Release Blitz: Starting from the Top by Lane Hayes #rockstar #AgeGap @LaneHayes3 @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Starting From The Top

Series: Starting From, #5

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: March 8, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 83k

Genre: Romance, Age Gap, Rock and Roll, Hurt and Comfort, Bisexual, Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis

The guitarist, the dad, and a band on the rise…

Johnny

A quiet place to live and some time to recharge before my band heads out on the road again sounds amazing. I wouldn’t mind a distraction too, but my new neighbor is off-limits. There are rules about not getting involved with your bandmate’s ex, right? And Sean isn’t my type anyway. He’s too bossy, too commanding, and he has way too much baggage. I’ve learned that it’s best to let go of the heavy stuff. So why am I so drawn to him?

Sean

Coming out later in life has taught me to protect my privacy at all costs. And while juggling a handful of businesses and two kids isn’t easy, I excel at the art of multitasking and keeping everything separate. But Johnny blurs those lines. He’s easy-going, sweet-natured, and cool. In short, he’s everything I’m not. I want to know all about him…starting from the top.

Excerpt

The cheery sound of family fun drifted through the house…the dog barking, cupboards closing, and a girlish squeal of delight. And more dog barking.

I chuckled at the chaotic homey cacophony. I would never have envisioned this was Sean’s life. He’d always seemed like a badass boss to me—not a man who’d wear an apron to bake cupcakes with his daughter while his son had a guitar lesson. His chocolate mussed hair and concerned parental frown made him look goofy and yet very…endearing. In a hot dad way.

Okay. Definitely time to go. I reached for the knob just as Sean did.

“I’ll walk you out,” he insisted, holding the door open.

I stepped onto the porch and blinked against the bright afternoon sun at the hilltop view of the city. “Wow. This is nice.”

“Yeah,” he agreed absently. “How was he?”

“Amazing. The next Chuck Berry.”

Sean sighed grumpily. “Less sarcasm, please.”

“Sorry, Dad.” I snickered. “He was great. I mean, he sucked, but I think he had fun. I told him to keep the guitar and practice on his own. If you want me to come back, I will.”

“Really? That’s good.” He stared at the horizon for a moment before glancing my way. “I wanted to—why are you smiling at me?”

“You’re fuckin’ covered in chocolate. It’s in your ear.” I made a face and tugged at my own ear.

He gestured at the apron. “Baking isn’t my thing.”

I flashed a megawatt grin at him. “Sure, it is. Are you decorating those cupcakes with anything besides frosting?”

“Sprinkles. You’re welcome to join us.”

“Thanks, but I don’t want to crash your family time.”

Sean inclined his head. “So…did he talk to you?”

“It took a little coaxing. Full disclosure…we played video games before we picked up the guitars. You’re not paying me, so I don’t really feel guilty. I just don’t want you to think it was a jam session from the start.”

“I know.”

“You know?” I repeated.

“I snuck in to see how you were doing. Hulk let you down. You might want to go with Iron Man or Captain America next time.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” I snort-laughed, then sobered. “As for Parker…he’s a good kid. He’s shy, reserved, and likes organization. He seems like the kind of person who excels at things he can control. I bet he builds killer Lego sets. He might learn a few songs, but I doubt he’s a savant. You never know, though. Kids are sponges. They pick up stuff you and I would never catch.”

“That’s true. I’m impressed. And you’re right…about everything. He keeps a lot inside. He’s always been that way. Very thoughtful and methodical. He sets a high bar for himself. He likes to get things right the first time. He does well in school, but he’s struggling with the transition to junior high. His old friends tried out for sports and he opted not to. It’s left him feeling ostracized and alone. Hormones don’t help. I thought it might be good for him to spend time with someone cool who—”

“Cooler than you?”

“Well, let’s not get crazy.” Sean flipped the corner of his apron and let out a self-deprecating laugh. “I just…thanks for doing this. I appreciate it.”

“No problem. Hey, if he really is interested, we can do this regularly. My schedule is light for the next couple of months, but it’ll get crazy again in late spring.”

“I’ll call you.”

“Text me. I hate phone calls.” I held out my right hand and snatched it away a second later, narrowing my gaze. “You have frosting on your nose.”

“My nose?” He wiped his hand over the apron, then across the tip of his nose. “Did I get it?”

“No. Come here. Let me help you.” I stepped into his space and brushed the sugary goodness away.

“Did you get it?” he asked in a huskier than normal tone.

“Yeah, but it’s on your ear and your chin and…”

“Where else?”

“Here.”

I ran the pad of my thumb under this bottom lip. “Got it.”

I didn’t move. I should have, but something held me in place. I studied his features, noting the flecks in his eyes. I wondered what color they were…gold, green, brown? I traced a line at the corner of his mouth, rubbing the scruff of his neatly-trimmed beard. I stared at his full lips for a long moment before meeting his gaze. Then I inched closer and…kissed him.

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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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Release Blitz: Lighter by A. Aduma #LGBTQ #YAbooks @ballardofme @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Lighter

Author: A. Aduma

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/11/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 55300

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, YA, gay, bisexual, Kenyan expats living in the States, East African culture, Swahili, teen pining and angst, unrequited feelings, family drama, drug use

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Description

After a bad breakup, Rasheed is determined to spend his last year of high school focused on his course work and to finish it with as little drama as possible. But when disaster strikes and his grandma ends up in the hospital, the threads holding his life together start to slowly unravel. Now, Rasheed has to deal with the return of his absent mother and sharing a home with her despite their strained relationship.

With old hurts surfacing and family dynamics shifting, Rasheed finds comfort and humor from his best friends, the Herman twins he’s tutoring, and his crush, Adam Herman, who’s not as unavailable as Rasheed had once thought. With more time spent together, Rasheed finds his feelings for Adam may never have gone away. And the feelings may not be as one-sided. Except, Rasheed has to confront old mistakes and come to terms with his own issues first, and a relationship may just complicate everything.

Excerpt

Lighter
A. Aduma © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Please tell me it’s mahamri,” I said enthusiastically when I saw Granma kneading dough that would hopefully be rolled, cut into little squares, dipped into deep frying oil, and covered in whipped cream to create a slice of heaven. Paired with hot chai, it opened the door to another dimension.

Granma pounded the dough, one-two, and flipped it over. “It is.”

“Should I start on the tea?”

“You should start by taking the trash out.” She straightened, wiped the thin film of sweat from her forehead, and pointed to the overflowing trashcan. I could have emptied it last night, but I had an assignment due and each second counted; the four minutes it would have taken had seemed like a lifetime.

“Okay.” I stepped farther into the kitchen and pinched some of the dough. Granma smacked my hand with her flour-covered one. I should have seen it coming; it was a dance we’d been doing since I was five­­—I’d pinch the dough, she’d slap my hand, and warn me about worms making my stomach swell.

Sure enough she said, “Tumbo lako litafura.”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. The way she used to tell it, when I was a kid my stomach would get as large as a balloon before it burst, spraying worms everywhere.

I tossed the dough in my mouth, grabbed a pot, filled it with water, and put it to boil for tea. One thing Granma and I liked was tea—tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed—and coming to America hadn’t changed that. As soon as she was done with the mahamri, she’d set herself up on her favorite floral armchair in front of the TV with her cup of steaming hot tea and catch up on some daytime soaps. Sometimes I joined her—TV dramas had some really cute guys.

“They finally gave up the dog,” Granma announced.

“Huh?”

“Mrs. Kyle and that dog. The pepo chafu will not be terrorizing us again.”

Mrs. Kyle lived on the other side of the street, one house down from us. Her bulldog, Teddy—a name that maybe shouldn’t be handed out so easily to slobbering dogs—had the bad habit of chasing and attacking people, and she refused to put it on a leash. Granma did not like her. The whole neighborhood didn’t like her.

“Paul was right,” she continued, “Soon as someone threw in the word ‘sue,’ she became more accommodating.”

There’d been a lot of that lately—Paul this and Paul that. It would have slipped my mind if I hadn’t noticed her FaceTiming him two weeks before, and then a day ago. Paul only lived a fifteen-minute drive away, so why not text? Anyway, what was so important that she needed to video call?

“I’m guessing some are for Paul?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice.”

She pulled a drawer open and retrieved a rolling pin. “Why are you saying it like that?”

“How am I saying it?”

“Like you mean to say something else.”

“It’s nothing— Okay, you and Paul are…friendly,” I teased.

“I don’t have many friends; another one never hurts.”

“True, but I don’t know many people who go around fixing other people’s houses out of the kindness of their heart.”

Granma fixed her eyes on the dough and started to roll it. “It’s called kindness. Looks like you’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.”

“I remember,” I said quickly before it turned into a speech about undugu. Yes, yes, love thy neighbor, unless it was Mrs. Kyle, of course. Lines had to be drawn somewhere.

I added a cinnamon stick and some ginger into the pot and turned to head back to my room. Granma pointed to the trashcan. “Usitume nikwambie mara ya pili.”

Right, the trash. I sighed.

Her eyes bored into me as I bent to pick it up, which usually made me more self-aware. Like, had I brushed my teeth or cleaned my room? “I don’t know where your mind is nowadays.”

I paused. “Just tired.” Second week of school, Granma!

I was still trying to shake off summer vibes and find my back-to-school rhythm. It wasn’t going great. On top of the mound of piling homework and the early waking hours that turned me into a zombie—sometimes even with growling, and on really bad days, I could bite someone’s head off—I was trying to dodge Scott, my ex-boyfriend. Whenever he weaved his way into my thoughts, my chest would burn with shame, and my body would turn into a bundle of nerves. That chai and mahamri better come quick. I needed a pick-me-up.

“You put your shirt on backward on Tuesday and didn’t notice.”

“My mind was elsewhere.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And you’re not on drugs?”

I refrained from sighing. “No, I am not on drugs.”

“What is it, then?”

“Not enough sleep.”

“Why? What do you have to stress about?”

I slumped. Things were off, and I couldn’t shake the oddness. Before I could get that out, Granma shuddered, exhaled loudly, and reached for the counter, clutching it tightly.

I moved toward her. “You okay?” But she waved me off.

Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, but nothing came out. I frowned in confusion. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “Trash.”

“Okay, okay.”

“And check for your keys.”

“Ha ha.” Again, I was tired that day.

I shifted my eyes to her hands, still gripping the counter and repeated, “You okay?”

“I…haven’t pounded dough in forever.”

Her words were labored and breathy. She had been pounding away like an MFA fighter. Maybe that was it. Now I knew what I’d get her for Christmas—a stand mixer. Maybe that would encourage her to make mahamri more often and not break a sweat while doing it. I could do it, but I’d never gotten them right—soft and sweet but with a tinge of lemon and overwhelming taste of coconut. Mine usually came out too hard.

I lifted the bag and headed outside.

“And water my herbs for me.”

I huffed. I ought to have known going to the kitchen when Granma was there meant a one hundred percent chance I’d come out with a chore.

“Am I hearing you grumble?”

“No.”

“Good because that would be disrespectful to your elders.”

I held back the eye roll and made my way to the garbage bins. I dumped the trash and went to water her plants.

Granma had raised-bed planters for her herbs that Paul had made for her. The day he did it, Granma had prioritized keeping him company to watching her TV dramas even though she was religious about not missing episodes. Then there was that time Natalie had been over for their book club—they were the only two in the club, and they read one book a year, spent five minutes talking about how they didn’t get a chance to read it, and gossiped the rest of the time—and I overhead Granma describe Paul as a fine, fine man. Sure, there had been some wine involved, but still.

I winced when the scent of mint made me think of Scott. He loved mint-flavored ice cream and chewing mint-flavored bubblegum. I’d made it another week successfully avoiding him—thank you crowded hallways and different schedules. It was exhausting. I was constantly in flight mode. There had to be another way.

Apologize, a voice echoed in my mind. Apologize? As in, like, say sorry and stuff? Hmm.

Not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but how did people do that? The idea sounded foreign. Save for when I stepped on someone’s foot or bumped into them by accident; that was easy because they were accidents. Honest mistakes. What I had done had not been an honest mistake. So how did someone apologize for dumbness?

It was easier to stay clear of him, avoid any more drama, and focus on school.

If I ignored it maybe it would have no option but to magically—

“Eedy!” I paused, spooked by how she sounded—like a rusted engine trying and failing to come to life. As I put the watering can down, there was the sound of a body hitting the floor with a soft thud.

My heart leaped into my throat, and my stomach twisted with dread.

I rushed back to the house and found Granma lying on the floor—flat on her stomach and still as a rock. The world tilted and blurred together.

“Granma?” I said in a shaky whisper. I fell to my knees and with weak arms managed to turn her over. My breath caught at the sight of her. Her dark eyes were wide open, unfocused, and unblinking. A chill snaked down my back. I leaned down and felt her warm breath on my face. Oh, thank fuck.

I grabbed her hand and recoiled at its limpness. “Granma, are you okay?” Of course, she wasn’t okay.

She groaned.

“Tafadhali amka!” Please get up. I tried to pull her up and failed. Granma wasn’t small, and despite my size, I couldn’t get her to move. My pulse started to race and a heavy weight pressed down on my chest; breathing became difficult. I gasped for breath.

No. No. It would be alright.

“Musa?” she whispered roughly.

The hope I’d been holding on to sank somewhere to my toes. “No, Rasheed. Eedy.”

Musa was my babu’s name—my grandfather—a man we’d silently agreed to never speak of, ever. To Granma, saying his name was equal to calling on the devil, which wasn’t that far off from the truth.

I needed to call for help. She lay on the floor, immobile, her empty stare on me. I did not want to leave her. My eyes blurred. I stood on shaky feet and rushed to get my phone still buried under books from last night’s homework rush. My palms were sweaty enough it took a few swipes before I hit dial on the emergency contact. The person on the other end promised the ambulance would be coming soon.

I returned to crouch next to Granma and took her hand. She slurred something unintelligible that I failed to understand. “They’re coming.” I squeezed her hand.

She grumbled. It sounded like a mangled animal. I blinked to keep the tears from falling, but that only made them fall harder.

“Itsfine,” she slurred. Her hand twitched in mine.

It didn’t seem fine.

Last time she had ended up in hospital, it hadn’t been fine. Three weeks after I turned eight, and the world had turned upside down. I fought off the gnawing helplessness and tried to cling to positive thoughts. It would be alright.

Granma would be alright.

She didn’t really have a choice. She had her dramas waiting for her, Christmas was a few months away—Granma loved Christmas, all those sales and store decorations hyped her up—and I was going to graduate from high school.

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Meet the Author

Aduma is an economics major at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the type of person who feels incomplete without a book in hand. When not reading or writing, Aduma can be found lost in spreadsheets and graphs with music for company. Follow A. on Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Starting From Here by Lane Hayes #SecondChanceRomance #LGBTQ @LaneHayes3

Title: Starting From Here

Series: Starting From, #3

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: October 1, 2020

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80k

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Enemies to lovers, Rock and roll, Second Chance, Fake Boyfriend

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Synopsis

Two bands, one goal, and a second chance…

Declan-

Everything is finally going well. I have a new band, a new label, and a debut album coming out. And then my drummer breaks his wrists. Just my luck. I need a quick replacement to record one more song, but my options are limited, and of course, the obvious candidate hates my guts. Okay, so I may have given him a few reasons over the years, but isn’t there an expiration date on holding a grudge?

Tegan-

I don’t trust Declan McNamara. Sure, he’s talented, smart, and has more sex appeal than any one person should be allowed. And yeah, he may be a rock star in the making, but beware—he’s trouble. However, our new record label’s survival may depend on a truce and extreme measures…of the fake boyfriend variety. If it’s our best shot at the big time, I’m willing to set the past aside and start over…here and now.

Starting From Here is a MM, bisexual romance rock and roll style…rival bands, fake boyfriends, and a second chance at a new love story. Each book in the Starting From series can be read as a stand-alone.

Excerpt

The sound of cheerful squealing rang in the background before she hung up. I stared into space for a minute or two, feeling very…alone. I didn’t want to slip into teenage levels of self-pity. There was really nothing lamer than a privileged grown-ass adult whining about mommy issues. I flipped through television channels, pausing on a special about great white sharks. Then I tossed the controller aside and picked up my cell again.

Would you ever swim with sharks?

My phone buzzed immediately. I smiled when Tegan’s name lit the screen. Are you high?

I wish. Swimming with sharks is a thing. People get in cages and film themselves being surrounded by predators…for fun.

People are fucking crazy.

True.

What are you watching?

National Geographic. I was hoping for a sex in the wild segment, but I got sharks instead.

Shark sex?

I grinned. Nope. I don’t think I’m ready for that.

It’s not exciting. Fish sex is seriously unhot.

True.

My chuckled morphed into a belly laugh as I sank deeper into the cushion. I shared a quick story about the saucy squirrels who were getting it on outside my window last spring. Tegan teased me for being a rodent voyeur, then recommended a few human porn sites I might appreciate instead.

Btw, it’s officially midnight. Congrats.

I stared at the screen for a moment. I typed and erased two or three thank-yous that seemed a little too effusive. I didn’t want to come across as too excited or too grateful and somehow clingy, so I gave up and pressed Call.

“Hey.”

“Are you really fucking calling me?”

I chuckled. “Yeah. I am. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. But it’s midnight, and I hate talking on the phone, so good ni—”

“Don’t hang up.”

“What’s wrong?”

I stared at the TV unseeing. “Nothing. I just…I’m keyed up and I need someone to talk to. What was your first release like? I know Zero’s record is still doing well. But…what was like in the beginning? How’d you feel?”

Silence.

“You want the truth?”

“Yeah.”

“It was anticlimactic.”

“Oh. That’s kind of depressing.”

“No, it’s just life. Nothing ever happens as fast as you want it to. You’ve got to be patient and keep doing your thing,” he advised. “We came home from our summer tour thinking we made it. What didn’t turn into superstars, but we made progress. And every day it gets better. But who knows what will happen? Maybe you’ll wake up at number one. Just stay positive and…stop torturing yourself.”

I smiled when Tegan’s uplifting advice gave way to exasperation. It was cute.

“It’s what I do. I excel at the art of self-sabotage. Ask my mom. If I bomb, you can be sure she’ll be the first one to say ‘I told you so.’ She’ll choose her words carefully, though. She’ll be kind-ish before she gently suggests that it’s time to throw in the towel and join the family firm. Fuck my life.”

“But it’s your life. The honor of making mistakes or kicking ass is all yours. You wrote those songs to be heard. Not everyone will love what you do, but plenty of people will. You just gotta be right in your own head. Ask yourself if you gave your best. Did you?”

“Of course.”

“You’ll do just fine, then. If you sell a million copies, great. If not, you’ll still learn something.”

Silence.

“Thanks. I needed that,” I said softly.

“You’re welcome. Now go to sleep.”

“I’m an almost rock star, and it’s midnight. My night is just beginning,” I lied, stifling a yawn.

“Have fun, rock god,” he snorted.

“I’m kidding. I’m channel surfing.”

“You mean porn surfing?”

I barked a quick laugh. “No, I get my porn on the internet like everyone else. I was watching that show about hoarders. It made me feel better somehow.”

“You’re a freak. Get your computer and jack off. You’ll feel better, and you’ll sleep better,” he advised sagely.

“Thanks, Dr. Monroe. I’ll report back in the morning.”

“Not necessary. Especially if there’re boobs involved.”

“I watch more dick porn than chick porn. I watched a great locker room scene last night. The coach and the quarterback. Sexy as fuck.”

“Are you really sharing a spank-bank story?”

“Yeah, you want the link?”

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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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New Today at Changeling Press #RomanceBooks #NewRelease

Charmed by the Alien Vampire Firemen (Alien Vampires 1)

When Ember’s apartment burns down, two firemen offer their guesthouse for her to rent out. Not able to sleep on her friend’s couch any longer, she takes them up on their offer. One night smo

ke pours from their house. She rushes in to help them and discovers their secret.

With her restaurant being bought out from under her, Ember’s life is unraveling. She doesn’t know if she can trust her landlords. Someone knows what they truly are and kidnaps her to pressure her for information about the firemen. When she doesn’t talk about her green-skinned firemen, the situation only gets worse.

As love grows between Ember and her aliens, the world closes around them. She needs to get closer to them, but men invade their home. In order to save them, she will have to give up everything she knows.

#AlienEncounters #Vampires #Bisexual

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Hami's Treasure (Kilfane Incursion 2)

Kilfanian Captain Hami comes to Earth to find his missing sister. But when his ship inadvertently causes a fire in a science building, he sees the glowing multicolored path that legend says leads Kilfanians to their mates. He follows that path into the blaze and finds a beautiful Human woman dying of smoke inhalation. To save her, he takes her to his ship for treatment.

Astrophysicist Amina Washington never expected to be abducted by aliens — especially not one so handsome and seductive. Amina is torn between their growing love and her need to return to Earth with proof of the existence of aliens.

Captivated, Hami finds himself questioning everything he believed about humans. Yet he and Amina are literally from different worlds. Can he find a future with a human woman who makes him want to be more than just a warrior of Kilfane? Especially when her people abducted his sister?

#SciFiRomance #MulticulturalInterracial

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Spirits (Duet) (Spirits 3)Moonshine: No one expects a werewolf to be running a moonshine still. Hell, a ridgerunner? Sure. He’s seen that coming from birth. What he didn’t inherit was lycanthropy. But life’s full of the unexpected. And now there’s David, self proclaimed expert tracker, and hunter of the bastard who turned them both. David is just the kind of trouble Jenson doesn’t need, and everything he wants.

Absinthe: Barthe and Rene have a real mess on their hands. Years ago, Barthe made a stupid mistake. Now Rene’s not sure he can believe Barthe will ever really want him. Add to their dilemma Barthe’s brother Bastien, and a werewolf caught half shifted… Can they come back together before they lose their love forever?

#GayRomance #Shifters #ParanormalRomance

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Release Blitz: Lighting the Lamp by K.R. Collins#LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance

Title: Lighting the Lamp

Series: Sophie Fournier, Book Three

Author: K.R. Collins

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: May 25, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 100100

Genre: Contemporary Sports, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, sports, romance, lesbian, bisexual, demisexual, ice hockey, coach, teammates, slow burn

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Synopsis

Entering her third season, Sophie Fournier has almost everything she wants. She’s the captain of the Concord Condors, she’s roommates and linemates with Elsa Nyberg, the elite Swedish winger she’s wanted to play alongside since the Zurich U-Tourney.

There are two major things she’s missing, though. She doesn’t have her next contract lined up, and she still hasn’t won the Maple Cup, hockey’s most coveted prize. If she wins the Cup, she’ll have leverage going into her contract negotiations. And, in case she needed more motivation, this is Benoit Delacroix’s final season as a Concord Condor, and she’s determined he won’t retire without lifting the Cup.

Excerpt

Lighting the Lamp
K.R. Collins © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The 2013 draft in Orlando, Florida marks the third one Sophie’s attended. She made history in 2011 when she was the first woman drafted into the North American Hockey League. Last year, she was given the honor of selecting Elsa Nyberg for her team, the Concord Condors.

This year, Sophie’s responsibilities are fewer, but she’s still here representing the League. Unlike other players, who watch the draft from their couches or receive alerts while on the beach or touring wine country, Sophie is here in a crisp black pantsuit, a red pocket square her only flash of color.

She’s here so the Commissioner can lay a heavy hand on her shoulder and lean in for pictures to prove how progressive his league is, as if one woman among hundreds of men is progress. Well, it is progress, but it isn’t nearly enough.

There will be more women drafted today and tomorrow, and Sophie’s confident at least one of them will play against her this season. She refuses to hope Elsa will keep her promise and make the jump from the Swedish Hockey League to the NAHL this year, but she has high expectations for Alexis Engelking.

The American is slated to be drafted high. Lenny Dernier, infamous for his rants on The National Sports Network, is already wringing his hands over her upcoming inclusion among hockey’s best. Once, forgetting she was mic’d up, Engelking dropped an f-bomb on live television. Dernier accused her of being “a terrible role model for our Canadian children” as if every Canadian who has played the game is an angel.

Indianapolis files on stage to make the first selection of the draft, a long procession of middle to upper-aged white men in suits. The TVs behind the stage show Engelking sit up straighter in her seat as if she’s anticipating her name being called. Her hair is chopped short, jagged angles as sharp as her cheekbones.

A different camera shows Chad Kensington, another American, slumped in his seat. His blond hair is parted to the side and slicked to stay there. His mother elbows him, and he makes a half-hearted attempt to sit up straight.

“Thank you, Orlando, for hosting us today,” Indy’s owner says. The crowd, predictably, cheers. When he thanks the Commissioner, the crowd boos, also predictable. Sophie doesn’t remember the Commissioner facing constant heckling when she was younger, but he’d made himself no friends when the League ground to halt during the 2010-2011 season.

Indy’s owner steps aside so his grandson, a cute kid with chubby cheeks and a Renegades ball cap on his head, can step up to the mic. They have to lower it for him, and the boy checks the cards in his hands before he looks over his shoulder. His grandfather smiles encouragingly. “Um, first overall, the Indianapolis Renegades select Chad Kensington.”

Kensington stands up and shoots the nearest camera a pair of finger guns. His smile is as greasy as his hair. Sophie’s seen enough tape to know he’s talented, but he struts up to the stage as if he thinks the League should be grateful to have him. His suit is too big in the shoulders and too long in the leg as if he expects to grow into it. He’s dwarfed by the men on stage; the only ones he’s taller than are the owner’s two grandkids. He taps the brim of the grandson’s hat. The owner’s granddaughter hides behind the man who Sophie assumes is her father.

Sophie discreetly checks her phone as she waits for all the hoopla to finish. Being at the draft always brings back memories of her own. She wasn’t sure she’d be invited until a few months before and, even once she was there, it wasn’t a guarantee a team would select her. In case being the first woman to try to play in the NAHL wasn’t enough of a barrier, the Commissioner required teams to apply to be co-ed.

The Concord Condors were the only team able to draft her, and she sat in the stands as they made selection after selection, never calling her name. It took two hundred and twenty-four names until hers was called. Instead of being drafted first, or even first round, she was dead last.

She shakes the memory aside as Seattle comes on stage. Sophie quits feeling sorry for herself. Barrett Corderman is the one who deserves her pity as Seattle drafts him. She’s making a name for herself in Concord, pulling her franchise from the depths of the League and turning them into a real contender. Seattle, on the other hand, is where players have their love of hockey sucked out of them.

Indianapolis makes another appearance for the fourth pick, gained in a trade last season. This time, the owner ushers his granddaughter on stage, and Sophie has a good idea of where this is headed. When the girl calls out Alexis Engelking’s name, Sophie allows herself a smile. Engelking marks the fourth woman drafted into the League, and the highest selected of them all. There’s a tightness around Engelking’s eyes as she accepts her jersey as if she felt she deserved to go higher.

Welcome to the club.

*

Concord drafts a defenseman with the first of their first-round picks. With their second, they select Tanner Bechtol. He’s small like Kensington, and his hair falls into his eyes, only for him to shake it back out of his face. He looks overwhelmed by everyone on the stage, and it takes two tries for him to pull his jersey over his head.

It isn’t exactly a promising start, and she expects a lot out of him. This is one of the picks which came from trading their captain, Matty, at the deadline last year. Bechtol stumbles off the stage. He would’ve tripped and face-planted in front of the cameras if Mr. Wilcox didn’t steady him. Sophie keeps her expression tranquil in case anyone is watching her, but inside, she scowls. This is who they gave Matty up for?

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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. You can find K.R. on Twitter.

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Call me Sugar by Lacee Hightower #BDSM #DarkRomance

CALL ME SUGAR: AN MMF MENAGE

(Sugar & Sin Book 1)

By Lacee Hightower

Publisher:  Evernight Publishing

 Call Me Sugar-3D

Keywords:  MMF, Dark Romance, Contemporary, Bi-Sexual, Cowboy Romance, Suspense, HEA

WarningThis title contains explicit sex scenes, BDSM, and anal sex

 

A romance forbidden…

A lifestyle frowned upon and considered sin and damnation…

My name is Keith Ryker.  I’m a cattle rancher and sole owner to Ryker Ranch in Springhill, Texas. For fifteen years, I’ve loved a man, but longed for a woman. I’ve broken every rule imaginable, acted out reprehensible, frowned upon, unmentionable wrong-doings that people in these parts of West Texas would look down upon as sin and damnation.  But by all that is holy and hallowed, in all truth, I don’t give a damn.  I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

Buy Links:

Evernight:   https://www.evernightpublishing.com/call-me-sugar-by-lacee-hightower

Amazon US:   https://amzn.to/2WLNV6K

Apple:  https://apple/co/2WJnONz

Kobo:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/.call-me-sugar-1

Barnes & Noble:  https://bit.ly/2wDCyD6

Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1011161

Books2read(Universal link):   https://books2read.com/u/49ZOEd

 

About the Author:

Lacee Hightower is an American writer and romance novelist, referring to her style as dark, contemporary romance with a nice big pinch of kink.  Living in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, she describes herself as a foodie that can’t cook, a large lover of fashion and shoes, and an enormous hopeless romantic.  Since she was old enough to know what the word meant, she loved the whole concept of romance and happy endings. Even though she has always enjoyed writing, life got in the way and she never really thought of pursuing it seriously until she decided to write her first book after both her children were grown in 2017.  Now with a nice glass of wine in hand, or not, she is learning to love bringing the characters in her head to life on paper for those who enjoy peeking into another world.

Release Blitz: No Parking by Valentine Wheeler #LGBTfiction #interracial

Title: No Parking

Author: Valentine Wheeler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 10, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 63300

Genre: Contemporary, LGBT, bisexual, asexual, bakery, restaurant, chef, small-town politics, older MCs, interracial, family drama

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Synopsis

When Marianne Windmere’s bakery customers begin complaining that her parking lot is always full, she assumes it must be customers for the new restaurant next door. She’s never met her neighbor, and with the parking lot situation, she has no interest in doing so. But when a snowstorm knocks out the power and traps both women in the building overnight, sparks fly—until the next morning, when the buried argument comes to a head.

Can they find a way to reclaim the magic of that night? And as decades-old secrets about the history of the town and Marianne’s family come to light, can they work together to save both their businesses?

Excerpt

No Parking
Valentine Wheeler © 2020
All Rights Reserved

The travel mug banged against the counter. Marianne jumped. “Jesus, Kevin! I didn’t hear you come in.”

“It’s full again.” Kevin crossed his arms and glared. “The parking lot back there.” He made a show of glancing around the nearly empty bakery, eyes pausing on Zeke in the corner, mug in his hands and laptop open as usual, big red headphones covering his ears. He crossed his arms. “Why do you pay that kid if all he does is ignore you? And the customers?”

“You’re in a mood this morning.” Marianne pushed herself off the stool and grabbed his aluminum coffee mug. Her ex-husband was still an attractive man fifteen years after their divorce, and she couldn’t work up the energy to be annoyed at him for it anymore. “If you want to go next door and complain about the cars, go ahead.” She filled his mug with hazelnut coffee, added an espresso shot, capped it, and handed it back. “It’s not like our customers are beating down the doors for spots right now.”

“I did go next door,” Kevin grumbled, taking the cup. “It wasn’t productive.” Now it was him avoiding her gaze.

The parking lot issue wasn’t a new one—it had been a problem for a few months—and on a busy day Marianne would be filled with a low-level simmering rage as customer after customer complained about it. Still, she wasn’t going to tell Kevin that. Their relationship had improved in the years since their divorce but not quite that much.

“Not productive?” she pressed.

He sipped his coffee to cover the slight flush in his pale cheeks and didn’t answer.

“She threw you out, didn’t she?” Marianne’s estimation of her neighbor and nemesis rose a notch. “You tried to yell at her, and she didn’t take it.”

“I was very polite!”

“Hm.” Marianne put her hands on her hips and considered the man she’d spent nearly twenty-five years married to. He could be charming when he wanted to be—the whole silver fox, sparkling blue eyes and white teeth politician thing—though he never tried it with her anymore. Many women had found him suave and attractive during their marriage and probably still did. But when he wanted something from someone with no interest in what he was peddling? Politeness wasn’t his style. Generally, once charm had failed, he whined worse than any of their three kids had as toddlers. She’d learned that plenty during their marriage, and again during the divorce. “I’m sure you were.”

“I can talk to Bruce and Andrea,” said Kevin. “Just because I’m retired—”

“No need to get the city council involved, Kevin. I’ll handle my own property, thanks.” She glanced at the clock on the wall, its tarnished brass pendulum swinging below the cracked glass. “Aren’t you going to be late for your train?” He was still showing up at transit meetings in the city every other week since he had been appointed to the regional transit board as community representative now that he wasn’t an elected official. Kevin had a habit of holding onto things too tightly and refusing to let them go.

Kevin glanced down at his watch and swore. “Yeah. Shit.” He took another long gulp of coffee and leaned over the counter to kiss Marianne’s cheek. “Thanks. Who knew retirement could be so busy?” He turned to hurry out the door and then stopped and glanced back over his shoulder. “You be good, all right? Don’t work too hard.”

Marianne rolled her eyes and shooed him out with a towel.

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Meet the Author

Valentine is a latecomer to writing, though she’s always been a passionate reader. Through fanfiction she found her way to an incredible community of writers who’ve taught her to love making stories.

When she isn’t writing, she’s making bad puns, yelling about television, or playing with her small child.

Her life’s ambition is to eat the cuisine of every single country. You can find Valentine on Twitter.

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A Changeling for All Seasons Vol. 5 #BDSM #boxset #BBW #bisexual #holidayromance

A Changeling For All Seasons 5 (Changeling Seasons (ebook) 5)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

Christmas Magic by Anne Kane: Tali hopes the Christmas Magic of the Sugarplum Ball is strong enough to get Jax into her bed.

Blitzened by Elizabeth Jewell: Christmas Eve rolls around, Nick gets a yen to kindle some holiday spirit in his human boyfriend’s heart

Emmy’s Wish by Ayla Ruse: Will this little Elf get the huge (male) present she wants?

Santa’s Treat by Camille Anthony: Plum’s been a very good girl, and the treat she wants is Santa.

Christmas Stalkings by Cassidy McKay: What’s a Christmas Elf to do when he wants to sex up the North Pole a bit? Make adult toys, of course!

Wrapped Around by Megan Slayer: Taygan’s going to make Luc’s holiday one he’ll never forget — complete with the real Santa, peppermints, and hot sex.

Stranded by Sean Michael: Can this threesome turn a Christmas disaster into a Christmas delight?

Santa’s Claws by Stephanie Burke: Santa’s going to see to it that his Elf and the naughty human to whom he’s bound have a very Merry Khristmas… or else.

 

Get it TODAY at Changeling Press

 

BookBrushImage-2019-10-4-18-1833

 

 

 

Book Blitz: Starting from Scratch by Lane Hayes #LGBT #bisexual #RomanceBooks @LaneHayes3

Title: Starting From Scratch

Series: Starting From, #2

Author: Lane Hayes

Publisher: Lane Hayes

Release Date: October 17, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80k

Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Enemies to lovers, Rock and roll, Hurt-comfort, Opposites attract

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Synopsis

Charlie Rourke is an ultra fabulous human whirlwind on a mission to launch the next biggest band in the world. However, he might have taken on more than he could handle when he signed on to manage Zero. Promoting a rock band and finding gigs shouldn’t be hard. They’re a talented group with a ton of star power. If Charlie can find the right record label, he’s sure he can help them get to the next level. The only problem is the skater boy slash bassist with a quirky sense of humor. He’s annoying and silly, and he’s exactly Charlie’s type. Except he’s straight.

Ky Baldwin isn’t afraid to switch things up. He loves a challenge as much as anyone, but Charlie doesn’t make things easy. Zero’s manager is a force of nature with a razor sharp tongue, a quick wit, and a no-nonsense attitude. Ky can’t stop thinking about him. Winning over Charlie becomes Ky’s pet project. But when the ice between them thaws, neither is prepared for the intensity of going from enemies to lovers. They’ll have to decide if they’re willing to start from scratch and take a chance on the unexpected.

Excerpt

“I know that was random, but it’s not a bad idea if you think about it. Want something to drink?” Charlie asked as he moved toward the kitchen.

I grabbed his wrist before he got anywhere. “Hang on. What are you doing?”

He cocked his head curiously but didn’t pull away. “I’m being practical. If you read any further about Virgos you probably found out we’re known for being sensible. And polite. So, I’m politely asking if you’d like a beverage while sensibly suggesting that I help out with your skating lessons.”

“Okay. First up…I don’t want a fuckin’ snack and second, it’s not a skating lesson. We’re skateboarding,” I said, glowering at him.

“I’ve heard it said both ways. Skating, skateboarding. I looked it up in Urban Dictionary too, so I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“No. There’s something in your tone that makes it all wrong. Like you’re purposely trying to sabotage this.”

Charlie opened his mouth in a perfect O. “Gasp! I wouldn’t do that!”

“Cut the crap. You’re doing it now. You don’t want to learn, and you don’t want Oliver to either. It’s a control thing. But you can’t control what you don’t fuckin’ get. So take a seat and let me teach him without you freaking out or—why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. You’re doing something weird with your eyes, though. You look spaced out.”

“Mmm. I’m trying not to swoon. You look so fierce and you’re holding my hand, Ky. You should feel my heart. It’s beating out of my chest. Seriously.” He fluttered his lashes a few times and bit his bottom lip.

I chuckled softly and stepped closer. “Are you flirting with me, Char?”

“No, it’s the other way around. You’re flirting with me. Big macho displays really get my motor running. Medium-sized ones do too. I love it when…”

Okay, so I lost myself. I tuned out the sound of his voice and concentrated on him. The mischievous glint in his eyes, the proud set of his shoulders, and the way his mouth curled at the corner. He was doing it again. Owning the moment. Taking it over. Charlie looked for weakness in any form, then slyly made adjustments before moving in for the kill. No doubt he thought I’d back down fast and run away. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I fixated on his bottom lip and inched closer. He kept talking…something about dick size or muscles…I wasn’t sure, but I liked the cadence of his voice. The teasing lilt and easy humor. I let go of his wrist, brushing his fingers before setting my hand on his hip. He went perfectly still.

Before he could ask me what the fuck I was doing, I kissed him.

It was more of a press of lips than a grand gesture. And though it might not rank as the kind of kiss that would change the world, I immediately knew it would change mine.

Everything in me went on high alert. I’d never been so in tune with a moment. The flutter of his eyelashes, the brush of his nose, and the soft sweetness of his lips against mine. Fuck, it was amazing. Like mind-blowing amazing. He tasted like cherries and smelled like sunshine mixed with something exotic.

I couldn’t be sure over the roar of my heart attempting to beat its way out of my chest, but I thought he hummed in approval, so I angled my head slightly to deepen the connection and pulled him closer. If he was anyone else, I probably would have stuck my tongue between his lips and let my hands roam all over his body. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to scare either of us. So I stayed where I was until the need for oxygen became an issue.

Then I jumped back two feet and stared at him with my eyes bugged out. “Holy fuck.”

Charlie set his fingers on his bottom lip and blinked like he was coming out of a daze. “You kissed me,” he said softly.

Purchase at Amazon

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel. An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked. Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order). Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Instagram

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Book Blitz: The Spymaster’s Secret by Antonia Aquilante #Fantasy #LGBT #bisexual #NewRelease @antoniaquilante

Title: The Spymaster’s Secret

Series: Chronicles of Tournai, Book Seven

Author: Antonia Aquilante

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 14, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 107100

Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, Fantasy, paranormal, family-drama, political intrigue, magic, gay, bisexual, royalty, men with children, architect, college, magic users, cat shifter

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Synopsis

Alexander is doing his best to settle into life in Tournai’s royal palace after years living outside the country due to his father’s diplomatic work. The sense of belonging and home he feels is overwhelming, but none of his plans are going as he imagined. Many see him as only a lovely, charming adornment of the royal court and underestimate both his intelligence and abilities. His attraction to Marcus, a mysterious older man who does work for the prince, Alexander’s cousin, is unexpected but not unwelcome…if Marcus could possibly see who Alexander really is.

Lord Marcus is the second son of a minor noble family, a widower raising two children…and the prince’s spymaster. He knows his work is necessary for the security of the kingdom and its royal family, but he also knows it can be distasteful and dangerous to him and those around him. Marcus has vowed never to fall in love again, never to put anyone else at risk—a promise threatened for the first time by the vibrant, flirtatious Alexander. The attraction is unwelcome and entirely undeniable. He can’t believe someone like Alexander would want someone like him, but he also can’t stay away.

As they become ever more entangled, Marcus is investigating rumors of spies at work in Tournai’s university. As he gets closer to uncovering their plot, Alexander is drawn deeper into danger. Can their love survive when Alexander is put in peril by the very spies Marcus is hunting for?

Excerpt

The Spymaster’s Secret
Antonia Aquilante © 2019
All Rights Reserved

“What do you have to tell us, Lord Marcus?”

Marcus sat in one of the chairs across from the pair of desks in the princes’ private office and contemplated Prince Philip. The crown prince had the look of his father and something of his manner, a commanding presence he had probably cultivated since birth. He had the dark hair and classically handsome features of the men in the royal family and the bred-in-the-bone care for this country. Which Marcus had a feeling he might have thrown over in a heartbeat for the man beside him. Prince Consort Amory was shorter and fair with large dark eyes and curling auburn hair. He hadn’t been born into royalty or even nobility, but he’d adapted to his role far better than most of Tournai’s nobility had anticipated. Marcus knew quite well what each noble family thought of the marriage, just past its third anniversary, although the princes had never asked him for the information.

“First, Your Highnesses, the prisoner taken into custody at the border hasn’t answered any questions posed to him. I was asked to try.”

The army had brought the man in from the border several days ago. Tournai was protected from magical attack by a barrier created by a web of spells. Almost no one knew of the spells in Tournai, but someone outside had apparently discovered their protection and was determined to find its weaknesses. The man had been testing the barrier, and somehow the spells had caught and held him until the army could get there. Marcus had to speak with Savarin about how he’d been caught and what weaknesses they should guard against.

Philip frowned. “We need answers from him. I can’t believe the threat has disappeared because we’ve apprehended one man at the border.”

“With all respect, Your Highness, we don’t know what the threat is yet.” Marcus glanced between the princes but returned his attention to Philip. “I’ll do everything I can to find out and quickly, but there is more than one possibility.”

“I think the possibility at the top of our minds is this man was sent by Ardunn,” Amory said in his quiet tone. “I doubt anyone will rest easy until we can rule that out. If we can.”

“It is a possibility, Your Highness, and a strong one.” The Ardunn empire was located far to their east, separated from Tournai by an impassable mountain range and the kingdom of Elleri, but Ardunn’s emperor was obsessed with conquest and seemingly interested in using Tournai as a foothold for gaining control of this half of the continent. The geographical barriers were too great to march an army in, and Ardunn had no naval power to speak of. But they routinely sent their agents into Tournai searching for weaknesses. “However, with the bandit attacks along the border over the last several months, it isn’t the only one. He might have been with the bandits. Or he could’ve been sent from Ardunn or hired by them to test the barriers. The attacks could’ve been orchestrated by Ardunn as well. Or they might be completely unrelated. For all we know, the prisoner was working on his own, unrelated to either the bandits or Ardunn.”

Marcus didn’t much care for that option, as it meant they probably had another enemy lurking, but he also didn’t think it was the most likely either.

Philip’s frown deepened, not even lightening when Amory laid a hand on his arm. “You’re not giving me much helpful information, Lord Marcus.”

“I apologize, Your Highness. All I can do at this point is present you with theories.” He spread his hands in a helpless gesture. He wished he had more for the princes—he took the lack as a personal failure despite the short time he’d had this problem on his desk. “I will do everything I can to get information from our prisoner, and I have people searching for the bandits he was likely traveling with as well.”

“The army has been chasing them for months.” Amory’s remark was said without judgment for either Marcus’s people or the army.

“I’m aware, Your Highness, but my people can go unnoticed in a way the army can’t.”

Amory nodded, thoughtful, but Philip spoke. “Coordinate with Captain Loriot if you need further information, though I can’t imagine you ever lacking information.”

Marcus smiled slightly at Philip’s dry statement. “Far be it from me to ever claim I know everything, Your Highness. That would be the heights of arrogance.”

“If you say so.”

Philip didn’t explain why Marcus should see Loriot if he needed information about a situation the army was overseeing. Loriot’s power ended at the city gates when he wasn’t traveling with the princes. But Marcus could surmise.

“Is there anything else we need to know? Not only about our prisoner, of course.” Philip always phrased the question that way when he asked. Marcus didn’t blame him—there were certain things the princes didn’t need to know, which was why they had Marcus.

“Not at this time, Your Highness.” There were a dozen things Marcus could have told them, but none needed their immediate attention. If any of the rumors his people were chasing down at the university became more substantial, then he’d bring them to the princes.

Philip sat back. “All right, Lord Marcus. Keep us informed about the questioning.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

Dismissed from the royal presence, Marcus let himself into the corridor and turned his steps to the right, following the most direct route out of the wing holding the royal apartments. The princes had formal offices in the palace proper, but Marcus was more often summoned to their private study, the place they did their work, so by now, he knew the way back to the more public areas. He needed to return to the city and his work for the day, of which their prisoner was only one part. There was a meeting later with two of his agents about the whispers they’d picked up at the university, and it might be time for Marcus to find a few moments to return to work on a new truth potion.

If he could get the potion right, it might be useful with their prisoner.

In the middle of the day, these corridors were empty but for the royal guards stationed periodically along them. Marcus doubted they were ever crowded. This part of the palace saw no one except the resident members of the royal family, their guests, and those who served them. Marcus had only ever been allowed in to meet with the princes at their request. His family was lower-ranked nobility, but neither they nor he was in the princes’ inner circle.

He let part of his mind go over the changes he wanted to make to the potion, running through ingredients and proportions while the rest of his focus noted what there was to see in the hallway. The guards were alert and also unobtrusive, which was to be expected. Palace security was Loriot’s purview, and he took his job seriously. His guards were well trained, highly efficient, and well vetted before they even got that far, their trustworthiness in keeping royal matters private ensured further by magic.

Despite the palace being Loriot’s domain, Marcus had a couple of his people placed there to keep an eye on the royal family as well. Those family members who lived in the palace were closest to the princes. While Marcus didn’t expect them to pose a threat, there had been treachery of various kinds over the past few years, and he was wary of anyone trying to get too close. He’d had his people keeping their eyes on the twins—Philip’s cousins through the youngest of his father’s sisters—since they’d arrived unexpectedly back in the autumn with the intention of staying. Marcus had seen no indication they meant any harm, but knowledge was useful, and caution never misplaced.

A laugh shattered the quiet and brought Marcus’s attention fully back to his surroundings. As he approached an intersecting corridor, the two young men he’d been thinking of came around the corner. They were nearly identical in appearance with the same shade of dark hair that glowed red in the light, the same ivory skin and peridot eyes, the same delicate features, an intriguing mix of pretty and sensual. Their differences were slight, but perfectly apparent with a moment’s study. Alexander was slightly taller, and Faelen’s hair fell in loose curls while Alexander’s was a tumble of waves.

He’d made a point of finding out which of them was which. And not because of the way Alexander had looked at him the one previous time he’d been in their presence.

The way Alexander looked at him now. Curious with a spark of something more.

Alexander had been the one laughing, a joyful, delighted sound that made Marcus want to smile. He forced himself not to, forced his face to remain bland and pleasant and unremarkable. Forced himself to ignore the little lurch, the punch of attraction when he looked into Alexander’s eyes.

He had to.

Those eyes sparkled. “Good morning, Lord Marcus.”

Faelen noticed him then. A smile still flirted with his finely wrought lips, but his eyes held none of the same interest as his twin’s. Which Marcus wouldn’t have expected for many reasons—he couldn’t understand why Alexander regarded him the way he did—but mostly because Faelen had apparently taken a serious lover, which he’d subtly announced at court through his presence at Faelen’s side at the princes’ anniversary ball not long ago.

“Good morning, Lord Marcus,” Faelen echoed. “I hope you’re well today.”

Marcus bowed. “Good morning, my lords. I am, thank you, and you?”

“Very well. Thank you,” Faelen replied.

“What brings you to the palace today, Lord Marcus?” Alexander’s tone and words were as smooth as Faelen’s. The two might not have spent most of their lives at Tournai’s court, but perhaps they’d had to become even more skilled because of their years away. A foreign court wasn’t an easy place to live, even a nominally friendly one.

“A meeting with Their Highnesses.” He wouldn’t discuss the subject with anyone without the princes’ permission, and certainly not in a hallway where anyone might hear. He knew better than most the walls often had ears.

Alexander and Faelen didn’t ask, possibly because they knew the necessity of discretion too, as they should as members of Tournai’s ruling family however far removed from the throne. They did exchange a glance, so quick anyone not watching closely would’ve missed it. Some sort of information passed between them in the fleeting look, but what they shared was a mystery to Marcus.

“I’m sure you’re busy, Lord Marcus,” Faelen said. “We won’t impose upon any more of your time.”

“It’s hardly an imposition, but I’m sure you have engagements to attend.” Marcus bowed slightly again. “I’ll bid you good day.”

They returned his farewell as Faelen looped his arm through Alexander’s. Marcus refused to allow himself to turn and watch them walk away. To do so would reveal too much, to all of them. He did, however, catch a glimpse of their slender forms in a large, silver-framed mirror hanging on the wall. He didn’t allow himself more than the glimpse before continuing on his way at a brisk pace, not stopping again as he wound through the corridors and finally out into the winter chill. He had far too much to do to let himself be distracted, especially by a young royal cousin he had no business observing outside a professional capacity. And no reason to study him so closely in even that way any longer. It shouldn’t have disappointed him.

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Meet the Author

Antonia Aquilante has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, and at the age of twelve, decided she would be a writer when she grew up. After many years and a few career detours, she has returned to that original plan. Her stories have changed over the years, but one thing has remained consistent—they all end in happily ever after.

She has a fondness for travel (and a long list of places she wants to visit and revisit), taking photos, family history, fabulous shoes, baking treats (which she shares with friends and family), and of course, reading. She usually has at least two books started at once and never goes anywhere without her Kindle. Though she is a convert to e-books, she still loves paper books the best, and there are a couple thousand of them residing in her home with her.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Antonia is living there again after years in Washington, DC and North Carolina for school and work. She enjoys being back in the Garden State but admits to being tempted every so often to run away from home and live in Italy.

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