RELEASE BLITZ: Remaking a Man by Amy Craig #ContemporaryRomance #suspense #Billionaire @totally_bound @firstforromance

Remaking a Man Banner 2

Remaking a Man by Amy Craig

Book 2 in the Sun Valley Mafia series

Word Count: 72,223
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 305

Genres:

BILLIONAIRE
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME
CRIME AND MYSTERY
EROTIC ROMANCE
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

A one-night stand turns serious…

Nina’s neighbor sets her up on a blind date with a handsome insurance salesman. After a candlelit dinner, Nina hooks up with him in a posh New York hotel room, but she writes off the date as a one-night stand. Returning home, she discovers her neighbor’s death, her dog’s abduction and the salesman’s possible involvement.

Traipsing across the city with her date in tow, she realizes he’s a quarrelsome billionaire and that her dog may never return. Grieving her losses, she accompanies her date to a ‘billionaire summer camp’ in Sun Valley, Idaho, but the idyllic setting revolves around his whims—and the person who took her dog follows them.

Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder.

Excerpt

Standing on the marble front step of her family’s Miami mansion, Gisella tapped her designer footwear, adjusted her sunglasses and blocked out the bright spring day. She breathed deeply and shuffled the bags hanging from her toned arms.

At the end of the driveway, her brother Antonio revved his red convertible’s souped-up engine and pounded the dashboard in time to blaring rock music. Miami traffic streamed past the estate. People stared.

Why can’t he just leave? She marveled at his arrogance, but she kept her expression neutral and her phone in her pocket. He was the youngest of her two siblings, and he had the stocky, tan physique her male family members prized. He also had a propensity to wear outlandish suits, a revolving door of girlfriends and a sophomoric sense of humor. If he caught her taking a selfie in front of the house, he would turn it into a meme, but her account depended on dance stills and teasing hints of glamour. The minute he left the estate, she would take the picture while her hair looked good.

Flexing her toes, she rifled through the bags on her arms. One duffle held her ballet kit, another tote functioned as a purse and the bags from her morning shopping spree hiked her credit card bill. Instead of feeling guilty for the extravagance, she admired her long, lean legs.

Her form allowed her to excel as a professional ballerina, but she worried she had the coltish naivety to match her legs. When would she work up the nerve to demand a driver’s license and stop relying on Antonio for transportation? Every time she talked about her license, her father pouted and asked what more he could do to ensure her comfort.

If her mother had lived, Gisella’s life might be so different.

A car horn honked. A woman blew kisses. “Antonio!!”

He ignored the entreaty, let the engine rumble and scanned the beachside traffic. His muscled forearm hung over the door, and he tapped his fingers against the expensive paint job. Milky fingerprints marred the convertible’s finish.

A second Miami driver slowed to gawk at the handsome, moneyed mobster. A trailing car smashed the vehicle’s lights. Horns blared and doors flew open.

Releasing the engine’s pent-up energy, Antonio took advantage of the distraction and roared across two lanes of traffic.

Gisella rolled her eyes and snapped the picture she needed, but she doubted her high-gloss smile was worth the price of the photograph.

Riding home with her brother from dance rehearsals and a shopping spree, she had stared out of the window and listened to him complain about women and their fickle ways. His problems never changed, but the consistency soothed her. If he spent more time listening to the women, he would have fewer problems with them.

For instance, she had wanted to close her eyes and rest, but Antonio couldn’t take a hint. As soon as she made Principal Dancer, she could move out of her father’s house and make rent, but she would have to stop shopping like a mafia princess.

Squaring her shoulders, she faced her father’s front door. Most Miami residents painted their doors to ward off humidity’s warping effects. Papà imported Cocobolo heartwood and exposed the precious wood to the elements. His house could grace the cover of Architectural Digest, but his acceptance in local society depended on discretion. Biscayne Bay would freeze over before he opened the mansion’s doors to gawking strangers.

Every piece of furniture came with a decorator’s commission, authenticity papers and a cataloged serial number. The insurance company knew the exact cost of her father’s investment, and if the house burned, they’d be wise to pay up.

She appreciated the wealth, but its origins bothered her. Her sweet Papà, Gregorio Vitella, ran drugs from South America up the Eastern shoreline. She feared that enjoying the proceeds made her complicit in his crimes.

Pressed by a tipsy ballet friend, she’d admitted the concession that let her sleep at night. Her father’s legitimate insurance company probably covered her bills, but how could a person separate good money from bad people—and where did that distinction place her?

Pushing open the door, she scanned the marble foyer and dropped her bags, but a green potted palm, a black concert piano and an excruciatingly expensive console table provided little company. The console table rested on acrobatic loops of brass. Beneath a glass top, python skin gleamed with a subtle sheen, and she wondered if the piece’s black crystal pulls would make an interesting jewelry set. Opening a drawer, she checked for mail and flipped through the family correspondence. “Come stai, Papà?”

Her question echoed.

Raising her head, she set down the mail and waited.

A hidden white paneled door opened. Martin, the butler, emerged, wearing the formal black suit and crisp white shirt required for his service. He’d perfected the practiced, subservient gaze on his own. She’d grown to like him, but she wondered how long he would last in the household.

Signorina Gisella, your father is in his study.”

Keeping a bright smile on her face, she handed Martin her shopping bags and kept her purse on her shoulder. “Thanks. I’ll freshen up and join him.”

“Yes, Signorina.”

The man couldn’t speak ten words of Italian. As soon as staff members picked up a basic understanding of the language, her father fired them. Smart members played dumb. Gisella found her allies among them, but she’d learned to mind her comments, too.

Ducking into the gilt-papered bathroom off the foyer, she pinched her cheeks, added lipstick and prepared to act like a dutiful daughter. Her life revolved around the Miami Ballet Company, beachside runs and formal dinners, but in her father’s house, she would forever be ‘Gigi’.

Bracing her hands on the sink, she tilted her head. Her loving father owned Florida’s biggest commercial real estate company, Cosmica Insurance Holdings, but he also ran the Florida branch of the Italian mob.

He wore a suit to school functions, but when business soured at home, he rolled up his shirtsleeves, and the gentlemanly look faded. When she had been ten, she’d witnessed the reality of his business dealings through a crack in the study door. She’d never seen his victim again, and she’d kept her observations to herself—but she listened.

When classmates at her parochial school asked what her father did for work, she parroted the company line. “CIH offers property insurance, casualty insurance and value-added insurance services across twenty southeastern states.”

They looked impressed.

Why shouldn’t they? Every new homeowner in Florida received a direct mailing touting CIH’s low rates and friendly staff. The mailings glossed over the company’s potential money laundering credentials, but who read the fine print?

Leaving the bathroom, she made her way to the back of the house and to her father’s study. The caviar-black masculine room had views of the pool and heavy leather furniture. Despite a sparking oasis waiting beyond the windows, the room looked like a cave.

Last fall, her father’s interior designer Lisette had joined the family before Sunday dinner. Wearing a pantsuit, she’d sipped a dirty martini and made vague references to former clients. “I prefer to create a visual impact by mixing wood species and texture. That movie star I mentioned”—she sipped her drink—“had a thing for ebony.”

Gisella had wanted to like the woman, but her influence on the house’s décor leaned toward gilt and Hollywood glamour. Having a thing for ebony shocked her as much as Lisette’s cosmetic surgery bill. Once a woman immersed herself in wealth, keeping life entertaining required novelty and a steady flow of cash. “How do you plan to tackle the study?”

Lisette had wrinkled her surgically enhanced nose. “The hospitality industry uses black to create glamour, drama and intimacy. Everyone’s doing it.”

Gisella had sipped her wine and assumed Lisette was doing her father.

Walking across the room, Gisella admitted the study’s black walls created drama, but if her father wanted to scare his minions into compliance, he could pull out the handgun he kept in the desk’s top drawer. To keep her in line, he deployed guilt. ‘What would your mother think?’

She wrinkled her nose.

Walking around the polished walnut desk, she leaned down and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He smelled of black tea, Damascus rose, tobacco and leather. At sixty-five years old, he looked ten years younger. Faint silver streaks threaded his black hair. He could wear chinos and he would still smell like old manners and aged wine caves. “Come è andato il lavoro, Papà?”

“It is what it is.” Continuing in Italian, he set aside his papers. “How was your shopping trip?”

She sat opposite him and crossed her legs. “Fruitful.”

He laughed.

Pulling a stack of receipts from her purse, she slid them across the desk. “The rest will come by email.”

Shrugging, he leaned back in his chair and left the crumpled slips on the table. “Gigi, you’re old enough to drink and old enough to marry.”

She picked at her nails. “Is that so?”

“More than old enough. In the home country…”

Looking up, she tilted her head. “We’re not in the home country.”

He held up a hand. “But if we were, you’d be a bride, and I’d be a grandpa.”

“Ursula is older.”

“Your sister wants to be a nun.”

“So she says.” Looking past his full head of hair, she regretted her outburst and second-guessed her decision to come home after rehearsal. If she’d stayed out and shared a drink with Antonio, she’d have to listen to his stories and give up her evening run. She couldn’t hide from her father. He financed her life and provided patronage for her art. Looking at him, she softened her expression and recalled the sunlit days he’d spent with her and Ursula. “You’re too young to be a grandpa.”

“Hear me out,” he said.

She exhaled. Drinks with Antonio sounded better. At least he planned to fuck up his own life instead of hers.

When her mother had drowned off the Amalfi Coast, Papà had whisked his three children to Miami and begun a new life on the Atlantic’s eastern coast. Given how he’d lost his wife, one would think he would have chosen Oklahoma, but he knew how to make money along a coastline. Aunts and nannies had sopped up spilled milk, but when he’d come home at night, he’d kissed her cheek and left his old-world scent against her shoulder.

Some nights, remembering the smell of roses and leather, she recalled how much consistency mattered to children and old men. “Yes, Papà.”

“I have a series of eligible young men lined up. You will give them each an evening and tell me which man suits you.”

“What if I prefer women?”

“Gisella Santa Maria Vitella!” He slammed his palm against the desk.

A vase rattled but resisted gravity’s lure.

She rolled her eyes and stood. The dates her father arranged would be insurance agents or mob hit men. She couldn’t decide which option she found more appalling. “I can find my own dates, Daddy.”

He gripped the leather armrests. “Sit down.”

Lowering her frame, she kept her back straight and maintained eye contact. The company’s Artistic Director scared her more than her father did, but his familiar expectations could surprise her. Cosseted and pampered, she enjoyed an easy life until she slammed into a glass wall keeping her from enjoying life’s stunning vistas. Eventually, she found an exit, and her father acquiesced to her wishes.

He cleared his throat. “You’re too old to prance around the stage in a tutu.”

She wet her lips. “Too old to dance, and too young to procreate. What’s a girl to do? Marriage is a contract, isn’t it? Do I get a lawyer?”

He raised an eyebrow.

Outside the mansion’s walls, ballet defined her life and gave her predictability. At fifteen, she’d enrolled in the company school and trained for three years. After graduation, she’d joined the ballet as a School Apprentice and spent two years in the trenches before joining the corps de ballet. Three years later, she’d made Soloist, then Principal Soloist. The lure of becoming Principal Dancer kept her focused.

The goal also kept her father off her back. It was like he’d made a deal with his six-year-old daughter, and he refused to back out of his agreement. For the last twenty years, he’d sponsored the company’s performances, but rarely attended them.

Last month, she’d celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. Most dancers stopped dancing professionally between thirty-five and forty years of age. She’d known her father wouldn’t give her that much time and would propose an arranged marriage. She might have to accept it, but an IUD would buy her time to achieve her dreams. Crossing her arms, she settled back into the chair.

Sometimes, she lay awake at night and imagined defying her father, but he killed the men who disobeyed him, and she lacked a mother to intercede on her behalf. Caught between ideals and reality, she walked a narrow line and kept her gaze focused on the future. Sometimes, she dreamed of her mother, but she wondered how much time had reshaped the memories.

She remembered holding her breath under water to watch fish, but now she hated to swim. Her inability to trust her memories undermined her faith in herself, and her father’s coddling approach undermined her achievements. She could dance across the stage playing a role, but striking out on her own meant vulnerability. Until she knew she could succeed, she would humor his demands. “I hear you, Papà. Who’s the first victim?”

“You will love Marco.”

Tilting her head to the side, she rubbed her scalp. “Doubtful, but tell me where to report.”

“You’re a good girl, and you’ll make me proud. I’ve tried to raise you the old way, but your aunts can’t replace your mother. I’m getting old. You’ve had leeway to pursue your dancing, but tomorrow evening at eight, you and Marco will dine.”

She shook her head. “Not tomorrow, Papà. I organized a beach cleanup.”

“You hate the water. Find someone else to pick up trash…”

Holding up her hand, she interrupted his mandate. “CIH is sponsoring the event.”

His forehead wrinkled.

Maybe he was getting old. “Perhaps Tuesday?” she offered.

His nostrils flared. “Tuesday.”

Standing, she rounded the desk, pressed a kiss against his smooth cheek and let his scent calm her frustration. How many times had he threatened her dancing? How many times had he shipped her back to Italy to take in the old country? Here she remained. Marco and the remaining suitors would fizzle out, and she’d continue dancing. “Ti amo, Papino.”

He pulled back. “You will go on this date.”

“Sure.” Picking up the receipts, she dropped them in the trashcan. “I have plenty of new dresses to wear.”

“Gigi…”

She winked. Walking out of the office, she let her clicking heels say everything she held back. The marble-backed rhythm sounded so final, like the sound of a bullet fired at close range. Violence hung over her family like a constant threat. If her father understood anything, he understood endings. Keeping him focused on new beginnings remained her job.

Opening the door to her room, she shucked the heels for soft slippers, settled into a stretch and let the music guide her.

Ursula opened the door connecting their rooms and pushed a shoe out of the way. “I thought dancers didn’t wear high heels.”

“They do when they want salespeople to take them seriously.”

Dropping to the floor, Ursula lolled her head. “You’d think a black credit card and a bodyguard would be enough to get their attention.”

“You’d think.” Gisella deepened her stretch and puzzled through Ursula’s recent transformation. Her sister’s dark brown hair, olive skin and generous curves could rock a bikini, but lately she’d insisted on dressing like a martyr. If Ursula deviated from her prayers and walked into a boutique, the salespeople might press the panic button. Gisella suppressed a smile.

Her sister had always been serious, but her devotion had deepened in the last six months. After Sunday mass, Gisella had known why. No longer content to hide behind her hymnal, Ursula had stared at Father Pietro, the hot new priest. The man of the cloth must have given Ursula a bit of pious encouragement.

Gisella shrugged and laid her torso along her leg. If Ursula wanted to plan her life around vespers, God love her. “How was your day?”

“Good. Lots of praying, solemnity, hymns and stuff.”

Gisella raised her head. “And stuff?”

Ursula swallowed. “Church stuff.”

“Maybe you could put the stuff on hold and help me cleanup the beach tomorrow. Every set of hands helps.”

“Sure.” Ursula stood. “I have a few hours to spare.”

Watching her sister slip into the next room, Gisella judged her sister’s choices. Dancing made her feel alive. Why would any woman dedicate her life to an organization that spent so much time imagining what came after death?

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About the Author

Amy Craig

Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list.

Find Amy at her website, on Amazon and follow her at BookBub.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Painted Bare by Hayden West #EroticRomance #Gay @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Painted Bare by Hayden West

Book 4 in the City of Fountains series

General Release Date: 17th February 2023

Word Count: 16,531
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 78

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

The canvas never lies.

Anthony Henson doesn’t do people. He prefers to be left alone with his paint, brushes and canvas. A world that allows his mind to be at ease, without the struggle to do what is right by societal dictates. His quiet universe is sent spinning, however, when a string of recent thefts brings a tall Irish detective into his circle.

Detective Liam Rourke has a hard, firm policy on not intermingling work and pleasure. Until now, it’s not been an issue to uphold it. Enter one painter and all he wants to do is spend more time around him. The lines between professional and personal are blurred.

When everything settles, what will happen to the straight-laced detective and the man whose own messy life doesn’t matter to him?

Reader advisory: This book contains instances of bullying, as well as mention of homophobia, adultery, and family/domestic verbal/emotional abuse.

Excerpt

“There’s a Detective Rourke here to see you, Anthony.”

Anthony Henson sighed, instantly agitated, and spun on the stool, away from the current painting he worked on. With a flick of his wrist as he got to his feet, he covered it. No one would see it until the time was right.

“Thanks, Marshall.”

The words were the correct ones, even if the last thing he felt like he should be doing was entertaining another prick of a badge. Pressing the heel of his palm into his upper thigh, he sighed as he tried to work out the stiffness. When he finished on that side, he worked out the stiffness in his other leg. A sure sign he’d been immobile far too long without taking a break.

Supposedly this can be a good thing. I am getting up and moving around. This will serve as my break.

Truth was, he didn’t give a fuck if it was a good thing or not. He didn’t care. He had painting to do. The other things were naught but irritating intrusions of his time.

Marshall vanished without another word and in mere seconds, with his suit impeccable. While Anthony himself, on the other hand, looked like a day laborer. Paint staining his fingers, shirt, pants. Even his shoes.

Oops.

Damnit. I forgot my shoes. Where did I leave them? In the back room? Beneath my stool?

There were two options. Go back and get them, assuming he could remember where he’d discarded them, or continue on like he was to this meeting.

It’s not like I called the cops to come out here. He’s interrupting my day. Why do I care if I’m wearing shoes? Why should I care? He may not even be a he. I suppose women can be detectives.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he should care. That would be the proper thing to do. Quite honestly, he didn’t give a fuck about social niceties. That’s what Marshall was for.

Pushing his hands into his pockets, he walked through the back of the studio to the front. Marshall pointed one finger off to his left and Anthony followed.

The man, and it was a man, stood before one of his favorite pieces. A scene in Italy, a seashore.

“Why are you here?”

Beside him, Marshall cleared his throat, softly. Anthony knew what it was, a reminder to be better behaved. Be polite. Sociable.

The man didn’t start, just slowly turned toward him, expression composed. Sharp green eyes lasered out from angular features. Deep red hair with a smattering of gray at the temples. The clothing was typical detective wear—a suit.

“Anthony Henson?”

His voice rolled from him like a slow-moving wave, not anything to knock you over but you sure as hell knew it had been there.

“That’s who you asked to see. Why else would I be standing here?”

Marshall stepped between them. “I’m sorry, Detective. Yes, this is Anthony Henson. Anthony, this is Detective Liam Rourke.”

There was a look in Marshall’s gaze. It took him a moment before it clicked. Marshall was reminding him not to be so short.

“How can I help you?”

It grated he had to ask that, but Marshall smiled at him and that made it worth it. Being able to make Marshall smile and relax was something Anthony enjoyed doing. He didn’t have a lot of friends. There were people, acquaintances who pretended to like him because of who he was and his wealth and of course his connections, or at least those they thought would help them. But he wasn’t stupid, no matter what those same people said behind his back. He knew they were trying to use him.

The bottom line was, he didn’t give a fuck about them. But Marshall…he was different. The man had been his friend since they’d first met. He’d taken beatings standing up for Anthony and never got offended when Andrew’s bluntness had things falling from his mouth that should have been withheld.

So, no matter how he didn’t want to do something, if Marshall asked him, he would do it. He hid a smirk and tried to give the visitor his attention. It wasn’t easy. This detective was handsome.

“I’m here with a couple of questions about burglaries that have been going on at some of the local galleries.”

Anthony watched and waited, bare toes curling on the cool floor. The eyes held him. That shade of green wasn’t something he’d seen before.

He wanted to paint it.

I want to paint him.

Detective Rourke gave a small nod and pulled out a flip steno pad. “Has there been any trouble here? Any people in here that may be casing the joint under the pretense of looking at the art?”

With any movement, Anthony waited. As did the detective. The man didn’t speak, just held his gaze.

He figured it was a tactic to get suspects to talk, but personally, he didn’t give a fuck. This man didn’t intimidate him.

Arouse him? Yes, for sure.

“Well?”

A hint of impatience laced the man’s tone, even though it was very faint.

“Are those your only questions?” Anthony blinked, once. “Or do you have others?”

The man flattened his lips and gave a slow nod.

“I couldn’t tell you. You would be better served speaking to Marshall.” He looked away from the detective with the intoxicating green eyes. “Marshall, come answer the detective’s questions. I have better things to do.”

Without another word, he turned and walked back toward his studio.

“Wait a minute.”

He paused outside the room and looked over his shoulder. The man strode toward him, brow furrowed.

“We’re not finished.”

Anthony narrowed his gaze. “You told me you had no more questions. I am not the best equipped to answer this, Marshall is.” He cocked his head to the side as a thought struck him. “Are you good at your job? Because you seem to be having a difficult time digesting what I told you.”

Marshall cleared his throat again.

Anthony shrugged. “What? It is a legitimate question.” He waved his hand in the direction of the sexy detective.

I do not need to think of him as sexy.

“He is having a difficult time grasping my statement.” He faced Liam. “Or did something change and you do have different questions for me?”

Liam Rourke wasn’t sure what to make of the man standing before him. He didn’t shy away from eye contact and seemed absolutely shocked Liam wanted to speak to him again. But the blue eyes holding his called to a deeper part of him. One he’d thought he’d closed down, after—

There was scruff on his face, making his jaw shadowed. Messy dark hair fell haphazardly around his features. He’d noticed a limp while Anthony had moved away from him.

Two blinks and the man he’d come to speak with walked away, leaving him there. Dumbfounded.

“I’m sorry, Detective Rourke. Anthony doesn’t mean to be rude. He just—”

“No need to explain.” He had a feeling he already knew. “Why did he tell me to speak to you?”

“Mr. Henson prefers to keep to the back, doing what he loves. Painting. He isn’t one who comes out to mingle with the patrons.” Marshall stepped back and smoothed a hand down his suit. “I handle all of that for him.”

“Okay, let me ask you.”

Liam talked to Marshall for another couple of minutes before closing up his notepad.

“I’ll be by if I have any more questions. If you do see anything, please let us know. We’re trying to stop this group before someone gets seriously hurt.”

“Will do, Detective.”

He gave him a nod and pivoted to the door. All he wanted to do was go in the back and engage with Anthony once more. He shook his head. It had been a while since he’d had a man affect him like Anthony had, despite the brief time they were together.

At the door to Arm’s Hall Gallery, he slowed, at war with himself about whether to go back and see Anthony once more. Exhaling sharply, he pushed through and stepped out into the hot summer afternoon.

Liam slid on his sunglasses and tipped his head up to the glaring sun. His mind drifted back to the paint-splattered man who hadn’t been the slightest bit impressed with having a detective there, trying to help.

He snorted. No, impressed was definitely not the word to use. Annoyed, irritated, bored. So many other ones he could choose.

There had been something sexy about seeing him there, barefoot and a bit messy, which had kicked his senses, reminding him how long it’d been since he’d had a lover. Eyes on his car, he walked toward it, mind focusing ahead to the next stop on his list for the day.

So far the four places that had been burglarized hadn’t had any injuries. In his gut, he figured it was only a matter of time before their luck ran out with regards to that. What he’d not been able to piece together yet was a connection in the art. Other than the obvious—it was art. Something told him it was deeper than how it appeared on the surface.

Not even old art, at least not all. It was like the thief or thieves weren’t after Rembrandts, probably because they were afraid they couldn’t unload them. And he didn’t get the allure of some of what he’d seen. Some of the pieces that had been stolen he personally wouldn’t wipe his ass with, but he’d never claimed to be an art critic.

Now this most recent studio, he didn’t mind what was up on those walls. Not images he would consider all abstract, for there was a definite eclectic taste to what adorned the walls.

Landscapes. People. Animals. Buildings. Flowers. You name it, Arm’s Hall probably had it, and most of what Liam had seen made sense to his mind.

“Rourke!”

Snapping his gaze up when his name was hollered, he lifted his chin in greeting to another detective, Larson, who had been at a different gallery.

Larson jogged across the street and put his hands on his hips. “Anything?”

He shook his head and pulled his notebook back out, flipping it open. “Nothing that was worth the time it took me to put it down.”

Arms crossed, Larson grunted. “Same. Although, if I wanted a painted picture of a bikini bottom, it could be mine for a measly ten grand.”

Liam choked. “I’m sorry?”

“Yeah, that’s what it was like at the last place I was at. I either make far too little or I went into the wrong business. I mean, I could paint some ladies’ drawers and would be happy to sell it for half their asking price. Christ, what the hell is the draw for something like that? I couldn’t ever put it up on my wall, not if I wanted my wife to refrain from slitting my throat at night.”

Liam laughed, knowing full well Regina, Larson’s wife, would do exactly that, and find a way to blame him for it. Woman was scary and a freaking amazing attorney. He held up his hands and shook his head.

“That’s all you, man. I’m not buying any portion of women’s clothing on a canvas. Much less for that kind of money. We have the same job. I know I don’t make that kind of money.”

“Let’s get back, see if we can’t find a lead somewhere.”

They fell into step and walked in companionable silence to the waiting sedan.

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About the Author

Hayden West

Hayden West lives in the Pacific Northwest, enjoys being outdoors, and hanging out with friends when not working on the next novella to be released.

Find Hayden at their website and blog.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Feral Woods by M.C. Roth #LGBTQ #EroticRomance #Paranormal @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Feral Woods by M.C. Roth

General Release Date: 10th January 2023

Word Count: 65,243
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 245

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
MÉNAGE AND MULTIPLE PARTNERS
PARANORMAL
SHAPECHANGERS AND MORPHERS
WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description


Clothes off and claws out. We’ve got work to do.

Cambry is everything an omega shouldn’t be. He’s tall, muscular and attacks every alpha who approaches him, shifting into his wolf form before making sure they know their place—away from him.

Cambry’s father sends him to Feral Woods in the hopes that Cambry will return home too shattered to put up a fight against his next potential mate. If one alpha can’t tame him, then why not try two?

With two hundred supervised acres, Feral Woods is a couple’s therapy center run by Bryce and Jake—two massive alphas who could tear Cambry apart. It’s not long before Cambry finds himself drawn to them, his inner beast submissive for the first time in his life. But he is met with dismissive refusal instead of interest.

With his heart on the line and time running out, there is a chance he could remain broken forever.

Reader advisory: This book contains a scene of a shifter orgy.

Excerpt

Cambry grasped the curtain, pulling it away from the polished glass of his bedroom window. The fabric was soft and heavy in his hand—something from the latest designer his mother had fallen in love with. Instead of the previous indigo, it was now a deep blue that blended in with the softer tones of his room.

A fountain spurted beyond the window, its waters guarded by a black gate that matched the fence that surrounded the property. There were grass and trees, too, beyond those gates, not that he ever got the chance to enjoy them.

An alpha retreated along the concrete walkway, his back rippling under his thin T-shirt. Each movement was like a feral dance of instinct and desire. There was a streak of red across his shirt that hadn’t been there when he’d arrived. The alpha had been big, strong, attractive and sweet—everything a proper mate should be.

But Cambry’s plan had been disastrous, like a spectacular firework that had failed to launch and exploded in his face instead. The second the alpha had shown any intent that wasn’t exactly platonic, Cambry’s instinctive side had reared up and taken him out.

Sighing, Cambry let the curtain fall shut, the filtered light dimming to a sparse glow. Luckily, the alpha was only leaving with a scratch and a black eye instead of a broken arm like the last one—or the broken collar bone from the one before him. Maybe it was because Cambry had warned him?

Most alphas sneered at the warning—hence the broken arm and collar bone—but this one had seemed different.

“When you try to touch me, I’m going to react…badly.” Cambry couldn’t remember how many times he had said those same words. He guessed that the first few alphas had assumed that Cambry would react like any other omega was supposed to—with slick and a burst of pheromones.

They hadn’t been expecting violence.

Walking to his dresser, Cambry pulled the top drawer wide, fumbling with a pair of boxers and tugging them up his thick legs. The fabric was smooth and silken and clutched his soft package like a fitted glove. They were worth spending his tiny allowance on, that was for sure. Thank goodness for the little things in life.

The little things being both his package and the expensive underwear.

His old friend Aubrie had asked him why he always splurged on the things if he had no one to show them off to. He had his own mirror, thank you very much, which added ten pounds, even on the best of days. But it was always honest about the boxers, which looked a hell of a lot better than they did on most omegas.

“Why don’t you give up, Cambry? It kills me to see you like this. If an alpha hasn’t induced a heat in you by now, it’s not going to happen.”

Aubrie had probably had the best intentions when she’d said that, but it had pierced Cambry’s soul like a dull pencil crayon. Or maybe that was why Cambry’s father had chosen her as his friend…to wear him down a bit more.

There was only so much loneliness he could take before he tried to be with someone again, hoping that everything would finally work the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t the sex as much as it was everything else. He couldn’t hug someone or even hold their hand without his feral side acting out.

His skin prickled as his door slid back, light footsteps moving across the floor behind him. And there was that.

“Your father is upset,” said his mother, her meek voice slapping him harder than any blow. He couldn’t look at her and see the same disappointment that was in his soul.

He could hear her shaking, her teeth chattering softly as she stayed as far away from him as she could. He was surprised that she had even managed to step into the same room as he was in.

“I tried, Mom,” he said, pulling a second drawer wide and tugging a shirt over his frame. He had to get alpha sizes, seeing as nothing for omegas fit his frame. His father was upset about that, too.

The alpha sizes were shaped differently than he was, though—the shoulders a touch too wide and the waist not quite narrow enough. Nothing had fit him well since he’d hit puberty.

The steady thumps of his father’s steps approached, and he hurriedly pulled a pair of jeans over his legs. They at least fit a bit better, his thighs stretching the fabric to its brink as it cupped his ass. The only place with too much room was the crotch, but he was almost glad that nothing ever touched him there.

He looked at the mirror above his dresser, scowling at his reflection. Fellow omegas were terrified of him, and alphas treated him like he was a strange cousin to the human race who needed to be broken or beaten until he fit into a different shape than what he had been born into.

He sniffed, slamming the drawer shut before his father could step into his room. There was no use crying, no matter how frustrated he was.

“We’ve tried it your way, Cambry. These alphas can’t stand to get close to you, let alone allow you to bond with them,” said his father as he hovered at the edge of the door frame. He was a few inches shy of Cambry’s height and had lost his alpha muscling to his age long before Cambry had been born. Like most alphas, he never got too close to Cambry—just close enough to hurt with words.

Cambry wondered if he would ever forget his father’s way. The restraints had dug into his wrists as a strange alpha had approached him from behind. Guided by an overdressed and undereducated doctor, Cambry’s father had hoped to kick-start Cambry’s omega nature with some good ole fashioned alpha cock. They hadn’t counted on Cambry breaking his own arm as he shifted, turning on the alpha and ripping a chunk of flesh from his throat.

The alpha hadn’t died—thank goodness—but they had never tried to restrain Cambry after that. And they had finally listened to him and had let him try on his own terms by picking up an alpha from a bar. It was about as romantic as a one-night stand could have been.

But it had resulted the same way—minus the shifting and massive blood loss, at least.

“It almost happened, Dad. I was so close,” said Cambry, touching his belly. He’d been naked, which had been a first. And the alpha had managed to touch him once before Cambry’s beast had risen to the surface and socked him in the face. Biting the alpha’s gland to bond with them had been the last thing on his mind.

“Close isn’t enough,” said his father, the snarl in his voice enough to prickle the hair on the back of Cambry’s neck. He’d never attacked a family member, but he had come close enough times that his father rarely approached him without backup. It was probably why his mother was strategically between them, shivering with her eyes downcast.

“Your heat could kill you. You’re already so much older than you should be for your first one, and there’s no way you can manage it alone,” said his mother, the edge of a sob in her voice. Cambry turned, his heart falling as he watched the tears stream down his mother’s face. She, at least, cared for him. His father was more interested in seeing him out of the door in a different alpha’s house—with some financial benefits for himself, of course.

“I’d have to have a heat first.” Cambry turned away as his father’s dark eyes glared into him. Most omegas had their first heat when they were still in high school, the late bloomers sprouting by eighteen at the latest. Cambry had turned twenty-two three weeks before, and he still hadn’t experienced a heat. He was hardly an omega at all by some standards.

But his mom was right. Those that had monthly heats had the mildest cycle, still able to continue their day-to-day lives with only a mild fever and a bit of slickness. Some of Cambry’s classmates had been that way, and he’d scarcely been able to tell.

Those who had heats once a year had to isolate themselves for nearly a week, their scent and instincts so uncontrollable that they could kill any stranger who attempted to approach. They needed a mate to ease them through it, more with their presence than their knot, from what his mother had explained.

For Cambry not to have had a heat at his age meant that his first would reduce him to nothing more than a feral beast that would kill and fuck without conscious thought. The idea was terrifying, especially since he was already so close to feral that an alpha couldn’t touch him.

“I’ve tolerated this abnormality of yours for long enough,” said his father, his mother’s spine stiffening.

“Dear, you promised,” she said, her voice pleading.

“No, he’ll be going to them, and that’s final. That doctor wasn’t worth his degree, but a colleague of mine gave me the name of a facility that he swears by. If one alpha can’t handle him, then maybe two can snap him out of this phase.” He tossed a business card into the room and it fluttered end over end before settling upside down on the floor. Turning, he stormed from the entry.

Cambry finally took a breath as his father disappeared, skirting by his mother to grab the business card. It was deep forest green with the name Feral Woods inscribed along the middle with deep gold lettering.

He flipped it over, his eyes going wide as he read the services listed on the card. “Instinctive therapy? What is that?” It sounded terrifying and alluring at the same time.

His instincts were everything that was wrong with him, though. As much as he wanted to listen to the little whispers in the back of his mind, he knew if he did, he would be alone for the rest of his life. Therapy brought to mind cages and bindings, the hair on his arms and chest thickening at the thought.

If it had been his father’s idea, the latter was probably exactly what was involved. His colleagues weren’t much better in Cambry’s experience, either.

“I hear they are very good,” she said softly, her voice trembling as she took a step back. His heart broke under the weight of her fear.

His parents were terrified of him. Maybe he should be locked in a cage for the rest of his days until they found someone who could make him submit. Or two someones. He quivered.

“When do I leave?” He took a shuddering breath as he looked around his room. What would he be allowed to bring? His collection of rocks from his younger years? Probably not. His romance novels? He should probably give them a proper burial before he left, because his father would burn them and disown him if he found them hidden under the floorboard.

Just another layer of his abnormalities. His father would have a heart attack if he ever read one of them or even caught sight of the cover. They were the only things that Cambry had ever intentionally rebelled with, and they could cost him everything.

“Your father pulled some strings.” Because of course he did. She cleared her throat. “You’re leaving in an hour.”

So his father had expected his plan to fail.

“There are single omegas, Mom. Why can’t he just let me be?” Cambry sighed, drawing a hand down his arm as his fur retreated, prickling as it pulled back under his skin. Others described shifting as painful, and even his mother could hardly bear to do it. But to him, it was a release he only ever found when he was in that form—wild and without the presumptions of a society that hated him.

“You know why,” she said, not even looking at him. He hadn’t noticed the exact moment that she had given up on him, but it had been a long time ago—perhaps when he had matured into an omega, only he hadn’t stopped growing like he was supposed to or maybe when the first alpha had offered him a mating contract and Cambry had bitten clear through his hand.

“I’m sorry,” he said. The reasons were too long for her to list, and he knew them almost by heart. “Your father has so much pressure at work. People are wondering why you haven’t mated yet. People will talk, son, and your reputation will be ruined. We can’t let them know that you’re…unnatural. Your heat will kill you, and if it doesn’t, your father…”

They did have a slight point. He had no desire to die, especially since he hadn’t seen the world except for his tiny slice of neighborhood and the bit of lawn within the black gates. The unmated omegas he’d seen were considered strange anomalies in the circles his father traveled in and were best to be left alone and shunned.

As if they couldn’t function without a knot to drool over.

Cambry rolled his eyes. The idea of a knot made him a bit nauseous. He had no desire to bend over and take it like he was supposed to. His feral side agreed with toothy gusto.

“You should pack. I’ll give you space.” She set a duffel bag on the floor before she swept from the room, the loss of her presence barely palpable in the quiet house.

She was his polar opposite. His beast refused to be compliant and meek, even when he tried so hard to overcome that part of himself. He didn’t want to be his mother, who was a shadow of a human being ruled by society more than her education and emotions.

Sighing, he looked around the room before grabbing the bag. If he were lucky, he would have just enough room to pack his books under a thin layer of clothing. Then, at least, he could take everything that meant something to him.

He looked at the business card one last time. Alpha and omega instinctive therapy sessions. Two hundred acres of supervised development.

Well, on the bright side, he would probably get to see some hot alpha ass. A smile tugged at his lips. He could have a positive attitude. At least he was getting out of the house. And two hundred acres would give his beast a lot more places to run, even if he was supervised.

Checking to make sure the coast was clear, he lifted the floorboards just inside his closet. His collection of books that he’d spent years gathering barely fit in the space anymore. The pages were worn from being read so many times, the front covers smudged from his fingers. The covers gave away everything that his father didn’t need to know. Two men, bigger than even himself and twined in a primal embrace, painted a steamy picture that made his mouth water. Forbidden Alphas.

Heat flushed his cheeks as he packed them out of sight, zipping the bag shut with a hard pull. He balled up a pair of socks and underwear, jamming them into the side pouch to disguise the corners the books had created.

There. All packed. I hope I never come back.

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About the Author

M.C. Roth

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path.

Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing.

She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head.

Find out more about M.C. Roth at her website.

Giveaway

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BOOK TOUR: His Untameable Wickedness by A P Von K’Ory #DarkRomance #EroticRomance @GoddessFish @Apky11162

His Untameable Wickedness

by A P von K’Ory

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GENRE:   Dark Erotic Romance Suspense

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BLURB:

LEO

A three-letter word made me a murderess at the age of eight years. But having experienced the curses of that word, I was done with men as I grew up. All men. Except to outplay them in the New York financial arena. Then Crowned Sex enthroned in gorgeous velvet charm and lustful gallantry storms into my life. Spewing volcanic lava on my monumental arctic ice block. With the unapologetic fierceness of a savage god. Wearing crackling thunderbolts straight from the god Zeus. Explosive has nothing on it.

Adrian isn’t hot, he’s fucking hellish. He embarks on melting my ice block at the speed of lightning. But I was done with men. I was done with sex. For ever. I. Was.

ADRIAN

I scented her darkness from the moment I was told about her. The sight of her sealed my decision. She was the woman created for my own darkness. I set off to protect her even from herself. Protect her to claim.

Fuse her darkness with my own. For. Myself. I’d fended women off me with bazookas when I was done but they weren’t. I wasn’t prepared for the battle I soon fought. Not only with her but also with her family. And New York’s billionaire gangsters who own entourages of corrupt cops and politicians. With every battle I won, she started new darker wars around me. You ate or you were eaten. Not even starving was an option.

NOTE: Although the blurb is in the first person, the story of Leo and Adrian is written in the third person. This story contains adult material including explicit sex and violence. You’ve been warned.

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Excerpt:

He caught both her flying arms, used her momentum to spin her around onto her back on the couch and landed over her.

Smack bang between her legs.

Pinned her hands above her head and every f****** struggle she tried only forced her to rub against his hard body.

Furious, her thighs tensed but with nowhere to go except around his hips. He planned this. She f****** bet he planned this to the last minute detail.

“You double-faced bastard, get off me!”

“No. You put yourself here. Right here under me, Leo.”

“Get the f*** off m—”

He slammed his crotch right against hers and ground in.

 She screamed as some unknown force kindled her center and the sensation rushed simultaneously south to her soles and north to her scalp.

She stiffened, trembling. Then whimpered. Then—

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GUEST POST:

Behind the Scenes with Adrian Cranford

The maître d’ ushered her into the enclosed niche at Park Chinois restaurant in Mayfair, and the earth juddered as I got up and buttoned my blazer to offer her my hand.

“Ms Boswell, Mr Cranford,” the maître d’ said and the trillion dollar quaking literally thrust him out.

Leontine Nigella Boswell in the flesh. Her mesmerizing turquoise eyes that I’d traced countless times with my fingers on her stunning images now munched my mouth with an intensity that forced me to lick my lips. As if I readied myself to eat her. My own eyes tore off hers and descended on her fuck-me mouth with another planetary jolt that glued them together.

 “Don’t expect anything from me that’ll adequately answer the way you’re looking at me, Adrian Xerxes Cranford.”

Those were the first words she spoke to me. In a voice that made think of taking arms and adorning my military commander uniform to go to war for her. All my adult life I’d fought off women with bazookas when I was done but they weren’t. Now I was ready to go to war for an Adrian goddess I’d worshipped for ever without her proximity.

Bugger me, I thought as her hand left mine, here is magnificent womanhood cloaked in black marble. I felt her darkness claw out of the marble, absorb me and grab inside the even darker abyss within me. Then take root and blossom like a magical flower creating itself for the first time in life’s universe. That darkness slithered into my own darkness and instantly mated. By the time she sat on the chair I held out for her, I knew she was the woman created for my own darkness.

“Give me the inadequate answer, then, Ms Boswell,” I said settling down in my chair opposite her.

“Your uncle, Sir Gordon—”

“Who happens to be your lawyer,” I said to stop that mouth moving for a moment before its movements ruined me. A mistake. Because the planet hadn’t regained its balance yet and forced a gasp from her as she fought not to squirm, her eyes back on my mouth, devouring it.

Watching our mouths in motion was obviously an issue to both of us.

“Yes. He organized this dinner so you can coach me with regard to the City of London. So how many top investors do you know in the World’s Richest Square Mile?”

With every word she spoke, my magical flower opened to full bloom absorbing the blackness in my abyss. Miraculous in its capability to reflect it back. She filled up my inner sight completely with her dazzling darkness. She couldn’t look away, I couldn’t look away, both of our gazes held and locked like two forces with opposing magnets in a tag of war that would never end. Not ever.

“Are you uncomfortable, Leo?” Projection. Fuck, I was uncomfortable and didn’t know where to bloody take it but throw it back at her.

“What?” Her effort to stop our juddering planet brought her eyes back to my mouth. The same omnipotent power slammed my eyes on her mouth.

“That’s not an answer. It’s at best avoidance and therefore an insult to both of us. Since when do you skirt around challenging situations?”

“Fuck you, Mr Cranford.”

“As long as it’s you, Leo, any time.” In my mind’s eye, as I stared at her mouth, I saw her eagerly open it wide for me to fuck it raw and come deep down her throat.

She was too intense to treat this as a quip. I watched her energy whip itself into a coiled tornado speeding towards me, intent on turning me into dust and blowing me off the face of the planet.

“Are you ready for the aperitifs?” the maître d’ asked, back just in time to save my arse.  I’d have preferred to have her blow it to hell just to feel that untameable fury of hers on me.

That first close encounter with the goddess I’d worshipped before clapping my eyes on is forever etched in my memory.

To this day, Leo and I are titanic fire and ice. We burn and freeze each other. We destroy and reconstruct each other. We kill and resurrect each other. We fuck like primal beasts and love like demonic gods. In every mood, location or situation, we’re too extraordinary to ever be normal. We’re irreparably damaged. Our story continues to be written.

Adrian set off to protect Leo even from herself. Protect her to claim. Fuse her darkness with his. I feel totally Adrian. I don’t want whatever Leo and I are to be any other way but as is. Neither do I want our story to end although I know it has to, one day.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

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AP von K’Ory writes the kind of books she herself would like to read and is passionate about, whether romance, psychological thriller or nonfiction. She is the winner of six awards from four continents, the last one being the Achievers Award for Writer of the Year 2013 in the Netherlands. The Selmere Integration Prize was awarded her in 2014 for her engagement in helping African Women in the Diaspora cope with a variety of domestic and social problems. The Proposal, a short story, won the Cook Communications first prize in 2010 and is published in an American anthology Africa 2012. In 2012, she won the Karl Ziegler Prize for her commitment to bring African culture to Western society in various papers, theses, and lectures. Again in 2012, her book Bound to Tradition: The Dream was nominated for the 2012 Caine Prize by the Author-me Group, Sanford, and in 2013 she was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Von K’Ory is married to an aristocrat and politician of Franco-German descent, has a large extended family. She lectures Economics and Sociology in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. She’s migratory and – weather willing – lives in Germany, France, Cyprus, and Greece.

She may be reached at any of the following:

Website: http://www.apvonkory.com/

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GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

A P von K’Ory will be awarding a $15 Amazon or Barnes and Noble to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Somehwere in Between by Liia Ann White #eroticromance #BDSM @totally_bound @firstforromance

Somewhere In Between by Liia Ann White

Book 1 in the Masters of Haven series

Word Count: 92,843
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Pages: 347

Genres:

BONDAGE AND BDSM
CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description


Prepare to enter a world filled with pleasure and desire.

Meet Amara, an ordinary twenty-eight-year-old woman trying to navigate her way through life. Amara is a full-time carer for her mum. Her life isn’t easy but is fairly routine…until one night she joins her friends at an exclusive BDSM club, somewhere she hasn’t been in a long time.

She thought it would be a relatively normal night, but she was wrong. Because she met him…Sullivan. He is unlike anyone she’s ever met before.

Since her previous dabbling in the BDSM community, she has developed uneasy feelings about various aspects of her life. But Sullivan has managed to break through her barriers and expose her deepest desires, bringing out the most intense pleasure she’s ever experienced.

Now Amara must decide if she’s ready for this new life of fiery passion.

Will this new romance bring her more pleasure or pain?

Or will it consume and implode everything around her?

One thing is for certain—nothing will be the same again.

Reader advisory: This book contains mentions of dementia, the serious illness of secondary character, past alcoholism, body image issues, seizure, and the off-label use of painkillers.

Excerpt

Amara entered the club and fought the sudden urge to flee. It had been eighteen months since she’d stepped foot inside Haven, Perth’s most exclusive BDSM club, and so much had changed in that time. This used to be her safe haven, the one place she never had to hide her true self. Where she could let go of her control issues and let her submissive side come out to play. Now, it was a strange place. It was somehow more daunting. She didn’t belong here anymore.

With her best friend by her side, she signed in as a guest and handed over her completed waiver and membership forms. The dim lighting from chandeliers and wall sconces cast red and gold glows around the main room. The only well-lit section was around the bar. Everything spoke of darkness, pleasure and sex—the wooden flooring, darkly painted walls, exposed beams that held an assortment of chandeliers.

There was no artwork on the walls anymore. Instead, they were decorated with an array of toys free for anyone to use. Even the position of the bar had changed. Now set against the far-left wall, the oblong wooden bar top sat as a feature of the room. Chains hung from the top beams and deeply set metal links were inserted into the wooden top. Perfect for naughty little submissives, she thought.

A dance floor took up a small portion of the converted warehouse, and the rest of it was taken up by an array of black and brown lounges, armchairs and small tables. But there was plenty of empty space for play, for submissives to be splayed out as tables, as one man currently was. A Domme sat on a black leather lounge and had her boot-covered feet resting on his back. The look on the man’s face, that smile of pleasure and desire as he looked straight ahead while his Domme spoke to him… Amara knew that feeling well and missed it deeply. It filled her with envy.

The familiar scents of leather mixed with sweat and sex invaded her nose as she inhaled deeply. The sounds of leather slapping flesh, bare hands smacking arses and cries of pain and pleasure were comforting. It had been far too long since she’d been involved in any of this. Despite her good reasons, she mentally kicked herself for taking such a long break. The atmosphere of the club called to her. She’d missed this, needed this. When she’d frequented it previously, it had still been a public club. Now, under new ownership, it was private and exclusive. She’d been lucky to get access to a temporary membership. If she hadn’t been helping with a demonstration, she wouldn’t be here at all.

A hand touched her back and guided her towards the bar. Her friend Larissa gestured for her to take a seat on a red leather-covered stool and took a seat beside her.

“Haven looks so different now,” Amara said as she looked around.

“Yeah, the new owner did a complete renovation before he opened it up. He’s always changing things around, though,” Larissa said.

“You’ll have to introduce me so I can thank him for allowing me in.”

“I can’t believe he gave you a month-long pass. Good thing we vouched for you, isn’t it?”

Amara regarded her friend with a small smile, despite the sadness and anxiety that filled her. “Too bad I won’t be using it other than tonight.”

No matter how badly she wanted to, she wouldn’t be returning. She simply didn’t have the time. She was a twenty-eight-year-old woman with almost no social life. And wasn’t that just a little depressing?

“You will be coming back next week. You promised me.” Larissa’s stern expression told her there would be no give on her promise.

“Fine, I’ll come back next week. But after that, you know I can’t.”

“I know why you say you can’t. I’m sure you could work something out.”

Amara accepted her drink from the bartender, thankful for the interruption. She didn’t want to talk. Not tonight. Tonight was about her dipping her toes back into the old lifestyle she’d loved so much to see if there was still a spark there. Not that she expected to play with anyone tonight. Now that she looked around to see all the other women nearby, she realised it definitely wouldn’t be happening. They all held such confidence, self-assurance. Two things she was now severely lacking.

What had happened to her? She used to saunter around confidently, knowing how to turn on her sexual appeal like a switch. Once upon a time she would have shown up in a latex skirt and a tight corset, sexy as hell. Now, she wore a multicoloured pleated skirt that was too short for her comfort and a tight black top that showcased her large breasts and veered attention away from everything else. She’d gained weight and had more fat rolls than she used to, bigger curves than she was comfortable with. In some spots, she was just plain round. She used to love her curves, the roundness of her belly, the mounds of her breasts, the softness of her thighs, but now… Now it was all too much.

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About the Author

Liia Ann White

A born and bred Aussie, Liia hails from Perth, Western Australia. After spending her childhood years dreaming of far-off lands, she eventually discovered her love of romance and hasn’t looked back since.

A self-proclaimed geek, she loves all things Disney and Star Wars. Being a bisexual, bipolar and ADHD battler, she is passionate about mental health and LGBTQIA+ rights, as well as advocating for animal rights.

When not writing, she can be found curled up with a good book, with her two dogs by her side.

Follow Liia on Instagram and check out her website.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Mac of All Trades by Aurora Russell #Suspense #ChickLit #EroticRomance @firstforromance @totally_bound

Mac of All Trades by Aurora Russell

Book 2 in the Minne-sorta Falling in Love series

Word Count: 60,029
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 224

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
BILLIONAIRE
CHICK LIT
CONTEMPORARY
CRIME AND MYSTERY
EROTIC ROMANCE
MEN IN UNIFORM
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

 

She thinks she might be losing her mind…but she knows she’s losing her heart.

Poised. Elegant. Lovely. The local press loves to write glowing stories about Lana Fitzhugh, the youngest sibling and only sister of the famous Minnesota Fitzhugh family. But Lana’s past holds secrets, pain and shame…so much that she’s unworthy of a relationship with any good man, especially her brother Fitz’s close friend Mac. Keeping her distance from him is the right thing to do, so why can’t she stop thinking about him?

Finally settling into his first new job after long months of recovery from a severe injury, when Joe ‘Mac’ MacKenzie meets Lana Fitzhugh, the former Navy pilot thinks things might finally be looking up for him. His friend’s little sister is gorgeous, kind and makes his heart and body come alive again. But after they share an explosive embrace, she pushes him away so hard he’s still reeling.

When tragedy plunges Lana into the unexpected role of guardian to a preschooler, odd coincidences begin to happen…and grow increasingly more sinister. As Lana begins to fear that she herself might be the source of the danger, Mac doesn’t hesitate to return to help her. The only thing better than the joy they discover as a makeshift family is the passion they find in each other’s arms, but the unknown menace still grows closer every day. Will they be able to move beyond the past to grab for a future together?

Excerpt

“I have to admit that I’m impressed by how well you handled all the questions from the police about Brock Templeton,” Lana said grudgingly. Joe ‘Mac’ MacKenzie was already much too cocky, and his ego hardly needed any stroking. Watching him with the officers, though, had been like watching a master. She could easily see how he’d earned so many promotions and honors as a Navy pilot.

He shrugged, not taking his hands off the wheel, but the small smile he gave—and why couldn’t he be a little less handsome?—was self-satisfied. “It’s the accent,” he answered, really laying it on thick. “Like my daddy said, a Southern man tells the best jokes and is always welcome at any dinner table or gatherin’.”

She snorted, and not the usual elegant sniff that sometimes escaped but a full-on nasal rattling noise. “You sound like Tom Hanks’ cousin from the deeper South—like, the Mariana Trench of Alabama.”

“Oh, no, ma’am, not Alabama—perish the thought! My family’s pure Georgia. How did you guess I was from Mariana Trench, though?” he teased. “My granddaddy was mayor of Mariana Trench, as a matter of fact.”

She raised one skeptical eyebrow. “Matter of fact, eh?”

Her heart felt like it beat double-time at Mac’s charming grin, flashing like the Cheshire Cat’s as it was lit periodically by the streetlights they passed. Lana Fitzhugh, you of all people know better than to get your head turned by a handsome, charming man, she scolded herself. He’d shown himself to be overbearing, jealous and possessive when he’d fired one of the caterers on the spot earlier in the evening without even consulting her. But you didn’t disagree with his decision, the annoyingly honest voice in the back of her head forced her to acknowledge. The caterer had actually been making her uncomfortable, but it had been her problem to deal with, not Mac’s.

“Would I lie to such a stunning creature? You wound me, ma’am, straight to the core.” He pretended to be hit by a bolt to the heart, and she couldn’t help the burble of laughter that she tried to stifle. He was just so ridiculous. He was smart, funny and seemed truly dedicated to helping other men and women who’d recently left the service. Several times over the past few weeks as she’d worked closely with him to plan that night’s fundraiser, she’d found herself liking him in spite of her better judgment.

The party had been an unqualified success for the worthy veteran’s charity that Mac and Fitz, her second-oldest brother, had become very involved with. Well, she mentally amended, it was practically perfect until Brock Templeton, Fitz’s fiancée’s ex-boyfriend, made a scene, insulted Clara and drunkenly confessed to trying to cause her to ‘accidentally’ lose their baby. Brock had clammed up when they’d gotten to the police station, but, thank goodness, Mac had already recorded everything on his phone.

“I know that Fitz and Clara will really appreciate your getting the police to agree to take their statements tomorrow. They don’t like to leave baby Hope for too long,” she answered, sobered by the recollection of the night’s events.

“I’m certain they’ve checked in on Miss Hope, but I do believe they may be doing some, uh, private celebrating of their engagement, too—or, at least, on behalf of lonely single dudes everywhere, I hope they are. It’s not every day that a man gets the woman he loves to agree to marry him.” Mac’s voice was light, but there was something sad behind his tone, just below the surface.

“No…no, it’s not,” she agreed, snapping her mouth shut when she realized she sounded wistful. She had plenty to be grateful for, especially now that Fitz had returned to their lives, bringing the lovely Clara and Hope, shaking up the household and breaking their oldest brother, Drew, and Lana herself out of the cold, boring routines they’d fallen into. “Clara is just lovely—and Hope, too. I couldn’t be happier for them,” she enthused, perhaps a bit too heartily.

Mac quirked one side of his mouth up in a wry smile. “You’ve convinced me…but are you sure you’ve convinced yourself?”

His insight surprised her.

“I suppose you’re right…but please don’t think it’s about Clara, because she really is wonderful. I truly am happy for them.” She paused, forcing herself to be truthful. “Maybe a little envious, too. A long time ago—God, when I was so young and arrogant, self-assured to the point of naiveté and convinced of my own completely irresistible self—I made some really awful decisions.”

If he’d said anything, she probably wouldn’t have continued, but he remained silent, waiting.

“I ended up with a badly trampled heart—let’s call it pulverized instead of broken—and it cost me my best friend and years of my relationship with Fitz, too.” Suddenly uncomfortable with just how much she’d revealed, she gave a weak laugh. “I’m sorry I said that…burdened you with that. You didn’t ask for my life story.”

Mac touched his hand to her thigh for an instant before returning it to make a hard turn with the steering wheel. “Whatever happened, it sounds like you learned a lot from it, although I’m sorry it sounds like it caused you so much pain,” he replied in a low, earnest voice, so different from the light, teasing tones he usually used with her. “And, Lana, nothing you could ever tell me would be a burden,” he finished, clearing his throat. She wondered if he was equally uncomfortable with what she’d revealed.

Taking pity on him, she deliberately lightened the tone. “I bet you say that to all the young debutantes,” she answered. “Does it ever work?”

Mac’s laughter was a surprised bark. “Touché, Miss Fitzhugh. It might shock you to learn that I have, indeed, known my fair share of debutantes, including my two sisters.”

“Now, that is unexpected,” she agreed, although now that she pictured it, she could definitely see Mac all dressed up in a gray afternoon suit, flirting shamelessly and fetching lemonade for some pretty young thing. “Does that mean you can dance? You never asked me once tonight.”

They stopped at a signal so that his face was half in the light and half out, but the expression on the half she could see was distant. The silence between them became thick and uncomfortable. Lana knew she must have mis-stepped, but she wasn’t certain how.

“I don’t think I can dance anymore—or at least not like I used to,” he answered at last, his voice gruff. “I lost my right leg below the knee about eighteen months ago now.”

Lana sucked in a sharp breath. She’d known Mac and Fitz had met in a military hospital, and she’d noticed that Mac walked with a limp, but she’d never wanted to pry, figuring that Mac would tell her about his injury if he wanted her to know. She’d never imagined he’d lost part of his leg entirely.

“Horrified? Tempted to feel sorry for me?” Mac sounded defensive. “I’ve had to deal with just about every type of reaction.”

She touched his shoulder gently. “Nope, just surprised, since I didn’t know,” she answered quietly. “I can’t even begin to understand how difficult recovering from an injury like that would be, and I admire your charity work even more now.”

The enclosed space of the small front seat of the car felt suddenly intimate, especially so late at night, as if the two of them might be the only people awake in the city—or maybe in the world.

They pulled onto the long driveway—well, really a small, private lane—that led to the main house of her family’s compound—Fitzhugh’s Folly, as it was widely known, given how outrageously expensive and ostentatious it had been when her grandfather, Pat, had built it.

Tonight, it looked cavernous and dark…forlorn. Or maybe that’s just me, Lana thought, but recognizing the source of her melancholy didn’t make her feel better. Her oldest brother, Drew, had opted to stay at his high-rise apartment downtown to save time before his morning meeting. Her grandfather and Roger, who was ostensibly their butler but really a member of the family, along with being her grandfather’s long-time companion and probably his closest friend, had gone to bed early, so the lights had likely been out in their wing since ten o’clock or so.

Fitz and Clara were staying in the large separate guest house—which was actually the original house on the property—so Lana would be alone in the north wing of the main house. She should have been comfortable with it—in fact, she was very used to it, since at least three or four nights a week she had the mansion practically to herself, with its multitude of bedrooms, sitting rooms and other various spaces for practically every conceivable purpose. She often relished the solitude, after needing to be ‘on’ for so much of her charity work, which was no easy feat for a natural introvert who would have been happy just reading and drinking tea. Tonight, though, she felt a pang of loneliness.

Before she knew it, they’d pulled up to her front doors. They were tall, made from a thick, dark wood, and the whole impressive entryway looked forbidding, shrouded in darkness.

“They don’t leave the front lights on for you?” Mac asked, breaking the silence and some of the tension.

Lana wished they did, but they weren’t that kind of family. “I often get home late, and my grandfather is surprisingly frugal, so…” She shrugged, looking away. “I’m accustomed to it.” She could feel Mac’s gaze, but she refused to turn toward him. “I go in the side door, anyway.”

Before she could tell him not to, Mac had gotten out of the car and come around to open her door, offering her his arm. He still looked impossibly handsome in the fading moonlight. It was so cold at the tail end of mid-November that his breath puffed out of his mouth in white clouds, but he looked unruffled in his pristine dress uniform.

“Let me walk you there?” he asked. When she hesitated, with one leg on the ground and one still in the car, he spoke again. “So I’m certain you’re safe.”

With a swift bolt of comprehension, Lana realized he must be doing this—ensuring her safety—for Fitz, as a favor to her brother, which made total sense. They hadn’t totally repaired their relationship as brother and sister, since that would take a long time, but they’d made some good headway, and Fitz had always been protective of her when they had been younger. So why do I feel so disappointed? she wondered.

“Since you insist,” she agreed, unable to keep the snap of annoyance from her voice entirely. Still, holding onto Mac’s solid, warm arm, inhaling his distinctive scent, so smooth and comforting, like masculine soap and cinnamon and detergent, she wasn’t sorry not to be alone. No…it was more than that. She wasn’t sorry that Mac was the specific man she walked with.

Across the lawn, she saw a light come on in the guest house, which she recognized was in baby Hope’s room. Silhouetted on the shades, she saw a curvy woman’s figure rocking a child, and a larger outline as a man came up behind her, enveloping them in his shadow with a hug and leading them away from the window. The peace and serenity of the domestic scene, along with recollections of the love that she’d seen on their faces every time Fitz and Clara looked at each other and at tiny, perfect Hope, made her heart hurt, because she knew she would never have anything like it—and didn’t deserve it, anyway. Tears filled her eyes. As their steps slowed when they neared the side entrance to her area of the house, she kept her face averted from Mac so he wouldn’t see.

“I’m here safely, so you can report back to Fitz that you did your duty,” she answered, more coldly than she’d intended.

“Hey, now,” Mac answered, turning toward her in front of the side steps and urging her chin up with one strong but gentle finger so he could look at her face. “I never do anything I don’t want to do—not anymore, in any case—and I wanted to see you to your door safely for myself, so I wouldn’t worry.” He studied her, and she had the uncomfortable sensation that he saw much more than she’d wanted. “Are those tears, sugar?”

“No,” she denied in a thick voice, but her body immediately betrayed her as two droplets fell from her lashes and traced icy paths down her cheeks.

“Oh, darlin’, I’m sorry. Not quite sure what I did or said, but I never meant to make you cry,” he murmured in a deep, sincere voice, and Lana thought that she could have forgiven him just about anything, if there’d been something to forgive.

“It’s not you,” she answered. “It’s just that I feel so…alone sometimes, you know?” she admitted.

“God, yes,” he replied, with feeling. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close into his body, so tightly that something he had pinned to his uniform pressed into her cheek. In spite of the tiny prick of pain, she felt safer and warmer than she had for a long, long while. “You’re not alone now, Lana.”

She tipped her head back, and she wasn’t sure whether she pushed up toward him first or he lowered his head, but somehow he closed his mouth over hers, and it was sublime. At first, his lips were gentle—surprisingly soft for such a brave, tough ex-military pilot—but when she moaned, he deepened the kiss, and she savored his spicy taste, a little like the coffee they’d drunk at the police station, but mostly just his own unique flavor.

She pushed herself against him, feeling his hardness rise, thick and long, against her stomach, and he tangled his hands into her updo, dislodging bobby pins, which made tiny metallic pings as they landed on the steps. He caressed her tongue with his, claiming her mouth in bold strokes until her nipples tightened against his chest as she imagined how he would claim her with other parts of his body.

When he finally raised his mouth from hers, his breathing harsh and uneven, she noticed they must have walked together right up to the wall of the house, and her back was cold against the bricks. The rapid puffs of her breath mingled with the clouds of his, and he leaned his forehead against hers.

“I’m sorry… I got a little carried away,” Mac said, and they still stood so close that she could feel the quick rise and fall of his chest against her breasts.

“No, no…I was just as into it, maybe more,” she said, then flushed with embarrassment. “I didn’t mean…well, you know. I’m sure you could tell that I was enjoying it, but of course we shouldn’t have done that.”

Mac took a step back. “What do you mean?”

Lana bit her lip, feeling like she wished the ground would swallow her up. Where was some handy quicksand when you needed it?

“Well, like you said, I’m sorry, too.”

Mac shook his head. “No, darlin’, I’m not sorry it happened…only sorry we went so fast.”

When she looked up into his face—so handsome, perfectly formed with strong lines and eyes that she couldn’t make out clearly right now in the low light but that she knew were a startling deep green and probably blazing with emotion—she wished she dared to trust herself again with a good man, a kind man, a true friend like Mac. Being with someone like him wasn’t in the cards for her, though. That kind of man wanted more than she could give—more than she was capable of giving anymore.

She put her hand on his chest. “Mac, there can’t be anything more between us. I can’t be with someone like you.” She tried to be gentle, but she rushed her words as thick tears rose in her throat.

Mac took another step back, breaking all contact between them. “Someone like me, huh? Why did I think you were different?” His voice was hollow, resigned…but the tone was underlaid with hurt.

“That’s not—” she started to explain, but he cut her off.

“You know what, Lana? Don’t say anything you might regret. I’ll stay away from you, and you can stay away from me from now on, but no matter what, we’ll still have to see each other sometimes, and I don’t want it to be any worse than it has to be.”

Lana felt as if he’d slapped her, but she forgave him for lashing out. He didn’t understand, but explaining might make it more painful. As Fitz’s closest friend, he was bound to cross her path in the future at important events.

“If that’s what you want,” she agreed, her voice low and sad.

“Does it matter what I want?” Mac’s laugh was mirthless, and he started to turn away. “No, hold on. I’m gonna say one more thing first, because I vowed that if I ever started to feel for someone again, I would say the words out loud—not leave confusion or doubt.”

Lana braced herself for whatever he was going to say, but his words were more surprising for their tenderness than anything else.

“It sounds like we don’t feel the same way and maybe you won’t thank me for saying this, but no matter how you feel, I care about you. I was beginnin’ to think I might be able to care pretty deeply and that maybe you could, too.”

She winced at the raw tone of his voice.

“That doesn’t change overnight. Truth is, for a man like me, that doesn’t really change, period. So if you’re ever in trouble or hurting—no matter everything we said tonight—you can call me and I’ll be there. That’s it.”

His offer stunned her, and letting him turn around and walk away, back into the darkness that was beginning to streak gray with the first light of the coming dawn, was one of the worst things she’d ever forced herself to do. He’d be better off without her, though. She knew it, and he’d recognize it, too, in time.

She’d thought her sad, shredded heart was incapable of feeling anything anymore, but now she learned—too late—that she must have been mistaken. If it had truly been destroyed, it couldn’t hurt so darn bad now. She hurried inside the massive house, her steps echoing off the walls and floors of the empty rooms, and cried for everything that might have been.

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About the Author

Aurora Russell

Aurora is originally from the frozen tundra of the upper-Midwest (ok, not frozen all the time!) but now loves living in New England with her real-life hero/husband, two wonderfully silly sons, and one of the most extraordinary cats she has ever had the pleasure to meet. But she still goes back to the Midwest to visit, just never in January.

She doesn’t remember a time that she didn’t love to read, and has been writing stories since she learned how to hold a pencil. She has always liked the romantic scenes best in every book, story, and movie, so one day she decided to try her hand at writing her own romantic fiction, which changed her life in all the best ways.

You can find out more about Aurora at her website here.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Embracing James by Megan Slayer #contemporaryromance #eroticromance #gay @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Embracing James by Megan Slayer

Book 5 in the Love Me Do series

Word Count: 41,106
Book Length: SHORT NOVEL
Pages: 166

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description


The right cut, the right style and a dash of love.

James Mason has everything he could ever want—his salon is the most famous in town, and he’s got his health and his best bud, his dog Doob. But he’s lonely. James has a knack for pairing everyone up, except himself. He’s been interested in Paul, the sweet man who helps at the salon, but will Paul be interested in him, too? Then there’s the elusive JP Henderson, the owner of the salon building. James has created an image in his mind that this man could be the one.

Jonathan Paul Henderson has lusted after James since the moment he met him. James acts unaffected by wealth and seems drawn to character. He’s adorable, funny and welcoming, too. He also doesn’t seem to mind that Paul wears makeup. Paul feels the connection and knows he wants this man, but will James still accept him after he finds out the truth—that Paul’s his landlord?

Two men, one truth and so much attraction they burn up the sheets. Is theirs a love for now or one meant to last?

Excerpt

“Looks like it’s you and me tonight, Doob.” James Mason petted the dog and settled on the floor with him. Dye Hard Style had closed for the evening and he’d locked the doors, but he wasn’t ready to head home—not yet. He’d rather give the dog attention and listen to the silence.

Christ, he was worn out. He spent most of his days packed with appointments for his styling services. Opening to closing, he had someone wanting his attention. He’d worked hard for his reputation for excellence in hair styling, but that didn’t help when he wanted a break.

Other than his job, he had little else to show for his work. He had no social life outside of the salon. No boyfriend and few actual friends. He didn’t even have the energy to try to pair himself with anyone, not like he did with the guys who came in wanting dates.

The one thing he did have was Doob, his black mutt with a heart of gold. From the moment Doob had shown up at the salon, he’d become James’ constant companion. He’d been more loyal than most everyone else in his life. His ex-boyfriends certainly weren’t loyal.

But he wanted a date. James supposed he could leave Doob at home and call a friend to go out, but he wasn’t in the mood for drama. He’d have plenty of drama tomorrow when he met with Jonathan Paul Henderson, the owner of the salon building and the Annex next door. He’d never actually seen Mr. Henderson. When Lester McCann had sold the building and the one next door, he hadn’t asked James his opinion—not that he’d had to—and never bothered to introduce James to the new owner.

But that was Lester. If he could get away with doing nothing, he’d do even less.

At least James didn’t have far to go in his commute home. Having his apartment in the Annex next door meant all he had to do was walk through the door joining the two buildings. Sometimes living next to the salon did have some perks.

He left the floor and checked he’d locked the front doors, then turned off the main lights. The security ones came on, bathing the space in dim yellow glow. Once satisfied, he patted his hip for Doob, then collected the cash from the register.

The dog had been a lumpy, furry godsend. Doob stuck by him when his depression hit and knew how to make him feel better. The dog was the sweetest thing, too. Whoever had been his family had been lucky to have him.

Part of James wondered why no one had ever claimed Doob. He’d put out what seemed like a thousand fliers, letting the public know he’d found the lost dog. Surely, Doob was missed. He had his name on a metal plate on his collar—wouldn’t a family or someone who cared about the dog do something like put his name on an engraved plate on the collar? If Doob had run away, then why hadn’t anyone come looking for him?

What if they hadn’t wanted Doob? The dog was a good boy and so loyal. How could someone not want him?

If they didn’t want him, James did. He checked that the rear doors to the former theater building were indeed locked and secured, then returned to the salon portion of the building.

He clicked the leash onto Doob’s collar. “It’s been almost a year. If you haven’t been claimed by now, then finders keepers. You’re officially my dog.” He’d already bought Doob’s tags and had him to the vet for his shots. Unfortunately there hadn’t been a microchip in Doob then, but there was now.

Doob circled around James’ legs, catching him up in the leash.

“You’ll trip and kill me, you know. If I’m dead, then you won’t get puppy food.” James slipped the memory card from the register into the cash bag, then zipped it shut. He tucked the bag under his arm and allowed Doob to lead him to the door out of the salon. He appreciated being able to go straight from the salon to his apartment building without having to go outside with a cash bag.

He carried the money to his third-floor apartment, then locked the bag in the safe in his bedroom. He’d worry about the numbers later. Right now, he needed to feed Doob. He unfastened the leash, then added kibble to Doob’s bowl. When the dog settled for his evening nap, that was when James would wrangle the numbers on the ledger.

Doob greedily munched on his dog food and James admired his gusto. Doob never seemed lonely. Just happy to be loved. James wanted to be loved by the dog, sure, but a boyfriend would be nice, too.

“We’ll find someone, Doob. Someone we both like and who will like us as a package deal. Think we can manage as a threesome?” Saying it like that sounded odd, but whatever. Doob was good as a companion, but James needed someone human to warm his bed.

Once Doob finished his dinner and got a drink, half of which he seemed to leave on the mat around his water bowl, James clicked the leash on him again. He and Doob left the apartment for their evening walk.

Doob seemed to love the four laps they usually took around Norville town square and James liked the exercise. Some days he and Doob ventured away from the center of town to the park by the school. Although James liked the excitement of the salon, right now, he wanted peace and quiet.

Doob walked proudly in front of him and sniffed at whatever he found. Once he and James encountered other dogs, Doob fell in line beside James, but seemed to pay no attention to the canines. James wondered if he should socialize the dog more. What if he and Doob were becoming too solitary for their own good?

James stopped to let Doob do his business. As he waited, he considered his life. He loved doing hair and making people beautiful. Helping someone find their inner glam made him happy. But he didn’t want to be single forever.

Maybe he could visit Club Jester. He’d helped enough other guys find true love there. Why not try for himself?

He cleaned up after Doob and tossed the baggie into the receptacle for dog waste, then sanitized his hands.

His thoughts turned back to clubbing. Who would he meet at Club Jester? The same old-same old most likely. Those guys were good, but they were either in a relationship or never going to settle down.

He spotted a jogger coming toward them and stepped off the path to give the athlete space. As soon as the man grew closer, James recognized him. Pauly. He’d chatted more than a few times with Pauly at the salon when the man stopped for haircuts or just to hang out. He liked Pauly, but never got the feeling Pauly wanted a boyfriend. He seemed like too much of a free spirit. He was a whiz with makeup and always managed to make himself handsomely beautiful. James wished he had the same skills with foundation and eyeshadow.

Pauly jogged up to him and stopped. He mopped his brow with his shirtsleeve and grinned. How could one man, jogging no less, look so on-point all the time? Even now, he had makeup on, without smearing it much, and a slight beard. Unreal, but gorgeous.

“Hi, you.” Pauly took a swig from a small water bottle he had wrapped around his hand. “How are you?”

“Hi, yourself. You look fantastic.” He held on to Doob’s leash. “I haven’t seen you at Dye Hard Style in forever. Have you been working out to make yourself chiseled and handsome without telling me?”

“That’s partly true. I’ve always jogged, but I’ve been out of town.” Pauly smiled. “I missed seeing you.”

“Likewise.” A tingle ran the length of his spine and James wondered if the glint in Pauly’s dark eyes was because of him. He stared at the man’s lips and wondered what he tasted like…and when did he get such kissable lips?

“Are you planning on going to the Jester tonight?” Pauly asked. “I hear it’s singles night.”

Singles night could be good, but it could also be awful. “Oh?”

“They brought in a new DJ and are having games to get the singles to mingle.” Pauly rolled his eyes. “If you want to go, want to go together? Then we don’t have to play the singles games.”

He hadn’t wanted to go, but he also hadn’t considered going with Pauly until now. “I should take Doob home and change, but I wasn’t planning on going out.”

“No big deal. I need to finish my jog and would have to shower,” Pauly said. “If you want, I can pick you up. It was my idea, so I can drive. You’re in the Annex, aren’t you?”

James blanched. He didn’t tend to tell people where he lived and only a few people referred to the building as the Annex. “Yeah, I am. I didn’t think you knew that.”

“Oh, I’d heard it.” Pauly blushed. “Sorry.”

He wanted to go out tonight and with Pauly, but something about the situation made him want to hold back. “Why don’t we exchange numbers and I’ll text you when I’m free. We can plan a date for another day.”

“I’d like that.” Pauly offered up his phone. “Do you have yours?”

He patted his thigh. Shit. He’d left his phone at home. “I don’t, but I’ll give you my number.” When Pauly handed him the device, he inputted his work number, then offered the phone back to him. “See you around at the salon?”

“Sure.” Pauly slid the phone back into his armband holder. “I’m sorry if I came off too pushy.”

“Don’t take it personally. I get kind of funny when I go out. I don’t do it often. I’m not a clubbing kind of guy.” He wasn’t any longer. He had been when he was younger, but now that he’d been around…clubbing had lost its luster.

“I get it. You’re more of a stay-home-and-chill kind of guy.” Pauly nodded. “Can’t blame me for trying.”

“Nope.” And maybe one day he’d go out with Pauly. Just not today. “See you?”

“I’ll be around the salon here and there. Maybe next week we could try going for coffee.” Pauly tapped his phone and an album cover filled the screen. “See you.”

James waved and headed with Doob back to his apartment. Maybe he should’ve gone with his instincts and gone out. He’d just inwardly complained he spent too much time alone and the chance to be with someone arose, but he’d chickened out. Or maybe he needed to know Pauly a bit better.

Oh well.

Once in the apartment building, he checked that his car was still safe in the warehouse space, then went upstairs.

He herded Doob to their apartment and unleashed him. “I spent too much time with just you, but you’ve never cheated on me.”

Doob sneezed, then trotted off to his dog bed.

“You can ignore me like a champ, though.” Silly dog.

James removed his makeup and showered, then dressed in a pair of sleep shorts. He made himself a snack of yogurt and granola before turning on the radio. Almost everyone he knew listened to playlists. They curated the hell out of those lists, making the selections of music perfect.

Not him. He loved dance radio and the oldies channel. Why not let the spontaneity of the channel come through? He liked not knowing what would be playing next.

He sat on the window seat and watched the evening traffic below while eating and listening to music.

Tomorrow, he’d meet with JP Henderson finally. He’d explain why Doob needed to stay and probably accept his fate when reminded of the no dogs rule. The rule wasn’t subject to change, the landlord would probably say.

James didn’t like the idea of starting a new salon at another location, but he loved Doob. If he had to leave the old theater, then he’d do it for his dog. He loved the publicity Doob brought, too. People recognized the dog, the salon and his unique style.

Maybe the infamous JP Henderson would be willing to work with him. He had to give it a shot if he wanted to keep Doob.

He’d never met JP Henderson and finally learned his last name three weeks ago. Would the man be amiable? Curt? All business or friendly? Would he be an older gentleman or a sexy younger one? Maybe a sexy silver fox. What if he wasn’t gay, though? What if he was? What if he wasn’t interested in James? James’ imagination kicked into overdrive. What if JP Henderson secretly wanted to have a wild, torrid affair with him and was looking for the right moment to make a move?

Nah.

Romances like that didn’t happen in Norville and they didn’t happen to him. He was a simple guy with simple tastes. Men of mystery didn’t fall for him.

He held on to his yogurt cup and let the Donna Summer song wash over him. Tonight, he had no cares. No worries, either.

Tomorrow was another matter, but first he’d enjoy tonight.

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Available TODAY at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

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Copyright ©2022 Changeling Authors

If You Can’t Stand the Heat by Camille Anthony

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

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

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

She didn’t.

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

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

BOOK BLAST: Small Town Prince Charming by Megan Slayer #ContemporaryRomance #EroticRomance @MeganSlayer @GoddessFish

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Megan Slayer will award a prize pack featuring a bracelet and necklace made by the author. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Can a high school romance that never happened have a second life in a small town?

Tracey Baker got out of Blakes Creek to find her purpose in life. She found it in the theatre scene in New York, but after ten years, she’s ready for a change. Working for the community theatre in her hometown is just what she needs—until she sees Ryan Greene.

Ryan Greene crushed on Tracey Baker in school, but he never thought she’d come back to Blakes Creek. When he sees her at the theatre, he’s determined to win her heart. His daughter Maisey is just as determined. She likes Tracey and sets out to prove her dad is Tracey’s Prince Charming.

Love might conquer all, but with the eyes and ears of the town focused on their relationship, Ryan and Tracey will have to prove they can set the stage alight together.

Read an Excerpt

“Ryan?” Tracey held a clipboard and one of the glittery chorus girl dresses. “Do you have a second?”

“I do.” He’d rather run. “How are you?”

“I’m good. Busy. You seem busy, too.” She smiled. “You’re doing well with the sets. I can’t wait to see them in action.”

“Thanks.” Was he blushing? The tips of his ears burned. “The costumes looked good. I haven’t seen them all, but I bet they’re great.”

“Oh, they’re not done yet. I still have to get everyone fitted properly and figure out where to add more glitz like Derek wants.” She fiddled with the garment in her hands. “I wanted to talk to you about Maisey.”

“What did she do?” He steeled himself for her answer. Maisey could tell tales and made things seem worse than reality. She craved attention, too.

“It’s not anything she did.” Tracey left the stage and strode out to the audience. “Here. This is less invasive. No, it’s what happened.”

“What happened? Did she try to set us up? She thinks I need another wife.” Shit. He shouldn’t have said that. “Sorry.”

Tracey paled. “Another? How many have you had?”

“One. Carol. It didn’t work out.” He shook his head. “Honestly, I’m not looking to date anyone.” He could be convinced if the right woman asked him on a date—like Tracey.

“Uh…she didn’t say anything about a date or a wife.” Tracey fumbled with the dress and perched on one of the seatbacks. “No, she was wearing another girl’s costume because the other girl wanted Maisey to be able to dance in the performance.”

He wobbled onto the seatback one aisle behind hers. “Come again? Maisey did what?”

“Maisey wants to dance, and she’s in the class showing she can do it. One of the girls, a friend, gave her the wrong costume—the friend’s—so Maisey wouldn’t have to pay for it and could participate. I asked Maisey, and she said her dad couldn’t afford for her to dance.”

He had to be honest, but he hated the embarrassment. “I work two jobs, and I don’t have the time or money for dance. I barely keep us fed.” He tried to hide his shame. Tracey didn’t need to see him upset. If he hadn’t been saddled with Jessica’s debts, he’d be better off.

“Do you mind if she takes part in the recital?” Tracey asked. “I saw her practice with the other girls, and she’s good. She deserves to dance. She’ll have a costume, if you’ll let her, since I took her measurements. Actually, she’s already got one.”

“How much?” He’d have to shuffle a few things to find the money, but he had to give Maisey this.

“Nothing.”

About the Author:

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 white hot 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 nominated at the LRC for Best Author, Best Contemporary, Best Ménage, Best BDSM 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. She’s an active member of the Friends of the Keystone-LaGrange Public library.

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