New Release: No Rep by Lani Lynn Vale #contemporaryromance #romanticsuspense @LaniLynnVale

NO REP by Lani Lynn Vale is OUT NOW!


Taos was tired.

Tired of everything that came with living. Not to the point where he was suicidal or anything, but tired enough that he just didn’t give a crap anymore.

He’d seen all the ugliness this world had to offer due to his job as a police officer for way too many damn years of his less than stellar life. After finding a way to sustain his spending habits that didn’t include having criminals point guns at his face, he quits without a backward glance.

Only, he just can’t step away from old habits.

Old habits that have to do with a beautiful young woman that makes his heart feel like it isn’t nearly as broken as it is.

Fran has experienced more than her fair share of crap. After an attack that nearly took her life, she stays hidden in her house, fearful that stepping out of her comfort zone will be the final nail in her coffin.

Then her sister forces her to face her fears, and she joins Madd CrossFit.

There, she meets the man that saved her life a year ago, and realizes rather quickly that he doesn’t even realize who he is to her.

He’s everything she ever thought a man should be and wants nothing to do with her.

Maybe she’ll have to give him a reason to look her way.

And damned if she doesn’t find a way to do it.

She didn’t plan on nearly getting killed for that to happen, though.

At least not again.

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Release Blitz: Foxfire in the Snow by J.S. Fields #LGBTQ #Fantasy @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing @Galactoglucoman

Title: Foxfire in the Snow

Series: The Alchemical Duology, Book One

Author: J.S. Fields

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/NB

Length: 88800

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, fantasy, dark fantasy, nonbinary, lesfic, science magic, magic users, witches, sword and sorcery, long-time friendship, family drama

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Description

Woodcutter or witch? Alchemist or scientist? Can Sorin’s duality save their nation?

Born the heir of a master woodcutter in a queendom defined by guilds and matrilineal inheritance, nonbinary Sorin can’t quite seem to find their place. At seventeen, an opportunity to attend an alchemical guild fair and secure an apprenticeship with the queen’s alchemist is just within reach. But on the day of the fair, Sorin’s mother goes missing, along with the Queen and hundreds of guild masters, forcing Sorin into a woodcutting inheritance they never wanted.

With guild legacy at stake, Sorin puts apprentice dreams on hold to embark on a journey with the royal daughter to find their mothers and stop the hemorrhaging of guild masters. Princess Magda, an estranged childhood friend, tests Sorin’s patience—and boundaries. But it’s not just a princess that stands between Sorin and their goals. To save the country of Sorpsi, Sorin must define their place between magic and alchemy or risk losing Sorpsi to rising industrialization and a dark magic that will destroy Sorin’s chance to choose their own future.

Excerpt

Foxfire in the Snow
J.S. Fields © 2021
All Rights Reserved

One: Fire
Steam twirled from the bones in my cauldron. The heavy smell of their marrow sagged in the air. Gods, I hated the smell of the solvent, but it would be worth it once the bone oil evaporated, taking that horrible dead fish smell with it and leaving behind the final, extracted compound. I’d never get the smell out of the woodwork, but at this point, I didn’t care. Mother was weeks late returning home. Again. She could yell at me when I returned. If I returned.

I coughed into the steam as it curled through my lungs. I needed fresh air, and soon, or I’d end up facedown on the hemlock floor I’d hewn and laid myself in my thirteenth year. A knot curled inside me, and I swallowed bile and frustration. Fine. I’d be done with distillation for the day, but I still needed to perform a fungal extraction with the solvent to impress Master Rahad at the fair tomorrow. I’d been aiming to attend the alchemical guild fair since I turned twelve—the year I should have declared a guild and begun my apprenticeship. I’d never made it. Each year, Mother found another marquetry to work, another finish to make, another tool to sharpen. This year, I was seventeen. I’d barely left this forest, this house, in five years. This year, the queen’s master alchemist had a position open and wanted someone with fungal expertise.

Someone like me.

This year, I was going.

I removed the thin olive branch from my collection basket that would earn me my apprenticeship, despite my older age and guild lineage. The branch shone mottled blue green, almost a lime color in patches, with a blue as dark as evening sky in others. Along a four-centimeter band sprouted cup-shaped fungal fruiting forms, tiny enough to be overlooked by untrained eyes. With a pair of tweezers, I plucked the blue-green cups from the branch and dropped them into a second pot of the very combustible bone oil distillate. The smell of dead fish rose up and stung my eyes, but I couldn’t look away.

As each cup sank, the color seeped from them into the solvent and expanded outward in concentric rings. The pigment slowly dropped down until the liquid looked like the deep blue of Thuja’s lake. I held my breath as the fruits bubbled back to the surface. The first turned white, the second turned white, and the third and fourth—white as well. I waited, still hardly daring to breathe. One minute, then two. Please…

The solution’s color remained stable.

I dropped my head back and exhaled at the ceiling. The trickiest part was over, and if the solution set well, it would be ready by morning. Success! I carried the extract to the windowsill, opened the pane, and began the evaporation process. Tomorrow…tomorrow would be a wonderful day. A defining day. Tomorrow, I would leave the woodcutting guild and finally, finally, get to be an alchemist! A guilded alchemist! I would not spend the rest of my life bound to this wooden house, with its wooden tools, stuck within this simplistic, wooden trade any longer.

Three loud raps sounded on the front door. Visitors? At this hour? They were in for a rude surprise, the idiots. If they were here for me, it was because the villagers had a clear misunderstanding of what alchemy entailed. I had no potions to offer them. Cauldrons and a stinking house didn’t put me in the witch guild, despite the villagers’ insistence to the contrary, and even if I had been a witch, I still would not have been party to their foolish fascination with magic.

However, if the visitors were here for Mother and her marquetry business, they’d leave disappointed. She had neglected to finish several large commissions before her abrupt departure. Contracts were coming due that I would not fulfill, and her clients didn’t tolerated delays well. Mother took these walkabouts yearly, but she usually returned before the fair. This time, she was overdue.

I pulled at the door handle and lifted, and the thick wood glided open. A breeze came in first and blew mist right in my face. Behind the damp stood two men, squinting at me from the doorstep. They were Queensguard, both of them, dressed in the signature fitted red cloaks, though the waterproofing layers had worn off some hours ago. Both were mud-covered and had sodden pants and boots. They were sloppy, for Queensguard, and they were overdue. Mother had finished the queen’s commissioned piece just before she left, and it had yet to be collected.

The taller guard moved to step into the house, flipping a layer of long, wet hair over his shoulder with a splat. The smell must have hit him right then, as he stepped back into his partner and kept going for three steps. The shorter guard stumbled into Mother’s blackberry bush and had to rip himself free of the thorns. The taller sneezed, then spat, and then sneezed again.

For Queensguard, I was decidedly unimpressed.

“What sort of witchery is that!?” he demanded, coming no closer. “Where’s the woodcutter?”

I frowned and crossed my arms, careful not to crush any of the pouches of fungal pigment that dangled from my leather bandolier.

“No witchery,” I responded coolly. “I made bone oil. I discovered it. It’s a type of alchemy. I’m not guilded yet, but I have a trader’s permit.” Which I did, in the back room, but I’d be hard-pressed to find it under all of Mother’s unsharpened tools.

The tall one glared and rubbed at his nose.

The short guard stepped to the doorframe, bit back a grimace, and tried to restart the conversation. “Apologies for the hour. We’re looking for—”

“She’s not here.” I cut him off, hoping to forestall awkward questions I couldn’t answer. “She left under the last full moon, for professional obligations. It is unknown when she will return. I apologize.”

“Are you her daughter then?” the short one asked.

My stomach twisted. I was no one’s daughter, and that word would stick in my chest for days. It would squirm there, under bindings and layers of clothes, and make me second-guess myself at the fair with every introduction and every awkward stare at my body. In that moment, I hated them, these two men, so sure of their position despite the mud and the hour. Daughter. No. I had never been one and had no intention of starting now.

“Sorin the…”

“The alchemist,” I finished for him.

“I am her heir,” I said through gritted teeth when neither responded. “I have the queen’s last commission. Will you be taking it tonight?”

The men exchanged a glance, but neither answered. The second man sneezed, sending a spray of water across the threshold. I rubbed my palm on my forehead. If they were going to get the house dirty just by being outside, it made no sense for them to stay there. Bones were one thing; mud was just unprofessional. I stepped back and gestured to the small brown oak dining table—the one with the white streak down it where I’d first discovered what the refined, clear parts of bone oil could do to fungal pigments—and grabbed my cloak from the wall.

“Sit,” I said as I fastened the oblong buttons at the neck of the cloak. The men moved in with heavy steps, which grew increasingly hesitant as the fish smell concentrated. They sat and stared at me with disgusted, pained expressions as mud dripped from their boots onto that stupid handmade floor. I’d have to refinish it now.

I didn’t bother speaking again.

Daughter.

Let them sit in the bone oil stink, pooled in their own mud. I turned and left the house, heading to Mother’s woodshop. My feet crunched along the woodchip path, the ground cover damp but still springy. I tried to let the smells of the forest—especially the earthen smell of fungal decay—take my mind away from the word I so hated.

The men had parked their cart, and their ox, near the door to the longhouse Mother used for her shop, but I could still maneuver around it. The sun had already set, but moonlight streaked through the needled canopy of conifers and across my path. Ten short steps brought me to the double doors made from cedar plank. I stripped the padlock from the right door, the one that had been fastened since Mother’s departure, and entered.

I’d not been inside the shop for a month, and the smell of cedar and wood rot reminded me why. Here were my mother’s heart and legacy, as her father’s before her, and her grandmother’s before that. The whole place felt tattered and used and smelled worse than the bone oil.

In the back, near an old leather chair, was where her mother had been born some eighty years ago. To my right, just in front of a treadle lathe, was where my grandfather had died.

Mother had birthed her children here too—myself and the son she gave to another guild for an apprenticeship, and taken none of their children in return.

The whole building was familiar, like an old wool blanket, but scratchy just the same. This was a legacy of guild woodcutting, and the queen’s mandate of matrilineal inheritance, and I didn’t belong here. A woodcutter was not who I was, a daughter was not who I was, and while the former hurt less than the latter, both made me want to pull at my skin and scream.

Mercifully, the commissioned panel was right where I had last seen it. It was complete, save for a finish. An oilcloth lay on the floor near the door, already coated with paraffin. I picked it up and draped it over the panel, taking one last look at the cut veneer so expertly placed and dyed in the shape of a parrot on a branch.

The parrot’s feathers and the leaves of the branch were blue green. That was my contribution. There were no pigments, natural or otherwise, that could make that color save the elf’s cup fungus. The queen’s order had specified a parrot, in real colors.

She’d asked the impossible of my mother: we had delivered. I had delivered. Pigmenting fungi and their use in woodcraft was a trade secret of the woodcutter’s guild, but the ability to take those pigments from the wood and use them for other purposes—the solvent that entailed—that was mine alone.

With the cloth wrapped around the panel, I hauled the piece back to the house and propped it against the door. The Queensguard had tried to close it, but it had snagged halfway when the bottom of the door caught the ground below. The wood had swelled, as in any wet season, a common problem in the temperate rainforests of Thuja as well as the tropical ones of Sorpsi’s capital. Yet, they’d not even reasoned through simply lifting the door up as they pulled it closed. What was wrong with these men? Queensguard should have been much better educated than this. They should have known about the door, and the forest, and how to address me. Trekking from the village of Thuja to Mother’s house, at night, in the forest mist could addle anyone’s mind, but these two… I wiped mist from my nose and frowned. They weren’t quite right, and I didn’t care for that feeling in my own home, with no one else about. Giving them the panel was the quickest way to get them to leave.

I pushed the door back open, lifting as I did so, and propped the panel against it so it couldn’t swing shut again. The cool, damp air would help fumigate the house and would keep the bone oil from combusting as it dried.

“It’s here and ready.” I pulled enough of the cloth off so the two guards could see the detailed work underneath. It was best to get them on their way, whomever they were. Mother could chase the panel down later if needed. I was done with babysitting her business and hiding away in her house—hiding from the Thujan villagers, hiding from the capital city, hiding from my life.

The Queensguard, however, no longer seemed interested in the panel or me. The idiots had reached into the extract and removed my bones. They’d pieced parts of a skeleton back together—a primate, of course. Two small hands, a foot, and half the skull were laid out across the floor as if alive. The smaller guard, hunched over his bone puzzle with his comrade, had shoved his hands into the bone oil and now had the puffed cheeks and grayness of one about to vomit.

“That’s none of your business,” I grumbled. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mess my floor.”

Gods, why did people have to be so nosy?

“Smells of fish, but these are no fish bones,” the shorter guard said. He held up a piece of a hand and bobbed on his haunches as he turned to look at me. “Explain.”

“It’s a monkey,” I said flatly.

“Which you used for your witchcraft?” said the other as he, too, turned around. “Expansive knowledge here, of magic. This dwelling isn’t licensed for that type of activity, and you don’t bear the witch guild mark.” His tone was more curious than accusatory, but I didn’t care.

“I’m currently a trade alchemist,” I repeated again, as if talking to a particularly stupid villager. “Which we are licensed for because, otherwise, we couldn’t protect any of the wood. How do you think wood finishes are made?” When the guards continued with their stares, I looked to the ceiling and grunted. “Just take the panel. Go. Don’t get it too wet, and make sure the court carpenter lets it sit for a few weeks before coating it. If you really want paperwork, I can have a copy of the permit for trade work delivered to the Queensguard hall tomorrow.”

“I don’t think so.” The guards stood and kicked at the bone pile. Neither one had looked at the panel yet. The hair on my arms rose. That was a fourteen-hundred-stone commission, lying against the door, open to the elements! That was more than the entire town of Thuja made in one year.

They hadn’t come from the palace; that was now abundantly clear.

I took a step toward the door, making sure to keep my growing unease from showing on my face. Knife in the boot, I reminded myself, for I’d been out foraging this morning and had not yet removed it. People aren’t so different than monkeys. Of course, I had never killed any of the animals I used for bone oil, but then again, none of them had ever called me a daughter either.

“What guild did you say you belonged to?” the tall one asked as he eyed my throat. I brought my hands up to cover the unadorned skin and flushed with embarrassment. I didn’t need a reminder of my failure to declare to my Mother’s guild, or any other, for that matter.

“I’m unguilded,” I muttered, unable to meet the man’s eyes. Anyone could be a trader, but to join a guild you had to first be an apprentice, and I had no formal education. “Since you’re not Queensguard, why are you here?” And why pretend, especially if you’re not going to steal the panel?

The man snorted. “The grandmaster of witchcraft asked to meet with the master woodcutter. I don’t want to return empty-handed, so our girl alchemist might make a reasonable substitute, guilded or not.”

I dropped my hands to my sides and raked my fingernails over my pants. There shouldn’t have been a grandmaster of witchcraft because the unbound guilds—witches and alchemists—weren’t beholden to any of the three countries and therefore couldn’t set up a guildhall. But that didn’t matter right now because my skin was too tight, all of a sudden. I gripped fistfuls of cloth to steady myself, to keep my hands busy so they wouldn’t find the skin of my arms. I snarled at the men, though tears collected in my eyes. Girl. Daughter. They burned as deeply as the smell of the bone oil. As interesting as the grandmaster of witchcraft might be, I didn’t care anymore about anything these men had to say.

“Get out,” I hissed. I marched to the door; I would throw them out if I had to. But the shorter guard grabbed me by the wrist before I reached the threshold.

“No!” I pulled back, turning to slap him, and just as I spun around, he let go.

Laughter chased after me as I stumbled and caught my ankle on the doorjamb. My equilibrium was off from the bone oil fumes, and I hit the ground, elbow first. Now I too was slicked with mud and wet wood shavings, which kept my feet from finding purchase as I tried to stand and face the demeaning laughter. The tears I was determined not to shed burned my eyes.

Before I could get my feet under me, thick fingers dug into my arms and I was hauled up and dragged forward. Their hands were wide, and their arms much stronger than my own, and when I pulled, their grips tightened. The mist was thick in my mouth as I sucked in gasps of air, trying to kick or somehow injure the men who held me.

“I’m not worth anything. The only thing of value is that panel!” I yelled.

“A master woodcutter would be worth more than a confused imitation,” the taller one said. “We’ll work with what we have.”

“I am not a woodcutter!”

We were at the cart now, and when the shorter man reached past my head to grab a rope that hung over the side, I bit his hand, separating flesh. The not-guard screamed and dropped my right arm. Blood splattered across my front as he flailed. The tall one tried to grab my wrist, but I fell to my knees, grabbed him between the legs, twisted, and pulled.

He collapsed, howling, and I skittered back toward the house.

“Leave!” I screamed at them. These things weren’t supposed to happen at Mother’s house. Wasn’t that why I was always here—to avoid this? What was the point of giving up apprenticeships, friendships, if I was going to be accosted in my own home?

The tall one gasped and grabbed me by the front of my shirt just before I cleared the cart. I wrapped my fingers around his and tried to pull free, but he slapped me across the face and, for a moment, I couldn’t see. I babbled instead.

“I have money,” I said. “In the house. I have wood species from across the world worth double their weight in stones.” I have solvents I could melt you with if you’d just come back inside.

“We will have Amada the master woodcutter,” the short one said with a gap-toothed grin. “She’ll come for you, if nothing else, seeing as how well she’s kept you to herself all these years.” He grabbed my legs and, with the taller one, dumped me into the cart. The taller man secured my ankles to iron weights anchored to the cart bed, punched me in the stomach, and left me to lie, staring dumbly at the canopy overhead as he went to assist his partner. Mother would come for me, certainly, but it was the other part of the man’s words that clouded my thoughts.

The cart began to move, jostling over the uneven forest floor. As I tried to regain my breath, my mind jumped, irrationally, back to the house.

“You forgot the panel!” I wheezed over the noise of the grunting ox and snapping branches. To leave it seemed like a stupid waste, even if they had no interest in it themselves. It’d taken us two years to make that thing, Mother and I. Someone should have it, even if just ignorant kidnappers. It was worth more than my life, certainly. I had no guild mark, no formal apprenticeship, no friends to come looking for me, and an undocumented journey-woodcutter was worth only as much as their master was willing to pay. They were going to be very disgruntled when Mother did not appear. And if they found her…gods, if they found her… What did witches want with a woodcutter?

I had my breath back, so I sat up and leaned over the side of the cart. Even with the moonlight, it was too dark to see more than outlines, but I could just make out the taller one breaking away and moving back toward Mother’s house.

Panic gave way to puzzlement as he entered. Had they changed their minds about the panel? I squinted into the night. Was he moving the panel then, or going past it? I’d not yet lit any oil lamps for fear of combustion during the extraction, and so the spark from the guard’s flint burned my eyes. Something caught in the guard’s hand—perhaps a ribbon of paper or a sheet of Mother’s veneer. Whatever it was, the man tossed it inside the house.

“No!”

I screamed it, I think. My throat hurt, either way. The guard jogged back to the cart, and I screamed again, nonsensically. The idiot. The absolute uneducated toadstool. If he didn’t quicken his pace, if we didn’t—

Mother’s house exploded.

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Meet the Author

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and always up for a Twitter chat.

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Release Blitz: Far Patrol by Alex Powell #LGBTQ #fantasy @ninestarpress @aa_powell @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Far Patrol

Author: Alex Powell

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/19/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 59300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, LGBTQ lit, fantasy, dragons, rebellion, class system

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Description

Will war tear their family and their country apart?

Ignius Lockden and their companion Kathely are ready for adventure. Joining Far Patrol was only going to be the beginning—they were right, but in all the wrong ways. Suddenly, there’s a war on the horizon and the two of them are stuck in the middle. Ignius wants to do what’s right, but it isn’t easy to tell what actions will lead to the correct ending. How is one young dragon supposed to change the course of history?

Excerpt

The first thing the dragon remembered seeing was the golden light right beyond the shell in front of them, flickering and lighting up tiny red and silver specks on the surface of their chamber.

It must be time, then.

They scrabbled at the curved inside of the shell, scratching away and scoring the surface. They felt the little nubs of their claws catch on the roughened inner surface. The dragon stopped, waiting to regain their strength. It was tiring work, and presently, the dragon fell asleep again.

They repeated this cycle in longer and longer increments, scratching away at the inside of their chamber. Waiting was over for them, and it was time to emerge. Sleep, wake, sleep.

Again, the light woke them, brighter this time. There were voices outside, and with some excitement, the dragon heard the voice. The one was here. It was definitely time now, and the dragon would stop at nothing to finally greet that voice.

It was a high voice, and it penetrated the shell unlike all the other voices outside. The dragon didn’t care about those ones. They needed to reach the one. Kathely.

The one. Their one.

That voice had started coming a long time since. The moon had cycled countless times, and the dragon knew it well, the voice of the one who spoke to them from outside. That one whispered things to them, told them all about life on the outside. The dragon liked these stories, and even though they couldn’t yet make complete sense of them, the outside called. Kathely was calling, right now.

“Ignius.”

The dragon rocked against the wall of their chamber, pushing as hard as they could. The shell, weakened by their earlier efforts, gave a little under their struggles. It was tiring, but Kathely was there, calling.

“Ignius, you have been Named. It is time to come forth.”

Ignius coiled their tail, lashing it against the weak spot of the shell. Then they struck again as they felt the shell fracture above them. The spikes on their tail made short work of breaking through, and once again, Ignius clawed at the shell, finding the opening. They forced it farther open, lifting their snout to the hole in the shell, taking their first deep breath of air.

They couldn’t see yet, but after a few sneezes to clear their lungs of fluid, they could smell those around them. The nearest person was Kathely, and their one smelled divine, like home.

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Meet the Author

Alex is an author of LGBTQ+ romance. They live in northern Canada where it snows six months of the year. Currently, they are pursuing a PhD in English, but that won’t stop them from writing about space vampires or cyberpunk hackers or whatever else pops into their head. Mostly a SFF writer, Alex sometimes dabbles in other genres including contemporary romance.

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Release Blitz: Long Night at Lake Never by Eric David Roman #LGBTQ #horror @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Long Night at Lake Never

Author: Eric David Roman

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/12/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50100

Genre: Contemporary Horror, LGBTQIA+, horror, horror fiction, queer horror, queer lit, lgbt horror, gay horror, gay lit, dark horror, revenge, slasher, scary, supernatural, camp horror

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Description

Welcome to Camp Horizons, where they pray all day…and get slayed all night!

Nestled against scenic Lake Never, recently outed Tyler Wills has arrived at the secluded conversion camp, where the delusional staff of counselors believes he and his fellow camper’s queer affliction can be healed solely through the power of prayer.

After a full day spent rallying against sadistic deprogramming therapies, the deranged camp director, and planning his escape, Tyler discovers a larger problem—a mysterious stranger has rolled into camp with a grudge to settle and a very sharp axe.

When night falls, the terror and body count rise. And Tyler, along with his fellow campers, find themselves trapped between a brutal, unrelenting killer and their holier-than-thou prey as they desperately search for a way to survive the Long Night at Lake Never.

Excerpt

Long Night at Lake Never
Eric David Roman © 2021
All Rights Reserved

God Hates Faggs

Tyler Wills had not gazed out the car’s window for a solid hour, but when he finally did, those three words angrily mocked him. Each word with its own crudely hand-painted sign, and each one staked in the ground along the roadside. The message, along with the overall cheap tackiness of the signs, churned his stomach.

And they couldn’t even spell it right. Assholes.

After tilting his head back, he nestled against the leather headrest of his father’s Mercedes and rolled his eyes, thinking about life and its accompanying bullshit. How much he wanted to be free—eighteen was ten months away. How much easier everything would be once on his own. Life, his way.

A glance out the window and another sign met his eyes, this one reflective green. It announced they were twenty-five miles from their destination: Camp Horizons. The crude signs, which at first appeared random, now made more sense. Tyler could have groaned or sighed loudly, but no one cared or listened. His parents remained silent the entire three-hour trip, and no noises Ty made were going to change that fact in the last thirty minutes. No radio. No small talk. Only the car’s interior noises, their collective breathing, and the curt driving directions of the British-voiced GPS.

Nadine Wills sat stone-faced and stared out the windshield, only letting the occasional sniffle escape her nose to show she was still alive. Tyler expected a ride filled with screaming and admonishments against his character, but instead, he got the Wills silent treatment. In the two weeks since the night Tyler was brought home by the police, she hadn’t acknowledged him once. She did not listen to him that night either. Once the door opened and she saw Ty there looking small and pitiful with the bulky police officer behind him, she slapped his face and demanded he go to his room. He didn’t, remaining hidden on the stairwell, giggling to himself, as the cop explained to his parents their seventeen-year-old son had been caught in the park giving, as the officer described, “vigorous oral sex.” He emphasized the word vigorous multiple times, either driving home the point he’d witnessed the offensive act, or to show how impressed he’d been by the skills displayed but remained obligated to uphold the law.

Tyler lamented life was not more like porn. If his had been, the cop would gladly have joined in, and Tyler wouldn’t have faced his third strike with Michael and Nadine. The previous two were for his attitude, minor offensives, but this infraction came with the threat of an indecent exposure charge, for which he got let go with only a warning. However, the more significant issue was the revelation their only son was queer. He knew the ordeal would cost him this time, which it did.

One day after the incident, as the event became referred to, Michael barged into Tyler’s room, a disgusted look etched into his worn and wrinkled face, and his laptop clenched in his hands. Tyler rolled his eyes as his red-faced father, livid at his only son for being a filthy fucking cocksucker (his exact words), showed him the website for Camp Horizons, a “rehabilitation” center for homosexual youth. Tyler understood exactly what a pray-the-gay-away-style conversion camp consisted of. He was an educated young man and was aware of what kind of rehab went down at places like those. The blood drained from his face as Michael smirked at Ty’s horrified reaction. Nadine wasn’t present for Michael’s fiery antihomo tirade about how the camp would be healthy for him. Tyler figured a silent or else came attached to the demand he agreed to be fixed. He hoped Nadine would swoop in for a rescue, tell her husband he was being ridiculous as she had in the past and that would be all. But Ty didn’t count on her this time; he knew she wouldn’t leave the safety of the bedroom where the surplus of Xanax kept her numbed and staring at the ceiling in mindless wonderment.

The week until they left for the camp had been hell. They took everything from him: the car went first, the phone next, along with all the electronics, and like a prisoner, his remaining freedoms were stripped away. Tyler spent the week locked in his near-empty bedroom. The severity of his punishment pissed him off and it wasn’t due to premarital sex or getting caught by the police. If he’d been blown by a girl, sure there would have been some yelling and tears since Nadine cried at fucking everything. But once she settled, his father would have come into his room and congratulated him on becoming a man and probably expunged any punishment with a hearty high-five.

No, their anger, their disgust came from the fact Tyler was gay. What infuriated them more, Ty had no issue with his sexuality at all. To them, being queer equaled unacceptable, and yet, he held no shame whatsoever. For the past two years, he’d tried on multiple occasions to come out but always retreated at the last minute. He understood the truth: Michael and Nadine were bigoted archaic assholes. The kind who spoke disparagingly about queer people whenever they showed up on a television show or in a movie. “Ugh, do we need more of them?” Nadine would say as she fidgeted in her spot until the offensive parties left the screen. His father would mumble fags under his breath, and so Tyler would sit there being hurt and annoyed by the two people who were supposed to love him more than anything.

And he thought, foolishly, he could make it to eighteen and get out before he ever had to tell them. His libido thought otherwise. The allegations were true. He’d done everything the cop accused him of—and more—before the offensive flashlight so rudely shined on them in the plastic playhouse atop the slide. Tyler picked at the seams on his jeans and thought about Daniel, his long-time crush, who had finally agreed to meet him.

Closing his eyes, he pictured Daniel’s slender face, his deep eyes, and his full lips, which felt as nice as Ty had hoped. Without any of his devices, there’d been no way to see how much trouble Daniel had gotten into with his family. And no means to apologize or tell him how he’d not stopped thinking about their brief night. Nadine and Michael hadn’t merely sent Tyler away; they’d successfully cut him off from the world. He wouldn’t know if there may have been something more with Daniel than a few quick make-out sessions behind the lunchroom and a sloppy half-finished blow job.

He opened his eyes when his father’s voice demanded he wake up though he had not been sleeping. A large wooden sign filled the front windshield as they passed, declaring they’d reached Camp Horizons. In the camp’s heyday, the hand-carved sign had been brightly painted with yellows and blues, depicting a serene sun setting on a group of cabins. Each ray of the sun became a cross the closer to the camp they reached, but the current state of the sign showed those days were long gone. Now the sign’s faded paint showed off how dried and cracked the wood had become. The sign hung crooked, drooping on one side from damage to one of the posts, which no one had bothered to fix. Past the broken sign were a few hundred more feet of dense forest, which sent a chill, cold and icy, traversing up Tyler’s spine and sent shudders through his body. The camp was more isolated than he realized, and the fact unsettled him. An apprehensive knot formed in his chest and told him this place wasn’t right.

The Mercedes followed the curve of the camp’s driveway, and Tyler saw a trio of cabins nestled together along the rim of the circular drive. Behind them, sloping down the uneven terrain to the edge of Lake Never were several more. From the window, Tyler spotted a round-faced man in his late thirties, with a short beard and thinning hair, wearing a bright-yellow shirt and tan khakis, waving happily at them. Michael pulled the car around until he faced the way they’d come in. He shoved the gearshift into park, pissed off at it and blaming everything in the world for his son being a queer.

Michael turned to face Tyler in the backseat. For a moment, Ty thought his father would finally speak to him, and he did, but not with any words. The anger and disappointment were painted all over his face as they’d been for days, and the look told Tyler without question, you’d better not fuck this up too. Tyler blew him a kiss and flung his car door open, happy for the fresh air. As his parents slammed their doors, the man from the porch trotted down to them.

“The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day, hasn’t he? Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Wills. Welcome to Camp Horizons,” he said warmly, his greeting coated thickly by a Southern accent as rich as syrup smothering a stack of pancakes. He extended his hand and shook Michael’s, and then Nadine’s, who barely registered a response. “Robert Kendall, the camp director here at Horizons. But please, Bob is fine. Been going by it for years. And this young man must be Tyler.” Bob swung his hand over to Tyler, an obviously super fake grin smeared across his round face.

Tyler refused to shake any hands. Instead, he let his focus drift around the camp as Bob spoke to his parents. If Horizons had any glory days, they were long gone. There was not one cabin which didn’t need some form of repair or wasn’t boarded up. Every surface needed a paint job, and the grounds were overgrown, except in the prominent areas along the front to keep the entrance looking deceptively beautiful. Tyler’s sneakers dug into the gravel of the drive, his thoughts only on running away, as Bob led them to the office sitting to the left of the largest cabin, which he referred to as Integrity Cabin.

For a religiously run camp, Tyler found there was not much around touting the place’s pious nature past the crosses on the camp’s entrance sign. In his head, he half expected to see nothing but crosses—hung to everything, twenty feet tall—but the camp appeared subdued.

He recanted this opinion once inside Bob’s office. The room was adorned with an obscenely large and ornately framed painting of Jesus Christ on the rear wall. Between the pictures of the camp through the years were photos of the Guides who had worked there, small but ornate crosses, placards with scripture quotes, and religious-themed motivational posters, which encouraged all to Pray it Away with the power of God.

Situated at his desk, Bob was tiny in front of the looming Jesus, who glared down on them, and the desk was covered with files, papers, and a complete set of apostle bobbleheads.

The Wills family sat quietly as Bob beamed at them with a righteous awkwardness for a silent minute. Exhaling loudly, he leaned his head up to the heavens as he began, “The Lord is here today. Yes, he is. He is always present when one of his disciples begins their Journey.” The word, said often, was always accompanied with a pompous weighted reverence. “Tyler, Horizons exists to restore those trapped within sexual sin. Our program is specifically designed to cater to those that have fallen prey to the sinful cult of homosexuality.” He bowed his head, raised his right hand, and shook like an evangelist on Sunday morning television, casting away queerness like one would cast off the evil eye.

“Homosexuality is a vile disease, and through the power of prayer, we can get Tyler onto the path of righteousness and return him to the arms of our Lord.”

“Kinda thought the idea here would be getting me out of the arms of men, but hey, who am I to argue?” Tyler could do nothing but laugh off the absurdity around him.

“God sees you, Tyler Wills, and your soul is in peril. Do you want to spend eternity in damnation and hellfire? Let’s try to approach this with some decorum. Our mission here is to save your soul.”

Tyler rolled his eyes at the idea of his soul needing saving—an impulse reaction but one that earned him a hard smack across the back of his head from his father.

“How long does this process take, making them straight again?” Michael asked with an annoyed tone, suggesting he expected to literally drop the offensive party off and leave. Nadine sat quietly, not looking at her son, husband, or Bob’s suntanned face. She stared up at the large painting of Jesus, dopey eyed in her sedated state. “Tyler had an incident,” she whispered softly.

“I got caught vigorously sucking some cock,” Tyler boasted as his father fumed, and Nadine covered her mouth and shook her head.

“An incident,” Michael spoke over him, “that concerned us enough to bring him here for treatment.”

Bob put his hands together in a prayer stance and once again sounded like a preacher. “The path to religious righteousness is a thorny one. Romans 12 tells us, ‘Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.’” He quoted the Bible with the slimy ease of a used car salesman trying to offload a lemon.

Michael rudely cut through the religious platitudes. “And what kind of time frame does that entail?”

“Bob,” Tyler interjected before the camp director answered, “my parents are extremely uncomfortable. Neither of them is religious enough to know what Romans means. What they want you to tell them, and in the simplest words possible, is how long this introduction will take. They’re so uncomfortable. I mean, look at how much they want to leave.” The retort was worth the second smack to the head.

“The Journey is two and a half weeks, but they are laborious weeks for sure.” Bob cleared his throat. “Now I’m required to make clear that neither I nor my Guides are actually licensed therapists. We’re merely servants of God, who’ve gone through the Journey and are invested in keeping the camp running so other young people will have a safe space to embark on their own path back to the Lord.” He rattled off a few other disclaimers rapidly before sliding across the desk three papers he advised were confidentiality agreements, each stating the Wills would not divulge their therapeutic techniques.

Tyler figured his father listened and honed in, as Tyler had, on the unlicensed and unregulated part, which to anyone else would have been a huge red flag. He hoped that would have shown his father how ludicrous the entire idea was, and how potentially dangerous. Except Tyler imagined his father hoped the so-called techniques included a little bit of physical punishment. “Fucking kill them all, and we wouldn’t have this problem,” Michael Wills had once proclaimed at the breakfast table in front of his son and wife after becoming annoyed with the ongoing coverage over the fight for marriage equality.

“We here at Horizons have developed our own patent-pending, seven-step rehabilitation program, which will take Tyler on a voyage of self-discovery where he will once again find, through prayer, and our assistance, God’s eternal love. And in that love, he will find the courage to reject these deviant homosexual impulses, falsely implanted within him by Satan.

“All of our Guides have taken the Journey. They are trained to assist other young men and women going through the process. Luckily for Tyler, our attendance is rather low this cycle, which is all the better to give those here a truly one-on-one, immersive experience, which will return him to our Lord and Savior. Through God’s beautiful bounty, we are blessed to be here providing this service to his flock.”

“I’m pretty sure this shit is illegal.” Tyler’s already upset stomach tied itself in more knots listening to the eerie way Bob referred to God so subserviently that it didn’t seem to Tyler like they had the healthiest relationship. Whomever Bob was referring to wasn’t the God Ty knew, and everyone in the room would be gutted to know how well Tyler was versed with the Bible, but he kept that to himself.

“Language,” Bob chided. “We keep our words G-rated at Horizons.”

“Fine, I’ll reiterate—isn’t conversion therapy illegal?”

“No laws have been passed as of yet…in this state anyway,” Bob quickly pointed out smugly before shifting his attention to Michael and Nadine. “As you may have observed driving in, Lake Never is rather large. We are secluded here on the south side. As such, there is no access to the internet. No televisions. No radios. No distractions. And any fraternizing, in a physical manner, is strictly forbidden.”

Tyler sat back in his chair, believing he had found his way out. The first guy he found to be willing—bam—he’d get kicked out.

“Expulsion is not the punishment,” Bob declared as if reading the blueprints of Tyler’s escape plan directly off his face. “The program resets, and our Journeyer must begin again. And if this causes them to go over their allotted time, there will of course be a small fee. We will need to collect Tyler’s phone and any other electronic devices he may have. There is a landline here in my office. If you are so inclined to check on Tyler’s progress, you may call, but the Journeyers are not permitted access to it.”

Tyler laughed. They wouldn’t give a shit about his progress once they drove off. “Don’t have to worry about that, Bob. These assholes don’t care if they hear from their faggy son or not.”

“Language.” Bob’s demeanor flipped, and the word came with a more pointed tone making it clear foul language wouldn’t be tolerated again.

“Tyler, shut up,” his father demanded. “And after these two weeks he will be straight, correct?”

“Oh yes,” Bob assured Michael. “We here at Horizons are God’s mechanics, determined to help fix our brothers and sisters who’ve been led astray.”

“There is nothing fucking wrong with me. I happened to luck out and got these two braindead assholes for parents.” Tyler went to stand up and storm out. Michael proved quicker, snatching his arm roughly, forcing him down into his seat.

“Sit the fuck down right now,” Michael yelled, never once looking at his son. “You will take this seriously. You will follow the rules, and you will not come home until—”

“Until what?” Tyler pulled his arm back. “Until I magically like pussy? There is nothing wrong with me the way I am.”

Michael wound up his hand again and started to say something when Bob jumped in. “Mr. Wills, please. Tyler, we will not accept this kind of talk or behavior at Horizons. That is no way to speak to your parents. One of the commandments is to honor thy mother and father. They are your moral compass.”

“You’re fucking joking, right?” Tyler sat up in the chair and laughed. “Moral compass? My mother over there dopes herself every day to ignore the fact that my father is sticking his dick into every woman he meets. She doesn’t care about this as long as her meds are refilled, and the credit card doesn’t get declined. I do believe gluttony, infidelity, and generally being a shitty person are sins too, are they not? Where’s the rehab camp for these asses?”

Nadine shifted in her seat and exhaled loudly as she turned her face away when Michael sent the back of his hand across Tyler’s face, effectively silencing him. Bob didn’t comment on the slap, waiting a moment until the air settled before he continued.

“We are not here to discuss semantics, Tyler. We’re here to talk about you starting your Journey toward being a straight and God-fearing member of society.”

Tyler rubbed the side of his face, still hot from Michael’s hand, and shrugged the slap off. “I get your gig; you pick and choose what parts of the Bible you feel like enforcing. The rest doesn’t matter, right?”

Bob, still sporting his Cheshire-cat-like phony grin, studied Tyler as he slid the confidential agreement across the desk toward Michael. Bob motioned to the pens in the cup in front of him. “We are going to require our fee up front.”

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Meet the Author

Eric David Roman.com spent twenty years wandering the wrong paths; he tends to get lost a lot (he’s from Florida). He worked the wrong jobs (as it turns out, streetwalking is not a profession for just anyone) and avoided his true passion—writing, or as he refers to it, devouring sleeves of gluten-free Oreos in a dark closet whilst crying. After hitting a low point while trapped in retail management hell (a harsh rock bottom), he rearranged his thinking (now with 75 percent less anxiety and depression) and switched his focus fully to writing; well, as much as his gAyDD allows. And now, you’re reading his bio, so things are progressing nicely. He is the author of the outrageous novella Despicable People, the new novel Long Night at Lake Never, and multiple upcoming works. Eric remains socially distant in Northern Virginia (don’t stalk him, you’d just be disappointed), where he lives, writes, and loves a mix of all things horror, campy, and queer. He spends the days with his adoring husband and loveable cat (both of whom remain indifferent to his self-proclaimed celebrity).

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Release Blitz: The Silver Cage by Ana Raine #gayromance #shifters @changelingpress @AuthorAnaRaine @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Silver Cage

Series: Restrained #1

Author: Ana Raine

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: July 9, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 66

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Thriller/Suspense, Science Fiction, 2nd Chance Romance, Shapeshifters, Werewolves, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy

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Synopsis

Danny barely remembers who he is, let alone his mate. After being taken from his pack years ago by a group of overzealous hunters, Danny identifies only as “Wolf” — the pet of the pack who helps track down other shifters for the hunters’ sport.

When Danny tracks down a female wolf, he hesitates to help imprison her male companion. At first Danny doesn’t remember this wolf, at least not logically, but his senses are completely overtaken and he’s sure he’s met this Alpha before.

This wolf isn’t just his former Alpha. Jamie is also his mate, and after years of believing Danny dead, Jamie’s not going to let his mate go ever again. Even if it means working together to kill each of the hunters so they can never take their lives again — or come between their mating bond.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Ana Raine

I followed him silently, not that there was much of a chance to use words in our wolf form. I was beyond surprised I still drew breath, but I wasn’t going to let him in on that.

He was an Alpha. He was born to be a leader the way all Alphas were. Strong, fierce and with a natural desire to protect. As soon as he’d sniffed me, he’d let out a low growl that had me belly-up on the ground. His nose nudged my neck in acceptance, and then he headed toward the woods with nothing more than his Alpha voice in my head telling me to follow.

I knew he could talk to me with more than just basic commands. At least, he could if he were so inclined. I’d always wondered how powerful the boy who should have been my mate would have been had he been given a chance.

The hunters were behind us, but I knew at least a few would stay with Langdon. Langdon Sr. wouldn’t, though. He would want to come after me and bury a bullet in my brain himself.

Until there was blood, my blood, this wouldn’t be over. I whined and pawed the ground and drank more water than I needed in my effort to get the Alpha to release me. A faint thought popped into my mind that if I crawled back and begged for mercy, Langdon wanted me enough to stop my death. Then we’d go live whatever fairy tale he’d drawn up.

At least it was a life where I knew the outcome. This one with the Alpha just reminded me how out of touch I was with my kind. And with myself. Each step I took without feeling a whip against my flesh was a reminder I no longer remembered what it was to be free.

We ran part of the way, farther and farther from the female wolf who had to have been his mate. The little bit of her blood I tasted on my paw from when I brought her down smelled just like him. Why he was bothering to lead me so far away, I had no idea.

Eventually, the darkness overtook even our wolf eyesight, forcing us to retreat to a mostly empty stable. There was an old horse covered in a wool blanket and chewing some hay lazily.

She either had a death wish or wasn’t fazed by creatures of the night seeking shelter in her barn because she barely batted an eye before going back to her dinner.

An entire side of the barn was empty and had enough closure to keep us warm against the chill. I almost expected him to bark at me to go back outside to keep watch while he slept. Even though Alphas were supposed to act in the best interest of their pack, it didn’t always work out that way. And I wasn’t his pack, not really anyway.

I saw his body twist and contort as the sound of bone snapping and muscle stretching filled the silence of the barn. Fur receded as his skin became visible. With a barking cough that morphed from beast to man in a moment, there was now a man standing in front of me. He had his back to me, obviously not worried I would attack him from behind.

I saw his beautiful pale skin had been marred by a Hunter’s blade. I’d been cut enough myself to know how the scars looked when they faded. It had been years since his flesh had found the end of a blade, but it was there, just visible enough in the moonlight.

He was tall, so much taller than me, and I found myself staring at his legs, the curve of his ass. I longed for him to turn around so I could stare at what I was sure would be the most beautiful wolf I’d ever met since my mate was taken from me.

Hair as red as fire was loose around his shoulders, the same color he’d been as a wolf. I found myself feeling utterly insufficient to even be in his presence. My hair, blond and boring in comparison to his fire.

Just as I was thinking of backing out of the stable to give him space, his command stopped me. “Phase to a human.”

And oh, how I wanted to immediately do what he asked. To phase and to converse with him, but there was more than fear that I’d come across as stupid. There was also the fear I wasn’t enough. And I wanted to be.

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

Meet the Author

Ana is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life, although social work seems to be the most likely. Her best friends are a box of chocolate and her kitten who always sit beside her while she writes. When Ana was in high school, she often wrote about the LGBT community, but now her work is less…innocent. Ana enjoys writing anything and everything, including BDSM, dragons, shifters, magic, and more.

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Release Blitz: Power Play by K.R. Collins #sports #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Power Play

Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Five

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 81300

Genre: Contemporary Sports, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, sports, ice hockey, international tournament, injury, demisexual, questioning, bisexual, asexual

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Description

After two seasons without winning another Maple Cup, the pressure is on for Sophie Fournier to win the NAHL’s biggest prize. It’s her sixth season in the North American Hockey League, and she knows what she needs to do, and how to do it.

Only, she isn’t the only one feeling the pressure to win. Coach Butler’s job is in jeopardy if he can’t repeat the success from Sophie’s third season. As his vision for the team drifts away from Concord’s identity, Sophie is left with a difficult choice.

Does she unite the team behind Coach Butler’s vision and risk losing her team’s identity? Or, does she unite the Condors against their coach and risk her captaincy and her future with the team?

Excerpt

Power Play
K.R. Collins © 2021
All Rights Reserved

And that’s how it’s fucking done.

Lexie’s text is accompanied by a link to an article: Indianapolis’s Young Stars Sign Matching Contracts 10×10. Lexie dragged Chad Kensington into her contract negotiations and demanded they be paid equally.

Sophie texts back.

Good for you.

She means it. Sophie was the first woman to re-sign, and her team undervalued her. The contract Lexie signed is what Sophie deserved. Her term and salary are much lower. She was told to be grateful she was re-signed at all.

This will mean a resurgence in questions about her contract. With so few women in the League, reporters jump at every opportunity to compare them. And, knowing Lexie, she’ll jump at the opportunity to measure herself against Sophie. At least it’ll be a break from talking about another disappointing season.

Sophie made history in 2014 by winning the Maple Cup. It was Concord’s first Cup in franchise history, and she did it alongside Elsa Nyberg. They were the first two women drafted to the North American Hockey League and the first two to win the League’s most coveted prize.

The following year saw a second-round exit. Last year they made it to the Conference Finals, but they lost in five games. This year will be their year again. They locked up Teddy and Kevlar last summer, and Elsa’s negotiating her contract now. They have a strong core. They’ll win another Cup.

She isn’t sure how much longer she’ll last if she doesn’t.

Growing up, her dream was always to play in the NAHL. She fell in love with hockey the first time her brother took her on the outdoor pond with him. The NAHL became her ambition as she watched the Montreal Mammoths lift the Cup, year after year, in their historic Cup run. Her mémé spoke of the players in reverent, hushed tones. She bought Sophie her first jersey and took her to her first professional game. She saw the way the whole city loved their team and told herself one day it would be her lifting the Cup. And she has.

But once isn’t enough. She has a Maple Cup ring, proof of the achievement. She has NAHL records and scoring titles and a sandwich named after her at the arena, but she also has two disappointing seasons, and people are looking for someone to blame. Sophie, as the captain, is an easy target. So is the coach.

She and Coach Butler haven’t always been on the same page over the years. He’s a demanding man who knows how to wring the best out of his players. He’s blunt and brash and, in his opinion, is always right. He’s a contrast to Sophie who grew up learning to moderate herself. On the ice, she can be dynamic but off it she’s composed and calm to the point of being boring. The difference in personality has put her and her coach at odds in the past, but this season they have the same goal: win the Cup and silence the doubters.

Sophie’s phone buzzes with another text from Lexie.

You should come train with me. You might learn something.

There isn’t enough room for anyone else next to your ego.

Lexie sends her a couple of laughing emojis.

Next summer. I’ll even let you crash my Cup party.

Sophie rolls her eyes.

*

Lexie isn’t content heckling Sophie via text. She does a bunch of interviews after she signs her contract, and she pokes at Sophie in every single one.

“Sophie Fournier is the only other woman to sign a contract extension, and yours is much better than hers,” Carol Rogers from After the Whistle says. “You haven’t had nearly the same success she has. How did you convince the front office to give you this deal?”

“Everyone knows Concord lowballed Sophie, and she let them. It meant I wasn’t going to use her as a comparable. Indy drafted Kenny and I together and put us on the same line. We negotiated together. We’re equals.”

“You two have certainly become synonymous with Renegades hockey. Do you worry with your contracts Indy won’t have the room to sign Steele next year? Is this the beginning of the end of the red, white, and blue line?”

“There’s room for the players we need.”

Sophie watches and reads everything Lexie does and uses it to compose her counternarrative.

“Your contract is back in the news,” Ed Rickers says over the phone. Sophie can hear the smile in his words. “Do you regret signing it?”

“No, I’m proud to be a Concord Condor. Being the first woman drafted into the NAHL means I’ve navigated many other firsts. I’m glad Lexie was able to sign a good contract.”

“And yours?” Rickers prompts.

“It was a good contract for me.” I’m being paid to do what I love. Is there anything better? “And it was a good contract for the team. We had the space to extend Teddy and Kevlar last summer, and Elsa’s signing her extension this summer. I want to be a Condor for life, and I want to keep this core together.”

“Are you suggesting Engelking’s contract will hurt her team?”

“I was talking about my contract, not Lexie’s. I know I make an easy target, but I did think before I signed. Was the money or term as high as Dmitri Ivanov’s or Lexie’s or Kensington’s? No. But money wasn’t my only consideration. Concord has become my home. I want to make my career here.”

Rickers reads between the lines of her answers, adds a journalistic flair, and publishes an article propping up Sophie’s team-friendly deal and predicting how long until Lexie and Kensington’s contracts sink the Renegades.

It doesn’t take long for Lexie to call her. “So, I’m a selfish, money-grubbing bitch?”

“And I’m a spineless, desperate one.”

“I really pissed you off, didn’t I?” Lexie sounds happy because she’s a hyper competitive freak. “That or you don’t want to admit how shitty your contract is.”

“We’ve been over this. It was the best they offered. I would’ve signed for twelve years if they asked. But there’s a difference between what I feel and what I say. It’s called having a filter.”

“It’s called being a liar. Did you tell Nyberg she should accept the first shitty offer to keep the front office happy?”

“After your signing, I’d say she’s looking at twelve years, twelve million since she has a Cup and an Alain Benoit to her name.”

“Are you going to bring any of this fight into the season?”

Lexie hangs up before Sophie can answer.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

K.R. Collins went to college in Pennsylvania where she learned to write and fell in love with hockey. When she isn’t working or writing, she watches hockey games and claims it’s for research. Find K.R. on Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Sun, Sea, and Summer Songs by Megan Slayer #LGBTQ #eroticromance @MeganSlayer @PridePublishing @firstforromance

Sun, Sea and Summer Songs by Megan Slayer

Word Count: 30,235
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 121

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

Two men, one song and a summer to reconnect.

Jude Sanders walked away from Blake Payton three years ago and vowed not to look back…but the song he wrote and recorded with Blake has become a hit and he’s forced to perform the song with Blake all summer. He’s got to make a decision—face the mistakes in his past and give Blake another try or turn his back on their love forever.

Blake Payton knew the moment he and Jude recorded Summer Song that they’d created a hit. Summer hasn’t been the same without Jude in his life and he sees the tour as the ultimate chance to prove they belong together.

Will the tour, their lost love and the song of the summer be enough to put the pieces back together for good?

Reader advisory: This book contains references to excess drinking and cocaine addiction, references to abusive alcoholic father and childhood poverty. There is a scene involving sexual assault.

Excerpt

Blake Payton stared at the monitor in his trailer and sighed. He wanted a change in life. Doing the bit part in the movie, a corny movie at that, bored him to tears. He lived to make music, and his career had seen him flying up the charts with pop songs guaranteed to make people dance.

Except no one wanted to listen to his songs anymore. The public wanted to see him deliver craptacular lines and engage in slapstick comedy. He raked his fingers through his hair, not giving a shit that he’d have to visit the hair and makeup trailer to fix his coif. Screw it. He wasn’t important in the film and he doubted they’d miss him if he left the set.

He picked up the hand mirror he used to practice expressions and stared at his reflection. He might only be twenty-eight, but in the music business, that was old. Lines formed at the corners of his eyes when he smiled and… Were those circles forming beneath? Sure, this was the look required for his role in the movie, but did it have to accentuate his problem areas? He needed to put on his armor of makeup to hide behind. When he stepped into character, no one could touch him. Being bare meant the public saw everything. Not good.

He wasn’t fresh and new—he’d been around the block a few times and made nine albums. Sure, he still drew a crowd when he played live, but his promoters swore it was the movies that brought in more money.

He hadn’t started playing music for the money. He did it for the fame and adulation and later the chicks—except girls didn’t do it for him. For years, he’d thought he was doing something wrong when he went out with women. The charge wasn’t there. The instant attraction. He’d told himself the right girl hadn’t come along, but he knew better. He wasn’t attracted to women. Men—slick, sophisticated men—were his drug.

He tossed the mirror onto the sofa and turned his attention back to the monitor. One condition of his doing the movie involved him being able to have a television and access to entertainment outside the set. He loved to view the music videos of his equals and get a grasp on the up-and-coming artists.

Why did everyone on the music feeds have to look the same? Where was the style? The panache? The fun?

The veejay came onto the screen. “Now here’s an oldie but a goodie. It’s racing up the digital charts and proving to be the song for this summer. It’s Summer Song by Payday, featuring Jude Sanders.”

Blake sat up straight and peered at the screen. He was Payday—the ridiculous name his promoter had sworn he needed to break into the business—and Jude… He hadn’t seen his friend in three years. He and Jude had recorded Summer Song at the apex of their relationship. Jude had claimed it would be a good way to show the world how much they meant to each other. Looking at the video and listening to the words now, Blake believed it. The way Jude gazed at him and how they touched during the tender moments made it crystal clear that Jude had loved him—at the time. Now? He doubted Jude would talk to him.

He missed Jude, the way Jude held him, the touch of his hand, his kiss and the soulful look in his eyes when they made love.

Christ. He’d never gotten over Jude.

Jude had moved on, though. He’d begged Blake to admit to the world he was gay because Jude wanted to take the relationship public. Instead of following his heart, Blake had cowered behind his Payday persona and listened to his promoters. No one wanted him to be gay. They wanted the image of a fun, free pop star.

If the veejay was telling the truth, the song he’d recorded with Jude would be played everywhere. He’d never get away from the memories of their love and breakup. At least not for the duration of the summer.

Fuck.

Kel Templeton, his promoter, sauntered into the trailer. “What are you watching?”

“Videos.” He didn’t bother to turn the monitor off. “Remember the song I did with Jude Sanders? Three years down the road, it’s a hit. Summer Song is the defining song of this season—according to the charts. What do you think about that?” He’d known the song was a hit when they’d recorded it, but Kel and others had seen it as a liability.

“Gag. You know why that is?” Kel asked. “Because a few disc jockeys and their veejay friends worked with influencers and kids on the internet to promote it. They made it happen. Big deal.”

“If the numbers are right, then it is a big deal and will be a good payday.” He switched off the monitor. “I could use the money and chance to get back to playing music instead of doing these lousy movies.”

“You’re doing the movie. Period. You don’t need to record music any longer. You can do this and get more attention. Remember how you wanted to do that bio pic? The Rat Ragland film? If you keep doing these and show your range, you’ll get that film.” Kel folded his arms. “You do realize you get more eyeballs this way.”

“Eyeballs don’t help when I’m not getting paid for the work.” He fiddled with the mirror again. The memory of his reflection came to mind. He’d been made up to look old, and the creases and dark circles did him no favors. He wanted to record again. He came alive in the studio and music flowed in his soul. Playing the movie star wasn’t his thing, no matter how much he wanted to do the punk rocker’s bio flick. He hated trying to remember his lines while being someone else. Being himself was hard enough. His fans expected Payday, the flamboyant pop star with no holds barred. They wanted spectacle and sass.

“You’re getting paid.” Kel swatted Blake’s arm. “Grow up and stop getting pissed. It’s crap.”

“Why?” He watched Kel flip through the book on the counter. Blake doubted Kel read much of anything, especially not Shakespeare. He wouldn’t know a rhyming couplet from expository writing. Kel tossed the book onto the couch and glared at Blake. His stare could bore holes through steel when he got angry. Kel liked to use his hands and his thundering voice to get his point across. Most of the time, the tactic worked and Blake benefitted, but sometimes Kel could be abrasive and cruel.

“You have the whole summer ahead of you, so stop thinking about the past and enjoy the sun. You’re in California. There’s sun, fun and chicks. Get laid and shut up.” Kel shook his head. “Ever since Jude got into your brain and messed with you, you’ve been off your game.”

No kidding. Jude had churned up the feelings Blake thought he’d buried. Then again, Blake hadn’t come out to Kel, and Kel had no idea Blake wasn’t attracted to women. Christ. His behavior and appearance, wearing makeup and the rainbow colors, should’ve clued Kel in by now. Every time he did a collaboration, he did it with camp and style. He preferred to sing with other men and be flamboyant.

“Let me find you a chick. We’ll get you sexed up and you’ll chill out.” Kel nodded. “I’ll be back.”

Blake sighed as his promoter left. He didn’t want to be with a woman, random or otherwise. Truth be told, he wanted to be with Jude. That wasn’t going to happen now, and he’d have to listen to their song all summer as a reminder of what he’d given up.

His phone rang. He slapped at the table, using the vibrations to move the device within reach. When he checked the ID screen, his heart hammered. Bob Casey. The last time he’d heard from his friend and former publicist, he’d set up the initial meeting between Blake and Jude. What does Bob want? “Hi, Bob.”

“Blake, the man of the summer,” Bob said. “How are you? Should be flying high. Have you seen the charts? They’ve picked up Summer Song in the clubs and there’s talk of making a dance move for it. Nuts, right?”

“Nuts.” He needed to investigate the popularity of his song. “I’ve seen some of the charts, but I hadn’t heard anything about the clubs.” He reclined on the couch. “How have you been? Organizing up a storm?”

“Not quite a storm, but I have an idea. I can get you a stadium tour to promote your music if you’re willing to go out with Jude. Does that sound good? Sound like something you’d be interested in doing? I’ve got the whole thing pretty much lined up.”

Blake wobbled back onto his seat. Shock washed over him. Bob can’t be serious. “Because Jude agreed to this venture?” he snapped. “I really doubt he would.” He and Jude hadn’t talked in forever and their split hadn’t been amicable. Jude had vowed to ignore him, even if he was the last man on earth.

“No, but he’ll want to do it,” Bob said. “I know him.”

“Why? What do you know?” History hadn’t been kind to Blake, and there would have to be some serious cash involved to get Jude to sign on.

“I know the song is exploding. It’s everywhere and everyone wants to see you together. You two have chemistry. When you sing that song, people believe you love each other,” Bob said. “I knew from the moment I heard it you were meant for each other.”

At the time, he and Jude had been in love. “Jude won’t do it.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I’m pretty sure he won’t.” The words “I never want to see you again” were damn obvious.

“Will you do a tour? Ten to fifteen dates spread over three months? If I set it up?” Bob asked. “If I can get him to go on tour, will you go?”

“Only if he agrees, but I doubt it.” Blake shook his head. “You’ll have to do some serious magic to get it to work.”

“You’ll do it?”

“I want out of this fucking movie. I’m tired of being cooped up on the set because I’m not needed.” If he could spend time with Jude, then all the better. Maybe he could get them back together and work out his issues…because he loved Jude.

“Consider yourself on tour.”

“I film for two more days doing retakes and close-ups,” Blake said. “And there’s Kel. He’ll be pissed. He thinks I’m going to do more movies.”

“Let me handle him.”

He didn’t know how Bob would make this work, but he trusted his old friend. “Once I’m done here, I’m flying out. Where am I going? You’re sending an itinerary? Getting a band together? We’ll have to do some rehearsals.”

“You’ll come here to Cleveland. I’ve got a suite booked at the Crown Hotel and my own recording studio for rehearsals. Two weeks to iron out the wrinkles and you’re off,” Bob said. “I haven’t steered you wrong, have I?”

“No.” He’d been a fool to dump Bob as his management, but he’d thought Kel would get him into bigger venues. He’d been wrong. Kel had got him more notice and made him a bona fide star, but it had been a hollow victory. Blake had had to sell out to get to the top.

“This will be good for you. We’ll work up a theme. How about a sand, sun and fun theme? Tour dates are firming up as we speak. You’ll do three shows a weekend and it’ll be great,” Bob said. “The career will be back on track and you’ll be happy.”

“You can do all of that in one summer?”

“If you trust me.”

“I trust you.” He lived for the thrill of being on the road, holding court on stage and the camaraderie of the touring company. He needed to log miles and play music, but more than that, he needed to talk to Jude. He missed being held, being loved and protected… Jude gave him a place to explore and understood who he was without being judged.

He wanted Jude’s kiss, his arms around him and his love. Just because the song was old didn’t mean the passion had to have ended. His summer song with Jude had another verse yet to be written.

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.

Find out more about Megan on her website, and sign up for the newsletter here. You can also check out her Blog, Amazon Author Page, Bookbub and Instagram.

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Megan Slayer’s Sun, Sea and Summer Songs Giveaway

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Release Blitz: Sun, Sea and Sinful Delights by Jayce Carter #eroticromance #reverseharem @totally_bound

Sun, Sea and Sinful Delights by Jayce Carter

Word Count: 38,639
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 157

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
REVERSE HAREM

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Book Description

Her three sexy houseguests are forbidden fruit, and she really wants a taste…

Jennifer has spent her life trying to be who her rich and proper family wants her to be and never quite living up to it. All that has given her is a failed marriage, a lot of insecurities and a business selling sex toys in secret. When she rents out the rooms of her beach house to three handsome men, however, she wonders if they might just put her toys to shame.

Lucas, Shane and Brandon go on vacation to get over the woman who broke their hearts. They’re tired of being treated as a dirty little secret by girlfriends who enjoy their attention in private but refuse to accept them in public. When they meet the sweet woman who owns the house they’re staying at, though, they realize it might be worth it to take that risk just one more time.

Even as Jennifer starts to fall for the men, she can’t escape the reality that her family will never approve of the odd relationship. In the end, she will have to decide what she really wants—the approval of her family, or a life with three men who make her truly happy…

Reader advisory: This book contains a brief scene involving sexual and physical assault. There is also menion of an emotionally abusive family.

Excerpt

This dildo is way too big.

Jennifer had thought that plenty of times when a client asked her to make something well outside her personal comfort zone, but the payment had always been more than worth it.

Still, when the toy dwarfed the soda can it sat next to, she winced.

No one needs that much.

If any man came at her with that, she’d run in the opposite direction. There really could be too much of a good thing.

She snapped a picture, then finished packing everything into the box. A quick tape job before she affixed the label, and she was done.

Despite their odd proportions, she did love taking special requests. There was something fun and creative about working on a product for a specific client, a challenge that her mass-produced items lacked.

And, yes, so maybe making sex toys wasn’t the creativity most people would picture when they thought about artists, but what did that matter?

She’d found a niche that paid well, that she enjoyed and that she’d found success in.

Not that anyone knows…

She thought about her mother, about the absolute horror that would show on her face if she ever discovered Jennifer’s real job.

Nope. Let her think I just rent out the rooms of my house.

Whatever it took to keep her family off her back was fine by her. Managing them was a full-time job on its own.

Jennifer’s ringtone had her leaving her newly sealed package on the living room table and rushing to answer her phone.

“I think we should try online dating,” Mandy said, mid-conversation as she always was, as if Jennifer hadn’t really needed to answer for the talk to go exactly the same way.

“I don’t think so.”

“Come on. You haven’t been on a date in, like, a year. Don’t you think it’s time?”

“What’s the point?”

“How about sex? Forever love? Sex? A partner? Did I mention sex?”

Jennifer leaned her hip against the stool at the counter. Love wasn’t something she really believed in anymore, and sex?

That was nothing the thing she’d just packed up couldn’t handle just fine.

Well, maybe not that box.

“Internet dating is for people who want to have a higher-than-average chance of being murdered,” Jennifer pointed out.

“It’s for people who don’t go out enough to meet anyone the old-fashioned way. I’ve tried to get you to go to bars, to go anywhere, and you refuse. At this point you’ve got two options—online or bar hopping with me.”

The thought of bar hopping with Mandy made Jennifer instantly feel older than her twenty-eight years. While her friend might be a bundle of uncontainable energy, Jennifer wasn’t.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Jennifer said, ready to go into her hand-holding, sweet rejection that wouldn’t hurt Mandy’s feelings too much. Despite them being good friends, Mandy required a lot of work.

A ringing doorbell felt like a rescue, especially since it was loud enough that Mandy had to have heard. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.”

“You rang that yourself, didn’t you?”

Jennifer laughed, almost wishing she’d thought of that. “No, I didn’t. My renters are here.”

“Oh, right. You’re at full capacity for this week, aren’t you?”

“Yep. All three rooms booked together.” Jennifer had scanned the information first, as she always did. The three men were veterinarians and had the same hospital listed for employment. She liked hosting groups, because they tended to need her to entertain them less than singles.

“Well, if they’re hot, bring them to my place on Saturday night. I’m having a party.”

Jennifer groaned at the idea, having already decided that there was no way she’d be inviting them. Still, it was easier to smudge the truth. “Sure, if I think it’ll be their sort of thing. Got to go.”

They hung up, with Jennifer putting her phone back on the charger. She rushed to the front door, reaching it just after the doorbell rang a second time.

She expected to find three older men, the sort who wanted to get away for a few days. She’d hosted all sorts of people at her beach house, and much to Mandy’s lament, it was never young, hot guys.

Except this time…

On her porch stood three men who could have walked right out of any LA casting call.

Talk about tall, dark and handsome…

Jennifer stared so long that it took the one in front clearing his throat to bring her brain back online.

She smiled, trying to play it off as if it hadn’t just happened. “Sorry. Lucas, Brandon and Shane, right?”

The man in front nodded, though a soft chuckle said he’d caught her slip-up. “Yeah. I’m Lucas, in the jeans is Brandon and in the shorts is Shane.” He gestured behind him, letting Jennifer connect faces to the names she already knew.

Lucas had dark skin and even darker eyes. Stubble over his jaw had started to gray, but somehow it only made him more attractive. He wore a pair of slacks and a tucked-in white polo shirt. His hair was trimmed short and neat, and his smile could melt an iceberg.

Brandon wore faded blue jeans and a T-shirt, his dark hair short and simple, as if he hated going to the barber so always picked the easiest option. He had brown eyes too, but while Lucas’ were oak, Brandon’s were honey.

Lastly, Shane had pale skin and reminded her of a college kid. He had his hair shaved at the sides and messy on top, and the bluest eyes that held an unusual humor to them. He reminded her of Mandy a bit, with that same frantic energy inside him.

Lucas cleared his throat again, and she didn’t bother to hide her mortification. Jennifer had rented out rooms in her house for the past six years—why was she acting as if these were the first good-looking men she’d ever seen?

Probably because they’re the first you’ve been this close to in a long time.

She could almost hear Mandy piping in, telling her to pick one and make a claim.

“Come on in,” she said, trying for casual and to pretend that she hadn’t been staring at them. “You’re veterinarians, right?”

Work was always a safe conversation.

Lucas caried in his bag, the others behind him. “Yeah. We run an animal hospital. Brandon handles livestock and large animals, Shane does most of the day-to-day visits and treatments and I’m the surgeon.”

Well, that explained a bit of Lucas’ I’ve got things under control attitude. While any sort of medicine took confidence, actually cutting into any living being to fix them required a calmness and steadiness that Jennifer sure didn’t have.

When they followed her into her living room, she realized that her house—which she had always thought of as rather large—was not nearly big enough for men of their size.

She led them into the kitchen, showed them where the coffee maker and fridge were, and explained the things she kept on hand. She went over the remotes to the television in the living room, showed them how to get the finicky latch on the back slider open, and the places to sit out back, overlooking the ocean. That was the big draw of renting a beach house.

It was why she could never imagine living anywhere else, either. There was something almost spiritual about waking up to the salt in the air and falling asleep to the gentle rhythm of the waves.

They said little as they went through her routine, taking in the details, not balking at any of her odd rules.

She’d found people often complained about them, thinking they were staying at some five-star resort and forgetting that when they booked a private home, they had to expect some idiosyncrasies.

Finally, they reached the middle floor, where the three main bedrooms sat. A single bathroom was shared between them, but since she didn’t use it, it would be somewhat private for them.

“You can decide who takes what,” she explained. “They’re mostly identical. The builder put all the rooms on the side facing the beach, so they all share a balcony that has stairs down to the beach, and they all have the same view. There’s a shower out back, too, to rinse off the sand. It isn’t fun to track that in.”

Lucas smiled, seeming the quickest to speak. Or maybe he just knew how stunning his smile was, so the group had designated him leader. “Thank you, Jennifer. It looks perfect.”

She tried to tuck her hands into her pockets until she recalled she’d worn leggings, which some idiot had decided didn’t get pockets. “I can make a run to the store tomorrow, and I usually try to pick up a few things for whoever is here. There’s a list on the fridge, so just jot down anything you’d like. I make dinner a lot of nights, and I always make too much, so if you ever feel like staying in, you’re welcome.”

Lucas nodded. “I think tonight we’re going to go out, try something new. Any suggestions?”

“Well, what are you looking for? Quick and local, fancy?”

“Local is more our style.”

Jennifer listed off a few places, all small ones that might not make the list for fanciest but had the best food.

The men thanked her before picking their rooms and leaving her to stare at the end of the hallway.

Mandy’s words ran in her head, and the temptation to give in was so strong, she took a step backward.

Nope. Sleeping with men who were only in town for a week was a very stupid idea, and the fact that she’d even considered it meant Mandy was right. Jennifer had gone far too long without a man.

So instead, she gave in and messaged Mandy.

Okay, set up the date.

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About the Author

Jayce Carter

Jayce Carter lives in Southern California with her husband and two spawns. She originally wanted to take over the world but realized that would require wearing pants. This led her to choosing writing, a completely pants-free occupation. She has a fear of heights yet rock climbs for fun and enjoys making up excuses for not going out and socializing. You can learn more about her at her website.

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Jayce Carter’s Sun, Sea and Sinful Delights Giveaway

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Release Blitz & Review: Sea Lover by J.K. Pendragon #LGBTQ #paranormalromance @JKPendragon @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Sea Lover

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 27300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, MM-trans romance, merman, fisherman, interspecies, fantasy

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Description

Ian is happy with his life in a remote Canadian fishing town, where he has only the sea and his fishing crew for company. People say being alone is terrible, but he’s never had any problems with it.

Then his peaceful life is thrown into upheaval when he finds an injured merman washed up on the shore. With no idea what else to do, Ian takes the merman home and nurses him back to health.

But as he helps S’mika heal, a bond begins to form, and Ian starts to wonder if maybe there is more to life than being alone…

Excerpt

Sea Lover
J.K. Pendragon © 2021
All Rights Reserved

He found the merman on the beach as the sun was setting orange over the horizon and the waves were turning a deep green with foamy, silver tips. The tide was going out, and every time the waves washed over the body lying prone in the surf, they took swirls of dark blood with them.

Ian’s first thought was that it must be a seal, injured and washed up on the beach. He resolved to come back in the morning, drag the thing up to his cottage, and burn it so it didn’t rot and stink to high heaven for the next couple of weeks. But as he got closer, another wave washed in and rolled the figure up and over, so that it was lying on its back. As it rolled, Ian saw a long, spindly arm drop to the side and a mess of shiny, black hair.

He dropped the net and tackle he was carrying and ran, his heavy fishing boots sinking into the sand and catching on the rocks and seaweed as he sprinted towards the figure. He fell to his knees at the man’s side as the waves washed up over his body once more and was distracted for a moment, frantically checking vitals before he glanced over and saw the tail.

Ian sat back on his knees and gave a weak laugh. It had to be a joke. Some very realistic art project that had befallen unfortunate circumstances. But then the figure breathed and convulsed forward, coughing and spitting. Ian stared as the man, or boy—he didn’t look older than twenty—frantically pulled himself over onto his side and pressed his head to the sand, gagging. Then his face tightened, and he made a keening, painful noise, before glancing down at the thick, blubbery, black tail.

Without thinking, Ian lunged forward. “Don’t move,” he said hoarsely, and the boy looked up at him, his dark eyes showing no sign he understood what Ian was saying. His hair and skin were both dark, too, and Ian wondered briefly if the tail was some sort of cultural attire. Or maybe there was a movie filming in the area that he hadn’t heard about? Then he decided that it didn’t matter, because the boy was obviously badly injured, and he needed to get whatever it was off. He reached for his knife at his side and swore when he realised he’d left it in the bag with his tackle.

“Shit. Lie back.” He gently pushed on the boy’s shoulders so he understood. The boy complied, lying back with another whine of pain as Ian moved his hands down his torso, desperately trying to find the place where the brown skin met black pelt. He couldn’t.

“What is this?” he asked, flabbergasted. “How do I get it off?”

He glanced up in time for the boy to make a twisted face. The boy opened his mouth, obviously frustrated, and let out another high-pitched cry, followed by a noise that was halfway between a growl and a bark. Then his head whipped back, and he convulsed again, bringing the full weight of his tail up, and Ian saw the injury—a gash, deep enough to cut through the muscle and possibly tendons. It was difficult to see the depth of the injury, because blood was gushing up out of it as he thrashed.

The blood spattered Ian in the face, and he wiped at it, stunned. This was not normal. Being a fisherman meant he had to be able to handle himself in tense and stressful situations, and usually he was great at it, but this…? This was something else.

“Hey,” he said sharply as the boy writhed on the blood-soaked sand, obviously in terrible pain. “You need to stop moving. You’re only going to make it worse. Do you understand me?”

He didn’t know what he was going to do. He couldn’t possibly carry him, and trying to move him would only make things worse. He had his cell phone on him, but there was absolutely no reception out here. He should go and get help. Get his truck and drive it into town, letting emergency services know. But what would they do with something like this? Ian stared at the limp tail on the sand, blood gushing out of the warm, velvety, and obviously very real tail. His mind was in a fog, and all he could think about were news crews and scientists and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

The boy was looking up at him now, his eyes glazing over a little.

“I-I’m gonna be back,” Ian stammered, standing jerkily. “Stay here.”

He ran the rest of the way home, not bothering to pick up the net and tackle he’d left on the ground, not letting himself think about anything until he’d jumped up into the seat of the old Chevy pickup and revved the engine. He stared at his wild eyes in the review mirror for a moment, wondering if he was going crazy. Then he put the truck into gear and screeched out of the driveway.

The seal-boy wasn’t moving when he got back. Ian drove the truck up next to him on the beach, tires skidding in the soft sand, and jumped out to check on him. His eyes were shut, the silvery sand coated his face and body, and his skin was cold and clammy. But he was still breathing. Ian got up again, pulling his heavy raincoat off as he lowered the tailgate. Then he went to the boy and wrapped the raincoat around him, moving his arms into position and rolling him onto the coat and into a bundle.

He staggered a little as he lifted. He was strong, but the boy was deadweight, and the tail was ridiculously heavy. The bleeding seemed to have slowed, and Ian hoped it wasn’t because he had bled out completely. He dropped the prone body onto the tailgate and jumped up to roll him onto his back again, checking for vitals. He was still alive, breathing shallowly, but Ian didn’t know if he was going to make it. Normally, he’d apply a tourniquet to the limb, but in this case, that didn’t seem to be an option.

He swore and pulled the tailgate shut, jumping over the side of the truck bed and hurtling himself into the cab. He tried to drive carefully, but he knew it wasn’t going to matter how gentle the ride was if the boy bled out before Ian could get at him with his medical supplies.

The sun had set completely by the time he pulled up to his cottage, and the porch light flicked on as he hurriedly unlocked the door and let himself in, swatting at the mosquitoes buzzing around him. He grabbed at the old striped couch, dragging it around so it could be easily accessed from the door, and then rifled through a cupboard, pulling out the old, dusty first aid kit.

When he got back out to the truck and lowered the tailgate, the boy was awake again, staring at him with glazed, frightened eyes.

“Come on,” said Ian in what he hoped was a gentle voice. He reached out and slid the raincoat forward, hauling the whole bundle up into his arms. The boy groaned, his voice sounding more human now, and distinctly pained, and Ian carried him into the house.

He kicked the door shut behind him and deposited the boy as gently as he could onto the couch. His hands were bloody again—Ian noticed as he fumbled for the light switch, illuminating the room with dusty, orange light that definitely wasn’t bright enough. Next to the couch, there was an old end table with a lamp, and he grabbed for it, fumbling to knock the shade off and set it up next to the tail, which was drooping off the couch and oozing blood onto the hardwood floor.

“Okay,” he said as he reached for the first aid kit. “It’s been a few years since med school. How many…five? I dropped out too.” He gave a hoarse little laugh. The boy was looking down at him through groggy eyes, and Ian knew he didn’t understand a word he was saying. But talking helped. “Not that I have any idea how to patch this up anyway,” he continued, pulling on his gloves hurriedly and opening a package of sterilized wipes. “I was trained to treat humans. And I’m guessing you are not that. This is gonna hurt, by the way.” A morphine drip would be nice. So would a sterile hospital bed. But this was as good as it was going to get.

The boy hissed as Ian wiped the wound clean, and when Ian pulled out a needle and cotton thread, he lifted his arms and tried to sit up.

“No!” said Ian sharply, raising a hand, and the boy sank back down, his eyes wide in a mixture of anger and fear. Ian finished sterilizing the needle and thread and held them out to show him. “I’m going to stitch the wound shut. I need to, okay? Or it’ll keep bleeding.”

The boy didn’t look reassured.

“I’m trying to help you,” said Ian firmly, eyes locked with him. “You need to trust me.”

“Trust me,” repeated the boy, so accurately that, for a moment, Ian thought he must speak English after all. He looked like he was thinking hard, which must have been difficult, considering the amount of pain and blood loss he’d suffered. Then he glanced down at the wound and back at Ian.

Ian took that for permission and started stitching. The boy was quiet as he did it, and Ian was worried he’d fallen asleep again. It was best he stay awake, at least until Ian could get some water into him. But when he glanced up, the boy was staring at him, flinching only slightly as the needle pierced the flesh.

“I’m Ian,” said Ian, touching his hand quickly to his chest. “I-an.”

“Ian,” said the boy, emphasizing the an a little too much. His voice was clear, and surprisingly deep, considering how young he looked. “Sss…” he said, and broke off into a hiss as Ian tightened and tied off the first stitch. “S’mika.”

“Smika?” mumbled Ian, wiping away a trickle of blood and pulling another stitch through.

The boy frowned at him. “S—” He made a glottal stop. “—mika.”

“S’mika,” said Ian, and laughed a little at how ridiculous this was. “What are you, S’mika?”

S’mika rattled off something in a language that Ian was absolutely certain he’d never heard before, but S’mika’s tone suggested he’d said something like “I can’t understand you, dumbass.”

Ian shook his head and continued working, his hands thankfully steady. S’mika groaned and lay back, and Ian quickly tied off the last stitch and moved up to check on him. He was shaking, and the skin around his mouth was dry and crusted white. A hand on his forehead confirmed he was clammy and feverish.

“Damn it,” said Ian, and he stood and rushed to the sink to pour a glass of water. He brought it back to S’mika, who looked at it, confused. “Like this,” said Ian, taking a drink of the water.

After watching carefully, S’mika took the glass in shaky hands and brought it to his lips. He made a face at it, as if it wasn’t acceptable somehow, before downing the whole glass and passing it back to Ian. Ian took it, feeling like he was the one in shock, and went back to bandaging the wound. “We need to elevate your…um, legs,” he said, once he’d finished taping the gauze to the soft pelt. “It’ll help with the blood loss.”

S’mika looked annoyed that he was talking so much, so Ian shut up, and S’mika let him lift his tail gently onto the arm of the couch. He’d never been too up close and personal with a seal, but he was pretty sure this was a seal tail. It was thick and blubbery, ending in two stunted flippers with claws. “I must be high out of my fucking tree,” he muttered. “Maybe I’ll wake up in the morning and this’ll all have been a really weird dream.”

He glanced at S’mika to see that his eyes were closed again, and Ian decided to leave him like that. If he died in the night…well, Ian would deal with that if it came to it. He suddenly felt incredibly tired. He’d been up before dawn and pulled a long day, and although he’d just celebrated his twenty-ninth birthday a month ago, he was starting to feel the wear and tear of hard living in his bones.

“I’m going to bed,” he said, gesturing at the door to the bedroom. “Call me if you need me.”

S’mika just looked at him, eyes heavy, but reassuringly a little more alert. “Ian,” he said, and Ian supposed that meant “Thank you.”

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Book Review – 4 stars

Sea Lover is a quick, feel-good read.

The beginning was a bit awkward for me, but by the second chapter the author had immersed me in the story. I loved how sweet and innocent S’mika was compared to Ian’s more jaded personality. They were opposites in every way but complimented each other nicely. The way S’mika accepted that Ian was transgender was exactly what Ian needed. To be accepted and loved without conditions.

It was my first time reading anything by this author. I’ll definitely have to check out more if their books.

Sea Lover had a happily-for-now ending that left me feeling warm and fuzzy.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Meet the Author

J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

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Release Blitz & Review: Elemental Ride by Mell Eight #paranormalromance #LGBTQ @MellEight @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Elemental Ride

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 21300

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, elementals, sprites, motorcycle club, gangs, mail carrier, split personalities

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Description

Rawley isn’t the type to crush hard and fast on anyone, but he’s helpless when it comes to Reign, the new mail carrier. Even his bikes and his job as enforcer for a local motorcycle gang, the center of his world, don’t compare to his interest in Reign. Unfortunately, Reign doesn’t seem to be as interested—but secrets and magic have a way of turning everything upside down and Rawley discovers he not only loves one man, he loves four.

Excerpt

Elemental Ride
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Apparently, the doorbell worked. Not much else in the apartment complex did, but as the damn thing buzzed its loud vibrating hive of angry bees clamoring a second time, Rawley quickly understood why. The thing was so frigging annoying that it was likely never used, thereby saving it from the continual decay the rest of the place exhibited.

It was far too early for those thoughts though. Rawley groaned and scrubbed a hand over his face while levering his body off his rumpled bed and stumbling toward the door. A glance at the clock over the oven on his way past told him it was only eight thirty in the morning. Since he hadn’t gotten to bed until after six, it was pretty damned early to him.

When Rawley threw the door open, no one was there. He blinked stupidly at the empty space and then carefully leaned out and glanced down the hall with the lone, blinking light bulb overhead.

A guy glanced over his shoulder at the sound of Rawley’s door opening and quickly spun on his heel to hurry back. He was wearing a uniform, Rawley saw immediately, and it set him on his guard. Cops weren’t a welcome presence here. Then he noticed the Sylph Post logo on the breast—an artistic logo that, should Rawley twist his head just right, could read Swift Post instead—with a nametag clipped below it that read Reign. He lifted an incredulous eyebrow. Sylph Post was basically the USPS, but was privately owned. Anyone who didn’t trust the USPS or thought Sylph was faster or cheaper went with Sylph instead. Since Sylph had access to mailboxes and also shipped packages, a lot of people used them. Rawley liked not having a government organization going through his letters or coming to knock on his door, so he used Sylph almost exclusively. Still, he hadn’t expected to see one of their employees at his door.

“Mail hasn’t been delivered here in over two weeks,” Rawley drawled. He had stupidly left his gun in the drawer of his bedside table, but it wasn’t difficult to summon a fire sprite to the hand he hid behind his back.

“I know,” the courier gushed, his blue eyes wide and guileless. He held out a brown square package toward Rawley. “I’m Reign, your new Sylph deliveryman. I ended up filling your mailbox with everything else and couldn’t get this in.” The shipping label said it belonged to the supplier Rawley had ordered a part from over a week ago.

He glanced back at Reign, who was grinning uncertainly, his dirty blond hair a little too long under his official hat. That grin started to fade slightly under Rawley’s nonplussed stare, but he still resolutely held the package out. Rawley let the fire sprite fade away before slowly reaching forward to take the package. Nothing happened except the man’s grin returning at full force. He nodded politely to Rawley.

“Have a good day, sir,” Reign said before turning and heading back down the hall and to the staircase that led out of the building.

Rawley stepped back so he could close his apartment door and walked over to his small kitchen table to set the box down. He hunted up a box cutter to slash the tape holding the package shut and carefully tipped it so the packing peanuts spilled across the plastic tabletop. He half expected a trapped sprite to erupt from the box as the peanuts were rearranged, and he was more than prepared for anything that might attack him, but instead he only found the custom side panels he was adding to a customer’s crotch rocket.

Maybe Reign really had been a mail carrier?

If Rawley’s apartment was a piece of crumbling shit, the surrounding neighborhood was far worse. This was gang territory. If you didn’t have a motorcycle and came strolling through this block, you were liable to end up lynched. A couple of blocks over were a bunch of water sprite wackos; only people who held one or more water sprites under their skin were welcome. Was the guy dumb enough to deliver the mail there too? Rawley hoped not. Those big blue eyes didn’t deserve to be darkened by a violent death.

Rawley shook his head to clear those thoughts away. It wasn’t any of his business what happened to the mail carrier, no matter how pretty Reign was. Rawley took one last look at the peanuts and the side panels strewn across his kitchen table, mentally shrugged, and decided to fuck it all until he had enough sleep to actually be thinking straight again. He stumbled back across the room and gratefully dropped onto his bed. Rawley pulled the blanket up to his chin and let sleep take over.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

My Review – 4 Stars

Elemental Ride is a quick read with a feel-good ending.

I enjoyed the characters in Elemental Ride, and Reign/Lief/Skye/Ashe certainly intrigued me. The fantasy elements kept me entertained, even if I did find it odd a gang of bikers was riding mostly Yamaha, Suzuki, and Ducati bikes. There wasn’t a lot of action or heat, but the story contained in the short novella was good. I’d love to read more books set in this world.

If you want a happily-for-now ending in a bite-sized book you can finish during your lunch break, Elemental Ride is a perfect choice.

*I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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