Extra Cream by J. Hali Steele – now in paperback! #shifters #paranormalromance @JHaliSteele

With Extra Cream: Getting enough cream is a problem for this cat… Jag Arizon has a plan to correct that. A jaguar of the Kind species, big cats infected with vampyre blood, he walks in both worlds. Aside from blood, he’s addicted to cream, and only one person can cure him. In convincing her to donate to his cause, Jag gets much more than he bargained for.

Hot Tin Roof: Leron Wilder is a jaguar of the Kind species, big cat shifters infected with vampyre blood. Nothing has gone right for Leron since his best friend Jag mated with the owner of the local coffee shop. Corinne Nelson loves her new home and her new job as a waitress at the Coffee Swirl, and she’s really hoping she won’t have to move on this time. Life’s finally looking up — until the hottest man she’s ever met walks into the shop — and licks her hand?

Cougar by the Tail: Trent Dallion is screwed. A wily little cougar has him by the balls — and he can’t get loose! Did she mean it when she thanked him for killing her brother? Or is she playing a game of cat and mouse, waiting for revenge?

Zader’s Menagerie: The right wolf will make this cat howl at the moon. Zader Montana is Sovereign Kind, a mountain lion infected with vampyre blood. He refuses to embrace his undead half, the part of him that prowls the night looking for the she-wolf he desires. His problem — she’s mated to the alpha of the wolf pack sharing his mountaintop.

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EXCERPT

Copyright ©2021 J. Hali Steele
Excerpt from 
With Extra Cream

The lot at the Coffee Swirl filled up fast. Leron saw Jag’s Lotus right in front. He really did miss the guy. He couldn’t pop in on him like he used to in the mornings, not with Barbara there, but he could always catch him at the Swirl.

“Now, the Lotus, that’s a real car.”

“Jesus Christ, get the fuck out of my car, Trent. You better pray Jag will take your ass back to the compound.”

“I’ll ride with him because you’re in a pissy mood.”

Leron stepped from the car and slammed the door shut, wincing at the force he used. He bounded up the steps, taking two at a time. He walked inside and saw Jag’s head come up immediately in the booth where they usually sat.

“Hey, man. How you been? Trent, what’s up?” Jag looked happy as hell to see him and that improved Leron’s mood a little.

“Stopped by to catch up, check on how you’re doing.”

“He misses you,” Trent chimed in.

Leron wheeled around, collared the youngster, and slammed him against the plate glass window. His temper was on a short fuse today. His claws had begun to emerge when he heard Barbara’s voice. “Let him go, Leron.”

Shit. He brushed his hand down the front of Trent’s tee. “Just straightening the kid up a bit. He’s sloppy.” A hiss whistled past his teeth. “Sorry, Barb.”

“I’ll get you a coffee, you go talk to Jag. By the way, he misses you too.” She grinned and went behind the counter. She’d made him happy. Leron had started to feel like a girly-man pining away for the company of his best friend. It was good to know his buddy felt the same way.

He flopped into the seat across from Jag and grinned at the cat.

“Kid getting on your nerves?”

“He’s everywhere, always into something. Thinks he’s a badass.”

The door to the back of the shop opened, and Leron glanced up. His nostrils flared at the magnificent smell that assailed him. Citrus, which reminded him of oranges.

Long, honey-colored hair flew in a spray around slender shoulders as the woman spun with a tray in her hand. He caught his breath and held it. Christ, she was tall. The most beautiful creature he’d ever seen. Hazel eyes glanced across the room and locked with his. A whoosh of air left his mouth on a moan.

“Easy, big guy,” Jag said, following the direction of his eyes.

“Who is she?”

“Corinne. Cory Nelson. Things picked up a bit so Barb hired her. She’s new in town and needed a job.”

“Where’s she from?”

“I could ask Barb. Why?”

Leron faced Jag. “No particular reason.” His heart beat like a drum. Her scent wafted across the room and teased him. The day had just gotten better. He rolled his head around, but the muscles remained tight. His fangs tingled. This wasn’t a feeling he liked. Damn, maybe the guy he fed from that morning did drugs or something.

“Leron, you okay?”

“I don’t know. Lately I’ve been a little distracted. That’s all. Want to get together at the compound tonight? A bunch of us are going to hang out.”

“Sure. I’ve been meaning to come by anyway. I’ll let Barb know.” The joy that lit Jag’s face was pathetic. Leron hoped he never got pussy whipped like that.

“Here’s your black coffee.” It was her. The silken sound of her voice slid right down to his cock. As she was putting his cup on the table, he tried to touch her hand. She pulled away and the hot liquid sloshed over the side and burned her hand. The cup rattled in the saucer and tilted over. “Oh, my God, I’m so sorry.”

Leron spoke quickly. “It was my fault. Are you okay? Let me look.” An angry red blister had already formed on the back of her hand. His cat instincts took over and he brought her hand to his mouth and began to lick the red welt. His tongue lapped at her like she was today’s special. He had lost his mind and didn’t know where the fuck to find it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A multi-published 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, since she can’t, she would much rather roam where her fictional big cats live — in the high desert of California. Discovering a new love of contemporary male/male erotica has flipped a switch she can’t turn off, so she hopes eventually it drifts back into her otherworldly realm.

When J. Hali’s not writing, she can be found snuggled in front of the TV with a good book, a cat in her lap, and a cup of coffee.

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

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.

Giveaway

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Megan Slayer’s Sun, Sea and Summer Songs Giveaway

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

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Release Blitz: Against a Rising Tide by Samantha Cayto #LGBTQ #eroticromance @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Against a Rising Tide By Samantha Cayto

General Release Date: 29th June 2021

Word Count: 54,881
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 194

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
MEN IN UNIFORM

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Book Description

Love always finds a way.

Scott, a Navy SEAL, returns to his childhood beach house to deal with the emotional trauma of his latest mission. When a sniper killed his closest friend, Scott was left dealing with survivor’s guilt and the disturbing feeling that his friend meant more to him. He has always identified as strictly straight, attraction to men being something he has ruthlessly suppressed.

When he finds Kitt, a friend of his sister’s, hiding out from his abusive boyfriend, Scott is once again drawn to someone of his own gender. Although annoyed at the intrusion, Scott also instantly develops an interest in his unwanted houseguest. Keeping his distance is proving to be impossible and his growing desire for Kitt cannot be ignored.

Forced to leave home, Kitt entered into a relationship with a man who turned abusive. Having finally found the courage to escape, the last thing he wants or needs is another alpha male invading his space. But having nowhere else to go, he ends up staying with a man who disturbs him in more ways than one. As scary as the SEAL is, Scott is exactly the type of man Kitt dreams about.

The beach house is small, and the two men cannot avoid one another or the attraction between them. With each passing day, their bond grows stronger. Hesitation slowly gives way to passion. They need to trust their feelings and let go of the things that frighten them, to find safety and solace in each other.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, attempted murder, stalking, PTSD and references to death in a war zone, abusive parents and relationship abuse.

Excerpt

By the time Scott reached the beach house, visions of falling face-down in his bed swam before his eyes. He really should have checked into one of the airport hotels for the night instead of renting a car and heading north. But the driving need for solitude had overridden his better judgment. Even arriving in Boston at o-dark-thirty hadn’t thinned the crowds of people enough to satisfy his jangled nerves. He needed quiet and the mental space that came from being utterly alone to get his head screwed back on right. Otherwise, his time in the SEAL Teams would come to an end. The mere thought of having to leave his Naval career was intolerable to him.

He took a moment as he exited his rental SUV to simply stand and stare out over the ocean. The sun was just rising above the rippling blue-green water, washing the horizon in tones of red and orange. Seagulls screeched in their staccato fashion, as if they were in a constant state of agitation. He welcomed the familiar sound of their mindless scolding. The crash of waves against the rocky shore told him the tide was coming in. He took in a deep breath of salty air tinged with a hint of clam flats and smiled. All the joy of his childhood filled the aching hole that had formed in the middle of his chest. Coming here had been the right call. This was where he needed to be.

His exhaustion momentarily abated, Scott grabbed his duffel bag from the back of the SUV and walked up the stone path to the front door. There was no need to lock his vehicle, not in the low-crime town of Sewall, Massachusetts. It was barely more than a spit of rocky land and had never developed the cachet of its neighbors like Rockport as a fashionable seaside town. It attracted no one other than the dedicated perennial vacationer and was the perfect place to hide away for a while without fear of disturbance. His sister wouldn’t haul her brood up from the suburbs of Boston until August. He could be sure of having the place all to himself…to be alone.

Safe.

No, where had that thought come from? He was a SEAL, for God’s sake. There was nowhere on Earth that he didn’t feel as if he could protect himself. And he understood better than most that death was always lurking around, regardless. One only had to be ready to face it. Defeat it. If necessary, accept it when options had truly run out, but only after fighting to the very last breath. He took in another deep lungful of brisk ocean air with that last thought, irritated at his dark, almost defeatist attitude.

I need sleep. That’s all.

Scott almost sprinted to the seafoam green door, fumbled with the keys to open it and stepped inside the cool, quiet house of his childhood…that was not empty.

He froze inside the doorway and stared at the vision that greeted him. His mind did all kinds of acrobatics as he tried to make sense of what he saw. With the open floorplan of the first floor, he had a clear view of a naked woman standing in the kitchen. She was reaching up to a shelf filled with bowls, her toned arm stretched high. A curtain of long, dark hair swung below her shoulder blades, catching his attention. He followed the movement past the tapered ends, down a slender back of creamy skin accentuated by some kind of colorful tramp-stamp.

The tattoo skimmed a high, tight ass that held his gaze like a magnet. His overtired brain popped and snapped with a sudden spark of need. As exhausted as he was, his body came alive, desire shooting through him to pool in his groin. Even as an involuntary grunt passed his lips, the more rational part of his mind took over. It was trying to put on the brakes because something was off. The woman’s hips were too straight, and her shoulders were a bit broad. As the pieces clicked into place, the beach house inhabitant whirled around with a sharp inhalation. Now, the cock and balls of the man came literally swinging into view.

Scott’s own cock was caught between hardening and deflating again. He could feel it waging a war inside his worn jeans for a few seconds before it gave up in a semi-hard state that he ignored. Nothing to see here, folks. It was the other man’s reaction that caught and held his focus. Across the large expanse, there was visible fear in the dark eyes staring back at him. And the guy did nothing to hide his genitals. Instead, one hand had flown to the base of his throat in a clear defensive gesture. He whipped the other up to hold against his left cheek. But the quickness of the move hadn’t stopped Scott from seeing a livid bruise that marred the pretty skin there.

“Who?” The young man blinked at him for a few seconds, breathing quickly, before he visibly relaxed. “Oh, you’re Karen’s brother, aren’t you?” Although he dropped the one hand from his throat, he didn’t let go of his cheek entirely. Instead, he carded his fingers through his hair, letting the strands hide that half of his face. “She said you were overseas.”

“I was.” Scott stepped fully into the house and shut the door behind him before setting his duffel on the floor. He was careful to keep his movements slow. He’d dealt with petrified villagers plenty of times and knew he had to prove that he wasn’t a danger to them. Build trust. While he was at a loss as to why exactly, he could sense this man needed the same kind of consideration.

“I just got back and have two weeks’ leave.” Not that it had been his idea.

“Take the time, Carpenter. There’s no shame in needing it after what you’ve been through.”

“Yes, sir.”

He’d known an order when he’d been given one, but he still felt some guilt about lying around on a beach while others were out there fighting on his behalf. He pushed those thoughts aside to deal with the more pressing matter. Before he could ask the who, what and why, the naked man was talking again.

“I guess Karen didn’t know that. She said I could stay here until she comes up with her kids.” He dropped his gaze, while still tugging at his hair in nervous fashion.

Scott approached the kitchen area, again keeping his movements slow and non-threatening. “I was going to call her later.” He stopped and hooked his thumbs in his front pockets. “I’m sorry. You have me at a disadvantage. Do I know you?”

The young man flashed his gaze at him before skittering it away. Now that he was closer, Scott could see that his eyes weren’t entirely brown. There was a hint of green there as well. Hazel, he supposed, although he’d never given much thought to eye color before. He forced himself to focus on them, however, because the alternative was to stare farther south. There was a temptation to sneak peeks at parts of the man’s body. He’d always studiously avoided that urge before. He saw more naked men than he did women, that was for sure, and in a military environment where privacy was non-existent, one had to be respectful. Inside a quaint New England house, with the muted dawn shining through the window, making everything soft and almost romantic, the nudity was harder to ignore.

“I’m Kitt Tyler.”

Scott’s attention was tugged back to Kitt’s face—although really, to his lips. He couldn’t help noticing how plump and pink they were. ‘Generous’ was the word that came to mind, like those of old-time movie starlets—the type of mouth that combat men dreamed of kissing as they lay in their makeshift beds. It was what got them up again, fighting for their country. That observation startled him even more. What the hell is my problem? Exhaustion, that was all. What he needed was a solid eight horizontal hours uninterrupted, and that wasn’t going to happen until he wrapped up this unexpected meet-and-greet.

“You’re a friend of Karen’s?” Kind of a dumb question.

Kitt gnawed briefly at his lower lip, once again drawing Scott’s unwilling attention to that spot. “Yeah, I am, but also her hairdresser. I mean, that’s how we first met, and we’ve become friends, too. You know?”

No, Scott didn’t…at all. The last thing he and his sister ever talked about was hair styling, although she always looked great. He knew that she prided herself on being elegant and fashionable for her job as a publisher for some glossy, high-end magazine. She had him on her subscription list, which was sweet, except it all went straight into his trash. What did he care about trendy places to eat in Boston and the best store for thousand-thread-count sheets?

“Anyway,” the guy continued, still playing with his hair and darting his gaze around. “She has like a million pictures of you at home, so I recognized you straight off.”

Not exactly true. For a moment, when he’d turned and caught sight of Scott, Kitt had obviously been afraid. Of what? Scott wondered. Or rather…whom?

Scott ran a hand over his head. The need for sleep was overtaking his initial and visceral reaction to this unexpected guest. “I’m sure she’s bored you to tears with stories about me, too.” His sister was proud of his service, although he feared that she’d put him on a pedestal he didn’t deserve, certainly not after this last deployment.

A ghost of a smile graced Kitt’s lips. That was the moment when it hit Scott that this young man was utterly gorgeous—at a he-could-be-a-model level. Although, he was probably too short for that profession. He was about five-seven, just the right height to tuck into Scott’s shoulder. The new observations sent his brain into another unwanted spasm of discord.

“She has a bit, but I think it’s great how close you two are.” Releasing his hold on his hair, Kitt fluttered his hands and shifted his feet. “Anyway, I’ll pack up and get out of your way. It, um, might take a while for me to get a Lyft driver to come here this early, though. I hope that’s okay.”

“You don’t have a car?” Another stupid question. The driveway had been empty when he’d pulled up.

“No. Um, no.” Kitt stared at the floor again.

Scott could see the distress in the guy’s posture and read it in his expression. He knew when someone was afraid, nervous or angry, even when they tried to hide it from him. He could tell when they were lying about something. Kitt Tyler wasn’t merely a friend of his sister who needed a free summer vacation. There was more to it than that, and given the guy’s skittishness and that bruise on his cheek, Scott could make an educated guess what that more was.

For the moment, however, he was incapable of any further rational thought. He needed that eight hours, then he’d deal with the situation.

“Look,” he said, repressing a yawn. “I’ve been awake for over forty-eight hours straight. I’m going upstairs to get some sleep. No need for you to leave yet. We’ll talk later.”

Kitt’s relief was easy to see. Still, he said, “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.” Scott turned to retrieve his duffel bag from by the door.

“Oh, I should get dressed now so that I don’t disturb you.”

Too late on that score. “I can sleep through anything, but thanks.”

He made himself not watch as Kitt flitted up the stairs. He didn’t rush when he followed, either, so that he wouldn’t see any more of that undeniably tantalizing flesh. His plan worked. By the time he’d reached the second floor, his sister’s guest had disappeared into the far back room. The sounds of a drawer opening and closing drifted down the narrow hallway. Scott bit back a groan when he realized that Kitt had taken his usual room. That thought had barely formed before the guy popped back out, wearing crotch-hugging cut-off jeans and a tight white crop top. The clothing wasn’t much better than the nudity had been at hiding the guy’s fit physique. Oh, and bonus, now that Scott wasn’t studiously averting his gaze, he could see a belly button ring winking from the flat stomach.

“I took one of the kid’s rooms, if that’s okay?” Kitt looked impossibly young himself. What was the minimum age to be a hairdresser, eighteen? The guy must be straight out of school.

Scott didn’t bother to correct him. Visions of Kitt lying in Scott’s bed were already creeping into his brain. Instead, he waved the issue away and turned into what had been his parents’ old room. Karen and her husband used it now, but she obviously wasn’t coming up any time soon. He may as well bed down in it. He kicked the door shut with more force than he’d intended, but the lure of the big brass bed was irresistible. Stumbling toward it, he did as he’d dreamed of for hours—fell face-down onto the quilt his grandmother had made. He had just enough brainpower left to kick off his sneakers before giving in to the pull of sleep.

His last thought, however, was of the pretty boy at the end of the hall, silhouetted by the glint of the rising sun.

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About the Author

Samantha Cayto

Samantha Cayto is a Boston-area native who practices as a business lawyer by day while writing erotic romance at night—the steamier the better. She likes to push the envelope when it comes to writing about passion and is delighted other women agree that guy-on-guy sex is the hottest ever.

She lives a typical suburban life with her husband, three kids and four dogs. Her children don’t understand why they can’t read what she writes, but her husband is always willing to lend her a hand—and anything else—when she needs to choreograph a scene.

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Romance Book Box Giveaway #bookgiveaway #romancebooks

It’s summertime in the US! How many of you are planning vacations, or perhaps a stay-cation filled with lots of reading time?

Do you want a chance to win this Changeling Press book box, charm bracelet, necklace, door hanger, and padded envelope of author swag? The box contains a range of romances from paranormal to scifi to contemporary. Two of the titles are anthologies that contain one or more LGBTQ romances. The full list of titles and genres are listed below.

Open until July 25, 2021

Box contains the following books:

Desire Island by Shelby Morgen, Stephanie Burke, and Treva Harte

Desire Island — a gateway to the heart’s deepest desire, to passion’s heat, to love.

Paranormal/Futuristic Romance

Preacher with Ryker & Badger by Harley Wylde (signed)

I lost the love of my life and vowed to never love again. Until temptation walked through the door.

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

All Wrapped Up Vol. 1 by Angela Knight, Dakota Cassidy, and Kate Hill

Vampires, Shifters, and Destined Mates search for their Happy Ever After on the paranormal side…

Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi Romance

Neko by Ana Raine

Collin has loved Adrian for over a decade but can he trust his future to the Prince of the Demons?

Dark Fantasy/Gay Romance

Cardboard Hero/Wild Geese by Shelby Morgen (signed)

Tory’s falling in love with her hero — she’s just not sure which one.

Paranormal Romance

Lionsblood by Marteeka Karland

In Earth’s brutal, future frozen, the Lionsblood claim what they want, and never look back.

Shapeshifters/Sci-Fi Romance

Vaaden Captives & Warriors by Jessica Coulter Smith (signed)

When Vaaden warriors claim slaves from Earth they will face emotions they never knew they possessed.

Slave/Sci-Fi Romance

Rookery Cove by Kira Stone, Stephanie Burke, Jade Buchanan, Emma Ray Garrett, Tuesday Morrigan, and Lacey Savage

Rookery Cove Aphrodisiacs: Here to satisfy the intimate needs of every paranormal.

LGBTQ/Paranormal Romance

Venom/Torch by Harley Wylde (signed)

One f**king look. That’s all it took. I branded her. I let her go. Now she’s back, and she’s mine.

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

Cain/Bohanan by Marteeka Karland (signed)

This biker’s the hottest guy I’ve ever come across. Resisting isn’t something I’m even going to try.

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

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Release Blitz: The Way to a Man’s Heart by Ann Marie James #eroticromance #LGBTQ @pridepublishing @firstforromance

The Way to a Man’s Heart by Ann Marie James

Book1 in the Kingdom of Corazón series

Word Count: 33,982
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 135

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
FRIENDS TO LOVERS
GAY
GLBTQI
ROYALS
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

The heart wants what the heart wants…

Christian Diaz grew up as the best friend and unofficial bodyguard to the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Corazón. After an incident left him questioning his place in the castle, Christian joined the military and didn’t return for ten long years.

Now he’s been assigned to the castle as Royal Military Liaison to investigate the source of some recent threats against the crown. The annual Midsummer’s Ball is the perfect place for the anti-monarchy group to make their next move, so that’s where Christian will be too. If it gives him a chance to reconnect with his friends in the castle and make a play for the man he has compared all others to, it’s even better.

Max Ramirez is now the head chef for the castle. He started as a sous chef at age twenty when Christian was just an awkward teen. Now that Christian’s back at the castle, all grown up and interested in Max, the chef is determined not to let an opportunity with Christian pass him by.

When someone tries to sabotage the Midsummer’s Ball, Max and Christian need to work together to track down the people determined to make this event their last.

Reader advisory: This book contains mentions of drug use, obsession, references to parental abuse, drink spiking, violence, attempted rape, and attempted murder.

Excerpt

The royal family of the Kingdom of Corazón greeted their guests for the Midsummers Ball as Christian watched. He ran a hand down the front of his dress military uniform to straighten it while he waited for his turn to be announced. This was his first formal duty as the newly appointed Royal Military Liaison, and he needed to make sure he looked his best. He shifted his feet to find some relief for his ankle, which was still sore from him standing for a long time. His last mission had not gone to plan, and a broken ankle had been the result. Although the cast had come off a couple of weeks prior, it still wasn’t one hundred percent.

“Royal Military Liaison Lieutenant Diaz,” the herald announced. Christian caught the eye of Crown Prince Sebastian toward the end of the greeting line and his best friend’s eyes widened in surprise before his face lit up with happiness at seeing him. As the only child of the Castle Commander, Christian had grown up here, but he’d been in the service away from the castle for ten years. At thirty, Christian was the same age as Crown Prince Sebastian. They had been best friends from the time they had been in diapers, and even though Christian and the prince still got together when their schedules allowed, it wasn’t the same as seeing and being with him every day. Christian had missed him fiercely.

The royal children of the kingdom were usually paired with a young playmate from the age of about ten. Christian had started earlier than age ten as Sebastian’s companion, since he was always with him anyway. As Castle Commander, his father was the head of the guard slash castle security. He’d taken the companion idea a step further and trained Christian to be as good as he could be in martial arts and marksmanship. In his father’s eyes, Christian was to act as another line of defense for the Crown Prince. While Christian had not carried a gun—that was the role of the actual bodyguards—he was trained in case he ever had to use one.

With a nod to the herald, Christian stepped forward to greet the Queen of the Kingdom of Corazón. Queen Tania reached out both hands to Christian, and he clasped them and raised them to his lips while bowing over them. “My Queen… It is a pleasure to see you. You haven’t changed a bit.”

“Lieutenant Diaz, it is a pleasure to see you as well. Ten years is way too long. We have missed you.”

“I apologize for the lengthy absence, Your Highness. I needed a change, but I am assigned here for the foreseeable future, so you will have time to get sick of me again.”

“So my husband has told me. I am excited to have you home, although in a different capacity as the Royal Military Liaison. I look forward to catching up.”

“As do I.”

The queen turned a stern eye on her eldest daughter, who was standing to her right. “Princess Zia, isn’t it wonderful that Christian will be back with us for a while?”

Christian tried to mask his sneer as his gaze went to Zia, who was not at all happy this evening. Of course, she wouldn’t be, since she wasn’t the center of attention. She wasn’t a very nice person and never had been. She was also part of the reason he’d left and joined the military. What she did… No, he wasn’t going to think about it. It was in the past. He was stronger and even more deadly now. It was time for him to face his demons. The military had finished the training his father had started, turning him into a true weapon. At twenty-eight, Christian had hoped Zia would have grown up and stopped being so self-absorbed, but the affliction seemed to have gotten worse instead of better in the time Christian had been away.

Christian gave Princess Zia a shallow bow. “Princess Zia.” That was all he could manage. He wasn’t going to lie and say he’d missed her.

Princess Zia tossed back her hair and gave him her haughtiest look. “Mr. Diaz.”

“It’s Lieutenant Diaz, actually, Your Highness.” Christian didn’t wait for her to respond, instead turning to greet the king of the Kingdom of Corazón. A striking man, even in his fifties, King Raul Hart exuded a sense of calm authority that Christian had always admired, making him seem larger than life. “King Raul.” Christian bowed low in front of the man. When he straightened, Christian was shocked to realize that he was now taller than the king. When they had met briefly the day before, the king had been busy on a phone call and had just waved him into his office and into a chair. Christian had experienced another surprise growth spurt after he had joined the military at age twenty and was now six-three, but he hadn’t realized that made him taller than the king.

“Hello again, Royal Military Liaison Lieutenant Diaz.” The king’s eyes twinkled at him as he ignored protocol and pulled Christian into a hug. “I didn’t get a chance to do that when we met yesterday. I wanted to correct that error.”

“Yes, sir.” Christian returned the hug before stepping back and offering him a crisp salute. “Lieutenant Diaz reporting for duty, sir.”

“As you were, Lieutenant. Now I think there’s someone here who can’t wait to greet you. It was hard keeping this a secret from him.”

“I know. I talked to him earlier, and I almost spilled the beans.”

Christian moved down the line and tried to keep a stern expression on his face as he saluted before grinning at one of his best friends. “Crown Prince.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were being assigned to the castle as Royal Military Liaison?”

“I thought you would like the surprise of it. It just happened a few days ago.” Christian once more ran a hand down the front of his military uniform. “First mission, the Midsummer’s Ball. It’s a very tough assignment.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here. I can’t wait to see more of you, and as a bonus, now I won’t have to drive to visit you.”

Christian scoffed. “Like it’s that far to the base or my house from here.”

“When I was used to you being always at my side, it’s too far.”

“It’s been ten years, Bas.”

“Too far. Too long.”

“Yes, Your Highness.” Christian couldn’t help the eye roll at the end. It was good to be back with friends.

Prince Sebastian just grinned in response.

“My turn. My turn.”

Christian turned his head to the left to see Princess Katarina waving him down the line. “Princess Katarina, it is a pleasure to see you again.”

“I am so excited you made it and that we will get to see more of you.”

“Me too, Your Highness.”

He leaned forward to kiss her cheek and she took the opportunity to whisper in his ear.

“I think you have broken our Head Chef.”

“What?” Christian pulled back so he could look in her eyes, as if that would somehow make what she’d said make sense.

“He is standing over by the hors d’oeuvres table and has been staring at you since you were announced.” Katarina giggled. “He looks like someone has struck him.”

Christian shook his head at her, although his heart sped up at the thought of seeing his old crush, but he tried not to show that her words had affected him. “I will leave you to greet the rest of your guests. We can catch up later.”

“Save me a dance, please, Lieutenant.”

“It would be an honor, Princess.”

Christian glanced over at the hors d’oeuvre table to find Max Ramirez indeed staring at him. The eye contact must have startled him because he jumped then looked at his shoes for a moment and clasped his hands behind his back. Christian strode across the room to greet him, determined not to make an ass of himself. He pulled Max into a quick hug in greeting, before holding him out at arm’s length so he could get a better look at him.

Max had been his older teenage crush and was the epitome of everything he had ever dreamed of in a man. I obviously still have it bad for the guy. At six-foot-five, Max was a giant—but a gentle one. Christian was still leaner than Max, but along with the growth spurt, he had put on a lot of muscle and his frame had filled out a lot since the last time they had seen each other, making them more equal in stature. There was something about the man that had always called to him.

“Max! How are you doing?”

“I’m doing great. Head Chef now.”

“I heard. Six years ago now, right? Everyone was talking about you being the youngest to ever get the job.”

“Yeah. They told me on my thirtieth birthday. I did not see it coming.” Max had started as an apprentice to the head chef, Howie Klein, straight out of culinary school. The twenty-year-old had met the chef’s cranky, militaristic style in the kitchen with a smile on his face. Which, as the last apprentice had stormed out of the kitchen after throwing a pan at Mr. Klein’s head, had been important.

“Yeah. It’s too bad about the arthritis in Mr. Klein’s feet. I still talk to his son Ryan frequently. He told me his father was gutted to have to retire but happy to have you to move into the position. Good for you. It was a well-earned promotion.”

“He still stops in from time to time to give his opinion on things, so I still get to see him. Thank you. I’m proud of their faith in me. I’m assuming this is a promotion for you?”

“Yep. Going to be assigned to the castle for a while.” There was an awkward pause in the conversation. Christian turned so he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Max and could have a better view of the room. He waved a hand indicating the greeting line. “I can’t believe Princess Katarina is eighteen already.”

“Right? She was, what? Eight when you left? She seemed pleased to see you. I’m surprised she remembered you.”

“I was assigned to be her personal guard when she visited colleges last summer. We spent eight weeks together. We got to know each other pretty well.”

“Oh. No one said. What about Prince Sebastian?”

“We still hang out and talk as often as we can. I inherited my grandmother’s cottage on the west side of the island. Sebastian usually visits me there when I’m on-island.”

“What about Ryan? You said you still talk to him frequently?”

“I still consider him one of my best friends, along with Prince Sebastian.” Christian laughed self-deprecatingly. “We bonded over our unrequited crushes. His on Prince Sebastian and mine on you.” He gave Max a quick wink before turning his attention back to the room. “I visit him as often as I can in Boston, and we try to talk at least once a week, when possible. He’ll be here tonight, actually, along with his best friend from college and her husband.”

“He will?”

“Yep. Princess Katarina insisted. We stayed with Ryan while touring colleges in Boston, and she got to know all of them.”

“Ryan is almost a full-fledged doctor now, right?”

“He’s actually done already. Four years as an undergrad at Harvard, then four years of medical school. He finished up his residency a few weeks ago. Speaking of…” Christian elbowed Max in the side, ignoring the tingle where they touched, and nodded toward the entry. Christian made sure to be watching Prince Sebastian’s expression, when first the Surgeon General of the Island, Doctor Guttschein, was announced, then Ryan Klein was there with his friends Emma and Ian Robinson.

“Wow. He’s definitely grown up.” Max chuckled. “The prince obviously thinks so too.”

He couldn’t help but chuckle as he watched Sebastian’s jaw drop in astonishment. Ryan had changed a lot over the years, going from gangly and coltish to becoming a well-proportioned hunk. Yep. He’s just Sebastian’s type now. He followed Ryan and his friends with his gaze as they made their way through the greeting line, chuckling to himself as he noted Sebastian’s impatience as he waited for his turn to speak to Ryan.

Princess Katarina waved a hand in Christian and Max’s direction as she finished greeting them. Ryan’s face lit up as he saw them, and he hurried over to embrace Max after shooting Christian a grin.

“You are certainly a sight for sore eyes, Ryan.”

“Thanks, Max. It’s great to see you.”

“Gah.” Max slapped Ryan on the back then gave him an assessing look. “You are way too thin. We need to work on fattening you up a bit.”

“I was busy learning. Didn’t have much time for cooking. Let me introduce you to my friends from America. Emily and Ian, this is the chef you heard me going on about. Emily is also a doctor in the Island Doctor program and will be working with me here on Corazón. Ian is her husband and a very talented carpenter. Ian did his best to keep us fed, but sometimes it was a decision between sleep or eating,” Ryan finished with a shrug.

“It is an honor to meet you, sir.” Ian extended his hand for a shake. “This one”—with a thumb point back to Ryan—“talked about yours and his dad’s cooking all the time. Memories of food and the kitchen were like his happy place when he was particularly stressed.”

Ryan grinned widely at Ian’s comment but didn’t deny it. “The kitchen was my happy place. Max did a great job of making sure there was always something available for Christian, Prince Sebastian and me during those starving teenage years.”

“Yes, I couldn’t wait to meet you. I feel like I know you already.” Emily stepped up and hugged Max instead of shaking his hand.

Max looked shocked for a moment but gently hugged her back. “It is great to meet you as well.”

“Christian,” Emily gushed, “how are you? Ian has missed you.”

“I did.” Ian nodded. “It’s great when I have someone to talk to about something non-medical related or who isn’t zombie-level tired.”

“Yes, dear, I know we have treated you so badly.” Emily patted his cheek in a condescending but loving manner before turning back to Christian. “Anyway, all that’s behind us. Ryan and I start at the hospital in August. They are giving us a few weeks to settle in and reset.”

“I look forward to hanging out with all of you. You’re staying with Ryan in his cottage, right?”

“Just for a short time. Surprise! We bought the cottage on the other side of Ryan from you.”

“Really? The Svenson place? I heard Mrs. Svenson passed away a couple of months ago but didn’t even think about it.”

“Yep. We bought it. It needs a lot of updating, though.”

Christian cringed thinking about the last time he had seen inside the very dated house. “I remember the avocado appliances.”

“Yeah, but it’s all ours.”

“Can’t wait.”

“How’s the ankle? Glad to see you are out of the cast.”

“What happened to your ankle?”

Christian looked at Max in surprise when he heard the note of panic in his voice. “I broke it about eight weeks ago on my last mission. Just got out of the cast a few weeks ago, so it’s light duty for a few more weeks until I can finish the physical therapy. Should be good as new after that.” Christian held his foot out and rotated it in a circle to show it was fine.

“Why didn’t you let me know? I could have come to help—or at least sent food, wherever you were. I’m assuming you were here on the island for at least part of your recovery.”

“Why would I have called for help? It’s just an ankle. I’ve had worse.”

A look of shock crossed Max’s face. “When were you hurt worse?”

Christian gave another one-shouldered shrug. “It comes with the job, Max. You know that.”

They were interrupted by the arrival of Christian’s father before the discussion could go any further.

“Christian. Ryan.” No hug. No smile. Just their names and a head nod. “I heard you were back.”

“Yes, sir. On light duty for a few more weeks, but the powers-that-be thought it would be good for me to represent them at this shindig.” Christian waved a hand to encompass the ballroom and all the people as he finished speaking. If Christian had expected the great Juan Diaz, head of the royal guard, to be happy to see him—which he hadn’t—he would have been hurt by his father’s reaction.

“Huh. And here I thought you’d actually smartened up and were ready to come back full-time and accept your responsibilities here.”

“I am coming back to accept my responsibilities here. I’m a lieutenant in this country’s army and I am doing my duty as assigned.”

“Don’t take that tone with me, young man.”

“I’m not, sir.” Christian squared his shoulders and faced his father, looking him directly in the eye and lowering his voice so the other people around them wouldn’t hear. “I am living my life the way I want to—not your plan for my life…mine. Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have some appetizers to eat and friends to catch up with. I’ll let you get back to your duties.” Christian made sure to put as much emphasis on the word ‘duties’ as he could.

He had heard enough lectures growing up about the importance of performing his duties—how he had to be at his best at all times, how he had to be serious. There had been no time for play in the Diaz household.

Juan Diaz’ only reaction was a clenched jaw. Christian swore he could almost hear his father’s teeth creak from the pressure. Without another word, Juan turned on his heel and strode away.

Christian closed his eyes while pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment to get his emotions under control. He’d done it. He’d stood up to his father. Ryan wrapped his arm around Christian’s waist and gave him a side hug.

“Good job,” he whispered.

“Thanks,” he whispered back. “Why are we whispering?”

Ryan squeezed him again. “Because I know you don’t know how to take a compliment. Not sure if he actually heard you, but you said what you’ve been wanting to say, so that’s good.”

Christian wrapped his arm around Ryan’s waist and gave him a quick squeeze in return before raising his voice to normal levels. “Yeah. Well, let’s forget about it for now and focus on the wonderful food Max and his crew have made for the ball.” He turned toward the chef. “You have truly outdone yourself, Max.”

“You know I love to do stuff like this. It’s been a blast working with Katarina. I love the tradition where the royal gets to plan the Midsummer’s Ball as their first adult event-planning after they turn eighteen. I think everyone is really going to enjoy everything she has come up with for this event.”

“I don’t think that’s what my father said when he was working with Princess Zia when it was her turn,” Ryan said dryly.

“Well, Zia’s event was a bit different. She wanted to make hers an exclusive event only for certain people, and that was her choice of how to use her budget. Katarina has been more about including as many people as possible. It’s been great to see her operate. She is well-loved—and look at how great everything is.”

Everyone turned to inspect how the room was decorated for the event. Princess Katarina had gone with a fairy garden party theme. Flowers in a rainbow of colors were distributed throughout the room, with small, twisted grapevine sculptures of different fairies sitting on beds of petals serving as the centerpieces. Christian was especially impressed by the artistry of the Fairy King and Queen ice sculpture over by the drinks table. The whole effect was warm and yet classy. The doors were open to the outside, where the garden was decorated with lights, and more grapevine sculptures were hidden in the branches of the bushes and trees.

Christian chuckled. “As I told you, I can’t believe she’s eighteen already and doing stuff like this. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was feeding her a bottle and changing her diaper.”

Ryan scoffed. “If memory serves me correctly, you avoided diaper issues at all costs.”

“Only because I had very important duties to handle with the prince.”

“Uh-huh. Like sneaking out to go for ice cream?”

“We only did that once!” Christian’s feigned outrage made Ryan laugh, which had been his intention.

Ryan reached out and cupped Christian’s neck. “I’m glad you’re here right now. I’ve missed you. Hopefully now that I’ve moved here permanently, we will be able to hang out more.”

“We will. I only have a few months left on this enlistment. I’m not sure if I’m going to re-sign or not. Don’t know what I would do next, but I think I’m ready for something new. Right now, I’ve actually been reassigned as the liaison to the castle for the foreseeable future.”

“Wait. You’re going to be around more?” Ryan sounded truly pleased with the idea.

“Yep. Anyway”—Christian rubbed his hands together while looking over the food on the tables—“I’m starving. I know the dinner isn’t for another hour, so let’s dig in. I have definitely missed Max’s cooking.”

Max grinned at all of them. “I look forward to having you all around, both old friends and new. I have missed the two of you. Now, I must get back to my kitchen. Who knows what crisis is lurking?” With a wave, Max turned and disappeared through the door leading into his domain.

Christian couldn’t help watching Max’s ass as he walked away, only to be interrupted by Ryan clapping him on the back. “You’ve still got it bad, man.”

“Like you can talk,” Ian said as he threw his arm over his wife’s shoulders. “Did you see him drooling over the prince?”

“I did. I also saw the prince doing his own drooling.”

“I can’t deny it. Prince Sebastian is still very fine.”

“Agreed,” Christian said. “Now to put operation Come to Daddy in action.”

“For the last time, we are not calling it that.”

Operation Nookie Time?”

“No.” Ryan gave Christian a shove. “Let’s just get some food, dork.”

Christian laughed as he grabbed a plate and started loading it up with a little bit of everything…except the fish. Christian hated fish in any form. Always had. Max had tried for years to find a fish dish he liked. As they were an island country, that made it difficult for him sometimes. Luckily, the island also had sheep, poultry, some beef and he was okay with different kinds of seafood, but not fish.

Christian and Ryan talked and joked with everyone in the group, in between speaking to all the people who came up to welcome them home. Ryan introduced Emily and Ian as they talked and everyone made sure they both were included in the conversations as much as possible. Ryan snagged the hand of a sneak thief trying to steal a shrimp from his plate.

“Sorry, Your Highness,” Ryan quickly released Sebastian’s wrist, when he realized who it was. “You do know there’s a ton of food right there, don’t you?” Ryan pointed at the still-full tables of appetizers.

“Yep, but stolen treats taste better. It’s been scientifically proven.”

“Has it now?” Ryan queried dryly. “And where can I find the results of this scientific study?”

“It’s well known. You can find it anywhere,” the prince responded.

“Uh-huh.”

“Whew,” Emily interrupted fanning herself with her hand. “Is it getting hot in here or is just me?”

Christian shook his head in mock disgust. “The two of them have always been that way. Although it’s nice to see that the prince finally bought a clue and understood what is right in front of him.”

The prince whipped his head around so he could stare at his long-time friend. “What?”

“What? Ryan is one of the few people who can challenge you intellectually and keep up with you physically as far as training. I am one of the others, but there has never been any chemistry between the two of us. The two of you, on the other hand? You start talking and it’s like the rest of the world ceases to exist.”

“Really?” Ryan said. “That’s interesting to hear. I always thought my crush on the prince was hopeless. In fact, I believe the prince even told me he didn’t see me as anything but a friend.”

Christian pretended to lower his voice and spoke in a stage whisper. “Plot twist, spoiler alert. He lied.” Christian switched his voice to normal. “Especially now that Ryan has grown into”—Christian paused to wave a hand in Ryan’s direction, indicating his body from top to bottom—“all this. Ryan is everything Sebastian ever said he wanted.” Christian watched with amusement as the prince squirmed.

“Not to change the subject or anything, but what are you doing here? You didn’t tell me you were coming to the ball.” Prince Sebastian stepped forward and pulled Christian into a quick guy-clench.

His friend’s laughter and joking eased something inside Christian. Man, it’s good to be home.

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About the Author

Ann Marie James

Ann Marie James is fluent in two languages, English and sarcasm. She believes that you will never learn anything new if you don’t read as much as you can, and/or talk to every stranger you meet. She always looks for the best in people and to treat people the way she wants to be treated. Above all Ann Marie believes in love, whatever form it takes. Relationships are hard, love is the glue that keeps it together.

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Release Blitz: Revealed by Zoe Allison #eroticromance #vampires @totally_bound @firstforromance

Revealed by Zoe Allison

Word Count: 84,315
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 324

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MYSTERY
PARANORMAL
VAMPIRES

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Book Description

Valentino has a secret—but he’s not the only one.

Valentino Bianco is the leader of a covert league named The Organization. Made up of benevolent vampires, its objective is to thwart and destroy the malevolent of their kind and protect humanity. Operating under the anonymous guise of Mr. X, Valentino’s identity as leader is shrouded in secrecy, as is the very existence of vampires.

Victoria Black has her own secrets, one of which is that she’s in love with Valentino. However, that isn’t the only matter she must keep from him at all costs.

Valentino and Victoria, along with their allies, must investigate a devastating malevolent campaign that is destroying humankind on a massive scale. But can they unravel the mystery of who is behind it in time to prevent the fall of both humanity and The Organization? And in the end, will all the secrets be revealed?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of murder and bloodletting, acts of terrorism, coercive control and emotional abuse.

Publisher’s note: This book is a sequel to Impervious and is best read in order.

Excerpt

Valentino studied the data that Priyanka was displaying on the virtual screen.

“We now have the last of Glassmarsh’s allies in custody,” she said, as a list of names

accompanied by pictures flashed up. “But none of them has yielded any information regarding the background of his sibling.”

“Therefore,” Vale said, “we are no further forward than when we captured him over ten years ago. The only advance is that we now know he is Glassmarsh’s brother.”

“Correct,” Priyanka said.

Victoria examined the details. “We don’t know where they came from?”

“No,” Priyanka confirmed.

“How can we find out,” Victoria asked, “if none of these guys knew anything?”

The three sat in silence for a moment. Vale stole a glance at Vic as she frowned and bit her lower lip. Her blue-green gaze seemed troubled. Priyanka tapped the keyboard and the screen changed to display intelligence from other agencies around the world. “We need to cast the net back out again,” she said.

The door opened and Lorenzo entered, followed by Gareth.

Lorenzo took his place next to Priyanka, leaning across the table to shake Vic’s hand. “Hi, we’ve not met in person yet. I’m Lorenzo, Priyanka’s deputy.”

Vic smiled. “Great to meet you. Victoria Black.”

Lorenzo smiled back. “I know. We’ve been very impressed with your work on this case so far.”

Vic flushed. Gareth approached her from the other side and kissed her cheek as he sat next to her. Vale blinked and looked away.

Priyanka frowned, glancing at Gareth and Vic as she moved some images around on the screen. “We’re checking to see if there’s anything here that could help us.”

Vale scanned the information, but it all pertained to human issues…mainly the latest spate of terrorist attacks that were sweeping Europe. He read through the details of the most recent bombing, in Berlin. Why do humans do it to each other? Their life spans were short enough without these atrocities.

There were no particulars that might aid them in their own cause, however.

“What’s that?” Vic asked.

“What’s what?” Vale said. “I cannot see anything here that would help us.”

“No,” she said. “It’s not something I see. It’s something I hear…outside.”

Vale tuned into his sensitive vampire hearing, detecting a subtle noise. He pressed a button on the desk and the tint of the glass wall morphed from opaque to transparent. He moved over to the window. The noise was a low-pitched rumbling, too low for the human ear to pick up. It was coming from the tallest building in London.

“What’s happening at The Shard?” Lorenzo said. He typed a few things into the keyboard but nothing of value appeared on the screen.

Vale peered more closely, trying to zoom in on any slight giveaway as to the source of the noise.

Just then, a boom emitted from The Shard, loud enough this time for the human ear to detect. Shattering glass sprayed out from the top floors. Everyone froze for a split second. Vale looked at Vic and the two of them broke into a sprint toward the stairs, Priyanka, Lorenzo and Gareth hot on their heels. Within seconds, they’d made it to the lobby of HQ.

“Get to the main entrance of The Shard,” Vale told them. “We can sneak in while everyone is running scared, then divide up to search for survivors and pull them out.”

They ran onto the sidewalk and toward the damaged building. The panic on the street was palpable as people ran past them in the opposite direction. No wonder they call it terrorism.

It didn’t take long to get there. They couldn’t go flat out and alert the public to their superhuman speed, but they could go faster than usual because the petrified humans were too focused on escaping danger to realize the velocity of their group.

They entered the building. Something didn’t sit right with Vale. “Why is no one exiting?” he asked the others. “This lobby is deserted and there was no one coming out of the main doors.”

“There were a lot of people on the street running away,” Vic said. “Maybe whoever could get away is out already?”

He shook his head. “They didn’t look as if they had come out of the building—more like passers-by on the street who were fleeing.”

“Let’s stick with Vale’s plan,” Lorenzo said, determination in his dark eyes. “Divide and conquer.”

The others made noises of agreement.

Vale adjusted his earpiece. They all carried them to stay in contact during such situations. “Take a section each and start searching.”

Priyanka gestured to the rear of the lobby. “Use the stairs, because the elevators will be out of commission.”

Gareth smiled. “We’re faster than the elevators anyway.”

Priyanka glanced at him and he gave her a wink.

“Fall out,” Vale said. “I will take the top.”

They entered the stairs and Vale streaked ahead, arriving on the highest habitable floor within seconds. A smoky atmosphere greeted him, but it impaired neither his enhanced vision nor his breathing. He listened for the sound of injured humans but could only hear silence, and it increased his unease.

He walked into one of the bars and scanned the room. Bodies were apparent, lying on the floor and the chairs, yet none of them made a sound or any movements. The blast cannot have immediately killed everybody in here. Someone must still be alive.

Vale checked the lifeless form of the nearest person. Nothing…and not the next. He rubbed his forehead as he scanned the area and something occurred to him. None of these people had a mark on them. For all intents and purposes, they appeared to be sleeping. A gut feeling told him to check their necks. As he moved the nearest person’s head to the side, two small puncture wounds on the neckline became apparent—very neat, with no laceration of the flesh.

His insides turned to ice. “Guys,” he said, speaking to the others via their earpieces.

“I know,” came Vic’s reply. “I see it too.”

“So do I,” Priyanka said. “This is the work of the malevolent.”

“Everyone,” Lorenzo said. “They’re all drained. But how?”

Vale exited the bar. “So what was the meaning of the explosion?”

“A cover-up,” Gareth said.

“But it isn’t covered up,” Priyanka replied. “The authorities will find these bodies once the search and rescue get here, which could be any minute.”

The true meaning behind it hit Vale, just as another rumbling started deep below them. “Get out!” he said. “The building is coming down!”

He dashed to the stairs and joined the group zipping down and out onto the street, where they accelerated into a sprint. Another huge explosion ripped through the building as they traveled flat-out along the road, a huge cloud of dust and debris overtaking them.

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About the Author

Zoe Allison

Growing up, Zoe Allison loved stories about falling in love. But rather than being rescued by a knight in shining armour, she imagined herself fighting dragons alongside him, battling supervillains as heroic allies, or teaming up to dive into perilous waters in order to save a loved one from drowning. Once Zoe did grow up, she became a doctor. But as time went on, she craved a creative outlet to counter the soul sapping burnout that her career inflicted upon her, and also to achieve those happy endings that were so often lacking in the real world. She wanted heroes who truly love and value women, who find their true love inspiring, are fascinated by her, want to connect with her as a soulmate and fully open themselves to her on an emotional level. And so, Zoe began to write her romances.

A Zoe Allison novel promises a heroine who is not only her hero’s equal in ability and intellect, but whose hero equals her in emotional intelligence. Her characters overcome conflict infused with spine tingling sexual tension to forge a deep connection as soul mates as well as lovers, and ultimately, they both rescue each other emotionally. Even if they might begin their journey as enemies…

Giveaway

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Zoe Allison Revealed Giveaway

ZOE ALLISON IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET YOUR FREE ZOE ALLISON ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 6th July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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Release Blitz: Kendra’s Keeper by Katherine E. Hunt #reverseharem #contemporaryromance @totally_bound @firstforromance

Kendra’s Keeper by Katherine E. Hunt

Book 2 in the Mended Hearts series

Word Count: 13,174
Book Length: SHORT STORY
Pages: 60

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
REVERSE HAREM

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Book Description

When Ethan, her childhood sweetheart, turns up on her doorstep, Kendra must learn to love or risk losing him once again.

Kendra, a regular member of the Winchester Widows Sex Club, is perfectly happy with the life she has built since the loss of her husband. Sure, one of her lovers is leaving to start a new life, but she still has her regular, Chip, and there’s even a new guy in the club to keep her occupied. She doesn’t get attached—and that suits her just fine.

But when her first love, Ethan, turns up on her doorstep, he brings with him painful memories of secrets and lies—feelings that Kendra has safely tucked away for years.

Can she allow him back into her life and her bed without those pesky little feelings getting in the way? Is her carefree existence not as liberated and uncomplicated as it first appears? Maybe Ethan is just what she needs to finally open her heart to love.

Excerpt

“Say my name.” Striding up behind me and about to enter me for the very last time, Military Guy had suddenly decided he had demands. “Just for tonight, call me by my name.”

“Uh…” He looked a bit like a Josh. Think, Kendra. I searched the dregs of my mind. “I like Military Guy. It suits you.”

He lifted my arms one at a time, placing them on the wall like he was going to do a body search. “You don’t know it, do you?”

Crap.

“I do. I just… Well, you know I don’t get involved—names, family and all… I don’t do that. You know this.”

He traced a finger down my spine, making me flinch. “Three months, Kendra. Three months I’ve been sleeping in your bed at least once a week, and you don’t even know my name.”

“Sleeping?” Yeah, that wasn’t exactly what I’d have called it. “Josh?” I proffered.

“Josh! Do I look like a Josh? You’ve got to be kidding me. This is not going to go unpunished.” He pulled my butt toward his crotch, rubbed his coarse hands around my cheeks, then slapped gently, but it was sharp enough to sting. “Try again.”

He slid his cock, hard and ready, under me, waiting to take me again. Fuck. My mind was a complete blank. Why don’t I listen more?

“Nick?” Slap. “Matt?” He chuckled and slapped again. I closed my eyes and tried to remember the name on his uniform. “Dan. It’s Dan.”

A warm body lay over my back, enveloping me, “Say my name,” he whispered in my ear as he entered me from behind.

“Oh, Daniel.” It purred out of my mouth as he thrust into me. He snaked his hand around and under my belly, holding me to him. “Fuck me, Daniel.” He found my clit with his fingers, and I grasped the wall as he filled me.

Daniel was a strong, powerful man, who looked like he was made of ninety percent muscle. Lifting and holding me to him while he thrust into my body came easily to him.

He pulled out then turned me around “I want to look at you if it’s going to be the last time.” Lifting me, he lowered me onto his dick with my arms splayed out behind me, steadying me, my legs wrapped around his trim waist.

He grabbed me and slowed, grinding and turning until he found the perfect position. Ecstasy. Only Daniel could make me come without touching my clit. He just had to find my G-spot, and I was putty in his big, strong hands.

Who taught you this? How do you know?

He teased me, listening to my rapid breaths, bending his head to suck on my breasts. “I want to make you come so you’ll never forget me.” He yanked his crotch forward, changing the angle.

“Fuck.” A million nerve endings screamed at the same time as I did, sending a jolt through my body. The man was a machine, twisting and contorting his body, carrying me with his bare hands and making me writhe with pleasure. I threw back my head and screamed his name as my pussy tightened around him and sent waves of pleasure crashing onto his dick.

“Shit.” He spun around as he came, unable to hold me, his legs giving way with the strength of his own orgasm. “Shit, Kendra. You wipe me out every time.”

Lowering me gently onto the bed, he slipped off the condom and flopped down next to me, completely spent.

“I’m going to miss you, Daniel.”

“You’re going to miss this dick.” He thrust his crotch, his tired cock doing a final dance of honor.

“No, seriously. I know I don’t say these things—the cute, girlfriend-type things—but I’ll still miss you.”

“It doesn’t have to be over.”

Oh, bless his heart.

“Of course it does. You’re going to go save the world, fall in love with a sweet, young woman, buy a nice little house with a white picket fence and have lots of cute babies. That’s how it should be.”

He enveloped me in his toned arm and, for once, I left it there and settled down to sleep. I wasn’t usually much of a hugger, but this was a special night.

“Get some sleep. Big day tomorrow.” Training over, I was giving Dan his marching orders…straight out of my life.

People leave. I’d come to expect it. When my husband had died suddenly a few years back, it was almost as if I’d been wondering why he hadn’t done it earlier.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Don’t get attached. No names, no families. It’s better that way.

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About the Author

Katherine E Hunt

Katherine E Hunt ran off with a Frenchman twenty years ago. She now lives on a French mountain with three children and two dogs. When she isn’t writing contemporary romance she can be found huddled up in front of a roaring fire, with a glass of Chardonnay in one hand and a book in the other.

You can find out more about Katherine on her website.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a FREE eBook from the author!

Katherine E. Hunt’s Kendra’s Keeper Giveaway

KATHERINE E. HUNT IS GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET YOUR FREE KATHERINE E. HUNT ROMANCE BOOK! Notice: This competition ends on 6th July 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

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Release Blitz: Hell Raising and Other Pastimes by Jayce Carter #reverseharem #paranormal @totally_bound @firstforromance

Hell Railing and Other Pastimes by Jayce Carter

Book 2 in the Perfect Taboo series

Word Count: 71,360
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 276

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
REVERSE HAREM

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Book Description

People have told me to go to hell—I guess they finally got their wish.

I’ve finally accepted the fact that I might not be entirely human, but still life doesn’t give me a break. Instead, I’m sucked into hell at Lucifer’s demand, and realize death is even more complicated than my life was.

I have to survive hell—where everything wants to kill me—so I can confront the devil himself. My love life is even more complex, though. Troy is terrified of his werewolf side hurting me, Kase and Grant are lying to me and Hunter is keeping his own secrets. I know better than to trust anyone, especially the men who have taken over my life.

Get to Lucifer’s Court, find out the truth about the missing spirits, figure out exactly what I am and try not to die along the way. Oh, and don’t fall in love with the men who will for sure break my heart and possibly get me killed.

Easy enough, right?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, bloodshed and death. There are references to parental abandonment and tattooing a child.

Excerpt

So, hell was pretty much what I’d expected.

Troy sat across from me in a small cave we’d taken shelter in, still avoiding looking at me, turning the spit with something cooking on it over the fire.

I had decided against asking what it was they were roasting, because I doubted any answer to that would make me happy.

If it were some strange hellbeast, I’d be grossed out, and if it were a cute, fluffy critter, I’d be sad.

Some questions were better left unasked, such as “Do I look fat in these?” or “Do you think my sister is hot?” and “What animal did this come from?”

Hunter came into the cave looking far too happy, as though he’d been waiting anxiously for just this moment. Hell, he was almost skipping.

Kase, on his heels, appeared significantly less pleased with the turn of events.

“I love the smell of brimstone in the morning.” Hunter set down an oddly shaped cup in front of me.

I took a closer look at the dish, the white of it standing out against the dimness of the everything else. “Where’d you get this?”

“Don’t worry about it. Drink. You mortals get parched fast out here.”

His answer didn’t ease me at all, so I lifted the cup closer to the fire. The white took a moment to place, and once I did, I couldn’t unsee it. “Is this bone?”

Hunter groaned and sat cross-legged on the other side of the fire. “I told you not to worry about it.”

“You can’t seriously expect me to drink out of a bone cup.”

“I have skulls, if they’re more your style.”

I was ready to yell at him for the stupid joke until I realized he probably wasn’t kidding. Somehow, the idea that Hunter had a collection of fine china made from bones in hell seemed right on par for him.

Especially the way he had no shame over it.

“Drink,” Kase said, nodding toward it. “I doubt you want to die of dehydration while in hell.”

“At least it’d be a short trip if I did,” I muttered before closing my eyes—it’d be easier if I didn’t have to actually see the cup—and drank the water in big gulps. I figured if I finished it off quickly, I’d have to touch the thing for less time overall.

Which was a stupid reaction since I’d touched dead bodies plenty of times.

But I’d never use them as flatware. There were some lines a person didn’t cross.

The water was warm, stale and tinged with an odd taste that made me want to gag a bit as I downed it.

Still, once I finished it, I handed back the empty cup. “Why would Lucifer drop us here? I thought he wanted to see me?”

Hunter shrugged. “He might figure a good test would be worth it. Anyone who can’t survive a few days journey in hell isn’t someone important enough for him to meet in person. Or maybe he intended for us to get dropped in his Court, but something went wrong. Magic doesn’t work quite right on you.”

“Things aren’t supposed to just go wrong for Lucifer.”

“Then you don’t know Lucifer. Remember the whole fall from heaven thing? He’s had things going wrong right from the start.”

And, again, that made me feel no better. I liked the idea that at least Lucifer had his business figured out. The thought that he was as powerless and fumbling as the rest of us gave me a moment of thinking, If he can’t get shit right, what chance do I have?

I sighed and crossed my legs, leaning forward. Great. We were stuck in hell, had no idea why I was where I there and now even the guy who ran it all didn’t seem to have a good grip on specifics.

The only person happy about our circumstances was Hunter, who grinned as though he couldn’t have planned things any better.

Then again, it was his home.

Grant was still outside, setting wards so we could get a good night’s sleep, or at least the best one could expect in a cave in hell.

Not that there seemed to be any night. It reminded me of the pocket realm I’d met the fae in, except it didn’t get lighter or darker. It remained a constant depressing level of dim, which ranked around the super overcast and rainy level.

When Troy finished cooking the food, he tore free a piece and held it out for me. Instead of thinking too much about it—I was really hungry—I popped it into my mouth, surprised to find it rather good.

As long as I don’t consider what it might have been before being spit roasted or how many legs it might have had.

“Do you think he’ll try to kill me?” I asked.

“I doubt it,” Hunter said. “If he wanted to kill you, he could have done it without this much work. Lucifer doesn’t do anything without a reason. He calls it efficient—I call it lazy.”

“Maybe he just wants to be able to watch me die in person,” I muttered around another bite of food.

“We won’t let him hurt you,” Kase said.

I gave him a withering glare in return. I didn’t get over betrayal so easily. We might have been in an entirely different realm, but I wasn’t ready to forgive him for lying to me, for hiring Grant to figure out what I was, for manipulating me. Maybe his words would have reassured me if I didn’t already doubt his loyalty so much.

He looked as though he wanted to discuss the matter, but a glance around the cave reminded him we had an audience. Kase’s ego would never want to air dirty laundry with others in earshot.

The perfect Kase didn’t want to not look so perfect.

“You know, you all don’t have to be here.” I forced the words out even though I really didn’t want to say them. Still, it was only fair to give them an out.

“What?” Grant asked as he came into the cave.

“Well, you can make portals to and from hell, right? You might have gotten sucked in here on accident, but you don’t have to stay.”

“Actually, we do,” he said.

“Don’t give me that. There’s no reason for you all to risk your lives just because I evidently have an appointment with the devil.”

Hunter shook his head, a smirk across his lips. “No, shadow-girl, what he means is that when Lucifer yanked us here, it placed a tracer on us. All of us. None of us can portal back until Lucifer removes it. The magic just won’t work for a portal. I could cross the boundary, but I couldn’t take anyone with me.”

I blew out a breath, ashamed to admit just how relieved I was by that. Sure, I had to give them an out, but the thought of them leaving, of trying to make my way across hell by myself hadn’t been one I relished. They were stuck with me for now, and it was far more reassuring than I wanted to admit.

“How long until we reach Lucifer’s Court?” I asked, trying to change topics.

Hunter plucked a piece of meat from the creature and ate it with noisy bites. “Three days? Maybe five if we need a lot of stops. We ended up right at the boundary line, so it’s a long walk. If it were just me, I’d make it in a day, but you all couldn’t keep up.”

Troy snorted. “Maybe not them, but I’m quicker than you think.”

Hunter offered Troy a wide grin. “Yeah, but you’d keep up—maybe—if you were in your wolf form. Sadly, you’ve got some performance issues about that one, and on two legs you’re as slow as the mortal.”

Troy narrowed his eyes but didn’t respond.

Fine by me. Honestly, I’d love for them all to shut up.

It was bad enough they bothered me at my house, when they stopped by constantly and threw my life into chaos, but out here, I didn’t even have the privacy of a bathroom or the occasional moments of peace.

It was twenty-four-seven testosterone zone.

So I ate another piece of food before a yawn told me I needed rest.

The cave floor was hard and there wasn’t anything to use as a pillow around. I groaned and twisted, my shoulder sore from where it dug into the ground.

Troy had taken a spot far away, as though he wanted to avoid me as best he could—just like he’d done since I’d saved him.

The ungrateful bastard. Next time maybe I’d let that freaky shadow take him over.

After checking the wards, Grant had leaned himself against the doorway of the cave, his legs stretched out and his eyes closed. He’d picked there, at the threshold, like a guardian.

Funny, since Grant, with his twenty-year-old appearance, massive number of tattoos and rebel hair style, appeared the least dangerous.

Hunter had chosen to rest outside, like some dog in the yard. He’d taken a large hunk of the meat and claimed to like sleeping under the stars.

Not that there were any stars…

“Come here.” Kase’s voice was soft in the darkness, and close enough I jumped.

How he could move so quickly, I didn’t understand. He’d managed to shift around so he crouched just above where I lay.

I pressed my palm against the cave floor and pushed myself up. With the fire gone, I struggled to see Kase, so I glared in his direction best I could. “Sorry, but that doesn’t work.”

“What doesn’t work? You need sleep, and you won’t get any tossing and turning like that.”

“You think this is my first time dealing with men? Let me guess, I’ll sleep so much better all curled up beside you. And I’ll sleep better without any pants. In fact, a few orgasms will put me right out.” I made sure my voice sounded as insulting as I meant it to be.

Which was stupid, because no matter how much I disliked him at the moment, a few orgasms would help me sleep.

Just not from him. Not that he’d proven himself capable of delivering them anyway. His only attempt had been pathetic.

He sighed before sitting on the ground, his back to the wall. He removed his jacket and balled it up in his lap. “I’m not offering orgasms, Ava, and since my body doesn’t run warm, there isn’t a reason to curl up beside me, naked or not. However, I am, at the very least, useful as furniture.”

I wanted to argue that I was sleeping just fine, but the ache in my shoulder called me a liar. Still, the thought of touching him made me wonder how stupid one person could be.

His entire reaction to me was bad enough—I wasn’t sure I’d ever live down him spitting out my blood as if it were tainted—but the idea that he’d been lying to me was what really stuck.

He’d hired Grant to spy on me, to go behind my back and figure out what I was. He’d even said the entire thing had been for the coven, not him. How on earth could I just forget that?

Still, his lap was as good as anyone else’s, and I was tired. I slid up, wincing when it aggravated my shoulder.

He set a strong hand on my back, helping me to adjust, until I was on my side, my head pillowed on his lap, his jacket creating more cushion and a useful barrier between me and any erecting that might happen.

Not that that seemed a problem with him.

When he ran his fingers through my hair, I swatted him away. “Knock that off.”

He let out a soft sound, all annoyance. “I’m trying to help.”

“I didn’t ask for help, did I?”

“You haven’t ever asked, and yet here I’ve been, doing it anyway. I am in hell, literally, for you.”

I sighed, having nothing to say back to that. When I closed my eyes, he dragged his fingers through my hair again, and this time I let him. Just because I was mad at him didn’t mean I had to forgo the nice sensation, did it?

It wasn’t like he was getting anything out of it. Might as well enjoy it while it lasted. I doubted many nice things happened in hell.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you,” he said, voice low as if we could have a private conversation in such a small space, surrounded by others. “I hired Grant before I knew much about you.”

“But even after you got to know me, you didn’t feel the need to mention it? To call him off?”

“I knew you wouldn’t be happy about me invading your privacy like that, and as I spent more time with you, I found out you hold grudges. It seemed a pointless argument to risk, since if you never found out, you would have never been angry.”

I shifted and accidently elbowed him in the crotch.

He let out a rush of air—it seemed not everywhere on a vampire was impervious to harm—before groaning. “I have learned my lesson, Ava. I do not intend to lie to you again.”

“And so I’m supposed to be okay with it? What was this all? What was it when you tried to feed from me? Just more research for the coven? At least that explains why you couldn’t keep it up.”

“No. It wasn’t ever for the coven.”

“That was what you told Grant.”

“Because I prefer not to expose potential weaknesses.”

“So I’m a weakness now?” I went to rise, because his lap was not worth me getting any more hurt than I already was.

He set a hand on my shoulder and pressed me back down, reminding me just how strong he was. “Stop it, Ava. Stop fighting with me long enough to listen. I have thought about you since I first saw you in that shop, and that obsession hasn’t ended. When I asked around and found out what little I could, it still wasn’t enough. So, yes, when given the chance, I hired Grant to discover more about you—not for the coven and not for Colter, but for myself. You can be angry with me for as long as you’d like for that invasion of privacy, for the lies, but do not mistake it for something it wasn’t. I hired you for the job with Olin because you could do it, I wanted to feed from you because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I want you because I have since I first saw you. Besides, you shouldn’t be so angry with me when Grant found nothing useful out.”

“Maybe that’s why he got kicked out of the guild, because he’s a terrible mage.”

A snort from the doorway said Grant was listening, but I pretended it was a random sound so I didn’t have to think about our audience.

Kase went back to the gentle stroking of his fingers through my hair, and, despite my better judgment, it relaxed me. His voice, smooth and unfailingly calm, was even worse. “He ran every test he could, did everything he knew and he could not identify what you were. No matter how much I researched, who I threatened, I discovered nothing. You are an enigma, Ava.”

“And that’s why you’re still around? Because I’m a very interesting puzzle, and you’re old and bored? Or because I could be potentially useful to you?”

“No. I don’t think I care what you are anymore. Originally, it was a mystery, but I’ve discovered you are trouble no matter what you might be.”

“That doesn’t explain why you’re here now.”

“You’re smart enough to figure that one out. I’m not sure there are many reasons a man goes to hell for a woman.”

I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Kase and I, we never talked. We didn’t admit anything. Where Troy liked to come out and say what he felt, and Hunter didn’t feel deeply enough for the need to have a conversation, Kase and I liked to exchange things in non-speak.

He didn’t say he cared, and I didn’t say I liked that he was there.

Even still…I couldn’t quite accept his words. I recalled Colter, remembered the coven house, and knew I had no idea where his loyalties really lay.

He might be a great piece of furniture, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t kill me if he needed to…

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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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Release Blitz: The Shame Game by Hannah Murray #bondage #contemporaryromance @firstforromance @totally_bound

The Shame Game by Hannah Murray

Book 1 in the Perfect Taboo series

Word Count: 50,362
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 192

GENRES:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

A good marriage is built on love, trust and kink…

James and Amanda have been together for fourteen happy, playful kinky years. That’s the way they both like it, and neither feels there’s anything missing, until one day, a typical scene morphs into something atypical—humiliation play.

They’ve never played with this kink before, but it was shockingly hot, and satisfying in a way their more playful scenes aren’t. They’re both excited to try something new after so many years together, but James is leading his beloved wife and submissive into uncharted territory where their comfort zone will be stretched and their bond tested…

It will take all the love and trust they’ve built over fourteen years to survive The Shame Game.

Excerpt

James Douglass walked through the front door of his home and sighed with relief. “Thank Christ that’s over.”

Behind him, his wife let out a snorting laugh and shut the door. “You say that every year.”

“I mean it every year.” He turned to watch her slip out of her coat, the soft faux fur he’d given her for Christmas gleaming under the light of the foyer chandelier. “Tell me you don’t feel the same.”

Amanda smiled as she hung up her coat, then held out a hand for his. “I like your mother.”

He dropped the bags he held and shrugged out of his overcoat. “It’d just be nice to be able to spend one New Year’s somewhere else.”

“Well, that’s your fault for being born one minute past midnight on January first.” Laughter colored her voice, deepening the Texas accent that still lingered more than a decade after she’d left the Lone Star State. “If you’d stayed put for another week like you were supposed to…”

“Oh, so now it’s my fault for being born early?” He raised an eyebrow, wondering if his wife of twelve years would respond with sass or respect. He figured the odds were about seventy-thirty in favor of sass.

She took his coat with a wink. “Pretty much.”

“Insolent wench,” he muttered, and stifled a grin when she rolled her eyes. Sass it is, then.

“You could always tell your mom no when she invites us,” she pointed out.

He sighed and bent to pick up the bags. “No, I can’t.”

“I know.” She closed the closet with a snap and crossed to him, her bootheels clicking on the tile, and rose on her toes to plant a smacking kiss on his chin. “That’s because you’re a big old softie.”

The eyebrow went up again, almost of its own volition this time. “What was that?”

“Sorry,” she said, not looking sorry at all, her dimples popping out even as she lowered her eyes respectfully. “You’re a big old softie, sir.”

“Better,” he allowed, fighting a smile of his own. “But you’re lucky my hands are full.”

She glanced down at the bags he still held, then back up at him, her brown eyes dancing. “Oh, yes. Thank goodness for those two duffel bags, otherwise I’d be in so much trouble.”

James gave a bark of laughter. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one tired of being on his best behavior for the last couple of days. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were looking for trouble.”

She walked past him, her dimples still winking. “Well, then it’s a good thing you know better, isn’t it? Besides,” she continued, her voice drifting back to him as she moved toward the curved staircase. “Even if I was, it’s not like you could do anything about it.”

She paused on the first stair, her hand resting lightly on the banister, and looked back at him. They’d been together fourteen years, and still she took his breath away. Soft dark hair, a little tousled from the nap she’d taken on the drive home. Sparkling dark eyes, full of mischief and promise and affection. Her dimples flashed again, pulling his attention to her soft, full lips, curved in the faintest of smiles. That mouth had given him a jolt at their first meeting all those years ago, and its impact hadn’t lessened over time. If anything, it had only grown stronger, because now he knew just what those lush lips were capable of. He knew just how swollen and red they grew from his kisses, how they looked wrapped around his cock. And how she bit them when she was in pain, or in pleasure.

Then those lips spread in an impish grin, bringing him back to the present, and the game she was trying to tempt him into playing. “It’s not like you could chase me up these stairs or catch me even if you did. You’re fifty-one now. An old man.”

He growled because he knew she wanted him to, and with a rollicking laugh, she ran up the stairs.

He stayed where he was, enjoying the view. The yoga pants she’d worn for comfort on the drive home curved over rounded hips and a rounder ass, the soft sweater in misty green—another Christmas gift—covering bouncing breasts. He’d seen her dress that morning in a pretty lacy bra, the kind built for maximum visual effect rather than physical activity, so there was a lot of bounce.

It was pretty fucking hot.

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About the Author

Hannah Murray

Hannah has been reading romance novels since she was young enough to have to hide them from her mother. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband—former Special Forces and an OR nurse who writes sci-fi fantasy and acts as In-House Expert on matters pertaining to weapons, tactics, the military, medical conditions and How Dudes Think—and their daughter, who takes after her father.

Find out more about Hannah at her website and blog.

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Hannah Murray’s The Shame Game Giveaway

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Release Blitz: Fang by Ellen Mint #paranormalromance @Totally_Bound

Fang by Ellen Mint

Book 2 in the Coven of Desire series

Genres:

ANGELS AND DEMONS
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

How can Cal live when the monster remains in the mirror?

Cal is struggling. After his past unraveled into a torment that claimed nearly his whole family, how could he not be? The only good left in his life is Layla, even if she comes with a pain-in-the-haunches incubus. Dealing with Ink is one more problem he’s ignoring, until the werewolf issues he’s refused to face come for him.

A second pack is hunting him and they’re threatening his mother. Cal has no choice but to travel back to Santa Fe and confront them, or lose the last family he has left. While a road trip with Layla sounds nice, Ink has to come along, and the demon keeps driving a growing wedge between Cal and his tenuous grasp on humanity.

Cal, Ink and Layla come face to face with an enemy Cal once believed to be nothing but a myth, his claws and fangs useless against their firepower. What do they want with the witch, werewolf and demon? And, most of all, how can they be stopped?

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence, peril, near death, blood and gore. There are references to a cult, abusive and violent parents, and references to patricide.

Publisher’s Note: Everyone who buys a copy of Fang will receive the short story Snow Print free. Set between the events of Claw and Fang in the Coven of Desire series, Cal’s struggling to overcome the loss in his life is interrupted by a snowman army.

Excerpt

A crack shattered the silence, trying to pry my locked jaws apart. Shadows clipped across the single floodlight above the floorboards.

Diesel, gun oil, salted pork and…old leather. Every scent filled my sinuses and I whimpered.

“Cal…”

No! I spun in the tight space, clamping my filthy fingers onto my brother’s mouth. Even in the muddy crawlspace, I could see his eyes blazing above my palm. Eli’s entire body shivered, his shoulders rising to shield himself from every clip of the boot above our heads.

“We have to keep moving,” Mark spat in my ear. I cringed at the loogie sliding down my face while the eldest brother easily spun on his haunches. Even with his messed-up leg duct-taped to a fence post, he crawled quickly under the floor.

The boards above our heads stopped creaking and the light vanished. Had he gone to bed? This was it. Mom had put me in charge of getting Eli. All we had to do was…

Blinding white punctured the world. The ceiling above us shattered, splintering my heart. A massive hand slammed down right in front of my face. I reached my foot back, prepared to kick and break a finger, when the entire house collapsed over Eli.

Another crack. We all flinched as he took it. Three more lines added to the ones crisscrossing his back. Growls rumbled from Mark, pinned by his mother to stand and watch. I tried to twist away, but my head wouldn’t leave. If I didn’t watch, I could be next.

“Ah!”

A single cry escaped from Eli, and both Mark and I screamed, “No.” If he made a sound, it started all over.

The belt hung against the five-year-old’s back, Eli straining to reach over the apple crate he bent over. Crimson wicked up his burlap cassock. The blood would be left to dry for days as a reminder because the scars weren’t enough.

“This is what happens to disobedient boys,” boomed the voice through my ears, up my feet and into my blood. I tried to spit it out, the scent of him merging into a putrid taste boiling down my throat. Leaning over, I tried to retch it away—diesel, gun oil, salted pork, old leather, and blood. A spray of it erupted from my lips, staining the floorboards of the great room. No one turned to me, no one noticed I was vomiting in front of them.

Every eye gazed upon him. The father. Our great leader into the next stage of existence.

“Cal!”

“Eli…?”

His dirty, matted hair began to lift. As it did, crimson paint dribbled down the sides. “I don’t wanna be here, Cal!”

“I…” Damn it. My gaze plummeted to the floor, tears threatening to burst. Slamming my lids closed so no one could tattle on me for crying, I said, “I’ll get you out of here, Eli. When it’s done, I’ll get you.”

“Forget it.” It wasn’t the soft cry of a kid, but the dead acceptance of an adult. Even with my eyes shut tight, I saw Eli rise from the box. He trampled it down with his foot, shattering the crate we’d all been whipped on. Eli stood tall, stretching far above my head.

“Weak,” the voice of my unending nightmares thundered. “All of you.” His face burned hot like the sun and I could only stare at the black gun extending from his hand. He pointed it at the followers standing in a ring around us.

“The time of the Moon is nigh,” the rotten bastard said. “Destiny, child. Blood.” He aimed his gun at Eli. A flash turned my brother’s head into a wolf’s skull.

“Eli!” I screamed, running for him. But my feet couldn’t get any traction. Every step kept me pinned in place, unable to reach my brother slowly tumbling to the cement ground.

“You cannot escape it, Calvin.” The asshole’s hand clamped to my shoulder and he pressed me down to my knees. I tried to fight it, but my bones were matchsticks against his might. They buckled, my nose pressing into the dirt.

A wind howled through the trees, parting the stricken branches to reveal the yellow-blue light forever beaming down upon us. Itching rippled under my skin, one no amount of scratching would solve.

“Give in,” he chanted almost serenely.

I shook my head, feeling fur and not hair brush against my shoulder. “No,” I declared, the words warping as my gums receded. Pain clawed up the roots of my teeth sharpening to fangs.

“You cannot escape, Calvin.”

Squeezing my eyes tight, I willed the wolf back. My teeth flattened. I patted my head, finding only the shaved hair. Lashing my arm back, I burst from his grip and took two steps forward. “I’m never changing again!” I shouted.

A low chuckle caused me to freeze. My body betrayed me, terror beckoning me to turn. Lucien bent down, half of his skull exposed, the skin ripped like paper, the muscles rotted away. The eyeball in his fleshless socket was milky white. “Child.” A squishy, flapping sound followed his words. Red and purple tubes flapped out of a massive wound in his throat. I wanted to scream, but my mouth drowned with hot liquid.

“You cannot escape your blood.”

Fuck!

I shook awake, my whole body slamming forward to try to escape. Instead of hurling myself off the bed, I almost knocked my teeth into a soft shoulder. Layla’s hair provided cushioning to stop me, and I buried my face in it. I opened my mouth in a rictus and gave all the force of shrieking without letting a single sound escape.

My tongue tasted of copper and salt, of Lucien’s blood that I had ripped from his throat. My brain thundered with the scents of his body, his boots, his instruments of terror. Get out of it. He’s not here. He can never be here.

Burrowing my nose farther into her hair, I pulled in the deepest whiff imaginable. Cereal marshmallows. We’d gotten into a pointless food fight last night and I’d flicked them at her as she laughed. Amber. She’d used my soap to wash her hands and face. Me. The long night I held her safe in my arms. The air right before a thunderstorm struck. Layla.

My body tightened around her as it recognized the fullness of her. And she was stirring. Damn it.

“Cal…?” she croaked. Most of the time her voice was lush and lyrical, but in the morning it sounded more like a smoking frog.

I placed my lips to the nape of her neck, kissing over her curly hair to try to find the skin below. The taste of her replaced the lingering memory of blood. “Sorry to wake you,” I said.

The wolf inside me was restless. No, angry. It wanted vengeance even though we’d already gotten it. I winced and started to slide away. If I stayed in bed, no matter how tempting, it could rip through me. Take over my thoughts and push me to its side. I slid my hand up Layla’s stomach and over her hip, having to abandon her to calm down.

I was fairly certain she’d passed out and I slipped to my feet, when her fingers crested over mine. Through the shadows of the old house, I couldn’t see much, but the silhouette of her breasts tumbling together out from under my blanket almost drove me back in with her.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

No. But I’ve never been okay my whole life. “You stay sleeping.” I bent over and kissed her lips. I wished her taste and touch could chase away all the nightmare, but it clung to me like a filthy sack caked in blood. Rising to my feet, I stumbled out of my room. The wolf inside me howled.

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About the Author

Ellen Mint

Ellen Mint adores the adorkable heroes who charm with their shy smiles and heroines that pack a punch. She recently won the Top Ten Handmaid’s Challenge on Wattpad where hers was chosen by Margaret Atwood. Her books, Undercover Siren and Fever are available at Amazon as well as a short story in the Lucky Between The Sheets anthology. Married, she lives in Nebraska with her dog named after Granny Weatherwax. Her hobbies include gaming, painting, and halloween prop making. The basement is full of skeletons because they ran out of room in the closets.

You can find Ellen at her website here and also on Bookbub.

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