Tag Archives: LGBT

Blog Tour: Marked by J. Jay Barrett

Marked | J. Jay Barrett

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Publisher: VPJ Publishing

Cover Artist: J. Jay Barrett

Genre/s: LGBT, Urban, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance

Heat Rating: 3 flames

Length: approx 70,500 words/206 pages

Release Date: February 20, 2018

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

Never interfere. Those were his orders, and for centuries he stood by them, faithfully serving those that had given him his charge.

Until one fateful night, while hunting, the young vampire stumbles upon a handsome, young stranger. Within minutes, Holden finds his peaceful existence thrown into a tailspin.

Soon, it’s a race against time to save the human that he just can’t seem to get out of his head.

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Excerpt

Chapter One

When Holden opened his eyes, the only light in the room was the orange glow of the sodium street lamps sifting between the wooden blinds from the grid of city streets, forty-four stories below, and the pale blue light of his alarm clock. The colors combined to give his stark white walls a purplish tint. The clock read 10:32.

Shit. He had overslept.

The sun had set hours before, which meant he’d wasted good, prime hunting time. If he didn’t hurry, all he’d be left with would be drunks, junkies or the homeless. None of which appealed to him. Most of them would probably taste sour and would offer very little in terms of nutritional value, their blood tainted with so many chemicals.

Before he slid out from beneath his satin sheets, he quickly scanned his local armada of Ismeros for any sign of trouble throughout the city. He had about fifty or so Ismeros of his own posted around Chicago. Various members of the High Council probably had another sixty or seventy. They lived their normal, day-to-day lives, yet kept a close watch for him during the day while he slept. He offered them protection from the terrors that the world provided, while they provided him with information and food.

Truth be told, had anything serious happened that day, the psychic connection he held with his Ismeros would have woken him from even the deepest sleep. It was part of a vampire’s long-evolved self-preservation mechanism, an army to protect him while he was most vulnerable, while he slept. While the need for an army of Ismeros had long since faded, the tradition of keeping them had not. The simple fact that he’d overslept was a sign that all was peaceful in the city. At any rate, it was still something he did every evening when he awoke, just to be sure.

It had been decades since anything tempestuous had happened in his domain. The last Strigoi to invade Chicago had been John Wayne Gacy. His reign of terror had lasted far too long. It had taken the Council years to catch up with and dispose of the rogue vampire. They would have caught up with him much sooner had human law enforcement not gotten in their way. The thought of the long-executed Strigoi still made Holden rage inside.

That bastard had killed one of Holden’s favorite Ismeros, Lukas, back in the 1970s. That boy had fucked like a champ and tasted like heaven, dipped in amazing and served with a side of remarkable. It still made Holden sad to think about. After all, it was because of Holden that boy had learned to trust vampires, which ultimately lead him to his untimely death. Holden still felt partially to blame and like a failure for not being able to save him.

“Should I just order takeout? Or should I go pick something up?” Holden said out loud to his empty room as he climbed from the warmth of his bed, scanning a mental list of Ismeros again, this time searching for any willing blood donors, who lived happened to live nearby, that might pique his interest. It was Monday. Which meant the bars and clubs would be relatively quiet in the area, yet none of his Ismeros were catching his attention.

He always did what he could to avoid the any of the Council’s Ismeros, never fully trusting them. Their loyalty lay with the Council, not with him. So, he always thought of them as spies despite working for the same team. “I’ll pick something up,” he decided out loud to an empty room.

He moved to the window, pulling up the generic blinds, which released a cloud of dust and looked out the city grid below. The orange shimmer flooded the room, illuminating his naked body in the window. He really loved this new apartment; it was too bad he wouldn’t be able to stay long. The Council forced him to move frequently, more so because they thought it was best, not because he wanted to. It was an attempt to not to draw any unwanted attention from a nosey human. Human neighbors tended to notice when the twenty-something next door always remained a twenty-something.

Holden had learned that lesson quickly in the years following the Great Chicago Fire. A neighbor had accused him of being a witch, which made for an exciting few weeks. In a stroke of luck, she’d ended up dying of cholera a short while later, and the attention quickly dwindled.

That age had been a bit more superstitious than today’s society, but the Council insisted he not take any chances, so every few years he moved to a different part of the city. He had found this apartment a few months prior. Its location on a penthouse floor of a high rise on Lake Shore Drive had definite perks. Lincoln Park, the lakefront playground that stretched from downtown to the far north side, was directly across the boulevard-turned-freeway, and it offered plenty of dark areas for hunting, chock full of potential meals. Joggers, bikers, various riff-raff, late-night walkers… to a Vampire, it was like an international buffet. Each and every one of them ripe for the picking, with the park affording all the necessary discretion to do so. It was quite dark; all the trees muted the copper glow from the city streets on one side and on the other, a hundred mile stretch of the black, open waters of Lake Michigan. He almost always hunted his breakfast here, granted, it was usually a few hours earlier.

Another option was to try his luck in the local bars and nightclubs that the neighboring Boystown and Wrigleyville had to offer. Being a Monday the only people at the bars and clubs around 4 am, his dinner hour, would be the hardcore drunks. And that much alcohol neither helped with how they tasted nor with how well they’d perform in the bedroom, both of which were equally important to a vampire. Tonight, he decided, he would exercise his third option, he would find an Ismeros to bring over for dinner, but breakfast he was going to be an excellent old-fashioned hunt.

His naked form crossed the room into the ensuite bathroom, and he turned on the shower. Steam quickly fogged up the enclosure, which was entirely made out of frameless-glass. He climbed into the black marble interior and let the hot water spray over his skin and muscles washing away any trace of his early morning romp with last night’s dinner.

The hot water soothed as it poured over his body. He massaged both of his shoulders with his hands. All of his muscles ached and burned. They cried out to be fed, burning for fuel. Every muscle fiber in his body was silently screaming out for food, having long burned off the meal from his tryst the night prior. Reminding him that it had been almost eighteen hours since he’d eaten. Jacob? Jake? John? Joe? He couldn’t remember. Johann? He had tasted Swedish, or maybe Finnish; it was hard to tell here in the New World. Everyone was a little bit of everything these days. Whatever he was, it was nothing spectacular, neither in taste nor his ability to perform in the bedroom. The boy had wound up being rather prudish and shy in bed, which was what Holden had expected from a boy who agreed to come home with him less than thirty minutes after they’d met.

Sundays had historically been very easy. The boys of East Lakeview were always eager for one last weekend rendezvous before they had to go back to the monotony of the workweek. Most them begging for his phone number before he sent them on their way, always remembering the incredible fuck, never remembering him feeding on them. He was still happy to oblige. A vampire was always on the lookout for new Ismeros, sex, and food available at his every beck and call, but it was rare that they ever actually called. Sure, he’d sometimes get a text message, but in truth, the sleek iPhone that he’d bought at the insistence of his live-in Ismeros, Marie, rarely left where it was neatly docked on his desk in the living room. He had no real use for the thing, anyone he truly cared for, he was directly linked to, with a natural, psychic link. By the time he would see the text message, the boys usually had moved on to the next best thing, and that suited this vampire just fine.

He emerged from the shower, wrapping his toned vampire body in only a plain white towel. The terrycloth fabric hung low from his waist, showing off his well-defined abdominal muscles and giving off just the slightest hint of well-groomed hair that it hid beneath its rough surface, as he walked into the living room. Marie was there, folding the solid black, Egyptian cotton sheets from his feeding room. He kept a second room strictly for feeding and fucking, having long ago been taught that you don’t bring your food into the bed that you sleep in. Things, of course, could always end up getting a little bit messy, with the inevitable exchange of body fluids.

“You slept late tonight,” she said, giving him a sharp look of concern, “Are you feeling okay?”

“I wish you’d woken me,’ he smiled. “But, yeah, I feel fine,” he said with a shrug of confidence. He was a vampire, and vampires never got sick. “Have you ever known me, or any vampire for that matter, to feel sick? I’m not sure, maybe my dinner date wore me out last night,” He smiled, remembering how attractive the boy had been. His name had definitely been Johann. “Speaking of, did you see him out?” Holden’s voice had long ago become very Americanized, losing almost all traces of its European roots.

“He left shortly after he awoke this morning,” she said, “looking just as confused as the rest of them. I’m not sure how you do it…” She chuckled.

“Talent,” he said coyly, a smirk spreading across his porcelain skin. “I learned from the best.” He, of course, was referring to his Sire, Damek. The elder vampire was nearly a thousand years old and had personally groomed Holden to be in the position that he was, Watcher for the High Council of Vampires.

“I find it hard to believe that you aren’t the best,” she flirted, “I seem to remember you being the best.” Her New Orleans accent was still discernable after all these years and always served her well in the art of flattery.

They, of course, had a very long history, at least in human terms, dating back to the late 1960s. He’d found her, homeless on the streets, ravaged by a rogue vampire, who had briefly passed through town. Having run away from an abusive home in Louisiana, she had nowhere to go, so he’d taken her in, raised her first as a foster child, then as a lover, but now she’d out-aged him, and things had come full circle. She loved him, Holden could tell, but not as a lover as she had in her youth, but more maternally. He felt a pang of remorse deep inside his heart. Holden had stolen her youth, taken her life and any hope she had ever had for a family. Next, he would steal her golden years. He shook his head to clear the thought away.

“I think I’m going to the get dressed and head to the park for some breakfast,” he said. “No strange late-night visitors tonight, I promise.”

“Good, then maybe tomorrow I will be able to sleep in,” she said with a nod and a joking smile, returning to the pile of linens at her feet. “Take your phone, please.”

He, of course, heard her request, it was the same request she gave him every night but like most things’ humans said to him, he didn’t give it a whole lot of thought. He dropped his towel into the empty laundry basket next to her feet, turned and his naked form walked back towards his room to get dressed.

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About the Author

Jay Barrett lives in Chicago with his husband. A writer in the evening, he’s a flight attendant by day and an avid runner. Marked is his first novel.

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Series Review Tour: Dragon War Chronicles by A. G. Carothers

Dragon War Chronicles | A. G. Carothers

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This series is about dragons who want nothing more than to live in peace but refuse to be subjugated. In war there’s also love, and love is blind.

Love doesn’t care about gender, race, species (in this case), or sexuality.

SYN Consulting

Dragon War Chronicles #1

Cover Artist: Angsty G

Genre/s: LGBT, Urban Fantasy

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length: 69,000 words/ 263 pages

Release Date: August 17, 2018

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon US | Amazon UK

Add on Goodreads

Blurb

Continue to hide or help save the very kin she’s hidden from?

Welcome to SYN Consulting, the top business strategy consulting firm in Europe, home to a motley crew whose leader has a life-changing secret. CEO, Danica Lestrange, is the first female dragon born in the last 800 years.

Hidden from the rest of her kin and raised in the human world, she built a life that she would defend until her death.

A devious plan is unearthed while working on a new business deal that could plunge the dragons into another war with the humans. The humans may have forgotten the last dragon-human war, but the dragons have not. Will the war reveal this hidden world to the humans, or will the clans come together to defeat their enemies and maintain their anonymity?

Danica must gather her allies and help the very dragons she’s hidden from her whole life. She can only hope that she’ll be strong enough to protect her chosen family.

Warning: This book contains explicit sexual content between consenting adults. The sexual scenes are MM, MF, and MMF. There are romantic relationships depicted that are MM. There is also a high level of explicit language, snark, kink, and possibly bad puns and fart jokes.

This book does end in a cliffhanger. Secrets Revealed: Dragon War Chronicles Book Two is Available Now

Excerpt

Matthew finished the last bit of his sandwich as he stood up going over to a wall of glass that overlaid the actual wall. The glass was one large computer interface, much like most of the glass in the building from the table they were eating on to elevator walls, to all the glass panel monitors of various sizes. Matt tapped on the panel bringing up several windows and enlarging them so that everyone could see. He pulled a photo of Kollin Olsen and moved it to the center.

He reached back, grabbing his bottle of water. Swallowing a mouthful, he cleared his throat and started his report. “I finished my preliminary research into KleanTech and Global Gas. You’ll never believe who Kollin Olsen is.”

Danica was completely occupied with a large mouthful of her sandwich and gestured for him to continue. “He’s the next alpha to the Norwegian Dragon Clan, son of none other than Hafthór Ormsson, making him Jǫkull Ormsson, The Glacier himself.”

“Fuck!” Danica thought, looking over at Xander, who could hear her thought clearly.

“Fuck is right,” he answered out loud.

Danica took another bite of her sandwich and looked around the table at the family she had created, mulling over that bombshell. Matt, thankfully, let her take her time and waited silently while she came to terms with that disturbing news.

These SLIPs who stood by her, supported her, and loved her were, for the lack of a better word, her pack as motley as they were. They were hers to protect as much as they protected her. She thought about that as she continued to eat.

Xander placed a hand on her thigh and squeezed it reassuringly. If she took this job, she risked exposure of what she was. With that, she risked not just her life, but all of their lives.

Secrets Revealed

Dragon War Chronicles #2

Cover Artist: Angsty G

Genre/s: LGBT Fantasy

Length: 53,000 words/194 pages

Release Date: November 2, 2018

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon USAmazon UK

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Blurb

Last time on Dragon War Chronicles, we left our heroes fighting for their lives in the midst of battle…

Kollin races against time to get samples of the weapon used in Canada to their lab in Oslo. Kenshin races to get Danica back home in time to save her, Aiden and Xander. Danica’s allies start to converge in Toulouse in aide and help to prepare for what may come.

Will Kollin be able to help save Danica, Aiden, and Xander before all is lost? Will Matt be able to track down who’s responsible for a new weapon that threatens them all? What will happen when Danica’s biggest secret is revealed?

Secrets are revealed that will change the future for all dragon and SLIP kind alike.

Warning: This book contains explicit sexual situations that are MM, MF, and MMMF. There are romantic relationships displayed that are MM and some depictions of loving and consensual BDSM relationships.

There are also bad puns, a game of tag with an invisible dragon, and lions, jaguars, and bears. Oh my!

Excerpt

Kenshin relaxed back against the hull of the plane again after ending the call with Kollin. This time yesterday everything was fine. How did things get this fucked up, this quickly? Kenshin closed his eyes, and exhaustion started to seep in. The noise of the cargo plane dimmed in his mind with each breath he took.

“I remember when I first met her.” JP’s voice cut through his attempt at meditation and Kenshin’s eyes flew open. JP continued, “She looked no older than fifteen. I thought for sure she was using a fake passport to get into La Trésor. She wouldn’t stand down though. She looked up at me, and even though she had an American passport, she spoke in fluent French, which I didn’t expect. But I also didn’t expect her to stand her ground when I tried to get her to move and go home.”

Kenshin was tempted to stop him from telling his story, to shout out that he’s being stupid for talking like that. Telling stories like that is something you do when you’re talking of the dead and DAMN IT! She wasn’t dead yet.

“Cool as a cucumber she looked me in the eye and demanded to speak to the owner. Even the threat of the Gendarmerie didn’t sway her, and she didn’t try to bribe her way in like most would have. That right there was why I finally made the call up to Olivier. And you know what she did when she finally came face to face with him?”

Kenshin turned his head towards JP. The packmates closest to them were all looking at JP completely enraptured by his tale. Kenshin didn’t know what happened, so he was curious.

JP smiled and gave a little laugh at the memory. “She didn’t do what you’d expect someone to do. She didn’t yell or demand he fire me. No, not Dani. She said, and I’ll never forget this. She said, Whatever you’re paying him, double it and put him in charge.

She went on to tell him how the other bouncers didn’t look twice at her because they were too busy looking at her tits. She said it just like that too. She didn’t back down then to get what she wanted, and she’s not going to do that now. She’s strong, our Dani. She’s never backed down from a challenge, and she won’t back down from this. We have to have faith because we all know she’d have it in us.”

Claps and cheers went up around Kenshin, and he smiled probably for the first time that morning. JP was right, and Kenshin needed to keep in mind how strong she really was.

Listening to him made Kenshin think about his own first time with her. He knew when he saw this arrogant kid stride into his father’s office in Kyoto, dressed the way she normally does that he just might have a way out from under his father. That he could finally be free for the first time in over two-hundred years.

And make no mistake at a fraction of his age, she was a kid, and he had just spent the last sixty years helping his father build Nakamura Industries. But there was something about her, and her business proposal to his father was solid, a little crazy, but solid.

The plane quieted down as everyone settled in for the long flight home. Faith. He had faith in her all those years ago and he’d not waiver now. JP was right. Strength, determination, stubbornness. These were the things that made up their dragon.

They were the things that would see her to the other side of this in one piece. Kenshin closed his eyes again and sleep finally took him now that his mind was settled.

New Release

First Strike

Dragon War Chronicles #3

Cover Artist: Angsty G

Genre/s: LGBT Fantasy

Length: approx. 58,000 words/230 pages

Release Date: March 8, 2019

Buy Links – Available on Kindle Unlimited

Amazon USAmazon UK

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Blurb

Previously on Dragon War Chronicles, our heroes recovered and were preparing to take the fight to a still unknown enemy. Meanwhile, startling breeding experiments were revealed.

Three sites are discovered in Russia that could hold all the answers they’ve been looking for. Three strike teams are assembled led by Xander, Kollin, and Tyler. Three simultaneous attacks are combined to make one devastating first strike against their hidden enemies.

What horrors will they discover? What plans will be revealed? Why is a member of the Dragon Council showing up on Danica’s doorstep with ultimatums?

Find out in the next exciting installment of Dragon War Chronicles.

Warning: This book contains explicit sexual contact between consenting adults. There are romantic, BDSM, and purely sexual relations shown that are MM and MF.

There is also high sexual tension and alpha male posturing that will make you laugh and roll your eyes along with plenty of snark and definite teasing of dwarf-like dragons.

Excerpt

Aiden and Lukas were able to leave Danica’s flat right after dinner. She told everyone to go and have fun before she curled up on her couch with Bastien to watch movies. Aiden led Lukas out the office door and down to the river. He’d never been out with his Master like this, and all he wanted was to take a walk holding hands. So, they did.

As they came closer to the bridge, Aiden stopped. He pointed to some bushes that were growing against the wall. “This is where I found Bastien. He was such a small pup. His fur was matted, and he was so skinny. I knew right away he was one of us.”

Lukas squeezed his hand gently. “It took me forever to coax him out and let me touch him. He was so scared. You know we still don’t know what happened to his pack or where he came from? He says he doesn’t remember, but we think he just really doesn’t want to talk about it.”

Lukas listened to Aiden ramble patiently as always. “You’ve raised him well, Aiden. He’s a fine young praeses. He’s smart and has learned a lot from everyone around him.” Lukas pulled him close and wrapped an arm around his waist.

Aiden wrapped his arms around Lukas’ neck. He was only slightly taller than Aiden, and he was slimmer, but they fit together perfectly. “That first year with Bastien was the hardest. He had nightmares almost every night. Danica would sit with him and read him stories until he fell back asleep. He’d curl up on her lap refusing to shift out of his wolf form.”

“I remember when you brought him for the first time to the pack lands for a run. That was the first time I really saw you. You were so patient with him. We only had a few pups around his age at the time, and he didn’t want to go near them, but you finally got him to play with them. That was the first time I saw you as a wolf too, and you stole my breath away.”

Aiden blushed at Lukas’ praise. Lukas leaned down and nipped at Aiden’s ear. “I wanted you so much starting that day. You know you’ve been my pup for almost ten years now?”

Lukas’ deep, low voice sent shivers down Aiden’s spine as he nodded. “Yes, Master.”

“I have many plans for us, now that we don’t have to hide anymore.” One of Lukas’ hands traveled lower and cupped Aiden’s ass. Aiden whimpered softly.

About the Author

A.G. Carothers is actually a dragon very cleverly disguised as a human. They are a non-binary author of LGBTQIA Romance and Urban Fantasy, who enjoys writing original and entertaining stories. They are very excited to share the worlds they’ve created with you.

A.G. currently lives in Tennessee with their platonic life partner, who is not a dragon. They yearn to live back in Europe and will some day. In their spare time they are addicted to losing themselves in the lovely worlds created by other authors

A.G. is committed to writing the stories they see in their head without restrictions. Love is blind and doesn’t see gender, race, or sexuality.

Author Links

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Twitter: @ag_carothers

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New Release Blitz: We are the Catalyst by Tash McAdam

We are the Catalyst | Tash McAdam

The Psionics #2

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 25, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 106,900

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, cliffhanger, espionage, spies, military, young adult

Purchase

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

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Blurb

Kidnapped and imprisoned, telepathic children are forced to gather military intelligence. Repeatedly stripped of their memories, they live in ignorance of the world above. You can’t tell anyone a secret if you don’t remember it. It’s not child abuse if no one knows you exist.

Epsilon 17 appears to be just another mindless tool, empty of thought. But it’s a lie. The carefully constructed shell she hides behind protects her from their mind wipes. One day she will destroy the Institute. All she needs is a chance.

That chance could be Toby, if he doesn’t die first. He should never have left the safety of the suburbs, but cornered in an alley by a gang, he’s out of options. Of course, if he realized he had superpowers, he probably wouldn’t have been so worried. Unfortunately, they come at the cost of a finger, and his old life. Injured and panicked, he would have stayed on the dirty ground until the Institute came for him, if it wasn’t for Serena. Name-taking, ass-kicking Serena. She can punch through walls and practically fly, surely she can keep him safe…

But the Institute is sending Epsilon 17 to hunt him down, and she’s never lost a trail.

Can ARC, the mysterious group Serena works for, protect him? He has to get his powers in order, fast. It’s time for Toby to stand up for himself. An underground war is raging, and Toby’s just been drafted.

Join NineStar Press Authors Alex Harrow, L. A. Ashton, and Tash McAdam on FACEBOOK for a virtual launch party of their releases, EMPIRE OF LIGHT, ECHOES, and WE ARE THE CATALYST!

Find the party HERE. The event is February 25th from 8-10 PM CST, but feel free to drop by and stay as long as you wish!

For more info on each author and their books, visit:

EMPIRE OF LIGHT by Alex Harrow
ECHOES by L.A. Ashton
WE ARE THE CATALYST by Tash McAdam

Stop by for exclusive snippets, character takeovers, prizes, and swag!

Excerpt

We are the Catalyst
Tash McAdam © 2019
All Rights Reserved

E17

I’m floating, weightless, sensationless. The gel covers my body, every inch of my skin submerged and cushioned. The drowning sounds almost pleasant when I describe it this way, but my eyes are covered, liquid is pressing against my lips. It’s in my ears, filling my nose, dulling my senses. I’m drowning in breathable fluid, oxygenated goop. The sensation of lungs pleading for air lasts the short minutes I can hold my breath…then I have to inhale and my body is flooded.

I scream. The noise vibrates soundlessly in my throat, and then my body goes limp as my insides adjust, and my brain revels in the fresh oxygen. This isn’t new to me, I’ve been here before. I know how the gel works, giving me the oxygen my body requires at the cost of instinctive terror and panic that overrides all logic. It turns out there’s no getting used to suffocation. Even once the lungs realize they can drag oxygen from the fluid, it’s an emotional drowning.

You lose every sense of who you are like this, blurring at the edges until disappearing into nothingness, every sense of self fading as you drift out of your body, into a void. The sensor pads connected to my poor, bald head were itchy when they were applied, now they may as well not be there—except I know they’ll still be doing their jobs. The wireless connections to the computer equipment in the laboratory above me will continue to let the doctors know when I have disappeared, when I can’t think anymore.

It comes too fast. It always does. Without any variation in pressure or sound around me, my mind rebels and flails for anything to hold onto. It takes me hours, maybe. It could be minutes or weeks, I suppose, but I think it takes me hours to calm myself, to drag back the knowledge I have skin, I have a border, and I’m impenetrable and separate from what is around me.

This is the Tank.

In the Tank, there’s no gauge of time, nothing to touch or feel, no sensory hooks to hold onto. Insulated against life, I can’t do anything except hang there, helpless. There’s no one here for me to reach for, this time. Sometimes there will be others—different people, different ages. I reach out to them, feel for them with the telepathic powers that are both the reason I suffer and the only thing saving me from true madness. Even momentary connections with others remind me I’m not alone. I reach out, but they never feel me. They are truly alone, isolated from everything and everyone.

I’m the only one who survives the Tank. And I don’t know why. Of course, the scientists would never tell me anything. I’d be punished if I asked. I’m supposed to come out blank and empty and unknowing, like the others.

Thanks to the Tank, and the loneliness of my life, I spend a lot of time speculating why I’m different. I think it might be the dreams keeping me safe. I dream of a boy, a boy who runs in the sunshine and plays a sport with bats and balls. A boy who lives a blessedly unremarkable life. I think I made him up, to save me from the nothing. Could I have invented a place to go and hide in vibrant experiences and Technicolor feeling? Not like the Tank, where there’s nothing, nothing at all.

I’ve been in fourteen times as far as I remember. Other people have been dipped opposite me, or next to me, ten of those times. I feel their thoughts, their confusion and panic. I can’t see them. I can’t see anything at all except for vague shadows which pass my prison. Once a hand was pressed to my Tank, a black blur against the grey dark. The thoughts buzzing in the person were angry and desperate. They wanted to help me, but they couldn’t. I don’t know who it was.

Today, I’m alone. There’s no one else being wiped. Even if there were others, I can’t Project—send thoughts or feelings out of myself—so there’s no way for me to communicate. It seems to me if we connected, maybe they’d stay.

Instead, I talk to myself all the time, even under the draining numbness of the gel I drown in. It does something to me, to them, to us. As soon as I’m submerged, I can barely sense at all, the techs and other people mere scratching tickles at the surface of my consciousness, not like the normal swirling chaos of the thoughts always spinning around me, every fleeting miniscule flicker of awareness loud and seething for my attention. For the vast majority of my life, I have to block everything, block it all out so I don’t lose myself in the minds of others.

Not in the Tank, though. My powers are muted and tamped down by whatever is happening to me. And the others? Eventually their minds recoil at the endless nothing and they withdraw into the safety of white noise, the illusion of peace.

Then the wipe begins—a skull full of bees buzzing, crawling through memories and erasing the pathways making someone’s self. People fade away as I listen to their mental screams and pleas for mercy. They’re loud, then, as they beg for their memories, but the cries always dissolve into whispers and then nothing, nothing at all.

They cease to exist.

I don’t know why I alone remain “myself” in the Tank; perhaps I’m mad and there is no me. Maybe all I ever do is float here in the numbing absence of everything and tell myself stories. But I don’t believe so. I’m Epsilon 17, and I remember what that means. It is the name they gave me—not one I want, but it defines me, nonetheless. Epsilon is my class; I’m Epsilon Class, number seventeen. Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon…there are mostly Beta class here—the lowest, the least gifted. Alpha talents are so low the Institute has no interest in taking them on as students. That is what the Shepherds call them…call us, when they speak to us. Alpha talents get to live their lives away from this.

We are “students,” as though they are our teachers, here to help and educate us. In their heads, they call us sheep. They have no idea I can hear them—hear everything they think. They are trained to hide themselves, as I have taught myself to do, and it never crosses their minds they aren’t as safe as they believe. Because they are wrong about me. They have no idea I can tuck myself into a secret space inside my head and resist the nothingness of the Tank. Maintain my sense of self. Protect my memories. They know I’m special, but they have no idea how strong I really am…and how much stronger I’ll be. Every time they leave me in the Tank, I come back to my memories faster, and I hate a little more.

Soon all there will be left of me is hate.

This is how I stay myself in the Tank. Instead of waiting for it to end and feeling my mind snap when I realize it never, ever will—I have been here forever and will stay here forever—I take all the scraps of me, all the pieces making up who I am, and tuck them away, out of sight, in a private bunker in my mind.

While I’m suspended, I disappear into my dreams, if I’m alone. When there are others, I always wait until they have gone, in case one day one of them stays with me. They never do.

Once I’ve hidden I don’t come out until I’m sure I’m safe. Until I feel a soft, scratchy sensation and smell the faint, fresh bleach of my sheets. The triggers my body remembers. When I’m tucked up in my bed, I come back to reality, I realize I am not the boy-who-runs. And I remember everything they tried to take from me.

The moments before it comes back are the only times I feel safe.

It wasn’t always this way. When I was a child, I didn’t remember at all. They cleaned me the same way they clean everyone, and I became a fresh slate, a new start. You can’t tell anyone a secret if you don’t remember it. It’s not child abuse if no one knows you exist. We are the perfect soldiers in a war most of us repeatedly forget. We are forced to participate and then erased as though we were never there, gifted in a way people don’t expect and can’t plan for.

Mindreaders. Telepaths. Psychics. There are many names, but here at the Institute, they like the scientific terms. We are the Psionics, and they use us without shame.

If you are powerful, The Institute is there, listening to your thoughts, guiding your hands when you are writing, perhaps sending you dreams. Even controlling your every move like a puppet. Assignments can last for years if the Government wants a consistent presence monitoring one individual. You get to know them when they’re your target. I’ve been in heads which haunt my dreams. It makes me wish I did forget, but never enough to let go.

Two years ago, I was assigned to a political leader in Muntgummery, near the East, for eight months. He was a bad man. He liked to hurt women, and I had to watch it so the Institute could blackmail him. The Government knew the city was going to drown in the ravenous coastal waters as they rose and wanted to control who was saved. At the end, I worked with a Projector, who used my knowledge of the target to get into his head and overtake him completely. The city was abandoned to the flooding shortly after. The top Test-scorers were evacuated, and then the tube tunnels were sealed, Citizens, slumdwellers, and refugees alike were left to drown. I remember them screaming as we flew over the rioting streets.

The list of secrets I know is long, and I have nowhere and no way to write it down, so I keep them in my mind. It’s safe there because, though the business we are in is to take secrets, nobody knows I have any, and so nobody even looks. I hide everything under a blank, unmarked surface, and their probes slide over me like I’m invisible, or empty like the others—an untouched piece of paper waiting to be filled with their knowledge and used to affect the course of the world.

I have been aware for five years, give or take. It’s possible I have remembered myself before but didn’t manage to hide it and was wiped so I really did forget again.

But I learned.

The first time I came back to myself, they tried to wipe me again and again. Three times they put me back in the Tank, until I thought I was lost, gone and mad. But then it happened. I found the way—the way to leave what they were doing behind with my body—and keep my mind safe inside another life. A better life.

I don’t know how many days passed after that dip, but when I came to, I was restrained on a cold, hard table. I felt a grasp at my thoughts, a touch against my mind. I knew what it meant—they would put me back in, drown me again to kill these memories. We’re not supposed to remember the Tank. We’re not supposed to remember who we are. I scampered away inside my head and drew myself into the smallest ball possible, shielding my thoughts. I was small and tight and tucked away in a corner, and I tried so hard to hide and make the man go away. I felt him grope around—a blind man fumbling through my head. He must have been satisfied, accepted the lack he found inside me. He thought I was empty, and they could start again.

This is my story, and I’m putting it away to keep it safe. That way when I disappear again, I can find all the thoughts I’ve had, see the feelings I stored here. I don’t know how it works, but it is enough for me that it does.

Because this is my mind, my secret self, the weapon with which I’ll one day destroy everyone who has a hand in this. I’m Epsilon 17, and I’m going to bring this regime down in flames.

The Tank fades away and I’m gone. The boy’s packing a bag, this time. I think he’s frightened. I wonder what he has to be scared of, this boy with parents who ruffle his hair and friends who shout with laughter.

Meet the Author

Tash is a 30-year-old teacher candidate at UBC in Canada, although they were born and raised in the hilly sheepland of Wales (and have lived in South Korea and Chile before settling down in Vancouver). Tash identifies as trans and queer and uses the neutral pronoun ‘they’.

They’re also an English teacher and fully equipped to defend that grammar! They have a degree in computer science so their nerd chat makes sense and a couple of black belts in karate which are very helpful when it comes to writing fight scenes.

Their novel writing endeavours began at the age of eight and included passing floppy discs back and forth with a friend at swimming lessons. Since then, Tash has spent time falling in streams, out of trees, learning to juggle, dreaming about zombies, dancing, painting, learning and then teaching Karate, running away with the circus, and of course, writing.

They write fast-paced, plot-centric action adventure with diverse casts. They write the books that they wanted to read as a queer kid and young adult (and still do!)

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New Release Blitz: Echoes by L. A. Ashton

Echoes | L. A. Ashton

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 25, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 78,500

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Vampires, werewolves, paranormal, romance, friends to lovers, immortal, reunion, Viking

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Blurb

After one thousand years of listless eternity, Oskar is used to his particular brand of loneliness. But a long walk through Middle America and a few chance encounters will lead him straight to a man he’d known to be long since dead―his childhood best friend, Aranck.

Being undead hasn’t stopped Aran from living life to the fullest. He has all the money and power his charm and business savvy could earn him, and plenty of friends. Lately, though, something seems to be missing. After a millennium, perhaps the world’s shine has worn off—and that’s when Oskar stumbles back into his life, reminding him of who he used to be.

Together the two vampires remember what it felt like to live, all the while navigating a conflict with the local pack of werewolves. A lot has changed in a thousand years, and only time will tell if those changes will bring Oskar and Aranck closer together, or ensure they remain apart.

Excerpt

Echoes
L.A. Ashton © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Prologue

Ana’s eyes opened, unseeing. Her limbs were heavy, anchored to the floor by her own weakness and fatigue. And yet, she was alive.

That confused her.

The rough punctures of a bite burned at her neck. Blood dripped slowly from the wound, traveling the few short inches from her throat to the hardwood. Everything else felt fine; no broken limbs, no gashes or extraneous injuries. Her head rang, a high trill in the dark―perhaps a minor concussion sustained while collapsing.

The room smelled like blood, wolves, and a bit of spilled beer. But shapes were still hazy black masses in dim red lighting, and even with her superior sight, she couldn’t discern foreground and background, solid artifacts and darkness.

She closed her eyes. What would be more useful to grasp first, memory or sight? She could recall vague things: the laughter of her brother beside her as he beat them at another hand of poker, the limited light of the room, and the shuffle of cards against skin. Then there was…

She tipped her head, pressing her cheek against the coolness of the floor.

A vampire. A vampire had charged into the bar―their bar―and attacked.

After all the work she and Jackson had done, after all the effort they’d put into pack and vampire relations…

She opened her eyes again. There was movement, slow and deliberate as if the person wasn’t entirely coherent. She could barely see her packmates around her. Four of them were strewn about the floor, unmoving. They were alive, though, and that confused her as well. Their heartbeats and breaths filtered into her range of hearing as her mind cleared, and she could see the steady rise and fall of her brother’s chest.

Why would a vampire attack them? No―why would a vampire attack them and leave them alive?

She attempted to track the motion. There was a figure moving above them, heavy boots clomping against the floor. She looked toward their face and they paused, gazing down at her with a face swathed in shadow.

Her focus was bleary. She wouldn’t have been able to make out their features even if they’d looked at her full-on, dead in the eyes. They were all outlines… short or close-cropped hair… average height…

They had no heartbeat.

Her lips parted. She wanted to ask them why. Here lay five of her pack, drained to the point of immobility but not death. They would heal fast, as werewolves do, and they would track this assailant, as werewolves do. And then, without trial, they would kill them.

What kind of fool are you?

But she didn’t ask; her mouth was too dry and her body too slow, and by the time her mind had formed a proper question, the vampire was walking toward the entrance. The door opened up―a single rectangle of blue-black cut into the red-black of the bar―and bright stars shone quietly, like everything in the world was at peace.

The vampire sent one last look at her pack. Then they closed the door―softly, as if to not disturb. Ana stared at the doorway in sedated wonder.

Eventually she closed her eyes. The rest of their pack would find them, or their hearts would slowly beat them back to health, and the hunt for a vampire would begin.

Join NineStar Press Authors Alex Harrow, L. A. Ashton, and Tash McAdam on FACEBOOK for a virtual launch party of their releases, EMPIRE OF LIGHT, ECHOES, and WE ARE THE CATALYST!

Find the party HERE. The event is February 25th from 8-10 PM CST, but feel free to drop by and stay as long as you wish!

For more info on each author and their books, visit:

EMPIRE OF LIGHT by Alex Harrow
ECHOES by L.A. Ashton
WE ARE THE CATALYST by Tash McAdam

Stop by for exclusive snippets, character takeovers, prizes, and swag!

Meet the Author

L.A. Ashton is an LGBT+ author writing LGBT+ fiction. They enjoy rock music, traveling, and anything else that adds color to their daydreams.

They believe in the healing properties of art and of having a cat firmly stationed on one’s lap.

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New Release Blitz: The Cost of Living by Emilie Lucadamo

The Cost of Living | Emilie Lucadamo

In the Darkness #2

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 25, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Female

Length: 50,800

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, paranormal, college, demons, magic, fantasy, ghosts, horror

Purchase

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Blurb

Once people die, they’re not meant to wake up.

For college student Beck Murray, this doesn’t quite sink in until he’s sitting in a stranger’s apartment, reading his own obituary. He has no memory of how he died or how he happened to wake up—all Beck knows is that he’s been dead for six months, and now, incredibly, is not.

He assumes his biggest challenge will be explaining himself to his family and friends. This proves not to be the case as, one by one, Beck and his friends become the target of something evil.

A darkness hangs over Beck, following every footstep he takes in his new life. He cannot fight it because he does not understand it. Soon, it becomes clear that Beck isn’t the only person who’s returned to life, and far from the only person in danger.

With the help of a young witch and a mysterious bookshop owner, Beck must learn to overcome the evil plaguing him before it drags him back down to the grave… and takes everyone he cares about with him.

Excerpt

The Cost of Living
Emilie Lucadamo © 2019
All Rights Reserved

After his fourth failed attempt to pull himself to his feet, Beck gives up and collapses against the pavement once more.

It’s no use. He could have the willpower of Hercules, yet he wouldn’t be able to haul himself off of the ground. His body is too strung out; his limbs are exhausted. He feels drained from head to toe. Whatever happened to lead him here, it sure did a number on him.

Here—where is here? Beck has no clue. Naked, in the middle of an unfamiliar street, with a dizzying headache and no memory of where he is or how he came to be there. That’s where he is right now.

It’s far from the best situation to be in. Not to mention the fact that the world’s biggest storm cloud seems to be focusing all its wrath on him alone. Rain lashes his skin, chilling him, and the thunder booming overhead rattles in his bones. He tries to move once more, and a fiery pulse of pain shoots through his entire body.

Beck has had better nights.

He’s wound up in some pretty undignified places over years spent growing up with his best friends, but this has to take the cake. This is a lot worse than the time his best friend James dared him to sleep on the roof in his underwear. This is even worse than the time he and his brother, Dylan got locked out of the house during a snowstorm and had to spend the night huddling for warmth on the porch. At least in those situations, he knew where he was. He had some choice in the matter, (even if it was between Dylan’s bony elbow in his side or freezing to death). This—this is a whole new level of weird.

He tries to lift his head, and a pulse of pain sends it right back down again. Thunder crashes overhead, followed by a flash of lightning. Beck swallows past his parched throat, realizing for the first time what a dangerous situation he could be in.

“Oh man,” he rasps, realizing too late that these are the first words he’s said since waking up. This absurdity is not helped by the fact that he’s scrambling around on his back like a lethargic bug. It seems like a miracle he’s able to speak at all. “Mmm…c’mon, c’mon…”

It’s no use. He can’t pull himself to his feet. Defeated, Beck collapses back onto the pavement again and closes his eyes. He’s so tired… Maybe a few moments’ sleep will give him the energy he needs.

He’s just about to drift away, when a sudden interruption startles him from his haze.

“You look like you could use some help.”

The voice is deep, clear as a bell over the roaring storm around them. Beck jumps, eyes springing open. It would take more self-control than he possesses not to gape up at the shadowy figure towering above him, silhouetted against the distant glow of a streetlight.

He blinks up at the stranger in a daze, trying to make out any features past the rain and his blurry vision. The man looming above him is slender, not too tall and not too muscular. The fact that he seems unfazed at finding a naked guy in the middle of the street probably says the most about him. Being the naked guy in question, Beck’s not about to judge.

Beck weighs his options. Common sense tells him not to trust shadowy figures in dark alleyways. Common sense also tells him not to pass out in the middle of the street naked, and not to wake up in the middle of a street with gravel digging into his back. Common sense is failing him today.

He isn’t about to get up without assistance, anyway, so yeah, he probably could use some help. “Wow, you figured that out?” he croaks, and tries for a laugh. It comes out as a wheeze. Beck is left choking when he attempts to take in a breath. He collapses again onto the street, landing hard on his side. His chest convulses with each ragged cough. By the time he is able to breathe again, he’s quaking like a leaf in a thunderstorm. Hell, that’s just about what he is.

“Easy…” The figure is kneeling by his side now and has a hand on his back. He’s warm; subconsciously, Beck leans into the touch. The smooth hand runs along the curve of his spine, leaving a trail of tingling heat in its wake. The pressure in Beck’s lungs slowly ebbs away, like water receding after high tide.

“Feels like you’ve got a pretty bad fever,” the man says, his strange, precise accent twisting the words until they sound more like a melody. “This rain can’t be helping. Wanna get out of it?”

“Yeah…” Beck nods hazily. “That’d be real great.”

Hands grip his biceps, helping him to his feet. Beck’s legs feel like noodles. He stands up, wavers, and would have fallen back down were it not for the grounding presence keeping him upright. He tries to straighten up, and his stomach does a perilous somersault. Hot bile rushes up his throat, and he only has time to double to the side before he’s heaving up acid.

By the time he straightens up again, he’s trembling from the exertion. He feels dizzy enough that he’s afraid to close his eyes, doubting his capability to open them again. When he tries to turn to his good Samaritan, he finds himself confronted with a sharp-featured face, dark eyes studying him and brows creased in concern.

“Sorry,” Beck tries to say. It comes out garbled. Fortunately, the guy doesn’t seem to care.

“Come on,” he urges, hooking an arm around Beck’s waist. “Let’s get you someplace warm and dry.”

Needless to say, Beck’s in no state to argue. Besides, he isn’t sure he wants to. The guy’s being nicer than he has any obligation to be, and it’s probably the fever talking, but his touch is the most soothing thing Beck can remember in a long time.

They don’t walk far. The stranger leads a stumbling Beck down the street, and they pass only a few shops before coming upon one with its windows piled high with books. A sign above the door reads Lehexe’s Books in spindly hand-painted lettering. The shop is dark enough that Beck can’t make out much through the window, but Beck’s new friend—Lehexe, presumably—doesn’t hesitate to open the door. He hustles them both inside and shuts out the storm behind them. No sooner are they standing in the middle of the shop floor than Beck finds rain pooling at his feet, soaking into the wooden floor. He sways in an effort to keep from dripping, and nearly overbalances again.

Lehexe—busy fumbling with a set of keys near a door behind the counter—casts a look over his shoulder and huffs. “Try to keep upright for two seconds. You can do that.”

Beck definitely can. He’s not an infant. (If he maybe has to grab hold of the counter to keep his balance, well, he thinks the other man is too preoccupied to notice.)

The right key finally slips into the lock, and Lehexe opens a door to a darkened hallway. He turns to look at Beck, raising an eyebrow as he gestures to him. Beck lets go of the counter, takes a step forward, and gets blindsided by a head rush that sends him falling on his face.

Being naked on the floor of some poor guy’s very nice bookshop is better than being naked on pavement in the middle of a storm…but only just. There’s a lot more indignity to his situation now that Beck is actually trying to keep himself upright. He can’t. It’s not just his legs refusing to cooperate with him. His entire body feels sluggish, achy and weighed down. His veins feel like they’ve been pumped full of lead. His skull is throbbing, stuffed with cotton and running with all the efficiency of a dying engine.

“I’m really sorry about this,” he manages to slur into the nice stranger’s woodwork. “’S not my day.”

“I figured,” Lehexe says as he helps peel Beck off the ground—and he is really being much nicer than Beck deserves. “I hope stuff like this don’t happen to you often.”

“It really doesn’t.” This is the weirdest thing Beck can remember happening to him in, well, ever. He’s not handling it well.

By some miracle, Lehexe manages to get him back on his feet again and leads him out of the shop. The hallway behind the door is small, narrow, with several doors lining the walls. One clearly reads Bathroom; the other, Beck suspects is a closet; as for the third, he doesn’t have a clue what could be behind it. (His half-delirious mind flashes back to the vintage game shows his grandma used to love, where shoulder-pad-flaunting contestants chose between Door One, Door Two, and Door Three for the chance to win “the prize of a lifetime!” Lehexe doesn’t make a good game show host, and Beck’s hairstyle isn’t nearly exciting enough for 80s television.)

There’s a final door at the end of the hallway, styled differently from the others. This one is great mahogany, with a firm frame, and another lock just beneath the knob. Lehexe turns to his set of keys yet again, and in seconds he has the door open to a set of stairs that tower over Beck’s head, making him feel dizzy.

His heart sinks. His stomach drops. He feels himself slump further to the floor, until Lehexe stubbornly hoists him back up again. Just looking up there makes his head spin, and the notion of dragging his noncooperative body up the stairs is nothing short of a pipe dream. There’s no way he can do it—just no chance.

“Yeahhh,” he groans. “Dude…don’t think that’s gonna happen…”

“You gotta try for me,” Lehexe says. “Can you do that?”

Beck considers this. “If I pass out, will you catch me?”

“I’ll try my best.”

Well, that’s good enough for him.

Meet the Author

Emilie Lucadamo has too many stories, and not enough words to tell them. At eighteen years old, she has been writing for most of her life, and telling stories even longer.

Her dream is to one day become a critically acclaimed author. When not writing, she’s probably reading, or spending quality time with her dog.

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New Release Blitz: Empire of Light by Alex Harrow

Empire of Light | Alex Harrow

Voyance #1

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 25, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 102,000

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, gay, pansexual, demisexual, sci-fi, romance

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Blurb

Damian Nettoyer is the Empire’s go-to gun. He kills whoever they want him to kill.

In exchange, he and his rag-tag gang of crooks get to live, and Damian’s psychokinetic partner and lover, Aris, isn’t issued a one-way ticket to an Empire-sanctioned lobotomy.

Then Damian’s latest mark, a suave revolutionary named Raeyn, kicks his ass and demands his help. The first item on the new agenda: take out Damian’s old boss—or Raeyn will take out Damian’s crew.

To protect his friends and save his own skin, Damian teams up with Raeyn to make his revolution work. As Aris slips away from Damian and his control over his powers crumbles, the Watch catches on.

Damian gets way too close to Raeyn, torn between the need to shoot him one minute and kiss him the next.

With the Empire, Damian had two policies: shoot first and don’t ask questions. But to save the guy he loves, he’ll set the world on fire.

Excerpt

Empire of Light
Alex Harrow © 2019
All Rights Reserved

One: Shootings with a Chance of Explosions

Funny how I always had to be the guy who ended up with a gun to his head.

“I thought you said this was going to be easy,” Aris said somewhere to my right. His voice was thick, the words choked out past the gun shoved underneath his jaw. The two Reds who kept us pinned were all broad shoulders and raw muscle. Huge white guys. Buzz cuts. Built like fucking tanks. In the low light of a fading sunset spilling into the empty warehouse, their leather coats gleamed like congealing blood.

The run had started out simple enough: get in, dump the cargo—a couple dozen barrels of diesel and some tech we’d snatched off a derailed train—and get the hell out. The place’d been abandoned for years, just another slouching ruin on the outskirts of Low Side. The perfect hiding spot to stash away things you didn’t want the Watch to find, while waiting for the highest bidder to jump the gun. A surefire way to some quick and easy cash and still get to my real job for the night.

Standing there with my face mashed against the crumbling brick wall, a gun barrel against my skull, it looked more like a surefire way straight to a cell in the Finger of Light.

If we were lucky.

The guy above me seemed happy to put a bullet into my brainpan and chalk both Aris and me up as “casualties, resisting arrest.” The Watch, safeguards of the Empire, the Consolidated Nations at their best. To protect and serve. Right.

I couldn’t just tell our dear upstanding Reds to go ahead and stick their guns and handcuffs up their asses because we kind of were on the same team. I might be running the Empire’s off-the-books hits for extra cash, but officially, I didn’t exist. Blurting out I was on their boss’s payroll wouldn’t get me anything but a bullet to the head and my body dumped into the East River. Talk about employment perks.

That’s what I got for double-booking myself. Fucking Murphy’s Law.

And worse, I’d dragged Aris into it.

“Guess Jay was sugarcoating it a little when she said there might be slight complications.”

Someone ratted us out. No way the Watch had just shown up here, far from their usual patrol routes, without any reason. The whole thing’d been a sting from the get-go, and once I found out who’d set us up—

My fingers twitched for my Colt. My Colt that lay cold and useless five feet away from me. Slim chance I’d be able to shoot both Reds before one of them got to either Aris or me, but I might get lucky and get the drop on one of them. Especially if I could piss him off enough he got stupid. At the very least I could distract them from Aris.

“You know, I kind of need to be somewhere. And I’d appreciate a little more leg room here,” I said and squirmed under the Red’s grip.

Honestly, by now I probably should’ve memorized some of the regulars’ names or something. To me, they all looked the same. All fists ready to punch and guns ready to fire; neatly wrapped in black uniforms and their trademark red coats. Not like this was the first time either. By now, the Watch should issue us a punch card for frequent visits, maybe something with a rewards program.

“Shut up.”

The Red jerked me around and slammed my head into the murky stained-glass window to my right. Point taken. A distant rushing filled my ears. Spots started to slow-dance in front of my vision. I went down hard, twisting away from the Red’s reach and blindly fumbling for my Colt. I’d barely moved before his boot came down on my fingers with a dry crunch. I bit back a grunt that came out more like a breathless scream.

“Next time it’ll be your head,” the Red—I mentally tagged him as Captain Crunch—said, towering above me, gun aimed at my forehead. If he shot me from that angle, there wouldn’t be enough of my head left for Aris to scrape out of the wall cracks behind me.

Here was hoping he had more fun beating the shit out of me than making shooting me look like it’d been his only option.

The Red didn’t shoot me. Instead, his knee dug into the small of my back, his free hand going for a pair of handcuffs. “In the name of the Empire of Light, I hereby place you under arrest for—”

“Oh, I don’t think so,” Aris said.

He’d been standing perfectly still, his head slightly bowed, a model of the “hands above your head and don’t make a move” arrestee. The unthreatening kind. The kind who came quietly and wouldn’t even think to make any trouble for our dear upstanding officers of the Watch who only did their job.

When he straightened, brushing away a few errant blond curls that’d slipped out of his loose ponytail, a slow smile curved his lips. A dangerous smile, turning positively radiant until it teetered on the edge of manic as he glanced from the guy above me to the one holding him.

“In fact, I’d suggest you two start running. This is going to get messy.”

His eyes flicked to me. “Damian, stay down. And get out.”

And like that, all color drained out of his eyes until they were a stark, milky white.

Oh shit.

“Aris, no!”

Too late.

The Red pinning me tensed. He slapped his hand on his right ear to call out for reinforcements. His headset shorted out with a buzz and the burned-copper smell of fried electronics. The guy holding Aris cursed and flinched away, as if he’d been zapped by a high-voltage fence.

Aris didn’t move. His expression wiped completely blank, like someone’d snuffed out the lights behind his eyes, now fixed on some point far above me.

Then he blinked.

I felt the zing of the Voyance crack through the air like a power surge. The window wall at my back blew up in a shower of broken glass and toppling bricks.

Sacred, bleeding fuck!

I managed to duck and roll away before half the wall collapsed on top of me. I flattened myself onto the ground and then scrambled to my feet, cursing and coughing through a cloud of red-brick dust settling on the crumbling remains scattered all over the cement floor and the cracked pavement outside.

The explosion hit the Red above me completely by surprise. I only spared him a quick glance to make sure his hunched form wasn’t moving, and he wasn’t faking being unconscious. Or dead. A slow trickle of blood ran down his temple where one of the flying bricks must’ve hit him. People died from less. I didn’t push my luck.

I grabbed my Colt, its weight solid and familiar against my stiff, throbbing fingers.

“Aris?”

“Over here.” His voice was a thin thread, fraying at the edges. “Told you to get out.”

I ignored that last bit. Aris stood only a few feet away from me, his back pressed against the remnants of the wall. His face was gray, and he was trembling badly; he probably would’ve fallen over if not for the second Red who kept him pinned.

“Fucking Voyant,” the Red snarled, gun shoved against Aris’s temple, ready to put him down. As if Aris was nothing but a rabid animal.

Aris stood perfectly still, blood running out his nose—a steady drip down the collar of his shirt. Looking at him, knowing how easily I could lose him, hurt worse than all the bruises and broken bones any Red could ever give me.

“Damian—”

The Red’s finger tightened around the trigger. I shot him in the head. His body sagged sideways and hit the ground with a meaty thud, his gun slipping uselessly from his fingers.

“Just to be clear,” I said to the body at my feet. “He’s my fucking Voyant, so back the fuck off.”

Join NineStar Press Authors Alex Harrow, L. A. Ashton, and Tash McAdam on FACEBOOK for a virtual launch party of their releases, EMPIRE OF LIGHT, ECHOES, and WE ARE THE CATALYST!

Find the party HERE. The event is February 25th from 8-10 PM CST, but feel free to drop by and stay as long as you wish!

For more info on each author and their books, visit:

EMPIRE OF LIGHT by Alex Harrow
ECHOES by L.A. Ashton
WE ARE THE CATALYST by Tash McAdam

Stop by for exclusive snippets, character takeovers, prizes, and swag!

 

Meet the Author

Alex Harrow is a genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual author of queer science fiction and fantasy. Alex’ pronouns are they/them.

When not writing diversity with a chance of explosions, Alex is a high school English teacher, waging epic battles against comma splices, misused apostrophes, and anyone under the delusion that the singular ‘they’ is grammatically incorrect.

A German immigrant, Alex has always been drawn to language and stories. They began to write when they realized that the best guarantee to see more books with queer characters was to create them. Alex cares deeply about social justice and wants to see diverse characters, including LGBTQ+ protagonists, in more than the stereotypical coming out story.

Alex currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with their equally geeky wife, outnumbered by three adorable feline overlords, and what could not possibly be too many books.

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New Release Blitz: Severed by Shona Husk

Severed | Shona Husk

Precinct One #1

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 25, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male/Female (Male/Male interaction)

Length: 79,600

Genre: Science Fiction, LGBT, alternate universe, drug use/addiction, law enforcement, dark, dystopia, doctors, wings, menage

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Blurb

Halle Ish, one of Velli’s elite police Arrows, is shot down during a Precinct One riot. Wounded and unable to fly, she tries to hide and avoid capture, knowing that if she is found by the razor gangs or Clipper Sect they will sever her wings. She needs to get out of Precinct One.

Avin Lent was once a promising medical student, but he started sniffing Mumble to beat the stress and is now the doctor to one of the biggest gangs in Precinct One—while not part of the Clipper Sect, they are just as dangerous. He knows he is only as useful as his next surgery and they would have no qualms about killing him. Only Jarro is keeping him safe.

Jarro Coblic is deep undercover and has been for a year. Immersed in the gang, he suspects his hands will never be clean again. When he finds the wounded Arrow, he knows he can’t turn her over even though everyone is looking for her. With his lover’s help, they hide her and heal her wing.

All the while, falling for her. He prays Avin will not crumble and reveal their secret as Jarro tries to figure out a way to get them all out of Precinct One before the Sect and the gangs bring the full wrath of Velli on Precinct One. Tearing the place down can’t come soon enough, but there will be blood before the slate can be washed clean.

Excerpt

Severed
Shona Husk © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

There was blood everywhere. Avin needed to clean the room and his instruments before the next person arrived. Real surgeons didn’t work like this. His hands shook as he scrubbed and sterilized. He was tempted to skip that step and let his patients die of infection. But if something happened, he’d start losing toes…another toe. Not his fingers though because he needed them. As long as he was useful, the Tower gang would let him live.

If this was living, this was his punishment.

He mopped the floor. No one else arrived. Perhaps the cops had moved on to a different gang territory. Ever since the Clippers and the Bridge-side gang had attacked the central courthouse in Velli, the cops had been putting the pressure on the gangs of Industrial 13. Which, in turn, put pressure on him. Spending a night sewing up arrow wounds wasn’t his idea of fun, yet it was better than the other job they’d once had him doing—cutting women’s wings so they couldn’t fly anymore. The mop slid out of his hand. His fingers struggled to grab the handle to pick it up.

He was just tired.

He’d skimped on the anesthetic for his patients and there were a couple of vials left over. He licked his lower lip, already imagining the slightly sweet tingle as he inhaled what was known as Mumble on the streets.

If the Tower boss knew he stashed it, Avin would be in trouble. But after tonight, he deserved a sniff.

Satisfied the room was clean, even though the scent of blood lingered beneath the cleaning product, Avin opened the fridge. Behind some bags of blood were two small green vials. He’d leave one for later.

He knocked over a bag of blood as he reached in. His hand shook more than usual. How long had it been since he’d last inhaled? A few days at most. The boss was careful to give him just enough to keep him hooked, but not enough to make him useless.

The vial was cold against his palm.

He shouldn’t, but he wouldn’t sleep tonight without it. He wanted to forget he was even here. If he could go back three years… He cracked the top and got his first scent of Mumble. While he couldn’t go back, he could at least numb himself to the reality.

He brought the vial to his nose, the cold plastic against his top lip. Jarro would be annoyed. He wouldn’t say anything, but there’d be that look of disappointment in his gray eyes and the clenching of his jaw. It was enough to make Avin hesitate, but only for a moment. Then he inhaled, and the first whiff of Mumble trickled up his nose and into his lungs.

A groan escaped.

He was no better than an addict. While he didn’t pay with money, he still paid in loyalty and blood. He closed his eyes and inhaled the rest of the vial.

With his eyes still closed he took a couple of deep breaths. The drug spread through his lungs, and he felt the exact moment it hit his bloodstream. A cold buzz that took the edge off reality. In a few minutes, he’d have the typical Mumble of a user and the inability to do much more than stumble along with the support of a wall.

He knew the signs and the side effects, and how to use it medically and recreationally. Four years of med school had taught him that. It had also given him the habit. Mumble had helped him sleep after long shifts at the hospital and long days studying.

Avin dropped the vial in the trash with the rest of the waste. Bloodied bandages, arrow tips and shafts, needles and empty tubes of surgical glue. Just another day in Industrial 13. He turned off the lights, his mouth starting to feel pleasantly numb and his muscles loose, and made his way slowly, leaning on the wall, up the stairs to his room.

If Jarro found the extra Mumble in their apartment, he’d go spare.

He’d be asleep before Jarro got home. No doubt Jarro had been busy killing cops. There was too much blood on both their hands. The city-state of Velli would be a better place if Avin let the gang members die on the table.

Maybe if enough died he’d be able to leave. Start again. Get clean. His lips couldn’t turn up in a smile, and the laugh that bubbled up sounded more like choking.

His legs gave way and he sat heavily.

This batch was strong; the real stuff, not the cheap shit the gang sold to users. Avin rested his head against the wall; the cracked surface was cool against his temple.

Eyes closed, he let go of reality, happy to float in the numb space caused by Mumble where thoughts drifted past but didn’t catch and hold and they had no effect. All the violence and death and blood—he could remember it and see it, but from here it didn’t matter. Nothing did.

Footsteps made Avin open his eyes. The heavy tread of a man in boots. It took a couple of heartbeats for him to be able to focus on the black-clad man now standing a few steps below on the staircase and peering at him.

“You’ve been sniffing again.” Jarro frowned. A line of blood marked his cheek, and his dark hair was pulled back into a knot.

Avin tried to speak but his tongue was thick, and his lips didn’t obey. How long had Avin been sitting here? A breath, maybe two? From the stiffness of his back as Jarro hauled him up, Avin had been sitting for far longer than a few breaths even if he couldn’t reconcile the loss of time

He tripped up the stairs, but Jarro kept him upright so he didn’t land on his face or break anything. Mumble also caused stumble. It was funny, but he couldn’t laugh or share.

Jarro tugged at Avin’s clothes. “You smell like a chop shop.”

That’s what happens when you spend the best part of the night up to your elbows in blood and guts. Avin tried to help, but he was still too uncoordinated, and his hands got in the way.

“I know why you do it, but if you don’t stop, you will die here.” There was an edge in Jarro’s voice. What had he seen tonight?

Avin glanced up. Jarro made it sound as though there was another choice. There were no options once in the Industrial 13 precinct. No one got out unless as a corpse or sold. No one wanted to live here.

He didn’t want to live here, but drug debts weren’t easy to clear, apparently. And if he took off, they’d hunt him or his family down, and he had no desire to see his womb brother or his sisters and parents hurt because he screwed up. He’d done enough damage to his family.

Jarro grabbed Avin’s shirt and gave him a shake. “Are you listening to me? I don’t want to die here.”

Was he talking about leaving? Actually leaving.

Sounds bubbled past his lips but didn’t make words.

Jarro gave a cold laugh. “Can’t argue back when you’ve been sniffing.” He stripped off Avin’s shirt and undid his pants, Jarro’s touch lingered for a moment. The heat was almost enough to cut through the fog.

What had started as simple protection—pick the roughest, meanest bastard—had become something more. Yeah, Jarro could be cold and he kept more secrets than Avin had seen bodies, but he’d never once hurt him.

It was more than luck. Avin lifted his hand and touched Jarro’s cheek. The gesture was clumsy and not the soft touch that he’d intended.

Jarro took his hand and shook his head. “Not tonight. Not while you’re dreaming on that shit.” But he leaned in and pressed his lips to Avin’s cheek.

At that moment, he wished he hadn’t caved in to the hollow need of Mumble. What he wanted was Jarro, but he was already pulling away and drawing off his clothes.

“Get a shower, and then we can get to some sleep.” Jarro dropped his shirt on the floor. “I’ll make sure you don’t slip and crack your head open.”

Then Jarro guided him to what they called a bathroom. More of a wet room with hot, running water. There was no bath, and the mirror was rusted and cracked. Like everything else here, it was what it was, and no one expected more.

He glanced at Jarro. Except Jarro.

Jarro had crossed city-state borders after pissing off another gang. He’d ended up working for the Tower gang by luck and chance. Ended up in his bed after too much to drink.

But talking of fleeing, again?

That was dangerous.

Jarro needed to watch his mouth.

Meet the Author

Shona Husk is the author of over forty books that range from sensual to scorching, and cover the contemporary, paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance genres. Her most recent series are Face the Music, Blood and Silver, and Annwyn.

As well as writing romance she also writes sci-fi for the Takamo Universe game and urban fantasy under another pen name.

She lives in Western Australia and when she isn’t writing or reading she loves to cook, cross stitch and research places she’d one day like to travel.

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