Release Blitz: Lighter by A. Aduma #LGBTQ #YAbooks @ballardofme @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Lighter

Author: A. Aduma

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/11/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 55300

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, YA, gay, bisexual, Kenyan expats living in the States, East African culture, Swahili, teen pining and angst, unrequited feelings, family drama, drug use

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Description

After a bad breakup, Rasheed is determined to spend his last year of high school focused on his course work and to finish it with as little drama as possible. But when disaster strikes and his grandma ends up in the hospital, the threads holding his life together start to slowly unravel. Now, Rasheed has to deal with the return of his absent mother and sharing a home with her despite their strained relationship.

With old hurts surfacing and family dynamics shifting, Rasheed finds comfort and humor from his best friends, the Herman twins he’s tutoring, and his crush, Adam Herman, who’s not as unavailable as Rasheed had once thought. With more time spent together, Rasheed finds his feelings for Adam may never have gone away. And the feelings may not be as one-sided. Except, Rasheed has to confront old mistakes and come to terms with his own issues first, and a relationship may just complicate everything.

Excerpt

Lighter
A. Aduma © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Please tell me it’s mahamri,” I said enthusiastically when I saw Granma kneading dough that would hopefully be rolled, cut into little squares, dipped into deep frying oil, and covered in whipped cream to create a slice of heaven. Paired with hot chai, it opened the door to another dimension.

Granma pounded the dough, one-two, and flipped it over. “It is.”

“Should I start on the tea?”

“You should start by taking the trash out.” She straightened, wiped the thin film of sweat from her forehead, and pointed to the overflowing trashcan. I could have emptied it last night, but I had an assignment due and each second counted; the four minutes it would have taken had seemed like a lifetime.

“Okay.” I stepped farther into the kitchen and pinched some of the dough. Granma smacked my hand with her flour-covered one. I should have seen it coming; it was a dance we’d been doing since I was five­­—I’d pinch the dough, she’d slap my hand, and warn me about worms making my stomach swell.

Sure enough she said, “Tumbo lako litafura.”

I refrained from rolling my eyes. The way she used to tell it, when I was a kid my stomach would get as large as a balloon before it burst, spraying worms everywhere.

I tossed the dough in my mouth, grabbed a pot, filled it with water, and put it to boil for tea. One thing Granma and I liked was tea—tea in the morning, tea in the afternoon, tea before bed—and coming to America hadn’t changed that. As soon as she was done with the mahamri, she’d set herself up on her favorite floral armchair in front of the TV with her cup of steaming hot tea and catch up on some daytime soaps. Sometimes I joined her—TV dramas had some really cute guys.

“They finally gave up the dog,” Granma announced.

“Huh?”

“Mrs. Kyle and that dog. The pepo chafu will not be terrorizing us again.”

Mrs. Kyle lived on the other side of the street, one house down from us. Her bulldog, Teddy—a name that maybe shouldn’t be handed out so easily to slobbering dogs—had the bad habit of chasing and attacking people, and she refused to put it on a leash. Granma did not like her. The whole neighborhood didn’t like her.

“Paul was right,” she continued, “Soon as someone threw in the word ‘sue,’ she became more accommodating.”

There’d been a lot of that lately—Paul this and Paul that. It would have slipped my mind if I hadn’t noticed her FaceTiming him two weeks before, and then a day ago. Paul only lived a fifteen-minute drive away, so why not text? Anyway, what was so important that she needed to video call?

“I’m guessing some are for Paul?”

“Yes.”

“That’s nice.”

She pulled a drawer open and retrieved a rolling pin. “Why are you saying it like that?”

“How am I saying it?”

“Like you mean to say something else.”

“It’s nothing— Okay, you and Paul are…friendly,” I teased.

“I don’t have many friends; another one never hurts.”

“True, but I don’t know many people who go around fixing other people’s houses out of the kindness of their heart.”

Granma fixed her eyes on the dough and started to roll it. “It’s called kindness. Looks like you’ve forgotten the meaning of the word.”

“I remember,” I said quickly before it turned into a speech about undugu. Yes, yes, love thy neighbor, unless it was Mrs. Kyle, of course. Lines had to be drawn somewhere.

I added a cinnamon stick and some ginger into the pot and turned to head back to my room. Granma pointed to the trashcan. “Usitume nikwambie mara ya pili.”

Right, the trash. I sighed.

Her eyes bored into me as I bent to pick it up, which usually made me more self-aware. Like, had I brushed my teeth or cleaned my room? “I don’t know where your mind is nowadays.”

I paused. “Just tired.” Second week of school, Granma!

I was still trying to shake off summer vibes and find my back-to-school rhythm. It wasn’t going great. On top of the mound of piling homework and the early waking hours that turned me into a zombie—sometimes even with growling, and on really bad days, I could bite someone’s head off—I was trying to dodge Scott, my ex-boyfriend. Whenever he weaved his way into my thoughts, my chest would burn with shame, and my body would turn into a bundle of nerves. That chai and mahamri better come quick. I needed a pick-me-up.

“You put your shirt on backward on Tuesday and didn’t notice.”

“My mind was elsewhere.”

Her eyes narrowed. “And you’re not on drugs?”

I refrained from sighing. “No, I am not on drugs.”

“What is it, then?”

“Not enough sleep.”

“Why? What do you have to stress about?”

I slumped. Things were off, and I couldn’t shake the oddness. Before I could get that out, Granma shuddered, exhaled loudly, and reached for the counter, clutching it tightly.

I moved toward her. “You okay?” But she waved me off.

Her mouth opened, closed, opened again, but nothing came out. I frowned in confusion. Finally, after a few seconds, she said, “Trash.”

“Okay, okay.”

“And check for your keys.”

“Ha ha.” Again, I was tired that day.

I shifted my eyes to her hands, still gripping the counter and repeated, “You okay?”

“I…haven’t pounded dough in forever.”

Her words were labored and breathy. She had been pounding away like an MFA fighter. Maybe that was it. Now I knew what I’d get her for Christmas—a stand mixer. Maybe that would encourage her to make mahamri more often and not break a sweat while doing it. I could do it, but I’d never gotten them right—soft and sweet but with a tinge of lemon and overwhelming taste of coconut. Mine usually came out too hard.

I lifted the bag and headed outside.

“And water my herbs for me.”

I huffed. I ought to have known going to the kitchen when Granma was there meant a one hundred percent chance I’d come out with a chore.

“Am I hearing you grumble?”

“No.”

“Good because that would be disrespectful to your elders.”

I held back the eye roll and made my way to the garbage bins. I dumped the trash and went to water her plants.

Granma had raised-bed planters for her herbs that Paul had made for her. The day he did it, Granma had prioritized keeping him company to watching her TV dramas even though she was religious about not missing episodes. Then there was that time Natalie had been over for their book club—they were the only two in the club, and they read one book a year, spent five minutes talking about how they didn’t get a chance to read it, and gossiped the rest of the time—and I overhead Granma describe Paul as a fine, fine man. Sure, there had been some wine involved, but still.

I winced when the scent of mint made me think of Scott. He loved mint-flavored ice cream and chewing mint-flavored bubblegum. I’d made it another week successfully avoiding him—thank you crowded hallways and different schedules. It was exhausting. I was constantly in flight mode. There had to be another way.

Apologize, a voice echoed in my mind. Apologize? As in, like, say sorry and stuff? Hmm.

Not that I hadn’t thought of it before, but how did people do that? The idea sounded foreign. Save for when I stepped on someone’s foot or bumped into them by accident; that was easy because they were accidents. Honest mistakes. What I had done had not been an honest mistake. So how did someone apologize for dumbness?

It was easier to stay clear of him, avoid any more drama, and focus on school.

If I ignored it maybe it would have no option but to magically—

“Eedy!” I paused, spooked by how she sounded—like a rusted engine trying and failing to come to life. As I put the watering can down, there was the sound of a body hitting the floor with a soft thud.

My heart leaped into my throat, and my stomach twisted with dread.

I rushed back to the house and found Granma lying on the floor—flat on her stomach and still as a rock. The world tilted and blurred together.

“Granma?” I said in a shaky whisper. I fell to my knees and with weak arms managed to turn her over. My breath caught at the sight of her. Her dark eyes were wide open, unfocused, and unblinking. A chill snaked down my back. I leaned down and felt her warm breath on my face. Oh, thank fuck.

I grabbed her hand and recoiled at its limpness. “Granma, are you okay?” Of course, she wasn’t okay.

She groaned.

“Tafadhali amka!” Please get up. I tried to pull her up and failed. Granma wasn’t small, and despite my size, I couldn’t get her to move. My pulse started to race and a heavy weight pressed down on my chest; breathing became difficult. I gasped for breath.

No. No. It would be alright.

“Musa?” she whispered roughly.

The hope I’d been holding on to sank somewhere to my toes. “No, Rasheed. Eedy.”

Musa was my babu’s name—my grandfather—a man we’d silently agreed to never speak of, ever. To Granma, saying his name was equal to calling on the devil, which wasn’t that far off from the truth.

I needed to call for help. She lay on the floor, immobile, her empty stare on me. I did not want to leave her. My eyes blurred. I stood on shaky feet and rushed to get my phone still buried under books from last night’s homework rush. My palms were sweaty enough it took a few swipes before I hit dial on the emergency contact. The person on the other end promised the ambulance would be coming soon.

I returned to crouch next to Granma and took her hand. She slurred something unintelligible that I failed to understand. “They’re coming.” I squeezed her hand.

She grumbled. It sounded like a mangled animal. I blinked to keep the tears from falling, but that only made them fall harder.

“Itsfine,” she slurred. Her hand twitched in mine.

It didn’t seem fine.

Last time she had ended up in hospital, it hadn’t been fine. Three weeks after I turned eight, and the world had turned upside down. I fought off the gnawing helplessness and tried to cling to positive thoughts. It would be alright.

Granma would be alright.

She didn’t really have a choice. She had her dramas waiting for her, Christmas was a few months away—Granma loved Christmas, all those sales and store decorations hyped her up—and I was going to graduate from high school.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Aduma is an economics major at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and the type of person who feels incomplete without a book in hand. When not reading or writing, Aduma can be found lost in spreadsheets and graphs with music for company. Follow A. on Twitter.

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Release Blitz: Give Way by Valentine Wheeler #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance @ghostalservice @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Give Way

Author: Valentine Wheeler

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/04/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 31400

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, MM romance, men over 40, second chances, sexual discovery, interracial romance, retiree, mail carrier

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Description

Kevin McNamara’s life after retirement is…fine. He has friends, a few consulting gigs, and an ex-wife he’s finally on good terms with. But when he meets an intriguing stranger–a rarity in close-knit Swanley, Massachusetts–in his apartment lobby, he can’t stop thinking about him or about the unexpected attraction that knocked him flat.

Awais Siddiqui never thought he’d want to come back to his childhood hometown, but when his grandmother falls ill, he’s the only one who can move back to help. Awais figures he’ll be back in a big city soon enough–but then a silver fox on his route catches his eye.

It’s never too late to accept a second chance at love.

Excerpt

Give Way
Valentine Wheeler © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Kevin McNamara was not having a good day.

As he trudged up the street toward his block, his building loomed ahead, five stories of forbidding concrete. His kids kept telling him he had to find a nicer apartment–he’d only meant for this one to be a stopping place after the divorce, but here he was fifteen years later, solidly into his retirement, still crammed into his tiny two-bedroom. It was fine. He didn’t have to mow a lawn, and most of the other residents were older people or divorced dads, so he fit right in. A few kids visited their fathers on weekends and livened things up, and it was close enough to downtown that he could walk to get whatever he needed. On less soggy, snowy days, a stroll home was appealing, but not after a four hour transit meeting in Boston and with gray slush soaking into his loafers.

As he pulled his keys from his pocket in the vestibule, ready to open the door to the lobby, tires crunched on the asphalt outside and he turned to see a mail truck pulling up. He pushed open the vestibule door and got ready to greet Doris–she’d been his mail lady for ten years, so she deserved a smile even if Kevin’s toes were numb. But instead of his compact, South Asian mail lady, he was surprised to see a man in a postal uniform standing on the sidewalk, tall, dark, and–well, attractive. He was staring at the front of the building, glancing down at the mail in his hands and back up again.

“Hi,” said the man. “This is 210 Washakum Avenue, right?”

Kevin nodded. “Yes, the two fell off the sign last week and nobody’s been by to fix it.” He wasn’t sure why he’d felt the need to explain and wished he hadn’t.

The man grinned, showing very white, very even teeth. They looked even brighter against his short beard and light brown skin, which even in December was a few shades warmer than Kevin’s ever got. “Great. I’ve got a couple packages here, and I really didn’t want to leave them out in all this wet.”

“Yeah,” said Kevin. “Um.” He glanced behind him at the door to his building’s lobby, feeling unaccountably flustered. “Doris usually leaves them inside. Is she not in today?”

The man nodded. “She took the day off, so I’m helping out. I can’t believe they approved the time. December’s usually a no-go for leave, you know? Busiest season for Santas like me and Doris.”

“I bet.” Kevin pushed the door open. “Here, I won’t let the door lock you out.”

“Oh, I’m sure Doris left me a key somewhere,” said the man. “Don’t want to hold you up. I’m helping deliver packages for my overtime, and I’m still learning the town.” He paused. “I’m Awais, by the way.”

“Kevin,” said Kevin. “And it’s fine. I’m happy to hold the door. I’m in no rush.”

“McNamara? Kevin McNamara, is that right?” asked Awais.

“How did you guess?”

Awais grinned again, this time showing a dimple in one cheek, barely visible under his close-trimmed beard. “You’ve got a package, man.”

Kevin swallowed as Awais gathered a tub of packages in his arms and brushed past him into the lobby. The door wasn’t wide and neither was the lobby. He set the tub on the floor and knelt beside it. His slacks hugged his thighs: they seemed tighter than the usual postal cut as he bent over. And was the foyer suddenly warm?

“Let’s see.” Awais dug in the tub, setting a few packages aside. Kevin stood awkwardly, still holding the door. Dropping it would be rude, and it would trap them together in the small space, but he’d been holding it open for what felt like a long time. “Okay. Here we go!” He pulled out a large manila envelope, stacked the rest of the packages back in the tub, and rose to his feet gracefully. He was slender, Kevin noticed, but his shoulders were broad enough that the small space was awkward with both of their nearly six foot frames crowding it. “Here,” said Awais, holding it out.

Kevin took it. His fingers brushed Awais’s, shockingly warm against his own chilled ones. “Thanks,” he said, putting a bit of his usual charm in his smile. He knew the effect it had on people, and maybe it would counteract the incredibly weird impression this guy was getting of him.

Awais smiled back. “No problem. Gift for the wife?”

Kevin blinked. “Um, no,” he said, flummoxed. “I’m single.” Divorced, he’d meant to say. But it was too late to correct himself without drawing attention to it.

Awais’s eyes widened for the briefest moment, then his smile stretched even further. He winked. “Well, the ladies are missing out then.” He slung his satchel back over his shoulder, brushing past Kevin again where he was standing, still holding the door like a chump. He smelled like snow and woods and a little bit of sweat. Kevin decided to pretend he hadn’t just smelled the guy. He couldn’t help it in the hot, steamy foyer.

Through the glass, Awais climbed back in his truck, slid the door closed, waved, and pulled away.

Kevin looked down at the envelope. He didn’t even remember what he’d ordered. He took a step backward and winced at the squelch. He’d completely forgotten about his soaked shoes.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Valentine is a latecomer to writing, though she’s always been a passionate reader. Through fanfiction she found her way to an incredible community of writers who’ve taught her to love making stories.

When she isn’t writing, she’s making bad puns, yelling about television, or playing with her small child.

Her life’s ambition is to eat the cuisine of every single country. Follow Valentine on Twitter

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Release Blitz: A Little Fairy Dust Anthology by Mell Eight @MellEight @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: A Little Fairy Dust

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/04/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 141700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, betrothed, Brownies, disabilities, fairy godmother, fairy tales, folklore, genderfluid, knights, magic/magic users, men with children, military/soldiers, psychic, psychic ability, royal ball, royalty, shifters, soulmates, sweet, teacher, war, wedding, wizards

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Description

Nine tales of magic, love, and a little fairy dust: A military posting at the Rapunzel Tower to avoid war in The Tower; a Brownie that just wants to do something right in Cleanly Wrong; a dream of love unfulfilled in A Heart’s Dream; saving the victims of an evil witch in The Red Apple Witch; a boy who just wants to go to the ball in Cinder-Elle; a cursed kingdom and search for lost love in The Curse; a thief and his fairy godparent with different ideas about love in Happily Ever After; a lightning strike, a lost egg, an ancient battle, and love at first spark in Thunderbird; and a prince trapped, knowing his true love will never save him in The Beast.

Excerpt

A Little Fairy Dust
Mell Eight © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Excerpt from the first story, The Tower
“And now, Prince Haines will pick the person who will be honored with the Rapunzel Posting!” General Darien called out loudly, his parade voice easily carrying over the noise of a few hundred men and women enjoying the annual feast. The room immediately quieted. Every year the officers and select few enlisted who were receiving an honor came together for a thank-you and award ceremony, but only every seven years was the Rapunzel Posting awarded.

Ishiah watched as Prince Haines stood from his place on the dais, where all the highest officers had been seated for the ceremony, and walked around the table until he was standing in front of the plinth holding a golden bowl. The bowl was easily deep enough for a baby to bathe, solid gold, and encrusted on the outside with gemstones, and it matched Prince Haines’s outer appearance perfectly. Haines had golden-colored hair he kept pulled back from his face with a ruby-colored ribbon. His hand, as he lifted it above the bowl and hesitated there as if to drum up more drama, had a gemstone ring on every finger.

Those in the room held their collective breath as Haines dipped his fingers into the golden bowl. For the last seven days, the plinth and bowl had been standing in the entrance to the officers’ mess hall where any officer interested in the Rapunzel Posting could drop a slip of paper into it with their name on it. Ishiah had walked around that bowl before and after every meal for seven days straight. He hadn’t put his name in, but he hadn’t needed to. He was just as capable of reading the winds of his political fate as anyone else in the kingdom.

It was with no surprise to Ishiah that Haines pulled out a piece of paper and read out: “First Lieutenant Ishiah Fitzsimons!”

The room didn’t erupt into cheers as it would have for someone who actually wanted the post. Even the lowest enlisted man or woman in the room knew who Ishiah was. Fitz, meaning bastard child of royalty, and Simons, meaning the child of King Simon. Born to a mistress not even two months after Haines’s own birth, Ishiah was a constant reminder of the king’s infidelity to the political animals in the kingdom. He was also a second potential heir to the throne. With Prince Haines trying to solidify his status now that his wife was pregnant, Ishiah knew it was inevitable that he would be shuffled off somewhere. It was only a coincidence that the Rapunzel Posting had come due this year, and the convenience of it must have made changing all the slips of paper in the bowl to carry his name instead of the rightful candidates a worthy endeavor.

Ishiah stood from his seat at the back of the room and walked through the whispers and the tables toward the stairs that led up to the dais. He looked almost nothing like Prince Haines. Where Haines was golden, Ishiah was dark. His hair was black and was shaved tightly to his head on the sides according to military regulations, but he had allowed the wide strip on the top of his head to grow extremely long in the style of the eastern barbarians. The military allowed the enlisted barbarians to keep their ceremonial hairstyles or risk a potential uprising of the eastern territories, and many non-barbarian soldiers had chosen to copy them. Ishiah had originally done it to prove to the court that he was no prince—a prince wouldn’t dare emulate the barbarians—and had ended up liking the hairstyle enough to keep it. Tonight, his long hair was thickly plaited and the tail of the braid rested between his shoulder blades. His skin was tanned like his mother’s had been, the color of wet sand along the southern coast where his mother had been from before meeting King Simon. Only his eyes, gray shot through with blue streaks and wide in his face, proved his heritage. He shared his eyes with King Simon and Prince Haines.

Gray met gray as Ishiah climbed the stairs onto the dais and bowed to Prince Haines.

“Rise, soldier, and be honored,” Haines said loudly enough to be heard over the soft whispers of the gossipers that had begun to fill the room. “First Lieutenant Ishiah Fitzsimons, you have been honored with the posting in Rap Tower in the Zel Mountains. You hold this prestigious duty to guard our lands from the western invaders. For seven years, seven months, and seven days, you will be watching for any sign of the returning hoard, and you will be studying. The tower has been provisioned with every textbook needed so when your posting ends you will be prepared to take on the mantle of colonel and lead this army to victory!”

He paused and it took Ishiah a moment to realize Haines was waiting for a response.

“I am honored to be chosen,” Ishiah replied because that was the only thing he could say. “I will execute my duty faithfully and with diligence.” He bowed again.

“Then come, join me for a toast and some dessert.” Prince Haines gestured to the seat at the table that had remained ceremonially empty throughout the banquet. Ishiah walked over to it and stood behind the chair until Haines had retaken his seat. Ishiah sat and servants immediately entered the room bearing dessert trays.

“Congratulations, Lieutenant,” General Darien said from Prince Haines’s other side once the chatter around the room had risen enough that it would be difficult to hear what was being said on the dais. General Dairen was smiling at Ishiah, but there was a hard glint in his eye indicating he was aware of the political maneuvering that had gotten Ishiah the posting.

“Thank you, General,” Ishiah replied.

They fell silent as plates of cake and glasses of champagne were placed in front of them. Prince Haines lifted his glass first.

“To Lieutenant Ishiah, who I know will be the most successful officer to come out of the Rapunzel Posting.”

Those who could hear Haines also lifted their glasses in a toast. Ishiah took a long sip of the champagne, hoping to let the resentment he could feel bubbling up in his chest pop along with the bubbles in his drink. The dais was silent after that as they all applied themselves to their cake. Only once everyone else was distracted by other conversations did Haines fully turn toward Ishiah.

“I am sorry, Ish. I know this isn’t what you would have chosen,” Haines began, his voice soft so they wouldn’t be overheard.

“Of course it’s not, Hay,” Ishiah replied, his voice tight with the anger he was trying to keep suppressed.

Haines shook his head firmly as if he needed to brush away Ishiah’s feelings in order to finish what he had to say. “There were whispers at court. The malcontents unhappy with some of the policies Father and I have been implementing were talking about replacing us with you.”

“Hay, those whispers started the day father announced to the court that I was his child,” Ishiah replied, his anger making his words more of a growl than actual syllables. “Just admit that you’re scared and instead of coming to talk to me about a solution you hatched this scheme instead.”

“Fine!” Haines snapped, although his voice still managed to remain quiet. “Of course I’m scared. Victoria is three months pregnant and extremely vulnerable. I want my child to have a chance to be born, not murdered in the womb by some idiot who wants to put you on the throne instead of me. I only had a few options, Ish, to remove you as a threat. I could have killed you, of course, but that wasn’t an option I was willing to consider. Father suggested making you an ambassador to one of our trading partners across the ocean, but I know you would have hated that. Think about it, Ish. Seven years and you’ll come out of it a full colonel with a big enough salary and enough prestige you can settle down comfortably anywhere in the country. When General Darien suggested you as a good candidate for the posting, Father and I agreed.”

After seven years of being out of the spotlight of the court, Ishiah would be all but forgotten by the malcontents. Haines would have cemented himself as the heir and his child as next in line. And, if Ishiah chose to live somewhere far away from the capital after the posting was over, his status as bastard son of the king would be all but forgotten.

And all of it had been neatly thrust on him in a way that left zero room for his refusal.

It took a moment for Ishiah to bury his anger again. Raising a fist toward Prince Haines would get him put in jail, which would be even worse than being put in the tower for seven years.

“You still should have talked to me about it first,” Ishiah said once he was certain his voice could remain soft enough to keep their conversation private. “Instead of springing it on me like this. Treat me like a brother, Haines, instead of like the enemy you fear I’ll be turned into.”

“You’re right.” Haines let out a heavy sigh. “You are right,” he repeated. “Forgive me?”

Ishiah frowned at Haines for a long moment before sighing himself. “Eventually, Hay. Let me be angry for a little bit longer. I expect you’ll write me weekly and that my niece or nephew will start writing me as soon as they’re able.”

“I’ll write you, Father will write you, and I’ll make certain my child will write you. Ish, this posting is an honor, you know. We make sure not just anyone is picked for this. They have to be highly recommended by their peers and their superiors. If you hadn’t been, you’d be on a ship heading for an ambassador posting instead. Please, I know you didn’t want this, but be honored you are thought of so highly.”

“I will be, Hay. As soon as the anger and betrayal fade, I will be.” Ishiah cracked a tentative smile for Haines to show he meant it. “Besides, now you’re going to have to figure out someone else for the court gossips to focus their ire on. Who will be the next family scapegoat now that they don’t have my hair or the fact that I keep showing up to court events in my leather armor to harangue you over?”

“I’ll be certain to let you know who they pick and why,” Haines replied with his own hesitant smile.

Ishiah might be angry with him, but they were still brothers. They would get through this, and in seven years who knew what the political climate and their relationship would be like.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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Book Blitz: Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper #HolidayRomance @prowlingpiper

0 BANNER Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper Book Blitz

Welcome to Magic Pen Book Tours‘ organized book blitz for Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper taking place December 14-18, 2020!

Book Details

0 COVER Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper

Title: Holiday Magic
Series: Elwenswood Tales #1
Author: Alexa Piper
Release Date: December 18, 2020
Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Comedy, MMF Romance (LGBTQ)
Type: Novella
Publisher: Changeling Press

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Blurb

A hot vampire or a hot Elf? Charlie could choose… unless she makes both of them her lovers.

Charlie, the only non-witch in a family of witches, has resigned herself to the role of the black sheep who doesn’t fit in. She lives a normal, boring human life, interrupted only by the occasional family visit over the holidays.

But even a normal, boring human can run into a vampire. Hugo might just be the caring, protective, blood-drinking boyfriend Charlie never knew she needed, even if her family will disapprove.

Before Charlie and Hugo can even go on a proper date, Fae try to ruin Christmas, and Charlie finds herself confronted with her vampire boyfriend’s very hot Elven friend. The three of them will have to take a trip to Faerie to save Christmas before they can figure out who gets to kiss whom first.


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available now 1 Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper


Excerpt

The tram was climbing the part of New Elvenswood that had spread out over the sloping hills to the northeast. New Elvenswooders called it the Hills, Hillside, or even Upside. The valley, on the other hand, was usually just the Valley.

Charlie looked out the tram’s window. The November sky was hidden behind a lace-like veil of fog that gave the world a magical look. It pulled her mind toward fairy tales, toward Fair Folk on iridescent wings that made the holiday forests come to life with light and icy ornaments. Charlie looked away, looked down to the casserole of caramelized pears she had prepared for the Thanksgiving dinner. Magical. Though not for her.

Charlie had tried to worm her way out of spending Thanksgiving at her parents’ house, but her father and her mother had mounted a combined assault on their youngest daughter strong enough to render any lie of prior plans null and void. They had appealed to her emotions.

We hardly get to see you anymore, and you live just down in the Valley, her mother had said. You never come visit.

I’m almost done restoring that cabinet finally, and you promised you would help me, remember? Let’s do that over the weekend, her father had said.

In the end, Charlie had caved and agreed to come home for Thanksgiving dinner. She had determinedly not brought an overnight bag because she had no wish at all to stay the night, let alone the weekend, and spend it in her old room, her old bed, feeling like she had when she still lived at her parents’ house.

Charlie put the casserole down in the empty seat next to hers, fussed with her scarf and the suddenly itchy and too tight dress under it. Mom and Dad never make the twins feel that guilty, and they actually moved out of town.

The tram was almost empty, and Charlie got off at one of the last stops on this line, Oak Eaves. She readjusted her scarf again, pulled on her gloves, and stepped out of the warmth of public transport into the icy November air. It had started snowing just a couple of days ago, and here on the Hills, there was still a good amount more snow than back down in the Valley. Charlie crunched her way through the whiteness as the tram started speeding away past her. Her sighs turned into icy clouds.

“Miss! Excuse me?”

Charlie turned, and stared. “Ah, my pears!” One of the other passengers had her casserole dish in hand and was walking up to her.

“Sorry — you left this on the tram,” he said, and handed her the dish.

“Oh, thank you. You just saved me from embarrassing myself.” She looked after the tram, which was moving farther up the Hills. “Was this your stop?”

He had no cap on, no gloves either. His hair was dark and thick, already catching snowflakes like icing sugar, and there was laughter in his eyes. “No, not quite. But I’m afraid I had to get off to catch your attention.” He grinned. “Your mind seemed elsewhere.”

1 TEASER Holiday Magic by Alexa Piper

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Author Bio

Alexa PiperAlexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. She loves writing series, and her Fairview Chronicles follow a ragtag gang of supernaturals who try to make their city safer. Mostly. Her second series, Dusk & Dawn, explores banter and the trappings of a world in which Vampires, Werewolves, and the Fae live alongside humans.

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Release Blitz: Witch, Catch, and Cobb by J.K. Pendragon #LGBTQ #Fantasy @JKPendragon

Title: Witch, Cat, and Cobb

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 14, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 21700

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fae/fey/fairies/faeries, Fairy tales, Humorous, Magic/ Magic users, Mythical creatures, Witch, Arranged marriage, Royalty, Transgender, Transspecies, #ownvoices

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Synopsis

Destined for an arranged marriage she wants nothing to do with, Princess Breanwynne decides her only option for escape is to run away. After announcing this plan to her trusted cat, Fen, she’s shocked when he asks that she take him along.

Following his suggestion to venture into the lair of the Swamp Witch begins a life-altering adventure and reveals shocking information that will lead to more than one happily ever after—if she and Fen survive.

Excerpt

Witch, Cat, and Cobb
J.K. Pendragon © 2020
All Rights Reserved

I was not accustomed to swamps.

I had been warned about the dangers of swamps, of course, as all children were, and knew the likelihood of traversing the swamp without grave peril befalling me was dismally low. But somehow, in the course of plotting my grand escape, I hadn’t given that fact as much thought as I should have. And to pay for it, I was knee-deep in muck with a cat’s claws digging painfully into my shoulders.

“Don’t make any sudden movements!” said Fen, digging his claws even deeper into my shoulder until I was certain he had latched onto my bone. “It’ll only make it worse.”

“Make it worse?” I screeched at him. “How could this possibly be worse?”

Fen released his front claws from my neck and placed them gently on my head, “I’ve heard about this sort of ground. If I’m right, it’ll be a few hours before it’s swallowed you whole. Whoops!” He had jumped up onto my head, his back legs scrambling over my ear and causing me to shout in pain as his claws grazed me.

“Ouch!”

“Shh, I’m balancing.” He turned delicately on my head and crouched, wiggling his backside for good measure. “Anyway, you don’t know what sort of creatures you’re likely to attract, making so much noise.” He jumped, shoving me deeper into the muck as he did so, and caught a branch, scrambling up and then perching deftly to look down at me. His normally tawny fur was black in silhouette against the full moon, his eyes a green glint in the otherwise dark swamp.

“I should never have trusted you,” I said, glaring up at him. “You’ve led me to my death!”

“I haven’t!” called Fen, sounding offended. “Anyway, you agreed the swamp was the best choice because no one would come looking for us!”

“And no one will find us even if they do!” I squeaked.

“Hush.” Fen took a step forward, and the tree shifted as he arched his back, swaths of witch’s hair dipped into the muck next to me. He took another step forward, and the branch swayed and bowed downwards. “There, see? Grab that.”

I did so, tangling my fingers in the greasy mats. My shoulders shook as I pulled hand over hand to drag the lower half of my body out of the muck. I was glad I had thought to change into my riding breeches before leaving the castle. Fen made a very un-catlike screech and raced up the tree as it buckled further under my weight.

At last I managed to pull myself up and crawl over to where I hoped the ground was more solid. I let go, falling to the forest floor with a whump and sat, collecting myself. Fen landed lightly on my shoulder, and I hissed at him, causing him to scuttle away and behind the tree.

“Don’t do that,” he said presently, his voice muffled by the leaves and bracken. “Show some gratitude.”

“Right,” I said, standing and attempting to brush myself off as best I could. I was also not accustomed to being quite so dirty. “Thank you for saving me from the peril you yourself put me in.”

“You are the one who wanted to run away, Princess, if I might remind you.” Fen emerged from behind the tree and trotted up to me, jumping deftly back onto my shoulder. “I simply agreed to help you out.”

“You think I don’t know that you’ve got some sort of ulterior motive?” I asked him as I began to walk again, keeping a wary eye out for more of the muck I’d sunken into.

“What ulterior motive could I possibly have?” said Fen. “I’m a cat.”

“A talking cat, I might add. Who waited for how many years, twenty? To decide to reveal that fact to me, and not until I had mentioned I might be thinking of running away to the swamp. Why?”

“I liked the sound of it.”

“You liked the sound of this?” I gestured to the seething wet darkness around us and stopped walking. “No, tell me immediately.”

“Hmph,” said Fen. “If you must know, I’m not really a cat.”

“Fen, I’ve been undressed in front of you!”

“Oh, don’t be so full of yourself, Princess.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

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New Release: The Pronographer’s Apprentice by Lisabet Sarai #Steampunk #LGBTQ

New Release!

The Pornographer’s Apprentice

The Toymakers Guild, Book 1

By Lisabet Sarai

Steampunk Erotica, MF, MM, MFM, FF, etcetera…

70,000 words, 256 pages

Smashwords and Amazon KDP

ISBN (Smashwords): 9780463069967

ASIN: B08MWMZZGP

In prudish, patriarchal Victorian England, nineteen year old prodigy Gillian Smith finds a secret society dedicated to the erotic arts. She’ll need both her intellect and her physical charms to earn the permanent position she craves.

Inspired by a salacious catalogue found in her deceased uncle’s library, she applies for an apprenticeship with the Toymakers Guild. The Guild fabricates bespoke sexual artifacts for the private pleasure of select clients – an occupation for which Gillian, with her technical abilities and her lascivious temperament, is eminently suited.

The other apprentices, initially skeptical about a female engineer, become enthusiastic supporters once they’ve tested her erotic aptitude. The voluptuous Governing Director, and the dashing French journeyman likewise help expand her carnal repertoire. The final decision, however, rests with the reclusive Master Toymaker, who has been missing for nearly two years.

When an unscrupulous nobleman sets up a competing enterprise, he threatens not only the livelihood of the Guild’s members but their lives as well. Gillian hatches an audacious plan to entrap the villain, save the Guild, and leave the absent Master no choice but to grant her heart’s desire.

If you like steam punk erotica with a kinky feminist bent, you’ll love The Pornographer’s Apprentice.

Purchase Links

Kinky Literature – https://www.kinkyliterature.com/book/8424-the-pornographers-apprentice-the-toymakers-guild-book-1/

Amazon  US – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08MWMZZGP

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08MWMZZGP

Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1053072

Barnes and Noble – Coming Soon

Kobo –  Coming Soon

Add on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55857159-the-pornographer-s-apprentice

A Life Long Love Affair

I’ve always felt an affinity for the Victorian period. I was wearing high-necked blouses with cameos, long flowing skirts, and lace-up boots in my teens, long before they were fashionable. (The corsets came later…!) With my long hair parted in the middle and pulled back into a bun, I could well have been one of the heroines in the books I loved so much.

I was also a science geek from my earliest days. I received my first microscope when I was five, and my first chemistry set at seven. I entered every science fair. In seventh grade, I won grand prize on a televised science quiz show.

So it’s hardly surprising I’ve become a devotee of steam punk. I’ve been in love with this strange meld of science fiction and Victoriana for as long as I can remember – long before steam punk even had a name.  When I was in high school, I devoured H.G. Wells and H. Rider Haggard, and shared a Sherlock Holmes obsession with my dad. Later, I marveled at Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age and more recently, I discovered Gordon Dahlquist’s incredible The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters

I’ve written a number of steam punk short stories for anthologies, as well as a full length novel, Rajasthani Moon. All these tales, though, were set in Asia rather than in the British Isles. I think I was afraid I’d make errors my UK readers would notice if I tried setting a story in Queen Victoria’s home country. In my latest steam punk release, The Pornographer’s Apprentice, I finally bit the bullet and wrote an English steam punk novel. I had a lot of help with details from my critique group at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association, but of course I take responsibility for any residual mistakes.

I just hope you’ll find the story so exciting, you won’t notice them!

EXCERPT

Gillian stepped into a vast space, two storeys high, luxuriously panelled in dark wood. Excitement made her heart race. The place was like something from a dream.

Overhead, a dome of leaded glass bathed the room in daylight. At the second storey level, a semi-circular gallery followed the curving walls, reachable from a stair to her left. Arrayed on the wall to her right was a dazzling collection of pliers, metal snips, tweezers, wrenches, hammers, drills, clamps, vices, springs, glass tubes, rubber piping, brass flanges, hydraulic cylinders, coils of wire, switches and dials, gauges and meters—every sort of tool and part she’d ever encountered as well as many that were unfamiliar.

On the far wall hung parts of another sort: hands, fingers, feet, splayed thighs, open mouths, as well as phalluses of varied proportions. She could not determine the materials from across the room, though some of the models looked startlingly life-like. Her diligent studies of the catalogue suggested some might be fashioned of leather, others from India rubber.

Several large workbenches filled the centre of the room, each cabled with its own electric lighting fixture dangling from a rack above. Ian and Archie huddled together at the closest table, peering through a magnifier at a mess of wiring.

“Mr. Burns! Mr. Fawcett! Let me officially introduce our new apprentice. This is Gillian Smith.”

Archie looked up, startled. “What? You accepted a girl?”

“Provisionally.” Amelia frowned at the florid young man. “Subject to the Master’s final approval. Meanwhile, I expect you to welcome her, introduce her to our procedures and processes, and put her to work.”

“I’ll put her to work, for sure,” Ian muttered.

“What did you say, Mr. Burns?”

“Um, nothing, ma’am.”

The director stepped closer to the contraption on the bench. “Is this the circuitry for the Marlborough device?”

Ian swallowed. “Yes, ma’am.”

“And do you have it functioning yet?”

“Almost,” Archie volunteered. “Just one more small problem to fix, and we’ll be ready to test.”

“Indeed.” She scrutinised the web of copper strands for several minutes, then turned to Gillian. “Perhaps you can assist them, Miss Smith. They appear to be somewhat out of their depth.”

Apparently feeling that this was sufficient instruction, Mrs. Featherstone headed for the door, but she paused exiting. “I shall see you all at dinner. And I shall expect a full report on your progress. Do you understand?”

“Of course, Mrs. Featherstone,” the young men chimed in unison.

Gillian just grinned.

Ian and Archie wore glum expressions in the wake of Amelia’s departure.

“So what’s the problem?” Gillian asked.

“You know about electrical stuff?” Archie asked.

“To some extent. My father taught me the basics.”

“Main motor’s not getting power,” said Ian.

“Or else the motor itself is defective,” countered Archie.

“Impossible. I’ve built a dozen motors with this design.”

“Well, I’ve successfully wired at least two dozen dildos.” Archie grimaced in Gillian’s direction. “He does mechanical, mostly. I do electrical. How about you?”

“I have some experience with both types of work, though my speciality is mathematics and logic.” She stepped closer to the circular magnifier.  “Might I take a look?”

“Be our guest,” said Ian. “We are well and truly stuck.”

Under the lens, every detail of the circuitry became clear. In fact, the design was quite elegant, the layout logical and precise. She scanned the interwoven wires, focusing on their connections. In thirty seconds, she had located the fault.

“There,” she said. “Between pins fourteen and fifteen. The solder is not adhering.” Backing away, she let Archie look.

“By Jove, you’re right.” A smile lit his boyish face. “Thank you!”

“May I try fixing it? Just for practice?”  She added a bit of softness to her voice, a tentative quality that did not reflect her true nature. The last thing she wanted was to intimidate the other apprentices.

“Why not?” said Archie gallantly. “If you have trouble, I can take over.”

About Lisabet

Lisabet Sarai became addicted to words at an early age. She began reading when she was four. She wrote her first story at five years old and her first poem at seven. Since then, she has written plays, tutorials, scholarly articles, marketing brochures, software specifications, self-help books, press releases, a five-hundred page dissertation, and lots of erotica and erotic romance – over one hundred titles, and counting, in nearly every sub-genre—paranormal, scifi, ménage, BDSM, GLBT, and more. Regardless of the genre, every one of her stories illustrates her motto: Imagination is the ultimate aphrodisiac.

You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads, Pinterest, and  Twitter. Join her VIP email list here: https://btn.ymlp.com/xgjjhmhugmgh

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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Release Blitz: Liquid Courage by Stephanie Shea #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance @Stephan98794910 @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Liquid Courage

Author: Stephanie Shea

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: November 23, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 85800

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, new-adult, coming out, college, dark, friends to lovers, soulmates, slow burn/UST

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Synopsis

Alexandria Van Kirk has always been a slave to her romantic nature. When a night of liquid courage lands her in bed with one of her best friends, Alex is confronted by a host of feelings that terrify her. Feelings about her friend and, unexpectedly, a barista from her favorite café.

It’s a tug of war between heart and body. Desire against all her daydreams of someone to share silence, sunsets, and coffee with.

But Alex’s past is also about to catch up with her. Tortured memories and the girl they’re all about. It’s like fighting the pull of a whirlwind. A surefire losing battle. But embracing a newfound romance amid the return of an old flame is a precarious balance, one not even Alex herself is sure she can manage.

How the hell does she choose between the girl she loves and the one she could never confess loving to begin with?

Excerpt

Liquid Courage
Stephanie Shea © 2020
All Rights Reserved

It had been brewing for weeks.

No.

Months.

Alex supposed it didn’t matter how long. Tensions between her and Ryan had reached a boiling point. Her body thrummed with quiet unease as vodka scorched down her throat and seeped through her veins. She shouldn’t have been drinking this much. What had she eaten? A few chips and maybe half a dozen gummy bears? No wonder the liquor had gone to her head so fast. It was sort of a nice buzz though—enough for her to feel a little less inhibited but still be aware the creepy guy she’d met earlier had been trying to talk her into a dark corner for the last ten minutes.

She leaned against the doorframe, gaze weaving through the mass of sweaty bodies dancing in the living room to land on Ryan.

Ryan tossed her head back in a laugh, grinding on some random guy who was more than happy to have his hands all over her. Her red, ruched dress rode up her thighs with every move. She flipped her jet-black hair and swept it all to one shoulder as her eyes landed on Alex, a smirk lingering on her lips.

Alex’s skin prickled with sweat.

Maybe it wasn’t the vodka.

Maybe it was the fact that Dom had crammed more than fifty people into a house meant to accommodate three for the riot he called a birthday party. God knows Alex didn’t go to these things for fun, but Dom was her oldest friend. She loved him way too much to not show up for his birthday, even if she was as close as any technology-obsessed millennial to becoming a hermit.

The guy—what did say his name was?—leaned closer, pulling her attention to his gangly, unattractive form. “So, do you want to maybe take a walk down to the park?” He stared at her expectantly, sweaty red strands of hair clinging to his forehead. As if she was going to be lured into the park at midnight to be groped by some guy who resembled a ’90s crackhead.

“Do you know what Einstein’s definition of insanity is?” she asked.

“No. But being this close to you definitely drives me crazy.”

Alex rolled her eyes, pushing him out of her personal space. A spot to herself to wait out the night. That’s all she needed. The one she’d been standing in had been perfect. Until now. Her gaze flittered across the room where Ryan had been dancing only to land on strange faces. “Damn it.” She started forward and bumped her way through the teeming living room toward the kitchen.

Nothing.

Doubling back, she tried scanning every five-feet-something girl who had dark hair. It hadn’t occurred to her before how many girls fit the criteria. Still, it would only take seconds to process that this girl’s hair was a few shades too light; that one’s skin wasn’t pale enough. Another was wearing a nearly identical dress, but the arch of her back didn’t seem quite right. Ry had a bigger ass.

Alex halted at the sight of Ryan sitting hunched over in a loveseat across the living room. She pushed her way through the dancefloor. “Ry?” Alex tilted her head slightly. “What’s wrong?”

Ryan peered up, eyes glossy and gleaming as she grinned at Alex. “Nothing.” Her head fell to her lap again.

Alex drew her brows together. Nothing really appeared to be wrong with Ry besides her being a little tipsy and possibly playing an adult version of peek-a-boo. She slid into the free space on the couch and shifted at the press of Ryan’s thighs against hers. Proximity wouldn’t do much to resolve her internal conflict. It sure didn’t soothe the thought that even sitting there with this thing between them still simmering was a terrible idea. She forced it down. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I told you. It’s nothing.”

“Ry…come on.” Alex nudged her, pressing her forehead to the side of Ryan’s face to provoke her into lifting her head again.

“I got a little light-headed. I’m better now.”

“Promise?”

Ryan turned her head, her lips brushing against Alex’s. “Promise.”

Alex’s breath caught, her pulse climbing. The heat… It wasn’t the vodka or the party being too crowded. It was them. A million red lights went off in her head. Ryan was one of her best friends. Risking that would be stupid and impulsive, and they’d both had too much to drink.

Ry dragged in a deep breath, and their lips brushed again, and Alex’s hesitance burst into spectrums of green. She leaned forward, taking Ryan’s lips in a gentle kiss. Slow, timid almost, as if they were both afraid to react too much. To react more than the other.

Was it good or bad that Ryan had kissed her back? Even with all the weird tension between them, she’d never imagined how acting on it would feel. Some lines weren’t meant to be crossed. Now that she had, she craved more of Ryan’s lips on hers—soft and yielding.

They jerked apart as a girl bumped into them, spilling the last few drops of her drink onto Ryan’s lap. The girl giggled and offered a barely coherent “Sorry” as she stumbled away.

Ryan stood, Alex following as Ryan weaved her way through the crowd almost aggressively, forcing people out of the way with her hands to clear a path.

“Ry!” The music smothered Alex’s attempt.

Ryan rounded the corner at the end of the hallway leading out of the living room.

Alex quickened her steps. As she rounded the bend too, she noticed Dom’s bedroom door had been opened. She took a tentative step inside. “Ry? Are you in her—”

The door slammed, and Alex turned. Ryan backed into it with a thud, pulling Alex against her, their lips pressed against each others. Alex’s hands found Ryan’s hips, and she squeezed. Everything from her grip to the way her teeth latched onto Ryan’s bottom lip was a confession. There’d be no stopping now. Not unless Ryan came to her senses and pulled away. Deep down, Alex was pleading for that to happen before things went too far, before their bodies admitted every word their lips refused to speak.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read Universal Link

Meet the Author

Stephanie Shea is a self-proclaimed introvert, who spends her days as a banker daydreaming of becoming a full-time novelist. Her mind’s fixation on characters and plotlines date back to high school when she’d find herself scribbling notes on her first novel instead of paying attention in calculus. These days, she reaches for a Post-It in her desk when inspiration strikes.

Her favorite things include binging tv shows, creating worlds where no character is too queer, broken or sensitive, and snacks. Lots of snacks.

Someday, she hopes to curb her road rage, and get past her anxiety over social media and author bios. Find her on Instagram.

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All Wrapped Up by Willa Okati, Lacey Savage, and Emma Ray Garrett #BDSM #romancebooks @willaokati @laceysavage @Emma_Ray_G

Alien Space Marines, a celebrity photographer, and a pair of vampires find their perfect mates on the dark side of the night.

Chain of Three by Willa Okati: Mix two alien Marines, a human BDSM Master, and a shapeshifting Empress with a mind of her own, and what do you get? A whole lot of trouble. It’s a three-way battle for dominance, and the Empress knows something she’s not telling…

Naked Exposure by Lacey Savage: When savvy celebrity photographer Deidre Laxon trespasses on private property in pursuit of hot Hollywood bachelor Greg Radigan, she has no idea she’s about to capture him in all his naked glory participating in some very explicit BDSM play. When Greg and Deidre finally come face-to-face, he’s ready to exact revenge. And nothing short of Deidre’s complete submission will satisfy him…

Torqued by Emma Ray Garrett: Being a dominatrix gives Reliant Agent Pru Gordon perfect access to the Nightside she polices. And it lets her fulfill her fantasies at the same time. It’s the perfect life. Until the night she meets Gage Mills and Ro Thomas. When two of the darkest predators around meet up with the best Controller alive, things are bound to get messy… Just what the Domme ordered.

Publisher’s Note: Please note that not all genres and themes apply to the entire collection.

Get it today at Changeling Press

or Preorder for November 27th at online booksellers

Praise for All Wrapped Up Vol. 2

“This is the perfect book to have on hand when there’s only a short period of time to fill. Each story is a very satisfyingly quick read. I highly recommend this entertaining trio of tales.”— Susan P., The Romance Studio

EXCERPT

Excerpt from Chain of Three Willa Okati
All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Willa Okati

“So, you’re pretending to be a human again today, are you?”

Dane grunted in response. In his opinion, a stupid question didn’t deserve any kind of answer. Anyone with two, three, four or more eyes in their head or what they called a head ought to know better. Of course he’d shifted into human shape. He wasn’t stupid.

The Empress hadn’t exactly ordered Her subjects to assume the images of the humans She adored and fell passionately in love with. However, anyone who wasn’t too dumb to come in out of the rain knew they’d better wear the right “uniform” unless they had an itch to annoy Her.

You really, really didn’t want to annoy the Supreme Commander of a thousand-plus starships and a million trained warriors.

Besides, he’d decided to lounge by the pond in the garden of his new quarters that morning and tentacles had a nasty tendency to develop vicious sunburn. “Getting a tan” the earthfolk they’d rescued from their doomed planet called this practice. They’d said it was relaxing and made them look more attractive to those they wanted to mate with.

No, those they wanted to fuck.

If Dane was going to play human, then he’d damn well get the details right. Mating and fucking were completely different concepts. One of the new traditions most of his countrymen and women liked best when it came to playing human was the idea of fucking without having to tangle themselves up in mating.

“Fuck.” An interesting word you could use in almost any sentence.

Dane paused for a second to appreciate the amazing range of human obscenities, otherwise called “swearing,” “cursing,” or “cussin’.” They worked great when a guy didn’t really know what else to say.

Speaking of which, Dane decided getting a suntan was probably a piss-poor waste of time. He couldn’t figure out why anyone would enjoy damaging the pigmentation of their skin by sitting in the sun all day, but as the earthfolk also said, what the hell? He didn’t have anything better to do. Not since he’d been “honorably” discharged from the military, sent back to their home planet for recuperation, and then…

Dane shuddered.

“Aww. He shivered. Izza baby boy cold?” Julian taunted in American English.

Raising the middle finger of his human-shaped hand, Dane pointed it where he figured Julian would be standing. Another handy earthfolk trick, cussing with hand signals.

Julian hooted. “Up yours too!” He made the suggestion in cheerful good humor. Probably purely for the sake of annoying Dane. He never took offense at anything Dane did. He treated every barb and sting like some big game. Prick. “You’re cranky today, old man. What flew up your ass?”

Dane grunted again as his only answer, deciding if that wasn’t good enough for Julian he could go screw himself.

Mmm. He really, really loved human profanity. So rich, depending on culture, and so satisfying. He and Julian both studied the underground lists of new phrases together to figure out what they meant, bitching at each other over who got to read first if they didn’t both have a copy. The time when Julian insisted “son of a bitch” meant the same thing as “son of a motherless goat” had resulted in a fight of amazing violence and duration.

In the end, the Empress Herself gave them a tongue-lashing of Her own and sent them to their rooms to stand with their noses in the corner until they learned to behave like men, not children.

Julian’s fault, in Dane’s opinion. Dumbass.

ABOUT WILLA OKATI

Willa Okati is made of many things: imagination, coffee, stray cat hairs, daydreams, more coffee, kitchen experimentation, a passion for winter weather, a little more coffee, a whole lot of flowering plants, genderfluidity, and a lifelong love of storytelling. She is definitely one of the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Favorite story types include: friends to lovers, reunited lovers, enemies to lovers, mpreg, polyamory, medical romances, Regency/Edwardian/WWII historical romances, and romantic comedies.

ABOUT LACEY SAVAGE

Award-winning author Lacey Savage loves to write about her dreams — or more specifically, she loves to breathe life into her steamy fantasies (and she’s got plenty!). She pens erotic tales of true love and mythical destiny, peopled with strong alpha heroes and feisty heroines. A hopeless romantic, Lacey loves writing about the intimate, sensual side of relationships. She currently resides in Ottawa, Canada, with her mischievous husband and their loving cat.

ABOUT EMMA RAY GARRETT

“…and I — I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

-The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

The last line from award-winning author Emma Ray’s favorite poem pretty much sums up her life. Her tendency to do her own thing is what her friends and family love best, and least, about her. Chaos is a constant in the Garrett home, which currently houses her intelligent, energetic children, a devoted husband, a very large, very lazy, white tom-cat, a very crazy, very small black cat, and a very happy, very healthy rescue pooch — who’s black and white.

New Release: Werewolf’s Choice by Emily Carrington #LGBTQ #Shifters @CarringtonEmily

Werewolf society has little tolerance for a lone wolf like Don, a man with a complicated past. Denied safe haven everywhere except SearchLight, it’s hard for him to learn to trust, yet pack life calls to his wolf nature.

When two basilisks offer a chance at romance, Don refuses to accept anything more than a physical relationship. Will his stubbornness get him and his new partners killed?

Available November 13th at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Emily Carrington

For Don Sanderson, disabled werewolf, life couldn’t have been better.

He was three thousand miles from the pushy alpha werewolves of Washington, DC. He was starting a new job. And life was just great in general. He’d always wanted to travel and thought he’d never get the chance.

Mostly because of his wheelchair.

But here he was, rolling across the parking lot toward the carefully concealed entrance to the SearchLight Academy campus in California. It was early March and the whole of Death Valley was awash in wildflowers. The perfume in the air was glorious and he’d never felt so glad to be alive.

Well, all right, that was laying it on a bit thick. He recognized his desire, as a therapist, to be healthy and positive in his daily thoughts. This wasn’t perfect because Timothy wasn’t with him. Timothy, damn him, was gone.

Don paused to survey the flowers that crowded right up to the edge of the parking lot. He smiled. Come May or June, there wouldn’t be any flowers. The heat baking off the pavement could fry an egg. Or maybe even melt his tires. But for now, he was content to park outside instead of in the garage. He’d never thought to see Death Valley and get to celebrate its beauty.

Hell, he’d often thought he’d be under the flowers instead of surveying them. Werewolf culture had little tolerance for a lone wolf, and yet they didn’t want him to be part of a pack either. Disabled in more ways than one, he wasn’t desirable. Yet, they couldn’t just leave him be because “lone wolves are dangerous, ravenous beasts and separated from society, they often go insane.”

He’d been raised on that truth, but he wasn’t insane. He had a pack, of sorts. He had SearchLight. It wasn’t the same, and he knew it. Being in a wolf pack, surrounded by your kind, was like being given a drink of water after days of thirst. There was something that called to a wolf’s soul when it came to pack living. But Don had been nicknamed. His full name was Donald. Nicknaming was disrespectful, and he’d been ostracized. No one wanted him.

Well, maybe dead, they wanted him. But only SearchLight could use his talents as he was now: a therapist capable of helping others heal.

He entered the hidden passage, taking the gentle slope down toward the heart of SearchLight’s new campus for students of all ages. There had originally been only one SearchLight campus, in Washington, DC. Now there was this second campus, in the Mojave Desert, shielded from humans and dangerous magical creatures alike.

He traveled through the whispering silence and smiled when the almost creepy stillness was broken by laughter. This place was so new everything practically squeaked. There weren’t any security officers here, not until June, and only some of the professors had reported. He was supplemental staff, and technically he didn’t have to be here until April first, but he’d been so very glad to get out of DC…

There was housing here, as there wasn’t in the nation’s capital. Being all underground and far from usual human habitation, it was easier to have apartments here than in the Panamint Mountains, which were relatively nearby. Soon, Don would be hiding his car inside because he wouldn’t be going anywhere. But today was his first day and he’d longed to be outside with the fifty other cars.

They were hidden from standard human perception by leprechauns magic and other concealment spells, but right now, the parking lot was simply another place for anyone to leave their vehicle because the whole national park was open to visitors. Hiding in plain sight was SearchLight’s favorite trick.

It was still early, barely eight o’clock. He wheeled his way down to the cafeteria, following the signs, and thinking that he’d love to have breakfast in his own apartment. Even well-prepared food, when it was mass-produced, tasted nothing like home cooking.

When he was finally in the cafeteria, he balanced a tray on his lap and rolled through the line. He was aware of people looking at him but that was okay. His right leg ended just below his knee. It was normal for people to steal little glances in his direction. He had two psychic senses even though most LGBTQ werewolves only had one. He could always tell when he was being watched, particularly with negative intent, and he was a telekinetic. He could have rolled along with the tray floating an inch or two off his lap, but why show off? He drew plenty of attention without that.

Reaching a table that was specially designed to allow a wheelchair to roll underneath, he smiled. He was one of two wheelchair-bound staff, and there might be students coming in with similar disabilities. Since Dr. Sowerby’s decree, two years gone, that all SearchLight Academy buildings must be ADA compliant, more and more disabled magical creatures had flocked to the school designed for, and catering to, magical creatures.

“Do you mind if we join you?”

He glanced up as he set his tray on the table. It was a female who had spoken, a female basilisk, and he rapidly searched through the list of names he kept in his head. He didn’t know all of the faculty at the SearchLight Academy back East, but he thought… “Ms. Vaughn?”

She blinked beautiful golden-brown eyes at him. “We’ve never met. How do you know my name?”

ABOUT EMILY CARRINGTON

LR Cafe’s Best of 2019 Awards Nominee: Best 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.

Emily Online: Facebook | Twitter