Now in Paperback: Beast/Hawk by Harley Wylde #mcromance #agegap

Beast (Reckless Kings MC 1)

Lyssa — I should have known I’d end up with a biker. I always liked a bad boy in grease-stained jeans. If there’s one thing I’ve dreamt about the last few years, it’s Beast. The moment our lips touch, I know he’s going to be mine.

Beast — A goddess walked into my clubhouse and turned my life upside down… But her daddy is Torch, President of Dixie Reapers MC, and her grandfather is world-renowned assassin Casper VanHorne. Good thing I’m not just any man. I’m Beast. President of the Reckless Kings MC. And I’m the man who’s going to claim Lyssa…

Hawk (Reckless Kings MC 2

Hayley — If I’d realized chasing Cuddles through the biker compound would result in the hottest night of my life, I might have fixed my hair and dressed a little better. Not that Hawk seemed to mind. I just didn’t realize the night would end with a free gift — one that’s an eighteen-year-long commitment.

Hawk — Never thought I’d make it to forty without finding someone special. Hayley’s the last woman I should fall for. If I’d known our one night had repercussions, I’d have tried harder to find her. Finding out I have a daughter is the scariest thing ever, but it means I get what I want most. A family.

WARNING: Beast/Hawk Duet contains scenes of graphic violence and adult relationships, as well as some well-meaning meddlesome bikers who aren’t above causing a bit of mischief.

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EXCERPT

Copyright ©2021 Harley Wylde
Excerpt from Beast

Beast

Brick flashed his phone screen to me with a wide grin. “They look good, don’t they?”

I nodded. What else was there to do? I wasn’t so big an asshole I’d deny his sister any true happiness she could find. I’d wanted it to be with me, but after all she’d been through, she’d needed a clean break and a fresh start. Far the fuck from here.

“Kid looks cute.”

“Yeah, she does. Charlotte keeps calling Jenna her miracle baby.” Brick sighed. “I miss the hell out of her.”

He wasn’t the only one. I understood why Charlotte had left, even gave her my full support. Still hurt like a bitch, watching her taillights fade into the distance, knowing damn well she’d never set foot in this town, or even this state, ever again. She’d lost her baby, and the doctors had said she might not have another. She’d proved them wrong.

“How’s what’s-his-face?” I asked.

Brick snorted. “You don’t like saying his name, do you?”

Nope. Not even a little. Every time Brick showed me pictures of Charlotte and her family, I thought about everything I’d lost the day she’d left. I’d been in love with her since long before I should have noticed her. Didn’t matter. I wasn’t what she needed. In the end, she’d settled in Alaska, found herself a nice, ordinary guy who worked for the National Park Service as a wildlife biologist. The guy made enough to take care of Charlotte and their daughter by legal means, and as much as I wanted to hate the man, he seemed like a decent sort.

Brick sighed. “Rob is doing fine. Got a promotion last week, in fact. Charlotte seemed excited.”

Perfect. “Great! I’m sure Rob is the perfect husband for her, and the best dad ever.”

“Look, brother. I’m sorry Charlotte left. I know you had feelings for her, but she’s in a good place. Rob treats her like a queen, and she’s far away from all the shit the club deals with. The only danger she might face is a fucking bear or wolf. And I mean the animal kind, not the humans we run across who are fucking rabid.”

I knew he was right. Knew it, but didn’t have to like it.

“Fine. She should have moved away from here, from the club. I’m glad she’s safe and loved. I won’t say I’m thrilled she’s gone, but I’m happy for her.”

It wasn’t a complete lie. I really did want her to be happy, even if it wasn’t with me. I could do without all the pictures of her new life. Brick liked showing off his sister and her kid, and I accepted it. Just didn’t like it being shoved in my face every damn week.

“You ready for tomorrow?” Brick asked.

Not even close. “Did Torch say what the fuck he wanted?”

“You really haven’t paid attention, have you? It wasn’t Torch who called. It was Venom. The club needs a favor.”

Of course, they did. Everyone wanted something. “What time are they arriving?”

“Any second. Something about wanting to rest tonight, then talk in the morning before they head out first thing.”

“Guess I better drink up.” I finished off my beer and got another. Didn’t have anyone to blame for my shit mood except myself. If I’d made a move on Charlotte sooner, she never would have gotten hurt. She’d have been mine, and I’d like to think we’d have been happy. Hindsight was a bitch.

It was unusual for a club to ask for a favor without giving any details. The Dixie Reapers were a good sort, so I wasn’t worried they’d ask for more than I was willing to give. Even if it was a bit odd. They had clubs they were closer to, even tied to by blood. So why come here? For that matter, why not settle this shit over the phone? It wasn’t exactly a short drive.

The clubhouse doors swung open and light spilled through the doorway, silhouetting a petite woman with curves in all the right fucking places. Hair black as pitch and skin white as snow. Fuck. I sat up a little straighter. Hadn’t seen the likes of her around here before. Maybe today wasn’t such a shit day after all.

She slowly turned her head, taking in the room. When she spotted Brick and me, she sauntered forward, the doors shutting behind her. My eyes adjusted to the dim interior again and I sucked in a breath. A tight black sweater clung to her like a second skin. Ripped denim molded to her shapely legs. The black boots on her feet were tiny but badass. She looked like a biker’s wet dream.

“Dibs,” I murmured, not taking my gaze off her.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil’s Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series.

When Harley’s writing, her motto is the hotter the better — off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place. She doesn’t shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve. 

The times Harley isn’t writing, she’s thinking up naughty things to do to her husband, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, and reading. She loves to read and devours a book a day, sometimes more. She’s also fond of TV shows and movies from the 1980’s, as well as paranormal shows from the 1990’s to today, even though she’d much rather be reading or writing.

You can find out more about Harley or enter her monthly giveaway on her website. Be sure to join her newsletter while you’re there to learn more about discounts, signing events, and other goodies!

New at Changeling Press: The Ambrosia Directive by Mikala Ash #steampunk #romanticsuspense @ash_mikala

The end is nigh. It’s all or nothing! Elizabeth Hunter-Payne has been abducted by her archnemesis Vladimir. Lucius, his patchwork man, a chimera assembled from body parts of the dead, “rescued” her from a sham charge of murder.

Now a pariah, separated from everyone who cares, Elizabeth finds herself in a luxury country estate where the gentry throw off the shackles of convention and consume copious quantities of an aphrodisiac called ambrosia and participate in salacious shenanigans involving wanton servants, well-endowed sex machines, and a familiar doppelganger. All provide cover for Vladimir as he advances his ultimate plot: to destroy the empire and possess Elizabeth body and soul.

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Mikala Ash

My New Home
April 1860

I dreamt of the realm of love.

It is a wondrous place not found on any navigator’s chart or cartographer’s globe. It is a strange land founded on the extremities of human emotion, bounded only by imagination and endurance, lapped by limpid oceans of joy, contentment, and safety, harried by turbulent seas of jealousy, despair, and disappointment. We are blessed if we can but visit this arcadia where colours are overbright, fragrances are both fleetingly delicate and ferociously evocative, and a mere touch is the fuse that ignites explosions of exquisite sensation. Doubly blessed are those fortunate enough to live their whole lives within its shimmering borders.

I was riding in this strange land beside my dear husband Jonathan as he was before he left for the war. He and I rode through this perfect dreamscape on horses of infinite grace and swiftness, not knowing we were but visiting, and our time here short. Beneath a cerulean sky, and over undulating hills of verdant green we rode, laughing and urging each other on. Faster and faster we went, the wind rushing through our hair, raindrops stinging our cheeks.

Jonathan and I were fresh from making love beneath the overarching limbs of weeping willows on the banks of a looking-glass lake. Our sweat had dried, our pulsing inner muscles relaxed, the delicious languor replaced by bursts of playful energy. We’d indulged in tickling and wrestling, and, of course, kissing. Diamond drops falling from our leafy ceiling heralded a spring shower, so we had dressed swiftly and took to our glorious steeds.

As if by magic two others glided in and joined us. Felix was the first man I had made love to after Jonathan’s death. His was a beautiful soul, and it was he who had reawakened my sensuality, and taught me how to break the shackles of convention.

Then came Baudry, Dr. Jack Baudry, an honourable man who like me was an Agent of Her Majesty the Queen. He had said he loved me and had proved it, risking his life for me time and again. I deeply regretted our parting. Pride and jealousy had tainted my heart. But this was no time to think of that final argument. It was much better to remember our passionate lovemaking on the rug in front of his fireplace, the flames warming my flesh outside, his tongue setting me alight on the inside. It was marvellous to see his handsome smiling face.

Surrounded by the three men who had kissed my heart, I was exultant, my blood pumping and my soul singing. I could ignore the grim reality that Jonathan was dead, Felix had been beaten to an inch of his life, and Baudry, wonderful Baudry, was lost to me. In my dream the four of us rode on, carefree and laughing.

Oh, the joy! The thudding of hooves over the soft grass, the rapid breathing of the horses, the jangling of the bridles and stirrups, and the sweet laughter of my gallant husband by my side. We approached a hedgerow, and I turned a mischievous eye to my darling, and with a saucy wink urge him to jump with me. I catch but a glimpse of a little man who abruptly stands, emerging from the shadows like some malicious goblin. My horse screams and shies in surprise, rears up to pummel the creature with its hooves, and I am unseated, light as a dandelion flying through the blue until the green rushes up to meet me, and all goes dark.

“Elizabeth?”

I opened my eyes. “Jonathan?”

He gazed down at me, his beautiful eyes clouded with loving concern, the fine planes of his face creased with anxiety. With one hand he pressed a damp cloth against my forehead, and with the other squeezed my fingers. His touch was warm and reassuring, and my heart commenced to gallop.

Jonathan? My darling Jonathan? I see him, but how could this be? Something is wrong. This cannot be. I tell myself this is a lie.

My Jonathan is dead, his body mouldering these five years in the muddy battlefield of Sebastopol.

Yet Jonathan continued to tenderly caress my forehead. I screamed.

“Elizabeth. Do not be afraid. It is I. Nathanial Royston. Your brother-in-law.”

“Nathanial?”

Nathanial Royston. The doppelganger. My beloved husband’s twin, parted from his brother as a newborn, and taken to a new life in India. For a moment confused images from Grove Hall Asylum filled my mind. I had been looking down at a photograph I had plucked from the hand of a monster. The bloodied image showed a man resembling my dear husband sitting in a madman’s laboratory, smiling at Vladimir, the Russian agent responsible for Jonathan’s death. I had assumed from the start the picture to be of Nathanial and not my husband, the photograph just another sick antagonism by the obsessed Russian.

I screwed my eyes against a throbbing headache. “Nathanial?”

“Gently now, sister. You have been unwell.” He puffed up a pillow and gently placed it behind my head.

“I have?” I looked around me. I was enveloped in silken sheets and soft woollen blankets, surrounded by luxury. The bed, a velvet-draped four poster was a bower within a sweetly scented room that was crowded with tall-backed chairs and Oriental style screens. Atop a dressing table where coloured perfume bottles glinted, was a gilded mirror reflecting the cool yellow light of the lamps. Wine-coloured velvet curtains fell from ceiling to floor. A comforting blaze in an ornate fireplace cast the room in a warm golden glow.

“Where am I?” I said, my voice husky and dry.

“Somewhere in England, the country, but where I cannot say.” He filled a glass from a crystal decanter on the nightstand and brought it to my lips. “Here, drink this.”

The golden liquid emitted a luscious aroma that was thick and sweet. “What is it?”

“Ambrosia. It will refresh you.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

New at Changeling Press: Come For You by Willa Okati #LGBTQ #paranormalromance #mpreg @willa_okati

Gabriel, a dreamer and a librarian, is so shy and introverted that he’s still a virgin Omega at twenty-five — but he can’t help wishing fairy-tale Prince Charmings were real and that one would find him. One does, a rough-hewn but outgoing, captivating quarryman Alpha called Wynn. For them, it’s love at first sight. Gabriel doesn’t care if they’re an odd couple, no matter what others and his Beta co-librarian Cameron thinks about it.

But the happy ending is harder to come by. When Gabriel’s almost full term with their first child, there’s an accidental explosion at the quarry that leaves Wynn trapped behind a wall of rubble. Waiting for news – any news – and hoping against hope, all Gabriel has to comfort himself with is the memory of his fairytale of a love story. He’s so lost in dreaming he doesn’t realize he’s in labor and needs to get to a doctor.

Who will rescue who?

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Willa Okati

Love at first sight was only for stories, or so Wynn had always been told.

Fairy-tale princes that carried you away beneath their hills, who danced the night away with you, and left you changed.

So he’d always been told.

Everyone who’d ever told him that had been wrong.

The second he laid eyes on the cute little librarian with the glasses and the sweetest smile he’d ever seen, Wynn knew: everyone else was so, so wrong, and he was going to prove that.

* * *

Past

Tick. Tick. Tick.

The clock perched on their windowsill wasn’t old enough to be vintage or antique, and wasn’t new enough to be anything but old, but Gabriel liked it anyway. He’d painted the metal frame brass, then scuffed it with sandpaper until it took on a patina of age.

“Like it’s been through a war or something,” Wynn had said, turning the thing over in his strong, work-scarred hands to marvel at it. “What made you think of doing that?”

Gabriel took the clock away, his hands so much smaller and fairer than Wynn’s that he let them linger there, so long that Wynn took one of them in his and kissed the back of his knuckles. “Because time matters,” he tried to explain, lifting his hand to Wynn’s hair to ruffle the short, still-wayward sandy strands. “Because I wanted it to be beautiful.”

No one besides Gabriel ever got to see Wynn’s best smile, the one that made him warmer than the sun, and that sent a slow-rolling wave of pleasure tingling down to his toes. “You’re beautiful.”

“Stop it, I’m not.”

“Shh.” Wynn pressed his lips to Gabriel’s hot cheek and laid his hand on Gabriel’s belly. “You’re beautiful if I say you are, and I do. So there.”

When he said it, Gabriel believed him. He raised himself to wind his arms around Wynn’s neck and pulled him down into a kiss. One kiss, and then another, and then —

* * *

Present

Tick. Tick. Tick.
“Hey. Where’d you go?” Tucked up big and hard and solid behind him, his chest pressed to Gabriel’s back, Wynn nosed against Gabriel’s ear. “Come back.”

Gabriel blinked out of the daydream he’d drifted into. It happened more and more often these days, but he’d been told that was natural for Omegas this close to giving birth. He looked down to where Wynn’s big hand splayed wide over his belly, and even it wasn’t big enough to cup more than the top. They’d been twined together for an hour, maybe more, taking their time and letting the fire build.

He glanced at the clock — they had half an hour before the alarm rang, not enough but enough to make use of — and covered Wynn’s hand, turning his head as far as he could toward Wynn’s mouth. “I’m here.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Willa Okati (AKA Will) is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, a whole lot of flowering plants and a lifelong love of storytelling. Will’s definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for, though he — not she anymore — is a lot less quiet these days.

New at Changeling Press: The God’s Wife by Lena Austin #paranormalromance #LGBTQ @Lena_Austin

The God’s Wives — noblewomen sworn to protect and serve Egypt by any means, be it assassination, sorcery, or seduction. Raised from infancy to be the wife of Pharaoh, Hati knows her duty. She will win the Pharaoh’s heart, form a psychic connection with him, produce his children, and rule beside him as the wife of the Living God. She is the power behind the throne. But when Pharaoh dies, pregnant Hati must rule alone as Regent-Queen, protecting the Empire for her unborn child and another child of Pharaoh carried by a concubine.

Senmut has been in love with Hati since he first took her virginity, but he knows their love can never be more than a secret affair. When the disinherited brother of the dead Pharaoh arrives, claiming to be the true heir since no woman has the ability to rule an Empire, Hati must prove her worth and do more than simply be Regent-Queen. She must shave her hair, dress as a man, and become Pharaoh Hatshepsut, the first woman Pharaoh of Egypt.

Senmut becomes part of Pharaoh Hati’s inner circle, and the father of her second child. It will take all the might, muscle, sorcery, and deviousness of the God’s Wives and their allies to keep Hati on the throne long enough for the true heir of Pharaoh to be born. Can their love survive in a court surrounded by enemies on all sides?

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Lena Austin

“Senmut!” shrieked a young girl’s voice. “You came!”

Without warning, Senmut found his arms full of a beautiful dancer in nearly full panoply. Even the perfume cone was already on her head, filling his nostrils with the delightful scent of expensive oils. He prayed for fortitude and unwound the girl’s arms from around his neck so he could see who she was, before his body betrayed him.

The tiny imp in front of him turned a full circle to show off what little there was of her costume before facing him with a grin. Only then did recognition dawn.

“Hati?” he gasped in wonderment. His childhood friend had grown to full womanhood in the space of the few years he’d been away in the army, serving at the southern gates with Nubia. Senmut gulped and tried to think of something intelligent to say. “Um, I like that costume you are almost wearing.”

Hati laughed, the sound a cross between a chuckle and giggle he remembered. “Isn’t it something?” She wiggled and pranced a moment while

Senmut stared. The costume was little more than golden chains and baubles, and not a scrap of linen to hide her charms. And there were plenty of charms to view. Never a tall child, she was still fairly short, but the once-flat chest was now full and lush. Long, streamlined muscles bespoke of the many years of physical training. The face was the only constant, with slashing cheekbones and the slanted, otherworldly eyes of the Egyptian nobility. Those lips he knew well for taunting him were full and tempting. The whole package was an invitation to the kind of impropriety that would get a man killed without mercy.

“I never dreamed I’d get a costume like this when I told you I’d dance before my cousin the Pharaoh to win his heart… or at least his lust,” she added, winking.

Senmut barely remembered that long ago conversation over a game of mehen, the snake game. “Yes, you said you were training to be a God’s Wife in the temple, and that you would dance before the Pharaoh and become his wife. I didn’t believe you then.”

Hati was unoffended by his childhood skepticism. She laughed as she walked over to a pitcher of plain beer and offered him some. “I remember your commoner tastes. See? Here’s your nasty old beer,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

Now it was Senmut’s turn to laugh. It was an old game between them and distracted him away from her changed physical appearance. He pretended to snatch the cup from her hands with a frown, and then retorted, “Give me beer, bread, and salt and I’ll work a full day. You, royal one, with your rich foods and date wines will be fat and drunk long before that.”

“Hah! Royal family I may be, but do I look fat and drunk to you?” Hati performed the nearly impossible moves of a dancer, seeming to flow effortlessly into positions that made Senmut’s muscles ache nearly as much as his groin. He shifted his scribe’s tablet lower and drank deeply of the bitter brew.

“Enough! Have mercy on an unmarried scribe!” he cried. “You sorceresses of the God’s Wives would make any man ache, as you well know.” He looked at his beer in mock suspicion, as if she might have put any one of the many aphrodisiacs known to the women of the God’s Wives in his goblet. It dawned on him that Hati needed no such aides to make a man look on her with desire.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Someone cursed Lena Austin with “may you have a life so full you’ll have many tales to tell your grandchildren.” Lena’s a “fallen” society wench with a checkered past. She’s been a licensed minister, hairdresser, Realtor, radio DJ, exotic dancer, telephone service tech, live-steel medievalist swordswoman, BDSM Mistress, and investment property manager. Not necessarily in that order. She never finished that degree in marine archaeology, but did learn to scuba — she’s got a lifetime of “Research material!”

Hey, why waste these stories on kids who won’t listen anyway? Writing them down is a nice way to spend her retirement. What? You expected an ex-BDSM Mistress to take up crocheting or something?

New at Changeling Press: Savage (Devil’s Fury MC) by Harley Wylde #mcromance #agegap #romanticsuspense @HarleyW_Writer

Mariah — I knew my dad, a Dixie Reaper, wouldn’t understand why I wanted to date a cop. It’s why I’d planned to elope with Ty, until it all went so very wrong. My dad caught me, tossed me into the car, and drove me hours away to the Devil’s Fury. I didn’t know he’d already promised me to someone else. Savage. The Devil’s Fury MC Treasurer. A man who set butterflies loose in my stomach at first sight.

The man might have claimed me as his, but he runs every time we’re in the same room together. I can’t tell if he’s just that turned off by me, or if there’s another woman. Whatever it is, he either needs to let me go, or make me his — in all ways. I just never expected the surprise left at the gates, and the way it would make my heart break, or the fact my ex would be a lunatic. I should have known life would throw me a curveball. Or two. Nothing is ever easy.

Savage — Claiming a woman sight unseen didn’t seem like such a bad thing. It wasn’t like I had anyone I wanted to settle down with. The fact she’s two decades younger than me might have given me pause at one point, but not anymore. Then she arrives, spitting and hissing like an angry kitten. I try to do the right thing and give her time. Except clearly that was the wrong thing to do.

I’ll make her realize she’s the only one I want, claim her in every way possible, but first… I need to take care of business. The dirty cop who preys on women and children will be taught a lesson he won’t soon forget. Should have known the daughter of a Dixie Reaper wouldn’t shy away from getting her hands dirty and wouldn’t need saving. Not sure how I got so lucky to call her mine, but I’m holding on tight to Mariah. She’s the best thing to ever happen to me.

WARNING: Savage is part of the Devil’s Fury MC and contains bad language, adult situations, dark content, and violence some may find difficult to read. But there’s a guaranteed happily-ever-after, no cliffhanger, no cheating, a super cute little girl, and some adorable kittens.

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Harley Wylde

Mariah

My jaw ached from grinding my teeth. I stared out the window, refusing to even look at my dad. I couldn’t believe he’d hauled me away from Tyson. Another few minutes, and we’d have been gone. I wondered who’d told. Could have been the Prospect at the gate, or any of my dad’s spies around town. I should have waited until dark. Even though I’d begged Ty to wait, he hadn’t listened.

“Can’t ignore me forever,” my dad said.

Want to bet?

We crossed the Alabama state line and entered Florida. He hadn’t said exactly where we were going. Devil’s Boneyard? They weren’t far from our current location. I wanted to ask. Pressing my lips together, I forced myself to remain silent.

“Fine. Pout like a damn kid, Mariah, but it’s not going to change anything. Settle in. We still have a bit of a drive.”

I looked over at him. What the hell did that mean? The Devil’s Boneyard was only another hour, if that. So where were we going? When he took the ramp to head north into Georgia, my stomach knotted. Oh, shit.

“We’re going to see Farrah?” I asked before I could stop myself.

“Nope, but same location.”

Shit. If we weren’t going to see Farrah, then who? Did my dad want my brother-in-law, Demon, to scare the hell out of me? Because it wouldn’t be hard. Just being in his presence was enough to make me pee myself. I knew he doted on my sister, but it didn’t change his scare factor. I’d heard the stories of what he’d done when people crossed him or the Devil’s Fury.

I tried not to fidget as the truck ate up the miles. My nerves were shot by the time we arrived. Expecting my dad to stop at Farrah’s or even the clubhouse, I couldn’t hold back my gasp as he kept going. Bile rose in my throat, and I scanned the area, not having a damn clue whose house we’d be visiting. The fact he’d packed my clothes and a box of my books didn’t bode well for this being a quick stop.

Since my dad had taken my phone, I couldn’t even text Ty to let him know my current location. I knew he’d have come for me. We may not have made our flight today, but we could have gotten another one.

We came to a stop outside a sprawling home. It might have only been one-story, but I could tell it was far from small inside. I got out and stood by the truck, not knowing what to expect. The front door opened and when I saw the large man who strolled out to meet us, my stomach flipped.

“You made good time,” Savage said, holding his hand out to my dad.

“Needed to get her out of there immediately. Caught her trying to run off with the cop.” My dad glared at me. “Nothing to say, Mariah?”

“Why am I here?” I asked.

Savage’s eyebrows rose and he rocked back on his feet. “Damn. I’m guessing this is a conversation we should have inside. Y’all come in. Need me to get anything from the truck?”

“I threw a box of her books in the back seat, and she has a bag of clothes. I can send the rest in a few days.” My dad started walking to the house. “Getting old’s a bitch. I’m using your bathroom.”

Savage snickered.

My dad tossed a phone at him. “That’s hers. She can have it back, but I’m not giving it to her. She may call that shithead cop.”

Savage caught the phone, looked at it a moment, then handed it to me. “No calls or texts until we talk. Don’t make me regret letting you have that back.”

He opened the back door of the truck and hauled my stuff out like it didn’t weigh anything. I had no choice but to follow him into the house. He set my things down inside the door and motioned for me to have a seat in the living room. Gray slate floors stretched in every direction, and the light gray walls added to the drab color scheme.

I sank onto a black leather sofa and eyed the unusual coffee table. It had to be custom-made. The base looked like a large cut tree trunk. Etched into the top were the colors for the Devil’s Fury, and a piece of glass set over the top, cut to match the edges. I hadn’t ever seen anything like it. The wood had been distressed or stained to a dark charcoal.

To my left, a flat screen TV hung from the wall. It had to be at least sixty inches or more. Across from the couch and table were two chairs, and a smaller table set between the two. An ottoman sat catty-corner to one of them, and I figured it must be where Savage usually sat. The chair looked more worn than the other one.

My dad entered the room, his arms folded, and he glared at me. I narrowed my eyes right back and waited to see why he’d brought me here.

“What did you mean you caught her trying to leave with the cop?” Savage asked, sinking into one of two leather chairs, the one I’d thought would be his. He sprawled, reminding me of a big jungle cat.

“Ty and I are getting married,” I said.

Savage tensed. “That right?”

“I didn’t tell her,” Dad said. “I should have, but I was biding my time.”

Savage arched an eyebrow. “That worked out well, didn’t it?”

The look they shared told me something was up. Why had my dad brought me here? What had he kept from me?

“Tell me what?” I asked.

“Casper VanHorne arranged for Savage to claim you as his old lady. You’re already promised to him, Mariah, so you can’t marry the damn cop.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Harley Wylde is the International Bestselling Author of the Dixie Reapers MC, Devil’s Boneyard MC, and Hades Abyss MC series.

When Harley’s writing, her motto is the hotter the better — off the charts sex, commanding men, and the women who can’t deny them. If you want men who talk dirty, are sexy as hell, and take what they want, then you’ve come to the right place. She doesn’t shy away from the dangers and nastiness in the world, bringing those realities to the pages of her books, but always gives her characters a happily-ever-after and makes sure the bad guys get what they deserve. 

The times Harley isn’t writing, she’s thinking up naughty things to do to her husband, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, and reading. She loves to read and devours a book a day, sometimes more. She’s also fond of TV shows and movies from the 1980’s, as well as paranormal shows from the 1990’s to today, even though she’d much rather be reading or writing.

You can find out more about Harley or enter her monthly giveaway on her website. Be sure to join her newsletter while you’re there to learn more about discounts, signing events, and other goodies!

New at Changeling Press: Shotgun (Black Reign MC) by Marteeka Karland #mcromance #agegap #romanticsuspense @marteekakarland

Esther: I was born and raised Southern Baptist — a preacher’s daughter at that. If Daddy had his way I’d be a preacher’s wife, just like my momma. I want more. I want out. The only way I see to escape my father’s rule leads me to University of Miami to study cyber security. That is, until I walk into the wrong bar on the wrong night and… look up to see my knight on a shining Harley. Shotgun’s about as far left of Daddy’s expectations as a woman could get. And I may be damned for my sins, but I want him. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s met his match.

Shotgun: My real name is Moses. Moses Blackstone… no relationship to the firm. For some godsforsaken reason, El Diablo has decided I’m going to learn Cyber Security. I got no clue why he thinks I’d be any good at this. Give me some heads to bash and I’ll be fine. But computers? I hate computers. But if I can’t learn this shit, I’ll fail in front of my club, and in the eyes of El Diablo.  When I wandered into that bar I was looking for a good fight. Or a good lay. Either would do. Instead I find a preacher’s daughter. And maybe my own salvation…

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Marteeka Karland

Shotgun

“Software Hacking and How to Avoid it Happening to You” as taught by Giovanni Romano of the Shadow Demons wasn’t exactly what I would call a bunny course. In fact, I called it fucking torture. The man was a fucking sadist of the worst sort.

“If I have to look at that man five more seconds, I’ll put a fuckin’ bullet in his goddamned brain. Then we’ll see how smart he is.”

“It’s not that bad, Shotgun.” Fury picked up a glass full of whisky and downed it in one gulp. “Besides, even if you shot him in the head he’d still be twice as smart as you.” I threw Fury a look that he totally ignored as he got another drink.

The bar, though near the middle of Palm Beach, was a dive. The only people who frequented it were roughnecks and bikers. It was a hell of a good time most nights, but I just wasn’t in the mood. At least, not for fun. I needed a good knock-down, drag-out brawl. Fury didn’t seem to want to be here either, but then, he was rarely in a good mood unless he was in the presence of the little girls currently taking over the men of Black Reign. Little Bella was Rycks and Lyric’s daughter while Holly was the daughter of Wrath’s woman, Celeste. Fury was still gruff, but only if it made the girls giggle. If anyone called him out, he beat the fuck out of the bastard and everyone else shut the fuck up.

“This is a waste of time,” I muttered. “I’ll do whatever El Diablo needs, but I ain’t gonna learn anything from that fucker Giovanni. He makes it purposefully difficult so no one can get what he’s talking about, and he looks all superior and shit.”

“Don’t know about that,” Fury said as he downed his second shot. “But I know you can get it if you want to bad enough. Ain’t never seen anything you couldn’t do once you set your mind to it.”

I raised an eyebrow. “You sick or somethin’?”

Fury didn’t even look at me. “No. So don’t get used to it. I just happen to think that Giovanni character needs taken down a fuckin’ peg or two.”

“You’re speakin’ my language now.”

Fury snorted. “’Course, I happen to think you’re a dumb shit from time to time as well, so…”

“Fucker.”

We sat in silence for a while, casing out the place. Seemed pretty tame tonight. Only three women and they all seemed to be claimed by one man or another so no fighting over women.

“I’m done,” I said, slapping down a twenty and standing from my stool at the bar.

“You ain’t goin’ to the docks, Gun. El Diablo specifically said no fighting. He’s tryin’ to keep the club outta shit for a while.”

I ground my teeth together. “Then let’s go to Beach Fit. I gotta work off some steam, and physical exercise after a day of staring at a fucking computer screen sounds perfect.”

“I think I can allow that.”

My gaze snapped to his. “Allow?”

“Yeah. I’m your keeper until this shit’s done.” When I just stared at him, Fury added, “You didn’t think I was hangin’ with you for your stellar personality, did you?”

“Motherfucker,” I muttered, shooting the last of my whisky. “I’m gettin’ the fuck outta here.”

Just as I spoke, the entire bar went silent. I’d heard the door open and close, but hadn’t registered much else until the only noise was the hard rock coming from a speaker in the corner. I let my gaze quarter the area.

“So, that’s what all the commotion’s about,” I said softly.

“Fuck,” Fury bit out, standing and dropping a twenty beside mine. “Get ready.”

“No shit. Hope El Diablo don’t get too angry, or our heads will roll.”

“Just don’t kill anyone.”

As if not realizing the whole bar was watching, a curvy woman waltzed in like she owned the place. Her head was up and her nose in the air, like she was better than everyone in the place and knew we all knew it. She wore a sundress of the palest green, the hem hitting her just above the knees and swishing around her legs as she walked. Modestly heeled sandals adorned her feet, the thin straps wrapping around her slim ankles several times. The heels were just high enough to make her calf muscles flex ever so slightly. Smooth, creamy skin beckoned every fucking biker in that bar. No doubt they were all imagining tossing her on one of the now-abandoned pool tables, pulling her legs wide apart and fucking the sweet pussy beneath that skirt.

“What’ll it be, sugar?” The bartender leaned against the bar as he polished a glass, biceps flexing as he did. Yeah, he was thinking the same thing we all were.

She cleared her throat delicately. “Um, a Coke, please.” Her voice was high-pitched, like she was young. I knew that on first sight, but now I questioned whether or not she was even legal to be in here.

The bartender pointed to a little door off to the side next to the restrooms. “Coke’s in there. Buck twenty per gram. You pay before you go in.”

She nodded her head, then opened the tiny purse she carried around her neck and across her body. Girl actually pulled out a dollar and a quarter and handed it to the bartender. Now, he looked less than amused.

“One-twenty,” he snapped. “Even for a pretty little thing like you.”

The girl looked adorably confused. “But… I just gave you a dollar twenty-five.”

“I’ll spot her.” A big, burly guy pushed his way to the bar, a big grin on his face. He slapped two one-hundred-dollar bills on the bar. “You can start workin’ it off once you get the first line done.”

When she still looked confused, I knew me and Fury were about to challenge El Diablo’s orders. Getting the girl and ourselves out without killing anyone might not be possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.

Now in Paperback: Paranormal B&B by M.D. Stewart #LGBTQ #darkfantasy @gooseandmindi

A sexy ghost, a demon, a vampire, a Drag Queen, and a Halfling find their true mates in this small town.

Born for You (Paranormal B&B 1): Matson — Being gay in my little town? It’s not been easy. The ghost of a murdered man tugs at my heartstrings. Is he real, or just a figment of my imagination?

Born an Empty Soul (Paranormal B&B 2): Killian — I’m a singer in a famous indie band, but I’ve been alone for a century, living off others’ pain — until I meet my mates. Now I have to do everything I can to convince them they are mine, or I’ll die.

Born a Changeling (Paranormal B&B 3): Ben — I try not to let my daughter have everything she wants, but I can’t say no to keeping the large cat she finds while we’re on vacation. Then the cat turns into a very sexy man who crashes into my life and steals my heart.

Born A Halfling (Paranormal B&B 4): Jessie — I met Michael in Afghanistan, and helped the injured Marine heal in body and soul. When we meet again at Chasers, a gay bar, where he’s a Drag Queen, I still want him — and the man he’s in love with.

Born a Demon (Paranormal B&B 5): Conner — I never thought I’d want a future with another man, but I want one with Rager, a demon from a different dimension. I can forgive his past transgressions, but is happiness really possible when I learn my entire life has been a lie?

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EXCERPT

Copyright ©2021 M.D. Stewart
Excerpt from Born For You

Josiah

Life gets boring when you’ve been haunting the same area for over a hundred years. Especially since no one came by for me to scare anymore. The one thing I did look forward to were the visits by the man standing at the edge of the trees.

Matson Gannon Ashby.

I’d watched him grow up. When he was a child, he’d stop by and I could hear his heart pounding in fear. But as he aged, he’d started to talk to me. He’d bring silver coins to toss into the woods each time he came. And each time he did it, he said, “For you, Josiah.”

It pissed me off at first, thinking he was being sarcastic, since I was murdered for greed. I had heard his grandfather telling him how I was killed for my hidden stash of money and my mother’s jewels. Matson seemed sincere though, and with each visit, he tossed the coins.

So I started watching him. It’s not like he could see me; I’d just get closer to him and watch his face. In time, I looked forward to his visits, which grew infrequent after he went to college. Seeing him now made my heart pound.

I was surprised by my reaction to him. When he was a child, I’d felt protective of him, almost like a guardian. As he grew up, my feelings changed from wanting to watch over him, to wanting to touch him. My cold, dead heart felt like a flower blooming inside my chest every time he stopped by for a visit. I didn’t understand why I felt these feelings. I’d never had tender feelings for any human being. Why would I? I went from a fifteen-year-old child to an injured war veteran, to a murdered man and finally to a bitter, avenging ghost.

And yes, I had slain my killers. It hadn’t been difficult to find them. My murder felt like a glowing connection from me to the bastards who’d shot me. I began to haunt them, whisper in their ears, run my finger down their bodies, leaving chill bumps. I drove them crazy, made them question their life’s choices. After all, they’d never even found my hidden stash — I was shot and killed for no reason.

Once I realized my body could cross the thinned Death Veil on Halloween and become corporeal, I’d hunted the men down and killed them, one by one. Once I had my revenge, I never used the thinning Veil between the worlds again. I’d never wanted to be human again.

Until now.

In many ways, Matson’s visits gave me the peace that had eluded me my entire life, as both human and specter. I got attached to him and could follow him home and keep him safe from the Other Things that live between his world and mine.

Humans have no inkling about the paranormal side of things. Which, believe me, is a good thing. Ghosts aren’t the only beings that go “bump in the night.” Angels and demons are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Most times these magical beings like to stay hidden from humans, but some creatures like to attach to the weaker ones and siphon off their essence. There’s some scary stuff that’s hidden from human beings. Be thankful for that.

But this particular visit of Matson’s felt…different. He drew me, called me to him. I felt his loneliness, and for the first time, I saw him as an adult. When he made the invitation for me to come to him, I couldn’t resist. I bent down and picked up the silver dollar and placed it in my pocket before I slipped into the car beside Matson.

I had visited the big house a few times when Etta Jo got older. When she passed, I helped her cross over, something that never happened with me. Either no one on the Otherside cared enough to guide me, or I didn’t deserve it.

But Etta was a powerful medium. She could communicate with me and frequently did over the years. It established a deeper link between her family and me. That was ironic, because her great-grandfather was one of my killers.

Now, as Matson got out of the car and walked into the house, I could see the sadness cross his features. As he stood in the living room, I reached my hand out and touched his shoulder. To my shock, he placed his hand over mine. Or to be more precise, through it. I don’t know if he knew it was me or if he thought it was Etta Jo, but my touch comforted him. My heart broke for the pain he was suffering.

I had no idea how long we stood there before he whispered he was fine. I got the feeling he needed time alone to process his grief.

I went outside, and lost track of time. When you’re a spirit, time ceases to mean anything. I wondered why I wanted to be so close to Matson. I’ve seen hundreds of people in my specter-life. None drew me as he did, though I was more than one hundred years older. Hell, even if I’d been human, I’d be too old for him. I was fifty-three when I died, and Matson was about thirty.

Wait, what was I thinking? Too old for him?

I’d have to be crazy to feel that way about another man. I’d never been attracted to men before. Had I? I was only fifteen when I joined the Confederate Army. Sixteen when I was shot and seventeen when I came home from war. Then I spent my entire life bitter and alone. I’d never kissed another human being. I never wanted to. But something about Matson called to me. Could I really have sexual desires toward another man? I wasn’t sure, but I knew, if I were human, I’d want to find out with the man in that house.

My body began to tingle, and suddenly I needed to get inside. I needed to be near Matson. And I wasn’t going to let my fears stop me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

I grew up in southern West Virginia, where I spent hours, drawing, watching television and reading. As a result, I combined my love of science fiction (unashamed Trekkie) and romance (thanks to mom’s Harlequin Romance Novels collection) to create my own Universe. I hope my books can transport you to faraway worlds where there’s always a happily ever after!

New Release: Ila (Selkies) by Alice Gaines #urbanfantasy #shapeshifters @AliceGaines

Ila is a selkie — a seal shapeshifter — whose time for mating has arrived. Ryan is incredibly sexy, but he’s also suspicious of everything she says and does.

Ryan Harris has come to Galapagos to solve the mystery of what happened to his father decades earlier. His only clue comes in the form of a naked woman who greets him on his arrival.

Will the lies Ila‘s told keep them apart?

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https://www.changelingpress.com/ila-selkies-3-b-3237

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Alice Gaines

The Mother of the Selkie clan, Inu, didn’t appear for Ila’s fertility ceremony, instead sending her daughter Ona, to perform the rites. Ona’s twin, the clan’s healer, stood next to her sister. Neither woman could fully hide the tension in their faces and postures. Something was off, and if the Mother of their clan ailed, so did the rest of the selkies.

Ila stood naked at the center of the circle of the sisters, all the rest wearing ceremonial robes. She shivered although the breeze wasn’t cold. Since the time she’d learned about mating, she’d imagined receiving a blessing from the Mother. Ona would hold that authority one day, but she didn’t now. Did that bode ill for her mating?

The soft buzz from the others assembled said they worried about the same thing. In the distant past, Selkies had been held captive by selfish mates who wanted to keep them forever. The mates would hide their selkies’ seal skins so they could neither escape nor swim. Without the ocean, a selkie withered and died. Might that happen now to Ila if she didn’t receive a proper blessing?

With the sacred words recited, Ona took Ila’s face between her palms and kissed Ila’s forehead. The sign that sealed her fate for mating. The new man would initiate Ila into the ways of sex and give her a child. If all went well, Ila would leave him, wiping out his every memory of her before she did, and return to the Sisterhood to give birth to her daughter.

“Bless you, my daughter,” Ona said.

The healer handed Ila a robe, which Ila tugged around her against a chill that shouldn’t have existed. These islands, called Galapagos by the humans, straddled the equator and didn’t get cold. Ila stared at Ona as words failed her. How did she tell Ona she wasn’t the Mother and this whole ceremony could be cursed?

None of the sisters had left but milled around, no doubt trying to hear what went on between Ila and Inu’s daughters. The healer turned to stare at all of them. “You may return to your work or homes.”

The group slowly dispersed, leaving Ila with Inu’s twin daughters — the Sisterhood’s future leader and the current healer. Both women held authority in the group, and Ila shouldn’t doubt them, but why hadn’t the Mother come herself?

“Inu isn’t sick, is she?” Ila asked.

“She’s well,” the healer said.

“Then why –”

“She sent me,” Ona said. “Do you doubt my authority?”

Her tone was meant to intimidate so Ila wouldn’t ask any more questions. Well and good for other issues, but Ila would only mate once. If something were to threaten her now, she should know it. “Every selkie dreams of her mating, and the Mother always blesses her first.”

“Inu is tired from all her duties and agreed we’d conduct the ceremony,” Ona said. “It’s time I should learn to lead.”

Inu’s duties hadn’t changed, so why should she be tired? While there was general agreement that Ona would take over for her mother, there had been no formal vote, and she hadn’t been initiated into the role. Her role here was unusual, to say the least.

“Have you dreamed of your mate?” the healer asked.

“I have.” A man named Ryan. He was handsome, certainly, but he gave off an air of uncertainty or skepticism with perhaps a note of anger beneath it all. Another reason to wonder about this mating.

“Your body has made the changes,” the healer said.

It had. With the swelling of her breasts and plumpness of her hips, Ila was ready for mating, and fate had chosen this man for her. So, why was the Mother not here to approve the match?

Ona put an arm around her. “All will be well. Do your duty and give the Sisterhood a daughter.”

She would, of course, despite any misgivings. “I will.”

“Good,” Ona said. “You’ll leave in the morning.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

USA Today bestselling author Alice Gaines has published several sensuous and erotic works. She prefers stories that stretch the imagination, highlighting the power of love and sex. Alice has a Ph.D. in psychology from U. C. Berkeley and lives in Oakland, California, with her collection of orchids and her pet corn snake, Casper.

Dark Reign/Clutch Wars by Mychael Black #multiplepartners #darkfantasy

Marcus’ werewolf pack faces a deadly vampire hell-bent on revenge. And then there’s the dragons…

Dark Reign: Marcus has spent most of his life saving his fellow weres from his ex-lover, vampire Dalton Gray, but after one of his Enforcers slaughter Gray’s guards they’re headed for war. His allies are few in number until unexpected help arrives — but that brings a whole new set of problems, including an injured child. And inside knowledge of Gray’s operations.

Meting out justice to the vampires who attacked his lover is easy for Daniel. Dealing with the fallout from hidden truths coming to light? That’s the hard part.

Clutch Wars: As the last female dragon shifter, Tia’s the only hope for her species’ survival. That means mating, which wouldn’t be problem—if she wanted to be a queen. She doesn’t.

Meanwhile, the Navarro clan is headed for war with a demon force hellbent on wiping them out. Demons don’t play fair, and they force Mason to make hard choices. When the clan is surprised by an ambush, Korin seeks revenge. But what price is he willing to pay?

Publisher’s Note: Dark Reign/Clutch Wars contains the previously published Dark Reign novellas Found, Oathbound, Atonement and Fight or Flight, and the Clutch Wars novellas The Reluctant Queen, Regan’s Folly, Sub Rosa, and Sovereign.

Get the paperback at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09CGFVPFP

Praise for Found

“I’ll happily recommend this book to friends because Mychael Black’s werewolves are darned hot to read about. Where can I find one of my own?”

— 4 Cherries from Tiger Lily, Whipped Cream Reviews

“The love scenes are incredible. Mychael Black has created a fantastic story.”

— 4.5 Nymphs from Chocolate Minx, Literary Nymphs

Praise for Oathbound

“…a superior example of exceptionally sensual lovemaking. Oathbound is an impressive, as well as, incredibly enjoyable saga.”

— Chocolate Minx, Literary Nymphs Reviews

Praise for Atonement

“Mychael Black has created another superb installment to this series. Atonement is an exceedingly enjoyable illustration of dramatic moments, heartwarming characters as well as a happily-ever-after climax.”

— 5 Nymphs from Chocolate Minx, Literary Nymphs Reviews

“Darkly sensual and mysterious, Atonement is a captivating story of redemption. Fast paced, scorching hot, and suspenseful from start to finish…”

— Lisa, Joyfully Reviewed

Praise for Fight or Flight

“Another interesting addition to a very imaginative m/m erotic series that introduces very sensual characters who have survived personal traumas. This is a very sizzling entry…”

— 4 Stars from ELF, Night Owl Reviews

“Mychael Black has created a wonderful, as well as enjoyable, installment to this series. I found Eric to be an especially impressive character.”

— 4 Nymphs from Chocolate Minx, Literary Nymphs Reviews

Praise for The Reluctant Queen

“This is the first of a new series that may be a quickie, but it is one helluva good ride. The reader can enjoy this book in one sitting. Take a load off and enjoy this new series.”

— 5 Stars from Angibabi4, Night Owl Reviews

“Melting hawt manlove is on the menu for this new series from Mychael Black. For dragonshifter lovers, this is a good new series to start reading. It’s fast, furious, and arousing.”

— BookAddict, Manic Reviews

ABOUT 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!

Data/Thorn (Bones MC) by Marteeka Karland #mcromance #romanticsuspense @marteekakarland

She doesn’t need an old man like me, but to keep her safe I’ll kill anyone who gets in my way.

Data (Bones MC 8)
Zora — I live a life of wealth and luxury. There isn’t anything I can’t have. Except my freedom. So I turned to the computer. And that’s where I met my match. When my life suddenly falls apart, Data’s the one to rescue me. But he’ll also be the one to rip my heart in two.

Data — I’m no good with people. I stick to my computers. When my online partner and friend ends up in trouble, there’s no way I’m letting her go it alone. But the girl is barely eighteen. She doesn’t need an old man like me. But I’ll rule her to make her mine. And kill anyone in my way to keep her safe.

Thorn (Salvation’s Bane MC 3)
Mariana — If it weren’t for bad luck… Yeah. That’s me. Stranded on the side of the road after my boyfriend threw me out. When a big, muscle-bound, tattooed biker pulled up and ordered me to “pop the hood” I was scared, but, God, the man was smoking hot!

Thorn — Yeah, I steamrolled my way into Ana’s life. But I wasn’t prepared for the call I got from the hospital or the sight of her broken body. I’m all about vengeance, and someone is going to pay for this. Because I might have gone and fallen in love with her.

WARNING (Spoiler Alert): Traumatic pregnancy loss and explicit violence which could be triggers for some readers. As always, expect a HEA with no cheating.

Get the paperback at Amazon

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Marteeka Karland
Excerpt from Data

One by one, the riders shut off the bikes but didn’t get off them. Only one man took off his helmet and approached the house, a horrible scowl on his bearded face. Zora quickly jumped up and went inside. She tried to close the door, but the man was on her already. He didn’t grab her but shoved his foot inside the door so she couldn’t shut it.

She squealed, shoving her weight against the door. Like that was going to help if the man really wanted in. She was so slight there wasn’t enough of her to deter him.

“Zora, stop,” he barked.

She was so shocked he knew her name, she obeyed. Then she blinked several times. “D?”

“Data,” he corrected. “And you are in so much trouble, you can’t even conceive.” As angry as he sounded, Zora thought he’d pull her outside, but he didn’t. He held open the screen door and stepped back so she could come back outside the house. When she didn’t readily comply, he raised an eyebrow. “I will carry you if you don’t come out on your own.”

She swallowed but did as he said. Why, she had no idea. Of all the ways she’d envisioned meeting her online friend, this wasn’t it. And what was with all the bikes? She’d also thought he was closer to her age. Sure, the remark about spending time with his daughter had registered, but she’d just assumed his daughter was a child. She hadn’t asked and he hadn’t volunteered, but when she’d imagined what he might look like, it was as a college guy. Maybe slightly older. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth.

This man — Data — was in his forties, bearded, and heavily muscled. He towered over her. She was only five foot three, so she guessed he was at least six-three or -four. Looking at the men behind him on their bikes, talking amongst themselves, she noticed they glanced toward Zora and Data occasionally. They were all just as big and just as strong. Just as intimidating.

Date gestured for her to go back to her perch on the swing where she’d been before, and he took one of the chairs next to her. For long, long moments, he sat looking at her, his forearms resting on his thighs, fingers laced together.

“Um,” she cleared her throat. “You, uh, want some tea? I’ve got soda, too.”
Nothing.

“I’d offer beer, but I don’t –”

“Why the fuck didn’t you do what I told you to?” He didn’t raise his voice, but the message was the same. Data wasn’t happy with her. At fucking all.

“Where’s your phone?”

“I left it at back at Gordon’s house,” she squeaked.

“And the burner I told you to buy? You know, the one you were supposed to use to text me with your location so I knew where you were and had a way to contact you?”

“I forgot it, OK?” Her voice was firm and a little irritated. There. She’d found her spine. Finally. Mostly.

“Do you have your computer?”

“Yeah. But I’ve been so busy trying to get myself set up here, I haven’t been online.”

“Believe me, I’m fully aware. I’ve had our private chat open for days. I had the program set to notify my cell if you came online. My phone has been by my side or in my fuckin’ pocket constantly.” The more he talked, the louder he got, his anger obviously building. He didn’t shout at her, but his frustration with her was more than obvious. Finally, he closed his eyes and took a deep breath before continuing. “I was fuckin’ worried sick.”

She blinked several times. “What? Why would you worry about me? I can take care of myself.”

“I’m aware. Doesn’t change the fact I like knowin’ you’re good.” There was silence between them. An uncomfortable one where she fidgeted and he just stared at her, his expression unreadable but intense. “Did it ever occur to you I might care about your wellbeing?”

Of course. She got it now. Just like everyone else in her life, he worried about her abilities being taken away from him. And be Goddamned, it hurt. “I’m sure you could find any number of hackers willing and able to help when you need it,” she said, unable to keep the pain from her voice no matter how much she wanted to act like it didn’t bother her. “Hell, you’re much better than I ever thought about being. It’s not like I put you in a bind.”

He sat up straight. “What the fuck did you just say to me?”

She shrank back. This wasn’t her D. This man was scary. And an asshole, but she wasn’t saying that out loud. “I said it wasn’t like I put you in a bind.”

“Data!” One of the men called warningly from his bike in her driveway. “Simmer the fuck down, brother.” That was surprising, but not unwelcome.

Data scrubbed a hand over his face before stroking the front of his beard-covered chin with a couple of fingers. “Look,” he said. “Did it ever occur to you I might be worried about more than your abilities with a computer? Maybe I was concerned about my friend. Ever fuckin’ think of that?”

“I… Your… friend?”

“Yeah. My friend.” Data shoved himself out of the chair and held out his hand for her. “Come here, cutie.”

It was that nickname that made her stupid hand land in his and her body allow him to pull her to her feet. The next thing she knew, he’d wrapped her up in those strong arms and hugged her tightly. She was so much shorter than him, he just picked her straight up, her legs dangling in the air.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erotic romance author by night, emergency room tech/clerk by day, Marteeka Karland works really hard to drive everyone in her life completely and totally nuts. She has been creating stories from her warped imagination since she was in the third grade. Her love of writing blossomed throughout her teenage years until it developed into the totally unorthodox and irreverent style her English teachers tried so hard to rid her of.