New Book Release Blitz for The Vampire’s Quest (The Realm of the Vampire Council #2) by Damian Serbu (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: The Vampire’s Quest

Series: The Realm of the Vampire Council, Book Two

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 11, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84600

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, 19th century American South, vampires, angels, established couples

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Synopsis

The Vampire’s Quest brings back the beloved gay vampires, Xavier and Thomas, in the anticipated sequel to The Vampire’s Angel.

In 1822, the Archangel St. Michel orders Xavier to go on a quest to America, a quest that violates the Vampire Council’s laws to the point of a possible death sentence. Worse, Xavier must abandon his lover, Thomas. Xavier runs to his aging sister and pleads for Catherine’s help as Thomas races after them. With Thomas and the Vampire Council vying for Xavier’s soul, Xavier and Catherine struggle to obey the former priest’s divine calling before their inevitable capture.

Excerpt

The Vampire’s Quest
Damian Serbu © 2019
All Rights Reserved

One: St. Michel’s First Visit
8 March 1822

London, England

St. Michel stood before Xavier in all his glory, with his sword in one hand and a stern look peering through the golden light flooding from behind. “Listen, Child of God, and obey. Go to Mont St. Michel. Go to the monastery and cathedral built to my legacy and to God’s glory. There I shall issue further instructions.” As St. Michel parted, his sword lashed across Xavier’s forehead.

Xavier cried out in his sleep, waking with blood dripping from his brow. The confines of his coffin never felt so claustrophobic.

He reached up to discover the gash from St. Michel’s sword already starting to heal. Why did that surprise him? Vampires healed almost instantly. But how could he imagine their magical healing powers could undo the wrath of an angel rained down in a dream?

The lid to the trunk-cum-coffin lifted and candlelight flooded Xavier’s face.

“What’s wrong?” Only when he heard Thomas’s alarmed voice and looked into his piercing dark brown eyes did Xavier realize his lover had already awakened for the night and no longer lay next to him.

“Nothing,” Xavier whispered.

“Nothing?” Thomas almost shouted. “You were screaming. And you bled. There’s an injury here.” Thomas reached down and touched Xavier’s forehead where St. Michel wounded him.

“It’s healed now.”

Thomas lifted Xavier out of the trunk and moved him to the nearby bed. He held Xavier in his strong arms and rocked back and forth. “What’s going on, abbé?” Thomas used his affectionate nickname for Xavier, from his human days as a priest. “Tell me.”

“You have to believe me. I know you don’t have the same faith, but this is real.”

“Talk to me.” Thomas clutched Xavier harder.

“We have to go to Mont St. Michel in France. Immediately. Tonight. St. Michel, the archangel himself, commanded it.”

Thomas frowned. “We arrived here to visit Anthony.”

“Anthony will understand.” Xavier trusted their closest friend, and the oldest vampire they knew, would accept their explanation for a hasty retreat.

“It was just a dream. Aren’t you overreacting?”

Xavier stifled his rising panic. He pointed to his coffin. “The blood. You saw it for yourself, on my forehead. He cut me as a warning. Please, you have to believe me. We have to go.” Xavier hated the desperation in his voice. It made him sound unhinged, almost as unstable as the time he disappeared during the French Revolution while human, lost in his drunkenness because he fled from Thomas’s love.

“Then we’ll go.” Thomas petted Xavier on the head, then leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Do you think me mad?”

Thomas chuckled but squeezed Xavier in his arms. “Always. I never know if your visions are a flight of fancy or real. But they’re a part of you. Have I denied you anything since I converted you to a vampire? No. And I never will. So we’ll go.”

Thomas’s skepticism almost convinced Xavier to question what happened, until Xavier stood and saw the blood stain on the silk lining where he slept.

Moments later, Xavier and Thomas said goodbye to Anthony, who as expected, made no protest at their sudden departure. They crossed the English Channel by swimming at vampiric speed and approached Mont St. Michel.

The mere sight of the majestic place awed Xavier. On the northern tip of France sat a small island upon which stood a mystical cathedral, rising out of the clouds and reaching up to the heavens.

Built from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries, legend had it St. Michel visited St. Aubert, the bishop of Avranches, three times in a dream, commanding him to build a tribute to the saint atop the island rock. Enraged, the bishop had not heeded his call; on the third visit, St. Michel hammered the imprint of an anvil into the bishop’s head, so when he woke he would believe the saint visited his sleep. Impressed by St. Michel’s message, the bishop commenced the project, which took several centuries and various manifestations to complete.

The soaring cathedral built atop the island stretched into the night sky as the two vampires slowed their pace. Xavier and Thomas walked through the fields of grazing sheep toward the water, where they again would need to swim because of the high tide engulfing the island. The small city beneath the castle still acted as a medieval village, with gates and stone walls surrounding it for protection. The one road on the island wound up the steep hill, toward the abbey and monks’ quarters. Above the village, overlooking all of France, the church stood as a legacy to medieval architecture and its grand monuments to God and St. Michel.

St. Michel called Xavier to the shrine, the grandest of all memorials to him. Thomas and Xavier woke an innkeeper and rented an entire floor of his establishment for privacy. They then explored the small island’s shops, closed for the night, and last, the grand monastery perched atop. They took a few needed items from sleeping merchants, including an enormous traveling chest they could convert into their temporary coffin, but left behind twice the value of the objects they took.

Xavier and Thomas concealed themselves in their rooms inside the trunk. Xavier braced himself, as the sun rose, for another visit from St. Michel, but woke the next night well rested. With no further divine instructions, the vampires made love and decided to further explore the island.

Inside the cathedral, overlooking the channel, Xavier again talked to Thomas about why they came to Mont St. Michel.

“Did you ever think you’re worried about something else?” Thomas pulled Xavier into his arms. Xavier loved the feel of Thomas’s long, black hair against his cheek. “Maybe these visions mean something else. Archangels don’t really visit people.”

Xavier looked into Thomas’s brown eyes and ran his fingers through his hair. “You saw the blood.”

“There are a thousand explanations for that. Why go to ghosts and spirits?”

“Because he came to me.” Xavier put his head on Thomas’s chest, afraid Thomas thought him insane. Insanity would have been easier to confront than the actual visit from an archangel.

“And so we’re here. What now?” Thomas asked.

“We wait.” Xavier shrugged and pulled away. “We can tour this magnificent place.” Xavier twirled and motioned to the tapestries and view around them. “Here, come back to the courtyard. The view is magical.” He reached for Thomas’s hand and pulled him outside.

As they admired the water and saw the lambs sleeping on the mainland of France, Thomas came up behind Xavier and wrapped his arms around his waist. Soon, Thomas’s tongue lapped at Xavier’s ear and his hands wandered across his body. Xavier tensed with sexual passion, leaning into his lover, forgetting about the archangel for a moment.

“Someone will see,” Xavier said half-heartedly, at the same time reaching his head back to lock lips with Thomas. “Should we go to our rooms?”

“I can’t wait. It’s the middle of the night. No one is awake.”

They made passionate love to one another, right in the churchyard.

“Blasphemy,” Xavier said to his lover as they redressed. “In front of a church. I already have an angry archangel after me.” Xavier wondered how much he really meant. Did he think God would disapprove? Xavier felt sure God would dwell more on the power of their love for one another.

But what of St. Michel? Xavier doubted he had the same forgiveness as God. His legacy of violence against those whom he enlisted on his missions told a different story. Then again, Xavier felt certain last night St. Michel would come to him at once, either in their quarters or while Xavier slept through the day. Nothing. No vision. No sign.

“Leave the archangel to me. Nothing will harm you.” Thomas smiled at Xavier as they walked down the steep steps toward their inn. “You need to relax.”

“I am. I know I worry a lot. But not this time. He came to me. He really did.”

“Then we’ll wait. For as long as you need and as long as he doesn’t prohibit sex.”

“He might not want it in front of the sanctuary again.” Xavier grinned. Thomas’s penchant for blasphemy amused the former priest, despite certain irrational qualms about it. Thomas laughed and pulled Xavier close to him. They spent the remainder of the night in their quarters, with Xavier writing to his aging sister, Catherine, in Paris and Thomas organizing financial affairs.

Before the sun appeared, Xavier retired to their makeshift coffin. Exhausted, he soon fell asleep, before Thomas joined him.

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Meet the Author

Damian Serbu lives in the Chicago area with his husband and two dogs, Akasha and Chewbacca. The dogs control his life, tell him what to write, and threaten to eat him in the middle of the night if he disobeys. He has published The Vampire’s Angel and The Vampire’s Protégé with NineStar Press. Coming later this year from NineStar: The Vampire’s Quest and Santa Is a Vampire.

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New Release Blitz for Escaping Mortality (The Escape Trilogy #3) by Sara Dobie Bauer (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Escaping Mortality

Series: The Escape Trilogy, Book Three

Author: Sara Dobie Bauer

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 28, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 33100

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, bisexual, gay, vampires, polyamorous, British nobility, established couples

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Synopsis

Their ocean journey was successful, and Andrew and Edmund found an Elder just in time. As they wished, Edmund is now a vampire like Andrew. They have eternity together, but first, they must visit Edmund’s ailing mother in the English countryside with their flock of immortals, including the Elder, who has taken an ominous liking to his new creation.

When they arrive at Edmund’s family estate, his sick mother and her loathsome best friend await them. While ducking religious curses, Edmund struggles to harness an unexpected power gifted him by the Elder. Andrew fears for his beloved as Edmund becomes more and more monstrous—but vampires have always been monsters, haven’t they?

A battle is coming, for Edmund’s heart and his soul, and Andrew will lose neither. He escaped island exile and a near tragedy at sea to be with Edmund, the beautiful young sailor he loves. Andrew will do anything to keep Edmund by his side, but his most dangerous adversary may be Edmund himself.

Excerpt

Escaping Mortality
Sara Dobie Bauer © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edmund tries desperately not to shiver, but he forgets himself every minute or so and allows a full body shake that vibrates the wet edges of his hair. We’re back on deck after our desperate leap into the ocean, my sailor and I. A half-hysterical Michelle wrapped us both in the heaviest fabric she could find once we were both safely lifted back onboard with our new passenger: the Elder.

He sits across from Edmund at a large table in our ship’s common area while I stand and glare. Michelle and Felipe linger silently to my left and right.

This Elder is nothing more than a rotting skeleton, covered in loose, hanging flesh. He smells of dead fish and refuses to take his dark eyes off the man I love.

“You are dying,” the creature says, his voice like the swinging of a rusted gate.

Edmund chuckles. “Yes. So you understand why I need your help.”

“Why do you want this gift, dead man? Power? Prestige?”

“No.”

“Then, why?”

“Love.”

The creature’s gaze momentarily swings up, and I stand straighter. For the first time since we escaped the rolling waves, the Elder addresses me: “How frustrating for a strong vampire such as yourself that you cannot save the one you adore.”

I’m about to respond when Edmund speaks first. “I would prefer to keep this conversation between the two of us, if you don’t mind. It is, after all, my life we discuss.”

The Elder studies Edmund and says nothing. For a long moment, he merely observes. Although the blanket covers Edmund’s black, infected flesh, it’s impossible to miss the green pallor of his skin, the purple circles around his eyes, and the color of his lips, now practically white. All signs of the healthy young man I first met are gone.

“You have no fear right now, dead man. Strange for one with so little time left. I tasted it underwater, your fear. Quite a strong bouquet.” A tongue like a slippery snail pokes out from the Elder’s mouth to lick cracked lips.

“You tried to pull me under.”

“You offered yourself.”

“I needed to get your attention.”

I’m not sure, but I think the Elder smiles. He shows his teeth anyway—long, pointed fangs bigger than any I’ve seen. “And now, you have it, dead man.”

“My name is Edmund. And you?”

Again, those eyes—so dark as to be almost black—glance at me. “Brien.” He growls the R. “If the world is still how I recall, Edmund, nothing is free. You woke me with your dying flesh because you need something.” He opens his hands before him, skin wrinkled, sharp fingernails like weapons. “What do I get from you?”

Edmund shivers and groans. When he bends over in pain and rests his forehead on the table, Michelle stops me from rushing forward. “What do you want?” Edmund asks.

As my darling struggles to find the strength to sit, Brien watches with interest—I assume. It’s difficult to tell with the sagging, wet flesh. Logic says the Elder should be dry by now, but he continues to drip foul water as though made of the stuff.

“You can have anything,” Edmund says.

Brien leans forward and sniffs, seeking Edmund’s scent. “I want to kill you.”

I step toward them. “No.”

The Elder stares at me. “No?”

“Edmund requested I do that.” I could say more about how I want to taste his soul, how I want that moment to belong to me and me alone. I want him in my arms the moment he takes his last breath. So many things do I want, and this monster of the sea would steal it all.

“Dead man?” Brien practically purrs.

“Damn it.” Edmund closes his eyes. “Fine. My life is yours.”

“But—”

“It is better than the alternative, love,” Edmund mutters. “Is that all you require?”

“I will travel with you wherever you now go.”

“Michelle?” Edmund says her name but doesn’t turn. I don’t think he’s strong enough to move anymore.

My old friend—once enemy, now leader—steps forward in her sweeping skirts. “Of course, Elder Brien. We are at your service.”

“You might want to…” Edmund coughs. “Find something to wear. They frown upon naked corpses walking around London.”

Felipe laughs—one short burst of amusement.

“Do we have a deal?”

Brien lowers his head. “Yes, Edmund.” He looks up and shows his teeth. “Ah, there it is—the smell. Now, you are afraid.”

Edmund’s eyes are red. I don’t know if he cries from pain or from the thought of his own murder at the hands of a hideous monster. Perhaps he found comfort in the thought of me doing it because he knew I wouldn’t let him hurt. Brien appears liable to chop off each of Edmund’s fingers before letting him die—but I will not let that happen. I will be at his side. I will hold Edmund’s hand as his heart stops beating. Thinking of this, my own chest begins to ache.

My God, what if this doesn’t work? What if the Elder kills my darling and jumps back overboard? What if these are the last moments I have with the only creature I have ever loved? I lean down quickly and kiss Edmund’s forehead.

His hand finds my face. “I’m ready,” he whispers. “Are you?” He smiles at me.

I pick him up and carry him to our room. The others follow close behind. In fact, the entire crew stands in the hall, watching us pass. What’s about to happen hasn’t happened in centuries, and I suppose everyone wants a view.

By the time I rest my shivering love in the center of our bed, someone has given Brien a cloak, although it does little to hide the emaciated ground meat of his face. Michelle comes in but locks everyone else out, for which I am thankful.

I kiss Edmund, and Jesus, he smells almost as bad as the Elder. I kiss his lips softly as he whispers he loves me.

“I love you too. I’ll be right here.” I squeeze his hand and kneel on the edge of our bed.

From across the room, Brien watches me again with what I suspect is delight. I want to bark at him and ask what on earth could be so funny, but I bite my tongue. Now is not the time to provoke the only man who can save Edmund. As he leans forward, I lean back, paying the Elder respect.

He looms over Edmund, but strangely, instead of beginning his feast, he rests on his side and touches Edmund’s hair with his pointed nails. “I am going to kill you now, but I will give you a new life. One without sickness or death. Do you accept this gift I give?”

Edmund nods.

“As I feed, I want you to think. Picture yourself healthy—the way you were before this. Perhaps, the way you were when you first met your vampire.”

“Half drowned on a beach?”

Although I can’t help but smile, the Elder seems confused. “Perhaps not. Picture yourself how you want to be, and in a little while, it will be so. Do you understand?”

Edmund nods again and flails for my hand. I entwine our fingers.

“Thank you for your offering,” Brien says. He then moves faster than even my eyes can manage to follow.

 

Read Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Review here!

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Sara Dobie Bauer is a bestselling author, model, and mental health / LGBTQ advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, she lives with her hottie husband and two precious pups in Northeast Ohio, although she’d really like to live in a Tim Burton film. She is author of the paranormal rom-com Bite Somebody series, among other sexy things.

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New Book Release Blitz for Death Days by Lia Cooper (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title: Death Days

Author: Lia Cooper

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 6, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70000

Genre: Paranormal, college, teaching, magic, dark, slow burn, age gap, vampires, shifters

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Synopsis

By day, Professor Nicholas Littman works as an itinerant professor at a small college in the Pacific Northwest. He teaches seminars on mythology and the intersections of folklore and magic in the ancient world. By night, he’s the local necromancer, a rare magical talent that has left him alienated from other practitioners.

All Nick wants from life is to be left alone to run his magical experiments and teach kids the historical context of magic without anyone being the wiser. Unfortunately, his family is sworn to sit on the council of the Order of the Green Book—a group of magicians dating back to the Crusades—and they aren’t willing to take Nick’s no for an answer.

As though that wasn’t bad enough, a coven of Night Women has arrived in town, warning Nick that there are wolves at his door he had better take care of. But what can one necromancer do when every natural and supernatural card seems stacked against him?

Excerpt

Death Days
Lia Cooper © 2018
All Rights Reserved

One: The Professor
“Today we’re talking about the elision that occurs between Thoth worship in pre-Ptolemaic Egypt and early Greece. Let’s break into four groups for seminar,” Professor Nicolas Littman said, eyeing the half-empty teaching theater. He divided the room with a sweep of his arm and glanced at the clock on the back wall.

“We’ll meet back here in thirty minutes to discuss your thoughts as a group. And I want every small group to come up with a question to pose to the rest of us.”

He felt gratified at the way they began shuffling together into little clusters without further prompting.

“One of you should go use the lounge outside,” he said, waving absently at the small group at the very back of the room.

He didn’t care if they took the direction or not. He trusted in every student’s desire to escape the four walls of the classroom given a millimeter of freedom. All that mattered was that he now had thirty minutes of his own time in which to play hooky.

Nick grabbed a book and the vape out of his bag, and slipped out of the left-hand exit.

Why someone in the administration had decided to give him a corner theater for this class was beyond him. Four credits on Hermetic Mythologies and Cosmologies was hardly in demand. Especially when it was offered as a four-and-a-half-hour option on Saturdays. But if it meant they got a spacious room and the otherwise empty SEM II C building to themselves, he shouldn’t complain. His students could spread out to their hearts’ content, leaving him to steal outside to smoke without anyone around to gripe at him.

“Not even a proper smoke,” he muttered, flicking the round silver device on, warming the metal under his hand.

Nick sat on the concrete with his back to the building’s cement exterior and his knees bent, pressed the tip of the vape between his lips, and held down the button for a long, comforting drag. He closed his eyes to the bright sun and tipped his head back against the wall. Vapor streamed out of his pursed lips in a thick, fragrant cloud and pooled in the air above his head.

“Hiding from the students again?” an amused voice asked from above.

“I’m not hiding,” Nick grumbled.

A thin body lowered itself down onto the ground next to him, all long spidery limbs that folded with the kind of soft careless agility Nick hadn’t felt in a decade or two.

He looked over at his—teaching assistant wasn’t the word. Technically, Josiah didn’t work for him at all. He was just an independent contract student working on an eight-credit history project, but he let Nick use him like a TA so that’s how he always thought of him.

“What do you call this?” Josiah asked, knocking their shoulders together.

“Seminaring.”

Josiah’s face crumpled up with amusement. His flexible mouth stretched into a laugh while his shoulders shook. Nick held out the vape on offer and waited for Josiah to notice.

“Is it peppermint?” he asked.

Nick nodded.

“No thanks.”

“I’m not buying cake or whatever it is you like.”

“Are you trying to say there’s something wrong with cake?” Josiah returned Nick’s stony look with a nonplussed expression.

“It’s unna—”

“First of all: I don’t remember tobacco ever coming in ‘peppermint flavor’ before, and second: everything you do is unnatural, so that’s not a valid argument coming from you, Professor Littman.”

Nick grimaced. “Don’t call me that.”

“Nick.”

He sighed and took another long drag off his vape, waiting for the nicotine to soothe the flutter in his heart that Josiah’s words had kicked up. Nothing he did was natural. The kid had no idea just how right he was. Nick glanced down at his empty hand, automatically checking his nails for pesky traces of dirt, but there was nothing unusual to see. He’d scrubbed up hard the night before. Done a thorough job not to leave any of those unnatural traces that might have given Josiah a better-formed picture of what his professor and academic adviser got up to in his free time.

Shit, even in his head, he sounded like a pervert.

“You’re wrong. Some things I do are perfectly natural.”

“Like what?”

Nick gave the young man a slow look. “You have a very active imagination, Mr. Wexler.”

“The imagination is a hungry organ, seeking perpetual nourishment. I like to think that it’s not so much I’ve got an active imagination, but rather a well-fed one.”

“That you feed on thoughts of me?” Nick smiled, playing the comment off as a joke even though it left something low and hot in his body to sit up with interest. A curl of amused interest that quivered at the thought of a bright young man captivated by thoughts of him, even if they were merely frustrated or prurient or the passing whim of childish fancy, as he suspected was the case.

“Sometimes,” Josiah admitted, looking away.

The two of them sat in companionable silence until the phone in Nick’s pocket hiccupped its alarm to let him know that the requisite thirty-minute small group had passed, and he had to return again to face the lethargy of his classroom.

“Did you need something?” he asked, using the wall to push himself to his feet, and slipped the vape back into his pocket.

Josiah pulled out a sheaf of printouts from his backpack and held them up for Nick to take. “Two new chapters. I wanted to get your thoughts on them before I continue. It took a—the narrative took a direction we haven’t discussed before.”

“All right. I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you want to come in?”

“Nah, I’ve got to meet Jen. Talk to you next week?”

Nick nodded.

Above them, the sky had dimmed as sure as if someone had taken a dimmer switch to the sun. Dark clouds cast a clear, watery gray light over campus, the edges of the quad hemmed in on all sides by towering dark trees that only helped to feed into the illusion of night creeping over them. The air smelled as though it were about to rain, bitterly cold and damp.

“Do you think it’s going to snow?” Josiah asked, climbing to his feet.

Nick shook his head. “Not a chance.”

He filed back into the teaching theater behind the stragglers. Sixty minutes for discussion and in-class readings, and then he’d be free for the rest of the weekend. Nick perched his feet on the edge of his desk, saw the streaks of mud clinging to his shoes, and dropped them again. He cleared his throat and looked out at the crowd for the first person to meet his eyes.

“Ah, Amelia, why don’t you start us off with a brief summary of what your group discussed.”

He folded his arms over his chest and listened with half an ear while his focus strayed repeatedly to the darkening sky and the promise of rain.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Lia Cooper is a twenty-something native of the Pacific Northwest, voracious reader, pop-culture addict, and writer. She cultivated an early interest in writing through fandom and completed writing her first full length novel with the help of NaNoWriMo.

In the years since, she’s dabbled in catering, barista-ing, and working as a pastry chef before finally returning full time to the thing she loves most: storytelling.

When she’s not glued to Scrivener, Lia enjoys playing video games with friends and reviewing books for her booktube channel.

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Blitz Tour for The Recruit by Addison Albright (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Recruit

Author: Addison Albright

Publisher: JMS Books, LLC

Release Date: June 16, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: Novella / 69 pages in PDF / 22,181 words

Genre: Romance, Paranormal, Vampires, HEA, Gay, Bisexual, Contemporary, Bargain, Hope, Blood Mates

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Synopsis

Albert Manlii has walked this earth for more than two thousand years, but survival on his own was never easy. Now he leads a faction of highly organized vampires who carefully guard the secret of their existence. Unlike the old days, potential recruits are carefully selected and presented with an offer.

Phillip Brewer has weeks to live—if he lets his disease run its course. He doesn’t want to die, but given a choice, will his desire to live outweigh his concerns about the vampires’ ethics?

When the new recruit’s missteps are cause for concern, can Albert control the fallout, or will Phillip’s life once again be torn apart?

Excerpt

The man moved to the bench and raised a brow in a welcoming fashion, silently inviting Phillip to join him. Phillip shrugged. He’d planned to sit here anyway, so why not have a conversation with a pleasant man while he did it?

“My name’s Albert.” He held out a hand, and Phillip shook it. The hand felt cooler than Phillip expected for someone walking on a warm day, but not exceptionally so. Perhaps he had a fever himself, and that made the man’s hand seem cooler than normal.

“Phillip.” He didn’t elaborate. There wasn’t anything he could think of to add. Small talk eluded him.

“I’m pleased to meet you, Phillip.” Albert paused, as if gathering his thoughts.

“Likewise.” Phillip kept his reply simple. Oddly enough, something about the gravity of Albert’s demeanor gave him the impression the man had directed him to the bench with a purpose in mind that had nothing to do with idle chit-chat, so he might as well let the man control the conversation. Albert didn’t give off a crazed serial-killer vibe, not that it would matter at this point as long as whatever he chose to do didn’t add pain to Phillip’s death. Not likely he’d try anything like that in broad daylight with people around, anyway.

Albert looked directly into his eyes with a steady gaze. “Phillip, I want to show you something, and I ask that you keep an open mind and hear me out before reacting.”

Phillip sat back. He hadn’t developed any expectations for this conversation, but if he had, this direction wasn’t anything he would have considered.

“I think we can help each other,” Albert continued.

“I’m dying,” Phillip said. He would have thought his appearance made that apparent, but perhaps not. “Whatever you have in mind, I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make a deal with you.”

“Please, hear me out.” Albert held out an arm. “This seems like an unusual request, I know, but I’d like you to examine my arm. Go ahead and touch it. I want you to assure yourself that it is, indeed, my real arm and not any kind of advanced prosthetic or makeup designed to create a special effect.”

Phillips eyes widened. “Unusual request” was putting it lightly. But what the hell, he might as well add an interesting interlude to his final hours—or minutes, if this man turned out to be a homicidal maniac.

He put both hands on the well-shaped forearm. He felt for a pulse at the wrist and found one. The hairs appeared natural and moved appropriately as Phillip ran his hand across them. Veins were visible where expected. Phillip manipulated the man’s fingers and wrist. The bones on the back of Albert’s hand, and tendons at the inside of his wrist, moved correctly, becoming more or less prominent when the hand flexed. Then he lightly pinched Albert’s skin in various places. It felt perfectly normal, although still slightly cooler than usual.

When Phillip withdrew his hands, Albert lowered his arm. “Are you satisfied that this is indeed my natural arm?”

“Yes.” Phillip eyed him warily.

“Remember, keep an open mind and maintain your composure. Give me the opportunity to explain what you’re about to see.”

Weirder and weirder. Phillip narrowed his eyes but remained curiously drawn to hearing this man out. “All right.”

Albert took a quick glance around, and Phillip followed his gaze. The people he’d noticed earlier were still in sight, but nobody new had appeared.

Phillip held his breath when a small razor blade appeared in Albert’s other hand. Albert slowly drew the blade across the arm Phillip had just examined, cutting deeply enough for the tissue to separate. There was no way it was a fake blade merely drawing atop his skin. He was cutting deeply, but the blood that appeared was black, not red, and the gash closed up within seconds as the razor dragged up the length of that forearm.

“What the hell.” Phillip gasped and fought to keep his respiration steady as he turned to stare at Albert’s face. He’d been so riveted by what was happening to the man’s arm, he’d neglected to check his expression. Had that hurt? Albert’s face was tight, so maybe, although his mask of calm quickly returned.

“Do you trust your own eyes?” Albert asked. The razor disappeared into a pocket, replaced by a cloth handkerchief, which he used to wipe the remaining dark fluid—blood?—from his arm.

“I’ll admit I’m drugged up, but nothing that would explain that.” He’d pointedly requested medication that would not cause him to hallucinate or overly diminish his ability to reason. There was no point dragging out his life if he couldn’t consciously enjoy it.

He’d seen plenty of street magic in his day. Sleight of hand, etcetera, but this transcended all of that. There was simply no logical explanation for what he’d just seen.

“You accept what you just witnessed at face value?”

Phillip pursed his lips a moment before replying. “Okay. Yes. Obviously, there’s something superhuman about you.” Or he wasn’t human at all. An alien maybe?

“That’s one way to put it,” Albert said. “I was once fully human, but now…no, not quite human anymore.”

Phillip sat still as he digested that comment. Albert had “once” been human. He’d also approached Phillip—seemingly sought him out—and he’d said, “I think we can help each other.” Was there more than one logical deduction to make here?

“Please.” Phillip swallowed as a shiver of hope drifted over his skin. “I need you to spell out what you meant—earlier. Before your demonstration.”

Albert smiled. It was the smile of a man who sensed he had his fish on the hook. “About helping each other?”

Phillip nodded.

“You don’t need to die yet. I’ve been walking this earth for more than two thousand years.” Albert spoke calmly as Phillip froze in place, clenching his hands at his belly.

Two thousand years? And he wanted to make a deal with Phillip?

Did Phillip want to? What was in it for him? Everlasting life, apparently. But would it be an existence he wanted? “Who are you? You’re immortal. But how?”

“Immortal in the sense that I, and others like me, won’t appear to become older beyond our age at the time of transition. Nor will we die of natural causes. We can be killed, though. You’ve witnessed my self-healing abilities, but anything that would instantly kill a human will kill me…us, too.”

“So, if I agreed, this cancer would disappear just like that?” Phillip snapped his fingers.

“Like all of our ‘supernatural’ capabilities, self-healing improves over time. As a new convert, you won’t immediately feel better. It’ll take about a day for you to feel one hundred percent.”

That was hardly a deterrent, but Albert was obviously holding back. What facilitated this “transition”? “You still haven’t answered the question. Who are your people?”

Albert hesitated for a moment before replying. “The word you’re searching for is ‘vampire.’”

Phillip burst out laughing. He didn’t know what the hell he’d been thinking Albert’s answer would be, but the existence of some kind of magical immortality potion was difficult enough to believe without throwing in something that absurd.

Albert’s revelation probably should have made Phillip run in the opposite direction—if he’d believed it, or made him angry—because really, what kind of person fucked with a dying man like that? But at least his final hours were diverting. “You had me going there for a while.”

Tilting his head to the side, Albert raised a single eyebrow as he continued to gaze at Phillip. “Not the usual reaction. Intriguing, though. You don’t believe me, do you?”

“Please,” Phillip scoffed and gestured toward the bright sun overhead.

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Meet the Author

Addison Albright is a writer living in the middle of the USA. Her stories are gay romance in contemporary, fantasy, and paranormal genres. She generally adds a subtle touch of humor, a smidgen of drama/angst, and a healthy dose of slice-of-life to her stories. Her education includes a BS in Education with a major in mathematics and a minor in chemistry. Addison loves spending time with her family, reading, popcorn, boating, french fries, “open window weather,” cats, math, and anything chocolate. She loves to read pretty much anything and everything, anytime and anywhere.

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Release Blitz for Life After Humanity (Thorns and Fangs #3) by Gillian St. Kevern (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Life After Humanity

Series: Thorns and Fangs, Book Three

Author: Gillian St. Kevern

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 15, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 119000

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, supernatural beings, werewolves, alternate universe, cliffhanger ending

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Synopsis

Ben is a recovering vampire determined to pick up the pieces of the life that came to a halt when he was murdered over a year ago—even if that means distancing himself from his few remaining friends. Nate, struggling to navigate his new identity as a Class 3 Unknown paranormal, knows it will take more than mastery of his affinity with plants to convince Ben they belong together.

When Ben’s application for human status is denied, he must fight to leave the paranormal world behind him while Nate’s generous impulses drag him into conflict with a werewolf pack with designs on ruling New Camden. As Ben’s vampire family draws closer to finding him, his vampire instinct awakens—throwing his continued existence into jeopardy. The hunt for the missing werewolf continues, and Nate and Ben become pawns in Councilor Wisner’s plans to take control of the city. Their only hope is each other—if they can see that before all is lost.

Excerpt

Life After Humanity
Gillian St. Kevern © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Someone had broken in.

Ben stood in the doorway of his New Camden apartment. The door swung open at his touch, even before he’d fished his key out of his pocket. Beneath his feet, the protective wards laid around the apartment throbbed like an open wound. Someone had forced their way past Ben’s carefully laid defenses—someone who was still there.

Damnit. Ben set his briefcase down noiselessly beside the door. Just one day. One day without anything supernatural happening. Is that too much to ask?

He didn’t move, using his senses to probe the darkness beyond the door. Vampire—or werewolf? He hadn’t felt any interference with his wards until he’d reached his apartment. That ruled out a magical practitioner or any lesser supernatural being that would have needed to unpick the spell piece by piece. Please, not another demon. None of the boxes dotted around the living room were big enough to hide an intruder. Unless they crouched behind the sofa or pressed against the wall in the shadows, they weren’t in the living room.

Keeping his attention focused on the apartment, Ben fished for his umbrella stand and the cane leaning against its back. It looked benign, as if it had been forgotten by an elderly visitor, but when Ben twisted the handle, he released the long blade hidden within.

Not Ben’s first choice of weapon—the blade was too long and too dainty—but it was a weapon, able to stand up to vampire or demon. If this is a werewolf, I am in serious trouble. The stale air of his apartment lacked the distinctive ripe odor of werewolf. Still, Ben couldn’t rule it out.

Why would a werewolf break into my apartment? True, Ben had a past as a supernatural investigator for ARX and had killed a few werewolves in his time—but that was the past. There was nothing linking his life now to ARX—was there?

Ben slipped noiselessly into the dimly lit living room, heading for the sofa. Nothing there—or in the shadows. He scanned the room, but everything looked as it had that afternoon when he’d stepped out to meet his accountant. All I did was my taxes! Where’s the harm in that?

But bringing his financial records up-to-date for the year he’d been dead had taken all of the afternoon. Ample time for whoever it was to find a hiding place. Ben stood motionless in the living room, straining with his senses for any clue to the intruder.

The open doors of his apartment were in deeper shadow than the rest of the living room. Reaching for the light switch was tempting, but Ben’s eyes were now accustomed to the dark. Readjusting would cost seconds he wasn’t sure he had. His eyes fell on the stacks of paper on his living room table.

At first glance they seemed undisturbed, but a closer look revealed a few papers had drifted to the side. Disturbed by a breeze? Ben turned to the kitchen door. A sliver of light was just visible through the crack beneath.

A trap. There was nothing of interest to any supernatural being in the kitchen, so it would be the last place he searched. His guard down, his senses dull, he’d be unprepared for whatever waited beyond. Or—Ben frowned as he approached the door—was there another explanation?

A faint sizzling sound emanated from beyond the door, followed by the heavy smell of garlic.

Ben’s nose twitched. A werewolf would not cook an enemy dinner. A demon wouldn’t know how. A vampire might—but a vampire would not use garlic.

I’ve got a bad feeling about this. Taking a deep breath, Ben slowly levered the handle down and let the door drift open. His fear was confirmed.

Nate stood at the counter, his back to the door. The strength implicit in his broad shoulders and muscular arms was softened—but not disguised—by the domesticity of his actions. As Ben watched, Nate lay down the knife and used the chopping board to slide his neatly diced peppers into the frying pan. At his elbow a pot boiled merrily.

Far more dangerous than any werewolf. Ben swallowed, finding it hard to speak. He felt as if he were caught in a spell, unable to do anything but watch.

Absorbed in his task, Nate seemed unaware of Ben’s presence. He was dressed down, wearing a faded T-shirt that hugged his torso. The edges of his jeans were frayed, hanging down over his bare feet. His hair hadn’t been styled, and it curled up at the base of his neck. Finished adding the mushrooms to the pan, he stirred its contents and then stretched out a hand to the basil growing in a pot on the windowsill. The window reflected his smile, inward and alarmingly personal.

Ben swallowed. Nate had broken in—so why did he feel like the intruder?

Dangerous. Ben dug his fingers into his arm. Focus! Casual worked annoyingly well for Nate, made more effective by the knowledge that Nate made a point of looking good. There were few people who got to see Nate dressed down. But Ben couldn’t think about that, or how right Nate looked in his kitchen. He had to get Nate out of his apartment before it was too late.

“What happened to seeing less of each other?”

Nate started, snatching his hand back from the basil. He turned, and Ben’s initial flash of triumph gave way to alarm. Nate’s eyes were a great weapon. Hazel and framed by dark, almost decadently soft lashes, they radiated whatever Nate felt with an immediacy that was hard to resist.

“Jesus, Ben! You scared the shit out of me—” He came to a halt. “Is that a sword?”

Ben looked down at the blade in his hand. It wouldn’t help him now. “It’s a family heirloom. Used to be my grandfather’s.” He turned back toward the front door.

“And you just keep it there by the door?” Nate followed Ben to the kitchen door to watch.

“In case of intruders.” Ben sheathed the sword and dropped the cane back in the stand. He shut the door. His heart raced. Ben took a moment to summon all his anger. I was this close to a day without anything supernatural happening! “You’d better have a good reason for breaking into my apartment.”

“I do.” Nate stood in the kitchen doorway, one hand resting against the frame.

“Let’s hear it then.”

“I had a bad feeling this afternoon. A premonition.”

Not this again! “It wasn’t a premonition.”

“It felt really real. I was just watching TV and all of a sudden, these words popped into my mind. You were gone and I wasn’t going to see you again. It really freaked me out.”

“Enough to add breaking and entering to your criminal file?”

Nate radiated hurt. He wrapped his arms around himself. “I had to see you. No one answered the door, so I tried calling. When it had been a couple of hours and you hadn’t answered your phone, I—well, I got worried.”

“And that’s when you broke in?” Ben pulled his phone out of his pocket, tapping in his pin.

“That was an accident. I had my hand on the door, and I was thinking about how much I wanted to be on the other side, and the door just…relaxed.”

Eight missed calls… Ben jerked his head up. “Relaxed?”

“I tried the handle and it opened.” Nate’s eyes settled anxiously on Ben’s. “Did I break anything?”

Ben looked down at the welcome mat beneath his feet. He didn’t need to lift it to know what he would find. His runes, intact but faintly smudged. “Only the natural laws regarding the magical properties of runes.”

Nate scratched the back of his neck. He dropped his gaze, shuffling his feet, but was unable to keep from looking up to check Ben’s expression. “Are you mad?”

Embarrassment looked wrong on Nate. Ben was reminded of a dog caught doing something he knew he shouldn’t be—and felt the tight knot of anger in his stomach undo. Curse him! If Ben was going to get out of this encounter unscathed he needed his anger. “Of course I’m mad. My apartment is my place. Coming home to find someone’s forced their way in is…not good.” Not good? That wasn’t going to convince anyone—least of all anyone with Nate’s perceptive nature.

It was hard to read Nate’s expression. “I made dinner. As an apology.”

At least he realized he needed to apologize— No! I have to be firm. “I think your apology is burning.”

“Shit!” Nate ducked back through the doorway to attend to the frying pan.

Ben took the opportunity to escape.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Gillian St. Kevern is spending Christmas in her native New Zealand, where the seasonal festivities include pavlovas, walks on the beach, and a distinct lack of sweaters, seasonal or otherwise. She will almost certainly get sunburnt at some stage.

Gillian reads and writes a variety of genres. She’s a huge fan of paranormal with an emphasis on vampires. The third and fourth books in her vampire series, Thorns and Fangs, are due for release in January and February 2018. She also explores Welsh Mythology in the on-going Deep Magic series. In 2018, she plans to explore another beloved genre―vintage mysteries. She loves discovering new books and authors, so please get in touch if you have any good book recommendations to share!

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New Year’s Day Release Day Blitz for The Calling by MD Neu (except and giveaway)

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Title:  The Calling

Author: M.D. Neu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: January 1, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 108300

Genre: Paranormal, paranormal, gay, dark, immortal, magic users, psychic ability, vampires

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Synopsis

Being a nobody isn’t Duncan Alexander’s life goal, but it’s worked for him. He has a nondescript job, a few good friends, and overall he’s content. That’s until one fateful trip to San Jose, California, where he is “Called” to meet the mysterious Juliet de Exter. Juliet is a beautiful, wealthy, powerful Immortal who is undertaking The Calling—a search for a human to join her world of Immortals. Inexplicably, Duncan’s calling is more dangerous than any of the Immortals, even Juliet, ever thought it would be.

There is more to this nobody, this only child of long-deceased parents, than anyone thought. When Duncan experiences uncontrollable dreams of people he doesn’t know and places he hasn’t been, Juliet and the other Immortals worry. Soon, his visions point to a coven of long-dead witches. The dreams also lead Duncan to his one true love. How will Duncan navigate a forbidden romance with an outcast Immortal? How will he and the others keep the balance between the Light and Dark, survive vicious attacks, and keep the humans from learning who they truly are? More importantly, who is this implacable foe Duncan keeps seeing in his dreams?

Excerpt

The Calling
M.D. Neu © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
What is death?

I once believed there was only one definition: your body stops functioning, your soul leaves and what’s left turns to dust. That was what I thought, until it wasn’t.

I’ve discovered when you’re a nobody, the world can be an amazing place if you want it to be. Your life can change in a heartbeat and not make the least bit of difference to anyone but you, or so it would seem.

That was my case.

I’m by no means whining or complaining. I had a job, a small place to live, and friends, but no real family, and that was something I desperately missed and wanted. My life wasn’t bad and I was happy. However, I was just a random person, one of the many faces you see on the street and never glance at twice. It was dull. Of course, as with me, the majority of society didn’t know our world had hidden secrets, unseen by most.

The other important thing I want you to realize about me is that before I met her, I wasn’t a lucky man, not with money and certainly not with love. I made enough to live on, but never enough to take fancy trips. My idea of travel was staying at home and watching movies. That was my price range. And as for love, it was forgettable.

The day my life changed was like all the others, until it wasn’t. It was August 19. The year isn’t important. But we had finished celebrating the Olympics, and in a few short months, the country would be picking between the lesser of two evils for president.

I sat at an outdoor café in Santana Row. I’d spent the afternoon going on a tour of the Winchester Mystery House. Once my stomach had started to growl, I decided to grab a bite to eat.

I had come to San Jose, California for a vacation that I couldn’t afford and didn’t particularly want to take. Why San Jose? Why not San Francisco or Monterey or Vegas or Yosemite? To be honest, I don’t know, but it’s like everything inside and around me pulled me there. Out of the blue, I got emails from the San Jose Visitor Bureau. My dreams were filled with images of the city and the surrounding hills and mountains. It seemed that old song, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” by Dionne Warwick constantly played. Still, San Jose isn’t the place most people consider for a ten-day vacation, especially someone alone who had never been to the Bay Area before.

Despite my appreh, from the moment I arrived, I immediately felt at peace. I’d never been this calm or relaxed anywhere before, not even at home. There was another reason for me coming here, one I didn’t understand yet, at least not on a conscious level.

I would find out why soon enough.

I don’t want to get things out of order, so back on point. I sat at this Italian-style outdoor café watching people walk by, enjoying the scent of roses and vanilla that filled the air. The aroma tickled the back of my brain. I smelled it everywhere, which should have been my first clue that something was different.

After enjoying my Italian-style chicken marsala, and while I sipped my strawberry lemonade, I felt a sharp pull in my brain. It wasn’t like I heard voices—it was more like vague images filled my head: a house, a woman, gardens, a gate, hills covered in trees, and a pair of eyes. My hands shook, and my glass fell to the floor and shattered. An intense pressure grew between my eyes, and I pinched the bridge of my nose to ease it.

When the tug came, three things happened to me at once.

First, I had the realization that I had an important meeting in Los Altos Hills. I had never heard of Los Altos Hills and even had to look it up on my phone to see if it was real. I would have to check my GPS when I returned to my rental. I knew the address of the house and who I was going to meet. She had blonde hair and mysterious eyes. I knew her, but I didn’t understand how.

Second, the waiter came to my table.

“Sorry about the drink,” I said.

He gave me an odd look and informed me my meal had been paid for and to enjoy my evening. Flabbergasted, I stared at the server.

I glanced around the café and wondered who paid the bill and why. I wasn’t even done yet.

“Mr. Alexander, are you all right?” The waiter scanned me up and down. “Do you need me to call someone? You look pale.”

“No.” I shook my head. “I’m fine.”

How did the waiter know my name? Stranger still, when I checked the table, my drink sat there and nothing had fallen to the floor. I wasn’t sure what was happening.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. Sorry. Just a headache,” I said.

“All right. I hope you have a pleasant afternoon.” He smiled and started to walk off but turned back. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’m supposed to remind you about your meeting tonight.”

A lump stuck in my throat, and I nodded. It was spooky, but I wasn’t scared.

The last thing: I got a text from my closest friend, Cindy Martin. Good luck tonight. I’m sure it’ll be you.

I remember thinking, What does she know that I don’t?

I’ve known Cindy for years, and for her to say anything that short and sweet was rare. In fact, I don’t suppose I ever got a message from her without any emoticons.

As bizarre as all of this was, I realized that no matter what, everything and everyone I cared about would be okay. Clearly, there was something more to this trip and my being here. I didn’t know what. But it wasn’t just some free meal. It was bigger than that. If I was selected for what? I had no clue. And if I wasn’t, then I would get to see them again. There would be no questions.

Part of me wanted to worry, but I wasn’t bothered, which in itself surprised me. I’ve been a pessimist for as long as I can remember. It probably had to do with the strange death of my father when I was a kid. A death never fully explained. So, for this not to make me worry was one more mystery. What was about to happen was something that would just be. Instead of freaking out and worrying, I was calm and accepting of whatever adventure or fate awaited me.

Even though I was short on time to get to the house in Los Altos Hills, I wanted to enjoy my lunch. Reflecting on it now, I’m pretty sure that was the cynical part of my brain trying to exert some kind of control. I took my time, finished my meal, and when I was done, I tipped the server and left.

I walked back to my rental car. I wanted to take in as much of the classical European architecture and lush landscaping of the outdoor mall as I could. I managed to get a few decent cell phone pictures of the place.

I stopped my lollygagging and got moving. I had someplace to be and what appeared to be no choice in the matter. Before you go crazy, understand this wasn’t like one of those stupid movies that you watch, shaking your head, yelling at the screen for them not to go into the dark forest or spooky house or whatever. It wasn’t like that.

I’d like to hope I’m explaining this well enough so you don’t sit there and think, “Oh this is stupid. I’d never do anything that dumb.” It wasn’t like I had a choice. I had to go—something compelled me to her. I had to meet this woman, calling me. It was hard-wired into me, no matter how much I tried to slow down or stall, I moved forward.

I moved toward her.

When I finally got in the car and took a breath, I wasn’t clammy or shaky, and my heart wasn’t pounding in my chest. I should have been anxious, but I wasn’t. I was fine.

Knowing without understanding what I had to do, I headed to the freeway.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

M.D. Neu is a LGBTQA Fiction Writer with a love for writing and travel. Living in the heart of Silicon Valley (San Jose, California) and growing up around technology, he’s always been fascinated with what could be. Specifically drawn to Science Fiction and Paranormal television and novels, M.D. Neu was inspired by the great Gene Roddenberry, George Lucas, Stephen King, Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Stanley Robinson. An odd combination, but one that has influenced his writing.

Growing up in an accepting family as a gay man, he always wondered why there were never stories reflecting who he was. Constantly surrounded by characters that only reflected heterosexual society, M.D. Neu decided he wanted to change that. So, he took to writing, wanting to tell good stories that reflected our diverse world.

When M.D. Neu isn’t writing, he works for a non-profit and travels with his biggest supporter and his harshest critic, Eric, his husband of eighteen plus years.

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On tour: Blood’s Song (House Milar #1) by Tempeste O’Riley (giveaway)

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Blood’s Song (House Milar #1)
Author: Tempeste O’Riley

Publisher: Encompass Ink, Teen
Release Date: Nov, 24th, 2017

Blurb/Synopsis:

Even in darkness, love lights the way.

Anya awakens alone and afraid in a new world soaked with blood and terror. The only things she knows for certain are her name and that humans are precious.

Unwilling to give in to her hungers, she sets her feet upon a path of discovery, searching for clues to her forgotten past. Along the way she runs headlong into the unimaginable world of the undead and the waiting arms of Nicholas, a fearless nocturnal defender searching for his love, lost in eternity.

Into their midst stumbles Declán, a young, natural born vampire hunter and Guardian whose passion for Anya is only matched by his draw to Nicholas. His arrival could mark the end of their tale, or with the gift of Anya’s blood kiss, it might bring about the beginning of a new chapter for them all.

Fate has a wicked sense of sensibility…
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook & Print

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About the Author

Tempeste O’Riley is an out and proud pansexual genderfluid whose best friend growing up had the courage to do what they couldn’t—defy the hate and come out. He has been their hero ever since.

Tempe is a hopeless romantic who loves strong relationships and happily-ever-afters. Though new to writing M/M, they has done many things in their life, yet writing has always drawn them back—no matter what else life has thrown their way. They counts her friends, family, and Muse as their greatest blessings in life. They lives in Wisconsin with their children, reading, writing, and enjoying life.

Tempe is also a proud PAN member of Romance Writers of America®WisRWA, FFPRWA, and Rainbow Romance Writers. Tempe’s preferred pronouns are they/them/their/theirs/themselves. To learn more about Tempeste and their writing, visithttp://tempesteoriley.com.

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On Tour with Curses, Foiled Again by Sera Trevor (excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  Curses, Foiled Again

Author: Sera Trevor

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: November 27, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 98700

Genre: Paranormal, vampires, witches, undead, abduction, paranormal, addiction, ghosts, homophobia, immortal, magic users, dark, drug/alcohol use, dark, blood play, curses

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Synopsis

Felix is a vampire—a fierce creature of the night who strikes terror into the hearts of everyone unlucky enough to become his prey. Or at least, that’s what he thought was true, until he met John. John is completely unimpressed with Felix, much to his dismay. Felix becomes fixated on proving his ferocity to John—and when that doesn’t work, he strives to make any impression on him at all.

John is a witch, and as all witches know, vampires are notoriously stupid creatures who only have the power to hurt those who fear them. Besides, he’s under a curse much more frightening than any vampire. Felix’s desperate attempts to impress him annoy John at first, but gradually, they become sort of endearing. Because of his curse, John has pushed everyone in his life away. But Felix can’t be hurt, so there’s no harm in letting him hang around.

Felix is technically dead. John has nothing left to live for. But together, they might have a shot at life.

This dark and witty vampire romance for adults is complete at 100,000 words, with no cliffhanger. Despite some dark twists and turns, it ends with a solid HEA.

Excerpt

Curses, Foiled Again
Sera Trevor © 2017
All Rights Reserved

One: The Witch Boys of Sunset Boulevard

Someone smelled delicious.

Felix really ought to have been sated. He had fed that night already, but in spite of his satiety, the new aroma tempted him like nothing before. It was the same dark tang that normally inspired his appetite, but with a sweet note buried in the scent—like an orange at the peak of its sweetness, right on the cusp of rotting. It didn’t take him long to discover the source of the aroma; it was a young man in a hooded sweatshirt, making his way down Sunset Boulevard. He walked with remarkable confidence for being on his own at two o’clock in the morning. Felix grinned. He liked the confident ones; their shock when confronted with the likes of him was always amusing.

He raced ahead of the young man with superhuman swiftness, jumping in front of him with his fangs bared. Felix loved this part, right before the attack—the moment when human confusion and animal terror mixed together as his victim realized their fate. Any moment now, he would scream. Or at least, he would try to. By then it would be too late.

The young man jumped and inhaled sharply at Felix’s sudden appearance. But once he’d given Felix a good once-over, he let out his breath in a relieved puff. There was no screaming, no futile attempt to flee or freezing in terror. In fact, it was Felix who froze in place, confused by the young man’s strange reaction.

As Felix tried to gather his wits to think of what to do next, the young man brushed past him and continued on. Felix shook himself out of his muddle. He brought a hand up to his mouth, feeling to make sure his fangs were still bared. They were. Perhaps the young man hadn’t seen him clearly; the lighting here was particularly poor, and mortal vision was not very good.

He zipped ahead of the young man and jumped out at him again, making sure he was directly under a streetlight. He raised his arms and hissed for good measure.

“You can stop doing that,” the young man said. “I’m not afraid of you.”

“Oh really?” Felix sneered, although in honesty he was taken aback. “We’ll see if your bravery lasts when I sink my fangs into your yielding flesh!”

He attempted to pounce, but nothing happened. He tried again, but his limbs just wouldn’t cooperate. As he stood there in confusion, the young man stepped around him and continued walking.

Once Felix had collected himself, he set out after the young man again, this time trotting beside him. The young man paid him no attention.

“Have you put a spell on me?”

“No.”

“Then why can’t I attack you?”

“Because I’m not afraid of you,” he said. He wasn’t even looking at Felix. “Vampires can only attack people who fear them.”

Felix scoffed. “That can’t be true.”

“Think about it. Can you ever remember a time when a potential victim wasn’t afraid of you?”

“Not that I recall.”

“Then if you only ever confronted people who were afraid of you, how would you have found out you couldn’t attack someone who wasn’t?”

Felix turned that over in his mind. It did make a certain amount of sense.

They continued to walk together. Felix tried to startle him a few more times, hoping it would raise enough fear for Felix to strike, but it didn’t work. The young man’s face remained expressionless, as if Felix weren’t even there. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow, with sandy-blond hair and blue eyes. He was so pleasant to look at that Felix eventually ceased his efforts to frighten him in favor of simply gazing at him. His sweatshirt was not zipped all the way, but the T-shirt underneath was too baggy to give even a suggestion of the body it concealed. He wished the young man would take it off, or at the very least remove the hood.

After some time, they came to an apartment building. The young man approached one of the doors on the first floor. “Well, I would say it was nice meeting you, but it wasn’t, really,” he said as he took out his keys. “Good night.” He unlocked his door.

Felix blocked the door with his body, preventing the young man from entering. “You’ve led me straight to where you live,” he said in his scariest voice. “I could strike when you least expect it, in your very home. Certainly that will frighten you enough for me to attack!”

“Vampires can’t enter a home unless you invite them. Did you really think I wouldn’t know that?”

Felix scowled. “How do you know all this?”

“None of your business. Now unless you want to stand around here until dawn, get your hand off my door and go away.”

“Maybe I do want to stand around here,” Felix said. “You can’t make me leave.”

The young man rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He leaned on the wall a few steps away from the door and took a pack of cigarettes and a silver lighter out of the pocket of his hooded sweatshirt. He perched a cigarette between his pink lips and lit it.

Felix remained where he was. The young man didn’t even spare him a glance as he smoked his cigarette, gazing instead at the smoke as it left his lips and dissipated into the night air. Felix felt annoyed; surely he was more interesting than a cloud of smoke!

“Why are you out alone so late?” Felix asked. “While you may not be afraid of vampires, you are still vulnerable to mortal attackers.” An idea flashed through Felix’s mind. “What if I got a gun? Would you be afraid of me then?”

The young man rolled his eyes again. “Why are you so intent on killing me?”

“I don’t want to kill you. I want to drink your blood.”

“And that’s not the same thing?”

Felix had to think about it. “No, I don’t think it is,” he said. “It’s true that my victims swoon, but I’m fairly certain they survive.”

The young man raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know for sure?”

“There isn’t much reason for me to linger after I’ve fed, is there?”

“I guess not.” He took another long drag of his cigarette. “So why do you want to drink my blood? You’ve already fed tonight.”

Felix looked at him with surprise. “How did you know that?”

“You’ve got blood on your chin.”

Felix wiped his face with the hand that wasn’t holding the door shut. Sure enough, it came away red. “Doesn’t that make you feel at least a little scared?” he asked plaintively.

The young man finished his cigarette with one final inhale, dropped the butt on the street, and then stubbed it out with his toe. “Sorry to say, but it takes a lot to make me feel anything at all.” He pulled out his pack of cigarettes again and took another one. “Would you like one?”

The young man offered the pack and his lighter. Felix stared at the cigarettes and then back at his face. The young man put his hand forward farther. “Go on. Take one.”

Felix frowned, wondering at the young man’s sudden generosity. John stood just out of reach, so Felix had to step closer to him to accept the pack and the lighter. Felix’s fingers brushed over the skin of the young man’s hand. It was so warm.

“Thank you,” Felix said, a little dazed.

“No problem.” The young man’s smile was dazzling.

Felix smiled back and turned his attention to the pack of cigarettes, pulling one out and readying the lighter—

—and then, quick as lightning, the young man slipped inside his apartment and slammed the door shut behind him.

Goddamnit!” Felix shouted after him, pounding on the door. “Come back out here!”

There was no answer. Felix stomped around in a circle, cursing. Once he composed himself, he went back to the door. “Well, I’m keeping your cigarettes! And your lighter! And you’ll never get them back!”

This also failed to get a response. Felix examined the lighter. On one side there was a figure etched into the metal: a dragon, or a demon. Some mythical creature, at any rate. On the other side, there was an engraving: To John. Love, Rob.

A gift, then. Perhaps he could use its sentimental nature to his advantage. “I really mean it!” he shouted. “I’ll throw this lighter in the sewer!”

Still no response.

With a huff, he zipped away. His preternatural speed meant he only had to travel a few moments before he reached the estate in Beverly Hills where he resided with his sister, Cat, and her husband, Richard. The sprawling wrought iron gates were shut, but unlike the young man’s closed door, the gates posed no barrier to him. He launched himself upward and over the curled letters that spelled out the name of the estate: HAPPY ENDINGS. Under it was the image of a boar, cast in iron. The sign’s rusted state made the promise of the words ring a bit false. Nevertheless, it was the only home he had, and he had no desire to meet the dawn.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Sera Trevor is terminally curious and views the thirty-five book limit at her local library as a dare. She’s a little bit interested in just about everything, which is probably why she can’t pin herself to one subgenre. Her books are populated with dragons, vampire movie stars, shadow people, and internet trolls. (Not in the same book, obviously, although that would be interesting!) Her works have been nominated for several Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards, including Best Contemporary, Best Fantasy, and Best Debut, for which she won third prize in 2015 for her novella Consorting with Dragons.

She lives in California with her husband, two kids, and a cat the size of three cats. You can keep up with her new releases and gain access to bonus content by signing up for her newsletter.

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Tour Schedule

11/27 The Blogger Girls

11/27 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

11/27 Bayou Book Junkie

11/27 Love Bytes

11/28 The Novel Approach

11/28 Divine Magazine

11/28 Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews

11/29 Stories That Make You Smile

11/29 Shari Sakurai

11/30 Erotica For All

11/30 Happily Ever Chapter

12/1 MM Good Book Reviews

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On Tour with ‘The Vampire’s Protege (A Vampire’s Angel’s story)’ by Damian Serbu (author interview, excerpt and giveaway)

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Title:  The Vampire’s Protege

Series: From the Vampire’s Angel universe

Author: Damian Serbu

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: August 21

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 99600

Genre: Horror, paranormal, abduction, action, blood and gore, cisgender, contemporary, crime, dark, death, gay, paranormal, vampires

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Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Damian Serbu today on his tour for The Vampire’s Protege. We have a wonderful author’s interview, excerpt and giveaway.  Don’t miss any of it, starting below!

✒︎

~ Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with Damian Serbu ~

When did you write your first story and what was the inspiration for it?

I wrote my first novel after several years of contemplation and fascination with the concept.  I was completing my doctorate in history at the time, and would escape from the concrete world of facts and past events by writing fiction.  That particularly story was inspired by the movie “The Man in the Iron Mask.”  It eventually became Dark Sorcerer Threatening, which is currently out of print but I hope to reprint someday.

Do you have a writing schedule or do you just write when you can find the time?

Because I have full time job, I maintain a pretty strict schedule or I would never get around to it!  I write at least twice a week, for a good chunk of time.

Briefly describe the writing process. Do you create an outline first? Do you seek out inspirational pictures, videos or music? Do you just let the words flow and then go back and try and make some sense out it?

I am way too much of a historian, even in my writing of novels, to go without an outline!  So I sketch out the entire story before I begin.  For a long time before I outline, I keep notes and jot down ideas for the story, then I take that mess of ideas and shape it into the outline, which I then edit several times.  That being said, the outline serves as a general guide, not something written in stone.  I let the muse take me where it will, which often necessitates tweaking the outline as I go.  As for inspiration, I let that hit me wherever it appears.  Sometimes it’s a movie or song or picture, but more often than not it comes out of nowhere and just blasts me in the head.  It seems to happen a lot on my morning jog.  And I just let the words flow when I write – but that requires going back and doing a pretty thorough edit.

Where did the desire to write LGBTQIA+ stories come from?

From being gay!  It’s what I know, it’s what I like to read, and so it’s what I want to write.

How much research do you do when writing a story and what are the best sources you’ve found for giving an authentic voice to your characters?

The amount of research for the story depends on the story, really.  When I set it in the past, I do a great deal of research.  For example, I’ve written about the French Revolution, Antebellum America, and pirates.  Those all took extensive research to get the history correct.  That’s where my academic background comes in handy!  I know how to gather books and articles that give me solid history, and then weave that reality into the writing.  I do all of that research before I even start outlining.  But other stories, including The Vampire’s Protégé, don’t require as much research.  There, I may need to research something that pops up.  For example, this time I suddenly found myself writing about Bitcoin, which I didn’t know a damn thing about.  So off I went to learn a tad so I didn’t make a fool of myself!  But my novels set in a contemporary setting don’t require as much extensive research.

Synopsis

A sinister vampire offers Charon a choice he can’t refuse: play a deadly game of winner takes all, losers die.

Charon relishes the competition and molds himself into a sexy vampire who defies vampire law, savoring his power and embracing the role of villain. He also loves surrounding himself with hot young men. But when an alluring vampire stalks him and threatens to turn him into the Vampire Council unless he helps with a seemingly impossible task, will Charon risk his perfectly narcissistic life on the challenge? Does he have any other choice?

Excerpt

The Vampire’s Protege
Damian Serbu © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Introducing Charon

Everyone thinks they adore the Vampire Council with its rules and regulations that allegedly govern all vampires and thereby ensure the safety of virtuous humans. People want to lose themselves in the tales of the Council members: Xavier and Thomas and their love; Anthony and Jaret and their guarding of humanity; Catherine and Harriet and their whims within a righteous vampiric empire. Most of all, the Vampire Ethic provides comfort with its guarantee that goodness protects an individual from a vampire attack, with its promise that all vampires defend innocence.

Vampires accept this reality because it gives them a collective soul. The ethic protects them from the stereotype of evil incarnate preying upon humanity. Or, in the least, obedience to it keeps them alive, lest the Council hunt them down and murder them for transgressions against it.

Humans desire the Council’s laws to maintain their fantasy of security from the supernatural realms. Who would dismiss a hidden force of vampire police that might swoop in at any sign of danger and annihilate the perpetrator?

Yet deep inside, so many long for something different, something that avoids this utopian trope and perfect world, all tied up in a pretty bow. Part of everyone, that piece so desperately stamped down and derided, seeks an alternative story.

To be sure, many will deny it. Fight against these words and honorably cast them out as the devil’s temptations. Yet no proof of Satan or such demonic forces presents itself. Because even those thoughts really stem from the inner being in everyone, that secretly locked-up atom inside a person that pines for freedom and seeks release, even as the goodness scolds it.

Still people contest these words. Deny them.

Yet a fascination with villains thrives in America. Think of the great antiheroes of history and their legendary fame. The Wicked Witch of the West. Darth Vader. Hannibal Lecter. The Joker. The infamy of historic figures such as Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy or the Son of Sam. The people who don the costumes at Halloween of Lord Voldemort, Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler because it empowers them for a night with beautiful wickedness. People laugh at Scar, Ursula, and even Mr. Potter. They read the tales of Lex Luther and Cujo, privately wishing they would eventually triumph over the heroes of the story and bring a bit of destruction to the globe.

Jack the Ripper lives through the ages because he successfully hid himself, true. But also because his perfect malevolence went unpunished. People want that for themselves. His legend draws them back again and again to that story with the hope of their own misdeeds going unchallenged.

Thus, whether admitted or not, people long to meet Charon. Yes, so many cry out for Charon and his story. People want him. Readers desire him, need him, really. The world will have no choice but to love him. All will embrace him as they have these other villains of history. They will celebrate his perfect treachery.

Unlike those obedient to the Vampire Council, Charon hardly worries about a bit of notoriety from time to time. Fear of retribution never enters his vocabulary. He need not concern himself with the Vampire Council and its regulations. Nor does Charon often fret over any other person or entity cracking down on his masterful empire.

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

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

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Tour Schedule

8/21    Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words 

8/21    Outrageous Heroes of Romance

8/22    Shari Sakurai 

8/22    MM Good Book Reviews

8/23    Drops of Ink

8/24    love bytes reviews

8/24    QSF     

8/25    The Novel Approach

8/25    Bayou Book Junkie

8/25    Erotica For All

8/25    Happily Ever Chapter

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Amy Lane on Writing, Books and her new release in the Little Goddess series ‘Quickening, Vol. 1’ (author interview)

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Quickening Vol. 1 (Little Goddess #5 Vol. 1) by Amy Lane
D
SP Publications
Release Date:  May 2, 2017

Buy Links

Vulnerable Amazon | Vulnerable DSPP | Quickening Amazon | Quickening DSPP

~Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words’ Interview with Amy Lane~

How much of yourself goes into a character? That depends on the character—every character has a little bit of me or somebody I know in them—but some have more than others.

Do you feel there’s a tight line between Mary Sue or should I say Gary Stu and using your own experiences to create a character?  Not really—very early on, I learned that when you put your own experiences in the hands of another person they become a different thing altogether. For Lady Cory, when she was an alienated adolescent, she got pissed off. I got mousy—and I liked her reaction better.

Does research play a role into choosing which genre you write?  Do you enjoy research or prefer making up your worlds and cultures? 

LOL—anybody who says you don’t do research when world building hasn’t paid attention.  Research to me usually means answering the question, “Hey, is that plausible?”  Sometimes it means defending yourself to your editing staff. I once wrote (in a fantasy) that it got colder right after sunrise. The entire editing staff jumped my shit and said it was impossible, and I had to pull three different sources that said it was totally possible. Even when you’re writing fantasy, you’re building on a long collected established code of wisdom and lore, and it’s good to know who’s ground you’re treading.  No—I choose my genre depending on what I like to read at the moment. The research follows.

Has your choice of childhood or teenage reading genres carried into your own choices for writing? Holy Goddess yes. The Blue Fairy Book, Norse Myths, To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice in Wonderland, The Hero and the Crown, and countless Harlequin Presents are all battling for supremacy with every damned story.

Have you ever had to put an ‘in progress’ story aside because of the emotional ties with it?  You were hurting with the characters or didn’t know how to proceed? No. Once only have I put a story aside, and it’s because I was 70K in, and it was only halfway, and I needed my Christmas story before I’d be finished. Other than that, no. I start, I work to the finish, and I hope for the best.

Do you like HFN or HEA? And why?  I like HEA, but I don’t mind series that work for it—for example, Fish Out of Water, there are going to be a few more books there, and those guys are continually working for their balance.

Do you read romances, as a teenager and as an adult?  Absolutely.

Who do you think is your major influence as a writer?  Now and growing up?  (I listed a few above so I’ll skip this one.)

How do you feel about the ebook format and where do you see it going?  I think there are already two kinds of e-book audiences. One is the potato chip audience—reads absolutely everything, one or two books a day.  This is the type of reader that Kindle Unlimited was made for—and that’s wonderful, because that kind of addiction could bankrupt a person.  Also, I started out as an indie-pub, and my editing was not great, and people still found my books and treasured them—so I’m glad to see there is a growing outlet for that writer to get discovered and loved. 

The other reader is more the steak and salad audience—has either limited time or limited income or both, and will read all of an author’s backlist, from beginning to end, because this author has pleased the reader in the past, and it’s worth the reader’s time and effort—and possibly more money—to stick with one writer because there’s a component of trust there. These are often the authors who have a press and a slightly higher book price—there are gatekeepers there to make sure the product is as good as it can be. The thing is, this audience is starting to find itself. For a while, after KU came out, established writers were floundering, but as this audience realized they couldn’t read ALL the books and started relying on their favorite authors as they had before, and things are stabilizing again.

The fact is, e-books as entertainment are still one of the cheapest and most popular forms of entertainment—it’s up to authors and publishers to figure out how best to utilize their accessibility.

That being said, I still remember being part of the Rainbow Book Fair in New York City—where people brought suitcases and filled them with paperbacks, because, as hard as it is for us to believe, there are still people who devote their love of reading to print books. I think print still has a while to go on the favorite list—but e-book will continue to rise.

How do you choose your covers?  (curious on my part)  I usually ask for an image or a set of images, and the cover artist the company provides submits drafts for my approval. I actually have a very funky, odd visual sense—one of my favorite things to make as a knitter is a blanket or sweater put together out of scraps. This isn’t the greatest thing in marketing—it’s taken me a few years to figure that out—and I think it’s one of the reasons the New York publishing houses usually just hand an author a cover and say, “Yes. This is your cover. Deal with it.”  Because some of my covers are STUNNING, but some of them make me wonder what was in the water when I was having that conversation.

Do you have a favorite among your own stories?  And why?  My favorites are the underdogs. The Little Goddess stories will always be my favorites. Fish Out of Water—totally my favorite. Racing for the Sun—top of my list.  I know that I have stories that are more popular than those—and I’m proud to have written them, but some of them get so much love I’m like, “Oh, Beneath the Stain has been soooooooo appreciated. This other one needs my support more.”

What’s next for you as an author?  Well, I’m trying to write a little more paranormal and urban fantasy—the trick is getting it to sell, because it doesn’t always do what we want it to. Coming out I have Quickening 1& 2, Manny Get Your Guy, Red Fish/Dead Fish, Familiar Angel (a paranormal) and Regret Me Not (the Christmas story I just finished), followed by Stand by Your Manny. 

So, something for everyone, I hope

Blurb

Little Goddess: Book Five
Volume One


Cory thought she’d found balance on Green’s hill—sorceress, student, queen of the vampires, wife to three men—she had it down! But establishing her right to risk herself with Green and Bracken had more than one consequence, and now she’s facing the world’s scariest job title: mother.

But getting the news that she’s knocked up takes a backseat when a half-elf hunts them down for help. Her arrival brings news that the werewolf threat, which has been haunting them for over a year, has finally arrived on their doorstep—and it’s bigger and more frightening than they’d ever imagined.

Cory throws herself into this new battle with everything she’s got—and her men let her do it. Because they all know that whether they defeat this enemy now or later, the thing she’s most afraid of is arriving on a set schedule, and not even Cory can avoid it. The trick is getting her to acknowledge she’s pregnant before she gives birth—or kills herself in denial.

Excerpt

Bracken nuzzled my cheek and, very carefully, put his hand on my abdomen again. I felt nothing but a little bit of hardness there, like I’d had a very full meal, except lower.

“What did you do? Why did it hurt?” I asked, half-afraid he’d put the pregnancy at risk in an effort to get through to me. I should have known better.

“Just talked to it,” he said. “One of them shares my gift. It was painful to have us talk through your blood.”

I noticed the way he said “one of them.” Elves did not pass down their own traits in the DNA. In fact, nobody really knew how elves and trait heredity really worked. Bracken’s parents were both lower fey. His mother was a pixie—three and a half feet of sex kitten with violet hair. His father was a redcap—same height, but built like the forgotten corner of a rock quarry.

Bracken was six feet six of beautiful, broad-shouldered, mostly smooth, pale-skinned, big-eyed sidhe perfection.

For all I knew, I was carrying a rock quarry and a pixie in my womb—but somehow I didn’t think so.

I blinked very slowly, wrestling with one thing at a time. “Does that mean I’m going to bleed out every time I pop a zit?” Yes, it was a gross analogy, but my skin hadn’t been this cluttered with acne since I was a junior in high school. Click. Oh, hell. Of course I was a big pimply mass of estrogen. Fucking Jesus—this was not going to get better.

“No,” Green said, his eyes meeting Brack’s. “In fact, we’re pretty sure the other one has my healing power. We think it was, perhaps, the Goddess….” He trailed off delicately.

“Trying to make sure I don’t die of my own stupidity?”

The lingering tension that had been present since I’d first gaped at Green and said “Oh fuck no!” began to dissipate.

“Not stupid, Corinne Carol-Anne,” he said softly. “Just very, very young.”

I usually railed at that. I’d finally reached twenty-two, right? Hell, there was a time I didn’t think I was going to live past twenty—and given how many scary things had tried to kill me, getting here was quite an accomplishment.

But not now. I had never felt so young in all my life—not even the morning I’d woken up in Green’s arms and we’d realized that our vampire lover had died the night before, and it was the two of us alone and grieving.

I snuggled in more tightly, and Bracken got a little closer. His hand brushed my breast as he did so, and my nipple gave a little shriek of pain. I gasped but kept it to myself—because hey, what girl hadn’t endured a boob shot when snuggling with one of her ginormous husbands, right?

Bracken grunted and stared at me through eyes the color of a weedy, brackish pond in shadows. “That hurt,” he stated.

“Yeah. The girls have been a little tender ever since Monterey….”

Just that quickly a kaleidoscope of our adventure down by the sea flickered behind my eyes. In particular, there was the moment when Teague, our alpha werewolf, and his husband, Jack, passive-aggressive pain in my ass, had both teamed up to protect me.

“Oh, hell. Was that why Jack decided to side with me? Because I’m pregnant?”

Dammit! Of all the…. I’d wanted to win Jack over with my leadership abilities, or with my ability to protect his lover, who was one of my captains and one of my best friends, or even with my friendship with their wife, Katy, whom I both adored and was dazzled by.

“You have a problem with that?” Brack asked curiously. Yeah, Brack’s brain worked along straightforward lines—as long as the result was that I was protected, he didn’t give a crap why.

“I would have liked it if he’d just thought I was a good enough leader to serve,” I grumbled. “I mean, what’s a girl gotta do?”

Bracken pulled out from under my arm, his eyes blazing. He ran a distracted hand through his dark hair, setting it on end like an angry hedgehog, and stared at me.

That’s what you’re worried about?” he asked, sounding outraged. “Do you know how many dangerous, foolish things we did in Monterey? And you’re worried that Jack followed you for the wrong reasons?”

I shivered—which was one of the by-products of having an emergency field transfusion of his blood, which I didn’t remind him of, because hey—one more thing to be pissed at me for, right?

So instead of arguing, I actually thought about what he was saying. Then I wished I hadn’t.

’Cause, well, we’d jumped out of a helicopter to be caught by my magic and my magic alone, which was a first for me in the flying department. We’d stood up to a gigantic rabid wolf pack with nothing but exhausted, injured werewolves and a few tired Avian shifters as support, and I’d….

Oh God, I’d….

I’d been forced to mass kill again, when I’d sworn I’d never do that. Not on purpose. Not so soon after having to issue a death warrant on vampire children because they’d had the bad luck to be turned by a pedophile and would never be sane, never be safe, never be human again.

In my mind I went back to that moment, the lot of us trapped under the force field I’d erected out of magic and desperation in a back alleyway. We’d been just far enough from the sea for us to lose the smell of hope. The rogue wolves had been throwing themselves against it for what seemed like forever, and I’d been growing tired. I could make the shield lethal. I’d been able to kill with my power from the very beginning, but I just kept hoping they’d see sense, that they’d stop somehow, that I wouldn’t have to waste so many fucking lives….

And I’d been teetering between trying to fight our way out and simply making the shield enough to kill them all, when Teague—my captain, my right-hand man, my friend—had looked at me and whimpered. His back end had dropped then—as it should, since he’d been recovering from breaking every bone in his body less than a week before—and I’d seen it in his eyes.

Please.

His mates were there, Jack and Katy, and he wanted them to live.

Or that’s what I’d thought.

Instinctively I placed my hand over my lower abdomen, thinking of what we could have lost there. What Bracken had known I’d been risking.

“You didn’t say anything,” I whispered. I looked over my shoulder at Green. He was gazing at me levelly, with no apologies and no regrets.

“No,” Green said. He and Bracken were staring at each other as though they were reliving a terrible conversation of their own.

“But—” But why? Why would two men who had made my health and welfare their bloody science for the past two years not protest, not try to protect me, not try to talk me out of my own stupid pride when I had their children on board?

“You never would have forgiven….” Bracken looked around the living room like he was looking for words. “Anybody!” he burst out. “Any of us. You, me, Green—hell, the children-to-be. And if, Goddess forbid, anything had happened to Teague, it would have been—” He stood for a moment and flailed his arms. “Cory-a-geddon. You would have self-detonated. This whole… baby thing would have begun under a—”

“A black karmic funk of epic proportions,” I supplied, feeling a little queasy just thinking about it. Of course, since I’d been feeling queasy pretty much for the past two and a half weeks, that was no big news. “But….” I could have died? Well, I could have died a lot of times in the last two years. I kept arguing that I would be fine—there were no promises, and my entire purpose was protection.

But….

Nothing.

“I asked for this?” Quiet revelations do sometimes sound like questions. “I did. I… I said I knew best, and… and….”

“And we trusted you to know best,” Green said quietly. “We trusted you with you, and our children.”

I closed my eyes, somewhat reassured. “That’s….” But I couldn’t do it. Maturity had apparently gotten me into this mess. It was time for honesty to get me out.

Terrifying!” I wailed, and then I dissolved into stupid tears on Green’s chest.

Bracken sighed and plopped behind me, and I cried until I fell asleep.

About the Author

Amy Lane has two kids in college, two gradeschoolers in soccer, two cats, and two Chi-who-whats at large. She lives in a crumbling crapmansion with most of the children and a bemused spouse. She also has too damned much yarn, a penchant for action adventure movies, and a need to know that somewhere in all the pain is a story of Wuv, Twu Wuv, which she continues to believe in to this day! She writes fantasy, urban fantasy, and m/m romance–and if you accidentally make eye contact, she’ll bore you to tears with why those three genres go together. She’ll also tell you that sacrifices, large and small, are worth the urge to write.
 
Twitter: @amymaclane