Release Blitz: Catch a Falling Snowflake by Ava Kelly #LGBTQ #holidayromance @ThunderEternal

Title: Catch a Falling Snowflake

Series: Snow Globes, Book Four

Author: Ava Kelly

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Female/Female

Length: 18700

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, gay, pansexual, transgender, lesbian, intercultural, holiday/Christmas, established couples, children, grieving, family, holiday traditions, foster care

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Synopsis

The previous winter, Leon followed his twin sister Sara to a new town where she could be with her partner, Amber. There, Leon’s boyfriend Nick, friends Jeff and Daniel, and their nine-year-old daughter Abby, swiftly swept him up into their lives, a newfound family.

After a year of growing their relationship, Leon is ready to take it to the next level. Nick, however, has been stalling. When Ben, Abby’s best friend, is suddenly abandoned, Leon is excited to finally care for the children he’s always wanted. Haunted by the mistakes of his past, Nick attempts to reconcile his feelings of inadequacy as a parent with Leon’s wishes.

Against the backdrop of winter holidays filled with traditions from around the world, it is up to Leon to decide if he’s willing to stand by Nick, or if he should find his happiness elsewhere.

Catch a Falling Snowflake, the fourth story in the Snow Globes holiday series, can be read as a stand-alone, but greater enjoyment will come with reading about these characters in the order written.

Excerpt

Catch a Falling Snowflake
Ava Kelly © 2020
All Rights Reserved

The community center was quiet for a Thursday. With vacation and beckoning winter celebrations a day away, Nick expected the ebb of youthful visitors to slow down. Besides, early afternoon was always the calmest, no matter the day. Perhaps that was why he’d chosen this particular time for the support group. Sure, it served those who worked nights, unlike most of the other meetings usually held in the evenings, but Dr. Mahler had had a few requests to organize one during the day, and that was where Nick came in.

He’d been back in his hometown for two years, and soon after settling in, he’d started attending one of the grief support groups. Not that his loss was still fresh, not after years, but as a check-in with himself. As an example for others that, yes, survival was possible. He’d made friends with the local therapist; she was supportive, and he’d booked a session or two when he needed an objective ear. He was doing well.

With a smile to himself, Nick checked on the coffee thermos on the side table, then made sure the heaters underneath the windows of the meeting room were turned on. Outside, snow fell in sparse flakes. Not enough to settle and disrupt activity, but enough to give the air that chilling bite of winter.

Beyond the hills on which the town stretched, the mountains rose toward the gray sky, covered in thick pine forests. He’d missed the view. Missed the people, the smells, the buildings.

He was back to stay. No matter what happened, he wouldn’t leave again. He’d made sure to have some safety nets this time around, just in case. Volunteering for the center, for one, running this group for another, and Dr. Mahler, whom Nick had grown to trust after two years.

Nothing, however, was more important than the people in his life.

Footsteps and voices from the corridor pulled Nick from his musings. He turned to greet the two people walking in, and then another, and another, until six strangers sat in the circle of folding chairs, staring at him. Nick cleared his throat.

“I guess we should start,” he said. “Hello, everyone. My name is Nick, and I’ll be your group leader here. I’d like to remind you that this is not a therapy session, but only a space to talk. If you feel like you need more, Dr. Mahler is here.”

He gestured then, to the side, where a small office was nestled behind glass windows, door closed. The doc waved at them from her desk, legs kicked up casually onto it, crossed at the ankles, an open book in her hand. She grinned and gave them all a thumbs-up.

Around Nick, a couple of people nodded, someone waved back, and the youth with their nose in the collar of their hoodie snorted. Nick made a mental note to check later on their age.

“Doc will be here until tonight, so if you wanna sneak back after we’re finished…”

That, at least, earned him some chuckles. Nick tried not to read too much into it. He’d been to meetings full of strangers before. This would be no different. Determination reinforced, he took a deep breath.

“We’re here to talk, but don’t feel like you have to. You can just listen, if that works. But I’d like to remind everyone to be mindful and respect the privacy of these meetings.”

All nodded, and Nick copied the gesture with a thank-you.

“Has anyone been to one of these meetings before?”

Headshakes and muttered noes.

“Well.” Nick shifted. “We talk about those we’ve lost. We talk about us. The weather. Sports. Music. That movie last week with all the sword fighting.”

“And blatant disregard for proper archery,” a woman said.

“That too.”

“Does it help?”

Heads swiveled to the person in the hoodie.

“It can,” Nick said. “Sometimes it helps to just be around people who’ve been through similar things. Not everyone processes in the same way, though, so it might not be as useful.”

“Have you— Did—” Hoodie shook themself into silence, and Nick nodded anyway.

“I’ve been there. Actually, this week marks a sort of anniversary for me, so I wanted to start by telling you my story if you’d like to hear it.”

That got him their attention. Curiosity and wariness, too, but it was to be expected. First time could be scary, especially under the strain of mourning. Nick remembered with clarity his first visit to an informal support group. His first group session, though, was hazy around the edges. He leaned forward, elbows on knees, and clasped his hands together.

“I was born here. With the exception of college, I’ve lived here for twenty-six years. I had a wife and a best friend and a baby on the way.”

He’d had Lauren and Jeff, twins he’d known since childhood. Through shenanigans and quiet moments and major decisions, they’d always been there. Nick and Lauren had gotten married right after college, and four years later—

“My wife died during childbirth. I watched it happen, and it’s not an image I can ever unsee. It broke me enough that my immediate thoughts were harmful toward myself and the baby. A girl. Innocent and frail, and not at fault at all. I left before I even held her once, and then spent the next seven years healing. Wasn’t pretty. Hurt a lot.”

Nick swallowed and shifted, pausing to collect his thoughts.

“What happened to her?” Hoodie asked.

“My wife’s twin brother adopted her. He was also my best friend.”

Not anymore. Jeff had a new bestie. When Nick first met Amber, he hadn’t paid much attention. It had been a brief interaction as it was, two years back, when she’d provided a ride to Jeff’s place. Amber was tall and sometimes moved like she wanted to make herself smaller. Less visible. Quiet too. Later, Nick learned she kept most people at a distance. Not in any way that might’ve been rude or hostile, but more along the lines of hiding behind a hard, thick shell. Kinda like Nick used to be, way back.

A deep breath.

“I hurt both him and the kid,” Nick continued, “because I stayed away for a long time. No contact whatsoever.”

“You suck,” Hoodie commented, but Nick fully agreed.

“Yes. Grief can make us hurt others, even when we don’t want to. It’s not excusable, though it can be explainable. Still, being mindful of those I loved was a hard-learned lesson for me.”

“But now you’re back.”

Nick nodded. “We’re working on me making up for it.”

“How?” The question came from the side, a woman with a drawn face, hugging her middle with both arms. Nick recognized that look. Guilt.

“I returned two years ago,” Nick said. “Found my friend and the kid happy. There was even a second parent involved—my friend’s life partner. Instead of being reasonable, I blew it by being an ass to them. Said mean things, made threats. Friend’s partner made me see logic. I’m grateful for him being there. They got married this summer.”

He offered a quick grin, blinking back the sting behind his eyes. Daniel was someone Nick respected through and through. He was good for Jeff and Abby.

“I don’t understand why they forgave me for being such an ass, but they did. As for my long absence… That’s the part with more serious repercussions and has been a lot harder to work through. Friend is letting me though. He’s willing, but I had to take the first step. Say that first apology—” He looked at the woman who’d asked directly. “—and not expect it to be accepted.”

“Harsh.”

“Yes, but we make mistakes, and we must bear the consequences. The best we can do after hurting others is to allow them the space they need, and understand if they can’t forgive.” With a long exhale, Nick straightened. “It’s not that grim. Sure, in the wake of what you—we’ve all been through, it might seem that what comes ahead is insurmountable. Sometimes it is, in which case you either dig through or go around, or choose a whole different path. It might also be a long, drawn-out, tiresome battle. Grief is not easy. But it’s survivable.”

And that was the whole point. That was why Nick was there, opening himself up over and over again.

“My journey is in a good place right now. I’m an uncle for the kid, her parents are my friends, and hey, I even have a boyfriend. Accidental acquisition, it was very rom-com.”

Faces perked up with undisguised interest, and Nick offered them a small smile. He got it. After Lauren, when the pain had still been so fresh he could taste it, he’d latched on to happy tales as distractions on the good days. On the bad ones, not so much. Looking around the room, it seemed his current audience wanted to hear this part of his story.

The previous year, they’d spent part of the holidays on a training retreat with Abby’s elementary school chess club, along with other third graders from all around. Daniel and Amber had chaperoned, with Nick and Jeff trailing along.

“Last winter vacation we went to this resort in the Alps. It involved a lot of children, chess, and snow—more like yelling on the slopes, actually—but it was fun. First time I met him, he threw line after line of quips while I stood there, all coherence gone. In retrospect, I should’ve realized it, but you know”—he gestured—“I was unaccustomed to someone catching my interest so suddenly.”

Nick had replayed that particular moment in his head over and over again. Leon smirking, stupid green hat over curls poking out in tiny swirls at his temples.

“And then we found out we had to share a room. You’ll never guess—”

“There was only one bed,” said Hoodie with a groan.

“Yep! We had a connection during that short vacation, but we parted ways, and I thought that would be that. Only, after I’d gotten home, I figured I didn’t want it to end. I had no idea he was coming here for New Year’s, so on December 31st, he found me in the park, brooding over lost chances.”

A few half smiles twitched around the room. Hoodie gave a thumbs-up.

“So your anniversary is coming up,” an old man to the left commented.

“Indeed. Speaking of, friend and partner’s anniversary is on the thirtieth. Seems to be a trend with us.”

Not to mention Sara and Amber had gotten together around Christmas, too, as far as Nick could tell, but those two had several anniversaries they celebrated during the year, and Nick was unclear on which was what.

The old man nodded pensively. “Martha and I, we had it on Halloween. We celebrated the day before and the day after. She said we couldn’t let candy steal all our fun, though she loved giving it out.”

With that, the others started pitching in, and Nick gave himself an inner pat on the back.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Ava Kelly is an engineer with a deep passion for stories. Whether reading, watching, or writing them, Ava has always been surrounded by tales of all genres. Their goal is to bring more stories to life, especially those of friendship and compassion, those dedicated to trope subversion, those that give the void a voice, and those that spawn worlds of their own.

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The Naughty List by Cameron Allie #BDSM #HolidayRomance #Contemporary #preorder

THENAUGHTYLIST

The Naughty List

Series: Naughty or Nice (Book One)

Genre Information: Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Holiday, BDSM

Length: 40,000 Words

ABOUT THE BOOK

Can Kylie be naughty enough to get on Santa’s list this Christmas?

When Kylie confesses that she’s never enjoyed sex, she didn’t expect her friend to suggest joining her at a BDSM club. Every December, the club’s Santa picks one woman from his naughty list to take home for a night of uninhibited, wild sex. The catch? She has to prove she can be naughty enough to please him.

Already nervous, the last thing Kylie anticipated when she walked into the club, was that she’d recognize Santa. She certainly hadn’t expected the holiday Dom to be her brother’s, nicer than nice, best friend.

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SNEAK PEEK

“Can I tell you something that’s a little embarrassing for me?” Kylie sat on her friend’s sofa, sipping hot cocoa while watching Love Actually. In the next room, the freshly decorated Christmas tree was twinkling brightly.

Kylie had met Hannah at work a few months ago, and they’d instantly hit it off. They were both single, both thirty years old, both personal trainers, and both on their second career after failing to enjoy what they’d originally set out to do.

Hannah had gone to college to become a social worker, but she had underestimated the emotional drain that came with such a demanding job. She’d burned out very quickly. Kylie had become a daycare teacher but had quickly become frustrated with the broken system and had quit after her first year.

As the holidays drew closer, Hannah had invited Kylie over to trim the tree and partake in some traditional holiday merriment. With the tree finished, a batch of gingerbread in the oven, and their bellies full from hot chocolate, they were both pretty tuckered out, and yet tomorrow they had plans to go shopping.

“Of course.” Hannah glanced over but turned back to the screen.

Kylie thought Hannah’s divided attention might make her confession easier to deliver. “I’ve never enjoyed sex.”

“What?” Turning so fast she nearly spilled her mug, Hannah grabbed the remote, paused the film, and set down her cup. “What do you mean, you’ve never enjoyed sex?”

Kylie shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s always been just okay. Like I could take or leave it. It’s something I should do because, well, that’s what you do in a relationship, right?”

Hannah frowned. Clearly she didn’t understand.

Disappointed, Kylie wanted to disappear into the couch. She wished she hadn’t said anything.

“Maybe you haven’t been with the right guy?” Hannah suggested.

“I’ve been with my fair share of men. None of them seem to do it for me.” She didn’t consider herself a floozy, but after a long-term relationship, a few shorter ones, and a couple of one-night stands, she knew sex was just a big disappointment for her.

“Maybe you’re just not into sex. Some people aren’t. Maybe you’re asexual. Do you have sex with yourself?”

Kylie blushed. She really shouldn’t have started this conversation.

When she didn’t answer, Hannah brazenly went on, “Like, do you own any toys or touch yourself? Stuff like that?”

“I shouldn’t have brought it up.” Kylie went to pick up the remote to un-pause the film, but Hannah snatched it from her.

“No. This is important.” Hannah switched the TV off. “You know I won’t judge you, right? You can tell me anything.”

Kylie wasn’t sure. Their friendship was so new, but they’d bonded very fast. Kylie felt closer to Hannah than she did to any of her friends from high school. At times she even felt closer with her than she felt to her own sister.

“How about I tell you something first? Something I don’t normally share. Will that help?”

Kylie stretched forward and set her mug down on the coffee table. “Look, Hannah, I don’t want to push you—”

“I visit a BDSM club,” Hannah announced. “You know what that is?”

With wide eyes, Kylie nodded.

“I visit a BDSM club, and recently I’ve been holding the attention of two Doms. Do you understand?”

“Sort of.”

“Sometimes, I have sex with both of them. They tell me what to do, and I do it. No questions asked.”

Kylie’s heart started to race. Maybe she could open up to Hannah. Her lifestyle brushed up against the things Kylie had often fantasized about trying but had never acted on. Two Doms though, that wasn’t for her. She just wanted one good sexual experience. Was that too much to ask for, for Christmas?

“So, that’s my little secret. How about you? Do you have sex with yourself?” Hannah circled back to her original question, leaving Kylie with a million questions she wanted to ask, but didn’t yet dare to.

Bravely, she replied, “Yes.”

“So you think you would enjoy sex? You know, with the right partner?”

She nodded.

“Are you gay?”

Kylie shook her head. “No! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m just not.”

“Okay. So maybe it’s the guys you’ve been seeing. What are they like?”

They’d all been jerks. Well, not all of them, but most. “They’re either really boring or selfish assholes in bed.”

Hannah pursed her lips.

As she thought about it, Kylie wrung her hands. “Can you tell me more about the BDSM club?”

Slowly, a grin came over Hannah’s mouth. “Got a little fantasy tucked away in there?”

Kylie felt her face go red again. “Maybe.”

“So the club I go to is kind of like a night club. There’s a bar, some dancing, a main stage for exhibitionists, but there are also private rooms. There’s a dungeon master to ensure everything is safe and consensual. And when it comes to alcohol, there are strict rules, particularly for those engaging in active play.”

“But what goes on there?” Kylie didn’t want to be nosy, but she was curious. She wondered what active play was.

“Some people go to hook up or act out a scene. Some go to meet new people or show off their subs. There’s all types of fetishes going on, though admittedly, this club isn’t as hardcore as others I’ve been to. This one is a little more vanilla, but it’s not uncommon to see a good whipping or paddling. What are you into?”

Kylie bit her lip as she considered telling Hannah. “I’ve read all the books.”

Hannah rolled her eyes. “You mean like that Grey book?”

Clearly, that wasn’t impressive. Everyone and their mother—hell, their grandmother—had read about Christian Grey.

Kylie gave her a little more. “I’ve read Tiffany Reisz, Anne Rice, Sierra Cartwright, Joey W. Hill, Angela Knight, and Angel Payne. To name a few.”

“Okay. There’s something there to work with.”

Briefly closing her eyes, Kylie fessed up. “I’ve watched a lot of videos, too.” Her blush deepened as she glanced at her friend. “And I’ve joined a couple of online chats, but nothing ever face-to-face or via video. Only messaging.”

Save Santa the Trip

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On sale at eXtasy Books on December 20th 2019. All other retailers by December 27th 2019.

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Mazes & Mistletoe by Ayla Ruse #holidayromance #paranormalromance #newrelease

AR_Mazes_Graphic1

Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

Trevor runs the Puzzle and Games Workshop of the North Pole. Most think him quiet and ordinary, but no one knows about his fierce desire for the sexy owner of the day care center — not even the owner herself. If only he could get up the nerve to go meet her…

Missy, owner of The Little Care day care, harbors the biggest crush on the cute Elf from the Puzzle Workshop across the way. As much as she’d love to march over there and see what happens between them, she won’t, because she knows the results of her magic will be worse than unrequited lust.

When an encounter in a Christmas Maze brings them together, Missy and Trevor discover magic is tangible, mazes aren’t for the shy and awkward, and true love might be found under the mistletoe.

 

Get it TODAY at Changeling Press

or pre-order for December 20th at retailers

   

 

SNEAK PEEK

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Ayla Ruse

“The maze is going great, Trevor. Everyone who comes out is laughing and wanting to do it again. I’ve even heard a few say it’s the best attraction at this year’s Winter Fair.”

“That’s good to hear, Lulu. I think next year we’ll take Tommy’s suggestion and add a photo booth at the end.”

“That would be the best,” Lulu heartily agreed. “Or have mini photo opportunities at each dead end. I’m sure there’s some funny things that happen there, too.”

Trevor mused over this for a moment. “You have a point. Then at the end, the participants can decide which, if any, photos they’d want.” He started planning, speaking quickly and quietly as he became lost in thought. “I’d have to get in touch with the Electronics department, and we’d have to hire more help for the maze, but then we’d have extra profit from any pictures that’d be purchased and –”

His plans were cut off by Lulu’s loud shout. “Hey, Miss! You can’t go in there without purchasing a ticket!”

Trevor turned just in time to see an Elf shoot off into the Dead End Maze like her skirts were on fire.

“Damn it,” Lulu fussed. “Tommy won’t be back from break for another fifteen minutes. I hate to ask this of you, Trevor, but could you man the booth and let me run that freeloader down?”

Him be in charge of the booth? No way. The less he had to interact with groups of people he didn’t know, the better. Tracking down one lone female Elf would definitely be the safer choice.

“How about I go in after her? You’re faster with the whole ticket stuff, and I did design the maze, so I’ll be able to get around in there quicker.”

“Would you? That’d be great. Thanks! I’ll call in to the end of the maze to let those guys know what to expect if you don’t show up with her.”

“Sounds good. And I can call them too if any problems arise.”

He’d not been in the spacious maze for even a minute when he ran across the mysterious Elf. She’d found herself caught in one of the famous dead ends and probably couldn’t figure out how to get out. Of course, if she’d stopped at the booth, Lulu would have explained the rules.

A thin, frosted wall separated her from and him and kept her in the dead end zone. He sighed and made his way down the ice-walled corridor to rescue her. But when she turned around and her eyes settled on him with a grateful look of one who believes help has arrived, he stopped in his tracks.

It was her. It was that gorgeous little curly-headed blonde Elf that ran the day care across the field from his office. Every day, at ten, one and three on the dot, he stopped work to stare out his narrow floor-to-ceiling window to catch sight of her. He couldn’t remember her name, knew she ran the center only because he’d overheard one of his co-workers mention it in a conversation he’d overheard, but she was his. Well, his fantasy at any rate. He couldn’t stop the inward grin. And she was stuck in his maze.

He finally stepped closer when she waved her arms, like she was trying to get his attention. Little did she know she had his undivided attention. He approached and hit the hidden release button on the side of the wall. The thin, frosted barrier opened, and he swallowed, but couldn’t speak. She was more beautiful up close than he’d ever imagined. Angel-blonde hair cascaded around her face and shoulders in a wild array of curls. She had tiny, narrow ears that peeked out from her curls just enough to tease him with wanting to touch, to caress. A light dusting of freckles sprinkled across her nose and deep-chocolate eyes stared back at him. She wrung her hands together and looked worried. Maybe she thought, now that she’d been caught, that she’d be in trouble? She nibbled on her perfectly pink bottom lip and he stifled a groan, wanting to be the one to do the nibbling.

He tried to say “hi,” but it came out broken. He cleared his throat and tried again. “Um, hi. I’m Trevor. You ran into the Maze without a ticket.”

“I know. I’m sorry. Maybe you could help me? I’ll pay for the tickets when we get out if that’d be okay? You see, my name is Missy, and I run the Little Care Day Care off Ice Cap Street. Today is field trip day, and I’m afraid one of my charges took off. I saw him heading this direction, and this Maze is the only attraction in this part of the Fair. I kept everyone away from this area because I don’t like this kind of stuff, but I guess he knew about it? Could you help me find him?”

Her plea, combined with her softly wringing hands and full, doe-like eyes, melted him on the spot. He nodded silently, knowing he’d do anything for this female.

“Oh, thank you,” she gushed, laying a hand on his arm for a brief moment. He stuffed his hands in his pocket; he’d felt deliciously singed from her touch. She rushed on, “His name is Zack, and he’s not usually a naughty Elf, but maybe since his parents just had a baby girl, he’s feeling left out? I don’t know. I might have to talk to Taryn and find out… Oh, I’m sorry, sometimes I tend to carry on. Anyway, I don’t think he’d do anything bad, but he might put a few holes in the walls?”

“Holes? A little Elf can do that?”

She pointed to the wall to his right, and sure enough, a small hole was in the wall. It couldn’t be bigger than a hole an artic hare would dart through and was hardly noticeable. “How…”

“Well, he is half demon and he tends to have hot hands from time to time. His father is teaching him to control it, but,” here she looked around at the dead end they were in, “in a place like this…” She shook her head and a worried frown creased her brow. “I’ll pay for the damages, I promise. Could you please just help me locate him?”

Trevor wanted to pull her into his arms and tell her he’d take care of everything but bucked up and reminded himself to be practical. He shouldn’t touch her — yet. “I’ll help you find him. It won’t be a problem. In fact, let me call the Elves at the end of the Maze so they can keep a look out for him, too.”

“Would you? I really appreciate it.”

Trevor tapped his watch and called Lulu. She confirmed that she hadn’t seen any little Elves enter. Then he called the exit team, only to hear that yes, a little one had emerged and, since he was without an adult, they were keeping him occupied with hot chocolate and peppermint drops and would watch over him until they came out. When Missy heard this, she sighed audibly.

“Thank you! Now, can you show me the way out? I’ll gather Zack and go back around front to pay for both tickets.”

Trevor might be a quiet one when it came to strangers, but he wasn’t a fool. The entire time they’d been talking, he knew he had the Elf of his dreams, trapped, so to speak, and at his will, in this maze of his own design. He’d never forgive himself if he let her simply walk away. He did know how to take advantage of unexpected opportunities.

 

MORE FROM AYLA AT CHANGELING PRESS …

Handed a historical romance at the age of twelve, Ayla Ruse fell in love with love and with happy endings. Having grown up living life tasting a little of this and a little of that has not changed this attitude, but it’s expanded her views. Love isn’t always happy and it isn’t always the way a person “thinks it should be.” Sometimes it’s outside the box, and it’s always a challenge.

The challenge of finding and holding onto this love is what drives Ayla in her fiction. She likes stories that strip love — among other things — down to the skin and tests the attachment and beliefs of the participants. Sometimes that test can come in the form of multiple partners, overcoming a desperate fear or even being sexually inventive.

 

 

Viper (Bones MC) by Marteeka Karland #bikerbooks #holidayromance #newadult

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Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Marteeka Karland

 

Who knew I’d find my destiny at Christmas? Not me. Or her daddy. Don’t mean I ain’t keeping her.

Darcy: I didn’t run away from a sadistic stepfather and a mother who wouldn’t protect me just to be carted off by some strange man. I fought the son of a bitch. Woulda won, too, except the bastard had help.

Viper’s rough around the edges and some kind of badass biker, so there’s no way this is going to work out well. Unfortunately, he calls to me on a purely sexual level. Makes my heart race and my body melt just looking at me. It doesn’t help he’s actually nice to me. He claims to know my dad. My real dad. Says he’s been sent to bring me back. I have no idea if I believed him or not. Just don’t really have a choice but to go along. At least for now.

Viper: I tracked the cunning little wench for three fuckin’ days. In the fuckin’ snow. She’s good, too. She survived on her own in a hostile environment with only a little trouble. That alone would make me respect for her, but then she had to go and kick me in the balls. Had I not been on the ground in agony, I’d have been turned on beyond belief. Now, with her safely under my protection, I’ve got to figure out how to keep my hands off her so her father won’t kill my sorry ass. He’s our intel man and one of my best friends, so I don’t want to cause him grief. But I want Darcy. Badly.

It’s Christmas Eve, and there’s an enemy on our doorstep with a unique gift. One that will leave us all with some hard choices — Darcy especially. What unfolds next is something none of us ever planned for.

Warning: Viper (Bones MC 4) deals with issues of abuse and human trafficking that may be triggers for some readers.

 

Get it TODAY at Changeling Press

or pre-order for December 20th at retailers

   

 

SNEAK PEEK

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Marteeka Karland

Winter hung heavy in the hills of Kentucky. One thing Viper hated was winter. Not because of the cold, snow, and ice, but because of the absolute silence in the outdoors. It made hunting that much more difficult. Normally, he enjoyed a challenge, but when the prey was human, there could be nothing to give him away. He’d been on her trail for three days now. There had been no sign of a fire or that she’d sheltered anywhere other than a snow dome she’d built to block the wind and keep in as much of her body heat as she could.

She was good, he’d give her that. He’d been in the service with men who couldn’t do what she could, especially given the few resources she had. As far as he could tell, she had nothing but the clothes on her back. One thing was for sure, once he got her back to the Bones compound, she had some explaining to do.

“Anything yet?” Data sounded anxious. And with good reason. Their intel and communications man had only just found out the he had a daughter, and only because her mother had called exactly three days ago — an hour before Viper and Arkham had been set on her trail — and informed him. Though the woman had remarried several years earlier, she kept in touch with Data. Why, Viper didn’t know. That was Data’s story and one he’d have to share with his daughter. Apparently, the only reason his ex had told him about Darcy now was because she’d run off, and her mother was done with the girl. Couldn’t deal with Darcy any more. Data’s daughter was her daddy through and through. Though Viper had no idea what Darcy had done, it was enough to make her mother and the woman’s husband abandon Darcy while the couple and their other two daughters — not Data’s — went to California on vacation. Data had been livid. Viper had a feeling his next assignment would be to hunt down the girl’s mother and stepfather and teach them a lesson.

“I’m just that little bit behind her, brother. Another hour and I should have her, though.”

“She’s one little girl! You’re a big bad Marine sniper! This shouldn’t be that fuckin’ hard!” Viper raised his eyebrows. Data was normally a by-the-numbers kind of man. He never got excited unless it was warranted. Kind of like when he realized his crew was in the middle of El Diablo’s muscle with only one team and minimal backup.

“Relax, brother.” Arkham sounded almost bored when Viper knew he was alert and watching as intently as he was. “Girl’s wily. Uses the landscape for cover. Even found a snow dome where she slept last night.”

“She can’t last out there forever with no fire. Rein her in!”

Viper knew when a man was on the edge. Didn’t take a genius to know Data was there. “We got this, brother. We’ll have her back at the compound by tomorrow.” It was a hard promise, but one Viper intended to keep. He ground his teeth. One little girl indeed.

Light was fading in the winter sky. Clouds hung heavily, promising more snow after nightfall if not sooner. Nothing stirred around them. Animals huddled down to wait out the coming storm. Even the evergreen trees were still in the slight breeze. The silence was nearly total.

“Got her,” Arkham muttered through his earpiece. “Your four o’clock. She just sat on a fallen log.” There was a pause while Viper looked in the indicated direction. “She’s done, Viper. I’m headed in.”

Sure enough, the girl sat on the long about a hundred yards away. She looked up at the sky, then at her surroundings and put her head in her hands. Yep. She was done.

Viper made his way to her as Arkham came at her from the opposite direction. They were almost on her before she realized she wasn’t alone. Immediately she slipped off the log and crouched into a defensive position, grabbing a rock beside her to use as a weapon.

She didn’t say a word. Viper expected to see fear in her eyes, and perhaps there was. But mostly what he saw was a cold, hard determination.

“We’re not gonna hurt you,” Viper said, hands out in front of him as he approached her.

“I know,” she said, her voice a whisper of sound.

“Viper!” It was the only warning Arkham could issue before the girl attacked. She launched herself at Viper. In reflex, he caught her.

Two things happened when he closed his arms around her. First, Viper recognized she was more than a girl. The woman had curves aplenty, two of which were mashed against his chest, rubbing over him with every movement of her body. Second, the woman was fucking fierce. Viper was perfectly capable of defending himself, but he was hesitant to do anything for fear of hurting her. So she pummeled him with that fucking rock. By sheer luck, she didn’t catch his head with it, only his jaw. Viper retained his hold on her with one arm securely around her waist while using the other to block her blows as best he could. For such a small little thing, she packed quite a punch! Despite his efforts, she still connected several times before Arkham disarmed her. Bastard didn’t help him any more than that. And still, she fought. Apparently frustrated with her lack of progress, Darcy shrieked, kicking out and continuing to hit at him with her fists.

“Knock it the fuck off, woman!” Viper finally set her on her feet and captured her wrists in his hands and wrapped his arms around her, trapping her with his superior strength. “Look at me, Darcy!” Viper used every ounce of command he possessed. In the end, it was probably the use of her name that made her pause in her tirade. “Look at me!” When she gave him a wary look he took a breath. “Your father sent us to find you and bring you home.”

“I’m not going back! I’m old enough to make my own decisions, and I’ll be damned if I go back to that bastard!” Her struggles resumed. She tried to hike her knee up into his groin, but he managed to avoid it, pulling her tighter against him. It was getting exceedingly hard to ignore the lush curves pressed against him. The woman was tempting in the worst way.

“You’ve never even met your dad,” Viper said, struggling to hold her while not hurting her. “I assure you, he’s a good man.”

“Rayburn, my stepdad, is a molesting bastard and my mom is nothing more than his pimp! I’ll kill both of them and you before I go back!”

Viper was so shocked, he relaxed his hold for a second, giving the girl enough leverage to break free. Darcy promptly kicked him in the balls before spinning around to flee again. Arkham caught her, spun her back around, and zip-tied her hands behind her back, ensuring he didn’t get a repeat of what Viper got. Once she was secured, he looped a length of rope around her waist and tied her to a tree.

“That should take care of that.” Arkham turned his attention to Viper, kneeling down beside his biker brother. “You gonna be all right?”

“Shut the fuck up, you smug bastard.” Viper tried to sound menacing, but it was hard to do when his balls were stinging. Didn’t help with him down on one knee looking up at the big man, either.

“Just trying to help a brother out.” Arkham raised his hands in surrender before turning back to their prisoner.

“You gonna fight me, girl?”

“You gonna try to take me back to that hellhole?” She had to look up at Arkham, but Darcy didn’t seem the least bit intimidated. In fact, she looked to be sizing him up, looking for the easiest way to take him down.

“Hadn’t planned on it,” he said.

When Arkham didn’t offer anything else, Viper added, “It’s your biological father who sent us. We’re takin’ you back to the clubhouse.”

She looked from Arkham to Viper. “Biological father. Clubhouse?”

“Yeah.” Viper groaned as he got to his feet. “Look. I’m Viper. This is Arkham. We’ve been huntin’ you for three fuckin’ days, sweetheart. I’d like to get out of the fuckin’ snow.”

 

MORE FROM MARTEEKA AT CHANGELING PRESS …

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

 

 

Book Tour: Annie’s Gift by Barbara Bretton #PNR #holidays

Barbara Bretton Deck the Halls InstaAnnie’s Gift
Rocky Hill Holiday Romance
Book Five
Barbara Bretton

Genre:  Paranormal romance

Publisher: Free Spirit Press

Date of Publication:  2017

ISBN:1973271575
ASIN:  B077BF911C
Number of pages:  80
Word Count:  20,000

Cover Artist: Erin Dameron-Hill

Because love never dies… 

Everyone knows Christmas is a time for family but not for Harry Barnes. If he had his way, he would close his eyes and not open them again until January second when all the fuss was over. Once upon a time he had loved the season but that was a long time ago. His wife Annie and daughter Erin are gone and he hasn’t spoken to his only son, Sam, in years.

The Christmas candlesticks he’d lovingly carved for Annie and their children are buried in the attic under a thick layer of dust along with memories that could break a man’s heart . . . if he still had one left to break.

After years of living on military bases all around the world, Sam Barnes has moved his family back home for keeps but they might as well still be in Japan or England or Timbuktu for all the difference it makes. His father’s heart is still closed to the idea of family and there is nothing Sam can do to change it. Not even if the only thing his twelve-year-old daughter Riley wants for Christmas is the grandfather she has never met.

But then on a snowy Christmas Eve in Rocky Hill, Harry and Sam are visited by a determined mother and daughter who have just a few earth hours to bring their family together or lose them forever.

Amazon

Annie's Gift Deck the Halls with Books

When it comes to the holidays, I am a traditionalist. Whether it’s the movies we watch, the music we listen to, or the food we eat, I look forward to revisiting those old (and beloved) favorites every single year.

One of our most cherished traditions is our Christmas Eve Brownie Extravaganza. Deep. Dark. Still warm from the oven. Crowned with a ginormous scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with a holiday-red maraschino cherry.

Why limit this delicious guilty pleasure to just Christmas Eve? These brownies would be delicious any day of the year!

Ingredients

8 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted

1-1/2 cups butter (6 ounces), melted

6 eggs

3 cups sugar

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons vanilla

1 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Beat eggs, adding sugar and vanilla. Add the melted chocolate and butter. Blend until light and airy. Add flour, then nuts (if using.)

Bake in a pre-heated 350-degree oven in two 8-inch pans for 25-30 minutes. Do not overcook. They should be moist in the center. The timing is personal. Keep checking and take it out of the oven when it’s reached the degree of doneness that warms your heart.

Top with ice cream and enjoy.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Excerpt:

He heard a sound like autumn leaves crackling underfoot, and then felt a soft rush of cinnamon-scented air as a small form appeared then disappeared right in front of his eyes.

He watched, paralyzed with fear and hope, as she took form one more time, looking less like a hologram and more like a flesh and blood woman. The woman he had loved since he was sixteen years old.

“Annie!” Her name tore from his throat and spilled into the space between them. This was his Annie, before sorrow and sickness had taken their toll.

Bubbles of laughter danced in the air around her. “I did it! How about that, Harry? I did it!”

He reached for her hand but it was like grasping cotton candy. His brain was a bowl of overcooked oatmeal. “I don’t know what’s going on.”

The room began to spin. He could feel himself starting to go under and he put his head between his knees.

“Low blood sugar,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t miss that at all.”

“It’s not low blood sugar,” he managed, gulping in some air. “I’m talking to a ghost.”

“If you want to put it that way, I guess you are.”

What other way was there to put it? He had buried his beloved wife six months ago and now here she was in their living room acting like nothing had happened.

He took another huge gulp of air then lifted his head.

“I’m still here,” she said, her tone softening. “You can trust your senses.”

“Why?” he asked, his disbelief beginning to show cracks. “How?”

She spread her arms wide. “Look at this place! You’d never know it was Christmas Eve.”

“It doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve.”

“It would if you put some effort into it. Put up a tree. String some lights.” She aimed a sharp look in his direction. “Place the candles in the window where they belong.”

“No.”

Her brows darted into a scowl. “Did you forget your promise?”

“That promise was made a long time ago. Things change.”

“Family doesn’t.”

“I don’t have a family anymore. When I lost you, I lost everything.”

She reached out and for a second he imagined he felt the touch of her hand. But that was crazy, wasn’t it? She was no more real than Santa Claus or Easter Bunny.

“I’m here because I love you,” she said. “And because you need me tonight.”

Tears threatened to overwhelm him. He wanted to believe.

“I need you every night, Annie. That’s never changed.”

“But tonight is the night you asked for me.”

One moment he was standing there next to the refrigerator with a carton of brown eggs in his hand.

The next moment the eggs were on the floor in a yellow and white mess and his Annie was in his arms.

He had lived long enough to know that second chances didn’t happen often in life.

This time he wasn’t going to let her go.

About the Author:

Barbara Bretton is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of fifty books. Her titles have been published in twelve languages in over twenty countries by Harlequin, Berkley, Crown, Pocket, and Free Spirit Press. When Barbara isn’t writing, she can be found knitting, reading, and cooking in New Jersey with her husband and a house filled with pets.

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SPOTLIGHT: A Changeling for All Seasons Vol. 9 #paperback #holidaystories #Romance

Spotlight: A Changeling For All Seasons 9 (Print) (Changeling Seasons (Print) 9)

Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

Thirteen tales of Christmas Magic from your favorite Changeling authors!

Ayla Ruse — Racing Wild: A wild race can lead to anything — even love.

Anne Kane — Tinsel Wars: Braedon intends to win the final skirmish in the Tinsel Wars!

Ruth D. Kerce — Christmas Cowboy: Chaz breeds horses. What’s a cowboy supposed to do with a herd of reindeer?

Dahlia Rose — Silver Bells: Tia was the sexy little elf that made Danny Grinch’s Christmas that much hotter.

Crymsyn Hart — Sleigh Balls: Instead of snow this Christmas, it’s raining reindeer!

Lena Austin — Ghosting: Ghost hunting means sometimes you find a ghost you weren’t expecting, when you aren’t even looking.

Judy Mays — Jingle Buds: Dr. Jon Claus finds the perfect woman when Emily Olson’s grandmother gets run over by a reindeer!

Julia Talbot — Merry X-Moose: Can a were-moose and a Santa-obsessed Elf fall in love — and save Christmas at the same time?

Lily Vega — Wicked Game: All’s fair in love and war during Santa’s Reindeer Games.

CJ England — Snip! Snap! Dragon!: With a fiery Snip! Snap! a passionate modern day dragon lures his forever mate into the flames.

Ana Raine — White Stag: When the scent of peppermint reaches his nose Crane knows he has to remember or lose it all forever.

Sara Jay — Sleigh Ride: Can one magical sleigh ride deliver love to two lonely Elves?

Sean Michael — Five Golden Beads: When kinky gifts begin arriving, Shay knows it’s time for a visit from his very own special Elf.

 

Print Edition: at Amazon.com $14.95

 

 

Praise for A Changeling For All Seasons Volume 9

“This is a nice collection of stories that will keep readers engaged with eh characters and their worlds. Each author builds their own world full of holiday magic. As hot and sexy as these reads are, love is always the prize. Time and time again love proves to be the gift of the year.”

— Gabrielle, Love Romances & More

 

 

 

My Two Front Fangs by Emily Carrington #UrbanFantasy #holidaystories #Christmas #LGBT #GayRomance

CHP_EC_Fangs_3

Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

As the holidays approach, Luis and Charlie are looking forward to spending time together. But after Charlie’s mother commits suicide, a whole host of problems arise to threaten Charlie and Luis’s marriage. Can the healing promise of Christmas save them?

 

Get it TODAY at Changeling Press

or pre-order for December 13th at retailers

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Emily Carrington

“All I want for Solstice is my two front fangs… so I can bite you on the ass.”

Luis was singing under his breath but some of the other trackers probably heard him. Ethan would; he was a werewolf. Wind Child might; he was an elemental and who knew what kind of powers he did or didn’t have? Garrett didn’t have sharp ears, although his eyes were keen as a hawk’s so maybe he saw Luis’s mouth moving and could read his lips. As for Pierce, he probably missed everything, human that he was.

Except it was Pierce who said, “Whatever you’re muttering over there, Delgado, keep it to yourself, would you?”

“If you can’t tell what it is, why does it bother you?”

“Because everyone else is snickering and I hate being left out of the joke.”

“I’ll share,” Pierce’s tracker partner, Garrett, said. “Although it’s nothing to write home about, just kindergarten humor.” And he repeated Luis’s song, his voice rich and melodious.

Under the cover of Garrett’s singing, Ethan muttered, “I thought you’d be singing ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’.”

“Only if I actually knew my Life Dancer was going to be home. ‘Home in my dreams’ is not my idea of a happy ending to all this waiting.” His beloved, Charlie, alpha above all alphas, had been gone more often than he was home lately. “Putting out fires,” was how Charlie put it.

In addition to playing negotiator/firefighter, Charlie had been seeking… well, permission wasn’t the right word. Neither was approval. He wanted to practice shifting from human to wolf. Being a half werewolf, he’d been under the impression, as all the wolves in North America were, that only full-blooded werewolves could change to four-legged guise. And then the research came down: half wolves weren’t subject to the call of the moon, required to change when that heavenly orb was full, but they could still change at will.

With practice.

The alphas below Charlie, although they had no true say over what he did or didn’t do, had kicked up a mighty stink about their leader risking his life. Because while the change was possible, no one knew exactly how dangerous it would be.

Luis was confident that Charlie would be okay. Wasn’t shifting only dangerous for pups who weren’t strong enough because of their age or constitution?

His cell phone buzzed. Luis tended to keep it in the top drawer of his desk because the buzzing seemed loud to his psychic vampire ears. Now he drew it out and glanced at the screen casually, most of his attention still on Ethan, who was looking at him sympathetically.

Tilthos Charles: Be there in ten minutes. Meet you upstairs.

Luis almost dropped the phone.

“What is it?” asked Pierce, the nosy bastard.

Luis saw by Ethan’s face that he didn’t need to ask; Luis’s tracker partner was sharp, particularly when it came to reading those closest to him.

Luis got up, set his cell on the desk, and headed for the door.

“Trouble?” Pierce asked, getting to his feet.

“Doesn’t look like it,” Garrett said. “Let him go.”

Luis started for the stairs at a brisk walk. One did not run in SearchLight headquarters, even if said headquarters was small and considered a “backwater” by the rest of the organization.

He grinned. His Life Dancer was here, in this building, or very nearly.

Luis strode out of the stairwell and into the antechamber of the director’s office. He smiled at the secretary, the mother of one of the Tilthos Pack’s members. He addressed her in Spanish, his native language and hers. “Good morning,” he said in his mother tongue. “How are you this morning?”

She smiled. She’d been treating him like a son since moving to the United States to be closer to her daughter. “Good morning, Luis, my son. Do you need to see Agent Shalling?”

“Nope. Tilthos Charles is back.” He was careful to call his Charlie “Tilthos Charles” whenever he spoke of him, and his cell phone said his mate’s title and full name. Nicknames were verboten among the werewolves. The only reason Charlie was “Charlie” to Luis was because he’d been cursed with the nickname when he was young as a sign of disrespect, and he’d claimed it as a name of power. He was Charlie to himself and always would be. And he was Charlie to his nearest and dearest, at least the wolves who could get over themselves and their sense of propriety enough to recognize that calling him Charlie wasn’t a slur. At least not in their alpha’s mind.

“He’s not here yet,” Luis was told.

He nodded. “I know. I just wanted to be waiting when he finally arrives.”

The door to the director’s office opened and Agent Andrea Shalling stepped out. As always when she saw Luis, she looked as if she’d been sucking on a lemon. “What is the purpose of all this noise?”

Luis, cognizant of his role as Charlie’s mate and yet his lesser status as a tracker rather than a member of the leadership, asked, “Will you speak with me privately, Agent Shalling?”

She sighed. “All right.” She walked back into the director’s, into Charlie’s, office.
Luis followed. When the door was closed, he approached her and, keeping his voice low, said, “Calling another language ‘noise’ is disrespectful.”

She flushed. “I wasn’t calling Spanish noise, but your loud voice is, Agent Delgado.”

Luis could have cheerfully decked her. Instead, he announced, “Tilthos Charles will be here momentarily.”

Her eyes widened for the briefest instant. Then she said, her voice casual, “I wonder why he didn’t text or call me.”

Luis hid a smirk.

There was the muffled sound of tapping, like hard-soled shoes on tile and conversation outside the door, and then the knob turned.

Charlie, looking both tired and exultant, walked in. In his left hand was a briefcase. In his right was his white cane. He smiled at Andrea and walked to Luis. In front of God and everybody, he kissed Luis.

And kissed him.

And kissed him.

 

MORE FROM EMILY AT CHANGELING PRESS …

 

A Daddy for Mika by Shelby Morgen #ChristmasRomance #holidaystories #singlemom

CHP_SM_Mika_2

Published by Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

A woman running from her past. A man with no future. A little boy with one simple Christmas wish.

Mika wants a daddy for Christmas. Deputy Kaden Hunter may be just the Christmas miracle Stevie needs… if the drug dealers and her thieving ex don’t catch up with her first.

Healing may be just one kiss away.

 

Available TODAY at Changeling Press

or pre-order for December 13th at retailers

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REVIEW FROM HARLEY WYLDE…

☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ — 5 stars!

If you want a heart-warming story for the holidays, then A Daddy for Mika is a must-read!

You’ve read it all a million times before. Down on her luck single mom, and hunky hero to the rescue. But … Stevie isn’t your typical single mom, and there’s more to Kaden than you at first realize. I thoroughly enjoyed little Mika wrapping the deputy around his finger, and Stevie doing her best to resist the sexy Kaden. My only complaint is that I wanted more… I hope we get to see more of Stevie, Mika, and Kaden in the future.

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Shelby Morgen

It was after two a.m. by the time Stevie scooped a sleeping Mika up out of the chair in Mel’s office and followed Janice out the back door. Her arms ached from the late mop-up and her back hurt from standing at the drive-thru register for the last nine hours, but Mika was full and happy, with a racecar in his pocket, and she had a job. Lord knew how many regulations Mel’d broken putting her right on the floor like that, but he’d written her up as a rehire, even though it had been four years. And really, nothing much had changed. She’d figured out the updated menu buttons long before the after-work crowd had thinned to a trickle.

She crossed the street to the market, devoid now of the outdoor Christmas display and the crowd. And everything else. The parking lot was utterly empty. She stood under the light, staring blankly, unable to comprehend. How could her car not be here? She knew she’d left the car here. Right here. In the front row, near the doors, under the security light. Because it was safe. And easily seen.

And now it was… gone.

It wasn’t a great car. A twelve-year-old Toyota, with over one hundred thousand miles on it, but still. It was a car. It ran. And everything she had left was in that car. What was she going to do now? She couldn’t walk across town to their apartment carrying Mika. Not at night. Not in this weather. It was far too cold. He’d get sick. She couldn’t lose that car. How could you lose a car?

Santa and the children’s train ride were packed away for the night. There were no cars in the employee lot. Everything was quiet now aside from the occasional whistle of the wind that whipped the snowflakes under her hood to sting her cheeks.

Someone had to know where her car was. Stevie pressed her face to the plate glass window. The whole front of the market was dark — even the multicolored Christmas lights outlining the plate glass panes were dark, now, hanging dead and barren like ghosts of Christmas past, but she could see white work lights in the very back. The stock crew worked overnights, when the market was closed. Maybe they parked around back.

It was a business, so there wasn’t any doorbell. She raised her free arm — the one that wasn’t holding Mika tight against her to keep him warm — and smacked her palm on the big glass door. Hard. Hard enough to rattle it a bit and made a dull thud, but nothing anyone in the back would be able to hear. She tried pounding on the door with her fist.

“Hey!” she shouted. “I need my car! Give me back my car!”

“Momma? What’s wrong? Are you OK?”

“I’m fine, baby. Everything’s going to be OK.” She pounded on the window again. “Where is my car, damn it!”

Headlights flashed off the plate glass windows, and a siren blared half a beat, then quit. Stevie turned slowly to face the inevitable. She could feel the tears starting to roll down her cheeks. This day just couldn’t get any worse.

As soon as the thought formed, Stevie knew she’d just challenged Fate to screw with her… again.

* * *

Kaden Hunter parked his patrol car right in front of the market’s main doors, crossways to the fire lane, so his lights lit up the whole storefront. The woman dropped her fist from the plate glass door and turned to face him, her whole body sagging in defeat.

Woman? Hardly more than a girl. A wisp of a thing, but a fighter. He had to hold back a smile. Her hood fell back, and a cloud of red hair as fiery as her temper whipped around her head in the wind. She might have been gorgeous — if she hadn’t looked so exhausted.

What the hell was she doing out here after two a.m. — with a kid on her hip? She didn’t look much more than twenty. Any bartender worth his weight would have carded her. And the boy looked to be three or four. Didn’t she know that little man needed to be in bed asleep?

He moved closer, cautious, his hand near his hip. Trusting the woman as an innocent was the kind of mistake that got police officers killed. He got close enough to see the tears streaming down her face before he spoke. “Deputy Hunter, Sheriff’s department. Mind telling me why you were assaulting this building, ma’am, and at this time of night?”

“My car,” she sobbed. “They took my car.”

He blinked, trying to make sense of what she was saying. “Who took your car?”

“I don’t know. I just need someone to tell me where they took it to.”

“The folks from the Market had it towed? Did you leave it here overnight?”

“No!” She looked around. “I guess they could have thought I did, but Mel has an agreement with them. Or at least he always used to. Late shift parks over here under the lights at night. I filled out an application, but the market wasn’t hiring, so we walked across the street to Debbie’s, and the drive-thru clerk walked off the job just as I was applying, so Mel hired me on the spot, even though he didn’t want to, but he was in a bind and he didn’t have to train me. Then after mop-up we locked up and all I wanted was to go home and get Mika to bed and get some sleep but my car’s gone. And everything I own is in that car.”

He was a sheriff’s deputy, not a social worker. Or a rescuer of damsels in distress. Especially not redheaded banshees who attacked buildings in the middle of the night. But he had a weak spot when it came to redheads — and children. “You were living in the car?”

“No, we’re staying at the Country Inn Efficiencies, on the other side of town, but I don’t trust the place enough to leave anything there anymore, so everything was in the car. I’m such an idiot… I thought it was safer…”

The little boy raised a hand to her cheek. “Don’t cry, Momma. Everything’s going to be OK now. The policeman’s here. He’ll find Mr. Happy.”

Kaden bit his lip. “Mr. Happy? You named the car Mr. Happy?” That sounds more like the name of some kinky sex toy, not…

The little boy shook his head. “No, silly! Mr. Happy’s my pony. He’s in the car. The car’s name is Rollo.”

“Mr. Happy’s a pony… and Rollo…” Kaden rolled his tongue around the child’s nickname to translate. “Corolla?”

Momma nodded.

The visual was just too much. “Let me get this straight. We’re looking for a missing Toyota Corolla with a pony living in the back seat?”

“Yes!” the little boy agreed, bobbing his shaggy blond locks with a waterfall effect.

“No,” Momma answered at the same time, a trace of a smile washing across her tear stained face. “Well, not exactly. Mr. Happy is a stuffed pony. He’s lying down, with his legs all folded up, but he’s so big he takes up most of the back seat. Mika likes to sleep on him.”

And anything that would get a little boy to sleep… that Kaden understood. “OK, then. Tell you what. Let’s go down to the barracks, fill out some paperwork, and we’ll do our best to find Mr. Happy and his Corolla. Soon as we’re done with the paperwork, I’ll get you back to your hotel so you two can get some sleep while we look for them.”

 

MORE FROM SHELBY AT CHANGELING PRESS …

 

 

Naughty or Nice by Harley Wylde #ChristmasRomance #holidaystories #ContemporaryRomance

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Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

My marriage is a sham. I’ve already loved and lost my one and only. Making Carmella Juarez my wife was the only way to save my daughter, but I never intended to stay married. A decade has passed, ten years that I’ve kept my distance, but now it’s time to set things right and free both of us.

I never counted on her being sick and nearly dying. Didn’t count on falling for her as I nursed her back to health. But it’s the Christmas season and what better time for miracles? My heart isn’t as cold and dead as I’d once thought. Carmella has brought me back to life, and now that I’ve had a taste of the tempting woman who wears my ring, I know that I can’t ever let her go.

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Praise for Naughty or Nice (A Bad Boy Romance)

“Naughty and Nice is a great novella where we finally met the woman Casper married to save Isabella.  I wanted to punch Casper in the face for breaking this beautiful woman’s heart.  It takes a near tragedy to open his eyes and see his second chance.  Casper has always been elusive and reclusive.  One wonderful woman changes all of that.  Watch out for the next generation of Dixie Reapers they might be scarier then their dads!”

— 5 Stars from Melissa Toner, Advance Reader Review

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Harley Wylde

Carmella

I stared at the enormous rock on my finger and rubbed the golden band with my thumb. I’d always dreamed of getting married, but not once had I ever considered my special day consisting of marrying a man I didn’t know, leaving the only home I’d ever had, and being utterly and completely alone. My husband was a powerful man, and feared by many. He was also extremely absent in my life. Casper VanHorne had married me, flown me out of Mexico, then dumped me in some mausoleum of a house only to vanish before I’d even unpacked. It wasn’t at all what I’d anticipated. Yes, he was older than me, but I’d looked forward to my marriage. When he’d said he would take care of me, even though love wasn’t part of the deal, I’d imagined we would at least live together.

I’d barely been eighteen when he’d married me. At first, I’d thought that’s why he had left, and that he’d return before long. Then one year passed, and another. In nearly ten years, I hadn’t once seen my husband. It was lonely living here alone. Not to mention, I was twenty-eight and a damn virgin. I was starting to think I would die before ever knowing what it was like to have a man’s hands on me, to feel his cock thrusting inside me. My fevered dreams were likely far from what it would really be like if Casper ever came back and claimed me.

As another sharp stabbing pain made my eyes close and my body crumple, I wondered if my husband would return… before it was too late. I’d sworn the staff to secrecy, even the bodyguard Casper had left to watch over me. I’d grown close to the people who ran the house and protected me, even considered them my friends. When I’d first arrived, I hadn’t been able to speak any English. Now I was fluent and didn’t even use my native tongue anymore.

“Carmella,” I heard Bowen shout.

His strong arms wrapped around me, and I felt my body being lifted and carried, likely into the house. The pain had been worse lately, and coming more frequently. I had a feeling I was on borrowed time, but maybe that was for the best. It wasn’t that I wanted to die, I really didn’t, but I couldn’t help but wonder if my husband would be happier if I were gone. I knew he’d been forced into claiming me in order to save his daughter, a daughter he clearly never wanted me to meet.

I’d thought she was younger until he’d explained she was older than me. He didn’t look anywhere near old enough to have a fully grown child. There were a few lines around his eyes, but hardly a hint of gray in his hair or beard. At least, last time I’d seen him that was the case. I had no idea what he looked like now.

As the pain eased, my eyes fluttered open and a concerned Bowen was peering down at me.

“He needs to know, Carmella.”

“No, he doesn’t. He’s had no interest in me all this time. The last thing I want is him showing up out of pity. I only wish…” I bit my lip, refusing to say the words.

“I know, sweet girl,” Bowen murmured.

We’d grown close over the years, but not in a romantic way. Bowen was more like an older brother than anything else. I gripped his hand as I settled back against my pillows. The frequent headaches that later turned to migraines had started a few years ago, and I’d ignored them at first. After Bowen found me passed out in the sunroom, he’d forced me to go to the doctor. It had only taken one test to discover the tumor lodged in my brain. The doctor had referred me to a neurosurgeon, who had wanted to start treatment immediately in hopes of avoiding surgery, but I’d refused. They said it appeared to be benign, but the pressure it was putting on my brain was the problem. Thankfully, my husband didn’t receive the bills directly. I didn’t know how Bowen and Mrs. Weathers had managed to pay for everything without alerting my husband that something was wrong, but they had and I was grateful.

“I can’t stand to see you like this,” he said. “Please accept the treatment, Carmella. You’re young still and have your entire life ahead of you. What you’re doing is the same as committing suicide.”

“I’m not as strong as I once thought I was,” I admitted. “I endured a lot as the illegitimate daughter of the infamous Miguel Juarez. When Casper made me his wife, I’d thought maybe I was going to have a new life. A family of my own, people who would love me. Then he ran and left me here.”

Bowen squeezed my hand. “I love you, and so does every other person in this house.”

“It’s not the same, Bowen. I’m twenty-eight and I’ve only been on a few dates. The only kiss I ever had was sloppy and gross. I’ve never… I’ve never been held by a man who loved me, never experienced passion. Is it wrong for me to want those things?” I asked.

“Of course not, Carmella. Casper would be here if he knew what you were going through. I have no doubt that he’d come and stay with you, take you to the doctor and convince you to start treatment. Don’t make me watch you die. They said if you act soon enough, surgery likely won’t be needed.”

The doctors had said that even though the tumor wasn’t cancerous it was still life-threatening. If I had something to live for, then I’d fight with everything I had in me. But what would be the point? I was lonely, so damn lonely. I didn’t have a family, and at this rate, I didn’t think I ever would. Bowen and Mrs. Weathers were my friends, but they were also paid to stay with me. I knew they cared, but it was different.

I reached up and cupped his whiskery cheek. “I’m sorry, Bowen. I just don’t have any fight left in me. There’s nothing to fight for.”

I felt his jaw tighten and watched as his eyes narrowed. I had a feeling I hadn’t heard the last from him on the matter. And he wasn’t the only one. The cook, Mrs. Weathers, was of the same mind, and so were the two maids and the butler. I knew they’d come to care about me, and I felt the same, but it wasn’t enough. I was so damn tired. The pain was debilitating on the best of days, and more and more often, it would make me lose control of the right side of my body, sometimes for an entire day.

I released Bowen and rolled to my side, letting the tears fall silently. He sighed and I heard the door click shut behind him. Left alone with my misery I wondered if maybe I was doing the wrong thing. I had no doubt they were right and Casper would be here if he knew something was wrong, but I wanted him here because he wanted to be, because he cared… not because someone tattled and said I was possibly dying. The last thing I wanted to deal with was his guilty conscience, assuming he even had a conscience. I wasn’t completely certain what he did, but if he’d had business with my father, I wasn’t certain he had a moral compass. It wasn’t just that Casper didn’t seem to want me. No one had ever wanted me. My mother hadn’t, and I’d been an embarrassment to my father who had given me to Casper as a business transaction.

What would it be like to be loved? Truly loved?

 

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Spirits of Christmas by Kate Hill #PNR #UrbanFantasy #christmas #holidaybooks #giveaway

Spirits of Christmas (Wild Witches of Beaver Bay 2)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

On Christmas Eve twenty-five years ago, a brutal murder was committed at the house where Christa Wild works as a live-in maid. When the other servants leave for the holiday this year she stays behind, hoping that any spirits dwelling there will help her regain the psychic power she lost. She’s surprised when the intriguing but disturbed owner of the house appears several days before Christmas.

Action star Joel Connor has kept a terrible secret for most of his life. Despite his success as an athlete and actor, he is plagued by flashbacks of a gruesome attack that destroyed his family. This Christmas, Joel returns to the house where it happened to face the ghosts of the past, but finds he is not alone.

Joel and Christa are instantly attracted, but will his psychological state prevent them from finding peace and love?

 

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FROM THE AUTHOR…

Whenever I write the first draft of a story, I listen to music that in my mind becomes the soundtrack to the book. Since Spirits of Christmas is set during the holiday season, I listened to Christmas music when I wrote the first draft. This is the playlist I had when I sat down to write Joel and Christa’s story:

Mary Did You Know

Feliz Navidad

A Spaceman Came Traveling

Do You Hear What I Hear

Carol of the Bells

The story is a paranormal Christmas-themed romance, but it also involves murder and a hero dealing with fear. Some of the music I listened to was dramatic and some was for light-hearted moments in the story. It was fun to surround myself with Christmas before December even arrived!

Happy Holidays!

Kate

 

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Kate Hill

Frost created intricate shapes on the window overlooking the snow-covered front yard of the spacious suburban house where Christa worked. For the past month, she’d been a live-in maid, even though it wasn’t her real vocation — or it least it hadn’t been until an accident changed her path in life. Maybe changed wasn’t accurate. She intended to return to her former profession, but before she could do that, she needed to either recapture the gift she’d lost or reinvent herself. Each path presented its own challenges.

She turned her gaze back to her cell phone that lay on the desk and listened to her mother.

“Christa, you’re sure you won’t change your mind and come home for Christmas?”

“It’s not that I don’t want to, Mom, but you know why I have to stay here.”

“At least let us come and spend the holidays with you. Your father and I don’t like the idea of you being alone in that particular house.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the house.”

“If spirits are there, they’re not happy. It might be dangerous for you.”

“How can I explain to you that I know I’m supposed to be here? I’ll be fine.”

“Christa, when your gift was working –”

“Mom!”

“Just hear me out. When your gift was working, I trusted that you knew where you should be and what you could handle, but it’s not back, is it? So far, you haven’t contacted any spirits in that house.”

“Then if my gift is gone, spirits can’t hurt me, right? Mom, I’ve made my decision. I want to stay, and I don’t want you or any member of the family to come here. Remember, it’s not my house. I might get fired if I have overnight guests.”

“Who would know? You said the other servants have already left for the holidays. Your employer offers two weeks paid vacation at Christmas. Anyone would take advantage of it.”

“Anyone who didn’t take the job specifically because of what happened here on Christmas Eve twenty-five years ago. That’s not me.”

“You’re a grown woman and we can’t force you to do the right thing, but you’re being foolish. You’re alone in a house where a terrible crime was committed. Christa, please come home. If any spirits lurking there want to contact you, they can do it at any time — like when the rest of the staff returns.”

“Mom, I’ll be fine. If I feel something is wrong, I’ll leave.”

“If you need anything, please call. We’ll come right away.”

“I will. Love you.”

“We love you, too.”

Sighing, Christa turned off her phone, leaned back in the chair, and gazed out the window again. Snow fell faster and thicker. She missed her family, and being away at Christmas would be hard, but she also missed her gift. Her family had been incredibly supportive when she’d lost it after the accident eight months ago. They’d helped her through depression, anger, and frustration. They’d put up with mood swings and had always been there to listen. When she’d learned about a job opening at a house where a family had been brutally murdered, she had applied immediately. It was as if the job called her, similar to the sensations that accompanied her gift. She couldn’t deny the pull.

Now, as Christmas Eve approached with no sign of any spirits, her hope waned. Her mother was right. If she was meant to contact spirits here, surely they would have connected by now. Yet maybe if she waited for the anniversary of the murders, any spirits in the house would be stronger.

“Just because I’m alone at Christmas doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate.” Christa stood, pocketed her phone, and turned on the lights to the small plastic Christmas tree that stood near the desk in her room.

This morning she’d bought it and several other decorations at a local discount store. She’d even made a wreath and hung it on the front door. Now she was about to bake Christmas cookies.

Not only would keeping a festive spirit help her through the holiday without her family, but maybe if the house experienced some warmth after so many cold Christmases, any ghosts in it might be encouraged to engage with her.

She slid a bit on the polished hardwood floor in the long corridor leading to the stairs.
“Shoot.” She stopped to tug off her fuzzy socks before jogging back to her room to put on yoga socks with rubber bottoms.

The winding staircase led to a spacious foyer. The aroma of apple pie, supplied by Christa’s trusty wax warmer, wafted through the house. To the right, she leaned through an archway into the large, dark living room and switched on the light. At night, that room in particular gave her the creeps. She’d placed a few decorations around, hoping to make it a bit cheerier, but even the reindeer and elves seemed to glare at her with their painted eyes. She stepped in and turned on the electric candles in the windows. That was a little better.

In the kitchen down the hall, Christa took her phone out of her pocket, placed it on the counter, and turned on her favorite music app. She selected her Christmas play list and soon she was singing along with carols while mixing cookie dough.

Before long, she had a batch in the oven. The scent of warm chocolate filled the kitchen. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply.

“Mmm. Can’t wait for those to be finished, but in the meantime –” She sat at the table, pulled out her red glitter pen, and wrote notes in her Christmas cards. She’d mail them tomorrow and her family should get them in time for the holiday.

What was that?

She looked up from her cards, paused her music, and strained to listen. Had that been a car door closing?

“You’re getting paranoid, Christa. Get a grip, girl.”

Even if there was a car thief, in this neighborhood they wouldn’t go for her little economy car, but one of the pricey ones parked in front of the other huge houses down the street.

She nearly resumed the music app, but something didn’t feel right. Instead, she pocketed her phone, reached for the nearby frying pan, and stood. On her way to the foyer, her heart pounded. Was this how it happened to those poor people all those years ago? Had they heard their killer approach, or had he taken them totally by surprise?

The key turned in the door. Christa furrowed her brow. Only other members of staff had a key. Someone must have forgotten something and returned for it.

“Hello?” Christa tried to sound firm. “Who’s there? I’m warning you, I’m armed.”

“Then I’m calling the cops, because you’re trespassing on my property.”

That calm, precise male voice wasn’t familiar to Christa, yet for some strange reason, she recognized it. She had never met the owner of the house, but she knew that he neither lived in nor rented it. Was it possible that he had decided to visit today? If so, he probably hadn’t expected any servants to be here. They were supposed to be on Christmas vacation.

“How do I know you’re the owner?”

The door burst open, slamming into Christa and knocking her onto the wooden floor. She landed, her scream turning to a grunt. Her frying pan flew from her hand and landed out of reach. Cold wind and snow swirled around the slim man in a black coat and gloves who stood over her. Ice crystals covered his sleek, dark hair. A fierce expression on his angular face, he glanced around the foyer. Blue-gray eyes, like slivers of crystal, glanced from Christa to the frying pan. Not only did he sound familiar, but he looked familiar, too.

“Is that your weapon?” He didn’t smile, but she sensed his amusement. “I think if I were in the kitchen, I’d have picked up a knife instead, but whatever.” He held up his keys. “Like I said, I own the house. What’s your excuse for being here?”

 

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More from Kate Hill at Changeling Press …

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Kate Hill (Also writing as Saloni Quinby)

Always a fan of romance and the paranormal, I started writing over twenty years ago. My first story was accepted for publication in 1996. Since then I’ve written over one hundred short stories, novellas and novels. I love to blend genres. I also love horror and a happily ever after, so if you’re looking for romance with witches, aliens, vampires, angels, demons, shapeshifters and more, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to your taste here.

When I’m not writing, I enjoy reading, watching horror and action movies, working out and spending time with my family and pets.  I love hearing from readers, so feel free to leave a comment at my blog or connect with me on Twitter.