Happy Birthday to Me by Stephanie Burke #GayRomance @flashycat @changelingpress

Mason Klien, larger-than-life alpha, is just what Maxie needs to make his birthday night special.

Clancy Maxwell is an omega who is unique even to his own sub species. He’s far shorter than most of the supposedly more delicate type, but the tiny redhead does not have a submissive bone in his body.

After ditching one a puffed-up alpha, the ex-stripper-turned-business-owner focuses his attention to Mason, an alpha with a small submissive streak.

But this is just a one-night stand… or is it?

Get it at Changeling Press

Preorder for April 9th at online booksellers

Praise for Happy Birthday to Me

“When ‘accepted wisdom’ for shifter stories is turned upside its head, and the story is told with a ton of humor and many laugh-out-loud moments — this hilarious short story was not only a lot of fun but also very hot.”— Serena Yates, Rainbow Book Reviews


“The shifter side of things here has the coolest details. I thought this was a unique take on shifters, Omega in particular, and showcased that human or shifter, you need to communicate, guys! This is a fun and funny story that made me smile.”— 4 Hearts from Lucy, Hearts on Fire Reviews


“Strippers. Subby alphas. Toppy bottoms. Knotting. Red heads. Happy Birthday to ME, indeed. *smacks lips* What a sexy little gem HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME turned out to be — definitely recommended for a short, hot read.”— 4 Stars from Breann, The Romance Reviews

“Maxie is a little powder keg of attitude. Mason is a powerful but sensitive big boy. The two of them together burned up the pages. This book is a good read when looking for something short and steamy.”— Leigh, MM Good Books Reviews

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2021 Stephanie Burke


“Excuse me?” Maxie narrowed his eyes as he glared at the alpha, who was slowly but surely digging himself a deeper grave.

“Come on, Clancy.” Marco grinned at him, his chocolate-brown eyes gleaming, his tan skin looking like golden sand in the candlelight. “You know I was kidding.” He tried to send out enough alpha scent to make Maxie agreeable. Maxie only arched an eyebrow and gave Marco the coldest stare he could muster.

“Look, we’re getting off track here, Clancy.” Marco leaned in close, pushing aside a six-hundred-dollar bottle of wine he’d insisted they share — and sent back five times because it wasn’t the right temperature. “How about you come back to my place and we, you know, get a little loose.” He pushed more scent that only served to make Maxie more irritated.

“Loose, huh?” Maxie asked, his voice all but devoid of emotion. What the hell was this idiot talking about?

“Back in Brazil…”

Marco was dropping places now? God, he had already dropped the names of several Vegas businessmen who really didn’t impress Maxie, so now he was moving on to countries? Hell, most of the names he’d dropped were men Maxie had personally set up for private lap dances with his omega dancers. No matter how powerful they were in the real world, once you’ve seen an alpha trying to keep it in his boxers and not develop an embarrassing uncontrolled knot, there was something a tad less powerful about his name.

“Yes?” Maxie leaned forward. “Brazil?” Maybe he could get a good laugh out of this poor excuse for a birthday pickup. For all the fun he was having, he could have stayed back at his strip club and washed dirty thongs.

“In Brazil, we alphas have a few secrets to help us relax.”

“Go on,” Maxie urged. Only his strong sense of proper omega etiquette was preventing him from rolling his eyes and walking away from the huge lout.

“I have a guy who brings me — some fun treats.” He grinned and plucked a red rose from the arrangement on the table, reaching out to stroke it over Maxie’s face. “That’s what you pretty boys like.”

Maxie stared at the red roses and wanted to strangle the grabby bastard with his own tie. This alpha was too much to be believed. “No, I don’t like to trip the light fantastic, pop a pill, do a line, or pop bottles like it’s going out of style.” Maxie’s left eye was twitching.

“Aw, babe –“

“Clancy,” he returned, his patience coming to an end. “My friends call me Maxie. You may call me Clancy.”

“Don’t cop an attitude with me, omega,” Marco growled, narrowing his eyes as he tried to stare Maxie down.

“Copping an attitude requires that I give enough of a shit about you to actually pay attention,” Maxie growled, his muscles tensing as he recognized the symptoms of an attack brewing.

Marco was glaring, his respiration increasing, one hand fisting around the wine glass as the other snapped the stem of the rose in half. “You’ll fucking care when I’m done with you –“

“You would do well to sit your ass down or get out of my way.” Maxie slowly rose to his feet, all systems ready to repel attack. Maxie was no fool. He had dealt with enough alpha assholes during his short-lived modeling career and as a beginning omega dancer to know when things were going to get physical.

Just as the asshole was rising to his feet, Maxie preparing to punch him in the fucking throat, a large, dark hand landed on Marco’s shoulder, shoving him back into his seat.

“What seems to be the problem, gentlemen?” a gravelly voice rumbled.

Maxie turned and his mouth dropped open. The sheer scope of the new alpha in front of him stole the words before they formed.

“My date and I –“

Marco’s words snapped Maxie out of his shock and right back into the fray. “Oh, I don’t think so, jackass. Either you or I are leaving this club, and we won’t be leaving together.”

Marco narrowed his eyes as Marco turned to face the huge man who was looming over them both. “You know how the little ones get — wanting attention and all,” he clarified to the stranger.

“Little –“

“Oh, I see.” The stranger snorted before turning to Maxie. Maxie expected a glib comment about controlling the pushy omega bottom, but the man surprised him. He looked over at Marco and the two exchanged some sort of big man secret eye fuck before he offered a polite smile. “I think you’ve had enough, and it’s time for you to go.”

Maxie blinked as he realized that those delicious-sounding words were not directed at him.

“What?” Marco stammered, and tried to rear up, uber-masculine style, but the man merely crossed his arms, his aura enough to knock the toughest of alphas on their ass. Marco stifled his own power play and shrank in on himself when the arms of the man’s expertly tailored suit jacket began to strain to confine his biceps. This new male was pushing out alpha pheromones that easily overcame the small scent of defiance Maxie’s stupid alpha date had managed to muster.

But Marco was a troll for a good reason. He visibly pushed down his fear and exchanged his blush of embarrassment for one of anger. “This is a private conversation.”

“Which is about to lose one of its parties.” This new alpha leaned forward and growled… and Maxie felt his spine tingle with a telltale burst of arousal.

MY REVIEW

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Do you want a fast-paced, super hot shifter romance? Then look no further… Happy Birthday to Me is full of heat, sexy dances, and a couple clearly meant for one another… even if they’re too stubborn to admit it.

Maxie isn’t your typical Omega. He’s too aggressive, and not the least bit submissive in the bedroom. Imagine his surprise when he meets an Alpha who likes to be dominated. A match made in heaven … 

Light on story, but perfect for a quick read with a happy ending. Be prepared to squirm (and need a cold shower) because Ms. Burke is bringing the heat with Happy Birthday to Me!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Stephanie is a USA Today Best Selling, multi published, multi award-winning author, Master Costumer, handicapped, wife and mother of two.

From sex-shifting, shape-shifting dragons to undersea worlds, sexually confused elemental Fey and homo-erotic mysteries, all the way to pastel-challenged urban sprites, Stephanie has done it all, and hopes to do more.

Stephanie is an orator on her favorite subjects of writing and world-building, a sometime teacher when you feed her enough tea and donuts, an anime nut, a costumer, and a frequent guest of various sci-fi and writing cons where she can be found leading panel discussions or researching varied legends and theories to improve her writing skills.

Stephanie is known for her love of the outrageous, strong female characters, believable worlds, male characters filled with depth, and multi-cultural stories that make the reader sit up and take notice.

Release Blitz: The Detective’s Mate by Alexa Piper #paranormalromance #LGBTQ @prowlingpiper @changelingpress @GoIndiMarketing

Title: The Detective’s Mate

Series: Dusk & Dawn #5

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: April 2, 2021

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 143

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller/Suspense, murder mystery, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, shapeshifters, werewolves, vampires, dark fantasy

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Synopsis

Orrin and Gordon come from different worlds: Orrin is a werewolf with the New Amsterdam Police, and Gordon is a vampire who likes the quiet of his morgue. Yet, they decided to be with one another even though Orrin’s vampire was at first afraid to commit.

Now, new complications come barreling at the two when Orrin realizes he will have to step up to become a parent to an orphan shifter, while New Amsterdam has become the haunt of a serial killer who targets mixed supernatural and human couples.

Gordon was slow to realize he loves his werewolf mate, but it takes him even longer to figure out he still has his own demons to deal with. A past hurt has left a scar on his soul. Gordon’s werewolf detective might just be what Gordon needs to heal the scars from his past. The only question is whether geeky Gordon is enough for serious and seriously handsome Orrin.

Together with Maxim, New Amsterdam’s bardic vampire hunter, Orrin and Gordon are on the case to save the city from sinking into fear and panic as more murders challenge the peace. Through turmoil and death, Orrin and Gordon must find a way forward.

NOTE: This book contains scenes of assault and kidnapping that may be triggers for some readers.

Excerpt

Copyright ©2021 Alexa Piper

New Amsterdam Police Station was a nice neoclassical building, and all things considered, it wasn’t a bad place to work. Most of the time, the coffee was even decent.

Orrin had not usually been one to leave the station early, but Bachman, his protégée, was more than capable and didn’t need him holding her hand while she finished her paperwork. Also, Orrin had a hot date at the morgue. He checked the time on his computer, finished one more email, then logged out. Bachman briefly looked up from what she was doing.

“You always look cheery when you are going to see the boyfriend,” she commented, then did a double take and looked straight at him. “Or should I be saying mate?”

Orrin grabbed his bag and stuffed his work tablet into it. “Boyfriend is fine,” Orrin said, because it was, and it also was easier around the station, since most of Orrin’s colleagues weren’t werewolves but were human like Bachman herself. “Also, are you saying I’m usually grumpy-looking, Bachman?”

“Just very, very serious, sir.” She went back to typing. “I think cheery suits you. And I think the mate-slash-boyfriend does as well.”

Orrin couldn’t do anything about the wide grin that threatened to make his cheeks ache. “Well, thanks. I’ll tell Gordon you said hi.”

“Hmm-mmh.” Bachman winked at him as Orrin walked toward the elevators, and even he noticed the spring in his step.

* * *

The worst thing about any morgue was the smell of lingering death. Orrin sniffed the air when he got to the basement hallway in the Forum that housed the forensic labs, though he was hoping to pick up a whiff of Gordon’s dusty rose scent rather than eau de corpse. Yet all he got was vinegar and bleach cleaning solution. Gordon had probably received a fresh batch of New Amsterdam University interns and had set them to cleaning every nook and cranny so they could familiarize themselves with the place.

On the bland-looking wall on the left, a framed, vintage <em>Dracula</em> movie poster added a dose of vampiric cheer in bold print and even bolder colors to the basement labs, and opposite it, Gordon’s office door stood ajar. Orrin peeked around the doorframe to see if Gordon was in there.

<em>What a nice view,</em> Orrin though, watching Gordon hanging a framed piece of artwork, his nimble surgeon’s fingers adjusting the frame this way and that. The view was much helped by the skinny jeans Gordon was wearing. The jeans were a silvery gray, clashing with the raspberry surgical top, but nicely bringing out Gordon’s latest hair color, electric blue that shifted to icy white at the ends. <em>I am very fortunate to have found a mate who looks great in skinny jeans and likes wearing them</em>.

Orrin indulged in a quick fantasy centered on removing said pair of skinny jeans, and in the fantasy, that task was easy, and Orrin’s mate had decided to go commando. Orrin imagined Gordon hard and ready, imagined touching, tasting…

He smothered that fantasy quickly when he felt his own aching physical reaction. Instead, he refocused back on the present: Gordon, tinkering with the frame.

“Hey,” Orrin said.

Gordon jumped, dropped the frame, and cursed as he turned around. “Fucking hell,” he said, his stance relaxing as he saw Orrin. “Make some noise every now and then, will you?”

Orrin chuckled. “Thought I was a living corpse, Doctor?”

“Never,” Gordon said, picking up the frame once more and putting it on its hook with much less fumbling than before. “Those shamble, noisily.” He turned to Orrin again. “And you are sneaky, like a true predator, Detective.”

Orrin walked into Gordon’s office, which smelled of roses, Gordon’s scent. It still had an undertone of morgue, of course. The Lord Helmet cookie jar added the herby flavor of good weed cookies, and all the mint-in-box collectibles came with their own aroma of high-end plastic, but Orrin focused on Gordon. Two more steps, and he was pulling the vampire into his arms and pressing his lips to Gordon’s.

Gordon yielded to being held after a moment, turning fully to Orrin and allowing the werewolf to fuse their mouths and run hands over Gordon’s body, all the way down to his ass.

“Hi,” Orrin said when they broke their kiss.

“Hello, handsome,” Gordon said, and while the vampire wasn’t one to give pet names, Orrin still enjoyed being called handsome, not least because it came out of his mate’s mouth. “Are you here to cuff me and take me away?”

Purchase

Changeling Press LLC | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Meet the Author

Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter, and subscribe to her newsletter!

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

Title: A Little Fairy Dust

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 01/04/2021

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage

Length: 141700

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

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Description

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

Excerpt

A Little Fairy Dust
Mell Eight © 2020
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you, General,” Ishiah replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

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

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Release Blitz: Dragon Adventures by Mell Eight #YoungAdult #LGBTQ @MellEight

Title: Dragon Adventures

Series: Supernatural Consultant, Book Six

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 26, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 24800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, YA, shifters, magic-users, kidnapping/abduction, travel, soul mates, road trip

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Synopsis

Aqua and Rios are bored, which is always a recipe for disaster. Going on a trip might not solve the cause of the boredom, but they know it will distract them for a while. Except, Rios runs into a nix trying to save his river from drug smugglers and Aqua is kidnapped by a bunch of angry fire salamanders. Their fun adventure quickly turns into a desperate fight for survival, and they’re not certain they’ll be able get back home ever again.

Excerpt

Dragon Adventures
Mell Eight © 2020
All Rights Reserved

“Ugh.”

“Blarg.”

“Pbtth.”

“Frrpth.”

“That’s enough, boys.” Uncle Willy’s frown of displeasure was pronounced. Rios shut his mouth on another fart noise and Aqua did the same at his side. The long table was quiet, Rios realized, and they were all staring at him and at Aqua. Uncle Dane, with his shiny blond hair, was easily recognizable sitting farther down. He was hiding a smile, but the rest of the people didn’t look happy at all.

“Really, William. This is an important meeting. Send the children away,” Ming said sharply. She was the tiny Asian woman who controlled everything west of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains. The entire table was full of territory leaders, and Uncle Willy had explained who each one was and the territory they controlled before they’d arrived for the North American Territory Leaders Conference that occurred every ten years. The last conference had been in Mexico, and the next two or three were going to be in the US before it went back to Mexico. Uncle Willy controlled Canada, and he always hosted the conference after Mexico.

Uncle Willy had been very stern with the boys about the conference. He had been teaching them all about his duties as territory leader and wanted them to sit quietly so they could listen and learn. But that was boring!

Rios opened his mouth to explain how bored he was, but Uncle Willy’s frown grew even sterner, so he shut his mouth again. Uncle Willy was his and Aqua’s caretaker. He had found them making a mess in a river and had ended up adopting them instead of punishing them. Living with Uncle Willy was fun. He played games with them and taught them magic. Even though they had to do chores, it was much better than living in the wild. Uncle Willy had even lost a lot of weight over the years so he could go swimming with them; he wasn’t skinny, of course, but he could keep up now, at least. But then he had said that being fifteen years old signified that they could now take on some responsibility. Well, if responsibility meant sitting in boring meetings while people did a lot of useless talking, then responsibility was awful.

Both Aqua and Rios hated being bored, and Uncle Willy knew that. Rios hoped his answering pout at Uncle Willy explained his reasoning.

“Go on, then,” Uncle Willy finally said with a sigh. Rios refrained from cheering happily as he jumped down from his seat and scampered out of the room after Aqua.

It took them ten minutes to realize there was nothing to do outside of the meeting either.

“Nickel should have come,” Aqua grumbled into the pillow that he used for a face-plant. His blue hair was spread around his head like a wave.

He should have. Rios couldn’t agree more. Nickel was awesome. He was an older water dragon, about twenty-two, and Aqua and Rios had been playing with him for ten years. He had taught them so much about their shared magic and was happy to see them whenever they could convince Uncle Willy that they should go visit. Except, the last four years of their friendship hadn’t been nearly as fun. Nickel had a new playmate: an air dragon named Platinum. Instead of coming to the territory leaders’ meeting with Dane like Nickel should have, he was home playing with his new best friend. It wasn’t fair.

Aqua rolled onto his side so his face wasn’t being smushed by the pillow. He growled under his breath and then let out a heavy sigh. They were both brothers, and the fact that they had definitely hatched from the same clutch was obvious in their shared brow line and rounded chins. Aqua’s nose was a little longer than Rios’s, his eyes a smidge wider, and he was about four inches taller, but they were clearly brothers. They hadn’t been entirely certain of that fact when they were younger and had been confused for twins more times than Rios could count. When they had been kits covered in identical blue dragon scales with identically colored hair, no one could tell them apart. Only as they grew had their differences become apparent, but as far as the issue of being bored and being abandoned by Nickel, they were of the same mind.

“We should go tell Nickel how sad we are that he couldn’t come,” Rios whined, knowing he was speaking what Aqua was also thinking.

“Not on the phone,” Aqua grumbled in reply immediately. The phone number for Nickel’s new house that he was sharing with Platinum was written in a little book kept next to the phone in the kitchen, but a phone call wouldn’t convey just how upset they were with Nickel. It had to be done in person.

“Uncle Willy won’t take us there when he’s still in the middle of a meeting,” Rios mused aloud, “and Uncle Dane isn’t going back home until the meeting is over, so we can’t tag along with him.”

“So we’ll have to travel on our own,” Aqua said insistently.

That made sense to Rios. They weren’t too far away from Dane’s territory, or at least Rios didn’t think so. Uncle Willy owned big houses all over Canada. He didn’t want to use his main house—where they lived most of the time—for the meeting, so he had brought them all to his house in Ontario instead.

“Wasn’t there a map on the wall of Uncle Willy’s office?” Rios asked. They didn’t spend too much time in Ontario, but they had made sure to thoroughly explore the house.

They ran out of the living room eagerly, up the stairs, and down the hall to the office. Since Uncle Willy was downstairs in the meeting, they didn’t knock. Aqua threw the door open and they piled inside.

It wasn’t hard to find the map on the wall. It was only about five feet by five feet long, and Rios could easily grip the wooden frame and take it off the hook. Some of the lines were a bit different than Rios thought he remembered, but it was definitely a map of North America. Although, only the right half of the US portion of the map had the lines that denoted the States. The rest of the map was mostly blank. It definitely looked weird, but they could still pinpoint where Uncle Willy’s house was in Canada and Uncle Dane’s house was in Massachusetts.

“There is a river, see!” Aqua ran his finger down the big lake that Rios knew was called after a big bird. Lake Seagull didn’t sound right—maybe it started with an H, but it wasn’t Hawk. The big lake connected to another slightly smaller lake via a river, which then connected to a third lake that was close to where Dane lived.

It looked like it would be faster and much more direct to walk on land, but they were water dragons and could traverse through the lakes and rivers at much greater speed. Once they got to the last big lake, they could find smaller rivers to get to Nickel’s house.

Aqua held his finger over the distance from the third lake to Massachusetts and grinned at Rios. “It’s only a few inches long. With our water magic, we can get there in a few hours.”

Something didn’t seem quite right—weren’t they supposed to measure with a ruler or something a little more accurate?—but it sounded like too much fun not to go anyway. Rios glanced at the clock, which read eleven in the morning.

“We had better pack lunch,” he said with his own grin.

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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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Wolfsblood by Marteeka Karland #paranormalromance @MarteekaKarland

Wolfsblood (Wolfsblood 5)

Cover Art by Marteeka Karland

 

In Earth’s brutal future, humans are no longer at the top of food chain. Paranormals roam the frozen wastes, predators as protective as they are dangerous — especially when it comes to their chosen mates.

Snow Wolf: Xander needs no one, but the woman calls to the Vampire within, daring him to take her. Instinct wouldn’t allow him not to hunt her, especially with another male sniffing around what is his by right.

Fire Wolf: Logan knows the second he scents the little fire wolf she’s his mate. Convincing a Wolfsblood to mate with a Lionsblood, though, will be a tall order. Fortunately, he’s up to the task.

Shadow Wolf: Leiah has no clue what she’s in for when Shadow Wolf Rikker claims her and threatens to take her from the only family she’s ever known. Can two Shadow Wolves find a balance before Leiah’s pack is torn apart?

Savage Wolf: Bred for battle, Lyndal’s nature demands conflict. Felice’s Vampire nature demands blood. She doesn’t count on Lyndal weaving a sensual web around her…

Possession: Harael. Relaren. Valael. They’re predators. Killers. So how is it the three biggest, baddest Vampsblood out there have been undone by a mere slip of a girl — a human at that? They never saw this one coming. No one — not human, not Vampsblood — is going to come between Josette and her mates.

 

Available today at Changeling Press
preorder for May 15th at retailers
also in paperback at Amazon

 

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EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2020 Marteeka Karland
Excerpt from Snow Wolf

Xander’s anger was as cold as the frozen rain stinging every bit of his exposed flesh. He watched his prey with fury. How dare she? The Snow Wolf embraced a male of her kind before slipping into the small opening in the rock beneath the natural overhang.

As soon as he’d realized this was where she lived, Xander had scouted out the caverns until he knew them like the back of his hand. He’d only seen the woman from a distance, but her obvious familiarity with the other man put Xander in a killing rage. The unnatural attraction he had for a woman he’d never even met didn’t bother him in the least. It was what it was. Xander intended to take the woman for his own before the night was upon them, and that was all that mattered.

Soundlessly, he followed the couple into the cave beyond the rock wall. Only the slight sound of their distant voices deeper underground drifted to him, but it was enough. Xander followed, waiting for the moment the male turned away from her. He would not kill the man. Yet. If he proved to be too much of a nuisance later, though, Xander would eliminate the threat.

Knowing the caverns in this area well, Xander recognized the direction his woman and her companion headed, and he veered off. The farther away from them he was, the less likely they’d know he followed. Crawling through smaller crevices, he made his way to the community buried deeply in this particular branch off the Mammoths. It was getting late, and Xander knew the woman would make her way to her residence soon. He intended to be there waiting on her. It was time he claimed what was his.

Never had a woman intrigued him like she did. The pull toward her was unbreakable, and Xander wasn’t a man who fought his inner cravings. Being half Lionsblood, he recognized the call of a mate. Being half Vampire, he knew he could choose to ignore it, but he didn’t really want to. He wanted to explore her before he dismissed her. If he had her a time — or fifty — he could think again. All he had to do was work her out of his system, and he could move on with his life. Xander wasn’t made to be tied to someone. He was more animal than man.

It took only a few minutes to reach her den and enter through a crevice in an out-of-the-way corner she’d covered with a heavy boulder, presumably to keep out the draft as well as unwanted guests. Xander’s strength, however, was enormous. Not only did he have the enhanced strength of the Lionsblood, but he was gifted with many abilities of the Vampire as well. More so than even his brother, Shiffley. Shiffley had always helped humans, even before he met the female he’d mated with. Now, he was positively smitten. Xander refused to be like that. He was a loner, pure and simple.

Once inside, he surveyed her room with a critical eye. There were several small feminine articles — pastel bed coverings, scented candles, a colorful vase, and a small bar of scented soap — but nothing masculine. Good. She didn’t share her living space with the man. That would have been unfortunate.

For the man.

Situating himself in one of the darkened corners, Xander settled in to wait. Which he did. For over two hours. To say Xander was in a foul mood by the time the door to her den opened was a severe understatement. To put it mildly, he was seething. He waited until she was in the room and the door firmly shut behind her before making her aware of his presence.

“Where the hell have you been?” He growled, the question so full of menace Xander half expected her to run screaming from the room. Lesser men and women had in the past.

Not his woman. She merely looked around until she spotted him where he leaned against the wall.

Xander straightened then and stalked toward her. He didn’t move quickly, but took his time, approached her warily. No doubt she’d bolt at any second.

“I wondered when you’d finally get around to joining me.” Her tone was mild, not in the least distressed. If he hadn’t known better, he might have suspected she knew he’d been following her. “Have a seat. I’ll make us some tea.” She gestured toward the small couch, the only piece of furniture in the room other than her bed. Lighting a small lamp set in a natural alcove in the rock, she set about her task, not once looking back at him.

Of all the things Xander had expected, this wasn’t one of the options. The Snow Wolf acted as if this were an everyday occurrence to her. He wondered exactly how many men she’d entertained here.

Immediately, he tried to tamp down on the inquiry because it sent his temper spiraling out of control.

The Snow Wolf turned to him as if sensing his rage, her face serene. She might have been in the room with a close friend for all the fear she showed. She didn’t seem to consider herself in any danger at all. “Drink this.” She handed him a cup of dark, steaming liquid. “It will help ease your discomfort.”

On some level, Xander knew he should say something. He knew what he was feeling was so far out of the norm for him as to be on a completely different plane of existence.

Anger was nothing new to him. Everyone got angry. But the intense, rolling jealousy was something else altogether. He knew it, but seemed helpless to stop it. What the hell was happening to him?

 

About Marteeka Karland

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.

Marteeka at Changeling Press |Website

 

Raven, Red by Connie Suttle #UrbanFantasy #shifters

Cormac Flynn, a raven shapeshifter, is ancient, Celtic, and cursed.

Arianne Leone, a mountain lion shapeshifter, owns an art gallery in Deep Ellum, a popular tourist attraction and haven for musicians for decades.

Together, they are charged with guarding the one who bears the Hermit’s Stone, an ancient artifact that has held worlds together—and kept them separate—for eons.

Possession of the stone falls to Ari’s friend and art student, nineteen-year-old Nico Garcia. When Nico’s parents are killed in an attempt to destroy him, Ari and Mac must set aside their differences and work together, protecting Nico at all costs…

 

About the Book

Raven, Red
by Connie Suttle

Series
Lion and Raven

Genre
Adult
Urban Fantasy

Publisher
Independent

Publication Date
October 26, 2019

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RAVEN, RED EXCERPT

A Lion and Raven Novel

© 2019 Connie Suttle

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

September

Costa de la Muerte

Northern Spain

 

Fierce winds screamed across the sand, blowing spray off the Atlantic and drenching anyone foolish enough to tread the beaches during such a storm.

Locals blamed the winds for nightmares and other unnatural occurrences, while oscillating stones in the area rocked and rumbled, giving life to ancient tales.

Had anyone from the nearby village of Mordomo ventured out, perhaps they would recall their encounter with the et Inpaenitens, thinking they’d met the Santa Compaña instead.

Perhaps not.

This night, these spirits were especially agitated.

It is gone.

Those words passed silently from one to another, as they found themselves able to break formation.

Then our chance to destroy it has come, whispered throughout the company.

First, we must find it. Belhar, eldest, strongest, and the one who’d enthralled his companions, insisted. No matter where it travels. It holds us only while it is here.

Might we travel then, to find it?

Only the strongest among us, Belhar admonished. I will choose who may go, and who must stay. Remember, your duty is to open the gate, should the opportunity arise.

The winds whipped into a higher-pitched scream as the et Inpaenitens resolved to act accordingly and free themselves forever.

Dispersing completely for the first time in centuries, they left no footprints behind for the winds to erase.

May, the Following Year

Deep Ellum

Dallas, Texas

Arianne Leone looked up from her painting when the bell over her art gallery door jangled, announcing a visitor. She’d bent low to paint the red and yellow colors of the Indian Blanket wildflowers found in Palo Duro Canyon.

Paintings of the canyon were some of her best sellers, so she straightened her spine and stepped back to survey her work. The focus of the painting was a well-known rock formation, called the Lighthouse.

“Ari, it’s me,” Nico Garcia called from the front of the gallery.

“I’m back here,” she replied.

“Oh, that’s really good,” Nico breathed a sigh as he caught sight of her latest work. “I wish my final project was half as good.”

“It was great—you’ll get an A.”

“Thanks for letting me work on it here—that made a lot of difference. Too many distractions at home,” he admitted. “College is harder than I thought.”

“At least the semester’s over—when will your grades be out?”

“Maybe next week,” Nico shrugged. He was worried, Ari could tell.

“You’ll do fine,” she reassured him. “I just know it.”

“The raven came back again yesterday,” Nico said.

“Because you’re feeding him,” Ari teased. “Did you ever figure out what the red patch is under his beak?”

“I still can’t tell, and I can’t really ask him, can I? He does like tamales, though.”

“You working the night shift?” Ari asked.

Nico’s parents owned Blue Taco, the Mexican restaurant across the street from Ari’s gallery. It was a popular restaurant for standard Tex-Mex as well as authentic regional Mexican dishes offered as daily specials.

“Yeah. Gotta go in at six,” Nico answered Ari’s question. “Thought I’d come early and see you, first.”

“Want to use the studio during the summer?”

“Yes.” By the breathless tone of his voice and the way his dark eyes lit up, Ari understood Nico’s true purpose in paying her a visit.

“You’re welcome to use it anytime. I’ll get you a key so you can come and go.”

“All right,” Nico’s enthusiasm spread with his grin.

“I may come to the restaurant for dinner tonight—all this talk of tamales is making me hungry.”

“We can go together—you know Papa will not let you pay.”

“He needs to let me pay,” she said. “He has to cover his bills, just like everybody else.”

“The restaurant is doing really well,” Nico argued. “Besides, you let me paint here.”

“I’m still paying for my dinner. I’m just letting a friend paint in my studio—there are no strings attached. I remember art school, and how much it would have helped me to have an artist’s space to do my work. Instead, I had two roommates who couldn’t stop talking about guys and getting drunk.”

“Mama keeps asking me about a girlfriend. I have girl friends, but those are two separate words for now.”

“I hear that.” Ari and Nico bumped fists. “Want a soda or some water?”

“Water. It’s hot outside.” Nico followed Ari to the small fridge she kept in her workspace. “Something weird happened last night, though. Papa thought it was a burglar outside. The police came, but they didn’t find anything.”

“They may have been scared off. Don’t let your guard down,” Ari warned. “People seem to get crazier during the summer heat.”

“Gonna paint some more after dinner?”

“I think I’ll go home. This is almost finished, and I have a crick in my back from bending down to do the flowers.”

“Is it already sold?”

“Yeah. Somebody in Virginia wants it.”

“Cha-ching,” Nico laughed.

“Hey, that’s rent,” Ari poked his shoulder. “Do not diss the rent.”

Ari found herself flinging her arms around Nico as a deafening explosion sent them flying across her studio. Time slowed as she reflexively covered him as well as she could before their bodies hit the concrete floor.

Across the street, fire and screams erupted; Blue Taco had been reduced to little more than rubble. The bomb that leveled the restaurant had shaken the gallery and blown out its plate glass windows.

Ari came to her senses first, lifting her head—and her weight off Nico. Her back felt as if it were on fire. “Nico?” she whispered desperately. His eyes were closed and his hair was covered in dust and debris that continued to fall around them.

She’d covered the rest of him, so his clothing was relatively clean. “Nico?” Ari stretched out a shaking hand; temporarily deaf, she couldn’t hear his breaths or his heartbeat, and she didn’t trust her eyes to tell her whether Nico was alive. Touch was the only sense she had left.

There—a pulse. Ari found herself wiping tears away. Reaching for her cell phone in a back pocket, Ari groaned in pain. Her back felt as if a thousand needles were stabbing her relentlessly.

“Nine-one-one, what’s your emergency?” the voice on the other end of her call answered.

“Explosion. Injury. Seven-nine-nine Durrance Street in Deep Ellum.”

“We have several units on the way to that area. Stay on the phone; someone will arrive soon.”

Nico escaped with minor injuries. A paramedic was forced to pick glass and splinters from Ari’s back once the dust settled and first responders arrived.

Everyone inside the restaurant perished.

“He’s nineteen and his parents just died,” Ari hissed at Detective Norm Little, who’d arrived to ask questions. She’d disliked him on sight, and when he asked if Nico were in the country legally, she almost slapped him.

Another detective joined the first; Ari wanted to snarl at him before he opened his mouth. “Norm,” Lance Elliott frowned at Detective Little, “I think you’re needed outside.”

“But,” Little began to argue.

“Out. Side.” Detective Elliott jerked his head toward the open space that used to be a door into Ari’s gallery.

Ari studied Detective Elliott with a critical eye. Forties, a little bit of gray, no paunch, single or divorced, she decided. Elliott didn’t budge when it looked as if Detective Little wanted to argue again. She watched with satisfaction as Little turned and walked stiffly toward the entrance.

Once Little left the scene, Lance visibly relaxed. “Sorry about that,” he apologized to Ari. “I’ll take it from here. I don’t suppose you have a security camera outside?”

“Yeah. I can send you whatever it captured—before things blew up.”

“Can we do that now? How’s the kid?” Lance’s voice had gone soft when he asked about Nico, causing Ari to lift an eyebrow.

Bad cop, good cop, she thought to herself, before leading Lance to the back, where Nico shivered on Ari’s sofa.

Shock, Ari pulled in a weary breath. “Nico, I have a blanket. I’ll get it for you.” Detective Elliott could wait—Nico was more important.

“The back of your shirt is bloody,” Lance Elliott called after her.

“Damn. And I just changed shirts,” she cursed.

Lance hated this part of his job. “I’m sorry, Nico,” he handed Nico’s driver’s license back to him. “But we have to find out who did this. Right now, you’re the best source of information we’ve got.”

“Nothing is different,” Nico stuttered his reply. Ari had draped a blanket over Nico’s shoulders, but the kid was still shivering.

“I have a note here that says your father called Plano PD last night,” he said, trying to keep his voice even.

“We thought it was a burglar—Mama heard somebody running beside the house, so Papa called the police. They didn’t find anything. I’m not sure they looked very hard.”

“He told me the same thing earlier—that they had to call the police,” Ari spoke up.

“I’ll send somebody out to check again.” Pulling his phone from a pocket, Lance excused himself and walked toward the gallery door to place a call.

“I’ll call Plano PD,” Captain Belwether told Lance over the phone. “Can’t hurt to check. Now, what’s this beef between you and Norm?”

Lance forced himself not to curse. “The kid just lost both parents,” he growled a reply. “Norm decided to air his racism and asked if the kid was here legally.”

“Of course he did,” Belwether sounded grim. “I’ll expect you to file a report on the incident when you get back to the station.”

“I’m sure Norm already has his complaint written about me overstepping my authority,” Lance grumbled.

“I’ll talk to him when he gets back. We don’t need this blowing up on the news—that we’re this cold-hearted.”

“Except Norm is exactly that.”

“I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that. He’s close to retirement. He and I will have a talk and he’ll choose his words more wisely next time.”

“Right. I may have camera footage from a security camera across the street. I’ll let you know if there’s anything useful.”

“Body count is at twenty-nine and expected to go higher,” Belwether said.

“Damn. Look, I need to go. I don’t know how long the kid can hold up, and I still have questions to ask.” After ending the call, Lance walked back to the studio behind the gallery. His phone rang again before he reached his destination.

“House in Plano just destroyed,” Belwether barked. “Homes on both sides damaged. We have to get the kid someplace safe. Somebody’s after the whole family.”

“I’ll bring him to the station. We can go from there,” Lance studied Ari and Nico, who were now huddled together on the sofa. Ari’s arms were around Nico, as if she knew something else had gone wrong already.

Ari followed the detective to his car; Nico walked beside her, still wrapped in the blanket she’d given him. At first, Lance intended to take Nico to the police station, but Nico refused to go without Ari, as if she were his only remaining lifeline in a world gone off the rails.

“We’ll get through this, Nico,” she spoke softly to him as Lance opened the back door of his vehicle. Ari stifled a scream when a raven, bearing a small patch of red feathers at his throat, landed on top of the car with a concerned kraw!

“Don’t,” Nico begged as Lance waved an arm to shoo the bird away. “He’s my friend.”

“We can’t take him with us,” Lance began.

“Come. With. Nico,” the bird croaked, sending a shiver through Lance. Ari gasped softly but didn’t say anything.

“He said my name,” Nico turned to Ari, his eyes wide. “He’s my friend,” he turned back to Lance.

“Right. Get in the car. Bird, if you’re coming, get in and don’t make a mess.” Lance only said what he did for Nico’s benefit—no way would that bird get in the car.

Except he did, lifting off the car’s roof and flapping to Nico’s shoulder.

“Damn,” Ari breathed. “Nico, get in the car. We should go.”

“Go now,” the bird insisted.

“Right,” Lance repeated and slid into the driver’s seat.

“I’ve hauled a lot of things in my car, but I don’t think I’ve ever driven a raven across town,” Detective Elliott shook his head as he stopped the car at a red light. Ari sat up front with him; Nico and the unnamed raven were in the backseat.

“I’ve never seen a raven with red feathers under his chin,” Ari sighed. “No idea about this one, or why he showed up now. Nico’s been feeding him tamales behind the restaurant, but I’ve never seen a wild bird settle for riding in a car, even if it is with the guy who keeps him in Mexican food.”

“I can’t figure that out, either, but then nothing about this case makes sense. Why not include a raven who likes tamales and can talk?”

“Most people would freak out,” Ari pointed out. “About a talking raven.”

“I think I’m past that now.” Lance moved the car forward when the light turned green. “I can’t wait to see what happens when we take the bird into the station.”

“I-umm right heere,” the Raven squawked, making both jerk in their seats.

Ari and Nico were led to Lance’s office, where Lance offered them drinks and a place to sit. Ari watched as Lance considered his questions carefully.

“Nico, I know this is hard, but can you tell me whether your parents have acted different lately—anything out of the ordinary?” Lance asked.

Nico was seated on Lance’s desk chair while the raven clung to its high back, hovering above Nico’s right shoulder. The detective leaned casually against the desk to ask his questions, attempting to put Nico at ease while they talked.

“No. Everything was the same,” Nico denied. “School ended last Friday, so I was scheduled to work full evening shifts since then. I usually work weekends when I’m in school unless I have a project to finish and need the time.”

One of Nico’s feet bounced beneath him, making his entire leg shake—a sign of anxiety. He was doing his best to hold it together, when he’d become an orphan in the time it took to blink. Ari understood his fear and confusion.

Too well.

“Have they taken any unusual trips? Been somewhere they wouldn’t normally go?”

“They took a trip to Spain last September. Ever since Mama had us take a family DNA test and she found out she had connections to Garcias in Spain, well, she wanted to go. Papa took her.”

“What part of Spain?” Lance scribbled on his yellow notepad.

“Well, they went to Madrid, of course. Went to see lots of things. Ended up at Santiago de Compostela, before going back to Madrid and flying home. Mama had pictures on her phone. She sent me some of them.”

“Actual connections—as in relatives?” Lance lifted an eyebrow. He was following a trail Ari hadn’t yet considered.

“Distant cousins,” Nico’s shaking leg ramped up a notch. “They didn’t meet any of them—Mama only wanted to see where our Spanish ancestors came from.”

“You’re saying it was just a tourist trip, then?”

“Yes. They had fun. Came back tired and full of stories.” Nico choked on his words. Ari jerked her purse open to dig for tissues—she had some, somewhere. Nico drew his sleeve across his face, eliminating the need. The raven croaked softly and began preening Nico’s hair.

Nico sniffled and then chuckled at the attention he was getting.

“Was there anything they brought home besides pictures? Did they have an itinerary—anything on a computer?” Lance asked as the raven inspected his work, then preened more hair, giving Nico a nice lift to his bangs.

“If they did, it’s on Papa’s computer at home. Mama uses her phone. She hates the computer.”

“Nico, we can’t get to that computer,” Lance said.

“Why not?” Nico raised reddened eyes to the detective.

“I didn’t want to break the news like this, but your house was destroyed not long ago. Looks like that call to the police last night should have been investigated better. Do you have anything we can use on your phone? By the way, you shouldn’t answer it if anyone calls. We think someone may be looking for you, too.”

“Here’s my phone,” Nico pulled it from his pocket. “Why would anybody want to kill us? We didn’t do anything.”

“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Is there anything on here that you don’t want us to see? I’ll have somebody look through those pictures your mother sent.”

“No.” Nico shrugged helplessly. “I’ll give you my password so you won’t have to break into it.”

“Lance, a word?” Ari’s head jerked around as someone appeared in the doorway.

“I’ll be right back,” Lance said, straightening and walking swiftly from the office.

“Norm’s dead.” Belwether didn’t waste any time giving Lance the bad news. “Went to ask questions at a business across the alley from the restaurant. He was killed inside, along with both store employees. Their security system was ripped out and stolen. I’ve got uniforms all over the place, and forensics checking for evidence.”

“We need to look at the recordings Ari Leone sent to my phone,” Lance growled. “Damn. Norm wasn’t a friend by any stretch, but this really pisses me off.”

“We’ve blocked off half the street, and that won’t go well with tourists and visitors in Deep Ellum tonight.”

“Maybe it’s for the best—we don’t need a crowd getting killed if these assholes are still around.”

“I was hoping they’d died in the restaurant. Unless there are two teams, they hit the house after the restaurant.”

“Yeah, or maybe they planted those bombs at the house last night and detonated remotely.”

“I think the Plano cops are getting questioned about their visit to the house last night,” Belwether grimaced. “If there were any evidence to find, it’s probably obliterated by now. Bomb squad is investigating. I asked for cooperation from the Plano PD. They couldn’t say yes fast enough. Get Mona on those security recordings ASAP,” Belwether added. “I want to know who or what went into that restaurant and killed thirty-four people.”

“How high will the death toll climb?” Lance asked, after wincing at the updated number.

“Restaurant had a max capacity of ninety-five, plus staff and owners. I doubt it was full, but it could be close.”

“I think I want to have a conversation with the Plano officers who went to Nico’s house last night.”

“So do I. We can have a sit-down later. How’s the kid?”

“Not the best. Still in shock, but that could crack any minute. He doesn’t have any family in the States and doesn’t want to go anywhere without Ms. Leone.”

“Is she willing to stay with him—at least temporarily?”

“That’s the feeling I get. There’s something else, too.”

“What’s that?”

“A talking raven, who refuses to leave the kid’s side.”

“This isn’t the time for jokes, Lance.”

“I’m not joking. Didn’t you notice the bird on the back of my chair when you pulled me away?”

“Wasn’t looking for one. Damn, must be slipping,” Belwether mumbled.

“Come back with me. See for yourself.”

“I think I will.”

Belwether followed Lance back to his office. Just as he’d said, the raven perched on the back of Lance’s chair while Nico, arms crossed tightly over his chest and head down, studied his shoes.

Work shoes, Lance realized. Black leather athletic shoes, suitable for employment in a restaurant. The rest of Nico’s clothing was black, too, with the Blue Taco emblem on the left shoulder of his black polo.

Everything else the kid owned had been blown apart. All he had was his phone and a backpack he’d carried to the gallery before going to work.

“I’ll be damned,” Belwether whispered, jerking Lance away from his thoughts. Belwether was looking at the bird instead of the kid. “Does he have a name?” Belwether stepped into Lance’s office to ask Nico. Lance, wearing a frown, followed him in.

“I don’t know.” Nico’s arms tightened around himself.

“Mac,” the raven croaked.

“Your name is Mac?” Belwether sounded incredulous.

“Cor-mac. Flynn. Call. Me. Mac.” There was a frown in the raven’s croak, since his beak couldn’t transform to convey the message.

“Fucking hell,” Belwether swore softly.

“I think you should ask your questions later,” Ari stood abruptly. “Nico’s had enough for the day.”

“What. She. Said,” the raven agreed.

“We can put Nico in a safe house with guards,” Lance suggested.

“He can come home with me, Detective.” Lance understood that Ari didn’t like Belwether’s intrusion nor his words. She was right, though. Nico looked as if he were barely hanging on.

“Take them to her place,” Belwether snapped at Lance. “Ms. Leone, don’t leave town. I’ll have a unit outside for your protection tonight. Tomorrow, Detective Elliott will call and set up another interview.”

“Thanks for all the warmth and hospitality,” Ari’s eyes and voice had gone so cold Lance wanted to shiver. “We’ll be fine.”

Nico was up and out of the chair fast. Mac flapped to his shoulder and held on. Ari swept out of the office first, followed by Nico.

“What. She. Said,” the raven repeated on the way out.

Ari fumed while Lance drove her and Nico to her house in North Dallas. She knew Lance kept looking her way, hoping to find a way to apologize for the Captain’s gaffe, but she refused to allow an opening.

Besides, it didn’t take a genius—just someone with sensitive hearing—to know Nico was holding back tears while he stroked Mac’s feathers in the back seat. The occasional sniff let her know exactly how things were.

“I’ll call tomorrow,” Lance said as he saw them to Ari’s back door. He waited while she unlocked it and turned off the alarm.

“Thank you, Detective,” Ari said before shutting the door in his face. She was grateful to be stronger than she looked as Nico fell into her arms and sobbed. Mac hopped to a nearby kitchen counter and spoke soft mumblings only a raven might understand.

 

Tour Wide Giveaway

To celebrate the tour for RAVEN RED by Connie Suttle, we’re giving away a paperback copy of the book to one lucky winner!

GIVEAWAY TERMS & CONDITIONS:  Open to US shipping addresses only. One winner will receive a paperback copy of Raven Red by Connie Suttle. This giveaway is administered by Pure Textuality PR on behalf of Connie Suttle.  Giveaway ends 3/31/2020 @ 11:59pm EST.  CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

 

 

About the Author

CONNIE SUTTLE is the author of the Blood Destiny series, the Legend of the Ir’Indicti series, the High Demon Series, the God Wars series and the Saa Thalarr series. Other titles are scheduled for release very soon.

Connie earned her MFA from the University of Oklahoma and has taught courses at the university level. Reading (and writing) have been a constant throughout her life.

The author lives in Oklahoma with her patient, long-suffering husband and three cats. Obviously, the cats are not so long-suffering and are certainly not patient.

Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads  |  BookBub  |  Amazon

 

 

 

This promotion is brought to you by Pure Textuality PR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: Security (Spaceport series) by Shelby Morgen #99cents #futuristic #PNR #shapeshifters

Spotlight: Security (Spaceport Multi-Author 1)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

A dark corner of a seedy bar on the edge of nowhere. A woman who’s seen too much. A man who moves through the shadows with the grace of a cat.

She’s on his tail, and he’s determined to find out why. Once he might have been flattered to have her checking out his ass. Now he knows women are dangerous. And far, far too expensive.

But Commander Kala Decoltéir always gets her man, and she wants the space pirate they call Dancer — no matter who — or what — he is. This time, Dancer has no escape.

Publisher’s Note: Spaceport is a multi-author shared universe that does not need to be read in order.

Get it TODAY for $0.99 at Changeling Press!

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2017 Shelby Morgen

“You look like something a drunken Kitali yarfed up.”

Desk Sergeant December Ramie held out a cup of coffee, which, from both color and experience, Kala knew would be exactly the way she liked it. “Thank you for that observation, Sergeant.” The coffee just might allow her to live through the coming interrogation.

“After an all night karaoke spree in Haze.”

Posol na khui.”

“Boss, how long have we worked together?”

“Five years, fourteen days, twelve minutes.”

December shook her head. “Gotta love that computer enhanced memory of yours. Five years, Commander. And in that time, how many days have you taken off?”

“Off?”

“R and R. Shore leave. Vacation. Personal and family leave. Anything.”

“I don’t have a family. Bio-genetically engineered soldier, remember?”

“You may be genetically enhanced, but you’re still Human.”

“I’m a cyborg. I require minimal maintenance from bio-engineering. I never miss my scheduled maintenance.”

“Scheduled maintenance. What are you, a freighter? You may be cybernetically enhanced, but you are not an android. You’re a woman. You’re so busy trying to keep this place from falling apart, you’re killing yourself. Look at you. You’re not sleeping, you’re living on caffeine and junk food, and you look like hell. You need some down time, Commander.”

Kala’s ocular implant went fuzzy, and she thumped the side of her head. “This place is falling apart. Been down to the Pits lately? Try a walk-about on Level 26. Make sure you go heavily armed. The best I can do is to try to keep the galactic refuse from overflowing into the public areas. Between Holly Barbaric stirring up trouble wherever she goes and the Dollavera brothers finding ways to exploit every disaster to their financial benefit, I’m expecting a riot any day now. I don’t have time for R and R, Sergeant. I’m trying to keep our little world from ending.”

“Thompson’s perfectly capable of covering for you for a few days, Commander.” Ramie held out a personal vid panel opened to a full color brochure. “You can afford one day off duty for a trip to a day spa. It won’t even take a day. One shift, even.”

Kala barely glanced at the brochure. “Thompson’s a good man, but he’s Human. There’s a reason the Adana Council recruited me for this office. Allied Planet Security is making it hard for honest businessmen to trade within AP space, let alone the not-so-honest ones. All the fringe planets and ports are getting inundated with displaced riff-raff. We’re getting hit harder than most, because we’re the closest port of call to the major trade routes with Old Earth. Things are going to get far, far worse around here before they get any better. If they ever get any better.”

“So you’re just going to push yourself till you fall apart? What will that accomplish?”

Well, it’ll get me out of here, Kala thought, but she didn’t say so out loud. She cataloged Ramie’s list of complaints, looking for an acceptable solution. “What about sex?”

Ramie nearly choked on her coffee. “What about sex?”

“If I promise to get myself laid, will that get you off my back?”

Ramie grinned, cat-like triumph stealing over her face. “I’m not sure sex qualifies as R and R, but it’s a compromise I can live with.”

Belatedly, Kala realized she’d been played. She sighed. She had four times normal Human strength, could calculate any math problem at the speed of a Human computer, and her bio-tech system implant allowed her body to repair itself from otherwise deadly wounds in battle, and yet she’d just been outmaneuvered by a single Human female. Again. “Fine. I’ll set about capturing a suitable male.”

She had the satisfaction of seeing Ramie’s eyes open wide in alarm. “Capturing? Commander, maybe we need to talk about Human mating rituals…”

It was Kala’s turn to grin. “Trust me. I know all I need to know about mating rituals. It’s been a while, but my memory’s good.” She downed her coffee and headed out for rounds, wondering how long it would take Ramie to figure out she’d been kidding.

Mostly…

 

Find more from Shelby at Changeling Press …

Shelby Morgen loves writing offbeat tales that defy as many rules as possible.

She likes chocolate with her peanut butter, suspense with her romance, and kink with her sex, and she’s always had a hard time keeping science fiction, fantasy and paranormal from mixing with her kink.

Shelby shares her belief in electronic publishing with her longtime friend and partner, Bill, her husband of nearly four decades.

 

 

Emotional Rescue by Lily Vega #PNR #shifters #NewRelease @LV_Writer @changelingpress

LV_SSRescue

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Bryan Keller

 

Alistair, a human by day and a stone gargoyle by night, goes along with a scheme that could break his curse, but he risks losing the woman of his dreams.

After being burned by love, Kendra sets her sights on her employer’s hunky gardener for a down-and-dirty romp. Their physical connection has the potential to be the emotional rescue they both need, until Kendra discovers the secrets Al’s been hiding.

 

Get it TODAY at Changeling Press

or pre-order at retailers for September 13th

 

   

 

Praise for Emotional Rescue (Set in Stone) 

“…it’s sweet, succinct and alludes to an exciting potential future. It’s a short-shot of fun and romance with a nugget of adventure to tickle a reader’s imagination. I am glad I read this little book and think it’s a perfect afternoon indulgence.”

— Xeranthemum, Long and Short Reviews
cooltext315285045008290

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Lily Vega

Kendra’s job as the personal assistant to a wealthy entrepreneur involved little more than calendar management and simple errands. A colossal waste of her MBA.

At least the generous paycheck helped to make a dent in her student loans.

Who the hell was she kidding? The real reason she’d procrastinated in applying for a better job had everything to do with her boss’s hunky gardener.

Whenever they’d spoken, the air seemed charged with current. Every time she caught a glimpse of his physique or looked into his soulful eyes, her heart sped like a rabbit spying a wolf. Since she’d met Alistair, he’d inspired a number of naughty fantasies.

Mr. Wong’s business trip to Shanghai provided the perfect opportunity for quality time with Al. The frenzied departure of her typically Zen boss could be blamed on Mercury retrograde or a zombie apocalypse. Not that she believed in astrology or zombies, but a girl could use any excuse to seize the day. A romp with the hot gardener might be just the thing to satisfy her base urges enough to allow her to break out of her comfort zone and jumpstart her career change.

She didn’t dare consider the possibilities of a long-term relationship. After discovering her two roommates doing the nasty with her boyfriend in the kitchen of their apartment, she’d stopped believing in relationships. After kicking all three of them out, she had allowed her life to become a mind-numbing rut.

Never again would she let herself be gullible enough to trust a lover. Best to stick to casual sex and her vibrator to fulfill her needs.

She peeked out the window. The lawn was lush and green. Each blade of grass stood basking in the rays of the sun. The rose bushes displayed their velvety petals. Pansies added splashes of purple, blue, and yellow to the grounds. The landscape displayed Al’s care, but the man himself was nowhere to be seen.

If he was into her, she’d limit their liaison to a one-night stand. Even if it killed her, she’d let herself have one taste and move on.

“Excuse me.” The deep rumble of Al’s voice sent a quiver from the back of her neck to the tips of her toes. “I need to water the bamboo plant behind you.”

“Of course.” When she moved out of his way, her high-heeled sandals caught the edge of the Persian rug and she stumbled.

His hand shot out to steady her. Up close, he was even better looking. At over six feet tall, he towered over her five-foot frame, making her feel petite.

She gazed into his eyes and took a deep breath of his earthy scent — fresh-cut grass with a light hint of flowers. An image of him rolling around shirtless in a meadow flashed through her mind. She clutched at his soft shirt and the muscles of his chest contracted underneath.

“Would you consider… “

“Yes.” His hand slid up her arm to caress her shoulder.

A laugh spilled from her lips and her nervousness vanished. “I didn’t finish asking the question.”

“Your wish is my command. After I water the plant, of course.” He continued to rub lazy circles on her shoulder. “Wong will skin me alive if he returns to find his favorite frond droopy.”

“How do you know it’s his favorite? The house and grounds are full of greenery and flowers.”

“The bamboo sits where he can see it while he works at his desk. An object of desire is usually kept close.” His voice went deeper on the word “desire.”

 

More from Lily at Changeling Press …

Lily Vega lives in the Midwest with her sexy husband who combines all of Dean Winchester’s best qualities with a flair for computers. She continually cultivates her dirty mind, fueling it with caffeine and craft beer. She believes all creatures, especially those of the night, deserve mind-blowing sex with a happily ever after.

Check out www.facebook.com/LilyVegaWriter for quirky posts and photos of hot guys. Visit Lily’s website at LilyVega.com and follow her on Twitter @LV_Writer.

 

 

Secret Princess by Michelle Hasker #PNR #UrbanFantasy #shifters @changelingpress @Michelle_Hasker

Secret Princess (Dragon Mates 1)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Cover Artist: Angela Knight
Genres/Themes: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Shifters,
Elves Dragons and Magical Creatures

 

Posing as her best friend’s lover shouldn’t be a problem. At least that’s what Tonya tells herself — until she meets Michael’s twin brother Gabriel, and finds out just how hot fire dragons can burn.

 

Get it Today at Changeling Press

 

EXCERPT

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Michelle Hasker

It was wrong. Oh, so wrong. Burning in hell was the least of her problems. If Michael could see what Tonya was picturing the two of them doing right now, he’d toss a bucket of water on her. Her best friend would never look at her the same way again. Hell, she was worried about herself.

How insane was it that her inner dragon believed Michael was her soulmate? The fact that he was also a dragon didn’t mean they had to mate. She’d been around other dragons and not heard a peep from hers. Why, oh why, did her stupid dragon think that her best friend was her one true mate?

There were many who never even found their soulmates. She’d once wondered if she’d be one of them. But apparently her dragon was crazy. With her luck she’d already met hers and didn’t even know it. In the meantime, she’d been drinking buddies with Michael for years. Once he’d gotten her the job here, their friendship had evolved until she could honestly say he was her best friend. Hiding her crazy, lust-filled dragon from him was tiresome, though, and in the end she’d confided in him.

Tonya had been afraid to tell him in case it ruined their friendship, but he’d taken it better than she’d imagined. In fact, he seemed rather pleased that her dragon lusted over him. The man was an enigma, but in the end she decided it didn’t matter. Michael meant too much to her for her to walk away. Since he didn’t care when her dragon misbehaved, they were usually able to ignore her.

“Are you listening to anything I’ve said?” Michael waved his hand in front of her face and stared at her.

“What?”

“God, Tonya, what is wrong with you today?” He stood up and crossed the room to look out the large window in his office.

“I don’t know.”

“I know it’s not your dragon’s fault. I can sense when she’s acting up.”

“I think I’m still annoyed with your family. More than annoyed, I’m angry with them. None of them deserve you!”

Michael spun back around. “You aren’t going to back out, are you?”

“No!” She sat up straight and shook her head.

“Is your dragon still trying to convince you that I’m your soulmate?”

Tonya sighed and leaned back in the chair. She crossed her arms and her legs. “Yes. I’m so irritated. I’m positive she’s not even considering other men.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m glad. Her interest in me is what I’m hoping on using to convince my parents and family that we’re a couple. If you’d found someone else I couldn’t take advantage of you this way.”

Tonya groaned. “Do you need to use words that could be construed in a sexual manner by my dragon?”

“Sorry,” he apologized, but Michael didn’t look even one tiny bit sorry. “But you have to admit that your confused dragon is going to make pulling off this ruse even easier.”

“And how are you going to get your dragon to cooperate?” Tonya stared at him. They were both silent for a long moment. “I still say your parents should love you for who you are, not what they want you to be.”

“I don’t want anyone in my family to know. Can’t let them know. You don’t understand.” Michael frowned, staring at her. “You have to promise not to say anything. I know how hard that’ll be for you, but I need you to do this for me. This is extremely important to me.”

“I know. That’s why I’m going along with this. You know I’ll do it for you. But not taking your asshole family down a peg or two might be impossible. You better not leave me alone with them. I can’t promise what will happen if you aren’t in the room.”

“You know I’ll owe you big for this, right?”

“No, you won’t. You’ve been keeping my secret for years so I think we’ll call this even.”

“I don’t think so.” He looked as if he was going to say something else but his office door opened, and they both turned as one to stare at who would have entered without knocking first.

 

More from Michelle Hasker at Changeling Press…

 

Dragon Alliance by Stephanie Burke #PNR #UrbanFantasy #GayRomance #NewRelease @changelingpress @Flashycat

Can Iffear and Vulwin survive the results of their mating?

 

Dragon Alliance (Dragon 2)

Publisher: Changeling Press
Genres/Themes: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gay,
Elves Dragons & Magical Creatures, Magic, Shapeshifters

Iffear comes to Vulwin at his most vulnerable, but as their magical enemies and a plot to destroy the Dhrovish throne make themselves known, the newly mated couple find themselves drawing closer together in order to survive.

Get it Today at Changeling Press

 

cooltext310013595964408

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2019 Stephanie Burke

“So, this is nice.” In his human skin, Vulwin, aka Win Arcarius, was an unmistakable albino black man with long, pale blond hair and bi-colored eyes that were to die for — or at least that was what his agent believed. He looked around his new quarters and gave them an approving smile.

He was tall, sleekly muscled with large eyes, one green eye and one silver, that peered out at audiences from a set of lashes so long they looked like they had to be fake. His cheekbones were high, his lips were full, his skin was an extremely pale tan, and his attitude, like his clothing, was fierce.

Beside him walked his proud mate, his dragon, who was wearing a tight, white tank top, a pair of tight denim jeans, and the most kick-ass pair of black riding boots that the world had ever seen. Probably because they were Dhrow-made and designed with his protection in mind.

In comparison, Win looked ready for the runway in his long, flowing red tunic and loose black pants. He was wearing black leather sandals on his feet and was resplendent in his gold jewelry… huge bangles on his wrists, several delicate chains in his ears, and rings on every finger and toe. He was a model in every sense of the word, and walking into this upscale tattoo shop and piercing parlor was guaranteed to bring traffic to a halt.

Strutting before them was a tiny black cat, Chinsie, who looked more of the human kind of pet than anything she looked like Under the Hill. Around her neck was a spiked collar of gold, and she moved with the same protective attitude she had presented before. She was a bad-ass and she knew it.

Once inside the small brownstone mansion, Chinsie took off like a shot to a bay window covered in plush silence pillows, obviously her spot in the shop front room, and perched herself like royalty.

“I thought you said you’d be gone for a month, bossman,” the short woman behind a tall glass counter said as she put down a sketch pad, looked up, and –”Well I’ll be damned.” Her mouth dropped open when Iffear reached out and grabbed Win’s hand.

“Plans change,” he offered, his voice deep and gravelly and still enough to put a shiver in Win’s loins. Was there ever a case of a creature passing on being in heat to another creature of a different species? He still didn’t know, but damn, he was feeling like he was in rut around his mate. “This is –”

“Win Arcarius,” the woman managed, eyes growing wide in shock. “Supermodel and spokesman for about a bazillion products. I’m sure you know you’re beautiful, but do you know how beautiful you are?” While she spoke, she not so secretly pulled her phone off the counter and began taking shots of them.

The smile that spread across Win’s lips was genuine as he pulled Iffear in closer. “Thank you.” His voice was accented in a way that most humans could not place, though the companies he represented loved it. “It’s nice of you to say so.”

At their close contact, the woman’s smile became a smirk. “Vacation, boss? Going to Europe for a month or so? So is that what the kids are calling it these days?”

“Mai,” Iffear groaned and Win smirked back at her. “What happened is none of your business.”

“Mai.” Win grinned. “I think I like your style.”

“Mai Wind,” she introduced herself, her purple-tipped afro adding height to her short stature. “Resident piercer and apprentice tattooist. And you better like my style. I’m wearing your name on my ass.” She hopped off her high stool and walked around to meet them, spinning around at the last minute to show the stylized WA on the back pocket of her pants. She turned to face them, holding out her hand as she drew closer. “And dare I pray you want to get your tongue pierced today? A nipple?” She pointed to his crotch. “Something in the lower region, perhaps?”

“I can’t take the time off from using my tongue to let it heal.” Win almost sounded disappointed as he shook her hand. “And if I can’t take the time to let my tongue heal, then anything lower is out of the question.”

“Ohh, kinky.” Mai chuckled before looking up at Iffear. “I hope he’s pulled you from your life of celibacy and popped your second virginity so you can stop being such a raging bitch.”

Win’s laughter was loud and obnoxious and he didn’t care. Talk about getting your roles reversed.

“Why do I like you?” Iffear snarked down at her, tapping her on the nose with his free hand. “And why haven’t I fired you yet?”

“Because I am the one who keeps your sorry ass organized. What would you do without me, boss?” She laughed, punching him lightly on the arm. “Like the time those drunk twin sorority girls –”

“So,” he spoke loudly over her, “This is my shop manager and main piercer, Mai Wind. She’s snarky.”

“I like snark.” Win chuckled.

“And Mai, this is Win Arcarius, my husband.”