Tag Archives: assassin

Book Blast: Magic & Mirrors by L.M. Brown

Magic & Mirrors | L.M. Brown

Cover Artist: Studioenp

Release Date: November 2, 2019

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 22,461 words/67 pages

Buy Links:

Available in Kindle Unlimited

Universal Link

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Add on Goodreads

Blurb

Only the assassin sent to kill him can free him from the mirror.

When King Lucius is imprisoned in a magic mirror by an evil wizard, he is forced to watch as his life is destroyed and his kingdom brought to the brink of ruin. Trapped in his own reflection, he only has the freedom to move and talk when the wizard sleeps.

With his subjects under the dark spell of the wizard, Lucius is forced to rely on the most unlikely of heroes if he hopes to get his life back.

Harry comes from a long line of assassins and prides himself on being one of the best in the kingdom, but when he is hired to kill King Lucius he discovers that all is not as it seems in the Kingdom of Cinders.

Harry agrees to help Lucius in return for a full pardon for his crimes, but to complete his quest he may have to give up everything, including his freedom and the king he has come to love.

Excerpt

King Lucius sat in the chair in his bedchamber, reading the book he’d started the previous year. He was making slow progress since all the text was a mirror image of the writing he had grown up with.

On the other side of the barrier, his body slept. The evil wizard who had taken over his life four years ago had finished his dastardly deeds for the day, freeing Lucius to wander through the world of mirrors, instead of being stuck reflecting the actions of the wizard.

It was a frustrating existence and one he was eager to escape from.

Unfortunately, he could see no way out of his miserable prison.

A noise from the bedchamber in the real world tore his attention away from his book, and he set it aside. It wasn’t the wizard who had stirred. That was the one thing he knew for sure. He was always the first to know when the wizard woke to start the day.

Creeping towards the barrier, Lucius peered out into the darkened room. The only light came from the candle on the bedside table, the counterpart of which Lucius had been using to read by.

A movement near the balcony caught his eye. Someone was stealing into his chambers, and considering they had decided not to enter by the door, he had to assume they had mischief on their agenda.

Lucius waited in silence, observing the intruder as he stumbled about in the dark. He was lucky the wizard was such a heavy sleeper. Had Lucius been in his own body, the uninvited guest’s bumbling around the bedchamber would have woken him for sure.

Stifling his amusement and keeping as still as possible, Lucius watched as the intruder tiptoed closer to the bed. He clearly hadn’t spotted the living reflection in the dressing table mirror, but few people did. In the dark hours of the night most people chalked it up to imagination, or having mixed up the portraits and mirrors adorning the walls.

The flash of metal in the candlelight doused his amusement in an instant. This was no thief. This was an assassin.

“Stop!” Lucius ordered. He tried not to raise his voice too loud, lest the wizard woke.

The assassin ducked and rolled under the bed in a move that Lucius couldn’t help admiring.

“You can’t stay there all night,” Lucius said. “You might as well come out before he wakes up.”

“Who said that?” the intruder whispered from under the bed.

“I did,” Lucius replied. “Are you going to come out from under there, or are the contents of the chamber pot that interesting?”

“Who are you?”

Lucius sighed heavily. “I’m King Lucius the fourth, and you won’t be delivering the killing blow to me this night.”

The assassin crawled out from under the bed. He stood up and looked at the sleeping figure. “Are you awake?” he asked.

Lucius rolled his eyes. “Behind you.”

Finally the dagger-wielding idiot turned and saw who had spoken. “What magic is this?” he whispered.

“The blackest kind,” Lucius replied. “Would you mind going through the door behind you and following the corridor to the left?”

“Why?”

“So we can talk properly without him waking up,” Lucius explained. “You seem to be quite a resourceful chap, and I think maybe you can help me with a little problem I have.”

“What sort of problem?”

Suddenly, voices shouted from outside in the castle grounds. “Intruder! Call out the guards!”

“Dammit,” Lucius swore.

A grunt and snort from the bed caused the assassin to startle and Lucius sensed the king was about to wake. “Hide in the closet,” he said, pointing to another door.

The assassin didn’t argue with him this time. He ran for cover, only just sliding the door closed when the wizard sat up, awake.

Lucius, trapped in the mirror, lost control of his body the moment the wizard rose. He was a reflection once more, albeit a conscious one.

About the Author

L.M. Brown is an English writer of gay romances. She believes mermen live in the undiscovered areas of the ocean. She believes life exists on other planets. She believes in fairy tales, magic, and dreams. Most of all, she believes in love.

When L.M. Brown isn’t bribing her fur babies for control of the laptop, she can usually be found with her nose in a book.

Social Media

Blog/Website | Facebook Page | Facebook Group

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

 

Release Blitz: A New Empire by Layla Reyne

A New Empire | Layla Reyne

Fog City #3

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Release Date (Print & Ebook/Audio): November 11 (Ebook & Print); Audio TBD

Length (Print & Ebook/Audio): Approx. 52,000 words

Subgenre: MM, Romantic Suspense

Warnings: Explicit sex; explicit language; violence.

Buy Links:

http://getbook.at/ANewEmpire

https://www.amazon.com/New-Empire-Fog-City-Novel-ebook/dp/B07Z6P2944/

ANE

Blurb

Legacies were made to be rewritten

Assassin Hawes Madigan wants to do right–by his family, his organization, his city, and the man he’s falling for, ATF agent Christopher Perri. But Hawes’s rules are being challenged by someone willing to kill for the old ways. To save his soul and his empire, Hawes must make an impossible decision: fight from the outside or bend the knee to win back his throne from within.

Chris is used to being the inside man, the one undercover. Now, he’s on the outside marshaling forces in support of the man and the ring of assassins he was supposed to take down. His mission shifted when he found something that’s been missing for ten long years–a home, with Hawes.

As Hawes and Chris make a dangerous play for control, the lines between allies and traitors blur. Trusting the wrong person could destroy the legacy Hawes envisions for the Madigans. But not trusting anyone, or each other, could mean lights out on their love and lives forever.

The King and King Slayer fight together in this thrilling conclusion to the Fog City Trilogy!

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Teaser

“Listen to me, Madigan.” He gritted through the pain of pulling his arm out of the towel sling, because dammit, he needed two hands for this. He framed Hawes’s face, holding his gaze, his attention, their world, steady. “The organization needs you. Your family needs you. I fucking need you.”

“Why?” Hawes choked out.

“Because I don’t just think I’m falling for you. I fell, baby, the minute I walked into Danko and saw you across the room. Your head held high, like you fucking owned the place. The second you called me Mr. Perry.” He gave him a little shake for emphasis. “I know.

Hawes closed his eyes, and Chris’s heart skipped a beat, until they opened again, full of resolve. Of that same confidence he’d fallen for. “I fell for you that night I walked into my condo and saw the box of mooncakes. You got it; you got me. I know too.

“Then we’ll get her,” Chris said, heart racing now. With love, and hope for the future. “And we’ll get justice for Isabella, for our families, and for us.”

“And then?”

“And then we’ll rebuild the empire, by your rules, better and stronger than ever before. Together.”

The king smiled, wicked, deadly, and fucking glorious.

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Release Blitz Q&A with Layla Reyne

Q: Secondary Characters: Why they are important to the story?

LR: For Hawes in Fog City, his siblings, Holt and Helena, are the bricks of his foundation, along with love interest, Chris, and friend and ally, Braxton Kane. Hawes, Holt, and Helena run both family businesses with him, he trusts them implicitly, he looks to them for input, and they each contribute differently to the family unit. He wouldn’t want to do this without them.

Q: If you listen to music while writing, share your playlist.

LR: Here’s my Fog City playlist, which alternated frequently with The Revivalists albums. I swear, every one of their songs seems to fit this series!

playlist

Q: What would a love letter between the characters look like?

LR: From Hawes to Chris:

Dante, I know. –H

From Chris to Hawes.

Madigan, I know. –Mr. Perry

Layla Reyne

About The Author

RITA Finalist Layla Reyne is the author of Dine With Me and the Fog City, Whiskey Verse, and Changing Lanes series. A Carolina Tar Heel who now calls the San Francisco Bay Area home, Layla enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart-pounding romance. She is a RWA® RITA® Finalist in Contemporary Romance (Mid-Length) and Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Social Media

FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/laylaslushes/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/laylareyne

IG: https://www.instagram.com/laylareyne/

Newsletter: https://www.laylareyne.com/signup

AMZ: https://www.amazon.com/author/LaylaReyne

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/layla-reyne

 Giveaway

JLayla Reyne is giving away one Grand Prize of a Set of signed Fog City paperbacks (within the contiguous USA) or a set of Bookplates (international). Enter now!

a Raffle copter giveaway

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A stunning conclusion to the Fog City series from Layla

ANEA New Empire by Layla Reyne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly didn’t think Layla would go there but she did and while this will be a no spoilers review, let’s just say hold onto your hats because the action is all-encompassing.

I was sold by two minutes into reading this book when a certain kick-ass take no prisoners person arrived on page, followed shortly by another quick guest appearance from another of my fave Layla characters.

This book was going to be all ends up awesome and it delivered in spades. From the first moments when Hawes is dealing with what went down at the end of book two, through to the four months later epilogue at the end, this is all I wanted it to be.

Hawes and Chris are better than ever, finally realising they’ve met the one other person they can truly rely on. There’s schemings, a jailbreak that wouldn’t be out of place on screen in a big Ocean’s Eleven style heist movie, there’s all the usual suspects turning up with one bringing a secret I would never have guessed in a million years.

And, at the heart of it, are the three Madigans. Hawes, Holt and Helena, proving that family comes first in everything.

I absolutely LOVED this book and I love how it really felt like three episodes in a long-running action-adventure with cliffhangers and to be continued plot lines dropping all over.

Now bring on the spin-offs and let’s get Holt and Kane sorted out please Layla (and I’d love to see Helena and Celia explore that interesting family dynamic too!)

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review

(The over-excited gushing and total fangirling over a certain kick-ass character is all my own work.)

View all my reviews

Release Blitz: The King’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

The King’s Dragon | W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

Fire and Valor #1

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Release Date: September 26, 2019

Buy Links:

Universal: http://mybook.to/thekingsdragon

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XC67S95 

Add To Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47945724-the-king-s-dragon

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

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Blurb

Lord Tristram Radcliffe has a secret—he is the only dragon at the king’s court in Llangard. It’s a secret he’s kept from the knights he’s fought beside, from the ladies who bat their lashes at him, and from his closest companion, Prince Reynold. If it were to get out, he’d be banished to the Mawrcraig Mountains along with the rest of his kind, but the kingdom of men is the only one he’s ever known, and his heart lives in the stone halls of those who’d count him an enemy.

When the old king dies and Prince Reynold takes the throne, two visitors from the north throw Tristram into the middle of the ancient conflict between dragons and men. They put him on a collision course with the king’s shadow, Bet Kyston, a dangerous assassin who may want him dead or may want more of Tristram that he’d ever thought to give.

With the eyes of dragons upon him and a threat from the north creeping toward the home he loves, Tristram must weigh his allegiances before his dual legacies tear him apart.

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Excerpt

“Could you get me some wine, Alf?” His squire’s eyes went wide, and with good reason. Tris never drank wine before or during tourneys. He stuck to watered ale that didn’t dull his senses. At the moment, though, the important thing was calming his nerves.

The best of squires, Alf nodded and ran off instead of asking questions. It was obvious enough why Tris was asking for the stuff. He just had to toe the line of calming himself without getting intoxicated.

He caught motion from the corner of his eye, and his head snapped up to make sure he wasn’t in danger. When he took in the motion’s source, danger remained to be seen. His Majesty’s shadow, Bennet Kyston—known to everyone as simply Bet.

There wasn’t a person alive who invoked more turbulence in Tris. He was dangerous, obviously. Tris didn’t know what he did for Rey—for the king—but no one spoke of it in polite company, which included himself. He seemed perpetually angry, and seemed to particularly dislike Tris.

On the other side, the man was beautiful beyond all, and no one seemed to notice it. Those shining dark curls and intense black eyes, the way his lips curled up in a combination of smile and sneer when he felt . . . emotions of whatever kind it was he felt.

But not right then. Bet’s expression was blank as he marched right up to Tris, grabbed his chin and tipped it to the side so that he could inspect his face, specifically the side that Jorun had nearly removed. “The eye?” he asked tersely.

Tris blinked for a moment before he realized he was supposed to answer. “Fine. It’s fine. Are you—” How could he ask if the man was concerned about him without seeming ridiculous? “Is something wrong?”

Bet wore an unfamiliar scowl, with no hint of that smile to tame the curl of his upper lip. Tris didn’t think he’d been at fault, but Bet’s sneer could make a man apologize for being born. It was all he could do to keep his mouth shut.

After a long, silent moment, Bet nodded sharply and turned to march off.

When Alf came back with the wine, Tris downed the goblet, sobriety be damned.

About The Authors

WM Fawkes logo

W.M. Fawkes is an author of LGBTQ+ urban fantasy and paranormal romance. She lives with her partner in a house owned by three Halloween-hued felines that dabble regularly in shadow walking.

Social Media

http://fawkeswrites.com

https://facebook.com/w.m.fawkes

https://twitter.com/fawkeswrites

https://www.instagram.com/w.m.fawkes/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18156587.W_M_Fawkes

https://www.pinterest.com/fawkeswrites/

Copy of Copy of Logo

Sam Burns lives in the Midwest with husband and cat, which is even less exciting than it sounds, so she’s not sure why you’re still reading this.

She specializes in LGBTQIA+ fiction, usually with a romantic element. There’s sometimes intrigue and violence, usually a little sex, and almost always some swearing in her work. Her writing is light and happy, though, so if you’re looking for a dark gritty reality, you’ve come to the wrong author.

Social Media

http://burnswrites.com

https://www.facebook.com/sam.burns.52459

https://www.instagram.com/samburnswrites/?hl=en

https://us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ef13dc96493795a8fdb75611c&id=e0fb058bf2

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16897949.Sam_Burns

https://twitter.com/SamBurnsWrites

https://www.pinterest.com/samburnswrites/

Joint Facebook Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FlickerFoxBooks/

Giveaway

Win one of two e-copies of any book from the Lords of the Underworld series by Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

a Rafflecopter giveaway

king's dragon promo 1

Blog Tour: The King’s Dragon by W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

The King’s Dragon | W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns

Fire and Valor #1

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Release Date: September 26, 2019

Buy Links:

Universal: http://mybook.to/thekingsdragon

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07XC67S95 

Add To Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/47945724-the-king-s-dragon

Cover Artist: Natasha Snow

W.M. Fawkes & Sam Burns are doing a takeover in Hailey Turner’s Facebook Group on September 25!

Link: Hailey’s Hellions

READ MY REVIEW

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Blurb

Lord Tristram Radcliffe has a secret—he is the only dragon at the king’s court in Llangard. It’s a secret he’s kept from the knights he’s fought beside, from the ladies who bat their lashes at him, and from his closest companion, Prince Reynold. If it were to get out, he’d be banished to the Mawrcraig Mountains along with the rest of his kind, but the kingdom of men is the only one he’s ever known, and his heart lives in the stone halls of those who’d count him an enemy.

When the old king dies and Prince Reynold takes the throne, two visitors from the north throw Tristram into the middle of the ancient conflict between dragons and men. They put him on a collision course with the king’s shadow, Bet Kyston, a dangerous assassin who may want him dead or may want more of Tristram that he’d ever thought to give.

With the eyes of dragons upon him and a threat from the north creeping toward the home he loves, Tristram must weigh his allegiances before his dual legacies tear him apart.

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Excerpt

When he glanced up to meet Bet’s eyes, they were wide, the whites showing all around them. He wondered, for a moment, if he’d earned a stabbing, but then those eyes dropped to his lips, and Bet’s own parted a fraction.

As was his most unfortunate habit, Tris dove in head first.

Their mouths crashed together, a clash of tongues and teeth that started out anything but good. Tris tasted blood in his mouth, and he wasn’t sure whose it was.

In a flash, Bet turned them so that Tristram was the one with his back to the wall. He wrapped a hand around the side of Tristram’s neck, thumb coming up to hold his jaw in place in a grip that felt downright dangerous. Then he turned his head a fraction, opening up a little space between their noses and allowing himself full access.

Not to stab anyone, thankfully, though he pushed his way into Tris’s mouth as though convinced he’d be rebuffed and wanted to taste his fill before that. Tris just tilted his head up to meet the onslaught, eyes sliding shut and fingers scrabbling against the tapestry on the wall.

Bet kissed like he fought: hard, fast, and with no intention of taking prisoners. His free hand fell to Tristram’s trousers, as though he would strip them off right there in the hall, and slowed to press against his growing arousal. It seemed he appreciated what he found there, because he let out a growl that reminded Tristram of his own nearly inhuman one.

What he’d have done, Tris would never know, because a giggle echoed down the hallway, and Bet pulled back as though he’d been slapped. He turned to see a couple of ladies’ maids enter the hall, and before Tristram could so much as say his name, Bet turned and melted into the shadows.

What The Authors Say

Simmering with sexual and political tension, The Kings Dragon will pull you close, and wont let go until its final pages. A wonderfully rich and compelling world.

~ Ariana Nash, author of Silk & Steel

Intricate plot threads intertwined with gripping tension, chemistry, and built on a fantasy world that rivals any peer in the genre. Vivid characters that aren’t cutouts of fantasy tropes, but real people with faults and virtues that will engage the reader. 

This book showcases the best of Fawkes and Burns’ writing and styleperfectly meshed storytelling rich in complicated and complex characters, with a plot that kept me afraid, engrossed, and my heart in my throat. An added dash of upended gender stereotypes and a refreshing addition of varied LGBTQ+ romances made this a standout in the genre. A fantastic start to a series and I cannot wait for the rest!

~SJ Himes, author of Knight’s Fire

“Incredibly detailed world-building, and a raft of characters who keep me guessing and turning pages!

~ Allison Temple, author of Cold Pressed

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About The Authors

WM Fawkes logo

W.M. Fawkes is an author of LGBTQ+ urban fantasy and paranormal romance. She lives with her partner in a house owned by three Halloween-hued felines that dabble regularly in shadow walking.

Social Media

http://fawkeswrites.com

https://facebook.com/w.m.fawkes

https://twitter.com/fawkeswrites

https://www.instagram.com/w.m.fawkes/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/18156587.W_M_Fawkes

https://www.pinterest.com/fawkeswrites/

Copy of Copy of Logo

Sam Burns lives in the Midwest with husband and cat, which is even less exciting than it sounds, so she’s not sure why you’re still reading this.

She specializes in LGBTQIA+ fiction, usually with a romantic element. There’s sometimes intrigue and violence, usually a little sex, and almost always some swearing in her work. Her writing is light and happy, though, so if you’re looking for a dark gritty reality, you’ve come to the wrong author.

Social Media

http://burnswrites.com

https://www.facebook.com/sam.burns.52459

https://www.instagram.com/samburnswrites/?hl=en

https://us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=ef13dc96493795a8fdb75611c&id=e0fb058bf2

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16897949.Sam_Burns

https://twitter.com/SamBurnsWrites

https://www.pinterest.com/samburnswrites/

Joint Facebook Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FlickerFoxBooks/

Giveaway

Win one of two e-copies of any book from the Lords of the Underworld series by Sam Burns & W.M. Fawkes

a Rafflecopter giveaway

king's dragon promo 1

 

 

Teaser: Prince of Killers by Layla Reyne

Prince of Killers | Layla Reyne

Fog City #1

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Cover Design: Cate Ashwood Designs

Cover Photography: Wander Aguiar Photography

Publisher: Self-Published

Release Date (Ebook & Print): June 10, 2019

Subgenre: M/M Romantic Suspense

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/45178448-prince-of-killers

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Blurb

No indiscriminate killing. No collateral damage. No unvetted targets.

These are the rules Hawes Madigan lives by. Rules that make being Fog City’s Prince of Killers bearable. Soon, he’ll be king—of an organization of assassins—and the crown has never felt heavier. Until the mysterious Dante Perry swaggers into his life.

Dante looks like a rock god and carries himself like one too, all loose-limbed and casually confident. He also carries a concealed weapon, a private investigator’s license, and a message for the prince. Someone inside Hawes’s organization is out to kill the future king.

In the chaos that follows the timely warning, Hawes comes to depend on Dante. On his skills as an investigator, on the steadiness he offers, and on their moments alone when Hawes lets Dante take control. As alliances are tested and traitors exposed, Hawes needs Dante at his back and in his bed. But if the PI ever learns Hawes’s darkest secret, Hawes is sure to get a knife to the heart—and a bullet to the brain—instead.

There’s no shortage of twists and turns in this new romantic suspense trilogy from Layla Reyne. Prince of Killers is book one of three. Fair warning: buckle up, cliffhangers ahead!

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Excerpt

“How do I trust you won’t kill me in my sleep?” Hawes sniped, more out of sexual frustration than any real fear. He felt more like himself than he had all night. Steady again.

“Same way I’m going to have to trust you not to kill me. You are the Prince of Killers, aren’t you?”

Hawes bit his tongue, fighting the words that wanted to form. Twice in one night. Hawes’s hate for the title crested once more. Hate that he was the prince when it was actually the three of them—him, Holt, and Helena—running the organization. Hate that he’d been forced into the role because he was the oldest, technically, and hate that when someone had to make the tough decisions, it was always him. He’d been the prince since he was sixteen and had given the doctors permission to turn off his parents’ ventilators when neither his grandparents, who were absent at the time, nor his siblings could make the call.

Cold as ice, the stories went.

He hated the killer part just as much. It implied malice, evilness, and cruelty when Hawes had strived to take those variables out of the equation. He knew what he was, what his family did, but there was a place for them, a need for assassins in a world where people didn’t play by the rules and legal justice missed its mark. He’d felt like a killer only twice in his life—that morning in the hospital when he’d become the prince, and that night three years ago when he’d spilled an innocent woman’s blood. A day that had somehow brought into his life the man now stretched out on his couch. And Hawes needed him to think he was the Prince of Killers, for both their sakes.

For now.

Layla Reyne - Author Photo

About the Author

Author Layla Reyne was raised in North Carolina and now calls San Francisco home. She enjoys weaving her bi-coastal experiences into her stories, along with adrenaline-fueled suspense and heart-pounding romance.

When she’s not writing stories to excite her readers, she downloads too many books, watches too much television, and cooks too much food with her scientist husband, much to the delight of their smushed-face, leftover-loving dogs. She is a 2019 RWA® RITA® Finalist in Contemporary Romance (Mid-Length) and was a 2016 RWA® Golden Heart® Finalist in Romantic Suspense.

Social Media

FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/laylaslushes/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/laylareyne

IG: https://www.instagram.com/laylareyne/

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AMZ: https://www.amazon.com/author/LaylaReyne

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/layla-reyne

 

 

Release Blitz: Match Grade by G. B. Gordon

 

Match Grade | G. B. Gordon

Criminal Delights: Assassins

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Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Universal Link

Length: 156 pages

Cover Design: Natasha Snow

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Blurb

SOME MATCHES SPARK AN INFERNO

Eirik Haldurson is a hitman. Kidnapped at age five and cruelly trained by his captor, he is today one of the most sought-after contract killers alive.

Emotional distance from his targets, brutally beaten into him until it became second nature, is now the only way he can function. Lately though, that distance has started to elude him.

And when a Colombian drug cartel contracts Eirik to take out ex-soldier-turned-vigilante, Matt Moreno, distance is suddenly as close as heat to fire. And all hell breaks loose.

This book is part of CRIMINAL DELIGHTS. Each novel can be read as a standalone and contains a dark MM romance.

Warning: These books are for adult readers who enjoy stories where lines between right and wrong get blurry. High heat, twisted and tantalizing, these are not for the fainthearted.

Excerpt

Match Grade — high precision firearms, ammunition, or other devices suitable for a competitive match

CHAPTER ONE

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

-Sun Tzu

Eirik had been ready to close the contract yesterday, but no one should have to die in the rain. Today the sky was a bright blue, so the last thing the target would feel would be the sun on her face. Irrelevant.

He quickly checked his wardrobe in the mirror to make sure nothing was out of place. He’d picked the navy blue suit and coat. They were perfect to blend in with the hundreds of business people attending the conference. Or the thousands milling about on the plaza of the office building across the road. Ants. Point was, he would be neither well-dressed, nor shabby enough to be remembered by any one of them. Not to be remembered was the goal.

He pulled his shirt cuffs out below the hem of his jacket sleeves, then slipped his coat on and pocketed the microsyringe he’d filled earlier. The target would be walking across the plaza at 12:15. She was always on time. He liked that about her. There wasn’t much else he’d learned to like in the week he’d been studying her movements. She was pissy with baristas and servers, and never had the time of day for the porter in her building.

Focus. This wasn’t about likes; it was a contract, nothing personal.

Not liking her made it easier, though. Don’t think about targets as people. Gunnar’s cardinal rule. How was his brain always forgetting that?

He went over the plan in the elevator. Not because it was complicated or involved in any way, but simply because that was what he did. Good planning made for a smooth contract solution, and he liked smooth. Smooth kept him alive and out of prison.

As the doors opened, he assumed the slightly hunched posture that made his height less conspicuous, then melted into the crowd.

The lobby was packed with a busload of tourists hovering on small islands of luggage he maneuvered around, giving everyone as wide a berth as possible.

“Mr. Kennedy! Good morning! Mr. Kennedy?”

He was almost at the door before a tiny alarm went off in his brain and he remembered that he was Paul Kennedy this weekend, a trader from Butt-fuck, Indiana. Get with the program already, brain.

He turned back toward the reception desk with an apologetic smile and a tap against his temple. “Sorry, my mind was elsewhere.”

“No worries.” The receptionist handed him a note. “Your office called, Sir. They’re asking for a callback.”

“Thank you.” The office meant the client. And the client was not supposed to call the hotel unless it was an emergency. Eirik crumpled up the note and dropped it in his pocket as he got his phone out. There was a corner behind a planter, away from the tourists, that promised a little more quiet, and he made his way over as he dialled the number he’d memorized.

“Where the fuck are you?” the voice with the heavy Spanish accent said without greeting. “Is it done? What’s keeping you?”

“Having to call you back is keeping me,” he said quietly. “What’s the emergency?”

“Mierda. Call me immediately when you’re done.” The line went dead.

He inhaled a long breath, counted to ten, then slowly let it out. People who couldn’t stick to the plan were top of his shit-list. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change anything. Don’t get riled up. You have a job to do.

He checked his watch. 12:07. Eight minutes to rendezvous. He needed to get a move on. He wanted to be in place and have ample time to identify the target. There was a sweet spot just to the left of the plaza’s center where the stream of people was thickest between the planted area on the edge and the fountain in the middle. That was where he needed to be.

#

The sunshine was a welcome change from the raw, grey week that had led into October. And for once the Windy City was pleasantly calm. It meant he could choose his position without having to stay out of water spray. People would notice a man oblivious of getting soaked by a fountain. To be noticed meant to be remembered. You’re walking too tall, boy. An assassin has to be like a ghost–unseen and unheard.

Well, Gunnar was a ghost now. Eirik just wished his voice had died with the man. But it was always there, still as commanding now as it had been in life. Eirik was used to it reminding him of the technicalities of his job: trajectories, method, weather… Though lately it was displaying a disturbing fixation with Eirik’s frame of mind.

He kept his eyes on the entrance of the building over the rim of his phone. Standing with nothing to do would attract attention.

12:14–if she didn’t show today, he would try again tomorrow. Nope, there she was, hurrying across the plaza to the little cafe where she ate her lunch. Eirik kept the phone up and started walking.

Gunnar clutching at his throat with both hands as the blood spurted through his fingers.

The memory shockingly unexpected, and vivid enough to blind him. He shook his head like a man emerging from water to get rid of it.

Five steps to target. His free hand dove into his pocket and closed around the syringe, thumb on the shortened plunger. The microneedle barely registered with most people. She wouldn’t know anything was wrong until she was already sitting at her table, eating her lunch. And then it would be too late.

He walked straight into her. “Oh Jesus, I’m so sorry.” Both arms out to catch her, needle into the meaty part of the arm.

The boy losing his grip on the grocery bag when the shot rang out, oranges rolling everywhere. The father dropping to his knees, a red mark like a third eye between his brows, the back of the head disintegrating in a spray of debris.

“…you’re going, you dumb ox!” Her shrill insult brought him back. Shit, he couldn’t deal with memory flashes now. He needed his eyes and ears in the present, not the past.

“Sorry again. That was entirely my fault.”

You have to pay more attention, Rikki. Don’t read and walk at the same time.

Eirik barely stopped himself from clapping his hands over his ears to keep his mother’s voice out. More ghosts. But this one was more recent. And much more distracting. He didn’t have to fake his confusion, or how shaken he was.

“You’re darn right it was.” She shrugged his hands off and took a step away. “One of these days those stupid phones are going to kill someone.”

One of these days? He didn’t say that, though. Stood there, contrite without commenting. Without looking back at her. Trying to will his brain into compliance.

Finally she turned away. She would remember him, but it didn’t matter. She wouldn’t be around to answer questions.

He watched her enter the cafe, then pocketed his phone and the tiny syringe that was perfectly invisible in his palm.

His hand was shaking.

Why the fuck was his hand shaking?

With a glance around he assured himself that no one else was watching, then strode to the other end of the plaza. And further. He couldn’t remember where he’d planned to go after. All he could do was walk, walk away from the ghosts of the past, the shaking hands.

Like a wounded animal, he was looking for a cave to hide out in until he was better. Because he would get better. Right?

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About the Author

G.B.Gordon worked as a packer, landscaper, waiter, and coach before going back to school to major in linguistics and, at 35, switch to less backbreaking monetary pursuits like translating, editing, and writing.

Having lived in various parts of the world, Gordon is now happily ensconced in suburban Ontario with the best of all husbands.

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