Release Blitz: Bodies Beautiful by Steve Burford (Excerpt and Giveaway)

Title: Bodies Beautiful

Series: Summerskill and Lyon, Book Two

Author: Steve Burford

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 16, 2018

Heat Level: 2 – Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: No Romance

Length: 72400

Genre: Contemporary Thriller, contemporary, crime, murder, bodybuilders, detectives, MP, family drama, mystery

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Synopsis

“Y’know, time was when the serial killers went after helpless young women. Now they’re taking out bodybuilders.”

When promising young bodybuilder Paul Best is found gruesomely murdered, DI Claire Summerskill and DS Dave Lyon find themselves deep in the unfamiliar territory of hard core gyms and weights, supplements and steroids. But when the one thing linking the growing list of murder victims is that they are the last men you’d expect to be victims, Summerskill and Lyon are faced with their toughest case yet.

“Bodies Beautiful” is the second in the Summerskill and Lyon series of police procedural novels.

Excerpt

Excerpt
Bodies Beautiful
Steve Burford © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
7:00 p.m.

Pain.

Fierce fire across his chest, up his arms, burning the muscles. More intense than any he had ever known.

It was…awesome!

“Go, Paul!”

“C’mon, man!”

“Push it.”

“Push it!”

With one last, titanic effort and with a strangled, inarticulate bellow, Paul Best pushed the massively stacked barbell that last, all important, near impossible centimetre up over his heaving chest, locked his arms, held for one second, two, then let go. The men on either end of the barbell staggered as they took its weight, hauled it back, and let it drop with a crash on the support framework behind Paul’s head.

“Sweet!”

“Brilliant, mate!”

“Un-be-fuckin’-lievable!”

Face flushed, near blinded by his own sweat but grinning like a loon, Paul lay momentarily exhausted on the bench, gasping like a landed fish, and accepting his mates’ extravagant praises. A new gym record. A new personal record. A whole one point two five kilos over his last best weight, way beyond anything any of the other guys in that gym could bench-press.

But still not good enough. It was never good enough.

Paul waited for his heart and breathing to slow back to something like normal, dragging a towel one of the guys had thrown at him across his eyes to clear the sweat. The small crowd of enthusiastic admirers who had surrounded his bench drifted back to their own workouts, some inspired by what they had just seen; a couple completely demoralised. Still grinning, Paul sat back up on the bench and accepted the water bottle held out by one who had stayed, one of the two men who had taken the weight from him. “Thanks, Rob.”

His mate stood to one side, shaking his head in amazement. “That was just beyond, man, y’know?”

Paul wiped the towel across the top of his pumped chest and under both armpits before hanging it around his thick neck. “Was, wasn’t it?”

“Want me to spot some more, or do you want to stretch off?”

Paul squinted at the clock on the far wall. “Nah,” he said, standing up from the bench. “Think I’ll just grab a shower and get going.”

Rob frowned. “You sure?” It was a standing joke at the Heavy Metal gym that Paul would be there all the hours God sent if he could, and the staff frequently almost had to throw him out at closing time which was still three hours away. Even Paul might not have anything left to give after that last display, but hitting the showers without stretching off? That was like… Rob struggled for an appropriate comparison but couldn’t find one. Similes weren’t really his thing. But whatever it was like, it was wrong. Paul Best didn’t cut corners in the gym.

“Okay.” Rob sounded uncertain. “Fancy a shake then? I’ve got some of the new protein formula from that show up in Brum. Doesn’t taste like shit. Pure protein. That’s what it says on the label. I mean,” he added, “it doesn’t say, doesn’t taste like shit, just…well, y’know what I mean.”

“Nah, mate. Thanks all the same. Save it for tomorrow, yeah?” Paul pointed his finger at Rob as if aiming a gun, winked, and made a clicking sound with his tongue. “Things to do tonight, y’know?”

Rob shuffled his feet uncomfortably. “Oh yeah. Right.”

Paul laughed. “You in tomorrow?”

Rob nodded vigorously. “Course.”

“Good man!” Paul thumped his friend on the shoulder then made his way across the crowded gym to the small changing room and shower area. All around him, standing, sitting, lying and squatting, men, and some women, pushed, pressed, pulled and lifted barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and, in one instance, a sandbag. Soft grunts, gasps, and the occasional guttural cry punctured the air which was heavy with sweat and muscle rub.

He stopped just short of the changing room door. On the bench there lay a man, stretching out his arms and pectoral muscles, eyes closed, psyching himself to press the impressively loaded barbell resting over his head on its stand. Either side of the stand were two other men, ready to lift the weight up and over to him and stand by in case he needed their help. Paul came and stood over the man on his back. To the untrained eye, he might have appeared as built as Paul himself. His skimpy vest, like Paul’s, did little to conceal his massively overdeveloped chest and arm muscles. But with the eye of the obsessive, Paul could see the differences: the lack of definition here, the extra eighth of an inch of fat there. And the weight this man was going to try to press… Paul’s grin became positively wolf-like. It was heavy all right, heavier than anything else anyone was pressing in the gym right then. And a good five kilos short of what Paul had just shifted.

“Warming up, Danny?” Paul said, just loud enough for everyone around to hear.

The man on the bench hissed in what might have been a reaction to Paul’s words or might have been part of his mental preparation. He opened his eyes but stayed staring at the ceiling. He nodded once to the men on either side of his head. They heaved the weight up from its rest, brought it forward until the bar was over his chest and he could grasp it, waited until they were sure he had a firm hold, arms locked, then let go and stepped back. For a moment, the weight stayed right where it was. Then, very slowly, teeth bared in a rictus of effort, his breath a series of sharp hisses, the man on the bench let the bar come down until the metal was just resting across his heaving chest. With a cry like a yelp of pain, he then thrust powerfully upwards. The bar moved, an inch, then another. On either side of him, the helpers shifted uneasily. Veins stood out on the forehead of the man on the bench as he strained against the weight. The bar moved another inch, then part of another. Then inexorably sank back downwards. The two standing men stepped in, seized the ends of the barbell, and hauled it back into its place on the stand.

Paul laughed out loud. “Bad luck, Danny,” he yelled, as he threw open the changing room doors. “Like to stick around and help you out but things to do, people to see. You know how it is.” He turned and stood for a moment in the doorframe, arms held out at his side as if inviting everyone there to gaze adoringly at his powerful body. “I mean, you know how it was. Keep taking the tablets.”

Dan Thompson lay on his bench, gasping like a man who had run a marathon, while his training partners shuffled uncomfortably off to one side, avoiding any eye contact with him. “Prick!” Dan gasped. “Fucking little prick!”

The door swung shut behind Paul but didn’t completely muffle the sound of his mocking laughter.

In the changing rooms, Paul pulled his sweat-sodden vest up over his head, tossed it to one side, and stood in front of the mirror, admiring his body in the almost dispassionate way a car enthusiast might admire a sports car he had built from scratch. Biceps pose. Triceps pose. Quad flex. Yeah, looking good. Looking big and looking really good. And burning Thompson had felt good too. So good it had just about made him forget the nagging in his gut. But not quite.

Rob’s confused surprise at his early exit from the gym had been a laugh but tearing himself away from his training so early had not been easy for Paul. Not at all! The obsessive compulsion that was part of his life, that was almost all of his life, that drove him through the pain and privations of bodybuilding day after day, week in, week out, was all but impossible to ignore. Besides, it would have been cool to hang around and bask some more in the mingled admiration and envy of the other guys there.

But when sweet deals came along, you had to make the most of them. And tonight’s deal promised to be so sweet Paul would be able to keep himself in allegedly delicious protein drinks for many months to come. And not just milkshakes. He whistled happily to himself as he took one last admiring look over his shoulder at the reflection of his flared lat muscles and enviable narrow waist before padding off to the showers.

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Steve Burford lives in one of the less well-to-do areas of Malvern mentioned in the novel. When not writing in a variety of genres under a variety of names, he tries to teach drama to teenagers. He has only occasionally been in trouble with the police. You can reach Steve via eMail.

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Release Blitz: Fallen for You by Jules Dee (excerpt and giveaway)

Title: Fallen for You

Author: Jules Dee

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: July 16, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70100

Genre: Paranormal, romance, paranormal, BDSM lite

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Synopsis

When you work with someone for years, you think you know them pretty well.

Casey Wicker and Martin Bishop are a British Secret Service team with a reputation for ignoring rules but delivering results. They’ve also built a tight friendship, with more than a spark of unspoken attraction.

While on assignment to Scotland Yard, Martin rescues Casey and exposes him to a life-changing secret. Martin is not what he seems, and now that Casey is aware of that, the knowledge most likely comes with a death sentence.

When a way to avoid the tragic ending is suggested, it may very well take more cooperation than anyone is willing to expend.

Excerpt

Fallen for You
Jules Dee © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“You’re utter rubbish at this, you know that, right?” Casey shouted as Martin’s long legs ate up the distance ahead of them, arms and shoulders bunching and rolling in graceful synchronicity.

“In what particular way—” Martin ducked around a corner and took off down the next street, shouting back over his shoulder “—am I rubbish?”

“You, Martin Christopher Bishop—” Casey suddenly grabbed his arm roughly and pulled him into a shadowed doorway. “—are rubbish at the whole secret part of secret agent.”

They stood close together, heads almost level, breathing hard and grinning in spite of the danger as the sounds of angry shouting faded in the distance.

“We got the document we were after, didn’t we? I don’t see the problem.” Martin’s eyes sparkled bright blue even in the dimly lit recess as he ran a hand quickly through his short dark hair. Casey smiled at the familiar habit that tended to appear when in risky situations.

“You don’t see—” Casey took a moment to bend, putting his hands on his knees, and gasped great lungfuls of air as his shaggy blonde hair fell over his eyes. “You don’t see the problem? We can never come back to Liberec, you idiot. You might as well have signed into the hotel as James Bond if you intended to grab the papers in broad daylight.”

Martin leant against the rough bricks, chuckling as he tucked the documents in question away inside his jacket. “Don’t make such a fuss. What’re the chances we’ll ever need to come back to this area of Prague anyway?”

Casey straightened and tried for his most withering stare, his brown gaze meeting Martin’s, before giving in and laughing along with his partner. “Hopeless. You’re hopeless. Why do I work with you?”

“My rakish charm, my scintillating conversation? C’mon, admit it, you love me.” He ducked his head out, casting a quick glance both ways. “The coast is clear. Ready for another sprint?”

“Always.” He took one last breath and broke into a run. “And I don’t love you, for the record. You’re a complete tit.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble | Kobo

Meet the Author

Jules Dee doesn’t understand what she has done to deserve her magnificent life. She is surrounded and supported by her husband and her friends. Her cats appreciate that her habit of writing creates long hours of lap-time, which they are happy to consume and repay her with purrs.

When she isn’t writing, she spends her days running the Technology Service Desk for a Local Council in Metropolitan Melbourne and fixing things that are broken.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | eMail

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Review: Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing #1) by Layla Reyne

 

Imperial Stout (Trouble Brewing, #1)

 

Layla Reyne spins off from her pulse-pounding Agents Irish and Whiskey books with Imperial Stout , the first installment in the Trouble Brewing series

It’s a good thing assistant US attorney Dominic Price co-owns a brewery. He could use a cold one. Nic’s star witness has just been kidnapped, his joint operation with the FBI is in jeopardy, his father’s shady past is catching up with him and the hot new special agent in San Francisco is the kind of distraction best handled with a stiff drink.

Kidnap and rescue expert Cameron Byrne has his own ideas about how to handle Nic, but his skills are currently needed elsewhere. The by-the-book FBI agent goes deep undercover as a member of an infamous heist crew in order to save Nic’s witness, break up the crew and close the case before anyone else gets hurt. Nic in particular.

Things heat up when Cam falls for Nic, and the witness falls for Cam. As the crew’s suspicions grow, Cam must decide how far he’s willing to go—and how far into his own dark past he’s willing to dive—to get everyone out alive.

 

 

REVIEW

 

 

I had so much expectations about this book and I’m sad to say it didn’t quite delivered. I struggle a lot to get to the end of it. It did had some parts that I enjoy, but it seems like it wasn’t the right book for me.

One of the things that, I think, was the biggest problem, is that it was supposed to be a first in a series and it felt like I should already knew who this characters were. I got it, it is a spin-of of another series but it’s the first book of a new one, so I thought that I could start reading it even if I haven’t read the Agents Irish and Whiskey’s series yet. It didn’t worked. I’ll recommend anyone who is thinking of read this to read the other series first. It didn’t felt like a stand-alone.

There was already some kind of history between Cam and Nic going on when the book started. I felt like I missed a lot there. Even if it wasn’t the case, they lack chemistry and the plot didn’t take much time to develop their relationship. There wasn’t too much romance and the few scenes between them felt a little flat. I couldn’t really connect with any emotion. Individually they seem nice characters but as a couple I wasn’t really convinced.

What I did liked about it was the mystery. I was intrigued by it, by the motives and the possible come out. I would have love a little more action but it mostly was ok, but that’s also the thing, it was only ok it. I end up feeling it was also little underdeveloped. I struggle to keep my attention the whole time.

I really hope my biggest problem with this book to be related with the fact that I haven’t read the other series, which I’m planning on doing, because if that’s the case, I guess other readers who had read it, might be able to like it as much as I would hope I could have.

 

BOOK LINKS

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AUTHOR

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Release Blitz: Skating Through by Jennifer Cosgrove (Excerpt and Giveaway)

Title:  Skating Through

Author: Jennifer Cosgrove

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70500

Genre: Contemporary YA, BFF, coming of age, coming out, high school, hockey, homophobia, sports, YA

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Synopsis

There are two things Ben Lewis has convinced himself he can never have at the same time: playing hockey and being openly gay. Hockey is looking to be his only choice. Until now. Being captain of the team and starting his senior year of high school is a lot to handle. Throw in a budding friendship with his crush, Marcus, and Ben is faced with deciding if he’s brave enough to take the next step.

Fortunately, courage can come from unexpected places. His BFF Ryan, new friends, and a voice from the past are great assists to his determination to be true to himself and keep playing the game he loves, but will they be enough?

Excerpt

Skating Through
Jennifer Cosgrove © 2018
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
“There you are.”

A murmured meow was Ben’s answer as Biscuit settled next to him, curling close to his side. He was wide awake. It was still dark outside, the only light in the room coming through the window from the streetlight on the corner. The alarm hadn’t gone off yet, but he’d trained himself to be up at the crack of dawn. He stretched, careful not to disturb the cat, and ran a hand through his hair in an attempt to flatten out the mess. He was in dire need of a haircut. Every year, he decided to grow it out, and every year, he changed his mind as soon as hockey season was on the horizon. It was just too much to deal with under a hockey helmet. Besides, he looked a little ridiculous with long hair.

He stared at the ceiling and let the rare quiet of the house wash over him. Most guys his age would sleep until noon, especially on summer break, but that wasn’t going to happen. The alarm started going off and Ben grabbed for the phone, accidentally knocking it off the nightstand along with his Band of Brothers DVDs and sending Biscuit scurrying away and out the door. He fumbled over the side of the bed, finally snagged the phone, and swiped across the screen to turn off the cheerful beeping.

Maybe he should just give in and go to the rink, get in some early ice time. He sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. His dad would probably get up and give him a ride. Ben rose and took a step toward the door. Or he’d tell him to go back to bed—it’s an off day, for god’s sake, Ben. Probably not, then. He shut the door with a click and got back in bed, scrolling through the texts from last night out of habit.

Ryan: he was in the shop again

Ben: …

Ryan: I didn’t say anything

Ryan: I wouldn’t do that

Ben: I know.

Ryan: you’re going to have to talk to him eventually

At that, Ben had put his phone down and gone to bed. Ryan meant well, but he wasn’t ready to deal with that. It just didn’t work that way. Not for him. Not now.

Ben looked at the time and groaned. When the phone beeped again, he turned it completely off and tossed it back onto the nightstand. He thought about getting up anyway but dragged a pillow over his head instead. Sleep deserved another try.

The next time Ben woke up it was to a pounding on his bedroom door that could only be one person. “Cut it out, Bethy!”

“Quit playing with yourself and get up, Benny!” The giggling that followed was cut short when he heard his mom’s voice coming up the stairs, followed by her light footsteps.

“Beth! Leave your brother alone.” A pause. “And don’t be crude.”

Ben rolled his eyes and struggled to sit up. There was a gentle tapping on his door. “Ben, honey?”

“Yeah, Mom.”

The door opened and she peeked in cautiously.

“Remember we’re going to help Gran today.” How could he forget? She’d reminded him every day for the past week. It wasn’t like he was going to suddenly develop amnesia or something. “And we need to leave soon, so if you want breakfast, you’d better get a move on.”

He definitely wanted breakfast. “I’ll be right down.”

“Hurry. The vultures are circling,” she said with a wink and closed the door behind her.

Ben got up, stretched, and rolled his shoulders. He thought about going through the flexibility routine Coach Jordan recommended, but he just didn’t feel like it. It was his day off, and he was going to stick to that. He let his routine slip a bit during the summer, and he’d get enough of a workout moving heavy boxes and furniture, anyway. His grandma was leaving the cold winters of upstate New York to escape to Florida’s warmer climate. She’d laughed when he told her she was a walking, talking cliché.

“That might be true, my love, but I’ll still be the youngest one down there.” It was true. She’d taken early retirement when his grandfather had gotten ill, and now that he’d passed, she had the means to make a move closer to her sister. He was going to miss her.

“Ben?” His mom’s voice floated up the stairs.

He sighed and picked up the DVDs that had fallen down beside the bed and started pulling clothes out so he could tell her, honestly, that he was getting ready.

“Five seconds!”

“Plate’s on the table.”

Ugh. He’d better hurry. He could smell bacon, and either Beth or his dad would have no qualms about stealing it right off his plate. Always the bacon. And today it would be real bacon instead of turkey bacon, so that made it even more tempting. Not that turkey bacon ever stopped them. He felt a twinge of guilt for making his mom fix two different breakfasts most days, but it was something they’d lived with from the time he’d started high school. Ever since he got serious about hockey.

It was all he’d ever wanted to do. He’d known from the first time he stepped out on the ice. He was good at it, and he was lucky to have supportive parents. It hadn’t been easy. The equipment and fees were expensive, and the demanding training and game schedules were always a challenge. But he was never late to practice, and they’d never missed a home game. It would be worth it, he thought. The college scholarship would make a huge difference. He didn’t want his parents to bear all the burden of putting him and his sister through school, not if he could help it.

He pulled on a faded Flyers T-shirt and opened his door, almost tripping over the ball of fluff waiting right outside. “Dammit, Biscuit!” He received a put-upon meow in return as he scooped the cat up in his arms. Biscuit’s rumbling purr was comforting against his chest as he carried him down the stairs. The cat started to squirm as soon as they got to the kitchen, ready to get at the food waiting in his dish.

Ben absently brushed cat hair off his shirt before sitting at the table in front of a plate piled high with eggs, bacon, and fruit. He was just in time because his dad and sister had almost finished their own breakfasts and were already eyeballing his. It was a cheat day, for god’s sake, but they were all vicious when it came to bacon. “Morning.”

Not quite sociable yet, his dad answered with a grunt. He’d be better after his second cup of coffee.

His mom swooped by and ruffled his hair. “You have ten minutes.” Ben ran a hand through his already messy hair and groaned. She narrowed her eyes. “Get a move on.”

He took her at her word and dug in. After he finished, he slurped down coffee and juice and took the extra precaution of downing a glass of water. It was already warm outside, even for August, and it’d be a long sweaty day.

“When do you think we’ll be getting home?” He’d promised Ryan he would go to a party with him tonight. It was a promise that only a best friend could drag out of him. Ben didn’t like parties for the most part, especially ones where there was drinking and other stuff. He knew it made him look like a goody-goody or a stick-in-the-mud or whatever other term Ryan could dream up to tease him with, but he didn’t like to take any chances. He couldn’t put his future in danger, as dramatic as that sounded in his own head.

His mom was digging through her purse for her keys. He let her look for a few seconds before reaching over and plucking them off the hook. She took them with a lopsided smile. “Sorry, what did you say?”

Ben rolled his eyes with a grin. She knew his practice schedule better than he did, but could never keep up with her keys. “What time do you think we’ll be back?”

“Why? Got a hot date or something?”

Ben grimaced behind her back. There was a lot she didn’t know about him, especially in that respect. He opened the front door and gestured for her to go ahead.

“Nah. Ryan talked me into going to a thing at someone’s house. Holtsy’s girlfriend’s?” He didn’t think she’d have a problem with him going to a party, but he didn’t want to have to answer a lot of questions. Plus, she loved Ryan.

She gave him an odd look before unlocking the car. She knew he didn’t like parties. “We should be back in plenty of time. You want to drive there or back?”

He’d had his driver’s license for only two weeks and was still nervous behind the wheel. It hadn’t helped that he’d put off learning how to drive until this summer, right before his senior year. The only reason he finally relented was because he’d be off to college soon, and his dad pointed out they wouldn’t be there to drive him to practice or class. So Ben had sucked it up and decided to learn. Driving still scared the hell out of him, though.

“Back.” The traffic would be lighter at least.

“All right.” They had a brief squabble over the radio that his mom won, before heading out. It was just the two of them, as Beth would be coming later with their dad after running some errands. “But no trying to get out of it this time.”

Ben shook his head and smiled out the window. “I won’t.”

Purchase

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Meet the Author

Jennifer has always been a voracious reader and a well-established geek from an early age. She loves comics, movies, and anything that tells a compelling story.

When not writing, she likes knitting, dissecting/arguing about movies with her husband, and enjoying the general chaos that comes with having kids.

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Release Blitz: Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three (Giveaway)

Title:  Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three

Author: A. E. Ross, Elna Holst, Mark Lesney, N.J. Romaine, Sam Burns, Valentine Wheeler, W.M. Fawkes

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: No Romance, Male/Female, Male/Male, Female/Female

Length: 121800

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, bisexual, coming out, dragons, fae, family drama, Fantasy, gay, kidnapping, knights, lesbian, royalty, sexual, trans, warriors, witches

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Synopsis

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Seven fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross – Glass slippers aren’t for everyone.

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst – This time around, Gretel Kindermann is on her own. Or is she?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney – Loss and love on the road to Bremen Town.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine – Who can win a hunt against the Big Bad Wolf?

The Rescue by Sam Burns – Saving princesses is hard work. Getting out of marrying them is harder.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler – The shoe fits, the prince is won: now what?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes – No one else can pull his strings.

Blurbs

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross

What if you could walk into a party with the perfect outfit—one that matches the way you feel inside?

For Ash Zermeno, the night of his best friend’s brother’s wedding reception is a hard pass: he’s certainly not going to wear the dress he ordered months ago, and he’s got no other wardrobe options. Forget about the fact that his long-time childhood crush Roman is going to be there. It just ain’t happening, no matter how hard he wishes on it. And he didn’t even wish on it…or did he?

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst

Gretel Kindermann has always lived in the little village at the lip of the Schwarzwald forest. But now, her father has moved away, her mother is indefinitely admitted to a private clinic, and her brother Hänsel, oh—

And all because of Margrete Heckscher. That Lebkuchen-making, sugar rush-inducing busybody, whose enthralling niece, lately arrived from Vienna, seems set on tempting poor Gretel out of her last vestiges of sanity… Because, surely, outside of the realm of fairy tales, there can be no such thing as an actual, magic-wielding witch?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney

Simon the Donkey, an orphaned peasant boy on a Medieval farm, flees cruel servitude to seek his fortune in his childhood dreams of becoming a performer in the fabled city of Bremen Town. On the road he finds true friendship and finally love in the arms of young Edwin the Hound. They join with two other accidental travelers, Cat the Thief, and Rooster the Maid, conspiring together to survive in a brutal world of robbery and murder, with only the magical saving power of their talents for make believe.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, a lone huntswoman comes across a traveller in red, walking through an autumn forest in the shadow of a spell-trapped kingdom.

Aletta moved out to the solitary woods to avoid the troubles of her past, but when she meets a young woman travelling alone with nothing but a red-hooded cloak, her sense of duty compels her to offer aid. But nothing is what it seems in the wild backwoods, and both women have secrets with far-reaching ramifications.

Aletta must confront her past and learn to trust herself, lest the hunter become the hunted.

The Rescue by Sam Burns

Brice has come to the dragon’s lair to save poor Princess Primrose, even if he doesn’t want her hand in marriage. The beautiful young man being held captive alongside her is a surprise, and Brice may not want a prize for his chivalry, but he wouldn’t mind taking Aidan home with him.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler

Catherine’s life was different before her stepmother took charge of the family. When her father was alive, she’d been the treasured daughter and the heir to his textile empire. Now she’s just her stepmother’s servant.

Prince Heinrich doesn’t want to marry, but as the only heir to the throne, he knows he must. When a mysterious woman at the ball in his honor is completely unimpressed by him, he’s intrigued. Could she be the partner he’s been looking for? And when catastrophe strikes both their lives, how can their arrangement hold together?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes

José Velásquez has no ideas for his senior project, but when his classmate trades him a giant block of white pine for scrap metal, it’s almost too easy to carve out a fantastic sculpture. From the wood, José pulls the legendary Maya warrior Tecún Umán. It’s José’s best work, but how much credit can he take for the creation of a wooden man who steps off the block on his own? To get through his last exhibition, José must find an artistic voice uniquely his own or risk losing Tecún forever.

While José worries about his senior project, Tecún longs for a chance to experience being human with the man who drew him out of his wooden shell. He’ll do whatever it takes to get a real shot at life, even if that means cutting his strings to dance on his own.

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Release Blitz: Chance by Archie Hellshire (Excerpt and Giveaway)

Title:  Chance

Series: Graphene, Book One

Author: Archie Hellshire

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: July 2, 2018

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 26600

Genre: Contemporary, comedy, thriller, gay

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Synopsis

Daniel has spent his life traveling down the same well-worn path, safe inside a prison of his own making, with tomorrow promising no difference from yesterday. Then, one unremarkable morning, he meets someone who throws his life completely off the rails. All he knows about Nathan when he first sees him is that he’s beautiful, but it’s enough to get him to board the wrong train instead of going to the office.

This one careless step off the beaten path has unexpected consequences, as the mysterious passenger is being pursued by a cadre of mercenaries after the parcel he’s tasked with delivering safely to the other side of the city. Daniel has never considered himself brave, or strong, or fast, and he doesn’t come prepared for this fight, but at the right place, at the right time, someone can do the right thing and be a hero for a victim in distress.

Together, staying just out of reach of their pursuers and narrowly escaping tight spaces, they make their way to the delivery point. And as the journey wears on, they learn more about what’s in the parcel they’re carrying, and what it means for the world if they can’t deliver it.

Excerpt

Chance
Archie Hellshire © 2018
All Rights Reserved

The progress of the human race has not been pioneered by individuals overly preoccupied with safety. All the advancements of our people can be attributed to a ragtag assortment of gamblers with more courage than sense, diving headfirst into danger, compelled by the faintest chance of a payout, armed only with a devil-may-care attitude and maniacal laughter.

Somewhere in the world today, in a lab dimly lit by a pile of burning grant money, a madcap physicist is working into the wee hours of the morning, trying to turn a lump of coal into unlimited energy. Though we may scoff at his wishful thinking, it was not so long ago that our disdain was aimed at a pair of bike-shop owners who branched out into making the first aeroplane.

Before that, it was a hobbyist who decided to use new-fangled electricity to send messages across whole countries in the mere twinkling of an eye.

But it was before that, it was a sailor who tried to sail to the world’s edge and found North America instead.

But it was before even that, it was an apothecary who wondered if mucking about with a corpse might yield medical insight.

But it was far before even that, it was one of the nomads of old who decided to try planting crops instead of chasing mastodon across the continent to ward off starvation.

But it was before all of them, it was an ancient ancestor who made the controversial decision to play with fire.

Inspiring as their achievements are, for every success story, there are hundreds of gambles that met with total flaming failure. Understanding this, the bulk of humanity has, throughout history, chosen to build on the progress of others, well insulated from any risk to themselves. These people are comforted by the predictability of their lives. They benefit from the way things are and fear what they might lose if the rules of the game were to change. They have created for themselves a system of numerical precision, wherein all carefully selected actions lead inevitably to a foregone conclusion, and reaching your goal is only a matter of time and planning. These people are gamblers of a different kind; they have a system, but no matter how carefully they play the game, something can still come along to flip the board.

This story is about how the board was flipped, the gambler who played with fire, the orthodoxy who built their empire on the status quo, and the innocent people who got swept up in the tide and had to decide which side they were on.

Daniel Wyn opened his eyes at 6:30 a.m., mere seconds before his alarm went off. He had been getting up at the same time every morning for years and his biology had fallen into the steady rhythm.

He reached his hand out from under the covers and tapped the screen of his phone to silence his alarm as it started. While the thoughts of his waking mind were, as yet, unformed, he took in his bedroom around him. Sunlight filtered in through the sheer curtains illuminating four walls, bare of any pictures and with one flat-screen mounted opposite his bed. An orderly desk sat in one corner. On it lay his briefcase, packed and ready for work. A two-piece suit hung on the door of his closet, set out from the night before.

Comforted by the familiar surroundings of his bedroom, his mind gradually ramped into higher gear and queued up his morning tasks. He swung his legs out of bed to deal with the most pressing matter on the list.

After flushing the loo, he divested himself of his pajamas and stepped into his shower stall. The warm water cascading down his slim, toned body brought further clarity. As he worked the shampoo through his wavy brown hair, the different parts of his consciousness whirred into action after a night’s rest and began the work of assembling his schedule for today. Every duty, every task, every errand was carefully examined, tagged with a magnitude of importance, and weighed against all the other demands with each risk and reward noticed and noted. The steady dance of numbers that constituted Daniel’s worldview, a complex and harmonious rhythm, like the delicate inner workings of a clock, had fully powered up.

Wiping the layer of steam off his bathroom mirror, he shaved himself clean and appraised his appearance. Brown eyes stared back at him from his pale face. He reached up and gave a small swipe at a mole on his cheekbone with his fingertips, wondering, as he did every morning, if it looked like skin cancer.

Once back in his bedroom, he took his suit off the hook and dressed himself. This suit was one of three identical suits he had, indistinguishable right down to his underwear. He buttoned his top collar button, neglecting to put on his tie, since he didn’t own one; he felt that was inviting strangulation. He grabbed his briefcase, but before leaving his bedroom, straightened up his bed. He repositioned his pillow and pulled up the comforter on the side he slept. He cast a fleeting glance at the other side of his mattress, unmolested and empty, as it was every morning.

Once in the kitchen, he made himself breakfast, the exact contents of which he had decided at the beginning of the month as part of the regimen that insured he had all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients suggested by his dietician, who really wished that Daniel would stop calling him every month.

He turned on the morning news as he prepared his oatmeal and was greeted with validation of his constant paranoia.

“Late last evening,” the anchorwoman began to a backdrop of a smoking building, “an unknown number of assailants broke in to the Physics Building at the University of Northumberland. According to initial reports by the FBI, they planted and detonated a number of incendiary devices.

“No one has, as yet, taken credit for this attack, which the FBI is hesitant to label as terrorism, and they have not yet released numbers for any injuries or fatalities. We could not reach Physics Chair, Professor Geim, for comment. Now for the weather…”

At 6:45 a.m., food successfully ingested and dishes cleaned, he left his apartment, locked the door behind him, and headed to the neighborhood subway station. On the subway car, he diligently avoided making eye contact with any of his fellow commuters and touching any surface more than was absolutely necessary.

By 7:30 a.m., he was at his desk at work, half an hour early, just as he had done every workday going back several years to when he had slid seamlessly out of college into his job doing risk analysis at an insurance company.

There, Daniel was completely in his element. The cogs of his mind wound through the numerical data related to all the ways things could go horribly wrong and indexed them appropriately. It was work that was, for Daniel, both rewarding and life affirming.

“Hey, Dan,” said his neighbor, as he poked his head over the cubicle wall.

Daniel looked up from the report he was reading on space debris.

“You won the office pool.” He reached over the wall to hand Daniel a small wad of bills. “The new intern lasted exactly four months. I don’t know how you do it.”

“I noticed he had specialized in game theory rather than economics…” started Daniel in a quiet baritone. But his coworker had already walked on. Daniel turned back to the report he was reading, relieved he wouldn’t have to carry on a conversation.

Daniel was making up a spreadsheet to display the relative risk of being hit by space debris as they fell out of orbit when he was interrupted by the department manager.

“Mr. Wyn,” said a lady carrying a thin file folder, “We’ve been given a high-priority case from upstairs.” She handed him the folder.

He opened it to find a single sheet with a heading and several bullets.

“We need you to document the risks of electric cars.” She summarized for him.

He looked up from the folder, brow furrowed in confusion.

“The risk wouldn’t be any different from standard gas-powered cars,” he said. “You could actually remove all the risk factors associated with combustible fuels.” It was something an intern could do…if they still had one.

She stared at him for a beat, then looked around to see if there was anyone within range. She leaned in and lowered her voice to a conspiratorial murmur.

“One of the directors on the board also sits on the board of Texas Petroleum,” she explained. “He wants the company to charge higher premiums for electric cars, so we have to make them seem dangerous to justify it.”

Daniel gave a nod of understanding, and she left. Shrugging off the feeling that he was prostituting himself, he looked up information on electric cars and electrocutions.

Two hours later, the scariest thing he could find about electric cars was that they were going to cost him his job. He was pouring over a report on the toxicity of lithium batteries when one of the cogs of his consciousness gave an unsettling vibration. He looked up from his monitor and focused on the sensation; the intuitive feeling that something disruptive had just entered his orderly existence. He peeked over the edge of his cubicle to find the source of his discomfort. A shock of white hair, just barely clearing the other cubicles, made its way over to him.

He sat back down and leaned close to his monitor, not reading the words on the screen but staring very deliberately.

“Tryin’ to look busy isn’t gonna fool me.” The voice was feminine but with rough edges from being used for a lifetime. “Even if I thought you were busy, it wouldn’t stop me.”

He stared resolutely at his screen, unblinking, holding his breath.

“Ignorin’ me won’t work either,” the voice continued. At the same time, a massive handbag was plopped down on his keyboard.

All his strategies thwarted, he finally looked up to see the woman with coiffed white hair. Wrinkles on her face spoke of a lifetime of grinning mischievously. Two dark eyes that had seen a lot of hardship and sorrow, mostly of her own making, looked him over.

“Hello, Mildred,” said Daniel in his low voice, which now had a hint of a smile.

“Hey, Danny Boy,” she said. “What are you doin’?”

“Researching the dangers of—”

“I was just at the mailroom.” She cut him off. “The guy says they don’t mail things any more. What’s the deal with that?”

“They farmed mailing service out to a third party,” said Daniel, reaching into one of his drawers and pulling out a business card. He gave it a cursory look and handed it to her. “We started a business account with a specialty courier service to save money.”

“Trans-Commute,” she said, reading the card. “So, I have to walk all the way to their office downtown. Why is it every time they save money I do more work? And get paid less?”

Daniel shrugged, hoping not to get too involved in the subject. It wasn’t that he didn’t like Mildred, but meeting her was always a bit jarring, even for an adventurous person.

Mildred was a resident investigator for the company. She had a long successful career tracking down information, stolen property, and people in hiding. Her continued employment was guaranteed by her high success rate and the mysterious disappearance of the HR manager who insisted that eighty-seven was well passed mandatory retirement age.

“Well, thanks for this,” she said, holding up the card before she slipped it in her handbag. “Now, take me to lunch.”

“It’s only eleven thirty,” he said, following her anyway as she made her way to the elevators. “Lunch is scheduled for twelve.”

“That’s a whole thirty minutes away,” she said. “At my age, you can’t be sure if you have that much time.”

“If you don’t have that much time, does it matter if you’re full?” asked Daniel.

“Yes,” she quipped, “it does.”

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Meet the Author

Archie Hellshire is an author with aspirations of being able to write. He was born in the Caribbean where he developed a love of nature, the metric system, and high temperatures. In school, lacking any athletic or social ability, he became a very bookish person, indulging in the works of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling, and Charles Dodgson. Despite being well read, he struggled with dyslexia and would forever remain horrible at spelling. The advent of Spell Checker reignited his dreams of becoming an author.

Archie grew up in a family and culture that was not tolerant of homosexuals, and he spent his entire young life in the closet, retreating into his books and a rich fantasy life. In the theater of his mind, the romances he read could be edited to be male couples. He dreamed of one day writing his own stories and living his own happy ending. Find the author on Twitter.

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Release: Take: A Dark Taboo Tale: The Need Trilogy #2 by R. Phoenix

Take: A Dark Taboo Tale: The Need Trilogy #2

 

Changes in the Mirza family have left both Tavi and Rex struggling to learn their new roles — and there’s no room for error. Pretending to be his twin brother is more difficult than Tavi could have imagined, and family secrets threaten to tear him apart. Rex, protected and cared for in every way, has a far from peaceful life.

Both have gained knowledge they didn’t necessarily want to have, and now that it’s been learned, they can’t simply forget it again. As their lives continue to change, will they change for the better… or will the price for the twins’ actions be too high?

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*This is NOT a standalone and should be read after Want (The Need Trilogy #1). This is dark taboo tale contains several kinks that may offend or trigger some readers, including (but not limited to) age play, ABDL, spanking, and humiliation. Not every dynamic or element is 100% consensual.

Though The Need Trilogy is set in The Fate of the Fallen world, the trilogy can be read separately from the series. The main characters do not appear in the FotF/SQ books, and there are minimal spoilers for the series or other books set in the universe.

 

 

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