A Book Release Highlight! Spritzer – A Sparkling Gay Romance by Jon McDonald (guest blog with a short story, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance

Author: Jon McDonald

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 27

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75300

Genre: Romance, LGBT, gay, bisexual, contemporary, enemies to lovers, humorous, romance

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✒︎

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Jon McDonald here today to celebrate the release of his new book, Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance.  He’s brought a remarkable short story along with him for our readers, in addition to an excerpt and giveaway.  Welcome, Jon!

✒︎

Jon McDonald: Here’s a short story from another of my NineStar books, Gotta Dance with the One Who Brung Ya.

Midnight Clear

   There was a seam on the roadway crossing the bridge, such that when a car passed over, it sent a thump thump echoing underneath. When it was busy during the day, the thump thumps came frequently, overlapping and creating a thunder that echoed along the riverbank. During the night, the sound came infrequently and accented the stillness.

   It was going to be a very cold Christmas Eve—with the scent of snow already in the air—and there had been a few flurries as the afternoon gathered into dusk before the clutch of night took its frigid hold.

   Rainbow and Gal were huddled around their meager fire, kept alive by scavenging the riverbank for anything that would burn—hopefully through the entire night. Their few belongings were stacked up like sandbags around a foxhole to help keep out the needles of icy wind. The tips of their fingers poked out through worn gloves as they fumbled with a dented pot to heat water so they could use the damaged Ramen Noodle Soup packet scrounged from a dumpster behind the 7–Eleven . Maybe Gal would wait till midnight to give Rainbow his gift—a short flask of brandy that Gal had saved for from a week of panhandling when Rainbow wasn’t around.

   In country, the coppers flew overhead like crazy-wheeling drunks—thump thump, thump thump. Rainbow was Corporal Edward Declan Connelly—Boston Irish. So raw he still thought they were fighting the enemy for the good of the country. He was called Rainbow because he was that way. His best and only buddy was Gal—short for Gallagher but also because he was perceived to be Rainbow’s gal. They had soon found each other despite the monsoons, the mud, the lousy food, the blood, the moans, the endless boredom, and the constant rain of shells—thump thump, thump thump. They managed, however, to get away together now and then for half an hour, hidden amongst the sacks of flour in the storeroom behind the mess. Time so precious and ever so brief, their hearts—thump thump, thump thump.

   After the slaughter was over, and they were shipped home and dumped on the streets of LA, they stayed together. Somewhat broken, keenly cunning, resourceful as two feral cats, together they opened a shop repairing typewriters and small business machines. Then came the computer. They struggled, tried to adapt, created more debt to stay afloat, and finally had to flee in the dead of night in their broken-down Pontiac to the Rocky Mountain west. Their car barely made it across the Continental Divide—thump thump.

   They never completely recovered. Too many demons. Too much alcohol. Inner wounds too tender. But they stayed together through it all. There was never one without the other through many decades, many journeys, many disappointments.

  * * * * *

   “Deck, oh Deck. I can’t believe you’re still abed. And this being Christmas morning and all.” His mother called him Deck, not Eddie. But he didn’t want to stir. The room was cold—the covers warm, scooched up tight around his head, cradling his ear. Only his susceptible eyes and nose were exposed to the bite from the window slightly ajar. He promised he’d get up at the count of ten.

   “Eight, nine, nine and a half, nine and three quarters…”

  * * * * *

    “Soup’s ready.” Gal offered Rainbow the watery, soft noodles.

    “Thanks.”

    It was dark now. The fire glowed and sputtered. Gal put on a few more pieces of wood from a broken table someone had tossed onto the riverbank rather than take to the dump. They ate in silence.

   Thump thump. Rainbow’s mind wandered to the sleeper car his family was taking to Chicago to visit his grandmother; snuggled in his berth, eyes almost closed. Thump thump. The sound of the train lulled him toward sleep. Thump thump. He always watched for that moment when waking turns into sleep like a snake gliding silently into water. But he could never quite grasp it—it always just slipped away. Thump thump, thump thump.

   Gal always cooked. Rainbow always cleaned—tonight taking their few bowls and cooking pot down to the stream to wash up. With tonight’s cold, it was hard to find any running water, and Rainbow had to hack at some ice to find the little trickle to serve his need. Though poor and without much provision, they were both meticulous about keeping clean—their persons and their possessions. Rainbow carefully rinsed the pot and bowls and climbed back up the bank to their shelter under the bridge. He stored the utensils and scooted up close to Gal, sitting by the fire.

   “Here, let me warm you,” Gal whispered as he straddled Rainbow from behind, wrapping his blanket around the both of them. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his gift. “I know it’s not quite Christmas yet but thought you could use this now.” He opened the brandy and handed it to Rainbow. Rainbow bowed his head in gratitude and offered the first sip to Gal.

   They sat like that for some time, drinking quietly, the cars overhead passing less often now. Thump…thump.

   Rainbow was the first to notice the child—six, maybe seven. The way the boy stood at the edge of the bridge it looked as though he was lit from within, but of course, Rainbow thought, it had to be the play of the streetlight against the ice reflecting up from the river below.

   “Gal…” Rainbow breathed so softly it could hardly be heard. Gal looked up and saw the child now holding out both his hands filled with Christmas cookies.

   “For you,” the child said softly.

  * * * * *

   Eddie continued his countdown, “Nine, nine and a half, nine and three quarters. Nine and seven-eighths…”

   “Edward Declan Connelly, I am not going to call you again,” his mother boomed from the kitchen.

   “Oh boy, she means business now.” Eddie knew that for sure. And for just a minute longer he savored the warmth of the covers trying to drag him back into sleep. But then he could smell the wafting scents of Christmas—oatmeal, apples, cinnamon, brown sugar. And there were tangerines, coffee, and bacon sizzling on the stove. He bounded up and out of bed, shut tight the window, and still in his pajamas with the fuzzy feet, faced the light pouring through the door and quietly walked toward his mother.

  * * * * *

   The police cruiser was parked on the bridge, the lights blinking and swirling. Thump thump. Two officers were responding to a call from a pedestrian who believed he had spotted something suspicious under the bridge. The officers scrambled down the riverbank and peered. It was dim and hard to see. There were the remains of a fire still smoldering, sending up curls of smoke like lazy spirits going home. And there, huddled together and covered with a thin blanket, were the bodies of two men locked in a tight embrace, drifted snow cradling their faces.

   “Oh jeeze,” one of the officers commented. “Looks like we got ourselves a couple of stiffs. Better call it in.”

   The second officer stared uncomfortably at the bodies. “Will you look at that,” he said. “Two guys in each other’s arms. So desperate to keep warm they had to resort to that.” Thump thump.

Synopsis

Spritzer Vallier is the manager of a large commercial jug winery in Northern California. The new owner, Spritzer’s great-aunt Del, wants to make a quality champagne as well as the cheap wine that is the bedrock of their business. Being a down-to-earth, no-nonsense guy, Spritzer resists Del’s fantastic idea. However, she insists and hires Michel, a French champagne master, to direct the setup of the new venture for four years until Spritzer can take over the running of the winery by himself.

Spritzer and Michel must work closely together and right from the beginning it is clear there will be fireworks. Michel tends towards arrogance and control. Spritzer resents Michel’s authority and demands, and is a bit of a stubborn hot-head.

Keeping the two in check is Del—steady, caring, and wise, she directs the two toward the accomplishment of her dream.

Storms, accidents, and money problems plague the progress of the new winery, but eventually Michel and Spritzer work their way towards a successful conclusion to their efforts. But fate seems to have another destination for them as well, as they begin to fall in love with each other.

Excerpt

Spritzer: A Sparkling Gay Romance
Jon McDonald © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Spritzer Vallier stood in contemplation, gazing at the strange sight before him—a couple of dozen or more folks, dressed mostly in black, standing at the crest of a hill overlooking a Sonoma vineyard. It stretched out below them as far as one could see in every direction; rows and rows of cultivated grape vines, marching neatly in their straight lines. The early morning mists slowly evaporated in the warmth of the climbing morning sun.

Spritzer ran a hand through his dark, curly, unkempt hair, distracted from the immediacy of the memorial service for his recently departed great-uncle Tom, as his mind wandered to the urgent need to be harvesting the glowing, ripe grapes spread out before him. There is a moment when the grapes’ sugars are at their peak, and any delay might harm a season’s harvest. Spritzer had checked the sugar levels in the grapes just yesterday afternoon and decided that they should start the harvest today. But Aunt Del, Tom’s sister, had already arranged for the memorial service to be held this very morning.

He shook himself free from those thoughts, and turned his attention back to the droning priest. Spritzer was standing between his great-aunt Del—short for Deloris—and his childhood buddy, and occasional girlfriend, Kan. He turned to his aunt and squeezed her arm, as the priest extolled her brother’s many virtues.

“Are you holding up all right?” Spritzer asked gently.

Del looked over and smiled. “It’s still hard to believe he’s gone.”

“I know.”

Kan—blonde, lean, and tomboyish—leaned into Spritzer and whispered, “Nice service, don’t you think?”

Spritzer turned to her and said, “Yeah, yeah. But look at all those fuckin’ grapes. The old man would kick off just when I need to start the harvest, right?”

Just then, a biplane approached from behind the gathering, flew low over the heads of the crowd, and began to spray the vineyard.

Kan looked puzzled. “Isn’t this an odd time to be spraying insecticide, for Christ’s sake?”

“That’s not insecticide, that’s Uncle Tom,” Spritzer answered, with a flash of his quirky grin. Kan looked at him questioningly. “Some people want their ashes at sea. Uncle Tom…” He gestured toward the vineyard.

“Yuck. It’s going all over the grapes. What’s that going to do to the wine?”

Spritzer thought about that for a moment, then answered. “Probably make the horrid supermarket plonk we produce a hell of a lot better than it was when he was alive.”

Kan laughed and turned back to the service.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Jon McDonald lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He has seven published novels, a memoir, and three children’s books. His short stories have appeared in a number of prestigious publications. He considers himself a genre-bending author—he loves to take an established literary genre, play with it, and turn it on its head. He has lived abroad and traveled extensively.

Website | Facebook | eMail

Tour Schedule

3/27    Hoards Jumble

3/27    Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words

3/28    The Novel Approach

3/28    Zipper Rippers

3/28    Happily Ever Chapter

3/29    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

3/29    Stories That Make You Smile 

3/30    Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

3/30    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

3/31    Bayou Book Junkie

3/31    MM Good Book Reviews

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BLOG TOUR: One Bullet by Casey Wolfe (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  One Bullet

Author: Casey Wolfe

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: March 27

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50400

Genre: Romance, LGBT, gay, bisexual, law enforcement, PTSD, parkour, free running, therapy, healing, no explicit sex, slow burn-UST, friends to lovers.

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Synopsis

When Ethan Brant was shot, he found himself dealing with severe PTSD and unable to do his job as a police officer any longer. With the aid of Detective Shawn Greyson, the man who saved his life, Ethan not only finds himself again but discovers love as well.

Shawn’s life growing up was less than ideal, however, he overcame that to become who he is today. That doesn’t mean he isn’t missing something in his life. What Shawn hadn’t realized, upon first meeting, was that Ethan could give him all that and more.

One bullet changed both their lives.

Excerpt

One Bullet
Casey Wolfe © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Blood. So much blood. The echo of a gun. The smell of gunpowder. The sharp bite of a bullet. Viscous liquid slipping through his fingers.

Darkness. A voice coming through it. Words he should have recognized. Concerned, though not panicked. Surprisingly warm. Warm like the arms he was pulled into.

Flashing lights. Red. Red seen behind closed eyes. Like the blood on his hands, on the ground.

Cold. Like death.

Shooting up in bed, Ethan’s anguished cry died on his lips. He shook, breath ragged as he wiped away the cold sweat from his brow. More sweat covered his body, making goosebumps break out. His mouth was dry, throat sore from screaming. No doubt the neighbors would be complaining to building management again.

He wasn’t sure how long it took before his brain provided the vital information that he’d been dreaming. Ethan drew in a deep, shaky breath, letting it out slowly. He sat up fully, repeating the process and attempting to calm himself. It was a dream. Just a dream, he reminded himself. You’re safe. You’re alive. Just a dream.

When he felt that he wasn’t about to go into a full-blown panic attack at any moment, Ethan looked at his bedside clock. The glowing blue numbers informed him there wasn’t much point in attempting sleep again. Instead, he switched off the alarm and hauled himself out of bed, trudging toward the bathroom and a cold shower.

He pressed a hand to the tiles, leaning into the spray, head down. As water sloshed off his body, Ethan blew out a breath. He rubbed his free hand over his face before shaking his head as though he could shake out the memories. Sighing, he ran his fingers through his brunet hair. It was looking shabby and in need of a trim, but he couldn’t find it in himself to care.

He was losing some muscle as well. Much of that was due to his recovery after being in the hospital. He hadn’t been able to run with his parkour buddies until recently or do anything remotely resembling a sit-up. Still, becoming a twenty-six-year-old recluse wasn’t doing him any good either.

Ethan wasn’t vain, but he did like to stay in shape. His core was still there, even being as out of sorts as he was. Fingers ran across the small scar to the left of his navel, a reminder of the event months before that continued to shadow his every move.

Shutting the shower off, he grabbed a towel and dried his hair the best he could before wrapping the fabric around his waist. Water dripped onto the floor, but he paid it no mind, stopping at the sink to brush his teeth. He caught his reflection in the mirror, his dark-green eyes looking back, haunted.

It was going to be a long day.

* * *

The walk to work wasn’t far—roughly half a mile—so Ethan never found a point in taking public transport. Besides, the fresh air did him good. Well, as fresh as the air could be in the city. In any case, it was good for him to stretch his legs and clear his head. Unless the weather was poor, he gladly took the extra time to walk, and today was a clear and balmy summer day typical of Washington State.

Perhaps given how his day had started, he should have caught the bus. This was evident the second he looked up and saw a beat cop walking down the sidewalk toward him. Ethan froze momentarily. He tugged at the single strap across his chest, shifting the bag on his back. His eyes darted about, checking traffic and slipping across the street before the cop reached him.

The move must have looked suspicious as Ethan found himself approached by a police cruiser. It paced alongside him, and the officer in the passenger seat called out to him. “Hey, buddy.”

Ethan bit back the I’m not your buddy that was on the tip of his tongue and, instead, ignored him until the officer raised his voice. “Yeah?” he inquired, not stopping.

“Mind if we chat a minute?”

“Yeah, I do,” Ethan answered, turning sideways to slide past some people. “I need to get to work.”

“It’ll just take a minute,” the officer insisted in a tone meant to make him obey.

It was too bad that it didn’t work on someone like Ethan. Having been a cop himself, he knew the tricks. He also knew the law. There was no probable cause for them to detain him, so he needn’t stop at all. “Sorry. Can’t help you.”

The cruiser stopped, the officer getting out and moving into his path. “Sir.” Ethan backpedaled a few steps. He held up an arm, making a barrier between himself and the cop. He noted the man’s partner getting out of the driver’s side, walking to the back of the cruiser, and hovering there.

“Officer,” Ethan spoke as clearly as he could, “my name is Ethan Brant. There are standing orders within the department that any contact with me should be reported into dispatch immediately.” He was attempting to stay calm, but it was difficult as his muscles started to twitch.

The cop stepped forward. “Wait, wait, no…” Ethan began to panic, backing away. He was trying to get out the prepared speech as he was told to say it. Neither of the officers seemed as though they wanted to listen. “You’re not supposed to touch me. You’re supposed to keep your distance and call it in. Please.”

The moment a hand was laid on him, Ethan snapped. He shoved the cop away, taking off at a dead run.

A car slammed its brakes just in time to avoid hitting him, blocking his path. Instinct took over and Ethan slid right across the hood. He could hear the call for backup, but all he wanted was to vanish.

Free running with his friends may have been something he hadn’t done much since his accident, thanks to his long recovery, but muscle memory kicked in, and he let his mind go.

He ran between shops, a dumpster on the lowered backlot catching his eye. He cleared the safety railing without slowing, running across the top of the dumpster. With momentum, Ethan leapt off the other side, flipping before landing lightly on his feet.

He came out of the connecting alley into a shopping plaza, wide open for him to work with. Ethan made to turn left, spotting the cruiser that screamed up onto the sidewalk. In midrun he extended his foot out, springing off a bench and pushing his body in the opposite direction. Using the retaining wall of the decorative plant beds to avoid the crowd, he managed to get distance between them.

Ahead there was a set of stairs going down toward the park, and rather than avoid them, he used the terrain to his advantage. Diving forward, he cleared the stone rail, his palms touching the rail on the opposite side. He tucked his legs, missing both rails as he swung them forward, feet landing lightly on the ground. Despite protesting muscles, he repeated the same move for the next stairway.

As he kept running, he realized where he was. It didn’t matter that another set of cops had come in from the opposite end of the shopping plaza because Ethan wasn’t planning to use the traditional entrance. A brick wall with a switchback of stairs was at his right, and that was his means of escape.

Forgetting the stairs—which would only slow him down—he brought his left foot up to a railing, using it to launch him at the wall. He gripped the ledge above him, bringing his knees up to push with the balls of his feet. Muscling up made him grunt at the pain coursing through his abdomen, a move he shouldn’t have been doing just yet.

Somewhere in the back of his head, he was aware of the cops yelling in disbelief, getting their colleagues on the radio to update them on Ethan’s direction of travel. Ethan didn’t plan on the police being able to find him fast enough before he completely disappeared.

He ran across the street, jumping up and over the wooden bench in his path. Well aware of the laptop in his backpack, rather than simply tucking and rolling, he shifted his weight midair so he would land on his hip and leg, rolling through to his feet.

The entrance to the subway was right there, and he slid down the metal railing in the center of the stairwell.

Ethan’s breathing was ragged. It had been too long since he had a run like that; his muscles burned. He leaned a forearm on a pillar, waiting for the next train to pass through the subway. He just needed to sit, to center himself. A crowded morning train car wasn’t the best place, but he didn’t have much of a choice.

Even the strap of his backpack felt constraining across his chest. He yanked the strap over his head and set the bag onto the ground at his feet. Ethan took a deep lungful of air.

Just as he thought he was safe, someone grabbed his arm. Ethan simply reacted, using his strength to swing the man around to collide with the pillar. It was then Ethan saw his attacker was a cop, but he missed the officer’s partner.

Volts of electricity cascaded through his body, causing Ethan’s legs to buckle, and he went down on the tiled platform. He was helpless to stop the officer who put a knee in his back, grabbing his arms. Panic seeped into every pore. The click of the handcuffs as the cold metal wrapped around his wrist made him struggle. It was in vain; a second shocking jolt was sent through him.

“Get off him!” a man ordered. “Now!” It took Ethan a moment to recognize the smooth cadence and authoritative tone. He craned his neck, tears stinging his eyes, to gaze on Detective Shawn Greyson. When the officers protested, Shawn held up his badge and glowered. “Stand down,” he growled, physically removing them.

“We just chased this kid all over the damn city!” one argued. “Just ’cause yer a detective—”

“I said back off!” Shawn yelled, eyes like fire and his entire presence radiating danger. It was more than enough to have both of them doing as they were told.

Shawn immediately crouched next to Ethan and unhooked the cuffs. Shawn helped him to sit, running his hands up and down Ethan’s arms. “Hey, you’re alright. You’re safe,” Shawn assured him, voice low and easy. Ethan met deep blue-gray eyes, heart-wrenching at the sight of the friendly face. “Just focus on your breathing, okay? I’ve got you.”

Ethan nodded, thankful for the watchful gaze that allowed him to concentrate on centering himself. He listened to Shawn’s steady voice, not even focusing on the words so much as the calming tone. Shawn’s touch was reassuring, hands continuing their path up and down Ethan’s arms before grasping his shoulders.

“That’s it,” Shawn spoke. “There you go.” Ethan took a deep breath, looking at him once more. Shawn smiled encouragingly. “Better?” Ethan gave a slight nod, not trusting his voice just yet. “Okay. Take your time.”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Author of gay romantic fiction, from contemporary to paranormal and everything in between.

For Casey, existence equals writing. History nerd, film enthusiast, music lover, avid gamer, and just an all-around geek. Add in an unapologetic addiction to loose-leaf tea and you get the general picture. Married, with furry four-legged children, Casey lives happily in the middle of nowhere Ohio.

Website | Facebook | eMail | Tumblr

Tour Schedule

3/27    Molly Lolly; Reader, Reviewer, Lover of Words

3/27    MM Good Book Reviews

3/28    Dog-Eared Daydreams  

3/28    BFD Book Blog

3/29    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

3/29    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

3/30    Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

3/30    Happily Ever Chapter

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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

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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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A Barb the Zany Old Lady Review: Leaning Into the Fall (Leaning Into #2) by Lane Hayes

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Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

Lane Hayes is one of my favorite authors, and this story proves why. Faced with a secondary character in a short story who was really the anti-hero—a bisexual guy who jilted his (female) fiancé and disappointed his best friend and business partner—Ms. Hayes decided to give him his own story, in which he demonstrates why he was such a letdown in book one, and then falls into deep and everlasting love with a handsome and sweet older man.

I was skeptical when we first saw Nick in this story—buried nose-deep in code in his and Eric’s IT security business—and seemingly clueless to what’s going on in the rest of the world. He keeps bugging his BFF friend Eric, who’s on a well-deserved honeymoon vacation in Bora Bora, so faced with penalty of death from Eric’s new husband, Zane, (Leaning Into Love) Nick decides to take a break from work and return the wine he purchased as a wedding favor for his own cancelled wedding months ago.

There he runs headlong into Wes Conrad, winery owner, who refuses to allow Nick to return the wine that was labelled with the personal information for Nick’s wedding. It’s company policy not to take it back, and Wes digs in his heels and outright refuses. And so begins the crappiest day of Nick’s life, but also one that turns out to be the day he went head-on with the man who would ultimately become the most important person in his life.

I love the way the author took the time to explain and explore Nick’s issues—issues with antisocial behavior, a constant side focus on the numbers in his head—mathematical equations—that needed to be addressed. She also gave Nick an older, more mature man—one who has lived through multiple life experiences, including the tragic loss of his business, his former lover, and a good friend. Wes has the maturity and the patience to handle Nick, and though wildly attracted to one another from early in the story, there’s no rush into deep and everlasting love. It evolves over time, and every moment and every step of the way is absolutely necessary for this couple. Business deals, takeover possibilities, poor decisions, partnership problems—this story has it all. But most of all? It has a young man who seemed to be irredeemable learn to face his issues and take responsibility for his own actions and then take the leap into falling head over heels with the man he most needs in this world.

That might sound a bit mushy and romantic, but that’s how I saw it. And I have a particular soft spot in my heart for older men who find romance in the MM genre. This one is terrific, and I highly recommend it. Why not a full 5 stars? I couldn’t shake all of the prejudice I had against Nick from the first book. Let’s just say he’s darn lucky he had such a great author to tell his story. And I can’t wait to see if Ms. Hayes has more in store for us in this series. I suspect maybe Nick and Eric’s friend Josh will be next. Can’t wait!

~~~~
Cover by Reese Dante is similar to the first cover in that it features a faceless male torso, with opened shirt, against a background of the San Francisco skyline and bay.

Sales Links

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes 

 

Book Details:

ebook, 228 pages
Published March 15th 2017 by Self Pub
Edition LanguageEnglish
SeriesLeaning Into #2

In the YA Spotlight: A Boy Worth Knowing by Jennifer Cosgrove (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  A Boy Worth Knowing

Author: Jennifer Cosgrove

Publisher:  NineStar Press – SunFire Imprint

Release Date: March 20

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 62200

Genre: Romance, Young Adult, NineStar Press, LGBT, gay, bisexual, romance, young adult, contemporary, paranormal, coming of age, ghosts, family drama, high school, bullying

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Synopsis

Ghosts can’t seem to keep their opinions to themselves.

Seventeen-year-old Nate Shaw should know; he’s been talking to them since he was twelve. But they aren’t the only ones making his high school years a living hell. All Nate wants is to keep his secret and keep his head down until he can graduate. That is, until the new boy, James Powell, takes a seat next to him in homeroom. James not only notices him, he manages to work his way into Nate’s life. But James has issues of his own.

Between dead grandmothers and living aunts, Nate has to navigate the fact that he’s falling in love with his only friend, all while getting advice from the most unusual places.

Ghosts, bullies, first love: it’s a lot to deal with when you’re just trying to survive senior year.

Excerpt

A Boy Worth Knowing
Jennifer Cosgrove © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I loved autumn mornings.

The October air was just cold enough to set my lungs on fire, my breath visible in clouds of condensation, forcing all of the crap clogging up my head into the recycle bin. Bonus, I could pretend I was a dragon. Nothing could touch me; my morning run made everything go away, lost in miles at a time. Down an isolated country road.

Everything changed when I was twelve, and not for the better. That was when I started running. Five years of road I’d put behind me. My mom worried about me the first time I took off alone. Well, when she used to worry about me. I wished she was more worried about the reason I was running instead of the fact I was doing it down an empty road.

I turned the corner about a mile after leaving home, and that was when I saw him. Samuel was always lurking among the sunken headstones. Most people had no clue there used to be a cemetery out there. Looking closely, some of the stones that made up the foundation of the chapel could still be seen. No one else ever paid that much attention to it. Samuel glared at me as I got closer. He was a surly one.

My life was like the horror movies I loved. I talked to the dead. Well, technically dead. They were really spirits, or whatever. Whatever was left behind when people died. And they talked to me, for some reason. There was nothing like sitting in math class and having a ghost whisper in my ear while trying to take notes.

It happened all the damn time. I didn’t know how to handle it at first. And no one wanted to hang out with the crazy kid in the back of the room, muttering away to himself. I got used to it. Really. And the lack of a social life helped me get all of my homework done on time; all of the teachers loved me. That was good. Talking to ghosts wasn’t all bad.

I waved at Samuel as I ran by the cemetery. He shook a fist at me in return. Samuel wasn’t evil or anything, just grumpy. Couldn’t blame him, though. I looked him up one time and found out he’d died in the late eighteen hundreds. The cause of death on record was a heart attack. But Samuel told me his brother-in-law had poisoned him because he wouldn’t sell him his prize mule. I had no clue what was so special about that mule, but his brother-in-law evidently thought it was worth killing him over. I’d have been pretty surly myself.

Past the forgotten cemetery, a few miles to the McGregor farm, and then I’d swing around for home. Yes, I said McGregor farm. Small-town life— I couldn’t have made this stuff up if I’d tried.

There was another house just past the farm where I had to watch out for their beast of a dog. Dogs weren’t huge fans of mine. My Nana had a theory they could sense a bit of whatever it was that let us chat with those who’d “passed on.” I had no idea how that was even possible, but cats loved me, so yay.

Speaking of which, Aunt Susan’s overly fluffy cat waited by our mailbox. Arthur did that every time I went out for a run. He would sit there and then fall in behind to follow up the driveway until we got to the house. Then, it was a shady spot on the porch in the summer or, if it was cold like that day, into the house in front of the fireplace. I loved predictability.

The house used to be my grandmother’s. It was a standard farmhouse, old and creaky just like dozens more all around us, and it could have stood a little paint. But we called it home, and we liked it. It became Aunt Susan’s home. It had been left to her after Nana died, since my mom already owned one. It was a little out of the way and a long drive to the hospital where my aunt worked. But it was paid for, and that meant a lot.

I had to be quiet going in because Aunt Susan was not a morning person, and the floor squeaked just inside the back door. I was very much a morning person, and I followed the same routine each school or work day. Flipping on the coffee maker, I headed to my room to get ready for school. I got the shower running, since it took a while to heat up in an old farmhouse, and took a sniff to make sure a shower was actually necessary. Oh, yeah. I was gross.

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Meet the Author

Jennifer has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story.

When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

Tour Schedule

3/20 – My Fiction Nook

3/20 – Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

3/20 – Just Love

3/21 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

3/21 – Diverse Reader

3/21 – Fangirl Moments and My Two Cents

3/22 – V’s Reads

3/22 – Molly Lolly

3/22 – MM Good Book Reviews

3/23 – Liz’s Reading Life

3/23 – Stories That Make You Smile

3/23 – Dog-Eared Daydreams

3/24 – Bayou Book Junkie

3/24 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

3/24 – Love Bytes Reviews

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Love Contemporary Romance? Check Out Lane Hayes’ Leaning Into the Fall Blog Tour and Giveaway

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Title:  Leaning Into the Fall

Series: Leaning Into Stories, #2

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: March 10

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: Approximately 77K words

Genre: Romance, Erotica, Bisexual, humor, San Francisco, May to December romance

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Synopsis

Nick Jorgensen is a quirky genius. He’s made a fortune in the competitive high tech field with his quick mind and attention to detail. He believes in hard work and trusting his gut. And he believes in karma. It’s the only thing that makes sense. People are difficult, but numbers never lie. In the disastrous wake of a broken engagement to an investor’s daughter, Nick is more certain than ever he isn’t relationship material.

Wes Conrad owns a thriving winery in Napa Valley. The relaxed atmosphere is a welcome departure from his former career as a high-rolling businessman. Wes’s laid-back nature is laced with a fierceness that appeals to Nick. In spite of his best intention to steer clear of complications, Nick can’t fight his growing attraction to the sexy older man who seems to understand him. Even the broken parts he doesn’t get himself. However, when Wes’s past collides with Nick’s present, both men will have to have to decide if they’re ready to lean into the ultimate fall.

Excerpt

Leaning Into the Fall by Lane Hayes- Exclusive Excerpt

There was a feral edge to Wes’s intense gaze that made my stomach drop. I didn’t get him. He hadn’t been pleased to see me when I showed up at the winery a second time looking like I’d bathed in a vat of Pinot, but he’d invited me into his house and given me dry clothes anyway. Now he was staring me down, daring me to say or do something stupid so he’d have an excuse to toss my ass back out again.

He moved toward the built-in bar and chose a bottle of red wine from a glass shelf then uncorked the bottle and poured a trace amount of the burgundy liquid into a wineglass. He swirled it expertly so that no portion of the glass was untouched.

“Why do you do that? Is that a necessary wine thing or is it for show?”

Wes glanced up with a frown. “Weren’t you going to change?”

The not-so-subtle dismissal was laced with challenge. Maybe he didn’t like to be questioned. Or maybe he remembered he didn’t actually like me and that it might be best to downgrade the hospitality before I got any crazy ideas about us being new buddies. I wasn’t prone to overanalyze any interpersonal interaction. My instincts were socially iffy anyway.

I kept my eyes locked on his and stepped away from the fire. Then I yanked my sweater over my head and began the arduous chore of unbuttoning my oxford shirt, one tiny button at a time.

“Yes,” I answered with a smile, slipping my ruined shirt over my shoulders.

I opened my mouth to say who knows what, but I lost my train of thought when Wes moved toward me, carrying the bottle and two wineglasses. He set everything on the coffee table, picked up the navy T-shirt and handed it to me.

“Are you gonna help me get dressed?”

My voice sounded lower than normal. I was going for mildly flirtatious and ended up sounding inappropriate. It wasn’t the sort of thing that bothered me usually, but there was something vaguely intimidating about this guy.

“If you need assistance, I’m happy to lend a hand,” he countered with a wry grin.

My blush was instantaneous. I felt exposed and maybe even a little childish, but still turned on. My dick swelled in my khakis and though he wasn’t looking at my crotch, I had a strong feeling he knew where my dirty mind had gone. His intense expression didn’t help. He didn’t blink. Or smile. He simply held my gaze until I grabbed the shirt from him and yanked it over my head like a petulant teenager.

Wes chuckled softly and then bent to pour the wine. I rested my fingers on my belt and studied his profile. The silver highlights at his temple glinted in the firelight. The contrast of color gave him an appealing distinguished look. I didn’t care how old he was. Wes Conrad was hot. And gay.

Not that I was interested, of course. It was just an observation.

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Lane Hayes Website

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in an almost empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Tour Schedule

3/15 – Love Bytes Reviews

3/15 – MM Book Escape

3/15 – Zipper Rippers

3/17- Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

3/17 – Books, Dreams, Life

3/21 – Joyfully Jay

3/21 – V’s Reads

3/21 – Divine Magazine

3/21 – The Novel Approach

3/23 – Prism Book Alliance

3/23 – Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

3/23 – BFD Book Blog

3/29 – Alpha Book Club

3/29 – Bayou Book Junkie

3/29 – Boy Meets Boy Reviews

3/31 – MM Good Book Reviews

3/31 – Dog-Eared Daydreams

3/31 – Reviews by Tammy and Kim

3/31 – Happily Ever Chapter

3/31 – Top 2 Bottom Reviews

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Release Day Blitz: An Officer’s Submission (Cuffs, Collars, and Love #4) by Christa Tomlinson (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  An Officer’s Submission

Series: Cuffs, Collars, and Love #4

Author: Christa Tomlinson

Publisher:  Self- Torlina Publishing

Release Date: March 16

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67,000

Genre: Romance, erotic romance, contemporary, D/S, established couples

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Synopsis

“You don’t ever have to keep anything you feel locked up, Clay. I’m your Dom, and whatever you need from me, I’ll gladly give to you.”
– Sergeant Logan Pierce

Police Officer Clay Foster is finally at peace and happy with his life. He enjoys his career as a member of Houston’s SWAT team, and he loves submitting to his Dom in the bedroom. His life is perfect, until one cruel act destroys Clay’s bubble of happiness. Shattered trust forces Clay to reevaluate his career, his relationship, and himself.

Sergeant Logan Pierce is the leader of Houston’s elite SWAT team. On the force, he’s the best at what he does. In private, the most important thing in his life is taking care of his submissive, Clay. Clay is his whole world, and Logan will do whatever is necessary to keep him safe. Even if that means going up against Clay’s stubbornness in order to help him heal.

Can Logan and Clay work together to rebuild their happiness? Can they find their way back to the shared passion of Dominance and submission? Or will their love and relationship end before it’s truly begun?

Excerpt

“It’s good to be back home.”

Logan looked down at him with an eyebrow raised. “Home?”

Clay snorted a laugh. As usual, they were at Logan’s house. When he thought about it, he realized he hadn’t been back to his apartment in weeks. In fact, his bags from their recent trip to Colorado were here at Logan’s. He hadn’t bothered to take them back to his place after their return.

“If I’m in your space too much, I can throw all my stuff in the car and head back to my apartment,” he said as he pretended to pull away.

Logan tightened his grip on his foot. “You’re not going anywhere.”

Clay bit his lip to hold back a grin. “I didn’t think you wanted me to. But what I meant is, I feel good about life. That trip was awesome. I got to play in the snow, just like I wanted.”

“And I got to warm you up when you were done.”

“You did a very good job. You might have gotten me a little overheated a few times,” he teased. He wiggled his toes as Logan squeezed his foot again. “You and I are in a great place. And I think things are going to be better at work now too. We redid Hayden’s ridiculous course and passed with flying colors this time. I’m hoping the fact that we passed the redo means Hayden will get off our backs and quit fucking with our schedule.”

“The team is gelling again. And we’re hoping Hayden will finally move on and give up on his pet project of tormenting our team. Anything else?”

Clay shifted, looking at the TV instead of Logan. “What else is there?”

“Are you still blaming yourself for that idiot making those fake calls to our team?”

Clay pulled his feet off Logan’s lap for real this time and got up from the couch. “Why wouldn’t I blame myself? It was my fault.”

“It wasn’t your fault. And I don’t like hearing you say that it was.”

“C’mon, Sarge. You know that was on me.” Clay roughly ran a hand through his hair, turning his back on his lover. “If I hadn’t gone to that convention and went on camera bragging about how badass our team was, that whacko would have never taken it as a challenge to try and prove he was better than us.” He turned back around as Logan grabbed his hand and pulled him to stand in between his legs.

“Maybe not. But maybe he would have taken his anger out in another way.”

“What do you mean?”

“You read the report Roberts put together on the guy. He was looking for revenge because he felt he’d been slighted too many times. What if he’d physically attacked the people he wanted revenge against? Someone or several someones could have been hurt. At least with the revenge tactics he chose, no one was. We managed to catch the idiot, and hopefully he’ll be granted some time to think about what he did.”

“Are you forgetting he tried to kill me?” Clay saw a muscle tic in Logan’s jaw at the question, his hazel eyes going hard before he answered.

“No, I’m not forgetting.”

Clay tilted his head to the side as he studied his lover. “You know, I noticed that the perp seemed a little worse for wear before you got him loaded in the patrol car. Did you do anything to cause that?”

“I’ll never let anyone hurt you.”

Logan’s response was a non-answer, but it confirmed Clay’s suspicions. “I’m a cop. On occasion, I might get hurt. And you can’t go after people because of that.”

“And you’re mine. Did you forget that?”

Clay shook his head. “No, Sir.”

“Come here.” Clay followed the gentle pull Logan gave his hand to drop down to the couch and straddle his lap.

“You’re my lover. My submissive. It’s my right and my pleasure to protect you, always.” He brought a hand up, his thumb sliding across the metal collar that circled Clay’s neck. “I won’t let anything or anyone hurt you or take you away from me.”

A thrill shot through Clay at that declaration. Logan’s unapologetic possessiveness had caused problems early on in their relationship, but they’d worked on it and come to an understanding on boundaries. Now, he was able to revel in Logan’s possessiveness and caring, because he knew it wouldn’t get out of hand. Clay pressed his forehead to Logan’s and closed his eyes. “I love when you talk to me like that.”

Logan’s hand moved to grip the back of his neck. “Do you?”

His eyes still closed, Clay nodded.

“Tell me why.”

“Because it makes me feel like the most important thing in your world. I’ve never felt like that with anyone.”

“It’s true. You are the most important thing to me. Having you in my life, wearing my collar, means everything to me.”

Clay opened his eyes and looked into his lover’s gaze, seeing the sincerity there. Not that he doubted him. Logan had proven time and time again how much he loved him. “I don’t deserve you, Sir. And I don’t do enough to show you how much I love you in return.”

“You don’t have to do anything to deserve me. I’m with you because I don’t ever want to be with anyone else.”

“Well, maybe I can show you what I feel tonight. Physically.”

Purchase

Self- Torlina Publishing

Meet the Author

Christa Tomlinson is an exciting up and coming author in erotic romance. Christa graduated from The University of Missouri-St. Louis with a degree in history. She loves to create stories that are emotional and lovely with sex that is integral to the characters’ romantic arc. Her books include straight couples, curvy couples, gay, and multicultural couples. Love is love and everyone should have their story told.

Christa lives in Houston, Texas with her two dogs, and is a retired roller derby player. She enjoys hearing from readers, other authors and aspiring writers. For more on Christa’s work, including deleted scenes, excerpts, and free reads, visit http://www.ChristaTomlinson.com

 

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Love a Paranormal Romance? Check out ‘The Alpha’s Prey’ by Lou Kelly (author interview, excerpt, and giveaway)

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Title:  The Alpha’s Prey

Author: Lou Kelly

Publisher:  Amazon KDP

Release Date: 03/01/2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75,000 words

Genre: Romance, shifter, paranormal romance

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lou Kelly here today talking writing and sharing thoughts on her characters from her recent release, The Alpha’s Prey. Welcome, Lou!

✒︎

Let’s Talk Characters with Lou Kelly!

Q: Who is your favorite character in The Alpha’s Prey?

A: That’s a hard question to answer! I always fall in love with my main characters as I’m writing. I figure, if I don’t love them, I can’t expect my audience to fall for them. So, maybe this is cheating, but I’m going to name both of the main characters.

I love Devon’s fighting spirit. He never gives up no matter how difficult the obstacle or how much the odds are stacked against him. He’s a character who’s had to fight hard for everything he’s achieved as a skater, starting out cleaning the ice rink to pay for his lessons as he climbed the ranks to international success. Devon’s career has taught him how to get up after a fall, and that’s a skill he desperately needs in this book.

Aaron is a caretaker. As the alpha of his pack, he’s strong but he doesn’t depend on brute force to lead. Rather, he’s incredibly smart and nurturing. In this story Aaron’s patience is challenged again and again as he waits for his mate to be healed in both body and spirit, but every time he rises to the challenge and makes sure that Devon is loved and protected.

Q: If you had to pick from all of your novels, who would you name as your favorite character?

A: Actually, it would be one of my secondary characters from Unguarded. Bart was such a blast to write. I didn’t intend for him to have such a prominent role in the book, but every time he entered the story he ended up stealing the scene. Writing Bart’s lines made me laugh out loud.

Q: What do you think makes a great character?

A:  Personally, I love a character who is conflicted in some way. I like stories where the two characters have to battle their preconceptions in order to be together. And I love it when there’s a tinge of darkness to a character’s personality.

In The Alpha’s Prey, I enjoyed writing the scenes where Aaron struggles with his powerlessness. In the story, another alpha is hunting Aaron’s mate, and he wants to protect Devon – has to protect him — but his hands are tied when their opponent goes into hiding. Aaron is a strong character, but when he is forced to deal with a situation that’s too often out of control, this allows him to show different aspects of his personality to the reader. He gets scared, frustrated, and even desperate, but he never loses his strength.

Q: What are some of your favorite characters from other novels?

A: I loved the character of Tover in Astrid Amara’s Song of the Navigator. He could have so easily come across as shallow, but he never did. What happens to him is horrible, and as a reader I really had to wonder whether he’d have the strength to forgive. This is one of my favorite m/m novels.

I also loved Lord Crane and Stephen Day in The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. I adored both of the main characters (Gray and John) in Jordan Hawk’s SPECTR series. And I always love Keira Andrews’ characters as well. Every book she writes ends up on my re-read list!

Synopsis

If there’s one thing Devon O’Leary hates, it’s wolves. Everyone thinks the wolfman he remembers as his abductor is a figment of his imagination, but Devon knows the truth and he has the scars to prove it. Wolf shifters are real; they have sharp claws, horrible fangs, and show no mercy to their victims. And one of their Alphas has claimed him as its prey.

Can two men overcome impossible odds to claim the love that was meant to be theirs? Or will Devon’s past cause him to reject the mate who would do anything to keep him safe?

Excerpt

Aaron Lowell had a splitting headache. Again.
Actually, this was a migraine. Even the gentle lamplight in his log home made his forehead crease with pain and his fists clench. If he were fully human, the fact that he’d been getting migraines would suck, but he’d take some medication and visit his doctor. Maybe get an MRI. The problem was, Aaron was a wolf shifter, and shifters did not get migraines. Alphas in peak condition did not salivate for Percaset on the day of the full moon.
And yet, jesus, mary, and joseph, Aaron’s head fucking hurt.
The television was blaring in the living room and Aaron forced himself to walk the few feet to shut it off, but a national news promo was on, interrupting the hockey game to inform viewers that there’d been a break in the Devon O’Leary case.
Headache or no headache, there was zero chance he was shutting off the television now.
Devon O’Leary was a figure skater, dubbed America’s prince after his gold medal win at the World Championships. He’d been abducted almost four weeks ago, and ever since, Aaron hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the guy. Any abduction was horrific, but there was something about this one that tore at Aaron’s guts and wouldn’t let go.
Maybe he was obsessed with the story because he’d always nursed a secret crush on Devon. Who wouldn’t? Devon was a breathtakingly beautiful Irish twenty-two year old with chestnut curls, striking blue eyes, a perfect ass, and a smile that brought dimples to both cheeks. He had an amazing build, masculine, and yet completely graceful on the ice. As far as Aaron could tell, the kid was perfect: gorgeous, bashful, and talented.
Around here, in the mountains of Holland, North Dakota, Devon was also a hometown hero because he’d grown up in the area and trained at the local Ice Hut, making his way up the ranks by scrubbing floors to pay for rink time until he won his first national competition. Like everyone else in Holland, Aaron had loved watching Devon skate, even though his pack teased him mercilessly. Not that Aaron cared about a little teasing. He was an Alpha, and he could watch figure skating if he damn well wanted to.
Except, now Devon might be dead.
Please don’t say they found his body.
Aaron couldn’t tell whether his nausea was due to the migraine or the news report. Ever since the abduction his wolf had been howling to get loose and rip someone’s throat out. He guessed most people felt that way, minus the wolf part, of course. Something precious had been stolen from them.
Someone precious.
Aaron took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. Honestly, if this was the report where they announced they’d found Devon’s mutilated corpse, Aaron thought his wolf might go crazy.
Finally, the breaking news promo ended and a blonde reporter came on screen, standing in front of a tiny, nondescript hunting shack blocked off with yellow tape. She was obviously deep in the woods, bundled in a hooded fur coat, trying not to shiver in the snow.
The blood in Aaron’s ears pounded so loud he could hardly make out a word the reporter was saying, but he got the gist of the recap as she filled the audience in on Devon’s abduction from the ice rink after one of his training sessions. A photograph of Devon flashed onto the screen, followed by a three second cut of him spinning on ice, a flash of him receiving a gold medal at January’s National Skating Competition, and then a fragment of an interview in which Devon laughed, blushed a gorgeous pink, and shook his reddish brown curls in an unconscious gesture that was so endearing Aaron nearly wept.
Fuck. He was really losing control.
“At long last, there’s a lead regarding the abduction of Devon O’Leary,” the reporter said. “Police have located a remote hunting shack where they believe Devon was being held, maybe even as recently as this morning. The break came after a hunter reported seeing a bound figure being carried to a flatbed truck, and police have been scouring the area since the report came in. What they’ve turned up has been, to say the least, disturbing.
“Although police aren’t commenting on the specifics of what was found inside this shack, they have confirmed that blood and other sources of DNA have been brought to a lab where technicians will determine if they belong to Devon O’Leary. As to whether the bound figure was dead or alive, the witness couldn’t be sure.
“Devon’s only surviving relative, his grandmother, Layla O’Leary, and his coach, Ivan Jacobowitz, have both been in constant contact with authorities and have said that this news gives them hope that Devon will be found. They’re pleading with the public to be on alert for anything that might bring Devon home.”
The reporter looked forlorn, and Aaron wondered if that was due to the news about Devon or the freezing temperatures on the mountain.
“According to the witness,” she continued, “the truck was a rusted, blue Chevrolet without plates and the man carrying the bound figure was described as Caucasian, approximately six foot four, abnormally large and muscular with red hair, a full beard, and a scar across one cheek. Police are asking the public to be on alert for signs of this man or his vehicle.”
Police sketches covered the screen and Aaron drew in a sharp breath at the sight.
No. No, no, no.
The sketch of the abductor had the classic profile of a wolf shifter. Large and muscular were the same two words people used to describe Aaron when they first met him, but there was more: a certain sharp cut of the features that spoke of an Alpha wolf. The shoulders were too broad, the facial features more chiseled, and the eyes … even in a black-and-white sketch, the eyes seemed to glow.
“No.” Aaron repeated the only word his aching brain could conjure. “Please, no.” He ran his fingertips down the length of the television screen as if he could reach inside and pull Devon out. Rescue him from his tormentor.
The sound of his front door slamming shut pulled Aaron’s attention back to reality. His Beta and best friend, Georgia, stepped inside, shaking snow out of her waist length, curly brown hair and removing her pale pink parka. She glanced at Aaron, and then at the television.
“I came as soon as I could,” she said. “Heard the news report on the radio and I had a feeling you’d be melting down.”
Aaron grunted. “Why would you think that?”
Georgia’s eyes strayed to Aaron’s living room wall. Newspaper articles and photographs of Devon were pinned to every wooden beam, even taped to the window pane. Each lead the police had produced thus far – not that any of them had panned out – were pinpointed on a large map tacked between Aaron’s framed college diploma and his UND Hockey poster. A glossy, color cut-out from Skating magazine showed Devon’s smiling face.
“Okay. Maybe I’ve been a bit obsessive,” he admitted, “but the guy’s a local. I know his grandmother, for god’s sake.”
“You know his grandmother because you started visiting her at the assisted living facility after Devon’s abduction,” Georgia reminded him. Gently. For someone whose wolf form was as big as her Alpha’s, Georgia was surprisingly gentle. Even in human form she stood only slightly smaller than Aaron’s broad, six foot four frame, yet she still came across as delicate.
Aaron shook his head. “Yeah. I guess that’s true. I feel like I’ve known her forever.” Over the past month he’d found this sort of thing happening a lot. His head felt muddled, as if every thought had to travel through a thick layer of fog before an idea could emerge. “She’s an amazing woman. She’s already lost a husband, a son, and a daughter-in-law. I can’t imagine how she’s surviving. Maybe I’ll stop by tonight and –”
Georgia cleared her throat, reaching over to shut off the television. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what night this is.”
“What? Oh. Right. Of course not.” But for a moment, Aaron had forgotten. How the hell had he forgotten about the full moon? For shifters, the full moon beat in their veins, literally speeding up the flow of blood so their whole body felt vibrant and alive, ready to split open at any moment. Not a feeling one could easily forget.
“The pack is looking forward to running. You know your mood has been affecting them over the past few weeks. They need this release, Aaron.”
“Yeah. I know.”
He did know. He’d had his first nightmare after the previous full moon waned, quickly followed by his first migraine the next day, and in the weeks since he’d been sluggish, irritable, and nearly incapable of making a decision. Basically, the opposite of everything his pack deserved from their leader.
“Relax,” Georgia said, as if she could read his mind. “No one expects you to be perfect. You’re a damn good Alpha and five years of doing everything right isn’t going to be erased by one bad month. Especially not when there’s clearly something wrong with you.” She paused. “Uh, medically, I mean. The pack is worried, that’s all. We want to see you healthy and it’s scary that Doc doesn’t know how to treat you. Everyone’s hoping that shifting on the full moon will help.”
Aaron couldn’t deny that he’d been hoping for the same thing. Shifters were supposed to heal quickly. Long term illnesses weren’t a part of shifter life until they grew old, but for him, there was even more resting on the full moon shift because the truth was, Doc not only couldn’t cure him, he couldn’t find anything wrong with Aaron in the first place, which meant that whatever was going on was probably in his head.
Even now he could hear Doc’s patient voice. “You took over this pack real young, Aaron. I understand your father wanted to take the position with the council up in Canada, but you’re not mated and you were just out of grad school. Running a pack and a business is a lot of stress for someone your age.”
According to Doc, Aaron had latched onto Devon’s case in an attempt to channel his own latent anxiety into something concrete. Maybe that was true, but Aaron hadn’t been conscious of any out-of-the-ordinary stress before everything fell apart. The pack ran a business building custom log homes, and sales were booming. He’d been able to use his MBA to bring in new customers and nearly double their clientele. Sure, he missed his father, but he loved being Alpha. Leadership was in his blood. Literally.
“Have you eaten anything today?” Georgia asked, walking into his kitchen. She didn’t wait for an answer, rummaging through his refrigerator and stacking mounds of leftover bacon, baked beans, and a pile of carrots onto a paper plate. “You need fuel for tonight.”
She walked back out and set the plate on his coffee table, but Aaron ignored her. He took a red pushpin and stuck it onto the map at the location where the hunting shack had been found. Aaron stared at the pin. The spot was about three hours north in rugged terrain, but it would be possible to get there by nightfall.
“What are you thinking?” Georgia asked, reaching over to massage his shoulders. Aaron was suddenly aware that he’d been wearing the same shirt for three days straight, and he hadn’t shaved, so dark stubble was turning into a full beard. He kept his black hair cut short most of the time, but it had grown out into a ragged, unkempt look, made worse by the circles under his eyes.
“I, uh … we’re going to run here tonight.” He reached out and placed a finger on an area just north of the pushpin where a single dotted line indicated a logging road. Georgia stopped massaging.
“Aaron, I know you want to find this guy, but …”
Aaron whirled on her. “It’s not that I want to find Devon. I need to find him. And he needs to be found. This area isn’t claimed by any pack, so there’s no reason we can’t run here.”
“No reason except that the whole mountain is probably crawling with police.”
“You know humans, they’ll stop searching at nightfall, especially with the temperature dropping.”
Georgia pursed her lips. “Then there’s the three hour drive there and back. Parents with pups will have to get childcare at the last minute, or else we’ll have to leave someone behind to watch the little ones.”
“Ask a few of the elders to stay. Tell them it’s a personal favor for their Alpha.”
“You should also consider the pack’s feelings. They’re already confused about why you’re so obsessed with Devon’s disappearance, and this sudden change in plans won’t help matters.”
“Enough!” The word came out in a stifled roar and ended on a growl. “I’m still the Alpha, and if I say we run here tonight, then that’s where we run. Unless anyone wants to challenge me for my position, in which case they can try their best.”
Georgia made a startled yelp and lowered her eyes to the floor, tilting her head to show her submission. “Of course not, Aaron. No one is challenging your leadership. We love you and support you. I’m just saying it will be difficult to pull everything together at such late notice.”
“I don’t care,” Aaron said. “Do whatever it takes. Anyone who has a valid reason to stay home can run here with a smaller pack or stay with the kids, but I expect everyone else to be ready to leave by four o’clock. We’ll fan out around the base of the mountain and work our way up. This isn’t a request; it’s an order.”
Georgia nodded, but they both knew she wouldn’t have to repeat the last part. Even now the pack could probably sense Aaron’s intensity. They’d feel it in rippling waves of emotion, capped off with the need to obey.
“I better get started then,” she said, reaching for the parka she’d just discarded. She paused, looking back up. “Aaron, is there something you’re not telling me? Something else driving your desire to run in that territory? I mean, besides the obvious.”
Georgia could always tell when he was holding back. That was part of what made her an ideal Beta.
Aaron sighed. “I didn’t like the sketch of the possible abductor that the police released.” He shrugged. “I know it’s just a composite and the witness could be wrong about what he saw, but …”
“But what?”
“The guy looks like a wolf shifter. An Alpha.”
Georgia’s eyebrows climbed up her forehead.
“I realize this probably sounds insane considering I’ve only seen one pencil sketch,” Aaron said, “but if you think about it, the whole scenario points to a shifter. Devon was abducted on the morning after the full moon ended. If he’s been alive this whole time, that means someone has kept him hidden, and now he’s been moved right before the next full moon ascends. I know it’s not much, but I think we have to check things out.”
Georgia set her hand on his arm. “Actually,” she said, “it’s a lot. If there’s even a chance that you’re right, we need to take that shifter down.”
Aaron let out a breath. “Thank you.” There were so many reasons to love Georgia he couldn’t count them all. Her unconditional support was in the top ten.
“I’ll rally the troops,” she said. “Worst thing that happens, we rule out the idea that Devon’s being kept in that area. Best thing? We save that kid’s life, take down a rogue Alpha, and become the heroes of Holland, North Dakota.” She grinned, flashing the wide smile that could rival any Hollywood actress.
Aaron reached over and pulled her close, planting a kiss on her cheek. “Tell me again why we’re not mated?”
She winked, bumping him with her hip. “Could be because Walt would complain. I swear, he gets the Mate-of-the-Year award for coming in second place all the time and not leaving me. If you didn’t prefer men, he’d have dragged me off to another pack ages ago.” She paused, giving Aaron a look. “You know, Walt has this theory that Devon is really your mate and that’s why you’re so drawn to his case. He says your wolf is in pain because it has a psychic link with its soul mate. Might explain the migraines.”
Aaron laughed. “Nice theory, except for the minor detail about the guy being fully human. Trust me, I sniffed around his old apartment and didn’t find even a trace of wolf scent.”
“I don’t know,” Georgia said. “I’ve heard of other wolves being mated to humans. It’s pretty rare, but it happens.”
“Not to Alphas,” Aaron said, shaking his head. “Doc says we’re genetically designed to be mated with female wolves so we can continue the pack. He’s sworn up and down that when the time comes and I meet my mate I’ll feel attracted to her. I told him that if I was going to be attracted to any woman it would be you.”
Georgia laughed. “You put too much stock in Doc’s opinions. He’s a sweet old man, Aaron, but he’s been the only wolf doctor in this tiny, backwater town since before we were born. I don’t even know if he got a medical degree or if he just learned the art from his grandfather.”
“So what are you saying?”
“Nothing. Just that Doc’s been wrong before and crazier things have happened.” She pulled on her coat and headed to the door. “I’ll see you later,” she said. “If Devon’s out there, we’ll find him.”
Long after the door shut, Aaron stood in the same exact spot, staring at the wall. He tried to hold the idea of Devon being his mate in his mind, but the thought brought his migraine back full-force. If he were to believe that was true, it would mean that someone had taken away the man meant to be his soul mate and held that man captive in a hunting shack for a month, while he did god only knew what to him.
Aaron’s head spun. No. Better not to go there. The idea was crazy to begin with, and there was nothing to be gained from entertaining the thought. He needed to sleep for an hour or two before the pack headed out. Give in to his body’s demands before he exerted himself.
Slowly, Aaron crawled up the stairs and flung his tired form onto his bed. He closed his eyes, knowing he’d dream about dimples and chestnut curls, arms reaching out to him, desperate and in pain, pleading for his help.
Begging to be found.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Lou Kelly loves a great romance. Having honed her skills as an author through a decade of writing and publishing, she discovered m/m fiction and fell in love. What does she like best? The slow burn.

“No insta-love for me. I adore a well-developed full-length novel with characters who are believable and sympathetic. My favorite relationships are the kind where suppressed desire sizzles with sexual tension struggling for release. Give me a strong Alpha male who has to fight for his mate, or enemies who are shocked when hate turns into love, or a mysterious stranger who doesn’t want his secrets revealed … I crave books that keep me up past my bedtime.”

When she isn’t writing, Lou Kelly loves to travel. Sadly, most of her traveling these days happens between the pages of books, but top on her wish list is a trip to Greece. Followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland. *sigh* Someday she hopes to explore them all. Until then, you can find her reading! – Lou Kelly is a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), and a proud member of RRW (Rainbow Romance Writers).

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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In the Paranormal Spotlight: Insight (The Community #1) by Santino Hassell (Riptide Publishing Tour and Giveaway)

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Insight (The Community #1) by Santino Hassell
R
iptide Publishing
Cover by: Kanaxa

Available for Purchase at Riptide Publishing/Read An Excerpt here

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Santino Hassell here today talking about the inspiration behind Insight and the way in which the author sees the cast of characters.  Welcome, Santino!

✒︎

 

The idea for INSIGHT first came to me along with a vision of Nate’s family. A haunting, dysfunctional, psychic family full of people who share strong physical

Nathaniel “Nate” Black played by Blue Equis

straits. Willowy, pale, ash blond hair, and gray eyes. People who look spectral, have dark secrets, and who push each other away despite sharing this strong bond.

However, as I began writing, I had strong mental images for the entire cast of characters—from the skeptical wise guy, Trent, whom Nate

Trent played by Anthony Gastelier

meets on his road trip across the country to investigate his brother’s death, to the psychics Nate meets after stumbling upon the Community-run queer nightclub his brother worked at. I’d collected inspiration pics very early on so, here is my INSIGHT dream cast.

Holden played by Devin Paisley

Chase played by Josh Beech

Holden played by Devin Paisley

Elijah played by Marlon Teixeira

  

 

About Insight

Growing up the outcast in an infamous family of psychics, Nate Black never learned how to control his empath abilities. Then after five years without contact, his estranged twin turns up dead in New York City. The claim of suicide doesn’t ring true, especially when a mysterious vision tells Nate it was murder. Now his long-hated gift is his only tool to investigate. 

Hitching from his tiny Texas town, Nate is picked up by Trent, a gorgeous engineer who thrives on sarcasm and skepticism. The heat that sparks between them is instant and intense, and Nate ends up trusting Trent with his secrets—something he’s never done before. But once they arrive in the city, the secrets multiply when Nate discovers an underground supernatural community, more missing psychics, and frightening information about his own talent.

Nate is left questioning his connection with Trent. Are their feelings real, or are they being propelled by abilities Nate didn’t realize he had? His fear of his power grows, but Nate must overcome it to find his brother’s killer and trust himself with Trent’s heart.

Now available at Riptide. http://www.riptidepublishing.com/titles/insight

About Santino Hassell

Santino was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed grunge kid, then a transient twentysomething, and eventually transformed into a guy who spends his days and nights writing romance with an edge.

Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Connect with Santino:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Insight, one lucky winner will receive $20 in Riptide credit! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on March 18, 2017. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Release Day Blitz: Shaper by Christine Danse (giveaway)

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Title:  Shaper

Series: The Mi’hani Wards, Book 1

Author: Christine Danse

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: March 13

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 14100

Genre:

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Synopsis

Nameless and without an identity, she wakes on the streets of Shapertown, an abandoned city that defies the laws of physics. She’s fleeing a threat she can’t remember. One woman holds the key to unlocking her memories and the dangerous truth: She is the threat.

Excerpt

Shaper
Christine Danse © 2017
All Rights Reserved

I didn’t dream.

I existed in a black space where for a time I almost had a family and friends, school, the everyday pleasures of domestic life. I drifted close to the shores of memory but didn’t make landfall.

The sound of voices pulled me out again, a man and a woman. They drew me out to sea and up into the sky, into my skin.

I came to on my side under the warmth of covers. Home, in my bed.

But no, not my bed. Not my room. No room I recognized.

Instinct told me to kick to my feet and bolt, but like a small animal, I felt safe under cover.

I scanned the contents of the small room. White dresser, table against the side with two chairs, one door. No more than that.

I made another pass with my eyes just to be sure, but there was only the one door, so only one way out. The voices came from just on the other side of it, so I wouldn’t be slipping out unseen. I would have to wait this out. I had no choice. It had nothing to do with the fact that the pillow was soft under my head, the blankets a bank of clouds atop me. A comfort like home, which I hadn’t known for…

For a long time. The feeling didn’t quite come with a memory, but a strong sense of hard surfaces and shivering sleep.

“I realize,” the woman was saying. She spoke in a hushed tone, but I could just get her words.

The man responded in a low rumble I couldn’t make out.

“I know that,” she said. “But you must understand the position this puts me in.”

Something about her voice made me uneasy. Maybe her tone. There was an edge to it, a wariness and also a weariness.

“I’m retired,” she said at last, flatly.

Nothing after that. They might have moved off, leaving me, forgetting me. But I didn’t move, just lay with the blanket pulled up to my eyes and held still, waiting for something, because something always came.

The rattle of the doorknob warned me just before the door opened. The man entered first. Tall, with dark brooding eyes and a presence like a storm cloud compacted into a man’s shape. But it was the woman at his elbow who scared me. Thin, with straight brown hair and luminescent blue eyes. Beautiful but tired, mouth in a line like it had never known a smile.

I sat up and clutched the blanket, never mind that I was clothed. I pushed back my curls.

“You’re awake,” the man said. He drew out a chair and sat. The woman stood leaning back against the doorframe with her arms crossed, seemingly impassive, but our awareness of each other pulled like a taut string.

“I’m Nero,” the man said. “And this is Natalia.”

After that came a pause. They seemed to be waiting for something. I looked between them, fingers curled around the top edge of the blanket. My gaze caught the woman’s and snagged.

He prompted: “Can you tell us your name?”

I opened my mouth and— “No.” I felt an instant pulse in the air, like a throb of hostility from them, and added, “I don’t know.”

The man’s eyes flickered. The woman shifted from one leg to the other and propped the foot against the wall.

“I don’t know,” I said again. “I don’t know my name.” The edge of panic crept into my voice.

They exchanged a glance.

The man asked me more questions. It was a terror and a relief not to have the answers. They could get nothing out of me. I could betray no one.

He seemed to get the same idea. He stood and exchanged a conversation with the woman that consisted of a look, a subtle glance in my direction, a scowl, and a tight nod. Then the man told me that Natalia would make me comfortable.

“I’m comfortable here,” I said. At that moment, I would have rather been huddled in the corner of that crumbling building like a dog behind the dresser.

The woman, Natalia, dredged up a smile that didn’t quite make it to her eyes but also wasn’t unkind, and held a hand up, gently beckoning. I couldn’t decline.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Christine lives with her writing partner in the wilds of urban Oregon, where they raise weeds, worms, and eyebrows.

Website | Twitter | eMail

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