Guest Review: Mr. March (Calendar Men #3) by Bailey Bradford

Curiosity didn’t kill this cat…

Jason Eddings is a foreman for a construction company by day and a mountain lion at night. He got suckered into doing a calendar shoot when he lost a bet to his sister. Little did he know that his sister Joy was hoping to set him up with Gregg, another man on the calendar shoot. That never happened because Gregg met Albert.

Jason’s posing for Mr. March, working, and running from some memories, and maybe even himself. One night, he runs right into a tranquilizer dart. When he wakes up at a wildlife refuge, he finds himself intrigued by the veterinarian who is watching him.

Casey’s not only a newly graduated veterinarian, he’s also a shifter. He doesn’t advertise it and he works to smell like a human because of an incident that happened years ago. He thought there was something special about the mountain lion, but he didn’t have a clue how much his life was about to change.


Reviewer: Shee Reader

Jason is a construction company foreman by day and a mountain lion by night. He’s been guilted into posing for a charity calendar shoot by his twin sisters who work as doctors. The shoot is outside his comfort zone, but he’s easily gorgeous enough! As he goes for a run in his lion form, he runs into a tranquilizer dart, which is odd since he’s running on his family’s property. Fortunately he winds up at an animal sanctuary and is taken care of by a very handsome veterinarian, Casey, but all is not as it seems…

The premise of the calendar is well established by book three, and the people involved are almost caricatures of themselves, which is all good fun.

Jason is potentially in big trouble at the sanctuary, until Casey steps in to save Jason from the villains. Since we have a HEA to be getting to, our guys hit it right off, as soon as Jason is back in his human skin that is! The villains re-emerge later, of course.

The bad guys in the story are pretty awful, but get what’s coming to them, as do our heroes.

The HEA is a sweet fix in this relatively quick read. There are check-ins with characters from earlier books which are lovely, sexy times which are steamy and plenty of leering at hot studs in the photo shoot!

If you like a nice fluffy, lowish angst story, this one could be for you.



Series Blog Tour + Giveaway: Guns n' Boys by K.A. Merikan


Welcome the Merikans and the Guns n' Boys Series Blog Tour to the clubhouse! The authors deliver a yummy flash fic set in the series world today via Signal Boost Promotions! And there's more: TWO GIVEAWAYS! Comment on today's post for a chance to win a back list eBook from the authors! Enter in Rafflecopter for a chance to win the Grand Tour Prize! Good luck!



Guns n' Boys Series Blog Tour

Book #1 He Is Poison

Book #2 He Is Mine

Book #3 Homicidal Instinct

Book #4 Swamp Blood

Book #5 Chokehold

Book #6 Bloodbath

Book #7 Gilded Agony



This flashfic takes place during the events of the first book, when Domenico and Seth are on their mission in Berlin. You can read it even without knowing the story!

*

The male body held no secrets from Domenico. He knew where to press, pull, and twist in order to give pain or pleasure. He knew how to block air, bruise the kidneys, how to punch to inflict maximum damage to bones and internal organs. He knew how to stitch up wounds, stop hemorrhaging, and which medicines to take to keep himself going in the worst of conditions. But there was something far more effective against bruises and swelling than ice-cold baths.

Sex.

By the time Domenico was twenty five, he’d learned to associate the painful aftermath of fighting with pleasure, so he didn’t mind the dull throb in his jaw. Even a professional like him was at times surprised by the proficiency of someone met on the job, which was exactly what happened last night.

Throughout the evening, Seth had watched him apply a bag of ice to his swollen face, his mouth tense, as if he were on the verge of asking what happened, but in the end--never did. They weren’t on the best of terms, but that wouldn’t stop Domenico from doing his job for the Family. A firm hand could transform anyone into a worthy man, and so he’d told Seth to prepare for a wrestling lesson first thing in the morning.

Twenty minutes in, both their fingers were slipping over sweaty skin, but Domenico pushed on, continuously trapping his student/opponent with well-practiced locks and pins. In a real fight, one never had the opportunity for breaks.

Neither of them said a thing, but the air filled with stifled sighs and groans that sounded very much like a long, slow fuck. Domenico blew on his forehead to get loose hair out of his eyes and twisted Seth’s arm back before applying pressure between his shoulder blades and ultimately pushing him face-down into the thin mattress. Their bodies pressed together, Domenico’s groin against Seth’s ass, and they both stilled. Seth twisted his head and looked at Dom, his thick lips open. He didn’t fight and just relaxed, watching his opponent with a curious mixture of apprehension and excitement.

The room was so still Domenico could hear children shouting in the street.

Without a word, he rolled Seth to his back, but before he could do anything else, the muscular arm that he’d been holding just seconds ago pulled on his shoulder until their mouths met in a kiss that made champagne explode at the back of Domenico’s mind.

In that moment, the pain in his jaw was completely forgotten.



Giveaway Information

Comment on the post to win, one person from each stop in the blog tour will win their choice of a backlist ebook from K.A. Merikan.  Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for your chance to win the Grand Tour Prize. (You can enter this one daily for more chances to win!)






To begin your journey with Seth and Domenico you should start here, with Book One: He Is Poison.



--- Love like butterfly knives in the stomach. ---


Domenico Acerbi. The Villani Family’s best assassin. Ruthless. Vicious. With no patience for weakness.

Seth Villani. The Don’s son. Clueless. Stubborn. In dire need of someone to keep him in line.

Domenico Acerbi grew up ready to give his life for the Family. Ready to follow orders and exceed expectations. A proud man of honor.

The last thing he wants to deal with is training the Don’s son for his future role within the organization. Lazy, annoying, spoiled, and as hot as a Sicilian summer, Seth Villani is no mafia material. But a man who could never become a threat might just be what Domenico needs.

Seth Villani wants nothing to do with the mafia. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get a say when he’s pulled back into the fold. Thrown into a den of serpents otherwise known as the Villani Family, Seth has to find a way to navigate the maze of lies. But when Domenico Acerbi, the most vicious snake of them all, sinks his fangs into Seth, letting go becomes impossible.

If Seth is doomed to follow in his father's footsteps, he might as well enjoy himself with the most intoxicating man he’s ever met. Maybe he can even fool himself into believing that Domenico isn’t a handsome sociopath who kills for a living.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: Enemies to lovers, mafia, homophobia, assassin, organized crime, forced proximity

Genre: Dark, twisted M/M romance / crime thriller

Length: ~110,000 words

WARNING: Adult content. Sizzling hot scenes. If you are easily offended, this book is not for you.
‘Guns n’ Boys’ is a gritty story of extreme violence, offensive language, abuse, and morally ambiguous protagonists. Behind the morbid facade, there is a splash of inappropriate dark humor, and a love story that will crawl under your skin.






K.A. Merikan are a team of writers who try not to suck at adulting, with some success. Always eager to explore the murky waters of the weird and wonderful, K.A. Merikan don’t follow fixed formulas and want each of their books to be a surprise for those who choose to hop on for the ride.

K.A. Merikan have a few sweeter M/M romances as well, but they specialize in the dark, dirty, and dangerous side of M/M, full of bikers, bad boys, mafiosi, and scorching hot romance.

FACEBOOK PROFILE
K.A. MERIKAN’S TWITTER (RUN BY KAT)
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PINTEREST
M/F ROMANCE BY MISS MERIKAN


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Audiobook Review: Off the Beaten Path by Cari Z.

When Ward Johannsen’s little girl Ava shifted into a werewolf, she was taken into custody by the feds and shipped off to the nearest pack, all ties between father and daughter severed. Ward burned every bridge he had discovering her location, and then almost froze to death in the Colorado mountains tracking her new pack down. And that’s just the beginning of his struggle.

Henry Dormer is an alpha werewolf and an elite black ops soldier who failed his last mission. He returns home, hoping for some time to recuperate and help settle the pack’s newest member, a little pup named Ava who can’t shift back to her human form. Instead he meets Ward, who refuses to leave his daughter without a fight. The two men are as different as night and day, but their respect for each other strikes a spark of mutual interest that quickly grows into a flame. They might find something special together—love, passion, and even a family—if they can survive trigger-happy pack guardians, violent werewolf politics, and meddling government agencies that are just as likely to get their alpha soldiers killed as bring them home safely.

Length: 6 hrs and 23 mins

Narrated by Jack Wesley 






Cari Z. really pulled off a unique take on shifters with Off the Beaten Path and Jack Wesley did the tale justice with his reading. There was more to Off the Beaten Path than just the shifter dynamic basics we all know and love; big strong alpha rescues weaker, heart of gold omega/human, the whole pack loves and respects said alpha, omega/human is stronger than anyone thinks, omega/human has alpha wrapped around his little finger, etc., etc. I love it, I really do, but having such a refreshingly different shifter story to read was a real treat.

The world building is really well done and given the conditions in which the shifters live, it was a smart decision to have one of the MC’s be a human. It put the shifters forced way of life into a perspective that connects with the reader. Ward (the human) has had his daughter Ava, taken from him because she unexpectedly shifted during preschool and hasn’t been able to return to her human form. Shifters are only raised with other shifters in seclusion so Ward doesn’t even know where Ava has been taken and is informed he has no recourse to get his daughter back.

Ava is Ward’s entire world and there is no way he is just lying down and letting his daughter go. He pulls strings, makes calls and gets some intel as to where she is being held. He takes off on his own to be with her again. Ward isn’t the healthiest of human specimens, but he doesn’t let his asthma stop him from the brutal trek to get to his daughter. The listener can’t help but root for him and feel his pain. The narrator conveys Ward’s emotions with enough emphasis to be effective but not overly so, keeping him real and not a caricature.

Henry is the alpha of the pack that has “adopted” Ava and he’s none too keen on the idea of having a human in his pack. But Henry is overworked and disrespected by the humans he has to answer to so having Ward around is not really on his agenda at the mo. Ava isn’t doing well though and Henry’s best option to bring Ava some comfort is to welcome Henry to the pack. Henry’s character is just as sympathetic (in a different way, obviously) from Ward, but he’s no less appealing in how much I wanted to root for him and sympathize for what he has to endure to be sure his pack is kept safe.

The secondary characters were strong as well and there’s some interpack dramatics that add to the story and overall world building. The extra plotlines helped explain some of the background of the society the author built and it all flowed together pretty seamlessly.

Off the Beaten Path is definitely more than just an alpha/human love story, there’s a lot more depth to it, and the only thing I would have liked was just a little more of Henry and Ward together once the resolutions started flowing. I wanted more of a sense of them as a couple without a world of stress hanging over their heads.

The uniqueness of the story engaged me from the beginning and the narrator added to that engagement easily. I stayed and loved the story for the characters and to hear their HEA.



**A copy of this audiobook was provided for an honest review**


Giveaway + Book Blitz: Five Dares by Eli Easton


Welcome Eli Easton & Signal Boost Promotions for the book blitz/re-release of Five Dares! Find out more about this friends to lovers romance, read an excerpt & enter for your chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card! Good luck!




Universal Buy Link


Cover Design: Natasha Snow

Blurb

Andy Tyler has been the class daredevil since middle school. Over the years, he’s convinced his best friend, Jake Masterson, to perform some dangerous-looking stunts with him. But the dare they attempt on the night of their college graduation goes sideways. The firecrackers explode too soon and both of them end up with badly burned palms.

But hey, nothing gets the “terrible two-o” down for long, and they recuperate in style at Andy’s family cottage in Cape Cod. As the weeks go by, both Andy and Jake grow frustrated over the inability to use their hands for all sorts of daily activities—including getting off. So Andy begins a new series of dares that don’t just cross the friendship line, they obliterate it.

But what might be mere sexual relief to Andy is serious business to Jake, who only recently got over years of secret pining for his straight best friend. Inevitably, the burns heal, summer ends, and hearts are broken. To fix things, Andy will have to face the greatest dare of all.







Excerpt


The first few weeks at the cottage we had good weather and spent most of our time outside. Walter said our burns were coming along well. So far we’d avoided making things worse, which was a miracle. The burns were gnarly looking though, and painful when he rewrapped them.

My palms were the bright red of fresh blood. They looked like they’d been dipped in boiling water, with layers around the edge turning white and loose in spots. My hands alternated between a mild burning and piercing pain that went supernova anytime I accidentally clenched them or bumped them into something. Doing or lifting anything that required any pressure on the skin whatsoever was right out.

So by the time we’d been basking on the Nantucket Sound for two weeks, I was climbing the fucking walls.

“I’ve never been this damn horny in my life,” I complained to Jake, bitterly and sincerely.

It was almost noon, and we were sitting out on the dock like we usually did. It had been great hanging out together. We’d caught up on a lot of stuff we never seemed to get around to talking about during school—his upcoming new life. Harvard. Our mutual friends and exes. We’d told ghost stories. We’d taken long walks and kicked around a soccer ball for hours. We’d played poker on Jake’s tablet and consumed six seasons of The Walking Dead on the big-screen TV. It was nice having undivided Jake time, but I’d reached the point where frustration had me close to tears.

Not tears of boredom either. Sexually frustrated tears.

“Turn page,” Jake responded. He was reading on his Kindle.

“I’m not sure how that would help me get off,” I joked.

Jake snorted, but he didn’t rise to the bait.

I shifted in my chair. I wasn’t kidding. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d gone more than two days without an orgasm. Probably not since I’d figured out the magical wonderland that was my dick when I was eleven years old. I’d had a permanent semi for days now, and my loose, silky gym shorts—worn because I could get them up and down by myself if I scooched against a wall—were doing nothing to disguise it or help it go away.

I moved my bandaged hands onto the arms of the deck chair and looked down at myself. Even looking at my crotch made my dick grow under the silky blue fabric. It was like a hopeful puppy anticipating attention.

In my peripheral vision, I saw Jake glance at it too. He leaned forward in his chair, hunching toward the Kindle, which was propped on a little table in front of him. “Turn page.”

“You did not just read an entire page.” I smirked.

“Shut up, Mr. TMI.” Jake fake-read some more.

But I knew I had his attention. “Have you figured out a way to get off yet? Because I haven’t.”

“No,” he said in a distracted voice. Despite his blasé look, I knew there was no way he was absorbing a single word on that Kindle screen.

“Me neither. I tried humping the bed, but it didn’t work. Fucking mattress is so soft and lumpy.”

“Can you not give me the gory details?” Jake hunched further and stared at the Kindle.

“Rubbing against the tiles in the shower didn’t work. They’re too hard.”

He snorted. “What are you, the Goldilocks of self-love?”

I chuckled. “That’s me. I need something just right.” I used a filthy voice on the last bit.

Jake shifted uneasily but didn’t look at me. “Too bad Amber dumped you. Maybe you could call her and play the poor invalid card. She might be willing to drive down for a conjugal visit.”

“Nah. So not worth the bowing and scraping I’d have to do.”

I gave it a moment, trying to build up my nerve.

I hadn’t been kidding. I’d tried a half-dozen ways to get off, but nothing was working. So I’d put some serious brain power into figuring out a solution. I was good at working around obstacles, but the obvious answer—the thing I really wanted—involved Jake, and I wasn’t sure how he’d react.

Just thinking about it, I plumped up further, causing a definite tent in my shorts. I half expected Jake to tease me, something like, You could poke someone’s eye out with that thing.

But all he said was, “Turn page.”

“So . . . you haven’t gotten off since before the hospital?” I asked.

“No,” Jake said quickly. “And it’s not helping to talk about it, thank you very much. It’s like when you talk about having a tickle in your throat, it makes you want to cough.” His voice was tense. I saw his eyes flicker toward my shorts, though he didn’t turn his head and he continued to pretend to read.

My heart pounded. I felt exposed at the moment, my semi obscene, so I sat up and hunched forward too, elbows on my knees. I watched a ski boat go by. The roar of the motor was loud. I waited until it had passed. Then I swallowed and told myself it didn’t matter. It was no big deal to suggest it. And if he said no, it was no biggie. I could play it off as a joke. But it really didn’t feel that way.

“Speaking of a tickle in your throat . . . I have an idea about how we can get off.”

“You do?” Jake’s tone was fast and curious. Definitely interested.

“Yup.”

“Like what? Gonna have Walter install a Fleshlight in the shower?” He chuckled.

I huffed. “Yeah. You know my dad combs through every one of my credit card statements. No way am I ordering a Fleshlight. Not to mention the fact that I’d have to kill myself after asking Walter to install something like that.”

Walter, our nurse, was in his fifties, white, bald, and pudgy. He had a squeaky-clean fundamentalist thing going on and had mentioned “praying” for us several times. Ix-nay on asking Walter to mount a fuck tube in the shower.

“So what then, Oh Planinator?” Jake sat up from his slouch and looked at me.

Unable to meet his gaze, I studied the water. “Okay, so just hear me out before saying no.”

“Oh shit. You only say that when it’s really whacked.”

“Come on! I’m serious.”

Jake sighed, but I could swear there was a new tension in the air. He was no longer pretending to read his Kindle. He leaned back in his chair and waited. “Go on, then. Spit it out.”

I grinned and turned my head to look at him, raising an eyebrow. “That’s the goal, yeah.”

He kicked my leg lightly with his bare heel. “Just say it.”

“Okay. So. We can’t jerk off, right?” I held up my bandaged hands a little.

“Obviously.”

“Well, have you ever heard of guys who can, you know, suck their own dicks?”

There was a sharp inhale from Jake, but he kept his face blank. “Yeah. I can’t though. Not even a little bit.”

“I know. Me neither. So I thought . . .” Fuck. This was hard to say. Incredibly hard to say. But there was no point in beating around the bush. “Okay. So. What if we sucked each other, like, at the same time, and pretended we were doing ourselves? Sort of self-suck by proxy.”

I’d intended to keep a jokey tone during this, so I could claim I was teasing. But the words started tumbling out, and there was a hollow ringing in my ears. I honestly didn’t have the slightest fucking clue what my tone had been or how it must have sounded to Jake.

Next to me, he went deadly still. He stared down at his knees. There was a little frown behind his brow. He looked worried. Or disturbed. Or both concurrently.

I fought the urge to overexplain or justify. Play it cool. I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes as if soaking in the sun. “It would get the job done.” I shrugged.

“Did you honestly just ask me to suck you off?” Jake asked in a quiet voice.

“No. That’s not what I said. Don’t go all homophobic on me, bro. Look, we can’t use our hands at all. Fact. If you could suck yourself, you would—right? Fact. But you can’t. I’m in the same boat. So I’m thinking if we were end to end, we could close our eyes and pretend we’re doing ourselves. And we’d get off. And we wouldn’t have to get Walter or anyone else involved. It’s really the best solution.”

Jake was silent again for a long moment. “I’m not doing that.” His voice was firm, grim, like he meant it.

Honestly, I was surprised. And a little hurt.

“Fine,” I said. “It was just a suggestion. You got a better idea? Or do you want the worst case of blue balls ever? Because I’m about to crawl the fucking walls.”

“I’m not doing it,” he repeated adamantly.

“Yeah, I heard you the first time, Jake.”

In my peripheral vision, I could see he was stiff and tense, like he might bolt. But, finally, he relaxed. He leaned forward toward the Kindle. “Turn page,” he said, his voice tight.

“What if I dared you?” I asked, unable to let it go.

“Jesus, Andy, fuck off!” Jake snarled. He got up and stormed toward the cottage. We’d figured out that if we kicked the bottom of the screen door, it would bounce open for a second, long enough to get one foot in. He did this harder than necessary and went inside. I was so shocked, I let him go without a word.

Goddamn it. I’d known it would be risky to bring it up, but some part of me believed Jake would jump at the chance. Or, worst case, brush it off as a joke. I hadn’t expected anger. Jake had never told me to fuck off like that. Not that I could remember.

Shit.

Okay. Bad idea. Abort, abort. But it was too late to take it back.





About Eli


Having been, at various times and under different names, a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, an author of paranormal thrillers, a fan-fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a profound sleeper, Eli Easton is happy these days writing love stories.

As an avid reader of such, she is tinkled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, with her husband, three bulldogs, two cows, a cat, and a potbellied pig. She enjoys reading in all genres and, when she can be pried away from her iPad, hiking and biking.

Eli Easton has published 24 books in m/m romance since 2013. She won the Rainbow Award for Best Contemporary Romance in 2014 (The Mating of Michael) and in 2016 (A Second Harvest). Her Howl at the Moon series of humorous dog shifter romances have become fan favorites and placed in the Rainbow Awards and the Goodreads M/M Group Reader’s Choice awards. She is best known for romances with humor and a lot of heart.

Connect with Eli:
Website: elieaston.com
Facebook
Twitter: @EliEaston


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Review: Familiar Angel by Amy Lane

One hundred and forty years ago, Harry, Edward, and Francis met an angel, a demon, and a sorceress while escaping imprisonment and worse! They emerged with a new family—and shapeshifting powers beyond their wildest dreams.

Now Harry and his brothers use their sorcery to rescue those enslaved in human trafficking—but Harry’s not doing so well. Pining for Suriel the angel has driven Harry to take more and more risks until his family desperately asks Suriel for an intervention.

In order for Suriel to escape the bindings of heaven, he needs to be sure enough of his love to fight to be with Harry. Back when they first met, Harry was feral and angry, and didn’t know enough about love for Suriel to justify that risk. Can Suriel trust in Harry enough now to break his bonds of service for the boy who has loved his Familiar Angel for nearly a century and a half?


Harry and his brothers Edward and Francis were born into poverty and left for the streets. Harry sold his body to feed his brothers, but they all fled once eyes turned to Francis when he was way too young. Rescued by Emma and Leonard, they are bound to them through magic and become cat shifters. As the decades move around them, their mission becomes saving people from sex trafficking.

Suriel is an Angel who has a soft spot for Harry, and over the years their bond grows into romantic feelings. Their roadblock is Suriel is still bound to heaven and his duties there and on earth. Harry wants more than the stolen moments he gets, and expresses this hurt by being more aggressive during his missions to free victims.

This was a good paranormal story. The flow was easy and engaging. The characters were interesting. I enjoyed the cat shifter angle. Even though these men were damaged by their childhood, they have different personalities and a strong emotional bond that helps ground them. I enjoyed reading about their personal mission to save people who are in the same situation they were as children.

I would have liked more time on Harry and Suriel’s relationship because it seemed like there were a lot of moments that created a deeper connection that wasn’t in the story. There was a lot more action than romance, and even though the characters were well fleshed out, the relationship development was lacking. More time was spent on the family dynamic, which I really enjoyed. Not so much on the romance.

Nevertheless I enjoyed this, and read it in one go. Recommended for readers who enjoy character driven stories with a small amount of romance with some steam.

A review copy was provided for an honest opinion.



Giveaway + Release Blitz: Life is a Stevie Wonder Song by V.L. Locey


Join in the Life is a Stevie Wonder Song celebration with V.L. Locey & Signal Boost Promotions! Find out more & be sure to enter in the giveaway for a backlist ebook! Good luck!




Universal Buy Link

Length: 87 pages

Cover Design: Sloan J Designs

Blurb

Authors know that their muse is a fickle creature. Best-selling spy novelist Steven Ramsey has been in a hate-hate relationship with his inspiration for months. When Steven's publisher lays a legal ultimatum upon him, with a rapidly approaching deadline, he knows he must do something to kick-start his creativity or face the unemployment line. His daughter comes up with a possible answer: a summer camp for the creative soul. With nothing to lose, Steven packs up his laptop, phonograph, and beloved record albums and heads from Greenwich Village to the Catskill Mountains.

There, among a horde of college students attending for extra credits, is Declan Pomeroy, a photographer of fey creatures who is twenty-two years younger than Steven. The woods are a magical place, and he quickly finds himself falling under the spell of the free-spirited photographer. Confusion wars with desire as Steven succumbs to the feelings welling up inside. But, sadly, summer camp always must end. Can a man who has just found himself really leave the person that makes his heart sing?


Buy Link:

Amazon




Excerpt

I set my sights on the road. Someone called my name. I would know his singsong voice anywhere. I lifted a hand in greeting, my ugly ape feet glued to this fucking spot in the road. Declan bounded down the two stairs, racing toward me. My heart began to hammer behind my ribs. He ran across his freshly mowed lawn wearing a smile as big as the Catskills. I was not prepared for the leap he made at me. I caught him but just barely. He wrapped his arms and legs around me like some sort of invasive vine. His mouth smashed against mine. My knees grew rubbery as my prick roused in my shorts. I cupped his ass with both hands.

"I am so glad to see you," he purred between kisses.

Someone back on the porch shouted. My grip on his backside lessened and he slid to the ground with a pout. "Come meet the guys. We were just talking about you."

"You kids don’t want an old dinosaur breaking up your good times."

"Just stop." Declan grabbed my wrist and tugged me along in his wake. For being so slender, he was a strong little tugboat. The boys on the porch greeted me warmly. They were incredibly similar in style, which, I guess, reflects on the age. Conformity to the current trends is everything when you're young. Each young man wore cargo shorts, low-cut tank tops, Nikes, sunglasses, and ball caps turned backward. Aside from hair coloring all four, and that included Declan—although his ankle bracelet and pink bandana ascot showed a modicum of individuality—were cookie-cutter young males. I was greeted with "Yo" and "'Sup" after Declan introduced me.

He then steered me to the lone seat, a rough Adirondack chair exactly like the one on my porch. I sat. The guys fell back into their conversation about some video game. Declan sat down beside me, his dark head resting on my knee. I trembled violently inside at the gesture. All my bells and whistles were ringing, and yet these kids didn’t seem to pay any attention to the public display of affection. My hand was shaking when I placed it timidly on Declan’s head. His hair was soft as rabbit fur. He sighed blissfully at the contact. Talk flowed around me but I said little. If one did not know my avocation to be a wordsmith, they would think me mute.

About an hour passed. Declan had not moved an inch. My fingers now dallied with his hair. I had learned a great deal about this camp from simply listening. It was an open camp—obviously, since I had registered— but mostly college students used it to pick up an extra credit if they were in any of the arts programs. They had to write papers and turn them in before the fall semester began. If students from across the country did not fill all the bungalows, then they were offered to authors who couldn’t author anymore.

The troupe of artists, actors, and musicians slowly pushed into their skater shoes and ambled off. I was content to sit here forever, stroking Declan’s hair, but I had a few questions for my obsession.

"Why do you need extra credit?" I asked. A honeybee visited the red flowers in Declan’s clay pot. "Didn’t you graduate? You're twenty-two, that should get you a bachelor's degree in fine arts."

His cheek laid on my bare thigh. I felt his heavy exhalation tickle the yellow hairs on my leg. My fingers continued combing.

"I'm a super senior," he said without lifting his head from my leg.

"Do you get fries with that?"



V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a flock of assorted domestic fowl, and two Jersey steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in hand. She can also be found online on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and GoodReads.

Website: http://vlloceyauthor.com/
Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/pages/VL-Locey/124405447678452
Twitter- https://twitter.com/vllocey
Pinterest-http://www.pinterest.com/vllocey/
Goodreads- http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5807700.V_L_Locey
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Review: A Full Plate by Kim Fielding

Opposites come together for a spicy surprise.

Bradford “Tully” Tolliver has everything—money, a great car, a beautiful condo, and a promising career as one of Portland’s hottest young lawyers. Sure, he puts in long hours and has no social life to speak of, but who needs romance when corporations pay top dollar for his expertise? He hesitates when a colleague asks if her cousin can live with him, but the arrangement will last less than a year, and then the cousin—Sage Filling—will return to his tiny hometown.

But Sage is handsome and intriguing, and his cooking makes Tully swoon. Sage has obligations back home, though, and Tully has offers he might not refuse from a persistent—and very wealthy—ex. Since Tully and Sage each have a full plate, can they make room for a side of love?



This was a lovely and light read.

I am going to muddle this review up so I will try to keep it short.

Told from the POV of Bradford “Tully” Tolliver, we meet he successful lawyer as he is having drinks with his best friend Carrie who needs to ask him for a favor. Tully thinks it’s something more complicated than Carrie needing a place for her cousin Sage to stay since Carrie’s wife Leah and Sage don’t get along. Tully’s life is monetarily rich but it’s also pretty damn lonely so Tully agrees with a bit of liquid courage to offer Sage a place to stay while he’s in town.

I have to say how much I adored these two. I know the blurb reads as “city boy/country boy” and while it does have that element, make no mistake about how smart Sage is. His job may not be as glamorous or financially gainful as Tully’s but in many ways it’s much more rewarding. Sage is a cook, a chef really though not formally trained and I loved the hell out of the man.

You see, Tully and Sage are the same age in this story and while they are different, it’s those difference that pull them together rather them push them apart. I liked watching Tully open up as Sage starts to talk about food and then really open up when Sage starts to cook for him. Sage is able to share his passion of creating with food with Tully and Tully is able to have a selfish passion which he hasn’t before. Tully’s world revolves around his work and making something of himself after being cut off from his family and Sage enters his world showing him what family can be and that it’s not all about money.

The story was a bit slow to start off with but once these two got through the first kiss and finally on to the second, the pace picked up and I couldn’t put it down. I enjoyed watching Tully and Sage become friends while being roommates. Tully never takes advantage of his wealth nor position of being a host to Sage and Sage never takes advantage of Tully’s kindness to let him stay. These two have an open communication between them that becomes a slow burn romance that both men want but are afraid to reach out and grab knowing their time together is limited. I wasn’t expecting Sage to have a secret back in his small hometown of Hair Shaker but it fit into the story and gave Sage more character development outside being an amazing self taught chef.

I was hoping the story would end the way it did and I was happy that these two got a beautiful yet quiet HEA they deserved.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: Fighting for You (Lifesworn #2) by Megan Derr


Fighting for You (Lifesworn #2) is officially out from NineStar Press! Celebrate with author Megan Derr and IndiGo Marketing! Learn more about the menage fantasy today and enter in the giveaway for a chance to win a $10 NineStar Press credit!



Title:  Fighting for You
Series: Lifesworn, Book Two
Author: Megan Derr
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: April 16, 2018
Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male Menage
Length: 35000
Genre: Fantasy, LGBT, fantasy, menage, bisexual, pansexual, royalty

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Synopsis

All Penli wants to be is left alone. After nearly a decade of blood and violence, and a lifetime of enduring his cold, ambitious family, it’s almost a relief to be practically alone in the middle of a desert kingdom with no way to return home because of the warrant out for his arrest.

The very last thing he needs is to be consumed by a fit of honor and nobility—but he would much rather die than ever see the two sweet, intriguing men who cross his path forced apart, one to be thrown to the streets, the other to marry a malicious bully Penli has despised for years.

Though he means only to free them, having no desire to marry after barely escaping one unwanted marriage, with each passing day Penli fears the only thing more difficult than throwing his life away will be resisting the urge to build a new one with two men he barely knows.

Excerpt

Fighting for You
Megan Derr © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
SIXTEEN YEARS AGO

“Enough.”

Penli huffed and fired one more arrow anyway—and yowled when the instructor cuffed him, leaving his ears ringing.

“What did I say?” Kure demanded.

“Enough,” Penli grumbled.

“Unstring your bow and clean up. We’re done for the day.”

Several paces away, Tishasanti the Bastard opened his mouth to argue, but a look from their archery instructor had him snapping it shut.

Penli bit back his own complaints, even though it wasn’t fair that he was making them quit practice before one of them had one. He’d almost had Tishi-Wishi. One more round and he’d have won!

Grumbling to himself, Penli unstrung his longbow and set it aside before he went to retrieve all his arrows, shoving them irritably into the quiver at his hip. When he was done, he retrieved his bow and headed off across campus to the dormitories on the far side. The air was chilly, heralding the coming winter, but not yet so cold that he needed more than the long sleeves and cowl he was wearing. Practice was usually active enough to keep him warm well into winter. Unlike Tishi-Wishi, he could handle cold weather.

Thinking of Tishasanti and cold weather reminded him of the time Tishasanti had lost his footing and slid all the way down a hill and into a cluster of shrubs the previous winter. Penli snickered at the memory.

“What’s so funny, Penlington? Other than your terrible aim.”

Penli stopped and turned and sneered at Tishasanti. From their first day of school, he’d hated Tishasanti. He was loud-mouthed, bossy, and thought himself better than everyone else. He also liked to solve problems with his fists and, when that didn’t work, tattled to his daddy.

After Penli had gotten revenge on him for a sucker punch by breaking Tishasanti’s nose, they’d been mortal enemies. Well, they’d already been well on the way to that, because Tishasanti thought he was the best at everything—including archery, which was Penli’s specialty. No way was Tishi-Wishi better than him. He didn’t care if they did draw even almost every single time. That was dumb luck for Tishasanti.

“Go away, Tishi-Wishi.”

Face going red at the hated nickname, Tishasanti spat, “If that bastard Kure hadn’t stopped us, I would have had you, and we both know it.”

Penli sneered. “Please. You’ll never have me in any manner of speaking. And you only beat me at anything when luck is on your side.”

“Oh, I see. Still mad about the way I trounced you in the ring this morning?”

Curling his hands into his fists at his side, Penli hissed, “You cheated!”

“All’s fair in war, Penlington. If you hadn’t been so busy fretting about your stupid hair, maybe you’d have seen that move coming. Who needs luck to beat you when all they have to do is get mud all over your hair or clothes? You fuss more than a girl on her wedding day.”

“At least whoever I marry won’t want to kill themselves rather than go through with the marriage,” Penli retorted—and didn’t move in time as Tishasanti bellowed and slammed a fist into his jaw.

Penli stumbled back several steps and wiped blood from his mouth. “Were you hoping I’d go down like you, Tishi? Sorry, you’re the only one here with a glass jaw.” That time, he was ready for the swing, and countered with a dodge promptly followed by a foot to Tishasanti’s stomach.

After that, the fighting got ugly, and stopped only when some professors showed up and dragged them apart.

“Sir—”

“Be quiet,” Kure snapped, and Penli withered. Of all the professors on campus, his archery instructor was by far his favorite—even if he could be infuriatingly stubborn and unreasonable about some things. Like putting up with Tishasanti.

He remained quiet as they were dragged into the headmaster’s office. Next to him, Tishasanti was equally silent, which was odd. Usually by now he was screaming about what his father would have to say about this.

“What a surprise to see you two again,” Headmaster Worth replied, leaning back in his seat, making it creak with the weight of muscle and fat wedged into it. In his tournament days, before they’d faded out of popularity, Worth had been called “The Wall” and he hadn’t turned into a ruin with age. “Two violent peas in a pod.”

Penli and Tishasanti bristled. “I am nothing—”

“We have nothing—”

They both cut off as Kure cuffed them.

Worth stared implacably for several long, miserable minutes. “You’re both too intelligent to simply throw you out for the vagaries of youth. However, these violent outbursts cannot continue. You are peers of your respective realms and you must learn to act like it.” When Tishasanti started to speak, Worth cut him off with a sharp gesture. “Spare me mentions of your father; I’ve conversed with him at length and he has left the matter of your discipline wholly in my hands. The question is: what sort of discipline will finally get through those stubborn heads of yours?”

Penli started to reply that removing Tishasanti’s head would fix everything, looked at Worth’s face, and thought better of it. Even if he was right that Tishasanti was the problem. Why did they insist on acting like he was just as responsible? Tishasanti was the one who always started it.

The look on Worth’s face then said he had read every last one of Penli’s thoughts and was vastly disappointed by them. How the bastard did that, Penli didn’t know.

Worth lifted his eyes to exchange some silent conversation with Kure.

“With me,” Kure snapped, and dragged Penli out of the room. The heavy door closed on the sound of Worth giving Tishasanti a dressing down unlike any they’d received before.

Penli snickered.

“And what, you think you’re not in trouble?” Kure demanded, dragging him down the hall and all but throwing him into an empty study room. After slamming the door shut, he folded his arms across his chest.

Penli scowled at the tear in a seam of his shirt—a beautiful, fitted thing meant especially for archery, dark violet lawn and embroidered all over with white and gold flowers. “You didn’t have to ruin my shirt.”

“The blood covering half of it already took care of that,” Kure replied, voice going even colder. “I think you have more important things to worry about than your clothes, Penlington.”

“He started it!” Penli snapped. “I was minding my own business, and he showed up—”

“Just because he taunts you doesn’t mean you have to give in.” Kure held up a hand. “But let’s start with before that. Why do you think I halted practice early?”

Penli shrugged and looked at the floor, fighting an urge to cross his arms. Kure looked intimidating when he did it; Penli would only look weak. “I figured you were annoyed.”

“Yes. About what?”

“I don’t know. I was hitting all the marks. I was one point ahead—”

“That. That right there. The points are not a contest. They aren’t there so you and Tishasanti can feud. Neither are the duels, or the tests, or anything else. Those are meant to test your personal acumen. Do you understand what it is you’re learning to do when you hit those marks?”

Penli looked at him with all the growing irritation overtaking him. “Hitting marks?”

Kure boxed his ears and, ignoring Penli’s yowling, said, “You are learning to kill. Every mark is, if you’re lucky, a dead animal brought down to feed your fellow soldiers. If you’re not lucky, your arrow will land in someone’s eye, or chest, or somewhere that will slow them long enough you can then take a killing shot. And instead of appreciating that, you and Tishasanti are so busy proving who is better that you’re not learning what you should be. What, pray tell, are you trying to be better than him at?”

“Everything.”

“Funny, he’s probably giving that same answer to the headmaster as we speak. Why do you want to be better than him?”

“Because I am! Because he picks on people for no reason, he hurts them and laughs as he walks off like none of them matter. And then he gets away with it because of teachers like you, who don’t care what he does!”

Kure sighed and motioned for him to sit, then took a nearby seat. “Penlington—”

“It’s Penli,” Penli muttered.

“Penli, then,” Kure said. “I know you hate him, and perhaps you have good reason. But you need to get through that stubborn head of yours that the biggest reason the two of you clash is that you’re a lot alike.”

“We are—”

“Be quiet,” Kure cut in calmly. “You don’t talk until I say you may. Now, then. You are both exceptionally smart. You are both highly capable in all manner of martial skills. You both tend to be aggressive when you are riled, which is not something to be proud of. If you had grown up just a little bit different, Penli, you would behave exactly like him. It’s by the grace of the gods and your parents that you don’t. But you do seem to have appointed yourself judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to Tishasanti, and that’s just as bad. You see one small portion of Tishasanti’s life and what goes on it. Perhaps he deserves to be punished, but who are you to decide and act on that? What do you think people think of you, always seeing the two of you fight?”

Penli shook his head, a knot forming in his stomach.

“They think you’re pretty, and nice at times, but mostly scary, because you’re always fighting. Because sometimes from where they’re standing, and the limited knowledge they possess, you look like the one in the wrong. Remember that Penli: you don’t always know the whole story, and who is the hero and who the villain is entirely relative. Leave the judging to those who have seen the whole picture.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli said. Did people really think he was scary?

“Penli,” Kure said more gently, and when he finally looked up continued, “If you really want to be a better person than Tishasanti, then remember that only cowards resort to violence first. Only the cruel-hearted find humor in another’s pain. And the most dangerous person in the room is the one who thinks they know everything. Ignore Tishasanti as best you’re able. Focus on your lessons, and ‘besting’ him fairly. No more fights in the halls, or one day you’ll find that it gets easier and easier to use violence to put people in the place you think they belong. Violence should always be a last resort. Arrogance should never make your decisions.”

“Yes, Professor,” Penli repeated. “I-I’m not really scary, am I? Just because I fight with Tishasanti?”

“You’re intimidating to many because, in addition to fighting with him, you are fiercely competitive, lose your temper quite easily, and there are rumors you’re going to be snatched up by the army because of your archery skills.”

Penli had been preening about that all month: that he was good enough to become a royal archer, go on secret missions to defend the people, and save the kingdom. But with Kure’s words still filling his head, all he felt was sick and scared. He wanted to be a hero, not an evil bastard like Tishasanti. “I-I’m sorry. I really do just hate the way he treats people.”

“I know,” Kure said gruffly. “But trust that people with more experience will deal with him as best we’re able, and there are bits of the story you will likely never learn. I know it’s hard, and often feels unfair, but all you can do is keep moving forward doing your best. Stop giving in to your worst. All right?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Good.” He stood and Penli did the same. “Now let’s get you back to your room so you can dress for dinner, and we’ll discuss your punishment along the way.”

Penli groaned, but fell into step alongside him as they headed across campus.

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Meet the Author

Megan is a long time resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet.

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Tag Team Review: Lost Souls Found (Requiem Inc. #2) by Kris T. Bethke

Dying is all in a day’s work. Love is more dangerous.

Ghostwalker Sam Jones has been half in love with Michael King since he started working at Requiem Inc. But Michael is his boss and a Guardian, to boot. Sam thinks they could make it work anyway, but Michael uses his position and his age to keep Sam at arm’s length.

When Sam continues to volunteer for the most dangerous cases, Michael has to intervene. He tells himself he’s just doing his job, but he’s always seen Sam as more than another operative, and he can’t bear the thought of not taking his chance. The connection between them has been strong from the beginning, and Michael’s telepathy adds unexpected depth and an edge to their new romance, but working together while they try to build their relationship might be the hardest part of their job if they don’t make some sacrifices.

averaged

R *A Reader Obsessed* - 3.5 Hearts

Bethke so far has been a consistent, well rounded, and much appreciated author, and I overall liked this sequel to Ghost of a Chance - just not as much.

I knew going in that though I loved the idea of Sam and King getting their story, the fact that this was 10 years in the making, was not something that would easily sit well with me.

Was King frustrating in his stubborn insistence that he and Sam had no future based on his seemingly one sided insistence that it would never work? Absolutely. Not only did King use their age difference (which is a mere decade), but he also played the card of being Sam’s boss to really hide behind his fears of possibly not being enough for Sam, and thus denied them a chance at happiness for years. Argghhh! However, I will give points to Bethke for making King eat plenty of humble pie, and I was satisfied with how that was handled.

Just so you know, this was more about Sam and King working through several issues, mainly how to mesh their personal and professional lives. King is not only an anchor but a telepathic guardian as well, and this double whammy means King is particularly hardwired to make sure all those who are under his care are happy, content, and safe. When it comes to Sam, that instinct is magnified at least 100 fold and quickly, King’s possessive and protective urges come to the fore causing problems.

So, like the first book this centers on two people who have a deep connection, work through their problems and fears, and come out the other side extremely happy and in love. I’m thankful that Sam and King talk and solve things maturely. Was it all a bit too easy? Yes…. but again, I’m ok with that. Extra bonus points that this was oh-so-smexy just like its predecessor! Avery’s story is next, and I look forward to it come May!


Thanks to the author/publisher for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sara - 5 Hearts

YES! This is exactly what I was hoping for when we first realize in Blake’s book that there is something between Sam and Michael. This is what I needed and boy did it deliver.

When Michael anchored Sam in Ghost of a Chance and they had that moment, I was lost. We know that Sam has feelings for Michael and we know that Michael has feelings for Sam but Michael has a whole book full of reasons why nothing can happen. First it was their age difference of 10 years, and then it’s because Michael is Sam’s boss and the Guardian for the Duncan Moor branch of Requiem Inc. but Sam knows what he wants and that is Michael King.
Sam had been half in love with Michael King pretty much from the moment they met. But he also knew it was a fruitless longing. The ten-year age difference meant nothing to Sam, but Michael held it between them like a shield.
I love how this started with Sam going into the spirit plane to help a reluctant soul cross over and Tom - the reluctant soul - later becomes someone to help Sam along the way with Michael. This whole world of ghostwalkers and their anchors is amazing to me. I love the idea of one person being able to literally be killed to enter a plane to help those who have died cross over into the light and the idea of one person being able to anchor them in this plane so they can come back and then be the one to take care of them when they are alive again is simply stunning. Even though Dom and Sam are nothing more than best friends along with being paired as ghostwalker/anchor for the last 12 years, the way they work together and trust one another is gorgeous.

Thankfully this is told from both Sam and Michael’s POV because this reader had one hell of a need to see where Michael really was with his feelings for Sam and we get that right away. Michael has a lot of responsibility when it comes to his operatives at Requiem Inc and being not only an anchor - with the anchor gene - but a Guardian with his telepathy he has that natural inclination to care and take care of people. To let himself be with Sam could be dangerous because of these things but make no mistake, Michael is into Sam with the same level of feelings that Sam has for Michael, he is just better at controlling his wants.
He considered each of his sixteen operatives family in one way or another. But his affection for Sam wasn’t brotherly or fatherly. It wasn’t even all that friendly. His body and heart wanted more from Sam, though he could never have it.
Goodness this book was so freaking fracking good. Honesty, I opened it just to peek and ended up staying up past my bedtime to devour this in less than 3 hours. I loved the bit of backstory we get with Michael and Sam when they first met and how the attraction was instant. I love that we know how much Michael wants Sam and how he tends to be different with Sam than the other operatives when it comes to taking care of him. We know that Michael would do anything to be able to have Sam and when the time comes for them to finally give in… good lord was it ever worth it.

I love first kisses, whether they be the timid light brush of lips on lips or the first kisses that are so filled with every emotion the only thing that can happen is a clash of mouth on mouth and passion so hot I had to stick my foot out of the blankets to get cooled off. These two have the passion in spades and that one kiss wasn’t enough for me and thankfully it wasn’t enough for Sam and Michael either.

Michael and Sam have been dancing around their attraction to one another for 10 long angst and UST filled years so I have absolutely no problem with Michael’s final acceptance and surrender to Sam. We know what he wants and how hard it is for him to keep his feelings in check so I was head over feet in love with Michael when he listens to what Sam says about dating a ghostwalker and finally takes a chance on love.

It was stunning to see how these two worked together and how miserable it made Michael. Yup, I loved seeing him fight his natural urge to take care of Sam even as his anchor when it wasn’t his place. This book really isn’t about finding love, these two have been in that zone for years but this was about finding the balance between their love and what they do within Requiem Inc.

Gah! Michael, he just killed me in this. He was so raw and troubled with having to kill his boyfriend over and over again even though it’s his job, it hurts him to do it. Michael fought so hard to not love Sam but thankfully when faced with losing what he won’t let himself have, he gives in.
He’d thought he could handle it. If he’d realized just how hard it would be, he might not have gotten involved with Sam. He might have let Sam leave and move on with his life. Michael’s heart gave a painful thump at the thought. There was no going back, and he didn’t even want to. But that didn’t make any of it easy.
I have so many moments highlighted and I hugged my Nook at least a dozen times while reading this. I tried to put it down last night and go to bed but I had about 50 pages left and I had to pick my Nook back up and decided to finish. It was the best decision I could have made.

So, the end of this comes up with a great solution for Michael and Sam and I loved that Dom was going to suggest it before Sam brings it to the table. I adore Dom and his partner Levi and am so happy everyone has a chance to actually be settled and happy in this book. It was great to get glimpses of Blake and Derek and their bond is still strong.

I was hoping hard that we would get a story for Avery since we met him in book one. We know about losing his partner who he was bonded to and I can’t wait to get an entire story of just him.



Release Blitz + Giveaway: Come to the Rocks by Christin Haws


Celebrate the release of paranormal thriller, Come to the Rocks with author Christin Haws and IndiGo Marketing! Learn more today about the bisexual romance and enter in the giveaway to win a $10 NineStar Press giveaway!


Title:  Come to the Rocks
Author: Christin Haws
Publisher:  NineStar Press
Release Date: April 16, 2018
Heat Level: 1 - No Sex
Pairing: No Romance
Length: 20800
Genre: Paranormal Romance, NineStar Press, LGBT, paranormal, mermaids, thriller, bisexual

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Synopsis

Linnea’s only safe place is a spot on the rocky shoreline where the water can be rather vicious. It’s here where she meets, and falls in love with, a mermaid named Mren. As their romance blossoms, the escalating harassment from Linnea’s ex-boyfriend Mikey threatens the secret relationship. Mren has vowed to protect Linnea, but she’s confined to the water and Mikey is a land monster. Meanwhile, Linnea will do anything to keep Mren safe from him.

Anything.

Excerpt

Come to the Rocks
Christin Haws © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The rocks were cold and wet from the sea spray, slippery and dangerous to trek across, decidedly lethal to stand on at the water’s edge if the ocean was in a bad mood, which it often was.

Linnea did it anyway.

It was her place, the one place she could go where no one else dared. Often, her car was the only one parked on the sandy shoulder between the road and the rocks. Rarely did anyone drive by. Even on the nicest days, when the sun was bright and the water was happy, Linnea was often alone out on the rocks. There were much nicer stretches of shoreline, much safer spots that most people preferred to visit. To Linnea, the scramble across the rocks wasn’t treacherous; it was a brief adventure. Sitting on the edge with her feet dangling just inches above the constantly churning water, the mist of it coating her jean-clad legs until she could barely feel them from the cold, wasn’t reckless; it was a necessary meditation. In the most dangerous area of the cove, Linnea felt safe.

She would sit there most afternoons if she could as the sun sank toward the ocean, but always left before it touched the water. Most days, the overcast sky darkened and changed color with the impending sunset. The ocean was always gray, though, various shades of it that reflected the water’s mood. Lighter, almost silvery, when the water was happy and calm, which was almost never. Darker and angry, when the water was feeling vicious and would slap the rocks as hard as it could, hard enough to knock a grown man standing several feet from the edge right off his feet and into the sea where he’d be battered against the rocks by its rage. Most of the time, the water was a medium shade, an irritated, mood-swinging gray, and the waves would more lap than slap at the rocks, but on occasion, the water would lash out.

Linnea was never afraid of this.

Oh, she was never stupid enough to sit on the rocks when the ocean was angry, although she would either sit or stand at the edge of them and watch the water from a distance. It wasn’t very fulfilling for her to come to the rocks on those days. It was as though the water’s anger denied her peace and she’d spend her time there apologizing to the ocean and attempting to soothe the beast so she could move closer to it.

On an unremarkable Wednesday, Linnea sat cross-legged on the rocks, the darker-than-medium-gray water a little angrier than irritated, smacking the rocks soundly and frequently, but not too aggressively. Yet. The chilly spray settled over Linnea in a fine mist that froze her exposed skin and dampened the jeans and the flannel overcoat she wore in such a way that she didn’t really notice that her clothes were damp until she touched them. The gray sky met the gray water at the horizon in something of a hue change more than a definite line, and Linnea gazed across the water, thinking of nothing in particular.

And then something caught her eye.

A decidedly not-gray sheen appeared on the surface of the water for only a second or two, disappearing before Linnea could truly focus on it. Linnea stared at the spot, waiting to see if it would reappear.

It did, but not in the same spot.

The little glimmer of green and purple and teal lingered long enough for Linnea to know she was actually seeing something, that it wasn’t just a trick of the overcast light on the gray water, and only then did she realize that this little shimmer was closer to her than before.

Curious, Linnea dared to get up on her hands and knees so she could better see over the edge of the rocks at the water, squinting as the icy sea spray misted her face. Leaning as far over the edge, as close to the water as she dared, Linnea searched for the little glimmer again.

The gray water hid its depths and everything contained in it unless it was close to the surface. Linnea didn’t even know how deep the water was there. The face materialized in the water like an evening star gradually coming into its own brightness as the sky darkened into night.

Linnea found herself transfixed by the face as it hovered just under the surface, the waves rolling into the rocks sometimes obscuring it, but never really distorting it as it floated, perfectly still and undisturbed by the movement.

The face was beautiful in its otherness. Linnea had never seen one like it on land, that was for sure. Eyes, as silver-gray as the water when it was happy, stared back at her, blinking leisurely. Hair the same color fanned out and floated around the beautiful face, as though it radiated from it. The skin was pale and pristine, broken only by the slightly pink lips.

Linnea stared, and the eyes stared back.

In an instant, the water turned angry. Waves slammed into the rocks, obscuring the vision, driving Linnea backward to avoid a face full of water. She fell on her butt and rolled, painfully bouncing her elbows and spine and the back of her head on the unforgiving, wet rocks. Water rushed along the uneven, polished surface, seeping into her jeans and between her flannel overcoat and her shirt.

The shock of the sudden turn of the sea, the stinging cold of it, the pain from the fall only froze Linnea for a second. She scrambled back to her hands and knees and crawled to the edge of the rocks, daring the water to slap at her again as she searched for the beautiful image she had seen.

It was gone.

Purchase

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


Meet the Author

Christin Haws is a tragically unhip writer, rerun junkie, baseball floozy, and fat girl belly dancing. Though she mostly writes horror, she’s known to wander into other genres and combine genres because she’s never been very good at genre rules. She currently crafts her stories while located in a small town in the middle of a cornfield. Her obsessions with sunglasses, notebooks, and pens will surely be her undoing.

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