RELEASE BLITZ: Space Stars by Mell Eight #SciFi #LGBTQ #pornstar @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Space Stars

Author: Mell eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 37800

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, space travel, robotics, musicians, celebrities, established couple, spies, secret agents, nerds, scientists, porn star/sex industry

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Description

This book is two short stories with one thing in common—the stars in space shine brightly, whether you’re on planet or soaring on a ship.

Cole’s star is rising like a rocket as his band tours the galaxies to sing to their adoring fans. Except, Cole’s real job isn’t lead vocals—it’s espionage.

Tarle’s star fell long ago after a horrific accident during a mecha showcase event for his new robot. Then he meets Aster, a porn star on the run. Hiding away together is far more appealing than being alone, but no one can hide forever.

Excerpt

Space Stars
Mell Eight © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“They’re definitely building something dangerous,” J said to begin the meeting as he walked into the spacious, albeit bland, room. There weren’t any windows, and the only ornamentation on the white walls was from the holoprojector across the room. He faced a long table with six chairs around it. All six were filled with stone-faced men and women who turned toward J when he stopped walking at the head of the table.

J touched the control panel for the holoscreen to turn the machine on and pointed out the building construction clearly visible from the spy satellite holograph that appeared seconds later.

“Planets have new construction all the time,” P cut in as she pushed her glasses higher up her nose. “With growing populations it’s inevitable, and planet 501b is certainly growing.”

“Look here,” J said as he pointed to the upper right-hand corner of the three-dimensional picture. The projector obligingly zoomed in to the location.

“Ah,” P murmured as she sank back into her seat. “Building a crono-generator is another thing entirely. But what could it be for? They’ve never been a particularly peaceful people,” she said, referencing 501b’s penchant for starting wars over the merest of slights, “but they’ve never been crazy enough to build a crono-bomb before. That could create a black hole large enough to engulf an entire galaxy!”

“How long have you had this picture?” Y asked slowly while he carefully studied the crono-generator.

J sighed. “Long enough that officials on 501b have already captured and executed six of our spies during their investigations of this issue. That’s why this task force was called to meet today. We need to find a way to infiltrate 501b to figure out if they have any plans to attack.”

“They did threaten the galaxy president two months ago in response to the president’s comments against their most recent war,” P mused.

“It’s more dire than just that,” Y said in his slow and contemplative voice. “As you all know, 501b is not actually a planet. Planet 501 was uninhabitable; only its second moon, known by the locals as Kamura, could sustain human life.”

“Moon settlements are always in desperate need of water resources.” P gasped as the full picture finally came clear for her.

“Exactly,” J cut in. “Our planet, 214, also known as Lacustrine, is almost entirely comprised of freshwater lakes, which 501b dearly needs, and our intelligence says they’re interested in acquiring. I’m afraid they don’t have any qualms about what methods they use either. So, the question remains: How do we infiltrate Kamura in order to find more information and, if necessary, destroy their crono-generator before they’re capable of building the bomb?”

P’s phone went off, a pop song currently topping the charts sounding into the worried and contemplative silence left after that final statement. One frequency was all that could reach through the protections built into the meeting room, and P’s phone only went off in an emergency anyway, so no one begrudged her the time she took to walk into the corner and answer her phone.

She didn’t turn on the holograph card to speak face-to-face, which was no surprise considering the nature of her clients, and everyone in the room tried not to listen in when she murmured into the phone. They all had something much more important to think about anyway: the answer to J’s question.

After a few seconds, P returned to her seat. J looked around at the assemblage, waiting for someone to finally say something.

L slowly tapped her finger on the table, and everyone’s attention turned to the elderly woman. L didn’t speak often, but when she did, they listened. This time was no different.

“We must use an unconventional means to sneak our spy in, and I do believe P’s impromptu phone call has given me an interesting idea. Popular music stars are welcomed across all galaxies. Often, they are begged to hold a performance on various worlds. We should put together a band, make them famous, and arrange for them to travel to 501b.”

J joined the others in giving L perplexed looks, but a smile slowly began to grow across his face. The idea was extremely farfetched, yet the very thought of how crazy a plan L had come up with decided him. If he didn’t think the idea viable, then how could anyone on 501b have plans to prevent it?

“That…” He paused to savor the idea a little further. “That is the most perfect plan I have ever heard.” He turned to the other members of the council. “What do we need to do to accomplish this?”

“A band, first of all,” P murmured. “That means at the very least a singer, a guitar player, a bass player, and a drummer if we want something conventional.”

“They’ll need a hit song,” Y added. “And a full album.”

“And good publicity,” P agreed. “I can get them a spot on the Morning Mumble, which will put them into the limelight, but the band has to be capable of proving their abilities, or they’ll go nowhere afterward.”

“So first we need a band,” J stated. “Any suggestions on who we could hire? We need people with musical talent, so we may have to go outside our regular recruits for this one.”

P nodded immediately. “The Star Slashers recently broke up and their drummer is pretty good. He also played for the Black-Hole Surfers,” she added when she received only blank looks. The Star Slashers had never been destined for greatness, but the Black-Hole Surfers had been legendary up until their singer and lead guitarist had overdosed on poorly cut and excessively laced Star Shine and the band dissolved. “His name is Kingsley,” she finished with a smile, “and he’s from this galaxy, so he’d probably be willing to work with us.”

J hummed thoughtfully. “We’ll start background checks on this Kingsley. Any other suggestions?”

L leaned forward with a groan. “I have a grandchild who promised me he would become a rock god by the time he turns thirty,” she said with quite a bit of exasperation in her voice. Her son worked for the agency, and she evidently expected her grandchild to do so as well. That didn’t seem to be in her grandson’s plans. “Solomon plays guitar and his mother tells me he’s quite good. I suppose if the ambition is present, we could give him this opportunity.”

“We have guitar and drums,” J said. “Any suggestions for the other roles? Can you think of any trained recruits we could call in to take the major roles in this operation?”

“It’s not a suggestion,” P cut in, “but we have to find a singer who is pitch-perfect without modifications or he won’t make it. We can’t just pull anyone from our basic training program and implant electronic vocal cords.”

“This is going to be an interesting search, then,” J said with a sigh. Not only did they need a band, but they also needed to find someone who could infiltrate the secret facilities on 501b without getting caught. It wasn’t going to be easy.

The meeting broke up soon afterward. P was the first person to rush out, her phone in hand. Whatever emergency she’d been called about must have been important. Considering P’s clients…well, J hoped there wasn’t a galaxy about to implode somewhere.

Z was J’s colleague from the same agency. He hadn’t spoken during the meeting, but Z was notorious for pulling J aside later to voice his thoughts. J wasn’t surprised when Z joined him in his walk down the empty hallways of the building.

“I might have an idea for a bass player,” Z murmured in his usual half-audible tone. “She’s a spitfire though. Barely passed her basic training before she quit, so I’ve no idea if the girl would like the idea, or if she’s what we want for this mission.”

“Submit her name and have a background check run,” J replied. “We’ll find some way to convince her and…” He paused, his head cocked to the side. One hand flashed upward to grip Z’s arm. “Do you hear that?” he asked excitedly.

Z tilted his head to listen and slowly nodded. “It’s probably a radio someone left on.” He sighed. “But it won’t hurt to go see.”

They both turned the corner, following the sound of someone singing. The door to the men’s locker room was left partially ajar, and J pushed it open the rest of the way so he and Z could walk into the space. J expected to see a holodisk left on inside one of the recruits’ lockers, so he was surprised when a young man, fresh from the showers with his back to J and Z, had his head tilted back and his mouth wide open as he sang.

His tone was pure and clean—perfect.

He was drying his brown hair with a towel, his eyelids closed. His naked back was thin but well sculpted, although the loose pants he wore hid his lower body from J’s perusal. A pair of old-fashioned Coke-bottle glasses sat on the bench next to him.

There were two gyms attached to the locker room, one for the regular staff and one for the special recruits. This far into after-hours, only the special recruits had access. Whoever the man was, he piqued J’s interest.

J glanced over at Z and saw that Z was just as mesmerized by the beautiful singing. Z finally glanced back over and nodded. Whoever the recruit was, he was about to be given a new mission.

The singing stopped as the young man finally finished drying his hair. He put his towel down and patted his hand across the bench until he found his glasses. Then he turned around to find his shirt and jumped when he caught sight of J and Z.

“Sorry,” the young man said, his face rapidly going red as he ducked his head. He got to his feet in a hurry, finding parade rest with his feet even though he was staring at the ground instead of facing straight forward.

“Not at all,” J replied. He stepped closer to the recruit, studying him closely for a long moment, which only made his face grow even redder. “What are your vitals, recruit?” J finally asked.

“Name: Cole! Just finished basic training two days ago, sir!” Cole said sharply, even though he still wouldn’t look J directly in the face. He had been trained well, if not perfectly. “I haven’t been assigned to a vector yet, sir.”

J glanced over at Z after that admission. Normally recruits knew their vector location a good few months before the end of their training. He was also still using his full name rather than a code name, which he would have been given as part of his first vector assignment. Z nodded discreetly. He would start a background check on Cole to figure out what had prevented normal procedure in his case.

“Thank you, Cole,” J said with a dismissive nod. “We’ll be in touch.”

J and Z walked off, leaving behind the man who was to become their lead singer.

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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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RELEASE BLITZ: Music From Stone by Brenda Murphy #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance #BDSM @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Music from Stone

Series: University Square, Book Four

Author: Brenda Murphy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 07/05/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 67900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Romance, contemporary, family-drama, BDSM, interracial, lesbian, stone mason, concert pianist, stalker, PTSD, over 40, performance arts, visual arts

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Description

Celebrated concert pianist Nüwa Zhou had it all. Until she didn’t. Forced out of the closet while testifying at the kidnapping and murder trial of her obsessive former assistant turned stalker, she retires from the high-pressure world of performing to recover at her parents’ estate.

Stone mason, and frustrated sculptor Julia Johnson, spends her days stone building walls and patios while dreaming of quitting her day job.

After a chance encounter with Julia leads to more, Nüwa imagines a life with Julia. When her stalker returns, determined to kidnap Nüwa and end anyone who stands in his way, Nüwa will do whatever it takes to keep Julia safe, but will it be enough?

Excerpt

Music from Stone
Brenda Murphy © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“Who is Father talking to?” Nüwa Zhou stared out of the sliding door at the woman standing on the terrace, her short auburn hair a mass of curls that brushed the tops of her broad shoulders. Her stance was confident. Dressed in jeans and a T-shirt tight enough it drew Nüwa’s attention, she rested her hands on her hips across from Gerald Zhou. Her wide shoulders and sculpted arms tested the limits of the fabric of her shirt. Afforded the opportunity to stare openly, Nüwa savored the view, admiring the curves the woman’s loose jeans failed to conceal. Slightly taller than Nüwa’s father in her thick-soled work boots, the woman glanced back at the house. Nüwa held steady, confident the reflective window coating would hide her gawking.

“Former student. Inquiring about the cottage,” her mother called from the kitchen bar.

Nüwa tugged the belt of her robe tighter. “Early for a meeting.”

The not-so-subtle sound of her mother’s scoff drifted across the kitchen. Nüwa rested her chin on her chest. The unspoken scolding for sleeping late pricked Nüwa’s heart. A night owl born to a family of larks. Her sleep patterns had been her curse since childhood.

She lifted her gaze back to the scene outside.

Gerald Zhou stood close to the woman, occasionally gesturing to the yard and the firethorn maze covering the lower half of their estate. Wind pushed dark heavy clouds across the sky and a gust rattled the sliding door in its dull aluminum frame. He turned and pointed to the house. Nüwa stepped back and away from the glass into the shadows of the living room. She walked to the counter dividing the kitchen from the rest of the house.

“Have you eaten?” Her mother glanced up from her laptop screen.

Nüwa took a breath and blew it out. “Not hungry.”

A frown creased her mother’s sculpted eyebrows. “Don’t forget to eat.” Her gaze shifted to the window. “Your father needs to wrap it up. I don’t like the color of the sky.”

Nüwa perched on one of the stools at the counter and glanced at the sky. A green hue tinged the dark clouds. “It’s ugly.”

Fat drops of rain hit the glass as the peal of a weather warning spit out of her mother’s ever-present phone. Nüwa’s stomach twisted as adrenaline surged in her body. Storms were the worst. Lightning flashed. Nüwa placed her hands flat on the counter and started counting silently.

“Four. Not far away.”

The click of the computer keys increased. “I need to get these figures to Rowan.” Her mother continued to pound the keyboard as another flash of lightning lit up the kitchen with a sick yellow glare.

The skin on Nüwa’s arms prickled. The grate of the sliding door in its tracks sounded in the room a second before a crash of thunder rattled the house.

“Three.” Nüwa turned to the sliding door. “It’s moving toward us.”

“It’s crazy out there. Wait it out with us.” Gerald touched the arm of the woman from the terrace. “You remember my wife, Lian Tan? I don’t think you’ve met my daughter. Nüwa, this is Julia.”

“Hi Ms. Tan, nice to see you again. Nice to meet you, Nüwa.” Julia inclined her head to greet Nüwa’s mother before she turned and met Nüwa’s gaze.

Nüwa stared at Julia, the thin wet fabric of the T-shirt even more distracting now Julia was standing in front of her. “You’re wet.” Her face burned as soon as the words were out of her mouth. “I mean—” She scrambled around the end of the counter, snatched a clean dish towel from the basket next to the sink. “Here.” Nüwa held the towel out with both hands.

The tips of Julia’s fingers brushed the back of Nüwa’s hand as she took the towel from her. “Thank you.” She held Nüwa’s gaze for a moment, the hint of a smile twisting her lips before she dried her face.

Nüwa studied the tops of her house shoes and knotted her hands together as an awkward silence sucked the ease out of the moment. She crossed her arms over her chest, hugging herself, knowing she was acting weird, helpless to stop it.

The faint sound of a tornado siren spared Nüwa further torment.

“Basement.” Lian stood, tucked her laptop and a thick folder under her arm, before she walked to the end of the counter. She pressed the series of buttons under the countertop. The end of the cabinet slid aside revealing a stairwell. Gerald followed Lian.

Nüwa slid off the stool and followed her parents down the stairs leading to the storm cellar. She ducked her head as she entered the stairway. “Watch your head,” Nüwa called over her shoulder.

Heavy tread on the stairs behind her and the faint scent of lavender and sunscreen tickled Nüwa’s nose as Julia followed her to the safe room. Halfway down the steps, the lights flickered out, plunging the stairwell and room below into blackness.

“Damn it. Gerald, where did you put the lantern?”

“Use your phone.”

“Left it on the counter, and didn’t we talk about this? Use your phone.”

Her parents shifted their bickering to Mandarin. Nüwa prayed Julia didn’t understand as they devolved into one of their ongoing arguments.

Nüwa extended her hand behind her, and her fingers bushed the soft denim of Julia’s jean. “Take my hand. Stay close. The stairs turn here.”

Julia clasped her hand. Her broad callused palm rested against Nüwa’s hand. Nüwa led Julia down the stairs and toward the sound of her parents arguing. As they reached the bottom of the stairs the harsh light of an electric lantern flared to life, throwing twisted shadows over the walls.

Gerald closed off the door leading to the rest of the basement, sealing them in the long narrow windowless room. “There. Nüwa, lock the door behind you.”

Nüwa threw the deadbolt and sealed the door leading up to the kitchen.

Lian stood at the far end of the room, the glower on her face matching the ferocity of the storm. Arms crossed, she lifted her chin as she observed Nüwa and Julia. Her gaze landed squarely on their clasped hands.

Julia squeezed Nüwa’s hand once, then released it. “Thank you.”

Lian turned away from Nüwa, picked up a yellow wireless radio, and shoved it into Gerald’s hands. “Get the weather radio working.”

The echo of hail pelting the house increased in volume and drowned out Gerald’s reply. A roaring sound filled Nüwa’s ears, a steady hum. The hairs on her arm stood on end. Pressure in her ears increased to the point of pain and she swallowed, trying to clear them.

The ceiling over their head creaked and groaned as the vibration intensified. The house shook, rattling the shelves holding the food and water they kept stored in the small room. Nüwa wrapped her arms around herself to stop her trembling. Cans of food vibrated off the shelves and crashed to the floor, wrenching a cry from her, and she covered her eyes.

A warm hand settled on the middle of her back. Nüwa jerked away from the touch and bit down on her lip to stifle her yelp. The roaring increased, as if a train was bearing down on them. Nüwa dropped to her knees, covered her head with her arms, and folded herself into the smallest ball possible. The thin carpet over the concrete did nothing to ease her knees and sharp pain lanced through her. Her breathing was rough in her ears as her fear turned in on itself and drove every other thought from her mind. In the space of seconds, the patter of the hail softened, and the roaring stopped, leaving a heavy silence behind.

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Meet the Author

Brenda Murphy (she/her) writes erotic romance. Her most recent novel, Double Six, is the 2020 Golden Crown Literary Society winner for Erotic Novels, and Knotted Legacy, the third book in the Rowan House series, made the 2018 The Lesbian Review’s Top 100 Vacation Reads list. You can catch her musings on writing, books, and living with wicked ADHD on her blog Writing While Distracted. She loves sideshows and tattoos and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not loitering at her local library, she wrangles twins, one dog, and an unrepentant parrot

I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Turtle Bay by John Patrick #LGBTQ #historical @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Turtle Bay

Series: Tides of Change, Book Two

Author: John Patrick

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/28/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 85400

Genre: Historical, LGBTQIA+, gender-bending, cross-dressing, businessman, humor, law enforcement, political, PTSD, Postwar America, sexual discovery

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Description

It’s 1947, and New York City is awaiting the construction of the new United Nations building, the FBI is actively pursuing Communists and Soviet spies as the Cold War begins to build, and homosexual men have even more reasons to hide who they are.

Uptight FBI Agent Arthur Mason is so deep in the closet he doesn’t even realize he’s in one. Clueless about his own sexuality, he’s surprised at his reaction to both Hans Schmidt and his twin sister, Ada. Under pressure from work, Mason investigates Hans and his boarders, including the highly suspicious Hank Mannix, a known member of the Communist Party. Though Mason can’t seem to locate Ada, he can’t stop thinking about Hans and keeps going back to visit.

Hans Schmidt is a cross-dressing German immigrant running a boarding house for “a certain type of man,” and he wants nothing to do with Agent Mason and his ill-fitting suits and bad haircut. Until he begins to see Mason more as a man and less as a government official.

Hans enjoys dressing as a woman from time to time, and once his feelings for Arthur begin to change, he realizes he needs to share his Ada persona if they are to have a future together.

Secrets on both sides must be revealed and cherished beliefs challenged if these two men are to find the love and happiness they deserve.

This story can be read on its own; however, characters from book one, Dublin Bay, play a prominent role as secondary characters, so it’s recommended to read that first.

Excerpt

Turtle Bay
John Patrick © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Hans

Even after five years in America, Hans still startled every time the telephone rang—an abrupt, clanging sound insisting on attention. Why couldn’t a country capable of producing an atomic bomb be able to create a more discreet way of letting a person know about an incoming call? He vaguely remembered the phones in Ireland giving a soft chime first, before beginning to ring in earnest, but his time there had been short and chaotic, always one step ahead of capture, so he couldn’t be sure.

He didn’t remember the sound of telephones in Germany at all, even though he knew one hung on the wall in the university’s administration office. He pictured it there next to the corkboard but couldn’t reconstruct its sound.

He hoped the new dial telephone would have a more melodious tone. Assuming the phone company ever got around to swapping out his candlestick model for something more modern as they had been promising for months.

The telephone sat atop the counter in the small reception hallway. Hans swiveled his stool and picked up the entire device, bringing the mouthpiece forward and lifting the receiver close to his ear. He was surprised a call had even come through; most of the operators had gone out on strike.

“Schmidt’s Boarding House, Hans Schmidt speaking.”

“Hans, old boy! It’s Wally, up in Albany.”

“Oh, Wally, so good to hear from you. Is this business or pleasure?”

“Business, I’m afraid. I have a live one for you. And don’t forget I’m still on a party line here.”

That was code for anyone could be listening. Hans appreciated the reminder. The boarding house had its own private line, and he sometimes forgot most people outside the city still used party lines. As if to prove the point, Hans heard muffled soft breathing in the background.

He sighed and glanced at the wall clock, mentally rearranging his calendar for the afternoon. “Hold on.” He placed the transmitter back on the desk, switched the receiver to his left hand, and pulled a pad and pencil out of the drawer. He leaned closer to the mouthpiece so he could still be heard. “A day or two’s notice would make a nice change. But go on.”

“Sorry, there was no advance notice this time. He came right up to the counter and said, ‘One-way ticket to New York City, please, next available bus.’ You’ve got two more hours. I’m certain of this one, Hans. We served together.”

“Oh, were you…?”

“No. Nothing like that,” Wally responded. “But I knew, of course.”

“I understand. Greyhound?” Hans asked.

“Yes, arrives at three thirty.”

That was good news at least. The Greyhound terminal was next to Penn Station, which was only a half-hour walk if he hurried.

“Would you recommend Ada or Hans?”

“Oh, Ada for sure, dear boy. This one seems quite skittish. A direct approach won’t do. He needs to see what’s possible,” Wally replied. “He’s a good kid, Hans. Don’t let him get swallowed up by the Y.”

“Understood, and thanks for the tip. What will he be wearing?”

Wally laughed, and the connection broke up a bit. “Oh, not to worry. You can’t miss him.” Hans heard a click as someone hung up, or perhaps someone else picked up to check if the line was available.

“Will you be coming down yourself anytime soon?” Hans asked. “You absolutely must see David Brooks in Brigadoon. He’s in a kilt most of the time. We could make a weekend of it.”

“That sounds grand! Maybe next month.”

They exchanged a few additional pleasantries and ended the call.

Hans needed at least an hour to get Ada ready, and he was thankful he hadn’t yet put on cologne. He’d planned a shopping trip this afternoon to resupply a few staples—coffee, tea, and biscuits for the ladies’ reception parlor—but that could be rescheduled. But he couldn’t put it off for too long; the ladies did not like to run out of biscuits during their social hour.

As he descended the stairs to Ada’s room on the garden level—a New York euphemism for below ground—he was reminded how much easier things were for men. He wore a simple gray suit with a narrow navy tie, appropriate for all seasons and conservatively bland. Why, a fellow could disappear into any crowd wearing such an outfit.

Ada, though—she had a much tougher go of it. It was spring, technically, but still quite chilly. She’d need something…delightful. Yes, Hans thought, that was the right word. Not too frivolous, but sufficiently feminine to show the world there was still joy in beauty. But she’d also need to wear an outercoat and sensible enough shoes for a bit of a walk. She wouldn’t want to invite scrutiny, but she’d want people to see her and appreciate the effort she’d made.

Hans stepped into Ada’s room and opened the closet. He considered his options. He’d have to use last spring’s coat; he hadn’t had the time or funds to completely reoutfit this season. But it would do the job. It was robin’s-egg blue with a fitted waist rather than a belt. Five oversized white buttons ran down its length. Sadly, American fashion houses continued to insist on outrageously padded shoulders even now, nearly two years after the war’s end.

A thrill ran through Hans as he stood in front of Ada’s closet. It always did, right before the transformation.

He eyed the spring dress he’d bought two weeks ago and knew it would be perfect. He took it out of the closet and laid it flat on the bed. It was a creamy off-white cotton, with a hint of pink. It dropped to midcalf and had a layer of tulle underneath the skirt—an extravagant use of material that would have been unthinkable only a year ago, when rationing and scarcity were just starting to give way. Large red cherries created a pattern, and a back zipper allowed for a smooth, uninterrupted front.

Hans removed his suit and his baggy, shapeless boxers, making a mental note to remember to take the clothes back to his own room, behind the kitchen. He spent the next half hour on underclothing and shapewear, then makeup, and finally a softly curling blonde wig that matched his natural hair color.

Hans was more comfortable dressed as a woman than he was dressed as a man. He always had been; it’s what got him in trouble back in Germany.

Dressed as a woman, Hans absolutely sparkled. His slight frame and delicate features fit Ada better than they fit Hans, and more than once he wondered what it would have been like to have been born as Ada. He’d met men who claimed to actually be women, deep inside, but he didn’t fully grasp that. At the heart of it, Hans liked being a man and being attracted to other men. He just liked dressing and acting like a woman sometimes.

It was enough for him.

The dress itself—the item everyone saw—was the easiest part but for the back zipper, which he managed eventually.

He slipped on square-heeled navy shoes, tied a gauzy pink scarf around his hair as protection against the breeze, and then headed out the door.

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Meet the Author

Author John Patrick is a Lambda Literary Award finalist living in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where he is supported in his writing by his husband and their terrier, who is convinced he could do battle with the bears that come through the woods on occasion (the terrier, that is, not the husband). An introvert, John can often be found doing introverted things like reading or writing, cooking, and thinking deep, contemplative thoughts (his husband might call this napping). He loves to spend time in nature—“forest bathing” is the Japanese term for it—feeling connected with the universe. But he also loathes heat and humidity, bugs of any sort, and unsteady footing in the form of rocks, mud, tree roots, snow, or ice. So his love of nature is tempered—he’s complicated that way.

John and his husband enjoy traveling and have visited over a dozen countries, meeting new people, exploring new cultures, and—most importantly—discovering new foods.

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RELEASE BLITZ: Queen by J.S. Fields #sciencefiction #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Queen

Series: Hidden Earth, Book One

Author: J.S. Fields

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/14/2022

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 95200

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sci-fi, action/adventure, lesfic, scientists, kidnapping/abduction, sand pirates, beetle riders, crazed bunnies, spaceships, AI shenanigans, grief/grieving, HFN, intersex

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Description

Nobody leaves Queen. On the tidally locked planet, a vulva and an authority problem are the only immigration requirements. Emigration is banned.

Ember spends her days cruising Queen’s endless sand dunes, hunting sand pirates and wallowing in memories of her dead wife. After an ambush, Ember is dragged to the pirate camp and learns her wife’s biggest secret—before her death, she’d joined the pirates, built an illegal spaceship, and plotted to leave the planet.

Ember, Nadia, and the sand pirates must take back the planet and expose the corrupt New Earth mining. Taming giant beetles, wrestling stinkhorn fungi, and enlisting Queen’s rabbit population in a high-stakes aerial battle are just part of the hijinks that will determine Queen’s fate as a galactic player, as well as the futures of all its conscripted inhabitants.

The newly minted outlaws must also grapple with Queen’s narrow concept of “womanhood” and where trans and intersex people belong in its future.

Excerpt

Queen
J.S. Fields © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Mornings on Queen always looked like blood. Ember stood at the edge of the habitable zone of the tidally locked planetoid. She scanned the crimson and rust horizon all the way to the perpetual sunrise. Her wife’s body was out here somewhere, buried in the coarse red sand. Desiccated, mummified, likely stripped naked by the roaming packs of sand pirates Ember was out here to track.

Well… Track. Kill. The line was blurry when it involved a spouse, and it wasn’t like the presidium—the administrative body of Queen—really cared one way or the other. Ember had cared, once, but she was on day seventeen of perimeter duty, and her whole plan of dealing with Taraniel’s death by shooting grave robbers was starting to look a little thin.

A rabbit shot across her field of vision, registering in a halo of blue inside the face shield of her envirosuit. TOPA—the suit’s AI—scrolled data across the screen, but Ember ignored it. Without thinking, she yanked one of the wide, flat stones from her exterior right thigh pocket (they were supposed to keep her calm, according to Nadia) and threw it at the flash of white, fluffy tail with precision honed from years of dealing with Queen’s nuisance rabbit population.

The rabbit’s hind legs skittered out from beneath it as it slipped on the sand. Ember wrapped her fingers around another stone, preparing to hit the head this time, when the damn thing started digging with its front feet, sand funneling around it, so that Ember lost her clean shot.

She stepped forward, grinding her teeth with an adrenaline surge that would again see no release if the little shit got away. She wiped sand from her face shield with a gloved hand, smearing red across her vision.

The area where the rabbit had dug settled flat with a slight pock. Tiny fans on the outside of Ember’s face shield blew the particulate from her vision.

The rabbit was gone and her stone along with it.

Ember cursed, the words bouncing around the inside of her rabbit-hide envirosuit, wasted on recycled air and a generic TOPA. Queen didn’t have stones like that—perfect for skipping over lakes that didn’t exist on the barren planetoid. Those she carried in her pocket were some of her last reminders of Earth. And the rabbit… Ember knelt at the soft indent in the sand. It’d descended into one of Queen’s giant beetle galleries. Of course, it had.

TOPA pinged as she reached a gloved hand into the depression. Ember debated the possibility of Queen’s native beetles—approximately the height of a small school bus and twice the length—grabbing her wrist and pulling her down in pulp-era sci-fi fashion. She dismissed the idea. If beetles hadn’t accosted her yet at this site, it meant the gallery was abandoned and being used by the feral European domestic rabbit population. They’d been brought over as food stock on the colony ships. Some had escaped. Big surprise.

Please read your notes, scrolled across the interior of Ember’s face shield, in lettering so large it blocked most of the landscape from view.

“The rabbit got away. I was stupid for throwing a rock that can’t be replaced. I wasted oxygen on the exertion. That about cover it?”

TOPA didn’t respond directly, but it did fire up a series of reports.

Landmass stability: within ten meters radius: moderate.

Sand for at least three meters below the surface with scattered hollow tunnels reinforced with clay from the temperate zone. Sand transitioning to silt loam noted in geographic surveys, with increasing occurrence toward the colony dome.

Silica content of the air: unbreathable.

UV index: ten point five.

Ember snorted. That did explain the suit smell.

She balled her hands as tightly as she could in the double-layered leather of her gloves wishing, not for the first time that day, that Gore-Tex was still a thing. Leather didn’t breathe, though both the buffer and the electrical linings of the suit were supposed to. Nothing from Earth breathed outside the habitable zone, and as much as the filters of her suit tried, they couldn’t filter out the smell of human, slowly marinating in her own sweat.

Awaiting input. Continue scan?

“Yeah. Sure. Why not?”

Ember stood, swallowing the dry air the suit pushed at her. The AI had a newly installed personality patch, but Ember would need to get a lot more bored before she turned it on. Instead, she pivoted on her right foot, keeping level with as much of the horizon as she could see, and let the suit feed data into the AI. Dunes and small valleys surrounded her, and TOPA disassembled each for content.

Silica: 100%

Silica: 97%, Chitin: 3%

Silica: 78%, Cellulose: 10%, Lignin: 10%, Chitin: 2%

Suggest moving 1.7 chains northeast for better visibility.

“Picturesque view?” Ember asked TOPA. Maybe a body?

“Hey, Ember!”

The red dunes faded into a semitransparent image of her sister, Nadia, displayed on the interior of the face shield. Ember clicked her right canines together to increase volume. The winds were too fierce outside the colony dome to hear much of anything without enhancement, even when the sound came from inside the suit. That wind was the same reason the damn rabbits tended to stay in the beetle galleries. Wind screwed with everything out here.

Nadia’s transmission showed her just outside the dome, her image picked up by one of her suit’s sleeve cameras. Sand licked her calves. Her goggles were up but her face shield down, and red soil caked her envirosuit. The only parts of her skin visible were her lips, chapped but grinning as she tapped the front of her shield and instructions scrolled across the inside of Ember’s own face shield. At the bottom of the message was a clear add-on from Nadia.

Your sentry duties now extend to Outpost Eight. Leave immediately.

–Dr. Narkhirunkanok

Hope you enjoy the sand. I’ll make you dune-nuts when you get home. Extra sprinkles. Served on a tablecloth of rabbit hide since you love the little shits so much.

Ember read the short message and scowled—a facial contortion Nadia would see in detail from the camera inside Ember’s suit. Puns and throwaway comments about the excess rabbit population had no place on an official director request. If Nadia was willing to deface government messages, it meant she was worried. But she wouldn’t say she was worried because, historically, the sisters’ ability to communicate was right around “bug and speeding windshield.”

“Leave for Outpost Eight? I’m supposed to be here for another three days.” Ember cinched her mouth into a caricature of a frown. “TOPA will be heartbroken. It hasn’t cataloged every dune within a one hundred-chain radius.”

“There’s been a change. Director Narkhirunkanok thinks the mella pirates are going to hit one of our storage units, the one where we keep sticking all the glassware we probably don’t need but can’t get rid of. We need a sentry. You’re the closest.” The wind whipped her words away, but the auditory sensors on Nadia’s suit caught them anyway.

This time, Ember did frown. It was one thing to watch for the mella and daydream about shooting one so you could avenge your wife, who didn’t actually need avenging because she’d been about to die from cancer and had chosen to walk into a sand dune. Chasing the mella to one of their targets, even if only to spy on them, so they could shoot you, was something entirely different. She didn’t have a death wish, just a need to see her wife’s body and maybe punch someone.

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Meet the Author

J.S. Fields is a scientist who has perhaps spent too much time around organic solvents. They enjoy roller derby, woodturning, making chain mail by hand, and cultivating fungi in the backs of minivans. Nonbinary, and always up for a Twitter chat.

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Release Blitz: The Magic Between by Steaphanie Hoyt #PNR #LGBTQ #slowburn @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Magic Between

Author: Stephanie Hoyt

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/15/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 105400

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, celebrities, athlete, pop star, magic, magic users, musicians, sports, college, MM romance, sexual discovery, in the closet, coming out, bonded, slow burn, gender non-conforming, mental illness (OCD), #ownvoices

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Description

In a world where everyone has magic coursing through them, legend says magic itself craves a mate. Legend says those with opposite magics have the greatest chance of forming the unbreakable Bond it desires.

A.B. Cerise is an obsessive-compulsive pop star with the ability to turn invisible. He’s an out bisexual with absolutely no belief in Bonds. He has a love-bruised heart, thinks dating in the spotlight is a hassle at best and a nightmare at worst, and has no intention of going through it all over again.

Matthew Hellman-Levoie is the NHL’s number one goalie prospect, the youngest in a hockey dynasty, and one of the rare few who can see the unseeable. He’s a straight man who wears his heart on his sleeve, has grown up searching for a Bond, and dreams of finding the love of his life.

Their magic is magnetic. Their touch is electric. They’re the textbook case for Bonding. But legend never said anything about what to do when sparks fly between people opposite in more ways than magic.

Excerpt

The Magic Between
Stephanie Hoyt © 2021
All Rights Reserved

AB Cerise is a disaster. He’s an obsessive-compulsive ball of barely checked anxiety surrounding his Invisibility being discovered and used against him. He has no rational reason for it. None at all. The fear is annoying, unreasonable, absolutely nonsensical, considering the whole world is full of magic. Like, AB knows no one would care about him being a Concealer beyond him cracking after years of dodging the particularly bold interviewers’ questions of where he falls on the list of categories.

But the real kicker, what makes this obsession of AB’s so much worse, is the absolute lack of proof to support the possibility of someone being able to manipulate him and his Invisibility just by Knowing he is. In fact, his Invisibility has always been tied to his emotions, so the obsessive way he fixates on being controlled and the compulsive way he avoids ever turning Invisible only further destabilizes his magic. Again, AB knows this. He does.

When it comes to magic, AB is his own worst enemy, but he can’t stop. He’s spent nearly five years in therapy, and he’s still plagued by the same insidious hell his mind has created for optimal torture. His intrusive thoughts are a terrible inconvenience that AB has spent an inordinate amount of time wallowing over, but despite her best efforts, AB can’t accept what Dr. Barnes says. Her end goal, since the beginning, has always been for AB to publicly Divulge and rob his intrusive thoughts of their power. Unfortunately, AB can’t even think about Divulging without breaking out in a cold sweat.

But therapy hasn’t been a useless waste of time. He is trying and he is making progress. Sort of. He hasn’t made as much progress as he should, but he’s made enough. He can now stay present when he’s anxious, no longer getting lost in his emotions to the point he has to run off and hide before he Conceals in front of people he’s never Divulged to. Hell, AB even survived a strange, and frankly traumatic, case of the Frits from two years ago that resulted in him Concealing the moment he stepped on stage at a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

Sure, the whole ordeal led to a spike in anxiety, a tightening of the grip the fear of being Known and controlled had over him, but the very thought never got the best of him. He never turned Invisible because of it. Which, in AB’s opinion, is a significant achievement, considering how Displaying in front of tens of thousands of strangers would’ve been a catastrophic, debilitating event at the start of his therapy journey.

AB thinks about going Invisible often. Thinks about the only indication he even had the Frits was the split second of spontaneous Concealment. About the two full weeks he spent monitoring for other symptoms that never appeared. About his Invisibility always coming with a spark and how the sensation at the Garden was wild and electrifying. How much more exhilarated he was on stage—as if the dial had been turned all the way up, maxed out. But mostly, AB thinks about the random times the same sensation has prickled beneath his skin while he wanders New York City—fast and intense but never as substantial as the one at the concert, never enough to bring on the Frits, not even a tiny blip of Invisibility.

He’s at brunch, smiling awkwardly as people recognize him on his mimosa-soaked trek to the bathroom, when the same electricity makes another appearance. This time, the sensation is accompanied by a sharp tug at his heart, and AB knows, deep in his bones, Invisibility will be inevitable no matter how hard he tries. He speeds to the bathroom; thankful the sensation doesn’t reach its peak until after the door shuts; annoyed as he checks to find his hand the same transparent purple he always is while Concealed.

Personally, AB thinks a lap full of mimosas is enough inconvenience for the day, but the universe doesn’t seem to agree. Not only can he not push the Invisibility down, but when he leans against the door to stop anyone else from coming in, and lets out a soft, frustrated groan, something clatters to the ground in front of him.

Because of course someone was already in here. Of course, AB couldn’t be spontaneously Invisible in peace. Of course, he already ruined his chance of getting out of the way without making a noise. Of course, this guy is staring at AB with wide bewildered eyes.

Wait.

Back up.

No.

That’s not possible.

“What the fuck?”

Is AB shrieking? He’s definitely shrieking. But… “You can see me! You can see me? Can you see me?”

Not only can this absolutely beautiful man—no, this bro—see him, but he’s staring at AB with absolute wonder in his eyes. He opens his mouth but then shuts it with a click of his teeth; instead, he looks AB up and down with such a methodical intensity AB begins to fidget. AB wouldn’t consider himself a blusher, but every sweep of this guy’s eyes leaves AB burning. His gaze settles back on AB’s face before speaking, and when he does, AB thinks he must be hearing things—there’s no way.

No.

Possible.

Way.

“Uh, what?”

Mr. Omnivision over there—because what else could he be?—purses his lips, then repeats, “I know this sounds ridiculous, but I think you’re my future Bondmate.”

AB might be short-circuiting. What the actual fuck! This guy, this gorgeous guy with his ridiculous sweatpants and his ridiculous backwards snapback and his ridiculous smile, can’t possibly be standing in front of him claiming they’re Bondmates. At brunch. While AB is covered in mimosa. This has to be fake.

Did he make an enemy of an Illusionist who’s messing with him? Is he seeing things? He must be seeing things. This guy has to be an Illusion.

“I can assure you I’m real,” Mr. Omnivision says, looking at his pants with bemusement before stepping forward with his hand outstretched. “Hi, I’m Matthew.”

Oh, great. He’s been thinking out loud.

AB knows he’s being rude—can faintly hear his mother’s voice chastising him in the back of his mind—but he can’t stop staring. Despite his awful outfit, which AB has apparently insulted to his face, Matthew is stunning. He has dirty-blond hair and a ridiculously strong jaw and a dusting of freckles. Which really isn’t fair—freckles are his kryptonite. How could he not stare?

“This isn’t going the way I’ve always imagined.”

Matthew drops his hand and awkwardly rocks back on his heels. The downward slope of his mouth knocks AB’s brain back online.

He thrusts his hand out. “Shit. Sorry for staring. And insulting you. I’m AB.”

“You also called me gorgeous, so I’ve decided to think of it as balancing out,” Matthew says, his mouth quirking as he takes AB’s hand.

AB is making a fool of himself, and he’d absolutely die of embarrassment if shit didn’t get downright weird when he takes Matthew’s hand in his. Simultaneously, bright golden light bursts from where their palms meet, and AB pops back into view.

“What the fuck?” AB squawks, snatching his hand away.

Even after breaking contact, the heat of Matthew’s hand burns against AB’s skin, and while he’s no longer Concealed, none of the electricity produced by their touch has dissipated. Instead, they’re encased in an invisible crackling bubble of it, as if the light of their handshake shocked the air surrounding them.

“So, that was weird,” Matthew says, after AB fails to add anything constructive to their conversation. He bites his lip, an indecipherable emotion flickering across his face, and then adds, “Uh. I kind of have to go? But I’m serious about what I said. And considering all of this—” He motions between them, pointedly staring at AB’s hand. “—I’m hoping you’ll give me a chance to explain?”

“Wait, what?”

“Uh, like, can I…maybe get your number or…shit.”

Matthew fidgets with his hat, the tips of his ears burning. “Look, I don’t live under a rock. I know who you are and how this could…I don’t know, come off as some sort of ploy to get your attention? You mentioned this could be an Illusion, which I’m not, obviously, but I absolutely understand if you’re not comfortable giving me your number, but I’d really like to explain myself when we’re not in a bathroom and my impatient friends aren’t ten seconds away from storming in here to drag me out. Or maybe your email? Or—you have Twitter, right? Who doesn’t have Twitter? Well, I don’t have Twitter, but uh…Instagram? Or if you’re into face-to-face chats we could agree on a time and public place to meet up again? I’m running out of ideas here. What else is there?”

Matthew blushes, turning his sun-tanned skin an adorable shade of ruddy pink, and all AB can focus on are the freckles, darker on his nose than anywhere else. He’s staring again. Or maybe he never stopped staring, and really, AB should be mortified, but this has been such a strange encounter he doesn’t think Matthew can judge him. He’s running through all the ways entertaining Matthew’s declaration is a terrible idea, how he clearly caused the one thing AB is so obsessed with happening, how he should be running far, far away, when everything clicks into place.

“Were you, by any chance, at my concert when I played Madison Square Garden a couple years ago?”

Matthew furrows his brow. “Yes, but what does—wait. It wasn’t actually the Frits? You think I caused your Concealment? Or, well, our magics Reacting made you Invisible?”

“Wait, sorry… How can you possibly tell what type of Concealer I am?”

“A guy’s got to keep some secrets,” Matthew says with a slow, crooked smile. “Maybe I’ll tell you one day.”

The smile tips him over, and AB makes a decision Carson might actually murder him for.

“I’m not sure about Bondmates, but you’re certainly affecting my magic. Which intrigues me almost as much as it pisses me off. So yeah, give me your number.”

AB unlocks his phone and brings up a new contact page, then hands it to Matthew. “I’ll text you once I’ve decided whether or not meeting up with you is a dangerous idea or just recklessly irresponsible.”

Matthew snorts when he reads the name AB put him in as.

AB shrugs. “Well, aren’t you?”

Matthew’s face is dazzling when he smiles. “Yeah, you got me there.”

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Meet the Author

Thematically, Stephanie likes magic and spies and magical spies. Aesthetically, she likes glitter and gold and pineapples. She wants to put more soft, sweet bi representation into the world so that people like her teen-self can see themselves in their favorite genres and know that who they are is nothing to be ashamed of.

She currently lives in the Great White North (Wisconsin) with her husband, daughter, and three dogs. The only thing getting her through these Midwest winters is the soothing sound of Tim Riggins saying “Texas forever” and the prospect of one day moving back there.

She loves a good astrology twitter but ultimately only believes in it when her husband calls her stubborn and then her response is: “Well, I am a Taurus.”

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BOOK REVIEW: Exodus 20:3 by Freydis Moon #LGBTQ #Fantasy #Romance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Exodus 20:3

Author: Freydis Moon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 02/01/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 21800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, PNR/fantasy, horror, romance, Latine, transgender, D/s power play, construction worker, angel, suspense

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Description

Religious eroticism and queer emancipation meet in a claustrophobic monster-romance about divinity, sexuality, and freedom.

When Diego López is guilted by his mother into taking a low-key construction job in New Mexico, he doesn’t expect to be the only helping hand at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. But the church is abandoned, decrepit, and off the beaten path, and the only other person for miles is its handsome caretaker, Ariel Azevedo.

Together, Diego and Ariel refurbish the old church, sharing stories of their heritage, experiences, and desires. But as the long days turn into longer nights, Diego begins to see past Ariel’s human mirage and finds himself falling into lust—and maybe something else—with one of God’s first creations.

Excerpt

Exodus 20:3
Freydis Moon © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“You have the address. Go.”

Diego López gnawed his lip as he leaned against the rusted tailgate on his father’s busted Chevy.

He cradled his phone against his ear and tried to focus on his mother’s voice, exhausted and cold, rasping through the speaker. The gas station was quiet—nearly abandoned—but his attention darted to an oasis floating above the highway and a napkin tumbling across the empty lot. He pitched his shoulder upward to steady his phone and smacked a pack of Lucky Strikes against the heel of his palm.

“I can find a way to pay you back,” he said and pulled a cigarette free with his teeth. “I don’t need another handout, and I definitely don’t need to play carpenter at some bullshit church to—”

“Cállate,” his mother snapped. “You listen to me, mijo. You get in that truck, you drive to that church, and you make this right. No one put you behind the wheel of that car—my car—and no one put the… the drugs in your wallet, and no one—”

“I know.” He sucked smoke into his lungs and switched his phone from one ear to the other.

“This isn’t about the money. This is about honor—familia. You go, understand? Go, work, get paid, come home. Do your community service and fix your life. This man, this Ariel, he’s giving you a chance. Take it before he changes his mind and hires someone else.”

“Yeah, because every able-bodied worker in town is trippin’ over themselves to go rebuild a church in the middle of the desert, Mamá. Sure.”

“You made your choice. Go.”

He angled his mouth toward the sky. She wasn’t talking about his fourteen-hour stint in jail or the cash-bail she’d worked double shifts at the diner to pay for. She was talking about the sickle-shaped scars beneath his shirt, the choice he’d made three years ago—eighteen and able to say, Yes, do it. Same vague guilt trip, same acquiescence. You’re like a coyote, she’d said to him once. Halfway to a wolf but still something else. He thought about that as she breathed on the other end of the line and imagined her sitting in the recliner in his childhood home, rolling a slender joint, watching fútbol while a pork shoulder braised in the crockpot. Sometimes she tripped over his name, her tongue unused to making the sound, but when she’d met him at the door after he’d been released from El Paso Detention Center, she’d said Diego with her full voice. Cracked every syllable like a bone.

“Yeah, okay.” He sighed. “Do you want me to call?”

She huffed. “Eres mi sangre.”

He shook his head and finished his cigarette, then crushed it beneath his boot. “Sé.”

“Tomorrow, then. You’ll tell me about the church?”

“Sure, yeah. Tomorrow.”

“Drive safe,” she said.

Diego ended the call without saying goodbye. He stood with his thumbs tucked through his belt loops. Endured the heat. Watched the road. Pictured himself elsewhere, across the state, settling in Austin. He’d bartend to make ends meet. He’d never touch narcotics again. He’d rent a studio apartment, and fill it with houseplants, and learn how to cook. He’d send money to his abuela, and he’d visit her more, and he’d grow the fuck up. Becoming another disappointment on the López family tree wasn’t an option anymore.

It never had been, but stealing the car, crashing the car, getting caught… Yeah, that changed everything.

Early summer rippled through the dry air. He scanned his phone again, reading and rereading the address his mother had sent him—coordinates, actually—before he hoisted into the driver’s seat and turned the key in the ignition. According to Google, Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe was located in Luna County, New Mexico. He pulled his lip between his teeth again. Seven grand to help rebuild a decrepit church in the middle of the desert? Camming paid more. He’d found that out after getting hit with top-surgery bills. But now that his mother knew about the Vicodin, he certainly didn’t need her to know about the porn too. He manifested the future he’d imagined—bartending in Austin, visiting his grandmother, making pozole in his apartment—and drove toward a city called Sunshine.

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My Review – 4 stars

I really enjoyed the perspective on religion. The part that resonated with me the most was Ariel’s belief the things we see as wrong or sinful aren’t necessarily God’s thoughts, but are instead man’s version. I’ve often felt that way.

The description of Ariel’s true self had so many parts I had a hard time piecing them together into an image I could “see” as I was reading. I did like that he wasn’t the typical angel we see depicted.

Diego had his flaws, but he also had a hidden strength. Despite his rocky past, he wanted a second chance to do something with his life. I admired him for dusting himself off and trying again.

For me, the ending felt a bit unfinished. I realize this is a shorter story so there’s less room for a more in-depth storyline, but I guess the romantic in me wanted a more definitive HEA for Diego.

If you’re looking for a quick steamy LGBTQ read that will also resonate on a deeper level, you can’t go wrong with Exodus 20:3 …

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The review above is only my opinion.

Meet the Author

Freydís Moon (they/them) is a biracial nonbinary writer and diviner. When they aren’t writing or divining, Freydís is usually trying their hand at a recommended recipe, practicing a new language, or browsing their local bookstore.

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Release Blitz: Second Chance by Anni Lee #LGBTQ #ContemporaryRomance #Crime @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Second Chance

Series: Fighting Chance, Book Two

Author: Anni Lee

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/25/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 50100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, music industry, gay, mafia, mobsters, crime romance, romance comedy, rom com, superstar romance, office romance, secret lovers, blackmail, scandal

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Description

Long before Jay McClintock and Brad Garza were music industry royalty, Jay was an ambitious intern and Brad was an awkward farm boy. But the ladder to the top was anything but smooth and anything but legal. And their relationship? That was anything but HR safe.

Getting ahead in the cut-throat world of the Los Angeles music industry means making some dark deals, and Jay was so eager to make his client (and crush) shine, that he was ready to make them all. As some bold moves have Brad’s popularity taking off into the stratosphere, Jay is digging himself deeper and deeper into the hole. If only he had known that the shovel belonged to the same men who ran his father off the road all those years ago.

Second Chance is the second book in the Fighting Chance series, following Jay McClintock’s career from an unlikely intern to a star writer, Brad Garza’s career from a humble farmer to a musician for the ages, and the trials that brought them together and tore them apart. If either man wants any chance of finding their Happily Ever After, they’ll have to face the past that made them head-on.

Excerpt

Second Chance
Anni Lee © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1
Jay McClintock

“So what’s up, Jay Jay? Did you suddenly get a new idea for my next album?” Brad Garza sat across from me at Roast of the Magi, a trendy new coffee shop off Sunset and Vine. He wore sunglasses over his dark eyes and a ball cap over his short, dark brown hair, hoping he might disguise himself just enough to dissuade the usual onslaught of fans. Though that exquisite voice and Latin charm could hardly be contained by a few well-placed accessories.

“Not quite.” I handed him the manila envelope full of photos. He pulled out the pages one by one, examining each image as though he was auditioning for a lead role as a forensic scientist. Once he reached the last page, he slid the photos back into their envelope and sat back in his chair.

“Where did you get this?” His voice had lost its usual playful luster.

“Someone left it on my doorstep and rang the doorbell. They were gone before I managed to answer.”

“Couldn’t get dressed fast enough, I’d wager.” Brad rolled his eyes. “I can still smell him on you, you know. You couldn’t have at least showered first before coming to see me?”

“This felt too urgent.” I heaved a sigh. Poor judgement on my part. Where was my head? “Whether you approve of my relationship or not is hardly the point right now.”

A smile returned to Brad’s lips, and he relaxed into his chair. “Of course, of course. I guess I can’t be too mad if your first thought was to come see me.” His arrogance never faltered. Though he wasn’t wrong. I’d known Brad for the better part of ten years. The better part of my life after the crash. And just through the better parts of my life. He was a constant who I could always rely on, his support never even wavering in the harshest parts of our breakup. Our relationship might have been over, but our friendship never would be.

Roland was who I wanted, now and in the future, but I didn’t want to include him in my past if I didn’t have to. I would tell him everything once the coast was clear. I knew that was selfish, and he would see it as unfair, but…I would rather be selfish than put him in danger. Though perhaps getting involved with me has already put him in danger.

I shook my head to dismiss the thought and returned my attention to Brad. “‘All debts must one day be paid.’” I recited the final note from memory. “I barely even know what counts as debt anymore. I think we’ve both racked up enough to file for bankruptcy.”

“Bankruptcy…or maybe a really nice pair of coffins.” He chuckled, an inappropriate amount of amusement in his eyes. “You know, our contract is still valid even into the afterlife. Don’t think you’ll get to slack off if this turns sour.”

“I’m not sure which one of us should have gotten a better lawyer.” I laughed. “So what do you think it means?”

Brad stroked his lightly stubbled chin. “I was wondering that. I’m not sure if I’m more unnerved by the pictures of a mob boss with Jonathan, the ones with your dad, or the pictures that include the kid. I kind of expected to see myself in there, but the rest… I guess you weren’t exactly good at staying out of trouble even after you got put in witness protection.”

“I never did find out what kinds of debts my father had wracked up to justify running him off the road all those years ago. The detectives weren’t terribly forthright.”

“Clearly,” Brad said while peeking into the envelope again. “I don’t know what he owed them, but I know what we do.”

“Right.” I frowned.

“Honestly, I haven’t thought about those times in quite a while. Well, not the bad parts anyway.”

“Do you still think about the good parts?” I knew what he was implying, but I admittedly blocked just about all of it out of my mind. The good parts seemed far and in between in hindsight.

“Of course.” Brad shook his head. “You can never forget where you came from.”

You can never forget where you came from? Maybe that’s true, but I could still try.

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Meet the Author

Whether she’s racing motorcycles faster than a RomCom lead’s beating heart, or scuba diving deeper than the pit of love they fall into, Anni Lee is always down for an adventure. She was born and raised in Los Angeles with four siblings and a single mother, which is probably why she has such a penchant for writing big city love and tenacious (albeit dysfunctional) heroes.

When she’s not typing away behind her laptop, she’s living out of a tent off the back of her motorcycle on her quest to ride around the world. The wilderness is the best place to catch up on reading, after all!

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Release Blitz: Melting the Ice Witch by Mell Eight #paranormal #LGBTQ @GoIndiMarketing @ninestarpress

Title: Melting the Ice Witch

Series: Dragon’s Hoard, Book Four

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/18/2022

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 27400

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, mythical creatures, dragon shifters, witches, tundra

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Description

The Tribe of the White Dragon has lived in the frozen wastes of the north for thousands of years, but they are slowly dying without their dragon to protect them from the inhospitable cold.

In desperation, they kidnap Kam, hoping to use him to breed witch power back into the Tribe. But Kam is not a witch, and there is nothing he can do to save them—until he sees the white dragon encased in ice and all alone and a chain reaction is set off that may save them after all.

Excerpt

Melting the Ice Witch
Mell Eight © 2022
All Rights Reserved

“In the before times, when the cold ice and biting wind were welcoming to our kind, dragons flew,” the old storyteller warbled. The man was bent and gray, and his crabbed hands shook on his gnarled staff, but his voice still held the power that had made him the storyteller of the Tribe in his youth.

“The golden dragon rained fire and melted the ice, and the white dragon taught the Tribe the spells to survive the difficult, yet beautiful, climate. Together, the gold and white kept these plains of ice tamed, and the Tribe survived in plenty.”

The old man’s voice reached Kam even from the other side of the fire. Warmth in the ice wastes was hard to come by, especially for one not of the Tribe, so Kam appreciated his place near the flickering flames. His brown hair was city short, which meant his ears and neck were exposed to the cold wind. The barbarians all had hair that reached well down their backs, tied in intricate braids with feathers and stones woven throughout. None had hair more elaborate than Lor, the man with the snow-white hair and ice blue eyes who had the seat of honor next to the storyteller.

“But—” The storyteller’s voice darkened, and Kam felt his chest clench at the ominous tone. “—such times were not meant to last. The golden one gathered his followers around him and declared that for the happiness of dragon-kind they must separate themselves from the wars of humans. No more deaths of dragons, was the golden one’s goal, but the white dragon disagreed with his methods.

“They fought with their words, their arguments echoing through the icy canyons, but neither would back down. The white dragon knew that to abandon the humans was to allow the Tribe, his hoard, to die in the ice wastes. But the golden one wished to keep his kin alive and to do so he needed to rule the humans, not be ruled by human whim.

“The best of friends, and possibly lovers, the golden dragon and the white dragon never spoke again. All but the white dragon flew south, where the plains are formed of grass rather than ice. There they settled in the mountains. They built a city for the humans in the foothills. And the white dragon withdrew to the ice caves, alone.”

The storyteller bowed his head in sadness, but Lor’s piercing eyes scanned the assembled members of the Tribe.

“So we survive.” Lor continued the story. His voice was strong, but as the leader of the Tribe, he had to be. Lor was the tallest and most muscular of all the barbarians, and he was the only witch the clan still had. “Bereft of the dragons who allowed us life in the barren waste of ice and snow, the Tribe learned new ways to survive. We adapted, so after tens of thousands of years, we still live.” Kam looked around at the assembled Tribe and frowned. There were barely sixty people of all ages and genders still remaining in the circle around the fire. He had learned that there was another clan to the northwest with equal numbers. But most alarmingly, there were only two witches left: Lor and the man named Bay who led the other clan. There were no female witches to pass the traits on, nor had any of Lor’s children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren shown any aptitude during Lor’s hundreds of years of life.

The Tribe was dying.

That was why Kam had been brought north. The only way to invigorate the clans was to breed more witch blood into the lines. The hope was if Kam were to have a child with one of the descendants of Lor, maybe a child with powers could be born. But Kam wasn’t a witch, and he hadn’t exactly been asked before he was kidnapped and taken to the ice wastes.

“We live and we are strong,” Lor continued. “The Tribe of the White Dragon does not fade away!”

The barbarians cheered loudly around Kam, but Kam didn’t join them. As the assemblage broke up, Kam returned to his small tent. Once the barbarians had been sure he wouldn’t run away—as if there were some way to survive in the endless ice wastes for a city-bred boy—they had given Kam his own space. The tent was small, with barely enough room for bedding and a small wooden chest filled with the meager belongings he had accumulated in the last few weeks, but it was heavy with furs and thick woolen blankets that kept the cold and the wind out. Kam curled up in his bed, glad when his blankets began to warm with his body heat, and closed his eyes.

The barbarians were nice enough despite the fact that he couldn’t give them what they wanted. And it was better than being back in the city. Kam went to sleep with that thought firmly in mind. As much as he had disliked being kidnapped and taken to the barren north, it was still better than what he endured in the city. His thoughts focused on those times as he drifted to sleep.

«

“Kam, Kam, the witchery man,” the kids sang as Kam walked past them. He ducked his head, but otherwise kept himself from acknowledging their taunts. His mother hadn’t exactly been discreet with her passions, and lying with the resident witch had supposedly produced Kam. Since the man in question was a charlatan and his mother had never actually said he was Kam’s father before they both died…well, all that didn’t matter to everyone else. To them, Kam had witch blood, and in his part of the city, he was someone to be ridiculed.

Kam pushed his way into the small shop where he worked. The bell jingled overhead.

“Kameron, you’re late!” the harpy who was his boss screeched from behind the front counter. As usual, the place was dirty and the goods covered the shelves with haphazard organization. The sour smell that had appeared early last week had only grown worse overnight.

“Sorry, ma’am,” Kam murmured, ducking his head further as he wended his way through the mishmash stacks of random goods and into the back room. The pawnshop bought and sold everything. Sailors on leave after making the journey down the Great River came to the shop to sell what they could so they would have the funds to drink and carouse in the bars and whorehouses that also populated that part of the docks.

It was Kam’s job to clean and fix those often grimy and broken items so the owner could in turn sell them for profit to a higher quality pawnshop in the northern part of the city. It paid well for the woman, but Kam only saw a few coins a week for his work. As the witchery man he was lucky to have a job, so as much as Kam wished, there was no way he could find better prospects.

Kam worked hard for his pay, and at the end of the day his hands ached, but his quota was met. He left the shop at dusk and hurried home. He couldn’t tarry, because the docks became very dangerous after dark, and since his rent was due, he couldn’t afford to stop for dinner anyway.

He walked up the three flights of rickety stairs to his tiny apartment. It was one room, barely large enough to hold his threadbare bedding and one change of clothes, but it was a place to sleep. He had left one window cracked while he was away so the three cats that had crept in during the previous night could leave if they wished. The family of mice that lived under his floorboards were running about, so Kam was careful where he placed his feet as he walked over to collapse on his blanket.

One of the mice climbed up onto his pillow and gently nuzzled him on the nose. The mouse was hungry, too, and was probably looking for crumbs, but Kam appreciated the meager comfort his small friend could provide. Kam smiled, despite his rumbling stomach, as he slowly fell asleep.

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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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Release Blitz: Someone to Watch Over Me by Libby Simone #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance #BDSM @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing @libby_simone

Title: Someone to Watch Over Me

Author: Libby Simone

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/11/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 63900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, crime, gay, pansexual, BDSM, porn star, private detective, film set, porn industry, voyeurism, blackmail

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Description

Arthur Adams takes his job seriously, keeping good guys safe and investigating bad guys. When his company is hired to secure the set for a film crew, the job seems straightforward, if not simple. Of course, the films are adult and graphic, so the situation can get hard fast. And it does.

Kit is an adult film star and an anomaly: he’s educated, experienced, and in the business for the fun of it. The seedy realities of his world reveal themselves, however, as his ex’s behavior grows more threatening. Unfortunately, the ex is wealthy and well connected in addition to being a stalker.

As Arthur watches Kit more closely, he finds it more difficult to look away.

The threats against the production become increasingly worrisome as Arthur’s team digs into the background of a rival studio, and they become personal as he unpeels Kit’s layers. As the case uncovers abusers, traffickers, and would-be murderers, all of Arthur’s skills and resources will be put to the test.

Excerpt

Someone to Watch Over Me
Libby Simone © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Arthur wraps a hand around his coffee mug and pulls apart the brittle beige window blinds to peer out at the street below. The morning is cool, even after the fog lifts. People pass quickly, hands in pockets. They do not look up. Steam radiates from the back of the newsstand across the street, and Arthur takes a sip, watching it curl and dissipate.

The building is mostly empty today. The pipes squeak upstairs, and something scurries in the walls. Business has been slow. Business is always slow.

“Get in here, Arthur.”

“Coming.” He leaves the window and sets the mug on his desk, which he sidesteps to make his way to the door. He turns the corner and steps over the uneven floor plank. He scratches his elbow and raises an eyebrow. “What do you need?”

Maurice leans forward in his desk chair and fixes Arthur with an impassive gaze. His office smells of Big Red and sulfur, and he scribbles onto a steno pad with a stubby yellow pencil. Arthur leans against the doorframe and watches. The desk is cluttered, as usual, with a gas station coffee cup, photographs, and the morning paper. Maurice gestures to a seat, and Arthur shakes his head. “I’ll stand,” he says, provoking an annoyed glare.

“Suit yourself.” Maurice runs his hand across the desktop. It’s easily the sturdiest piece of furniture in the place, bought secondhand from an auction at the old library. They had to haul it in through the window, and Arthur is convinced someday it will fall through the floor. It hasn’t yet. It probably won’t until Maurice retires and he’s sitting behind it instead. “Client coming by in a few minutes. I’m putting you on this one.”

“This early?”

“It’s nearly ten.”

Arthur shrugs. “Philandering husband or wife?”

“Neither. Guard duty.”

“Guard duty? Why would I—”

“Because I’m assigning this one to you.”

“Maurice—”

“It’s going to require coordination with an outside security team.”

“You know I don’t like—”

“I don’t give a damn what you like, son. You’re good at it, and I’m assigning you the case. That’s the end of the story. You got something to say?”

“No.” Arthur grinds his teeth.

Maurice nods and unwraps a fresh piece of chewing gum. “Let her in when she arrives. And clear your datebook.” He snorts at his joke.

“Anything I should know first?”

“I’d hate to spoil the surprise.”

The surprise arrives promptly at ten, as if she waited outside the frosted glass door until the turn of the hour. She is striking, with coal-black hair and piercing blue eyes, outlined dark despite it being a weekday. She wears a tidy knit suit with a well-tailored skirt and silk shirt buttoned high on her neck. “Therese Spielman,” she says, shaking his hand. Her skin is ice cold, and her grip is tight. “Pleasure.” She doesn’t smile, but most people don’t when they hire a private investigator. Arthur leads her to Maurice.

“Welcome. Please, have a seat.” The vinyl on the chairs splits and flakes, but they’re serviceable. If Therese notices, she’s too polite to complain.

“You’re the gentleman I spoke to on the phone.” She glances from him to Arthur and lifts a meticulous eyebrow.

“Yes,” Maurice says, “I’m the one you talked to. This is Arthur. He’s my number one.”

“I see. Very militaristic.”

Maurice tilts his head in a nod. It’s easy to spot, even if Arthur no longer calls him by rank. “You said you want someone who can coordinate your security team. Arthur’s the man for the job.”

She looks him up and down. “I see.”

Arthur clears his throat. “And what exactly is the job?”

“We make films, Mister—”

“Adams. You make films? Here?”

“We are a long way from Hollywood, it’s true. But, yes, I assure you, we make films too.”

“They’re pornographers, Art.”

“Huh. Okay.”

Therese watches him and purposefully nods. “You’ll do.” She looks him up and down again. “You’ll do nicely, and if that”—she pointedly looks down—“matches the rest of you, I may have even more work for you than securing our warehouse.”

“Warehouse?”

“Am I done here?” she asks.

“Yes.” Maurice smiles. “Thank you, Ms. Spielman.”

“I’ll see myself out.”

Arthur finally takes a seat. “What’s going on? Guarding a porn shoot at a warehouse? You’re serious?”

Maurice shrugs and unwraps another piece of gum. He takes out his chewed piece and sticks it to the lid of the coffee cup. “I tried to get details over the phone, but she’s prickly as fuck, and cagey. Said they’ve received some threats—notes and letters warning them to close up shop or else. Looks like the whole thing probably has something to do with a rival company. She’s worried about a stalker. They’re shooting for two weeks in the warehouse district, down by the docks. Basically, she doesn’t want questions asked; she said she just wants”—he reads from a note—“‘a smooth production schedule.’”

“Huh.” Arthur drums his fingers on his leg. “Two weeks for porn?”

“I’m not sure that’s the relevant question.”

“You’re right. Why do they need extra security? What rival company?”

“Now you see why you’re on the job.”

“Tell me about the threats.”

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Meet the Author

Libby Simone lives in Kansas City, where she learns for a living and writes for fun. When she isn’t designing research or napping, she can be found taking long walks, people watching, and dreaming up different worlds.

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Release Blitz: Returning Heroes by Harry F. Rey #LGBTQ #SciFiRomance #Aliens @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Returning Heroes

Series: The Galactic Captains, Book Six

Author: Harry F. Rey

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/11/2022

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 83100

Genre: SciFi, LGBTQIA+, action,adventure, aliens, dark, MM romance, #ownvoices, royalty, sci-fi, futuristic, space, folklore, gods, intercultural, interspecies, war of worlds

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Description

Captain Ales has returned to the galaxy, forever changed as the powers have prepared for war. He’ll accept help from anyone if it leads to the mysterious Turo from whose cage Ales must free himself if he ever wants to return to the Red Moon.

Meanwhile Daeron has been offered the deal of a lifetime by the ruler of the Seven Suns. Marry Osvai, the Kyleri prince, and become heir to the richest star-state in the galaxy while raising an army to restore the prince to his rightful place as Emperor of the Million Suns.

But Viscamon’s grip on Jiwani has only tightened as the nobles imprisoned in the Royal Baths still refuse to bow to the immortal’s cataclysmic theology of destroying the Galactic Balance. It seems the only way for Imperial Guard Captain Antari to avoid a massacre is outright treachery.

While dynasties play galactic politics, the Outer Verge is being torn apart. From a prison cell, Mahnoor watches The Rip destroying Targuline, until the Kyleri rebels offer him the chance to save himself by flying into the heart of danger. He might even become Jansen’s most unlikely hero.

Heroes and villains run riot around the galaxy, unleashing destructive forces and sliding the great powers toward a war from which no one will be safe.

Excerpt

Returning Heroes
Harry F. Rey © 2022
All Rights Reserved

The sleek, spacious travel pod sliced through the swirling burnt-orange clouds of Bazman. Daeron edged forward on the puffed, pillowy chair that consistently failed to relax him. He tugged at the high collar of his pure-white Dalvian silk jacket—yet another gift from President Ezreal. He stared out the window at the spindly towers stretching in and out of the clouds above and below. The teeming city-world of Bazman, capital of the Confederation of the Seven Suns, supposedly the richest star-state in the Shakti Democria, was to Daeron no better than any of the thousands of worlds he’d been on. The rich lived above, flying around in these perfumed and carpeted pods, while the poor shuffled in and out of a noxious atmosphere far below.

Daeron could go anywhere he wanted on Bazman; no store, restaurant, menagerie, or cultural complex was too exclusive for President Ezreal’s new favorite son. Six weeks ago, they’d barely escaped the Kyleri fleet which had blown up Aldegar’s megacollider. Daeron and the remaining crew of the Daring Huntress chased Turo and the double-crossing Ezi into the Shakti Nebula, only to end up invited to land here by Ezreal’s security forces. On Bazman, where he could go anywhere at all, just not leave.

“What’s wrong now, Daeron?” Osvai said, relaxing in his similarly styled—but all black—Dalvian silk suit. The missing heir to the Kyleri Empire sipped on a Lactarian malt from a crystal glass while grinning at an entertainment package broadcast on the holoscreen in front of his seat. Lest His Imperial Majesty get bored in the half hour it takes to get from Bazman’s presidential palace to the restaurant opening. Daeron glanced over at the prince who was now biting his lip to keep from laughing at the holovid. Daeron watched for a moment. He’d never seen anything so stupid.

“What’s so funny about people walking into things? It’s cruel.”

Osvai wasn’t listening. He gasped in laughter as some poor unsuspecting holo-person had a pile of trash dumped on their head. Daeron flung himself against the seat, but it only absorbed the shock and began to massage his lower back. Daeron could huff all he wanted, but Osvai had stopped caring about what bothered Daeron. He stroked his thick black beard, forgetting it was still glistening in the fancy oils Osvai made him use. Daeron wiped his greasy hand on the plush arm of the chair and returned to staring out the window at the traffic lanes of pods gliding through the clouds and between the towers—with no end and no beginning.

“Are Xenia and the rest of the crew coming tonight?” Daeron asked, breathing slowly through his nose, trying to let the fury of being stuck in a gilded prison subside. It wasn’t going anywhere. Just like him.

“They left.”

Daeron spun on the chair to face Osvai.

“They…left?”

“Yeah. Didn’t I tell you?” Osvai said, not looking up from the holovid. Daeron yanked at the silk collar constricting his neck, and it let out a satisfying rip.

“No…you didn’t tell me. That was…my crew. My ship.” Daeron was doing everything in his power to stay calm, but he knew his string was about to snap. Maybe if Osvai understood that, they wouldn’t spend half their nights screaming at each other in their apartment in the presidential palace.

“I guess they went to meet your mom.” Osvai drained his glass, then stretched and placed it inside an alcove grooved into the wall where a nozzle filled it back up. “Isn’t it her crew again now she’s back?”

Daeron fell into a sulking silence at the mention of his mom. Maybe Osvai knew him better than he thought. Because the moment Captain Sanya was raised, Daeron shut down. It had been weeks since she and that Tevian girlfriend of hers, Sallah, had crossed back through the horizon point with her brat, Ales. Had they come to see him? No. Daeron had only learned their mission had been successful from the newscasts. The returning hero Captain Ales, who apparently had an Ingvarian fleet at his disposal now, as well as the entire Outer Verge, had been spotted at the Mayo resort in the Central Star States. After their collective trauma, Captain Sanya, Sallah, and Ales had decided to play happy families and treat themselves to a little vacation at one of the most expensive systems in the galaxy.

It hurt Daeron hard. He’d still not seen her. Not even a holovid call. He stretched out his hand and opened his palm-tech to flick through the only messages his mom had sent since she’d returned.

The megacollider is gone then?

Yeah, as if a rebel Kyleri fleet blowing up an ancient sphere surrounding an entire sun had been his fault. Then, loving, motherly message number two.

Why is Osvai not back on Jiwani? And you lost Turo? Can’t you do anything right?

Good point. Why was Osvai not back on Jiwani?

“Don’t you care at all?” Daeron snapped, spitting his frustrations at Osvai. The prince finally looked up from the holovid, staring back with those thin eyes and sunset skin that Daeron couldn’t deny filled him with lust. Even if he was perpetually pissed off at him.

“Care about what, Daeron?”

“Your fucking empire.” Daeron stood up, kicking the chair hard so it spun like a ship out of control. Osvai drained his glass again and, with an overly audible sigh, came over to Daeron and slid his small arms as far around Daeron as they could go. But Daeron wriggled out of his half hug and slunk to the back of the pod, watching the dusty clouds spinning like a vortex as they flew.

“What do you want me to do, Daeron? Fight Viscamon for my throne with what army, exactly?”

“My mom said to take you home.”

“Oh, your mom said. It’s always the same story with you, Daeron. Your mom says you have to stay on Jiwani with a father you never knew, and you stayed. Your mom says look after me until I’m back on Jiwani, and you blame me for staying in the one place in the galaxy no one’s trying to kill me!”

Here we go. Another screaming match.

“Can we not do this now?” Daeron said, arms folded and his back to Osvai. “The president invited us to this restaurant opening, and since he’s the one keeping you safe and letting us stay for free, we don’t need you getting drunk and making a scene.”

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry, more drunk.”

Osvai sucked in a short breath. If they’d learned one thing about each other since escaping Jiwani together on the night of Osvai’s father, Emperor Kantori’s, assassination, it was how to push each other’s buttons.

“When was the last time you saw Xenia?” Osvai asked, lathered in bitterness. “Or Tal, or Bindi? Or even Voros? When was it? Kaj’s memorial service?”

“Shut up, Osvai.”

“You haven’t asked about them in weeks. So don’t pretend you didn’t know they’d leave. You didn’t want to know.”

“I said shut up!”

“You can say I’m afraid all you want. And yes, I am afraid of going back to Jiwani when Viscamon is imprisoning nobles until he’s blackmailed enough to crown himself emperor. That’s a normal thing to be scared of. But you—”

“Osvai, I’m fucking warning you.” Daeron spun around to see him sauntering around the pod with a look of victory splashed across his face.

“You might look like a big scary man, Daeron, but you’re just a little boy. Afraid of what his mommy will say.”

Daeron had already exploded. Fury prickled his body; sweat soaked the suit. He’d throw Osvai out of this pod if he could. His fists clamped together, ready to test just how much of a punch this glass could take.

“You have arrived at your destination,” the pod’s soft female voice said with a ding. “Have a pleasant evening.”

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Meet the Author

Harry F. Rey is an author and lover of gay themed stories with a powerful punch with influences ranging from Alan Hollinghurst to Isaac Asimov to George R.R. Martin. He loves all things sci-fi and supernatural, and always with a gay twist. Harry is originally from the UK but lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his husband.

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