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New Release Blitz: The Secrets We Keep by Rick R. Reed

The Secrets We Keep | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 6, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 61,200

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon US

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Blurb

Jasper Warren is a happy-go-lucky young man in spite of the tragedy that’s marred his life. He’s on a road to nowhere with his roommate, Lacy, whom he adores, and a dead-end retail job in Chicago.

And then everything changes in a single night. Though Jasper doesn’t know it, his road is going somewhere after all. This time when tragedy strikes, it brings with it Lacy’s older, wealthy, sexy uncle Rob. Despite the heart-wrenching circumstances, an immediate connection forms between the two men.

But the secrets between them test their attraction. Will their revelations destroy the bloom of new love… or encourage it to grow?

Excerpt

The Secrets We Keep
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
“Hey! I don’t think you should go through that,” Rob said, barely audible because he didn’t want his fear to show. He sucked in a breath and clutched his suitcase close to him, as though it were a child—or a flotation device. Or a boy he loved and didn’t want to lose…

The water spread out on the road under the overpass like a black mirror. It could have been a few inches deep or a few feet. From just a visual, there was no way to gauge how deep it was. No person with any sense would drive into it.

His Uber driver, a sallow-complexioned man in his forties wearing a black baseball cap, gave out a low whistle. “We’ll be okay,” he said cheerfully, with a confidence Rob simply didn’t have. “Just sit back and let me worry. We’ll be fine.”

Rob wished he had the nerve to speak up, to command, “No! Don’t! Just turn around.” After all, this driver was putting them both in danger. But he felt like protesting would make him seem insane or, at the very least, silly. So what’s worse, he wondered, seeming crazy or drowning? He cursed himself for the ridiculous lengths he went to so as to avoid confrontation.

A thunderclap as loud as an explosion sounded then, and Rob swore the black Lincoln Continental shuddered under its vibration. Lightning turned the dark, cloud-choked dawn skies bright white for an instant, as though day had peeked in, seen the weather, and then ducked back out.

“This baby can get through it,” the driver said, giving the car a little more gas.

Rob tightened his lips to a single line and furrowed his brows as his driver set off into the small lake stretching out before them. As the driver moved completely under the overpass, the drumming sound of the rain on the roof suddenly ceased, and the silence was like the intake of a breath.

“C’mon, c’mon,” the driver urged almost under his breath as he sallied farther into the water, giving the car more gas.

Even before the engine started to whine in protest, Rob knew they were in trouble by the way the water parted to admit the Lincoln. Waves sloshed by on either side.

Rob thought again he should speak up—like maybe to suggest that the driver could attempt to back up—but held his tongue. The guy was a professional, right? He knew what he was doing.

They’d be okay.

And the driver continued, deeper and deeper into the water standing so treacherously beneath the overpass.

The engine made a lowing sound, like a cow’s moo, as the flood rose up the sides of the vehicle.

Rob gasped as brackish, foul-smelling water covered his loafered feet, pouring in through the small spaces around the doors.

The driver eyed him in the rearview mirror. There was a defeat in his voice as he said, “You better open your door and get out while you can.”

Rob wondered, for only a moment, why he would want to. Then it struck him with the adrenaline-fueled clarity born of panic that if he didn’t open his door now, he might never get another chance. The rising water and its pressure would make it impossible to open the door.

If it wasn’t already too late…

Rob leaned over and pressed against the door. The engine stalled at that moment, and his driver reached for his own door handle up front.

For a brief moment that caused his heart to drum fast, Rob feared his door wouldn’t open. He slid over and leaned against it with his shoulder pressed against the black leather, grunting.

The door held and then suddenly gave way.

Granted access, water rushed into the vehicle. The icy current rose up, covering his ankles and his calves. It was almost over his knees when he managed to slide from the Lincoln.

Outside the car, he stood. The water rose up almost to his neck. He felt nothing, only a kind of numbness and wonder. His driver was already sloshing forward toward the pearly light at the other side of the overpass. He didn’t give Rob so much as a backward glance.

Rob started moving against the water, wondering what might be swimming in it.

Thunder grumbled and then cracked again. The lightning flared, brilliant white, once more. And the rain poured down even harder.

He looked back for a moment at the Lincoln Continental, thinking about his TUMI bag on the seat. There was no hope for that now!

He slogged through the water and progressed steadily forward, feeling like a refugee in some third-world country, bound for freedom. In his head he heard the swell of inspirational music.

After what seemed like an hour, but was really only about five minutes, Rob reached dry land at the end of the overpass, where the entrance ramp veered upward toward the highway. Cars whizzed by, sending up sprays of water, the motorists oblivious.

His driver eyed him but said nothing. He was out of breath.

Rob stood in the rain and remembered his iPhone in the front pocket of his khakis. He pulled it out, thinking to call for help. But when he pressed the Home button, the screen briefly illuminated and then blinked out, the picture of an ocean wave crashing toward the shore first skewing weirdly, then vanishing.

“Shit,” he whispered and then replaced the phone in his soaking-wet pants pocket.

He needn’t have worried about calling for help, however, because it seemed the universe had done it for him. On the other side of the overpass, a fire truck, lights on but no siren, pulled up to the water’s edge. Then two police cruisers. And finally, surprisingly, a news van with a satellite antenna on top brought up the rear.

The rest was kind of a blur. Through a bullhorn, one of the firemen advised them to come back toward them but to use the median instead of slogging through the flood. The concrete divider was only a few inches above the sloshing water.

Somehow, Rob and his driver managed a tightrope walk across the lake the underpass had become, balancing on the concrete divider.

When they reached the other side, one of the newscasters, a guy in a red rain slicker, stuck a microphone in his face and asked him to tell him what happened. Was he afraid? Stunned, Rob shook his head and moved toward the cop cars. Behind him, he could hear the driver talking to the reporter.

At the first police car, a uniformed officer got out from behind the steering wheel. She shut the door behind her and held a hand above the bill of her cap to further shield her from the rain. She was young, maybe midtwenties, with short black hair and a stout and sturdy build.

“You okay, sir?”

Rob nodded. “Yeah, I guess.” He smiled. “Didn’t expect a swim this early in the morning.”

The officer didn’t laugh. “Where were you headed? We might be able to take you, or at the very least, we can summon a taxi for you.”

And Rob opened his mouth to say, “To the airport” and then shut it again.

One thought stood out in his head. I could have drowned. He looked toward the Lincoln, which was filled now with water up to the middle of the windshield.

“Sir? You need us to get you somewhere?”

Rob debated, thinking of a young man, perhaps out in this same rain, getting almost as drenched as he was. He opened his mouth again to speak, unsure of how he could or should answer her question.

What he said now could very well determine the course of the rest of his life.

RickRReed-524x749

Meet the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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New Release Blitz: Torn by Rick R. Reed

Torn | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 29, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Length: 63,300

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon

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Blurb

Ever been torn between two lovers? That’s Ricky Comparetto’s problem.

It’s 1995, and Ricky is making his very first trip across the pond with his best friend. Ricky, hungry for love and looking for it in all the wrong places, finds it in the beach city of Brighton. His new love has the curious name of Walt Whitman and is also an American, which only serves to make him sexier and more intriguing. By the time Walt and Ricky part, promises are made for a reunion in Boston.

But the course of true love never runs smoothly. In Chicago Ricky almost immediately falls in love again. Tom Green is a sexy blue-collar beast with the kindest heart Ricky has ever run across.

What’s he to do? With a visit to the East Coast on the horizon and a new love blossoming in Ricky’s home of Chicago, Ricky truly is torn.

Excerpt

Torn
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

It was the cheapest flight we could find. Air India, round trip, O’Hare to Heathrow, around seven hundred bucks. We snatched up the fare because my best friend, Boutros BinBin, was homesick and wanted to show me his homeland, “the place that made me who I am.” If you know Boutros, you know this is a scary thought. And yet I still wanted to go.

We snatched up our tickets because we were both sick of Chicago, dreading the humid summer we knew was in store, and because I had done about every guy on the North Side.

Joke. Now Boutros, hush. And stop rolling your eyes!

We’d do London (and EuroPride). We’d do Brighton (Boutros called the seaside town the San Francisco of England because it was so gay—in a good way). We’d do Boutros’s ancient hometown, Bath. Honestly, one of us would do just about any attractive male within the age range of eighteen to, oh, sixty-five—but the latter part was always negotiable. In the dark, a hard dick is a hard dick.

Or maybe I’d find Mr. Right. “You’ll find a hundred Mr. Right Nows if I know you,” Boutros said. Boutros could always see through me like I was made from glass. It was this attribute that I both loved and hated about my best friend—and probably what drew us together when we’d met a couple of years before at a gay writers’ group called the Newtown Writers, in Chicago. I was drawn to his sense of humor, and he was appalled by the Daisy Dukes I wore to the first meeting.

Just a few short years later, we were both summarily thrown out of the writers’ group. Boutros said it was because we were the only two who’d been published, and I argued that it was because we appeared at a meeting at his house wearing nothing but a smile. Gay men! They’re always trying to get you naked, and then, when they succeed, they get offended!

We agreed to lick our wounds over coffee. Compounding the pain of being ousted from the writers’ group, I had recently ended a relationship. Boutros lent a sympathetic ear to my man troubles, which were then all about my indolent, smart, perpetually stoned, and job-challenged boyfriend, Henry, whose life revolved around marijuana—growing it and smoking it morning, noon, and night. I wondered what it was he needed to escape. When I asked Boutros, he told me, “Probably because he can’t stand waking up sober next to that face. And I can’t blame him.” Only Boutros could say such things to me, knowing I would somehow interpret them as demonstrations of love and caring. When we finally broke up after Henry had quit yet another job that was way beneath him, I cut ties.

And yet, I was devastated. Boutros led me through mourning the end of my first gay love with a firm hand, a lot of sarcasm, and a willingness to listen while I rambled on and on into the phone, wondering if I’d done the right thing. After all, Henry could be sweet, although he’d never admit it. On the day Henry moved out (while I was at work—a concept foreign to him), he left the CD player on and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” playing on infinite loop. Even though I knew Boutros was probably appalled by the sappiness of this gesture, he listened as I choked out words of devastation through sobs, and demonstrated admirable restraint when he could have cut me down to pathetic size with a couple of bon mots. Support like his, coming at a crucial time, often cements two people together.

It did us.

So when Boutros proposed we jet off across the pond together, I was beyond thrilled. Even though I knew I couldn’t afford it on my catalog copywriter salary, which barely paid my rent, going to Europe, especially England, had always been my dream. I’d grown up with a pen pal from the West Midlands and had developed a keen interest in the place from her long letters describing Cannock Chase and the little Staffordshire village in which she lived. Perhaps I could see her, too, while I was there. It would be our first meeting in person.

Boutros convinced me to clean out my bank account for the trip by saying that once we got there, we could stay with friends and family wherever we went. All we’d have to pay for was food (fish and chips!) and drinks (Guinness!). We’d get around via the tube, and for longer distances, we’d take advantage of England’s very user-friendly trains that went just about everywhere.

I desperately needed a break from my boring job and from nursing my broken heart (even if I was the one who technically broke it), so I was on board.

Well, actually, I was on board right that very moment, Boutros next to me. We were on a double-decker plane that was enormous, much bigger than anything I’d ever flown on—not that I’d flown much, just a handful of flights between Chicago and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which had the closest airport to my hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio.

The flight attendants, all women, wore saris. The plane was filled mostly with eastern Indians. Heathrow was a layover for them, not a destination, as this flight continued on to New Delhi.

“Ah, the sweet smell of curry is in the air,” Boutros whispered, leaning close to my ear.

“Hush.” I looked around, praying no one had heard him. I got his sense of humor—which involved saying a lot of things simply for their shock value—but I doubt that anyone else on the plane would.

I already felt as though I’d stepped into another world. I couldn’t wait to get to our destination and see what adventures were in store.

One of the flight attendants came around pushing a trolley. On it were small Styrofoam cups and full-size bottles of whiskey.

“Would you like?” The dark-haired woman smiled at Boutros and me, gesturing toward the bottles and cups.

Indian custom? I shrugged. What the hell? “Yes, please. One for me, and one for my friend here.” I leaned back a little so she could see Boutros in the middle seat. I doubted she could miss him, though, dressed as he was in palazzo pants with a yellow-and-purple paisley pattern, and a white muslin peasant shirt. His black hair stood up in a multitude of directions, and his mustache, waxed, stuck out so far, he could make the truthful claim that one could see the mustache from behind him. The goatee below the mustache was just beginning to gray. His earring and nose ring were connected by a dangling silver chain. He liked to say his face was “done up like a Christmas tree.”

Sometimes I wondered if people even saw me when I stood next to him.

“One?” Boutros scoffed. “Amateur. Could we have two?”

She nodded, smiling, and poured us each two shots of whiskey. She handed them over, and we both quickly downed the first and then handed the cups back to her. Boutros belched and said, “Check back on us, would you?”

The flight attendant’s smile didn’t waver. Serenely, she moved on to the next row to ply the whole plane, I presumed, with strong spirits.

Boutros reached for his leather backpack, which he’d stored under the seat in front of him. “Surprise! I’ve got a little something here that will help shorten the flight, if you know what I mean.” He grinned mischievously as he groped around in the bag’s outer compartment. He brought out a prescription bottle and shook it. A couple of pills rattled.

“Morphine, sweetie, from when I had that cyst out in hospital. Remember? I punched that nun when they started cutting before the anesthetic set in.” He leaned close, rubbing up against my shoulder. “I saved these two just for you and me, darling.”

“You’re too good to me. They say time is the most thoughtful gift, but I beg to differ. I say it’s drugs.” I returned the shoulder nudge, then held out my hand like a beggar.

We popped the morphine, washing it down with our second shot of whiskey. The unvoiced plan, of course, was that we would sleep on the overnight transatlantic flight, arriving in London the next morning refreshed and ready to begin our sightseeing after dropping our stuff off at Boutros’s friend Trevor’s place in Westminster.

Maybe I was too excited to sleep, but even after a third shot of whiskey and morphine, I was still wide-awake for the full eight-hour flight. And perhaps my excitement was contagious, because Boutros couldn’t catch a wink either. We watched our flight’s progress on a screen on the back of the seats in front of us. I thought, Hurry, hurry.

If anything, the drugs and alcohol had the curious effect of making us even more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than either of us usually were. After trying fitfully—and desperately—to sleep, fluffing the thin and starchy pillows our flight attendant had given us, we passed the night talking about what we’d see and do, following the vivid colors and subtitles of the inflight movie, Raja, which was, from what I could gather from the subtitles, a romance about a young man reuniting with the woman he was supposed to marry years earlier. We ate the meals the airline offered—chicken tikka masala and basmati rice for me and saag paneer and rice for him. Even though it was Indian food, which Boutros and I both adored, it was airline food…and thus barely edible. Fortunately, they brought out the complimentary whiskey cart again near the end of the flight.

And, at around 10:00 a.m. London time, we touched down on the runway at Heathrow International Airport.

About the Author

RickRReed-524x749

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.”

Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com.

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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New Release Blitz: A Face Without A Heart by Rick R. Reed

A Face Without A Heart | Rick R. Reed

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: June 1, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56,700

Buy Links:

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Blurb

A modern-day and thought-provoking retelling of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray that esteemed horror magazine Fangoria called “…a book that is brutally honest with its reader and doesn’t flinch in the areas where Wilde had to look away….

A rarity: a really well-done update that’s as good as its source material.”

A beautiful young man bargains his soul away to remain young and handsome forever, while his holographic portrait mirrors his aging and decay and reflects every sin and each nightmarish step deeper into depravity… even cold-blooded murder.

Prepare yourself for a compelling tour of the darkest sides of greed, lust, addiction, and violence.

Excerpt

A Face without a Heart
Rick R. Reed © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Prologue
GARY

There is blood on my hands. I look down at a body, a body that’s become a thing—monstrous, ugly, inanimate. It could be a sculpture, a figure formed from wax or porcelain. The soul inside is gone, leaving a shell. I wipe a line of sweat from my forehead with a trembling hand, trying to tell myself these things, trying to believe that what lies at my feet is nothing more than an object, something to be reviled, something not worthy of further consideration.

It’s not easy to believe. Although the corpse does not have a twinkle in its eye or the simple rise and fall of a chest, it’s hard to remove myself from the plain fact that the body possessed those movements, those simple signs of life, just minutes ago. Distance, for now, seems more a matter of location than of feeling. The body at my feet wears the badges of its untimely demise—a dented face, a split-open skull, blood and grayish-pink matter seeping out. The bruises have already begun to rise, ugly yellow-pink things all over the body.

I stoop, plunge my fingers into the deepest hole, the one on the belly, to feel the warmth and the entrails. Amazed that the breathing has stopped. Amazed that I have such power.

I lift a finger to my mouth and slowly run it over my lips, the blackish liquid warm and viscous, metallic to the taste. I recall the vampire films I loved as a youth, never really believing such a thing could exist.

Now I do.

I have stolen a life so that my own might continue. There is something vampiric in that, isn’t there? Because without this theft of a beating heart and an expanding and contracting pair of lungs, I would be unable to live.

Isn’t that the real essence of the vampire?

It seems too quiet here, deep in the basement of a high-rise. A dull clanging is my only accompaniment, pipes bringing warmth and water to tenants above, whose lives continue, ignorant, untouched by my murderous hand. And that’s the amazing thing, the thing that causes my breath, when drawn inward, to quiver.

Life goes on, in spite of this monumental act, just a quick, surprised scream and a heartbeat away.

There is blood on the walls, spattered Jackson Pollock-style. Who can say what is art and what is murder?

This so-called victim who now lies in final repose on a cold concrete floor, staring vacantly at nothing or perhaps at the hell that will one day consume me, can no longer chastise me, can no longer beg me to drop to my knees with him and pray, pray for forgiveness, imploring Jesus to lead me down the path of the righteous.

It’s not too late, he said before I brought the mallet down on his skull, cracking it open like a walnut, slamming it into his windpipe, his gut, an eye socket, his shoulders as he fell, anywhere the mallet would ruin, destroying, sucking life.

He was wrong. The final irony of his existence, I suppose, is that he thought he had the power to do anything, to change another person, whom, I must admit, he cared very deeply about.

No, that power rests in my hand, the death-dealing claw that changed him. And people whine about how change never really lasts when it comes to others, how they always unfortunately revert to their old ways, the ways you don’t want them to be. Anyone who has ever tried to change another knows this to be true. Oh certainly, the change may last a week, a month, even a year. But soon the real person comes back, the one who has been waiting in the wings for just the right cue, the one that will allow him to say “Ah fuck it, I’ve had enough.”

But the change I’ve wrought in my friend can never be undone. He is dead and always will be. I have a power of which psychiatrists and psychologists can only dream. And I accomplished my transformation in a matter of seconds, behind a red-tinged curtain of rage.

Pretty sly, eh? For a man who’s spent most of his life doing nothing but looking after his own selfish needs and pursuing his own pleasures, it’s a pretty accomplished thing. Decisive. For once, a man of action.

I nudge him with my foot and am amazed at the heaviness my friend has taken on in death. His body doesn’t want to give, to roll; it has become a body at rest…forever.

I turn and head back upstairs. There are matters to attend to…clothes to be burned, an alibi to be concocted. People will want answers. And conveniently, I will have none. Knowledge is a dangerous thing. What was it my other friend once told me? “The only people worth knowing are the ones who know everything and the ones who know nothing.”

I know nothing about this. And now I must go back into the realm of the living to ensure my ignorance remains secure.

But alone, I know that ignorance is one of the few luxuries I can no longer afford. Alone, I have only the luxury of time to contemplate how it all began.

RickRReed-524x749

About the Author

Real Men. True Love.

Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.”

Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…”

Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.

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