Release Blitz: The Midnight Man by Kevin Klehr #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Midnight Man

Author: Kevin Klehr

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/30/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 52200

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, fantasy, family-drama, romance, gay, established couple, dreams, cheating, mother/son relationship

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Description

Stanley is almost fifty. He hates his job, has an overbearing mother, and is in a failed relationship. Then he meets Asher, the man of his dreams, literally in his dreams.

Asher is young, captivating, and confident about his future—everything Stanley is not. So, Asher gives Stan a gift. The chance to be an extra five years younger each time they meet.

Some of their adventures are whimsical. A few are challenging. Others are totally surreal. All are designed to bring Stan closer to the moment his joyful childhood turned to tears.

But when they fall in love, Stan knows he can’t live in Asher’s dreamworld. Yet he is haunted by Asher’s invitation to “slip into eternal sleep.”

Excerpt

The Midnight Man
Kevin Klehr © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Stanley gazed into the fridge as he waited for his partner, Francesco, and their conquest for the night to stop smooching at the front door and come inside.

He checked for eggs and milk. He was thankful there were chives in a container so breakfast for their guest could be a tad more exotic. But he’d have to go easy on the toast as there were only three slices of sourdough left, and he didn’t want to open the boring old multigrain.

He closed his eyes to recall the night. Their plaything was licking his lips with just the right amount of tongue when he propositioned Francesco at the nightclub. He hadn’t even noticed Stanley.

But if the couple didn’t respond to the young man’s request, he’d move on to the next potentials and Stanley and Francesco would have to choose between those altered by alcohol or happy pills. And Stanley knew those sins outstayed their welcome like bad wallpaper. Fortunately, tonight’s pickup was only slightly wired.

Francesco stumbled in the living room, trying to make martinis. Their boy was giggling like a pre-schooler who’d heard a limerick. But the disco laden images of earlier that night were still haunting Stanley.

Francesco’s workmate, Graham, had joined them with his partner, Tony. Stanley recalled the look Tony gave them when they said goodnight. As if their hookup, who wrapped his arms around Stanley and Francesco, was the victim in some lost midlife scenario reminiscent of anxious porn. Yet Graham and Tony were only ten years older than Stanley and Francesco’s toy for the night. Surely Tony would be more open-minded.

“Dinky, the martinis are ready.”

Stanley frowned at hearing his nickname. It was his curtain call to re-enter this flawed three-character play.

“Elijah can’t believe you’re fifty soon,” Francesco said, handing Stan his cocktail.

“You look so good.” The lad gazed wide-eyed for more time than naturally required. “Your hair’s thinning a little, but I know guys half your age who are seriously bald.”

“See, Dinky. Even Elijah thinks you’re handsome for your age.”

“Thank you,” Stanley mumbled. He sat on the edge of the armrest of the large sofa.

Elijah sat with his legs stretched out, enjoying the comfort of their recliner as if it was his own. He grinned at Francesco like a patient kid waiting too long for dessert.

“I hope you like scrambled eggs,” Stanley said.

“Say what?” Elijah snickered.

“You said you were staying for breakfast,” Stan replied. “You said so on the ride home.”

“Oh no.” Elijah looked horrified, as if dessert were cancelled. “You’re taking me out for breakfast.”

“He wants to be paraded,” said Francesco.

“Like a gold medal.” Stanley tried his best not to roll his eyes.

“So, what made you choose us tonight?” Francesco asked.

“You’re an established couple,” Elijah replied. “You know your shit. And you’ve dealt with your shit. Older men are so much more fun.” He turned to Stanley. “Most times I go out, I pick up an older couple.”

Stanley couldn’t help thinking how rehearsed Elijah sounded. “Has that strategy always worked?”

“Of course.”

“Really?”

Elijah stared blankly at Stanley. “Yeah, except when one guy is more uptight than the other.”

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Kevin lives with his husband, Warren, in their humble apartment (affectionately named Sabrina), in Australia’s own ‘Emerald City,’ Sydney.

His tall tales explore unrequited love in the theatre district of the Afterlife, romance between a dreamer and a realist, and a dystopian city addicted to social media.

His first novel, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, spawned a secondary character named Guy. Many readers argue that Guy, the insecure gay angel, is the star of the Actors and Angels book series. His popularity surprised the author. The third in this series, Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, scored a Rainbow Award (judged by fans of queer fiction) for Best Gay Alternative Universe/Reality novel.

So, with his fictional guardian angel guiding him, Kevin hopes to bring more whimsical tales of love, life and friendship to his readers.

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Release Blitz: The Warrior’s Assassin by Nikki McCoy #LGBTQ #Fantasy @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Warrior’s Assassin

Series: Born in Sin, Book One

Author: Nikki McCoy

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/30/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61300

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, mythical creatures (fae, jinn), incarceration, soulmates/bonding, revenge, prison escape, cliffhanger

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Description

For over a century, Kita has paid for his sins in innocence and blood. The sin of being born, for daring to exist, and for polluting the fae race with his tainted, mixed heritage. Half fae and half human, he is an abomination belonging to neither race, yet caught in the midst of their feuding.

After winning his freedom from a lifetime of slavery to the fae, a ghost from his past has come to pull him back into the depths of hell. And this time, there will be no escape.

To the world, Jacen McKenna is a gang leader, arms and drug trafficker, slaver. Labels he wears proudly to cover his true intentions. He is a warrior among his kind, dealing justice to his enemies and mercy to those without hope. He’d thought getting thrown into Babylon, a prison notorious for its inescapability, was the ultimate low point in his life. He was wrong.

From the second he laid eyes on Kita, he knew fate wasn’t done screwing him over. Beautiful, wild, and defiant, Kita brought out every protective instinct he possessed; ravaged him with emotions he never thought himself capable of. He tried to keep his distance, but fate, yet again, had other plans.

Caught in an impossible situation, they both have to learn to trust each other. But trust was a precious commodity in a world that had turned its back on them. Together, they must fight if they want to survive the war brewing in their midst.

Excerpt

The Warrior’s Assassin
Nikki McCoy © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Kita shook himself to clear his head, wondering what had made him think of that night so many years ago. Normally, his repressed memories came to him in dreams. Or, rather, nightmares.

At thirteen, he’d been foolish enough to desperately believe in Bergiese’s vision despite his cynicism. Later, he had learned to see the truth behind the pretty lie. There was no savior or salvation waiting for him somewhere down the path of his life. There was only misery and pain, and he was so incredibly sick of it all that his mind had begun to slip back into the state of bleak abjection he’d carried in his youth.

The future was a yawning maw empty of anything that made life worth living. What few reasons for happiness he’d found had faded quickly, leaving him raw and desolate. He knew it was time to end everything, yet he couldn’t bring himself to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger.

Funny how a person with no pride could consider suicide to be cowardly.

He drew back into the shadows of the alleyway when the door to the abandoned hotel opened. Nicolas Gordon, Nicki as he was known on the streets, walked out followed by a shorter man wearing a trench coat. The hood of Nicki’s sweatshirt was pulled down low to hide most of his face. Not that his poor attempts at anonymity over the past week had worked in his favor. He’d been found, and he would die tonight.

The two men spoke quietly, the steam of their breath curling in the frigid night air. They began to walk rapidly in the other direction. Kita slipped from his cover and entered the building, the squealing of rusted hinges on the door the only sound.

The area was mostly deserted, although not as run down as some of the neighborhoods he had seen. This small town, like so many scattered across the country, had had the misfortune of being located near a Crown Federation military base.

During the Islandar Civil War, more than a century ago, all of the bases had been targeted and summarily disabled. Some still lay in ruins from domestic terrorist attacks while others had been taken apart from the inside and left to rot in the wake of espionage and independent financial ruin.

Overall, Okasis fared decently in comparison. Its Federation base still functioned, which was a boon to the town’s economy, such as it was—struggling and on the constant verge of collapse.

He reached within himself for his power of pyrokinesis and sparked a small flame at his fingertip. With it, he searched the rooms on the first floor for Nicki’s belongings. If the reports were true, Nicki carried on him a laptop with information potentially disastrous to the Federation. Kita had been charged with confiscating the laptop and killing him.

Pinard, his keeper in the ISBF, Internal Security Branch of the Federation, had told him in no uncertain terms not to go through the laptop himself. However, the unusually avid interest in this mission had drawn his curiosity. The order had come from General Laurs, head of security, and was highly classified.

That in itself threw up a red flag.

Why would an insignificant peon on the low rung of society’s ladder be such a high‒profile target? The Federation didn’t send its dog on assassinations anyone could pull off. It just didn’t add up, even if the man was a renegade jinn.

He found the meager belongings in the last room amid layers of decay and rat droppings. In the duffel bag was a battered laptop one would hardly expect to find classified intel on. With the decryption device he’d liberated from Pinard’s desk, he easily hacked through its security. Two documents in particular stood out to him.

What he read in them made his blood run cold. It had to be some kind of mistake or propaganda to use against the Federation.

Yet, the more he read, the faster it became obvious this wasn’t a hoax. Most of the information contained in the documents correlated with events only the ISBF knew about. Critical threats against the Federation made over the past several decades that had been swept under the rug.

Briefly, he scrunched his eyes shut. He had hoped for something to hold against Pinard, but this… This was well beyond the limits of anything he could handle on his own.

Of all the endless ways this information could be used, only one outcome was certain. Their country would be plunged into another civil war. Serving these documents up to the general would only exacerbate the situation and quicken the inevitable outcome.

“Shit,” he hissed.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Nikki McCoy lives in the vast, open spaces of Wyoming where the wind is a beast and the snow dominates for 10 months out of the year. But the night are filled with magic and mystery.

It’s during these nights that her world becomes a collage of cunning intrigue, edgy mysteries and sexy, sometimes brutal men. She loves to let her imagination run away with her. The darker the fantasy, the greater the spoils.

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Release Blitz: To Summon Nightmares by J.K. Pendragon #bookreview #LGBTQ #paranormalromance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: To Summon Nightmares

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/23/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 53200

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, romance, demons, witches, horror, suspense, magic, mythology, psychic ability, PTSD, author, celebrity, Europe, small town, Ireland, new adult, transgender

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Description

Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was a teenage media-darling, a popular author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out as trans, public opinion has been less than golden, and these days he wants nothing more than to escape the big city and find somewhere quiet to work on his next book.

When he inherits an old house in the Irish countryside, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to get away from it all. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a paranormal murder mystery, and falling for the primary suspect, a handsome but mysterious self-proclaimed witch, whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…

Excerpt

To Summon Nightmares
J.K. Pendragon © 2021
All Rights Reserved

November, 2007

Jacky had crawled into Niall’s bed in the night. Niall thought about waking him and telling him to go back to the thin foam mattress on the floor, in case one of his parents walked by and saw them together through the crack of the door. But the floor was wood, and the house was old, and winter was setting in. Sleeping on the floor was cold, but Niall knew that wasn’t why Jacky had crawled into the bed next to him.

He stirred, and Jacky’s thin fingers grasped at his nightshirt, his legs wrapping tightly around Niall, and he muttered something in a soft and frightened voice. His hair, black and shiny with grease, fell limp in front of his sunken eyes. He was so beautiful, Niall thought, knowing he was the only one who saw it. He wrapped his arms tightly around Jacky, wishing he could protect him and keep him safe always. But Jacky couldn’t spend every night at Niall’s. He would have to go home tonight. Home to him.

“Niall!” His mother’s voice from down the hall spooked them both awake; Jacky’s eyes flew open in a panic. He jumped away from Niall and hurriedly scuttled under the blankets on the floor as the sound of footsteps grew closer and Niall’s mother pushed the door open.

“Morning, boys!” she announced, and Niall and Jacky pretended to wake up, rubbing their eyes and gazing blearily at her. “Oh heavens, it’s freezing in here; you’ve left the window open all night!”

Well, that explained the chill. She stepped over Jacky, who shrank away from her, to shut the sticky window tight. “Time to get up or you’ll be late for school. No more sleepovers if you’re going to be exhausted the next morning. What time did you boys go to bed last night?” She cocked her head, hands planted on her hips.

Niall and Jacky looked at each other guiltily. “Not that late, Ma,” said Niall. “I dunno. We didn’t look at the clock.”

“Well, get dressed.” She tutted. “Honestly, you boys don’t appreciate me. You think all mothers allow sleepovers on school nights?”

“No, Mam.” Niall managed a smile through bleary squinted eyes. “You’re the best, Mam.”

“Well, you’ve got that right. All right, up, breakfast’s almost ready.”

She left, closing the door behind her.

Jacky sighed and lay back on the pillow. “Why can’t I just live here with you, Niall?”

Niall bit his lip. “Well, y’know maybe if you told her, like, what’s going on with your dad—”

“She won’t listen,” said Jacky crossly. “They never listen. I told you. And me dad told me if I made a fuss again he’d hit me harder.” He flinched, his eyes going dark. “He said he’d kill me last time. I told you, Niall.”

“I know, but I bet Mam would let you stay here.”

“She wouldn’t, Niall. Anyway, I don’t wanna talk about it. We’re doing it tonight, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, I said tonight, didn’t I?”

“You sound like you don’t want to.”

“Of course I want to!” Niall jumped down onto the floor and grabbed Jacky, pulling him into a tight hug. “Hey, we’ve been planning it for weeks. I’m not gonna back out now.”

“Bet y’are though,” said Jacky, sniffling.

“I’m not.” Niall took Jacky by the arms and looked him firmly in the eyes. “I’m not just gonna abandon you, Jacky. Whatever it takes, I’m gonna take care of you. I love you.”

“I know.” Jacky sniffled again, rubbing his eyes. “I just can’t go back there again. I can’t keep lettin’ him—”

“You won’t.” It hurt deep in Niall’s heart to see Jacky cry. He couldn’t stand it. He pulled Jacky to him and kissed him hard, hoping it would stop the tears and take away some of the fear. “Listen, I got it all planned out. Everything’s ready. I’m gonna be there tonight at midnight sharp, okay? We’re gonna do it.”

“You promise it’ll make him stop? You promise it’ll work?”

“I promise, Jacky. I know what I’m doing. I’ve been studying this stuff for years; you know that. Magic works. I’ve tried it. You saw the stuff I can do.”

“It’s just little stuff.” Jacky crossed his arms.

“Yeah,” said Niall, feeling slightly offended. “That’s just ’cause I haven’t tried anything big yet. Look, if you don’t believe me, I’ll prove you wrong tonight. Right?”

“Yeah.” Jacky sighed and turned away to look for his clothes. “I hope it works, Niall. I dunno what I’ll do if it doesn’t.”

“It’ll work,” said Niall. “Don’t worry.”

It was impossible to concentrate at school. Niall’s mind was running through the ritual, remembering all the incantations. He’d be reading them out loud from a book tonight, but he had memorised them all anyway. He doodled the summoning circle in the margins of his notebooks, over and over again, so he’d have it perfect. It had to be perfect.

Jacky wasn’t in any of his classes this year. He had been in years past, but last year Jacky’s grades had slipped, and he’d been placed in learning support. Niall had tried to help him. Tried to make him learn. But his attempts had only been met with acidic responses and eventual tantrums from Jacky. He was smart, but no one could make him learn. So Niall had decided to leave it alone. He would learn when he was ready. And this might just change everything.

Jacky met him at lunch, in their usual spot outside the gymnasium. It was a corner that no one ever came near, so they were in relative privacy. He leaned his head on Niall’s shoulder and sighed. Niall drew him close, savouring the moment of aloneness. “How’s class?”

“Just stupid,” sniffed Jacky. “I can’t really think. I’m so excited.”

“Me too. I’ve been practising.”

“I got on the computer a little.” Jacky stiffened a little and leaned away from Niall to grab his bag. “I printed out some stuff.”

“What?” Niall leaned forward.

“Well, I thought—” Jacky pulled some papers out of the bag, printed articles. “I thought we might make a last-minute change.”

Niall bit his lip. “I don’t know, Jacky. It’s kind of a delicate thing.”

“Who’s the one you want to summon? Densel?”

“Denusel,” corrected Niall. “Well, he seems best; I mean, I looked him up in a bunch of different demonology books, right? He’s supposed to be really good at persuasion and mind control, so I figured he’d be a good fit. Plus, it said he had an even temperament.”

“It’s just…” Jacky frowned, chewing on his nails. “He’s not supposed to be very powerful, is he?”

“He’ll be enough, Jacky; it’s all relative. This is a really simple request, like a small transaction. The more powerful demons are much more dangerous, and they do much bigger stuff.”

“Yeah, but if you do it all right, it’ll be fine. It won’t be able to hurt us.”

“It’s— Sure, but we don’t need to—”

“Because I looked it up, and I found this.” Jacky shoved the article at Niall. It looked old like it had been photocopied from a book, but not one that Niall had ever seen before.

“Khireneth,” he read aloud. “Notably powerful demon, recordings include— No, this is no good. It doesn’t say anything about his power level or what he does.”

“It does down here, see?” Jacky pointed. “Look, it says he calls himself ‘Champion of the Oppressed.’”

“Sure, but that doesn’t mean anything; demons are all liars. They’re bad and dangerous unless you know how to contain them.”

“I know. You told me, but you do, right?” Jacky swallowed. “I want to make sure it works. I want to be sure.”

“I am sure.”

“Niall, I want to do this one.”

“No.”

“Please. Please, Niall.” Jacky blinked and a tear rolled down his face. “It has to work. There’s no other way. My dad—”

Niall clenched his jaw. He hated that man. And he hated even more that there was nothing he could do. Jacky wouldn’t let him tell the teachers, or the police or anything. Not since he’d come to school with a black eye once in fourth grade, and the teachers had sent a social worker to their house. Niall didn’t know what Jacky’s father had done to him as punishment, but he never talked about it. And when Niall even suggested telling someone about it, Jacky went white as a sheet.

Niall hated feeling helpless. That was probably why he had taken up magic. It gave him a feeling like he had some control over his life; that he could help. And he could help. If this summoning went well, why couldn’t they summon a more powerful demon? The transaction would be the same. And it would be a for-sure thing.

“Okay,” he said. “Okay, Jacky, we’ll do it.”

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

My Review – 4 stars!

A tale of magic, tragedy, and love… and did I mention magic?

The first bit of the book felt a little disjointed and confusing but once Cohen and Niall meet it starts to make more sense. I loved how protective Niall was from the beginning. What he saw as weakness was actually his strength. He had a huge heart, but it allowed people like Jacky to take advantage.

Cohen was brave, a bit quirky, and completely endearing. I was rooting for him and Niall to find happiness together. They’d both suffered and deserved a fairytale ending… but with the last scene in the book, I’m not so sure that’s in the cards for them. I really hope there will be a sequel.

Overall an action packed read that left me wanting more.

Meet the Author

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

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

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Book Tour: No Flag by Liz Borino #LGBTQ #BDSM @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: No Flag

Series: After Everything, Book One

Author: Liz Borino

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 06/07/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67100

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, family-drama, military, war, violence, terrorists, disabilities, amputee, bartender, Dom/sub relationship, domestic discipline, OCD

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Description

Captain Mike Kelley does not ignore his intuition, so when sexy bartender Will Hayes captures his heart, Mike embarks on a mission to win him over to a Domestic Discipline relationship. Will accepts with one caveat: Mike must promise not to renew his army contract.

Mike agrees, until the army invokes the stop-loss military policy to involuntarily extend his commission and send him back overseas, rendering him powerless and threatening everything he and Will have built. Will, left alone to cope with a new café, must rely on the support of old friends who may no longer be trustworthy.

A horrific terrorist attack on Mike’s outpost changes everything, leaving them both at a loss.

Mike awakens in a hospital with a devastating injury and no recollection of the attack. As the only survivor, his memory may be the key to national security. Mike struggles to cope with his injury and Will struggles with his new role in Mike’s life.

For Mike and Will, “No Flag” meant “come home alive.” Will has Mike back rather than a folded flag, but in the aftermath of war, can they rebuild the life they had before?

What Love Means to Me – Mike

If you asked me a few years ago, I would have said love was about protecting and guiding my partner. I had to steadfast, tough. Then I met Will, and for the first time in my life, I had the desire to compromise, to somewhat soften my need for control. Now, Will would tell you that ‘somewhat’ is doing a lot of work. But he’s not writing this. I am.

My definition changed again when I was deployed overseas despite my military contract ending. Love became the ability to stick with and remain devoted to someone, regardless of circumstances. I had promised him I wouldn’t have to leave, but Stop-Loss had other ideas. So, for five months, we lived in that love. It was the only time I had someone waiting for me at home, which made being there harder and easier. I had more of a drive to get home safely, but I also had to do my job well, to protect him and everyone. Or that’s what I told myself to keep sane.

Five months after I left, I came home without my left arm. Profoundly broken. I had to relearn how to take care of myself—eating, dressing, bathing, writing, opening a soda—things I never imagined would require two hands. How could I be the man Will fell in love with—the one he trusted to lead him—when I couldn’t so much as button a shirt? I didn’t know if I ever would be the same again.

The truth is I’m not. The trauma changed me. There are things I will never be able to do again, like fold laundry. And, yes, that’s on the list of things that bother me. It takes Will several tries to get it right sometimes, even when he’s trying… Anyway, love is knowing your partner will be there through everything. Love is trusting when you can’t see the other side. Love is vulnerability to each other and life.

After everything, Will trusts me to lead. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.

Excerpt

No Flag
Liz Borino © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
The News

July 7, 2012

Bombs exploded on the evening news, one after the other. Body parts flew past the camera. The headline across the bottom of the screen read: “20 Army Intelligence Officers Dead.”

“Early this morning, a bomb exploded in the Army Intelligence building, killing twenty American soldiers from Platoon 518,” the blonde newswoman reported.

Will Kelley squinted as the fuzzy security images played behind the woman’s head, searching through the chaos for reassurance. Nothing. His heart pounded and he tried to swallow but found only dry air in his mouth and throat. The female reporter described the weapons used and structural damage done in vivid detail, which made for sensational television, but failed to answer any questions for the people at home. Victims’ families had to be notified before the media could release their names. So, Blondie would lose her job if she read the list in front of her.

“What the hell are you doing, man? We open in thirty minutes and you’re watching television?” Seth, his roommate, demanded from the doorway of the living room.

“Answered your own question, didn’t you?” Will responded.

“Are you ready?”

“No.” Will did not take his eyes off the screen. “I’ll drive myself.”

“When?”

The report flashed to an increase in allergies in children, so Will switched to another station while typing “Attack on American S2 Building in Afghanistan” into Google. It wouldn’t be that easy though. So, Will tried several more combinations of search terms before finding a video shot by an insurgent involved in the attack. The camera shuddered. Focused on different areas of the chaos. Men ripping clothes off soldiers. Looting. Bodies blown to bits. A man removing computer hard drives. And only one face. On the severed head of Major Evans.

“Will!” Seth jabbed him in the shoulder with a pen. Will forced his eyes away from the computer. “What happened?”

“Mike’s platoon was attacked. Twelve survivors.”

“Shit,” Seth said. “Can you call…?”

Will took a slug from the nearby water bottle. “Who? No one will talk to me. I’m not my husband’s family.”

Seth stared at him for a long moment and said, “I’ll have Casey cover for you.”

Will stood and shook his head. “Why? I can’t do anything here except watch the same videos over and over. May as well see if I can make some money.” He shut his computer and set it on the side table. “Meet you there. I won’t be too late. Promise.” He had to stop himself from scoffing as the meaningless word left his lips.

“Will…” Seth began.

“You wanted me to move, I’m moving! Go. I’ll be there.” He walked toward his bedroom, Seth’s gaze burning into his back. Stopping to throw a glance over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t tell Casey. I can do without her mother-henning me.”

“Will…”

“Please, Seth.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Will climbed the steps and closed his bedroom door. He leaned against the wood cutting him off from the rest of the world. His gaze roamed the four walls decorated with art prints, a whiteboard, and his wedding picture. Will strode over and fingered the golden frame. Behind the glass lay a photograph of Will and Mike in tuxes in the middle of their first dance. Their smiles easily outshone the gold on the frame. Mike had always been handsome with broad, built shoulders and muscular pecs, leading to abs you could grate cheese on.

But none of that stood out to Will, not on their wedding day of the year before. Mike’s blue eyes radiated a strength and hope. Will removed his wedding band to read the promise inscribed: No Flag.

Please keep your promise, Mike, Will thought as he took a deep breath and tore himself away from the picture and the crushing memories it brought. He had a job to do tonight.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Liz Borino has been telling stories of varying truthfulness since she was a child. As an adult, she keeps the fiction on the page. She writes stories of human connection and intimacy, in all their forms. Her books feature flawed men who often risk everything for their love.

When Liz isn’t writing, she’s waking up early to edit, travel, and explore historic prisons and insane asylums—not (usually) all in one day. Liz lives in Philadelphia with her two cats.

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Release Blitz: I, Volcano by Eule Grey #LGBTQ #sciencefiction @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: I, Volcano

Series: Volcano Chronicles, Book One

Author: Eule Grey

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/23/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 62300

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, new adult, alternate universe, bisexual, lesbian, action/adventure, illness/disease, intercultural, doctors, musician, enemies to lovers, folklore, ocean/sea creatures, hurt/ comfort, tear-jerker, grieving, survivor’s guilt

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Description

According to ancient rhymes, the islanders of Ansar and Skarle are children of the volcano, born of fire and destined to be lovers. After the eruption, the prophecies are forgotten as all are forced to flee. Nobody cares about silly nursery rhymes now, certainly not Jalob.

When shy medic Jalob Baleine heads to war, it isn’t for romance. She only wants to help refugees who have no home or allies. Because they are kin. Jalob was born under the same glowering volcano, on an idyllic island surrounded by dolphins. Like the refugees, she fled the lava and secretly cherishes the old ways.

She falls asleep, ignoring the pull of tides, and dreams of a loving touch. Who doesn’t? And sure, maybe Jalob hasn’t felt whole for years, but war isn’t the time for fantasies. She keeps to herself and hopes someone else will sort the war out. One woman can’t heal the world. After all, she has enough to do, what with tending the sick and her supervisor, Susan, always on her back.

Then Jalob meets stroppy violinist, Corail Esplash. After an explosive introduction, they’re forced to spend time together. Stress makes them long for a reprise, and a fragile line dances between love and hate. Inevitably, the young women exchange island stories. Corail is head-strong and rude, a typical Ansar who loves to tease and be chased. And Jalob—strong, loyal, from Skarle—has such fast legs… Could the old rhymes about destiny be right? Ah, fate.

Death and war are relentless enemies, and difficult choices lie ahead. Can a shy girl rekindle the power of a dead volcano and harness the ocean? One woman can’t heal the world, but maybe Jalob is the only one who can save Corail.

Excerpt

I, Volcano
Eule Grey © 2021
All Rights Reserved

The news on TV isn’t good. Refugees march across Mainland with no place to go.

Dad sighs. “Why? What can anyone achieve by systematic annihilation? Why do some people want to own the world?”

“Supremacy?” I guess. The ways of angry people have always been a mystery to me. “I don’t understand either. Why is there so much hate?” I did world history in school and know the basics, but it doesn’t really help. There’s never been peace, despite Mainland being filled with people from all creeds. “There must be wrongs on both sides.”

Dad stirs his tea vigorously. Brown liquid sloshes over the rim. One of these days he’s going to break that mug. “I’m not so sure. It’s territorial, like always,” he says ruefully. “We should be safe.”

Mainland is more than thirty miles from where we live on the island of Farland. Our small-island laws and rules are thankfully removed from Mainland dictation and, by and large, they leave us alone. My people have a long history of looking the other way. Not very admirable, but it has its plus points.

“Yes, but what about them?” The news is full of footage of little kids and old people being carried in supermarket carts. “Will anyone help?” I lean into Dad’s solid frame, glad to be safe in our cottage. We don’t have much, but we sleep at night and have enough to eat.

I remember what it’s like to leave at midnight, knowing you’ll never see home again.

He pats my knee. “I don’t know. Macke says they’ve already started arriving in boats. Families mostly.”

“From where?” I try to think back to geography lessons and books. Although I’ve done well in medical studies, I was no good at other lessons. “From Esk? Isn’t that the nearest coast?” I love Esk. We used to row there often to spend weekends and holidays. “I hope it doesn’t get ruined by war.”

Dad tuts. “Jalob! People are much more important than buildings.”

“I know that. I just don’t get why countries can’t solve things by talking.” The truth is, seeing the refugees is more than disturbing. It’s easier to pretend all the trouble can be solved with a chat than to acknowledge it probably can’t.

“A country behaves the same as an individual,” he says. Any minute now, he’s going to bring up me being bullied at school. “When one person is stronger than the other, or maybe, angrier, more damaged, more hurt, sometimes being friends isn’t an option. You can’t have a conversation if the other person isn’t listening.”

“Mm.”

“Friendship is a privilege, not a given right. Remember when you were at school, and—?”

“I get it, I get it. I’m being selfish. It’s just hard to imagine when you’re seeing it on TV. What even started this war? I don’t mean all the petty arguments. I mean, what was the actual cause?”

“Do you know nothing of the world? It’s your history too.”

I shrug. “I know potatoes make excellent chips and fried eggs are good to dip. What goes on in Mainland isn’t my business.” I’m uncomfortable he’s trying to make this war relevant to me. I don’t mind hearing about Skarle, but I don’t want to start thinking about boats and refugees. It’ll only lead to images of volcanoes and what happens when people can’t get away.

He shakes his head and laughs. “Always thinking with your stomach! What do you mean it’s not your business? Mainland Ansars originate from the islands.” He looks at me meaningfully. “You know—our islands. They’re different from our island Ansars, sure, and they left hundreds of years ago, but still. They’re our people, Jalob.”

Ours? From what I remember, island Ansars certainly didn’t belong to anyone.

“Mm. I know that much.”

Ansars fascinate me. Since I can remember, I’ve had a crush on an Ansar—Berl. Fish and frogs, is she gorgeous! Tall, slim, messy long hair, and full of cutting sarcasm. Everyone fancies her. I’ve always kept out of her way. People like that don’t want to associate with the likes of me.

On the last night of our final school term, students had been allowed to gather. She’d got out a guitar and sung all night. It was spellbinding. I waited until everyone had left, just to watch her pack away. Just to make the evening last a little longer. Maybe I hoped she might talk to me? Skarles and Ansars have a long history. And, like Dad says, we come from the same place.

Berl noticed me, standing by the big oak tree. She sauntered over and looked me up and down. “You’re massive. Are you Skarle?” she asked.

“Um. Yes. I mean. I was. Until the volcano. Yes. Um.”

“Um? What are you, a bee?”

“Sorry.”

I thought she was going to be rude, like she normally is. When she kissed and started touching me, I actually thought I was drunk and hallucinating. It was the best night of my life.

When she unbuttoned my top, I was so excited I didn’t know what to do, so I just watched her do it.

Being tall, big, and clumsy, I’m all the opposites to her. I could probably have lifted her up with one hand if I had wanted to. That night, though, I hadn’t felt very strong at all. She took my top off, unzipped me, and then squeezed and prodded at me. I didn’t know what it was supposed to feel like. Even now, I’m not sure I liked it that much.

Then she walked off, like nothing had happened.

Didn’t answer any of my messages afterwards. I suppose one day, I’ll stop thinking about her and wishing for what can’t be.

Dad gets into his stride. “Over the years, they’ve become undesirable in Mainland. I suppose that’s the word. I don’t know how it started, but Mainlanders started squeezing them out. There were protests, but nobody can stand up to an army. Looks like they’ve ordered the Ansars out of eastern Mainland. But why? Those poor people have to live somewhere.”

“It’s really worrying. Are Ansars safe here in Farland?”

“Are you thinking about that girl?” Dad pats my knee. “She’ll be fine. Mainlanders have no jurisdiction here.”

“Girl? Who?”

“You know who. Berl.”

“Oh! Hah-hah. I wasn’t thinking about her. I’ve moved on,” I lie. “Haven’t seen her since college.”

“She isn’t worth the time you spent pining,” Dad says. “Didn’t have the decency to answer your calls.”

“It’s fine. I couldn’t care less.” I’m absolutely not going to talk about dates with my father. “We can’t just watch.” I nod at the TV, wanting Dad to stop scrutinising me. Sometimes I think he reads my mind. “We have to help.”

Watching Ansar people in trouble is different to seeing Farland folk in trouble. I’d still be upset, but this is more. It’s not like watching people fight and knowing you can step in and help. It’s more like, I’m in the fight and on the losing side.

“Actually—” He starts to speak and then turns away, biting his lip.

“What?”

“It’s just. Well. The International Agency is asking for medics to volunteer.” He speaks slowly, like he might be already regretting it. “It’s nothing. Forget I said anything.”

“For what?”

“Doctors, nurses, anyone medical. All those people walking miles need medical treatment.” He shakes his head and sighs. “The camps must be crying out for help.”

It’ll be another two months before I’m a qualified medic. I haven’t considered doing anything except work at the local hospital and stay with Dad.

“Oh.” I speak fluent Ansar and am used to working with all kinds of people. Theoretically, I could offer. “Do you think they’d accept me? I don’t have any experience except college. I expect they’ll get a lot of applications from some great medics. They don’t want someone like me. I’m sure there’ll be others who can do it better.” Like always.

“Jalob,” Dad tuts. “Why do you have such little confidence in yourself?”

I wait for him to say, Believe in yourself; you’re a great girl, so I can nod without having to answer. He doesn’t though. He waits for me to speak. I blush up like a big red stupid letter box. “I dunno” is the best I can manage. “Stop looking at me.” I stand and head for my bedroom.

“Jalob,” Dad calls.

I lock the door and flop onto my bed. I can’t stand another round of Dad therapy. I hear the words, but they just bounce off my skin. I wish he was right—that I’m a great person who only needs a chance to prove myself.

Truth is, I’m just me. When has that ever been good enough?

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Meet the Author

Eule Grey has settled, for now, in the north UK. She’s worked in education, justice, youth work, and even tried her hand at butter-spreading in a sandwich factory. Sadly, she wasn’t much good at any of them!

She writes novels, novellas, poetry, and a messy combination of all three. Nothing about Eule is tidy but she rocks a boogie on a Saturday night!

For now, Eule is she/her or they/them. Eule has not yet arrived at a pronoun that feels right.

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Release Blitz: Survivors by Amy Marsden #paranormalhorror #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Survivors

Series: Survivors, Book One

Author: Amy Marsden

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/16/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 88500

Genre: Paranormal Horror, LGBTQIA+, paranormal, bisexual, post-apocalyptic, dark, medical personnel, scientist, military

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Description

It’s Jennifer’s 24th birthday and she planned to spend it having fun with her friends. Instead, she ends up running for her life through the dark streets of London.

Her world is torn apart by a new disease, the likes of which have never been seen before. The government’s decision to conceal its deadly nature exacerbates the panic, and in all the confusion Jennifer is bitten by an infected person.

That’s it, right? Her life over.

Wrong.

Immune to the virus’s ravaging effects, Jennifer finds herself with a small group of survivors. Together they must fight to stay alive long enough for a cure to be found. Humanity won’t be beaten so easily.

But madness looms large, and safety seems forever out of reach.

Excerpt

Survivors
Amy Marsden © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
January 11th

Going to protests had become second nature to Jen. The gatherings were numerous, loud, and full of energy, but so far none of them had achieved anything. The world remained in the dark. Uncertainty pervaded the air like it had a physical weight, heavy and viscous, and Jen had long since grown used to it. She would be more uncomfortable if things were normal.

Fire threw orange light across the street, the shifting shadows dancing over riot gear as the crowd surged forward. Shouts and screams merged into a meaningless cacophony. Smoke hung over everything, obscuring people on the ground nursing broken noses, broken arms, broken legs. The camera spun in a disorientating way. Had the police attacked the news crew? Nothing would surprise her anymore. The roar reached a crescendo—

Jen switched the television off. Insecurity seemed constant, but she wasn’t going to let it ruin her twenty-fourth birthday. She’d seen it all before, anyway. The riots were becoming more and more frequent. She turned her attention back to the object in her hands and put all the confusion and dismay out of her mind.

The camera wasn’t the best on the market, but Jen loved it regardless, and she hadn’t been able to stop thanking her parents after they dropped it off yesterday. Jen liked the weight of it in her hands, ready to freeze everything away from the ravages of time. Her old camera had been damaged from years of use and abuse, and she vowed to take much better care of this one.

A sharp bang broke her concentration, and she jumped up as the door to the apartment burst open. What the—

“Jen? Damien?” Rhys’s strained voice sounded from the kitchen. What’s going on? He’d said he couldn’t make it tonight.

She entered the kitchen on light feet. If this was a prank for her birthday, she wasn’t going to be happy. She hated surprises.

“There you are,” Evelyn said. “C’mon, we have to go.” They were all there—Rhys, Evelyn, Amanda, and Rachel. Her friends. Instead of greeting her with smiles, hugs, and excitement, they looked scared, their bodies rigid as they stood in the kitchen. Rhys looked winded as he leaned on the kitchen counter, sweat running from his shaved head to his square jaw.

“What are you talking about?” Jen cut her laugh short as Evelyn threw a pleading look her way. This didn’t seem like a prank.

“Hey, guys,” Damien said as he entered the room, not a hair out of place. Jen had been ready for a good half an hour, but Damien had procrastinated and rushed to get dressed.

“Listen, we don’t have much time.” Rhys struggled to slow his breathing. Worry trickled down Jen’s back. This wasn’t like him at all. “I’m not even supposed to be here.” He still wore his army uniform. What are those stains?

“What’s wrong?” Damien asked slowly. Rhys wasn’t the type of person to play jokes on people.

Amanda shrugged. “I have no idea either. These two—” she gestured at Rhys and Evelyn as she shrugged out of her jacket and put her phone and purse on the counter “—found us walking up the stairs. Running like the devil was chasing them.”

“You all know about the new virus, right?” Rhys looked at them for confirmation, his dark eyes intense.

“Yeah, of course we do,” Jen said. People talked of little else. That and the less exciting news about a food recall and less on the shelves. “It’ll be okay. They’ll find a cure soon.” Conspiracies had sprouted up saying everyone who got the disease died, or the government had created it to stop overpopulation or some such nonsense. Fearmongering.

What worried Jen was how long they were taking to find a cure. With millions of people infected society had ground to a halt. Jen’s university had closed its doors last November, and she didn’t know when it would reopen. Restaurants and cafés had followed suit. It was a nightmare. Criminals became bolder too, with crime on the rise.

Quite a lot of the protests were about demanding to know what was going on. The majority of them devolved into riots these days, but the government kept assuring everyone they were doing all they could. Some people didn’t even believe the virus was dangerous.

“It’s much worse than the media is portraying—”

Rachel cut him off. “What do you mean ‘worse?’”

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Meet the Author

As a child Amy loved reading and writing, so naturally she graduated with a degree in biomedical science and has worked in a microbiology laboratory ever since. Her passion is writing however, and she started her first novel while still at university. When she is not writing about surviving apocalypses, exploring space, and conquering magic—all featuring LGBTQ characters—she can be found reading or playing games about those very things. She lives by the sea with her wife and fifteen-year-old cat who still runs around like a kitten.

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Release Blitz: Road to Revenge by Mell Eight #thriller #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Road to Revenge

Series: Road to…, Book One

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/09/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 40600

Genre: Contemporary Thriller, LGBTQIA+, terrorism, religious extremism, secret agents, international espionage, revenge, military

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Description

Rafi only wanted to spend a relaxing day in Tel Aviv with his lover, Mihi. When a bomb goes off outside the restaurant where they stopped for lunch, killing several people and leaving Mihi in critical condition, Rafi vows to catch the culprits and make them pay. Set on revenge, Rafi accepts an assignment to infiltrate a group of humanitarians to figure out which of them was responsible—and to stop whatever they’re planning next.

Excerpt

Road to Revenge
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Rehov Dizengoff, Tel Aviv

Mihi walked as though he was dancing, so smoothly my eyes couldn’t help tracking his hips as they wiggled so enticingly just ahead of me along the busy street. Dizengoff Street was one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Tel Aviv; the gigantic, two-story Dizengoff Mall took up two blocks on both sides of the street and was only a half mile away. We were on the end of the road closer to the beach, though, so we were surrounded by small shops and restaurants instead of cars.

The sidewalks were large, which was good because dodging daredevils riding their motor scooters was just one small part of walking in Israel. Another was dodging the water from dripping AC units hanging out of the apartment windows above every single shop. The third was dodging the stray animals and their leavings—Israel has a small problem with stray cats, mostly because there was minimal effort to contain the enormous population.

“How about this café?” Mihi called ahead of me, spinning gracefully on one heel to glance back at me. He saw the direction of my eyes and grinned impishly, twitching his hips again in a blatant invitation he knew I would eagerly accept when we returned to our private room in a nearby hostel.

But first we would have lunch and then we would spend the afternoon sitting on the beautiful beach watching the sunset. Then maybe we would take the long walk down to Jaffa for dinner, or maybe we could try a local falafel place. Falafel was the food of the Middle East, and Israelis knew how to fry up the chickpea mixture just right.

I followed Mihi into the little café, glad we were avoiding the chain café, Aroma, on the next corner. It was a relief to be inside, away from the heat of the day and the constant rumble of busses and honking of cars that filled Dizengoff Street to the brim. Mihi was already waiting for me at the counter, menu in hand and a grin on his face for my slower pace.

He was so beautiful, my Mihi, with his slightly curled brown hair flopping into his bright and happy brown eyes. His family was originally from the Romanian side of the Russian border before they fled the Holocaust and the Russian pogroms, so his skin was always just a shade tanned. He had managed to get the prominent cheekbones from his mother’s side of the family, which took a good bit of attention away from his father’s slightly hooked nose that sat in the center of Mihi’s otherwise flawless face. Mihi was perfect, and I couldn’t help smiling back at him as I joined him at the counter.

We ordered. Simple sandwiches because Israelis never ate truly large meals and therefore didn’t offer them even in a tourist-heavy area like Dizengoff. I followed Mihi to a table in the corner; it was right up against the glass window where we could people watch and cringe at the amazing stunts some of the drivers pulled to make their way through traffic.

Mihi took the better seat in the corner, where he could have his back to the blank wall and the entire window in front. I bent down to kiss him gently on the temple instead of taking the seat across from him.

“Bathroom,” I murmured into his ear before pulling away and heading toward the restroom sign in the very back of the shop. Mihi gave me another one of his impish smiles and waved me off. He was already setting out napkins so we could eat properly. One of the napkins fluttered to the ground as I pushed the bathroom door open, and I couldn’t hold back a tiny smirk. Mihi hadn’t noticed it yet, but I knew that napkin would be picked up and thrown away before I returned.

I took care of my business and was washing my hands when it happened. A loud thump made my ears ring. The building shook, the mirror in front of me cracked and splintered, plaster from the ceiling rained down on my hair, and then total silence.

Then: screams.

I stood in front of the sink, the water still running cold and clear over hands, frozen in place. My eyes were wide in shock, hazel blue set in Polish-pale skin. My light brown hair was flecked with white plaster dust. My entire face motionless within the cracked frame of the mirror, waiting while my brain processed what I’d just felt and heard.

Suddenly, I could feel my lungs aching, and as if that were a signal to turn back on, my body gasped for air. I shook as I spun away from the sink, the water still running, and rushed to the door. I flung it open to total chaos.

The warped and blackened frame of a number nine Dan bus burned at the bus stop outside. Bodies and body parts littered the sidewalk, blood leaking from below the twisted metal.

The front window of the café was shattered, glass strewn across the floor. None of the tables and chairs in front of me were still standing and there were bodies everywhere.

The person sitting closest to the blast was missing most of his head. I gagged, but fought throwing up as I pushed through the mess back toward the small table in the far corner.

People were moaning, bleeding, and dead around me, but I only had eyes for a particular crumpled table and chairs and the bare leg clad in a flowery bathing suit I could see poking out beneath the debris.

No one by the window could have survived that blast. My heart batted away the thought even as my brain supplied it.

The leg was still bleeding, shrapnel wounds marring the lightly tanned skin. It was attached to a torso hidden beneath the table. I threw that table off with all my strength, dropping to my knees at Mihi’s side.

He was still breathing, my brain supplied. My heart decided it would keep beating for the moment.

Clutched in one hand was that silly napkin dropped to the floor just moments before. I have never been so happy for Mihi’s little quirks. He must have been bending over when the blast went off and had been protected by the wall at his back. The table and chairs must have shielded him from the worst of it.

Mihi’s eyes fluttered open, unfocused and glazed with pain. He immediately found me.

“Mihi!” I gasped, one hand reaching out to cup his cheek. His ear was bleeding sluggishly onto my hand, but his cheekbone was unbroken.

“Rafi,” he whispered in a cracked and broken voice. His eyes slid shut again.

“Mihi!” I yelled. “Mihi, you’re going to be okay!”

Finally, I started to hear the sirens. People who had seen the blast were already trying to find the living, but they were still searching by the remains of the bus. All of them, from the helpers to the EMTs, were taking their very lives into their hands. Everyone knew the terrorists liked to set off one blast and then wait for the emergency crews to arrive before doing their best to destroy the ambulances and kill all the first responders—even more innocents dead to their horrible vendetta.

My Mihi didn’t have time for any of that foolishness. As one of the ambulances jumped the curb and drove onto the sidewalk I stood and started waving frantically.

“Here!” I screamed, frenzied and hopped up on fear and adrenaline. The driver saw me and pointed. Two men leapt out of the back of the truck and rushed over with heavy bags banging against their sides. They stepped directly through the empty window and dropped down at Mihi’s side.

One took Mihi’s vitals while another started pulling the remains of the chair and table away from Mihi’s body.

“Still alive,” the first one grunted in Hebrew, waving one hand for a woman setting up a stretcher to hurry over. They didn’t rush, but it wasn’t long before Mihi was strapped properly into the stretcher and was rolling off toward the ambulance. I followed along behind, like a lost puppy following his owner, and climbed into the ambulance behind Mihi.

Something in my face must have alerted the EMT woman already bending over Mihi, because she pointed toward a seat by the door. I took it and couldn’t help my flinch when the doors slammed shut behind me.

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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: Border CTRL + ESC by Iva L. James #LGBTQ #contemporaryromance @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Border CTRL + ESC

Series: Virginia is for All Lovers, Book One

Author: Ivy L. James

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/09/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 68600

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, friends to lovers, multicultural, geeks, nerds, marriage of convenience, green card marriage, demisexual, bisexual, family drama, inheritance, work drama, money problems, adulting, one-bed dilemma

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Description

In the United States…

Mariana Mitogo is struggling to make ends meet. Then, out of the blue, she learns she’s to receive a huge inheritance that would erase all her debt. The problem: she has to be married for six months to receive it, and her dating life is nonexistent.

In Spain…

Santiago de los Reyes, Mariana’s Internet friend, has drained his bank account to support his family. Desperate to get his mom the heart surgery she needs, he interviews for a better-paying job that would take him from Madrid to Virginia. When he’s offered the position but can’t get a work visa, Mariana offers a solution that benefits both of them—a fiancé visa and a quick wedding.

If anyone finds out it’s a green-card marriage, Santiago will be deported. Mariana would face a colossal fine and jail time. Good thing they’re committed actors.

But as Santiago and Mariana pretend to build a life together, the lines blur between charade and reality. Will they dare to choose the love that feels more honest every day?

Border Ctrl+Esc is a lighthearted friends-to-lovers marriage of convenience between LGBTQ+ Internet friends (a demisexual woman and a bisexual man).

Excerpt

Border CTRL + ESC
Ivy L. James © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Mariana Mitogo scanned the faces filtering through both the escalator and the stairs into the Arrivals area of the airport, hoping Santiago de los Reyes Martínez hadn’t changed his appearance since his last selfie. She had assumed he wore his glasses all the time like she did, but did he? Maybe they were only for the aesthetic. What if he didn’t have them on, or he cut his hair, and she didn’t recognize him? What if his plane had come in somewhere else and this wasn’t even the right flight?

Announcements squawked over the speakers; conversations murmured around her as a fresh wave of people came from the gates. The crowds swirled, heading to the luggage conveyors and the restaurants and the exit. She sidestepped travelers on their phones. She almost passed over the man who stepped off the escalator next—and then she couldn’t look away.

Thick, mussed black hair curled over the edges of his ears and down the nape of his neck, too long to look professional. His naturally tawny complexion had darkened with exposure to the sun, and she could see those big, dark eyes from here, even with his oversized hipster glasses. The edges of him were soft, not harsh with muscle, but something about the angle of his shoulders and the way he filled out his simple T-shirt and jeans scrambled her insides.

Please don’t be him, she prayed, ready to barter her health and wealth against her need to not have to deal with a cute guy friend. She hadn’t been interested in anyone since she was sixteen—she didn’t want to start now. Life was simpler that way.

As she stood there, appalled at her potential bad luck, he turned to meet her gaze, and he pulled back. No wave, not even a smile. He just pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose, shoulders tense, lips pressed together.

Her throat prickled. Of course I look different. Cheeks hot, she smoothed her palms over the front of her yellow dress. I guess I didn’t expect to…to disappoint him.

He hadn’t even waved yet. She swallowed her embarrassment and, with a smile, did jazz hands.

A grin split his face, and it clicked.

She’d seen that grin in enough goofy selfies.

Damn it.

Santiago raced to her, dropped his suitcase, and swept her into a bear hug. For a split second she froze, not having expected outright affection—but then she relaxed and hugged him back, and her concern about attraction faded.

This is him, her heart and mind seemed to sigh, this time in relief. This is Santi. They already knew each other inside and out. Having him here in person, at long last, fit a piece into place she hadn’t realized was missing.

When he finally let go, she tapped him on the chest. “I’m not sure I know how to talk to you face-to-face. Let’s go sit somewhere so we can text.”

He snorted with laughter, as she’d hoped. “Maybe we can turn around and pretend to talk to our phones.” The lilt of his native language softened his English, prettier than her own slight Virginian drawl. Poor guy, having to practice his second language with a Southerner. He was going to end up with two different accents blended into one. Not to mention a propensity for the word y’all.

“How was your flight?” It seemed like the appropriate first question to ask.

He shrugged and rubbed his butt. “It was fine. Long.”

She grinned.

This response, though, made his forehead crinkle. “I said that right, didn’t I? Sorry about my accent.”

“Yeah, you said it fine.” She bounced on the balls of her feet. “Do you want any coffee or anything before we start the drive home? It’s gonna be another two hours until we get there.”

Santi glanced around the waiting area, probably looking for a coffee shop.

“Not here. There’s a Starbucks a couple miles down the highway.”

He half grimaced at the word miles. “And that’s…?”

“Oh.” She struggled to remember the correct ratio of miles to kilometers. Two to one? One to two? Ugh, math. She gave up. “About five minutes.”

They both stared at each other, looking a little blank, until they shared a self-deprecating laugh, and he picked up his suitcase. “Yes, let’s get some coffee. I’ll still be able to sleep when we get home.”

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Meet the Author

Ivy L. James wrote her first story on Post-it notes as a child. Since then, she has graduated to regular paper and enjoys writing inclusive, heartwarming romance as a way to counterbalance the negativity in the world. She lives in Maryland with her partner and their corgi, cat, and two snakes.

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Release Blitz: Concussion and Contentment by Liz Faraim #contemporaryromance #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: Concussion and Contentment

Series: Vivian Chastain, Book Three

Author: Liz Faraim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 87500

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Contemporary, family-drama, interracial, lesbian, polyamorous, ex-military, bartender, Christmas, New Year, established couple

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Description

Vivian, an adrenaline junkie and U.S. Army veteran, goes about her life as a bartender, avid runner, and polyamorous lesbian. Her life in Sacramento, California, is going well until she is blindsided by unforeseen financial issues that lead her to consider a new career.

In an attempt to recharge and take a break, Vivian goes on a motorcycle trip with her best friend, Bear, but the adventure does not turn out to be the carefree break Vivian had hoped for. She returns to Sacramento where her partner, Ang, tries to push her down rather than help her pick up the pieces. Meanwhile, Vivian takes big steps with her other partner, Audre.

Vivian has an epiphany about what line of work she wants to pursue. As things start to stabilize, one of Vivian’s partners commits an act of grave violence, resulting in life-changing consequences for all concerned.

Surrounded by friends, Vivian turns over a new leaf and finally finds the contentment she has sought for a lifetime.

Excerpt

Concussion and Contentment
Liz Faraim © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Spring 2006, Sacramento, CA

Sweat dripped and bass pulsed as hundreds of women writhed and bumped to the music. Tick, the club DJ, was killing it. The vibe was so good that I was high on it. There was a line at my station ten people deep, customers jostling for position while dancing and shuffling forward each time I finished a drink order. One of my regulars stepped up and waved a twenty-dollar bill at me. She was in her forties, sporting a bowler hat and forearm tats.

“Viv, show me them titties and tats!” she shouted over the thumping and chatter.

I had already stripped down to my sports bra, with my beater hanging from the back pocket of my Dickies. It was hot for April, and the press of sweating, dancing bodies had made the nightclub a sauna.

“Aw, Tig, you know I can’t do that,” I said with a smirk and turned my back to the crowd. Behind the bar was a wall-to-wall mirror. I gyrated my hips to Bubba Sparxxx’s “Ms. New Booty,” which had become a club favorite. I made eye contact with Tig in the mirror as she jumped to the beat, still waving the twenty-dollar bill at me. Shoving down the shyness that crept up, I slapped on the façade of the confident butch barkeep I wore to work. I pulled my sports bra up, just a bit.

She hollered to her friends, “She’s doing it, she’s doing it!”

Amidst the chaos, they leaned to the side to see my reflection in the mirror, their mouths agape, eyes laser focused on me. I kept the tease up for a minute, dancing to the song, pulling my bra up a bit and lowering it again. Each time I lowered it, there was a chorus of “Awwwww’s” behind me. I finally relented and pulled my sports bra completely off. Their hoots and hollers made me grin, and I continued dancing for myself in the mirror.

Just as the song was ending, a bright light flashed in the mirror, reflecting straight into my eyes. I traced the light back along the mirror and saw it was coming from near the front door. Buck, our bouncer, stood on the rungs of her barstool by the door, flashing her Maglite at me. When we made eye contact, she tapped the top of her head three times, which was the sign that the cops were coming. I shimmied back into my sweaty sports bra, which was no easy feat, and turned back to my customers.

Tig pulled me into a hug across the bar. She tucked the bill into my waistband, her rough fingers lingering far too long on my skin. “Thanks, Viv. Looking good. Those tits and tats, you are so fucking hot. If I weren’t married, things’d be different.”

I patted her cheek and ended the hug, doing my best to keep my cool and stay in my role.

“Good to see you, Tig. The usual?”

She nodded and I poured her an Irish Car Bomb. She slapped some more cash on the bar, dropped the shot glass of whiskey and Bailey’s into her pint of Guinness, and chugged the whole frothing mess while her crew cheered her on. She slammed the pint glass down, wiped her mouth on her bare arm, belched, and disappeared into the fray.

Jen, the barback, bounced up to me with her usual level of cheer, and began unloading glasses fresh from the washer. “Tig still trying to get into your pants?” Her voice dripped with disgust as she fingered the American Spirit cigarette tucked behind her ear.

“Always.” I uncapped some beer bottles and rang up my next customer. “You know, I’ve been doing this job a few years now, and know that there’s a certain level of shit we have to put up with if we want those tips. And I need those tips. But it’s getting less amusing when people forget we are human and not a piece of meat.”

Jen nodded knowingly. “How much did she give you this time?”

“Twenty bucks. More generous than usual. She must have just gotten paid.”

“Well, don’t include it when you tally up your tips tonight. When you tip me out, I don’t want any of that. You earned it.” There was a pitying turn to Jen’s lips, and I nodded at her slowly.

We turned to watch as the police pushed their way past the line of women waiting to get into the club. Buck stopped them in the entryway at her lectern. She stood tall, her perfectly pressed uniform shirt tucked into her Wranglers. Jen slapped my ass and hustled back out to gather up empty glasses and beer bottles and likely drop her weed and pipe into one of the potted plants.

I spotted Sheila, our manager, mingling in the press of bodies and waved her down. I pointed toward the cops. She nodded and slithered her way through the crowd the way any seasoned bar or restaurant worker does. Sheila and Buck eventually convinced the officers to leave, which was a relief. Uniformed police in a queer nightclub were bad for business.

The frantic pace kept up until last call. Eventually Tick turned on the house lights and Buck worked her way around the place, breaking up lingering conversations with her usual: “You don’t have to go home, but ya can’t stay here.” As she escorted out the last couple and locked the doors behind them, I posted up on a bar stool and counted out my tips and cash drawer.

My hip itched and I remembered the money Tig had put there. I pulled the sweaty bill out of my waistband and dropped it into my tip bucket with disgust. The rant I had been holding back burst forth to no one in particular.

“Who do the fuck do they think they are, putting their hands all over us like they own us? Like we’re in a fucking petting zoo!”

“Pipe down, Viv.” Sheila lit a cigarette and watched us like a hawk as we counted the club’s money. I grumbled. “It’s just part of the job. It’s part of the atmosphere here. Remember what I told you way back on your first day?”

I turned and made eye contact with Sheila. Her brown eyes challenged me, a crinkle at the corners, her right eyebrow cocked just a hair. She took a long drag on her cigarette and blew it at me. She knew I was a runner and hated cigarette smoke, so I took it as a blatant sign of disrespect.

Speaking through clenched teeth I recalled, “On my first day you said: Know your place, stay in your role. Desirable. Flirty. Available but not attainable. Is that right?”

“Bingo.” She pointed a nicotine-stained finger at me. “If you don’t like it, you know there are a dozen other gals ready to take your spot. This is the only lesbian nightclub in Sac and it’s hoppin’. Adjust your attitude or get out.”

I went back to counting out my drawer. The bills were soggy with a combination of spilled beer and boob sweat. It was amusing how many women used their bras as a wallet, but at the end of the night the damp bills weren’t so cute.

My relationship with Sheila had taken several hits because I had disappeared on her a few times. Once friendly and warm, my boss now barely tolerated my presence, and only because I brought in big money. The customers loved me. Sheila would be an idiot to fire me, and clearly, she resented the fact.

Over the last two years I had beat a thieving customer to a pulp, disappeared because I had to go into hiding after witnessing a heinous crime, and gotten myself hospitalized with sepsis. My attendance at work hadn’t exactly been great because of all that, and Sheila didn’t seem to trust me anymore. Since returning from my bout with sepsis the previous year I hadn’t missed a single shift. That fact alone made me mad that Sheila hadn’t warmed back up to me. Work used to be one of my favorite places to be, Jen and Buck were some of my favorite people, but Sheila giving me the cold shoulder and my growing discontent with grabby customers were souring the pot.

Jen went about clearing the glasses, beer bottles, and trash that had been left all over the bar. Occasionally she would groan and announce whatever disgusting detritus she had found: used condoms and gloves tucked into the potted plants, puke in the corner, empty baggies, whippit canisters, and even someone’s thong underwear.

I finished my count, my drawer balancing out perfectly, and shoved it across the bar to Sheila. I grabbed my gear and walked into the back bar to find Jen and give her a cut of my tips. Buck unlocked the door and followed me out. We walked down Twenty-First Street, which was mostly deserted at the early hour, aside from the occasional person sleeping in a doorway. We reached my truck and I fished out my keys. Buck wasn’t much for small talk so when she cleared her throat, I was surprised.

“Things’ll settle down. Stick around.” Her gravelly voice tapered off as she gave my back a hearty thump, spun on her heel, and headed back to the bar.

“G’night, Buck.” She looked over her shoulder at me and nodded, her mullet flapping in the breeze.

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Meet the Author

Liz is a recovering workaholic who has mastered multi-tasking, including balancing a day job, solo parenting, writing, and finding some semblance of a social life. In past lives she has been a soldier, a bartender, a shoe salesperson, an assistant museum curator, and even a driving instructor.

Liz lives in the East Bay Area of California, and enjoys exploring nature with her son.

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Release Blitz: You’ll be Fine by Jen Michalski #contemporaryromance #LGBTQ @ninestarpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: You’ll Be Fine

Author: Jen Michalski

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/02/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 77900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Romance, contemporary, family-drama, bisexual, lesbian, comedy of errors, second chances

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Description

After her mother dies of an accidental overdose, Alex takes leave from her job as a writer for a Washington, DC, lifestyle magazine to return home to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There, she joins her brother Owen, a study in failure-to-launch, in sorting out their mother’s whimsical and often self-destructive life.

Alex has proposed to her editor that while she is home she profile Juliette Sprigg, her former high school fling, owner of a wildly popular local restaurant, and celebrity chef in the making.

While working on the story and trying for a second chance with Juliette, Alex meets Carolyn Massey, editor of the town newspaper, and wonders if there’s more to life than reheating leftovers.

Enter Alex and Owen’s Aunt Johanna, who arrives from Seattle to help with arrangements. When Johanna reveals a family secret, Alex may have to accept her family for who they are rather than who she hoped they would be. And just maybe apply the same philosophy to her heart and herself.

Excerpt

You’ll Be Fine
Jen Michalski © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Even though Owen never calls her, especially at 7:30 on a weekday evening, when Alex sees her brother’s name in the caller ID, she drops her phone back into her purse and waits for her metro stop. She figures he’ll just leave her a message about his cat. It’s been almost the entirety of their relationship the past five years. The week before, he’d texted her a picture of Tortoise, his Himalayan. She was wearing a suit of herbs with terra cotta-colored felt legs. She looked like a chia pet.

I am my own catnip receptacle, Owen had texted underneath Tortoise’s picture.

The chia pet text had come after midnight, a time when Alex (like most people) was asleep and susceptible to tragedy, like a call from the hospital, from the roadside after a car accident, or, for Alex specifically, a call from her mother when her mother was completely wasted, one glass of wine away from falling down the steps or worse, keeping Alex on the phone for hours about years-old, completely fabricated grievances.

She hadn’t responded to Owen that night, either, mad he’d woken her up about his stupid cat. That he didn’t understand she got up at five in the morning for her job as a features writer at the Capitol Metropolitan or that her apartment in Adams Morgan was expensive as hell or that the amount of her grad school loans equaled a house mortgage. That she had a life, didn’t still live at home with their mother, and didn’t have a cat for a best friend.

As she gets up to make her way to the doors of the metro, her phone vibrates again.

“Owen, I just got off work—can I call you back?” She presses the phone to her cheek as she follows the other commuters up the stairs of the station.

“No, Alex—listen.”

“You know—I was just thinking about Tortoise—I was worried maybe it meant she had died or something,” Alex jokes, cutting him off, even as her hands begin to sweat. She wonders what their mother has done this time to warrant a call from Owen.

“Alex.” Owen is silent for a minute. “It’s Mom. Mom’s dead.”

“Dammit, Owen, you shouldn’t joke.” But she knows he isn’t joking. She stops in the middle of the sidewalk. People brush against her, clipping her leg with their totes, her shoulder with their purses and messenger bags, as she tries to remember what day it is again, when she talked to her mother last. What she wishes she could take back.

“You should come home.” Owen’s words have awkward pauses between them, as if he’s too choked up to speak. “Can you come home tonight?”

“I can’t.” What the hell is she saying? Still, she hears herself go on. “I really can’t. I mean—”

“What do you mean, you can’t?” She imagines Owen’s face on the other end of the line, scrunched like a balled-up tissue. “Mom’s dead. What’s wrong with you?”

“You’re right—all right, okay,” she hears herself agree, her voice far away and warbled, like she’s in a dream.

As she wanders from the Woodley Park metro station toward the general direction of her apartment, she feels suddenly like an alien life form. I am experiencing a tragic event, she wants to tell the dog walker with five French bulldogs who passes her or the woman jogger who pauses at the intersection, drinking from a clear pink plastic water bottle. She wants to grab on to someone, anyone, like a body snatcher, and switch places, away from the kettle ball in her chest, away her knotted intestines and her numb appendages.

Alex has never really done death before. She’s thirty-six and never met her grandparents; their father left when she was four. And although their mother had turned sixty a few years back, it was more like Madonna sixty than Medicare sixty. Were Alex and Owen supposed to call Aunt Johanna, other forgotten, faraway relatives in Wisconsin and Arizona, their father, wherever he was? Was some kind of funeral needed for a mother who had flitted between atheism, Wiccan, new age-y crap, and pharmaceuticals like she was at a metaphysics salad bar?

And beyond the details, which Alex is good at, what about the other, more feely things? Like the way her mother had made her feel? (Incidentally, like a neon sign, a composition of gasses and other toxic compounds compressed into a fragile glass tube that she has managed to bend into the words Alex Maas, Successful Person Who Does Not Give a Fuck.)

Except now she has to give one.

“Crap,” she says under breath as she waits for the elevator in the lobby of her building. She brings up her ex Kate’s number in her phone doesn’t press call, not only because she can’t talk to Kate anymore, but because she realizes she can’t talk to anybody. If she opens her mouth and voices the words my mom is dead, she knows any adrenaline humming through her from the shock will dissolve, adrenaline she needs to get into her apartment, throw a few days’ worth of clothes together, call Rowan at the magazine, and get to the Greyhound terminal at Union Station to catch a bus home early the next morning.

Did Owen even mention how she died? In her apartment vestibule, Alex digs her phone out again. She can’t remember how they ended the conversation, anything he had said after the words dead and come home.

“I’m so sorry.” Rowan, her boss, sounds like he’s outside. “Are you all right? Is there anything I can do?”

“No—but thanks,” Alex says as she walks in a circle in her bedroom, staring at her opened suitcase. “I just don’t know…I don’t know how much time I’ll need. A few days? I don’t know what’s supposed to happen—she always talked about being cremated. But it’s not like she wrote a will—she didn’t even believe in grocery lists.”

“But if you need anything, you’ll call, right?” he prods, as if they’re friends. Maybe, in some way, because she spends most of her time with him, most of her time at the office in general, he’s her friend. It’s not like she has many, anyway. Her fingers shake as she opens her underwear drawer.

“Yes, of course. I’m going to get off the phone, though, before I cry.”

“Sure, sure. Although you can cry on the phone—it’s okay.”

“Oh—I might need more time on the ballet company story. Can you give it to me?”

“Don’t worry about the story, Alex—we’ll find something else to run.”

She hears one of Rowan’s kids—his little girl—talking excitedly in the background. Then she thinks about the other person she had wanted to call after she got off the phone with Owen. The only person she’s ever been able to tell anything.

“Hey,” Alex says casually, as if she’s just thought of it. “What about Juliette Sprigg—didn’t you want someone to interview her?”

“You mean the profile about her restaurant? I thought someone else would cover that.”

“Yeah, but…” Alex moves into the bathroom, just in case she might throw up. “Sprigg Restaurant’s, like, five minutes from my mom’s house. I went to high school with Juliette.”

“Don’t worry about that. You’re going home to take care of what you need to take care of—not work on another story.”

“No, it’s okay—I can take it. I want to do it.” She knows Rowan will give in—he has before—four magazine awards for her stories will do that. “Can you e-mail me her contact information?”

“No,” he sighs. “I’m not. You’re taking time off. You work too much as it is.”

“Jesus, Rowan—are you really saying no?” Her voice rises, like helium, up an octave. “After all I’ve done for the magazine?”

“Alex,” he sounds defeated, like he’s speaking to his now-crying little girl. “Your mother just died.”

“Fine—I quit then.” She hangs up on him and turns on the faucet in the bathroom. As she splashes her face with water, her phone beeps. She hits the speaker with her wet hand as she reaches for the towel. “What?”

“You’re not quitting, and I’m not assigning you the story.”

She takes a breath and holds it a second before exhaling. “I’m doing the story, or I quit.”

“Hi, honey, what sweetie? Will you stop screaming? Daddy can’t understand what you want if you’re screaming.”

Suddenly there’s silence, and Alex wonders if Rowan has hung up on her this time.

“Rowan, are you there?” she whispers, her neck so tight her head pop off.

“Sorry, Alex, I’m just having some, uh—you know what? Fine, do the story. Only because I have to get off the phone. I’ll e-mail you the info of the editor at the newspaper down there—really nice woman. She paired us up with a local photographer when we did that feature on that horse whisperer guy.”

“Great.” Alex exhales and dabs tears out of her eyes as she sits on the toilet lid.

“—But I really don’t want you to do it at all.”

“I’ll be fine—it’s how I get through things.” It’s been how she’s been getting over Kate all these months. And now she’s offered, at the supposedly worst time of her life, to interview Juliette freaking Sprigg too.

As she hangs up, her stomach pushes up into her esophagus like peasants storming the Bastille. She sets her phone on the edge of the tub and wraps her arms under her knees, head on her lap, like people in the airplane safety cards do, and focuses on her breathing. Remain calm. Remain seated. Brace for impact.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Jen Michalski is the author of three novels, The Summer She Was Under Water, The Tide King (both from Black Lawrence Press), and You’ll Be Fine (NineStar Press), a couplet of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books), and three collections of fiction (The Company of Strangers,From Here, and Close Encounters). Her work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Poets & Writers, The Washington Post, and the Literary Hub, and she’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize six times. She’s also the editor of the online literary weekly jmww.

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