Coriolis by Mychael Black #SciFiRomance #LGBTQ

Sometimes the perfect soldier isn’t what you expect — neither is the perfect lover.

In 2207, humanity is the dominant force in the galaxy. The Syndicate governs the humans, and its leader, Joren — a former Marine sharpshooter — oversees it all.

Distress Signal: Captain Carter Therres doesn’t know what to expect aboard the Maelstrom, but it sure as hell isn’t the gorgeous man waiting in the maintenance ductwork. Ash Mracek’s past involves something much more sinister than the Academy bombing for which he was framed. Now it’s a race to save Ash before their enemies can take them out of the picture for good.

Kill Fee: When former Syndicate leader Joren joins his brother, scientist Ash Mracek, and Captain Carter Therres on the lawless planet of Geren in search of allies, he comes into the sights of an assassin. Morgan Reid is a gun for hire, but when his latest contract comes through, he breaks both of the rules he’s always kept: never mix business with pleasure, and never make eye contact with the target.

Silent Running: Jordan Sawyer, the pilot, is focused, determined, and smarter than she lets on. Which is why Eric Kane wants her so much. Major Kyle Cortez has set his own sights on Coriolis’ curvy pilot as well. It’s up to Jordan to get them all on the same page. Or bed. Either works.

Modus Operandi: Geren is a vast network of prisons that was once the Syndicate’s pride and joy. Now it’s a hotbed of crime. The perfect place to enlist a group of former Marines and set up a base of operations. The trick is to do it without alerting anyone — including the criminal residents of Geren — that Joren’s still alive.

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REVIEWS

“Mychael Black certainly knows how to pen a hot D/s scene between two men… This went from smexy to blazing hot within a few pages. This m/m science fiction book is recommended to kinky readers who love the threat to bare it all in public.”— 4 Stars from BookAddict, The Romance Reviews

“When two former lovers reunite, more than just sparks fly. This story is fast, furious and smexy. This is one of the best kinds of erotic fun.”— BookAddict, The Romance Reviews

“…the three of them very quickly figure out how they fit together. Add in some hot pursuit by Revenants, the revelations about a traitor on board the Coriolis, and a couple of life-threatening situations, and yet another very exciting space-adventure in this series will unfold right before your eyes.”— Serena Yates, Rainbow Book Reviews

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Myc has been writing professionally since 2005, solo and with Shayne Carmichael. Genres include pretty much anything (no steampunk yet), though Myc is well known for paranormal stories. When not writing, Myc is usually playing PC games, reading, watching Netflix, and spending way too much time on Facebook. Since the question has come up in the past, pronouns are not an issue. Myc is bio-female, mentally male, and 100% genderfluid, so any pronoun works!

Release Blitz: Compassion Fatigue by Emily Carrington #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @CarringtonEmily @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Compassion Fatigue

Series: Marisburg Chronicles 1

Author: Emily Carrington

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: July 23

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 101 pages

Genre: Romance, Medical Romance, Multicultural & Interracial, Second Chances, Contemporary Romance

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Synopsis

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

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

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

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Emily Carrington

The man was only a little shorter than Peter himself. He had beautiful dark brown hair and eyes that turned up just a little. Like an Elf’s eyes, Peter thought.

His sleeves were rolled to the elbows, and he had obvious muscles in his forearms. Oh, but that was hot. The only thing that marred Peter’s initial take on the doc was the way his smile didn’t quite reach his eyes.

They shook. The doctor’s hand was dry, his grip strong. Peter swore his heart skipped a beat when he saw the pink triangle in the Dr’s ear.

Then he was distracted because Dr. Yoshida was distracted… by Tracks rubbing up against his legs. The veterinarian’s smile touched his eyes briefly as he crouched to pet the bold and unexpectedly friendly tom.

When he moved to pick up Tracks, Peter put his hand out first. When the doctor was looking at him, Peter shook his head and signed, “Allow me.”

“All right,” Yoshida signed back. He straightened and pointed to a little square box that Peter knew was a cat scale.

Peter placed Tracks in, and the doctor checked the reading. Then, glancing at Peter, he signed, “May I pick him up?”

Well, he’d have to eventually. Peter realized his earlier reticence had been foolish. He nodded. And to his amazement, when Dr. Yoshida picked up Tracks, the cat half closed his eyes in obvious pleasure.

Peter reached out and stroked his pet, feeling the purr.

After a brief but thorough examination, Dr. Yoshida set Tracks down to let him wander. Then he smiled at Peter and signed, “I’m Abe Yoshida. You have a very healthy cat there. Very friendly.”

“He is to you,” Peter signed back. “He’s usually uncomfortable with strangers, especially in new places.”

The vet nodded. “Is this just a meet-and-greet then?”

“Yes.”

“Candace, the vet tech who showed you in here, said you used to go to Dr. Jamison over in Colton.”

Peter nodded. “Since he’s closed, I thought I’d look closer to home for another vet. And I honestly wanted to be able to talk via more than gestures and text messages. One of my students gave me your name. I teach at the school for the deaf attached to Colton University.”

Abe Yoshida smiled a little and asked with his hands, “Which student would that be? I’ve never treated an animal accompanied by a deaf child.”

“Keiko Neil.”

Abe’s eyes widened and he grinned for real this time. “You teach my niece.”

Peter smiled back because that grin was contagious and made the doctor even more handsome, if that was possible. “I can see the family resemblance,” he signed.

“Her parents are stationed in another state but they wanted her to have the best, so they sent her here. Close enough for me to check on her if necessary but also give her some independence. Is she behaving herself?”

“She’s very bright,” Peter prevaricated.

Abe raised one eyebrow. “That’s not an answer,” he pointed out silently.

Peter smirked. “She’s very spirited, but I like her.”

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Meet the Author

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

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

ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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

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

Preorder for July 30th

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MY REVIEW – 5 stars!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ABOUT EMILY CARRINGTON

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

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

Sun, Sea and Summer Songs by Megan Slayer

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

GENRES:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

Two men, one song and a summer to reconnect.

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christ. He’d never gotten over Jude.

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

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

Fuck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You don’t know that.”

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

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

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

“You’ll do it?”

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

“Consider yourself on tour.”

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

“Let me handle him.”

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

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

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

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

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

“If you trust me.”

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

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

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About the Author

Megan Slayer

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

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

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

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Megan Slayer’s Sun, Sea and Summer Songs Giveaway

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

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

Against a Rising Tide By Samantha Cayto

General Release Date: 29th June 2021

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

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
MEN IN UNIFORM

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Book Description

Love always finds a way.

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

Safe.

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

I need sleep. That’s all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, sir.”

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

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

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

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

“I’m Kitt Tyler.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

Samantha Cayto

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

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

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Romance Book Box Giveaway #bookgiveaway #romancebooks

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

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

Open until July 25, 2021

Box contains the following books:

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

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

Paranormal/Futuristic Romance

Preacher with Ryker & Badger by Harley Wylde (signed)

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

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

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

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

Urban Fantasy/Sci-Fi Romance

Neko by Ana Raine

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

Dark Fantasy/Gay Romance

Cardboard Hero/Wild Geese by Shelby Morgen (signed)

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

Paranormal Romance

Lionsblood by Marteeka Karland

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

Shapeshifters/Sci-Fi Romance

Vaaden Captives & Warriors by Jessica Coulter Smith (signed)

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

Slave/Sci-Fi Romance

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

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

LGBTQ/Paranormal Romance

Venom/Torch by Harley Wylde (signed)

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

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

Cain/Bohanan by Marteeka Karland (signed)

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

Biker/Age-Gap Romance

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

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

Book1 in the Kingdom of Corazón series

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

Genres:

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

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Book Description

The heart wants what the heart wants…

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“As do I.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s been ten years, Bas.”

“Too far. Too long.”

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

Prince Sebastian just grinned in response.

“My turn. My turn.”

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

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

“Me too, Your Highness.”

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

“I think you have broken our Head Chef.”

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

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

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

“Save me a dance, please, Lieutenant.”

“It would be an honor, Princess.”

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

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

“Max! How are you doing?”

“I’m doing great. Head Chef now.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He will?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thanks, Max. It’s great to see you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, but it’s all ours.”

“Can’t wait.”

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

“What happened to your ankle?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good job,” he whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Operation Nookie Time?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh-huh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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About the Author

Ann Marie James

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

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Release Blitz: Kline Agency by Ana Raine #gayromance @AuthorAnaRaine @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Kline Agency

Series: Kline Agency #5

Author: Ana Raine

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: June 18, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 248

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Gay, Action Adventure, Multiple Partners

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Synopsis

Manhattan — urban center of metropolitan New York. Home of the Kline Agency, where a young man can earn his fortune — or find his love.

Chilled Champagne: Micah’s job as an escort is to be whatever his client wants him to be. But Daniel won’t stop exploring until he knows all Micah’s dangerous secrets.

Levi: Levi is content in his life as an escort at the Kline Agency — until he meets a new client, Wesley. Can Levi and Wesley escape their haunted pasts and learn to love — and trust — again?

Avery: Avery expects to work as an escort at the Kline Agency long enough to help fund his younger brother’s college tuition. A chance meeting with an artist changes everything. But Milo loses his sponsor, he can no longer afford Avery’s services, and Avery is forced to choose between a relationship with Milo or the rich clients of the Kline Agency.

Next To You: Twins Alexei and Vasily fulfilling fantasies for customers of the Kline Escort Agency. Kane was once Vasily’s lover, though Vasily doesn’t remember, due to a head injury sustained at the hands of the vicious Noch gang. As his memories slowly return, Vasily becomes determined to end their debt to the Noch Gang — a decision that may cost them all more than they’re willing to pay.

Excerpt

Copyright ©2021 Ana Raine
Excerpt from Chilled Champagne

Lance was staring at Micah, his toned arms crossed over broad pectorals. At forty-one, he was still handsome and built. Everyone around the Kline Agency knew he was called Loose because he used to put out for his clients. All of that had changed when he’d met the man who was now his lover.

Micah didn’t often hang out at the Kline Agency offices like some of the others did.

“How did it go?” Lance wrapped his arm around Micah’s still chilled shoulders and led him back to his office.

“Did Mr. Patrick have a complaint?” Micah asked hesitantly.

“Why would you say that?” Lance laughed, his eyebrows shooting upward.

“I wouldn’t put out,” Micah replied. He’d said this so often he barely blushed anymore.

Lance didn’t seem surprised. “I figured as much. All the same, he wants to know when he can see you again.”

“He called back already?”

“Yes. A few minutes ago.”

Micah felt his stomach doing a tug of war. He felt flattered he’d made such an impression, but at the same time, he wasn’t going to change his mind. Painfully, his cock kept captive in his pants reminded him how turned on he was. Flushed, he gathered his thoughts before speaking. “What does my schedule look like this week?”

“You’re open for tomorrow.” Lance glanced at his computer, clicking his mouse. “Then you have an appointment with a Mr. Hart.”

Micah was surprised. “I don’t remember Mr. Hart.”

“He’s new. Requested the most beautiful escort we have.”

Micah covered his laugh with a cough. “Didn’t he bother looking at the website?”

“Sounded like he decided to get an escort last minute,” Lance said, clicking some more. “He didn’t want to take the time to look through pictures.”

One thing Micah loved about The Kline Agency was that while most escort services posted full body shots and bios on their websites, Kline posted only profile shots, no faces. Potential clients had to register first. Full-face pictures only went out to email after Lance ran a background check. Micah couldn’t hide if his picture was blasted all over a high volume website.

Lance sighed. “Get some sleep.”

“Yeah, I’m tired.” Micah unclasped the hair clip. “Is Candace back yet?”

“She’s with her favorite client. But she said you could keep the clip. Something about how that color looks better in dark hair than red.”

Micah nodded, replacing the clip before grabbing his bag. He would change when he got home.

Candace’s hair clip stuck to the side of his head, pressed tightly because he’d worn a knit cap. His gloves had a hole in the right index finger, reminding him he had to buy a new pair before winter came and New York got seriously cold. The Kline Agency office was in a good part of the city. The streetlights were always working at every corner, and the cars lined up were clean without a scratch.

His studio was nice enough, considering how quickly he’d had to move and the funds he’d had available at the time. Unlocking the door, he kicked aside a pile of mail. He recognized letters from his mom, and his ex… they only brought back the terrible decisions he’d made.

Kisaki, a kitten he’d rescued, was waiting, rubbing his head affectionately against Micah’s leg. “Hey baby,” Micah cooed, dropping his bag on the table. “Hungry?” He held Kisaki with one hand while sifting through his cupboard for a fresh can of cat food. “I’m hungry too.”

The scent of wet food had barely hit Micah’s nostrils when he heard his phone buzzing from his bag. “Hello?”

There was a pause before a familiar voice made Micah cringe. “Don’t hang up this time.”

There was no way Micah was staying on the line. Breathing heavily, Micah slid to the floor, pressing the end button before resting on his side, one hand on Kisaki’s back as he lapped up his food. He’d have to get his number changed. Again.

The warm fur beneath his hand and then against his chest made Micah’s throat tighten. He was too tired to stay awake. And he definitely didn’t want to deal with the phone call. His ex was supposed to stay in his past. If he found him now, after four years, Micah was sure his strong resolve would crumble. And what was worse was that Micah didn’t think he’d get so lucky in his next attempt to run away.

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Meet the Author

Ana is still figuring out what she wants to do with her life, although social work seems to be the most likely. Her best friends are a box of chocolate and her kitten who always sit beside her while she writes. When Ana was in high school, she often wrote about the LGBT community, but now her work is less…innocent. Ana enjoys writing anything and everything, including BDSM, dragons, shifters, magic, and more.

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Release Blitz: Leading the Blind by B.A. Tortuga #LGBTQ #ActionAdventure @pridepublishing @firstforromance

Leading The Blind by BA Tortuga

Book 7 in the Roughstock series

Word Count: 53,445
Book Length: NOVEL
Pages: 230

GENRES:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE
CONTEMPORARY
COWBOYS AND WESTERN
EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI

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Book Description

You don’t need the use of your eyes to see forever.

After his head injury leaves him blind, professional bull rider Jason Scott can only think of one thing. He desperately needs to win the title in the big leagues of bull riding so he can retire and start a new life—one he can live with his best friend and lover, Andy Baxter.

Andy—or Bax, as his friends call him—wants to keep Jason safe and alive, but he would never ask his man to be less than he is. With the help of their best friends, they start out on a path that will lead them back to the major events and to a deception that might lose them all their jobs.

There’s no way the league officials would let Jason ride if they knew he was blind, so Jason and Bax have to figure out how to get Jason back to the top of the leaderboard without any kind of advantage or cheating being called. Meanwhile, they have to figure out what their new life is going to look like and what they’ll be if they’re not bull riders any longer.

Will they get what they want? Or will the whole thing just be a case of the blind leading the blind?

Reader advisory: This book contains some bull riding-related injuries. There is a brief homophobic slur from a secondary character.

Excerpt

“Jesus fucking Christ! Open your goddamn eyes next time! That bull damn near rang your bell.” Bax shook his arm, and Jason swore that made the world swim before his useless fucking eyes again.

“Andy Baxter, you’d best back the fuck off. This ain’t the time.” He’d know Coke’s voice anywhere, the bullfighter as much a part of his family as anyone ever had been.

“Gramps, don’t.” Jason Scott leaned against the stall, breathing hard. The last thing he needed was Pa and Ma MacGillicuddy freaking out because he’d lost his cookies at a bull riding. Bull riding fans were a specific breed, and it didn’t matter one bit whether it was the big show or a tiny two-gate sheriff’s posse arena. They all talked.

“Well, someone has to,” Coke ground out. “He’s being an ass.”

“He needs to keep his eyes open.” But Bax lowered his voice, thank God.

“I know. I got dirt in ‘em. It’s not like I can wipe them, Bax.”

“For eight seconds, you can suck it up.”

“Right. ‘Cause you were always fucking perfect.”

Bax grabbed his shirtfront and shook him. “Every. Fucking. Ride.”

“Stop it,” Coke snapped, and they stopped. Gramps rarely spoke in that tone. When he did, well, they listened. “Y’all are being buttheads and I don’t need this shit, you comprende? Folks got phones.”

“Sorry,” Bax murmured, which made Jason snort.

“Don’t tease the bull, son. Tell Andy you’re sorry.”

Jason blew out a hard breath. “You know I am, butthead.”

“Good boys. Come on now. We got to get out of the public.” Coke tugged at his arm. Hell, Coke had to get back to work.

“Right. I’m going to get out of here, Gramps. I sure as shit ain’t making the short go.”

“Okay, son.” Coke clapped him on the back. “Be good.”

Bax laughed. “Right. He’ll be trying to drive off in the truck soon.”

“I’d do better than some.” His head was starting to pound like there was a damn mariachi band in there, playing away.

“You did okay last time,” Bax agreed, taking his arm and leading him out of the arena. “Until you didn’t.”

“Story of my life.” He rode like a champion, until he didn’t. He could see, until he couldn’t. He had a whole life, until it was over. Now? He was fixin’ to try and take some of it back.

“Hey, I just want you to be safe.”

“I know. I just want you to not have to babysit my ass forever.”

“I’m not your babysitter.” Bax lowered his voice. “I’m yours, and we’re in this together, Mini.”

Jason felt his fucking shoulders come down from around his ears. Okay. Yeah. ‘Together’ he could get behind. A burden? No, that he couldn’t do. “Right. Sorry. You want a beer?” An aspirin? Something to stop this pounding?

“Sure. Sounds good.” Bax led him out of the arena, the dirt changing to concrete.

He tried to make sure his face was thunderous, keeping anyone away who might want to talk. He was getting better at that part—the talking to fans—but not much. Right now he thought he might die if someone stopped them. Bax kept him moving fast, and soon enough he was in the cab of their truck, the sudden quiet shocking his senses.

“I’m taking you to the travel trailer, okay?” Bax sounded either pissed or scared. He wasn’t sure which.

“Okay.” Jason didn’t want to fight no more, so he folded his hands and sat quiet as a mouse.

They didn’t play music, they just drove, and when they got to the gravel road, Jason knew they were at the weird little campground.

The truck rocked a bit when Bax hit the brakes. The engine cut off, and they sat there.

“You okay?” Bax finally asked.

“My head hurts some,” he admitted. “I need some time to not worry about shit.”

“Well, come on. We’ll get you some pills and watch a movie.”

Listen to a movie, more like, but whatever. “Works for me.”

“You sure? I could put on one of those audiobooks.”

“I just want to be somewhere I”—can see—“know.”

“It’s cool and quiet in there.” Bax climbed out of the truck, then came around to help him out.

“Yeah.” He sighed. “I’m sorry, Bax.”

“What for, Mini?” They stepped up into the trailer, the smell oddly homey inside.

“Being blind?” Having you take care of me when all I want in all the world is to take care of you.

“Well, that’s stupid. Ain’t like you asked to be blind.”

“No.” No, not a bit. “Good thing we cleared that up.”

“You know it.” Bax snorted loud, then guided him to sit back on the bed thingy. “Let me get us a cold drink, then we can kinda float.”

“Thanks. I’ll get the next one.” He toed his boots off and stripped out of his sponsor shirt and his baggy, filthy work jeans.

“No problem.” Bax opened a couple of bottles, the bottle cap sound unmistakable.

He took the bottle when Bax offered it and drank deep, the lemon-lime bubbles suiting him to the bone.

“Mmm. It was dry as dirt out there, huh?”

“Yeah. Yeah, and I’m pretty sure my mouth was open when I hit the ground.” His molars were a little gritty.

“Ew. No cow shit, Mini.”

Jason snorted, tickled shitless. “No. Although God knows how much we’ve eaten accidentally over the years.”

“Stop.” Bax pinched his hip. “That’s nasty.”

“No pinching!” He rolled toward Bax, trying not to spill his drink. “You’re such a wuss.”

“I am not. I swim with you at your momma’s place. There’s snake poop in there.” Bax had a point there. Jason wasn’t real sure what the point was, but Bax had one.

“I don’t even want to think about what all is in that pond, Bax.”

“Nope.”

They kinda…lounged. Just sat there and breathed like great big lazy gators. He laughed a little at that. Gators did okay blind, according to Beau Lafitte.

“What’s funny, Mini?”

“Alligators.”

“That ain’t funny. That’s a lot of teeth.”

“You’re just grumpy. Most days they’re funny.”

“Kinda, yeah.” Bax took his hand. “Sorry I yelled, Mini.”

“I’m trying. I swear to God. I’m trying hard to do this.” And God knew there were more than a few days when he just wanted to give up, to go home to Momma’s and admit defeat. Shit fire and save matches, what the fuck was he thinking, riding blind? He’d got his bell rung when he could see.

“I know. I know it.” Bax sighed. “I want— Shit, Mini, I want you to be happy, and you’re not.”

“I don’t want to ride the little events forever. I don’t want to be a has-been.” He didn’t want to be a burden.

“You’re not. You’re doing amazing.”

Now, Bax wasn’t one to blow smoke up anyone’s ass, so the words perked him up a little bit.

“You think so? I feel like a fuck-up.”

“That’s because we’re all always telling you what to do.”

He traced Bax’s fingers, one after another. Lord have mercy, those calluses felt like heaven when they touched him. The fact that they’d never touched him when he couldn’t see wasn’t lost on him. Bax had saved him. Completely. Fucker.

“You’re pouring smoke, Jason. Out of your brain.” Bax chuckled. “Thinkin’ ain’t what we do best.”

“Fuck no. We do stupid shit and drink beer.” It was the cowboy way, after all.

“See? I knew it.” Bax rolled to kiss his cheek.

“Knew what?” He could meet Bax halfway.

“That we’re better not thinking.” Bax laughed, poking his ribs.

He chuckled. “No shit on that, man.”

“Mmm.” Bax settled in right against his hip. “I got you, Jason. You just scared me, is all.”

“Scared me too. I hate being this way.”

“I know.” Those fingers moved over him, Bax stroking his belly.

Goosepimples climbed up his skin, heading from hips to nipples. “Mmm. I don’t hate this, though.”

“No, sir. I love this. Holding you. Touching you.”

“Good deal.”

Bax was breathing, steady and sure, and the rhythm liked to hypnotized him. “That is a good deal,” Bax agreed.

“We are. I mean, this is. Us. Christ.”

“It is what it is.” That was right down Zen of Bax.

He nodded and let his eyes close. It was the only way he could see colors. Sometimes he thought he could see Bax. Sometimes he knew he could.

“You’re smiling.” Bax rewarded him with a kiss.

He didn’t say why, and it didn’t matter. Nothing he did would change his world. No sense getting Bax’s hopes up.

Together, they’d get through today. Tomorrow too.

The day after that would just have to take care of itself.

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About the Author

BA Tortuga

Texan to the bone and an unrepentant Daddy’s Girl, BA Tortuga spends her days with her basset hounds and her beloved wife, texting her buddies, and eating Mexican food. When she’s not doing that, she’s writing. She spends her days off watching rodeo, knitting and surfing Pinterest in the name of research. BA’s personal saviors include her wife, Julia Talbot, her best friends, and coffee. Lots of coffee. Really good coffee.

Having written everything from fist-fighting rednecks to hard-core cowboys to werewolves, BA does her damnedest to tell the stories of her heart, which was raised in Northeast Texas, but has heard the call of the high desert and lives in the Sandias. With books ranging from hard-hitting romance, to fiery menages, to the most traditional of love stories, BA refuses to be pigeon-holed by anyone but the voices in her head.

You can check out BA’s website and blog, and follow her on Pinterest and Instagram.

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BA Tortuga’s Leading the Blind Giveaway

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Release Blitz: To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker #LGBTQ #historicalromance @PridePublishing

To Light a Fire by Kristian Parker

Book 1 in the Speak Its Name series

Word Count: 19,038
Book Length: NOVELLA
Pages: 82
Genres:

EROTIC ROMANCE
GAY
GLBTQI
HISTORICAL

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Book Description

 

Frank never thought he would find love…until he met his friend’s servant.

It’s 1922 and Frank Harris has finished his exams at Cambridge. He had planned on going home to his parents’ Midlands shop until his friend Charlie Fitzwilliam issues a surprise invitation to stay at his family’s stately home.

Frank has nursed a secret attraction to Charlie since their first meeting and can’t resist a chance to spend time with him, but once there, it’s Tanner, a manservant, with whom he instantly falls in lust.

Charlie tries to force a local girl on Frank, and although Frank knows he should keep up appearances, it’s Tanner who sets a fire in him.

To Frank’s astonishment, Tanner is attracted to him too, and their mutual passion kindles, then burns strong. Only, their feelings must remain a secret—discovery would mean the ruin of them both.

But how long can love that blazes this bright be hidden?

Excerpt

Cambridge, 1922

“Come on, Harris. Don’t be a chump. You can read your precious architecture books at my place. I don’t know why you’re bothering, anyway—we’ve done the blasted exams.”

So spoke Charlie Fitzwilliam the third…or maybe the fourth, standing there in all his glory. As usual, the rest of his gang flanked him and glared at me. It didn’t do to say no to Charlie. I had been in awe of him for four years at Cambridge.

The polar opposite to me, he could make a boy feel awkward just by entering a room. Blond, muscular and his parents owned most of one of the bigger counties just outside London. I, on the other hand, had dark hair, could have been described as a little on the skinny side and certainly didn’t come from the right side of the tracks.

“Go on, Harris,” said one of his henchmen. They followed him everywhere, doing his dirty work and hoping against hope some of that Fitzwilliam magic would rub off on them. “Charlie will be bored if you don’t.”

“Why don’t you go and entertain him then?” I said gruffly.

It had been made clear when we started at university that I would be the lackey of the group and it didn’t do to let me forget it. Charlie’s lot were Harrow boys for whom Cambridge had been a natural next step. My place had been paid for by my parents saving hard and me getting the best marks possible at school.

My parents had several shops in Leicester, the middle of England, where I’d grown up and nothing ever happened. When I’d come to Cambridge, I’d been an awkward eighteen-year-old who had no idea how to use the right cutlery or which wine went with fish. Charlie had taken me under his wing, the others had been jealous and so my runt-of-the-litter position had become firmly cemented.

Charlie had more money than he would ever know what to do with. University was just a diversion, a chance to drink heavily, romance often and generally live a crazy life. The dire state of the economy didn’t come anywhere near him, happening only to other people.

An invitation to go to his house in the country could not be refused, and I found myself tempted by some time alone with him. Besides, I couldn’t apply in earnest to architectural partnerships until I knew my marks for my degree. We had sat our final exam last week and could only wait until August, when we would graduate.

I had planned to go home and help in the shops, but I would only be taking hours from our workers who needed them more than me.

“Just think of it. You can dig around my father’s books to your heart’s content.” Charlie clapped his arm around me, causing me to blush. He knew he had his fish on the line, and a grin creased the sides of my face.

“Fine. A week, no more.”

Charlie held up his hands. “A week is all I want from you. Mummy has demanded my presence in bloody Portugal after that. I’ll be dragged around endless vineyards in search of the perfect grapes for the perfect port. Oh, well done, old man. I hate being stuck in that house on my own. It’s just so boring.”

Having made the decision, I told my parents, and they were fine with it. They wanted me to get as much out of life as possible. Me having the chance to hobnob with a load of posh people would be a talking point for my mother for the rest of the year. God help her customers. They would soon be sick of hearing it.

With a heavy heart, I packed away my books, to send them home to my parents. I would never stand in this bedroom again. I had been lucky to get a set of rooms to myself—most of the other undergraduates shared. I would miss this tiny bit of independence. It might be cliché, but I had arrived a boy and was leaving a man. Charlie and his cronies were still like boys and probably always would be.

I had never gone in for the carousing life. Charlie had a reputation for smuggling girls from the local town into our halls. More than once he had persuaded me to let him use my room for a bit of privacy. As usual he had a henchman, or two, standing guard, and I would find a corner and retreat into my books. It amazed me why Charlie and his gang bothered with me at all. I must have been so boring to them, but Charlie had somehow bonded with me. On his own, when he wasn’t being an insufferable show-off, he could be quite good fun. We were both studying architectural history together. Charlie didn’t know his Christopher Wren from his Antoni Gaudi, and we’d spent many a late night sorting out his essays. In reality, I would write them for him, but I used to live for those nights. Charlie generally sat on the window ledge smoking and chatting while I scribbled away. The public image of Charlie could be hard to get past, but when he did let a person in, a decent chap lay beneath..

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About the Author

Kristian Parker

I have written for as long as I could write. In fact, before, when I would dictate to my auntie. I love to read, and I love to create worlds and characters.

I live in the English countryside. When I’m not writing, I like to get out there and think through the next scenario I’m going to throw my characters into.

Inspiration can be found anywhere, on a train, in a restaurant or in an office. I am always in search of the next character to find love in one of my stories. In a world of apps and online dating, it is important to remember love can be found when you least expect it.

Follow Kristian on Facebook.

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