Jul 17

Blog Tour: Elias by Erin E. Keller (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Elias

Author: Erin E. Keller

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 7/17/17

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 36800

Genre: Contemporary, romance, contemporary, gay, cisgender, explicit, domestic abuse, panic attacks, law enforcement

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Synopsis

After his partner’s death, Thomas Doyle lives a life made of work and late-night sexual encounters with unnamed bodies. It’s a life of solitude that leaves him too much time to think and regret.

Yet, despite everything, he jealously treasures it.

That’s why when Elias Byrne—who comes out of the shadows of Thomas’ nights—suddenly bursts into his everyday life with arrogance, Thomas finds himself fighting against ambivalent feelings—the need to reject the tormented Elias and the strange, inconceivable, and difficult to accept desire to join their solitudes.

Excerpt

Elias
Erin E. Keller © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 1

THOMAS

The regular sound of the windshield wipers and the constant beat of rain on the car roof were the only sounds in the cabin.

Thomas’s hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that his knuckles were white. He stared down the street while remaining pulled over on a secondary road near his house, one that led toward the police department of Landmeadow. His breath came fast and his heartbeat quickened.

He’d stopped when the first symptoms made him think he was having a heart attack, but he was used to these occurrences by now. He knew it was simply a panic attack. It wasn’t the first time he’d experienced it, but that didn’t mean that when the panic arrived there was anything to do besides trying to limit it. Once the terrible chain reaction started, he just had to find a way to stop it, one way or another.

He hated the condition; he hated his body for not being able to answer to rationality, to being influenced by this nervous short-circuit. There was nothing he could do to stop the flood of bad sensations, the oppressive feeling of death.

He wasn’t dying. In fact, he was quite healthy and young. He took care of himself and didn’t have heart disease. He really wasn’t dying. It was just panic. Bad, suffocating, terrible panic. He wasn’t dying. He only had to breathe. And maybe count. Distract himself.

He tried to take slow breaths, deeply, thinking about taking the pill, but maybe—since he was going to the police station—if he concentrated on the things he had to do, that would be enough. Maybe today, in this corner of South Ireland, there would be a case for him and his colleague. He didn’t hold out too much hope, but no doubt hoping was better than worrying about not having anything to help him emerge from this momentary crisis.

Keeping busy was the only thing he had been able to do since Aiden’s death. Aiden, his partner for ten years. He wasn’t supposed to leave so soon; he wasn’t supposed to leave Thomas alone. It wasn’t how things were supposed to go. They had bought the big house where Thomas was now living to start a B&B. Aiden would have managed it, and they had planned to live there for the rest of their lives. But accidents happen, and a fatal crash had torn from his hands the man with whom he had spent so many years and whose days had ended far too soon.

Two years had passed since that night, but he still felt the desire to close his eyes and give in to his melancholy. And sometimes cry. He often pretended his reality was something different. Daily he searched for the desire to find a new meaning to his life, to break free from the anxiety that had accompanied him since the night he received the news of Aiden’s accident.

In the end, he was lonely in that big house. In spite of the wishes of everyone, including his colleague Anne, he couldn’t follow his former dream of opening a B&B. Who would manage it? He wasn’t at home enough to take care of guests and, actually, the idea of having strangers at home didn’t exactly thrill him. He didn’t feel like being in close contact with people he didn’t know.

But that wasn’t true during those nights made colder by solitude…

Regardless, the house was still beautiful, big and almost empty. White and gray it stood, lonely and silent, in one of the best areas of the village. He loved living there, despite the echo of Aiden’s presence, but sometimes living alone didn’t seem like the best idea. Ghosts whispered and anxieties took over. Maybe it also wasn’t good to stay sitting at his desk at the police station, but work always helped him.

Right then, he just had to reach the office. He had to hope he wouldn’t faint while driving. What if he lost control of the car and wasn’t able to pull over in time?

Those thoughts made him lose his breath again. Thomas got out of the car, letting the rain soak his clothes and wet his face. He lifted his face to the sky and opened his mouth, inhaling and exhaling, reaching his arms out to the sides and stretching his muscles, trying to think about anything but death. He turned around a few times where he stood, continuing to take large mouthfuls of air and water.

Rain dampened his light brown hair and his pale face, sliding past the collar of his shirt and down his chest, leaving cold traces that gave him shivers and distracted him from the oppression he was feeling.

“Perfect. Go away. Come on…” he murmured, loosening his dark tie. He congratulated himself on being able to knot a tie without help from anybody. Which was lucky, because now nobody was the life companion he had chosen for himself here in Landmeadow, where somehow he was playing out a life that no longer felt like his, alone. Thirty-eight years old, county police detective, wealthy family, charming. But lonely.

Lonely in so many ways he didn’t even want to think about. Lonely, more out of choice than need. Which didn’t mean that six-letter word made him feel less empty inside. He’d promised himself not to get close to anybody else, not to let anybody get close enough to be able to hurt him again. Everything was meant to end—everything. Sometimes too early, too violently.

So, he lived his life as if it was made of airtight compartments. There was his job: his current partner and other colleagues. His female colleagues were always smiling at him and hoping to end up with him in some dark corner, as if being suddenly “widowed” could have changed his sexual orientation. There were also his parents, who he rarely spoke with, and the people he was working for. That was the fake stable reality that was his life. And then there were those nights when solitude was so heavy it pushed him to go out and look for a body to share it with for a few hours. A body that, the morning after, would leave the house before it was daylight, because Thomas didn’t want them to stay long enough to warm up the surrounding air.

His career and his job were what he concentrated on the most. He and his self-imposed solitude had found a good rhythm, a kind of pathological balance. And usually everything worked perfectly.

But he was lonely. And he was alone right in this moment too. He was afraid of dying and not having anyone to call.

“What are you doing? Dancing in the rain?”

Thomas jumped and turned in the direction of the voice. A guy, wrapped in a jacket that was too large for him, was staring at him from under the dripping gutter of a house close to where Thomas’s car was parked. He had his arms crossed and his hands under his underarms. His black hair was so long it fell over his eyes. He seemed thin and very young, but from the little Thomas was able to see of his expression, he was anything but innocent or young.

Thomas didn’t know how to answer such a question, nor did he even understand why the guy felt like talking to him.

“No,” he simply answered, then opened the door and quickly got back inside his car. What a fucking question. “Shit,” he swore when he realized he was getting everything wet. He turned back to the sidewalk and noticed the stranger was still looking at him. What did he want? Well, at least the short distraction had helped him to recover better than twirling under the rain.

He passed his hands through his hair, over his face and his short, well-trimmed beard, trying to wipe off as much water as he could. His eyelashes were full of raindrops, and he blinked rapidly.

He heard somebody knocking at the window and turned to the passenger seat, finding the guy from the street staring at him from outside the car. Thomas could see his face better now. He had sharp features, and he seemed to have dark eyes as well as dark hair, even if Thomas couldn’t be sure of what was hidden behind his long wet locks.

Thomas started the car and lowered the window a little, turning off the heating to get rid of the condensation on the windshield.

“What do you want?”

“A ride. Can you give me one?”

Instinctively, Thomas would have said no, but at that moment, he was grateful to the boy who had distracted him from his panic attack. Also, it was pouring rain and he felt bad for him. Thomas nodded and waited for the guy to get in and close the door before speaking again.

“Where do you need to go?”

“Far from here.”

Thomas looked at him, puzzled. “Okay, listen, I’m sorry to let you down, but I only have a ten-minute trip to make, so you won’t get very far with me.”

The guy turned to look at him but didn’t say anything. He moved his hair a little off his face and blinked. Thomas noticed that his hair was as long and wet as his own was.

“Okay, so let’s go for the ten minutes. I’m going where you’re going.”

Thomas wrinkled his nose but didn’t speak and pulled away from the sidewalk, back onto the road. None of their conversation had made any sense, but he was still confused by his anxiety and he didn’t feel like thinking too much about what was happening. He only hoped that, if the guy was a delinquent, he wouldn’t pull out a knife to rob him because even though he was a police officer and armed, Thomas felt like he was on the edge of an abyss. Not that Landmeadow was full of criminals, but you could find bad eggs everywhere, even in a lovely Irish village. His heart contracted in an unpleasant way, and Thomas started tapping nervously on the wheel to push away the bad sensation.

Panic, just go away. Thanks a lot, shit brain.

The trip continued silently. The stranger kept his face stubbornly turned toward the window, and Thomas couldn’t stop himself from wondering who he was, now that he had decided —or almost—that he wasn’t a danger, or looking to assault him, rob, or slice him open. For no particular reason, he felt curious. It also felt strange that this guy was sitting in his car after he’d dealt with his panic attack, asking him for a ride. Now, thinking about it, Thomas could have been dangerous too, for all the guy knew.

Yeah, sure.

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” he asked, trying to lighten the atmosphere, since his last thought had given him another worrying sensation. It was ridiculous that a grown man could be afraid of a teenager, but that strange feeling was really weird. And he wasn’t feeling that good at the moment.

“Why would I be?” the boy answered, turning slightly to look at him.

“I don’t know, you seem…young. Don’t they go at school at your age?”

“At my age? How old do you think I am?”

Thomas shut up and studied him out of the corner of his eye. “Eighteen? Seventeen?”

A sound similar to a woof came from the boy, and Thomas jumped a little, realizing only afterward that it had been a curt laugh.

“I’m twenty-three.”

Thomas turned and observed him better. “Well, it’s impossible to see your face with all that hair and you’re…thin. You look younger.”

A couple seconds passed before the man answered. “Do you usually prefer them bigger? Guess I’m not your type.”

Thomas almost slammed on the brakes in the middle of the street. He swerved a little and felt his blood pumping in his temples.

Who was this man? What did he want from Thomas? Did he know him? How could he? Had he crawled from the hidden night life to mix with Thomas’s life on the surface? What a fucking start to the day!

“Who are you and what do you want from me?” he asked, hoping his voice wouldn’t crack as he looked at the man from the corner of his eye.

The young man shrugged his shoulders. “My name’s Elias. I’ve seen you a few times at the Black Sheep. I followed you. I’ve seen where you live.”

Pulsations at his temples started up violently, in a worrying way.

Oh my god, what if I have a stroke right now?

Elias is a strange name around here.

What has he seen? With who? When?

My temple is pulsing so much.

Count! You are not going to have a stroke.

Shit!

“What are you? A stalker?” Thomas asked in a harsh voice, keeping a strong grip on the wheel, pushing away the last terrible thought.

Elias smirked. “I don’t know. Is that what you’d call it? I wanted you to notice me.”

What the fuck?

Thomas didn’t know how to respond. He turned back to the guy again, keeping an eye on the road. The humidity in the car made it difficult to breathe, and the rain on his clothes was drying, leaving a bad, sticky sensation. He was used to the weather, and despite everything, he loved it. Still, he deeply hated the feeling of his clothes stuck to his skin.

“I could be your father. Don’t talk bullshit.” It was useless to deny it. The guy knew exactly what he was talking about.

“I don’t care. Don’t you like me?”

Oh God.

“I can’t even see your face. How the fuck can I know if I like you? What do you want me to say? No, you’re twenty-three, Elias. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know. Listen, get out please.”

Thomas pulled over on the sidewalk and looked at Elias, but the young man didn’t move.

“Don’t make me get you out of the car by force.”

Elias didn’t move and didn’t speak; he stayed looking at Thomas with eyes as dark as deep abysses. Magnetic abysses like black holes that could suck you in and never let you come back up to the surface.

“Okay, that’s enough.” Thomas got out of the car and spun around. Keeping a hand on his head, he opened the side door and took Elias’s arm to pull him out of the car. “I told you not to push me,” Thomas said, a moment before he found two arms around his neck and a soft wet-from-the-rain mouth pushing against his, a soft tongue searching for his tongue, a thin body pushing against his.

It only lasted for a few seconds, but to Thomas, it seemed like an eternity. If before the violent beating of his heart had been caused by anxiety and neurosis, now it resounded in his chest for a totally different reason.

He pushed Elias away, held him back by the arms, and stared into his eyes, puzzled, shocked, and shaken. For a moment, he was breathless and speechless.

“Are you crazy?” he was able to say after a moment.

Elias licked his lips and remained silent for a while. “I want to see you again.”

Thomas opened his eyes widely. “Do you speak my language or not? No. No. N. O. I don’t know who you are, and I don’t want to know. I don’t want to see you again, okay? Shit, this feels like the Twilight Zone.”

Thomas stopped for another few seconds, maybe waiting for a reaction, maybe to realize it wasn’t a dream or his imagination. Then he turned, got back into the car, and slammed the door before taking off with a screech of the tires, leaving Elias on the sidewalk, looking after him. The fact that Thomas knew Elias was looking at him because he’d checked him out in the rearview mirror didn’t mean anything.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Erin is Irish in her heart and soul, and she hopes she’ll move to the Emerald Island one day. She lives with her husband and their cats in a house near a wheat field.

She has been writing for years but admits she is a very undisciplined writer. The problem is that handling a couple of jobs makes it almost impossible to write every day. She loves letting her mind wander through the real world and likes to write contemporary M/M romance, because she loves love. And men.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Tour Schedule

7/17    A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog      

7/17    MillsyLovesBooks      

7/18    Because Two Men Are Better Than One           

7/18    Book Lovers 4Ever    

7/19    Bayou Book Junkie    

7/19    Happily Ever Chapter

7/20    Divine Magazine        

7/20    Kimmers’ Erotic Book Banter           

7/21    Erotica For All

7/21    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews   

7/21    MM Book Escape       

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Jul 17

Blog Tour: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade by L.M. Pierce (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Trans Liberty Riot Brigade

Series: Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, book 1

Author: L.M. Pierce

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 7/17/17

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 80800

Genre: science fiction, speculative, alternate reality, intersex, queer, political revolution, drug/alcohol use, oppression, police state, dark, violence, gore, dystopian

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Synopsis

Andi knows being born an intersex “Transgressor” and then choosing to stay that way can have lethal consequences. After all, surgical assignment is mandated by law. But she ain’t going to spend her life hiding from the Society, hooked on Flow, and wanking tourists just to make a few bucks. She’s a member of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade, an underground faction of Transgressors resisting the government’s war on their illegal genitalia.

But it’s not enough to tag their messages on shithouse walls and sniff down the next high. The government has found their headquarters, decimated their ranks, and they’re crushing the resistance. Though Andi might be nothing but a junktard, she embarks on a desperate dash to stay alive and send a call for help before they’re all killed—or worse, surgically assigned.

Andi, together with Brigade leader Elenbar, must get beyond the communications block preventing all radio transmission, which means crossing the seaboard Wall barricading the United Free States borders. It’s designed to keep enemies out and the citizens in, but amid increasing earthquakes and deadly pursuit, Andi will discover there’s a far more dangerous secret hidden deep within the Wall itself.

Excerpt

Trans Liberty Riot Brigade
L.M. Pierce © 2017
All Rights Reserved

A Sorta Prologue

“Oh yah? Well, fuck off then, you cuck!”

He’s a penny pickle dick anyhow.

I walk into the men’s public shithouse and slam the door behind me. The splintered starburst of mirror glitters under the yellow lights. The reflection’s sportin’ a shaggy haircut like someone’s gone faggin’ buggers with a pair of kitchen shears. My pupils are blown black and wide with the upshot of Flow coursin’ through my veins.

That pickle fucker ripped my shirt.

I examine the ripped collar in the refraction of the broken glass. My hair ain’t too long, ain’t too short. I’m still man enough, should someone, maybe Pickle Fucker, come pokin’ around after me. Though, if I’m real honest, I’m gettin’ sloppy. Just like Elenbar’s always sayin’—keep yer head down, don’t draw eyes ta ya—but it’s a chafe to move through the world as a mere pockmark of who you really are. Yah, I’m still me, though they call me a “she,” but if I keep hackin’ at my hair, I’m gonna look more like the dangerous “Transgressor” news stations are always shriekin’ about. But underneath it all, underneath the shag, that’s what I am.

A Transgressor on a shithouse mission.

On the cracked vid screen in the ceiling there’s some report about us right now—another undercover operation arrestin’ a pack of Transgressors. They don’t wanna get the snip-and-clip, the assignment surgery that’ll turn us from who we are, into what they want us to be. They’re reportin’ two dead already—more to come, if you know news like we do. I shudder, imaginin’ gettin’ my delicates all mangled up by a doc with a blade and a twisted sense of divine providence.

I approach the urinals squattin’ against the far wall. Smell of piss cakes and wankin’ stains waft through the air, a strong reminder of this location’s dual purpose. I peek under the stall doors, but there ain’t no tourist trout loafers tappin’ a signal for a blowie or a pop-off. Though pickle fucker was a bust, I’m still hopin’ to cop some rand coins from a trout. Since I made the long trip and all. Don’t matter, though. There’s other work to be done.

I slip down my pants and jut my pubic bone and mini-man toward one of the white bowl interiors. Urine spurts, and I huff with relief. There ain’t no company to gawk at me, and unlike squattin’ in lady piss stalls, like a good li’l “she,” this is good, it’s good. Feels right somehow.

I zip up, don’t wash, and at the exit, I whip out the chubby marker I carry with me everywhere. The embossed man symbol on the bathroom door gets a scrawled-on miniskirt, a crotch sweeper hardly proper enough for street walkin’. Though after I finish the big circle and the crosshatch over him, li’l man’s got an identity problem, the blessed “he” symbol now one of those dreaded Transgressors. A s/he, they hiss in the not-so-quiet corners of the world. Well, the Society will be along to reassign h/er in short tit order, I’m sure.

I press a kiss on the new Transgressor. It’s a tough thingtryin’ to be alive these days.

I hear a whistle, the chitterin’ bird call of my hip-mate. Waitin’ for me to do what I came here to do. So I scrawl TLRB in big black letters on the door. Somehow it don’t seem enough. So I write “A riot is the language of the unheard” next to it, one of my fav tidbits by a righteous guy. A guy who got gunned down for bein’ the wrong color and bein’ of the wrong mind. The Society don’t like people of the wrong mind. Hey, I know, the message ain’t nothin’ fancy, but the truth don’t have to be. It’s just gotta show up.

The Trans Liberty Riot Brigade was here.

Lover’s Quarrel

“Spare us a Nut, would you?” Pint gropes at my chest, fingers searchin’ for some sign of the familiar rectangular box. His head of orange pubey curls tickles my chin, and his eyes roll loose in their sockets, the corners beet red and weepin’ yellowish slime. A puff of a Nutri-Stick could take the edge off a wicked withdrawal, but I ain’t got any and push him away.

“Jesus, here, fiending like a puckerfucker. Yer an embarrassment.” Elenbar flicks a Nut at Pint’s feet and sweeps back her long red hair.

He drops like a Bridge Street jumper, kneecaps a dull smack against the pavement. Blood seeps through his pants, and he fumbles with the stick, hands shakin’ with the withdrawal fever he’s fightin’. He brings the white tube to his chapped lips and jams the button to activate a smoky flow of vitamins and downer. Helps with the shakes, the fever, the gut punches to come.

Bosco glances up from his readin’ in the corner and shakes his head like he don’t approve of people bein’ alive at all. The whole room’s hot, air thick with chemical sweat and the smell of Pint’s sick body.

Everybody’s quiet, watchin’ Pint squirm and whimper on the ground. The small radio built into the wall of our headquarters mumbles:

“On this day, our Patriot’s Day, we remember those lost in the Great War and those still fighting the Daesh Eye threat overseas. Thankful are we to the Wall protecting our citizenry as we are thankful to the Society who guides us from ruin. Patriot’s Day of holiest remembrance, warriors of the Lord on High. Remember danger lurks not only abroad but within our own homeland. Those who would sow fear among us, the Transgressors who―”

“Turn that shyte off.” Elenbar glares at the green glowin’ light of the radio.

Bosco hops up from his seat and flips the switch to red.

“Faggin’ cucks.” Here I am, sittin’ pretty on the upswing of a warm solid high and good ol’ news from the Society broadcast gotta go bringin’ me down. See, lettin’ it get so bad is amateur shit for crotch sniffers like Pint. “You know, you gotta pace that shit out, stay in control, Pint. Stay on top of it. It’s how they get at us. If the Brigade’s nothin’ but a bunch of junk-tards twitchin’ and blasted off, who’s gonna listen?”

“Andi, just shut yer mawhole fer a pissy pretty second.” Elenbar slaps my dome with the flat of her metal clunker hand and my ears start ringin’. “Weather’s nice ’top that seat ya got? The pickle pricks yer sucking fer that seat? Brigade represents all people, not just the slick and squeaky clean. We’re like this fer a reason, ya know that, so stop talking like ya don’t.” Elenbar’s green eyes spark with rabid rage.

I rub my stingin’ head and eye my shitkickers instead of meetin’ her glare. “Look, I’m just gnawin’ on it. We might be like this for a reason, but we’d howl the Society right down if we weren’t just…” I need to drop it.

“Well, when ya get off and stay off the Flow perma-like, Andi, ya just fucking send me a postcard. I’ll slap yer fruity dicklips on the cover of Brigade: The Softer Side. Yer a junkie like the rest of us. Ya ain’t no better than any of us.” The gravel in her voice hurts more than the slap. “Ya do the marks like I told ya?”

She points her bionic metal finger at the borough map spread on the center table, the corners weighted by beer cans filled with gravel. This cinderblock shack is the headquarter hub of the Trans Liberty Riot Brigade. We just call it the Brick because it looks like nothin’ more than a maintenance shed. Basically is.

“Keepers. I marked up all the west front and the shithouses on the south.”

“Heard ya was hooking on the run. Again.” She flexes her right fist, curlin’ the metal jointed fingers like she’s testin’ it. The bionic arm’s a newly acquired thing and ain’t none of us used to it, especially not Elenbar.

Bosco’s eyes are on me, and I can’t keep the red outta my cheeks. “Just once and didn’t slop up anyhow. Just a tourist trout from outta the neighborhood.”

“Didn’t slop up? Then how ya think I’m hearing it? No hooking on the runs. Not ever, not fer nothing. Don’t care if the president’s begging ya fer a pop-off. Ya were seen, by one of ours, but ya might get remembered by someone else next time.”

“But not this time.” My beatin’ ticker’s takin’ missteps all over the place. I feel woozy.

“No, not this time. But it brings too much heat, attracts all sorts of problems. Ya keep it clean and straight fer the runs. Now, head ta Lover’s Lane with Bosco. He’ll fill ya in as ya go. Fagging twat.” She spits the last words and stalks outta the Brick, her lip wrinkled in a sneer of disgust.

Pint whimpers from his withered crouch on the floor. He tries to rock back on his feet but falls again. Don’t think he’s gonna be able to get up, and no one goes to help him. This ain’t the first and it ain’t gonna be the last time he’s quiverin’ on this floor. Pint’s got the hook worse than most of us combined. Smoke snakes from his mouth like someone’s lit him up from the inside. There are some things a good ol’ Nut can’t fix.

Elenbar likes to think I talk about things I don’t understand, but I do. The come-down off Flow’s some of the worst feelin’s in the world. The tremors start at the edges of your peripheral vision, li’l specks of dark like you’re rubbin’ your eyes too much, but they stick around, get bigger. Soon it’s rumblin’ through the threadlines of your nerves and your stomach clamps on your sack of guts. If you don’t rupture somethin’ internal, you can usually ride it out. But too many of us drag or get dragged to Dr. Chambers, beggin’ for a fixer. Most of the time he does us right, but he comes with a price. If you don’t have the rands to pay, he does accept other kinds of trade. Right and honest maybe, but still a sadist fagger.

Flow also comes in waves, and the nods are comin’ down on me, my body shudderin’ and losin’ some cohesion. I try not to let the fade happen too hard, or I’ll be right next to Pint on the ground. Gotta stay on top. Stay in control.

“Heh. Andi’s going wonky. Dr. Chambers’ll take it outta your ass, for effing sure, you wanker.” Bosco pounds me on the back, jerkin’ me from the pleasant grayspace I’d slipped into.

The weight of the nods dissipates a bit. “Suck a dick duck, ya cuck.”

He smirks, liftin’ his eyepatch to wink at me with the perfectly good blue eye underneath. He’s a faggin’ anglosax dramatic, fancies himself a limey punk-riot pirate. “Knockers. You coming with me to Lover’s Lane or what?”

“Keepers. Let’s get this shit right, though. I ain’t a fan of repeat business.”

Elenbar’s given us our instructions, and we gotta obey like the good soldiers we are. I try to pretend it don’t matter, but a trip to Lover’s Lane always gets at me, clawin’ deep inside my fleshy core where my feelin’ parts must be. I hate every minute, even though I ain’t seen her prowlin’. Every time I gotta go back, the possibility of seein’ her punches me straight in the mawhole. Nah, Lover’s Lane ain’t no love at all.

When we step outta the shack and into the night, I see Elenbar by the chain link, gazin’ at the shoreline of the Anacostia River. The water’s a shade of blotchy underpants, grayish yellow from the repeated wash and piss stains of the world revolvin’ around it. Lights fester on the river’s opposite edge, the shimmerin’ world of the Uppers, filled with people standin’ atop the shit crust of this Slumland the rest of us gotta live in. Elenbar cuts a statuesque silhouette against that distant glow.

Our little pocket of alleyway is littered with trash, knobs of it caught in the honeycomb fence line. You could follow that chain link all the way through the different sections of our quarter, if you wanted. Not that the fence serves any purpose. Rusted-away pockholes mean we could still duck to the water. Not that we would. The water incubates far worse than sewer sludge and dumped bodies, but there, across the rushin’ river, is Elenbar’s past, and I hope, someday, her future.

“Elenbar, you coming with us?” Bosco asks.

She wrinkles her nose at him. “I’ll stay here with Pint. Needs ta get shored up with Dr. Chambers. Apparently, I run a goddamn nappy factory, wiping yer shitty asses.”

“He’ll be all right,” I say.

Elenbar glares at me. “Aye, he will. But what about ya? Don’t fuck it up, Andi.”

Bosco touches my elbow, and together we slink back through the shadows of the alley, swallowed up in the bosom of the Slumland haze.

Back alleyways are transit of choice for scum breathers like us—like me—prowlin’ among the rats, kiddy-diddys, and other junk-tards. For the rest of society, it’s easier to ignore us, pretend we’re not there. We don’t fit into Temperance—the political catchphrase inflamin’ politics like a mutated case of syphilis. And though it smells of jizz wrappers and moldin’ dumpsters back here, I don’t mind the alleys so much. Keeps the questionin’ eyes away. Is she one of them? A Transgressor? A s/he? Why can’t they get h/er off the streets, reassign h/er like the rest?

But there’s more and more of us now. Some of us pass all right, wearin’ proper lady locks and skirts or sportin’ gentlemanly attire if such is our preference. But most of us struggle, eyes followin’ us wherever we go.

Bosco’s ahead, struttin’ to a prick-bustin’ beat pulsin’ out the back end of the Loosey Goosey Club. The back door butts up against the alleyway, and it’s here we come across Lucky Lips.

“Effing effer,” he whispers. Then he cups his mouth and lets out a chitterin’ series of bird calls. The ones we use to signal our hip-mates when we’re runnin’ our tags or an op.

She flinches and whips around like it’s a pinch on the ass. Bosco chuckles and sidles up to her, greetin’ her with a smarmy hug. His callused hands look like grease smears on her white latex dress. Lips’s got a smolderin’ Nut between her teeth, and she grimaces, pullin’ away from him.

“You smell like shyte, per ush.” Disdain strums her vocal cords, and she sounds prettier somehow, lighter and girly. Even her face, she’s already pale as milk, but her skin’s been painted ultra white, with large streaks of blue over her eyes. And her breasts, ones that don’t come natural home-grown, are crammed almost to her chin. I try not to stare. I’ve never seen Lips look this way, with tits like this, and in a dress too.

“Naw, serious now, where you been? Elenbar had the whole Brigade on fire lookin’ for you. Thought you up and drained out on us—you hawking Flow?” he says. His smile’s playful, but she frowns like it ain’t play at all.

Lucky Lips glances up the alleyway and drops her voice.

“Just shut it. I’m not Lips anymore. Name’s Lucy. Now get outta here. I don’t wanna call someone around, but I will if I gotta.” She glances at the backdoor of the club, where a bulgin’ beef steak stands with crossed arms. Watchin’ us.

“What the eff?” Bosco frowns.

“She’s been assigned.” I put a hand on his shoulder.

He wrenches free of me. The rims of his eyes water with horror. The look you get when you realize someone’s fallen beneath the waves and the person you’ve known and loved’s drowned and dead forever.

“Lips. What happened? What the eff happened? Is that what this is?” He grabs her wrist, his mouth a cavernous black gash of rage. Her nipples are hard in the chill clip of night, and he pinches one. “You think this is real? That you can escape what you are?”

“Feck you! Feck you, aye? Tell Elenbar she’s a fool. You all are now! How long can you go on playing at riot? It’s all a joke, ain’t—no, isn’t it? It’s all up someday, isn’t it?” She jerks away, cheeks burnin’ hot. Then she soothes her poofed dome of hair and nods toward the rump roast at the door. He slinks back inside, and she huffs an angry sigh. “Look, they patched me up. Got me off the Flow, and I can earn me some rands in a tight dress and clean hair. It’s not so faggin’ bad after all. Better than scootin’ around, s/he arses in the dirt.” Fury’s brought out her accent, and she sounds like Lips again. The real Lips. But I know, understand real clear, that Lucky Lips is dead.

“S/he? Oh, pardon, like weren’t a season ago you were swinging your pecker ’round the quarter? S/he now—look, Andi, we’re just s/he scumsuckers to Miss Cock Queen of all the Land!” He laughs, lookin’ crazy as he spreads his arms wide, and gestures to the grime of the alley we stand in. A roach sips from a puddle of gutter fly puke. “Society slut, you’re just an effing Society slut. Gonna take that dick along with the poke of the Society stick?” Bosco grabs her arm again, twistin’ hard, and Lucy shrieks, her wrist at a funny angle.

I grab his shoulder, tryin’ to stop him because if he don’t, they’re gonna—

“Citizen, desist! You are in violation of the peace. Release her.”

We all freeze. We are straight, lubed up, and puckerfucked. Bosco lets go immediately, his mouth a pinhole of surprise.

“All right, all right. We got heated, it’s all right.” Bosco raises his hands, palms out.

The clunk-a-junk Security & Citizen Enforcement officer glares, red glowin’ bulbs where fleshy eyeballs would be. Assignin’ security to portable lug nuts I guess makes sense from an Upper’s point of view. No subjectivity, no bias. You can’t bribe a clunker. They stand upright; a coffin-shaped reinforced body of painted steel, hidin’ all the mechanical guts, nuts, and bolts of the system. The head’s a calculatin’ mass of probabilities and policy, enforcement and control. What made sense on an administrative level don’t translate so well to us faggers who gotta live with it. They use human Enforcers in the Uppers. Down here in the Slumland? We got a robotic task force seemingly programmed to fuck us on the regular.

“Yah, he’s right. We’re leavin’ Lucy here and continuin’ on our way.” I say it slow and clear. No misunderstandings. Tryin’ to be cool, easy. But it ain’t gonna fly. Not even a li’l tit bit.

“Ma’am, please resume your normal activities. Sir, please submit to a gender screening,” the clunker buzzes, polite as pie, sinister as fuck.

“Ah. Well, I can’t, things make me gag. I’m liable to throw up all over the place, all over you and the lady—” Bosco’s green eyes meet mine. Ain’t none of us want to be on the radar, gotta stay out of the system as much as possible.

I sprint towards Lover’s Lane while Bosco splits in the other direction. The clunker processes for a second before rollin’ after Bosco. Yah, they roll. Spry motherfuckers have got off-roadin’ equipment, chains, and regular asphalt rollers. Ready to deal with any and all situations.

“Bye, Lucky Lips! Hope you choke on a bucket of dicks!” I shriek over my shoulder, reckless immaturity givin’ me strength and speed. I’m still sprintin’ because clunkers round up quick. No doubt, any moment, they’d descend on our location like cockroaches, infestin’ the dark crevices of our back-alley world.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

“Hey, but what if…?”

Music to Lindsay’s ears. She is a graduate from The Evergreen State College and bathes in the sweet liberal waters of the Puget Sound. Or she would, if it wasn’t so polluted. She is a lover of the new and the old, of asking questions and contemplating possibilities. Lindsay’s work is primarily speculative fiction and she is an unapologetic Nerd. She lives with her husband and four fur-babies in Olympia, Washington.

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Tour Schedule

7/17    Wicked Faerie’s Tales and Reviews   

7/18    Divine Magazine       

7/19    Bonkers about books

7/20    A Book Lover’s Dream Book Blog      

7/20    MillsyLovesBooks      

7/20    Happily Ever Chapter

7/21    J. Scott Coatsworth   

7/21    Boy Meets Boy Reviews        

7/21    We Three Queens     

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Jul 10

Blog Tour: Force of Nature by J.K. Hogan (Guest Post & Giveaway)

Title:  Force of Nature

Series: Coming About, #4

Author: J.K. Hogan

Publisher:  Euphoria Press (self)

Release Date: 7/4/17

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80,000 words

Genre: Romance, contemporary, adventure

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Synopsis

Everyone knows that bonds formed under extreme circumstances never last.

Harbor Patrol officer Neal Hesse has had his life turned upside down by a sudden break-up with his partner of ten years. After sleeping his way through Seattle failed to take his mind off his broken heart, he decides to take a leave of absence from work to find himself again. He hires a professional wilderness guide to take him up into the mountains, so he can get away from everything and live off the grid for a few days.

Travis “Rock” McCreary, ex-Army Ranger turned survivalist, hates doing guided excursions, but it’s his primary source of income while he’s working towards getting his own survival show. Working in such a testosterone-fueled profession has forced him so deep into the closet, he feels like he might never see the light of day again, which makes it even harder to put on a friendly face for his happy, normal clients.

When Rock is hired by clumsy city-boy Neal to take him up into the North Cascades for a survival adventure, his patience and his resolve are tested at every turn. He has to teach Neal to survive in the wilderness while fighting an attraction he can’t allow himself to act on. When their trip doesn’t go as planned, Neal’s getaway turns into a true survival situation, and he and Rock are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. If they make it out of the wilderness, can their newfound connection survive in the real world?

Excerpt

Neal didn’t see how this was supposed to help take his mind off his ex because, as they trudged up the trail mostly in silence, he had nothing but time to think. Time to think about how he’d fallen for and spent years with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He thought he’d been settled, that Tony was The One, that they had been on their way to growing old together. How wrong he’d been.

When the party reached an overlook at the highest point on the trail, they stopped for a panoramic view of the waterfall. Even Neal had to admit, with the sun streaming into the gorge and casting rainbows from the mist, it was a beautiful sight. It was still hard to drag himself out of his head, though. He knew his friends meant well, and they were right, of course. He needed to get up, get out, get back on the proverbial horse of life. But he didn’t wanna. He wanted to be at home on the couch moping, damn it.

He wished for that even harder when he saw the so-called trail that descended from the overlook to the foot of the falls where hikers could walk around or swim on warm-enough days. This trail was also steps, but natural ones of smooth, flat rock. It was narrow. Very narrow, and the lower part had a thin coat of slime from the water spray and mud. So it was fucking slippery.

When he’d almost made it to the flat riverbed, Neal lost his footing on a slick rock. He barely avoided taking a tumble—probably would’ve cracked his skull open—but he gained his balance again at the last moment. He breathed a sigh of relief when he stepped off that part of the trail. The falls dumped into a wide open part of the gorge, forming a broad pool that was bordered by a large, semicircular bank of river rock. There, day-hikers and tourists spread out on the rocks, picnicking, sunning themselves, or generally just taking in the scenery. Neal’s friends spread out to do their own thing.

Addison stalked off to the tree line with her cell phone, probably trying to get a signal so she could call her girlfriend. Bennett led Rory around the edge of the pond so they could get close to the actual waterfall. He was wearing a chest harness that held his Go-Pro, the action camera he usually kept on his boat. Rich and Paddy sat down on some large rocks and got out their trail snacks. And Nic Valentine, the crazy fucker, was wading in the frigid pool while Justice looked on, shaking his damn head.

Neal shivered just thinking about it. It was the tail-end of summer, so it was still quite warm, but these high lakes and rivers were always brisk, even on the hottest days. He’d been trained to withstand cold water temperatures for marine rescues, but that didn’t mean he had to like it, and he certainly didn’t do it for fun. Turning away from the splashing idiot, Neal looked around at all of the tourists and vacationers. Everyone had phones out, taking pictures, and he was sure they were tweeting and Instagramming like mad whenever they could find a bar or two.

He shook his head, then smirked and took his own phone out. “When in Rome,” he muttered. First, he snapped a picture with the reverse camera of himself with the waterfall in the background. Then he flipped the view so he could get a shot of the gorge. His frame wasn’t wide enough, so he took a few steps back, mindful of the rocks that became more slippery the closer he got to the falls.

His foot slipped and plopped down into water still cold enough to make him gasp, and right at the same time, he backed into something hard. Solid. Something alive. Neal winced when he heard an outraged cry and a splash behind him. Oh, fuck. Had he just…knocked someone into the water? He knew he needed to make sure they weren’t hurt or anything, but damn, he was afraid to turn around…because that had not felt like a small person.

Cautiously, he turned around and looked down, where he saw a man flailing around in the shallows of the pool. Once he got control of his feet, the man sprang up in the perfect kip-up. Neal cringed when he saw that his clothes and trail pack were completely soaking wet. And when he looked at the man’s face, he froze. His brain registered three things almost simultaneously: he looked vaguely familiar, he was very attractive, and he was really fucking mad.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” the stranger shouted.

He stepped forward so aggressively that Neal backed up, and his right hand went instinctively to his hip, where he would’ve put his hand on the stock of his service weapon—only there was nothing there because he was off duty.

Not wanting to seem like an equal aggressor, he covered the move by sticking his hand in his pocket, hoping to appear non-threatening. This guy was about his age and shorter by a few inches, but he was ripped. He looked rugged and whipcord strong and looked ready to kick some ass in a heartbeat. Neal might’ve been able to take him—he had him on height and weight, but the guy looked like he might be stronger…and a lot meaner. Neal really didn’t want to fight. That was a helluva lot of paperwork.

He held his arms out in front of him, both as a gesture of peace and to stave off an attack if that were to happen. “Man, I am so sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was behind me.”

“Clearly,” he growled, shrugging out of his pack. He unzipped it and started digging through it.

“Again, really sorry. If anything in your pack got damaged, I’ll reimburse you.”

He scowled at me. “This is a waterfall hike. I’m not an idiot. Anything of value is inside a dry bag.”

Neal bristled because the guy was basically calling him and everyone with him an idiot because they hadn’t brought dry bags. They’d just figured they could avoid, you know, falling in the water. Probably should’ve planned better, because if Neal hadn’t knocked into this guy, it would’ve been him in the water. But Neal had been the one to cause the fall, so he tried not to let his attitude get to him. “If you need a towel, I think one of my friends might’ve brought one.”

He sat down on a large, flat rock and pulled off his hiking shoes, probably to let them dry a little in the sun. His socks looked dry, so Neal assumed his footwear was waterproof. That also would’ve been a good idea, since Neal’s right sneaker was soggy as hell from stepping in the water.

The guy shook his head and didn’t make eye contact. “I’ve got more hiking to do. I’ll air-dry. Just try not to drown anyone, will ya?”

Neal’s eyes narrowed, and he fought a valiant battle not to tell the guy to fuck off. Instead, he fell back on his usual façade of charm and reached out a hand. “I’m Neal. Wish it had been under better circumstances, but it’s nice to meet you.”

His mega-watt smile, the one that had gotten him laid all the time when he was with Tony and before, bounced off this angry stranger like he had some kind of nice-guy force field. He glared at the proffered hand until Neal got the hint and put it back in his pocket. Just when he was about to say ‘fuck it’ and walk away, the guy mumbled, “Travis.”

“Pardon?” Neal asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Name’s Travis.”

“Well…Travis. It’s been a pleasure. I’ll get out of your hair.” About maxed out on politeness, Neal turned on his heel and started walking, stumbling slightly on the wet stones.

“Hey, Neal?”

He turned and looked at Travis. “Yeah?”

“You should stick to walking in the park or going to the gym. You don’t belong out here.”

Rage burned in Neal’s gut. He’d apologized profusely, and this guy just wouldn’t let it go. Where the hell did he get off? “The fuck did you say to me? I’ll have you know, I’m a police officer.”

Bennett had obviously picked up on the tone because Neal sensed his partner and Paddy creeping up on his flanks.

Travis’s eyes flicked back and forth between the three men, then he shook his head with a scoffing sound. “I’m just trying to give you some advice. It’s guys like you who come out here and fall down into the ravine because you don’t have the instincts to pay the fuck attention to where you put your feet.”

Neal lunged forward, but Bennett stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Nuh-uh. Walk away, Hesse.”

“But—”

“Nope.” Paddy started pulling him backward.

Travis spoke again, and the sound of his voice grated over Neal’s nerves like sandpaper. “I’m not just trying to be an asshole, although I’d be justified, considering.” He gestured down at his wet clothes. “But seriously, if you want to be all outdoorsy and shit? Get yourself some survival training, because you seem pretty fucking hopeless.”

Neal growled and lunged again, but was stopped by his two strong friends.

“Aaaand we’re done here,” Bennett said, as he and Patrick hauled Neal to the other side of the river where the rest of their group was waiting.

“Come on, just one swing!” Neal shouted over his shoulder. It was just for show because his pride was more bruised than he wanted to let on, but the boys kept a firm grip on him just in case.

Why the fuck did it matter that some asshole stranger thought he was incompetent? But Neal knew the answer to that—because his own boyfriend had as well. Tony had basically unmanned him by suggesting Neal’s career and choices didn’t matter, and now some random guy was telling him he couldn’t even wipe his own ass without help.

Neal seethed quietly all the way back down the trail. He’d never see that crazy fucknut again, but he’d be damned if he’d let the guy be right. So as soon as he got back, he booked himself on a survival excursion with a professional wilderness guide. That’d show that asshole. The one he would never see again.

Purchase

Euphoria Press (self) | Amazon

Meet the Author

J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?

J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.

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Tour Schedule

7/10    MM Good Book Reviews       

7/11    Bayou Book Junkie    

7/12    The Novel Approach  

7/13    The (Really) Naughty Corner 

7/13    We Three Queens      

7/14    Love Bytes Reviews  

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Jul 10

Blog Tour: Calloway by Thad J. (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Calloway

Author: Thad J.

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 10, 2017

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 75000

Genre: Contemporary, romance, contemporary, family-drama, explicit, gay, bi, cisgender, businessmen, Deep South, good ol’ boys

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Synopsis

Welcome to the Township of Calloway! Home of the world-famous Daddy Cains’ Foods Company, a staple for the local community.

No one knows this better than James (Jimmy) Cain, heir to the family business, and his father’s pride and joy. With his limitless resources and a family that is always there for him, his life could not be more perfect. But that changes when he meets Benjamin Rei.

A determined and intelligent man, Benjamin is a junior acquisitions officers eager to close his first major purchase. His company has set Daddy Cains’ between its crosshairs and will stop at nothing to get it. Although Benjamin has a simple enough task, people and forces outside of his control will test the limits of just how far he is willing to go to make it to the top.

Excerpt

Calloway
Thad J. © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

“I can’t believe it. I just cannot believe that boy would ever do something like that. You’d better stop that lying, Cecily,” Anna-Jean chided. She had known her girlfriend for many years and understood that exaggeration was something she couldn’t help but do.

“Now you know I don’t lie on people, Anna.” Cecily sounded slightly flustered but too excited about her new gossip to take any offense. “I don’t need to. Honey, you’ve spent just as much time as I have running off that poison clan that Daddy Cain made, so don’t tell me you can’t believe.” Cecily flicked her hand.

Anna-Jean just smiled as she turned off the hose after watering her lawn and gestured for Cecily to join her. The two ladies waddled up the stairs to Anna-Jean’s porch with Cecily assisting her girlfriend until the two plopped down into a set of twin rocking chairs.

It was a gorgeous Saturday morning, and the entire neighborhood had noticed. Taking in the sight and squeals of her grandchildren splashing in a small pool, with another doodling small crayon drawings on the sidewalk took her back many decades to a time when she had been doing the same. Spring days like these were always welcomed, and the sweet scent of Anna-Jean’s azalea flowers mixed with the cooling cookies just out of the oven almost made what Cecily had said unfathomable.

“Cecily, I’m not trying to be mean, but it just doesn’t sound right,” Anna-Jean said sincerely. “I know he gets into all kind of trouble, but it’s never anything serious. He’s just a boy. I don’t think he’s older than what, eleven now?”

“Mmhmm…” Cecily grumbled while shaking her head.

“Are you mad at me now?” Anna-Jean teased.

“Oh not at all,” Cecily said. “As old as I am, you know good and well I don’t waste time with being mad at anyone. I’m just disappointed in you is all.”

Anna-Jean went quiet when Cecily didn’t offer anymore but instead took off her glasses and pulled out a small handkerchief to wipe a perfectly clean lens.

Her patience grew thin, and Anna-Jean crossed her arms, waiting for Cecily to elaborate. “Well?”

“Hmm?” she asked innocently. “Well what, sweetheart?”

“Keep me near the cross,” Anna-Jean said. “Cecily, you just said you don’t waste time, so speak plain.”

Cecily stopped cleaning her frames and set them down on the small table in front of their chairs.

“You sound just like that boy’s father.”

“How?” Anna-Jean asked.

“Just listen to yourself, Anna. ‘He’s just a boy.’ ‘He’s so young.’ Making excuses for him.”

Anna-Jean was about to respond but noticed how stern Cecily looked so she let her continue.

“Every year, that boy gets worse and worse. First, it was pulling hair, then it was scaring people with his pranks, and now he’s gone and taken a whole day of school from all of the other kids.”

“Oh stop it, Cecily. No one knows who did it.”

“I do. I caught him and that favorite cousin of his playing hooky out in Mr. Jenkins’s field. Again. And they had poor little Kenneth-George with them. Charles just adopted him into their family and he’s already being taught bad habits.”

“So just because you caught those boys being boys, it’s supposed to mean they were up to no good?” Anna-Jean asked.

“Exactly,” Cecily almost screamed.

Anna-Jean held her gaze and placed a hand over her mouth as she let out a small laugh. She continued to chuckle as Cecily reached up to touch the small strands of hair that had shaken out of place from her outburst and then joined in while pulling her bun back into a presentable fashion.

“Cecily,” she started, trying to appeal to reason. “He’s only eleven. How do you suppose he did it? Made a bunch of those… what? What did you call them?”

“Stink bombs.”

“Stink bombs then.” Anna-Jean laughed that Cecily was even entertaining these thoughts. “And he snuck into every classroom and every office to set them off at just the right time. Just before Daddy Cain had to meet with his principal that morning?”

“I’m not sure how he did it, but I know he did.” Cecily sounded agitated. “Everyone thinks that boy is an angel, but I can see past that cute smile. Someone has to help Daddy Cain raise him right with how busy he is.”

“Well, I obviously wasn’t there, but I wouldn’t put anything past him. That boy is smart as a whip, clever even. And he didn’t get that stuff from anywhere. He made it.”

“How in the world did he—” Anna-Jean stopped short of finishing her question when she noticed the look of disappointment on Cecily’s face. The notions her girlfriend had put forth were absurd, but then so was all gossip. She knew that this was quite likely the highlight of her day, and instead of indulging her, Anna-Jean was dampening her spirits. Instead of trying to find more flaws in Cecily’s reasoning, Anna-Jean simply asked, “How did he make that stuff, hon?”

Cecily picked back up, eager to show off her skills of deduction. “He’s a Cain, Anna.” A perplexed look remained on her face so Cecily happily explained. “What would you do if your father owned a factory?”

“I know one thing I wouldn’t do; worry about the mailman being late with my Social Security check.” Anna-Jean laughed.

“Tell it now,” Cecily bellowed as they high-fived. “But that’s what they do, Anna. Play with all those chemicals and such. Would you be willing to bet he hasn’t learned a thing or two?”

“It’s just vinegar and tomatoes, Cecily…but even they have some dangerous stuff there,” Anna-Jean conceded.

“That’s what I’ve been saying. I don’t know how he got in that building, but I know he didn’t want to go to that meeting. He can make excuses every day and twice on Sunday to Daddy Cain about his teachers but not with a principal.” Cecily huffed and sat back in her chair, nodding to herself that she was correct. “That boy is bad as hell! But ever since he could pick up a pencil, he’s always brought home straight As. That’s how he fools everyone, you see. Believe me, when I talk to that father of his, I’m going to make sure he can’t make any excuses for that boy this time.”

“You are too nosy sometimes. You know that?” Anna-Jean laughed.

“I don’t care.” Cecily had her mouth open to continue when she was interrupted by a surprising question.

“So you figured it out?” a young boy asked from the end of the porch. “Ah shoot. What am I saying? Sure you did!”

The two women looked at one another, not sure what to do. They were talking innocently enough, but there were certain things that they would never want a child to hear. Smiling as warmly as they could, Anna-Jean and Cecily turned their full attention to the now-trio of boys standing there.

“Hey, sweetie,” Anna-Jean said. “Did you finish those chores for me?”

Instead of answering the question, the boys started to move as fast as they could toward her. The first boy climbed up and over the wooden railing to vault up to the porch, which ran the entire length of the house. His slight pigeon-toe not impeding his stride in the slightest. The second child, who couldn’t have been older than five, simply rolled under the railing in the gap that was formed between it and the deck. How he could see with such long bangs in his eyes surprised everyone. The last ran around to the stairs. He looked very much like the first only his stockier frame limited his physical flexibility. However, what he lacked in dexterity was more than made up for with strength. When all three of them reached the ladies, the first of the three spoke again.

“Lemme guess. Tea, right? A slice of lemon for you, Miss Anna, and no ice for you, Miss Sissy.”

The two women once again looked at one another and Anna-Jean figured that the children hadn’t overheard their earlier conversation. Relieved, she just smiled and motioned for him to come closer and then took him by the shoulders.

“Well, aren’t you just sweet. We would love some, but did you finish?”

“Yes, ma’am, we sure did. Cousin Bryan even patched up that hole in your fence so you don’t ever have to worry about those coons tearing up your garden anymore.” James smiled.

Cecily raised an eyebrow but tilted her head with a look of approval. “Well, bless your heart. But hurry on in because the sun is on the move, and Miss Sissy is parched, honey.”

James ran into the home and let the screen door slam shut behind him. Cecily and Anna-Jean started to turn around, but before they did, he came back out and apologized. “Sorry, Miss Anna.” He looked down, ashamed. When Anna-Jean just smiled, he ran back in, taking the time to physically close the door slowly as he tiptoed backward into the house.

“Kenneth-George! Get up here and give Miss Sissy some sugar,” Cecily called to the youngest child.

Kenneth-George almost tripped over his untied laces and baggy overalls as he ran over to jump into her lap.

“Oh you lost another tooth,” Cecily said while trying to push his overgrown and unkempt curls out of his eyes. “When did he get so big, Bryan?”

“Beats the heck out of me,” Bryan said. “I think he’s part weed with how fast he’s shooting up.”

“He sure is growing,” Anna-Jean said. “You spend a lot of time with your cousins, don’t you?”

“Of course I do, ma’am,” Bryan answered without hesitation. “Us Cain boys are like brothers, thick as thieves. And I swear Daddy Cain is the best uncle a kid can ask for.”

Anna-Jean and Cecily just smiled. They didn’t want to pry, but it was nice to know that Bryan had good people in his life, even if they weren’t his immediate family. “Well, good for you boys.”

Cecily appeared ready to speak but not before Bryan changed subjects. “Hey, KG, show ’em that new dance we taught you.”

***

Kenneth-George jumped out of Cecily’s lap and began entertaining the two ladies. As they watched and clapped on, Bryan looked through the screen door. His accomplice gave him a thumbs-up that his task had been completed, so Bryan knew they would only need to keep up the charade a little while longer. Just as Kenneth-George was finishing his dance, the door behind the women opened.

“Here you go, Miss Sissy. I made it just the way you like.” His smile beamed as he handed her a glass.

“You boys have been working all morning. Are you hungry?” Anna-Jean asked.

“Are we ever—” Bryan began to say but then grimaced at how hard his cousin grabbed his shoulder near his neck. “Actually, we need to hit the road. Uncle Charles said he would pick us up at the store and take us to lunch.”

“I don’t think he will mind, Bryan. Miss Anna just made some cookies. How about you each have one?”

Kenneth-George looked to his big brother, but not even his young pleading eyes could persuade him.

“No thank you, ma’am. Daddy would tan my backside red if I gave KG any more sugar. He’s losing those teeth faster than he’s growing ’em back.” James laughed. “Say, Miss Anna, do you need anything else? Anything from the store? I really do like helping out around your place.” He looked down as if he were embarrassed. “We can get there and be back in no time before Daddy comes to pick us up.”

“That’s okay. Just grab your stuff and run along now,” she said.

When the three returned from the backyard, they loaded up the bright-red Radio Flyer with all their tools. Kenneth-George sat in the wagon, pretending to steer while his cousin pulled him forward and his brother followed closely behind. When they got to the sidewalk, Anna-Jean waved.

“You boys stay out of trouble.”

They all raised their arms and waved back. Just as the children were about to leave, Cecily stopped them when she noticed a small plastic bag that had just fallen to the ground from under the shirt of one of the boys.

“What is that?” Cecily asked angrily.

“Huh?”

“Don’t you ‘huh’ me, Jimmy. I asked, what’s that on the ground? By your foot, boy!” Cecily said, growing more furious by the moment.

James just shrugged. “It’s nothing, Miss Sissy. We just can’t throw this away in the trash. It’s dangerous.” He picked up the bag and started to push the wagon from the rear, encouraging Bryan to pull faster.

“Nothing, my tail!” Anna-Jean screamed. “The three of you get back up here right now!”

“Huh? What? Sorry, Miss Anna, I can’t hear you. Been making too many of those bombs with those chemicals and such!” James said, almost at the end of the street. Bryan pulled on while Kenneth-George giddily bounced at the commotion.

“Jimmy! Jimmy Cain, you get back here!” Anna-Jean yelled while walking to the sidewalk. The boys were almost out of sight, but she kept on. “Jimmy, I swear when I tell your father and get my hands on… ugh!” She exhaled in defeat.

With a determined stride, Anna-Jean walked back toward her home to call Charles Cain. Her grandchildren were staring and so were the other parents who were out, but none of it fazed her. As she stepped onto her porch, Cecily intentionally avoided eye contact.

Anna-Jean faced her before entering and said one word, “Don’t!”

Cecily knew how upset she was but couldn’t help saying, “Didn’t I tell you?”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Thad J. is a Orlando native that was born and raised in West Palm Beach, FL. He writes stories that feature gay male characters with a focus on the more lighter aspects of the genre. A Marine veteran, when not writing he bakes professionally in addition to helping to manage a bakery.

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7/10    Boy Meets Boy Reviews         

7/10    Stories That Make You Smile 

7/11    The Novel Approach  

7/11    Divine Magazine        

7/12    Love Bytes Reviews     

7/12    MM Good Book Reviews       

7/13    Bayou Book Junkie    

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Jul 10

Blog Tour: Daimonion by J.P. Jackson (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Daimonion

Series: The Apocalypse, Book 1

Author: J.P. Jackson

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 10, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Male

Length: 93400

Genre: Paranormal Horror, paranormal, horror, demons, apocalypse, gay

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Synopsis

Dati Amon wants to be free from his satyr master and he hates his job—hunting human children who display demon balefire. Every hunt has been successful, except one. A thwarted attempt ended up as a promise to spare the child of a white witch, an indiscretion Dati hopes Master never discovers.

But Master has devilish machinations of his own. He needs human-demon hybrids, the Daimonion, to raise the Dark Lord to the earthly realm. If Master succeeds, he will be immortal and far more powerful.

The child who was spared is now a man, and for the first time in three hundred years, Dati has a reason to escape Master’s chains. To do that, Dati makes some unlikely alliances with an untrained soulless witch, a self-destructive shape shifter, and a deceitful clairvoyant. However, deals with demons rarely go as planned, and the cost is always higher than the original bargain.

Excerpt

Daimonion
J.P. Jackson © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Deal with a Demon

Dati

Snow crunched beneath my taloned foot as I searched. My breath hung as fog around my face until the winter wind whipped it away. My padded soles were too tough to feel the iciness, but my mind was frozen numb, ignoring the guilt that came with the job. The drudgery of stalking the city streets was tiresome, and the possibility of attaining success depressed me.

I was just north of the city’s downtown, where all the houses had been built during the war, and their age showed. Master had sent me to search there. Somewhere among these wartime houses, behind the cracked walls and beneath the peeling shingles, there was something that belongs to us.

I hunted a lost child: a dark child.

A thick blanket of grey wrapped the night sky as snowflakes landed atop trashcan lids, cars, and untrimmed hedges. The sight before me felt darkly ethereal. Perhaps it was because of my one scarred and injured eye, or maybe it was the snowstorm, but the night was hazy and blurred. Beams of light from the nearest streetlamp illuminated the snowflakes as if they were hundreds of thousands of falling stars.

Make a wish, I thought to myself. A silly human expression.

I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish I wasn’t so lonely. I wish to be free.

Silly thoughts. Punishable thoughts.

The winter breeze soothed my skin and tousled the dark curls of my hair, which was just a little too long. I stopped on the corner of the street, just out of reach of the lampost’s exposing brightness.

The snowstorm cocooned the neighbourhood, muffling the city under a layer of pristine, untouched innocence. The fresh snow made me feel comforted and safe.

With the street empty, I shook my wings out, sending a flurry to the ground before draping them back over my shoulder. My wings would look like a cloak to any human who might see me, but then it was late at night, and humans didn’t see well in the dark. Besides, I didn’t really want to be seen by anyone.

I was being cocky. Walking around with my wings exposed was technically against the rules, but my heavy clothes prevented me from tucking them away.

There were rules that must be obeyed. First, no human was to know what I was, or that we existed. Second, Master’s orders were never to be questioned. Third, complete assigned tasks on time, and never, ever displease Master. They were his rules, and I was to follow them, for fear of retribution.

But I did not always obey.

I loved to watch humans: their relationships, the “busyness” of their lives, the drive and passion that sparked creativity and ingenuity, but mostly the kindness in them. Despite what some would say, they were inherently gentle in nature. And I confess I was a little jealous of it all.

But tonight, I didn’t watch. Tonight, I hunted.

Walking down the ragged neighbourhood, the houses all began to blur together with the same small structures and stucco-faced veneers. Massive trees lined the boulevard with branches that reached high like outstretched arms as if to welcome the inclement weather.

I stopped at each structure as I passed by, analysing if only for a brief second to see if the beacon shone through the windows. The glow would be a cold colour, white but tinged in purple, a phosphorescent violet that could only be seen by my kin, the D’Alae. It emanated from all children who possessed latent demon blood. The result of a hybrid mating. Children who were still human and yet, in part, demonic.

We call them the Daimonion.

Hours passed by as I examined each house. And then, one abode, just slightly smaller than the rest but without the obvious need of attention, grabbed my interest.

The demon-light presented itself, glowing in slow pulsations of violet-white light from the furthest window from where I stood. Every time I found this light, my body reacted instinctually and involuntary. I hated my other self, the demon within and the dark violence that surrounded it, but hate wasn’t strong enough to stop the fiend from emerging.

Adrenaline pumped through my veins. Closing my eyes, my head dropped as the change began. There was nothing I could do to stop it. My fangs elongated, my barbed tail stiffened, and my hands morphed from their human shape into the required rakish talons, deadly and sharp, elongated and pointed, with venom beginning to ooze from the base of the nails. Another night, another child ruined by my nocturnal visit.

But you have to do this, Dati. You have to ensure Master is kept happy, I reminded myself, repeating the last sentence like a mantra, trying to justify the gnawing ache in my stomach.

Within seconds, I found myself next to the window where the demon-light beckoned. With a quick push, the old window slid open, and I slipped into the child’s bedroom.

There, beneath a hand-stitched quilt, slept my prey. Such a small boy, with auburn hair surrounded by small stuffed animals. He couldn’t have been more than five years old. Toys littered the room and crystals hung in the window, catching the streetlight and casting prisms all around the room. A small nightlight shone from the corner, its warm yellow glow distorting my shadow across the room into a large ominous silhouette. From the boy, the ebbing radiance glowed fiercely.

I bent over the child and delicately pushed his scruffy hair off of his forehead. Freckles danced across his nose. His breath smelled and tasted of cloying sticky-sweet innocence.

I straightened myself up and stretched out my wings, cramped from the long night’s walk, then held up my clawed demon hand, tensing it. The skin was black, like liquid ink, and the ebony demon flesh flowed up to my elbow where it faded back to pink. Veins of evil persisted up towards the shoulder.

Reaching over, I steadied myself to tear open the skin on the back of the boy’s neck and inject the venom that would unleash the evil hidden within his body. I gently pushed the boy down into the mattress, ensuring there would be no struggle.

Just a hair’s breadth away from making the incision, the cut that would change everything, I stopped. Guilt churned my stomach, making me nauseous, the same way it did for every child before this one.

The bedroom door burst open, and light from the hallway exploded before me. Standing straight and scampering against the wall, I raised a hand to shield my eyes from the blaring light.

A small stout woman with fuzzy slippers and a tatty nightshirt walked into the room and flicked on the boy’s bedroom light, her flat nose and cheeks ruddy with anger. She was furious. How could someone who looked so unassuming appear so fierce, despite the jasmine and vanilla perfume that clung to her clothes?

“Back away from my boy, beast! He is not yours to take.” Her voice was thick with an eastern European accent.

I had broken Master’s most important rule. No human must know what I am. Remorse flooded through me, and my tail went limp as I came to one realization. I would have to kill her.

I lunged forward, faster than her human eyes should have been able to see, but before I was halfway across the room, she raised her hand and, with short, thick, but deft fingers, tossed a piece of paper into the air and spoke.

“Відкрий!” She spoke with specificity and authority. To my ears, it was harsh and unfamiliar. The air around her swirled, causing the flannel night skirt she wore to rustle around her covered feet. Her long hair, plaited, had been disturbed and shanks of dark blonde waved around her head like medusa’s snakes. The piece of paper disintegrated before me, but the symbols and writing from the page hung in the air. With sudden quick movements, the writing encircled me in a spiral.

“Злови!” As she said the foreign word, the hanging writing vibrated with a high-pitched hum. Lines emerged from the tails and stems of the suspended script. Lines weaving and wrapping, growing into long threads.

“Замотай!” With the last word, the letters wound about me. Wrapping me tightly, the strings bound my feet and hands and looped around my torso, lifting me up off of the floor. This woman, in her bunny slippers, wearing threadbare clothes, had me ensnared, and all I could think was how Master was going to be angry with me for getting caught.

I had never met any human who could contain me.

I had no idea what to do.

I was a demon. I would unleash Hell.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

J.P. Jackson works as an IT analyst in health care during the day, where if cornered he’d confess to casting spells to ensure clinicians actually use the electronic medical charting system he configures and implements.

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shape shifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues. The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement. And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

J.P.’s other hobbies include hybridizing African Violets (thanks to grandma), extensive travelling and believe it or not, knitting.

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7/10    The Novel Approach  

7/10    Bayou Book Junkie    

7/11    My Fiction Nook        

7/11    Out Of My Head        

7/12    Love Bytes      

7/12    On Top Down Under Book Reviews           

7/13    Diverse Reader          

7/14    Queer Sci Fi    

7/14    Happily Ever Chapter

7/14    Shari Sakurai  

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Jul 10

Blog Tour: Lying Eyes by Robert Winter

Title:  Lying Eyes

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher:  Robert Winter Books (self-published)

Release Date: July 7, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84300

Genre: Romance, Mystery, BDSM

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

This bartender’s art lies in more than mixing drinks …

Randy Vaughan is a six-foot-three mass of mysteries to his customers and his friends. Why does a former Secret Service agent now own Mata Hari, a successful piano bar? Where did a muscle daddy get his passion for collecting fine art? If he’s as much a loner as his friends believe, why does he crave weekly sessions at an exclusive leather club? 

Randy’s carefully private life unravels when Jack Fraser, a handsome art historian from England, walks into his bar, anxious to get his hands on a painting Randy owns. The desperation Randy glimpses in whiskey-colored eyes draws him in, as does the desire to submit that he senses beneath Jack’s elegant, driven exterior.

While wrestling with his attraction to Jack, Randy has to deal with a homeless teenager, a break-in at Mata Hari, and Jack’s relentless pursuit of the painting called Sunrise. It becomes clear someone’s lying to Randy. Unless he can figure out who and why, he may miss his chance at the love he’s dreamed about in the hidden places of his heart.

Note: Lying Eyes is a standalone gay romance novel with consensual bondage and a strong happy ending. It contains potential spoilers for Robert Winter’s prior novel, Every Breath You Take.

Purchase

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

Excerpt

Saturday rolled around, and Randy headed to town early to make sure everything was ready for Mata Hari’s busiest evening of the week. Although the bar officially opened at five-thirty, it was rare for anyone to wander in much before seven o’clock. Randy was surprised when the front door opened at six to admit a good-looking man.

The stranger was probably about five foot nine or ten, and wore a three-piece suit that seemed tailored to accentuate a lean build. His dark hair was cut stylishly short on the sides but thick and swept back on the top, and his mustache and full beard were closely trimmed. A brightly colored necktie contrasted with the somber gray of his suit. Randy had trouble assessing the man’s age, but he would go with thirty. European, though—Randy would stake the bar on that guess.

The newcomer contemplated the walls of Mata Hari, passing almost dismissively over the art on display. He studied each piece for no more than a second before moving to the next, but Randy had a distinct impression the man sought something in particular. As he completed his survey, he kept turning and eventually met Randy’s eyes across the bar.

Immediately desire flared in the man’s face as his hungry gaze drifted over Randy’s tight white shirt and up to his face, lingering on his mouth. Shoulders tightened almost imperceptibly as he drew himself to his full height, yet Randy recognized a softening of hard edges. He lazily ran his own eyes to the stranger’s luxurious beard, and he imagined stroking the softness there. He sensed something accommodating. Something potentially submissive, yet more subtle than the wanton displays of obedience and posing he was used to on Mondays at his private club.

Something he would enjoy channeling and rewarding, in the right circumstance.

The man started toward the bar. As he moved, Randy had the odd sense that the suit he wore was ill-fitting, even though it seemed perfectly tailored. A step away from the bar, his face just—closed. That was the only word for it. One instant he was cruising Randy; the next he was stone.

Randy sighed to himself. The guy was probably a closet case on his first night at a gay bar. That usually meant an unsatisfying encounter, even if the newbie didn’t rabbit. In any case, it wasn’t Randy’s thing. He’d had plenty of virgin ass over the years, and preferred his men experienced.

Fine. Nothing for me here. He waited at the bar, vaguely disappointed.

“Sir, good evening.” The man’s accent was English, his words precise and elegant like his hair and his clothes and his beard. Probably from London. Up close, Randy could see his eyes were a deep shade of brown graced with streaks of gold around the pupils that caught the lights over the bar. “I’m looking for a Mr. Randall Vaughan.”

Despite forswearing his immediate attraction to the stranger, that honeyed voice caused Randy to smile slowly and show his teeth. He registered the slight widening of the eyes behind the stranger’s mask as he focused on Randy’s mouth.

“I’m Randy Vaughan. And you are…?”

The man blinked in surprise. “Oh. The Mr. Vaughan I was seeking is an art collector.”

Shit. Just another jerkwad, making assumptions right away. Randy was a big man so he couldn’t possibly be knowledgeable about art, could he? Well, fuck that noise. One more chance.

“I wouldn’t use the term collector, but…” Randy gestured at the walls.

“Quite so,” the man said distantly, and turned to sweep his gaze over the works on the nearest wall. “Neither would I.”

Randy’s back stiffened immediately. The stranger—no, the asshole—turned his attention back to Randy and held out a hand. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he’d just royally pissed Randy off. “My name is Jack Fraser. I’m from the Kensington Museum in London.” Fraser paused as if waiting for Randy to be impressed. “I sent you a letter recently.”

Randy willed himself not to think further about Fraser’s whiskey-colored eyes or the luxuriousness of his beard, and he didn’t take the offered hand. Instead, he wiped a small spill on the counter before him. “You did,” he agreed in a bored tone.

Fraser dropped his hand. “Ah, yes.” A pause. “My secretary didn’t hear from you to set up an appointment.”

“Which was my answer to your request,” Randy said, letting some snarl appear as he met Fraser’s eyes. They were still guarded and closed off, but Randy could see embers burning deep inside. In the right setting, and with proper motivation, he could imagine making those embers flare and ignite in the slender man before him. For the moment, though, the eyes just narrowed in calculation.

Before Fraser could say anything, Randy turned away. “If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“May I buy a pint?” Fraser asked, desperation shading his smooth accent.

Randy considered calling Malcolm over to deal with it, but stopped in front of the beer taps. He was annoyed at his lingering attraction, and he decided to push back on this prick a bit. “Fine. What’s your pleasure?”

“Guinness. If you have it.”

“Of course you’d drink Guinness.” A little scorn curled Randy’s lip. “Well, the closest beer I have is a stout from Flying Dog.” He let his sneer turn feral. “It’s called Pearl Necklace.” He dropped his eyes to Fraser’s necktie, as if he could picture that very thing replacing the colorful silk.

Fraser blinked nervously. Probably he could picture it too. Maybe he even imagined Randy’s hot jizz splattering his chest and neck as his reward. Well, he shouldn’t have been a condescending shit out of the gate then. Randy waited, one hand on the tap, the other idly scratching his ear to make his bicep flex under his white shirt. Fraser focused on his arm and swallowed audibly.

“That’ll be fine,” he said. “A, uh, Flying Dog then.” Randy drew the pint to set before Fraser on a coaster. He didn’t wait for the man to take a sip or comment, but headed to the other end of the bar to check inventory.

He stayed busy but somehow noticed that Fraser lingered at the bar for several minutes, apparently hoping Randy would come back and let him ask again about the piece Randy had purchased from the Gates Gallery. When Randy deliberately kept his distance, Fraser took his beer (which, Randy was pleased to note, was more than half gone) and wandered around the room to examine more carefully each painting displayed. Sometimes he moved on quickly to the next piece of art. Other times, he gave a slight shake of his head.

Randy’s ears burned, and he considered throwing the guy out. Since he’d opened Mata Hari no one had given him grief about his collection. To be honest, no one had studied it the way Fraser did, but still. Each piece had been acquired because Randy connected to something in it. To have this handsome English stuffed shirt look down his nose offended Randy in a way he couldn’t even articulate. He seethed inside the longer Fraser spent on his dismissive tour of the room.

When Fraser reached a landscape that was hung over a small settee, he gave a distinct snort. He set his empty beer glass on a nearby table and Randy swooped over to pick it up, ostentatiously swiping the wood as if it had left a ring. “Another Pearl Necklace?” he snarled.

“Ah, no. Thank you.” Fraser seemed surprised to find Randy standing so close, though his eyes remained closed off and stony. “But it was a quite nice stout after all. Thank you for the recommendation.”

Randy gestured at the landscape with his chin. “Is that painting offensive to you for some reason? You’re practically laughing at it.”

“What? Oh no, it’s…fine. Competent. It’s the presentation, the arrangement of the art, that I find amusing.”

Randy ran his gaze over the pieces arranged on that wall of the bar. He’d decided where to hang each and every work over a long stretch of time as he’d readied Mata Hari for opening. He revisited the collection frequently and rotated different pieces in and out of prominent positions. Most of his customers were oblivious but Randy took great satisfaction in presenting something unique in the atmosphere of his bar.

“What’s amusing about it?”

“Well, there’s no story, is there?” Fraser answered him.

“What do you mean?”

“Individually each piece is presentable. A few are even intriguing. But see here,” he gestured at the landscape, “this is a nicely executed pastoral, yet it’s positioned between a Japanese scroll and a watercolor of a monarch butterfly. The pieces say nothing about each other, and have no intrinsic relationship.

“But over there,” he indicated the wall opposite, “is a modern landscape. Change the frames to something complementary, place them side by side, and the two landscapes together suggest a conversation in, oh, quite a lot actually. Painting techniques, the subject and tonal changes in works separated by two artistic traditions. You see?”

Randy did see, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it. “Two landscapes here wouldn’t fit,” he said stubbornly.

“Ah. Art as furniture. Of course,” Fraser said with a smirk, and that did it.

“No charge for the Pearl Necklace,” Randy barked. “Since you made the trip for nothing.”

Meet the Author

Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | eMail

Tour Schedule

 

7/10    MM Good Book Reviews

7/11    Bayou Book Junkie

7/12    Joyfully Jay

7/13    Love Bytes Reviews

7/14    Sinfully

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Jul 07

Book Blitz: Lying Eyes by Robert Winter (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Lying Eyes

Author: Robert Winter

Publisher:  Robert Winter Books (self-published)

Release Date: July 7, 2017

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 84300

Genre: Romance, Mystery, BDSM

Add to Goodreads

Synopsis

This bartender’s art lies in more than mixing drinks …

Randy Vaughan is a six-foot-three mass of mysteries to his customers and his friends. Why does a former Secret Service agent now own Mata Hari, a successful piano bar? Where did a muscle daddy get his passion for collecting fine art? If he’s as much a loner as his friends believe, why does he crave weekly sessions at an exclusive leather club? 

Randy’s carefully private life unravels when Jack Fraser, a handsome art historian from England, walks into his bar, anxious to get his hands on a painting Randy owns. The desperation Randy glimpses in whiskey-colored eyes draws him in, as does the desire to submit that he senses beneath Jack’s elegant, driven exterior.

While wrestling with his attraction to Jack, Randy has to deal with a homeless teenager, a break-in at Mata Hari, and Jack’s relentless pursuit of the painting called Sunrise. It becomes clear someone’s lying to Randy. Unless he can figure out who and why, he may miss his chance at the love he’s dreamed about in the hidden places of his heart.

Note: Lying Eyes is a standalone gay romance novel with consensual bondage and a strong happy ending. It contains potential spoilers for Robert Winter’s prior novel, Every Breath You Take.

Purchase

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

 

Excerpt

Saturday rolled around, and Randy headed to town early to make sure everything was ready for Mata Hari’s busiest evening of the week. Although the bar officially opened at five-thirty, it was rare for anyone to wander in much before seven o’clock. Randy was surprised when the front door opened at six to admit a good-looking man.

The stranger was probably about five foot nine or ten, and wore a three-piece suit that seemed tailored to accentuate a lean build. His dark hair was cut stylishly short on the sides but thick and swept back on the top, and his mustache and full beard were closely trimmed. A brightly colored necktie contrasted with the somber gray of his suit. Randy had trouble assessing the man’s age, but he would go with thirty. European, though—Randy would stake the bar on that guess.

The newcomer contemplated the walls of Mata Hari, passing almost dismissively over the art on display. He studied each piece for no more than a second before moving to the next, but Randy had a distinct impression the man sought something in particular. As he completed his survey, he kept turning and eventually met Randy’s eyes across the bar.

Immediately desire flared in the man’s face as his hungry gaze drifted over Randy’s tight white shirt and up to his face, lingering on his mouth. Shoulders tightened almost imperceptibly as he drew himself to his full height, yet Randy recognized a softening of hard edges. He lazily ran his own eyes to the stranger’s luxurious beard, and he imagined stroking the softness there. He sensed something accommodating. Something potentially submissive, yet more subtle than the wanton displays of obedience and posing he was used to on Mondays at his private club.

Something he would enjoy channeling and rewarding, in the right circumstance.

The man started toward the bar. As he moved, Randy had the odd sense that the suit he wore was ill-fitting, even though it seemed perfectly tailored. A step away from the bar, his face just—closed. That was the only word for it. One instant he was cruising Randy; the next he was stone.

Randy sighed to himself. The guy was probably a closet case on his first night at a gay bar. That usually meant an unsatisfying encounter, even if the newbie didn’t rabbit. In any case, it wasn’t Randy’s thing. He’d had plenty of virgin ass over the years, and preferred his men experienced.

Fine. Nothing for me here. He waited at the bar, vaguely disappointed.

“Sir, good evening.” The man’s accent was English, his words precise and elegant like his hair and his clothes and his beard. Probably from London. Up close, Randy could see his eyes were a deep shade of brown graced with streaks of gold around the pupils that caught the lights over the bar. “I’m looking for a Mr. Randall Vaughan.”

Despite forswearing his immediate attraction to the stranger, that honeyed voice caused Randy to smile slowly and show his teeth. He registered the slight widening of the eyes behind the stranger’s mask as he focused on Randy’s mouth.

“I’m Randy Vaughan. And you are…?”

The man blinked in surprise. “Oh. The Mr. Vaughan I was seeking is an art collector.”

Shit. Just another jerkwad, making assumptions right away. Randy was a big man so he couldn’t possibly be knowledgeable about art, could he? Well, fuck that noise. One more chance.

“I wouldn’t use the term collector, but…” Randy gestured at the walls.

“Quite so,” the man said distantly, and turned to sweep his gaze over the works on the nearest wall. “Neither would I.”

Randy’s back stiffened immediately. The stranger—no, the asshole—turned his attention back to Randy and held out a hand. He seemed oblivious to the fact that he’d just royally pissed Randy off. “My name is Jack Fraser. I’m from the Kensington Museum in London.” Fraser paused as if waiting for Randy to be impressed. “I sent you a letter recently.”

Randy willed himself not to think further about Fraser’s whiskey-colored eyes or the luxuriousness of his beard, and he didn’t take the offered hand. Instead, he wiped a small spill on the counter before him. “You did,” he agreed in a bored tone.

Fraser dropped his hand. “Ah, yes.” A pause. “My secretary didn’t hear from you to set up an appointment.”

“Which was my answer to your request,” Randy said, letting some snarl appear as he met Fraser’s eyes. They were still guarded and closed off, but Randy could see embers burning deep inside. In the right setting, and with proper motivation, he could imagine making those embers flare and ignite in the slender man before him. For the moment, though, the eyes just narrowed in calculation.

Before Fraser could say anything, Randy turned away. “If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”

“May I buy a pint?” Fraser asked, desperation shading his smooth accent.

Randy considered calling Malcolm over to deal with it, but stopped in front of the beer taps. He was annoyed at his lingering attraction, and he decided to push back on this prick a bit. “Fine. What’s your pleasure?”

“Guinness. If you have it.”

“Of course you’d drink Guinness.” A little scorn curled Randy’s lip. “Well, the closest beer I have is a stout from Flying Dog.” He let his sneer turn feral. “It’s called Pearl Necklace.” He dropped his eyes to Fraser’s necktie, as if he could picture that very thing replacing the colorful silk.

Fraser blinked nervously. Probably he could picture it too. Maybe he even imagined Randy’s hot jizz splattering his chest and neck as his reward. Well, he shouldn’t have been a condescending shit out of the gate then. Randy waited, one hand on the tap, the other idly scratching his ear to make his bicep flex under his white shirt. Fraser focused on his arm and swallowed audibly.

“That’ll be fine,” he said. “A, uh, Flying Dog then.” Randy drew the pint to set before Fraser on a coaster. He didn’t wait for the man to take a sip or comment, but headed to the other end of the bar to check inventory.

He stayed busy but somehow noticed that Fraser lingered at the bar for several minutes, apparently hoping Randy would come back and let him ask again about the piece Randy had purchased from the Gates Gallery. When Randy deliberately kept his distance, Fraser took his beer (which, Randy was pleased to note, was more than half gone) and wandered around the room to examine more carefully each painting displayed. Sometimes he moved on quickly to the next piece of art. Other times, he gave a slight shake of his head.

Randy’s ears burned, and he considered throwing the guy out. Since he’d opened Mata Hari no one had given him grief about his collection. To be honest, no one had studied it the way Fraser did, but still. Each piece had been acquired because Randy connected to something in it. To have this handsome English stuffed shirt look down his nose offended Randy in a way he couldn’t even articulate. He seethed inside the longer Fraser spent on his dismissive tour of the room.

When Fraser reached a landscape that was hung over a small settee, he gave a distinct snort. He set his empty beer glass on a nearby table and Randy swooped over to pick it up, ostentatiously swiping the wood as if it had left a ring. “Another Pearl Necklace?” he snarled.

“Ah, no. Thank you.” Fraser seemed surprised to find Randy standing so close, though his eyes remained closed off and stony. “But it was a quite nice stout after all. Thank you for the recommendation.”

Randy gestured at the landscape with his chin. “Is that painting offensive to you for some reason? You’re practically laughing at it.”

“What? Oh no, it’s…fine. Competent. It’s the presentation, the arrangement of the art, that I find amusing.”

Randy ran his gaze over the pieces arranged on that wall of the bar. He’d decided where to hang each and every work over a long stretch of time as he’d readied Mata Hari for opening. He revisited the collection frequently and rotated different pieces in and out of prominent positions. Most of his customers were oblivious but Randy took great satisfaction in presenting something unique in the atmosphere of his bar.

“What’s amusing about it?”

“Well, there’s no story, is there?” Fraser answered him.

“What do you mean?”

“Individually each piece is presentable. A few are even intriguing. But see here,” he gestured at the landscape, “this is a nicely executed pastoral, yet it’s positioned between a Japanese scroll and a watercolor of a monarch butterfly. The pieces say nothing about each other, and have no intrinsic relationship.

“But over there,” he indicated the wall opposite, “is a modern landscape. Change the frames to something complementary, place them side by side, and the two landscapes together suggest a conversation in, oh, quite a lot actually. Painting techniques, the subject and tonal changes in works separated by two artistic traditions. You see?”

Randy did see, but he’d be damned if he’d admit it. “Two landscapes here wouldn’t fit,” he said stubbornly.

“Ah. Art as furniture. Of course,” Fraser said with a smirk, and that did it.

“No charge for the Pearl Necklace,” Randy barked. “Since you made the trip for nothing.”

Meet the Author

Robert Winter lives and writes in Provincetown. He is a recovering lawyer who prefers writing about hot men in love much more than drafting a legal brief. He left behind the (allegedly) glamorous world of an international law firm to sit in his home office and dream up ways to torment his characters until they realize they are perfect for each other. When he isn’t writing, Robert likes to cook Indian food and explore new restaurants. He splits his attention between Andy, his partner of sixteen years, and Ling the Adventure Cat, who likes to fly in airplanes and explore the backyard jungle as long as the temperature and humidity are just right.

 

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Jul 03

Blog Blitz: Force of Nature by J.K. Hogan (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Force of Nature

Series: Coming About, #4

Author: J.K. Hogan

Publisher:  Euphoria Press (self)

Release Date: 7/4/17

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 80,000 words

Genre: Romance, contemporary, adventure

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Synopsis

Everyone knows that bonds formed under extreme circumstances never last.

Harbor Patrol officer Neal Hesse has had his life turned upside down by a sudden break-up with his partner of ten years. After sleeping his way through Seattle failed to take his mind off his broken heart, he decides to take a leave of absence from work to find himself again. He hires a professional wilderness guide to take him up into the mountains, so he can get away from everything and live off the grid for a few days.

Travis “Rock” McCreary, ex-Army Ranger turned survivalist, hates doing guided excursions, but it’s his primary source of income while he’s working towards getting his own survival show. Working in such a testosterone-fueled profession has forced him so deep into the closet, he feels like he might never see the light of day again, which makes it even harder to put on a friendly face for his happy, normal clients.

When Rock is hired by clumsy city-boy Neal to take him up into the North Cascades for a survival adventure, his patience and his resolve are tested at every turn. He has to teach Neal to survive in the wilderness while fighting an attraction he can’t allow himself to act on. When their trip doesn’t go as planned, Neal’s getaway turns into a true survival situation, and he and Rock are forced to rely on each other to stay alive. If they make it out of the wilderness, can their newfound connection survive in the real world?

Excerpt

Neal didn’t see how this was supposed to help take his mind off his ex because, as they trudged up the trail mostly in silence, he had nothing but time to think. Time to think about how he’d fallen for and spent years with a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He thought he’d been settled, that Tony was The One, that they had been on their way to growing old together. How wrong he’d been.

When the party reached an overlook at the highest point on the trail, they stopped for a panoramic view of the waterfall. Even Neal had to admit, with the sun streaming into the gorge and casting rainbows from the mist, it was a beautiful sight. It was still hard to drag himself out of his head, though. He knew his friends meant well, and they were right, of course. He needed to get up, get out, get back on the proverbial horse of life. But he didn’t wanna. He wanted to be at home on the couch moping, damn it.

He wished for that even harder when he saw the so-called trail that descended from the overlook to the foot of the falls where hikers could walk around or swim on warm-enough days. This trail was also steps, but natural ones of smooth, flat rock. It was narrow. Very narrow, and the lower part had a thin coat of slime from the water spray and mud. So it was fucking slippery.

When he’d almost made it to the flat riverbed, Neal lost his footing on a slick rock. He barely avoided taking a tumble—probably would’ve cracked his skull open—but he gained his balance again at the last moment. He breathed a sigh of relief when he stepped off that part of the trail. The falls dumped into a wide open part of the gorge, forming a broad pool that was bordered by a large, semicircular bank of river rock. There, day-hikers and tourists spread out on the rocks, picnicking, sunning themselves, or generally just taking in the scenery. Neal’s friends spread out to do their own thing.

Addison stalked off to the tree line with her cell phone, probably trying to get a signal so she could call her girlfriend. Bennett led Rory around the edge of the pond so they could get close to the actual waterfall. He was wearing a chest harness that held his Go-Pro, the action camera he usually kept on his boat. Rich and Paddy sat down on some large rocks and got out their trail snacks. And Nic Valentine, the crazy fucker, was wading in the frigid pool while Justice looked on, shaking his damn head.

Neal shivered just thinking about it. It was the tail-end of summer, so it was still quite warm, but these high lakes and rivers were always brisk, even on the hottest days. He’d been trained to withstand cold water temperatures for marine rescues, but that didn’t mean he had to like it, and he certainly didn’t do it for fun. Turning away from the splashing idiot, Neal looked around at all of the tourists and vacationers. Everyone had phones out, taking pictures, and he was sure they were tweeting and Instagramming like mad whenever they could find a bar or two.

He shook his head, then smirked and took his own phone out. “When in Rome,” he muttered. First, he snapped a picture with the reverse camera of himself with the waterfall in the background. Then he flipped the view so he could get a shot of the gorge. His frame wasn’t wide enough, so he took a few steps back, mindful of the rocks that became more slippery the closer he got to the falls.

His foot slipped and plopped down into water still cold enough to make him gasp, and right at the same time, he backed into something hard. Solid. Something alive. Neal winced when he heard an outraged cry and a splash behind him. Oh, fuck. Had he just…knocked someone into the water? He knew he needed to make sure they weren’t hurt or anything, but damn, he was afraid to turn around…because that had not felt like a small person.

Cautiously, he turned around and looked down, where he saw a man flailing around in the shallows of the pool. Once he got control of his feet, the man sprang up in the perfect kip-up. Neal cringed when he saw that his clothes and trail pack were completely soaking wet. And when he looked at the man’s face, he froze. His brain registered three things almost simultaneously: he looked vaguely familiar, he was very attractive, and he was really fucking mad.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” the stranger shouted.

He stepped forward so aggressively that Neal backed up, and his right hand went instinctively to his hip, where he would’ve put his hand on the stock of his service weapon—only there was nothing there because he was off duty.

Not wanting to seem like an equal aggressor, he covered the move by sticking his hand in his pocket, hoping to appear non-threatening. This guy was about his age and shorter by a few inches, but he was ripped. He looked rugged and whipcord strong and looked ready to kick some ass in a heartbeat. Neal might’ve been able to take him—he had him on height and weight, but the guy looked like he might be stronger…and a lot meaner. Neal really didn’t want to fight. That was a helluva lot of paperwork.

He held his arms out in front of him, both as a gesture of peace and to stave off an attack if that were to happen. “Man, I am so sorry. I didn’t realize anyone was behind me.”

“Clearly,” he growled, shrugging out of his pack. He unzipped it and started digging through it.

“Again, really sorry. If anything in your pack got damaged, I’ll reimburse you.”

He scowled at me. “This is a waterfall hike. I’m not an idiot. Anything of value is inside a dry bag.”

Neal bristled because the guy was basically calling him and everyone with him an idiot because they hadn’t brought dry bags. They’d just figured they could avoid, you know, falling in the water. Probably should’ve planned better, because if Neal hadn’t knocked into this guy, it would’ve been him in the water. But Neal had been the one to cause the fall, so he tried not to let his attitude get to him. “If you need a towel, I think one of my friends might’ve brought one.”

He sat down on a large, flat rock and pulled off his hiking shoes, probably to let them dry a little in the sun. His socks looked dry, so Neal assumed his footwear was waterproof. That also would’ve been a good idea, since Neal’s right sneaker was soggy as hell from stepping in the water.

The guy shook his head and didn’t make eye contact. “I’ve got more hiking to do. I’ll air-dry. Just try not to drown anyone, will ya?”

Neal’s eyes narrowed, and he fought a valiant battle not to tell the guy to fuck off. Instead, he fell back on his usual façade of charm and reached out a hand. “I’m Neal. Wish it had been under better circumstances, but it’s nice to meet you.”

His mega-watt smile, the one that had gotten him laid all the time when he was with Tony and before, bounced off this angry stranger like he had some kind of nice-guy force field. He glared at the proffered hand until Neal got the hint and put it back in his pocket. Just when he was about to say ‘fuck it’ and walk away, the guy mumbled, “Travis.”

“Pardon?” Neal asked, raising his eyebrows.

“Name’s Travis.”

“Well…Travis. It’s been a pleasure. I’ll get out of your hair.” About maxed out on politeness, Neal turned on his heel and started walking, stumbling slightly on the wet stones.

“Hey, Neal?”

He turned and looked at Travis. “Yeah?”

“You should stick to walking in the park or going to the gym. You don’t belong out here.”

Rage burned in Neal’s gut. He’d apologized profusely, and this guy just wouldn’t let it go. Where the hell did he get off? “The fuck did you say to me? I’ll have you know, I’m a police officer.”

Bennett had obviously picked up on the tone because Neal sensed his partner and Paddy creeping up on his flanks.

Travis’s eyes flicked back and forth between the three men, then he shook his head with a scoffing sound. “I’m just trying to give you some advice. It’s guys like you who come out here and fall down into the ravine because you don’t have the instincts to pay the fuck attention to where you put your feet.”

Neal lunged forward, but Bennett stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “Nuh-uh. Walk away, Hesse.”

“But—”

“Nope.” Paddy started pulling him backward.

Travis spoke again, and the sound of his voice grated over Neal’s nerves like sandpaper. “I’m not just trying to be an asshole, although I’d be justified, considering.” He gestured down at his wet clothes. “But seriously, if you want to be all outdoorsy and shit? Get yourself some survival training, because you seem pretty fucking hopeless.”

Neal growled and lunged again, but was stopped by his two strong friends.

“Aaaand we’re done here,” Bennett said, as he and Patrick hauled Neal to the other side of the river where the rest of their group was waiting.

“Come on, just one swing!” Neal shouted over his shoulder. It was just for show because his pride was more bruised than he wanted to let on, but the boys kept a firm grip on him just in case.

Why the fuck did it matter that some asshole stranger thought he was incompetent? But Neal knew the answer to that—because his own boyfriend had as well. Tony had basically unmanned him by suggesting Neal’s career and choices didn’t matter, and now some random guy was telling him he couldn’t even wipe his own ass without help.

Neal seethed quietly all the way back down the trail. He’d never see that crazy fucknut again, but he’d be damned if he’d let the guy be right. So as soon as he got back, he booked himself on a survival excursion with a professional wilderness guide. That’d show that asshole. The one he would never see again.

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Euphoria Press (self) | Amazon

Meet the Author

J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?

J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.

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Jul 03

Release Blitz: Spa Weekend by Tamryn Eradani (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Spa Weekend

Series: Daniel and Ryan, book 6

Author: Tamryn Eradani

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 3, 2017

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 13200

Genre: Contemporary, businessmen, BDSM, contemporary, vacation

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Synopsis

Daniel and Ryan take their first trip as a couple, traveling to Daniel’s favorite spa resort, a place he’s never taken anyone before. The significance isn’t lost on Ryan, but it takes longer for Daniel to realize there are feelings encroaching on their arrangement.

Excerpt

Spa Weekend
Tamryn Eradani © 2017
All Rights Reserved

“I want to try something new,” Ryan says.

Daniel stops mincing the garlic to look over his shoulder. “Something new for you or something new for us?”

“Us,” Ryan says.

They’re in Daniel’s apartment this weekend, and Daniel offered to make dinner to draw out their time together a little bit longer. They normally part ways midafternoon on Sundays, but as soon as Daniel mentioned he was cooking, it was easy to convince Ryan to stay. Daniel has thought about pressing his luck and seeing if he could get Ryan to stay the night, but it seems like too much of a risk.

They’ve never stayed the night when there was work the next morning, and Daniel’s not going to be the first to bring it up. Besides, it probably would be more hassle than it’s worth. He’d have to figure out how to fit a second person into his morning routine, and he’s gotten it planned to the minute over the past few years. It would be too disruptive to change it. At least, that’s what he tells himself to keep from blurting out an invitation to stay.

Daniel returns to carefully mincing his garlic.

“I don’t want you to touch yourself this week,” Ryan says. “Not without my permission.”

Daniel has to put the knife down before he accidentally takes off a finger. “Touch myself how?” He’s got a good idea of what Ryan’s getting at, but he likes specifics. And maybe he just wants to make Ryan squirm a little.

The plan backfires, because Ryan meets Daniel’s gaze straight on and says, “No jerking off. No giving yourself a couple squeezes during your morning shower. No lazy touches as you get ready for bed.”

It’s Daniel who ends up with pink cheeks and short of breath when Ryan’s done talking, but he manages to say, “Okay,” without a waver in his voice.

He goes back to the garlic, because he needs to finish the glaze so he can cook the chicken or dinner will never be done. The move puts his back to Ryan, and he should’ve known that Ryan wouldn’t let the conversation end so quickly.

A moment later, he can feel Ryan’s heat against his back, and then Ryan’s stepping in close, hands on Daniel’s hips so he can look over his shoulder.

“You can say no,” Ryan reminds him, like Daniel doesn’t understand how consent works. “Or ask questions.”

“I’m saying yes,” Daniel says. It’s not like he masturbates often. And from the way Ryan’s floated the suggestion, it sounds like he’ll have the opportunity to ask for permission. That thought is what sends a little shiver down his spine, and with Ryan as close as he is, there’s no way he doesn’t feel it too. “How’re you going to know?”

“Besides the honor system?” Ryan says. His breath tickles Daniel’s neck. “I’m going to call and check up on you.”

Daniel has to take a steadying breath before he adds the red pepper flakes, rosemary, and salt to the garlic and begins mincing again. “You couldn’t have waited to float this idea until I was done with the knife stage of dinner?” He’s not really annoyed. If he was then he’d just tell Ryan to knock it off.

Ryan knows it too, because he crowds closer, until his hips press right up against Daniel’s ass. “Am I distracting you? I thought your self-control and ability to multitask were flawless.”

“I will remind you I’m holding a knife,” Daniel says. He finishes using the sharp end of the blade and now he uses the flat end to mash the mixture up.

“Out of curiosity,” Ryan says, “are you saying yes because you think it’ll be easy or because you like the thought of giving up control to me even when we’re not together? Or because it’s something I want to do?”

“All three,” Daniel answers. He likes doing things that Ryan wants to do, especially when they line up with things he’s interested in. Giving Ryan control over something as private and intimate as his orgasms is something that appeals to him maybe more than it should. And, of course, there’s the fact that he likes a challenge, and he finds he can push himself further when it’s Ryan setting the demands and the limits rather than Daniel himself. “But mostly the first one. I’m not an excessive masturbator.”

“I find that difficult to believe,” Ryan says, and Daniel can’t see him, but he can imagine the eye roll that accompanies his statement. “But it also sounds like you’re daring me to make this difficult for you.”

“I would never.” Daniel keeps his tone light, just shy of teasing. “You’re the one in control of everything.”

“Put the knife down,” Ryan says and as soon as Daniel’s dropped the knife to the cutting board, Ryan spins him around and kisses him. Ryan bites at Daniel’s bottom lip until Daniel opens his mouth and lets Ryan sweep in and claim the kiss. When he pulls back, Daniel’s breathing heavy and holding on to the counter like it’s the only thing keeping him on his feet.

Ryan pats Daniel’s hip and then wanders back to the far side of the island where his phone is.

“Tease,” Daniel says, but he can’t keep the smile off his face.

“We haven’t even started,” Ryan promises him.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Tamryn studied English and Creative Writing in school but has been writing since she could first hold a pencil. Recently, she’s turned her focus towards writing erotica. She enjoys writing stories where sex comes first, then feelings, because doing things out of order can be fun.

Tamryn has spent the past few months writing the Daniel and Ryan series with a lovely view of mountains out her window, and she’s now searching for a new mountain range to serve as her backdrop as she begins her next project.

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Jul 03

Blog Tour: Portraits of a Faerie Queen by Tay LaRoi (Excerpt & Giveaway)

Title:  Portraits of a Faerie Queen

Series: The Faerie Court Chronicles, Book 1

Author: Tay LaRoi

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 3, 2017

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 83500

Genre: Fantasy, fantasy, urban fantasy, action, lesbian, cisgender, artist, faeries, magic users, mythical creatures, college

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Synopsis

In the midst of a summer storm, seventeen-year-old Jocelyn Lennox swerves to miss a strange creature in the road. The resulting accident leaves her mother in a coma with doctors skeptical about her recovery. Desperate for answers, Jocelyn returns to the scene of the accident to discover that the creature was one of the good folk—a faerie. Not only that, but the queen of Faerie herself is willing to listen to Jocelyn’s story and offer her help.

For a price, of course.

The two strike a deal: Jocelyn will paint the queen seven portraits and, in exchange, the queen will heal Jocelyn’s mother. Unfortunately, nothing in the faerie realm is ever that simple. The closer Jocelyn comes to finishing the paintings, the harder malicious magical forces try to ensnare her. If she isn’t careful or can’t complete the portraits by October 31st, the day of the Hallowed Offering, her mother’s life won’t be the only one in jeopardy.

Excerpt

Portraits of a Faerie Queen
Tay LaRoi © 2017
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

I don’t breathe.

The slightest nudge could ruin the brush stroke, destroying the entire effect I want. According to the Faerie Queen, I have yet to properly capture what she calls her “unique blend of splendor, grace, and power.” She rejected the first two attempts in mere seconds. She’s a picky one, Her Majesty.

On the canvas, she looks over the wild fields outside as if she has just conquered them. Wreaths of roses surround her in honor of the fallen. An auburn waterfall of braids frames her heart-shaped face, tumbling over her bare shoulders and brushing against her elegant gown. It’s a funeral shroud that silhouettes her curvaceous body. She could be wearing it in memory of any number of the dismembered skeletons beneath her feet.

Or is it to honor her next victim? It’s a toss-up.

All those details were a cakewalk this time around, compared to the depths of her green eyes. Those eyes are always the hardest part. It’s nearly impossible to mimic the way they trap you. The way they sparkle as you pour out your heart and plead for a miracle. The way they coldly calculate whether you’re worthy.

I lift the brush from the canvas, leaving all of her mystery and seduction embodied in oil paint. My body and soul alike give a relieved sigh.

Six paintings down. One to go.

One more painting and Mom will wake up.

Thanks to my housemate, I don’t get to savor the moment.

Faeries like him have this power about them. They heighten your senses, bringing the world to life and sharpening everything in it. He thinks I spend too much time in my head and the only suitable remedy is spontaneous guerilla attacks, apparently.

I take a breath, then tumble out of my chair and fling a clean paintbrush at him, letting loose a war cry like the world has never known.

The kitchen broom comes down and raps against the back of my chair. The brush sails past my housemate’s face and he watches it land in the hallway.

“Better, Jocelyn,” he concludes, “but now you’re defenseless. And what exactly was that god-awful noise?”

“My war cry,” I answer, propping myself up on my elbows. “It was supposed to either startle or confuse you. Judging by your expression, it worked.”

He smirks, drops the broom, and offers me his hand. “Oh, I’m confused, all right. Confused as to why you thought it would startle me.”

I take his hand, stand up, and point a paint-covered brush at him. “Keep it up, and I’ll give you whiskers while you sleep.”

“Do so and I’ll steal your firstborn child.”

I study him and wonder if he’s serious. He can’t be. Can he? He can’t.

The day we first met, the day I made the deal with the Faerie Queen, he asked me to call him Dominic, but I doubt that’s his real name. Faeries aren’t keen on giving them out, especially to the lowly humans they’re supposed to babysit. Lucky for me, he doesn’t take his job seriously. Given his disheveled clothes and messy pine-green hair, he’s literally been sleeping on the job.

“You feeling okay?” I ask, retrieving the clean paintbrush.

“Right as rain.” He yawns, itching a pointed ear. “Just needed a nap before I meet a friend.” His yawn closes to a grin when his obsidian gaze falls on the painting. “You finished it?”

“Sure did,” I reply as I begin to wash the paint-covered brushes. “Come have a look.”

Dominic sets his hands on his hips and studies the canvas. “To be fair, ruining this would have been a pity. This is stunning, Jocelyn.”

“It better be.” I sigh. “That’s my third attempt.”

“I’m sure Her Majesty will love it.” Patting me on the shoulder, Dominic adds, “You deserve a break. Could you take something to Iver for me?”

“Running errands counts as a break?” I tease.

Dominic digs in his pocket and pulls out a small wrapped package. “Well, you don’t know how to relax, and it’s pitiful for a seventeen-year-old to stay home on a Friday night. Maybe you’ll find inspiration for your last painting.”

I take the parcel. “How is a nightclub going to inspire me to paint the Queen of Faerie?”

Dominic shrugs. “You tell me. You’re the artist.” He points to my shirt. “Change first, please. You know how we folk are about appearances.”

“Paint-spatter and turpentine aren’t all the rage in the Faerie Realm?”

“Not at the moment, no,” Dominic replies crisply.

I quickly change into clean jeans and a black T-shirt, barely noticing the large scar on my chest shaped like deadly nightshade; its badass aura wore off a while ago. It’s the only real noticeable mark left on my body. The scars from last summer’s car accident, the beginning of all this faerie craziness, have mostly faded.

After my mother and I swerved to miss a small figure in the road early last spring, everyone told me it was a fawn, or maybe a lost bear cub. Neither of those walk upright on twig-like legs with a hunched back, so I went looking for answers shortly after being released from the hospital. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto a whole hidden world of strange creatures, including the Queen of Faerie herself. And, lucky me, she was in a bargain-making mood. Unlucky me, she likes to physically mark those she makes a deal with. Apparently a simple signature isn’t binding enough.

A metal cross hangs around my neck. My sister, Annalise, gave it to me before I moved to Grand Harbor, supposedly to enroll in an intensive art program for high school seniors. In reality I’m here under the queen’s orders since it’s the closest human town to the Faerie Court. I’m only an hour away from them, but they feel a world away sometimes. It’s better than Her Majesty’s original idea of making me live with her at court, I guess. Dominic stepped up and offered to look after me, thank God. I don’t like to think about the kind of life I’d be living now if he hadn’t. All I know is that it would be the farthest thing from a fairy tale.

I look in the bathroom mirror long enough to rake a comb through my hair. Light blue eyes that match my dad’s stare back. I’ve got his thin Anglo features too, but with a softer jaw, longer lashes, and a slender figure. Mom always said he was good looking and I guess I am too, except in a girlish sort of way. Emphasis on the “ish.” My shaggy pixie cut, lack of makeup and simple wardrobe prevent me from being labeled anything close to “girly.” That’s okay, though. I’ve also got my dad’s killer sense of humor to help me get the ladies.

I mean, it hasn’t helped me lately, but it will one day. Mark my words.

Downstairs, Dominic skims his vast collection of herbs and spices. There are so many jars, bags, and boxes that I hardly remember what the counter looks like. “Care for some tea?” he asks.

“No, thanks,” I reply, hunting for my tiny leather satchel and keys. They’re on the table. The only photos in the house catch my eye as I slip them into my pocket.

Nine-year-old me took the first, so it’s crooked. I took it in our backyard. Annalise stands behind my mother in a bright yellow dress and weaves flowers into Mom’s hair. A temporary unicorn tattoo glitters on her chubby cheek. My mom kneels in a matching dress with her crow’s feet revealing how often she used to laugh. I hope she still laughs like that once she wakes up .

The other photo is of my dad. He sits at a picnic table wearing flannel and denim, warming his hands by a campfire as he grins at the camera. Our hair even seems to fall in our faces the same way.

He died of leukemia shortly after I turned thirteen. Annalise was ten.

He would never let us know how much the disease ate at him. Even toward the end, when he couldn’t even sit up, he’d crack jokes and tell stories. He only got serious when we were leaving the hospital. He would always say, “You’re in charge till I get back, Jocelyn. Take good care of your mom and sister for me.”

Safe to say I wasn’t the best woman for the job.

Dominic breaks through my thoughts. “Are you sure? I need a taste tester.”

“Save me some. I’ll drink it when I get back.”

Dominic frowns but doesn’t argue. “If you insist.”

I grab my jacket and head out the door.

The crisp evening air blows through the woods surrounding the old farmhouse where we live, carrying the smell of fall leaves. Even on gloomy days, the surrounding trees glow with bright reds, shining yellows, and warm oranges. I imagine it’s because we’re so close to the Faerie Court.

That’s probably why the shadows look so sinister after dark too.

My old green Volkswagen coughs to life and sputters down the dusty driveway. One thing I didn’t inherit from my father was his knack for cars. At this point, I’m pretty sure it runs more on prayers than gas.

The worn brown “Welcome to Grand Harbor” sign flies by as the town springs up from the northern Michigan forest. Tall old houses with wraparound porches line the street. Smaller brick homes and tiny shops sit in the mix. All of them hold their own against the newer seasonal cabins and retreats.

Two of the main reasons people come to Grand Harbor pan out on either side of Main Street: Lake Michigan on my left and James-Child College on my right. It’s a small private college with a tiny student population and little athletic merit but nationally renowned academics. At least, that’s what I’ve heard. I never had the grades to even sneeze near the place.

The town passes by in a flash, and I cross the railroad tracks into the old run-down industrial area. Most of the buildings are tombs of abandoned outdated manufacturing practices and home to a plethora of supposed hauntings and campfire stories. It’s probably the work of faerie troublemakers–imps and pixies and such–but I’m not stupid enough to go investigating.

Besides, I already know exactly where to find said troublemakers.

The Time Between is a refurbished factory-turned-nightclub packed with local fae who live in or near the Human Realm. Many come wanting to escape the watchful eye of the Faerie Court. Others find humans fascinating. Some see us as easy pickings.

They all stop by the club to purchase spells and charms to ward off the effects of iron, which saturates the human world. For faeries, iron is like an allergy with a license to kill.

The burn on my chest grants me protection and entrance. No faerie in their right mind would touch someone wearing the queen’s mark, human or not. The bouncer gives me a nod, and I sink into the sea of music, magic, deception, and alcohol.

Iver, the elven bartender, spots me, pours me a cola, and waits.

I yell over the pounding music, “Hey, where’s the rum?”

Iver lets out a booming laugh far bigger and deeper than one would expect from his slender frame. “I think not, young one,” he chortles in his Scandinavian accent. “Human Realm, human rules.”

“Since when do faeries care about human rules?” I ask, taking a sip. Drinks with blood, poisonous plants, and insects are on the menu, but serving a minor alcohol is not allowed? How is that fair?

“Since you’re an important human,” he answers, tightening his long pale-blond ponytail. “How are the paintings coming along?”

I sit up a little straighter with pride. “I finished number six. Just gotta paint one more, and I’m done. In the meantime—” I pull the package from my pocket. “—Dominic has me running errands.”

Iver’s expression hardens as he takes the delivery. He looks it over and puts it into his apron. “Thank you, Jocelyn. The drink’s on the house.”

He goes back to serving patrons with a new smile on his face, leaving me to survey the crowd for a bit.

The flashing lights from the dance floor and the shadows around the bar make it hard to tell who’s what in here. A lot of them are probably wearing glamours, a disguise woven of magic. Most of the faeries appear humanoid with a hodgepodge of deviations: translucent wings, the occasional pair of goat legs, deer noses, stonelike skin, long floppy ears, and eyes that resemble the cosmos. I wish they’d stay still enough for me to sketch them.

Someone bumps into me and plops down on the next stool. He takes off his bright crimson beanie and runs a hand over his spiky black hair. The smell of blood on him is impossible to ignore.

The smell and the beanie tell me that he’s a redcap. Dominic once told me they have to dye their hats with blood on a regular basis to stay alive. The universe must have been in a pretty bad mood when it made these guys.

“Give me the strongest thing you’ve got,” he barks at Iver. “No ice.”

“Bad day?” I ask.

“Terrible,” the redcap grumbles. “Source fell through. Had to get my own damned fix. One of the queen’s knights spotted me and asked all sorts of unpleasant questions. Had to think fast.”

Iver sets a glass of clear liquor in front of him and the redcap takes a sip.

“And I thought life was rough under Queen Titania—she was an angel next to her sister. At least she left us solitary folk in peace.”

From my understanding, solitary fae are the vagabonds of their realm. They normally live outside the queen’s lands and do as they please but behave themselves in her territory for their own sake. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway.

Grand Harbor is close enough to the queen’s borders that one would think she’d do more to stop her subjects preying on humans, but no. Such stories are commonplace. How they stay clear of human suspicion is even more baffling. Magic and all that jazz, I suppose.

The redcap twirls his beanie in one hand, looking at it with disdain. “I was nearly out of juice, too.” With a sigh, he puts it down and nurses his liquor. “And I had to settle for A-positive again. I’m damn near sick of A-positive.”

Well, there goes my quitter’s streak.

Shortly after moving to Grand Harbor, I started smoking. It’s not exactly legal, given my age, but after the first month of this madness, Dominic’s teas stopped being sufficient stress relief. Lucky for me, Dominic is the worst babysitter ever. I collect plants from the woods around the farmhouse for him and he buys me cigarettes. I’m trying to quit, but this conversation is kicking my craving into overdrive. The idea that someone is out there, possibly bleeding to death, while this asshat is complaining about what kind of blood he had is stressing me out. I can’t do anything for him, and that gets under my skin. That’s probably exactly what this jerk wants.

“You humans aren’t easy to nab these days,” the redcap continues. “You’re all so suspicious. Greedy, too. Want to keep all your blood to yourself.”

“Gee, can’t imagine why,” I mutter, fishing in my jacket for my pack and lighter. Guess I “forgot” to check it when Dominic and I purged the house.

The redcap gulps down the rest of his drink and motions to Iver for a refill. “It’s not like I killed the guy. A few transfusions and he’ll be fine.” A sharp-toothed smirk creeps onto his face. “If they find him in time.”

He should know better than to mess with my head. I’ve been around his kind too long to take such obvious bait. I light my cigarette and take a long drag instead to calm my nerves.

The redcap finishes his second drink and says, “You’re the painter girl, right? You go to the court a lot? Any juicy gossip you’d like to share?”

“I actually haven’t been there in a while.” I take another drag to replace the redcap’s toxicity with something less poisonous. “You?”

“Nah. They don’t like my kind poking around. I hear tell that the queen’s changeling daughter is getting popular, though. Her Majesty must be slacking if her thrown-away kid has more fans than her.” The redcap orders yet another drink, even though his speech has started to slur.

Fun fact: faeries are lightweights.

“No idea why she keeps her,” he continues. “Most monarchs would have slaughtered a changeling that came crawling back. The queen’s losing her marbles.”

I just want to finish my rum-less cola in peace. Is that too much to ask?

Since there are no more empty seats, I chug it and get ready to leave. My gaze falls on the exit as I search for Iver to say goodbye.

Five human girls walk in and catch my eye.

Five very lost, very oblivious, and very vulnerable human girls.

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Meet the Author

Tay grew up reading too many fairy tales and watching too many movies, which is probably why she writes fantasy now. When she’s not at her day job or writing, she can be found taking spontaneous drives to new places, and drinking way too much coffee. Her first book, “Portraits of a Faerie Queen,” is set to be released in 2017.

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