemed – I was rooting for Zachary from the start.  The entire cast of secondary characters was engaging and moved the story forward.  The settings, especially the piano bar with it’s regulars, created the perfect framework to really build the characters.  Although there was really no mystery about the killer’s identity, I loved the suspense of wondering how and when he would strike.  The juxtaposition of the killer’s stalking and escalating madness with the growing friendship and attraction between Thomas and Zachary was really skillfully written, and kept me biting my nails right up until the end.  And of course, kudos to the author for choosing the ultimate in stalker songs as the title of the book!

The only reason I couldn’t give the book 5 stars is because the dialogue was frequently stilted, and during sex scenes was at times downright cringeworthy.  I hope that will be something that improves in Mr. Winters future works, but regardless, he’s on my auto-buy list now.  Highly recommended!

The cover art by Catt Ford is OK, I have to admit I had hoped for something a little more dramatic.

Sales Links

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Book Details:

ebook, 240 pages
Expected publication: May 5th 2017 by Dreamspinner Press
ISBN 1635334969 (ISBN13: 9781635334968)
Edition LanguageEnglish
settingWashington, D.C. (United States)

Love Suspense and Romance? Check Out ‘Every Breath You Take’ by Robert Winter (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Every Breath You Take

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher:  Dreamspinner Press

Release Date: May 5, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 221 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

Across the street the man with the silver-framed glasses stood back in the shadows and stared at the front window of the garden apartment. He could see the back of his quarry’s head as he watched a small flat-screen TV.

Time passed.

Eventually the head nodded forward and then jerked up. When it happened a second time, the creature turned off the TV and then the lamp and headed to bed.

The man waited for another half hour with his back pressed against an alcove formed where two brownstones met. The street was quiet. Almost no one walked by, and the lone person who came down the street failed to notice him in the shadows.

The man felt his breath grow hoarse, and blood rushed in his ears as his heart began to pound. He cultivated that sensation as he reached into his coat pocket for the screwdriver that rested there and made himself imagine the creature’s hands touching the Beloved’s face. Stroking his body. He curled his fingers around the screwdriver and then clenched and unclenched rhythmically. Its thick handle felt rough against his palm because of the grooves and sharp edges he had chiseled into it. He had ideas for other implements that would serve his purpose, but for now, this would do just fine. This would make his point.

His throat was dry, and his eyes burned from focusing on the darkened window, but he felt invincible. The tension in his body climbed exquisitely, and when he could take no more, he slipped across the street and stepped down to the locked gate. It opened easily with his small set of picks. The gate made no noise when the creature went through it earlier, so he was confident and quick and didn’t bother to lock it behind him. Child’s play, he thought as he worked the lock on the apartment door.

The tumblers clicked into place.

He stored his lockpicks, slipped inside the darkened apartment, and then closed the door behind him as silently as he could. Streetlight came through the slatted blinds the boy had failed to close completely. He waited quietly until he heard a faint snore from the back and then removed his glasses and tucked them in an inside pocket of his jacket. The scarf his quarry had been wearing caught his eye, and the man bared his teeth as he lifted it off the coat tree and tugged it tightly between his hands. It was well made. It would hold. He smiled.

He slid through the gloom toward the room where the creature lay sleeping. He was hard, and the blood in his erection pulsed in time to the pounding of his heart. That boy had dared to touch his Beloved. He had probably even been fucked by him. But that wasn’t enough—oh no. He came back for more.

It had taken the man so long to find his Beloved and interpret his subtle clues. He finally understood what was required of him. The undeserving gnat must be chastised, and he would be the Beloved’s angel of retribution. He was conscious of the weight of the screwdriver in his pocket, the scratch of the wool scarf in his hands, and the power in his arms.

He reached for the boy on the bed.

Purchase

Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Meet the Author

Robert Winter is a recovering lawyer who likes writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants.

Robert divides his time between Washington, DC, and Provincetown, MA. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter |
Goodreads
eMail

Blitz Schedule

Hoards Jumble
Bayou Book Junkie
Happily Ever Chapter
Babbling About Books and More
Books, Dreams, Life
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words
Dawn’s Reading Nook
DirtyBooksObsession
It’s About The Book
Booklover Sue
Out Of My Head

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Release Day Blitz: Enemy Within by Tal Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Enemy Within

Series: The Executive Office, Book 3

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: 3/28/2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 176K

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.

When everything falls apart, who do you trust?

President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.

Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.

Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.

As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.

Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?

Excerpt

The sounds of the convoy coming alive in the frosty morning started clattering through their patch of snowy forest. Grumbled Russian, slamming doors and squeaky metal hinges, the crackle of logs in a fire, and the clang of pots and pans that Vasily insisted on bringing from Volga.

Jack nuzzled at Ethan’s neck, and the roughness of his beard, grown thick in the five days they’d been on the road, scratched over Ethan’s skin just before Jack dropped a kiss beneath his jaw. “Morning, love.”

Ethan smiled down at him, de-cocked his pistol, and slid it into his hip holster beneath their blankets. He wrapped both arms around Jack as Jack turned and faced him. “How are you? Are you warm enough?” As Ethan spoke, his breath clouded the air between them.

“I’m good.” Jack peeled off his gloves beneath the blankets and snaked his warm hands up under Ethan’s jacket and sweater. His gentle, searching fingers found the long line of ragged stitches in Ethan’s side.

Ethan flinched.

“Sorry. You know we need to check them.” Carefully, Jack felt around the stitches, testing the skin, and then rested his palm over the top of the mostly-healed wound. “No heat. No swelling. No pus. No infection.” He smiled. “You had me worried after yesterday.”

Ethan ducked his head, his cheeks warming. While rummaging through an abandoned barn, he’d walked right through a rotted-out baseboard and fallen into a cellar, into the rough, loose earth. Not his finest moment. They’d wrangled some supplies, but he’d come away filthy and bruised, his ego smarting. Jack’s worried eyes and his gentle ministrations after they’d stopped for the night had helped sooth the ache.

Jack’s gaze darted over Ethan’s face, searching. He frowned. “Did you get any sleep?”

“Some.”

“Liar.” Arching an eyebrow, Jack sat back but kept his hands under Ethan’s clothes and on his skin. “You should let me watch over you at night, too.”

“I’d rather do it. I have you close to me.” He patted his hip and his holstered weapon. “I have constant protection on you all night long. There’s no way anyone can get to you. Not without going through me.”

“Literally.” Jack smiled, but it faded fast. “I’ll drive during the day again. Rest, and let me watch over you.” He squeezed Ethan’s hip as if to emphasize his point.

Ethan nodded, and the corners of his lips quirked up. This was new, this give and take of caretaking and watching out for each other. In DC, at the White House, there had been their jobs and their duties and the world to react to. They took care of slights and wounds inflicted by the press, their suits and ties a kind of armor against the world. Out in the wilderness, in the forest, they’d fallen into a different kind of caretaking. A sharing of two lives, each supporting the other’s existence. It was primal, in a way, how they had fused together. Half of his life was in Jack’s hands, and instead of feeling vulnerable, it was the most natural feeling in the world. “Deal.” Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to Jack’s lips.

A question hovered in the forefront of Ethan’s mind, weighing on his thoughts. Every morning, he felt the weight of his secret resting over his heart: two rings, made before the world fell apart around them. Some moments, asking Jack was on the tip of his tongue, ready to tumble from his lips with his next breath. He forced himself to swallow the words. Not yet. It wasn’t the right time. Not yet.

Jack leaned into Ethan, and his hands wound around Ethan’s back beneath his sweater. “At some point, we won’t be sleeping in this jeep anymore,” he whispered into their kiss. “We’ll have room to stretch out… share a sleeping bag…”

Smiling, Ethan pulled off his gloves and brought his hands up to Jack’s face, his thumbs caressing Jack’s cheeks. “We don’t need a sleeping bag…” One hand snaked around Jack’s neck, and the other dropped to his hip.

In a flash, he flipped Jack, laying him on his back across the bench seat. Jack wrapped his legs around Ethan’s waist as Ethan slid his hands through Jack’s blond strands.

Jack grabbed his shoulders and pulled Ethan closer, his legs tightening and holding Ethan in place. He captured Ethan’s lips, kissing greedily as his hips rocked upward. Even through the layers they wore, Ethan felt Jack’s hard cock, pressing against his own.

“I want you,” Jack breathed.  “I want you to make love to me.”

Ethan’s blood burned, searing through his body from his head to his toes, and part of him wanted to tilt Jack’s head back and ravage his throat, work his way down, unwrap him like a present until he found his cock. Suck him deep. Work him open with his tongue until Jack begged for more, and then sink his cock into Jack’s warm, tight body. Jesus, he wanted Jack. So much.

The springs on the jeep’s suspension squeaked with their rocking, and the tires groaned and crunched against the snow on the ground. In the distance, low chuckles sounded, and one catcall.

Deflating, Ethan dropped his forehead to Jack’s chest. He rode Jack’s deep, heaving breaths and listened to his racing heartbeat. “I don’t want an audience when I make love to you again.”

Jack’s legs dropped, one falling over the back of the front seat, and the other squishing against the window. His hands stroked over Ethan’s back and tangled in his hair. “I don’t want to have to be quiet.”

“Jesus.” Ethan gripped Jack and surged against him, thrusting against his hard cock once more. “That’s not helping.”

Smiling, Jack rocked his hips up once and then scooted backward, propping himself up on his elbows as Ethan sat back and tried to straighten out his clothes. A prominent bulge strained the front of his cargo pants. He ached, nearly painfully hard for Jack.

From the center of the camp, Scott called, “Coffee’s ready if you are!”

Rumbling laughter, deep and throaty, from nearly all the men.

Shaking his head, Jack started to pull himself together next to Ethan and fished out his balaclava from the pocket of his cargo pants. Outside of the jeep, he wore a full-face balaclava and, on their drive, he kept everything but his eyes covered. Ethan insisted, and Scott and Sergey both backed him up. The members of their convoy, of course, knew who Jack was, and just after Jack had shown up, Sergey had delivered a scathing speech in Russian to his people that had had even Ethan flinching, though he didn’t understand a word that had been said. But, they were traveling through a war zone, parts of Russia that were contested in the coup, under attack from Moroshkin’s forces, and that had been bombed by the United States and other nations, all trying to stop Moroshkin.

Who knew what was out there, or who was out there. Jack was, to the world, brain dead in Bethesda Naval Hospital. A front-page picture of him alive and well in Russia would go over as well as a nuclear bomb.

“Scott came by?” Jack tucked his undershirt into his pants, taking a moment to readjust. His cheeks were dusted crimson, a faint flush that Ethan wanted to nibble.

“Yeah.” He tore his eyes away from Jack and fanned the bottom of his sweater, trying to cool his body.

“How’d the scouting go?”

“The route is clear for the morning. More abandoned villages. They found fuel and some supplies. Vasily is cooking eggs.” Ethan reached out, and his fingers traced Jack’s spine through his sweater and jacket. “And you should talk to Sergey.”

Turning, Jack stared at Ethan.

“I think Scott’s worried about him.” A tight, strained smile, curved his lips. “And that’s saying something.” Scott’s trust in Sergey, and in their Russian allies, extended from meal to meal. Day to day, hour by hour. If everything came apart, Scott would be the first to say “I knew it”.

“He hasn’t wanted to talk to me.” Swallowing, Jack leaned back with a sigh. His hands dropped to his lap, and he picked at the wool fibers of the balaclava. “He’s kept his distance since Volga. I’m not sure I’m the person he wants to see right now.”

Nodding slowly, Ethan frowned. Sergey’s harsh accusations, thrown at Jack at Volga air base, had been the last direct contact the two had. “After all this time, you think he’s pulling away because of…”

Because of their love? Because he and Jack were together? Because Sergey had been loved by a gay man? Was this some kind of reaction, a fear that falling in love with another man “was contagious”, as he’d hurled at Jack?

“He’s pulled back before.” Jack sat forward, slipped the balaclava over his head. He tugged it down around his neck. “I want to do the right thing by him. I don’t want to piss him off.” He frowned, deep lines furrowing his brow. “But, no matter what else is going on, he’s devastated about losing Sasha. I remember what it felt like when I thought you were dead. I can at least try to talk to him about that.”

Ethan’s chest constricted, and his heart almost seized. Was it only a week ago that he’d thought Jack was dead and gone as well? Never, ever, again. He’d do everything in his power to keep Jack safe, keep him from ever coming to harm. And, he’d never lose faith like that again, either. The darkness that had swallowed him on his race from Saudi Arabia to Russia. The emptiness, the silent scream within his soul. The way he had wanted to die, had begged the world to kill him.

Together. They’d face everything together from now on. No matter what.

Adjusting the balaclava, Jack leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to Ethan’s lips. “Time to face the music, love.”

Ethan pulled out his own balaclava, tugged it down around his neck, and gripped the door handle. They piled out of the back of the jeep, and Ethan caught the smothered grins and barks of laughter sent their way. Scott raised a dented metal mug toward them both. Jack headed for him, and for the small fire on which Vasily was cooking.

One of the Russians who went out with Scott every morning, Aleksey, slid up to Ethan. Middle-aged, Aleksey had been a federal police officer in Sochi and had fought back with Sergey against Moroshkin and Madigan’s forces the night of the coup. Now, he was one of Sergey’s officers in the insurgency. He had a small beer gut and a thick salt and pepper mustache beneath ruddy, pockmarked cheeks, a quick, sharp smile, and perpetually messy hair.

His eyes glittered as he clapped Ethan on the back. “You are good Russian lover!” he crowed. “Quick!”

Others laughed, and Ethan spied Jack smothering his grin and rolling his eyes as he took the coffee Scott offered. Scott shrugged and hid his smile in his next sip.

Ethan clapped Aleksey on the upper arm, smiling along with the others. When he and Jack had first met the men in Sergey’s insurgency, they’d worried about how they would be received. Two men in love in a country where only months before, Sasha had almost been killed for being gay. Another man, Evgeni Konnikov, had been murdered.

Sergey’s men, however, had been nothing but accepting. They were believers in Sergey’s government, after all, and Sergey had made equality a foundational platform of his politics and administration.

They just showed that acceptance through good Russian ribbing and teasing. The more ribald the better.

“If we had actually got going,” Ethan began, winking first at Jack and then sending Aleksey a grin, “we’d be here for days.”

More laughter. Aleksey wagged his finger in Ethan’s face and squeezed his elbow before handing him a cup of bitter, sludgy coffee. Vasily waved him and Jack over, and he scooped the last of the eggs into a scavenged plastic bowl they shared. “I save for you,” Vasily said, pointing to them both.

Jack thanked him. As they ate, Ethan spotted Sergey standing in front of his jeep, his hands resting flat on a spread-out map of Russia draped over the hood with his head bowed low. He looked up, and his piercing gaze fell on Jack. There was a moment where his face flickered, something dark passing through his eyes, but it was gone before Ethan could catch it.

And then, Sergey folded up his map and climbed into the driver’s side of his jeep. He kept his eyes downcast, not once looking at Jack again.

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Meet the Author

Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: They/them & he/him

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