Tag Archives: new release blitz

New Release Blitz: Unraveling by Rick R. Reed

Unraveling | Rick R. Reed

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 13, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 68,300

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Blurb

Randy Kay has the perfect life with his beautiful wife and adorable son. But Randy’s living a lie, untrue to himself and everyone who knows him. He’s gay.

Marriage and fatherhood, which he thought could change him, have failed. He doubts if anyone can love him for who he really is—especially himself.

With his wife’s blessing, he sets out to explore the gay world he’s hidden from all his life.

John Walsh, a paramedic with the Chicago Fire Department, is comfortable in his own skin as a gay man, yet he can never find someone who shares his desire to create a real relationship, a true family.

When Randy and John first spy each other in Chicago’s Boystown, all kinds of alarms go off—some of joy, others of deep-seated fear.

Randy and John must surmount multiple hurdles on the journey to a lasting, meaningful love. Will they succeed or will their chance at love go up in flames, destroyed by missed connections and a lack of self-acceptance?

Excerpt

Unraveling
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
RANDY

I have my death all planned out.

Unlike the thirty-two years that have gone before, I want my passing to be peaceful and free of the discord and pain I’ve lived with for as long as I can remember. I want it to be easy. Effortless. Guilt-free.

Whether it’s any of those things remains to be seen.

I’ve rented this hotel room at a small boutique hotel off Michigan Avenue. The Crewe House has been standing on this same ground on Oak Street for at least a hundred years. The rooms are small, fussy, and charming, with flocked wallpaper, four-poster beds, and claw-foot tubs and pedestal sinks in their black-and-white bathrooms. It’s charming, and I deserve something nice to gaze at before I close my eyes for good.

I have some sandalwood-scented candles lit, and the fragrance is warm, enveloping. Their soft flicker is the only illumination. Outside, the winter sky darkens early. Dusk’s cobalt blue makes silhouettes of the water towers, train tracks, and buildings to the west of the hotel. Near the horizon the sky is a shade of lavender that mesmerizes me, makes me think of changing my mind. If a sky like this can exist, with its electric bands of color, maybe the world isn’t such a horrible place.

Maybe I can go on.

No.

What else have I done to ease my passage into whatever comes next? I have a bottle of Veuve Cliquot, my favorite champagne, uncorked and resting in a silver ice bucket, filled with melting ice. A flute stands next to it, waiting.

I’ll wash the sleeping pills down with the bubbly.

Before getting into bed, I’ll turn on the cassette I have in my boombox, Abbey Road. I have it queued up to “Golden Slumbers.”

I’ve been carrying this weight for such a long time.

I long for smiles.

At last, I’ll undress and stretch out on the four-poster. I’ll pull the eiderdown duvet loosely over me and close my eyes.

The plan is I will slowly slip under, my brain becoming a soft velvety fog, and I’ll simply fall into the arms of a comforting—and obliterating—slumber.

I will not dream.

It won’t take long.

And I’ll leave a beautiful corpse.

That’s the plan, anyway. Some of my research into this method of offing myself runs counter to this gentle fantasy, but I don’t want to consider the downside of overdosing on strong barbiturates.

I want to go to sleep.

I want to forget the impossibility of being able to become the man I know I should be.

Husband.

Father.

I blink back tears as I sit on the bed, staring out at the deepening twilight. They don’t deserve this: what you’re going to leave them with. I know the voice inside, the one that’s always made me do the right thing, at the expense of my very being, is right. And even though they don’t deserve it, you know they will hurt, of course they will, but in the end, they’ll be better off.

Who wants a husband and father who can’t seem to make himself straight, despite trying therapy, the Catholic Church, the Buddhist faith, self-help groups, and self-help books. A group of pathetic married men meeting once a month and thinking they can change. Nothing works. If I could change, I would.

And since I can’t change, I’m left with three options:

Accept myself as I am. How can I do that? I’d be a failure as a husband, a father, a son, a brother. I’d go on wearing this suffocating mask. I’d continue to live a life that’s essentially a lie.

Everyone who loves me doesn’t even know me.

They love a façade, a projection, a mirage made of wishes, impossible hopes, and self-hatred.

No, acceptance is not an option. It never was.

Second, I could resist. I could knuckle down and brace myself against the attractions I feel, the dreams that pop up in my sleep despite my desperately not wanting them there. I could hold myself back from falling prey to the temptations I feel on the streets, the subway, the locker rooms—everywhere I encounter a beautiful man.

The reason I find myself here is because I can’t resist. Not anymore.

And the third option is simply the one I have to choose—remove myself from the pain. Remove myself from existing as this broken thing that God nor man can fix.

Yes, Violet and Henry both will find a way to move on, and they’ll be happier, more anchored in life without me.

Who needs a gay dad? Or a husband who, deep down, doesn’t want what his wife has to offer? Or worse, a dad who contracts the death sentence of AIDS?

Enough of the grim thoughts. They were not part of my plan. Tonight, I go out peacefully. I’ll shut my eyes and remember things like my joy six years ago when Henry was born and seeing him take his first breath. I shouted, “We got a boy!” and fell into the deepest, most effortless love I’ve ever felt. I’ll remember proposing to Violet when we were both college sophomores and the thrill when she accepted the cheap diamond-chips ring I gave her. Things will be okay now, I remember thinking. I can change.

I really believed that. And I know I love Violet as best I can.

It’s sad when your best simply isn’t good enough.

I reach over for the bottle of sleeping pills on the nightstand. There are thirty of them, and I intend to take them all, two or three at a time. If it takes the whole bottle of champagne to get them down, well, things could be worse. No?

I tip the bottle and look at the tablets against the dark wood, so innocent, yet so lethal.

I’m just reaching for one when there’s a sudden knock on the door. Loud. Forceful. Urgent.

“Randy? Randy? Open up, please.”

The door knob turns as Violet’s voice penetrates the heavy wood of the door, making her sound muffled.

I close my eyes. I could ignore her, hope she goes away.

How did she find out where I was anyway?

She wasn’t supposed to know until she got the letter, the one neatly folded and an arm’s length away on the nightstand.

Pounding. “Please!” Violet calls.

I gather the pills, shoving them back in the bottle, then hide the container in a nightstand drawer.

How will I explain?

I get up, cross the room, and open the door.

About the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed draws inspiration from the lives of gay men to craft stories that quicken the heartbeat, engage emotions, and keep the pages turning. Although he dabbles in horror, dark suspense, and comedy, his attention always returns to the power of love.

He’s the award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction and is forever at work on yet another book. Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA with his beloved husband and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix.

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New Release Blitz: Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

Breaking the Surface | Rebecca Langham

The Outsider Project #2

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 13, 2020

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 81,300

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Blurb

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Excerpt

Breaking the Surface
Rebecca Langham © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Lydia wanted so badly to pace, to burn away her fear one exaggerated step at a time, but there was nowhere to go, no floor space to haunt. The Camp had been a sanctuary for them all, keeping her friends safe from unwanted attention since they’d taken their first steps as free people, but now it suffocated her. It may have been off-the-grid, but the complex was also small. Too small.

Given the number of people in the control room, she had to settle for crossing her arms over her stomach and gritting her teeth. But even then, she couldn’t silence the dissenting voice in her head. Something wasn’t right. Why would the United Earth Alliance be demanding a meeting so forcefully?

The UEA had been quiet in the two weeks since the Outsiders relocated from the colonies, granting an eerie yet welcome period of radio silence. Now they’d not only made contact, but threatened legal action if Alessia and the Green Hats didn’t acquiesce to an immediate communication with one of the government’s top advisers.

Lydia’s stomach churned.

As though reading her thoughts, Alessia slid her hand into Lydia’s and squeezed her fingers. Lydia forced a weak smile as she turned. “I don’t trust them.”

Alessia’s face—which, more than ever, reminded Lydia of a finely carved alabaster statue— softened.

“Of course not,” she replied, her tone sympathetic yet firm. “But it may not be wise to ignore the request. This could be nothing more than an administrative issue and I don’t want to invite trouble, not so soon after the release.”

“I don’t think you can ignore it, Ly-dee.” Helen swivelled gently in an office chair, forearms resting on her thighs as she considered her daughter. After all those years without Helen’s presence, hearing that fruity voice still managed to surprise her from time to time. Lydia had believed her mother to be dead for years. Finding out she hadn’t died, but rather become a kind of political hacker, was unsettling to say the least.

Life had changed so much in the last nine months. Alessia did not remain trapped beneath the ground, and Helen had re-emerged from the void.

No longer living with her politician father, even Lydia had been partially freed from the web of her old insecurities and frustrations. Sometimes though, it seemed like those frustrations had dissolved only to be replaced by a whole slew of new concerns. It had been a lot to process.

Helen sighed, a little too dramatically. She reached for a cup of tea she’d left cooling on a nearby bench and cradled it between her hands. “We knew they’d get their claws back in sooner or later.”

“Two weeks,” Lydia huffed. “They only waited two weeks. Please can’t we refuse?” The frustration in her voice exposed Lydia’s raw emotional state in a way she wasn’t comfortable with. Until recently, she’d worked hard to present a subdued version of her thoughts to the outside world. With such a prominent father, she’d had to if she had any hope of protecting herself from those who sought to exploit her. Whether it be to splash her personal life about the goss-channels, or to pressure her to influence her father regarding some political issue or another, there had been no shortage of people trying to use Lydia. It had been a kind of self-preservation to surround herself in the dark veil she’d become enveloped in, making it harder for people to really see her. But then Alessia had burst into her life, a quiet yet powerful blaze of light.

Alessia and the other Outsiders had reached right into her and reawakened feelings and sensations she’d muted long ago.

“Is refusing a good idea?” Peleus looked up from where he sat cross-legged on the floor a couple of metres away from Helen. Peleus had been one of her earliest and most faithful followers and friends, embracing her efforts to slowly change culture in the colony by sharing positive stories and messages with the children. “They’re providing accommodations and integration assistance to the four thousand Os who’ve had their entire existence uprooted. Not taking their meeting might give the UEA reason to withdraw support.” As Alessia’s confidante, Peleus’s presence always lent a certain sense of thoughtful tranquillity to a situation.

Alessia pulled Lydia closer until their bodies pressed together, banishing the air between them and soothing Lydia’s nerves a little. They’d barely had time to catch their breath since Release Day. When they had finally pushed their way through the obscenely large crowd of onlookers in Thracia after the ceremony, they’d boarded an air-transport and come directly here to the Green Hat headquarters in Quadrant Four.

Affectionately known by its inhabitants as the Camp, the secure underground complex supported a community of approximately a hundred people. Every one of them had dedicated their lives to undermining the UEA’s ever-worsening abuses of its own laws.

The main control room at the Camp was capacious and circular, with curved desks and ergonomic chairs that hugged the wall. Each workstation offered a user access to the G-Hat virtual network, but to connect with the outside world, one had to utilise the cylindrical, glassy tower in the centre of the room. A reflective pillar when inactive, the hub featured a projector that sent holograms into the middle of the tower as required.

The hub worked much the same way as any Hive wall, but with some modifications helping to prevent hacks into the rest of their system. It was also perfect for situations in which more than one person needed to participate in a communication link. Lydia believed the entire setup was nothing short of spectacular. No doubt they’d been able to develop the untraceable consoles only because of whatever financial support the MacNay Corporation had been providing.

Still, Alessia and Lydia had traded one isolated abode for another. At least this one wasn’t full of protectors or tainted by decades of oppression. Greys had been replaced with blues, locked doors with open spaces, and obstacles with possibilities.

The dormitory was unfortunate, though. Each night, the enticing heat of Alessia’s body rejuvenated Lydia, yet they were acutely aware of the other people sleeping nearby, and so Lydia had accepted the fact they’d have no privacy for the foreseeable future.

In truth, she experienced relief and disappointment in equal measure. They’d only spent a few weeks getting to know one another in the Q4C, after a month of silent glances in crowded corridors. The six months of separation following Lydia’s departure had done little to quiet Lydia’s fears her connection to Alessia wasn’t as strong as she’d thought, that perhaps she’d imagined the whole thing given the immediacy of their attraction. Slowing things down, being with one another without expectation, could be the best way for Lydia to validate the tether between the two of them.

The rest of the refugees had been relocated to government-sponsored accommodations in the major cities of Thracia and New Sydney. Only Peleus and Fermi knew exactly where to find Alessia, and Lydia wanted it to stay that way for the moment, regardless of Alessia’s initial protestations.

The entire world knew Alessia’s face now, and there was no way to predict how she’d be received by the mainstream population or what her own people might expect from her as their de facto leader. Leader.

Lydia rested the side of her face against Alessia’s bicep. Her stomach clenched as she capitulated. “Peleus is right, isn’t he? We should hear them out.”

Alessia kissed the top of Lydia’s head, then nodded. “Yes.” She looked at Lydia’s mother. “Helen, I’m ready.”

Don’t miss Book #1 in the The Outsider Project series, Beneath the Surface, available from NineStar Press

Meet the Author

Rebecca Langham lives in the Blue Mountains (Australia) with her partner, three children, and menagerie of pets. A Xenite, a Whovian and all-round general nerd, she’s a lover of science fiction, comic books, and caffeine.

When she isn’t teaching History to high schoolers or wrangling children, Rebecca enjoys playing broomball and reading.

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New Release Blitz: Life Minus Me by Sara Codair

Life Minus Me | Sara Codair

The Evanstar Chronicles #5

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: January 6, 2020

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 23,500

Buy Links:

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Blurb

Mel is half Angel, but despite her ability to heal and read minds, she feels powerless to help anyone. When a prophecy shows a local pet supply store owner driving their car off a bridge, Mel sets out to stop it.

Baily, owner of Barks and Bits, is barely holding it together. Things keep going wrong, and their depression spirals out of control. Just as they start wondering if they’d be better off dead, a new friend provides a glimmer of hope. But is that enough to keep living?

Mel never thought saving Baily would be easy, but she can’t figure out when, where, or why Baily’s suicide will happen. As her confidence fades away, she wonders how she can help anyone when she needs so much help herself.

Excerpt

Life Minus Me
Sara Codair © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Mel

Saturday

Sun beat down on Mel’s cold, rosy cheeks, and wind whipped her blonde hair into a frenzy of thrashing strands. She sped up on I-95 in a yellow Jeep Wrangler with the top down on a chilly Saturday morning in January. The fact that she even felt cold at all reminded her that she was a little human…25 percent human.

A salty chill grew in the air. A green bridge loomed on the horizon. It crossed the Piscataqua River, the border between Maine and New Hampshire, leading her from the place where she, a seemingly human college senior who lived with her grad-student fiancé, was deciding which medical school to attend, to one where she was an Angel-Elf-Human hybrid who fought Demons and healed minor injuries. Sometimes, Mel felt like she lived in two worlds. In one, science and reason left little room for belief in the supernatural. In the other, her maternal grandmother was an Elf, her father was an Angel, and the rest of her family members were Demon hunters.

They weren’t technically two separate worlds so much as cultures, one hidden from the other. Mel led a double life in this messy multifaceted world where she tried her best to make it a better place. She tried, but she failed more than she succeeded.

She tapped the steering wheel with her fingers, drumming a rhythm to a song someone was listening to in the car in front of her, one she wasn’t hearing through her ears, but through telepathy she’d failed to turn off. She understood even less of the science behind her mind reading than that of her healing abilities.

Speeding up, she passed the pickup truck whose driver was loudly thinking about the music he was listening to and how it reminded him of his ex-boyfriend. Mel imagined the rush of wind, the growl of her engine, and a big brick wall shielding her mind from everything outside her skull until the music ceased. Mostly. She’d inherited her telepathic powers from her father, but she didn’t control the ability nearly as well as he did.

She tightened her grip on the steering wheel. It was going to be at least another hour before she got to Mary’s Eats, a diner where she was meeting her cousin, Erin, for breakfast.

Driving was difficult when her attempts to control her telepathy failed, but crowded restaurants were more of a challenge. When Mel stepped through glass doors into the diner, other people’s thoughts battered the mental walls she’d constructed around her mind. She squeezed by the line of customers waiting for tables, ignoring their glares and reinforcing her shields so the dull, incoherent murmuring of a dozen minds faded away.

The L-shaped room was filled with pink and blue tables that had been there since the 1950s. The faux-wood vinyl floors were less than a year old, installed around the same time the owners had gutted the walls to insulate them, updated the wiring, and added gender-neutral bathrooms. Those bathrooms, along with the large portions of bacon that the restaurant served, were why Erin often insisted on meeting here.

Erin sat in the fifth booth from the line, hood up and headphones on. Rocking back and forth to the beat of music Mel couldn’t hear, Erin shredded a straw wrapper and stared at the silverware. Two menus sat untouched on the edge of the table.

A bony shoulder collided with Mel’s back. Newspapers flew up into the air and floated to the floor like feathers from broken wings as a man with wispy gray hair and pasty skin jumped backward.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, catching his balance on the side of the booth. “I wasn’t watching where I was going.”

“It’s fine. It’s a good thing you didn’t fall.” Mel bent down and started picking up the dropped papers.

“I’ll get them. I’m healthier than I look.” The old man bent down and scooped up more pages.

Mel picked them up quicker and then helped him back to his feet.

“Thank you,” he said, before shuffling off to a table where a younger person with short brown hair and rosy cheeks glared at a computer screen.

“Cooper, these numbers don’t look right,” said the person, picking at chapped lips.

Cooper clutched his disorganized newspaper to his chest as he looked over the person’s shoulder. “That check was only supposed to be for $5,000, not $50,000!”

“Call the bank. They close at noon,” said the younger person.

“Mel? Someone else is going to walk into you if you keep standing in the middle of the aisle,” said Erin, whose hood and headphones were now off.

“Good point.” Mel slid into the seat across from Erin. “It’s been a long week.”

“It must be horrible, going back to school after having a month off.” Erin gathered pieces of their shredded straw wrapper into a pile and slid them under the menu.

“You had a couple weeks off too.” Mel fidgeted with the ring on her left-hand ring finger.

“Over which I had to write a five-page paper. You had no homework and get to start all new classes.” Erin picked up the butter knife and put it down, squeezing their hands together.

“Are you okay?” Mel leaned forward and tilted her head, peering at Erin’s grass-green eyes, barely resisting the temptation to let her shields down so she could read Erin’s mind.

“Not really.” Erin yanked their right hand away from their left, running their fingers through short, red curls. “The meds my new doctor had me on were actually working until I broke out into hives, got really dizzy, and couldn’t keep a single meal down.”

“That sucks.” Mel curled her hands around the edge of the booth’s seat, digging her fingernails into the old vinyl. Erin wasn’t much more human than Mel, which was probably why medications intended for humans didn’t work. But Erin didn’t know that, and Mel couldn’t tell them the truth—she was bound by an oath that was impossible to break. Had she known what the consequences of this secret would be, she never would’ve agreed to keep it.

“Yup. My stupid brain is already foggy again, and I can’t focus on getting anything done.” Erin picked up the fork, spun it around, and ran their fingers over the prongs.

Mel snatched it out of their hand. “Careful.”

Erin rolled their eyes. “I wish the server would hurry up and come back now that you’re here. I’m starving.”

“Me too.” Mel slid Erin’s napkin and butter knife closer, farther away from Erin.

“Really? You think that little of me?” Erin stood up, fists clenched as they stared out the window to the street where their car, a Jeep Cherokee built four years before Erin was even born, was parked outside.

“Erin, I’m sorry. I just…it’s an old habit, maybe. I’m sorry.” Mel’s hands shook as she waited for Erin to either accept the apology or storm away. Her chest got tight and her eyes burned. A year and a half ago, she had sat with Erin in this very diner, thinking Erin was just fidgeting, not realizing until she dropped her shields that Erin had a butter knife under the table and was nervously running their thumb back and forth over the edge until it bled. It was the type of thing that used to happen all the time, and each time Mel intervened, Erin pushed her further and further away, resisting help no matter who it came from.

Erin took a deep breath and sat back down. “I don’t cut anymore, and if me being off medication means you’re going to start meddling with my life again, I’m not talking to you. Either accept that I’m fine without your interference or leave me alone.”

“Okay. I’ll stop. I won’t intrude.” Mel gritted her teeth. Erin would’ve died if she hadn’t meddled. Erin’s bitterness over Mel’s interference in a suicide attempt was a sign Erin was not fine at all, but there was nothing Mel could do about it without crossing boundaries and breaking the fragile trust she’d built with her cousin.

Erin leaned forward. “I have a good therapist now. Mom isn’t ignoring me as much as she used to. Be my cousin and friend. Don’t act like some guardian angel trying to save me.”

Mel squeezed her eyes shut, holding tears in. She’d do what Erin asked, for now, even though it made her feel like a complete failure, like the shittiest Angel ever.

Don’t miss Book #1 in the The Evanstar Chronicles series, Power Surge, available from NineStar Press

Erin has just realized that for the entirety of their life, their family has lied to them. Their Sight has been masked for years, so Erin thought the Pixies and Mermaids were hallucinations. Not only are the supernatural creatures they see daily real, but their grandmother is an Elf, meaning Erin isn’t fully human. On top of that, the dreams Erin thought were nightmares are actually prophecies.

While dealing with the anger they have over all of the lies, they are getting used to their new boyfriend, their boyfriend’s bullying ex, and the fact that they come from a family of Demon Hunters. As Erin struggles through everything weighing on them, they uncover a Demon plot to take over the world.

Erin just wants some time to work through it all on their own terms, but that’s going to have to wait until after they help save the world.

About the Author

Sara Codair lives in a world of words, writing fiction in every free moment, teaching writing at a community college and binge-reading fantasy novels.

When not lost in words, Sara can often be found hiking, swimming, or gardening. Find Sara’s words in Alternative Truths, Helios Quarterly, and Secrets of the Goat People, at https://saracodair.com/

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New Release Blitz: Essex Colony by Lia Cooper

Essex Colony | Lia Cooper

The Moon Mirror #1

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 30, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 36600

Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, LGBT, mutations, scientists, space travel, moon colonists, AI, shifter, interspecies, alien influence

Buy Links:

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Blurb

It’s been 227 days since Essex Colony’s last transmission…

Dispatched to the surface of Essex Prime and tasked with discovering what happened to the colony, Doctor Soran Ingram discovers that most of the colonists are dead and the surviving Executive Officer—Aline Aster—has turned into a ravening wolf-beast. The human survivors claim the XO and her Lunaran fellows went mad and killed everyone, but Soran has her doubts.

Following Aster’s testimony, as well as clues left behind, Soran embarks on a fact-finding mission to retrace the colony’s last steps before disaster struck.

She’ll soon discover more than uncertainty lurks in the dark spaces of the world.

Excerpt

Essex Colony
Lia Cooper © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Federal Standard Days since Last Essex Colony Transmission…227

Essex Colony, Location: Essex Prime/Equatorial 10S, Greenwich Meridian

06:55 AM, Colony Time

Soran stood at the forward port viewing station on board the starship Emery and watched Essex Prime spin slowly below her, a bright blue and green marble hanging in the dark of space. Technically speaking, the planet bore only a superficial resemblance to Earth, but she could see the appeal it must have had for the Earther colonists who had signed on to colonize it for the company. In her time working aboard the Emery, she had learned the importance of superficiality for her Earther colleagues. Something as simple as a color was often enough to evoke an emotional resonance for them.

They had picked Essex Prime for colonization because someone in the company had nicknamed it Earth 3—not to be confused with Earth 2, a planet locally know as L’n’ze-q24—but Soran wondered what they would find when they went down there now. Two hundred and twenty-seven days since since the colony’s last official transmission plus no sign of comms signals since the Emery crossed into local communication range combined into an anxious loop in Soran’s lesser subroutines. Fear, she realized, fear of what they would find.

Essex Prime wouldn’t be the first colony lost to catastrophic failure, whether from some unforeseen natural disaster or a breakdown in the colony’s equipment, or from a dangerous local agent that went unnoticed in the initial planetary surveys. There were a hundred things that could go wrong this far from galactic center.

The ship’s computer beeped at her through the ship’s network to remind her she was expected on the airlock deck in fifteen minutes.

She was dressed in her ground suit and had her go bag packed at her feet—just the essentials. The ship’s sensors hadn’t shown anything out of the ordinary, besides a lack of collected life signs large enough to belong to the colonists. This trip was intended as a brief scouting mission to ascertain the situation on the ground.

<<Contact. Doctor Ingram, did you receive your departure reminder?

Soran shouldered her go bag and acknowledged the computer’s check-in. Externally, she kept her expression blank as she made her way down to the airlock. That fear feeling squeezed at her regulatory system. If she were inclined to hope, she told herself, she’d hope that the colony’s comms equipment had simply suffered a mechanical breakdown and the colonists would greet them on the ground, all accounted for—all of them, but especially one Lunaran in particular. But even as the idea flickered through one of her lesser processes, another part of Soran wanted to shunt it away where it couldn’t hurt her to be disappointed. If she could only match her interior to the smooth expressionless surface of her exterior, then whatever they found couldn’t make that fear feeling worse.

But her interior felt riotous, clenching and twisting tight as her boots crossed the threshold, loud on the docking bay floor. The transport ship awaited her along with the two dozen security and medical personnel scheduled to fly down for the recon.

It had been nearly three years since she’d last seen Aline Aster, but Soran’s memory banks were nearly perfect—far superior to her Earther counterparts’—and she could recall with crisp clarity the feel of the Lunaran’s skin under her cutaneous sensors, the taste of her mouth, the sting of her teeth against Soran’s breasts, and the cadence of her voice winding down as she fell asleep still murmuring the words of a bedtime story from her homeworld. What would it feel like if Soran disembarked on Essex Prime to…nothing. No signs of life, no colony, no Aster waiting with a sheepish explanation for their silence?

But Security Chief Ryan was gesturing at her impatiently to board the transport vessel and Soran did the only thing she could do with this reductive thought string—she cut and pasted it into its own file and then buried it deep below her internal checklist for the mission. They were minutes away from an answer one way or another.

Or more precisely, fourteen hours later, she’d be staring into the malformed face of an answer while that fear in her chest crushed her heart into the sliver of a black hole.

Soran didn’t have a single word in her mouth as she stood next to SC Ryan outside the detention cell, staring in at what remained of XO Aster. Soran had to think of her—it like that or she was afraid the anguish would overwhelm her. She’d never lost someone with a personal—and emotional—connection to her before, and she wasn’t sure that her software had been properly programmed to handle that sort of emotional upheaval. The last thing she could afford to do would be to lose herself here on the ground, especially in front of SC Ryan.

“They found…it lurking around the edge of the forest. At the backside of the emergency compound,” SC Ryan said in a deep, bland voice, his eyes heavy on XO Aster’s hunched form. “Took enough electricity to stop an animal twice as big to subdue and facilitate capture.”

Soran swallowed around the bile in her throat. “And you want me to…?”

Ryan glanced at her finally, with a scowl, and said, “I don’t— Chelsea wants you to find out if it can talk. Find out why it killed the settlers. If there are any other Lunarans running around out there still. Probably a waste of time, but seeing as there’s nothing else for you to do down here, I figure you can’t hurt anything. Maybe ask it if this was their plan all along.”

“Who? The Lunarans? You don’t really think this was intentional?” Soran angled her face so she could glimpse Ryan’s expression without looking at him directly. She knew it unnerved the Earthers when she stared at them too closely.

“From what the survivors have told us—” he began.

“XO Aster is a survivor,” Soran insisted, choosing to ignore that part where she showed little resemblance to her former shape and sentience.

SC Ryan snorted and thrust a thick, calloused finger at the barrier separating them from the detention cell. “That’s a fucking monster,” he said.

“If that were true then what is the point of me—”

“I’m getting tired of your attitude, Ingram,” SC Ryan interrupted. He shot her a narrow-eyed look, a quick up and down that took in her entire person and always made Soran feel like a bug under a microscope—even if the Security Chief had probably never touched a microscope before. “You’re the ship shrink. Ask your questions, see what information you can get out of it, and report to Chelsea. Those are your orders. Don’t think about it too much; that’s not what they pay you for. Just collect the fucking data.”

Soran watched him leave, the door shutting behind him with an ominous clang that seemed to resonate in her perfectly shaped enamel plated teeth. She stared down at her boots, straight and shoulder-width apart, holding her up while her processor counted the individual beats of her circulatory system. A minute passed, or what more felt like a quarter of an hour, before a hoarse voice scraped across the air between her and the detention cell.

“S’not safe.”

A shiver raced down her spine. Soran looked up and met Aster’s all too familiar eyes, her circulatory regulator thumping painfully against the metal ribs of her geneered skeleton.

About the Author

Lia Cooper is a twenty-something native of the Pacific Northwest, voracious reader, pop-culture addict, and writer. She cultivated an early interest in writing through fandom and completed writing her first full length novel with the help of NaNoWriMo.

In the years since, she’s dabbled in catering, barista-ing, and working as a pastry chef before finally returning full time to the thing she loves most: storytelling.

When she’s not glued to Scrivener, Lia enjoys playing video games with friends and reviewing books for her booktube channel.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

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New Release Blitz: A Husband For Santa by Doreen Heron

A Husband for Santa | Doreen Heron

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: December 23, 2019

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 20600

Genre: Holiday, LGBT, Folklore, magic, elves, Christmas, romance, fantasy

Buy Links:

NineStar Press

Amazon

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Blurb

Father Christmas knows his time delivering presents is coming to an end, and his son is more than ready to take his place at the helm of the sleigh. But family tradition stands in Turk’s way.

He must find a Mrs. Claus to help share the burden. Unfortunately for tradition, he would rather a husband than a wife, and he doesn’t have time to meet anyone anyway.

At the same time, Christmasologist and PhD candidate Symeon Golightly finds himself sad and alone over the holidays.

Maybe a chance encounter and a Christmas wish will bring them together.

Excerpt

A Husband for Santa
Doreen Heron © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“Prepare the landing bay to receive the sleigh. I repeat, prepare the landing bay to receive the sleigh. We expect the mission to be terminated in fifteen minutes. I repeat, the sleigh is fifteen minutes away.”

The elves began to scramble, thousands of them getting to their feet and running from dormitories and lounges, through the glistening silver ice corridors and into the straw-lined landing bay. With nimble fingers, trained through years of constructing toys and preparing lists, they padded out stables with fresh straw and hay. They filled troughs with water and bowls with cereals and carrots. They swept the solid snow that had drifted in when the sleigh left and dried up the pools of water where the snow had warmed enough to melt. The elf children, too young to have any real responsibilities yet but old enough to graduate over the year and take on jobs for the following Christmas, took a break from observing and making notes and leapt to the gas lamps, lighting them to give the reindeer a cozy environment to come home to.

“We expect the mission to be terminated in ten minutes. I repeat, the sleigh is ten minutes away.”

Some of the older elves, particularly those celebrating their final Christmases, jumped as Turk’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. They hadn’t enjoyed this particular “innovation” and much preferred when his father had been in training and instead came to each of them in turn to make the announcements personally. They were glad to be retiring to let the younger generations—who didn’t seem to be quite as attached to the traditional ways—take the reins. En masse, the elves retreated to the back of the room, where they surveyed their work. It looked nice. Cozy. They wanted nothing more than for the reindeer to be able to rest as soon as they arrived home, and for Father Christmas himself to feel the wave of relaxation hit him after finishing his deliveries for another year. The younger generations waited with bated breath as Inger—the oldest elf and Chieftain of their little tribe—surveyed the room. She pointed to a corner where one last errant cobweb was stubbornly clinging to a beam, and one of the children leapt to a broom and scurried to clear it away.

“We expect the mission to be terminated in five minutes. I repeat, the sleigh is five minutes away.”

Inger surveyed the room again and smiled as she was satisfied with what she saw. Her team had served her well, this final Christmas. She nodded to the corner, where an elf stood alone. He was easily two heads taller than the others, almost the size of one of the human children for whom they made presents and was well muscled. At Inger’s nod, he turned to the wheel at his side and began to crank it. A creaking sound boomed from the timber roof, as it began to part. At once, the elderly elves started their chant, an ancient elven magic to protect the stable against the elements. The snow itself obeyed them, falling to settle on the roof and avoiding the hole that was emerging. When it was wide enough for the sleigh to fit, the muscled elf stopped cranking. But the elderly continued to sing, keeping the heat generated by the gas lamps inside the room, and keeping out the snow that was falling so violently.

“The sleigh has been sighted over the Crystalline Falls. I am on my way. I repeat, Turk is en route.”

The elderly elves rankled at the announcement. Never before had a Santa-in-Training ever felt the need to oversee the landing. It had always been a privilege afforded to the elves as a reward for their hard work. But times were changing, and all new Father Christmases had to put their own mark on the role.

Turk’s mark, it seemed to the elves, was micromanagement.

But they continued to chant, regardless. One slip in their song and winter would get into the landing bay, undoing all their work and discomforting Father Christmas and his eight faithful deer who had fit an entire year of work into a single night. And not one of them was prepared to let that happen.

The chanting could be heard across the palace. Turk emerged from the control room and stopped for a second to listen.

The sound of the elves was the sound of his life. Of hours waiting for his father to come home from work and tell stories of all the children to whom he had delivered gifts. Of those he thought Turk might like to be friends with if it were ever possible to leave Polynya. Those who had grown older and who chose not to believe in him anymore, just because their parents had chosen not to believe. Those who ignored all the evidence right in front of them that proved he existed, and instead put blind faith in parents who had no evidence other than what their parents had told them, who relied only on what their parents had told them before. Those were the stories that saddened Turk the most, particularly when he entered his teenage years and the children who he had considered peers and friends stopped believing.

They no longer wanted him to exist.

It was a happy song and a sad song. A song of hope and joy and obligation and loss. And in that moment, as he finally allowed himself a break in his work to take stock, he felt the loss of his own father about to retire and the joy of his own life about to begin.

He took a deep breath to steel himself. He couldn’t allow the elves to see his moment of weakness. Yes, they may have raised him and bathed him and changed his diapers, but as of the moment his father touched down in the sleigh, he was Father Christmas, and he had to lead them as a general leads his troops.

He had a family legacy to live up to.

He set his jaw, strong and stubbled, and took a moment to wipe the tears from his icy blue eyes. He pulled himself upright, towering over the elves at six feet and two inches and straightened his back. He’d read a book that said good posture commanded respected, and he needed his elves to respect him.

The echo of his black leather jackboots clattered through the ice corridors as he strode to the landing bay. Another tip from his book. Walk with a heavy step and make your presence known before you arrive so people know you’re there. He wasn’t entirely sure if that one applied to working from his own home, but he figured the author knew what he was talking about and was quite determined to follow all the advice on offer.

The torches lining the walls lit as he approached and extinguished as he walked by—lit long enough so that he could see, but not so long that they would begin to melt the walls. He moved deftly through the maze-like corridors and hallways, following the shortcut he’d figured out when he was a child and wanted to trick the elves into thinking his magic had developed. The truth was it would have been easier for him to teleport into the Landing Bay, but that didn’t quite make as much of an impact on the sound of his boots on the ice floors.

And it was all about the impact.

The elves scrambled out of the way as the two solid pine doors to the landing bay swung open, and Turk strode in. Quickly, they pulled themselves back together and stood to attention as he had taught them. The elderly elves objected to this, finding the position highly uncomfortable, and their hearts were glad they were required to carry on chanting.

“At ease,” he commanded, and the elves moved fluidly into position. Even the children, keen to impress their future boss, joined in and tried hard not to giggle as Turk walked back and forth past them, looking them over. “You are well presented, in spite of tonight’s working conditions. I’m glad I’m finally getting through to you.”

Inger chaffed at his words and closed her eyes to drown out what he was saying so she could focus on the ancient and magical words of her people.

“The loading bay is acceptable,” he continued, striding around the bay and peering into each hay-filled stall. “I feel we will have much work to do over the coming year to modernize this space and maximize efficiency, but that will come on December 26. For now, this is acceptable.”

A single snowflake fell through the opening in the roof as Inger let her guard slip. The Landing Bay had never been merely “acceptable” on her watch. Nor on her mother’s. Nor on her grandmother’s. She and the Matriarchs took their role seriously, and they worked hard to ensure that everything was done to perfection. Thankfully, the flake melted long before it was noticed by anyone other than her. She felt it fall as she felt her concentration lapse, and she certainly wouldn’t allow herself to do anything that he would merely consider to be “acceptable.”

She was so looking forward to retirement.

She felt for her daughter, who would need to take the reins and put up with Turk’s peculiar brand of nonsense.

A roar of wind and snow occurred overhead, and the children became antsy in anticipation of what was about to happen. Turk looked up and nodded, happy the elements were being kept out of the landing bay and satisfied the roof was open enough to allow the sleigh in so it could land. He squinted and saw a very faint red light in the distance.

“Showtime, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. The elves scrambled once again, lining up along the walls and the stall doors, leaving as much floor space as possible free for the sleigh to come in and land. While still chanting, the elderly elves walked to the far north wall, against which was set a raised platform. They walked up onto the platform and stood, choirlike, continuing their chant for the last few moments of their careers.

They were ready.

Turk joined them on the stage, running his hand through his dirty blond hair and smoothing down his wine-red suit. This was his moment. The moment he had spent his whole life preparing for. From the moment his father landed the sleigh, he would take charge, and the next Christmas would be his. His book had said to “make sure one presents oneself properly” from the very beginning of the job.

He was ready.

The red pinpoint of light grew bigger and bigger as the distant sound of sleigh bells began to chime. Turk took a deep breath and shifted his weight from foot to foot. He would never admit he was nervous and was almost positive the churning in his stomach was caused by the questionable reindeer meat in the curry which his mother had served the night before. But as he straightened his red tie for the fifth time that minute, the elves could see he was nervous. A couple of the children sniggered and pointed, but the others had sympathy for him. They knew his dad was a popular Father Christmas, and so he had a lot to live up to.

And if some of them were honest with themselves, they weren’t sure he would.

The sound of the sleigh bells grew louder and louder until finally the sleigh itself hovered overhead. The deer were well rehearsed by now and hovered in place until they were given the order to descend. It was a silent command, given by a Father Christmas who had spent two centuries working with each family line. He allowed for a delicate lowering of deer and sleigh alike until its wooden rails and thirty-two hooves set down on the landing bay’s tiled floor. At once, the elves scrambled into action and the bay became a hive of interaction. The elves turned the wheel, and the roof closed. The elves standing by the stall gates unlatched them, and then headed to their own deer, unhooking them and leading them over to their stall. First Rudolph, then Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, and so on until all nine were safely locked away and gratefully lapping their water.

As they were working hurriedly, Inger and the other elderly elves made their way to the sleigh and helped Father Christmas. He was wobbly on his feet as he stood but was able to make his way down to the landing bay floor entirely unaided.

“Turk,” he called, his voice booming through the Bay. “Please see to it that the sack is returned to its rightful spot.”

“Of course, Papa,” Turk replied. He turned to an elf, the only elf currently unemployed, and gave the command. “You heard him. Take the sack to the—”

“No, Turk.” His father stopped by the pine doors. “I asked you to please take the sack and put it away.”

“But Papa. This is what the elves are—”

“The elves are not your slaves, Turk. They work for the children, not for you. Now, please put the sack away and then meet me in the Lounge.”

“The Debriefing Room,” Turk corrected his father under his breath as he made his way to the sleigh and pulled the large, empty, hessian sack from the back seat. It looked so different with the enchantments faded and the magic gone for another year. Now, it was loose and malleable and normal.

He didn’t like it.

Carefully, he laid it out on the floor, careful to ensure no elf trampled over it and folded it in half, and then half again, and then half again. There was no ceremony to the sack any more, and that made him a little sad. He very much enjoyed being a child and watching his father and Inger fold it carefully and then carry it solemnly to its room to be put away. He looked at Inger, who was observing him carefully, and was certain he saw a tear in her holly-green eye. It was a shame, he thought, that she so disliked him that she refused to even help him with the sack ceremony.

“At least there will be new Elders next year,” he mused, picking up the sack and carefully making his way out of the landing bay along the twisting corridors toward the Toy Room. “Maybe the new Matriarch will want to do the ceremony with me.” The Toy Room doors slid open, and he walked amongst the empty shelves to the illuminated glass box where the sack resided during the off-season. Gently, he opened the box and placed the sack inside. As it hit the bottom of the glass, it began to shine in gentle hues of red and green and gold, its magic immediately beginning to replenish and rejuvenate. “I’ll see you next year,” Turk whispered to it before he turned around and tiptoed to the Debriefing Room.

He saw no need to announce his presence to his own father.

Meet the Author

Doreen Heron is a writer who is finally living her dream in Cornwall, England. She is lucky to live in the county she loves, and to be using her writing to entertain her readers.

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New Release Blitz: Rialto by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

Rialto | Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

Unbreakable Bonds #8

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Publisher: Drake & Elliott LLC

Release Date: December 16, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 74,000

Buy Link:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

Someone has it out for Rialto.

Ian Banner is loving his hectic life. He’s newly married, ready to start a family, and opening a new restaurant. All his dreams are coming true.

The last thing he needs is a problem with his restaurant.

But when one attack after another comes, he grows convinced he has another enemy.

Ian tries to handle things by himself, but his friends are soon drawn in when the attacks become violent. That’s when Ian realizes the target isn’t Rialto. It’s him.

Rialto is the final installment in the Unbreakable Bonds series and features sexy times, Daciana snuggles, overprotective family, fire, and of course, code names.

Excerpt

Ian sighed and stretched his legs out, putting his sock-covered feet onto the coffee table. He’d kicked off his shoes when they’d come in. “I’m still reeling over that damn raid. Someone had to have called it in, and I can’t figure out who would do such a thing. It’s driving me crazy worrying about it.”

“Everything’s fine. Even Sarah told you there’s nothing to worry about now.”

“Still, it shouldn’t have happened, and having those dogs in the kitchen?” He growled softly. “I just hope we don’t get any disgruntled reviews from the people we had to reschedule.”

“Bad reviews happen, you know that.”

“But over something like this? Something completely out of my control?” He sat up and faced Hollis. “I can’t get it out of my head that someone actually turned us in. And all that stuff about drugs? Drugs, Hollis! The last thing Rialto needs is a rumor like that. We had people in that restaurant who heard all that when they first came in.”

He stood and started pacing the room. Hollis watched his slim, agitated form as he moved, noting that his hands were clenched into fists at his sides.

“Rumors of drugs could hurt our chances of becoming foster parents, too!” he nearly yelled. He reached up and ran both hands through his hair, leaving the brown strands sticking up all over the place.

He’d worked himself into a frenzy again. Hollis stood and walked to him. He placed his hands on Ian’s shoulders, feeling the fine bones beneath his palms before sliding his hands down Ian’s back to pull the man into his body.

Ian slumped against him, wrapping his arms tight around him. “Thanks.”

“For what?” Hollis asked.

“For the hug. For knowing I needed one.” He tilted his head and stared into Hollis’s face. “You always know how to calm me down.”

“I don’t want you worrying about drug rumors. The fact that your restaurant only lost one night to the raid before opening up again will squelch any of those. Rialto will be fine. And this isn’t going to hurt our chances at being foster parents. We’ve already gone through the background checks and everything else. It’s all good.”

Ian had worried incessantly about the background inspection, but his past with Jagger had never been public knowledge. It also didn’t hurt that Ian had Rowe’s tech specialist, Gidget, run a check, making sure that there was nothing from Ian’s past that might throw up red flags. Gidget had confirmed that other than Jagger’s attack on Ian at Union Terminal three years ago, there was nothing linking Ian to Jagger.

“I just want it so much,” Ian mumbled against his chest as he leaned close again.

“I know, baby. I do, too.”

Ian lifted his head. “Yeah?”

“You know I do,” Hollis said as he bent down to kiss Ian. Ian’s arms slid up around his neck and he stood on his toes to press harder into Hollis’s mouth. That warm body felt too good against Hollis. He pulled away from Ian and stared at him, taking in the already blown pupils with a smile. “Enough of this worrying. I have a better idea. Stay right here.”

He walked to the front door to set the security alarm, then flipped off the lights. The automatic night-light on the stairs came on, but he knew where Ian was. He walked to his husband and lifted him. Ian’s legs automatically wrapped around his waist as Ian chuckled. Hollis knew he was laughing at being carried, but Hollis fucking loved carting Ian around.

“I bet I know what your idea is,” Ian murmured, kissing Hollis’s jaw.

“If it’s stripping you naked and having my way with you, you get a cookie.” He carried him up the stairs and into their bedroom, not setting him down until they were beside their bed.

Meet the Authors

Jocelynn Drake and Rinda Elliott have teamed up to combine their evil genius to create intense gay romantic suspense stories that have car chases, shoot outs, explosions, scorching hot love scenes, and tender, tear-jerking moments.

Their first joint books are in the Unbreakable Bonds series.

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New Release Blitz: Stick To The Script by Lane Hayes

Stick to the Script | Lane Hayes

Ace’s Wild #13

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Release Date: Dec. 17, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 31k

Universal Link: https://books2read.com/SticktotheScript

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Blurb

Jamie is a wedding photographer in need of a break, and a sexy freelance assignment on the East Coast sounds like an intriguing getaway. He makes his flight to Vintage Ridge just before an epic storm wreaks havoc on holiday travel.

But when his friend is delayed, Jamie finds himself alone at the bed-and-breakfast for the night with the owners’ son…a hunky contractor with a wicked smile and a commanding presence. Not a problem. Jamie can handle light conversation with a ruggedly handsome man for a few hours. Maybe. If all else fails, he can read the script.

Wyatt loves remodeling old homes like his parents’ B and B. Spending an evening entertaining their guest while he finishes up his project doesn’t seem like a big deal, but Wyatt can tell there’s something special about the nervous younger man.

He suggests reading the racy script that accompanies Jamie’s assignment to get his mind off the weather, but neither is prepared for what happens next. Their explosive attraction encourages them to bend the rules and stick to their own script…together.

PLEASE NOTE: For the first 90 days of this title’s publication, all sales and page reads will be donated to PFLAG.

Excerpt

“Hmm. How do you begin?” I asked.

“Like I said, this is the lead-in scene. I’ll probably set it in front of the fireplace. Those windows provide great natural light, and if it’s cloudy tomorrow that’s even better.”

“Are they going to sit or stand?”

James jumped up abruptly and moved behind me with his hands spread like he was framing a scene. “Stand, definitely. I’ll want the chairs out of the way.”

I set my wineglass down then pushed the chairs and the small table aside for him. “How’s that?”

“Good. That should work. Would you mind being a stand-in for a second?” He motioned for me to step toward the fireplace. “Move to your right. A little more. That’s perfect. Damien is muscular like you. He’ll probably wear jeans and a T-shirt.”

“I can take my sweater off,” I suggested.

“That’s not necessary. I can—”

I slipped the garment over my head and tossed it over the back of the chair. “Does this help?”

James licked his lips and stared at my chest for a long moment without speaking. “Um…yes. Could you put your hand on the mantel?”

I struck a casual pose. “Like this?”

He closed the space between us and gently adjusted my elbow. “Yes.”

“Where will Mark be?” I asked softly.

His Adam’s apple slid theatrically in his throat as he inched closer. “Here.”

The scene was set. Two long-term lovers had agreed to something they hoped would strengthen their bond. They’d introduced a new set of rules with a twist.

I didn’t give a fuck about Damien and Mark, but James fascinated me. His quirky intensity appealed to me on a level I didn’t really understand. Or maybe it was the implied element of danger. A sexy stranger didn’t turn up on my doorstep in a storm every day. This felt bigger than us somehow. Like an opportunity we were supposed to take. And the hungry look in his eyes and the furtive glance at my crotch made it clear he felt this too.

“Then what happens?”

He cleared his throat before studying the page again. “I’ll take a few pics to show Damien, um…taking control.”

“How do you show that without words?”

“It’s in the look. I might ask Damien to raise his hand, like he’s beckoning Mark closer.”

“Like this?” I hooked my finger, pleased when James closed the distance until we stood toe to toe.

“Yes. I’ll probably take a few photos of him unbuttoning Mark’s shirt and…”

“Like this?” I held his gaze as I undid the first few buttons on his oxford shirt.

Okay, I’d officially crossed a line. This was where he’d tell me to fuck off and back the hell up. I didn’t think he would, though. He was wound so tight with need, he practically vibrated. The urge to pull him against me and stick my tongue down his throat was strong. But he had to give me the reins. I held my breath and waited for him to decide what came next.

James nodded. “Y-yes. But then he stops.”

I stopped. I raised my hands, noting his unsteady breath when he opened his mouth and closed it…twice.

“Good call. If it were me, I’d tell him to undress himself. Slowly,” I said in a huskier than normal voice.

“You would?”

“Yeah. It’s a balance of power. It’s given freely…with trust. He wants to please his lover and himself at the same time. Am I right?”

He licked his lips. “Yes. That’s it. He’ll tell him to take his clothes off. One piece at a time. He’ll demand it.”

I pulled the script from his hands, fixing him with a no-nonsense look before inclining my head meaningfully. “Unbutton your shirt, James.”

“Me? What are you—what are we doing?”

“What do you want to do?” I countered. “Be honest.”

“I…I…uh.”

“Okay. I’ll go first.” I dropped the script on the side table, then brushed my thumb over his stubbled chin. “I want you.”

“But you don’t know me.”

I flashed a pirate’s smile. “You’re right. That doesn’t change anything.”

About The Series

Stick to the Script is part of a multi-author series of books that take place in the same fictional town. Each story can be read in any order. The connecting element in the Ace’s Wild series is an adult store owned by Ace and Wilder.

The main characters from each book will make at least one visit to Ace’s Wild, where they’ll buy a toy to use in their story! The only characters who crossover to each book are Ace and Wilder.

And with various heat levels, there’s sure to be something for everyone!

Find Out More: Ace’s Wild Series

 

Meet the Author

Lane Hayes is grateful to finally be doing what she loves best. Writing full-time! It’s no secret Lane loves a good romance novel.

An avid reader from an early age, she has always been drawn to well-told love story with beautifully written characters. These days she prefers the leading roles to both be men. Lane discovered the M/M genre a few years ago and was instantly hooked.

Her debut novel was a 2013 Rainbow Award finalist and subsequent books have received Honorable Mentions, and were winners in the 2016, 2017, and 2018-2019 Rainbow Awards. She loves red wine, chocolate and travel (in no particular order).

Lane lives in Southern California with her amazing husband in a newly empty nest.

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