Tag Archives: new release blitz

New Release Blitz: Claiming Marcus by Jocelynn Drake

Claiming Marcus | Jocelynn Drake

Lords of Discord #1

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Release Date: 31/10/2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Length: 100,000

Buy Link: 

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

Vampires slaughtered my family.

No one believed me until I met some new friends, who promised to help me get justice.

But nothing prepared me for Marcus Varik.

Tall, dark, and mind-numbingly sexy.

But he’s also shy, protective, and adorably eccentric.

Oh God, I should have never agreed to betray him.

Hopefully, it’s not too late to fix my mistake before I lose more people I love.

Claiming Marcus is the first book in an MM paranormal romance series that has vampires, betrayal, annoying brothers, music, heartbreak, hope, sexy times, and a raven named Ozzie.

Excerpt

Ethan wanted to feel panic and fear when he stared at Marcus. There really was no doubt in his mind that Marcus and his brothers were vampires. A sane person would have taken his brother to a hospital. Ethan hadn’t seen the actual wounds, but just the amount of blood he cleaned up meant that Bel had been seriously injured. No one could heal from that without medical assistance.

And yet, just an hour later, Bel’s color was starting to improve. He was resting on the couch, his breathing falling in a steady rhythm.

Looking at the aristocratic creature seated on the piano bench, streaked with his brother’s blood, Ethan couldn’t see anything but a man exhausted and hurting in ways that he couldn’t fully understand. He trusted Marcus to not harm him. He’d already gone out of his way to protect him from Meryl and Cain.

Ethan wanted to take care of Marcus. It was clear that he was the family protector. He was the one who made the hard decisions and directed the others in order to get things done and keep them safe. But who was there to take care of Marcus?

Taking Marcus’s bloody hand in his, Ethan pulled him to his feet and led him out of the music room. He paused in the hallway. The third floor held four rooms with locked doors. One of them was Marcus’s private bedroom, but he didn’t know which one.

“Here,” Marcus said, pointing to a pair of double doors farther down the hall.

Ethan nodded and led the way, pulling the keys Marcus had given him out of his pocket. He unlocked the doors and pushed them open. There was only one small lamp on the nightstand burning, but it was enough to illuminate the large room with an enormous four-poster bed and a long bureau made of a dark wood. The walls were a dark blue with white trim. The carpet under their feet was so thick it was almost like walking on a cloud.

“Thank you, Ethan,” Marcus murmured. He squeezed Ethan’s hand before releasing it. “You can sleep in the green room if you’re too tired to return home. And you don’t have to come in to work tomorrow…or rather today. You need your rest.”

Ethan turned and smirked up at Marcus. “Work, huh? I thought I was fired.”

Marcus gave him a tired little smile. “I don’t think I technically fired you. Just threatened to do it.”

Taking a step closer, Ethan slowly reached up and touch the top button on his stained shirt. “Well, I think I’m technically here as a friend, because if your employee did this…” Ethan paused and slipped the first button through the hole. “We’d have to deal with a whole lot of HR shit, and we don’t want to do that.”

Marcus swallowed hard, staring at Ethan. He licked his lips as his breathing picked up, but he didn’t say anything to stop Ethan. Yeah, Marcus was attracted to him. Ethan thought he’d picked up a few little tells over the past couple of weeks, but Marcus was overall very careful. The guy was stuck so far in the closet, there was little hope of him ever seeing daylight.

But this wasn’t about Marcus exploring his sexuality. There was still the issue of him being a vampire and holding knowledge of his mother’s killer. This was about Ethan seeing that Marcus got some well-deserved rest.

Still moving slowly, Ethan lowered his hands and unbuttoned the next three buttons before Marcus finally moved, capturing both of his hands in his.

“Ethan?”

“It’s okay,” he said, giving him a reassuring smile. “I’m just helping you. I’m going to turn on the shower and get the water to warm up. Do you want me to help you finish getting undressed?”

Marcus’s mouth dropped open and sort of soundlessly bobbed for a second like he couldn’t get the words out.

Ethan chuckled. He was so damn attracted to this man, to this vulnerable side that he was sure his brothers didn’t get to see. Ethan pulled his hands free and resumed unbuttoning his shirt. He pulled the shirt free of Marcus’s pants to get the last couple of buttons. Hours ago, Marcus had rolled his sleeves up his forearms so that all Ethan had to do was run his palms up Marcus’s strong chest, reveling in the feel of hard muscle. A low groan rumbled in Marcus’s throat and that sound sent blood rushing to Ethan’s cock. Fuck, that was an amazing sound. He smoothed his hands across Marcus’s shoulders, pushing the shirt down his arms and to the floor.

“Ethan…I…”

“Shhh,” Ethan murmured. “Nothing is going to happen. You’re safe.” He leaned up on the tips of his toes and pressed a light kiss to Marcus’s throat. Strong hands immediately clamped down on his hips, holding him in place. Fingers dug into his ass and Ethan nearly moaned. He’d die to feel those hands all over his body. Just the thought had his cock stiffening.

“Not sure if the promise of nothing has me relieved or disappointed,” Marcus admitted in a shaky voice. He looked down and Ethan could feel the slight tremor creeping through Marcus’s muscles. “I’ve…I’ve never—”

“I know,” Ethan interrupted. “That’s why nothing is going to happen.” Well, one of the reasons, at least. “You need someone to take care of you tonight. Shower and then bed. Once you’re tucked in, I’m going to head home, but I’ll return later today.”

Sadness crept into Marcus’s blue eyes, but there was also relief there. He nodded and released Ethan.

“Finish getting undressed, my sexy friend,” Ethan said and sauntered toward the open door across from the bed. He was guessing it was a private bathroom.

He flicked a switch and sucked in a harsh breath as buttery light cascaded over warm marbled and gold fixtures. The bathroom was almost as big as his old apartment. There was a large garden tub that could easily fit three full-grown men, a double sink vanity with a long mirror, and a shower stall that had enough space and heads to cover the same three men who just climbed out of the tub.

There was muffled thump on the floor and Ethan guessed that Marcus had dropped a shoe. “Are you so touchy-feely with all your friends?”

Ethan laughed as he walked over to the shower. “Would you be jealous if I was?”

“Yes,” Marcus hissed, and that single word wrapped in a possessive tone warmed Ethan like nothing else could. He’d had more than a few sexual partners in his life, but no one he’d call a boyfriend and no one who ever felt possessive. He was just a warm body, a tight hole, a great mouth to fuck.

But with Marcus, he felt like more.

Opening the door, Ethan turned the handle, starting the shower. He stuck his hand in the spray, checking the temperature. Still cold. He started to turn to make sure that Marcus had a clean towel, but he jumped when he found Marcus standing directly behind him. The man had moved so silently and so fucking quickly. How had he not noticed him?

Because he’s a vampire.

Oh, yeah. Ethan’s brain kept conveniently forgetting that little fact.

It was even easier to forget when Marcus was standing just a couple of inches away, wearing only a pair of black boxer briefs. He was pale, but it didn’t detract from his beautiful body. Every inch of him was hard. Every. Fucking. Inch.

About the Author

It started with a battered notebook. Jocelynn Drake wrote her first story when she was 12 years old.

It was a retelling of Robin Hood that now included a kick-ass female who could keep up with all the boys and be more than just a sad little love interest.

From there, she explored space, talked to dragons, and fell in love again and again and again.

This former Kentucky girl has moved up, down, and across the U.S. with her patient husband. They’ve settled near the Rockies…for now. She spends the majority of her time lost in the strong embrace of a good book.

When she’s not hammering away at her keyboard or curled up with a book, she can usually be found cuddling with her cat Demona, walking her dog Ace, or flinging curses at the TV while playing a video game. Outside of books, furry babies, and video games, she is completely enamored of Bruce Wayne, Ezio Auditore, travel, tattoos, explosions, and fast cars.

She is the New York Times Bestselling author of the urban fantasy series: The Dark Days series and the Asylum Tales. She has just completed a gay romantic suspense series called The Exit Strategy about two assassins falling in love and trying to create a life together.

Her newest project returns to her vampire roots with a new MM paranormal romance series. She is also the co-author of the Unbreakable Bonds, Ward Security, and Pineapple Grove series with Rinda Elliott.

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New Release Blitz: Starting From Scratch by Lane Hayes

Starting From Scratch | Lane Hayes

Starting From #2

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Release Date: October 17, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Length: 80k

Buy Link: Amazon

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Blurb

Charlie Rourke is an ultra-fabulous human whirlwind on a mission to launch the next biggest band in the world. However, he might have taken on more than he could handle when he signed on to manage Zero.

Promoting a rock band and finding gigs shouldn’t be hard. They’re a talented group with a ton of star power. If Charlie can find the right record label, he’s sure he can help them get to the next level. The only problem is the skater boy slash bassist with a quirky sense of humor. He’s annoying and silly, and he’s exactly Charlie’s type. Except he’s straight.

Ky Baldwin isn’t afraid to switch things up. He loves a challenge as much as anyone, but Charlie doesn’t make things easy. Zero’s manager is a force of nature with a razor sharp tongue, a quick wit, and a no-nonsense attitude. Ky can’t stop thinking about him. Winning over Charlie becomes Ky’s pet project.

But when the ice between them thaws, neither is prepared for the intensity of going from enemies to lovers. They’ll have to decide if they’re willing to start from scratch and take a chance on the unexpected.

Excerpt

“I know that was random, but it’s not a bad idea if you think about it. Want something to drink?” Charlie asked as he moved toward the kitchen.

I grabbed his wrist before he got anywhere. “Hang on. What are you doing?”

He cocked his head curiously but didn’t pull away. “I’m being practical. If you read any further about Virgos you probably found out we’re known for being sensible. And polite. So, I’m politely asking if you’d like a beverage while sensibly suggesting that I help out with your skating lessons.”

“Okay. First up…I don’t want a fuckin’ snack and second, it’s not a skating lesson. We’re skateboarding,” I said, glowering at him.

“I’ve heard it said both ways. Skating, skateboarding. I looked it up in Urban Dictionary too, so I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“No. There’s something in your tone that makes it all wrong. Like you’re purposely trying to sabotage this.”

Charlie opened his mouth in a perfect O. “Gasp! I wouldn’t do that!”

“Cut the crap. You’re doing it now. You don’t want to learn, and you don’t want Oliver to either. It’s a control thing. But you can’t control what you don’t fuckin’ get. So take a seat and let me teach him without you freaking out or—why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. You’re doing something weird with your eyes, though. You look spaced out.”

“Mmm. I’m trying not to swoon. You look so fierce and you’re holding my hand, Ky. You should feel my heart. It’s beating out of my chest. Seriously.” He fluttered his lashes a few times and bit his bottom lip.

I chuckled softly and stepped closer. “Are you flirting with me, Char?”

“No, it’s the other way around. You’re flirting with me. Big macho displays really get my motor running. Medium-sized ones do too. I love it when…”

Okay, so I lost myself. I tuned out the sound of his voice and concentrated on him. The mischievous glint in his eyes, the proud set of his shoulders, and the way his mouth curled at the corner. He was doing it again. Owning the moment. Taking it over. Charlie looked for weakness in any form, then slyly made adjustments before moving in for the kill. No doubt he thought I’d back down fast and run away. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I fixated on his bottom lip and inched closer. He kept talking…something about dick size or muscles…I wasn’t sure, but I liked the cadence of his voice. The teasing lilt and easy humor. I let go of his wrist, brushing his fingers before setting my hand on his hip. He went perfectly still.

Before he could ask me what the fuck I was doing, I kissed him.

It was more of a press of lips than a grand gesture. And though it might not rank as the kind of kiss that would change the world, I immediately knew it would change mine.

Everything in me went on high alert. I’d never been so in tune with a moment. The flutter of his eyelashes, the brush of his nose, and the soft sweetness of his lips against mine. Fuck, it was amazing. Like mind-blowing amazing. He tasted like cherries and smelled like sunshine mixed with something exotic.

I couldn’t be sure over the roar of my heart attempting to beat its way out of my chest, but I thought he hummed in approval, so I angled my head slightly to deepen the connection and pulled him closer. If he was anyone else, I probably would have stuck my tongue between his lips and let my hands roam all over his body. I wanted to, but I didn’t want to scare either of us. So I stayed where I was until the need for oxygen became an issue.

Then I jumped back two feet and stared at him with my eyes bugged out. “Holy fuck.”

Charlie set his fingers on his bottom lip and blinked like he was coming out of a daze. “You kissed me,” he said softly.

About 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 won First Prize in the 2016 and 2017 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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New Release Blitz: Never Knew Until You by L.E. Royal

Never Knew Until You | L.E. Royal

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: October 7, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Length: 63,900

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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Blurb

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

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

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

Excerpt

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

“Miss Freeman?”

Parker snapped her head back to her lawyer.

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

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

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

“Fine.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could I do that? Let someone dominate me?

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

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

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

Am I seriously considering this?

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

“Hello?”

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

About the Author

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

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

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New Release Blitz: All For Wesley by Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

All For Wesley | Jocelynn Drake & Rinda Elliott

Pineapple Grove #2

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Publisher: Drake and Elliott Publishing LLC

Release Date: October 4, 2019

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 67,000

Buy Links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK

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Blurb

A B&B owner takes on a posh hotel developer in this enemies-to-lovers story with plenty of South Florida heat.

The grudge match is set to get nasty.

Wesley and Nathan are willing to pull out all the stops to achieve their dreams.

They just never expected the heat between them to carry over to the bedroom.

After one reckless night burning up the sheets, Wes and Nathan can’t stay away from each other.

But is there any hope of them having their happily ever after when it means someone has to give up his dream?

All For Wesley is a standalone enemies-to-lovers MM romance with sneaking, spying, family troubles, helpful movie stars, one poorly timed hurricane, and all the feels.

Excerpt

Closing his eyes for a moment, Wesley mentally chastised himself. This whole plan had been insane. Following Nathan into the gym only to trap himself? Freaking brilliant. At least he knew if the B and B thing didn’t work out, his future was not in private investigation.

Wesley hid among the lockers for what felt like a long time, listening to some low conversations, though none were Nathan’s voice. A couple of lockers slammed shut, and it sounded like people were heading for the shower. When it grew quiet, Wesley released the breath he’d been holding for far too long. He sneaked out from the last row of lockers, aiming to make a beeline straight to the exit and back to Wilton Cottage.

Except Nathan was waiting for him, leaning against the lockers.

In a towel.

They were alone in the locker room.

“You positively suck at being inconspicuous, do you know that? That bright shirt can be seen a mile away.” Nathan chuckled and crossed his arms over his wide, bare chest.

The towel slipped an inch lower, and all Wesley could do was stare at the light-brown happy trail below his navel and wonder how it would feel under his tongue. He could drop to his knees and tug that towel off, wouldn’t take much to dislodge it…

“Blake!”

He blinked up to find Nathan’s eyes narrowed as he stared at him. Heat crept up his neck, and he worked to remember why he was there. Hell, he could barely remember his name right then. His gaze slipped down that muscular chest again. He couldn’t help himself. Damn, but Nathan Randall was built. A lot more than he’d expected. Those damn suits hid all the good stuff.

“Are you even capable of conversation right now?”

“Hmm?” Had that towel moved when his abs contracted?

The soft laugh that met his ears did little to pull him out of his stupor. Had his mouth been dry before? Because now it was watering something fierce.

Nathan stepped closer and lifted his chin with warm fingers. “There’s an…interesting scent coming from you.”

That slammed Wesley right back down to earth. “I stepped in dog shit.” The humor of the situation got to him all of a sudden and he snorted.

Nathan grinned and Wesley was stunned at how such a little thing could transform Nathan’s entire demeanor. Had he really never seen Nathan smile at him? Well, he was sure he had, but there had always been a look of calculation in his eyes. Like he hadn’t really felt the warm emotion that went with the smile. He’d only done it to put Wesley at ease. But this time, the grin was matched with amusement in his eyes and those adorable little crinkles that stretched out from the corners. “It’s not a pleasant smell,” Nathan murmured.

“I promise, I usually smell better.”

“I’m aware.”

About 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: Complex Dimensions by Brenda Murphy

Complex Dimensions | Brenda Murphy

A Rowan House Novel

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: September 23, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,100

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

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

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

Excerpt

Complex Dimensions
Brenda Murphy © 2019
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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New Release Blitz: Stray by Nancy J. Hedin

Stray | Nancy J. Hedin

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 12, 2019

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 65,800

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

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

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

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

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

Excerpt

Stray
Nancy J. Hedin © 2019
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Square dancing,” Little Man said.

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

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

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

“Great. I want to sit by Charity.”

“She’s not staying.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

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

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New Release Blitz: The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

The Grim Assistant | Jodi Hutchins

Tales from the Grim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 5, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 71,700

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

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Blurb

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

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

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

Excerpt

The Grim Assistant
Jodi Hutchins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure, why not?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, sounds perfect.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He didn’t agree to your terms?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ben eagerly bobbed his head.

Meet the Author

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

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

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