Blog Tour: The Necromancer’s Reckoning by S.J. Himes

The Necromancer’s Reckoning | S.J. Himes

The Beacon Hill Sorcerer #3

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GAY URBAN FANTASY ROMANCE

RELEASE DATE: 27.05.18

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COVER DESIGN: Kellie Dennis of Book Cover by Design

Necromancers Reckoning

BLURB

Every action has consequences.

For a decade, Angel Salvatore has been the most powerful sorcerer and only necromancer in all the Northeast. Never one to ask permission nor apologies, he has acted with near impunity for years.

Until now.

The High Council of Sorcery has come to Boston, and Angel is their target. Charged with numerous violations of practitioner laws, his freedom and family are placed in jeopardy.

If found guilty, Angel’s apprentice Daniel will be imprisoned to serve out the remaining years of his apprenticeship. Isaac, his brother, is too vulnerable to be left unguarded, and Angel fears for his sanity and health. Simeon, Elder vampire and Angel’s mate refuses to see Angel convicted under the laws of the Council and his actions to keep Angel free threaten to start a war that could destroy their world. And Angel faces the severest of punishments—the castration of his gifts.

The Council has never cared for the people of Boston, and Angel doubts their motives. They have come for some insidious reason, and it has nothing to do with upholding the law and everything to do with Angel.

Dealing with an impending trial, a wayward ghost, and a grave robbing ring of thieves leaves Angel on the edge. He thinks he may have a handle on things until violence erupts across the city, and a stranger comes to town…a stranger with his own dark powers of necromancy.

This is book 3 of a series, and the previous books should be read first for full enjoyment. Trigger Warnings are on the Copyright Page and can be seen using the Look Inside feature or by downloading a sample of this book.

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EXCERPT

“What do you mean, I got a letter?” Angel held his smartphone between his ear and shoulder, fumbling with the keys to his office. It was still dark, and he huffed with impatience, blinking a small orb of hellfire into existence over his hands so he could find the right key. Inserting it into the lock, he opened the door and dismissed the orb, flicking the light switch by the door.

“It was delivered by courier about ten minutes ago,” Daniel replied, his apprentice talking past food. “I had to sign for it. The courier almost didn’t leave it with me until I told him I was your apprentice.”

Angel grumbled to himself, tossing his keys on his desk and grabbing his phone, rubbing the back of his neck. He left his apartment not even ten minutes before, which was only a couple blocks away, so the courier must have shown up right as he was leaving. He frowned, thinking back to the pre-dawn street, and he didn’t recall seeing anyone—not even a car or taxi.

“Well, go ahead and open it,” Angel said, tapping his phone to put it on speaker. Daniel made a happy sound past whatever he was chewing, and Angel snorted out a laugh. He booted up his laptop, looking for the appointment he had that morning at the ass-crack of dawn. Why in the world he thought it would be a good idea to have a private consultation so damn early on a Monday was beyond him. Which was why he decided on waking up everyone he lived with so he could share the misery. Though it was only Daniel since Isaac was at Nevermore and Simeon was at the Tower.

A sharp yelp and swearing came out from the speakers, and Angel laughed. “Papercut?”

“No! It shocked me!” Daniel gasped out, cussing under his breath. “I can’t open it!”

“What do you mean you can’t open it? Just rip it open.”

“I’m trying! Ouch!” Daniel yelped again, and the sounds coming from over the phone were parts hilarious and alarming. “I’m not risking my fingers. You can open it.”

“Who is it from? It might be warded if a courier brought it.”

“Now you tell me,” Daniel muttered, and Angel grinned as he found the appointment time. Daniel was finding his courage and picking up sass lessons from Isaac. His shy apprentice was learning all about sarcasm in the Salvatore household. His appointment was in about five minutes. No time to run back home and get the letter that was singeing his apprentice’s fingers. Daniel recited the address on the letter, “It says, ‘To Angelus Raine Salvatore, Necromancer of Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts. From’…Oh, wow.”

“Who’s it from?”

“The High Council of Sorcery, Bucharest, Romania.”

Angel stood up straight, hands falling away from his laptop. He stared at the phone, the quiet in his office somehow loud, heart pounding in his ears. He looked up at the door as if any second one of the Council enforcers would blast through the doorway, ready to take him into custody for crimes sundry against international sorcery laws. He breathed in, breath shaky, and flexed his fingers. He reached out with his mind, cautiously testing the wards around his office, and there was nothing.

“Angel? Angel!” Daniel squawked over the phone, and Angel snapped free of the tension that held him frozen and snatched up the phone.

“Daniel, my appointment is any minute. Can you bring the letter here? Just hang out in the main room until I’m done if we’ve started when you get here. Wake up Eroch and have him come with you.”

“Um, okay…wake up the fire-breathing lizard, he says.”

“Just pick him up and carry him with you if he doesn’t wake up. He was sleeping on my pillow when I left. Don’t walk over here alone. I’d say hold on to it until I get home, but I have a feeling I need to read that letter as soon as possible.”

“Okay. Can I take a shower first?”

“You better,” Angel chuckled and hung up. Twenty-year-old men needed showers for the sake of everyone.

A knock sounded from the front of the office, and Angel took a deep breath, calming his off-center nerves before heading to answer the door. He was still cautious, sending out his awareness, his wards humming in the recesses of his mind, unmolested. There were two people on the small landing outside his door, their auras muffled by the panel, but they were both practitioners.

Angel opened the door, a polite smile on his face.

“Angelus Salvatore?” asked a tall, bulky man in a dark coat, his face set to glower. Angel lifted a brow, unable to see the person behind the big man. He could see a flash of red hair and a small bit of alabaster skin before the big guy shifted.

“I am,” Angel replied, opening the door wider, stepping back and gesturing them inside. His wards were set to allow strangers inside, but they would dampen any magic cast in this space by strangers or those he blocked. Came in handy when dealing with young sorcerers and unexpected guests. They could still cast, but his magic permeated the space, claiming even the ambient magical energies and stifling spells cast by interlopers. Not much use against a practitioner who used their own reserves, but the more dangerous, higher-ranked practitioners tended to reach outside themselves first before casting.

A tall woman was behind the big guy, slim and covered head to toe in black, from her leather high-heeled boots and ankle-length black pea coat to her black silk scarf and a jaunty, tiny pillbox hat atop titian curls. She was familiar, but the shadows were still dark enough Angel was having difficulty determining her identity. He led them back to his office, gesturing at the chairs in front of his desk. The woman sat, unwinding her scarf, her escort taking a stance beside the office door. Angel turned on the lamps as dawn was taking its time arriving and the room had shadows in inconvenient places.

The woman removed her scarf, putting it on her lap before shrugging from her coat. Her escort stepped forward, taking it from her before returning to his spot by the door. The woman, dressed in a thin black wraparound dress that hugged every slim curve and long line of her body, smiled at Angel. She was pretty, in a very human way, nothing of the fae about her in face or form. Dark green eyes, nothing at all like the brilliant emerald of Simeon’s eyes but arresting enough in their own merits, gazed back at him, glistening with wry humor.

“Lady Kensington,” Angel acknowledged after a moment’s pause, surprised. The recent widow was a wizard and a skilled apothecary who owned and ran Nightshade Apothecary not far from where they sat in Beacon Hill. Angel would see her occasionally in the neighborhood or when he needed supplies between scheduled deliveries. Her husband, Lord Greyson Kensington, died of a heart attack three months ago while shoveling snow off the front stoop of their shop one chilly winter morning.

“Call me Heather, please,” she said, voice melodic and rich, smooth as hot chocolate with a shot of whiskey. Her chin rose as if she was expecting argument. What Angel could remember of her husband, the man was a stickler for propriety and demanded to be addressed by his title, even to friends.

Angel never liked the man.

“Heather,” Angel agreed with a grin, surprising her into smiling back at him. “What can I do for you? And why so early? I would’ve come to the shop.”

“I’m afraid this matter requires a measure of discretion,” Lady Heather replied, twisting her scarf in her fingers. “It’s regarding my late husband.”

Angel paused, thinking. Usually when the recently bereaved came to his door, they wanted either the impossible, like a resurrection, or more commonly, a summoning of the departed spirit. He rarely acquiesced as nothing good could come from repeatedly dialing in to the Other Side. It kept the living from moving on and tormented the souls he would be recalling to this plane.

She must have seen some of these thoughts on his face, as she held up a dainty hand, forestalling his coming denial. “I don’t want you to summon him from the Other Side,” she said, tears gathering on her lashes. Angel waited, curious despite himself. “I want you to find him for me.”

“I’m sorry, I’m not following,” Angel said warily, hoping she didn’t cry. Isaac or Daniel breaking down he hated but knew what to do, a near stranger crying left him awkward.

“The shop was broken into three nights ago,” Lady Heather said quickly, words tumbling over themselves as she hurried to explain. “I heard the commotion from my apartment upstairs, but by the time the police arrived, it was too late.”

“What did they steal?” Angel was trying to follow along, he really was, but he had no idea what a burglary would have to do with her deceased husband.

“They stole him,” Lady Heather said, digging out a handkerchief from her tiny black purse. She dabbed at her eyes, miraculously not smearing her mascara.

Angel frowned. “I’m going to need you to spell this out for me.”

“The thieves stole Greyson’s ghost. I need you to find him.”

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AMAZON US – THE BEACON HILL SORCERER SERIES

AMAZON UK – THE BEACON HILL SORCERER SERIES

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I’m a self-employed writer who stresses out about the silliest things, like whether or not I got my dog the best kind of snack and the fact my kindle battery tends to die when I’m at the best part in a book. I write mainly gay romance, erotica, and urban fantasy, with occasional forays into contemporary and paranormal. I love a book heavy on plot and character evolution, and throw in some magic, and that’s perfection.

My current series are: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer, Bred For Love (as Revella Hawthorne), The Wolfkin Saga, and the epic fantasy romance series Realms of Love. My last two novels in the Beacon Hill Sorcerer won 3rd Place in the Gay Fantasy category for the 2016 Rainbow Awards.

I live in New Orleans, where the personalities are big and loud and so are the bugs! New Orleans is rich in cultural history, and the flavor and music of the City is impossible to hide. Before that, I lived all over the United States: Tampa, Western Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and on and on….

I’m a nomad, and I’ve yet to find a place that calls to me strongly enough to become home. My faithful travel companions are my dog Micah, the numerous voices in my head who insist they all get put on paper, and the wind at my back.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SJHimes/

Website: https://www.sjhimes.com/en

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Cover Reveal: Magic or Die by J.P. Jackson


Magic or Die | J.P. Jackson

Inner Demons #1 

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Genre: Paranormal, Gay, Magic, Demons, Psychics, Teacher, Covens, Incarceration

James Martin is a teacher, a powerful Psychic, and an alcoholic. He used to work for the Center for Magical Research and Development, a facility that houses people who can’t control their supernatural abilities.

He left after one of his students was killed, turning to vodka to soothe his emotional pain. Problem is, he still has one year left on his contract.

It’s not common knowledge, but the CMRD holds final exams for each of its residents and if they don’t pass, they’re euthanized. So when James returns to the CMRD to fulfill the rest of his contract, he finds himself assisting five young adults, confronting the demons of his past, and attempting to protect his new class from a possible death sentence.

James discovers that his class isn’t bringing in enough sponsors; the agencies and world governments who supply grants and ultimately purchase graduates of the CMRD, and that means no profit for the facility.

Now, James and his students face impossible odds. Measure up to the facility’s unreachable standards or escape.

At the CMRD, you have to be able to control your Magic or Die.

Meet the Author

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

At night however, the writing happens, where demons, witches and shapeshifters congregate around the kitchen table and general chaos ensues.

The insurance company refuses to accept any more claims of ‘acts of the un-god’, and his husband of almost 20 years has very firmly put his foot down on any further wraith summoning’s in the basement.

And apparently imps aren’t house-trainable. Occasionally the odd ghost or member of the Fae community stops in for a glass of wine and stories are exchanged. Although the husband doesn’t know it, the two Chihuahuas are in cahoots with the spell casting.

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

Available to Preorder from NineStar Press on June 25th

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Book Blast: The King’s Sun by Isaac Grisham

The King’s Sun | Isaac Grisham

The Brass Machine #1

Publisher: Cooper Blue Books, LLC

Cover Artist: Dissect Designs

Genres: Fantasy, LGBT

Length: 95,000 words/298 pages

Goodreads

Blurb

Prince Kitsune trained all his life to become a leader in the king’s wars for supremacy, but the fearsome monarch dashes those dreams and banishes his devoted son. Not all is lost—to reclaim his birthright, Kitsune must kill the son of his father’s rival. A son possessed by fiery magic.

Outside of the capital walls for the first time, Kitsune struggles to survive accursed wilderness and political intrigue while executing his mission. He meets the enigmatic, dark-haired Myobu and discovers magical Yokai spirits, dark family secrets, and strange new feelings for his companion.

As the two men forge a path through the region, an unrealized and dangerous magic blossoms within Kitsune. It is the mysterious power of the Yokai spirits, capable of unspeakable destruction, and it grows stronger with each passing day. Could he use this gift to slay his target, or would it destroy all that he loves?

Buy Links

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Excerpt

Inari Palace had been the center of the Kitsunetsuki Kingdom for well over nine centuries. If its people had always regarded it to represent a place to fear, Prince Kitsune could not tell. What he did know for certain was that his father, King Oni, was a powerful man who deserved the fear and respect given unto him.

Kitsune shared in the people’s reverence of King Oni of the Asher lineage. It was said that Oni’s father had fallen in love with and married one of the beautiful Yokai spirits that purportedly inhabited the land around Inari Palace. While Kitsune was doubtful that such spirits existed, he knew the mythology of his people’s religious beliefs. The offspring of such a pairing tended to manifest heightened intelligence and magical abilities that increased in complexity with age. The motives of such individuals were a mystery, and their agendas were unlike those of ordinary people. This allegedly stemmed from a lack of human morals.

No one had ever witnessed King Oni displaying acts of magic, but his wisdom and cleverness were renowned beyond the borders of Kitsunetsuki, as were his skills in war and battle. With his combined talents, two successful military campaigns had already been waged under his reign, resulting in the conquering of the Mogo Empire to the south and the Ruio Territory to the northeast. A third campaign was rumored to be launched within the next sun cycle. It was Kitsune’s greatest desire to fight alongside his father this time around.

Whether it was from the constant state of warfare or the demands of ruling the vast and expanding domain, King Oni was a man rarely seen by even his closest advisors. As a child, Kitsune looked forward to his birthdays not for the presents, but rather because they were the rare days his father would most certainly present himself—assuming he was not leading the military elsewhere. As he matured, Kitsune saw the king less and less often. Now he only knew his father existed from the messages, requests, and gifts sent via servants.

Such remoteness did not temper Kitsune’s admiration of his father. It only solidified his notion that the numerous obligations of running the kingdom could only be handled by a man as judicious and dutiful as the king. Understanding that such responsibilities demanded considerable time, Kitsune willingly accepted his position in his father’s life. Though they both resided within the palace, it had been well over a sun cycle since they’d seen each other face to face.

This was why it came as such a surprise when Kitsune was awoken late one morning by a servant knocking on his chamber doors with a simple message: King Oni demands your presence immediately.

About the Author

Ever since his elementary school librarian made his short story about a sick dog available for checkout, Isaac had wanted to be a writer.

A lot of words had been put to paper since then, including tales about dinosaurs, space travels, and the afterlife.

The King’s Sun, the first part of The Brass Machine, is his first published work.


 

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Book Blitz: The Rainmaker by Petra Landon

The Rainmaker | Petra Landon

Saga of the Chosen #2

Publication date: March 30th 2018

Genres: Adult, Urban Fantasy

As they race to untangle the past and thwart a power-hungry Wizard, Tasia must face her toughest decision yet. Can she take a leap of faith and risk her deadliest secret?

Tasia Armstrong is no longer a nondescript, friendless and naïve Wizard flying under the radar on the fringes of Chosen society. With her fate now publicly entwined with that of a powerful Shifter Pack, she must navigate the minefield of Pack politics while keeping her secrets and cover safe from the Chosen who hunt her.

With a Pack to defend her, a powerful Alpha to protect her interests and friends to watch her back, her life is a far cry from before. But living with the Shifters holds new challenges for a Chosen more used to the shadows.

The stakes have never been higher as old fault lines, long-buried secrets, Wizard dysfunction, and Lady Bethesda’s ruthless machinations draw the Chosen ever closer to a civil war.

While Tasia grapples to avoid the pitfalls and confront her demons, it is an unlikely nemesis who forces her to face her moment of truth. Tasia finds herself at the crossroads – at stake are her carefully constructed house of cards and her tangled relationship with the man who holds her enemies at bay.

Will Tasia risk opening Pandora’s Box or will she disappear into the shadows again?

Author’s Note : The Rainmaker continues the story from The Prophecy. The books are not standalone and are intended to be read in order.

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On sale for 99¢ for a limited time only!

Author Bio:

An avid reader all her life, only recently has Petra allowed her own imagination to run riot. She loves to travel, loves the outdoors and reads everything she can get her hands on, time permitting.

Her taste in books is very eclectic – she tends to like stories with vivid and quirky characters that have elements of fantasy, adventure, romance and mystery interspersed together.

A good book for her is one that makes the reader think long after it has been finished and set aside. And, one that draws the reader back to it, again and again.

To share the tales that have lived in her imagination for so long is a labor of love and a lifelong dream come true for her.

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Review & Blog Tour: Forged In Fire by Ari McKay

Forged In Fire | Ari McKay

Ashville Arcana #2

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Cover Design: Aaron Anderson
 

Length: 59,473 words

Ashville Arcana Series
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Blurb

The magic touch.

Ever since Harlan Edgewood was bitten by a possessed werewolf, his monthly shifts have been agonizing. When he meets Whimsy Hickes—a mage who specializes in transformation—the attraction is mutual. But Harlan believes his curse is too great a burden to inflict on any romantic partner.

Fortunately, Whimsy thinks he can help.

When Harlan is provoked into an unexpected change, Whimsy uses his magic to help ease Harlan’s pain, but with an unexpected consequence. While he’s shifted, Harlan’s wolf claims Whimsy as his mate.

As they draw closer, suspicious events in the Asheville magical community escalate. Shifters are disappearing, others are murdered, and Harlan’s curse makes him an obvious target.

It will take all of Whimsy’s magic to force back the rising evil—and if he fails, Harlan will lose not only his life, but his very soul.

May 1 – OMG Reads

May 2 – Bayou Book Junkie

May 3 – Making It Happen

May 5 – Love Bytes

May 7 – My Fiction Nook

May 8 – The Novel Approach

May 9 – Scattered Thoughts & Rogue Words, RAM PA Group, Drops Of Ink, Momma Says: To Read or Not To Read, United Indie Book Blog

May 10 – MM Good Book Reviews

May 11 – Bayou Book Junkie, Mirrigold: Mutterings & Musings, Valerie Ullmer, Virginia Lee

May 12 – Diverse Reader

Ari McKay is the professional pseudonym for Arionrhod and McKay, who have been writing together for over a decade. Their collaborations encompass a wide variety of romance genres, including contemporary, fantasy, science fiction, gothic, and action/adventure.

Their work includes the Blood Bathory series of paranormal novels, the Herc’s Mercs series, as well as two historical Westerns: Heart of Stone and Finding Forgiveness. When not writing, they can often be found scheming over costume designs or binge watching TV shows together.

Arionrhod is a systems engineer by day who is eagerly looking forward to (hopefully) becoming a full time writer in the not-too-distant future. Now that she is an empty-nester, she has turned her attentions to finding the perfect piece of land to build a fortress in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and baking (and eating) far too many cakes.

McKay is an English teacher who has been writing for one reason or another most of her life. She also enjoys knitting, reading, cooking, and playing video games. She has been known to knit in public. Given she has the survival skills of a gnat, she’s relying on Arionrhod to help her survive the zombie apocalypse.

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Devon and Wade are back and making promises!

HawkintheRowanCoverHawk in the Rowan by Sam Burns

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just absolutely adore this series, each individual book is like an episode of a TV show, self contained but moving the season long story arc along some more.

In this one we’re back with Devon and Wade as they battle personal fears and expectations at the same time as a very real risk to the town of Rowan Harbor puts lives in danger.

The pacing is spot on and before or knew it, 80% of the book had gone by in a flash and the next element of the narrative plot was being carefully crafted.

There’s a fair bit more sexy times in this one too and Devon finally makes a commitment to both the town and to Wade. There’s also appearances from all the usual suspects and we get an introduction to another new paranormal creature type living in the town which I found fascinating.

Four down, five to go before the tale is finally told and I can’t wait for more Jesse and Sean, who should be up next.

#ARC kindly provided by the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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Release Blitz: Hawk In The Rowan by Sam Burns

Hawk In The Rowan | Sam Burns

The Rowan Harbor Cycle #4

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Length: 45,000 words approx.

Cover Design: Melanie Harlow @ Clause & Effect

The Rowan Harbor Cycle Series

Book #1 – Blackbird In The Reeds

Book #2 – Wolf and the Holly

Book #3 – Fox and Birch

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Blurb

 

Devon Murphy has been back in Rowan Harbor for three months. He’s taken on a host of new responsibilities, and is in a serious relationship for the first time in his life. He loves the town and its inhabitants, but it’s starting to feel like too much for the former drifter.

Now there’s a storm on the horizon, and it doesn’t seem like things are going to slow down and let him catch his breath. A blizzard is brewing, and three people have gone missing in the woods south of town. Devon needs to find them before time runs out.

This book is the fourth of nine in The Rowan Harbor Cycle, not a standalone. Devon and Wade will return in book seven for their HEA.

Excerpt

 

Standing next to Annie Anderson as she inspected his knitting, Devon felt like he was waiting for a teacher to grade a test he already knew he’d failed. Every time he thought he was getting the hang of knitting, he made a mess of something.

“I’m honestly not sure what you did here, honey. You’ve got the same number of stitches, but that cable just isn’t right.” She held it up toward the overhead light and peered at the half-made sock.

He could make a plain row with his eyes closed, but whenever he tried the cable pattern, the result was twisted and gnarled, all sharp edges and wrong angles instead of smooth, intertwined curves.

She set the sock down on the counter and smiled at him. “I have an idea. Why don’t we just change the pattern? Play to your strengths, that’s what I always say.”

Salli, coming up behind her, snorted. “No, you always say face your fears and embrace the steek.”

“I have no idea what that means,” Devon told them, sighing and leaning on the counter. “Am I totally hopeless?”

Annie ruffled his hair. There weren’t many people in town he would accept that from, but Annie Anderson was . . . well, she was about the only one. Maybe Madame Cormier, the venerable witch on the town council, but he doubted the serious, dignified lady would be interested in ruffling his hair.

“You’re fine,” Annie said, and rested her hand on his. “This is all new to you, but you’re learning fast. You’ll get there. It just takes time.”

The intense look she gave him implied she was talking about more than knitting, but Devon wasn’t sure he wanted to ask what she meant.

“It looks kind of cool, even if it’s wrong, like tree roots or vines or something,” Salli observed as she took a bite of the apple she was carrying and leaned across the counter toward Devon. “You’re not staying for knit night, are you?”

That made him frown. “Why not? You guys don’t want me here?”

He’d thought he was getting better at handling the shop’s busiest night of the week. There were always dozens of people, coffee and tea, snacks—heck, sometimes people even brought wine—and at first, the night had been a little overwhelming. Running a shop packed with people was a lot of work, especially when they all wanted to ask questions about merchandise he was still learning himself.

But he was getting the hang of the job, or so he’d believed.

Annie and Salli were looking at him like he was the biggest idiot ever born.

“What?”

Annie sighed, shook her head, and looked over at Salli. “How much do you want to bet he hasn’t done anything?”

“How much of a sucker do you think I am?” Salli asked with a snort and took another bite of her apple.

“Devon, honey, do you know what day it is?” Annie asked.

“Um, Wednesday?”

Salli picked up his weirdly cabled sock with the hand that wasn’t holding the apple, inspecting the row of stitches. “Wednesday,” she agreed. “Wednesday, February…”

He took a second of mental calculation to place the date. It wasn’t as though he had a schedule that forced him to pay close attention to that. So it was Wednesday, February—

“Fourteenth,” he answered. Then he realized what they were getting at. “Oh, come on you guys. Valentine’s Day? As much as I like chocolate, why would I be interested in a candy-industry holiday?”

The two women shared another look before Salli leaned in toward Annie. “Maybe you were wrong about him getting the hang of this.”

Annie shook her head, resolute. “Absolutely not. He just needs time.” She took the sock from Salli and stuffed it into the bag where Devon was keeping it, along with the cake of gray yarn. “And right now, he needs to go upstairs and put on nice clothes.”

“Do what?”

They both stared at him.

“But why? I mean, it’s not like Wade and I have anything planned.”

Neither woman said a word.

He sighed and turned to stomp off toward the stairs to his apartment. “Fine, I’ll put on different clothes. But if Wade asks why I’m all dressed up, I’m blaming you two.”

All the way up the stairs, he muttered to himself about interfering friends and small-town gossip. His boyfriend wasn’t into hearts and flowers. Wade was a serious guy, and when he wasn’t being serious, he still wasn’t the romantic type. The lack of romance didn’t bother Devon. He was comfortable with Wade not being over-the-top romantic.

Sure, everyone wanted to know they were valued, but Wade was good at telling Devon that without words or chocolates. It was there in the way his face lit up when he saw Devon at the end of a long day, or his pleased sigh when they woke up spooned together. It was definitely there in the way Wade made them breakfast on Thursday mornings. Wade was enough without some day invented by capitalism to sell heart-themed merchandise.

But if it would please Salli and Annie, he would change clothes. He toed his shoes off as he passed the doorway, then tossed his T-shirt and jeans in the hamper as he passed it. Halfway into the walk-in closet, he turned and stripped off his plain white briefs, adding them to the dirty clothes. If he was going to go to the trouble of dressing up, he might as well put on nice underwear too.

Twenty minutes later, he was examining the results in the mirror. All black except for a dark red button-down, and he just might have found a pair of underwear to match the shirt. His auburn hair was still a mess, but nothing ever fixed that. People always seemed to think it was an intentional mess, so he didn’t worry about it.

Instead of slipping his sneakers back on, he decided on a pair of black boots. They weren’t much nicer, but he didn’t own a truly fancy pair of shoes. He hadn’t ever had the money for that.

He glanced over to the window to check the sky, not even sure why he’d bothered. It was the same as it had been for almost two weeks: gray and threatening. It felt ominous, but he’d never spent a February in Rowan Harbor before, so maybe it was normal. No one else seemed bothered, so he was trying to keep his concern to himself.

He didn’t want to be the guy who went around asking, “Cold enough for you?”

When he got back down to the shop, Salli and Annie were still standing at the counter, and they turned to examine him. Annie twirled her finger to indicate that he should turn around. Confirming the fact that Annie was a creature of pure magic, Devon complied without complaint.

No, he didn’t think she’d magically forced him to turn around. He just hated the idea of disappointing her, so he did what she wanted.

“It’s passable,” Salli said, her tone grudging, as though she thought he could have done much better.

Annie walked over and patted him on the shoulder. “I think you look very nice, dear. I don’t know why your hair won’t lie flat, but I suppose that’s the way people like it.”

He shrugged but didn’t answer.

“Jeez, look like you’re headed for your own execution, why don’t you?” Salli asked. “It’s Valentine’s Day. It’s not like he’s going to take you out for fried grasshoppers or something.”

Devon scrunched up his nose. “Do they serve that?”

Salli shrugged but then nodded. “Somewhere, no doubt. I mean, it’s all protein, right? But nowhere in Rowan Harbor that I know of.”

“You’ll make the boy nervous, Salli,” Annie told her, waving her off. “I’m sure Wade knows his taste well enough to feed him. And if I remember correctly, Wade’s quite the cook.”

He looked between the two of them and shook his head. “I’d promise not to say I told you so, but I don’t think I’ll be able to stop myself.” Sometimes it would be convenient to lie, he thought. It was a recurring theme in his wishes, but there were worse things than being known for telling the truth.

The two of them ignored the admission of impending rudeness and fussed over his hair for a minute.

“That’s even worse,” Annie said with a sigh, stepping back.

Salli gave a sharp nod. “Perfect.”

He was about to open his mouth to once again tell them that they were crazy, but the electronic bell over the door jingled, and they all turned to look.

It was Wade, looking windblown and gorgeous. He was wearing date clothes too, a white button-down and pinstripe trousers. That wasn’t so shocking; Wade dressed up when he intended to go out for dinner.

But…

In one hand, Wade held a long-stemmed red rose. In the other was a picnic basket.

Part of Devon wanted to groan. Salli and Annie had been right, and how did they know Wade better than him? Never mind the fact that they had spent decades around the man and he hadn’t; weren’t he and Wade supposed to be some sort of fated soul mates? How had he not seen this coming a mile off?

It wasn’t too hard to admit, if only to himself, that most of him thought it was adorable and endearing. Wade had made a picnic.

Wait.

“It’s February, Wade,” he said. “It’s going to snow.”

Everyone in earshot groaned, including a lady sitting halfway across the shop who had been engrossed in her knitting. She pushed her project into her bag and stood. “I guess I’d better get to the grocery store and pick up some essentials in case it gets bad.”

Salli leaned back against the counter. “Should we cancel knit night?”

“Please,” Devon said with a roll of his eyes. “People would show up for knit night if there were an earthquake currently happening. Worst comes to worst and you can’t get home, you can sleep on the bordello sofa. It’s comfy.”

Annie quirked an eyebrow. “Bordello sofa?”

Normally Devon didn’t explain the sofa, but the exchange with Annie reminded him that she was older than his grandmother. Bordello wasn’t a word he used in conversation with his elders, and his cheeks heated at having to explain. “That was what Mom called it. I’m sure it was never—”

Annie waved him off. “I get it. Now, since you shouldn’t be going out, you two should go sit on your bordello sofa and eat the lovely meal I’m sure Wade has made for you. Shoo, off you go.”

Wade gave him a shy smile and held up the basket. “A picnic in your apartment okay?”

Devon couldn’t say no. Not because he didn’t want to disappoint Wade—he couldn’t even lie to spare Wade’s feelings—but he found that, surprisingly enough, he kind of wanted to eat a picnic in his apartment.

He was glad he’d changed clothes. Salli winked at him as they headed toward the stairs, and even though he knew she was going to give him hell later, he was grateful to have her as a friend.

“Everything okay?” Wade asked, his voice tinged with a nervousness that Devon wasn’t used to hearing from him.

He looped his arm through Wade’s. “Yeah, I think so. Unexpected, maybe, but just fine.”

About The Author


Sam wrote her first fantasy epic with her best friend when she was ten. Like almost any epic fiction written by a ten year old, it was awful. She likes to think she’s improved since then, if only because she has better handwriting now.

If she’s not writing, she’s almost certainly either reading or lost down a wikipedia rabbit hole while pretending to research for a novel.

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