Check Out the New Release Blitz for Unraveling by Rick R. Reed (excerpt and giveaway)

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Author: Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 13, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 68300

Genre: Contemporary LGBT, deep closet, coming out, men with children, virgin, #ownvoices, humorous, EMT

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Synopsis

Randy Kay has the perfect life with his beautiful wife and adorable son. But Randy’s living a lie, untrue to himself and everyone who knows him. He’s gay.

Marriage and fatherhood, which he thought could change him, have failed. He doubts if anyone can love him for who he really is—especially himself.

With his wife’s blessing, he sets out to explore the gay world he’s hidden from all his life.

John Walsh, a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department, is comfortable in his own skin as a gay man, yet he can never find someone who shares his desire to create a real relationship, a true family.

When Randy and John first spy each other in Chicago’s Boystown, all kinds of alarms go off—some of joy, others of deep-seated fear.

Randy and John must surmount multiple hurdles on the journey to a lasting, meaningful love. Will they succeed or will their chance at love go up in flames, destroyed by missed connections and a lack of self-acceptance?

Excerpt

Unraveling
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
RANDY

I have my death all planned out.

Unlike the thirty-two years that have gone before, I want my passing to be peaceful and free of the discord and pain I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. I want it to be easy. Effortless. Guilt-free.

Whether it’s any of those things remains to be seen.

I’ve rented this hotel room at a small boutique hotel off Michigan Avenue. The Crewe House has been standing on this same ground on Oak Street for at least a hundred years. The rooms are small, fussy, and charming, with flocked wallpaper, four-poster beds, and claw-foot tubs and pedestal sinks in their black-and-white bathrooms. It’s charming, and I deserve something nice to gaze at before I close my eyes for good.

I have some sandalwood-scented candles lit, and the fragrance is warm, enveloping. Their soft flicker is the only illumination. Outside, the winter sky darkens early. Dusk’s cobalt blue makes silhouettes of the water towers, train tracks, and buildings to the west of the hotel. Near the horizon the sky is a shade of lavender that mesmerizes me, makes me think of changing my mind. If a sky like this can exist, with its electric bands of color, maybe the world isn’t such a horrible place.

Maybe I can go on.

No.

What else have I done to ease my passage into whatever comes next? I have a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, my favorite champagne, uncorked and resting in a silver ice bucket, filled with melting ice. A flute stands next to it, waiting.

I’ll wash the sleeping pills down with the bubbly.

Before getting into bed, I’ll turn on the cassette I have in my boombox, Abbey Road. I have it queued up to “Golden Slumbers.”

I’ve been carrying this weight for such a long time.

I long for smiles.

At last, I’ll undress and stretch out on the four-poster. I’ll pull the eiderdown duvet loosely over me and close my eyes.

The plan is I will slowly slip under, my brain becoming a soft velvety fog, and I’ll simply fall into the arms of a comforting—and obliterating—slumber.

I will not dream.

It won’t take long.

And I’ll leave a beautiful corpse.

That’s the plan, anyway. Some of my research into this method of offing myself runs counter to this gentle fantasy, but I don’t want to consider the downside of overdosing on strong barbiturates.

I want to go to sleep.

I want to forget the impossibility of being able to become the man I know I should be.

Husband.

Father.

I blink back tears as I sit on the bed, staring out at the deepening twilight. They don’t deserve this: what you’re going to leave them with. I know the voice inside, the one that’s always made me do the right thing, at the expense of my very being, is right. And even though they don’t deserve it, you know they will hurt, of course they will, but in the end, they’ll be better off.

Who wants a husband and father who can’t seem to make himself straight, despite trying therapy, the Catholic Church, the Buddhist faith, self-help groups, and self-help books. A group of pathetic married men meeting once a month and thinking they can change. Nothing works. If I could change, I would.

And since I can’t change, I’m left with three options:

Accept myself as I am. How can I do that? I’d be a failure as a husband, a father, a son, a brother. I’d go on wearing this suffocating mask. I’d continue to live a life that’s essentially a lie.

Everyone who loves me doesn’t even know me.

They love a façade, a projection, a mirage made of wishes, impossible hopes, and self-hatred.

No, acceptance is not an option. It never was.

Second, I could resist. I could knuckle down and brace myself against the attractions I feel, the dreams that pop up in my sleep despite my desperately not wanting them there. I could hold myself back from falling prey to the temptations I feel on the streets, the subway, the locker rooms—everywhere I encounter a beautiful man.

The reason I find myself here is because I can’t resist. Not anymore.

And the third option is simply the one I have to choose—remove myself from the pain. Remove myself from existing as this broken thing that God nor man can fix.

Yes, Violet and Henry both will find a way to move on, and they’ll be happier, more anchored in life without me.

Who needs a gay dad? Or a husband who, deep down, doesn’t want what his wife has to offer? Or worse, a dad who contracts the death sentence of AIDS?

Enough of the grim thoughts. They were not part of my plan. Tonight, I go out peacefully. I’ll shut my eyes and remember things like my joy six years ago when Henry was born and seeing him take his first breath. I shouted, “We got a boy!” and fell into the deepest, most effortless love I’ve ever felt. I’ll remember proposing to Violet when we were both college sophomores and the thrill when she accepted the cheap diamond-chips ring I gave her. Things will be okay now, I remember thinking. I can change.

I really believed that. And I know I love Violet as best I can.

It’s sad when your best simply isn’t good enough.

I reach over for the bottle of sleeping pills on the nightstand. There are thirty of them, and I intend to take them all, two or three at a time. If it takes the whole bottle of champagne to get them down, well, things could be worse. No?

I tip the bottle and look at the tablets against the dark wood, so innocent, yet so lethal.

I’m just reaching for one when there’s a sudden knock on the door. Loud. Forceful. Urgent.

“Randy? Randy? Open up, please.”

The door knob turns as Violet’s voice penetrates the heavy wood of the door, making her sound muffled.

I close my eyes. I could ignore her, hope she goes away.

How did she find out where I was anyway?

She wasn’t supposed to know until she got the letter, the one neatly folded and an arm’s length away on the nightstand.

Pounding. “Please!” Violet calls.

I gather the pills, shoving them back in the bottle, then hide the container in a nightstand drawer.

How will I explain?

I get up, cross the room, and open the door.

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Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love. He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA with his beloved husband and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix.

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Join Us for the New Release Tour for Life Minus Me (The Evanstar Chronicles #5) by Sara Codair (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Life Minus Me

Series: The Evanstar Chronicles, Book .5

Author: Sara Codair

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 23500

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Angels, Mental illness, Psychic ability, Pets, #ownvoices, Fae/fairies

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Synopsis

Mel is half Angel, but despite her ability to heal and read minds, she feels powerless to help anyone. When a prophecy shows a local pet supply store owner driving their car off a bridge, Mel sets out to stop it.

Baily, owner of Barks and Bits, is barely holding it together. Things keep going wrong, and their depression spirals out of control. Just as they start wondering if they’d be better off dead, a new friend provides a glimmer of hope. But is that enough to keep living?

Mel never thought saving Baily would be easy, but she can’t figure out when, where, or why Baily’s suicide will happen. As her confidence fades away, she wonders how she can help anyone when she needs so much help herself.

Excerpt

Life Minus Me
Sara Codair © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Mel

Saturday

Sun beat down on Mel’s cold, rosy cheeks, and wind whipped her blonde hair into a frenzy of thrashing strands. She sped up on I-95 in a yellow Jeep Wrangler with the top down on a chilly Saturday morning in January. The fact that she even felt cold at all reminded her that she was a little human…25 percent human.

A salty chill grew in the air. A green bridge loomed on the horizon. It crossed the Piscataqua River, the border between Maine and New Hampshire, leading her from the place where she, a seemingly human college senior who lived with her grad-student fiancé, was deciding which medical school to attend, to one where she was an Angel-Elf-Human hybrid who fought Demons and healed minor injuries. Sometimes, Mel felt like she lived in two worlds. In one, science and reason left little room for belief in the supernatural. In the other, her maternal grandmother was an Elf, her father was an Angel, and the rest of her family members were Demon hunters.

They weren’t technically two separate worlds so much as cultures, one hidden from the other. Mel led a double life in this messy multifaceted world where she tried her best to make it a better place. She tried, but she failed more than she succeeded.

She tapped the steering wheel with her fingers, drumming a rhythm to a song someone was listening to in the car in front of her, one she wasn’t hearing through her ears, but through telepathy she’d failed to turn off. She understood even less of the science behind her mind reading than that of her healing abilities.

Speeding up, she passed the pickup truck whose driver was loudly thinking about the music he was listening to and how it reminded him of his ex-boyfriend. Mel imagined the rush of wind, the growl of her engine, and a big brick wall shielding her mind from everything outside her skull until the music ceased. Mostly. She’d inherited her telepathic powers from her father, but she didn’t control the ability nearly as well as he did.

She tightened her grip on the steering wheel. It was going to be at least another hour before she got to Mary’s Eats, a diner where she was meeting her cousin, Erin, for breakfast.

Driving was difficult when her attempts to control her telepathy failed, but crowded restaurants were more of a challenge. When Mel stepped through glass doors into the diner, other people’s thoughts battered the mental walls she’d constructed around her mind. She squeezed by the line of customers waiting for tables, ignoring their glares and reinforcing her shields so the dull, incoherent murmuring of a dozen minds faded away.

The L-shaped room was filled with pink and blue tables that had been there since the 1950s. The faux-wood vinyl floors were less than a year old, installed around the same time the owners had gutted the walls to insulate them, updated the wiring, and added gender-neutral bathrooms. Those bathrooms, along with the large portions of bacon that the restaurant served, were why Erin often insisted on meeting here.

Erin sat in the fifth booth from the line, hood up and headphones on. Rocking back and forth to the beat of music Mel couldn’t hear, Erin shredded a straw wrapper and stared at the silverware. Two menus sat untouched on the edge of the table.

A bony shoulder collided with Mel’s back. Newspapers flew up into the air and floated to the floor like feathers from broken wings as a man with wispy gray hair and pasty skin jumped backward.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, catching his balance on the side of the booth. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“It’s fine. It’s a good thing you didn’t fall.” Mel bent down and started picking up the dropped papers.

“I’ll get them. I’m healthier than I look.” The old man bent down and scooped up more pages.

Mel picked them up quicker and then helped him back to his feet.

“Thank you,” he said, before shuffling off to a table where a younger person with short brown hair and rosy cheeks glared at a computer screen.

“Cooper, these numbers don’t look right,” said the person, picking at chapped lips.

Cooper clutched his disorganized newspaper to his chest as he looked over the person’s shoulder. “That check was only supposed to be for $5,000, not $50,000!”

“Call the bank. They close at noon,” said the younger person.

“Mel? Someone else is going to walk into you if you keep standing in the middle of the aisle,” said Erin, whose hood and headphones were now off.

“Good point.” Mel slid into the seat across from Erin. “It’s been a long week.”

“It must be horrible, going back to school after having a month off.” Erin gathered pieces of their shredded straw wrapper into a pile and slid them under the menu.

“You had a couple weeks off too.” Mel fidgeted with the ring on her left-hand ring finger.

“Over which I had to write a five-page paper. You had no homework and get to start all new classes.” Erin picked up the butter knife and put it down, squeezing their hands together.

“Are you okay?” Mel leaned forward and tilted her head, peering at Erin’s grass-green eyes, barely resisting the temptation to let her shields down so she could read Erin’s mind.

“Not really.” Erin yanked their right hand away from their left, running their fingers through short, red curls. “The meds my new doctor had me on were actually working until I broke out into hives, got really dizzy, and couldn’t keep a single meal down.”

“That sucks.” Mel curled her hands around the edge of the booth’s seat, digging her fingernails into the old vinyl. Erin wasn’t much more human than Mel, which was probably why medications intended for humans didn’t work. But Erin didn’t know that, and Mel couldn’t tell them the truth—she was bound by an oath that was impossible to break. Had she known what the consequences of this secret would be, she never would’ve agreed to keep it.

“Yup. My stupid brain is already foggy again, and I can’t focus on getting anything done.” Erin picked up the fork, spun it around, and ran their fingers over the prongs.

Mel snatched it out of their hand. “Careful.”

Erin rolled their eyes. “I wish the server would hurry up and come back now that you’re here. I’m starving.”

“Me too.” Mel slid Erin’s napkin and butter knife closer, farther away from Erin.

“Really? You think that little of me?” Erin stood up, fists clenched as they stared out the window to the street where their car, a Jeep Cherokee built four years before Erin was even born, was parked outside.

“Erin, I’m sorry. I just…it’s an old habit, maybe. I’m sorry.” Mel’s hands shook as she waited for Erin to either accept the apology or storm away. Her chest got tight and her eyes burned. A year and a half ago, she had sat with Erin in this very diner, thinking Erin was just fidgeting, not realizing until she dropped her shields that Erin had a butter knife under the table and was nervously running their thumb back and forth over the edge until it bled. It was the type of thing that used to happen all the time, and each time Mel intervened, Erin pushed her further and further away, resisting help no matter who it came from.

Erin took a deep breath and sat back down. “I don’t cut anymore, and if me being off medication means you’re going to start meddling with my life again, I’m not talking to you. Either accept that I’m fine without your interference or leave me alone.”

“Okay. I’ll stop. I won’t intrude.” Mel gritted her teeth. Erin would’ve died if she hadn’t meddled. Erin’s bitterness over Mel’s interference in a suicide attempt was a sign Erin was not fine at all, but there was nothing Mel could do about it without crossing boundaries and breaking the fragile trust she’d built with her cousin.

Erin leaned forward. “I have a good therapist now. Mom isn’t ignoring me as much as she used to. Be my cousin and friend. Don’t act like some guardian angel trying to save me.”

Mel squeezed her eyes shut, holding tears in. She’d do what Erin asked, for now, even though it made her feel like a complete failure, like the shittiest Angel ever.

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Don’t miss Book #1 in the The Evanstar Chronicles series, Power Surge, available from NineStar Press

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.

Meet the Author

Sara Codair lives in a world of words, writing fiction in every free moment, teaching writing at a community college and binge-reading fantasy novels. When not lost in words, Sara can often be found hiking, swimming, or gardening. Find Sara’s words in Alternative Truths, Helios Quarterly, and Secrets of the Goat People, at https://saracodair.com/

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Check Out the New Relase Blitz for Testament by Jose Nateras (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Testament

Author: Jose Nateras

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 51400

Genre: Paranormal LGBT, Chicago, paranormal, supernatural, thriller, Latinx, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Gabe Espinosa, is trying to dig himself out of the darkness. Struggling with the emotional fallout of a breakup with his ex-boyfriend, Gabe returns to his job at The Rosebriar Room; the fine dining restaurant at the historic Sentinel Club Chicago Hotel. Already haunted by the ghosts of his severed relationship, he’s drastically unprepared for the ghosts of The Sentinel Club to focus their attentions on him as well.

When a hotel guest violently attacks Gabe, he finds himself the target of a dark entity’s rage; a rage built upon ages of racial tension and toxic masculinity. Desperate to escape the dark spiral he’s found himself in, Gabe flees across the city of Chicago and dives into the history of the hotel itself. Now, Gabe must push himself to confront the sort of evil that transcends relationships and time, the sort of evil that causes damage that ripples across lives for generations.

Gabe must fight to break free from the dark legacy of the past; both his own and that of the hotel he works in.

Excerpt

Testament
Jose Nateras © 2019
All Rights Reserved

I pulled out my phone and checked the time. I needed to be at work at six thirty, and unless the train started moving within the next five seconds, I would be late. A commute that usually took thirty minutes, door to door, was stretching closer and closer to taking forty minutes. Still, the train sat there, idle in its dark underground tunnel. There’s nothing worse than being late and getting stuck on a delayed train car at six fifteen in the morning. Fuck.

I rocked back and forth impatiently, a loose rivet in my seat clicking arrhythmically in its socket. Most of the Chicago Transit Authority’s train cars were in some state of disrepair. This car in particular had maps of the train lines missing overhead, cracked lighting fixtures, fractured chrome, and unsecured hardware. The homeless man stretched out asleep across the seats at the other end of the car didn’t seem to care. Neither did the middle-aged nurse sitting kitty-corner from me, listening to music on her phone through bright-pink earbuds.

I took a deep breath to stop my agitated rocking. The thick smell of synthetic flowers wafted along the length of the train car. An otherwise pleasant smell, in the enclosed space of the train car the scent was overwhelming, almost sickening. It had to be coming from the nurse. How’d I not notice the strength of her perfume sooner?

It occurred to me, if I puked on the ‘L’ right then and there, I’d have no excuse but to call in sick. It wouldn’t be the first time someone threw up on the Blue Line. I wouldn’t even have to actually vomit. I could just call in, hop off the train at the next stop, and grab the next one headed back toward my apartment. Tempting, but I could practically hear the voice of my manager Leslie. “Really, Gabe? What the fuck? Aren’t you just coming back from an extended leave of absence, Mr. Espinosa?”

With the sound of metal grinding on metal, the train started to move. I closed my eyes, allowing the momentum to build and hurdle me toward the misery of employment in the service industry.

Maybe misery was an exaggeration. As the train came to an abrupt stop at the Monroe station, I tried to remind myself there were worse fields to work in. Six blocks stretched between the train platform and the Sentinel Club Hotel. More specifically, six blocks stretched between me and the hotel’s restaurant, the Rosebriar Room, where I worked as a host. Walking so far would typically take around nine minutes, and at 6:25 a.m., I only had five minutes to do so. Officially late, I somehow found the energy to hustle up the stairs from the underground train platform and race out into the November chill.

I found myself caught behind a herd of Chicago commuters: business-bros and cubicle drones trotting to their respective jobs scattered across the Loop. Dodging between the office workers drowsily heading to work, I sprinted through the concrete canyon of downtown skyscrapers.

It was still dark. Only after I made it to Michigan Avenue, across from the green expanse of Millennium Park, could I see the first streaks of orange in the dark-gray sky. I pulled out my phone again. 6:31 a.m. “Shit.”

Speeding through the front doors of the hotel, I hurried to the service elevator. With no time to stop at the staff locker room down in the basement, I headed straight up to the thirteenth floor.

People often say hotels are naturally creepy places. I hadn’t really thought about it one way or another until I started working in one. It was true. The Sentinel Club Chicago was creepy, and being one of the oldest buildings in the city only made it all the more eerie. Before becoming a boutique hotel, the SCC was a historied private men’s club, and the Rosebriar Room, now the hotel’s wood-paneled fine-dining restaurant, once served as the private dining room for the club’s most elite members.

I’d been working there for a year and a half or so, and things I hadn’t noticed at first had started to weigh on my mind. More and more I found myself aware of the creepiness of the place. A laugh echoing in quiet, empty rooms. A flicker of movement out of the corner of an eye. A shadow on a wall with no one there to cast it. The feeling of being watched.

The prospect of spending my morning in such a place sounded pretty miserable. Perhaps I hadn’t been so far off in describing my job as a “misery” after all.

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Meet the Author

Jose Nateras is a Chicago based Actor, Writer, and Director who’s worked extensively on stage and screen. Having trained at The Second City, The British American Drama Academy (Midsummer at Oxford ’09), Jose is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago. Having graduated with his MFA in Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), he’s a resident playwright with ALTA Chicago’s ‘El Semillero’ (residing at Victory Gardens). Jose has written a number of shorts, pilots, and full length films, and is a contributor for The A.V. Club and elsewhere. He’s also been known to play the role of adjunct professor and teaching artist around town from time to time as well.

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

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Title: Tea

Series: A Cup of John, Book One

Author: Matthew J. Metzger

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 76800

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

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Synopsis

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

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

But what if he says yes instead?

Excerpt

Tea
Matthew J. Metzger © 2019
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean it’s not already?”

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

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

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

“Have a good weekend, then.”

“Fark off.”

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

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

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

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

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

That was when he messed up.

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

“I’m so sorry. I—”

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

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

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

And John just stopped.

Staring.

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

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

Damn.

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

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

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

“Just ask for Chris’s regular.”

“T-that’s you, then?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Um. John. Nice to—nice to meet you.”

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

He didn’t.

Obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you sheltering from the weather too?”

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

“Lucky me.”

John blinked.

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John wanted him.

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

“Uh—”

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

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

“Or mister?”

What?

“I—no.”

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

Hopeful? What?

“I—are you…flirting with me?”

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

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

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

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

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

“It doesn’t.”

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

“I—thank you?”

“I’m making you uncomfortab—”

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

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

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

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

Chris smiled.

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

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

“I—”

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

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

“I’m a dumb idea,” John croaked.

“So am I.”

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

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

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

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

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

“So—you want to get dinner sometime?”

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

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

He should say no.

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

After all, if Daniel were right—

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

John should have said no.

But he said yes instead.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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

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

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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

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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

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