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New Release Blitz: To The Flame by A. E. Ross

To The Flame | A. E. Ross

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 3, 2020

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 20,900

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Blurb

Seattle boy Emerson Oakley is about to find that the strangest thing about his first year at West Virginia’s Vance University isn’t the neighbor in the next dorm over, who ghosts him after one kiss. It’s the fact that he keeps having his life saved by a stranger who seems to know about each accident before it happens.

Morrie Crisp, whose moth-person powers finally emerged at the most inconvenient time, is just trying to figure out how to deal with their crush on the boy next door, and all the different ways they’ve seen him die.

As Emerson tries to get to the bottom of who his pre-cog savior could be, his relationship with Morrie becomes extra complicated as their undeniable attraction to one another becomes a liability to both. Even as Morrie struggles to keep Emerson safe, Emerson is intent on igniting the fire between them, into which Morrie is naturally drawn.

What is a reasonable response to falling in love when the world itself is without reason? Unfortunately, neither one of them has any idea.

Excerpt

To the Flame
A.E. Ross © 2020
All Rights Reserved

Emerson

October 7th, 2019

With the sound of the school radio’s late-night show in his ears, Emerson Oakley pulled his wool-lined jacket more tightly around his broad frame and threw dirty looks at any shadows he passed, mean-mugging at would-be creatures waiting out there in the dark. Overhead, the campus clock chimed midnight, its toll reaching long and deep into the West Virginia night. Emerson clutched a stack of textbooks tightly under one arm, his free hand gripping the strap of his rucksack. By October, the school’s grounds had become a world of swirling fog. Frost was just beginning to lick at the blades of grass sitting neatly in between the cobbled walkways. The paths crisscrossed campus like a foursquare game. Just last month they had been full of hacky-sacking upperclassmen.

As a born and bred Seattle boy, Emerson was used to the sparkling mist that filled Puget Sound in spring, but the autumn weather in Appalachia was a different phenomenon altogether. It hung low, filling his nose and throat with damp cold as he made his way back to his dorm beneath flicking streetlights. His fingers were beginning to numb just a few steps in.

A loud crack rang out behind Emerson, causing him to jump a couple inches in surprise before turning around to see dazzling colors light up the sky. Some freshmen were letting off fireworks, probably to celebrate their newfound freedom to make bad decisions. The illegal rainbow starbursts snapped and popped in the sky over the astronomy building.

After reaching into his pocket, Emerson turned up the volume on his phone, letting the pop-punk singer’s smooth voice drown out any more unwanted jumpscare fodder. The song began to fade out as he crossed out of the quad and into the parking lot. His dorm was just on the other side of the empty gray stretch of pavement, and he could already see the golden glow from his next-door-neighbor’s room. He couldn’t hear the pounding bass that they loved to blast from morning to night, but he’d be in range soon enough. There was a reason he spent every night studying in the library instead of his dorm room. He didn’t know too much about the kid next door, but there were two things he knew for sure: they went by Morrie, and they fucking loved EDM turned up to 11.

“You’re listening to WVUX 69.1, The Voice of Vance. That was local band Rubric with their latest hit, ‘Risk Reward.’” The late-night host jumped in with perfect timing, his tone smooth as silk. As he continued with a recap of the week’s news, something flickered at the edge of Emerson’s vision. As he snapped his neck to the right, his breath caught in his throat. For a split second, he was certain he saw a dark shape on the roof of the nearest dorm building. The three-story brick building, Gryphon House, happened to be one of the earliest built on campus and was probably haunted, or at least that’s what the orientation tour guide had said. Of course, the guide was a bored junior, so he easily could have been making it up. Emerson was sure he had glimpsed…something. The large dark shape with flickering edges, host to two glowing red orbs that, ideally, were not eyes—or were eyes the better option?

Biting his chapped lip, Emerson turned away and kept walking, trying to focus on the words coming from his earbuds. “So, if you want to use the pool, you’re just going to have to wait until it’s been emptied and disinfected…for your own good. Oh, and one more thing—Emerson Oakley, watch your step,” the voice said just before another indie-punk hit began to play, coming in strong with the snare.

Emerson jerked his head up so hard his neck wrenched painfully. Scanning the empty parking lot, he took two nervous steps back. Just then, another colorful crack rent the sky above him, followed by a low whistle. It was the sound of a snapped power line slicing through the air and landing half-submerged in the puddle where he had been standing one second earlier.

Eyes wide, Emerson put a hand to his chest, a tight rush of anxiety beginning to cloud his brain in a familiar way. Music still pounding in his ears, he stared at the small sparks coming off the black wire. If he hadn’t taken those two steps back, he’d be fried. Panic rising in his throat, he let his logical pre-med brain take over and called campus security to let them know about the potential danger before continuing on to his dorm. This time, the music in his ears was drowned out by his own heartbeat as he swiped his key card and hustled up the stairs to the third floor.

Once he got into his room, the thump of his chest was drowned out by the heavy bass of Morrie’s EDM playlist. He basically knew the track listing by heart at this point. In a way, it was a comfort as he tried to get a grip on what had just happened. It was strange enough to get a cryptic warning from the college radio station, but he was certain that the warning had come seconds before the fireworks had actually hit the power line, assuming that was what had caused it to snap and swing into the puddle at his feet. How they could have called that shot, he had no idea. Emerson was pretty sure that the radio station was on the other side of campus.

He wriggled out of his heavy coat and flannel then stripped down to a sweat-soaked tee and gray boxer-briefs. It was hard not to think about what had just happened. He could have been deep-fried, his body burnt up and smelling like the hot dogs that the power company used to electrocute as an elementary school safety demonstration. Emerson ran his hands over his whole body just to make sure it was still there. He had always been barrel-chested with a soft, round stomach. Okay, he could admit he had a bit of an apple bottom as well, but he loved his body. If he had gotten his body fried up in a freak firework accident…well, he’d be dead and pretty upset about it. Sitting down on his worn forest-green patchwork quilt, he tried to sync his breathing to the rave beats from next door the way he’d learned in therapy.

Inhale.

Hold.

Exhale.

Hold.

He lay back on his bed and repeated that routine for several minutes until the fight-or-flight feeling flowed out of him and a reasonable calm remained. After grabbing his towel and toiletries, Emerson slipped out his door and down the hall to the bathroom. He did his best thinking in the shower, and boy, did he need a second to decompress.

The most important thing about the dorm bathroom was not to focus on the floor. If you did, it was over. All kinds of weird shit got caught in the grout that lined the beige tiles between cleanings, and it was honestly better if you could just keep your head on a swivel and ignore it altogether.

The second-most-important thing about the dorm bathroom was not to focus on anybody else either. To be fair, that had been Emerson’s modus operandi in every shared shower room he’d ever used: junior-high gym class, JV football, the YMCA pool. But it was especially vital now that he was in a university with all-gender facilities. He was proud of Vance Uni for living in the twenty-first century, and the last thing he wanted to do was make anyone feel weird or unwanted. That said, the scene was deserted, so he turned the water on as hot as it could go and divested himself of his earthly garments. The good burn of too-hot water relaxed his shoulder muscles, despite the shitty water pressure.

With a clear head, he convinced himself that there was surely a reasonable explanation for the DJ’s timely omen. Though, even if there was, it still didn’t do anything to ease his mind about the strange shape atop Gryphon House, which was still stuck in his mind.

After fluffing his hair dry and slinging a towel around his waist, Emerson made his way back down the hall to his room, just in time to cross paths with the Ghost of Electronica. Morrie was trying to unlock their door with a slice of pizza in one hand and a two-liter of soda wedged under their armpit. Emerson walked past and avoided glancing directly at Morrie, feeling irritated that they left their music playing even when they weren’t in the dang room. Or at least, that’s what he told himself. Certainly, his animosity for Morrie was all about the volume of their music and absolutely not about the way they:

1. Wore those tight black skinny jeans with the knee-baring holes, and
2. Hadn’t spoken to him once since that kiss during Orientation Week.

Obviously, neither of those things factored into the equation at all, and it was definitely not true that either of those two things ever made it harder to sleep than the pounding of a drum machine.

About the Author

A.E. Ross lives in Vancouver, B.C. with one very grumpy raincloud of a cat. When not writing fiction, they can be found producing and story-editing children’s cartoons, as well as producing & hosting podcasts like The XX Files Podcast.

Their other works have appeared on Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Netflix (and have been widely panned by 12-year-olds on 4Chan) but the projects they are most passionate about feature LGBTQIA+ characters across a variety genres.

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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: Blood Lust by L.E. Royal

Blood Lust | L.E. Royal

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Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 18, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 73200

Genre: Paranormal, LGBT, Paranormal, contemporary, lesbian, vampire, family-drama, human slaves, horror, dark, paternal murder, blood play, psychic ability

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Synopsis

The sequel to Blood Echo.

For Rayne Kennedy, the only Hybrid in Vires, a walled Vampire city in Vermont, life is almost over. Despite the new family and temporary happiness she’s found, her vampire girlfriend, Scarlett Pearce, has been given ninety days by the mysterious city government to turn her into a vampire. She’s sure her days as a human are numbered.

Scarlett fights to find a way to avoid Rayne’s death when her father and society have decreed it must happen. Between new relationships formed, old ones reshaped, and a bloody romp through the city’s darkness, Rayne must decide if she trusts Scarlett not to give in to her blood lust. Thrown into the center of an unexpected revolution, Rayne tries to save herself and Scarlett, unsure if her days as a human, and their time being blood bound, are truly coming to an end.

Excerpt

Blood Lust
L.E. Royal © 2019
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One

“Pick it up.”

Scarlett watched with lazy eyes as my hand shot forward to grab the apple. I hated her a little for how easy she found this.

“You’re scowling, Princess.”

I dropped the apple the minute she let me and did my best to straighten my face.

The revelation that Scarlett and I were blood bound was old news, but its implications were still new to both of us. We’d been spending time when we were alone learning to overcome the phenomenon—or trying.

The vampire stretched, reclining before me on the black satin bedsheets, and I wondered if she felt me compelling her at all. I tried to recreate the feeling inside myself from the rare times I had succeeded in bending her to my will. Silently, I concentrated and willed her to pick up the apple.

She yawned.

Raindrops ran down the sleek glass doors of Scarlett’s balcony, the sky a dreary gray. Even from the great height of the thirteenth floor, I could see little beige specks below that I knew were actually humans. They came from the outskirts of the city—the Fringe, brought in to work around the decadent skyscrapers that housed Vampire families, like Scarlett’s. High up in Pearce Tower we could live under the illusion of safety, for the moment.

Below, the streets of Vires teemed with vampires, Deltas who were genetically advanced enough to walk in the daylight. The non-Deltas would join them at sunset.

A flash of curiosity disturbed me, pulling me back off the dark path I was traveling, thoughts of society in Vires starting to consume me. Without looking, I could feel her watching me, taste her curiosity. Her wish to know what was going on inside my head was clear through the emotional connection we shared. I tried to lock her out, to shield my feelings from her. She tipped her head and when I met her dark eyes, their intensity burned. I figured I was successful.

Pick up the apple.

Her voice was liquid smoke, lingering in my mind, penetrating every corner. My pale hand darted forward and grabbed it again. She smirked. My stupid, smug, beautiful vampire.

My fingers released their grip the moment she bade them to, and the abused fruit fell back onto the sheets.

“Your turn.”

I wanted to grumble, to ask what the point was. We both knew I couldn’t resist the commands she gave. We also knew she could resist mine effortlessly most of the time. I smoothed my hands over my jean-clad thighs and tried again.

“I’m not resisting you, sweetheart. I haven’t felt any compulsion to resist yet.” She was amused. It danced in her eyes, in the little tug at the corner of her mouth, but I knew she was trying to be diplomatic, at least.

“Why is this even important?”

She had been playful and light-hearted, secretly enjoying the little game we shared. The minute I asked the question I felt her growing cold, uncomfortable. The pleasant hum of her emotions as they lapped at me waned before they shut down altogether.

The subject we were avoiding hung between us, heavy and suffocating. After almost a week of sleepless nights and uneasy dreams I knew sometimes she could share, I was ready to drag it out into the light.

“I don’t ever want it to be used against us.” She was somber, her expression dark and unreadable.

“Scar, if I’m going to be a vampire anyway…”

She hissed. I prepared to backpedal, wishing I had been a little more tactful, but she was already speaking.

“Why are you so obsessed with becoming a monster?”

“Jade’s not a monster and she’s a vampire.” Dark eyes softened at the mention of her younger sister, one of the people she loved most in the world. Through our connection I had quickly grown to love her too.

“Jade has struggled more than you know.” It was cryptic and caustic and an answer that was oh so Scarlett.

“You’re not a monster, really.”

She scoffed.

We were silent for a few seconds, my reply dancing on the tip of my tongue. It was a large part of what had been keeping me up at night, but I was too afraid of her answer to voice the topic.

“Say what’s on your mind?” It was only half a question, and I could tell it took some effort for her not to command it out of me. Beneath the cold indifference she had painted on her face, tiny tells and miniscule shimmers of her feelings told me she was nervous.

“I don’t want to get old when you’ll always be young.”

She laughed, and the sound was ever so slightly bitter.

“I’m three hundred and sixty-nine years old, Princess.”

I wondered if I would ever stop being staggered by that fact.

“Besides, I don’t think aging is something we have to worry about. I’m almost certain you’ve already stopped, being as you are.”

“Hybrids don’t age?” My voice was an octave too high with surprise, and maybe a little bit of joy.

We hadn’t much discussed what I was, what I had become, what she had made me. Her cool and careful handling of the subject frustrated me, and it gave me the uncomfortable feeling she was making plans without any of us.

“Just a hunch.” She tried to curtail me before I got too fixated on the fact. “But if I’m right and age isn’t a factor, are you still so eager to be turned?”

I shrugged, unsure.

“Being a hybrid is still dangerous. What if the Government eventually discovers that us sharing blood is what caused this? What if they find out we’re blood bound? Wouldn’t it be safer if I was less…breakable?”

Blood Lust Now Available

Meet 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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