Release Blitz: Dawn’s Light by Shannon Blair #FantasyRomance #LGBTQ @SBlairAuthor @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Dawn’s Light

Series: Duskblade, Book One

Author: Shannon Blair

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/22/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 86300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Royalty, first time, sexual discovery, elves, goblins, duplicity, mercenaries, kidnapping, revenge, action/adventure, coming out, enemies to lovers, in the closet, slow burn, road trip

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Description

Moranthus is an elf who has lost everything. With his lover dead and his career stagnating, he jumps at a chance to redeem himself by rescuing a human prince from the goblins hunting him—even if failure means death or eternal exile from his homeland.

Gerrick, a human soldier who bears an uncanny resemblance to his prince, has always chosen duty over desire. As the sole parent of his young daughter, he needs the extra coin that working as the prince’s body double provides—even if it may one day cost him his life.

When a case of mistaken identity puts the prince in the hands of a goblin raiding party, Moranthus’s and Gerrick’s paths collide. With winter closing in and miles of hostile goblin lands ahead, they must set aside their differences and work together to bring the prince home safely.

Their deepening connection comes with a growing certainty that rescuing the prince may be fatal. Moranthus and Gerrick must each find a way to reconcile his heart’s desires with his homeland’s needs—or die trying.

Excerpt

Dawn’s Light
Shannon Blair © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Moranthus had spent the better part of a fortnight chasing his quarry along the Dawn’s Gate edge of the Ghostwood. His meager diet of chalky waybread and oversalted jerky did little more than take the edge off his hunger, and spending weeks on horseback had left him beyond saddle sore. His days blurred together like the colors of the glowstone he kept cradled in the center of his palm. Though it was his only reliable guide at the questionably mapped edges of this unfamiliar country, the strain of determining where each of its shades faded into the next, counting off one less mile between him and his ever-moving destination, left him with a near-constant headache.

The wide, hilly landscape around him certainly didn’t offer much else to guide him on the rare occasions he glanced at it to ensure he hadn’t strayed too far from the Ghostwood’s edge in his search. Dawn’s Gate’s northern plains didn’t look so different from the southern steppes of Moonridge, his homeland, but in the absence of the bone-chilling winds that screamed across Moonridge’s southern steppes, the still air around him felt foul and stagnant, as though a dozen people had breathed it before him and sucked all the life from it.

But Moranthus wouldn’t have traded any of it for the world. This was the first real hunt he’d seen in over a decade, after he’d made a pariah of himself by getting caught on the losing side of the coup that had killed his Patriarch and set his Patriarch’s illegitimate daughter on Moonridge’s throne. A few minor discomforts were nothing to complain about.

Even the solitude came as a welcome change after finding himself at the center of attention in every human village he passed through. The adults gave him veiled stares and treated him with just enough politeness to make him feel unwelcome. Their children’s endless questions over what had made his ears so long and pointy and whether he’d gotten his purple skin from frostbite, of all things, made him feel like one of the framed butterflies his Patriarch had kept in his study. Moranthus wondered if they treated all elves that way. Or if they knew the shaved sides of his head marked his probationary status in Moonridge and didn’t want him trying to find a place for himself in their community. Not that anyone in Moonridge had treated him much better lately.

*

Just over two months earlier, he’d lounged on the narrow, rickety bed pressed against the left wall of his rented room, happy to be home after the latest in a series of jobs only marginally more interesting than watching snow melt. Beside him, his amethyst cameo of his former Patriarch sat in its usual place near his pillow. Moranthus absently rubbed the carved likeness of his Patriarch with his thumb, missing the days when his work left him feeling fulfilled instead of frustrated. In his service, Moranthus had spent his days tracking down fugitives, missing persons, and lost or stolen valuable objects.

His Matriarch’s latest orders had gotten his hopes up by sending him in search of a messenger who had vanished en route to his destination while carrying sensitive correspondence. But when Moranthus found the messenger’s belongings and gnawed bones strewn about an abandoned wolf den, the “sensitive correspondence” in question turned out to be nothing more than a dinner invitation to the head of a minor noble household. Moranthus had been reduced to a glorified follow-up letter.

The room’s low ceiling and windowless walls made him wonder if it had been part of an attic before its conversion into a living space. The cramped space around him—occupied by a table and single chair pressed against its right wall in addition to the bed and chest of drawers that lined its left—felt comfortable enough compared to the inns he stayed in on the road. After ten years, he hardly noticed the draft his poorly sealed walls let in. The fire he kept blazing in the small fireplace against his back wall kept the worst of the cold out anyway.

The smell of blood from the butcher’s shop beneath him wafted through the gaps between his thin floorboards, mingling in a not entirely unpleasant manner with the crisp, sweet taste of the bowlful of plums he’d made into his evening meal. As he finished each plum, he tossed its pit across the room, where it bounced off his doorknob with a sharp ping before clattering along his floor. It made a completely unreasonable amount of noise, really. But that was the point.

He’d done it as his latest mild act of revenge against the butcher downstairs, who had woken well before dawn that morning for what seemed to be the sole purpose of loudly and thoroughly fucking his wife. For the past several years, the butcher had made a point of waking Moranthus that way every morning after Moranthus returned from a mission and wanted nothing more than a good, long sleep.

Moranthus still hadn’t decided whether the butcher did it as a backhanded reminder that Moranthus wasn’t getting any, or as a bizarre way of marking his territory. More than once, he’d considered pulling the butcher aside and explaining that, if he had any intention of running off with a member of the butcher’s household—which he did not—he would’ve been far more interested in the charming young fellow the butcher had recently brought in as an apprentice. If the charming apprentice in question hadn’t already taken up with the butcher’s wife, anyway. But pointing out that the butcher had an attractive apprentice and an unfaithful wife would probably get him banned from the butcher’s shop, and he didn’t want to go to the trouble of finding another reputable place to buy meat in the lower district of Aurora, Moonridge’s capital. Or a new landlord, for that matter.

The first knock at his door caught Moranthus off guard. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a visitor. He’d halfway decided to dismiss it as a trick of the wind, or a child throwing rocks as an ill-advised form of amusement, when a second knock echoed through his room, followed by several more in rapid succession.

Moranthus slid off his bed and retrieved the dagger he kept beneath his pillow before padding, barefoot, across the floorboards between him and the door, careful to avoid the ones that creaked. No one who’d come to his door unannounced was likely to have anything pleasant in store for him. Not anymore.

He opened his door to find one of his Matriarch’s messengers standing outside, an official-looking satchel in his arms. In that moment, Moranthus wanted nothing more than to tell the bastard that his next set of orders could wait until he asked for them and slam his door shut again.

Instead, he sighed and asked, “What do you want?”

“I am looking for Moranthus. I’ve come to the wrong place, I take it?” The messenger frowned as he cast a disdainful glance over Moranthus. His eyes lingered on the shaved sides of Moranthus’s head and the thick stripe of red hair—the only thing separating him from a clean-shaven full exile—that ran down its center, woven into a disheveled, three-strand commoner’s braid. Outside of Aurora’s upper district, Moranthus rarely bothered with the elaborate, seven-strand affair that marked him as a veteran duskblade. In Lower Aurora, it only served as a marker of how far he’d fallen.

“Not at all. You’ve already found him, in fact.” Moranthus flipped his dagger so its blade rested in his palm and presented its pommel—engraved with a stylized snowhawk, the duskblade insignia—to the messenger for inspection.

The messenger’s face snapped into a toothy smile, oozing false cheer as he presented the satchel to Moranthus. “Excellent. I come bearing orders from our most esteemed Matriarch,” he said, each syllable accompanied by a tap of his well-fitted, overembroidered right boot. The steep, narrow streets that wound their way through Lower Aurora—slick with mud and whatever other refuse trickled down from the upper city—had left it and its twin covered in a layer of filth that would never quite wash off. It served him right for wearing that sort of footwear on the job.

He was a mousy little thing, with pale, watery eyes set in a bland, but well-proportioned face, his ears perfectly pointed and skin a flawless shade of dusky lilac. Probably hadn’t set foot outside Upper Aurora before their Matriarch had sent him on this delivery, no doubt as a punishment of some sort. Moranthus would’ve much preferred the sight of the butcher, his face flushed ruddy-violet from exertion and his blood-stained apron draped over his ever-growing paunch. At least he’d earned his place in the world.

“So I noticed.” Moranthus made no move to accept the satchel.

The messenger blinked at him, brow furrowed in an almost comical display of confusion. “Would you like to invite me in then? I’d prefer to conclude my business here as soon as possible.”

“Not particularly, but I take it I don’t have much choice in the matter.”

“You don’t. There are certain…details our Matriarch insisted I explain to you in person. To prevent any misunderstandings.”

Moranthus opened his door wide and gestured for the messenger to step through. “Let’s get this over with.” Before he lost his temper at being forced to offer hospitality to a highborn busybody, who’d no doubt leave grimy footprints all over his floor.

The messenger made himself comfortable in Moranthus’s chair, his hands folded over the satchel on his lap. Well aware the messenger expected him to remain standing as a way of acknowledging that the messenger acted as an extension of their Matriarch’s will, Moranthus seated himself on his bed and leaned back against the wall behind him. The frustrated glare it earned him made him confident he’d chosen the right course of action.

“So, what’s this all about?” Moranthus gave the messenger the most ingenuous smile he could manage. Best not to press his luck too far.

The messenger took a deep breath, pinching the bridge of his nose as though he meant to fend off a headache. “Our Matriarch has, for reasons far beyond the comprehension of one such as myself, chosen to entrust you with a highly sensitive mission of the utmost urgency. I would advise against treating it with the same flippancy you have shown me thus far.”

Moranthus sat up straight, eyeing the satchel with a sense of curiosity he hadn’t felt in years. “Is that why she was so adamant about you explaining my orders to me?” When they’d last spoken, their Matriarch had told him in no uncertain terms that he should consider himself lucky she’d spared even his life after he’d chosen his master so poorly. She’d then evicted him from his hard-won room in Aurora’s palace and made a point of restricting him to assignments well below his rank, most of which took him as far away from Aurora as possible. Putting this sort of trust in him wasn’t like her. “Because that won’t be necessary. I’m sure our Matriarch has told you all sorts of wild stories about me—most of which, in her defense, are probably true—but I assure you, I am perfectly capable of reading and understanding whatever’s in that satchel of yours.”

“The orders themselves aren’t what she asked me to explain,” the messenger replied. “In fact, I couldn’t explain them if I wanted to. Our Matriarch felt that sharing the exact nature of your orders with me would compromise their security. They should be self-explanatory once you’ve taken the time to read over them.”

“So, if I can’t ask you anything about my orders, what did our Matriarch want you to explain to me?”

“That a great deal depends upon your success in this matter, and that you may find yourself in a more…favorable position upon your return so long as you do not disappoint her. She also instructed me to give you this, to be used in the unfortunate event of your failure.” The messenger retrieved a razor from a pouch on his belt and tossed it onto the bed beside Moranthus. Even tucked inside its wooden handle, its steel blade had a cold, sobering shine. “Does it clarify the gravity of the task that lies before you?”

Using only his fingertips, Moranthus picked up the razor, casting a wary eye over the ceremonial carvings that adorned its handle. So, that was his Matriarch’s game. Either he returned home with news of his success, or he faced the grim choice he’d so narrowly avoided ten years ago: death or exile. Whichever he chose, the razor’s edge would suit his needs. “That it does. I suppose I’d best get to work,” he said. His voice sounded hollow, like a distant echo carried on the wind.

“Indeed, you should. Sooner, rather than later, if you’ve any sense left in that space between your ears.” The messenger got to his feet and placed the satchel on Moranthus’s table. “This contains your orders, as well as everything you’ll require to carry them out. I wish you the best of luck. You’re going to need it.” With that, the messenger let himself out of Moranthus’s room, leaving the door open behind him.

The autumn air it let in felt warm compared to the ice in Moranthus’s veins.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Shannon Blair is a fantasy author with a fondness for elves, goblins, and general otherworldly goodness. Their love of fiction and storytelling drove them to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University, where a short writing exercise spiraled out of control and eventually became their first novel. When they aren’t on a quest to make the fantasy genre a more LGBTQA-friendly place, Shannon can be found inventing whimsical backstories for the colorful crafts and vendors at the craft market where they work. They live on the outskirts of the Denver metroplex with their partner and two spoiled rotten cats.

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New Release: Just My Type by Sophia Karlson #KindleUnlimited #ContemporaryRomance @SophiaKarlson @EJBookPromos

Title: Just My Type

Author: Sophia Karlson 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: February 23, 2021
 
 
 

She hides behind a camera lens. He’s played himself into a corner. Can they outrun the rumor mill and make way for forever?

Hayley Brooke is done with men. So when a sloshed guy at a party makes a sloppy play for her affections, the wedding photographer is relieved when a hunky stranger comes to the rescue. But her gratitude quickly sours when she realizes her savior is the same infamous womanizer she once met on a bad blind date.

Mark Hastings is tired of trying to tough it out. Heralded online as the hottest bachelor on the market, the rugby player’s crippling anxiety steers him well away from the suffocating public spotlight. So saving a familiar pretty face and then being rejected is made a million times worse when pictures light up the internet with salacious gossip.

Horrified to be caught up in the swell of fangirl spite, Hayley demands he set the record straight by being seen with somebody else… only to be bitten by unexpected jealousy. And when they’re forced back together to plan a mutual friend’s engagement bash, they give in to their physical attraction and Mark vows to finally expose his vulnerability.

With social media commenting on their every move, will Hayley ever believe Mark’s love is real?

Just My Type is a heart-fluttering contemporary romance novel. If you like endearing characters, steamy excitement, and breathtaking twists, then you’ll adore Sophia Karlson’s sensual scrum.
Sophia Karlson writes sensual, emotional, and evocative contemporary romance, often set in far-flung settings. She used to work in the travel industry before turning to full-time writing. Her first book, Perfect Mistake, was a finalist for the Daphne Award for Romantic Suspense and won the Kathryn Hayes award in 2019. All her novels can be read as standalone, although she tends to write about siblings because family dynamics are so intriguing.

Taking readers on a journey of their own with her books is part of the plot. Bon voyage!

She loves hearing from readers, follow her on Facebook, or Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Pyotra and the Wolf by Elna Holst #ParanormalRomance #LGBTQ @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Pyotra and the Wolf

Author: Elna Holst

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/15/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 72700

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, Paranormal, Russia, Arctic, oligarchy, shifters, FF romance, supernatural fiction, dark contemporary fantasy, Nenets, wolves, taiga, tundra, adventure, quest, fairy tale retelling, polar night, Northern Lights, cats, budgerigars

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Description

For the space of a breath or two, that wolf had entranced her, mesmerised her, made her believe—the impossible. And that was all it took.

Nothing about this wolf was as it should be.

Pyotra Nikolayevna Kulakova lives in a small Russian settlement in the northern Siberian taiga, where the polar night lasts for a good month out of the year and the temperature rarely reaches above freezing point. Pyotra’s days, too, seem congealed and unchanging, laden with grief, until her baby brother’s close encounter with a tundra wolf upends the lives of the three members of the Kulakov family in one fell swoop.

Pyotra and the Wolf is a queer retelling of Sergei Prokofiev’s symphonic fairy tale, structurally influenced by matryoshka dolls and memory castles. This is a story of darkness and light, love and loss, beast and human. Whichever way the spinning kopek falls.

Excerpt

Pyotra and the Wolf
Elna Holst © 2020
All Rights Reserved

On the day that was to change the lives of the three remaining members of the Kulakov family forever, it was night. Pyotra Nikolayevna Kulakova lived with her grandfather and younger brother outside a minuscule Russian settlement in the northern Siberian snow forest, where the polar night lasts for a good month out of the year. According to the unsmiling face of the clock on the wall on Boris Ilyich’s izba, however, it was in the early hours of the morning that Pyotra pushed her weight against the door, caught between the dread of the freezing cold without and staying trapped inside, unable to procure sustenance for the two men under her care.

Her brother, it might be argued, was too young to be called a man, and her dedushka was worn and grey, an old curmudgeon who had lost his eyesight, if not his wits. Pyotra loved them dearly, desperately, with the parentless child’s determination to cling to what has been left her. Boris, in turn, doted upon his grandchildren: Pyotra, the twenty-two-year-old, and Sergei, nearly twelve. Not that he ever told them as much. It was not his way.

Pyotra sighed as the door refused to budge. A metre of snow had fallen while they slept. “Come help me, duckling, if you want to see the sun again.”

Sergei made a noise through his nose. He sat by the fireplace, fiddling with his tackle, oiling his rod, making sure the lines were not tangled. It was a new favourite pastime of his. Lately, he had taken it into his head that he was to be the future provider of the family. Pyotra assumed it was a notion he had picked up at the village school. Their father had never been much of a provider; he had made sure he had his vodka, and that was that. Sergei was too young to remember.

“There won’t be any sun for another week or so,” he replied, holding his rod up for inspection. “And stop calling me ‘duck.’”

Pyotra hid a smile. She was by no means ready to let go of her private memory of Sergei taking his first waddling steps towards her, as their mother, Serafima, gasped, “Look, look who’s walking. My little duck!”

It was all that Serafima Anatoliyevna had left her offspring; that and her grey-blue eyes, her peculiar-coloured curls, and her steely resolve to survive, to thrive, even in the most austere and unforgiving corner of the world.

Except, she hadn’t. She had walked out into the Arctic night, only to be brought back by a search party a few days later. Parts of her, at least. Bones, hair, ravaged flesh, the gold wedding band by which she had been identified. Attacked by a pack of wolves was the universal verdict. Their father could not cope, it was likewise said; he drowned his sorrows in liquid comfort and went down with it.

And then they were three.

Pyotra Nikolayevna had never been able to forgive her parents for dying. But she could not give up on their little duck, bright-eyed and pink-faced, holding his chubby arms out to her as if she was the centre and epitome of existence.

His arms were not that chubby any more, but still.

At the table, Boris moved uneasily, his unseeing eyes directed towards the unflinching darkness of their one grimy window to the outside world.

“Let it be, Pyotrushka,” he burred, winding his fingers through his beard. “There’s an ill wind blowing. It smells like…wolf.”

Pyotra clicked her tongue. Shaking her head at her grandfather would be a waste of energy better employed in breaking out of the snowed-in log cabin. “For pity’s sake, Ded. This isn’t the nineteenth century, nor even the twentieth. The weather holds no omens to be deciphered. If you smell something off, it’s probably Sergei.”

“Ey!” Her brother looked up at her for the first time, adorably affronted.

Pyotra winked at him and turned to give the door another mighty shove. It cracked open a centimetre or two, a small avalanche of fresh snow tumbling in through the opening.

“Bring me the spade and the bucket, duck,” she called over her shoulder to Sergei, her tone of voice forestalling opposition.

As she started shovelling, clearing a passage out at less than a snail’s pace across a rugged cliff, Pyotra Kulakova sighed anew. This was going to be one long day, irrespective of the lack of sunlight.

*

It was past noon before Pyotra and Sergei—who eventually grew bored with his own resistance—had managed to come as far as to the communal road leading down to the village, which had been cleared by the local snow removal team. Pyotra took one look at Sergei’s blanched face and sent him back to fill up the samovar for Boris, while she proceeded down to the one shop within an eighty-kilometre radius.

“I will be back in a couple of hours,” she told him, pinching some warmth into his cheeks. “Don’t do anything stupid, please.”

“I’m not the stupid one.” Sergei stuck out his tongue and batted her hands away. “That hurts!”

“Not as much as frostbite, let me tell you. Or better yet, let Dedushka tell you. That’ll keep you both occupied.”

With a rude sign—another new trick they had that eminent educational institution to thank for—Sergei ran back to the alluring warmth of the hearth. Watching him go, Pyotra felt a sting of loneliness. Of loneliness, but also of the constant worry that came over her whenever she had to leave him, leave them both. Since her father’s earthly remains had been lowered into the ground to join her mother’s, two years after their first, gut-wrenching loss, Pyotra Nikolayevna had lived with a droning terror at the back of her mind, which she hadn’t any better name for than Things Could Happen. The namelessness of it only served to magnify her dread.

Shaking herself, Pyotra straightened her headband torch, hiked her empty rucksack higher onto her shoulders, and set off.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Often quirky, always queer, Elna Holst is an unapologetic genre-bender who writes anything from stories of sapphic lust and love to the odd existentialist horror piece, reads Tolstoy, and plays contract bridge. Find her on Instagram or Goodreads.

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Release Blitz: Time Cures by Tag Gregory and Lily Marie #LGBTQ #timetravel @TagWritesBooks @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Time Cures

Series: Time Adventures Series, #4

Author: Tag Gregory & Lily Marie

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date: 2/14/21

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 238

Genre: Romance, Time Travel, Adventure, LGBTQ

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Synopsis

Cocky American Ad Exec, Bradley Connors, and his courageous ex-RAF fighter pilot husband, Janes Garrett, are back in London and once again separated through the power of time. With James stranded in 1956 during a polio outbreak, a world of homophobia threatens to keep him from the man he loves. How will he talk himself out of the trouble he’s unwittingly creating? Who from his past can he rely on to help him get home to Bradley? Will they be able to save their friends from the deadly pandemic or will they too perish in the attempt? And can they do all this while reaffirming that nothing can tear their love apart, not even time itself? Time Cures is a love story like no other. It’s a romance through time.

Excerpt

“Considering the length of time he was unconscious, I feel it imperative that he remain in hospital for at least the next twenty-four hours for observation. Provided no other symptoms manifest, he can be released to his family at that time,” Dr. Donaldson advised.

James was relieved that the diagnosis wasn’t worse. He knew Bradley was still going to be angry at him for getting hurt. Again. At least he would be angry – once Bradley got over being relieved – when James finally got around to calling him.

“Pardon me, Doctor,” the nurse interrupted before the doctor could make his grand exit. “But, before ya came in, the patient was showing signs of confusion and talkin’ all sorts a nonsense. I’m thinking he mighta banged his ‘ead a bit harder than he’s lettin’ on.”

“Confusion?” That got the good doctor’s attention.

“Yes, Doctor. He was spoutin’ some nonsense ‘bout needin’ to ring his husband, an’ seemed to think he had a telephone in that kit bag of ‘is.” The nurse pointed to James’ messenger bag while giving the doctor a knowing look.

“Is that so . . .” The doctor turned back to his patient, one bushy eyebrow raised inquisitively, much more interested in the young blond man now than he had been initially. “Do you remember your name, son?”

“Yes, of course. It’s James Garrett.”

The doctor nodded and asked another question. “Do you remember the accident that gave you that bump on the head?”

James thought about it, but just came up blank. He started to shake his head to indicate ‘no’, only the gesture made the dizziness and nausea worse. He groaned and dropped his head into his hands. “No,” he moaned.

“Well, that’s not a good sign,” Doctor Obvious surmised, his eyebrows knitting together so closely that they now looked like one long, hairy caterpillar creeping across his forehead. “Now, what’s all this chit chat about a telephone and a husband?”

“I just want to call him and let him know where I’m at,” James offered, feeling and sounding pathetic even to his own ears.

“You say you have a . . . Husband ?” The doctor very clearly emphasized the word ‘husband’ in a disbelieving tone of voice.

“Yes! I want to call MY HUSBAND, okay?” James was losing patience with the proceedings and his voice had risen commensurately with his annoyance level. “His name is Bradley Connors. We’re here visiting from the United States; Bradley has business with a big client here. We’re staying at The Strand Palace. He’s probably waiting for me there and, most likely, has already called the police to help find me. If you’d just let me get my cell phone out of my bag I can call him and he’ll come down here and take me to a different hospital where they’ll stop asking me idiotic questions . . .”

The doctor interrupted him before he could continue his rant. “Do you know where you are right now?”

“You mean the hospital? The nurse said it was St. Bart’s. Or do you mean London?”

“Righteo. And what’s the date?”

“Um . . .” James had to think a little about that, his memory going a little fuzzy on him. “I think it’s still Monday, right? August . . . August 14th?”

“Close. You got the date correct but it’s Tuesday. What about the year?”

“2017 . . . ?” James answered, starting to get a funny feeling about where all these questions were leading.

“Hmmmm,” was Donaldson’s only reply. Then he turned to the nurse with more directions. “Clearly, this is a much more serious case than I previously suspected. We could be looking at Traumatic Encephalopathy or, perhaps, some type of advanced psychosis. I’m going to call in Dr. Abbott for a psychiatric evaluation. Change the charge order to note a seventy-two hour hold.” Returning his attention to the patient he added, “never fear, young man. We’re going to take good care of you. Hopefully, by the time we’re done here, you’ll be in tiptop shape once more, back in full possession of all your mental faculties.”

With that proclamation, Dr. Donaldson spun about and started for the door.

“Wait,” James shouted after the departing man before he could exit. “What year is it, really?”

“1956, of course!”

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Meet the Authors

TAG has been writing for almost a decade, starting out with a hesitant toe in the realm of fanfiction before venturing into the scarier world of self-publishing original works. With an eclectic background as a lawyer, microbiologist, all-around nerd, and adventurer, TAG brings that off-kilter sense of humor, unbounded curiosity, a love of details, and astonishing powers of research to all their writing. If you are looking for a griping story, with compelling characters that deal with real world issues, then you’re in the right place.

Lily has been writing close to for twenty years, but has only ever (until recently) dipped her toes into writing fan-fiction. Lily is a born and bred Londoner and loves nothing more than getting lost in a book – whether it be writing one of her own, or reading something from one of her favorite authors. In her spare time, Lily likes to think of herself as somewhat of a disability rights activist, helping to create change for those that may not have a voice to speak up or, like Lily herself, those that may have been too quiet to stand up for themselves.

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Release Blitz: Sticks and Stones by Steve Burford #thriller #LGBTQ @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Sticks and Stones

Series: Summerskill and Lyon, Book Three

Author: Steve Burford

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/08/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 69600

Genre: Contemporary Police Procedural, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, crime/thriller, family-drama, murder, drug dealer, school, politician

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Description

“He’s a thug… a really nasty piece of work.”

When young Clayton Kerry, member of a notorious Worcester family, is found dead on an abandoned factory site, it looks like an accident. Some even say it was what he deserved. But headteacher Alun Blake’s refusal to sugarcoat the truth about the pupil he excluded causes outrage in the local community and sparks a vendetta against him that rapidly spirals out of control threatening both his life and that of his daughter.

When Detective Inspector Summerskill and Detective Sergeant Lyon investigate, they find Clayton’s death was by no means as clear cut as it had seemed and that they are at the start of a trail that will take them into the heart of a school and far beyond the boundaries of their city, to crime on a national scale.

As they uncover what really happened, Summerskill and Lyon are brought face-to-face with uncomfortable truths about their own lives and relationships. Personal loyalties are tested, and before the case is through, at least one more person will die.

Sticks and Stones is the third in the Summerskill and Lyon series of police procedural novels.

Excerpt

Sticks and Stones
Steve Burford © 2021
All Rights Reserved

“And some sad news just in. A tragic accident today on the site of one of the county’s oldest landmarks has resulted in the death of a Worcestershire schoolboy. Fifteen-year-old Clayton Kerry was killed when one of the walls of a building on the site of the old William Fitzmaurice brewery collapsed.

“The Fitzmaurice brewery, once the producer of some of the county’s most prestigious beers and ciders, has been a familiar site on the banks of the River Severn for as long as anyone in the county can remember. For decades, however, it has been closed and deserted, its buildings neglected and crumbling. All attempts over the years to procure the site for redevelopment have been blocked by legal wranglings within the Fitzmaurice family.

“James Fitzmaurice, oldest surviving member of the brewing family, today said that he and his family were deeply saddened by the death but that they could take no responsibility.

“We’ll have more on that story in our local news bulletin later this evening. And now, over to Duncan Lewis with today’s weather…”

The picture on the screen changed to an earnest young weather forecaster in glasses, smiling in front of a map of the country even as a mass of CGI storm clouds crept in from the west.

“Tragic accident.” The man in the bed yawned, muted the television, and carelessly tossed the remote control to one side. “It was hardly going to be an amusing accident or a laughable misadventure, was it?”

Sitting on the other side of the bed, Dave Lyon paused in the act of pulling on his trousers. “And is that all you’ve got to say about it?”

The man he’d addressed gave one of his typical crooked smiles, laced his hands behind his head, and lay back against the large pillows. The sheets were pulled down low over his stomach, and Dave didn’t doubt that their position and the pose had both been deliberately chosen to afford him a good view of the body he was getting ready to leave. It was a great body. “What do you want me to say?” Sean Cullen asked. “That I’m heartbroken over the death of some kid I’ve never even met? Touch hypocritical don’t you think?”

“You’re an MP. I thought that was part of the job description.”

Cullen smiled again. Dave’s barb hadn’t pierced his thick politician’s skin at all. But then Dave hadn’t thought for a second it would. “And you’re a detective sergeant. Didn’t you detect anything about that report?”

“What do you mean? It was an accident. The report didn’t say anything about suspicious circumstances.”

Cullen tutted slowly, clearly enjoying himself. “You heard them say the old Fitzmaurice brewery has been closed for years, and I mean years. Even I used to slip through its fences and hide in the buildings when I was a kid.”

“Bunking off from your posh public school for a crafty fag with the lads?”

“I was never one of the lads, David, and even if I had been, I wouldn’t have wanted them with me while I was enjoying my cigarette and a copy of Zipper or Vulcan or whatever I’d managed to get my hands on. Anyway, these days the old Fitzmaurice brewery has got more barbed wire around it than the nearest HMP but it’s still notorious as a hangout for kids drinking and taking God knows what. Which means, the victim of our tragic accident would have had to walk through several very obstructive fences and have failed to notice several very prominent warning signs before he made it to the buildings where he was no doubt in the act of doing something very naughty before a ton of bricks fell on his trespassing little head.” Cullen assumed an expression of mock surprise. “I know my constituency, sergeant. Don’t you know your beat?”

Annoyed with himself and with Cullen, Dave was damned if he’d show it. Now he thought about it, he did remember some talk back at the Foregate Street station about the brewery, but he was still comparatively new to the area, and neither the name nor the reputation of the place had struck a chord when he’d heard that television report.

Cullen, of course, made no allowances. The product of an Oxford education, where he had been on a winning Boat Race team, and of an adversarial parliamentary system where he had been, when elected to the House of Commons over a decade previously, one of the youngest MPs in the house, Sean Cullen was an extremely competitive man. And that competitiveness, Dave was discovering, extended all the way into his personal life.

Dave took some comfort from the image of the young public school boy Cullen had been, sneaking off to abandoned warehouses to smoke and enjoy gay wank mags. It was good to remember he hadn’t always been the high-profile, smug arse he was now. “Well, whatever he was doing, I doubt it was going through his collection of gay porn.”

“You think kids have changed so much?”

“No. But they do have the internet. Any young lad these days can pleasure himself blind in the comfort of his own home. Straight or gay.”

Cullen reluctantly conceded the point. “Mind you, it wasn’t all just about the fags and mags.” He yawned lazily, like a self-satisfied cat recalling an empty carton of cream.

Dave buttoned up his shirt, began the search for his shoes, and refused to give Cullen the satisfaction of asking what he meant by that. How was it you could only ever find one shoe when you were trying to leave a guy’s bedroom? “Why’d you even want the television on anyway?” he asked as he searched. “You trying to impress me with the size of your screen?”

“I thought I already had impressed you. And I was hoping,” Cullen went on, before Dave could reply, “to catch something about my Fitness First initiative. I did an interview about it yesterday for the local news. They said it might be on today. We’ve probably missed it. Or it’s been dropped in favour of the tragic accident. I’ll check again later.”

“Want to see how good your profile looks on the television?”

Cullen smiled, the sheet over his body slipping down another inch, almost accidentally. “I know how good it looks on television.”

Yeah, I’ll bet you do. Like the body, Sean’s was a great profile. With those cheekbones, there had to be aristocracy somewhere in his family bloodline. “I’m only surprised you haven’t got a mirror over the bed.”

Cullen yawned. “Too seventies. And it would get in the way of the cameras.”

Missing shoe found, Dave stood, reached for his jacket, and forced himself not to look up at the ceiling over the bed. A joke. Just a joke. Don’t give him the reaction he wants. “I’ll see myself out, shall I?”

“I think you know the way by now.”

At the bedroom door Dave stopped, hand on the handle, and looked back. Cullen’s eyes were closed as if he was already drifting into sleep. “You never ask me to stay.” It was a simple fact, calmly stated.

Cullen didn’t open his eyes. “Would you?”

Dave considered. “No. See you later.”

“I look forward to it.”

Neither man suggested when or where that might be.

This had been their third hookup at Cullen’s house since that night they had walked out of Gallery 48 together, and this was pretty much the way it had ended the previous two times. Dave couldn’t see that changing any time soon.

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Meet the Author

Steve Burford lives close to Worcester but rarely risks walking its streets. He has loaded conveyor belts in a factory, disassembled aeroplane seats, picked fruit on farms, and taught drama to teenagers but now spends his time writing in a variety of genres under a variety of names. He finds poverty an effective muse, and since his last book has once again been in trouble with the police. (He would like to thank the inventor of the speed camera.)

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Release Blitz: Birthday Presents by Dianne Hartsock #LGBTQ #thriller @diannehartsock @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Birthday Presents

Author: Dianne Hartsock

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/08/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 47500

Genre: Horror/Thriller, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, suspense, crime, serial killer, law enforcement, kidnapping

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Description

Crimson loves to dance. He adores watching the pretty boys grind to the frantic beat of the music and picking out his lover for the evening. But more than that, he lives for his birthday, that one day a year he gives into his darker impulses: choosing a young man to lure into the alleyway with promises of sex, then slitting his throat in the midst of their passion and reveling in the hot blood on his hands.

For Tracey Winston, life has become a nightmare. Kidnapped from a nightclub in Boulder, Colorado, brutalized and raped by Crimson, he’s held captive in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains along with sweet Kyle, a young man Crimson keeps chained to his bed and is slowly torturing to death. Though Tracey manages to escape with Kyle’s help, he has to leave Kyle behind in Crimson’s cruel hands.

Detective Gene Mallory has never stopped looking for his brother Kyle, kidnapped from a nightclub seven months previously. The case breaks open when Tracey Winston comes forth at the urging of his new boyfriend, claiming to have knowledge of where Crimson is hiding out. A manhunt begins with Crimson continuously slipping through their net. Lives are on the line, with both Gene and Tracey being targeted by the killer. A traitor in their midst tips Crimson off to their plans.

Crimson’s birthday has come and gone, and he will kill again.

Excerpt

Birthday Presents
Dianne Hartsock © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
Excitement plucked at Crimson’s nerves, and he licked his lips, his blood surging to the merciless drumbeat. He rolled his hips to the music, an old White Zombie album, the static only adding to the nostalgia. Raising his arms, he pictured the hot body he’d grind against at the club that night, young, slim, rounded ass snug against him. Maybe he’d get his hands under his shirt, a finger in the guy’s pants stroking the wet tip of his cock.

He imagined the breathy moans in the dark alley afterward. The scared whimpers, screams muffled by Crimson’s hand clamped over the gorgeous lips he’d ravaged of their sweetness moments before. He felt the hard knife in his hand and shuddered, envisioning the hot blood pumping over his skin when he slit the vulnerable throat. Fuck, he loved his birthday!

Tossing the comb he’d run over his long hair onto the cluttered vanity, he then trailed fine-boned fingers over his chest and flat stomach. Pert nipples ached to be teased. A secret smile slid over his black-painted lips as he cupped the bulge in his tight jeans. What boy could resist this?

After adding a black tee shirt, he searched the dark eyes in the mirror, pursed his lips. Gloss? Definitely. He knew a certain bouncer at the club who was susceptible to Cherry Kiss. Well, that and Crimson’s mouth on his dick.

He narrowed his lids at the crescent moon scar under his left eye, temper flaring through him. Though healed, the skin was still an angry red. That bitch Tracey…

Crimson willed his hands to unclench. Nothing that a little concealer couldn’t make disappear. A thump sounded on the wall, and a frown marred the perfect features in the mirror. Kyle knew better than to disturb him while he was dressing. His face softened. Kyle. His little gem. How long had they been together? Six months?

The eyes in his reflection widened. That would make Kyle twenty. He’d forgotten they shared a birthday.

“Crimson’s coming, angel,” he murmured and grinned viciously at the name, blood and pain and death. He’d used other aliases in the past, but this was by far his favorite.

With a last glance in the mirror, he left the room and crossed the hall, tapping on Kyle’s door before entering. Kyle lay in the middle of the bed, his pale skin decadent against the red silk sheets. His darling looked lonely. Of course he did, with Tracey’s side of the bed empty. How many times had he stood at the foot of the bed to watch them play together? Or join in, lost in the haze of sweat-slicked skin and hard cocks, lips and tongues and roving fingers, pain and ecstasy.

But yesterday Tracey had left them as if their time together meant nothing, betraying Crimson’s trust. He drew several deep breaths, letting the anger roll through him, then out in an exhale. Tracey was dead to him.

“Did you need me, sweetheart?” he asked as he lay down and gathered Kyle in his arms. His skin felt dry, soft, tight over a sparse skeleton. Crimson could break his bones if he held too tightly.

Kyle’s enormous light blue eyes swam with tears, bright with desperation. So lovely. “You’re leaving again?” he whispered, timid.

“We’ve discussed this. I always go out on my birthday.”

“But if something happens to you…”

“I suppose you’ll die of starvation. No, thirst.” Crimson laughed at the shiver that swept the emaciated body. “Nothing will happen to me. Promise.”

Crimson picked up Kyle’s shackled hand with its long chain bolted to the floor and kissed the palm. He stroked Kyle’s limp cock and watched with satisfaction as it thickened under his touch. “Would you like me to fuck you tonight?”

Kyle nodded, despair in his eyes. Crimson kissed his sweet lips, his heart moved. Kyle had been a wild thing during their first months together. Running his hands over the thin chest, he regretted the scars he’d had to put on the pale flesh before Kyle had broken. He twisted a pale nipple and grew hard at the gasp and shudder from his lover.

He leaned up on an elbow. There was no reason he couldn’t stay and play with Kyle before he left. His cock ached with the thought. No. Denied lust would add a delicious edge to the evening. But still…

Leaning across Kyle to the bedside table, he fingered the silver nipple clamps. His baby loved those. The plug? No, he wanted Kyle nice and tight when he got home. Cursing the time, he gave Kyle a last passionate kiss. “I’ll be home soon.”

Kyle rolled against him, wrapping him in skinny arms. “Don’t go. Stay with me. I’m afraid when you go.”

“Hush, baby. You won’t even know I’m gone.” He kissed Kyle’s damp eyes and licked his tears.

Crimson reluctantly left the bed. Kyle’s pleas tempted him, but he had something to take care of before he could wring pain and pleasure from his lover’s body. He whistled on the way downstairs, pulling on thin black gloves. Grabbing up his keys from the hook by the door, he then stepped into the afternoon sunshine and drew a deep breath of the warm, pine-scented air. It was a twenty-minute drive into town, which left plenty of time for shopping and a meal before the clubs opened. Perfect.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Dianne is the author of paranormal/suspense, fantasy adventure, m/m romance, the occasional thriller, and anything else that comes to mind. She lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Oregon with her incredibly patient husband, who puts up with the endless hours she spends hunched over the keyboard letting her characters play. She says Oregon’s raindrops are the perfect setting in which to write. There’s something about being cooped up in the house with a fire crackling on the hearth and a cup of hot coffee warming her hands, which kindles her imagination.

Currently, Dianne works as a floral designer in a locally-owned gift shop. Which is the perfect job for her. When not writing, she can express herself through the rich colors and textures of flowers and foliage.

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New Release Blitz: Poz by C. Koehler #ContemporaryRomance #LGBTQ @christopherink @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Poz

Series: The Lives of Remy and Michael, Book One

Author: C. Koehler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/25/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 65900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, young adult, sports, family-drama, gay, HIV positive, HIV, AIDS, in the closet, coming out, rowing, illness/disease

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Description

Even at an allegedly gay-friendly high school, being out isn’t easy, not if you play a sport. Remy didn’t just play a sport, he lived for a sport. He bled crew and rowed with his best friend, Mikey. He’d known him forever but was a year ahead of him in school and crew, varsity to his JV. But then something changed. They were on the way to a regatta in San Diego and suddenly they noticed each other. Remy don’t know what happened. They’d changed in front of each other in the locker rooms all the time at school. But Remy’d never looked and suddenly all he could do was stare.

Remy thought Mikey felt the same, yet somehow Mikey didn’t want a relationship. Whatever, Remy didn’t have time for drama. They had a major regatta to prepare for. They make apps to help lonely young men to find temporary companionship, and let’s just say, Remy enjoyed the summer before his senior year. Then everything caught up with him and it all came apart.

Mikey was furious, but if he didn’t want a relationship, why was he angry? It turned out there was a price for playing around, and when Remy got sick, he had to wonder, where would Mikey be?

Excerpt

Poz
C. Koehler © 2020
All Rights Reserved

When all this started, my older brother Geoff didn’t know I was gay, at least not to my knowledge. I’d called him “Goff” when we were really young because I couldn’t pronounce his name. He’d called me “Germy” because he couldn’t say Jeremy. He still calls me Germy, even though everyone else calls me Remy. I still called him Goff, so I guess that was fair.

Goff was thirteen minutes older—we were twins of the fraternal variety—and he milked that older bit like a Holstein cow. Thirteen minutes, but you would have thought it was thirteen years. Anyway, he played football. He looked out for me, or at least tried, but he was and is straight as a plank. We wrangled a lot, still do, but he saved me from a lot of homophobic hassling, sometimes at the hands of his own friends, without even knowing I was gay, which was pretty cool of him.

“Teammates,” Goff would say. “They’re not my friends, not if they’re giving you shit.”

He was a good guy when he wasn’t being an asshole.

That said, Goff never understood a fundamental part of me, at least not until I came out to him. I guess that was my fault though. How could he when I’d never told him I was gay? But how could I when I couldn’t have borne losing my brother? He was my twin, the person I was closest to in the world. Losing him would’ve meant losing a part of me. We fought like cats in a gunnysack and it drove our parents crazy, but they never understood that we went to the trouble of irritating one another because we loved one another. We certainly weren’t going to tell one another that. We were (and are) teenage males. Dad was a shrink. Dr. Babcock should’ve gotten that but didn’t.

So anyway, Goff missed a major piece of who I was and everything that went along with it. Now I wouldn’t say all teenage boys were sex-obsessed, just every one I’ve ever encountered. But he had all the sex he wanted and had no idea what it’s like not getting it. For me, it was not being gotten. So, I was horny as hell in high school and about to burst. That was the start of all my problems, I guess.

Our family lived in Davis, an über-liberal organo-groovy college town about seventy miles from San Francisco. Davis had bought into Cesar Chavez’s grape boycott, which I read about in history class; it made itself a nuclear-free zone, which was kind of a joke when UC Davis boasted a particle accelerator of its very own. Besides, what good would the declaration of being a nuclear-free zone have done? Protect the city if the US and the USSR had nuked each other? There were three major Air Force bases around the city during the Cold War. There’d have been a bright-blue flash and then nothing. Good luck with that nuclear-free zone. The city was also a declared sanctuary for undocumented immigrants. I could go on, but why bother? A homecoming prince even brought his boyfriend to prom one year. As a gay kid, I should’ve been golden in a city and high school like this.

But someone forgot to send my parents that memo, or at least my mother. Mom was a smart woman—she majored in chemistry in college and went on to become a drug rep for a pharmaceutical company after she decided getting a PharmD wasn’t for her—but she was oblivious sometimes, especially where Goff and I were concerned. Of both our parents, she was the louder with the compulsory heterosexuality messaging, things like telling me I was morally obligated to take some unpopular (read: fat with braces) girl to the prom. She said it was my “gentlemanly duty” or some such bull, but Goff and I both knew it was because she herself had been fat with braces in high school. She wasn’t doing it deliberately—trying to make me miserable—but she succeeded admirably.

Women in Mississippi had taken their girlfriends to prom, or at least tried. Hell, even in Davis a few years ago, the aforementioned homecoming prince took his boyfriend, but my mom? She thought I had to make life better for every desperate and dateless girl out there, just to restore some cosmic balance because her life sucked during high school. Why didn’t she get that this was my life, my one-way ticket through high school, not her do-over?

When I said things like that, her response was, “I think you can take one evening out of your life to make a difference in someone else’s.” Given the essentially obligatory service hours necessary to get into college these days, I thought I already had.

My boyfriend could’ve plowed me on the table at Thanksgiving, and she would have still said that. If I’d had a boyfriend. Well, there was Mikey Castelreigh. He wanted to be my boyfriend. I thought of him more as a kid brother even though he was only a year younger. I felt like there was a big difference between a sophomore and a junior in high school, however. Mikey looked like he missed the puberty train. I had a left hand. What I needed was a close friend who was gay. Mikey fit that bill very well.

Even at good ol’ tolerant, GSA-sporting Davis High, it wasn’t easy being different. We were still teenagers. Being smacked on the ass with the gay wand when I was born didn’t change that. I wanted to think Mikey understood that. I think what Mikey didn’t get was why we couldn’t be friends with benefits. Uh…because it would have been like blowing my brother? If I had a brother who swung that way. But then, as has been pointed out to me many times, I also saw what I wanted to see and not always what was really there. Or boats. I saw rowing-related things very clearly. It was life that tripped me up at every turn.

But telling my parents? Like that would ever happen. Hear that flapping noise? That was the pigs flying out of my butt, which would happen right before I’d tell my parents I liked the cock. I never got the best vibe off them where that was concerned. Sure, they had gay and lesbian, even trans, friends, but it was different when it was their kid, you know? They were on a need-to-know basis where my life was concerned. Coming out? Survey says: No!

Goff told our parents about a lot of things that went on his life—whereas I told them very little—but then he and I had very different relationships with them.

“So how’s that working for you, Goff?”

“Shut it.”

I smiled, but it was really more of a smirk. “Still think having the olds know every single detail’s harmless?”

“You’re really kind of a dick sometimes, you know that?”

“Everybody has to be something, I guess.”

“Really? I thought you were more of an asshole.”

He had no idea what he was doing to me with this conversation. I mean, the homoerotic subtext was barely sub. Sure, Mikey and I were going to die laughing about it later, but right then I had to bite my tongue, and that was kind of painful.

I looked at him for a few moments, totally expressionless. Just long enough that he’d gone back to his homework. Just long enough to make him squirm. “What? You’re creeping me out.”

“I could’ve sworn I heard you say stop sleeping in your bed when you sneak out to see your girlfriend.”

Mom and Dad never checked on me. Ever. I never gave them a reason to. Goff? Too many. Neither of us was stupid enough to think pillows under the blankets would fool them, but me in his bed? Physically we were nothing alike, but at least I made breathing sounds. We had a Jack and Jill bedroom setup where our rooms met in a common bathroom. We locked the bathroom door leading into the hallway and put the pillows in my bed, I moved to his, and he was out of there. He always showed his gratitude.

“You… That’s harsh, man.”

“Times are hard.”

Goff threw down his pen. “Why’re you doing this?”

“Because it’s almost summer, which means fall’s not that far away, which means neither is the prom, and it’s never too early to present a united front.”

“You’re really twisted, you know that?”

I shrugged. “And you know she’ll try to get you to take someone besides your girlfriend, since you quote, unquote haven’t been dating that long.”

“They’re not that bad,” Goff said, sighing.

“Have it your way, but don’t come whining to me when Mom does exactly that.” It’s not that I was smarter than Goff. I wasn’t. But I was smarter in different areas, like sneaking. It was like he didn’t have an ounce of guile in him. Apparently, I received both our shares. Somehow, and despite getting him into endless trouble when we were children, he still trusted me. Maybe it’s because as we grew older, I got him out of scrapes, at least when I knew about them in time.

Maybe I shouldn’t have complained. Goff got the same kind of nonsense from our parents, too, and never mind that he had a girlfriend. She wasn’t even a cheerleader. She was supersweet and amazingly intelligent. He met Laurel because I brought her home to study for AP Biology I. It took him a few months of whining like an Irish setter, but they eventually took to studying each other’s biology. I knew this because Goff was too chickenshit to buy his own condoms, so I had to buy them for him.

Speaking of shit of whatever species, Goff was in it because a teammate was caught dealing molly. Goff’s friend slash teammate was busted by the cops at a team party. Oddly enough what our parents freaked out about was that Geoff had alcohol on his breath. He blew a 0.12 as a matter of fact. I think that was half again the legal limit. Yeah, hi, Mom and Dad, he was at a party where the host was busted for dealing Ecstasy. You maybe want to focus on the larger picture? Or maybe they were, because I knew for a fact my brother didn’t and wouldn’t take drugs. Anyway, Goff couldn’t fart without them breathing down his neck for a while.

But if I’d known about the party, I’d have told him to watch his step, because rumors of drug-dealing by members of the football team had been flying around school for weeks. At the very least, he might’ve limited himself to a beer or two instead of getting trashed. Then Goff could’ve told the olds, “Sorry, Mom and Dad, I know it showed bad judgment, but I planned to call Germy to come and get me.” And I’d have absolutely covered for him. For that matter, he could have gotten trashed, and I’d still have picked him up if he had warned me in time to cover for him.

Weirdly enough, they were totally permissive where I was concerned. They thought I was a late bloomer and hoped the talks they gave Goff about sex applied to me, too, because they made me sit down and listen to every single one of them, not that they contained anything I needed to know. But the last one? I couldn’t take it anymore and I cranked up the sarcasm. It bugged Dad, I knew that for sure, and I was pretty sure I managed to irritate Goff, and never mind the fact that he was sick of those talks too. Goff already knew not to get his girlfriend pregnant and to make sure he was in charge of his birth control.

Except for the condom buying. I was in charge of that.

“Could you maybe shut up, Germy? This is bad enough without your sniping.”

Dad nodded. “Please listen to your brother. I get that you may be too old for these, but you’re not making this easier on any of us. If you stop, I promise this will be the last one.”

“You’ve said that every time, Dad. Yet here we are, another ho-hum day in paradise listening to these riveting talks,” I said acidly. “I think we’ve got a lock on the prevention of premature grandparenthood. Not much else, but babies are definitely one sexually transmitted parasite we can rule out. Maybe someday we can move on to spirochetes.”

“Jeremy…” Dad said in that warning tone of his. It held a hint of a threat, but what did I care? I’d heard it all my life and it had long since ceased to have the desired effect. It was more proof that I was the changeling, the odd Babcock out.

These things were so stupid. Take today’s lecture. Please. Dad actually had the nerve to refer to the labia as a butterfly. How the hell was I supposed to keep a straight face when confronted with that? Dad was going on about female anatomy again, trying to help Goff—and presumably me—locate the G-spot. I would never need to know, and based on the noises issuing from Goff’s room of an evening, he already knew exactly where to find it. What I needed—what we both needed—was basic information on sexually transmitted infections. Anatomy had been covered in eighth-grade sex ed.

Yet this was vintage Dad, blithely charging ahead, with Goff in tow more or less willingly and me digging in my heels every step of the way. I could not say Dad never heard, if only because sound waves did stimulate his auditory nerves. It never changed his behavior, however, and trying to persuade Dad was like arguing with the wind for all the good it did, at least not once he had a notion fixed in his mind. Mom had some facility in managing him, but then, she had more experience. Goff and I were only teenagers, so what did we know? I was convinced that was how Dad’s thought processes ran. The bizarrissimo part of it all was that Goff was the good twin whereas I questioned everything, fighting anything I thought absurd with tooth and claw. I had even overheard Dad say as much when he thought he was unobserved. Yet Dad—both parents, really—kept Goff on a shorter leash.

I thought this different treatment was because of our different sports, I really did. Football? Sure. Everyone knew the deal or thought they did. What they really knew was the reputation that came from a bunch of idiotic movies. Goff sure wasn’t like that, and most of his football friends weren’t either. But crew? They had no idea about crew, not really, and never mind the stupid amounts of parental involvement my club required. No, when Mom and Dad were in college, rowers were pale, muscular gods and goddesses who walked the campuses, ate obscene amounts of food after their early-morning practices without gaining a pound, and stuck mainly with their own kind. They told me as much. That my club’s juniors program practiced in the afternoon must have thrown them off my scent, because I had a tan despite the sunblock.

Seriously, I got away with murder. Or at least I did the summer before my senior year, and the person I killed—or almost killed—was myself. After that? I lived on Cellblock Q.

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Meet the Author

Christopher Koehler always wanted to write, but it wasn’t until his grad school years that he realized writing was how he wanted to spend his life. Long something of a hothouse flower, he’s been lucky to be surrounded by people who encouraged that, especially his long-suffering husband of twenty-nine years and counting.

He loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it’s in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.

While writing is his passion and his life, when he’s not doing that, he’s a househusband, at-home dad, and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and the other ways people behave badly.

Christopher is approaching the tenth anniversary of publication and has been fortunate to be recognized for his writing, including by the American Library Association, which named Poz a 2016 Recommended Title, and an Honorable Mention for “Transformation,” in Innovation, Volume 6 of Queer Sci Fi’s Flash Fiction Anthology.

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New Release Blitz: The New Next One by Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood #sportsromance #LGBTQ @RyanTaylorandJ1

Title: The New Next One

Author: Ryan Taylor & Joshua Harwood

Publisher: Wainscott Press

Release Date: January 22, 2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20,000 words

Genre: Romance, New Adult, Friends-to-lovers, new adult romance, hockey romance, sports romance

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Synopsis

How much are you willing to give up for the man you love?

Best friends Nick Johnson and Tyler Jensen seem to have the world by the tail. The eighteen-year-old stars of their school’s hockey team are looking forward to playing in college and hoping for careers with the pros.

Nick and Tyler know a lot about each other, but there are a few important details they haven’t discussed. To start with, neither man knows the other is gay. Making things interesting, Nick has a massive crush on Tyler, something he’s kept to himself for a long time. And although he’s never said a word about it, Tyler has wanted to date Nick since they met.

On a cold Minnesota night after a big win, Tyler finds the courage to confess his feelings to Nick. When Nick admits his attraction to Tyler, their relationship turns on a dime. As they fall in love, they skate around the challenges of a secret romance in an all-male boarding school, but what will happen when the stakes rise dramatically in a sport not known for being gay-friendly? Will Nick and Tyler make the easy choice or the hard one?

The New Next One is a 20,000-word, new adult, friends-to-lovers romance featuring young athletes, plenty of steam, and a lot of emotion. The events of this book precede those told in the authors’ book Nice Catching You.

Excerpt

The two of us bundled up and walked south along the lakeshore. We talked about different things—school, what was going on in the NHL, and the big celebration of our championship that would happen the next week when everyone was back on campus. Ty reached for my hand after we passed the cabin. Even with both of us wearing mittens, it felt incredibly good to be out walking on a beautiful day, openly showing affection with my boyfriend. By the time you’re eighteen, holding hands with somebody you’re dating probably doesn’t seem exciting to most people; for me, it was huge, and I wanted to shout out loud. Instead, I pulled us to a stop and kissed him.

Afterward, he tweaked my nose. “I know everybody we play against thinks you’re a real bastard, but you’re actually a sweetheart.”

I gave it right back to him. “They all think you’re a bastard too. Haven’t decided where I stand on that.”

“What do you mean?” He turned his head to the side, looking very cute with tufts of hair sticking out from under his Penguins beanie. “I’ve always been nice to you.”

“I guess so.” I gave him another peck. “Why’d you make me wait all these years?”

I made you wait? Hell, I’m the one who finally worked up enough courage to do something about it.”

Turning him loose, I backhanded his arm and made a silly face. “I guess I’m glad about that.”

His jaw fell into an open-mouthed smile, and he shook his head. “Every man for himself, Johnson!”

He took off running, and I laughed hard as he bent over to pick up a fistful of snow. Quickly shaping it into a ball, he threw it at me and missed by a mile.

“You throw like a girl, Jensie!” I followed that up with a snowball of my own, hitting him in the middle of the chest.

“That’s it, you’re really gonna get it now!”

An epic snowball fight followed as we whooped and hollered, tossing chirps back and forth almost as fast as we volleyed snowballs. We worked our way into the woods as we ran. Ty was a good shot, and we played like little boys on recess after a hard morning at school. When we were both covered with snow and out of breath, Tyler stared at me until my heart raced with anticipation. Finally, he broke into a run. His hug was bone-crushing, and the hungry kisses were messy and delicious. The moment was all fire and promise, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the dorm. He pulled away from my mouth and mumbled, “You’re the most beautiful thing I ever saw, Nick.”

I huffed in cold air while my heart tried to hammer through my ribcage. “Not as beautiful as you.” I pulled him closer for a slow, deep kiss, and when that finally broke, he got a naughty gleam in his eye.

“We’re already covered with snow, so—” He pushed hard, and I tumbled backward into a snowbank. He jumped on top of me, and we wrestled around, making out while we laughed and played. My scarf slipped out of place, and Ty kissed my throat over and over, making me as hard as one of the trees surrounding us. After more rolling around, I was on top, and we lay humping in the snow. We had on heavy parkas, and it was too cold to take off any clothes, so our game was destined to end in frustration. All the better for a mind-blowing first time later that night.

We’d long since removed our mittens, and when we stilled, I wiped some snow off his cheek. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve never felt this way before.”

“Nothing’s wrong, Nick. Everything’s right for once. We’ve got each other.”

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Meet the Authors

Ryan Taylor and Joshua Harwood met in law school and were married in 2017. They live in a suburb of Washington, DC, and share their home with a big, cuddly German shepherd. Ryan and Josh enjoy travel, friends, and advocating for causes dear to their hearts. Ryan also loves to swim, and Josh likes to putter in the garden whenever he can. The romance they were so lucky to find with each other inspires their stories about love between out and proud men.

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Release Blitz: Love Kills Twice by Rien Gray #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance @riengray @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Love Kills Twice

Series: Fatal Fidelity

Author: Rien Gray

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/18/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: F/NB

Length: 39500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, assassin, artist, bi, dark, pan, nonbinary, interracial, murder-for-hire, murder, ex-military, guns, sexual tension

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Description

She needs an assassin.
They’re the best in the business.
Falling in love was never part of the deal.

Desperate to escape her abusive husband, Justine hires a contract killer. Campbell’s services come at a high price, and their dark, seductive charisma leads Justine right into their bed. Hiding an affair while Campbell designs the perfect murder has Justine walking a tightrope of stress, but each time the two of them sleep together, it’s harder not to get attached. Campbell struggles with their own traumatic past, convinced that the truth will drive Justine away.

There’s a faint hope that things could work, save for one problem: Justine’s husband wants her dead too.

Revenge is easy—heartbreak could cost both of them everything.

Excerpt

Love Kills Twice
Rien Gray © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Justine

I always imagined hiring an assassin would go differently.

There would be at least one dark alley, a furtive phone call, an exchange in cash⁠—of course it’s cash—and the curse of waiting afterward, whether for the police to arrive or finding out my money went to a fraud.

Instead, I’m sitting in Ortolana, one of the nicest restaurants in Chicago, trying to decide if ordering a rare steak is too on the nose. The server eyes me with refined impatience since my dining companion made their choice in a few brisk words: black coffee, the yellowtail collar, no appetizer.

If this is one of the last meals I ever eat because I had my husband killed, I’m indulging in the steak.

“Anything else for you, ma’am?” the server asks, mouth tight.

I smile. Better to be remembered as polite, if I’m remembered at all. “No, thank you.”

When he disappears with our order, they⁠—Campbell⁠—give a minute shake of their head, amusement a glint in gray eyes. “Not gunning for a tip, is he?”

“Maybe I don’t look like I have money.” To be fair, the fifty thousand dollars I’d spent a decade saving was about to go to the person across from me. “Or he thinks you’re the one who’s paying the check.”

From the outside, it must seem like a date. I’d delved to the back of my closet for a slinky black dress that’s been kissing mothballs since Richard and I attended his holiday office party. My makeup is just this side of sultry, but that isn’t for Campbell’s sake. Painting confidence on my skin with a nice red lipstick and dark eyeshadow is what I needed before I could walk out of the house: a sharp, composed mask.

Their suit is a breath away from black, but in any shift of light, the true cobalt of the linen shines through. Campbell eschews a tie, leaving the top two buttons of a crisp white dress shirt open without any adornment. It bares a triangle of sun-touched skin and the sharp edge of their collarbones.

I deal in paintings, but Campbell is more of a classic statue: sculpted jaw, full mouth, and cheekbones that could blunt a chisel. An aquiline nose adds to the effect, and Campbell’s chestnut hair is tamed in a professional cut. It’s an older style, with an understated elegance.

If we passed on the street, I would have let my gaze linger, but nothing about Campbell says “killer.” Maybe my assumptions are lost in that fictional back alley, chasing black leather gloves and silenced pistols.

“I’m not what you expected, am I, Justine?”

The question snaps me back to the present, and I’m not sure how long I’ve been staring at Campbell⁠—or exactly when they caught me. “Sorry. I’m not doubting your…qualifications.”

A tease of blue plays across each shoulder when Campbell laces their fingers together. “What surprises you the most?”

I cut my teeth on a hundred answers, starting with the locale and ending with the fact that they look more like an executive than an assassin, but the devil is in the details. “The coffee, I think. It’s almost seven at night.”

Campbell’s smile is a half-inch flash of teeth. “I tend to operate at night, but I can rarely indulge in caffeine.”

Nights, of course. This dance around the obvious is practically a farce, but it’s not like I want to announce my true intentions to the Friday night crowd. Our booth is in the corner, but it’s not soundproofed. “Why not?”

“It can make your hands shake.” They gesture to punctuate the point. “Which is a problem when I’m working. For a business dinner, not so much.”

Our server returns with the drink in question, setting an elegant cup on a saucer in front of Campbell. Despite a kneejerk longing for wine, I’m glad I stuck to water. I need to keep my wits about me.

When Campbell brings the coffee to their lips, it’s a fluid movement, surgical in its precision. I wonder what those hands can do⁠—will do⁠—to Richard. A gun would be easiest, I guess, but that’s far beyond the only way to kill someone.

He’ll never hit me again. He’ll never cheat on me again. He’ll never treat me like an ignorant girl, oblivious to nights at the university getting longer and our bed getting colder. I won’t be trotted out like a trophy in front of his fellow professors, who chuckle at his brilliance without having the first clue that I funded both of his degrees. I might even have friends in the future, ones he won’t drive away inch by humiliating inch.

“You really are sure about this,” Campbell says softly, setting their cup back down. Porcelain touches porcelain without a sound.

“Of course I am.”

Acid clings to my tongue, eating at the accusation, but they take it in stride with another fleeting smile. “That’s part of the reasons I take my clients out to dinner, Justine. To make sure there are no doubts. Once I accept a contract, I don’t stop until it’s done.”

A wave of embarrassment douses me, tightening my throat. “Right. I’m sorry. It feels like I’ve been taking everything personally lately.”

At least, according to Richard.

“You keep apologizing, but you don’t have to.” The shine in their eyes isn’t amusement this time; it’s something else, unreadable. “At this point, I’m beyond being offended. And you’re paying me a considerable amount of money.”

“That doesn’t mean I want to offend you, no matter how impossible it might be,” I say.

What I want to say is that I can’t remember the last time I had a night out like this, or the last time someone looked at me as more than an accessory. Campbell is watching my every move, but what should be terrifying is only leaving me hungry for the attention.

They kill people for a living. Why doesn’t that scare me?

“I do appreciate good manners,” Campbell comments, but their gaze flickers over my shoulder. “Tuck your elbow in.”

“Why?” The question is instinctive, but I listen anyway, bringing my arm in against my side.

Out of the corner of my eye, the server reappears with a covered silver platter, swiftly delivering it to our table. He removes the polished lid, announcing our entrees with theatrical detail, but my eyes aren’t on the food. They’re on Campbell, waiting for an answer.

I don’t get one until the server is out of sight.

Campbell smooths a silken napkin across their lap, then takes the provided pair of chopsticks in hand with the ease of long practice. “Considering the angle he took from the kitchen, he wouldn’t have been able to see you there with the tray in the way. It’s a design flaw in an otherwise lovely restaurant.”

I raise an eyebrow, picturing a comedy of errors that ends with eighty dollars of wagyu beef in my lap. “He would have knocked into me?”

They hum in agreement, then turn their chopsticks to sharper purpose, peeling a portion of crispy fish clean from the bone. It gleams, white and bare. “I thought I’d save you the trouble.”

Unease coils in the pit of my stomach. Meeting Campbell hadn’t set me on edge, but something about them reading the server’s approach in a blink and warning me with casual detachment does. That kind of reflex hangs the word “danger” in my mind like a neon sign. They’re a predator, surrounded by unknowing prey.

I glance down at my steak, then summon the will to pick up my fork as if I eat with professional killers every night of the week.

“It’s normal to be nervous.” Campbell tucks a bite of yellowtail between their teeth. It vanishes quietly. “As long as you’re set on what you want to do, you can be as nervous as you like.”

I must be radiating anxiety, but it still feels like they read my mind. “Details would help me relax.”

Even on a twisting stomach, the steak is the perfect amount of decadence, butter, and salt. I cut into another piece, juices spilling free under the serrated edge.

“What kind of details would you like?” they ask.

“When is this happening?” My eyes fall on their near-empty cup of coffee. “Not tonight, I know, but when?”

“Depending on the complexity of his schedule, my window is three weeks.” Their chopsticks dart around a fragile fin, seeking a thread of meat hidden underneath. “That includes scouting, alibi, and execution.”

I pause with my next bite halfway to my mouth. Execution bleeds with meaning, visceral and full, but it’s not inaccurate. “Your alibi or mine?”

“Yours,” Campbell confirms. “It wouldn’t do for you to be too close to any accidents.”

An accident. That’s probably what they’ll put in the paper. Richard is well known enough to earn an article, if not a front-page one.

I nod. “Do you need anything from me?”

“Once payment is settled, a copy of any of his keys that you can get ahold of. The same with his schedule.” Their gaze pierces me through. My blood turns to ice, but my heart beats faster. “Is your husband predictable, Justine?”

What I hear is will it be easy?

A smile rises to my lips unbidden. “Very.”

The rest of dinner passes in silence, save for an occasional comment on the food. It’s nice enough that I almost forget why we’re here, snapping to reality as our plates are cleared and the check arrives. Campbell does pay, using a couple of large bills. Once our server is gone again, they retrieve an envelope from inside their jacket. It’s already open when they offer it to me, revealing a packet of papers.

“What’s this?” I frown, prying out what’s inside.

They keep the envelope.

“The contract for the painting you’re about to purchase, of course.” Campbell’s expression is open but empty, like a door leading to an elevator shaft. “Your money has to be invested properly.”

I unfold the packet revealing an agreement of sale contract, the same sort I see ten times a week at the gallery. As I scan each page, lines of familiar legalese jump out. It’s legitimate, or would be if Campbell actually had a painting that I wanted to buy.

“Don’t tell me you’re a lawyer too,” I say.

Campbell shakes their head. “No, but I have a very competent one. She keeps a lot in order for me.”

It’s perfect. There are a dozen other contracts like it in my desk drawer, and the number for an offshore account jumps off the page, waiting for my transfer to put it out of reach and otherwise untraceable.

“But how did you know I…” When we spoke on the phone, Campbell never asked what I did for a living. “This is too fitting.”

“I don’t show in person before looking someone up.” They produce a pen, handing it to me. “And I had to make sure you could actually pay me.”

If I had my way, I’d be making art and not selling it, but only the latter had made enough money to fund Richard’s master’s. His current salary isn’t enough for us to trade places, even with a shot at tenure approaching. My paints are stored in a cool, dry place, but I haven’t touched them in years. Almost ten.

My weekends might be free enough for a canvas or two soon.

“You’ll have twenty-four hours to deposit the money in the account listed there,” Campbell says. Did they take my quiet, bitter musing as hesitation? “If you don’t, I’ll assume you’re calling things off.”

My signature ends with a flourish, and I wait for the ink to dry before folding the contract again. “I’ll send it as soon as I’m home.”

“Excellent.” They rise to their feet, a signal to do the same. “It was a pleasure, Justine. Once everything clears, I’ll be in touch.”

Campbell extends their hand, and I offer mine, surprised they want to shake on it. Instead, they bring my fingers to their lips, kissing the top of them. Shock ripples through me, heat lingering on my skin when Campbell lets go.

“Thanks,” I answer, breathless.

With a step back, they establish a professional distance again. Campbell brushes a nigh-invisible wrinkle from one suit cuff. “Fortin is an interesting last name. Are you going to keep it?”

That’s a question I hadn’t considered. Instinct tells me I should, to play the part of the grieving widow. Fortin has gotten me a lot farther than Zhang ever did in the art world, even with how popular Chinese art is.

Anger spits out a thousand spikes and snarls. He’s already taken so much from me. The idea that I might stay beholden to Richard, even after he dies, throws a red veil across my vision. Then I breathe, and it’s gone.

“I’ll let you know when I figure that out,” I say.

Campbell holds my gaze, then nods before turning away. I check my purse for a split second to make sure I have everything, but when I look up again, they’re already gone.

I better send that money before they think I’ve lost my nerve.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Rien Gray is a queer, nonbinary writer who has worked in ghostwriting, TTRPGS, and video games. They have a treasured (and ever-growing) collection of LGBTQ+ history books as well as a deep, abiding love for Greek myth. Rien has an upcoming short story in Neon Hemlock’s Baffling Magazine. They live in Ireland.

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Release Blitz: Out in Winter by Lane Hayes #LGBTQ #SportsRomance @LaneHayes3 @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Out in Winter

Series: Out in College, Book 8

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: January 11, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 32k

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Friends to Lovers, College romance, Humor, Jock, Age Gap

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Synopsis

The grad student, the jock, and some winter fun…

Drew

My new job at the bistro is fun. The owners are good guys, and the staff is made up primarily of boisterous water polo players. I know nothing about the sport except there’s a Speedo involved, and Liam likes to wear his everywhere. Yes…Liam—the chatty, handsome, utterly charming waiter I can’t seem to stop thinking about. Ugh. Note to self—do not fall for another younger man.

Liam

Getting Drew to notice me hasn’t been easy. He’s a little intense, and he knows how to keep his distance. Something tells me he’s not immune—he’s just stubborn. Maybe a weekend of bonding on the ski slopes will win him over. And if I can get him to come out in winter, I might be able to convince him that we have a chance at something special.

Out in Winter is a low-angst MM, bisexual romance starring an oh so serious grad student, a goofball water polo player, and a little winter magic. This story is part of the Out in College series, but each book can be read as a stand-alone.

Excerpt

The stunning winter wonderland panorama was dotted with impossibly tall evergreens flocked with snow and the pristine hills glistening in the morning sun. It was so quiet, I could almost imagine we were alone in the world. That was precisely the kind of thought that freaked me out sometimes. But not today. Today the idea seemed…promising. Maybe even cleansing, like a new start.

“It’s beautiful,” I said reverently.

“This is one of the reasons I like coming out here early. The light is so brilliant. It looks like a postcard or the photo in the dictionary next to the word ‘hope.’ ”

“That’s a nice thought.”

We shared a smile; then he adjusted his goggles and inclined his head meaningfully. “Ready?”

“Yeah, but…you go first.”

“C’mere.” Liam crooked his finger.

I shuffled forward until I stood beside him with our skis pointing in the opposite direction, expecting him to impart some advice about the terrain or maybe remind me how to stop. Both might have been helpful, actually.

“What is it?”

“Hold on to my sleeve. Stay still. That’s perfect.” He stroked my chin before leaning in to press his lips to mine. “You taste like cherry ChapStick. I like.”

I grinned. “Thanks. So do you.”

He kissed me again, twisting his tongue with mine and leaving me breathless. “Mmm. I’m making it my personal quest to make sure you get down this mountain safely and that you have fun doing it.”

“Good luck with that,” I sighed, aware that my voice had taken on a dreamy quality.

“I don’t need luck. I’m an expert,” he bragged playfully. “I’m going to give you a couple of tips. Listen up.”

“I’m listening.”

“Bend your knees and stay loose.”

“Like this?” I bent my knees and wiggled my arms like a rubber band.

Liam chuckled. “Something like that. We’re gonna take it slow, moving from side to side, making wide turns. I’ll go first. Follow me and remember to keep your gaze forward.”

“As opposed to?”

“Looking at your skis. You don’t look at your feet when you’re walking, so don’t look at your skis when you’re skiing. It’ll fuck with your balance. Ready?”

“Yeah.” I licked my lips and nodded.

Liam glided smoothly down the incline, veering sharply to the right. He stopped with a flourish, sending a plume of powdery snow skyward before raising his poles triumphantly. I snickered at the silly display. He made it seem fun and relatively easy. All right, then. I could do this.

I grasped my poles in a vise grip and dug into the snow, propelling myself forward. I aimed my skis in Liam’s general direction and honestly, it felt pretty damn good. I was in control, a cool breeze on my face, and a light wind at my back. Best of all, I appeared to be closing in on my correct destination. A hot guy was waiting for me in front of a huge pine tree with—

Oh, fuck.

I couldn’t stop. I picked up speed and barreled forward, trying to remember his advice. Knees bent. Check. Don’t look at your skis. Check. Stay loose…

Nope. Not possible.

I was wound so tight my head felt like it might pop off. Every muscle in my body was rigid as I zoomed closer to Liam…and the tree. It occurred to me as my life began to flash in front of my eyes that if I turned downhill, I could avoid the tree and move in the right direction. I might not have control of my skis, but Liam seemed to know what he was doing. No doubt he’d catch up easily and offer tips on how not to kill myself along the way. A comical vision of him doing circles around me while I tumbled into a giant snowball flashed in my head.

And that might have been when things went sideways.

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Meet the Author

Lane Hayes loves a good romance! An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a not quite empty nest.

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