BOOK REVIEW: Compassion Fatigue by Emily Carrington #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance

ABOUT THE BOOK

Peter Campbell, a deaf man who teaches sign language classes, believes no one would ever love a bisexual man. When his new veterinarian, Dr. Abe Yoshida, shows him he’s wrong, Peter is left with the monumental task of coming out to his teenage daughter. Can his growing love for Abe give him the courage he needs?

The holidays are the worst time for Dr. Abe. He recently lost a patient, and the circumstances leave him struggling under a burden of guilt. Adding to his depression, as the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, he finds himself the victim of anti-Asian hate crimes. Then he meets Peter, a compassionate, partially in the closet bisexual man. Will Abe let love heal his heart, or will suicide’s sour music bewitch his soul?

Trigger Warning: Deals with Asian Hate Crimes, COVID-19, depression and suicidal thoughts in characters with disabilities, which may be triggers for some readers.

Preorder for July 30th

Add to Goodreads

MY REVIEW – 5 stars!

Compassion Fatigue is an emotion-charged, page-turning, quick-yet-satisfying read.

For lovers of LGBT fiction, this book has a diverse group of characters from male/male couples, to female/female couples, bisexual characters, and even a non-binary teen. It’s a story about acceptance, not only of yourself but others, and as such has scenes that may trigger some readers. The author handled the emotional pain of the characters, and the hate of the close-minded people around them, with a style that was both impactful and respectful.

Peter has fought the fact he’s bisexual even since his ex-wife threw him out. Not only did the woman who’d claimed she’d love him forever turn her back on Peter, but there were those in the LGBTQ community who did the same. He’s left feeling conflicted and struggles with self-loathing. Convinced no one will ever accept him, in either world, he battles loneliness and tries to keep people at arm’s length.

Dr. Abe Yoshida was a beautifully written character. His inner struggle not only over people being unaccepting of his being gay but also the hateful comments toward Asians as the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread, left a broken man who fought every day not to give in the demons whispering in his head.

Peter and Abe were clearly meant for one another, even though both themselves and others kept throwing obstacles in their way. Their moments together were sweet and at times more than a little steamy. Once I started reading their story, I couldn’t stop. I needed to see how it ended.

Compassion Fatigue will put you through the emotional wringer but will give you the satisfying ending we all crave when reading a romance. 

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchance for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.

ABOUT EMILY CARRINGTON

Emily Carrington is a multipublished author of male/male and transgender erotica. Seeking a world made of equality, she created SearchLight to live out her dreams. But even SearchLight has its problems, and Emily is looking forward to working all of these out with a host of characters from dragons and genies to psychic vampires.

Building a Family by M.L. Uberti #contemporaryromance @MLUberti_writer

Jamie knows to Daniel she’s just the babysitter for his brother’s children. She’s too young, too inexperienced, too shy for him. But she feels safe when she’s with him, and she wishes they could have more.

Daniel knows he’s too old, too rough, and far too wary for a beautiful young woman like Jamie. She should run away from him and what he wants and needs from her.

Unless they’re both wrong.

Available Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for July 23 at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 ML Uberti

First time I met her, I hadn’t been here a full week. My brother had convinced me to leave my gig for one with better pay — closer to family. I made a shitload already but Brandon was itching to have me stateside again after I’d been gone half a decade in the army, then another twelve years working for Shell Oil, deep in ocean waters away from civilization. I think he was afraid I was going insane or becoming antisocial or something.

First time I saw her was Sunday dinner. I’d arrived on Monday, when I’d thrown the few bags I had down on the floor of the rental Brandon got for me and passed out, then done nothing but work the next six days. My first day off I wanted to get some furniture, maybe buy some shit for my fridge that wasn’t half-empty takeout containers. But Brandon insisted I come over and have dinner with him and Taylor, his wife, and his three kids, Austin and Becca, five-year-old twins, and two-year-old daughter Sierra. My brother had managed to knock up his wife again and she was due in four months with another boy.

A Lucas family trait was that none of us could keep it in our pants. If my brothers and I had anything in common it was as soon as we all hit fifteen, we couldn’t get enough pussy. Girls in school, from the town up the road, college chicks hitting the bars in Modesto where we grew up — they were all fair game. And we played to fucking win.

But with pussy came chains. They wanted to lock you down, bleed you dry and make you fucking miserable. Didn’t want or need that shit so at thirty-eight years old, I knew I’d never settle down. Until I saw the babysitter.

“Jamie! Austin can’t find his jersey!” Taylor practically shouted in my ear from right outside the back door while my brother and I were both leaning against the counter of his kitchen, beer in hand.

“I think it’s in the laundry basket in the basement! I’ll grab it!” a soft, feminine voice called back.

“Thanks, hon!” Taylor let the door slam and joining my brother and I in the kitchen. “I swear to God this house would fall down around our ears without Jamie.”

Taylor worked with us at Valiant Drilling as the office manager. That’s how she’d met my brother. After six months of him asking her every damn day to go out with him, he finally wore her down and she said yes. They were married less than a year later, and two after that, Austin and Becca were born. Brandon told me as soon as he saw her, he knew. “Like a boner to the heart,” he stated eloquently.

I thought he was crazy. Taylor was cute, sure. Sexy in a way, with curvy hips and a little bit of sass. But tying himself down with one woman then having three-soon-to-be-four kids with her? Sounded like hell on fucking earth.

Then the door opened and swear to God, it felt like time froze.

I saw a flash of a slight frame, with my stare traveling from a pair of white sneakers, up a pair of slim, long legs that went on for miles, to an ass clad in a pair of black cotton leggings, a slight flare of hips, a flat stomach, a hell of rack, and then a face that was show-stopping. Her eyes were honey-colored, her hair dark, pulled up off her neck in a messy bun, and as I took in her full mouth, classic features and thick lashes, my dick went to steel.

She turned and faced me, the corners of her mouth tipping up as her golden brown eyes met mine. “Hi! I’m Jamie. You must be Daniel. Brandon talks about you all the time.” She rolled her eyes good-naturedly and I felt that in my dick.

I swallowed a mouthful of beer so I didn’t have to respond and tipped my head up in a nod, meeting her gaze for just a second, then uncrossing my legs to try to get some room for my throbbing cock.

Didn’t work. She just kept smiling at me, then bounced away to the steps, and I got a good, long look at that ass. I swear to God my dick started to leak into my jeans.

“I’ll help. It’s the least I can do since you do everything else,” Taylor told the angel, setting down her bowl and trotting after the babysitter, as Jamie’s twinkling laugh drifted up the steps.

I watched them go, my body stiff in more ways than one, and after a few seconds, Brandon burst out laughing.

My gaze went to him, bent over and losing it. “Oh shit, man. Haven’t seen that look on your face in a long time. Since you were fourteen and had Miss Harrison for geometry. You had to hide your hard-on behind your textbook for a whole semester. Classic!”

My brother was still laughing at me as I finished off the beer I had in my hand and grabbed another one, not saying a word.

He wasn’t wrong.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Starbucks aficionado, lover of throw blankets and betrayer of all things kale, ML Uberti is a Wayne State University graduate and Metro Detroit author with a predilection for oddities and happy endings. She is mom to three autistic kids, 2 ridiculously stupid dogs and wife of a teacher and musician who has endless patience for her impeccably bad taste in Netflix shows and murder documentaries. She is thrilled to dip her toe into scifi romance from contemporary and hopes you enjoy her big, brooding alien alphas and resilient fairy tale queens.

Cover Reveal: Shakedown by Lani Lynn Vale #contemporaryromance #coverreveal

Shakedown

Souls Chapel Revenants MC Book 8

Lani Lynn Vale

Release Date: November 9, 2021

About the Book

Wanted: someone to hand feed me Doritos so my hands don’t get orange. No weirdos.

Belle Pena was an editor. Not a writer.

When her brothers challenge her to create a dating profile, she makes up the most random biography she can think of. She never, not ever, thought she’d find anybody to respond. But she was sorely mistaken.

Sadly, she finds that she has way more interest than she ever could’ve imagined.

But only one profile catches her eye.

Bruno never meant to take the dating app seriously. Being the last single man in his band of misfits, he’s happy being the odd man out. Women spelled trouble, and he had enough trouble in his life to last him through the next decade.

Only his newfound family doesn’t feel the same. One innocent ‘sure’ has the women of the Souls Chapel Revenants MC creating him a dating profile that is too spot on to be comfortable. And just when he decides to delete the app entirely, a particular face catches his eye.

One innocent question of ‘Belle is that you? Do you remember punching me in the throat in high school?’ has him stepping into trouble neck deep, and he doesn’t even realize it until it’s too late.

Purchase Links

✦ Amazon: https://amzn.to/3xIG49D

✦ Apple: https://apple.co/3emCnPn

✦ Nook: https://bit.ly/3hIWGZo

✦ Kobo: https://bit.ly/3hIhmAy

✦ Audio: COMING SOON

Add to your TBR: https://bit.ly/2URnGN1

About Lani Lynn Vale

Lani Lynn Vale is a Wall Street Journal & USA Today Bestselling Author of over thirty titles. She is married with three children, two dogs, two cats, a donkey, and a couple (a couple also meaning over twenty) chickens.

When she’s not writing, you can find her curled up in her favorite chair reading.

Lani is married with three children and lives in the Great State of Texas.

Website: http://www.lanilynnvale.com/

Facebook: https://bit.ly/LLV-fb

Instagram: https://bit.ly/LLV-IG

Twitter: https://bit.ly/LLV-twitter

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/LLVgoodreads

BookBub: http://bit.ly/LLVbb

Wratch (Black Reign MC) by Marteeka Karland #romanticsuspense @marteekakarland

Wrath: When El Diablo sends me to infiltrate the DA’s office and find out who’s involved in the corruption there, I’m all over it. Being a lawyer, I’m singularly suited to El Diablo’s purpose, and I know the system inside and out. I am also adept at blending in, even with my muscles and tatts. We’ve known since Justice from Salvation’s Bane took a prison sentence he didn’t deserve that someone from the DA’s office was in the back pocket of the wrong people. Those wrong people are in the form of a rival MC who rule their territory with an iron fist and are trying to encroach on Salvation’s Bane as well as Black Reign.

Then I meet a sexy little platinum-haired escort and all bets are off. I’m attracted to her like I’ve never been to another woman, and it’s messing with the Zen-like calm I’m famous for. If I can’t pull myself together enough to complete this job, I’ll fail my club and, more importantly, my mentor, the club president, El Diablo. That’s something even this unholy attraction can’t cause. But what’s a man to do when all that stands in the way of the happiness of a sexy single mom and her feisty but vulnerable daughter is club business, and a few Saint Bernard puppies?

Celeste: I’m in a financial jam of the worst kind. I need to make enough money to pay for my daughter Holly’s medical bills. The sheer volume of money I need is overwhelming. Working doesn’t touch it, and no one wants to hire me full-time because of the cost of insurance. The only way to finish Holly’s leukemia treatments is for me to keep up the payments to the hospital and clinic. If I can’t, then Holly’s chances of remission may only be a lost dream. Out of options, I accept an offer to be an escort. Not only that, but I soon find myself working for a motorcycle club as a “cam girl,” doing live sex shows. Glamorous? Not at all. But it’s more money than I can make working three jobs. Imagine my surprise when the man who paid for my services as an escort turns up in the control room of my first cam show. He’s sexy as sin, and much more than he appears to be. He’s also got me completely under his spell. Which sucks because he’s quite possibly the rudest jackass I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting.

Available Today at Changeling Press

Preorder for July 23 at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Marteeka Karland

“I think you’ll like corporate law, Vincent.” The man currently schmoozing up to me was a weasel. If I could have my way, I’d’ve tossed the fucker off the balcony of the huge suite the firm of Lawson, Hughsman, and Gray had procured. The firm was having a little romancing session at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Springs for several lawyers they were considering bringing into their fold. Including me. I was supposed to be scoping out Nathaniel Lawson, the son of the founding member of the firm. He was the personal attorney of the new District Attorney in the city. He was the man responsible for keeping away lawsuits and criminal investigations into anything Harold Collins might be threatened with so the DA’s office at looked clean and untarnished. This guy, Stewart Gray, was a pompous windbag and as big a scumbag as everyone else in that fucking firm. And the fucking DA’s office. I hated all of them. But I couldn’t show it.

“Perhaps,” I replied vaguely. “As long as it makes me money.”

“Oh, there’s plenty of money to be had,” Gray chuckled. “Join us. We heard about your work taking down the former DA, William Barrison. Who knew the son of a bitch was so corrupt? Hid it for more than a decade, but you brought him out into the open. Thanks to you, the city is a much safer place.”

“I live to serve.” I grinned slightly. “As long as it makes me money.”

We both laughed.

This was a bust. Nathaniel Lawson was on his best behavior, other than the high-end call girls and even higher-end drugs at the party. They were considering five other prospective partners. Only one of them would get the spot in the firm, and I was beginning to think this whole angle was a bust. I just wanted to get out, get with Black Reign, and rethink this whole setup. We needed a different approach.

“Well, my friend,” Gray continued. “If you want to make money, I guarantee you, you’ve come to the right place. Lawson, Hughsman, and Gray can make you a lot of money.” He emphasized “a lot” and gave me a knowing look. “With money comes power. With power comes perks.” He gestured toward a long table with pretty much any kind of quality drug or liquor a man could want. There were Cuban cigars, Legacy rum, some kind of expensive absinthe, and, of course, heroin, cocaine, and various other mind-altering substances.

As if that whole line had been a setup, a door opened just beyond the well-stocked table and several very beautiful, very sophisticated women entered. “See what I mean?” Gray looked positively gleeful, actually rubbing his hands together as he eyed each woman like a kid in a candy store. “Yours to enjoy, Vincent. Take your pick. There’s nothing they won’t do. Live out your nastiest fantasies with as many of them as you like for as long as you like.” He clapped my shoulder. “These are just a very few of the perks you can enjoy as one of us.”

Normally, I’d have smiled politely and passed, but one woman caught my eye in a huge way. She was ethereal in her beauty. Long, platinum-blonde hair, flawlessly pale skin. She’d dressed in red, naturally. Some skimpy little number I couldn’t even register. All I saw was the woman. Short and slight, she had rounded hips but was very slender. Her legs were perfectly formed. Just the right amount of muscle to grip a man tight during sex. She looked out of place among the other women. It wasn’t something I could put my finger on, but she just didn’t fit.

Nervous. She looked nervous. Where the other women smiled and sought out a partner, this girl seemed unsure of herself. She smiled politely when she had to, but she didn’t have that shark-like quality the others did. If she was looking for the wealthiest man of the bunch — and when did an escort not do that? — she wasn’t doing a good job. In fact, she seemed to avoid eye contact whenever she could. Lord knew more than one of the men in the room tried to get her attention. She was easily the most beautiful woman in that room. Instead, she wandered around, looking at the artwork on the walls. She avoided the table with the alcohol and drugs.

My very first thought the second I could see her from head to toe was that if I fucked her the way I wanted, I might break her delicate frame. My next thought was, “I can be gentle.” It was a Goddamned lie, but I told myself that anyway.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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

Release Blitz: My Greatest Mistake by T. Gephart #RomanticComedy #ContemporaryRomance @tinagephart @greyspromo

My Greatest Mistake by T. Gephart is now live!

Love isn’t fated.
And anything revealed by a sideshow fortune teller about soulmates is also bogus.
But when the same unique name is called over the loudspeaker at a hospital years later, even a skeptic like Zara can’t fight the curiosity.
And when he turns out to be a witty, good-looking, intelligent and successful lawyer, a girl might rethink her stance.
But is he everything he claims to be? Or is he too good to be true?
Crazy attraction and an undeniable connection make for a lethal combination.
And he is either her ultimate true love or her greatest mistake.

  Download today!
 Amazon: http://mybook.to/MGMTG
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3glBTsH
Nook: https://bit.ly/3pBe8Bk
Kobo: https://bit.ly/3pCubyJ

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3z9y4j0

Meet T. Gephart

T Gephart is a USA Today and International bestselling author from Melbourne, Australia.
With an approach to life that is somewhat unconventional, she prefers to fly by the seat of her pants rather than adhere to some rigid roadmap. Her lack of “plan” has resulted in a rather interesting and eclectic resume, which reads more like the fiction she writes than an actual employment history. She’d tell you all about it, but the statute of limitations hasn’t expired yet. But all those crazy twists and turns have led her to a career she loves–writing romantic comedy.
When she isn’t filling pages with sassy and sexy characters with attitude, she’s living her own reality show in the ‘burbs of Melbourne with her American husband, two teenage children, and her fur child–Woodley.
She loves adventure, to laugh, travel, and strives to live her life to the fullest.

 
Connect with T.
Website | https://tgephart.com/
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Facebook | https://bit.ly/36pxQI9
Facebook Group | https://bit.ly/39xTXOI
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Newsletter | http://eepurl.com/bws5Av

Cover Reveal: Aegis by Hollis Wynn #ContemporaryRomance #WomensFiction @greyspromo

Hollis Wynn has revealed the cover for AEGIS!

Releasing August 5, 2021

BellaRose
Life is a series of little moments. From the rising sun to the sweet smell of freshly cut grass to the discovery of a beautiful baby girl. Abandoned like forgotten garbage, it is up to me to keep her safe, even if it’s from her crime boss grandfather. I’m in a constant state of fear and anxiety with each passing day. Until Pennington James breaches my world and my soul.
 
Pennington
When my grandfather left me his house and asked me to take care of the home next door, he failed to mention anything about the woman who owns it. From the first time I met her, I knew BellaRose is beautiful with a caring heart. It’s that caring heart that has her hiding from the dark underbelly of our town. Keeping Bella safe is the perfect cover for my investigation. Falling in love with a baby and her savior is the last thing I wanted, but the heart is the ruler of love and mine wants Bella.

Pre-order your copy today on Amazon!
US: https://amzn.to/366VYhE
WW: http://mybook.to/aegis

Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2TAY4QH

AEGIS is written in New York Times Bestselling author K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes World, which is one of two KB Worlds projects that launched in August 2020. With over 100 authors, who were selected by and are working with K. Bromberg, these stories will be fan fiction at its finest—and sexiest. Devoted fans of the Driven and Everyday Heroes series will have the opportunity to revisit their favorite characters and settings. You can find out more about K. Bromberg and the KB Worlds at kbworlds.com.

KB Worlds Amazon Page: https://amzn.to/3dpfvuX 
KB Worlds Facebook Group: https://bit.ly/2Vez4Aa 
KB Worlds Newsletter: https://bit.ly/2B226Mo

Meet Hollis Wynn

Hollis Wynn is a thirty-something gypsy who lives for adventure and calls home anywhere that she lays her head. 

On her wandering she can’t live without three things… music, books and her yorkiepoo Boston.

Hollis has been writing stories for years and after successfully running the White Hot Reads blog, she finally gave in to her passion and took the publishing leap! 

When she’s penning stories where life and love collide, you’ll find her desk covered in empty wine glasses, gluten free cupcake crumbs and multiple drafts of her latest WIP covered in ink (pink of course)!
 
Connect with Hollis
Website | holliswynn.com
Goodreads | https://bit.ly/33P1Mwr
Amazon | https://amzn.to/2TEABi7
Facebook | https://bit.ly/3drtcwo
Facebook Group | https://bit.ly/3xa8sB5
Instagram | https://bit.ly/3AePuLv
Bookbub | https://bit.ly/3ybCoge
Pinterest | https://bit.ly/3hd7xKV
Newsletter | https://bit.ly/3drSyKr

Ranger (Reckless Kings MC) by Harley Wylde #WomensFiction #contemporaryromance @HarleyW_Writer

Ranger (Reckless Kings MC) by Harley Wylde

Published by Changeling Press

Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

Release Date: July 16, 2021

Genres/Themes: Contemporary Romance, Bikers, Action Adventure, Age-Gap (older man)

Add to Goodreads or BookBub

ABOUT THE BOOK

Danica — I followed in my dad’s footsteps, chasing the rodeo. It’s been my life, other than friends and family with the Dixie Reapers. Until now, no one’s really noticed me. I’ve barely dated, and at twenty-three, I’m still a virgin. Then he walks in. Ranger. A Reckless King, and so far out of my league. But one kiss, and I know I’ll remember him forever… even after he walks away.

I didn’t think we had a future. Thought he’d forget I exist. But I was wrong. He wants me, every bit as much as I want him.

Ranger — I saw her ride in a rodeo a year ago, and she held me spellbound. Running into her again at the Dixie Reapers, I’m not sure I can keep my hands to myself. She’s Cowboy’s daughter, and I should keep my distance. Too bad I’ve never been all that great at following the rules.

Only one thing is standing in my way. There’s someone stalking her. A man who thinks she’s his. He’s wrong. Danica will be mine, one way or another. Anyone who stands in the way will wish they’d never heard of me.

WARNING: Ranger is recommended for adult readers. It has coarse language, adult situations, and discusses events, like stalking and assault, that may trigger some readers. There is no cheating, a guaranteed happily-ever-after, and no cliffhanger!

Get it here 👇

Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3wN8grl

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3wWroDz

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3gM4vvF

Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/3xFtBDh

B&N Nook: https://bit.ly/3gE0D0J

Apple Books: https://apple.co/3j8glmE

Kobo: https://bit.ly/35MOy2Z

Available NOW at Changeling Press: https://bit.ly/3zCZ2jg

☆ ARC REVIEWS ☆

“An exquisitely captivating, sweet, endearing and thrilling ride to go on…This story had so many great scenes that made me tear up, laugh, swoon, fan myself, and gasp.” – BookBub Review by DreaFernandez

“Oh Ranger!!! I absolutely loved Ranger and Danica!! … by far one of my favorites!” – BookBub Review by TeamlittleMama

“Ranger and Danica are absolutely amazing together!” – BookBub Review, lstaffey

“Ranger is a yummy little age gap read and positively perfect… This is a really great read.” – BookBub Review by Gpowe

ABOUT HARLEY WYLDE

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

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

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

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

“Her characters are phenomenal and have a lot of depth to them. She is absolutely fantastic at writing an engaging sexy story. Harley Wylde keeps the words flowing so that you have to turn the page to see what happens next.” — All Author

Find Harley Online: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | BookBub

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

Sun, Sea and Summer Songs by Megan Slayer

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

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

Two men, one song and a summer to reconnect.

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ. He’d never gotten over Jude.

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

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

Fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t know that.”

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

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

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

“You’ll do it?”

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

“Consider yourself on tour.”

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

“Let me handle him.”

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

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

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

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

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

“If you trust me.”

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

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

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

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

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

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

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

Sun, Sea and Sinful Delights by Jayce Carter

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

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
REVERSE HAREM

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Book Description

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

This dildo is way too big.

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

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

No one needs that much.

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

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

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

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

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

Not that anyone knows…

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t think so.”

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

“What’s the point?”

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

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

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

Well, maybe not that box.

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

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

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

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

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

“You rang that yourself, didn’t you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Except this time…

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

Talk about tall, dark and handsome…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work was always a safe conversation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Local is more our style.”

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

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

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

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

So instead, she gave in and messaged Mandy.

Okay, set up the date.

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About the Author

Jayce Carter

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

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Jayce Carter’s Sun, Sea and Sinful Delights Giveaway

JAYCE CARTER IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET GET A FREE EBOOK FROM THE AUTHOR! Notice: This competition ends on 20th July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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Release Blitz: Loving You by Andaleeb Wajid #contemporaryromance @BookReviewTours @andaleebwajid

Hamza Ali is ready to get married, fall in love and live happily ever after. The only problem is, he’s about to marry one woman but falls in love with another… So how will he find his happily ever after?


After watching his brother’s disastrous love marriage fall to pieces, Hamza decides that the only marriage for him is an arranged one. In Mahrukh, his family finds him the perfect bride. But while Mahrukh may be the perfect bride, it’s her divorced aunt Noorain who is the perfect woman for him.
Noorain Alam has never loved or been loved. Until the day her niece gets engaged to a man who is completely out of her reach and yet, he’s everything she never knew she wanted.
Blindsided by the strength of emotion they feel for each other, Noorain and Hamza find themselves in a battle for their happiness. But will love win? Or will family and duty stand in its way?

Book Links:
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Read an Excerpt from Loving You

The last thing Hamza Ali wanted, was to be late. But given the traffic and his own state of mind, he knew that it was a foregone conclusion. He just had to grit his teeth and bear it, even as he tamped down on the anxiety spiralling inside.

His phone rang and he answered it on Bluetooth, knowing that Ammi was frantic with worry.

‘I know, I know…’ he said in a placating manner.

‘They’re already here!’ Ammi said in a loud whisper.

‘I’m on my way, Ammi. I’ll be there in another fifteen minutes,’ he said.

‘Fifteen minutes?’ Ammi yelped. ‘But…’

‘I’m driving. I’ll reach sooner if I’m not talking to you.’ Saying so, he disconnected the call and focused on reaching home.

Today, of all days he had a presentation that ran late. He’d tried to explain to his boss that he needed to be home early but of course that hadn’t been possible. Kannan didn’t like to listen to excuses or anything personal when work was involved and Hamza knew better than to tell him the real reason he needed to be home early today.

People were coming to see him.

Yes. A girl’s family actually. He had told Ammi that he was ready for marriage and it would be a good idea if she started looking for potential brides for him. Ammi had been only too pleased to comply.

His twin brother Hamdaan thought he was being an unnecessary martyr by opting for an arranged marriage.

‘What would you know?’ Hamza snapped at him, annoyed. Hamdaan had a love marriage and then, when that fell through, he had an arranged marriage where he fell deeply in love with his wife Ghazal.

This just convinced him that not everyone was cut out for a grand love affair and anyway, this was what his parents wanted. He wanted to give them that happiness. At the cost of your own, Hamdaan asked.

‘What guarantee is there that a love marriage will be better?’ Hamza asked him. Hamdaan nodded.

‘I know, but…’

‘And you did have an arranged marriage with Ghazal and you two seem to be just fine,’ he reminded him.

‘Well, that’s because I got incredibly lucky,’ Hamdaan commented, a smile on his face as he thought of his wife probably.

Hamza glanced at his face in the rear-view mirror at a traffic signal and sighed. There wasn’t going to be any time to even wash his face, let alone shower, if the girl’s family had already reached home. Ammi had been slightly put out when she heard that they wanted to vet him first, and if he was a good enough candidate, she and Ghazal Bhabhi could go and see the girl and take things forward.

‘That’s how everyone does it these days,’ the broker aunty informed Ammi. The broker aunty who brought the rishta was a fascinating specimen, with her smartphone full of biodatas and photos of potential brides and bridegrooms. Hamza had looked at her paraphernalia, eyes wide that day when she wanted to ‘see’ him before finding the right rishta.

‘First they see the boy and if he’s good, then you can see the girl. That way, the girl is not unnecessarily exposed, na?’ she asked, moving the paan she’d been chewing, around inside her mouth.

‘Fine, Arifa Apa. Whatever you say,’ Ammi said.

Now, he felt the slightest bit of apprehension inside when he wondered about this stranger who could possibly become a part of his life soon. But he had wanted this, right? In fact, he had gone on to convince Hamdaan to get married again so that it would clear the way for him to get married.

His phone rang again.

‘Ammi,’ he groaned out aloud but then saw that it wasn’t his mother but it was Ghazal.

‘Yes, Bhabhi,’ he answered as the car moved forward in the traffic finally. It felt odd, calling her Bhabhi since she was so much younger than him but it added to the decorum and formality in their relationship, which was something he liked.

‘How far away from home are you?’ she asked softly.

‘Around ten minutes, tops,’ he said.

‘Okay, so don’t park in front of the house. Park behind, and I’ll be waiting near the kitchen door. You can hop inside from there and freshen up in your room, Hamza Bhai,’ she said.

‘Oh. Oh thank god!’ he muttered, feeling slightly better.

‘Don’t thank me yet. Ammi is having kittens and puppies and she won’t rest easy until you’re here,’ Ghazal said.

‘You hold her off, Bhabhi!’ he said as he stepped down on the accelerator to reach home as soon as he could.

Twenty minutes later, he emerged from his room, his face still shiny with water droplets. He took the towel from Ghazal gratefully and scrubbed his face and she winced.

‘It’s your face. Not a dirty vessel and Scotch Brite,’ she admonished him as she took the towel from his hands.

Ammi didn’t know that he was back home yet and she looked at him surprised when she came out from the kitchen, just as he was tucking his shirt inside properly. He had barely had a chance to look at himself in the mirror and he was worried about making the wrong sort of impression but Ghazal assured him that he looked fine.

‘When did you…where were…’ she trailed off.

‘Ask Bhabhi,’ he said with a smile as he kissed his mother soundly on her cheek. She did some nazar utarofy thing for him and smiled at Ghazal, even as she put her hand on her chest.

‘Go now,’ she said. Nodding, he walked into the living room where Hamdaan and Abba were speaking to the men who had come to see him.

‘Sorry, I’m a bit late,’ Hamza said as he walked up and shook hands with the three men who stood up when they saw him.

The men looked from Hamdaan to him and one of them smiled. ‘Amazing how much you two look alike,’ he said.

Hamza nodded and then, his father indicated that he should sit down on the sofa. The men all sat down and they started talking.

The mad pounding in his chest finally eased down enough and he almost relaxed until he remembered why he was here.

The middle-aged man in the centre, wearing the white shirt with black stripes, left untucked was apparently the bride’s father. He wore a namaz topi on his head and he had a beard. Hamza smiled at him as he spoke, but he was instantly curious about the girl’s family and what sort of person she was.

He also didn’t know her name yet. A droplet of sweat trickled down his back in a straight line when he realised the enormity of what he was getting into. He didn’t even know the name of the girl he was willing to marry, let alone what she looked like. And somehow, he felt that if he asked her name, it would put him and his family on the back foot. He should have asked Ghazal, he realised.

‘Have some tea,’ one of the men offered to him and he nodded. He leaned forward and picked up a tea cup and his gaze met his brother’s, who lifted an eyebrow sardonically.

The two of them were connected intrinsically, as they were twins and there were times when they could have a complete non-verbal exchange between them and no one would be the wiser.

You asked for this.

Hamza nodded slightly and he looked up at his brother defiantly. Yeah. So what?

Just wondering if you know what you’re getting into.

Shut up.

Hamdaan hid his smile as he sipped his tea and mentally, Hamza flipped him off but responded to the questions being asked of him.

When the ordeal was finally over, the three men got up and shook hands with him once more. They shook hands with Hamdaan and the bride’s father even hugged Abba as they left.

‘Satisfied?’ Hamdaan turned to him as soon as the men departed.

‘Yes,’ Hamza said, rolling his eyes. Abba returned just then before the two of them could get into an argument.

‘They’ve asked us to come and see the girl tomorrow,’ Abba announced, a smile on his face. ‘Your Ammi and Ghazal will be going.’

Hamza’s heart pounded again. It was finally happening.

‘What’s her name?’ he asked and Hamdaan gave a short laugh.

‘Not one person back in college would have believed you to be capable of this,’ he said.

‘Of what? And you wouldn’t know since you didn’t study with me,’ Hamza retorted.

‘Her name is Mahrukh,’ Ghazal said softly as she came into the living room. Hamdaan beamed at her as she went and sat down beside him. One of the girls who worked in the house followed her and she collected the tea cups and deposited them on the tray.

‘Like Shahrukh?’ Hamza asked sceptically.

Ammi chuckled. ‘No. Mahrukh is a girl’s name. It means someone who looks like the moon.’

‘It’s a beautiful name,’ Ghazal assured him.

And what of the girl, he wondered. Was she beautiful too?

About the Author:

Andaleeb Wajid is the author of 27 published novels and she writes across different genres such as romance, YA and horror. Her horror novel It Waits was shortlisted at Mami Word to Screen 2017 and her Young Adult series, The Tamanna Trilogy has been optioned for screen by a reputed production house. Andaleeb’s novel When She Went Away was shortlisted for The Hindu Young World Prize in 2017. Andaleeb is a hybrid author who has self-published more than 10 novels in the past two years.

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