RELEASE BLITZ: The Outcasts by Marteeka Karland #SciFiRomance #DarkFantasy @marteekakarland @changelingpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Outcasts (Duet)

Author: Marteeka Karland

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: September 9

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Female/Male (No Male/Male interaction), Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 247 pages

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Futuristic, Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual, Multiple Partners

Synopsis

In a dark futuristic Earth, the Triad must take a mate. But their pet has other ideas…

Mating the Triad (The Outcasts 1): Exiled to the Outlands, Mia’s sheer viciousness in defending herself catches the notice of one of the most powerful triads in the Outlands. Not one to simply be taken care of, Mia refuses to be treated as anything other than an equal — even in times of battle. How can she prove to three powerful warriors she’s not only the one for them, but an asset in every aspect of their lives?

The Triad’s Pet (The Outcasts 2): The only reason Arryn’s allowed to continue to live in the village is because of her exceptional talents in both healing and engineering. When danger is deliberately brought into their midst, it’s up to Arryn to direct her men. But how can a pet convince three stubborn warriors to trust in her unique abilities?

Publisher’s Note: The Outcasts Duet contains the previously published novels Mating the Triad and The Triad’s Pet.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Marteeka Karland
Excerpt from Mating the Triad

“Mia Cook. For the crime of theft from a noble house, your punishment is banishment to the Outlands.” The pious judge looked down at me from his throne. With a sneer, I spat in his general direction, expecting to get backhanded by one of several guards surrounding the dais. When nothing happened, I did it again for good measure. The judges always looked at us lowborns with contempt and superiority. I wanted to do some <em>real</em> lawbreaking. Like ripping off the guy’s nuts. With my teeth.

I didn’t resist when two guards dragged me to the center of the great room where court was held daily. Once an accused had been judged guilty, he or she stood in the ceremonial circle for all to see. Maybe it was me, but it seemed like they were just looking for reasons to banish any lowborns in the city. My crime? I’d stolen a bowl of bread. Granted, it wasn’t just any bowl of bread — it was spoonbread. A Kentucky Outback delight. At least it had been back in the day. Earth hadn’t always been so medieval. There had been a time when whole festivals were dedicated to Kentucky spoonbread. Now, a dish like that was a delicacy, available only to the wealthy. Nobles. It was also my very favorite thing in the whole goddamned city.

Spoonbread is a “wet” bread dish made of cornmeal. You bake it, serve it with real butter, and eat it with a spoon. Like a pudding or custard, only not hardly as moist. In my opinion, the punishment was worth getting to eat the entire bowl — which I had, fighting for the last spoonful after I’d been caught. Especially since it had been a couple of days since I’d had anything to eat. I knew when I stole it what my punishment would be if I were caught. But, honestly, you should try this shit. It’s worth the ordeal.

Which means the damned guards got to parade me through the whole of the middle- and low-born sections. Naked. After my little “spat” with the judge, I doubted I could conjure enough sympathy to get one of them to cover me with a cape until we got to the gate.

“You will be sent forth into the wildness beyond the walls of our hallowed city. Such is the way of all heathens. May the Heavenly Father in all his wisdom give you what you deserve in the Outland where He punishes all heathens.”

As the bastard spoke, the guards stripped the clothing from my body. When my outfit proved too difficult to remove easily, they simply cut the material, throwing everything into a great fire pit next to the circle. There was no way I could simply snag something on the way out to cover myself.

Just to be contrary, I stood proud, refusing to cover myself with my arms. Lifting my chin, I looked into the eyes of the man who’d passed judgment on me. He was old. Like <em>really</em> old. Thin hanks of long gray hair hung all over his head. His look was kind of comical since he was balding in places. If he’d been intelligent, he’d have cut it neatly, or simply shaved the shit off. What hair he had did little to cover the age-spotted skin. I knew my fucking with him was working when a most unbecoming blush splotched his already splotchy skin. Am I a bitch for loving the fact that he was old, ugly, and probably couldn’t get it up long enough to enjoy a woman? Probably a good thing. He was the kind of man to take advantage of his position.

As if he’d heard my thoughts, the judge leaned forward in his chair behind his desk. “The little bitch still has no respect for her betters. Why not show the little thief what she’s in for? Show her what happens to thieves who don’t learn their place.” An evil smile should have graced his less-than-perfect features, but, of course, the little bastard kept his pious expression firmly intact. How he managed that when he’d just ordered his guards to rape me was beyond my understanding.

“I will kill you,” I bit out.

He sat back, a small smile on his face. “I imagine you will. At least, in your dreams, between bouts of torture.”

One of the guards sneered, looking as if he’d been hoping for this development. A second guard muscled his way around the first one, growling a little. He was the clear Alpha there. No one challenged him as he took his place next to me, gripping my upper arm tightly. Obviously, he intended to be the one to carry out my extra punishment.

Fucker.

He was thickly muscled and stood over a head taller than me. His battle-scarred face seemed to match his body, if his heavily muscled arms were any indications. Scars crisscrossed his skin as if he had taken many blows. By not covering them as most men did, he signaled he was proud of his badges of honor. None in the guard challenged him. At present anyway.

As the guy pulled me closer to him, he whispered, “I’ll make this pleasurable for you if you’ll not fight. If you do, one of the others will challenge me. If they manage to take you, they won’t even try to be gentle, let alone give you pleasure.”

“So it’s either fight and get hurt or submit and not get hurt. Either way, I’m fucked. Literally.”

He fisted my hair, tilting my head back so I had to look up at him, then whispered for my ears alone even as he bared his teeth menacingly. His actions and expressions seemed more for the surrounding crowd — and the judge — than anything else. Despite the rough handling, he didn’t really hurt me. “You’re strong. You fought well when they took you. If I hadn’t been there, you might even have escaped.”

Purchase

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

Meet 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.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | BookBub

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Now in Paperback: Merlin’s Kiss by Stephanie Burke #DarkFantasy #PNR #suspense @FlashyCat

The Past. Life just isn’t fair! She was supposed to be the next Queen of the Britons when she retrieved Excalibur from the stone. But Merlin knows the world isn’t ready for a Queen, so to complete her destiny Brieana is placed under a sleep-spell. Only a noble knight, one equal to her in strength and courage, can awaken her.

The Present. Chasing dracks is hard work. But nothing prepared Kerian, ruler of Mirage, for the greatest surprise of all — a sleeping, naked woman falling at his feet during a hunt. He soon learns that she is from another time; the world that she knew is gone, and the world where she now lives is fraught with hidden dangers and perils.

The Future. Brieana discovers that in order to fulfill her destiny, she must do more than fall in love with the most perfect man she has ever seen. She must go on a quest to reclaim Excalibur, and with Kerian’s help, end the menace of evil that threatens their happiness — and their world.

Get the paperback at Amazon

Also available in ebook

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Stephanie Burke

“Run Arthur, run!” Brieana screamed as they raced through the crowded encampment that had sprung up around the famous sword.

“If you hadn’t called Lord DeLacy an ass-eared lout,” the voice behind her whined, “we would not be running!”

“Arthur! If you had stood up for me,” she panted between words as she ducked behind another fall of rocks, “I never would have had to defend myself!”

“We need to hide!” the pale young man gasped. “I wish I had never thought to take you for a walk in the moonlight.”

“You are right about hiding,” she groused as they ran past still another stone formation, ignoring his less than complimentary comment. “Behind there!” she cried as she grabbed his hand and darted behind a particularly large boulder. “We need a weapon.”

“Well, we would not need one if you had not kicked him in the privates!” he whined again.

Absently spying the hilt of an abandoned sword embedded in the rocks of a rise, Brieana ran to it and with deft fingers, began to probe the sword base.

“I would not have kicked him if he had not grabbed my person.”

Golden-haired Arthur scurried up the hill behind her. “Whatever you are doing, do it faster!” he urged. “I can hear them coming. He must have the whole garrison with him.”

Giving him one last disgusted look, Brieana gave one mighty yank and the abandoned sword pulled abruptly from its rocky sheath.

“And what do you think to do with that?” Arthur sneered at her while pushing an unruly lock of hair behind his ear and looking down his nose at her.

“Well, you are supposed to be the mighty warrior,” she growled losing patience with him at last. “You use it!”

With that, she shoved the sword into his hands and began to count the seconds before he would turn to her for help.

Not everyone knew it, but Arthur was the weakest swordsman in the area. And for the hundredth time, Brieana wondered why she dressed in the armor of the Black Knight to save his sorry hide in battle.

Then she took another good look at him as the moonlight illuminated his near perfect features, and she remembered. She was a fool for good looks and a great body. Certainly, she did not risk her very life time and time again for his mental acuity.

Even as he began to turn to thrust the sword into her smaller, albeit more capable hand, DeLacy and his men appeared at the base of the hill and froze in their places.

“Excalibur!” he shouted in shock, and soon the murmurs and cries of him and his men drew the rest of the encamped warriors to view the new King of the Britons. “Arthur has drawn Excalibur from the sacred stone! All hail Arthur, King of the Britons!”

As one, the assembled warriors dropped to their knees to pay homage to the one who would be king. Arthur looked puzzled for only a moment. He was a little dense, but not stupid. He thrust the sword high into the night sky.

“Excalibur!” he roared as he shoved Brieana behind him, nearly knocking her down in his eagerness.

“But I –” As Brieana began to protest, strong hands grasped her shoulders and spun her around.

“My Lord Merlin!” she gasped as she viewed the powerful mage. “I was just going to –”

“All hail Arthur!” he boomed in a loud, authoritative voice.

Brieana had always respected the older man as her friend and Arthur’s mentor. She had often thought him quite handsome and charming, with a deep sense of justice. He would help her.

“My Lord,” she said louder as he drew her away from the prostrating men. “I drew Excalibur from the stone.” As she thought about that fact, she came to a startling but wonderful realization. “I am King, uh, Queen of the Britons! I am the true ruler!” Then turning excitedly to Arthur, she cried, “I am Queen! Tell them, Arthur!”

Arthur was faced with a difficult decision. A decision many great men have been forced to make. He looked at Brieana’s luscious lips and then to the men kneeling before him. Love or power? He stared at her long, curling hair, as dark as raven’s wings, and her almond-shaped, green cat’s eyes, then to the teeming mass of masculinity that knelt at his feet ready to do any and all of his bidding. He looked back and saw love and a little fear reflected in her beautiful eyes, eyes that begged him to do the right thing. Love, or power? He knew what he had to do.

Facing the crowd, he declared in a ringing voice, “By right of strength and virtue, I, Arthur, have drawn Excalibur from the stone. I am king!”

Nooo!”

The fierce roar of approval emanating from the new king’s army drowned out Brieana’s scream of denial.

“My Lord Merlin!” she cried desperately as she ran to the sage, tripping over gravel and kicking up dust, and pulled on the sleeve of his long tunic. “You know the truth! I do not lie! Please tell them!” she begged as she looked into his bottomless black eyes.

Slowly, he turned away from her.

“Let us leave our ‘new king’ for now. We have much to discuss.” Then to the crowd, “Leave us!”

Shocked, she stared at the back of the man, her closest friend, her confidant, in horror. Betrayed! Those she had held closest to her, those she had trusted, had betrayed her.

Angry? She was pissed! How dare they keep her rightful kingdom from her? Manipulated! It all now made perfect sense. She had been manipulated by the master.

“You knew, My Lord Merlin.” Wide eyed, Brieana faced a most painful truth. “That is why you planted the idea of a moonlight walk in Arthur’s head with your talk of how beautifully the moon shines down upon the mountains. You planned this!”

ABOUT STEPHANIE BURKE

Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.

From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.

Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.

Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.

RELEASE BLITZ: The Devil’s Lover by Alexa Piper #BDSM #DarkFantasy #LGBTQ @prowlingpiper @changelingpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Devil’s Lover

Series: Hellbound 5

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: August 12

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 149 pages

Genre: Romance, Action Adventure, BDSM, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Desire, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Magic, Murder Mystery

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Synopsis

Lionel and Lucifer are drawn deeper into a murder case, but they are set on solving it together.

Just when Lionel’s love life has gone back to normal — normal meaning the kinky Devil making his ownership known — Lionel’s murder case gets stranger. Lionel’s birth father seems to have his hands in the mystery, and Lionel finds himself in the sights of Eris, goddess of discord.

Lucifer used to be a prime example of a powerful underworld deity with all the knowledge and skill to take care of a lover in the bedroom. But that was before Lucifer fell properly in love and won over his necromantic boyfriend, who also happens to be a demigod. Lionel’s innate magic, magical skill, and stubborn nature make it exceedingly difficult for Lucifer to be the alpha god he wants to be for Lionel.

Lucifer is set on finding a way to provide for the man he loves and to fulfill Lionel’s every desire. But before he can focus entirely on his necromancer, the two of them must solve the case, prevent primordial deities from being raised and destroying the world, and learn to communicate better. It’s what relationships and crime solving are all about.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper

Lionel

The Devil’s body in front of mine, protecting me from a threat I didn’t quite understand, that was a new and uncomfortable feeling, and something I didn’t really care for. I tried getting a decent look at the deity that had teleported into Lucifer’s doorless office, but the Devil his own damn self kept pushing me back. It was so annoying when he was trying to be an alpha god.

“Will you cut it out, Beelzebug?” I grumbled, and Trony, in her pink tartan skirt and with her sword in hand, gave me an admiring look.

Nyx, the deity that had Lucifer so riled, chuckled and turned their milky, unseeing eyes on me. “You are a fierce one. Tiamat has said as much.”

And speak of the dragon mother, she appeared in the office as well, which was fine, apart from the fact that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Awesome.

“What is going on here? Nyx, do you have to scare the children?” the dragon mother said and crossed her arms under her breasts. Not that I was paying any attention to her breasts, but it was sort of hard not to notice they existed. Why did all gods have trouble with clothing? Buttons and zippers really weren’t all that bad.

“Children?” Lucifer said and straightened before pulling me to his side and circling my waist with his arm in a proud <em>look, this is my boyfriend</em> kind of way. Apparently in his mind, the presence of the dragon mother lessened the threat level in his office.

“No one in this room was scared,” Metatron said and flashed her sword.

“What were you saying about Eris?” I asked the blind god… then realized looking at them wouldn’t be enough to cue them in on the fact I was speaking with them. “I mean, Nyx. You were saying about Eris?”

The sightless god turned to face me. “Eager as any human, aren’t you?” They smiled. “Or as the Devil dispensing deals.”

Tiamat clapped her hands. “If you have something to say about Eris, I am interested. I don’t appreciate her harassing poor, lovesick humans around the corner, but I think we can talk while also eating, can’t we?”

Metatron nodded. “I second that. The necromancer has been turning his nose up at my food since his return from Scotland, and he looks worse for wear.”

“I haven’t!” I said. “And I don’t! It’s just been a busy few days, and there were corpses.”

“Humans are quite frail and need regular nourishment, even those who are only partially so,” Nyx said, and they and the dragon mother nodded knowingly.

Lucifer glowered at the other god. “I know best what my boyfriend needs,” he said, but I could tell I was in for eating my breakfast out of the Devil’s hands while sitting in his lap.

* * *

Lucifer was indeed behaving like a total alpha god, and it reminded me that I should call Persephone and give her an update, but that would mean looking at my phone and seeing whatever social media was now making of the sharkomancer incident. Maybe I should still tell her about the minotaur… but what would I even tell her about that? It was confusing, the way I felt or should feel about Minos, and I was actually glad to be dealing with something else right about now.

The dragon mother, Nyx, and Lucifer and I teleported to the already set dining room table, and I tried to grab a chair, but Lucifer wouldn’t let me go. He pulled me close and tilted my chin up.

“How about I take you to Sephy’s and Hades’ place? It’s almost the weekend anyway, and you trained Marc Deacon well. I am sure he can handle things here while you relax a little,” Lucifer said. He was doing his best at looking charming, dashing, someone you didn’t want to say no to. His kitty-cat hair was catching the light just so.

In one word, he was a transparent, overprotective alpha god, and he was trying to lull me into damseling myself, or whatever you’d call it. “You are not benching me,” I said. “I will raise the minotaur, even if it’s –” If it was what? A way for me to get back at him? To make sure he was very and truly dead? I shook my head. “I’ll raise him. I can do my fucking job, whether you believe that or not, Beelzebug.”

Lucifer’s face soured, but then he kissed my forehead. “I know you can, my love, but you don’t have to.”

“What are you saying about raising the minotaur?” Tiamat said. She had put on a bathrobe, just a thin one that hugged her every curve and still revealed a lot, but it was better than nothing. Which was the alternative.

Lucifer hugged me close. “He was apparently murdered in his cell at the human prison not too long ago. Christine just called with the news.”

“The minotaur,” Nyx said, and I wiggled out of Lucifer’s hold and even managed to sit in my own chair instead of the Devil’s lap. My goals had shifted over the past few months, and today, this was an achievement, and I knew it. “He was a powerful human sorcerer,” the blind god went on. They used their cane to find a chair opposite the dragon mother. Lucifer moved his chair at the head of the table to the left, toward my own, until he was sitting right next to me.

“You knew him?” I asked. “How did you know the minotaur?”

Purchase

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

Meet the Author

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter or TikTok, and subscribe to her newsletter!

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | BookBub

Giveaway

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NEW RELEASE: The Devil’s Wings by Alexa Piper #PNR #DarkFantasy #LGBTQ @prowlingpiper

Lionel is in love with the Devil. It has taken the necromancer and police consultant a while to acknowledge it, and the impatient and overeager Lucifer didn’t always make it easy for Lionel to come to terms with his emotions, but Lionel is finally in a place where he wants to open up to his boyfriend.

After some well-deserved vacation time, Lionel finds himself back at work, and he is welcomed by a potential murder case that quickly turns into a mystery he is determined to solve. Lucifer has been having his own thoughts on intimacy and sharing things, and there are small details about himself he has yet to tell his necromancer.

In-between an unusual case of corpses at the beach, Lucifer reveals his secret to the man he loves. As a result, the Devil will have to learn that a secret once revealed cannot be unmade by any deal. And Lionel will have to find a way to make his peace with the fact that loving a god and letting that god love him is just not as easy as he thought.

Available at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper

Lionel

The Devil on top of me, filling my mouth with his woodfire and spices scent while he kissed me senseless — that was not something I’d thought I’d get used to. And yet here I was, Lionel Hawkes, professional necromancer and newly minted demigod, on my back in Lucifer’s bed, and somehow pleasantly used to what he was doing do me. Craving it, even. His bedroom was warm although the January light filtering in through the curtains, half covering the floor-to-ceiling windows, was bleary and cool, and of course, so close to him, there was no chance of me getting cold.

“Babe, turn on your stomach,” he said, barely even breaking the kiss as he caged me in with his arms, with his body.

“I need to get up and get to work,” I said. “The Holiday break is over.” And it had been a long one, because Christine, my boss, had either been bribed by Lucifer or she’d wanted to be rid of me for a little while. The outcome had been the same: Lucifer, capitalizing heavily on my time and attention from around mid-December to New Year’s just a few days ago. And me, secretly loving it. A lot.

Lucifer grumbled. “It’s still early, and you won’t be late. You are also not leaving this bed before I’ve had you. So, on your stomach.”

I shivered at his words, but I knew this was not a discussion I was likely to win, and so I slowly turned. Of course, with him being all over me, I felt his hard cock brush up against my own, and that made me give him a small, needy noise that I couldn’t quite contain. Which I just knew he’d love.

“Mmh, you’re so hot, babe,” he said and commenced kissing and nipping at my neck when I was finally where he wanted me.

I dug my fingers into the sheets, idly wondering when I’d gotten used to his large, circular bed and the high-thread-count gray sheets, but when he was starting to rub his cock in my crack, all idle thoughts went overboard.

“Babe, I’m doing magic to you,” he said. “Still your own.”

“You do not need to tell me every fucking time, Lucy,” I said, but he just growled and bit my newly pierced earlobe, pulling the stud with his teeth so hard I gasped… with the pure pleasure the pain brought me.

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Now still your magic, while I make you slick for me.”

Well, okay, maybe he did. But honestly, I’d not been able to use my demigod magic since that one time on Midwinter where we’d had a run in with Michael, who’d just been an angel dick all over again. I was beginning to think that my Awesome Demigod Sled Dog Magic ™ was more of a hit or miss kind of deal than anything I’d ever really get the hang of. Not that that was bad. I’d always been a necromancer, and while I didn’t care for the smell of decay, I wasn’t skittish, and I loved the work.

As Lucifer’s magic touched me, I couldn’t quite smother the gasp that escaped me. His sex magic was just so incredibly intimate, more intimate than every single time he’d lubed me up with his skilled and teasing fingers. I could feel him clean me and leave me slick — much slicker than I needed to be, but I’d come to learn he liked it that way, and when the Devil liked something, there was very little I could do to change that, even less to keep him from getting it.

Since he was still rubbing his cock between my cheeks, he was very soon spreading that slickness, and pretty soon after that, I was squirming under him, just trying to get some friction of my own.

Lucifer chuckled. “Ah, babe. Do you want me?”

“Yes. Or do you need a written invitation?” I said, knowing perfectly well that this would get me — something. I just didn’t know what.

“Mmh. So mouthy again. You were far tamer when I had you tied up and fed you my cock back in Scotland.”

“Well, I didn’t have to be anywhere when you did that, did I? I have to go to the station at some point this year.” I wanted to add I had another necromancer to train, but that would really get Lucifer angry. He definitely did not appreciate me talking about other men while I was in his bed, and if I did, he might not let me come. And I wanted to come. Sometime this year.

“Ah, sweet. How you test me. I have to remember to do something about that mouth of yours in the mornings.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter or TikTok, and subscribe to her newsletter!

GUEST BLOG: How Not to Date a Dragon Lord by Stephanie Burke #DarkFantasy #PNR #LGBTQ @FlashyCat @changelingpress

How Not to Date a Dragon Lord is now available from Changeling Press!

About the Book…

War is coming.

Vissar sends Alita, his Dragon Lord who speaks with his voice, to the village below with orders for the upcoming invasion. Trouble is, Alita would rather burn the village to the ground than speak with any of them.

But orders are orders and Alita, along with her lover, the runaway princess Suli, in tow must venture down to the village. Explosive secrets are bound to be revealed and Alita is forced to deal with her own painful past as a dragon sacrifice.

Meanwhile, the army is advancing, Vissar’s heat is rapidly approaching, his mate Nithe is off finalizing business in the dragon lands, and the idiot Prince Ranid keeps advancing, despite the drama unfolding in his own camp…

Get it here >> https://www.changelingpress.com/how-not-to-date-a-dragon-lord-how-not-to-13-b-3303

———–<—-(@

Now let’s hear from the author, Stephanie Burke!

Hello Loves!

How’s it going? I hope you are all doing well. I have been tasked with writing a blog post so fiendishly brilliant that everyone will stop to read and unicorns will invade the earth and everyone would really get down to teaching the world to sing in perfect harmony… and since none of that appears to be happening right now, I’d better just shut up and tell you about my book. 

Book Two of the How Not to Date a Dragon trilogy, How Not to Date a Dragon Lord is a story that is very near and dear to my heart. It features a first for me, a lesbian couple where one main protagonist is asexual Domme to a degree and War Master of the Dragon’s Army while her partner is an ex-Princess with an attitude that I find refreshing. To be fair, I loved writing both Alita, the Dragon Lord and Suli, her Princess who rescued herself. Designing both characters was a new experience for me and I relished the chance to write their snappy dialogue as well as creating hot and steamy scenarios where they could explore their sexuality and help center each other for the task that awaits ahead of them.

You see, at the end of book 1, How Not to Date a Dragon, war is iminiante and it is up to our omega Black Dragon Ulvissar and his alpha Red Dragon partner Nithe, to help come up with a plan to protect their castle built deep inside their mountain, the village that keeps trying to sacrifice the women he has been collecting as his horde, and prepare their own army for the fight that is about to happen on their doorstep. But before any of that can happen, the village below has to be prepared as to the reality of what is about to land on their doorsteps. That means Alita, the first sacrifice to survive and bond with Ulvissar, has to return home to the place that had forced her sacrifice generations ago and had become quite successful as the result of the sacrifices of her and the women who were chained and given over to the dragon… even though a sacrifice of women is the last thing that Ulvissar wants or needs. Yes, Alita has to go back to the place that essentially gave up her and the hundreds of women that followed through the centuries as sacrifices to keep the village safe… and now Alita has to help protect them when they couldn’t even take a moment to remember the women they had essentially thought they murdered and who’s blood and death made up the foundation of their success. 

How on earth can Alita forgive such a betrayal when even the descendants of her own family fail to remember who she was? And she has to help save these people who have seemingly created a religion out of murdering young women who are not all virgins, not all willing scarifies, and have become the fatted calves to keep their successes growing. It’s good that Princess Suli is trained at diplomacy because as far as Alita is concerned, they can all go to H-E-double-Hockey Sticks on an express pass.

I had fun creating this trilogy within the How Not to Date series because of dragons. Seriously, I am obsessed with dragons. Half of my tattoos are dragons and in my mind, they always were a force of comfort and fierce protection. So when I proposed How Not to Date a Dragon, How Not to Date a Dragon Lord, and the final book of the trilogy, How Not to Date a Dragon Master, I knew I had to pull out all of the stops for my beautiful winged terror lizards. I have written about other dragons before in the past, in the Dragon Stone Trilogy for example,  but I never before have I had the chance to create such brilliantly twisted scenarios and tropes in my writing as I have created for this trilogy. 

There is the inclusion of the Alpha, Omega, and Beta world and the dragons’ insane anatomy and physiology that I laughed myself nearly into a headache creating. There are strange and comedic travels of an army being led by an idiot prince to start a war that he knows he can’t win but, you know, he needs the glory of battle to quench the flames of passionate anger that fill him at the escape— uh, death of his bride. And then there is the bloodthirsty horde of battle-trained women who are eager to put all of their training to a real test. Did I mention broody omega dragons in heat because my broody omega dragon is in heat and demands that his alpha gives him everything… or else. Trust me, they are not your average alpha/omega couple and if Nithe, the beautiful Red Dragon fails in his duty— I shudder to think of what Ulvissar the Black Dragon will do to him… and I’m the one who wrote the crazy story. 

As delightful as it was to create the world that Alita, Suli, Vissar, and Nithe inhabit, they are still not my favorite in the How Not to Date series line-up. I came up with an idea to create a series set in different worlds around a major theme, bad first dates, and it exploded into the award-winning monster that it is today. I first shared this idea with author D Renee Bagby/Zenobia Renquest as we were traveling home from a writer’s convention. The first book, How Not to Date an Alien was all about misconceptions and biases we have and are likely to run across when dating outside of your race or in the first book’s case, your species. I think we both laughed so hard at the idea that I knew that I had to create more funny bits of escapism that lined up with some of the worst first dates imaginable. Before we made it home, I think we outlined about seventy How Not to Date books, and even more were requested… ie demanded with threats of bodily harm… from my beautiful readers whom I would not be here today without the help of. Seriously, a bunch of insane readers decided I should write How Not to Date a Skunk and How Not to Date a Human without any input from me. I was delivered an ultimatum… write these books or we will come up with more outrageous books for you to write. I wrote the books much to my reader’s delight, and peace was restored to the land until they demanded How Not to Date a Centaur but I managed to pull that one off too so the flaming pitchforks didn’t come out. 

I have to say, out of all my novellas in the How Not to Date series, my favorite is How Not to Date a Bear. While explaining the plot to D Renee Bagby, she is often instrumental in my foolishness, we laughed ourselves stupid over the plot. What if a bear shifter was accidentally shaved bald by his unknowing mate just before he had to go out and prevent a war between Russian Grizzly bear shifters and their neighbors The Brown bear Shifters who think they are an invading army trying to take over their territory when all they truly want is to live in peace. It may have also something to is with this photo of a bald bear landing in my lap.

See that expression? That is the look that my poor bear wears when he discovered what his mate had done. We laughed ourselves silly over the plot and D Renee liked it so much that she poked and prodded until we came up with How Not to Date a Bear, too… Cougar Boogaloo which was the title in my head but we just stuck with How Not to Date a Bear, Too. 

So there you have it, some of my favorite How Not to Date series books and a glimpse at How Not to Date a Dragon Lord. I hope you all take the time to explore these and other titles I have available and that you find as much delight in reading them as I found in writing them.

Love you, Loves!

Stephanie “Flash” Burke

CHARITY ANTHOLOGY – Firestorm #charity #anthology #PNR #DarkFantasy

Firestorm: A collection of short Paranormal Erotic Adventures from the Changeling Press family of authors. Royalties donated to Changeling’s Save the Quiet Kitty Fund  in memory of Camille Anthony.

If You Can’t Stand the Heat — Camille Anthony: In human shape or his natural prairie dog form, Edison was normally the most laid-back of males, except when his mate, Reba, crossed the line…

Catan’s Fire — Jade Buchanan: Asad needs to teach his mate what happens to submissive Felidae who disobey orders…

Brimstone by Mistake — Alice Gaines: Heaven’s made a mistake. What will Lucifer do when the Man Upstairs wants Sally back?

Shifting Priorities — Anne Kane: When the sexy hunk Jexx picks up in the station bar turns out to be more than human, she has more to worry about than her profit margin.

Burning Down the House — Isabella Jordan: Will Katurah use her powers now to end it all — or will she give in to a fiery lover?

Stockings — Jade Buchanan: A gorgeous female cat shifter, an enticing pair of stockings, and a very interested lady wolf produce enough heat to burn down the house…

Britta’s Beast — Kate Hill: When Max and Britta met at a convention for members of magical law enforcement, they seemed like a perfect fit…

Available TODAY at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Changeling Authors

If You Can’t Stand the Heat by Camille Anthony

He stood in the doorway of the Bakery’s kitchen, belt dangling from his hand, watching his mate of forty years bustle about preparing refreshments for the library shindig about later that evening. As always, the sight of her had his heart doing that funny leap in his chest, his cock echoing the movement behind the zipper of his jeans. After all this time, it still only took a look, a whiff of his female’s scent to have him hard as a cactus spike.

Along with his surging lust came a powerful burst of love and he knew if prairie dogs didn’t mate for life, he’d still never let this woman go. He’d die without her. However, that didn’t mean he was blind to her faults.

His Reba was an incorrigible busybody, continually putting her finger in other folk’s pies. He understood her interfering tendencies were part of her caring nature and that would have been fine as long as she contained her meddling within the family.

She didn’t.

He wasn’t mad at her. Edison’s smile was full of masculine anticipation. The punishment of her infraction was going to be intensely pleasurable for both of them.

Check out more multi-author anthologies by the Changeling Press authors!

Invisible Love by AJ Graham #DarkFantasy #PNR @changelingpress

Gregory tried to become immortal, but his spell went wrong and transformed him into a bodiless spirit. For five hundred years, he’s roamed the world trapped between life and death, cut off from all human contact — until he meets Linda, a young psychic who can feel his presence.

Shy, lonely Linda hasn’t felt a man’s touch for a long time. Then one night, a gorgeous man appears to her in a vivid, erotic dream…and the next day, she hears his voice in her mind. At first, Linda thinks she’s going crazy, but she can’t ignore the man’s desperation, his hunger for human contact. When he asks her to open her mind to him, she can’t refuse.

By inhabiting Linda’s body, Gregory discovers, he is able to feel again. After five hundred years without pleasure, he is overwhelmed by the sensations. Linda, meanwhile, discovers that having Gregory’s spirit inside her is surprisingly erotic. Though she can’t see him, she can sense his essence moving through her, even feel his hands on her body. Before long, she finds herself falling in love with this strange, lonely, passionate man. As her feelings grow, Linda vows to help Gregory escape the empty half-life of a wandering soul and become human again…but to save him, she must make a terrible sacrifice.

Available Today at Changeling Press
or Preorder for June 17 at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 AJGraham

Gregory floated above New York City. He stared through the patchy clouds, at the tiny skyscrapers and high rises below. At night, the city glowed with a thousand points of light, like a mirror image of the starry sky. Cars crawled through the maze of streets like ants through tunnels. How faraway, how unimportant everything seemed from this distance.

Wind howled around him. A few fat snowflakes spiraled down from the sky. Gregory felt no cold. He had felt nothing for hundreds of years. He wondered — for the thousandth, the millionth time — if he would ever escape this empty, gray half-life, or if he was doomed to wander the Earth as a spirit for all eternity, unseen, unheard. Alone.

He drifted down toward the city, like a feather on the wind. His feet touched the ground. He walked down the sidewalk. People hurried past, talking loudly, cell phones glued to their ears.

It was that time of year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the whole of America seemed caught in a frenzy of commerce. People clutched brightly colored shopping bags filled with toys and the latest electronic gadgets. Store windows glowed with warm light. Signs boasted low, low prices to entice consumers. Passersby walked through Gregory’s dim, translucent form as though passing through a cloud of smoke. Their thoughts and memories swirled through his mind, like leaves on the wind. He took no notice. The thoughts of the living were dull and repetitive, centered around the details of their hectic careers and their confused love lives.

He stopped outside an apartment building and looked up.

On the third floor, a window glowed with lamplight. He stared at the window, wondering why it held his attention. He felt a peculiar tug in the core of his being. Something drew him toward that square of warm, yellow light. He floated off the ground, hovered outside the window, and peered in.

A young woman sat upright in bed, legs tucked beneath her, an open book in her lap. Long, wavy hair spilled over her slim, pale shoulders, hair so dark a brown it was almost black. It shone with a soft luster in the lamplight as she twined a lock around two fingers. Her full lips were parted, relaxed, as her eyes moved over the lines on the page. She wore only a sleeveless, white cotton nightshirt and a pair of white panties.

Gregory stared. An ache of longing pierced his soul, so deep and sharp it was almost pain. How long had it been since he had touched a woman? How long since he had tasted soft lips, or felt his cock sink into a warm, welcoming body? The sight of this woman — so delicate, yet so lush, like a tropical flower — made him hunger for things he could never feel again. The hunger roared inside him like a caged tiger.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

AJ Graham has a passion for cold weather, unusual beers, and anything otherworldly.  Dragons, demons, shapeshifters and psychics have always populated their imagination, but sometimes the real world can be just as fascinating and mysterious.  And no matter the genre, AJ has always loved stories about soulmates connecting.  Whether it’s instant, explosive passion or a slow burn, the power of two (or more) minds and bodies coming together to form a greater whole is always a story worth telling.  AJ lives in the Chicago suburbs with their husband.

SPOTLIGHT: Clandestine by J. Hali Steele #DarkFantasy #Gay #PNR @jhalisteele

Joshua’s spending more and more time at club Sub Rosa. It’s time he emerges from the shadows to take a more active role. Pursuit of the aloof nightclub owner obsessed with voyeurism carries him over the edge. The stranger’s scent awakens a desire Joshua has not felt in centuries. He vows to have the man. If it means bleeding dry everyone close to either of them, so be it.

Mason Kildare, owner of Sub Rosa, doesn’t play in his own backyard. Instead he frequents other night spots in search of fulfillment. A reserved disposition coupled with gray hair keeps most of the young men he finds attractive at arm’s length, but not Joshua. Joshua storms Mason’s defenses, breaking them down one by one. By the time he discovers Joshua’s bloody secret, Mason has lost more than his body — he’s given away his soul.

Available Today at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 J. Hali Steele

Two groups of patrons had already been discouraged from reaching the corner table, but from previous visits, Joshua knew the spot would soon be occupied. His quarry was later than usual, so he keep his long legs stretched across the aisle. Used to wearing button down shirts, tonight his collar strangled him. He tugged at the neck before undoing another button.

Three youthful revelers snatched attention as they noisily closed in on the table. “Excuse us, dude.” Guy didn’t even look twenty-one.

“You’re excused.”

Largest of the gathering took control. “We want that table. Move your legs. We can get by.”

“Please find another table.” Instinct told Joshua this would get messy. “You passed two.” All this effort to crawl in bed with a man for one night. Sensation sliding down his spine belied that thought. One night my ass. Normally dead calm, Joshua’s annoyance toughened his words. “Stand against the wall for all I care.”

When the one closest to the big man stepped near and bumped his legs, Joshua stood. At least two inches taller, he leaned in and quietly warned, “Touch me once more, and I’ll break every finger on both of your hands. Then how will you play with your tiny dick?”

Stepping back, one of the followers informed his friend, “I don’t mind another table.”

“I mind, and since you’re up, we’ll slip by.”

Spying the man he came to see enter and stroll to the end of the long bar, Joshua decided not to waste more time. He grasped the man’s hand and bent it at the wrist, intending to cause a sprain. “Take. Another. Table.”

“Jesus Christ! You son of a bitch!”

“I’m struggling not to break your hand.” Joshua opted for wrapping his fingers around the cretin’s thick neck. Allowing one fingernail to puncture skin, he effortlessly lifted the idiot an inch off the floor — not enough for customers to notice, but sufficient for the bastard to know he was out matched. “I asked nicely, but you had to take the Lord’s name in vain.”

His friends shuffled backward. “They’re deserting you.” Letting the man’s feet touch the floor, Joshua smiled before licking blood from his finger. “Ah, it’s your lover’s birthday. Fucking him later should make keeping your balls attached a prime concern. Turn and move on.”

“Holy shit, you’re nuts!” The man’s eyes popped wide in their sockets.

“I know.”

That rattle him more.

“Hopefully he never discovers you’re screwing his best friend.”

“I… how… Hold on a minute.”

The waiter picked that moment to make rounds. “Can I get you anything else?” The waiter noticed the intruder and shoved a napkin into his hand. “You’re bleeding.”

“I — I’m good.” He rubbed his neck. “Sorry.”

“I’ll have a lager.” Joshua sat back in his chair. “Send a bottle of your best champagne to this young man’s table.” His boyfriend deserved a decent night out. The blood Joshua had accessed allowed him to deliver a mental prod. Go.

“Uh, thanks, man.”

“Enjoy your partner’s birthday.”

“That was severe.” Sten Majković, Joshua’s best friend, the vampire king, and a royal pain in the ass, sat across the table.

Joshua swiveled in his seat to face Sten. “Who invited you?”

He’d die for this man. Damn near had on two or three occasions. But Sten picked the worst of times to surface. More disturbing was the fact Joshua hadn’t sensed his presence. Not a single drop of his blood pulsed in alert. Joshua was one of less than a handful of vampires who had the pleasure of Sten’s lifeforce, so his manifestation without prior warning should have been impossible, and elicited concern. Scrutinizing his guest, Joshua realized Stan was fingering a coin Joshua had bequeathed him. That provided some explanation. The talisman gave his king insight into Joshua’s life that no one else experienced.

The handsome man Joshua had in his crosshairs was wearing an impeccable navy suit. He strode toward the table Joshua had taken such pains to keep available. His heralding scent and the way his lean body moved had undoubtedly helped distract Joshua, enabling Sten to gain residence at his table unnoticed.

His leader’s intense brown eyes wouldn’t miss Joshua’s interest.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

J. Hali Steele wishes she could grow fur, wings, or fangs, so she can stay warm, fly, or just plain bite the crap out of… Well, she can’t do those things but she wishes she could!

Multi-published and Amazon bestselling author of Romance in Paranormal, Fantasy, and Contemporary worlds which include ReligErotica and LGBTQ stories where humans, vampyres, shapeshifters and angels collide-they collide a lot! When J. Hali’s not writing or reading, she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

Growl and roar — it’s okay to let the beast out. — J. Hali Steele

Witch Wolf (Elvenswood Tales) by Alexa Piper #RomCom #DarkFantasy #Gay #LGBTQ @powlingpiper

Will is a witch wolf, a werewolf who can do magic, but his life so far has been anything but magical. He was sold by his own pack and for four years, Will suffered as a slave to his captors — who used him any way they wanted. Now, after a leap of courage has brought him to Colin’s doorstep, Will’s past should be just that, his past.             

Colin can see the new apprentice he’s supposed to teach magic has been hurt. Colin wants to comfort the young werewolf who takes to magic much more easily than he takes to human contact. Their attraction seems mutual, but how can Colin be certain Will even knows what he wants?

As slow affection grows between Colin and Will, Will’s magic does as well, and he allows himself a sliver of happiness. Except the dark past Will thought he escaped from is not quite done with him, and now, it’s not just Will’s life on the line, but also Colin’s, the witch Will’s heart is beating for.

WARNING: Witch Wolf contains references to past sexual assault (with none of it happening on the page), which may be triggering for some readers.

Available TODAY at Changeling Press
or Preorder for June 10th at online booksellers

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper

Will

Once upon a time, Will had sent wishes to the full moon with his howls, but what had come true for him were the slick slaps of skin against skin, stinking breath against his face, the taste of his own blood and other, unspeakable things. Will, instead of meeting a prince under the full moon, had been sold to beasts.

Will carefully turned away from the large form next to him in the bed. Everything seemed so loud in the darkness, the other man’s deep breathing, Will’s own, panicked heartbeat which had not slowed while he had waited for the small hours of the morning, refusing sleep. Will moved, inch by inch, away from the other man. Will refused to think what the other man — Ed — would do if he found Will sneaking out. What Ed had done was already more than Will wanted to think about.

Will had considered packing a small bag, but that would have been too dangerous. All he had dared was leave clothes under the bed, in such a way it looked incidental, forgotten laundry.

The floor was cold against Will’s naked feet. Carefully, he stood. He could say he’d just wanted to go to the bathroom if Ed woke now, but Ed was still sleeping, and so Will got his clothes, slowly pulling them up and onto his arms. He could not make too much noise. He had to get this right.

Will didn’t dare put the clothes on in the bedroom — loup-garou hearing was sensitive. He walked through the dark house and to the kitchen, grabbing his shoes on the way. There were shards of a glass on the floor. Ed had thrown it in fury when Will had been too slow in getting Ed his beer. Will walked around the broken thing and quickly cleaned himself with a wipe. He gave one last look to the dirty dishes in the sink, then pulled on his clothes, more concerned with doing it as quietly as he could than about doing it neatly.

Before he turned the knob, he listened to the house, but it was quiet. Ed was still sleeping, and so was his pack of three, all of them loup-garous, all of them vicious. They might still hear the door, but if Will was ever going to run, then this was it.

He opened the door and crossed the threshold. Now, if they found him, they would know without a doubt that he had tried to run, and they would punish him.

Will closed the door as carefully as he could, but the mechanism made a small sound. Behind the house, the alley was dirty. Trash bags rustled in the wind, soda cans rusted and collected dirt. Will had to watch where he stepped so he didn’t make any more noise. His heart was thundering in his chest.

Out on the street, Will quickly broke into a run. He knew he had to put as much distance between himself and them, because they could shift and just hunt him down, and he couldn’t without the moon being full.

Winchester Boulevard, on foot, was quite a walk. It took Will an hour, and he ran most of the time, so when he finally got there, he was sweaty from running and trembling with the cold whenever he slowed down to catch his breath. The house he wanted had a large planter by the front door with a red and white plastic windmill in it. Ella had said the windmill would be there. It was such a silly thing, and there wasn’t even any wind to move its spokes, but Will nearly broke out in sobs with relief.

Will was scared to knock, but at this point, it was this or wait for Ed and his pack to hunt him down. And Will knew they wouldn’t just kill him. If it had been that — if he’d known that would have been the worst he’d have to fear — he might have given up at any point over the past four years, might have just accepted death. Everything else the loup-garous would enjoy doing to him — that was what Will feared.

He was huffing when he stood in front of the door, but he didn’t hesitate to knock.

Will looked over his shoulder as he waited to be let in. This neighborhood was one of the nicer ones for New Elvenswood. The whole city tended to be largely clean and touristy, even if Will had never been allowed to see all that much of the place. The dilapidated house Ed and his pack had rented was the exception more than the rule as far as Will could tell.

Across the street, there was a light on in an upstairs room. Will imagined whoever was up was awake at this hour because of their own choosing. He imagined they were working late or maybe just reading. Just living their life. Will hadn’t lived in such a long time. All he’d been doing since he’d met Ed had been surviving.

The door opened, and Will flinched.

“Yes?” the vampire asked.

Will had known it would be a vampire, but still. This one, his sheer presence absolutely spoke to Will’s wolf nature, and the vampire’s demeanor made Will want to show his belly and submit. He was stunning to behold too, but in a sharp way: almost white-blond hair, icy eyes that had a hard darkness to them, a thin mouth set in a pale face.

With a last shallow breath, Will forced the words he’d prepared in his head out of his mouth. “Ella said you can help people in trouble. I… there’s a pack of loup-garous, and I need to get away from them. I can’t pay you, but I’ll do what you want. I’ll work for you.”

Will’s voice nearly gave out on the last part, because he started shaking violently. It occurred to Will that the vampire looked like a Viking, and his cold eyes were growing only more glacial in their regard. Will doubted the man had laughed for more than a minute in the last hundred years. And he wore nice clothes, really nice clothes. Will knew the vampire was a lawyer, but he felt silly now for asking for help. He expected the vampire to tell him to go and fuck off, just with nicer words.

“Come inside,” the vampire said instead and opened the door wider.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter or TikTok, and subscribe to her newsletter!

NEW RELEASE: Angel Falls Vol 2 by Stephanie Burke #DarkFantasy #PNR @FlashyCat @changelingpress

Angel Falls is filled with geeks and weirdoes — the best geeks and weirdoes anyone has ever met.

My Protector: Being sheriff of a small town has lots of perks. Richard knows just about everyone by name, he gets free coffee at the café, and he gets to spend as much time as he wants with Amber Graves, the woman he desires above all others. Unfortunately he finds himself firmly friend-zoned, much to his and his shadow-wolf’s dismay.

When strange phone calls bring up memories of a dark past that rocks Amber’s soul, Richard knows he needs to protect her — even if he’d not so sure he can protect himself.

Rare as a Unicorn: Warrior Jova was once a unicorn, masterful and proud… Now he’s stranded in Angel Falls. People here are strange, and none more strange and desirable than the pair who rescues him one snowy morning.

Baylin and Torin, Angel Falls’ veterinarians, have a lot going for them — talent, exciting careers, the love of each other, and a strong relationship… but they’re not complete. They need a third to commit to being with them. The attraction is immediate, but how can they make this work?

Get it Today at Changeling Press

Get the Paperback at Amazon

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Stephanie Burke
Excerpt from My Protector

Richard watched as the angry, determined Amber Graves kind of sank in on herself. He hadn’t meant to blurt out his problems to her, but the tear in his soul was beginning to bleed all kinds of emotional pain and he was getting tired, so damn tired.

“I — I –“

“It’s not your fault.” He sighed, reaching up and gripping her hands in frustration. “None of this is your fault.”

“I never — I… Jesus, Richard. I don’t have issues; I have subscriptions and enough of those to sell at news stands.”

“You don’t have to make things up, Amber.” He snorted. “But I just wanted you to know how I really felt. And by your actions, I think I can guess where you stand.” The smile he offered to her was rueful and filled with the pain that was now slowly beginning to consume him, but it was the best he could do.

He was soul sick and hurting, his wolf had turned against him, and now he was beginning to think maybe it was right. Maybe he should have immediately taken the direct approach with her, told her how he felt from the beginning. He flirted with her because he flirted with everyone he knew. It was just part of his nature to be open and friendly. But maybe he should have told her it wasn’t just social niceties with her, that he was deathly serious when it came to her.

“My ex was an ass.”

Her words stopped him cold. He turned to look at her, to really look at her and froze. Her hands were fisted at her sides, her body trembling.

“Amber –“

“I’m not telling you because I think we need to trade dark pasts. I’m not telling you because I want your pity.” Her dark eyes met his and in them he read courage and determination. “I’m not telling you this because I want to trade who had the shittiest deal. I had enough therapy and I know who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m telling you because you need to know why I am the way I am.”

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to.” He stepped closer, reaching out to cup her shoulders in his hands. “I understand –“

“He beat me, Richard. My ex, Todd Ritter, he beat me so badly sometimes I wanted to die.”

Richard froze as anger rolled over him in waves. “He beat you –“

“I met Todd when I was just a scared little girl playing at being an adult.” She smiled sadly and took a step back, taking a seat on the rock once more. “He was beautiful and kind and knew just how to look for women with low self esteem. He was really good at that, reading a crowd and reading people. He knew just what to do and what to say.”

Richard stepped closer to the boulder, closer to her.

“He separated me from my family, and I let him. He was white, you see, and they didn’t think much of that to begin with. They thought I was going to college and getting above myself. And he read that about them and used it to drive a wedge between my mom, my sister, and me. When he had me where he wanted me, with my family all but disowning me, he asked me to marry him.” She looked up at him and he saw something of the younger girl she had been. “I lapped it all up, every word he said. So I got married and I got pregnant and then I got the bright idea to help us out by dropping out of school to save money and taking small accounting jobs to bring in extra cash.”

She tilted her head as if lost in memories, before she blinked twice and turned her head to look at him.

“Those were some of the happiest memories I’ve ever had, Richard. He treated me like his queen. Then his parents died so we moved out of town to the house they left him. I didn’t even tell my family where I was going or give them my new last name so they could track me down. They didn’t support me so I wanted nothing to do with them. I didn’t know it was because they could see what kind of man Todd really was.”

“He betrayed your trust.”

“He betrayed more than that.” She laughed, her wild tangle of curls bobbing around her face as a sharp wind blew through the trees, carrying the bitter sound away from them. “The first time he hit me he apologized and I forgave him. He had graduated but there weren’t many jobs for an actor in Maryland. His parents had died and left some bills that had to be paid off, so money was tight. He started working at a bar at night and was waiting tables during the day and… and I figured he snapped a little. I forgave him and he promised to never do it again. But he did and this time he told me it was my fault. I didn’t have the house clean. I was six months pregnant and…” She shook her head before lying back on the rock. She looked like a cute kitty basking in the sun.

“He hit me and I believed it was my fault. I wasn’t keeping the house clean and I needed to take more accounting jobs to help. Then he was drunk because his customers kept buying him drinks, and he took them because I was never there to talk to him like I used to do. And then it was because I was too busy for him. And after Lila was born, he stopped making excuses. He just wanted to hit. Everything in his life was out of control, and keeping me in control with his fists and his words made him feel more like a man.”

“Amber, I would never raise a hand to you in anger.”

“I know.” She rubbed her arms. “It was all him and only him. You just don’t have that in you. And by the time I realized I was in some very real trouble, Lila was almost one and he wasn’t even making up excuses. Believe it or not, that’s what got me out. He had me hemmed up in the living room when Lila began to cry. He was going for her and I realized that if I stayed there, he would he hitting her next. So I picked up my prized possession, my die cast metal figurine of the Planet Quest, and I bashed him over the head.”

She said it so matter of factly that Richard just gaped at her.

“Then I tied him up, went to the bank and took all the money out of the account. It was a joint account, and I put most of it in there, so I had a right. Then I went to the police station and reported the assault. I also told them that I tied him up so I could get away with my daughter. I told them that I feared for my life and while they were taking photos of my face and body, I contacted a social worker and got an emergency placement. He was picked up and brought in. I identified him and got a restraining order. I jumped from homeless shelter to homeless shelter until I could swing a legal separation. After a year of hard living with Lila, he didn’t show up for the divorce proceedings so it went through uncontested with special circumstances. I found my way here when Lila was about two and a half and was doing part-time work at Chloe’s Diner. She let me keep Lila in a back station and the other waitress spoiled her rotten. Chloe was a wonderful old lady, was great at manning the cafe, but was horrible at books. So I started helping her out and saved her a lot of money when I found some major mistakes her bookkeeper was making. She admired that and said my talents were wasted on tables and put me in the office. When she found out I was staying in a homeless shelter and why I hadn’t finished my degree, she gave me the apartment over the shop and insisted I finish my degree online. It was all brand new back then, and so exciting…”

She threw her hands over her head and arched her back, stretching a little, and Richard felt his mouth go dry.

“When she was ready for retirement, she let me buy the shop and I changed it into the Planet Quest Cafe.”

“So… so you’re not too fond of men…” Richard knew he couldn’t compete with ghosts from the past.

“Oh, God, man, I love men.” Amber laughed. He looked up to see amusement shining in her eyes. “I’m not a man-hating bitch, Richard. That’s not why I ran.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.

From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.

Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.

Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.