Tag Archives: LGBT

New Release Blitz: Never Knew Until You by L.E. Royal

Never Knew Until You | L.E. Royal

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Length: 63,900

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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Blurb

After the dissolution of her fourteen-year marriage to her cheating ex-wife, forty-year-old college professor Parker Freeman finds herself adrift. Suddenly middle-aged with so much time wasted, she seeks solstice online where she stumbles upon The Pandora Agency—an organization claiming to help individuals find themselves through submission. Encouraged to be a little wild by her best friend, Parker speaks to the agency and sets up a meeting with a female dominant, Miss Diaz.

Greeted at the door of an impressive Miami townhouse by a young woman, Parker questions her decision as she waits for the girl’s mother. Stunned by the reveal that 24-year-old Kristina is in fact the Miss Diaz she has come to meet, she is dragged headfirst into a new world.

Despite Kristina’s commitment issues and Parker’s shattered confidence, the two enter into a tenuous agreement that sparks Parker’s rediscovery of herself. Both are surprised by their compatibility until they stumble across the line from arrangement into relationship, and Kristina calls their time together to an end. When an unexpected catastrophe throws them back together, old demons are finally brought into the light, and both women must decide if letting go of the past is worth the future they could have together.

Excerpt

Never Knew Until You
L.E. Royal © 2019
All Rights Reserved

“Miss Freeman?”

Parker snapped her head back to her lawyer.

She still had her name, thank God for that. Amanda hadn’t wanted to go through the trouble of changing her medical license after they married, and transitioning from Professor Freeman to Professor Miller had just seemed like too much work.

“Doctor Miller has proposed that you keep the house in South Beach, and she will keep the condo downtown. Is that agreeable?”

Of course she wanted the condo. God, this is happening.

“Fine.”

Her reply was terse, and she tried to look anywhere but at Amanda, perfectly put together in her usual designer slacks and jacket. The resident she had been having an affair with for years—early thirties and gorgeous—waited for her in the hall. Parker felt frumpy, plain in comparison in her blue jeans and politely heeled boots, and forty years old.

She cried on the way home, still lost and furious. Deep down she’d known Amanda was having an affair for some time, but their life had been so comfortably routine, and the loss of that comfort scared her, so she’d adhered to the routine blindly.

Monday through Wednesday Amanda was on call and stayed at the hospital—or so she’d said—Thursday they went out for dinner, Friday Parker finished late after her office hours, and Saturday morning they had sex before Amanda disappeared to a conference, or a clinic, or some other work-related necessity. She’d resurface for her token appearance Sunday night, before it all began again.

Her mind still grappled with it all. How the hell she’d come to accept this as her life. The cheating, the lying, the regularly scheduled sex for God’s sake? She’d been so scared to lose the status quo, the only life she’d known for years, she’d just let it happen, and then she’d lost it all anyway. How is that fair?

The house was empty, which was nothing new. Amanda’s schedule left her alone a lot of the time before, but somehow, Parker noticed it more now.

She kicked off her boots, poured herself a glass of wine, and sat down with her laptop. Miserable, she resigned herself to answering emails.

Somewhere between recommending chapter nine and a review of last month’s lectures for the third time, she drifted out onto the internet. It had become a guilty not-quite-pleasure of late. Browsing divorce forums, searching in the sea of dissatisfied women behind keyboards for something, anything, to make her feel like any of this was going to be okay.

Part of her liked the bitterness of these women, and part of her was left desolate by it. Her brown eyes tracked line after line, post after post, before a thread caught her eye. Moving On and Rebuilding?

She clicked and began to read. Even on these forums among hundreds of others in her situation, she felt alienated, alone. Most of the posters had been scorned by ex-husbands. Very rarely did she find a woman trying to figure things out after the loss of her cheating, lying wife. The responses ranged from funny to sad. She didn’t want to go clothes shopping, her wardrobe was…fine, and although slashing Amanda’s tires had a certain appeal, she knew she would never go through with it.

Frustrated, left empty again, she was about to click off. A response caught her eye and made her pause.

If you are open-minded and serious about rediscovering yourself, I highly recommend the Pandora Agency. Through them I transformed my life and my views on my situation and myself.

The link took her to a website, dark and sophisticated with a definite erotic aura. She almost clicked away, but her eyes caught the first line and then she was reading.

Find yourself through submission. A professional and discreet agency, dedicated to connecting searching souls to their perfect counterpart to facilitate personal growth and groundbreaking life change.

Licking her suddenly dry lips, she carried on reading. The site was certainly convincing, and the testimonials were glowing.

Could I do that? Let someone dominate me?

She blushed at the thought. Of course she’d read the books—who doesn’t like a racy story every now and then—but that was honestly as much as she knew about…this. She was surprised to read testimonials from lawyers, CEOs, teachers, people with professional careers, people who sounded more like her than any of the tire-slashers had.

She told herself the agency probably had a line-up of controlling, chauvinistic men to choose from, though the idea was totally at odds with all the comments from women who felt empowered and in control after using it. She didn’t understand it.

Opening a new tab before she could think about it any harder, she did a quick Google search for “the Pandora Agency.” She was surprised to find more well written, articulate, and genuine rave reviews.

Am I seriously considering this?

The shrill ringing of her phone sounded. Jumping guiltily, she knocked it off the coffee table while trying to grab it. She scrambled to pick it back up and swiped to accept the call.

“Hello?”

She sounded breathless, flushed, heat on her chest and her cheeks as she snapped her laptop closed.

About the Author

L.E. Royal is a British born fiction writer, living in Texas. She enjoys dark but redeemable characters, and twisted themes. Though she is a fan of happy endings, she would describe most of her work as fractured romance.

When she is not writing, she is pursuing her dreams with her multi-champion Arabian show horses, or hanging out with her wife at their small ranch/accidental cat sanctuary.

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New Release Blitz: Complex Dimensions by Brenda Murphy

Complex Dimensions | Brenda Murphy

A Rowan House Novel

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 23, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,100

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Sick of living in her parent’s basement and encountering her ex-girlfriend on a regular basis, former graduate student Veronica Fletcher signs on to manage the stable for Rowan House, Skye’s most exclusive resort for women. After arriving at Rowan House Veronica’s vow to remain celibate is tested when she meets Millie Reid.

Sexy, sweet, and funny, Millie is the woman of Veronica’s dreams. Or is she? When Millie’s past threatens their future together, Veronica is faced with a choice she doesn’t want to make. The butterfly effect has never been more personal.

Excerpt

Complex Dimensions
Brenda Murphy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Veronica followed her mom through the grocery, navigating the phalanx of Saturday afternoon shoppers. Her thoughts wandered as she trailed behind her mother as she maneuvered their overloaded cart around people staring at the overcrowded shelves, children straying from their parents, and the occasional mobility scooter.

“Ronnie, would you go back and pick up another can of tomato paste? I need two for my sauce. I’m so out of step since they rearranged the store. I don’t understand why…”

Not ready to listen to her mom go on about the changes in the store layout for what must be the hundredth time since she had been released, Veronica interrupted her. “Relax, Mom, I got it.”

She turned and jogged back two aisles and caught sight of a familiar face. Dee stood at the far end of the aisle, her arm draped around the shoulders of Veronica’s ex-friend, Paige. A toddler, her round face and dark brown eyes so much like Dee’s she could have been a clone, sat in the basket of the cart in front of them. Paige pressed a kiss to Dee’s cheek.

Say hello. Don’t act invisible. Get over yourself. So, she’s here with Paige and their baby. Should be me. Should have been us. She looked away and gathered herself. Say something. Be a grown-up. Congratulate them. She looks happy.

Veronica walked down the aisle toward the women, working hard to keep a smile plastered on her face. She lifted her hand in greeting. Dee glanced up and made brief eye contact before a frown crossed her face. She turned her head away from Veronica. Paige looked past Dee and shot Veronica a challenging glare before she pushed their shopping cart briskly away. Fuck. No mistaking the message. She’s moved on. Let it go. She stopped and shoved her hands in her pockets to keep from balling them into fists. She turned away, walked to the main aisle, and followed the overhead labels until she reached the canned vegetable aisle.

She stood in the center of the aisle and groaned inwardly as she studied the shelves. Why do they need twelve different kinds of paste? Damn it. Where the hell is the Bella tomato paste? Mom will flip if it’s not the right brand.

A short woman dressed in a bright red T-shirt and jeans stepped up on the bottom shelf of the section. She extended her arm, her fingers straining shy of the can of tomato sauce she was trying to reach.

Veronica stepped closer. “Hey, let me…” The shelf rocked and teetered. The sharp sound of metal scraping made the hairs on Veronica’s arm stand up as the shelf tilted toward the woman.

“Watch out!” Veronica grabbed the woman around the waist and tugged her out of the way as the entire section of heavy metal shelving crashed to the floor. Cans of vegetables slid off the shelves and filled the aisle. A dented can of stewed tomatoes rolled past her shoe as cans continued to randomly slide from the twisted metal shelves.

“Are you okay?” Veronica let go of the woman’s waist. Other shoppers crowded around them, drawn by the noise.

A store employee arrived. Red-faced and wheezing, he pointed to the avalanche of cans. “Is anyone under there?”

“No. I don’t think so.” Veronica leaned away from the stale smell of cigarettes and sweat wafting from the employee.

The woman stared at Veronica, her eyes wide. “You…I would have been under there. I would have…” Her cheeks grew pink. “Thank you.” She ducked her head, pushed through the crowd, and fled.

More store employees showed up and blocked the aisle with warning signs and yellow tape. The crowd filtered away. Veronica stepped back from the chaos.

The dull edge of the can she was still holding dug into her palm. What if my mom hadn’t needed another can of tomato paste? What if Dee had wanted to chat? What if I hadn’t noticed the shelf shift? We both would’ve been under there. A minute. A second. So much can change in a moment. Butterfly effect. Chaos Theory on display.

“Ronnie?” Her mother’s hand squeezed her arm. She turned and stared down the aisle, her lips pressed together in a thin line. “Good Lord, look at that. You’d have been crushed.”

Veronica held up the can in her hand and grinned at her mom. “Got the tomato paste.”

Her mother quirked her mouth, “All right, joker, let’s get the rest of the groceries before anything else falls down.”

About the Author

Brenda Murphy writes short fiction and novels. She loves tattoos and sideshows, and yes, those are her monkeys. When she is not swilling gallons of hot tea and writing, she wrangles two kids, two dogs, and one unrepentant parrot. She writes about life, books, and writing on her blog Writing While Distracted.

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Cover Reveal: Under Pressure by Lauren Ashley

Under Pressure | Lauren Ashley

Love and Football #1

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Release Date (Print & Ebook):  October 1st, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): approx. 50,000

Buy Links:

Amazon US: http://shorturl.at/apqyE

Universal Link: http://books2read.com/u/38EPWB

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Blurb

Rookie quarterback, Drew Carmichael, is under pressure like never before.

When Drew abruptly and unexpectedly comes out of the closet, his life is upended. The media is hounding him. Fans and haters are scrutinizing him nonstop. Worst of all, team management is wary of him, unsure if he’s worth all the hassle.

He’ll do anything to stay on his home state’s NFL team, including pretending to be in a serious and committed relationship. The only problem is his fake boyfriend is Scott Hunter – the irresistible pop-country music star and his secret teenage crush.

Scott Hunter is used to being under pressure. He’s dealt with it his whole life, handling it all with grace and an unwavering smile on his face.

When his manager presents him with the long-awaited opportunity to come out of the closet, he jumps on it, no questions asked. Pretending to be Drew Carmichael’s boyfriend should be easy. Simple. Fun.

He never expected or wanted to start caring about the golden boy of football. That’s definitely not part of the plan. Neither is fooling around with him on a football field…

Touchdown.

Warnings: Brief mentions of religious upbringing/unsupportive parents, past sibling death from a car accident.

Excerpt

 An idea suddenly pops into my head and before I’ve even had time to think it through, I’m pushing Drew up against a nearby tree, the element of surprise working in my favor.

His mouth falls open in shock, but there’s an unmistakable blaze of desire in his eyes.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“Do you trust me?” I ask instead of answering his question. It’s a loaded question, but for some reason I really need to know before I go any further with this.

He’s silent for a moment, but then nods his head yes.

Thank God.

“So,” I say in a low, playful voice. “Let’s give them something to talk about.”

About The Author

Lauren Ashley discovered her love for books at an early age. She is a hopeless romantic at heart and believes that everyone deserves their happily ever after. An East Coast native hailing from the Tri-State area, Lauren hates the cold weather, but loves her chunky sweaters and cups of coffee.

When she’s not writing, she can be found traveling, binge-watching TV, spending time with loved ones, and obsessing over all things Harry Potter.

Social Media

Instagram: www.instagram.com/authorlaurenashley

Twitter: www.twitter.com/authorlashley

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/user/show/100794438-lauren-ashley

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New Release Blitz: Stray by Nancy J. Hedin

Stray | Nancy J. Hedin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 12, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,800

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

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Blurb

Lorraine Tyler should be in vet school, but she stayed behind in her home town of Bend, Minnesota to care for her nephew, spend time with her lover, Charity, and give her momma a chance to complete nursing school.

Lorraine is content until her momma brings home a steady stream of bachelors to straighten her out. Charity is out of town more and more, and Lorraine’s brother-in-law is looking for a new mom for Little Man. To make matters worse there’re new people in town. A politician is drumming up fear and hate, a social worker is flirting with Lorraine, and Lorraine’s new friend, Ricky, is beaten into a coma.

Lorraine suspects Ricky was beaten because of being gay. Lorraine is determined to find out who did it, protect Ricky from the hater who might try to finish the job, and she’s worried she might be next on the hater’s list.

Stray is a story of politics fueling hate, competing romantic interests, and regular people examining their hearts, souls, and hormones. Will the people of Bend harbor the fear-rattled haters of some, or will they provide sanctuary for all?

Excerpt

Stray
Nancy J. Hedin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
It was supper time on a weeknight and there were two vehicles I didn’t recognize and a hearse parked next to our farmhouse. It wasn’t really a hearse, it was Pastor Grind’s tan Toyota, but any visit from him meant bad news. God how I hoped Momma had started a book club or extorted people to attend a Tupperware party. More likely she was bringing me a parade of potential husbands. She wanted to straighten out her queer daughter, me. I didn’t know if she was acting alone or if she’d again claim she had God on her side. Maybe she got Pastor Grind to agree to marry me to one of those men on the spot.

“Lorraine, Lorraine!” Momma came rumbling out of the house onto the open front porch, waving her arms. “Don’t change out of your college clothes. We have guests for dinner.”

It’s not like I routinely changed clothes in the yard. I parked my truck in between Dad’s beat-up pickup and Momma’s dented station wagon. Momma had parked on half the pink flamingo pair of lawn ornaments Dad had installed the day before.

“We’re having chicken. Ricky wants to learn to make my gravy.” Momma wiped her hands on her denim apron.

Before I could ask her who Ricky was—like I didn’t already know he’s some guy she found at college and deems him a good husband for me—the only requirement being a penis in his pants—she put her hands on her wide hips like she had more to say. “That Charity girl is here too, but she’s not staying.” Momma swiveled around and marched to the house.

My girlfriend, Charity, was there. Finally, some good news. At least it meant she was driving her dad’s car and he wasn’t with her. There was no way that holier-than-god man would come to the queer’s house and have his daughter with him.

Dad and my three-year-old nephew, Little Man, came out of the barn with the dogs, Sniff, Pants, and Satan. Dad was telling Little Man some damn animal story—something about what they can tell from smelling another dog’s pee. Little Man and the dogs came running to me. “Raine, Raine, we’ve been throwing balls for the dogs.”

Most days I took care of Little Man, but Tuesday was a school day for me at the junior college where I had enrolled in as many math and science classes as I could manage until I left for Grayson School of Veterinary Science in Duluth. Grayson wasn’t a top ten veterinary school, but it was my first choice because I didn’t have to have a bachelor’s degree before entering their program. That was good for me since I had already delayed my college entrance by a couple of years because of the needs of my family.

Grayson accepted two years of college level science and math and allowed degree candidates to take summer classes for the entire four years of pre-veterinary science programs. It floated my boat, but what really got me excited was if I was short on the college level courses, which I was, they’d let me take skills and knowledge testing which would count toward coursework. All those things I’d learned from helping Twitch with his vet business could be parlayed for course credits. Sweet.

Little Man hugged my legs. When I looked at him and Momma and Dad, I had a hollow ache in my chest for who was missing. My twin sister, Becky, was dead. She left behind a dope of a husband and the sweetest little boy I could imagine existed in the world. My brother-in-law Kenny’s truck was gone. He must have still been at work at the lumber yard.

I scooped up Little Man. He wore the matching blue and white T-shirt and pants I’d put him in early in the morning, but he was filthy from playing. As I kissed his doughy neck, I sniffed him to know what he’d done while I was away. I detected the scent of outdoors, dogs, dirt, and snickerdoodle cookies, an average day.

I dropped him off in the mudroom. He climbed the green plastic, frog-faced step stool so he could reach the mudroom sink to wash his hands, and I looked for Charity. Charity leaned against the kitchen counter. Damn she looks good. I forgot all about supper. My whole body hungered for her touch and the sweet things she always said to me. I wanted to wrap my arms around Charity and kiss her until my lips fell off.

No kissing for me. Momma came back in the kitchen looking like she owned and ran the place, which she did. Momma and Charity were as far apart from each other as possible in the room and despite the temperature outside being near eighty degrees, the air temperature between them was colder than a well-digger’s lunch, as my dad would say.

“Hi.” I touched Charity’s shoulder. “I’m glad to see you. Why are you driving your dad’s car? You about scared me to death.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand quick, her eyes glued on Momma. “Dad needed my truck to help somebody move some boxes or something.”

I smelled her shampoo and she’d just put on some lip gloss I wanted to methodically taste and remove.

Momma gave the queer girls only cursory attention. I almost snuck a kiss, but I realized half a man twitched and kicked on the kitchen floor. The other half of him was tucked in the cabinet under the sink. When the top of him emerged I about lost my mind.

Christ, she’s at it again. This time the man was old enough to have possibly signed the Declaration of Independence, or at least the Constitution.

“Momma, I hope you haven’t been trying to find a date for me again.” Next, I addressed the fossil under the sink. “Ricky, I’m sorry you come all this way for nothing but a busted sink.”

Just then Little Man came in the kitchen. Momma’s face brightened as she whisked Little Man into her arms. He dried his wet hands on the front of Momma’s good apron—the full-length one with chickens embroidered on it and pockets on both sides of the skirt. Next Momma pulled me into the utility room with her and Little Man. “Excuse us.” She slid the accordion door closed.

Oh Christ, she’s going to murder me. No. She wouldn’t murder me in front of Little Man and so many witnesses in the house, but there was a fair chance she was going to lecture me and possibly brain me with one of her sacred books. She appreciated the Old Testament shock and awe. She didn’t much go for the patient tolerance of God’s later work or “the mushy parts,” as she called them. However, she did like the way her slim New Testament fit in the oversized pockets of her denim apron, and she liked the way it fit nicely in her hand when she wanted to swat someone, usually me. But she didn’t hit me. Instead, she reminded me of the way her mind worked and how she got everything done with speed and efficiency.

“That’s not Ricky. It’s Harold. Has it ever occurred to you, Lorraine, that we needed the sink replaced?”

That’s Momma for you. She could probably kill more than two birds with one stone. She weaseled getting our sink fixed and paraded a bachelor for my appraisal. She was so efficient, I was surprised there were any birds left.

Momma continued, “Besides, you can’t marry Harold. He’s already engaged to a gal from the square-dancing club.”

“Square dancing,” Little Man said.

Little Man, at three years old, needed an interpreter. I caught most everything he said because I listened to him most days. He had acquired a new habit of repeating parts of whatever he’d heard somebody else say.

“Well, do-si-do and an allemande right if I’m not relieved.”

“Smarty pants,” Momma said. “Behave yourself. It wouldn’t hurt you to try to make friends with our guests. Supper is almost ready.”

“Great. I want to sit by Charity.”

“She’s not staying.”

What? Hadn’t we made any ground at all? Couldn’t my girlfriend at least enjoy a meal at our house? It’s not like we would make out at the dinner table.

Momma pushed me out of the utility room, put Little Man down with half a cookie, and helped Harold get up off the kitchen floor.

“Can’t you stay for supper?” I asked Charity.

Charity glanced at Momma. Then she looked at her feet and bit her lip.

Those lips. I knew how pillowy soft and warm they were. The first time she ever kissed me it felt like I had known her mouth forever.

Charity turned her back on Momma and she half whispered and half gasped, “Lorraine, are you ever leaving for college? This is too small, too much.”

“How can something be both too small and too much?” I tried to joke, but Charity wasn’t having it.

“I don’t know, but Bend is and you need to decide. I’m going home.” Charity headed to the door.

I wanted to remind her I was moving as fast as circumstances would allow. I’d enrolled in as many science classes as the junior college offered while I worked with Twitch…and I minded Little Man. But I didn’t speak up for myself.

“Are you still coming over tomorrow?” I whispered. “Little Man has some new plastic animals. I’m thinking of decorating the kitchen like an African safari.” My scheme kept Little Man busy and allowed me to study animal physiology and anatomy at the same time.

“See you tomorrow.” Charity called over her shoulder with very little enthusiasm.

I watched Charity through the window walking away. My heart raced. I almost ran after her, but then Momma grabbed me and harped at me to go sit in the dining room and talk to the guests. Why is everybody so mad at me? Why is everyone pressuring me to move faster or be different? Momma wanted me to not be queer and marry a man. Charity wanted me to leave Bend before I had Little Man settled. I took deep breaths and prepared to enter the dining room.

About the Author

Nancy Hedin, a Minnesota writer, has been a pastor and bartender (at the same time). She has been a stand-up comic and a mental health crisis worker (at the same time). She wants readers to know that every story she writes begins with her hearing voices.

In 2018 Nancy’s debut novel, Bend was named one of twenty-five books to read for Pride Month by Barnes and Noble and was named Debut Novel of the Year by Golden Crown Literary Society and Foreword Indies Honorable Mention for GLBT Adult Novel of the Year.

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New Release Blitz: The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

The Grim Assistant | Jodi Hutchins

Tales from the Grim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 5, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 71,700

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense.

Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

Excerpt

The Grim Assistant
Jodi Hutchins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The planks of the boardwalk were hot against Samantha Diaz’s feet as she bounded up the stairs, surfboard tucked beneath her arm, water trickling over her shoulders. The calm waters and equally serene beach left her with only the early morning anglers standing out at the ocean’s edge, casting their lines along the jetty.

“Same time on Friday?” her best friend, Josh Keller, asked as he ambled up the stairs after her, his bushy blond hair stuck to his face and neck. A trill from a bicycle bell filled the air, coalescing with the call of a flock of seagulls harassing a group of teens munching on breakfast. The oily aroma of freshly fried doughnuts mixed with the scent of crisp saltwater as Sam took a deep breath.

She smiled broadly. “Absolutely.” Beads of seawater dripped down her dark brows, and she swept her hand across her forehead in a feeble attempt to dry it. The pair crossed the boardwalk, heading down the long ramp to the parking lot.

Reaching her Jeep, Sam tossed her board in the back and grabbed a towel, drying her face and ruffling her unruly crop of black hair. People flooded the tall staircase, beach tags fastened to their large bags overflowing with colorful shovels and towels. She grabbed a dry shirt, pulling it over her head to cover her bikini top before putting her wallet in the damp pocket of her board shorts. Josh stood staring at her. “Damn, what I would do to get a tan like yours,” he mumbled sheepishly.

Sam chuckled, noting the red tinge forming along his pale, freckled shoulders, and then glanced at her own tanned skin. “I don’t know, man, I’ll always be jealous of your freckles,” she joked, elbowing him in the arm. “You want to grab some breakfast?”

“Sure, why not?”

Sam and Josh followed the influx of people. She was determined she would get herself a fresh bagel before heading home for a shower and babysitting her nephew. Cyclists pedaled down the bicycle lane on the wood, and early morning joggers were swiftly being replaced by excited children heading to the beach or the waterpark. The tiny hole-in-the-wall bagel shop Sam frequented was set back beside one of two amusement parks on the boardwalk, and she stepped into the short line. Depending on what time she had to be in to work, Sam’s summer mornings always started the same if Josh was available. She didn’t surf without him by her side unless there were lifeguards present. The last thing she wanted was to get caught in a riptide and end up miles offshore.

The two moved into the queue of people, and Josh turned to her. “How’s it going with Katie?”

Sam’s stomach sank at the mention of her older sister, and she shrugged. “I don’t know. The divorce is official, but now it’s all parenting plan crap and custody issues. She’s stressed out.”

Josh gave her a sympathetic grimace, causing her to wonder if he regretted asking her the question. “Yikes.”

“Yeah. They had a meeting with her ex’s lawyer, and I don’t know how it went yet.”

“Hey, Sam,” a voice called from behind her. Sam whipped around as her friend, Lauren Brennan, stepped into the line where Sam was already standing in wait. Lauren’s long chestnut hair hung over her shoulders, her wide smile reaching her vibrant green eyes.

“Lauren.” Sam’s tone came out a lot more breathless than she intended. Josh must’ve noted the change in her demeanor, so he nudged her in the back with his elbow.

“They have the best pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches,” Lauren said, curling her lips upward, a delicate dimple surfacing as she smiled.

Sam nearly sighed with longing, her heart rate quickening, and she swallowed back her feelings. The blue sundress Lauren wore hugged her body, the color accentuating her lovely summer tan. She’s off limits.

“They sure do. Order anything good lately?” Sam agreed.

Nodding enthusiastically, Lauren said, “Actually, I did! I ordered this new lesson kit online and a few other things for the classroom.” Sam had been delivering Lauren’s mail since the science teacher moved to Ocean City from New Brunswick two years prior. “And a few new books. Speaking of books, how’d you like the one you borrowed?”

“I absolutely loved it. Is it just me or is my taste in books rubbing off on you?” Sam said. Josh sighed indignantly. Sam held in a retort while she waited for Lauren to reply. Lauren blushed, and the sight had Sam nearly swooning. “I have to say your taste has rubbed off on me. My true love will always be gritty literary fiction, but you’ve got me hooked on those dark fantasies now.”

“Hey, I forgot about that thing I have to do,” Josh interjected. When Sam gave him a puzzled smile, he continued, “You know, the thing? I’ll see you Friday.”

“Oh, all right. Aren’t you going to get breakfast?” Sam asked. He shook his head and waggled his eyebrows, head jerking toward Lauren. His gesture wasn’t as discreet as Sam preferred, but she didn’t believe Lauren noticed. She knew he was leaving because of her interaction with Lauren. Before she could say more, Josh moved out of the line and hurried toward the ramp leading to the sidewalk.

She moved forward in line, ordering her food and stepping aside while Lauren ordered hers. While they waited, Sam leaned against the railing. “I’ve got a new one I know you’d love,” she said.

“A dark fantasy? You’d better bring it by the next time you work. I ordered a bunch of stuff, so I should be seeing you sometime next week,” Lauren added, pulling her purse strap over her shoulder.

“Okay, I will. Maybe Boo will let me pet her this time,” Sam chuckled, referring to Lauren’s skittish cat. In the last two years, the cat only let Sam touch her four or five times.

“Don’t take it personally because she doesn’t even let Bethany pet her.” Yep, there was the pesky reminder of her unavailability. Sam laughed regardless of her feelings toward Lauren’s girlfriend. It wasn’t as though she didn’t like her for the sole reason of being with Lauren; Bethany and Sam had known each other in high school and the memories were anything but fond.

“Boo’s such a cutie. Maybe I’ll start bringing some cat treats again,” Sam offered. The young man behind the counter caught Sam’s attention and handed her the pork roll she ordered. “Thanks.” She grinned at Lauren, continuing their conversation. “That’s how I got Boo to let me close at first.”

“School starts on Wednesday, but you should come by one night and have a drink with us, maybe play some cards. I always try to plan a game night once a month, especially when school is back in session.” Lauren took her food from the man, then faced Sam as they moved out of the way of other customers.

“I’d love to,” Sam said honestly. Sam enjoyed Lauren’s friendship, despite having to tolerate Bethany in small doses. She and Bethany may have had their differences, but they were adults now.

“What about, say, next Saturday night? I’m heading to Newark this weekend for a family barbeque, but I’ll be home Tuesday.”

“Yeah, sounds perfect.”

They stood staring at each other for longer than etiquette warranted, triggering Sam to wonder if Lauren felt the same attraction as she did. She hastily dispelled the fleeting thought and smiled. She’s simply a friend and can’t be more. “Well, I’ll let you get on with your day. I’ve got babysitting duty with my nephew, anyway.”

“I’ll see you later this week, I’m sure. Don’t forget the book,” Lauren said. She turned, heading down the boardwalk. Lauren left, the sway of her hips causing her skirt to swish back and forth with each step, and once Lauren disappeared in the flowing crowd, Sam headed to her Jeep.

The drive back to her house was quick and she was fortunate she missed the tourist traffic. Although Ocean City, New Jersey, was a busy tourist spot during the summer, Sam couldn’t see herself living anywhere else. The tiny seaside town was home to her and her sister, the beach and the community far too important to leave behind and live in a larger city.

She parked her car on the side of the road, finding a spot relatively close to her sister’s little condo, and she ambled up the stairs, leaving her surfboard in the back of her Jeep. The steps leading to the porch creaked beneath her feet, the white paint peeling off the railing and the stucco face of the home. The three-bedroom condo was large enough for her sister and nephew to live in comfortably. Sam had been staying with Katie for a few weeks at a time to help with her nephew and to covertly keep an eye out for her sister’s mental health. The divorce was taking its toll on Katie, but Sam knew her sister would never ask for help.

“I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got to run and get gas before I head over to work,” Katie said as she bustled around the living room, grabbing a laundry basket full of clothing from the couch and tossing it on the kitchen counter. Already clad in blue scrubs, her black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, Sam figured Katie must’ve been anxiously waiting for her to get there.

“Sorry. I stopped to grab some breakfast. Is the little man awake yet?”

Without glancing up from her task, Katie shook her head. Sam stopped, placing her keys on the island in the kitchen leading off the living room, and she really took in her sister’s appearance: red-rimmed eyes, wrinkled scrubs, head lowered.

“Katie.” Her sister finally met her gaze. “How’d the hearing go yesterday?”

Katie drew a breath and straightened. “Like crap. I don’t think we’re ever going to work out a parenting plan.”

“He didn’t agree to your terms?”

Katie scoffed, and her shoulders visibly slumped. “No. His lawyer told us he wanted more time on different days. Evidently, his schedule doesn’t work with what I offered,” she said, shaking her head and touching her fingers to her forehead. “At this rate, it’s going to go on into the new year.”

“He’s lucky you don’t fight for full custody, the fucking asshat.” Sam loathed her ex-brother-in-law for how he treated his sister and wasn’t shy about speaking her feelings toward him now the divorce was official.

Her sister shot her a reproachful glance before she headed to the refrigerator. Katie’s voice was low when she said, “Just because he and I didn’t work out doesn’t mean he’s a bad father. Ben has every right to know him and I don’t want to take his father away from him because John was unfaithful.” She threw a yogurt into her purse along with a package of granola before grabbing her keys from the counter. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said as she stepped out the front door.

Sam lounged on the couch, kicking her feet up on the coffee table as she closed her eyes. Her muscles were sore from surfing, and all she wanted was to rest her head before her nephew woke.

“Auntie Sam, Mama gone?” a little voice cut off her thoughts. Her five-year-old nephew came wandering down the hall, his little stuffed animal pig tucked under his arm, his free hand rubbing his face.

“Yeah, Mama had to go off to work. Do you want some breakfast?” Sam asked.

Ben eagerly bobbed his head.

Meet the Author

Jodi Hutchins is a healthcare professional by day and fanatical writer by night. They are also an avid reader, coffee connoisseur, helpless romantic, amateur artist, enthusiastic maker-upper of things, spouse, and parent.

The frequent rain of western Washington doesn’t stop Jodi and their wife from gallivanting through the next trailhead with their two children.

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Book Blast: The Artist’s Boxer by Este Holland

The Artist’s Boxer | Este Holland

Yours to Protect #1

BOOK BLAST

Cover Artist: Este Holland

Release Date: July 11, 2019

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: 47,000 words

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Universal Amazon Link

Amazon US

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Blurb

Winning the welterweight championship was everything Rake had worked for. Now it’s all come crashing down, and he has no choice but to flee his hometown of Las Vegas.

When he stops in a small town in Utah, Rake meets a man who makes him forget all about the danger he’s in.

Rio has a good life. He loves his family and career, but when Rake blows into town, something stirs in his blood.

Something like desire.

Rio doesn’t do relationships, not since the last disaster, but Rake makes it impossible for him to say no.

When Rake comes clean about what he’s running from, Rio just might have a way to help.

Now the two of them must fight to free Rake from the man who took everything…and stay alive until the end.

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Excerpt

Reality crashed in as he lay down, and he didn’t like what it brought. He’d run away. Cowardly? Maybe. But what else was he supposed to do? People didn’t say no to Damian Corsetti, and that was exactly what Rake had done.

Now, there he was, in Rio Danvers’s home, his bed, after getting off twice with the man. The man who’d built the bar where he’d sat and laughed with Hunter for years.

Maybe it would all be okay. Deep inside, where he seldom looked, something told him it would be. He was solid and safe. Untouchable. But was that arrogance?

What had that figure in the road said? Love came in many forms, accept help…or something like that. Well, he sure as hell was. Rio had taken him in, fed him, kissed him, and invited him into his bed.

Rio came out of the bathroom and slid in next to him.

“Thanks for everything,” Rake said as they got under the covers. Rio wore sleep pants while he remained naked.

“Everything?”

“Bringing me here, feeding me, letting me stay. You don’t know anything about me.”

Rio stared at him until a soft expression came and went in his dark eyes. “You’re welcome.”

He got comfortable, and oh God, the bed was so nice. Rake burrowed deeper.

“About what happened in there,” Rio began.

His heart thudded, and Rake stilled. “What?”

“You kissed me. You know what this means?”

“What?” Rake asked again, his voice going up an octave.

“We have to go on at least two dates before we do anything else.”

Rake sprang up, taking the covers with him. “Are you serious?”

“Very. I told you, I have a rule.”

Rake pursed his lips. “So, if we’re going on a date, that means I can kiss you again.”

He leaned over to do just that, but Rio stopped him. “Not until after the first date.”

“Dude, seriously, what’s with all these rules? Don’t you ever go with the flow?”

“Go with the flow?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“You mean like meeting a stranger in town and bringing him to my home?” Rio asked, amused.

“Well…kind of—not really.” Rake scowled. “You know what I mean.”

Rio chuckled and pulled Rake down beside him. “Get some sleep. I’m always up early.”

He snapped off the light, but there was no bedside lamp.

“How did you do that?”

“There’s a button on the side of the bed. There’s one on your side too.”

“Oh, cool.” Rake searched around until he found it and pressed it on and off a few times.

He settled back and got comfortable again. His leg bumped Rio’s, and he threw it over him, hugging a pillow to his chest.

“ ’Nite,” he said around a big yawn.

“Good night.”

He liked not knowing what the hell time it was, or when he had to get up to train in the morning. He lived on a tight schedule Luis and Hunter set for him. When had his life become so rigid? He never had any free time. Even his downtime at Hunter’s bar had to be scheduled in.

“I like kissing you,” he whispered into the dark.

He wasn’t sure if Rio had already fallen asleep, but he didn’t answer

TAGLINE.jpgAbout the Author

Este Holland is a writer and reader of all things romance. She’s also a treasure hunter, a word wizard, a lover, and a fighter.

She was born in southern WV, and is a reader and writer. She lives in Virginia now, and works in marketing. Her favorite book is impossible to name. Her favorite movie are Romancing the Stone and Some Like it Hot.

She began writing her first novel in 2012 and has practiced and studied ever since to get better. She’s still learning.

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New Release Blitz: Hearts of Blood by Kay Doherty

Hearts of Blood | Kay Doherty

Series: Chevalier #2

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 29, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 42,000

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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Blurb

Omega wolf shifter, Vance, and the rest of his small pack have finally found an Alpha willing to take them on and were still trying to regain their footing when the McBane Pack attacked them. When a vampire appears in front of him, Vance realizes he’s looking into the ice-blue eyes of his mate, and the fact that his mate is something other than wolf scares him.

Sakima knew the wolf shifter was his destined companion the moment he scented him at Elysium, but claiming the gorgeous young Omega wolf is a dangerous proposition. Vance and his unconventional pack have attracted the attention of the vampire coven. As the owner of Elysium, Sakima has been asked to use the club to gather information on the powerful interspecies pack and its Alpha.

Unfortunately for Vance and Sakima, the vampire coven and the continued attacks by the McBane Pack are only a portion of their problems. Amidst concerns over Alpha Tanner’s abilities growing with Sakima’s addition to the pack, a spurned ex targets Vance in an attempt to remove him from Sakima’s life, and Elysium becomes a hotbed for interspecies mingling where anyone could be an enemy.

Excerpt

Hearts of Blood
Kay Doherty © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Sakima

Sakima glanced around the yard at the wolf shifters, both in human and wolf form, before settling his gaze on the one he’d come for—his destined companion. He had waited hundreds of years for this creature to arrive. The beautiful golden-brown wolf whined and took a small step back, crouched in wariness, tail tucked.

“What do you want, vampire?” the Alpha asked.

“My name is Sakima Hawke, and I want him,” Sakima answered as he took in the tawny wolf.

The wolf began to shake, making Sakima’s skin itch. This creature was his destined companion; he should never be fearful of him. Sakima squatted so he was eye level with his wolf, his gaze never straying from him, in an attempt to show through action he was not a threat. He’d known the moment the tawny-haired man had brushed against him at Elysium they were meant to be together, but the place had been packed that night and the wolf shifter had quickly melted away into the throng. Sakima had searched the club, attempting to pick the man out from the crowd, but the wolf shifter had turned out to be quite elusive. He’d lost the wolf’s scent for weeks before finding it again quite suddenly moments ago while on his way home.

It was an act of the fates Sakima had decided on a leisurely stroll rather than traveling home at hyperspeed after visiting one of his oldest friends: a human donor who was declining in health. Excitement he’d not felt in decades thrummed through his veins at the sight of the wolf now crouched before him. The sharp tang of fear wafting from him increased Sakima’s discomfort. Perhaps the wolf wasn’t aware of what they were to each other yet, though it was more likely he was simply uneducated about vampires. Sakima was well aware of the fear his kind generated. Too many rumors, myths, and misunderstandings circulated about vampires.

Many believed they were the walking dead, that anyone they fed from would become a vampire as well, but that was all fallacy. Sakima was no more dead than anyone else present, though he knew he appeared to be with his pale skin, long white hair, and ice-blue eyes. He could love, mate, and feed from his partner without changing the beautiful creature. Sakima would take great care in helping his destined understand he was no more of a threat than the Elemental, dragon, or Alpha he kept company with, each of whom had their own myths and rumors.

Desire to touch the gorgeous animal before him had Sakima extending a hand. He did so with extreme caution, so as not to frighten the wolf further, but was unsuccessful. The wolf curled into himself, becoming as small as his bulk would allow, crouching lower to the ground on shaky legs, ears flattened to his skull. Sakima lowered his hand to the grass but otherwise remained still. Instilling trust with a shifter while they were in animal form being ruled a great deal by their animal instincts was difficult. This would be far easier if the young man would shift back to human, though Sakima understood why he wouldn’t do so at this moment. When the man shifted, he would be naked, which the shifter may view as a vulnerability in his human form.

“You must know I won’t hurt you,” Sakima said softly. “We are destined companions.”

The wolf whined and turned to the pack leader. If Sakima understood wolf shifters well, there was a bond between his wolf and the Alpha that allowed them to speak telepathically. He’d never been jealous of such a thing before, but he didn’t like his fated companion being able to communicate telepathically with anyone other than him. Unfortunately, the telepathic bond was an inevitable part of being in a wolf pack. And if he wanted to claim this wolf shifter, he would have to accept the pack as a whole because there would be no removing his companion from them. Not safely. Sakima rose to his feet, his heart sinking a bit when his wolf scurried away to hide within the house. He gave no reaction outwardly, but he gave a mental sigh as he turned to face the Alpha.

“My apologies,” the Alpha said. “I asked him to go inside for a moment. He’s a bit overwhelmed.”

“Frightened, you mean,” Sakima corrected.

The Alpha wasn’t concerned with semantics. “We’ve all been through quite a lot recently, and this is a bit of a surprise. I’m sure you understand…Sakima? May I call you that?”

Sakima inclined his head in acceptance. “And you would be?”

“Tanner McBane. I’m the Alpha, and Vance is a member of my pack.”

Vance. A unique name for a uniquely beautiful wolf. Sakima scanned the “pack,” his gaze drifting from a gray wolf to a gray-and-brown wolf to a dragon to a white wolf with wild eyes to an Elemental, finally coming to rest once again on the Alpha.

“Quite the unconventional pack, if I may say.”

“Yes, I know.”

“Word has spread through the paranormal ranks of a pack of outcasts who have gained more power than is considered safe or wise. I feel I should be concerned for the welfare of my destined companion being bonded to such a pack.”

The statement was met with several growls and a strong wind that only affected Sakima, whipping his long hair in every direction. Sakima smiled. Vance was clearly cared for and protected. Tanner glanced at the dragon on his left.

“Have you ever heard of a wolf mating a vampire? Chevaliers aside.”

“No,” the dragon answered. “But I’d never before heard of a wolf mating an Elemental either. Or a dragon.”

The expression that passed between dragon and Alpha was not missed by Sakima. The name Chevalier shook him, but he pushed the memory aside—a centuries-old mistake best left to the dust of time.

“So, the rumors are true,” Sakima said.

“What rumors?” the Elemental asked.

“Of same-sex, interspecies matings taking place openly. I had hoped, given what I now know of my own destined companion, but had remained skeptical,” Sakima answered.

By way of introduction, Tanner said, “The dragon shifter is Luca. He’s my mate. The Elemental is Deacon and his mate is the white wolf, Ross. The gray wolf is Ean, and the grayish brown wolf is Theran. If you truly plan to claim Vance as your mate, you, too, will be an openly mated interspecies couple. You need to be comfortable with that if you’re going to become part of the pack.”

Sakima showed plenty of fang when he spoke. “Oh, I have every intention of claiming my fated mate, Alpha, but I said nothing of joining your pack.”

Movement at the patio doors drew Sakima’s attention. Vance in human form was as handsome as his wolf was beautiful; golden-brown hair and the lithe, toned physique all wolf shifters possessed. Those hazel eyes showed fear and hesitation, but also recognition, making Sakima believe Vance knew they were destined companions. Vance simply wasn’t accepting it, yet.

“You would risk his safety and sanity by taking him from his pack, severing his pack bond? What kind of mate would do such a thing?” Deacon asked through clenched teeth.

Sakima was surprised by the vehemence and animosity coming from the Elemental. He’d made the simple suggestion that claiming his wolf did not necessarily equate to him joining the pack. Nothing more. Though perhaps removing his destined companion was something to consider, given the volatile nature the pack exuded.

“I won’t leave my pack,” Vance said softly.

His voice was melodic to Sakima’s ears. Despite the fear and uncertainty, Vance’s words didn’t waver. They were strong and decisive, despite the fact the wolf was still hiding behind the pack. Vance had donned a pair of shorts and a tank top, leaving his toned arms, legs, and feet bared to Sakima’s perusal, and he soaked in the sight.

“I know what I’m about to suggest will be difficult for you,” Tanner said. “But I think you should leave. Perhaps stay away for a few days to give Vance time to acclimate to the idea of having a vampire for a mate.”

“Not as difficult as you might think,” Sakima said.

He’d been living a solitary life for nearly forty years, and he planned to use the time apart from Vance to prepare for the wolf to join him. He moved with vampiric speed past the pack to stand before Vance. While he was willing to leave for a short time, he wouldn’t allow his companion to put the pack between them. When he stopped, he stood face-to-face with his beautiful man. Vance yelped and jumped back, but Sakima caught him with an arm around his waist, aborting any attempt at escape. Heat immediately seeped through the cloth of his shirt, warming his skin.

“Until next time, pet.”

Sakima placed a chaste kiss on Vance’s lips so as not to cut him with his fangs. Not yet. He would draw blood from Vance only after they became lovers, and Vance demonstrated his willingness. As quickly as he had appeared before Vance, he disappeared, leaving the outcast pack and his destined mate behind. It was a temporary situation, after all. Now that he knew where his wolf companion was, he felt far more relaxed and willing to let things progress at a pace comfortable for Vance.

About the Author

Kay Doherty is an omnisexual/polysexual who lives in Colorado with her poly-family, Mike, Keri, and Tigz. Her house is overrun with cats and dogs. Family is important to her so there are daily texts, frequent visits to her parents, and constant banter with her brothers.

She happily suffers a severe addiction to coffee and Mexican food. She loves to read and write and can easily become consumed by it for hours, much to the dismay of Mike and Keri (Tigz is an enabler).

On occasion she can be convinced to venture out into the world of the living despite being annoyed by the sun shining in her face.

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