RELEASE BLITZ: The Outcasts by Marteeka Karland #SciFiRomance #DarkFantasy @marteekakarland @changelingpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Outcasts (Duet)

Author: Marteeka Karland

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: September 9

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Female/Male (No Male/Male interaction), Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 247 pages

Genre: Romance, Science Fiction, Action Adventure, Dark Fantasy, Futuristic, Bisexual, Multisexual & Pansexual, Multiple Partners

Synopsis

In a dark futuristic Earth, the Triad must take a mate. But their pet has other ideas…

Mating the Triad (The Outcasts 1): Exiled to the Outlands, Mia’s sheer viciousness in defending herself catches the notice of one of the most powerful triads in the Outlands. Not one to simply be taken care of, Mia refuses to be treated as anything other than an equal — even in times of battle. How can she prove to three powerful warriors she’s not only the one for them, but an asset in every aspect of their lives?

The Triad’s Pet (The Outcasts 2): The only reason Arryn’s allowed to continue to live in the village is because of her exceptional talents in both healing and engineering. When danger is deliberately brought into their midst, it’s up to Arryn to direct her men. But how can a pet convince three stubborn warriors to trust in her unique abilities?

Publisher’s Note: The Outcasts Duet contains the previously published novels Mating the Triad and The Triad’s Pet.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Marteeka Karland
Excerpt from Mating the Triad

“Mia Cook. For the crime of theft from a noble house, your punishment is banishment to the Outlands.” The pious judge looked down at me from his throne. With a sneer, I spat in his general direction, expecting to get backhanded by one of several guards surrounding the dais. When nothing happened, I did it again for good measure. The judges always looked at us lowborns with contempt and superiority. I wanted to do some <em>real</em> lawbreaking. Like ripping off the guy’s nuts. With my teeth.

I didn’t resist when two guards dragged me to the center of the great room where court was held daily. Once an accused had been judged guilty, he or she stood in the ceremonial circle for all to see. Maybe it was me, but it seemed like they were just looking for reasons to banish any lowborns in the city. My crime? I’d stolen a bowl of bread. Granted, it wasn’t just any bowl of bread — it was spoonbread. A Kentucky Outback delight. At least it had been back in the day. Earth hadn’t always been so medieval. There had been a time when whole festivals were dedicated to Kentucky spoonbread. Now, a dish like that was a delicacy, available only to the wealthy. Nobles. It was also my very favorite thing in the whole goddamned city.

Spoonbread is a “wet” bread dish made of cornmeal. You bake it, serve it with real butter, and eat it with a spoon. Like a pudding or custard, only not hardly as moist. In my opinion, the punishment was worth getting to eat the entire bowl — which I had, fighting for the last spoonful after I’d been caught. Especially since it had been a couple of days since I’d had anything to eat. I knew when I stole it what my punishment would be if I were caught. But, honestly, you should try this shit. It’s worth the ordeal.

Which means the damned guards got to parade me through the whole of the middle- and low-born sections. Naked. After my little “spat” with the judge, I doubted I could conjure enough sympathy to get one of them to cover me with a cape until we got to the gate.

“You will be sent forth into the wildness beyond the walls of our hallowed city. Such is the way of all heathens. May the Heavenly Father in all his wisdom give you what you deserve in the Outland where He punishes all heathens.”

As the bastard spoke, the guards stripped the clothing from my body. When my outfit proved too difficult to remove easily, they simply cut the material, throwing everything into a great fire pit next to the circle. There was no way I could simply snag something on the way out to cover myself.

Just to be contrary, I stood proud, refusing to cover myself with my arms. Lifting my chin, I looked into the eyes of the man who’d passed judgment on me. He was old. Like <em>really</em> old. Thin hanks of long gray hair hung all over his head. His look was kind of comical since he was balding in places. If he’d been intelligent, he’d have cut it neatly, or simply shaved the shit off. What hair he had did little to cover the age-spotted skin. I knew my fucking with him was working when a most unbecoming blush splotched his already splotchy skin. Am I a bitch for loving the fact that he was old, ugly, and probably couldn’t get it up long enough to enjoy a woman? Probably a good thing. He was the kind of man to take advantage of his position.

As if he’d heard my thoughts, the judge leaned forward in his chair behind his desk. “The little bitch still has no respect for her betters. Why not show the little thief what she’s in for? Show her what happens to thieves who don’t learn their place.” An evil smile should have graced his less-than-perfect features, but, of course, the little bastard kept his pious expression firmly intact. How he managed that when he’d just ordered his guards to rape me was beyond my understanding.

“I will kill you,” I bit out.

He sat back, a small smile on his face. “I imagine you will. At least, in your dreams, between bouts of torture.”

One of the guards sneered, looking as if he’d been hoping for this development. A second guard muscled his way around the first one, growling a little. He was the clear Alpha there. No one challenged him as he took his place next to me, gripping my upper arm tightly. Obviously, he intended to be the one to carry out my extra punishment.

Fucker.

He was thickly muscled and stood over a head taller than me. His battle-scarred face seemed to match his body, if his heavily muscled arms were any indications. Scars crisscrossed his skin as if he had taken many blows. By not covering them as most men did, he signaled he was proud of his badges of honor. None in the guard challenged him. At present anyway.

As the guy pulled me closer to him, he whispered, “I’ll make this pleasurable for you if you’ll not fight. If you do, one of the others will challenge me. If they manage to take you, they won’t even try to be gentle, let alone give you pleasure.”

“So it’s either fight and get hurt or submit and not get hurt. Either way, I’m fucked. Literally.”

He fisted my hair, tilting my head back so I had to look up at him, then whispered for my ears alone even as he bared his teeth menacingly. His actions and expressions seemed more for the surrounding crowd — and the judge — than anything else. Despite the rough handling, he didn’t really hurt me. “You’re strong. You fought well when they took you. If I hadn’t been there, you might even have escaped.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

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

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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.

Purchase

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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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NEW RELEASE: Dream Gate by Mikala Ash #steampunk #SciFiRomance @ash_mikala

Dreams are magical. They make anything possible-passion, alternate worlds, even the death of empires.

Can love bloom where deadly danger rules?

After the attack on her home and family, Faerie witch Lady Carlyle is taken in by the gallant Captain Justin Quin. Together they investigate the sacrificial murder of a scientist connected to the defense of the British empire.

With the assistance of Dr. Keane, demon witch, Lady Julia Molyneux furthers her bloody attempts at redemption, while Lord Lucian Carlyle continues his obsessive quest to visit alternate worlds. At risk is the centre of empire, the teeming metropolis of London itself, where the innocent will pay with their souls the price of unbridled ambition.

Now Available at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Mikala Ash

Lady Julia Molyneux’s Diary

The border between pleasure and pain, it has been said, is hair thin, and one woman’s titillation is another man’s torment.

The man in question lay naked on the vast mahogany desk and whimpered in a most piteous manner. Like a wounded animal his nostrils flared with each fearful breath, though I believe his reaction to be premature, his ordeal had not yet begun. Spittle and white flecks of foam coated the gag that stretched across his jaw, and glistening tears leaked from his sad grey eyes. His struggles against the ropes that bound his hands and feet to the desk’s stout legs had weakened, but not before breaking the skin at his wrists and ankles. Crimson globules trickled rhythmically to the carpet keeping time with the fellow’s accelerated pulse. The metallic stench tickled my nostrils and tingled at the back of my throat. I licked my lips in perverted anticipation, tasting his fear.

The man, Dr. Ramsay Warren of Harley Street, catered to the highest echelons of society including the Queen herself. I easily understood why, for he was a fine specimen of masculinity. Clearly a sportsman, trim and muscled, his clean-shaven face tanned, his calves and thighs strong and well defined, his hips narrow and his stomach banded by muscle. Had I been so inclined, and if circumstances had been different, he might have proved an interesting bed partner. Unfortunately his current predicament did not allow him the opportunity to display his manly attributes to their best advantage. Indeed, the pink head of his manhood, terrified into timidity, peeked shyly from the thick thatch of black curly hair. Out of curiosity I stroked the wrinkled worm, and in response it retracted even further into itself, and all but disappeared.

I tut-tutted with disappointment and Dr. Warren’s pathetic whine became a hopeless drawn-out moan. Gone now was his arrogant challenge when first we entered his laboratory, the bluster of his deep imperial voice now a distant memory. Beside me, Dr. Ernest Neale, my partner in this appalling deed, recited the litany of the man’s crimes in a voice pitched unnaturally high betraying his own elevated state of arousal. This was his first sacrifice, and the zealous manner in which he embraced the ritual surprised me exceedingly. His usual demeanour, when fulfilling his role as alienist attending to the mental hurts of his patients, was one of calm and seemingly infinite patience, yet now the bulging eyes, the tight set of the jaw, and the saliva collecting at the corner of his mouth as he addressed our victim suggested a passion I’d not hitherto suspected.

“You bring deep and irredeemable shame to our profession,” he continued, his voice bordering on the hysterical. “You sir, are a venal swine!”

“Calm yourself, Ernest,” I whispered in his ear. His Christian name sounded unnatural. For months he had been wise Dr. Neale, the font of self-knowledge, who had provided me a measure of solace I’d not thought possible. Our recent intimacy had created a certain awkwardness in my mind.

He glanced at me and held my gaze for a long moment before giving me a slight embarrassed nod. He took a deep breath and shifted his eyes to look at Dr. Warren again as he continued in a more measured and slightly less feverish voice. “You willingly used your authority to commit six sane women to mental asylums so their husbands could access their fortunes. These women subsequently died after years of unspeakable degradation and neglect.”

Despicable indeed. Though to be honest I did not care about the man’s crimes. I had needed someone of importance in this world to sacrifice to my demon goddess. Tana was displeased with me, and I strove to mollify her. I’d meddled in the machinations of Sir Myles Stafford whose harassment of Lady Carlyle and her family had drawn in my dear Justin. I could not suffer him being hurt, so I’d asserted myself on her behalf. Tana, an ancient and single-minded demon, demanded her witches to deliver unto her souls sweetened by pain and fear. It was at Dr. Neale’s urgings, and my need to take a half-step in the direction of redemption, that I now offer up evil people rather than the innocents I’d sacrificed in the past.

Ernest’s recitation continued. Dr. Ramsay Warren, a relation by marriage as well as close friend of the Foreign Secretary, continued to wriggle uselessly within his bindings. At this point I’d have preferred him drugged and comatose, but Dr. Neale, Ernest, had insisted on him understanding why he was to die. It was a pointless exercise; the knowledge would serve no purpose. In the shadows at the corner of my vision Tana herself lurked, a huge warlike wraith. She’d responded to my summoning spell and waited impatiently to breathe in the man’s soul as it left his quivering body at the moment of mortal climax.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aussie Mikala Ash used to be a mild-mannered training & development consultant by day, and a wild sci-fi and paranormal adventure writer by night. Now she is a brazen full-time writer and nature photographer who is concentrating on having among other things, “… bags, and bags of fun!” Mikala can be found on Facebook and on Twitter.

BOOK BLITZ: Provoking Odium by Cynthia Sax #PNR #SciFi @CynthiaSax @XpressoTours

Provoking Odium
Cynthia Sax
(Cyborg Unity, #1)
Publication date: June 21st 2022
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction

A Beautiful Cyborg

While accompanying his leader on a mission, Odium, an E Model cyborg, hears a distress call over the communication lines. The voice on that message makes his circuits surge with energy and all his systems light up. He has to respond to the mysterious female, would risk his lifespan and the lifespans of everyone on board their ship to protect her.

A Human Female Others Call Beast

Briella gained her nickname due to her flying abilities, her fearlessness, and her scarred countenance. Her verbal-only relationship with the sexy cyborg who answers her distress call is a steamy yet short-lived fantasy. His kind is physically perfect, and she is…not. He will uncover that truth when…if they survive the attack upon her freighter.
***
Provoking Odium is a STANDALONE Cyborg SciFi Romance set in a dark, gritty, sometimes-violent universe.
It features a human female intent on remaining mysterious, a cyborg warrior determined to uncover her identity, and an enemy seeking to destroy them both before they have the opportunity to meet.

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EXCERPT:

Briella should leave now, before Mohini and Odium met. Seeing the two of them together would tear her soul apart.

But then the doors opened, and the toes of two huge black boots became visible.

She lifted her gaze and her breath caught. That footwear was attached to an equally large male.

Odium was built like the warrior he was. The body armor barely contained his muscular form. Well-maintained weapons decorated the garment. His stance was strong. His hips were narrow. His shoulders were wide.

Desire hit Briella like a missile, almost knocking her over.

She’d researched E Models, had seen some of his kind on Mercury Minor, and she believed she knew what to expect.

But her overly active imagination had fallen far short of envisioning Odium. His hair was the blackest black. His skin was gray. Not one scar marred his countenance. His eyes were dark.

His face. Stars. His face.

All the cyborgs she’d met had been handsome. Odium, however, was Mohini-levels of beautiful. He was that exquisite female’s physical match.

Briella’s desolation escalated. She took a step backward.

Odium’s nostrils flared. He turned his head, gazed directly at her.

She froze in place. That was impossible. There were hundreds of beings stationed between them. He must merely be looking in her direction.

Seeking to test that theory, she shifted to the right.

His gaze tracked her.

Her warrior had somehow located her in the crowd.

Briella’s palms dampened. Her stomach knotted.

Others sought to speak to Odium. He didn’t look at those beings. His focus was on her.

It was heady, exciting, worrisome. She brushed her fingers over her goggles. They were in place, so her eyes were hidden.

He saw her scars. Those couldn’t be concealed.

But he couldn’t view the worst of her disfigurements, the part of her that had evoked fear and hatred in her kind, that made the toughest of warriors avoid her.

She could endure his perusal, could stand her ground and—

Mohini approached Odium.

His gaze flicked toward the female.

Her friend was impossible for any male to ignore. And her cyborg was certainly a male. He vibrated with vitality, with power.

Briella wanted him with every cell in her body.

Mohini appeared as enthralled with Odium. Her eyes glowed with interest. Her lips moved. Her friend’s words were too softly spoken for Briella to hear.

But she could imagine what was being said, and every flirtatious comment, every glance, every movement was a dagger stuck deep into her face. The pain, the torment lashed her again and again.

It was unbearable. Panic filled her. She couldn’t do this, couldn’t stand by passively and watch her friend seduce the male she wanted. That was beyond her capabilities.

She turned away from them and ran.

Author Bio:

For updates on characters and for very bad jokes, sign up for Cynthia’s monthly newsletter at http://cynthiasax.com

USA Today Bestselling author Cynthia Sax is currently writing cyborg and alien romances with high heat levels. These stories are set in a shared dark, gritty, sometimes violent world. There is always a romantic happy ending between the main characters and this happy ending is FOREVER. But everyone else is in danger.

Her stories have been featured in Star Magazine, Real Time With Bill Maher, and numerous best of… top ten lists.

She loves writing fated to mate or instalove romances as this is her personal experience with love. She fell in love with her Dear Wonderful Hubby at first sight and 25 plus years later, they’re still very much in love. This is what she wishes for her characters and for her readers.

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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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BOOK TOUR: Someone in Time (Tales of Time Crossed Romance) #TimeTravel #SciFiRomance

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This is my post during the blog tour for Someone in Time. Someone in Time is a science fiction time travel romance anthology.

This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and runs from 17 till 30 May. You can see the tour schedule here.

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Someone in Time
Edited by Jonathan Strahan
Including stories by: Alix E. Harrow, Zen Cho, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Jeffrey Ford, Nina Allan, Elizabeth Hand, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Catherynne M. Valente, Sam J. Miller, Rowan Coleman, Margo Lanagan, Sameem Siddiqui, Theodora Goss, Carrie Vaughn and Ellen Klages
Genre: Science Fiction Romance/ Time Travel Romance
Age category: Adult
Publisher: Rebellion Publishing
Release Date: 10 May 2022

Blurb:
Even time travel can’t unravel love

Time-travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures – for better, or worse.

When romance is thrown into the mix, time-travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon. A time agent in the 22nd century puts their whole mission at risk when they fall in love with the wrong person. No matter which part of history a man visits, he cannot not escape his ex. A woman is desperately in love with the time-space continuum, but it doesn’t love her back. As time passes and falls apart, a time-traveller must say goodbye to their soulmate.

With stories from best-selling and award-winning authors such as Seanan McGuire, Alix E. Harrow and Nina Allan, this anthology gives a taste for the rich treasure trove of stories we can imagine with love, loss and reunion across time and space.

Edited by Jonathan Strahan and including stories by: Alix E. Harrow, Zen Cho, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Jeffrey Ford, Nina Allan, Elizabeth Hand, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Catherynne M. Valente, Sam J. Miller, Rowan Coleman, Margo Lanagan, Sameem Siddiqui, Theodora Goss, Carrie Vaughn, Ellen Klages

Links:
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Amazon
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Rebellion Publishing

Giveaway
There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of Someone in Time. 5 winners win a paperback copy of Someone in Time. And 5 winners win an ecopy of Someone in Time. Open International.

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Intergalactic Brides (Volume 4) by Jessica Coulter Smith #SciFiRomance #AlienEncounters @kitcatjms

Three young women who’ve run out of options trust their futures to aliens in search of their mates

Ella and the Alien Gamer (Intergalactic Brides 10)
Ella’s a single mom barely making ends meet, but she’s never asked for help. Until Valero barrels into her life. Valero wants a family, but he’s never thought of claiming a female with a child, but Ella and her son intrigue the video game designer. He plans to claim them as his, but convincing Ella may prove to be a problem…

Summer and the Alien Guard (Intergalactic Brides 11)
Summer would sacrifice everything to save her family. It’s time for drastic measures, even if it means tying her life to that of an alien. Vordro wants to be the answer to Summer’s prayers, even if he knows he’s too old for her. He’ll do anything to protect her and their unborn child — even if it means defending her from her own family.

Heidi and the Alien Cop (Intergalactic Brides 12)
The worst mistake pregnant Heidi ever made was moving in with her boyfriend. She doesn’t think happily-ever-after could possibly exist… The last thing Raylic expects is to end up with house guests. Heidi and her small son, Shane make him want things better left alone. Even knowing Heidi’s pregnant with another man’s child doesn’t stop him from wanting to claim her.

Get the Paperback at Amazon

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Jessica Coulter Smith
Excerpt from Ella and the Alien Gamer

Valero growled as he jabbed at the buttons on the controller. Rory and her damned dragons! When she’d said she couldn’t beat this level, he’d thought it would be a piece of cake. How hard could a game be that centered around an adolescent purple dragon? Harder than fuck, that’s how hard.

“Bust the gem, turn the wheel,” he muttered as he went through the steps. Little green things attacked him. “Argh. Die, you little bastards!”

“My mama will wash your mouth out with soap,” said a small voice.

He glanced to his right and nearly dropped the controller when he saw a small human child. Where the hell had he come from?

“You’re doing that wrong,” the boy said.

No shit. That was why he’d been trying to put out the fires for the last half hour without success. What the hell did the small child know about it though? He held out the controller.

“Since you seem to know what you’re doing, want to show me how it’s done?” Valero asked.

The boy grinned from ear to ear, snatched the controller, and started playing with the finesse of an advanced gamer.

“How the hell did you know where the buckets were?” Valero asked.

“Soap,” the boy replied in response to his bad word. Apparently hell wasn’t allowed either. “And I have this game at home. I beat it on the second day. I probably would have done it sooner, but Mama wouldn’t let me stay up playing all night.”

The boy beat the level and handed the controller back.

“What other games can you play?” Valero asked. He’d never met such a young gamer before and he had to admit he was a little fascinated. He hadn’t even known such a small human could play video games.

“I have Minecraft, Sonic, Lego Harry Potter, Lego Star Wars, and a few others.”

“What about Halo or Gears of War?” Valero asked.

“Mama says they’re too violent for me. But I wish I could play them. The kid games are too easy. I don’t see why the adults are the only ones being challenged.”

Valero’s eyebrows went up. A challenging children’s game? Was there a market for such a thing? Unless this child was a gaming prodigy, then there were probably others out there feeling his same frustration. Definitely something worth looking into.

“What types of challenges would you like to see in a game?” Valero asked.

“Well, I like the time challenges where you have to complete so many tasks in a certain amount of time. I like the fighting levels in Lego Star Wars. But collecting stuff like the rings in Sonic or the gems in Spyro can be fun. I just wish you could do more with it.”

The kid was rather insightful for someone so young. And he was giving Valero an idea. His game company was still in the fledgling stages and he needed something new and edgy to put him on the map. Or so he’d thought. Maybe he was looking at the wrong demographic. He’d been thinking of a game adults would like where you blew up stuff, but if gamers were starting out as young as this kid, children who weren’t allowed to play the more violent games, then maybe he needed to tap into that audience. The only problem was that his game testers were Rory and Zwyk, and neither would be able to give him the information he needed.

“He’s not bothering you, is he?” a soft voice asked.

Valero stood and faced the woman, and damn near swallowed his tongue.

“I, um… No! He’s not bothering me. He actually helped me figure out the level on the game I was playing.”

She smiled a little. “He loves video games.”

“Can I play some more, Mama?” the little boy asked.

“Connor, this man was already playing. Mind your manners.”

Valero handed the controller back to Connor. “I think you’re doing a better job than I was. Why don’t you finish playing? Or if you prefer something else, Zwyk and Rory have a ton of games. I’m sure there’s at least a few your mother would approve of.”

“Can I, Mama?” he begged.

“All right. But if someone else wants a turn, you give them the controller.”

The little boy gave a whoop and leapt onto the couch to settle in and play the game. Valero smiled at his enthusiasm before facing the mother once more. He moved a little closer and held out his hand. “I’m Valero.”

“Ella.”

His hand closed over hers and a little jolt went up his arm. Since moving to Earth, he’d never felt such an instant attraction to someone before. He’d gone on dates, but they were lacking. There was humor glinting in her eyes as she smiled a little wider and he realized he was staring at her like an idiot and hadn’t released her hand. “Do you play?” he asked.

“Me? Um, no. I’ve never understood the draw of video games. I’m more of a reader.”

He leaned against the sofa and folded his arms over his chest, feeling a bit of a thrill when her gaze was drawn to his muscles and she licked her lips. Good. The attraction wasn’t one sided. The question was, what did he want to do about it? He’d never dated a mother before. He knew others of his kind had adopted human children as their own, like Reyvor and his houseful of girls.

“What do you like to read?” he asked.

“Romances.” Her cheeks flushed. “I like the hope in them. No matter how dire the heroine’s circumstances in the beginning, she always finds her happily-ever-after. Whether it’s a knight rescuing her from a tower, a billionaire who falls for the poor waitress, or a shapeshifter who finds his mate, everyone falls in love at the end and all their dreams come true.”

He smiled. “And what’s your dream?”

PRAISE…

Praise for Summer and the Alien Guard (Intergalactic Brides 11)

“Summer and the Alien Guard was cute. It’s an easy read, had just the right amount of sexiness to get those juices flowing, and the pace was steady and solid. I just liked it. I hope other readers will give it a try too because there’s a lot to enjoy within its pages.”

— Xeranthemum, Long and Short Reviews

Praise for Ella and the Alien Gamer (Intergalactic Brides 10)

“This is a sweet, passionate, and sexy story that is well worth the read. “

— 4 Stars from Nikki, Sensuous Reviews

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning author Jessica Coulter Smith has been in love with the written word since she was a child writing her first stories in crayon. Today she’s a multi-published author of over seventy-five novellas and novels. Romance is an integral part of her world and she firmly believes that love will find you at the right time, even if Mr. Right is literally out of this world.

Book Blitz: Beast Charming by Grace Goodwin #PNR #SciFiRomance @luvgracegoodwin

Beast Charming
Grace Goodwin
(Interstellar Brides Program: The Beasts, #5)
Publication date: April 26th 2022
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction

One dance with this ‘prince’ could cost her a job.

Her freedom.

Her life.

Warlord Tane of Atlan is a warrior, not a prince.

So why is he wearing these ridiculous white pants and gold-trimmed jacket?

And gods help him, why are there hundreds of females in glittering gowns, circling like vultures, expecting him to dance?

The human producers of the Bachelor Beast television show thought this would be a good idea; dress up an unmated Warlord like a fairytale prince, invite hundreds of eligible human women to a ‘Cinderella Ball’, turn on their cameras, and record everything.

And then he sees her. His mate. The only female who can tame his beast.

But…

This princess wasn’t supposed to be at the ball. A borrowed ballgown. A stolen invitation. A friend in trouble. Everything is going according to plan…until she can no longer resist temptation.

Surely one dance won’t hurt?

Even a dance with a beast.

Don’t miss this wild and twisted Cinderella story.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

EXCERPT:

Warlord Tane, Miami Event Center, ‘The Bachelor Ball’

“I do not know how much longer I can endure.” I whispered the confession to Bahre where we stood in front of the raised dais. The fucker’s response was to laugh at me.

I discreetly elbowed him in his ribs, then turned to face the forty-seventh female being introduced to me.

“Warlord Tane, may I present…” Chet Bosworth, with his overly large teeth and puffed hair paused to look at the card he held in his hand. “Celine Legrand from Canada.”

“A pleasure,” I repeated, for the forty-seventh time. Leaning over, as I’d been instructed by Bahre’s beautiful mate, Quinn, I dutifully took the female’s small hand in mine and bowed at the waist. I believed the act was a waste of time. I knew, even before she had approached, that she was not mine. My beast knew as well. I had walked the room earlier, passed by the females as the lined up wearing their fine gowns, eager to enter and meet the beasts.

None of the female’s present was my mate. I already knew this truth and yet, I had to endure several more hours of Chet Bosworth and his pontificating nonsense.

My beast and I were losing patience.

As if on cue, Chet’s conspiratorial whisper carried to both me and the young Celine. “Hold your breath, people, as the alien, Warlord Tane, meets the next gorgeous woman in attendance. Celine Legrand traveled all the way from Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, more than sixteen hundred miles, for a chance to win this Atlan beast’s battle weary heart.”

The young woman blushed at Chet’s words. I released her with a gentle shake of my head. I did not need to tell these females they were not mine.

If this woman were mine, she would already be in my arms. More like, over my shoulder so I could carry her somewhere private and pleasure her properly.

Without a live television audience.

The young lady took a step back and then hurried away.

“Another strike out!” Chet smiled directly into the camera and winked at the lens. “That’s forty-seven in a row, my friends. Is true love in the air tonight? Will one of these women be the answer to a broken-hearted beast’s most fervent wish? Or will this lonely beast, this wounded veteran, who has already been rejected by his own people, be doomed to face the executioner?”

Author Bio:

Grace Goodwin is a USA Today and international bestselling author of Sci-Fi and Paranormal romance with nearly one million books sold. Grace’s titles are available worldwide in multiple languages in ebook, print and audio formats. Two best friends, one left-brained, the other right-brained, make up the award-winning writing duo that is Grace Goodwin. They are both mothers, escape room enthusiasts, avid readers and intrepid defenders of their preferred beverages. (There may or may not be an ongoing tea vs. coffee war occurring during their daily communications.) Grace loves to hear from readers.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Bookbub / Instagram / Newlsetter

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Commanded by Ashlynn Monroe #PNR #BDSM #SciFiRomance @ashlynn_monroe

Ka’Sen, Prince of Planets, Leader of the Union of Worlds, can have anything he wants — except magic.

His to Command: Those on Rosrel protect the mystical forces from outsiders. Ka’Sen must convince the Rosrel princess to become his wife and give him a child of magic. As Princess Val’Trea’s most trusted personal servant, Brisa never dreamed the princess would command her to wed on her behalf.

Command the Stars: Brisa never dreamed she’d travel through the stars — or be caught in a war between ideologies. When Ka’Sen takes his new wife into his bed he’s bewitched by something more commanding than sorcery. Love. But now that he knows his wife lied to him from the first moment they met, he definitely can’t allow himself to trust in her…

Command His Heart: At the mercy of her kidnappers — and her new mother-in-law — Brisa needs to find her place in the universe. She’s been a pawn her whole life, but this is her chance to choose her path. Freedom? Or return to Ka’Sen’s side? Can she free the man who seeks to imprison her? When the only happiness you’ve ever had is slipping from reach, how do you find the courage to save worlds?

Command His Soul: As her belly swells with their child, Brisa’s heart has begun to shrink as she learns the terrible truth about her husband’s thirst for power. She knows she can unlock Ka’Sen’s magic, but she fears the truth may destroy him.

Available in Paperback or get the eBook at Changeling Press

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Ashlynn Monroe
Excerpt from His to Command

When all the girls, even Meglena, were sleeping, Brisa stood and left as quietly as she could. Twilight’s orange sunset was burning off into the gray light before nightfall. The stones were damp under her feet and the cold reached through the thin fabric of her slippers. Some houses were still dark, but most had the warm light of hearth fires lit. The shops were closed as the villagers tucked in for the night. Brisa hurried through the village to find Lee. He was a good man. He would help.

“Hey,” called the baker’s son. “Safety in the sleeping hours.”

Brisa stumbled over to him and gave him a nod. “Safe sleep to you, as well.”

He nodded back. “Take this to Meglena, please.” He handed her a wrapped loaf.

She tried to hide her grin. They’d be a good match, this chubby, ruddy-faced boy, and her friend. He had a promising future. “I will. Thank you. Have you seen Lee?”

“He’s over at the tavern. Cards.”

She’d heard of his skill, but she’d never been inside the tavern. “Could you ask him to come see me at the temple?”

The boy laughed. “My father would kill me for going in there. Den of reprobates he calls it. Sorry.”

She shrugged. “Thank you for your kindness to Meglena. She is my heart sister.”

He nodded. “You have done many things I would call kindness concerning our village. My gifting food to a pretty girl is purely selfish.” He grinned broadly. “But I’m sure you already know I wish to court her.”

She sensed he was asking her permission, even though she had no right to expect it. The gesture made her like him even more. “You can court her, and if she’s smart, she’ll let you.”

His face reddened brighter than its naturally jolly color.

Brisa put her hand on his shoulder. “I’ll see she knows who to thank for the gift. She’s a bit under the weather, but when she feels better, I’m sure she’ll come see you.”

“Under the weather? What ails her?” His concern was intense and proved his feelings.

“It’s fever. Please keep this between us. You know how illness panics. I need Lee to help me get them wood to stay warm.”

“They’re all sick?” Now he sounded worried for more than just Meglena.

“No,” she lied. “It’s just that the littles are so small. I was hoping Lee could help with the chore, that’s all.”

He let go of a breath, and his shoulders sagged. “That’s good. I’m sorry I can’t go get him for you.”

“I’m glad you are obedient to your father. On the morrow.”

“On the morrow, Lady Brisa.”

She bristled at the honorary title, but hid the reaction with a polite smile before rushing off toward the tavern.

Laughter and noise streamed out of the well lit stone building. Women of low reputation walked with men down the path, and she saw a stable boy watering the horses of a newcomer. She paused, nervous about going farther, but her littles needed her to have courage. She wasn’t a child anymore for Goddess’s sake. Straightening her shoulders, she walked ahead as if this was a normal visit for her.

Lee. Thinking of him made her smile. He’d be surprised to see her in the tavern. Lee. So reliable. Such a good friend. He’d been helping her since the beginning. He’d seen her trying to carry a little boy who was almost as tall as she was. He’d taken him from her arms and helped her get him to the temple where she’d managed to save his frozen legs. That little boy was a farm hand now, but he often brought the temple children fresh food. He knew her favorite was rabbit and always snared one for her when he came. Without Lee, she might not have been able to save him.

As they’d grown older, she’d expected him to marry, but he hadn’t. She wasn’t sure why, but his marital status mattered to her more than it had the right to. She never doubted he’d be there for her, but if he wed that would need to change.

Nervousness fluttered in her stomach as she stepped up onto the long porch and took hold of the heavy door handle to gain entrance into the drinking establishment. She’d never been inside the busy gathering place. It was not the kind of place princesses or ladies went. Lucky for her littles, she was neither.

Peering through the doorway, she tried not to be noticed, but it was clear this was a male domain. Lee. His blond head bobbed. He needed a haircut. She watched his handsome face morph into a huge smile as he threw his hand down on the table. His companions wore angry or miserable expressions. When he glanced up, he gave a double take in her direction before grabbing his mug and draining the contents. Half standing, he scraped the money in the center of the table into a pile before shoving fistfuls into his pockets.

One of the angry looking men grabbed his arm. “Hey! Give me the chance to win it back.”

Lee glared at the hand, and the man let go. Lee scowled. “Later.” He hurried over to her, guiding her out into the darkness. “That’s no place for you. I was starting to worry. Another day and I’d have stormed the castle.”

“I’m fine. It’s just been very busy.”

“I heard. A sky ruler is coming here. Never thought I’d see that. They’ve been banned for so long I’m surprised the king will allow it.”

“My mistress is excited. Considering how badly the tech worlds want magic I suspect the king needs money. Val’Trea has been getting fitted for new dresses and very focused on the attention, but I don’t think she understands why the king is lavishing so many resources on her. I believe there will be a match.”

Lee’s blue eyes narrowed. “Would she force you to leave?”

“Yes. Unless by the grace of the Mother Goddess this sky ruler doesn’t allow her to bring me. We don’t know their culture. Maybe a lady’s maiden isn’t important in his land.”

“If it comes to it, run with me. I will protect you.” His words froze in the chilly air. When he took her face in his hands, his fingers were warm despite the cold. “I refuse to lose you.”

Heat burned in her cheeks. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying run with me. Be mine. The king has a long shadow, but every shadow is chased by the sun. We’ll find someplace, far from here, where we can live in the brightness. I want you for my wife. Don’t go back to the castle tonight.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashlynn Monroe is a busy working mom. She loves her kids and family. Her greatest joy is creating stories to entertain others, and she hopes they bring a little more romance into the world. She’s been writing since her teens for her own enjoyment but decided in her thirties to share her imagination with readers. Ashlynn enjoys biking, camping, reading, video games, and filling her home and life with love. If she’s not working or chasing children, you can find her daydreaming up her next tale of romance.