Louise Lyons’ “What’s Up, Pussycat” released – FREE!

I’m very please to have Louise Lyons popping in here today to share news of her latest release, the novella “What’s Up, Pussycat”, which is available free at all retailers.

 

Release date: July 7, 2017
Length: 24,300 words
Cover Design: Simon Searle

 

Finley Harrington despairs of ever being able to move on after the death of Andrew, the love of his life. When he spots an advertisement for auditions for Cats, the last musical Andrew performed in, Finley acts on the spur of the moment and calls for an appointment to audition.

Much to Fin’s surprise, he gets the part he hopes for, but during his struggles with stage-fright, and the teasing of a fellow actor, Karl Rogers, he wonders if he’s made a huge mistake. But Karl’s irritating persona hides a different person inside, and when Fin gets to know him, he develops a surprising attraction to him.

Could Karl be the person to help Fin move on from the past, or is he destined to remain alone?

 

 

Amazon UK  |  Amazon US  |    Smashwords   |    Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

The members of the cast began arriving half an hour later when the three of us were warming up, and my impression of the first man through the door was one of shock. I’d seen Karl Rogers who played Rum Tum Tugger from a distance a few times when I attended the shows in Leicester, but never without his cat costume. He was tall—at least six feet—and his shock of peroxide hair and startling green eyes drew everyone’s attention. His lycra leggings emphasized a large package, and a bright orange cropped T-shirt and matching ballet shoes completed his outfit. He charged into the room like a whirlwind.

“So! Who do we have here?” he shouted, looming over Annette and me, where we stood stretching our hamstrings. “You look weirdly familiar.” He jabbed a finger in my direction, before turning his attention to Annette. “What a pretty kitty. What’s your name, then, darling?” He pronounced the endearment “dahling” and I cringed. I hoped the rest of the cast weren’t like Karl. I’d met a couple of them, but I preferred to keep my distance and monopolize Andrew when the shows were over.

“Annette,” the girl said. “And that’s Finley. The other guy is James.”

Karl spun around to look at James, gave him a cursory nod, then turned back to me. He took a step closer, forcing me to look up.

“Cute!” Karl exclaimed. “Cat got your tongue?” He proceeded to shriek with laughter at his lame joke, and my face heated under the scrutiny.

“I’ve not had the chance to get a word in,” I blurted, and immediately cringed. My voice tended to sound more refined when I was irritated. I couldn’t help my parents or the school I’d gone to, but for the past few years I’d done my best to shake off the accent and sound more like everyone else. I knew Karl would say something, even before he opened his mouth again.

“Ooh, someone swallowed a silver spoon, didn’t they? Wait. Finley? Finley Harrington? Golly, I’m surprised Mummy and Daddy let their little boy do something as lower class as performing on the stage. Shouldn’t you be a lawyer or a doctor or something?” Karl spoke in an exaggerated tone, and my face burned.

“Wow, someone loves himself.” James moved to my side and cocked an eyebrow at Karl.

“I have a sense of humor. You should try it some time.” Karl laughed, and James scowled at him. The boisterous dancer ignored him, and draped an arm around Annette’s shoulders. “You never told me your name, Kitty.”

“Yes, I did. It’s Annette.”

 

Louise Lyons comes from a family of writers. Her mother has a number of poems published in poetry anthologies, her aunt wrote poems for the church, and her grandmother sparked her inspiration with tales of fantasy.

Louise first ventured into writing short stories at the grand old age of eight, mostly about little girls and ponies. She branched into romance in her teens, and MM romance a few years later, but none of her work saw the light of day until she discovered FanFiction in her late twenties. Posting stories based on some of her favourite movies, provoked a surprisingly positive response from readers. This gave Louise the confidence to submit some of her work to publishers, and made her take her writing “hobby” more seriously.

Louise lives in the UK, about an hour north of London, with a mad dog called Casper, and a collection of tropical fish and tarantulas. She works in the insurance industry by day, and spends every spare minute writing. She is a keen horse-rider, and loves to run long-distance. Some of her best writing inspiration comes to her, when her feet are pounding the open road. She often races home afterward, and grabs pen and paper to make notes.

Louise has always been a bit of a tomboy, and one of her other great loves is cars and motorcycles. Her car and bike are her pride and job, and she loves to exhibit the car at shows, and take off for long days out on the bike, with no one for company but herself.

Social Media

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Blog: http://www.louiselyonsauthor.com

Email: louiselyons013@gmail.com

 

 

51 Sleepless Nights with Tobias Wade

I think this may be the first time I’ve hosted a horror writer here on the blog, and I’m delighted to welcome Tobias Wade, along with some info about his latest release of 51 marvellously diverse short stories. With such a range, there’ll be something here for everyone, and isn’t that a gorgeously evocative cover? I love it!

A diverse collection of horror stories including the grizzly confessions of a serial killer, parallel dimensions, becoming trapped in a virtual world, and encountering ancient aliens buried beneath the Earth’s crust. Demons, monsters, psychopaths, undead, mad experiments and paranormal – no matter what makes your heart race, you’re guaranteed to face your fear with these terrifying stories.

Publication: anthology of short stories (51 of them!)
Wordcount: 102,000
Release Date: 19 June 2017

Goodreads Page

 

51 Sleepless Nights is available for sale at Amazon in ebook and paperback formats:

Amazon.com |  Amazon.co.uk

 

I felt her arms around me, but she wasn’t trying to choke me or restrain me. She was… hugging me. It was such an alien sensation that I immediately opened my eyes. That’s when I saw them. Hundreds – no thousands of gossamer spider webs holding up her body like a marionette doll. I recoiled immediately, and she let me without the slightest resistance. 

The spiders were everywhere. Crawling across her face, through her hair. When she opened her mouth, I saw more of them inside her, pulling the threads to work her jaw. Her throat pulsed, and I knew more must be further down to vibrate her vocal chords. 


“But he’s never going to hurt you again. You have our word.” 


I was too shocked to fully understand what was happening. The alarm in my mind wouldn’t stop, and I still felt like I was about to pay for my rebellion. I didn’t want to stare, but couldn’t look away. I didn’t want to go and see, but my feet carried me there anyway. 


I opened Jeff’s room and found him on his bed. His hands and feet were bound with countless loops of spiderweb. More of it was across his face, tying his tongue securely to the roof of his mouth. His skin was perforated with a thousand holes, and spiders were crawling in and out of them as they carefully partitioned and wrapped each piece for consumption. His eyes blinked at me, although I don’t know if that was a sign of life or simply the successful attachment of yet another internal strand. I quietly closed the door and let them finish their work.
-My Mother the Spider Queen

 

 

 

Former neuroscience researcher, born again horror writer. During my studies, it struck me as odd that I could learn so much about why humans behave without understanding the intricacies of human nature. It occurred to me that I learned more about the depths of human experience from reading Dostoyevsky than I ever had from my text books, and I was inspired to write.

 

Find me at:
Website – My books, info, and horror blog. New stories every MondayWednesday, Friday.
Facebook – Public fanpage where I share my writing and latest updates.Books:

51 Sleepless Nights – Collection of my horror stories.
The Last Man – Fantasy series. First two books free for new email subscribers.
Wings of Renewal – Dragon stories for a new world.

 

Burning Boundaries with Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham

 

 

Mari Gale’s life has been a whirlwind since meeting Jake Chivis. A new job prospect and his mother’s health preoccupy him, so when Jake invites him on a date he’s ready to cut loose. Their night out turns into a nightmare when a fire breaks out in the basement of the bar and they barely escape.

Soon Jake learns that the horrific accident is being investigated as a possible homicide, and it’s not the only case. Detective Inspector Cordiline of the London Met hints at spontaneous human combustion, but as far as Jake knows, SHC doesn’t exist.

When Mari looks into a group called Birthright, he finds a connection to the victims of the fires and Jake risks himself to go undercover at the shadowy organization. The race is on to determine the truth before Jake becomes the next target.

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Authors: Bellora Quinn and Sadie Rose Bermingham
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Length: 103,000 Words
Format: eBook
General Release: TODAY 4th July
Pairing: MM
Heat Level: 4 out of 5
Genre(s): Contemporary, Erotic Romance, Fantasy – Urban & Magical Beings, Mystery & Thriller, Paranormal, Paranormal – Psychic Talents

Goodreads

Price: $5.99

 

Elemental Evidence Series: Former Detective Jake Chivis is a Fire Elemental who uses psychometry to see the past. Doctor Ilmarinen Gale is an Air Elemental, a human/cybernetic interface, able to infiltrate even the toughest information systems. Together they find out just how potent a combination Fire and Air can be when it comes to solving crimes.

Amid murder, conspiracy and a world that views them with suspicion, and sometimes contempt, Jake and Mari circumvent the conventional. While the police aren’t always appreciative of their methods they can’t deny the results.

When they aren’t busy consulting for the police, figuring one another out is their next big mystery. One that proves as frustrating as it is passionate. Between hunting killers and avoiding competing government agencies that want the two of them working on their side, they just might have enough time for love.

Facebook page for Elemental Evidence

 

Was that flirting? Was he flirting with the guy? Jake tried to rein those thoughts in but he couldn’t help it. Mari had a habit of flirting, but it had never bugged Jake before. Jesus, they’d managed to go to one bar for an hour and already he was devolving into Neanderthal territory. He realized something else. It had never really bothered him when he and Alex had gone out and his ex had spent all night coming on to strangers. Then again, he’d known Alex was doing it to get a rise out of him. That was not Mari’s way, at all.

“You want another drink?” Jake asked, by way of keeping himself from hauling Mari out of there and grilling him about whether he wanted to sleep with Mr. Whips and Tattoos. They had to step to one side as a sweating, agitated-looking guy pushed by them on the stairs in an obvious hurry to get down to the basement for some chastisement. Though he looked chastised enough already, in Jake’s opinion.

“If you do,” Mari said, then exhaled a huff that might have been regret and might have been relief. “Unless, of course, you just want to put me over your shoulder and carry me out, Mr. Caveman. I wasn’t giving him the come-on. So you can stop looking daggers. And don’t deny it.” He pointed a slender finger at Jake as he opened his mouth. “I could see you thinking it. Yes, he’s very cute, but he’s not really my type. I do like his toy box though.”

Jake snapped his mouth closed then pushed a hand through his hair and let out a sigh of his own. He had always pitied guys that acted like possessive jerks and here he was being as transparent as glass, all but snarling at anyone who got too close to Mari. “I’m sorry. I was aiming not to be obvious. I’ll try and refrain from clubbing you over the head and dragging you out by the hair.” He managed a sheepish grin.

“In that case, it would be my pleasure to have another drink with you, Chivis.” Mari chuckled, slipping a hand around the nape of his neck and towing him in for a brief, firm kiss.

They made their way back up into the bar and as they were weaving their way through the crowd, Jake heard someone shout, then screaming coming from the direction of the basement.

The red and gold lighting seemed to be flickering and Mari yelled, “Can you smell something burning?”

Jake noticed the smell just as Mari was saying it, and turned his head. A curl of pale smoke was winding up from the basement stairway, not thick but noticeable.

“Shit!” He grabbed Mari’s arm. “Get out of here. Hurry.”

Jake gave him a push toward the front exit then shoved through the crowd, trying to get to the stairs.

 

Pride Publishing  |  Amazon  |  Apple  |  Barnes & Noble  |  Kobo

 

Bellora Quinn:  Originally hailing from Detroit Michigan, Bellora now resides on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida where a herd of Dachshunds keeps her entertained. She got her start in writing at the dawn of the internet when she discovered PbEMs (Play by email) and found a passion for collaborative writing and steamy hot erotica. Soap Opera like blogs soon followed and eventually full novels. The majority of her stories are in the M/M genre with urban fantasy or paranormal settings.

Website  |  Twitter 

Sadie Rose Bermingham: A storyteller since before she started school, Sadie also enjoys reading, photography, live music and long walks on the beach. Sadie has worked as a bookseller, a pedigree editor for the racing industry and a local and family history researcher. Originally from the north of England, she has been working her way across the UK ever since. She currently resides on the south east coast with her long term partner, where she hopes to buy a mobile home and establish a whippet farm.

Website  |  Twitter

 

Facebook page for Elemental Evidence

J Scott Coatsworth and “The Great North”: Review

You know, I always thought of Scott as a temperate zone kind of guy; a Californian sun lover, even. And yet here he is, talking about the icy desolation of the Great North. And shivering, likely. I know I am, but that’s the Great British summer for you: hot sun one day, November-like rain the next.

Anyhow, I’m delighted about Scott’s visit here today. Scroll down for a thinky post on the rewards of writing from Scott, and for a review of The Great North from me.

 

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth
Publisher: Mischief Corner Books
Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay
Length: 34K
Format: eBook
Release Date: 6/14/17
Pairing: MM
Price: 3.99
Genre: MM, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Myths, Legends, Gods, Post-Apocalyptic

The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen’s Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day.

 

Mischief Corner Books  |   Amazon  |  Kobo  |  iBooks   |   B&N  |  Smashwords.

 

Is This Thing On?

As writers, we have two main jobs. Tell interesting stories about fascinating people in cool places, and then promo the shit out of those same stories in the hopes that someone will actually read them.

It can be a thankless job. Each novel represents hundreds of hours spent in solitude in our writer caves, and is just as likely to be greeted by a collective “ho hum” or a torrent of abuse as it is to be welcomed with flowers and songs of praise.

But there is one thing worse than being told your novel is boring, or derivative, or full of obvious plot holes.

It’s when you are ignored entirely.

For the release of “The Great North,” I am writing ten guest posts to entice readers to give me and the story a try. I am witty, and gregarious in these posts—your best writer friend. I spend hours coming up with the perfect topics, the best presentation, the ideal meter to make them sound sharp and polished.

Does anyone read these posts? I hope so. But there’s just no way to know.

It’s the same with our books. Yes, we get the occasional Goodreads or Amazon review. There are some signs of life out there in the reading world, but still, many folks read our work and never say a peep about it.

Sometimes, though, you get lucky.

I was at GayRomLit last year, and was approached for the first time ever by someone who absolutely loved one of my stories. It made my heart sing, and fueled my yearning to write for months.

Then a couple weeks ago, a friend told me my stories had given him the courage to finally propose to his boyfriend. I’m still floating on cloud nine after that one.

And finally, someone at Sac Pride this last weekend told me they read and loved my serial story, River City.

So you see, sometimes the mic is on. Sometimes our words reach out into the world and change things in ways we may never know or see.

For me, that’s good enough.

Scott

 

“We celebrate Dwyn’s Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It’s a remembrance of the way things were and the way they’ve come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love.”

—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn

The gray clouds scudded by overhead, blowing in quickly from the east.

Dwyn shivered and pulled on his woolen cap. It was cold out, unusual for so early in the fall. The rains had been heavy this season, the wettest in a generation, and Circle Lake was close to overflowing its banks. If he stretched to look over the rows of corn plants, he could see the waters lapping at the shore far below, as if hungry to consume his village of Manicouga.

His father had consulted the elders, some of whom had seen more than fifty summers, and everyone agreed things were changing. Whether that augured good or ill was anyone’s guess.

He shrugged and moved along the row of plants, breaking off ears of corn and throwing them into the jute sack that hung from his shoulder.

Ahead of him, two of his age-mates, Declan and Baia, were working their way down the next two rows.

Dwyn frowned. He got distracted easily, and he’d let the two of them get a jump on him. That wouldn’t do.

He redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.

“Someone’s being chased by a lion,” Baia said with a laugh.

“Or a tiger.” Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.

Dwyn grinned. “Or a bear?” Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, “The Girl and the Aus.” He had no idea what an Aus was, either.

Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.

A shout went up from ahead of them. Dwyn craned his neck to see what the ruckus was, but he couldn’t make out anything. “What’s going on?”

Declan, who was half a head taller, looked toward the commotion. “Hard to tell. Something down by the road.”

Dwyn laid down his sack carefully and ran up the hill to one of the old elms that dotted the field. He climbed into the tree, scurrying up through the leaves and branches until he had a clear view of the Old Road. It ran from up north to somewhere down south, maybe near the ruins of old Quebec if the merchant tales held any truth. Hardly anyone from Manicouga ever followed it, but occasionally traders would follow it to town, bringing exotic wares and news from the other villages that were scattered up and down its length.

They swore it went all the way down to the Heat, the great desert that had consumed much of the world after the Reckoning.

“What’s going on down there?” Baia called from below.

Dwyn tried to make sense of it. “There are three wagons coming down the pass. They’re loaded up with all sorts of things. They don’t look like traders though.”

The first of the horse-drawn wagons had just reached the field above the main township. It stopped, and someone hopped off to talk with the villagers who had gathered from the fields.

“We need to get down there,” Dwyn said, scrambling down the tree trunk. “Something’s happening.” Nothing new ever happened in Manicouga, and he wasn’t going to miss it.

He grabbed his sack and sprinted toward the Old Road, not waiting to see if Declan and Baia followed.

 

I’ve always thought that in a post-apocalyptic Earth the likelihood of large, relatively well-organised societies a la Hunger Games is rather remote. We’re far more likely to devolve into small, enclosed communities almost mediaeval in their feudal isolationism and—because man is always looking for proof that he isn’t to blame but someone else must be, and religion is always handy to provide good targets—tending to fundamentalist beliefs. J Scott Coatsworth evidently agrees and I found his set up of insular, almost chokingly-small communities to be both realistic and well portrayed. Scott is always stellar at world-building. It’s one of his strengths and it plays out well here.

I enjoyed the principal story of Dwyn and Mael, young men from two such communities forced into contact by the onset of Ice-Age level bad weather. The narrative is excellent: two intense, concentrated cultures clashing. Their attraction to each other is doomed from the start, really, and they have some challenges to face. This is where the conflict lies and could have been richly mined. But this is a novella, not a full length novel, and I don’t think their personalities and characters had quite enough room to expand and grow, or the situation to be fully exploited. When the author does write something longer, his characters have that room and his plots are richer. Read his Skythane to show that.

I also liked the parallel story from hundreds of years earlier, where it’s clear Dwyn’s settlement was founded by the family of a gay couple. Given the later homophobia of Dwyn’s society, the irony is delicious and I grinned when that strand ended with the arrival of a minister of the Tripartite God. That was nicely written and nicely done. Neat.

Where I did part company with the tale was the deus-ex-machina climax. I’m still wrapping my head around the sudden intervention of old gods made manifest. And as the old gods have a tendency to do, they interfere directly in the lives of Dwyn and Mael. I’m a classicist. I wrote countless essays at Uni on the Greek dramatists and their portrayal of a time when mortals and gods shared the same world (a situation usually to the detriment of mortals, by the way), and much as I adore Euripides, this aspect of the story did not work for me. We’ve moved on from the more simplistic view of life that the ancients had, where everything had to be explained in terms of the anger or favour of the gods. We’re in a place now where mankind should be taking responsibility for itself, and (I stress this is a personal reaction) the gods stepping in felt like a regressive step, pulling us even further back out of enlightenment into something darker and primeval. I guess that what I’d hoped for was a tale of humans overcoming challenges and conflict because of their own inner strengths (and weaknesses!) and what I ended up with was something only possible because the gods bent the rules. In that aspect of the tale, I’m a little disappointed, and I do think that story would have been stronger and richer without it.

Anna

 

 

Scott spends his time between the here and now and the what could be. Enticed into fantasy and sci fi by his mom at the tender age of nine, he devoured her Science Fiction Book Club library. But as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were in the books he was reading.

He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueerRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:
Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com
Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth
Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/
Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth
QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ

Suzanne Jenkins’ “Second Chance”

SecondChanceRevealBanner

 

 

SecondChance

Just when life settles down to a dull roar for those people whom Pam holds closest to her heart, the pendulum swings in the opposite direction and everyone is tossed into the air. Who will they hold on to as they fall back to Earth?

Gladys finds the son she gave up at birth forty years ago; he’s a single fire fighter on Staten Island. At their first meeting, he sees Pam’s beautiful daughter, Lisa. Will it be love at first sight?

Big Ed leaves Gladys, his wife of almost forty years for Melody. The unexpected? Gladys falls into the arms of the eligible bachelor, Dave, owner of Organic Bonanza. Will it be a case of I don’t want her, you can’t have her?

And last but not least, Sandra starts up an unusual relationship with her late ex’s ex-wife, Jenna. But history might repeat itself; Sandra can not be trusted.

Second Chance is the fifteenth novel in the beloved Pam of Babylon series.

Title: Second Chance
Series: Pam of Babylon, Book 15
Author: Suzanne Jenkins
Publisher: Self-Published
Cover Artist: Tanya Shatseva
Release Date: July 3, 2017
Romance Genre(s): Contemporary
Pages: 300
View on Goodreads

 

 

July. Fire House A-89, in the northeast corner of Staten Island.

Early Saturday morning, as the sun rose, fire fighter Dale McGuire stripped off turnout gear and hung it to air out on a hook on the outside of his locker. Coming in from a call for a small brush fire at the side of the highway right before the Verrazano Bridge entrance, Dale looked forward to coffee, something to eat, and bed for a nap, in that order.

Grabbing a towel, he walked to the shower, whistling.

“McGuire is happy this morning,” his colleague, Paul shouted, coming on his shift.

“Yeah, because he gets to go home,” another firefighter called out.

Chuckling, Dale nodded. Life was so peaceful, if it weren’t for the fires he fought, the lives occasionally rescued, he’d have to consider getting a hobby just to prevent boredom from setting in. Mind a blank as he lathered up, he thought of getting home to his dog, Tilly. She’d be on the back of the couch, waiting for him.

“Jesus, buddy, I’m embarrassed to strip in front of you,” Paul said, pointing to Dale returning from the shower. “Look at this guy’s abs.”

Quickly pulling his towel up higher, Dale laughed. “You’re not my type,” he said over the hilarity. “I won’t watch you if it’ll help.”

Locker room banter took some of the pain the exhaustion the night shift firefighters experienced away. “See you Monday,” Dale said when he was dressed, grabbing his duffle bag.

He lived in the house his late parents’ left him on Todt Hill, within walking distance to the firehouse. Volunteering there during high school, he bypassed college, much to his parents’ chagrin, and took a full time position as a firefighter rather than go away to his father’s alma mater in Philadelphia.

“It’s an honorable position, Douglas,” his mother had said in Dale’s defense. “Don’t make yourself sick with disappointment.”

“I wanted our son to follow in my footsteps. A McGuire at Penn is a tradition.”

Twenty years later, they were both dead, a fatal car wreck snuffing out the lives of Dale’s favorite people. Walking up the hill, he glanced up at the imposing structure in the bright morning sun. It was a grand house, but too big for a single man approaching middle-age.

Parents gone almost three years, he’d taken over the house as his own and couldn’t imagine anyone else living there with him. The scariest part of that; he knew he was becoming so set in his ways that if he didn’t fall in love soon, it might be too late.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

Enter via the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win one of the following:

  • First prize: Pam of Babylon bracelet and eBook box set of novels 1-5 in the series
  • Second prize: eBook box set of novels 1-5 in the series
  • Third prize: e-copy of Pam of Babylon

The contest closes at midnight EST on June 9 and is open to entrants worldwide.

Good luck!

Enter here.

SuzanneJenkins

My books are all creations of a rich and sometimes devilish dream life. Don’t worry—you won’t see yourself in any of my books, but if you do, it’s just a coincidence…

In a former life, I was a registered nurse who worked in the Operating Room for many years. Prior to nursing school, I was an OR technician, and after working in the OR for over thirty-three years, I can’t stand the sight of blood!

I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for forty-eight years. We have two children and seven grandchildren and are down to one dog, Oscar. We live in the isolated mountains of north San Diego county, rarely leaving the sanctuary. It’s a wonderful place to hide out and write. I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America and the RWA San Diego Chapter.

Connect with Suzanne

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Linked In | Pinterest

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Helena Stone’s Equality

 

Love is love. But what if the fight for equality gets in the way of building a relationship?

Lorcan Barratt has never considered himself relationship material. After his parents made it perfectly clear they’d never welcome a partner of his into their home, he learned to love his own company and can’t imagine sharing his life with another. After a single passionate kiss with Eric Kavanagh—the night before he travels to Canada for three months—Lorcan’s no longer sure he wants to be on his own. The problem is, he has no idea what sharing his life with someone else might entail.

Eric Kavanagh grew up in a loving and supportive family and always assumed he’d end up in a committed relationship. Sure that he’s found the one, Eric doesn’t worry about the fact that Lorcan has no experience when it comes to love and relationships. They are good together, so what could possibly go wrong?

When both men get involved in the marriage equality referendum in Ireland, it appears to bring them even closer together until Lorcan’s insecurities get the upper hand and he shuts Eric out. Will the fight for a yes-vote cost them their relationship or will they be able to find a balance between the love they share and the need for equality?

Publisher: Pride Publishing
Length: 58,300 words
Dublin Virtues Series

 

 Pride Amazon US | Amazon UK

Links for other books in the series:
Patience (Book #1) Pride | Amazon US | Amazon UK
Renewal (Book #3) Pride | Amazon US | Amazon UK 

 

Win a $10 Amazon Gift card HERE

 

Helena Stone can’t remember a life before words and reading. After growing up in a household where no holiday or festivity was complete without at least one new book, it’s hardly surprising she now owns more books than shelf space while her Kindle is about to explode.

The urge to write came as a surprise. The realisation that people might enjoy her words was a shock to say the least. Now that the writing bug has well and truly taken hold, Helena can no longer imagine not sharing the characters in her head and heart with the rest of the world.

Having left the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam for the peace and quiet of the Irish Country side she divides her time between reading, writing, long and often wet walks with the dog, her part-time job in a library, a grown-up daughter and her ever loving and patient husband.

Helena can be found in the following places:
Website
Blog
Facebook
Facebook Author Page
Twitter
Goodreads
Amazon Author Page
Pinterest

Email: helenastoneauthor@gmail.com

 

Naming Rites – Gary Boelhower

This is a first for the blog, having a poet aboard. I freely admit my talents do not lie in poetry, and I’m in awe of those whose minds work in that direction. So it’s a pleasure to welcome Gary Boelhower here today to mark the publication of Naming Rites, his third collection of poems.

 

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This collection explores the ways we are named and branded with multiple identities, a clay vessel molded and imprinted from the inside and the outside by those who know us or think they do, by wounds, worries, stones, and nicknames, by place and absence, by teachers and traitors. Boelhower dares to name the body’s blows and pleasures and how they are celebrated in solitude and connection. His language soars with ecstasy and burrows into hidden places in the soul. His lyrics tell how the world’s pain lodges in the cells and how the fragrance of summer stars opens an aperture to healing. Boelhower is winner of the Foley Prize from America and the Midwest Book Award for his second collection Marrow, Muscle, Flight.

Title: Naming Rites
Author: Gary Boelhower
Release Date: May 16th 2017
Genre: Poetry
Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31944762-naming-rites

Reviews
Naming Rites is such a generous collection it offers both blessings and confessions, dirt and bread, miracles and explosions, cruelty and mercy, great blue herons who resemble monks and blue jays clowning around, a lover’s tender touch and the horrors of the nightly news. In second grade, Gary Boelhower admits, he won ‘the glow-in-the-dark statue of Mary,’ and his religious drive, now mature, is still alive in these poems. They aim for (and often achieve) not just a personal record but transubstantiation, transforming experience into wisdom, fear into freedom, language into song. Naming Rites is the autobiography of a soul, reaching out beyond the boundaries of the self. Bart Sutter, author of Cow Calls in Dalarna and Chester Creek Ravine: Haiku

Gary Boelhower’s poems resist convention and confinement even as they speak deeply of and from history, family, and community. The persona names and narrates himself into being as he chronicles profound and tender encounters as well as ‘tectonic shifts and betrayals.’ Software engineers meditate, children go hungry, and faith is lost and reconfigured. ‘Let me not forget to be what I have spoken,’ Boelhower reminds himself and his readers. Naming Rites is an important and sustaining book for our times, with its ‘cadence that calls us into the streets with voices/of protest and hope.’ Julie Gard, author of Home Studies

 

 

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IN THE SILENCE

footsteps crunch on the cold snow
heaven’s full of falling mercy
the big arms of the pine
spread in prayer shawled in white
the whole everyday machine muffled

if everyone could say their name
in such silence we might hear
each one might send their small swirl
of hopes and prayers
spiraling out like sufi robes
in the dervish dance
and we might all
hear each other’s hands rise up
and we would know the one world’s song

all our rituals are attempts at listening
all our songs a preparation
for emptiness when our words
have all fallen away because we know
we are all whirling together

wherever you are however you do it
notice how we are all whirling together
in the great round dance
on this tiny rock with fire in its soul
through the grand galaxies
spinning with mercy and wonder

 

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Amazon.com |  Amazon.co.uk

 

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WIN a copy of Naming Rites and Marrow, Muscle, Flight by Gary Boelhower

 

Rocket1-10Gary Boelhower’s poetry has been published in many anthologies and journals. His second collection of poems published in 2011, Marrow, Muscle, Flight won the Midwest Book Award. He was awarded the Foley Prize in poetry from America magazine in 2012 and a career development grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in 2010. His recent nonfiction books include Choose Wisely: Practical Insights from Spiritual Traditions, and Mountain 10: Climbing the Labyrinth Within,(co-authored with Joe Miguez and Tricia Pearce). His third collection of poems, Naming Rites, was published in April by Holy Cow! Press. Gary teaches courses in spirituality, ethics and leadership at The College of St. Scholastica where he is a professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department.

Rob Rosen’s Fierce – and a giveaway

Oh lor, a superhero raised by wolves!  Who could resist?

 

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Lucas has a typical life — apart from being abandoned as a baby, raised by wolves, and having super powers. Still, inside, he feels like two people, both vying for control of himself. He’s a superhero and a nerdy college freshman. He’s both feral and tame. He wants to do good in the world and, at the same time, he wants to do nothing. And most of all, he wants to find his birth parents.

In this comedic tale of romance, mystery, and adventure, our hero is joined by his hunky boyfriend, his acerbic boss, an uptight college science professor, and his ex-boyfriend/once crime-fighting partner—not to mention a whole pack of wolves—to help foil his nemesis and uncover the secrets of his past to save his future.

Fierce at Goodreads

 

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Also available at
JMS Books  |  iBooks

 

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As a baby, I was raised by wolves in the mountainous wilds of Montana.

I have super powers. Like, seriously super.

I catch bad guys for a living. For free! Minus, of course, the well-merited and desperately sought-after publicity.

But, you ask, raised by wolves? Come on now, Fierce, really? Does that actually happen? Wolves eat babies, don’t they? I mean dingoes do— or so I’ve heard, a la one Miss Meryl Streep— so it stands to reason that wolves do, too. Though not these wolves. These were tame wolves. Well, tameish. They were zoo wolves, hand-raised by humans. Except, they escaped during a freak storm, back to the wilds from whence their ancestors came, never to be seen again.

I saw them right off the bat, though. Well, sawish. I mean, I was a baby at the time, my eyesight not what it is today— which is freakishly strong, by the way. And yes, toot, toot, my horn doth bloweth, yet again. Gabriel in the heavens up above turns green with envy at my tooting abilities. Oh, and in case you hadn’t already surmised it, superhero, at least in my case, equates to super ego. Freud missed out big time on the likes of yours truly.

But I digress. Back to the wolves.

Best I could figure it—seeing as, again, I was just a baby at the time—the initial wolf pack consisted of ten wolves that once inhabited a small zoo on the outskirts of Billings, Montana. One fateful day, a tornado hit. A big one. Huge even! Dorothy would’ve shit her panties it was so friggin’ massive. Anyway, from what I’ve read, the storm struck quite suddenly, too suddenly for the folks at the zoo to be able to corral all the animals beforehand, so, when the fencing to the wolves’ enclosure twisted and uprooted, out they sped. The zoo figured they died in the storm, except, well, duh, they didn’t. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be hearing this account right now, right? Then help! would’ve been lost to the cosmos. A truly sad thought, I know.

 

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WIN 1 of 3 ebook copies of “Fierce”

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Rob Rosen is the author of the critically acclaimed novels, Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated Divas Las Vegas, which was the winner of the 2010 TLA Gaybies for Best Gay Fiction, Hot Lava, Southern Fried, the Lambda Literary Award Nominated Queerwolf, Vamp, Queens of the Apocalypse, Creature Comfort, Fate, which was the winner of the 2016 TRR Readers’ Choice Award for Best Gay Romantic Comedy as well as a 2016 Rainbow Awards Finalist for Best Gay Romantic Comedy, Midlife Crisis, and Fierce. His short stories have appeared in more than 200 anthologies. You can find 20 of them in his erotic romance anthology, Good & Hot. He is also the editor of Lust in Time: Erotic Romance Through the Ages, Men of the Manor, Best Gay Erotica 2015 and Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volumes 1 and 2 and 3.

Find Rob:

http://www.therobrosen.com/

https://www.facebook.com/therobrosen

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1396636.Rob_Rosen

https://www.amazon.com/Rob-Rosen/e/B002BRF0XM/

 

Audio Release of S J Himes’ The Necromancer’s Dance

 

Love the cover, love the title! I’m delighted to be part of the release blitz for the audiobook!

 

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Title: The Necromancer’s Dance
Series: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer #1
Narrated by: Joel Leslie
Length: 8 Hours 8 minutes
Release Date: 21st March 2017
Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, MM Romance

In a world where magic is real and evil walks amongst humanity, a young sorcerer is beset upon by enemies, both old and new. Angelus Salvatore is the only necromancer in all of Boston, and his name is whispered warily by the undead and fellow sorcerers alike. He and his brother Isaac are the lone survivors of an attack by an army of the undead, in which Angel used a spell so powerful it forever marked his place in history. Now, years later, Angel struggles to balance his career as a teacher of the higher magical arts, his role as big brother, and a tenuous relationship with an Elder vampire from the local clan. When his brother’s boyfriend is used as a pawn in a mysterious plot to draw Angel out, Angel is once again pulled back into the old hostilities that fueled the Blood Wars and led to his family’s death.

Leaning on others for help is something Angel cannot do, and while he searches for clues into who may be targeting him and his brother, Angel finds his heart steadily growing occupied with Simeon, Elder and vampire. Dealing with death magic and vampires on a daily basis may leave Angel jaded when it comes to life and staying that way, but the more time he spends fending off the ancient vampire’s attention and affections, the more he realizes he wants to give in.

Can Angel find out who wants him dead, and keep his heart safe in the process? How can he fall for a vampire, when his whole family was torn apart by an army of the undead?

Death stalks the streets of Boston’s historic Beacon Hill….and there is no one more suited to battle against death than a necromancer.

MATURE CONTENT Contains graphic violence, male/male sexual contact, a cranky necromancer, a sexy Irish vampire, and a pesky demon.

 

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Audible US | Audible UK | Amazon USAmazon UK

 

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Pale skin was normal for a vamp, and Angel could see small flashes of tattoos that peeked above his jacket collar. His hair was long, but not too long, swept back in thick waves that made Angel’s fingers itch to touch. A chuckle, rich and smooth, brought him out of his musings. Angel flushed, realizing he had been staring, and for a while now. He looked back into Simeon’s eyes, the green so vibrant and true that the shade colored his whole horizon.

Angel dropped his eyes and took a small half-step back. Staring into a master vamp’s eyes was an invitation to lose your life. He knew better, but the old vamp’s appeal was strong. There was not much a vampire could do to him that he couldn’t get free of eventually, but he didn’t want to take his chances. Not even the promise of no violence would keep him safe from seduction.

“I need to go,” Angel said, looking back up but not making eye contact for longer than a second.

 

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I’m a self-employed writer who stresses out about the silliest things, like whether or not I got my dog the best kind of snack and the fact my kindle battery tends to die when I’m at the best part in a book. I write mainly gay romance, erotica, and urban fantasy, with ocasional forays into contemporary and paranormal. I love a book heavy on plot and character evolution, and throw in some magic, and that’s perfection. My current series are: The Beacon Hill Sorcerer, Bred For Love (as Revella Hawthorne), and The Wolfkin Saga. My last two novels in the Beacon Hill Sorcerer won 3rd Place in the Gay Fantasy category for the 2016 Rainbow Awards.

I live in New Orleans, where the personalities are big and loud and so are the bugs! New Orleans is rich in cultural history, and the flavor and music of the City is impossible to hide. Before that, I lived all over the United States: Tampa, Western Massachusetts, Indianapolis, and on and on…. I’m a nomad, and I’ve yet to find a place that calls to me strongly enough to become home. My faithful travel companions are my dog Micah, the numerous voices in my head who insist they all get put on paper, and the wind at my back.

Links: Website | Blog | Facebook | Facebook Fan Group | Twitter | Amazon
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RJ Scott’s Ghost – and an entire chapter to read!

rbbanner

 

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Ebook cover by BitterGrace Art

Ebook cover by BitterGrace Art

Can you ever hold on to a ghost?

Elliot is tracking an elusive killer, codenamed Ghost, with ties to organized crime. Every time the Sanctuary team gets close, Ghost slips their grasp.

Cole has nowhere left to turn. With his father dying and his sister in danger, he turns for help to the very people trying to track him down. Sanctuary’s assistance is what he needs to punch another hole in Varga’s organization.

When Elliot and Cole meet, it isn’t just passion that consumes them. When lust becomes something more, Elliot realizes that sometimes you can’t hold on to a ghost, and that sacrifice is often the only way to make things right.

Cover: BitterGrace Art
Length: 45,000 words

 

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Buy links for Ghost (Sanctuary #9) by RJ Scott

Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

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Ghost is the ninth book of the Sanctuary Series:

Guarding Morgan (Book #1) Amazon US | Amazon UK

The Only Easy Day (Book #2) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Face Value (Book #3) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Still Waters (Book #4) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Full Circle (Book #5) Amazon US | Amazon UK

The Journal of Sanctuary One (Book #6) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Worlds Collide (Book #7) Amazon US | Amazon UK

Accidental Hero (Book #8) Amazon US | Amazon UK

 

 

Rocket1-8Win a $15 Amazon Gift Card via this Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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ghostfbcover

Chapter One 

“This is not going to end well,” his sister warned him, an edge to her voice.

“I just need five minutes.” Cole was aiming for composed and in control, despite the fact his adrenaline was spiking dangerously high. Where was his center? Where was his ability to see events unfold before him with calm consideration?

Gone as soon as your two worlds began to collide with the horrible realization that today would finally be the day you might not make it out alive.

“Cole—”

“Do your job, sis.”

“Fuck you, big brother.”

Cole didn’t answer that one. As the controller of the op, she wouldn’t take her eyes off the meeting she was tasked with watching—six of Varga’s key men in a restaurant on Halsted, giving him the heads-up when they disbanded and headed toward the run-down warehouse district for the meeting. He was there to deal with a man who didn’t deserve to live on this earth, and he was already fighting the sickness roiling in his stomach.

Unfortunately, things had taken a turn for the worse, and Cole wished he could say he’d expected the shit to hit the fan, but he hadn’t. He’d honestly thought tonight would go smoothly given he’d evaded Sanctuary again.

He’d been the mouse avoiding the trap for so long that he’d not seen the pattern emerging. Slowly but surely, Sanctuary was getting closer, the proverbial thorn in his side. It was as though they were second-guessing him, tracking him enough to see patterns.

Patterns killed people in his line of work.

He checked his gun, considered holstering it. No one was supposed to die tonight; it was just a deal—money for human lives—something he’d been working on for months. His job was to fix this, but Sanctuary kept getting in his way.

And if they caught up with him again, with their do-good meddling and their freaking unanswered questions, he was way too smart to get caught.

Normally.

“Bad guys are only five minutes out,” his sister warned again. He didn’t answer, and she wouldn’t expect him to. “And you’ve got company with Sanctuary tracking your way.”

“Fuck.”

“You need me there?”

Cole weighed his options. She needed to be with their father, who couldn’t be left, so it was just Cole and his gun and his sorely tested wits.

He’d need his gun if he needed to get away from that Sanctuary fucker Elliot. The man was like a dog with a bone, and Cole couldn’t afford to be compromised tonight. Every meeting, every mission, Elliot got closer, yet Cole couldn’t move from his spot or everything would go to shit and he’d lose his chance of getting the best human return for his cash.

Sanctuary was the elite, but he knew he was better, or he’d have died a long time ago. Bravado and confidence had gotten him this far in life, mostly unharmed and thankfully alive. But if Elliot arrived when the shit was hitting the fan, he’d be collateral damage, and Cole wasn’t ready to work on those terms.

He moved even deeper into the shadows, his back against the brick wall, an exit to the street on his right, the parking lot on his left. Above his head was the fire escape pull-down ladder for that apartment block; at his feet, the ground was damp with the rain that had only eased up a few minutes ago, and distant streetlights sparkled in puddle remnants just outside the cloak of darkness. Everything was quiet; but moments away, following fuck-knows-what lead to get there, was Sanctuary.

Or, more correctly, Elliot, with his dogged determination and his uncanny ability to see beyond a scene and know exactly where Cole had gone.

Last time, Elliot had only missed him by a single minute, and Cole wasn’t ashamed to admit that the near misses sent a frisson of excitement up his spine. Too often he’d been the steady one, staring down a scope, a surgical removal to keep others safe, distanced from the kill and the action. The cat and mouse with Elliot was a game that he was enjoying far too much.

Add to which, Elliot was gorgeous and sexy, and all kinds of a hard-ass, and Cole was happy to surveil the guy every moment he could. Elliot was a good guy who didn’t smile much, but he’d broken up with his boyfriend two months before; he shopped organically and lived close to the place Sanctuary called Head Office in Chicago. All things being even, Elliot would score high on Cole’s list of ideal attributes in a lover. There was nothing better than roughing up an organic-loving tight-ass and reducing him to a puddle of goo in the middle of snow-white sheets.

Not that he’d spent a long time fantasizing about Elliot naked and in his bed.

He listened for the tiny noises that would give Elliot’s arrival away, not as close as breathing, but his movement could block sounds from the street beyond, if only infinitesimally.

The cold air promised more snow; Cole knew the only thing that could give him away would be the puff of his breath, so he burrowed down into the scarf twisted around his neck.

A soft scuff of leather on the sidewalk had Cole stiffening, and he briefly tightened his grip on the lethal SIG in his hand. He relaxed only a millisecond later when a woman’s laughter and a man’s voice had him focusing past the light and to the street beyond. He was right on Englewood’s district line, and the whole meeting was playing out in a place where he felt way too exposed. He knew his mark had set this meet here for a reason. Mario was a shifty fucker who played the game of criminal very well. Little did the man know that nothing was going to keep him safe if he fucked Cole over. Not tonight. Not ever.

The woman laughed again, but this time the sound seemed a little off, as if she hadn’t really meant to laugh. There was no real joy in the noise.

Too late he realized what that meant.

Too late when the whisper of a movement to his left turned into the barrel of a weapon smacking his temple.

The wall kept him standing, but the sweep of a foot behind his knee had him landing heavily on one side, in stagnant water. Cole didn’t lay there waiting for the next part of this dance; he was rolling even as he fell, one leg darting out as he rose, catching his assailant in the thigh and causing him to stumble back. Coming to a crouch, Cole admired the way the other man’s stumble turned into nothing more than a sidestep and a twisting motion that missed Cole by inches.

Cole took the initiative, stepping right into the man’s space, up close to Elliot’s face, and in seconds he’d pushed him hard against the wall.

“Leave it,” Cole growled, when what he wanted to do was sit Elliot down and explain exactly why he needed Elliot to leave right the fuck now.

“Fuck you,” Elliot snapped, even as he fell limp in Cole’s hold, then yanked free to shove a knee right into Cole’s groin.

He missed by inches; the force of the shove went to Cole’s inner thigh, hard enough to give him a dead leg long enough to give Elliot the upper hand.

But Cole wasn’t done. He countered with a punch to Elliot’s face, feeling the wetness of fist on skin at the point where Elliot’s head snapped back with a spray of blood. A normal man would be on the ground after that—hell, a normal man wouldn’t have gotten out of Cole’s press against the wall.

Elliot wasn’t a normal man. He was trained, focused, and fucking vicious at it.

“They’re really close now; you need to end this with Sanctuary.”

His sister’s voice in his ear was enough to make Cole follow through with another punch that caught cheekbone and hair and then slid past to slam the wall. He cursed the contact and his stupidity at giving Elliot the upper hand. This time it was Cole himself up against the wall, and he could see dark eyes, focused and hard, and feel the fingers tightening on his throat. He attempted to go limp, but all Elliot did was push harder, which left only one thing. Elliot was close, and with a concerted effort, Cole snapped his head forward, the top smacking Elliot between the eyes.

Elliot crumpled at first, momentarily stunned, and then he stumbled to stand.

But Cole was prepared, retrieving his weapon and pointing it directly at Elliot. “Run,” he snapped.

Elliot said nothing, stepping toward him. Fuck, did the man not care that Cole had a gun on him?

“You have company one minute out.” The voice in his ear sounded a little frantic.

Fuck, this whole thing was going wrong. Cole had his mark and various cronies bearing down on him, and Sanctuary in the shape of Elliot right in the freaking middle.

But if Cole left, then what about the kids? Teenagers the same age as his brother, straight from the boat, working in slavery for the Varga organization. They had a deal, and tonight Cole had the money and the upper hand.

Or at least he had until Elliot tracked him down.

“You have to leave,” he snapped and gestured with the gun.

Surprise made Elliot frown, and only when he saw that did Cole realize he’d fucked up—they were standing under the street light. They needed to get back into the shadows. Cole shoved him back against the wall, wincing at the sound of Elliot’s skull making contact with the bricks before he wordlessly slid to the ground in the darkness.

And then it was too late to think of anything.

At the same time his sister’s frantic voice warned him that a car was turning onto the street, Cole heard a voice from the darkness.

So, his mark had sent an advance guard, and all Cole could think was that if it was his time to die, he didn’t want to take anyone with him.

“Drop the gun, asshole,” a voice said from somewhere beyond the light. He caught sight of the semi-automatic weapon as the person stepped forward; he didn’t stand a chance against that kind of firepower. The barrel of another gun poked at the base of his skull.

Cole dropped his pistol to the ground, feeling abruptly bereft. “It’s done,” he said to whoever the hell was behind him.

Cole lifted his hands and laced them behind his head, looking right into the darkness, not able to see Elliot’s form but hoping to hell he stayed the fuck down. Very deliberately he turned to face the man with the gun at his head.

“Talk to me,” his sister snapped at him, her voice dead and cold, gone past emotional and well into focused.

“You realize I have a meeting with Mario, right? That this was organized? He won’t take it well when he finds out you’re here with a gun on me.”

A nasal voice joined in. “I’m quite happy with the situation,” Mario said.

And right there and then, Cole knew time was up. He needed to confront this; he had a legitimate cover there, and he needed to maintain it. Slowly he unclasped his hands and let them hang loosely at his sides. “What the fuck, man?” he asked.

“Do you have access to the money?”

Cole wasn’t letting the evil fucker get control of the conversation. “How many?” he asked firmly.

Mario looked at him; a group of others, all armed, were crowding around him. Mario was nothing if not the nervous type, twitchy like a ferret, all sharp angles, and meth-head eyes. He’d made it so far in the Varga organization only due to the fact he was Varga’s nephew or cousin, or some such shit.

He was also suspicious as hell of anything and everything, which was why it had taken this long for Cole to get anywhere near him. Tonight wasn’t the night that Cole got to deal with erasing Mario from existence; he had kids to get out alive. That was his priority.

“You can have seven of them,” Mario said, his lips stretching in an obscene grin.

“The deal was for all ten.”

Mario shrugged as if he wasn’t playing with people’s lives. “I have a market for the other three,” he said nonchalantly.

Cole knew exactly what that meant: the younger girls parceled up and sold on. “All ten, or no deal,” he stated, keeping emotion out of his voice.

“Then the price goes up. No skin off my nose who gets them.”

“How much?”

“Well now… just how badly do you want them all?”

One of Mario’s men snickered, and the sound echoed in the otherwise quiet alley.

Cole could play it two ways: show his hand and admit he was desperate to get all ten of the illegals Mario had, or try to call his bluff.

“Fuck you,” Cole said, and drew himself tall. He wished he had his weapon, but he’d just have to hope to hell that confronting was the answer. “The deal’s off.”

He bent to pick up his weapon, slowly placing it back into the holster and straightening his jacket. Varga senior would be pissed with his lieutenant blowing a deal like that. Getting illegals to the city was one thing, offloading them with profit above and beyond what the illegals had probably paid to get there was an entirely different ball game. He could visualize the thought processes going on…Mario was the youngest of three lieutenants that reported to Varga, the one still out to prove himself, and he wouldn’t want to lose the deal.

“An extra ten,” Mario said, throwing it out as if it meant nothing to him.

“Five.” Cole couldn’t give in too easily.

“Hell, I can get double that on the ’net for the seven-year-old,” Mario said.

Cole had to stop the panic pushing at his chest and nausea that threatened to have him vomiting on the sidewalk. The idea of a child as young as seven being under this bastard’s control made him sick to his stomach. He pretended to consider the deal, knowing full well he’d pay every fucking cent. “Seven-five and we’re done, cash in the bank.” He even injected a small note of respect into his voice, which had Mario preening in front of his posse. He’d save face, and Cole would keep his persona of didn’t-give-a-shit human trafficker intact.

“I’ll take that,” Mario said.

One of the posse stepped forward, and intel was buzzing in his ear about twelve souls being inside the warehouse. Not ten, twelve. Two of them were moving around, the other ten not moving much. Twelve heat signatures, so all ten kids were alive—but the extra two? Mario was fucking with him, had likely placed two men inside. Cole would take a step inside the warehouse, and be a dead man.

How had he blown his cover? This wasn’t the first deal he’d brokered with Mario, setting up his cover as a trader in human flesh, looking for ways to save lives and get deep into Varga’s organization at the same time. But something wasn’t right…

Very carefully and deliberately he pulled out his cell, and with a few button presses, transferred the fifty, plus the extra seven-five, into the account he’d been given details of. Next to Mario one of the guys checked his own cell and nodded.

“It’s cleared.”

Mario tossed the key card for the warehouse to Cole, who caught it deftly. “All yours,” Mario said, and then he turned and left, taking everyone with him.

“Heads-up,” his sister said. “The extra two have left the building at the rear. Hovering outside the closed door.”

What the fuck?

Cole crossed to the steel door and waved the card at the lock, half surprised when the door actually clicked and swung open. He pushed his way in to be faced with piles of packing cases and pallets. Pulling the door shut behind him, he cautiously made his way around the piles and checked out the corners of the warehouse. He’d lost contact with outside assistance since he’d walked in there, just one hell of a lot of static and not much in the way of a voice.

He rounded what he imagined was the last corner to find ten—he counted—kids and teenagers, none older than fourteen: six girls and four boys huddled together, bound with chains to a metal framework. Most of them stared at him with dead eyes; only the youngest was whimpering and crying. What had they been through to get here? Torn from their families, placed into shipping containers, and then passed around to their new owners on payment of money?

Immediately he went to a crouch and held out a hand in a gesture of innocence. “It’s okay,” he said in English. “I’m here to help.”

He repeated it in as many languages as he’d learned those words in, hoping to hell he’d hit the jackpot somewhere along the way. He approached the closest child, a boy of thirteen or so who stared at him blankly. Apologizing in soft tones, Cole reached over and checked the chain. He found a simple lock that he could have them out of quickly. He pulled out his kit, dealt first with one lock, then another, his hands shaky at first, waiting to die in a hail of bullets. At least he could get the kids away.

The radio crackled and hissed in his ear; he could only make out a few words. Fire! Get out.

Resolutely he continued with the chains until all ten were free; he realized they’d all gathered close to him, some holding hands, but all looking to him as smoke edged under the boxes and into their corner. Cole was considerably taller than the children, and he could see past the nearest blockage to a hint of fire beyond, cutting them off from the exit.

So, that was how he was being taken out of the equation; that was how Mario deleted him from the Chicago sex trade. Mario was removing a rival, along with ten innocent kids.

Think.

“Sis? Can you hear me?” He spoke loudly above the sound of the littlest girl crying. In a smooth move, he scooped her up, holding her tight. If there was no way out of here and they were all going to die, what would he do? He had bullets; he could shoot some of the kids? Fuck, the horror was sick inside him. Think. Think. He wasn’t going to let anyone burn to death.

Stop, he told himself. There’s nothing to be won by planning for the worst.

He looked up at the vents and tiny windows about twenty feet from the floor. He could pile boxes, pass the kids up, smash the window.

The heat was getting noticeable; the huddle of kids pressed tighter. They didn’t have much time. An explosion of glass had them all ducking as panes shattered around them. Had the fire reached the windows?

Then he heard shouting.

“Up here!” a voice demanded, and peering up, Cole could see Elliot scrambling through the space and lowering himself in, dropping and rolling awkwardly. “Get the boxes.”

For a second, Cole was immobile, and then adrenaline flooded into him. Between him and Elliot, they made a pile of boxes and crates. A step up, lifting and dragging, and one by one the kids were out of the window, wriggling through the space. Elliot went next, going out, then reaching back in as fire began to lick at the boxes.

Cole’s breathing became labored. And then he spotted the smallest kid, curled into a ball, her face hidden by her hands and her long dark hair. She was so tiny and scared, way down on the ground, not climbing up as the others had done. Cole thought she’d been first out, but in the chaos, he’d missed her.

“Kid!” Elliot shouted from the window.

But if anything, she curled tighter, her hands over her ears, rocking slowly. “I’m going back down,” Cole said.

“You have thirty seconds before this whole place lights up.”

Cole didn’t hesitate—he wasn’t about to leave a child behind. He jumped lithely to the floor and into a crouch, cursing at the pain shooting up from his knee, as he crawled low under the choking smoke to where the girl huddled.

He grabbed her, but she wailed and fought against his hold. Cole ignored the scratching of fingers and the sheer panic, and climbed the crates up to the window, his chest tight; breathing hard. There he unfurled her fingers, shoving the girl through the space to Elliot, who yanked her through.

“Is that ten?” Cole gasped as the box he stood on wavered; he gripped hard at the windowsill.

“Get out.”

“Is that all ten kids?”

“Yes, grab hold!” Elliot held out a hand.

Cole tried to grip as the pile toppled, their fingers touched, and then the world fell away, stopped in a millisecond by Elliot leaning in and grabbing at Cole. Elliot pulled, and Cole scrambled, and the hungry fire bit at him, burned him even as he fell out of the building and the force of hitting the trash cans below was enough to steal his breath.

“Jesus,” Elliot snapped, smacking at Cole’s jacket to extinguish the flames as Cole shrugged it off in a panic.

As he rolled, he pulled his weapon from its holster and pointed it right between Elliot’s eyes, waiting for him to make a move. All Elliot did was raise his hands and stare at Cole with an expression that Cole couldn’t read.

Cole asked, “Where are Mario’s two goons?”

“Out cold. You’re not the man we profiled. Who the fuck are you really?”

Cole didn’t answer.

“You should know I called 911,” Elliot said, his expression unreadable.

Was Elliot giving him a chance to leave? A warning? He seemed more interested in hugging the kids to him protectively than in taking Cole down.

Cole looked away from the kids to Elliot and holstered his gun. “Do this for them,” he said. To get involved with the cops at that moment would destroy everything. “The Andreas Home on Windsor Street. It’s a special place for kids taken from their parents like this. Will you take them?”

Elliot nodded. “Yes,” he said, all seriousness. Then he inclined his head toward the sound of sirens.

Cole grabbed what was left of his jacket, and with one last look at Elliot and the kids, he was gone.

 

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copy-of-rj-scottRJ Scott is the bestselling romance author of over 100 romance books. She writes emotional stories of complicated characters, cowboys, millionaire, princes, and the men and women who get mixed up in their lives. RJ is known for writing books that always end with a happy ever after. She lives just outside London and spends every waking minute she isn’t with family either reading or writing.

The last time she had a week’s break from writing she didn’t like it one little bit, and she has yet to meet a bottle of wine she couldn’t defeat.

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