About jessicacoultersmith

Award-winning science fiction & paranormal romance author

BOOK REVIEW: Upon Us by Blakely Chorpenning #dystopian #bookreview @bchorpenning

What if the apocalypse was manufactured to save mankind?

Twenty-five years have passed in a self-imposed darkness known as the New Beginning. While the natural planet has flourished, crops are suddenly dying and the sickness—a zombie-like plague—is ravishing the human population.

I live on the fringe of what’s left of civilization, helping where I can—from a distance. This is the only world I’ve ever known and I plan to save it.

I’ve been entrusted by the clans to remedy the food shortage. Breaking rules is nothing new, but there’s a catch. I need a villager to carry out my plan.

Ren is not the captive I had hoped for. He’s shockingly candid. A wildcard with a fatal flaw. And he remembers the world before it stopped. The longer we spend together, the more I’m drawn into his entitled way of life. To him. But he may harbor more secrets than I do.

Ren is not who he seems.

Then again, neither am I.

During a time of deception and conspiracies, love thrives where a world chose to die.

“Two worlds collide to save hope for the future. This book has so much love and passion to make page 1 as enthralling as page 200.” ~Amazon Review

“A terrific change of pace from the current trend in dystopian fiction.” ~Goodreads Review

“[Ren] was funny and interesting and hot.” ~Goodreads Review

***New Adult, Forced Proximity, Survival Romance in Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic United States***
Mature YA 16+/New Adult audience recommended due to mature content.

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MY REVIEW – 4 stars

I don’t often read dystopian books, but I’ve enjoyed other books by this author and decided to dive in.

I found the dystopian world intriguing, especially how it came about. There were interesting twists that kept me on my toes. I detest spoilers so if you want to know more, you’ll have to read the book.

Jolee’s character brought hope to those around her, even before the secrets of her past were revealed. She had an innate kindness felt by all. I thoroughly enjoyed her character.

Ren left me feeling conflicted. He wasn’t a bad person, but the first part of the book didn’t show his inner depths, so he came across as superficial and shallow. By the end, I was rooting for him and Jolee to be together.

The secondary characters rounded out this world quite well, adding depth. I only wish we could have seen more of them at the end of the book instead of hearing about them through Ren.

Overall, Upon Us was an entertaining story. I did feel the romance aspect was a bit abrupt, even though Ren and Jolee make a great couple. It felt like they went from enemies, to semi-friends, to lovers in the blink of an eye.

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Release Blitz: The Mayor of Oak Street by Vincent Traughber Meis #agegap #LGBTQ @convince415 @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: The Mayor of Oak Street

Author: Vincent Traughber Meis

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 88400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, age-gap, coming-of-age, coming out, college, political, friends to lovers, period piece, reunited

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Description

In the 1960s, Midwestern boy and Boy Scout, Nathan delivers newspapers and mows lawns. Nathan uses his cover to move about yards and sneak into the homes of his neighbors, uncovering their secrets.

In high school, one of the local misfits introduces him to diet pills, which help him overcome his shyness. In an amphetamine high, he meets Cindy, who he hopes will steer him along the “morally straight” path of the Boy Scout Oath he swore to.

Nathan is infatuated with a young doctor down the street, Nicholas (Dr. B), who embodies all the things his mother would love him to be. On one of his secret forays in Dr. B’s house, he hides in a closet and witnesses his idol having sex with man while the wife is out of town. Dr. B’s affair leads to tragedy, forcing the doctor to leave town.
At college in New Orleans, Nathan meets a group of rebels and expands his drug use. Marc, a bisexual Cajun charmer becomes Nathan’s first male sexual experience, but promptly leaves town.

Nathan has a chance encounter with Dr. B, who has moved to New Orleans. Dr. B is in a relationship, but still closeted. Frustrated by Dr. B’s cool reaction, Nathan goes on a six-month binge of amphetamines and anonymous sex. On one night of debauchery, he overdoses and ends up in the emergency ward.

Nathan’s near death rallies Dr. B and Nathan’s other friends to force him into rehab. On the way home from work, Nathan witnesses the gruesome aftermath of the 1973 Up Stairs Lounge fire that devastated the gay population of New Orleans. As a result of the fire, Dr. B’s live-in boyfriend leaves town, freeing Dr. B to explore his feelings for Nathan.

Excerpt

The Mayor of Oak Street
Vincent Traughber Meis © 2021
All Rights Reserved

The Sangamon flows muddy and rank through the corn and soybean fields of central Illinois, giving its name to my city and the lake it fills on the south side before continuing its meander west. One of its tributaries, the even lazier and muddier Harold’s Creek, ran practically up to my back door in its own journey through the woods behind the homes on Oak Street.

The afternoon sun filtered through the tall trees, warming my shoulders as I walked along the creek, imagining building a raft like I had seen my brother and his friends do a few years before. I would ride it down the creek to the Sangamon and into the Illinois, eventually reaching the Mississippi. The Mississippi would take me to New Orleans, a city memorialized in song, literature, and film as a place of wonder. It wasn’t that I needed to run away like Huckleberry Finn. I hadn’t yet learned to hate everything the Sangamon gave its name to. It was a boy’s fantasy brought on by the heat of summer and the mesmerizingly sluggish flow of water.

I heard a branch snap deep in the woods. I often saw hobos from the nearby Wabash Line wandering in the woods, and my mother told me I needed to avoid them, but I sometimes watched them from behind a clump of bushes. My eyes darted around the area and saw nothing. I glanced at my watch. Time to go. For most kids, these were the carefree days of summer, but I had things to do. From the creek, I walked up the hill, through our backyard, and out to the street.

Mrs. Sloan’s heavy oak door hung wide open while a screen kept the swarms of late summer flies and mosquitoes at bay. I put my face to the mesh in what felt like an invasion of her privacy, causing me to tingle from the top of my head down to my big toes.

“Hello? Mrs. Sloan?” I shouted into the dim interior of the hall.

No answer.

I opened the screen door haltingly and stepped inside. The door creaked shut, sounding painful in the silence of the house. I took a step, and then another. My legs shook. I peered to the right into the living room and left into the dining room. A force had taken control of me and pushed me on, my sneakers barely touching the carpet.

I went as far as the kitchen, passing two empty bedrooms on the way. Her purse sat on the yellow chrome Formica kitchen table, the keys to her Oldsmobile right next to it. Out the kitchen window, I searched for her floppy straw hat in the sunny backyard. She was neither in the garden where she often tended her vegetables nor in the lawn chair where she sometimes sat, large sunglasses on her nose and a cocktail in hand. I took note the lawn needed mowing.

Nylons hung over the bathroom shower curtain rod, hypnotically swaying in the breeze from the open window. Though we called her Mrs. Sloan, I had never heard of a Mr. Sloan. My father once complained about entering the bathroom and finding my mother’s nylons drying in plain sight. I wondered if Mrs. Sloan was sad living alone or happy she had the freedom to do what she wanted.

I should have been scared of her coming home and finding me lurking in her house, but a stronger force blocked the fear, a compelling energy moving my mind and body, making me feel impervious to danger. I continued down the hall to the living room, stopping to gaze at each of three framed needlepoint messages: “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself,” “A cheery smile makes life worthwhile,” and “You belong among the wildflowers.”

I had come to Mrs. Sloan’s door in my rounds, collecting for my paper route. She was a month behind in her payments. And I rationalized my invasion of her home out of concern for her welfare. My mother once said she wouldn’t be surprised to find her passed out drunk on the front lawn one day. My brother in high school sometimes came home from a night of drinking with his buddies and would collapse face down on his bed in our shared room without removing his clothes or shoes. One time, he ended up on the floor. Perhaps Mrs. Sloan had fallen like my brother. Perhaps she had fallen asleep in the bath and was at risk of drowning like I had seen on a television program.

I spent a few more minutes in the house before exiting through the front door into the calm and quiet on Oak Street. I continued up the block to do the rest of the collections. That night I drew a floor plan of her home, noting doors and windows. My brother called me a weirdo when the first thing I looked at in the Sunday paper was the page with the floor plan of a new house on the market while he went for the sports section, my father the news, and my mother the book reviews. I also scribbled notes about Mrs. Sloan’s house: the color and shape of her purse, the black-and-white photo of a somber older couple in the living room, the buff-colored nylons, the approximately twelve-inch cross hanging over her bed, and the needlepoint messages.

Before I entered my teenage years, I would know my way in and out of most every house on the block without being discovered. It was the Midwest. It was the ‘60s. Crime happened elsewhere. In addition to delivering papers, I mowed lawns. I could cross barriers, move within fences, and befriend dogs. Access. Getting inside the house was usually the easy part.

Everybody told me my paper route and lawn-mowing jobs would be good experience though I had no idea how much I would learn about myself, about others, about life, the good and the bad. I could assume the face of the upstanding neighborhood boy, appearing at their doors to collect subscription payments, smiling and making small talk while below the surface I was another person, motivated by desires they would never understand.

The second time I entered a home was as spontaneous as the first. It was the Pruitts’. While mowing the front lawn, I noticed Mrs. Pruitt lock the front door, take her two identically dressed little girls by the hand, jump into their Ford station wagon, and drive off. When I got around to the back of the house, I spotted the kitchen door standing open, beckoning me. I turned off the mower so I would hear if the car returned. I went into the kitchen. My mother would die rather than let our kitchen fall into such disorder; the sink filled with dirty dishes, and the kitchen table covered with open schoolbooks and scattered papers.

A half-full milk carton sat on the counter. I opened the fridge and saw a whole shelf of soda pop. I took an orange Crush and drank it as I did a quick tour of the house. Not much interesting. The rest of the house was as messy as the kitchen. I finished the soda outside, threw the bottle in the trashcan, and finished mowing the lawn. Before I went to bed that night, I drew a floor plan of their three-bedroom and put it in a folder with Mrs. Sloan’s.

I thought of these intrusions as accidents, isolated incidents that wouldn’t be repeated. But images of those escapades kept dancing through my head, enticing me to do it again. The rush of danger, the real possibility I might be caught, was like a drug. At the time I was still ignorant about drugs and addictions, but my body clearly knew sensations it wanted to revisit. I managed to stave off my urges for a few months. I turned twelve over the summer, and several of my customers who had heard it was my birthday tacked on a bit extra to their payments.

Lawn-mowing season came to an end as the weather turned cold, and we had our first snowfall. Soon after, I started receiving calls about paper holds for the Thanksgiving holidays. To me, they might as well have been invitations. I prayed it didn’t snow as the soft whiteness would show the hard dirty prints of my boots, a trail of my activities. I had to start thinking about such things: tracks I might leave, who in the neighborhood tended to snoop out their windows, or how often people left doors unlocked, windows open.

I made a point of being friendly with the dogs on my street as I knew my extracurricular activities at houses with animals could be a problem. The Jackmans had a golden retriever. I’d received notice to put their paper on hold for five days, making me guess they weren’t going to leave the dog in the house for that length of time.

When I did my collections the week before Thanksgiving, I casually mentioned to Mrs. Jackman that I had received the hold notice. People loved to give out information they didn’t have to. She revealed they were going to their lake house in Arkansas. Butch was curled up at her feet. He raised his head as she took a ten out of her wallet and gave it to me. She told me to keep the change, and I thanked her profusely while I tore off her receipt.

I reached down to pet the dog. “I guess Butch is going to get a vacation too.”

“Oh, yeah. He loves it down there.”

Bingo, I was in. After our Thanksgiving meal, Dad and my brother watched the football game on TV while Mom cleaned up. I went to my room, saying I was going to read. Nobody thought it was odd. In my family, everybody did pretty much what he or she wanted. Normally, after a Thanksgiving meal, Dad and my brother passed out in front of the TV, and Mom curled up in a chair to read after cleaning up the kitchen. They had all had a lot of wine at dinner, including David, who my parents allowed to drink though he was only sixteen, something about him learning to drink responsibly at home keeping him from being irresponsible when he went out. I wasn’t sure that was working.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Vincent Traughber Meis started writing plays as a child in the Midwest and cajoled his sisters to act in performing them for neighbors. In high school, one of his short stories won a local contest sponsored by the newspaper. After graduating from college, he worked on a number of short stories and began his first novel. In the 1980’s and 90’s he published a number of pieces, mostly travel articles in publications such as, The Advocate, LA Weekly, In Style, and Our World. His travels have inspired his five novels, all set at least partially in foreign countries: Eddie’s Desert Rose (2011), Tio Jorge (2012), and Down in Cuba (2013), Deluge (2016) and Four Calling Burds (2019). Tio Jorge received a Rainbow Award in the category of Bisexual Fiction in 2012. Down in Cuba received two Rainbow Awards in 2013. Recently stories have been published in three collections: WITH:New Gay Fiction, Best Gay Erotica Vol 1 and Best Gay Erotica Vol 4. He lives in San Leandro, CA with his husband.

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New Release: Damned & Confused by Crymsyn Hart #darkfantasy @crymsynhart

Meriel discovers an ancient deck of Tarot cards while cleaning out an old house for her sister. When she opens the box of cards, out pops Wile, a demon hell-bent on protecting her from Raziel, a Prince of Hell.

If Raziel gets the cards and Meriel, he can open a portal to release the devil into the world. Together, Wile and Meriel have to stay one step ahead of Raziel.

The Tarot start to teach her their secrets and help her understand her deepening connection to Wile. Can she learn what she needs to in order to keep the devil at bay and save her demon?

Get it Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for June 18th at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Crymsyn Hart

Meriel ran her fingers through her hair and stared at the mess of boxes she had to contend with. Sunlight streamed in through the cobwebbed windows, highlighting the dust she’d stirred by setting foot in the attic. She gathered her hair, twisted it into a bun, and thrust a pen through it. A piece came loose and draped in front of her eyes. She stuck it behind her ear and groaned as she looked at the list of things her sister, Kendra, had left for her to do. Two pages of tasks to get the house cleared out. Kendra had taken over their mother’s cleaning business once she had retired. Since Meriel was out of a job, Kendra had enlisted her to work. The money paid Meriel’s bills, but the work never seemed to end. Meriel knew because she’d worked with her their mother long before Kendra came along. Her little sister never had it as demanding as Meriel did growing up.

Better get to it. She gazed around the attic. Antique furniture piled next to trunks was shoved into the corner. An old sewing machine, a mannequin dummy, and numerous old cardboard boxes waited for her to dig through them. Whatever was written on the side to describe the contents had faded with time. She wiped her hand across her head from the sweat forming on her brow. It was only nine and already the attic was stifling.

Meriel ripped open the first box and found nothing more than old photos, china, and other knickknacks. She moved the box aside and started a pile of things they could sell. She kept on going and got lost in the monotony of pulling boxes and figuring out which things to trash and what could be sold.

By the time she got half the attic sorted, the mound to be tossed far outweighed the pitiful heap of what they could keep. She stopped and took a bottle of water from the cooler. The liquid slipped down her throat, then she ran the perspiring bottle over her forehead and enjoyed the coolness of the water on her skin. She grabbed a box from the trash pile and ventured down to the first floor. She set it down by the front door.

Meriel peered through the dusty window. The breeze had picked up greatly since she had gotten there. She opened the door to get a better look at the sky. A boom of thunder greeted her. A bolt of lightning arced overhead as dark clouds approached the house. An ominous feeling settled over her as she stared at the coming tempest. Her yellow Ford Focus looked like an ant waiting to be squashed by the encroaching storm. Her side vibrated. She dug her phone out of her pocket and saw a tornado warning had been issued for her area.

Metallic pings caught her attention and drew her gaze to her car. Pea-size balls of ice bounced off the hood of her car. Dread crept up her spine as the gale grew bigger. Perfect, I’m stuck in a big creepy house in the middle of a storm. Another boom of thunder and a gush of wind struck. The rain mixed with the hail hit her face, stinging sharply. The clouds had moved in faster than she anticipated. Darkness engulfed the house until it felt like night had fallen. The clouds had taken on a purple-black hue with a tinge of orange mixed in. She heard a crunch. Hail the size of grapefruit had hit her windshield and fell on the roof of her car before rolling off onto the cracked driveway.

Meriel slammed the front door shut. The next roll of thunder shook the house. Sounds like God is doing construction up there. She tried the light switch, but the power flickered and went out. She checked the radar on her weather app. It showed a red and orange blob coming straight at her location. The way the building quaked and with the pounding hail crashing against the house, she wasn’t going to take a chance. Using the flashlight on her phone, she rushed into the kitchen, hoping to find the basement door. Meriel hadn’t explored much of the house except to find the bathroom and the attic. The kitchen appliances were large and from the late 1940s. She pulled open a door by the fridge. A pantry with a few old jars on the shelves. A squeak made her jump as several mice scampered out of the way.

“Mother… fudgenugget. I hate mice.” Meriel slammed the door.

A loud bang overhead didn’t make her feel any better. She heard a soft click and then a creak. Meriel followed the sound and discovered a door in the hallway she had passed by. It blended with the wall so well she didn’t even realize it was there. Stairs led down into the darkness. Her flashlight flickered on and off. Thunder rattled the windows and made her head into the cellar for safety. Rushing wind and pelting rain battered the windows.

The light from her phone let her see the basement filled with more discarded antiques. Besides the collection of antiques, there were shelves of canned goods covered with cobwebs. The cellar fit every stereotype of what a scary basement should be. Spiders hung from their webs. Broken furniture was scattered around. Shelves of canned goods so old the labels had worn off filled one wall. All she needed now was a ghost to pop out and say boo. She glanced at her phone. Great. No signal.

As she moved farther into the basement, she heard water dripping. It led her to another room with a dirt floor. Thick wooden beams supported the floor above. Inside, she found an old well. In the old days, people used to build wells inside the houses. She had never come across it before, though. The sound of the storm didn’t seem as bad. Something about the place didn’t feel right. Water plopped onto her hand. She panned her flashlight around the basement and discovered a wooden door. I wonder where this goes? Let’s find out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Crymsyn Hart is a National Bestselling author of over eighty paranormal romance and horror novels. Her experiences as a psychic and ghostly encounters have given her a lot of material to use in her books. Vampires, grim reapers, shifters, and other paranormal creatures tend to end up in her books no matter how hard she tries to keep them away.

She currently resides in Charlotte, NC with her hubby and her three dogs. If she’s not writing, she’s curled up with the dogs watching a good horror movie or off with friends.

To find out more about Crymsyn, check out her website on: www.crymsynhart.com

Release Blitz: Scorned Gods by Mychael Black #LGBTQ #darkfantasy @changelingpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Scorned Gods

Author: Mychael Black

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: June 18, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 154

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Suspense, Urban Fantasy, Multiple Partners, Multisexual & Pansexual, Rock Star, Vampires

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Synopsis

Music isn’t all that Scorned Gods has to offer.

Iconoclast (Scorned Gods 1): Death metal group Scorned Gods needs a new singer. Firestarter’s former lead singer Jason Summerfield and his lover Julian Kristados are back in the United States, and Jason is itching to get back on stage. What he gets, however, is far more than that — and not all of it is good.

Delirium (Scorned Gods 2): Jason and Julian have acquired a new lover, Scorned Gods’ bassist, Saul. But a cult of vampires is hell-bent on starting a war between mortals and vampires. Its first prime targets are psychic vampires like Jason’s bandmates…

Shackled (Scorned Gods 3): With help from an Abaddon ally, Jason and his bandmates will have to act quickly to stop Harlan Yates. The escaped mortal, Daniel, is the unwilling beacon that can bring destruction upon them all.

Karma’s Brutality (Scorned Gods 4): With their allies from Abaddon, Jason takes the fight directly to Yates. Jason and his bandmates from Scorned Gods are about to discover combat is not for the faint of heart. Not everyone will come out unscathed, but that’s the nature of war.

Publisher’s Note: Scorned Gods (Box Set) contains the previously published novellas Iconoclast, Delirium, Shackled, and Karma’s Brutality.

Excerpt

Scorned Gods (Box Set)
Mychael Black
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mychael Black
Excerpt from Iconoclast

The door slammed shut, and Saul Calderon glanced at his bandmates. “Well, that was a waste of time. Now what?”

Twins Nicholas and Dana Reid both sighed, though Dana spoke up first. “Good riddance,” she said. “There are other singers — most with more talent than that jackass had. We can find someone.”

“Hopefully in enough time to actually learn the songs,” her brother grumbled.

Saul sat on the stool beside his amp, his bass resting on his lap. “Where do these fuckers come from? You’d think someone who claims to be a ‘big fan’ would actually know our songs.”

“Hell if I know,” Dana said with a shrug. She set her sticks on her snare and redid her fire-engine red ponytail. Although she and Nicholas were twins, they weren’t identical. She looked nothing like her brother. “We need… new blood.”

A shiver snaked its way up Saul’s spine. None of them had fed in a few days, and although they didn’t drink blood, the urge for it occasionally hit. Dana gave him a knowing look. She’d been the one to bring them together years ago. Back then, they’d only sensed kindred spirits who needed energy to survive. The music had been a happy accident. But even among vampires, their kind were pariahs. Rumors ran rampant about the band members’ true natures, though no one knew the exact truth. Sometimes, they tossed in a random blood feeding onstage just to drive the crowd wild, but Saul preferred tantric energy to blood any day.

“Yo, dude!”

Fingers snapped in front of Saul’s face, and he shook his head. Nicholas gave him a quizzical look.

“Sorry. Just… zoned out, I guess,” Saul said. “Dana’s right, though. We need someone new, someone this fucking city hasn’t heard.”

“Good luck with that,” Nicholas said. “That idiot was number… shit, I don’t even remember now.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky.” Saul wasn’t sure he believed that himself, but it felt good to say, at least. His cell buzzed in his pocket, and he tugged it out to glance at the text message. “Huh.”

“Who is it?” Dana asked.

“Some guy named Jason Summerfield. Says he sang with Firestarter.”

“The pyro band?” Nicholas grinned.

Saul shrugged. “I suppose. I don’t know of any other Firestarter.”

“Didn’t they break up a few years ago?” Dana began packing her things. “I caught one of their shows. If it’s the same guy, he’s fucking good.”

Saul read the text aloud:

My name is Jason Summerfield. I found your ad and am looking for a new band. I just moved to town a few weeks ago, but I fronted Firestarter for several years in Atlanta.

“What have we got to lose?” Nicholas asked as he put away his guitar.

“I’ll set up a time tomorrow then,” Saul said.

While Noah and Dana finished getting their things together, Saul replied to the text.

Hey there. I’ve heard of Firestarter, though I never saw you guys live. I play bass for Scorned Gods. I’d like to meet and chat, see if you’d be a good fit. When’s a good time for you?

A few minutes passed, and Saul walked Dana and Noah to the front door of his loft. Just as he shut the door, his phone buzzed again.

Anytime tonight would be great.

He texted back, How about eight?

Sounds great.

Awesome. I know a cool little coffeehouse downtown called Urban Joe’s. Need directions?

Nah. I can find it. See you then.

Saul grinned. If this guy was as good as Dana claimed, maybe things would work out after all. He grabbed his laptop off the kitchen table and sat down on the couch. A quick Google search yielded photos, mp3 clips, and vids of Firestarter. Saul stared at a promo pic of Jason Summerfield.

“Holy shit, he’s hot.”

Purchase

Changeling Press LLC | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

Myc has been writing professionally since 2005, solo and with Shayne Carmichael. Genres include pretty much anything (no steampunk yet), though Myc is well known for paranormal stories. When not writing, Myc is usually playing PC games, reading, watching Netflix, and spending way too much time on Facebook. Since the question has come up in the past, pronouns are not an issue. Myc is bio-female, mentally male, and 100% genderfluid, so any pronoun works!

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Nighted by Torri Heat #darkfantasy #paranormalromance @torriheat

Jasper and Ava have made it through every hurdle thrown their way — together. Their relationship is stronger — and hotter — than ever. But now something new and deadly is after Ava. The pair also can’t forget the minor detail that her mother is still missing.

The supernatural world is dangerous, and full of things that go bump in the night. Will they be able to find the monster before the monster finds her?

Available Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for June 18th at online booksellers

Praise for Nighted (Darkling 3)

“I’ve been following Torri’s work from Nyctophilia and with every new piece I become more and more invested. I adore the progression Torri has created between each of her installments in her Darkling Series… I adore her characters even more. [The] romance with Jasper is just absolutely superb. Their dynamic connection and spice is everything.”

— 5 Stars from Jennifer Claire, Goodreads Review

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Torri Heat

If I thought back really far, I could almost remember my mother telling me a story. About creatures who lived in the woods, and monsters that went bump in the night. Bedtime stories created to scare children. Except I was no longer a child, and I knew better now than to think those stories were made up.

None of this mattered anymore. My mother and I had no relationship left, and this was definitely not the time for a casual discussion on children’s stories. I had bigger things to worry about. The forest I was currently sprinting through full tilt was far from imaginary, although the scene could’ve been from a dream. The dense foliage was thick with new growth, lush like a fairy tale. Bright flowers bloomed in the small gaps of sunlight. The only thing missing was the bird song, preferably from a friendly bluebird Instead, the only thing I heard as I ran was the sound of my own heartbeat.

I wanted to stop and catch my breath, but I couldn’t. He’d find me, and that was a whole world of trouble I didn’t even want to contemplate. So I kept running, my heartbeat keeping time with my silent footsteps.

There were perks to being a Venator, and then there were skills I had worked my ass off to learn. The quiet way I could move through the forest was one of those skills I was most proud of, and my talent was paying off tenfold at the moment. My original plan had been to do a wide circle in the woods, coming out at the far end, which hadn’t been working out for me so far. Venator or not, my stamina wasn’t unlimited. What I needed was a distraction, or some way to let me loop back on myself. I eyed the aging trees as I ran deeper. The thick vines desperately making their way skyward were too new to provide any real support, but they might give me some traction if I could find a tree small enough to find good holds. Just ahead of me I found my target. A tree younger than the rest with some low limbs, but not fully covered in the twining green ropes. Perfect.

I jumped, reaching for the first low limb and pulling myself into the tree. I continued to climb until I was high enough in the leaves that I was unable to be seen but could still hear everything going on below me. Unfortunately, this vantage point also left my vision partially obstructed. I would have to rely on a combination of my senses and hope for the best. I pulled myself as small as I could, straining my ears to hear the sounds beneath my hiding place. I needed to wait until he passed by me, and then I could make my way back out of the woods. Easy. I had outmaneuvered wolves loads of times. My breath and my heart kept an odd melody in my head, and I forced myself to slow down. I needed to listen.

I heard the heavy breathing first. I must have pulled up at the perfect time, because he wasn’t far behind me. I could hear sniffing down the trail I had followed. I pulled my feet even closer to my body, willing my heart to be silent. I had come this far. I could make it a little while longer. I kept count of the seconds, tapping my finger on my tight black shirt. One. Two. Three. There was the swish of a tail in the bushes beneath me. I could see the edges of the damp fur but couldn’t make out the whole body. Holding my breath, I waited to see if he would find my hiding spot or would move on. Four. Five. Six. The fur slowly disappeared, and the sniffing faded out further along the trail. I would give him a couple more minutes, just to make sure, and then I would jump down and move. Seven. Eight. Nine. My hiding spot had been a success. There was no more sign of him. Now I only needed to get back in one piece. I took a deep breath and jumped down.

Ten.

I took a quick look around me, feeling satisfied I hadn’t been found out. I turned on my heel to head back the way I had come, before he noticed I was no longer ahead of him. But before I could move, something snaked out from the left of me and grabbed my wrist. My heart stopped. Shit.

“What gave me away?” My voice sounded a lot braver than I felt. Bravery was a constant work in progress, especially when the supernatural world wasn’t one you were expecting to find yourself living in.

Jasper smirked. “Your scent was all over those vines, Green. You should know better than to climb on the greenery without masking your scent first.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Torri Heat has always loved control. Her mind was blown when she discovered she could control entire worlds through story writing. Throw some steamy romance in there, and it was pretty close to perfection. Torri loves dark heroes who ride off into the sunset on their motorcycles, fierce heroines who can fend for themselves, and a sprinkle of the paranormal to keep things interesting. When she’s not creating alternate realities you can find her managing her three ring circus of kids and animals.  

Find Torri Online: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Book Tour: Bake Believe by Cori Cooper #YoungAdult @CoriCAuthor

Bake Believe

Book One
Cori Cooper
 
Genre: Teen/YA, Magic
Publisher: Immortal Works Publishing
Date of Publication: November 5, 2020
ISBN: 978-1953491978
ASIN: B08KWMX6BW
Number of pages: 282
Word Count: 78,959
Cover Artist: Immortal Works Art Team
 
Tagline: What happens when you combine Magic and Baking? Cat Anderson will tell you all about it.
 
Book Description: 
 
Cat Anderson doesn’t want much out of life. Give her a circle of friends to giggle with, a few boys to flirt with, a cute outfit, and she is good to go! She especially could care less about food. 
 
But food, it turns out, is a very big deal.
 
In Cat’s family there is a secret too fantastic to be real. Something happens when Cat bakes.
 
Something amazing.
 
Something impossible.
 
Can it be true? Or is it Bake Believe?


Excerpt: Frozen
Waffles

Why am I still in bed?

It’s the last day of summer vacation! I can’t waste one more minute, second, or millisecond sleeping. This is going to be the most epically awesome day of all time! Like, so good that awesome looks at this day and wishes it was this epic. This might sound like a lot of pressure, but I’m ready. For weeks I’ve been keeping track of the summer stuff I love to do most, so I could pick out all the best things. Now, I have a
mental list just waiting for me to get to it:

-Go to the pool.
-Use sun lightener on my hair.
-Work on my tan.
-Try something new at the Snack Shack.
-Meet three new boys.
-Give at least one of the boys my phone number.

I am determined to squeeze the most amount of fun out of every single second of this day. Obviously, I can’t get any of it done while I’m laying here like a slug! I have to get up and call Robyn.

I roll out of bed, no clue what time it is.  My stinking alarm clock has been tick-tick-ticking away the precious minutes of my last summer day, so I have been ignoring it with all of my might. Before I stand up, I smack the clock face down on the nightstand. I should have done that before. The irritating neon numbers, winking in my peripheral, were giving me a headache. And headaches are not epically awesome.

I wonder, would Time stop if I use all my allowance to send it on a vacation to Hawaii? I can find a beachfront resort somewhere far away from me and Time can sit next to the ocean with a fruity little drink. I wouldn’t mind if Time decided to stay there for a couple weeks even. This could totally work. Even Time must need a break sometimes.

Or maybe not, since that darn clock is still going at it, just muffled now.

I plop my pillow down on my nightstand, to shush it even more, and I tiptoe to my bedroom door. As quietly as possible, I ease it open, so it doesn’t squeak. It does like to squeak sometimes, and I don’t want to wake anyone up in case it’s super early. For all that trying to ignore the clock’s tick-tocks, I didn’t actually look at the time.

I’ll just check when I get my phone.

Because of the family ‘no screens in bedrooms’ rule, my phone spends the night in a basket on the coffee table. Out of habit, I look both ways before I slip out of my room and into the hall. Not a creature is stirring. Even so, I prefer to sneak along the walls and slink around corners like I’m in some big deal spy movie. It’s just more fun that way. I serpentine down the stairs and army crawl across the living room. When I’m almost to the coffee table, I execute a super awesome somersault that
leaves me on my back, staring up at the phone basket.

Nailed it.

I reach one arm into the basket and rummage around until I feel sequins. My phone! The most beautiful creation of turquoise and silver sparkles, I am very happy to have it in my hand.

I hold the phone above my head, over my face, while I text. My arms start to fall asleep instantly, but I ignore them, because this is super important.


About the Author:

 
Cori Cooper lives in the magical Arizona Mountains, which she’s pretty convinced is the setting for all the fairy tales. 
 
Besides writing stories, she adores hanging out with her family, playing board games, hiking and baking, baking, baking. Like Cat’s family, she’s positive Cinnamon Rolls fix everything.
 
You can connect with Cori on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and her website – Coristories.com. 
 

Release Blitz: Leading the Blind by B.A. Tortuga #LGBTQ #ActionAdventure @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Leading The Blind by BA Tortuga

Book 7 in the Roughstock series

Word Count: 53,445
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 230

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

You don’t need the use of your eyes to see forever.

After his head injury leaves him blind, professional bull rider Jason Scott can only think of one thing. He desperately needs to win the title in the big leagues of bull riding so he can retire and start a new life—one he can live with his best friend and lover, Andy Baxter.

Andy—or Bax, as his friends call him—wants to keep Jason safe and alive, but he would never ask his man to be less than he is. With the help of their best friends, they start out on a path that will lead them back to the major events and to a deception that might lose them all their jobs.

There’s no way the league officials would let Jason ride if they knew he was blind, so Jason and Bax have to figure out how to get Jason back to the top of the leaderboard without any kind of advantage or cheating being called. Meanwhile, they have to figure out what their new life is going to look like and what they’ll be if they’re not bull riders any longer.

Will they get what they want? Or will the whole thing just be a case of the blind leading the blind?

Reader advisory: This book contains some bull riding-related injuries. There is a brief homophobic slur from a secondary character.

Excerpt

“Jesus fucking Christ! Open your goddamn eyes next time! That bull damn near rang your bell.” Bax shook his arm, and Jason swore that made the world swim before his useless fucking eyes again.

“Andy Baxter, you’d best back the fuck off. This ain’t the time.” He’d know Coke’s voice anywhere, the bullfighter as much a part of his family as anyone ever had been.

“Gramps, don’t.” Jason Scott leaned against the stall, breathing hard. The last thing he needed was Pa and Ma MacGillicuddy freaking out because he’d lost his cookies at a bull riding. Bull riding fans were a specific breed, and it didn’t matter one bit whether it was the big show or a tiny two-gate sheriff’s posse arena. They all talked.

“Well, someone has to,” Coke ground out. “He’s being an ass.”

“He needs to keep his eyes open.” But Bax lowered his voice, thank God.

“I know. I got dirt in ‘em. It’s not like I can wipe them, Bax.”

“For eight seconds, you can suck it up.”

“Right. ‘Cause you were always fucking perfect.”

Bax grabbed his shirtfront and shook him. “Every. Fucking. Ride.”

“Stop it,” Coke snapped, and they stopped. Gramps rarely spoke in that tone. When he did, well, they listened. “Y’all are being buttheads and I don’t need this shit, you comprende? Folks got phones.”

“Sorry,” Bax murmured, which made Jason snort.

“Don’t tease the bull, son. Tell Andy you’re sorry.”

Jason blew out a hard breath. “You know I am, butthead.”

“Good boys. Come on now. We got to get out of the public.” Coke tugged at his arm. Hell, Coke had to get back to work.

“Right. I’m going to get out of here, Gramps. I sure as shit ain’t making the short go.”

“Okay, son.” Coke clapped him on the back. “Be good.”

Bax laughed. “Right. He’ll be trying to drive off in the truck soon.”

“I’d do better than some.” His head was starting to pound like there was a damn mariachi band in there, playing away.

“You did okay last time,” Bax agreed, taking his arm and leading him out of the arena. “Until you didn’t.”

“Story of my life.” He rode like a champion, until he didn’t. He could see, until he couldn’t. He had a whole life, until it was over. Now? He was fixin’ to try and take some of it back.

“Hey, I just want you to be safe.”

“I know. I just want you to not have to babysit my ass forever.”

“I’m not your babysitter.” Bax lowered his voice. “I’m yours, and we’re in this together, Mini.”

Jason felt his fucking shoulders come down from around his ears. Okay. Yeah. ‘Together’ he could get behind. A burden? No, that he couldn’t do. “Right. Sorry. You want a beer?” An aspirin? Something to stop this pounding?

“Sure. Sounds good.” Bax led him out of the arena, the dirt changing to concrete.

He tried to make sure his face was thunderous, keeping anyone away who might want to talk. He was getting better at that part—the talking to fans—but not much. Right now he thought he might die if someone stopped them. Bax kept him moving fast, and soon enough he was in the cab of their truck, the sudden quiet shocking his senses.

“I’m taking you to the travel trailer, okay?” Bax sounded either pissed or scared. He wasn’t sure which.

“Okay.” Jason didn’t want to fight no more, so he folded his hands and sat quiet as a mouse.

They didn’t play music, they just drove, and when they got to the gravel road, Jason knew they were at the weird little campground.

The truck rocked a bit when Bax hit the brakes. The engine cut off, and they sat there.

“You okay?” Bax finally asked.

“My head hurts some,” he admitted. “I need some time to not worry about shit.”

“Well, come on. We’ll get you some pills and watch a movie.”

Listen to a movie, more like, but whatever. “Works for me.”

“You sure? I could put on one of those audiobooks.”

“I just want to be somewhere I”—can see—“know.”

“It’s cool and quiet in there.” Bax climbed out of the truck, then came around to help him out.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, Bax.”

“What for, Mini?” They stepped up into the trailer, the smell oddly homey inside.

“Being blind?” Having you take care of me when all I want in all the world is to take care of you.

“Well, that’s stupid. Ain’t like you asked to be blind.”

“No.” No, not a bit. “Good thing we cleared that up.”

“You know it.” Bax snorted loud, then guided him to sit back on the bed thingy. “Let me get us a cold drink, then we can kinda float.”

“Thanks. I’ll get the next one.” He toed his boots off and stripped out of his sponsor shirt and his baggy, filthy work jeans.

“No problem.” Bax opened a couple of bottles, the bottle cap sound unmistakable.

He took the bottle when Bax offered it and drank deep, the lemon-lime bubbles suiting him to the bone.

“Mmm. It was dry as dirt out there, huh?”

“Yeah. Yeah, and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open when I hit the ground.” His molars were a little gritty.

“Ew. No cow shit, Mini.”

Jason snorted, tickled shitless. “No. Although God knows how much we’ve eaten accidentally over the years.”

“Stop.” Bax pinched his hip. “That’s nasty.”

“No pinching!” He rolled toward Bax, trying not to spill his drink. “You’re such a wuss.”

“I am not. I swim with you at your momma’s place. There’s snake poop in there.” Bax had a point there. Jason wasn’t real sure what the point was, but Bax had one.

“I don’t even want to think about what all is in that pond, Bax.”

“Nope.”

They kinda…lounged. Just sat there and breathed like great big lazy gators. He laughed a little at that. Gators did okay blind, according to Beau Lafitte.

“What’s funny, Mini?”

“Alligators.”

“That ain’t funny. That’s a lot of teeth.”

“You’re just grumpy. Most days they’re funny.”

“Kinda, yeah.” Bax took his hand. “Sorry I yelled, Mini.”

“I’m trying. I swear to God. I’m trying hard to do this.” And God knew there were more than a few days when he just wanted to give up, to go home to Momma’s and admit defeat. Shit fire and save matches, what the fuck was he thinking, riding blind? He’d got his bell rung when he could see.

“I know. I know it.” Bax sighed. “I want— Shit, Mini, I want you to be happy, and you’re not.”

“I don’t want to ride the little events forever. I don’t want to be a has-been.” He didn’t want to be a burden.

“You’re not. You’re doing amazing.”

Now, Bax wasn’t one to blow smoke up anyone’s ass, so the words perked him up a little bit.

“You think so? I feel like a fuck-up.”

“That’s because we’re all always telling you what to do.”

He traced Bax’s fingers, one after another. Lord have mercy, those calluses felt like heaven when they touched him. The fact that they’d never touched him when he couldn’t see wasn’t lost on him. Bax had saved him. Completely. Fucker.

“You’re pouring smoke, Jason. Out of your brain.” Bax chuckled. “Thinkin’ ain’t what we do best.”

“Fuck no. We do stupid shit and drink beer.” It was the cowboy way, after all.

“See? I knew it.” Bax rolled to kiss his cheek.

“Knew what?” He could meet Bax halfway.

“That we’re better not thinking.” Bax laughed, poking his ribs.

He chuckled. “No shit on that, man.”

“Mmm.” Bax settled in right against his hip. “I got you, Jason. You just scared me, is all.”

“Scared me too. I hate being this way.”

“I know.” Those fingers moved over him, Bax stroking his belly.

Goosepimples climbed up his skin, heading from hips to nipples. “Mmm. I don’t hate this, though.”

“No, sir. I love this. Holding you. Touching you.”

“Good deal.”

Bax was breathing, steady and sure, and the rhythm liked to hypnotized him. “That is a good deal,” Bax agreed.

“We are. I mean, this is. Us. Christ.”

“It is what it is.” That was right down Zen of Bax.

He nodded and let his eyes close. It was the only way he could see colors. Sometimes he thought he could see Bax. Sometimes he knew he could.

“You’re smiling.” Bax rewarded him with a kiss.

He didn’t say why, and it didn’t matter. Nothing he did would change his world. No sense getting Bax’s hopes up.

Together, they’d get through today. Tomorrow too.

The day after that would just have to take care of itself.

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First For Romance

About the Author

BA Tortuga

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her buddies, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friends, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

You can check out BA’s website and blog, and follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter and get a FREE romance book from the author!

BA Tortuga’s Leading the Blind Giveaway

ENTER HERE AND GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 22nd June 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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Release Blitz: No Flag by Liz Borino #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: No Flag

Series: After Everything, Book One

Author: Liz Borino

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, family-drama, military, war, violence, terrorists, disabilities, amputee, bartender, Dom/sub relationship, domestic discipline, OCD

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Description

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

Excerpt

No Flag
Liz Borino © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The News

July 7, 2012

Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”

“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.

Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.

“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.

“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.

“Are you ready?”

“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”

“When?”

The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.

“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”

“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”

“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”

Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”

Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”

Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.

“Will…” Seth began.

“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”

“Will…”

“Please, Seth.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.

But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.

Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.

When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.

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Release Blitz: Love, Blood, and Sanctuary #LGBTQ #paranormalromance @megan_hart @fionazedde @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Love, Blood, and Sanctuary

Author: Brenda Murphy, Megan Hart, Fiona Zedde

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 95800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, romance, paranormal, BDSM, lesbian, demon, blood magic, D/s relationship, sex club, spirit, witch, hemomancer, Rosh Hashanah, established couple, reunited, demi-goddess

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Description

Haunted? Hunted? When you need a safe place from disaster, heartbreak, or gods trying to break you and drain your blood… come to Sanctuary. It’s New York’s most exclusive club for magical beings and the backdrop of three sexy stories from three award winning authors.

We Choose to Be by Megan Hart
Love is in the air…and the blood. When hemomancer Hadassah meets the woman of her dreams, she has no idea that Yael is actually a blood demon. Is it only the draw of Hadassah’s talents that brings Yael into her bed? Or is there something more. Something that could last. What is love, after all, unless it’s bound by blood?

Sanguine Faith by Brenda Murphy
After a messy break-up leaves Laurel homeless and unemployed, she accepts her great-uncle’s offer of a townhouse and a job. When a seductive spirit trapped in the town house offers Laurel a means of escaping the life her uncle has planned for her, she learns that free does not mean without cost.

Promises Made by Starlight by Fiona Zedde
Abandoned by her wife years before and left devastated, Izzy has recently lost nearly everything else. Her credit is abysmal, she’s underemployed, and her successful best friend treats her like a charity case. But when her wife reappears, breaking her heart all over again, Izzy finds that not everything is as it seems. Blood gods walk the earth, and the one she once welcomed into her bed is back—ready to reclaim what’s hers.

Excerpt

Love, Blood, and Sanctuary
Brenda Murphy, Megan Hart, Fiona Zedde © 2021
All Rights Reserved

From Sanguine Faith

The rap on the car window rattled the glass. Laurel started and slammed her knee into the steering wheel. She cursed softly as she jabbed the window control button. The demon was dressed as a policeman. He wore dark glasses and his beefy hands rested on his thick duty belt nestled between the pepper spray canister and his pistol holster. A slight glow from a pouch near his hip was the only clue to his true identity. Huffing out her frustration at the window’s lack of response, Laurel shoved open the car door.

“You okay?” The officer leaned closer and peered into her face. His feet were squarely inside the circle of salt Laurel had spread around the car the night before.

“Yeah.” Laurel cleared her throat. “I’m okay.”

“You can’t sleep here.” He gestured to the street lined with ancient brownstone townhouses and graffiti covered buildings. “It’s not safe.”

“I’m sorry—” Laurel wiped her hand over her face and squinted at the officer’s name badge. “—Officer Sullivan, is it? I worked a late shift and didn’t feel safe driving anymore. I pulled over here to catch a nap.”

“Stow it. I passed this way last evening, and you were parked here. Your car hasn’t moved.” He leaned closer and removed his sunglasses and slipped them into his shirt pocket. “I know your uncle.”

“Great-uncle.” Laurel stared at his face and inhaled sharply. His eyes were light gray rimmed with red, her image mirrored in their shallow depths. His practiced glare was that of an experienced centurion. Laurel shivered under Sullivan’s gaze, unable to look away from the magical enforcer. He was bound to her clan, sworn to serve and protect. Loyal to a fault, willing to die for the family. Her great-uncle had a legion of centurions, all more than willing to aid and abet his less than legal business dealings.

“Is that so? Why are you here? What do you want?” Laurel pressed her lips together and rolled the hem of her shirt between her fingers.

Officer Sullivan leaned down and spoke softly. “You’re royalty in our world, Laurel. He know you’re sleeping in your car?” His melodious tones seeped into her body as he used the old language, the language of secrets, curses, spells, and death.

Laurel suppressed her shudder. “My roommate kicked me out.” She scrubbed her hand over her face in an attempt to hide the lie. “It was sudden.”

The centurion straightened and pursed his lips. He drummed the fingers of his hand on his holster. “All right, Laurel, if that’s how you want to play it. You need to discuss this with your great-uncle. If you don’t, I will. I don’t want to find you sleeping in your car again.” He tilted his head. “You may not have inherited your family’s abilities but you’re still family. We take care of our own. I can’t spend my nights watching you sleep, keeping watch for the Orions.”

Laurel gripped her keys tightly. Orions. The hunters. So many missing. So many gone in the blink of an eye, their bloodless and mutilated bodies found months or years later. Or worse found still smoldering, their mouths open in voiceless screams. She had taken a chance last night, but after walking in on her girlfriend eyebrows deep between their neighbor’s legs she had stuffed her car full of what it would hold and fled.

“I’ll be safe.” She lifted her shoulders and let them fall, straightening her posture before she settled her hands at nine and three on the steering wheel. “I’ll talk to him today.”

Officer Sullivan stepped back, smearing the salt of the circle she had spread around the car. He pointed at it, lifted his chin, and smirked. “Seriously? It doesn’t work unless you infuse it with energy.”

Laurel inserted the keys into the ignition. “I know.” She looked away from her feeble attempt to protect herself and his smirk. After snapping her seatbelt in place, she waved at him and closed the door. She banged her hand hard on the steering wheel when the telltale click-click-click of a dead battery echoed in the car. “Fuck me.”

Officer Sullivan opened her door. “Come on. I’ll give you a lift.”

Laurel chewed her lip as she looked down at her paint-stained black T-shirt and tatty jeans. “I can’t go like this.”

Officer Sullivan rapped on the top of the car. “Get out. Now. I don’t have all day to deal with you, Laurel. And it’s not worth my life to leave you here with a broken-down car.” He stepped back and crossed his thick arms. “Do I need to assist you in exiting the car?”

Laurel shivered. She had experienced a centurion’s assistance just once and the memory of it still woke her at night. She trembled and wiped her sweaty palms on her jeans. “Let me grab my backpack.”

“Good choice.”

Laurel gathered the few things she didn’t want to leave in the car. After jamming her sketchbook next to her ancient laptop in her bag, she zipped the top closed and grabbed her hooded sweatshirt from the backseat before she exited the car.

“You hungry?”

“I’d really like coffee. I can’t talk to Great-uncle Marcus without some caffeine on board.”

“Come on, I’ll buy you breakfast.”

“Why’d you let me sleep there last night if you were just going to take me to my uncle today?”

“I didn’t want to wake you.”

Laurel glanced at Officer Sullivan walking beside her. “Thank you.”

“No problem. To serve and protect. Even if it’s from yourself.” He held the car door open, and she slid onto the cool leather seat. She settled her backpack between her feet and pulled on her black hooded sweatshirt. The car shifted to the side as Officer Sullivan entered and levered his bulk behind the wheel.

He waited until she had fastened her seatbelt before he started the car. Laurel’s gaze slid over the array of weapons lining the car. Magical weapons clipped into racks side by side with conventional firearms, their soft glow visible to Laurel.

Able to see magic, unable to wield her own power, the last female of a clan stretching back eons, unwilling to assume her role as clan leader and unwilling to produce an heir, Laurel chewed her lip as the car shot forward bringing her closer to her great-uncle’s house.

Laurel shifted in her seat and drummed her fingers on her knees. “You worked for my mom and dad, didn’t you?”

“I did.”

Laurel stared out of the window. A familiar ache settled in her chest. There were some things even magic couldn’t protect you from. The ratty buildings gave way to well-kept streets and high-rise buildings. The sidewalks were crowded with people scurrying to work and school.

“Do you think the humans ever get it? Like, do they know about us? Really get it? Other than the ones we make consorts?”

“Humans see what they want to see. If they ever understood how powerful supernaturals are, they would freak right the fuck out. And try to exterminate us. Again. All of us. Their unwillingness to see and believe is what keeps us safe.” He tapped the pistol on his belt. “And this.”

Laurel shuddered as the car slowed and stopped.

Officer Sullivan turned off the engine and preened in the rearview mirror a moment before he turned his head to face Laurel. “How do you take your coffee?”

“Black. Unless it’s that dark roast crap. Then make it white as a virgin’s wedding dress.”

Officer Sullivan’s loud guffaw exploded in the quiet of the car. “You got it.” He left the car.

Laurel glanced at the tarnished Saint Christopher medal stuck to the car’s headliner and rolled her eyes. A group of humans rushed past, small children and their adults, animated and laughing, their voices muffled by the car window. The gentle ache in her heart blossomed into full-blown longing. Laurel blinked the grit of exhaustion from her eyes, leaned back against the headrest, and rehearsed the story she would spin for her great-uncle, hoping he would listen, knowing he would not.

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Meet the Authors

Brenda Murphy

Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. For a free short story, information on book signings, appearances, work in progress snippets, previews and sneak-peeks, sign up for my email list at: http://www.brendalmurphy.com/

https://www.facebook.com/brenda.murphy.75
https://www.instagram.com/quinbysideshow

Megan Hart

Megan Hart writes books. Some of them use bad words, but most of the other words are okay. Some of them hit bestseller lists and win awards and some don’t, but that’s the way it goes. She can’t live without music, the internet, or the ocean, but she and soda have achieved an amicable uncoupling. She loathes the feeling of corduroy or velvet, and modern art leaves her cold. She writes a little bit of everything from horror to romance, though she’s best known for writing steamy fiction that sometimes makes you cry.

Website: www.MeganHart.com
https://www.facebook.com/readinbed
https://twitter.com/megan_hart

Fiona Zedde

Fiona Zedde was born under the Jamaican sun but now makes her home in Spain. Since getting the writing bug, she’s published around thirty books and short stories, mostly about black queer romance, including the Lambda Literary Award finalists, Bliss and Every Dark Desire. Her novel Dangerous Pleasures received a Publishers Weekly starred review and was winner of an About.com Readers’ Choice Award for Best Lesbian Novel or Memoir.

At this very second, she’s probably writing another book, and it has 100 percent chance of having queer romance and queer women in it. Her pseudo-healthy obsessions are French pastries, English cars, and Jamaican food.

Website: www.fionazedde.com
http://www.facebook.com/fiona.zedde
http://www.twitter.com/fionazedde

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Release Blitz: Fair Youth by M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @Laynie_bee @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Fair Youth

Author: M. Dalto and Laynie Bynum

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 76700

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, lesbian, trans, writer, Hollywood, wealthy, retelling

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Description

Billie tried to make a small town life as a doctor’s fiancée work for her, but the dream of trading in Kentucky for the glitz and glamor of LA and selling her screenplays was too strong to fight. Unfortunately, the devil hides behind every corner in the City of Angels and she finds nothing but cockroach infested hotel rooms and broken dreams.

Everything changes when she meets an enigmatic and illustrious fellow writer named Kit. Struck with attraction and intrigue, Billie begins to question not only her dedication to her past life, but also her own sexuality. Kit comes with amazing connections and Billie’s work is getting more recognition than ever, until a powerful studio executive sets his sights on more than just her screenplays. His infatuation could cost Billie her career and, maybe, one of them their lives.

Excerpt

Andy’s shaggy brown hair was still unbrushed and fell into his eyes as he loaded my suitcases in the trunk of his hatchback. “I just don’t understand why you can’t do your writing thing here. People work remotely all the time.”

He slammed the top down with more force than necessary and slid into the driver’s seat, leaning across the center console to close the visor mirror in front of me where I was trying to fix my makeup. It was a constant point of contention between the two of us, but despite the early flight, I didn’t want to arrive in Los Angeles looking like a zombie. Slightly annoyed and overly defiant, I reached in my purse and pulled out a little compact mirror.

“We’ve talked about this, Andy. I need to be where the people are. I need to make connections.” I tried to make my voice as nonconfrontational as possible, but the moment it left my lips, I knew he would take it as condescension.

He started the car and pulled out onto the main road where corn fields flanked us on either side. Tapping his fingers on the steering wheel to an imaginary beat to keep himself calm, he spoke evenly. “Billie, the wedding was supposed to be in a month. What am I supposed to tell everyone?”

I pinched the bridge of my nose and stifled a sigh. “The wedding isn’t off. It’s just delayed until I get back.”

This was the same conversation we had daily for the past month, going over and over the same answers he was fishing for now.

No, it’s not you.

Yes, I will come home.

It’s only for work.

Doing a crappy thing to someone you love was hard, especially when you were well aware how crappy the thing is. Having to postpone the wedding sucked, but staying in that small town, getting married and being tied down to a life of domestic bliss—always wondering about the what-ifs—I couldn’t do it until I at least tried to make my own dreams come true.

Marriage was a fine idea back when we were seventeen and thought forever meant anything past graduation.

It was a great idea when we were eighteen and all of our friends were breaking up with their own high school sweethearts while we were still going strong.

It was the perfect idea last year when, due to a pregnancy scare, we finally decided it was time.

My gut reaction was initially overwhelming happiness at the thought of starting a family, but with each florist appointment, each cake tasting, each dress alteration—I started wondering if I was ready. You didn’t see many struggling screenwriters with babies on their hips, much less ones without any formal education.

I finished my mascara and closed the compact mirror. “I have to do this, Andy.”

“At the cost of leaving behind everyone who loves you, apparently.” His voice was barely a whisper under his breath, but it was still clear over the hum of the car engine and the wind coming through his open window.

Even though he was right, the words cut to the bone. I couldn’t stay any longer. I couldn’t deal with the small-minded people of Avon, Kentucky or their even smaller dreams for one more moment. There were words inside me, and they were clawing to get out into the world. The universes in my mind begged to be put to paper and then to screen. I wanted to be where the action was. The city of angels was going to change my life, or at least that’s what I told myself as he walked me into the airport.

“This is as far as I can go, Bill,” he said as he set my bags down right outside of the first security checkpoint.

I looked up at him, all six-foot-four of him, with an apology in my eyes I could only pray he understood. Pride stopped me from saying all of the things I should have.

I love you.

I’ll miss you.

Please don’t grow to hate me while I’m gone.

Instead, I cracked a smile before wrapping him in a tight embrace. “I’ll call as soon as I land,” I promised into the fabric of his plaid shirt.

He smoothed my wavy hair with one hand while the other pulled me closer into him. “I’ll miss you every moment.”

I broke away. If I stayed, I knew I’d cry, and I was not the kind of person to cry in an airport.

As I grabbed my bags and headed through security, I turned around to look at him one last time. He stood still amongst the crowd of bustling, busy people moving around him, his eyes locked on me.

I blew him a kiss, and through the roar of the background noise, he yelled, “Break a leg, Wilhelmina Shakespeare.”

After hours on the stuffy, cramped flight, the sprawling, massive LAX airport felt like a city unto itself. Shops and restaurants peppered the walls, and it took nearly an hour just to walk out of the exit.

Before I left home, Andy told me to use Uber until I learned how to get around because traffic was hell. I pulled up the app, still unsure how it all worked, and requested a car.

Which I probably should have done earlier, since the wait for the car to arrive left me sitting outside of the airport on top of my drug-store-quality suitcase and staring at the people passing in and out. Bright neon lights started to come on, thanks to the four-hour delay we experienced at my layover in Chicago. Palm trees swayed back and forth among the divided pavement in front of me.

I expected Los Angeles to smell like sea breeze and big dreams, but in reality, it was mostly gas fumes and vapor clouds from a nearby smoking area under the concrete awning.

A red Subaru pulled up in front of me, and the driver rolled down the window. She looked at the phone in her hand and then looked at me. “You don’t look like a Billie.”

I stood up and grabbed my bags. “Well, it’s Wilhelmina on my birth certificate, but most people try to call me Willa when I tell them that.”

She motioned to the back door, and I opened it, sliding in with my bags beside me.

“Strange. Would have thought they would try to call you Willy,” she said as she looked at me in the rearview mirror.

I screwed up my face. “Maybe Willa isn’t that bad after all.”

“So, we’re heading to Pepper Place Hotel?” She turned around in the seat, her eyes looking me up and down, judging me with every cell in her body. “You sure?”

“What’s wrong with Pepper Place? It looked pretty nice online.”

“Oh, sweetie,” she said as she turned around and put the car into drive. “Welcome to Los Angeles. Where the pictures are fake and the people are plastic.”

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

M. and Laynie have written both separately and together, and have hit Amazon bestseller rank both ways. M.’s work includes The Empire Series (Two Thousand Years, Mark of the Empress, and the accompanying novellas) published by Parliament House Press, and Cut to the Bone, set to be published by Filles Vertes Publishing in 2021. Laynie’s debut novel, Adeline’s Aria, was published in January with Fire and Ice YA. Together they have published Faust University, included in the Academy of Magic box set by Enchanted Quill Press and Escaping the Grey in the Prison of Supernatural Magic box set. When writing together they combine their strengths to create unique queer characters with sass and backbone in both the contemporary romance and romantic fantasy genres.

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