Betting on Sin
Maria Ann Green
Publication date: June 26th 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Greta has been here before. Like, literally. She was just in this Las Vegas penthouse a couple months ago. Back then she was meeting Finn, the handsome bachelor looking for love, on The Lock—the most popular reality dating TV show around. But when she was here last time she was dumped, and went home alone instead of engaged. Life sucks sometimes.
But, other times, that same life has a beautiful way of showing you why it sucked so hard before – so you can appreciate what comes next even more. Because now Greta is the next lucky bachelorette to have thirty or so men worshiping her while she breaks up with them one at a time. It’s weird to be recognized in public, and even weirder to have so many dudes fighting over her. Actually after just a couple days it’s kind of exhausting, especially when she’d rather send all but a couple of them home. Be careful what you wish for, right?
Throughout the whirlwind Greta spends more time with her personal cameraman, Oliver, than she does on Trysts with the guys she’s supposed to be falling in love with. And the more time she spends with Oliver the less she wants to spend with anyone else. Anyone. Even the guys here for her. It gets worse too. The fact that he’s behind the scenes instead of on the big screen…it’s not the only problem. He also has a girlfriend. And that’s a line Greta won’t cross. But she can’t stop wishing she’d met him before all of this craziness.
Will Greta get her head together long enough to focus on following the rules of the show, or will she screw up this second shot at love too?
*Content Warning: sex, alcohol use, and language*
If you like reality dating TV shows, romances with steam and heart, female leads with no time for conflict or bullshit, and redheads, then Betting On Sin might be your next favorite book. It has plenty of awkward moments, friends to lovers, and promises the most dramatic season finale yet. It’ll keep you up way too late, reading just one more chapter all night.
I watch as his eyes widen, and he bites his bottom lip for a moment. And I watch as he sits still. I watch him…not backing away, not stopping me from what we both know I’m doing.
I close my eyes, too scared of the rejection I know is coming.
Call me a coward, I don’t care anymore.
I close my eyes and hover in front of his face, waiting. I want to go the rest of the way; I want to so badly, I can feel the need of it prickling all over. But I don’t. I cant.
Instead, I wait for him to show me somehow, tell me, that this is what he wants too.
His hands find mine then, his fingers moving to intertwine with mine, and he leans forward. It’s just an inch. It’s not the rest of the way to me, doesn’t close the whole distance.
But it’s enough.
It’s enough to show me that we’re in this together. That I haven’t made everything up in my mind. That he wants me too.
So I go for it. I close the last bit of space between us until my lips crash into his. And it’s like…I don’t know how to describe it. It’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
Even though it’s only a kiss, nothing else.
But it feels like home.
Like what I’ve been waiting for my whole life.
Like nothing in the universe has been this right.
Maria lives in Minnesota despite the frozen winters. Actually, she prefers snow drifts and icicles over summer and all that sweat running everywhere. She lives with her husband and little family, which includes a couple lazy cats who make great lap warmers. You can usually find her whishing that she lived in a secret cabin in the woods where she could be a hermit reading and writing all of the time. Instead she lives the suburban life where she pretends to her neighbors and the other moms around that she doesn’t swear like a sailor, have hidden tattoos, and love a good glass bottle of wine. She absolutely believes in unicorns and ghosts and hopes vampires and monsters are real too. She’s a coffee-in-the-morning and wine-in-the-evening kind of person, preferably with a nap in between. Maria prefers cats over dogs, books over people, and late nights over early mornings. She probably shouldn’t talk to anyone until she’s had her first cup of coffee. And if you ever want to hang out with her, you’ll have to be game for a horror movie or just a quick run to target for two (hundred) little things. Also, you couldn’t pay her to be in her twenties again; Thirties is where it’s at. She’s a creative, mouthy, introverted, proud bisexual, highly-sensitive INFJ, Slytherpuff, dork with a sweet-tooth.
Maria devours books, reading mostly in bed or listening to audio books in the car. Writing has been one of her passions for pretty much her whole life. So creativity is a necessity for her, always. After working in the mental health field for almost a decade, she’s now living her dream as a stay-at-home writer, kiddo wrangler, professional snuggler, and constantly-tired-person. When it comes to her writing, she specializes in dark and twisted thrillers or gritty, angsty contemporary romances. But no matter the genre, she always prefers writing deeply flawed characters with dysfunctional relationships. She’s pretty sure the whole “unlikable character” thing is a conspiracy because every character she loves have been labeled this way. Ridiculous. And because of this, she’s pretty much found it impossible to write anything without at least a little mayhem.
Maria was once told she painted with her words, and that phrase stuck with her – because writing really is an art, and good stories are true masterpieces. She’s always trying to grow and improve in her craft, shooting for a masterpiece of her own someday. And she plans to write forever because writing gives Maria the ability to disappear into new worlds and create people within twisting plots, all from the comfort of her couch. She will always believe that though not every story is for her, and her stories aren’t for everyone, every story has a reader.
(Birch County Blue #1)
Publication date: August 11th 2017
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense
Never look back.
In the dark of the night, 911 dispatcher Maya Daniels becomes the one thing she fears the most, a victim. Faced with new limitations, both physically and emotionally are what prove the hardest for Maya to handle. That and one very stubborn deputy who refuses to take no for an answer.
Brian will never forgive himself for the pain Maya went through when he couldn’t protect her. When he’s given one more chance to make things right, he swears that he’ll do anything to keep her safe. Even if it means he could lose his job as a Deputy Sheriff.
Nobody believes that Maya is safe, especially when her stalker returns with a vengeance. Maya finds herself fighting for her life once more, but this time she’s not alone.
Fans of Mary Burton and Susan Stoker will fall into the world of Birch County and never want to come back.
“Hey,” she called to him from the stairs. He looked good, but then she always thought that he looked good.
“Hey yourself, pipsqueak. Figured this might be easier than texting.” He moved from where he was next to his cruiser and stood at the bottom of the stairs.
From his position, Maya was only an inch or two higher than he was. She looked into his eyes, and smiled at the familiarity that was in their depths.
“I guess.” She breathed in deeply, and was pleasantly surprised when she was hit with his earthy scent. “So how was the shift?” The deputies could normally go home at one in the morning, but were on call until the shift ended at four.
“Good, too many tourists doing stupid crap though. It’s the season, I suppose.” Pointing a glance at her cast he said, “How come everyone else has gotten to sign it but me?”
“It’s coming off in like a week. There’s no point now.” She put both her hands behind her back, even if it was awkward with the cast on her arm.
He joined her at the top of the stairs, and she looked up into his eyes. “You really are short.”
“I know. Perks of being me, I guess. I’ll be the last to die when the zombies attack since I can fit into smaller places.” She knew it was derisive, but since she was making fun of herself it didn’t matter.
He started laughing, a comforting sound coming from deep in his chest. After he was finished, he just stood there and looked at her. She got caught up in the moment and when he pulled her into a hug, she let him. The warmth of his body enclosed her, and she felt safe. After she stayed in his arms for a minute, reality struck.
“I need to go. I’m getting tired.” She yawned for effect and looked at his cruiser pointedly.
He didn’t take the hint. “I know you are. Can I take Jonathan now?”
“No,” she was offended by his question, and it stung a lot more than she’d ever tell him. “You can’t have him. I promised that I would make him breakfast in the morning, you can have him after.” She crossed her arms, which would look a lot more imposing if she was able to do it without the cast. Instead, she shot him her most stern look. “You should go home now.”
“Okay, no problem. You know, you’re kind of cute when you’re telling me what to do.” He smiled. But it was more of a smirk, mirth reaching his eyes.
“Brian.” She really did need to go back inside, but before she could say it again, he cut her off.
“Kiss me.” He looked at her mouth, and seemed to be fascinated by it.
“Why?” Her throat was dry, the words coming out as more of a croak than a question.
“Because if you don’t I’m going to lose my mind.” He pulled her back into his arms, and she pushed against him until he released her.
When she was out of his arms, she took a deep breath and said, “I’m done with these games, Brian.”
“I can’t live my life without knowing what you’re going to feel like in my arms. You don’t understand. I need you.” The look on his face said that he was lost, and that she was the key to him finding his way home.
“There was a time when all I wanted was to be needed in your life, Brian. But that’s not what I want, not anymore. I need something other than hidden glances, innuendo, and being made to feel like I’m not good enough to be someone’s first choice.” Instead of feeling happy at the thought of being told exactly what she wanted to hear from him for so long, it just made her angrier that she didn’t have happiness like that in her life already and probably couldn’t in the future.
“But you are my first choice. Don’t you see that? I would turn the world upside down if it would make you happy.” Without waiting for her response, he grasped her by the shoulders and brought his face down to hers. “No more games, not between us.” And he kissed her. The entire world imploded in a barrage of light and sound. The kiss couldn’t have lasted more than a few seconds, but in that moment it felt like everything was right in the universe.
Pulling away from her just slightly he continued, “I should have told you how I really feel a long time ago, Maya. Then we wouldn’t have all of this wasted time. I want you in my life. Just give this a chance.”
“I’m a different person; all of the love I had was left behind that night. I can’t give you anything.” Eyes still stinging from the explosion of lights she saw during their kiss, she leaned away from him.
USA Today Bestselling author by day and superhero by night, April spends her time split between real and fantasy worlds. While she writes across genres, her heart lives with Contemporary Romance that will tear her readers apart.
She lives on the rocky coast of Maine, in the perfect place to visit the ocean but still live surrounded by the woods. Her son inspires her to write, demanding stories that he’s not allowed to read.
As long as she has coffee, April can conquer the world… but she hates talking about herself in third person.
You can join my newsletter for exclusive content and giveaways at http://www.aprilcanavan.com
Publication date: June 22nd 2020
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, LGBTQ+, Romance
Can a business rival bring one of Twilight Falls’ most notorious bad boys to his knees?
Twilight Falls’ resident bad boy Hunter Thomson knows he hasn’t quite lived up to his reputation of late and is determined to have some fun while on a rare night out in L.A. But after a torrid encounter with a captivating stranger results in one of the best sexual experiences of his life, Hunter flees to his hometown, scared by his intense feelings and convinced he is about to commit the same mistake he once made in the past.
Theo Miller can’t get the gorgeous man he hooked up with one night in L.A. out of his mind. When he moves to Twilight Falls for the opening of his new store, he is shocked to discover than his business rival is none other than the stranger who ran away from him and their fiery connection.
Sparks fly as the two men engage in a game of cat and mouse. But when an accident makes Theo dependent on Hunter, the game becomes something neither men could have anticipated.
Will Hunter finally overcome his deep-seated fears and succumb to Theo’s passionate attention? And can Theo win the heart of the one man he wants to belong to?
Join Hunter and Theo in this hot and sweet third installment in Twilight Falls, the new series by the author of the bestselling, contemporary romance series Nights.
The music thumped in Hunter Thomson’s ears and throbbed pleasantly against his skin. He drummed a hand lightly against his arm as he waited for his order, his fingers matching the beat of the pop song blaring from the club’s speakers. He flashed a smile at the girl who brought him his beer, turned, and leaned his back against the bar.
His gaze roamed the dance floor a few feet from where he stood. It was packed with hot, writhing men. A dry smile curved his lips as he brought the bottle to his mouth and took a sip of the cold beverage.
Well, hot writhing men is what I came here for.
His eyes found the couple on the far left of the sunken stage. Hunter’s smile turned into a full-blown grin.
Irritation danced briefly on Tristan Hart’s face when he met Hunter’s amused stare. The man working up a sweat against Tristan seemed oblivious to their exchange; Dan Flynn was already on his fourth drink and focused on his mission for the night. Which was apparently to get in Tristan’s pants and ride him till the cows came home.
Hunter could tell from the subtle way Tristan was avoiding full body contact with Dan that he wasn’t interested. He knew Tristan would never have accepted Dan’s invitation had he known the guy would start hitting on him the moment they walked through the doors of the hottest new gay club in L.A. The fact that Dan had told him to bring a friend to the opening night had evidently lured Tristan into thinking his client wasn’t interested in him.
Hunter could hardly blame the poor man.
With his quiet brown eyes, rugged good looks, and muscular, tattooed body, Tristan was a picture of understated masculinity. Not only was he hot, his ability to fix any motorbike and sports cars that landed in his garage made him one of the most sought-after mechanics in the state. It also regularly brought a line of men and women to his door who wanted to get his hands on more than just their hoods.
All evidence pointed to the fact that Tristan’s latest client was one such man. Unfortunately for Dan, the sexy mechanic made it a rule never to mix business with pleasure.
Had Hunter not known Tristan since they were practically in diapers, he might have been tempted to have a taste of the guy himself.
Except we’re both tops, so that would definitely not have worked out.
Hunter let his gaze wander over the crowded club. It wasn’t everyday he came to L.A. for a night on the town and he was determined to make the most of it.
Having two of his close friends recently get shacked up had made him antsy. It had also been a few months since he’d hooked up with anyone and he very much wanted to come somewhere other than his own hand tonight.
Besides, I have a reputation to keep up. I can’t be Twilight Falls’ most notorious bad boy when I haven’t seen any action other than my own fingers lately.
A man caught Hunter’s interest a moment later. Blond, blue eyes. A body that showed he liked to work out. The stranger’s mouth curved up as he studied Hunter from where he stood amidst a large group, his expression telling Hunter he liked what he was seeing too. Hunter’s lips tilted in an answering smile.
Someone stepped in his line of sight.
Hunter shifted to try and catch the blond’s attention. The man blocking his view moved too.
Irritation darted through Hunter.
The guy looming over him was wearing neatly pressed cream chinos, a navy shirt with a red-rimmed collar that matched his two tone dress shoes, and a dark blue blazer. The top three buttons of the shirt were open, exposing an expanse of toned, tanned flesh.
“Can I get through?”
The man’s voice was like whisky poured over rough velvet.
He looked up and met a pair of arresting hazel eyes set in a chiseled face blessed by the gods.
The man arched an elegant eyebrow, his expression patient and seemingly heedless of the interested stares he was drawing. He had a good couple of inches on Hunter’s own six foot-two.
“The bar?” the stranger added slowly, as if addressing a dimwit.
Hunter flushed and stepped away from the counter. “Er, sure.”
The man’s cologne filled Hunter’s nose as he slipped past and took his place. He smelled of pine and evergreens, like the forests of Twilight Falls.
Hunter stared at the stranger’s wide back. It was clear from his charismatic appearance and expensive clothes that he was loaded.
A hand landed on Hunter’s shoulder, startling him. He looked around.
It was the blond he’d been eyeing up.
“Hey,” the guy said warmly.
“Hey, yourself,” Hunter replied with a smile, firmly squashing his burgeoning interest for the man at the bar.
He’s not my type, anyway.
The blond indicated the sunken stage. “Wanna dance?”
A teasing grin lit up Hunter’s. “I gotta warn you. I have killer moves. Think you can keep up?”
The blond chuckled. He leaned in and whispered hotly in Hunter’s left ear.
“I’ve got some killer moves on my own.”
Hunter’s dick perked with interest as the blond’s breath washed across his skin. The guy took his hand and led him to the dance floor.
Three songs and another beer later and Hunter was feeling buzzed. He and the blond had definite sexual chemistry; he could tell he would be coming in the guy’s hand, mouth, or ass tonight.
“Wanna go somewhere quieter?”
Hunter followed the blond’s gaze.
He was looking at a dimly-lit corridor leading to the restrooms.
Hunter masked a frown. He’d hoped they’d be going back to the hotel he and Tristan had booked for the night. A quickie in a public toilet wasn’t really his thing.
“It’s not what you’re thinking,” the blond said mysteriously, as if he’d guessed Hunter’s thoughts.
Hunter arched an eyebrow. “It’s not?”
The blond grabbed his arm. “Come on.”
Hunter scanned the club for Tristan as he headed for the restrooms with the blond. He found his best friend with his inebriated client at the bar on the other side of the floor.
Tristan caught his eyes. “Everything okay?” he mouthed.
Hunter nodded and gave him a reassuring wave.
The club’s washrooms were stark and clean. They were also thankfully empty bar a handful of men.
One of them was the blond’s friend, a guy with dark hair and eyes.
“You brought him,” the man said with a grin.
A sinking feeling blossomed in the pit of Hunter’s stomach at his expression.
“What’s going on?” Hunter asked the blond guardedly.
Blondie smiled at him, his face relaxed despite Hunter’s cool tone.
“We thought you’d be a good fit for us.”
Hunter suppressed a grimace. Great.
He studied the dark-haired guy. “Are you his partner?”
“I’m sorry, but I’m not into threesomes,” Hunter said gruffly.
Blondie trailed a teasing hand down Hunter’s chest all the way to the buckle of his jeans and beyond. “Are you sure? ‘Cause you look pretty turned on to me.”
Hunter grabbed Blondie’s wrist as he stroked his way back up his erection.
“I was, when I thought it’d be just you.”
The door to the restrooms opened. Hunter swallowed a curse when he saw the guy who entered.
It was Hazel Eyes from the bar.
The man stopped and looked at them curiously. “Am I interrupting?”
Hunter recovered his senses first. “No, you aren’t.” He turned to Blondie and his partner. “Like I said, I’m not interested.”
Blondie pouted. “That’s a shame. I was really looking forward to having a sex sandwich with you.”
Hunter stared, not certain he’d heard right. “Excuse me?”
Hazel Eyes turned away and started washing his hands at the sink, but not before Hunter caught the sparkle of amusement in his gaze.
“You know, where one of us fucks your mouth while the other pounds your ass,” Blondie explained blithely.
Hunter’s jaw dropped open. He caught a glimpse of Hazel Eyes’s reflection in the mirror above the row of sinks. The guy’s lips were pinched tight and his shoulders were shaking slightly. Outrage shot through Hunter.
Is that asshole laughing at me?!
“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” he told Blondie and his partner icily once he’d regained his composure, “again. But I’m a top, so nobody is going anywhere near my ass.”
Blondie’s eyes widened. “Oh, wow.” He paused, a moue twisting his mouth. “Are you sure? ‘Cause you kinda give off a bottom feel.”
“Positive,” Hunter growled.
“Oh well, your loss, I suppose,” Blondie murmured. “Come on, Jeff, let’s get out of here.”
Hunter watched wordlessly as the pair exited the restrooms. He blew out a sigh, raked a hand through his hair, and headed for the door.
“You sure you should be going out like that?”
Author Bio:Ava Marie Salinger is the pen name of an Amazon bestselling author who has always wanted to write scorching hot contemporary romance. In 2018, she finally decided to venture to the steamy side. NIGHTS is the first of several sizzling series featuring sweet, sexy men with dark pasts and a whole lot of love to give to the ones brave enough to fight for their hearts. When she’s not dreaming up hotties to write about, you’ll find Ava creating kickass music playlists to write to, spying on the wildlife in her garden, drooling over gadgets, and eating Chinese.Want to be the first to know about Ava’s new releases and get access to exclusive content, sneak previews, sales, and giveaways? Then sign up to her Reader Group here and join her VIP Facebook Fan Group here.
Michelle Mankin is the New York Times bestselling author of the Black Cat Records series of novels.
Fall in love with a rock star.
Love Evolution, Love Revolution, and Love Resolution are a BRUTAL STRENGTH centered trilogy, combining the plot underpinnings of Shakespeare with the drama, excitement, and indisputable sexiness of the rock ‘n roll industry.
Things take a bit of an edgier, once upon a time turn with the TEMPEST series. These pierced, tatted, and troubled Seattle rockers are young and on the cusp of making it big, but with serious obstacles to overcome that may prevent them from ever getting there.
Rock stars, myths, and legends collide with paranormal romance in a totally mesmerizing way in the MAGIC series.
Romance and self-discovery, the FINDING ME series is a Tempest spin off with a more experienced but familiar cast of characters.
The ROCK F*CK CLUB series is a girl-power fueled reality show with the girls ranking the rock stars.
The Once Upon A Rock Star series is sexy modern fairytale retellings.
When Michelle is not prowling the streets of her Texas town listening to her rock or NOLA funk music much too loud, she is putting her daydreams down on paper or traveling the world with her family and friends, sometimes for real, and sometimes just for pretend.
Bait N’ Witch
(Brimstone Inc. #3)
Published by: Entangled: Amara
Publication date: June 15th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance
Rowan McAuliffe has been hiding most of her life. Secretly trained in her powers by an unusual source, she’d been taught not to trust anyone. Especially other witches. However, after she was forced to perform a hateful act against her will, she now hides from the Covens Syndicate and their judgement.
Greyson Masters is the Syndicate’s best hunter. On top of the danger of his job, Greyson is trying to raise his triplet daughters alone, budding new witches who display an alarming combined power no one understands. Too bad he doesn’t have a clue how to deal with them.
Until Rowan walks in and the chaos settles for the first time in…well, ever.
Little does Greyson realize that his new nanny is the very witch he is hunting, and she’s been hiding right under his nose this whole time.
Her gaze dropped to his mouth, and tension filled the spaces inside him like a curtain of electricity. Awareness, impossible to not call what it was.
Rowan snatched her gaze away, and his head cleared enough for the realization to seep in that he hadn’t smiled, truly smiled, since his wife’s death. The thought struck hard and he rubbed at a spot on his chest as his mind transitioned from turned on, to shock, to aggravated at himself in the space of seconds, left buzzing with emotion either way.
Pulling his own gaze away, he cleared his throat. He shouldn’t be letting his nanny affect him this way. “I should’ve guessed Delilah would send me someone more than capable.”
“I don’t know about that,” she muttered under her breath. “So all of it was a test. The burnt dinner?”
Greyson grimaced. “Yes.”
“The girl’s running away?”
“What about their fight this morning?”
Another grimace. “That was real.”
“And your attitude?”
He frowned. “What attitude?”
She peered at him for a long moment, and Greyson got the uneasy impression she found him wanting somehow.
“Never mind,” she murmured. Was she placating him?
“Are the schedule and the expectations of me the same?” she asked.
“Yes.” What was wrong with his schedule?
Her mouth pursed, but she nodded. “Fine.”
“So you’ll stay?” Oddly, Greyson found himself holding his breath for her response. An hour in her company, surrounded by her wildflower and honey scent, and part of him wanted her to stay. So unlike him, he brushed that wayward feeling aside with irritation and waited for her response.
She sighed. “I don’t have a choice.”
The words, or maybe the way she said them, triggered instinct honed over years of being a hunter. “What does that mean?”
A strong emotion flashed in her eyes. If he had to guess, he would’ve said panic, but the expression was gone so quickly he couldn’t be sure.
Then she offered a sweet smile. “It means you clearly need help. So, yes, I’ll stay.”
Greyson levered to his feet. He needed help, did he? “I’ll be in my room if you need me. Good night, Rowan.” Her name felt strange on his lips. Right and wrong at the same time.
“Mr. Masters—” She stopped him at the door, and he swung to face her, eyebrows raised in question.
She didn’t bother to get up. “Don’t test me like that again.”
“Remember…observations can go two ways.”
Did she just imply she was observing him? Before he could snap out a question, she stood and turned off the TV. “Good night.”
Greyson headed back upstairs, coming to terms with a rare experience. He’d been effectively dismissed by a woman who happened to be his girls’ nanny. Most women rushed to please him. Rowan practically sprinted in the opposite direction.
Bigger question…why did her contrary reaction turn him on?
Multi-award-winning paranormal romance author, Abigail Owen, loves plots that move hot and fast, feisty heroines with sass, alpha heroes with heart, a dash of snark, and oodles of sexy shifters! Other titles include wife, mother, Star Wars geek, ex-competitive skydiver, spreadsheet lover, Dr. Seuss quoter, eMBA, organizational guru, Texan, Aggie, and chocoholic.
Abigail grew up consuming books and exploring the world through her writing. She attempted to find a practical career related to her favorite pastime by earning a degree in English Rhetoric (Technical Writing). However, she swiftly discovered that writing without imagination is not nearly as fun as writing with it.
Abigail currently resides in Austin, Texas, with her own personal hero (who she totally married!) and their two children, who are growing up way too fast.
(Royal States #1)
Publication date: February 26th 2019
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy
In the Royal States of America, magic rules all, but life—and love—always finds a way.
Latent horse empath. Dishwasher. Closet chef.
When food poisoning sweeps through Dallas, Patrick Laycal doesn’t expect a princess to show up at his door asking for his help.
Her one, simple request dumps him in the middle of a Royal mess—one that could cost him far more than just his life.
Storm Called features characters first introduced in Null & Void, the first of the Royal States novels.
It was shit luck I was on shift the day the Texan Royals decided they had a hankering for overcooked fries and burgers so sopping with grease I wouldn’t have fed them to a pig. I was fortunate; I washed dishes, so I wouldn’t meet any of them, not in my worn jeans and flannel shirt. They wouldn’t even know I existed, and I liked it that way.
The rest of the staff faced off against the king and queen of Texas, who were rumored to be volatile on a good day.
I didn’t want to learn what it was like to be struck by lightning. I also didn’t want to find out if they really made low-talent freaks with horse affinities, like me, disappear. My talent had been registered early, at age eight, but it had refused to develop into anything worthwhile, which came as no surprise to me.
My parents couldn’t afford a horse. I couldn’t afford the college I attended, let alone a horse. I’d heard the same story all my life: talents needed to be used to develop.
I wasn’t a null, but I’d never grow beyond my current caste. I could live with that. As long as I didn’t mind washing dishes for the rest of my life, I’d always be able to find a job. If push came to shove, I could join the family trade. Everyone needed a janitor. My mother even enjoyed working as a maid.
She believed a clean home was a happy home.
“Pat,” my boss bellowed.
Jerking my head up, I turned away from my work to face him. “Sir?”
“Take twenty for dinner.”
The next time I searched for work, I’d make certain I got a proper thirty-minute break—and I’d remember to pack my lunch every single day on the off-chance royalty might show up wanting bad food for dinner. With the kitchen already in a state of chaos from the unexpected guests, there’d be no leftovers for the staff, leaving me to make the hike down the street to grab something at the convenience store to take the edge off. For a rare change, I appreciated my high odds of food poisoning.
To dodge the royals, I left out the back door, navigated around the garbage littering the alley, and made my escape to the main street. Two minutes later, I reached my destination.
It, too, had a royal infestation, and the Crowned Heir of Texas glared at a bag of chips. Had I been the subject of her scrutiny, I would’ve run for the hills without looking back. Looking back lost races when every second mattered. In the news, the blonde-haired woman scowled often. I couldn’t tell if the lack of selection or indecisiveness bothered her.
It didn’t matter. A smart man avoided trouble, so I headed for the refrigerated shelves to pick a sandwich and roll the dice. Movement in the corner of my eye startled me from my search.
The Texan princess stalked me, her expression one of unwavering determination. “Excuse me?”
“What ya need?” I blurted, and my face grew hot as my accent betrayed me as someone from a lower caste.
She either didn’t notice or care. “What’s good here?”
I frowned, considering the selection of sandwiches. To my dismay, only one lacked eggs or mayonnaise, the top culprits of unexpected digestive distress following the poor choice of acquiring dinner from a convenience store. I grabbed the pulled pork sandwich from the shelf and offered it to her. “If by good you mean edible, your best bet is to take one labelled as made today and hope for the best. This is the one you want.”
I picked the second-best option, and while labelled as from today, it doubled down on the eggs and mayo with some cheese and questionable chunks of chicken. By the end of my shift, I’d regret having eaten anything. I nodded in an effort to be polite and fled while I could. To escape faster, I left the cashier my change to avoid humiliating myself in front of Princess Jessica Dunhaven, the future queen of Texas.
Susan Copperfield is the royal romance, urban fantasy loving alter ego of award-winning & USA Today bestselling novelist RJ Blain.
Under the super not-so-secret identity of Susan, the Royal States of America is explored, where the work of sixteen founding royal families preserved the United States from destruction and civil war when magic swept over the world.
In the Royal States, life, love, and magic always finds a way.
The Monsters Within
Publication date: June 15th 2020
Genres: Horror, Mystery, New Adult, Romance
Not all monsters can be seen.
When Dean McAllen wins a writing fellowship that offers him the chance to escape his abusive homelife, he boards the first plane out of Utah and prepares for a life free of dysfunction.
Not long after arriving in the small town halfway across the country, he meets Brad Michelson. Kind, sweet, and caring, the fellow artist is everything Dean could ever want in a man. He’s also Dean’s first true shot at love.
But what Dean doesn’t know is that Brad harbors a darkness inside of him—and though Brad has struggled to hold it back his entire life, Dean will soon find that the monsters that dwell within Brad’s conscience are real, and out to destroy them both.
We drove along a dark road that night. Flanked by cars that slowly but surely fell behind, I watched the vehicles traveling alongside us disappear as we advanced out of the city limits and onto the lost stretches taken only by farmers and their equipment. Beside me, Brad drove with the window down, one arm braced along the frame, his free hand around the wheel. He drove without a care in the world, humming softly to Top 100 on the radio; and I, left only to observe, watched the fields before us extend forever into the distance.
“This is nice,” Brad said, tossing his fringe away from his eyes, “isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “It is.”
His hair—which was lengthier on the top but shorn along the sides of his head—blew haphazardly in the wind, creating the impression that we were two kids doing nothing more than enjoying the world for what it was. He was twenty-one, I eighteen, fresh and new and completely and utterly enamored. I tried my hardest not to watch him out of my peripheral, but found myself doing that regardless.
Remember, remember, the code to remember, I thought. Straight men get a pass because their love doesn’t last.
Of course it didn’t. That was why it was stupid for me to even consider that this was anything more than just a casual outing. Besides—if anyone was going to make the first move, if they even were, it would be him.
Which wasn’t going to happen.
I drew in a long breath of the cool night air and smiled as the scent of grass and wildflowers entered my nose.
“They have much of this up in Utah?” Brad asked.
“I lived at the edge of Salt Lake,” I replied, “so it was mostly lots of flatland, mostly farms.”
“There’s a lot of that here. But this—this is absolutely beautiful.” Brad smiled as he turned his high beams on. “Do you see?”
The world bloomed before me. Wild, untamed, uninhibited—the grass extended on both sides of the road and was marked only by the separation of land with wooden fences and wire. Flowers dotted the area at various intervals, creating the impression that this place, though encroached upon by humanity, was untouched. It was utterly magical, in a sense—and, in a way, haunting.
So far out, there were no lights to be seen; and with no traffic behind us, it was dark as it could.
Normally, I wasn’t afraid of the night. Something, however, gave me cause for concern.
But what was it?
Was it the belief that we would simply pull over alongside the road and stop? Was it the fact that we could get stranded out here and not be found for hours? What, exactly, was it?
I brushed the thought off as I considered it and cleared my throat as Brad continued to drive.
“Something up?” he asked.
“I… just realized that I haven’t asked you about your art.”
“Oh. That.” Brad laughed. “No need to worry. It’s not like we’ve exchanged notes or anything like that.”
“Still,” I said. “I’d like to see some of it sometime.”
“My phone’s in the back seat if you want to reach back and grab it.”
“You have it on your phone?”
“All my stuff’s digital, and the files are in the cloud. Go ahead—grab it.”
I twisted around, quickly located his phone, then loosened the seatbelt around my waist before leaning back and clawing at his phone.
“What’s your PIN?” I asked, lowering my head and tilting the phone at an angle to avoid blindsiding him.
“0434,” he replied.
I started typing the numbers in.
I looked up.
He asked, “What the hell is that?”
And I paled.
Hovering alongside the road was what I at first assumed to be the rear lights of a car. The only problem was: they were too small to be from a car, and lower to the ground. And worst yet, they were moving.
“What in the world…” I started to say.
Brad pressed his foot down on the accelerator.
The headlights shifted.
A brief glimpse of fur could be seen.
Then whatever it was lunged for the car.
Brad jerked the wheel.
We swerved to the left.
We centered along the middle of the lane.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Brad replied, “I—”
“What?” I asked, turning my head to face him. “Brad, why are you—”
“Look behind us,” he said.
And saw that the red lights were moving—directly behind us.
“It’s just the light reflecting off its eyes,” I said as Brad slowly began to accelerate the car. “Slow down, Brad. Everything’s going to be fine.”
“It’s chasing us,” he said. “It’s fucking chasing us.”
“Yeah it is. But we’re going to outrun it. We—”
Brad increased his speed.
The car continued to accelerate.
The lights—or, more aptly, eyes—continued to pursue.
But what was even more haunting was that they weren’t slowing down.
They were speeding up.
A low, trembling breath escaped me; and Brad, seemingly aware of this, pressed his foot even harder on the accelerator. Even as the car began to pick up speed, and the wind whipped through the open window, the figure kept pace—and I, so enraptured by its presence, could only watch as it continued to pick up speed.
“It’s following,” I said. “It’s following us, Brad.”
“It’s fucking chasing us!” the man yelled. “The goddamn thing is fucking chasing us!”
“Go faster! Faster!”
“I’m trying!” Brad screamed. “I’m fucking trying, Dean!”
I twisted my head back toward the window.
Saw that it was moving toward my side of the vehicle.
Saw that it was attempting to come up alongside us.
Brad, hysterically laughing—or, I should say, crying—at this point, refused to turn his gaze to the side as the figure continued to pick up speed.
“Faster!” I said. “FASTER!”
He slammed his foot on the accelerator.
We went sailing forward.
The speedometer passed sixty…
When we coasted one-hundred, I thought for sure that he was going to lose control and crash. But somehow, someway, he didn’t. He was able to maintain control of the vehicle.
“We’re coming up on a curve,” I said. “Brad! Brad!”
“I see it!” he cried. “I see the damn thing!”
I refused to turn my head, but apparently, he could still see it, because he continued to accelerate to a speed we shouldn’t have been going regardless of whatever was chasing us.
We came along the curve.
He began to slow.
Then, suddenly, he lost control.
Somehow, we didn’t flip. Instead, we began to spin at an alarming rate: once, twice, a third time, then a fourth. When the fifth and sixth revolutions took place, I opened my eyes, and saw a flash of red before them.
“Brad!” I cried. “Brad!”
Something grabbed me.
The car spun three more times, then came to a stop.
Head spinning, stomach lurching, I opened my eyes to find that there was absolutely nothing to be seen.
Whatever was chasing us was gone.
“Buh… Brad?” I asked, trembling. “Are you all right?”
“I’m okay,” he said. “I’m… I’m fine.”
“What the hell just happened?”
“I don’t know, Dean. I… I don’t know.”
Though he was born and raised in Southeastern Idaho, Kody Boye has lived in the state of Texas since 2010. His first short story, [A] Prom Queen’s Revenge, was published at the age of fourteen. He has since gone on to publish numerous works of fiction, including the young-adult novels When They Came, The Beautiful Ones, The Midnight Spell and ALT CONTROL ENTER, as well as fiction for adults. He currently lives and writes in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.
Counts of Eight
(The Four Families, #1)
Publication date: May 31st 2020
Genres: Adult, Dark Romance, Romance
All of my choices had been stripped from me except for one. Dance or die.
Three years ago, I was taken, stolen away, far from the world I knew, far from civilization. I became a slave, forced to serve one of the four families with my talent.
I’d been abused, battered, tortured in isolation. My Master brought me men, partners for performance, but they failed to live up to the high standard of dance my Master required.
Until one day, he brought me a new man. A blonde-haired, green-eyed, dreamy new man who had no idea what was coming.
The men before him had disappeared. I presumed they were dead. I couldn’t afford myself the luxury of hoping they’d made it out alive because that would give me hope that I might someday do the same.
Hope was a dangerous thing and this new man’s spirit still thrummed with that electric spark of lightness. I would be the woman to strip that hope from him piece by tiny piece until he had none left. Only then could I control him, use him. Only then could I even consider the possibility of a predictable, complacent survival in this nightmare life.
And until that time came, I would make the only choice I was given the liberty of making.
Dance or die.
CONTENT WARNING: This book contains explicit sexual content, violence, and mature themes including scenes where consent is not sought or given. The author in no way condones such heinous acts, but rather seeks to immerse the reader in the true horror of the characters’ experience. This is your trigger warning – reader discretion is advised.
This woman wishes to own me, to do me harm, for what reason, I still don’t know. But the sight of her talent in motion gives me goosebumps, makes my heart thump and my thigh muscles twitch to be in motion with her on the dance floor.
A dancer always dances.
The song comes to an end and so does her movement. Her eyes immediately lock onto mine and again comes the glacier from the icy blue, scraping slowly but steadily across the space between us.
She strides across the floor toward me with all the poise of a dancer exiting the stage after a performance.
She sighs. “I wasn’t expecting you today. You’ve interrupted my rehearsal.”
“I hate to break it to you, princess, but this has interrupted my whole life. So why don’t we just cut ties now and get out of each other’s hair?”
“No one leaves once they’re brought here.” Her eyes shift away, then back to pierce mine again.
I let my tired head fall over onto my arm. “Please spare me the cryptic bull crap. What am I doing here?”
“You’re here to dance.”
“I require a partner for our annual performance. My last didn’t live up to my master’s expectations…” She steps closer, invading my personal space. “That partner is gone now, and you are here to replace him.”
“Yes, that’s what I said. Why do you keep repeating me? My English is excellent, can you not understand me through my accent? I lived in New York since I was eleven. Perhaps I’ve developed another accent that you have trouble understanding.” She tilts her head as her words drip with sarcasm.
The side of my mouth curls up. I might have found her interesting if it weren’t for the circumstances.
Brynn Ford is an independent author of romance in all of its beautiful and sensually taboo forms. She is a lover of the dark, twisted, and playful and strives to bring the unmentionable aspects of passionate romance into her stories.
Brynn resides in the Midwest with her husband and sons, whom she expects will someday be embarrassed by their mom’s books. When she isn’t obsessively writing, you may find her binge watching favorite shows while eating far too much junk food or fanatically reading, always seeking to lose herself in the emotional roller coaster of a damn good story.
She is quite the idealist, despite her fascination with the wicked and warped aspects of humanity. Some of her stories may run out of words before a happily ever after, but she’s a firm believer that her characters continue to live on outside the pages in the minds of her readers. Stories don’t end just because there aren’t anymore pages to turn.