Release Blitz & Giveaway: Boy’s Don’t Cry by J.K. Hogan

Title:  Boys Don’t Cry

Author: J.K. Hogan

Publisher:  J.K. Hogan

Release Date: May 25th 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 70,000 words

Genre: Romance

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Synopsis

Mackenzie Pratt is having the worst luck of his life. His apartment building is being torn down, and since he’s jobless and just weeks away from graduating college, he can’t find anywhere else he can afford to live that isn’t a critter-infested dump. As he’s lamenting the very real possibility of job hunting while couch-surfing, he gets an offer from the coworker of his best friend.
An in-demand mobile app developer and heir to his parents’ fortune, Laurent Beaudry is literally an eccentric billionaire. Even though Mackenzie realizes he’s basically living the plot of a cheesy romance novel, he takes the proffered room in Laurent’s Baltimore mansion. He finds his new housemate to be grumpy, brooding, and, at times, incredibly kind and endearing.
Raised by his brother after their father’s death, Mackenzie spent his formative years plowing headlong through school, focusing on little else beyond earning his teaching certification. He’s never taken the time to explore love and relationships, much less sexuality, so when he finds himself being courted by another man, he has no idea what to do. And when he realizes he might actually return those feelings, his life takes a whole new direction.

Excerpt

The house was dark so I couldn’t see much, but what I could see was immaculate, contrary to what Taylor had said. The hardwood floors gleamed in the moonlight, the furniture looked expensive and perfect, and there wasn’t a dirty dish or dust bunny in sight. “I thought you said it was a sty,” I whispered.

“Oh, this? Not this. He only uses a fraction of the house, the suite with his bedroom, living room, library, and office. All of this is just for show,” he said with a sweeping gesture toward the big empty parlor we were facing. “And why are you whispering? He knows I’m coming.”

“I don’t know. It seems so quiet and…undisturbed.”

Taylor’s chuckle had an evil ring to it. “You want disturbed? Follow me.” He cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled. “Mr. Beaudry! It’s me, Taylor. Morrison. From Mindstream. The place you work.”

He made his way down a dark corridor with me dogging his heels. “He doesn’t remember who you are? Where he works?”

“Oh, he knows. But when he’s been staring at code for hours on end and not sleeping, sometimes basic stuff slips his mind. Details like that can be hard for geniuses like him.”

Genius? I didn’t think I’d ever heard that term used to sincerely describe someone. “What does he do again?”

“He’s a mobile app developer. Highly sought after, but right now he works exclusively for us. That was a huge coup for the company.” He stopped in front of a heavy, ornately carved door made of some kind of dark hardwood. He rapped his knuckles on it three times before barging on in, while I hovered in the doorway.

So this was the suite. Taylor had been right. What a mess. We stood in what I assumed was the living room, but it was hard to tell because every available surface was covered in wrinkled clothing, pizza boxes, and empty dishes. A huge fireplace was installed in the far wall, surrounded by shelves and shelves of books. More books than I’d ever seen in one place outside a library. The fire blazed in the hearth, and I was honestly surprised there wasn’t any garbage close enough to it to catch fire. As beautiful as the house was, the mess made my skin crawl. I usually lived in shitty apartments, so I was a bit of a neat freak to balance the universe.

“Beaudry? You in here?” Taylor called. There was no answer. “He must be in the bedroom suite.” He headed to a door on the left, like it was no big deal.

Wait! You’re just going to barge into the guy’s bedroom?”

Pausing in his tracks, Taylor looked over his shoulder. “This is no ordinary bedroom. Just because there’s a bed in the corner doesn’t mean it’s some intimate setting. It’s just a giant workspace.” With that parting shot, he burst through the door, once again calling the man’s name.

Trembling from too much alcohol and not enough nerve, I stepped inside the room. I was stunned speechless by the scene before me. Taylor had one thing right—it was no ordinary bedroom. It was the size of three average rooms lined up in a row and probably had double the square footage of the apartment I was getting booted out of. There was indeed a bed, a California king canopy bed off in one corner of the room. A fire was blazing in this suite as well, only I realized that it was the same fire in the same fireplace, which apparently connected the two rooms.

Taylor stood next to what had to be the man’s workspace. There was a giant U-shaped desk adorned with four widescreen computer monitors and various other gadgets typical of an office. However, on one leg of the U, there was a collection of what looked to be every tablet, PDA, smartphone, and any other mobile device known to man. I supposed he had to test his software on each gizmo that was likely to employ it.

Behind the office area was a ginormous TV screen—at least seventy inches—that looked like it would be more at home in a movie theater. Several fluffy couches were set up in a semicircle facing it. It would be amazing to have a movie marathon in this place. And of course, there was every gaming console imaginable to go along with the screen yardage. But…despite all the cool stuff, there was some very weird stuff about the place as well. Besides the office setup and the movie area, all the furniture in the suite looked like it had been bought from a garage sale at Versailles. It was expensive-looking, obviously, but very gilded and frilly. There were also several racks flanking the giant TV that displayed the man’s sword collection.

And then, the murals. The murals were creepy. On at least a couple of the walls above the wainscoting, there were huge, garish wall paintings of nudes in various scenes. Men and women, sometimes in sexual situations, sometimes just hanging out or whatever. But they weren’t like Renaissance or fine art nudes or anything; they seemed to be done by just some random modern artist. I had no idea how the guy could manage to look at them all day every day. Though if it weren’t for those, I’d never leave a place like this either. Speaking of the guy, though, there was no sign of him.

“Where is he?” I was whispering again. It just seemed like the thing to do when you snuck into someone’s bedroom at night. Not that we were really sneaking, but still.

As if in answer to my question, we heard a toilet flush, and a door to my right that I hadn’t even noticed swung open, startling me. The person who came through was pretty much just as unbelievable as the house he lived in. He was tall—very tall—and lanky, but with wide shoulders and well-defined musculature. His hair was just a little too long, like maybe he’d forgotten his last couple of haircuts, and very dark, shot through with a tiny bit of gray. It had to be premature because I doubted he was much more than ten years older than me. His facial features—though thrown in deep shadow because of the low light in the room—were chiseled and angular, too handsome to be fair to the rest of the world. Wire-rimmed glasses perched on the tip of his straight nose, slightly askew. Despite the handsomeness, he had dark circles under his eyes and frown lines around his mouth, as if he hadn’t slept in weeks. And he was wearing Angry Birds pajamas.

When he saw me, his deep-set blue eyes widened and he flinched like I’d snuck up on him. “Who the hell are you?”

I let out a squeaky gasp and backed away toward Taylor because the guy looked fucking scary when he turned on the full force of that scowl.

“Jesus Christ, Beaudry, relax,” Taylor said. He picked up his briefcase and pulled out a legal-size envelope. “This is my friend Mackenzie. I was driving him home, and I just popped in to drop off these contracts from Harrelson.”

Beaudry grunted and crossed the room to sit at his desk. He waved a hand in the vague direction of a stack of shelves. “Just put them in the inbox. I’ll deal with them later.”

“If you look them over now, I can take back any questions or return them…”

He glared at Taylor over his shoulder, and Taylor wisely shut his mouth. Then the man’s gaze settled on me. It wasn’t the scowl he’d given me earlier, but it wasn’t exactly a…nice expression either. It was more of an assessing glare than anything. “Welcome to Chatham House, Mackenzie. What do you think?” he asked.

I had no idea what he meant. What did I think of the house? The room? Him? “It’s…impressive. The artwork is…unusual.”

He let out a belting laugh that I hadn’t been expecting, so I jumped, but then the rich baritone of it made my toes curl. It was an odd reaction, as I wasn’t usually affected by such things.

“Unusual is a kind way of putting it. The artwork came with the house, along with much of the furniture. I just haven’t gotten around to redecorating.”

“Oh, that’s…” . “How long have you lived here, then?”

Beaudry turned back to his computer and began typing furiously. “About five years,” he answered without turning back around.

I choked on air, and Taylor snorted. “I think by ‘haven’t gotten around to it,’ you mean ‘just don’t give a shit,’” he muttered.

“Touché, Mr. Morrison. Is there anything else you need?”

Taylor sighed, probably realizing that the man was not going to look at whatever was in the envelope while we were still there to relay any messages back to Mindstream. He clamped a hand around my wrist and started dragging me toward the door. “All right, we’re going. Remember, drinks at the King’s Shield next Friday.”

“I don’t think I’m going to be—”

Taylor spoke right over Beaudry’s muttering. “You already said you would. No backsies. I can pick you up.”

“I think I’d enjoy driving my shiny Lotus instead, but thank you very much for the offer,” Beaudry growled. “Nice meeting you, Mack,” I heard him call through the open door.

“Nickname basis already?” I laughed to Taylor.

“That has nothing to do with nicknames and everything to do with your name being too long for him to remember.”

“I heard that, Morrison!”

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J.K. Hogan | Amazon

Meet the Author

J.K. Hogan has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, beginning with writing cast lists and storylines for her toys growing up. When she finally decided to put pen to paper, magic happened. She is greatly inspired by all kinds of music and often creates a “soundtrack” for her stories as she writes them. J.K. is hoping to one day have a little something for everyone, so she’s branched out from m/f paranormal romance and added m/m contemporary romance. Who knows what’s next?
J.K. resides in North Carolina, where she was born and raised. A true southern girl at heart, she lives in the country with her husband and two sons, a cat, and two champion agility dogs. If she isn’t on the agility field, J.K. can often be found chasing waterfalls in the mountains with her husband, or down in front at a blues concert. In addition to writing, she enjoys training and competing in dog sports, spending time with her large southern family, camping, boating and, of course, reading! For more information, please visit www.jkhogan.com.

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Laurent and the Beast by K.A. Merikan

 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK


Length: 135,000 words


Cover: Natasha Snow


Blurb

Nothing can stop true love. Not time. Not even the devil himself. 


1805. Laurent. Indentured servant. Desperate to escape a life that is falling apart.

2017. Beast. Kings of Hell Motorcycle Club vice president. His fists do the talking.

Beast has been disfigured in a fire, but he’s covered his skin with tattoos to make sure no one mistakes his scars for weakness. The accident not only hurt his body, but damaged his soul and self-esteem, so he’s wrapped himself in a tight cocoon of violence and mayhem where no one can reach him.

Until one night, when he finds a young man covered in blood in their clubhouse. Sweet, innocent, and as beautiful as an angel fallen from heaven, Laurent pulls on all of Beast’s heartstrings. Laurent is so lost in the world around him, and is such a tangled mystery, that Beast can’t help but let the man claw his way into the stone that is Beast’s heart.

In 1805, Laurent has no family, no means, and his eyesight is failing. To escape a life of poverty, he uses his beauty, but that only backfires and leads him to a catastrophe that changes his life forever. He takes one step into the abyss and is transported to the future, ready to fight for a life worth living.

What he doesn’t expect in his way is a brutal, gruff wall of tattooed muscle with a tender side that only Laurent is allowed to touch. And yet, if Laurent ever wants to earn his freedom, he might have to tear out the heart of the very man who took care of him when it mattered most.


Excerpt 

Hound’s alarmed growling was coming his way, along with whines, when he reached the right door and opened it, only to have the massive Rottweiler’s body rush past him and into the corridor. Beast expected his pet to rush toward the room where the accident happened just minutes ago but Hound looked back at Beast, as if signalling he wanted to be followed, and rushed the other way, stirring the worst of feelings in Beast.

Was there an intruder somewhere in the house? With the sheer size of the former asylum that has served as the Kings of Hell Clubhouse for the last fifteen years, it was easy to overlook things happening in the disused parts of the property. They once had a bunch of teenagers who came over wanting to spy on the orgy. That thankfully didn’t end in blood, and out of the whole mess they got Jake to join their ranks.

Beast wondered whether he shouldn’t go back to the armory and get himself a gun but ultimately decided against it. There would be police and emergency services coming for Davy, and he didn’t want to run around with a firearm, no matter how good their relationship with the local police was.

Hound moved as if he were following a clear trail, but Beast couldn’t smell anything apart from dust and dampness. They were leaving behind the shouting and even the sound of the ambulance approaching, and eventually entered a corridor so disused it had a thick layer of dust on the floor. Now even Beast could see faint footprints in the dust, and next to them, dark droplets that could be blood.

Hound smelled the traces, looked back and broke into a run, which had Beast following him with the worst of expectations as to what he would eventually find. His heart beat faster as they ran down the dark hallway.

The building was a labyrinth, and this far away from where they all lived and worked, it wasn’t even wired anymore, so he breathed in the smell of mildew and followed Hound through the darkness in hope he would not stumble.

Windows in the doorless rooms on both sides of the corridor were the only source of light, now delivering a faint red and blue glow of the approaching ambulance. For all Beast knew, this could have been a gothic castle, something out of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with bloodthirsty monsters waiting for their next victim in one of the endless hallways, and yet he only ran faster, listening to the steady tap of Hound’s paws.

Without any hesitation whatsoever, Hound rushed inside one of the rooms and gave a growl so vicious something inside Beast mourned his decision not to take a gun with him. But no one shot at him when Hound let out a single bark. Beast pushed past the empty doorway, jumping over a fallen chair, only to see someone hiding in the shadows.

Judging by the long, wavy hair and small stature, Beast at first thought it was a woman, but then the person spoke with a distinctly male voice.

“I… I’m not certain where I am.” The stranger took half a step out of the shadow, and into the flashing light coming from outside. His accent was distinctly foreign. French maybe?

Beast took him in with a scowl. Blood covered the stranger’s face, hair, dripped from his chin, from the tips of his trembling fingers, and stained the outfit that looked as if he’d stolen it from the set of a costume drama. Knee-high boots, fitted pants, a vest worn under a tailcoat.

“What the fuck are you doing on our property, boy?” hissed Beast, watching the soft features of a very young man. “Whose blood is this?” he asked, still cautious. In his experience, a non-threatening presence could hide an adept fighter, so he was not taking any chances as he joined Hound in front of the stranger, who was so short in comparison to Beast’s own six foot five form that his red-stained head only reached Beast’s pecs.

The stranger backed away into the corner, whimpering in fear the moment Hound growled at him again and lowered his head, but Beast wasn’t having any of it and grabbed the boy’s arm. “Is the blood yours then? Someone attacked you? Where?” he asked, not hesitating to pat the intruder down, to make sure there were no weapons hiding under the fancy coat.

The boy tried to weasel out of his grip, but he didn’t seem adept at using force. “N-no. I don’t think it’s mine. I don’t know. Is this hell?”

Beast groaned, staring at the silly-looking young man, whose white shirt was completely drenched in red. Someone must have died to produce this much blood.

“You will explain yourself to King.”


 
 
Author Bio


K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are taken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite pushing thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

 
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Release Day Blitz: Twist by Kylie Scott

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twistFrom New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott comes the second sizzling stand-alone novel in the Dive Bar series!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they’re emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets…except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it’s always better with a twist.


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AUS | Amazon CA | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

 

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“I wanted to talk to you a bit more about what happened between us online,” he said, his mouth a serious straight line. “How I came to use my brother’s profile.”
Ugh. “I’m pretty sure I found out everything I needed to know last night.”
“I didn’t mean to lie to you, Alex.”
“Once is a mistake.” I crossed my legs, kicking my black leather bootie back and forth. So I was a little aggravated. Sue me. “Months’ worth of e-mails is not. You could have introduced yourself to me, Joe, told me who you really were. You chose not to. Christ, no wonder you kept putting off meeting. I should have known something was wrong.”
“You’re right. I shouldn’t try to sell you excuses.” A big sigh from my “friend.” “Truth is, I’m not used to being the bad guy. Usually I’m the one cleaning up my brother’s messes.”
“Lucky me.”

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kyliescottimageKylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. You can learn more about Kylie from http://www.kylie-scott.com/

 

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: Enemy Within by Tal Bauer

Title:  Enemy Within

Series: The Executive Office, Book 3

Author: Tal Bauer

Publisher:  Self-Published

Release Date: 3/28/2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 176K

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense

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Synopsis

The White House, infiltrated.
The president, running for his life.
A traitorous general, intent on burning the world to the ground.

When everything falls apart, who do you trust?

President Jack Spiers fled Washington DC on the heels of a devastating attack on CIA headquarters, masterminded by one of America’s own, former General Porter Madigan. While the world believes Jack was killed in the bombing, he embarks on a wild infiltration mission, smuggling himself into occupied Russia to rescue the love of his life: former Secret Service Agent and First Gentleman Ethan Reichenbach.

Reunited, Jack, Ethan, and deposed Russian president Sergey Puchkov, along with President Elizabeth Wall—the only person left in Washington DC who Jack trusts—must work together. They piece together a desperate plan, hunting Madigan to the ends of the earth and the bitter frigidity of the Arctic, where Madigan’s world-shattering doomsday plan comes together.

Outnumbered, outmaneuvered, and outgunned, Jack, Ethan, Sergey, and the rest of the team struggle to put a stop to Madigan and his army. In the desolate extremes of the Arctic, their resolve, their strength, and even their love is tested, pushed to the absolute limits as choices must be made: choices that pit the fate of the world against the love in their hearts, and the loves of their life.

As the world crumbles around them, Jack and Ethan find themselves waging a war on two fronts—against an enemy they can see, and another, hiding within their ranks.

Who can be trusted when the enemy is within you?

Excerpt

The sounds of the convoy coming alive in the frosty morning started clattering through their patch of snowy forest. Grumbled Russian, slamming doors and squeaky metal hinges, the crackle of logs in a fire, and the clang of pots and pans that Vasily insisted on bringing from Volga.

Jack nuzzled at Ethan’s neck, and the roughness of his beard, grown thick in the five days they’d been on the road, scratched over Ethan’s skin just before Jack dropped a kiss beneath his jaw. “Morning, love.”

Ethan smiled down at him, de-cocked his pistol, and slid it into his hip holster beneath their blankets. He wrapped both arms around Jack as Jack turned and faced him. “How are you? Are you warm enough?” As Ethan spoke, his breath clouded the air between them.

“I’m good.” Jack peeled off his gloves beneath the blankets and snaked his warm hands up under Ethan’s jacket and sweater. His gentle, searching fingers found the long line of ragged stitches in Ethan’s side.

Ethan flinched.

“Sorry. You know we need to check them.” Carefully, Jack felt around the stitches, testing the skin, and then rested his palm over the top of the mostly-healed wound. “No heat. No swelling. No pus. No infection.” He smiled. “You had me worried after yesterday.”

Ethan ducked his head, his cheeks warming. While rummaging through an abandoned barn, he’d walked right through a rotted-out baseboard and fallen into a cellar, into the rough, loose earth. Not his finest moment. They’d wrangled some supplies, but he’d come away filthy and bruised, his ego smarting. Jack’s worried eyes and his gentle ministrations after they’d stopped for the night had helped sooth the ache.

Jack’s gaze darted over Ethan’s face, searching. He frowned. “Did you get any sleep?”

“Some.”

“Liar.” Arching an eyebrow, Jack sat back but kept his hands under Ethan’s clothes and on his skin. “You should let me watch over you at night, too.”

“I’d rather do it. I have you close to me.” He patted his hip and his holstered weapon. “I have constant protection on you all night long. There’s no way anyone can get to you. Not without going through me.”

“Literally.” Jack smiled, but it faded fast. “I’ll drive during the day again. Rest, and let me watch over you.” He squeezed Ethan’s hip as if to emphasize his point.

Ethan nodded, and the corners of his lips quirked up. This was new, this give and take of caretaking and watching out for each other. In DC, at the White House, there had been their jobs and their duties and the world to react to. They took care of slights and wounds inflicted by the press, their suits and ties a kind of armor against the world. Out in the wilderness, in the forest, they’d fallen into a different kind of caretaking. A sharing of two lives, each supporting the other’s existence. It was primal, in a way, how they had fused together. Half of his life was in Jack’s hands, and instead of feeling vulnerable, it was the most natural feeling in the world. “Deal.” Leaning forward, he pressed a kiss to Jack’s lips.

A question hovered in the forefront of Ethan’s mind, weighing on his thoughts. Every morning, he felt the weight of his secret resting over his heart: two rings, made before the world fell apart around them. Some moments, asking Jack was on the tip of his tongue, ready to tumble from his lips with his next breath. He forced himself to swallow the words. Not yet. It wasn’t the right time. Not yet.

Jack leaned into Ethan, and his hands wound around Ethan’s back beneath his sweater. “At some point, we won’t be sleeping in this jeep anymore,” he whispered into their kiss. “We’ll have room to stretch out… share a sleeping bag…”

Smiling, Ethan pulled off his gloves and brought his hands up to Jack’s face, his thumbs caressing Jack’s cheeks. “We don’t need a sleeping bag…” One hand snaked around Jack’s neck, and the other dropped to his hip.

In a flash, he flipped Jack, laying him on his back across the bench seat. Jack wrapped his legs around Ethan’s waist as Ethan slid his hands through Jack’s blond strands.

Jack grabbed his shoulders and pulled Ethan closer, his legs tightening and holding Ethan in place. He captured Ethan’s lips, kissing greedily as his hips rocked upward. Even through the layers they wore, Ethan felt Jack’s hard cock, pressing against his own.

“I want you,” Jack breathed.  “I want you to make love to me.”

Ethan’s blood burned, searing through his body from his head to his toes, and part of him wanted to tilt Jack’s head back and ravage his throat, work his way down, unwrap him like a present until he found his cock. Suck him deep. Work him open with his tongue until Jack begged for more, and then sink his cock into Jack’s warm, tight body. Jesus, he wanted Jack. So much.

The springs on the jeep’s suspension squeaked with their rocking, and the tires groaned and crunched against the snow on the ground. In the distance, low chuckles sounded, and one catcall.

Deflating, Ethan dropped his forehead to Jack’s chest. He rode Jack’s deep, heaving breaths and listened to his racing heartbeat. “I don’t want an audience when I make love to you again.”

Jack’s legs dropped, one falling over the back of the front seat, and the other squishing against the window. His hands stroked over Ethan’s back and tangled in his hair. “I don’t want to have to be quiet.”

“Jesus.” Ethan gripped Jack and surged against him, thrusting against his hard cock once more. “That’s not helping.”

Smiling, Jack rocked his hips up once and then scooted backward, propping himself up on his elbows as Ethan sat back and tried to straighten out his clothes. A prominent bulge strained the front of his cargo pants. He ached, nearly painfully hard for Jack.

From the center of the camp, Scott called, “Coffee’s ready if you are!”

Rumbling laughter, deep and throaty, from nearly all the men.

Shaking his head, Jack started to pull himself together next to Ethan and fished out his balaclava from the pocket of his cargo pants. Outside of the jeep, he wore a full-face balaclava and, on their drive, he kept everything but his eyes covered. Ethan insisted, and Scott and Sergey both backed him up. The members of their convoy, of course, knew who Jack was, and just after Jack had shown up, Sergey had delivered a scathing speech in Russian to his people that had had even Ethan flinching, though he didn’t understand a word that had been said. But, they were traveling through a war zone, parts of Russia that were contested in the coup, under attack from Moroshkin’s forces, and that had been bombed by the United States and other nations, all trying to stop Moroshkin.

Who knew what was out there, or who was out there. Jack was, to the world, brain dead in Bethesda Naval Hospital. A front-page picture of him alive and well in Russia would go over as well as a nuclear bomb.

“Scott came by?” Jack tucked his undershirt into his pants, taking a moment to readjust. His cheeks were dusted crimson, a faint flush that Ethan wanted to nibble.

“Yeah.” He tore his eyes away from Jack and fanned the bottom of his sweater, trying to cool his body.

“How’d the scouting go?”

“The route is clear for the morning. More abandoned villages. They found fuel and some supplies. Vasily is cooking eggs.” Ethan reached out, and his fingers traced Jack’s spine through his sweater and jacket. “And you should talk to Sergey.”

Turning, Jack stared at Ethan.

“I think Scott’s worried about him.” A tight, strained smile, curved his lips. “And that’s saying something.” Scott’s trust in Sergey, and in their Russian allies, extended from meal to meal. Day to day, hour by hour. If everything came apart, Scott would be the first to say “I knew it”.

“He hasn’t wanted to talk to me.” Swallowing, Jack leaned back with a sigh. His hands dropped to his lap, and he picked at the wool fibers of the balaclava. “He’s kept his distance since Volga. I’m not sure I’m the person he wants to see right now.”

Nodding slowly, Ethan frowned. Sergey’s harsh accusations, thrown at Jack at Volga air base, had been the last direct contact the two had. “After all this time, you think he’s pulling away because of…”

Because of their love? Because he and Jack were together? Because Sergey had been loved by a gay man? Was this some kind of reaction, a fear that falling in love with another man “was contagious”, as he’d hurled at Jack?

“He’s pulled back before.” Jack sat forward, slipped the balaclava over his head. He tugged it down around his neck. “I want to do the right thing by him. I don’t want to piss him off.” He frowned, deep lines furrowing his brow. “But, no matter what else is going on, he’s devastated about losing Sasha. I remember what it felt like when I thought you were dead. I can at least try to talk to him about that.”

Ethan’s chest constricted, and his heart almost seized. Was it only a week ago that he’d thought Jack was dead and gone as well? Never, ever, again. He’d do everything in his power to keep Jack safe, keep him from ever coming to harm. And, he’d never lose faith like that again, either. The darkness that had swallowed him on his race from Saudi Arabia to Russia. The emptiness, the silent scream within his soul. The way he had wanted to die, had begged the world to kill him.

Together. They’d face everything together from now on. No matter what.

Adjusting the balaclava, Jack leaned over and pressed a chaste kiss to Ethan’s lips. “Time to face the music, love.”

Ethan pulled out his own balaclava, tugged it down around his neck, and gripped the door handle. They piled out of the back of the jeep, and Ethan caught the smothered grins and barks of laughter sent their way. Scott raised a dented metal mug toward them both. Jack headed for him, and for the small fire on which Vasily was cooking.

One of the Russians who went out with Scott every morning, Aleksey, slid up to Ethan. Middle-aged, Aleksey had been a federal police officer in Sochi and had fought back with Sergey against Moroshkin and Madigan’s forces the night of the coup. Now, he was one of Sergey’s officers in the insurgency. He had a small beer gut and a thick salt and pepper mustache beneath ruddy, pockmarked cheeks, a quick, sharp smile, and perpetually messy hair.

His eyes glittered as he clapped Ethan on the back. “You are good Russian lover!” he crowed. “Quick!”

Others laughed, and Ethan spied Jack smothering his grin and rolling his eyes as he took the coffee Scott offered. Scott shrugged and hid his smile in his next sip.

Ethan clapped Aleksey on the upper arm, smiling along with the others. When he and Jack had first met the men in Sergey’s insurgency, they’d worried about how they would be received. Two men in love in a country where only months before, Sasha had almost been killed for being gay. Another man, Evgeni Konnikov, had been murdered.

Sergey’s men, however, had been nothing but accepting. They were believers in Sergey’s government, after all, and Sergey had made equality a foundational platform of his politics and administration.

They just showed that acceptance through good Russian ribbing and teasing. The more ribald the better.

“If we had actually got going,” Ethan began, winking first at Jack and then sending Aleksey a grin, “we’d be here for days.”

More laughter. Aleksey wagged his finger in Ethan’s face and squeezed his elbow before handing him a cup of bitter, sludgy coffee. Vasily waved him and Jack over, and he scooped the last of the eggs into a scavenged plastic bowl they shared. “I save for you,” Vasily said, pointing to them both.

Jack thanked him. As they ate, Ethan spotted Sergey standing in front of his jeep, his hands resting flat on a spread-out map of Russia draped over the hood with his head bowed low. He looked up, and his piercing gaze fell on Jack. There was a moment where his face flickered, something dark passing through his eyes, but it was gone before Ethan could catch it.

And then, Sergey folded up his map and climbed into the driver’s side of his jeep. He kept his eyes downcast, not once looking at Jack again.

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Meet the Author

Tal Bauer is an award-winning and best-selling author of LGBT romantic thrillers, bringing together a career in law enforcement and international humanitarian aid to create dynamic characters, intriguing plots, and exotic locations. Tal is a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Mystery Writers of America.

Pronouns: They/them & he/him

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: MoMo: My Everything by Posy Roberts

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

Publisher: Labyrinth Bound Press

Length: 27,000 words

Cover Image: Igor Madjinca

Photo Editing: Posy Roberts

Cover Typography: Natasha Snow

Blurb

William Harris is a reserved man, private and guarded. He has no one to go home to. He’s never found a man worth sticking around for. He’s never been in love. And he’s convinced he’s happy with his lone-wolf life.

Nate Kelly is William’s opposite, social and easy going. He comes into William’s life as the elegant geisha Momo. When William realizes Momo is a man in drag, he’s captivated.

From their first date, William’s world changes. Nate is nothing like his usual type. And William soon finds out being with this carefree man means always being on display and attracting attention, which makes him want to retreat. He tries to keep Nate at arm’s length, but it’s no use. Nate’s transformed his life in a matter of months and keeps drawing him back in.

If they stand a chance, William has to be comfortable standing next to someone so at home in the limelight. Their future together and William’s happiness depend on it. Is Nate the man finally worth giving up William’s solitary existence? Is he worth sticking around for?


*Extensively reworked from the short story, The Measure of a Man.


Author Bio

Posy Roberts writes about the realistic struggles of men looking for love. Whether her characters are family men, drag queens, or lonely men searching for connections, they all find a home in her stories.

Posy is a Jill of all trades and master of the drill and paintbrush. She’s married to a partner who makes sure she doesn’t forget to eat or sleep during her writing frenzies. Her daughter, a budding author and cinematographer, helps her come up with character names. For fun, Posy enjoys crafting, hiking, and singing spontaneously about the mundane, just to make regular life more interesting.


Facebook Reader’s Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/757618490928296/
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Website: http://posyroberts.com
Facebook Page: http://facebook.com/posyroberts
Twitter: http://twitter.com/posyroberts

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Release Day Blitz: Royally Matched by Emma Chase

Source: InkSlinger PR

RM-FB-on-sale-4

Royally-Matched-3D-bookSome men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry Charles Albert Edgar Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to force her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora goes on a much-needed safari holiday—and when the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world’s most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit…and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love.

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EXCERPT

Sarah stands up and presses her lips against mine. And it’s so unexpected, so surprising—I freeze up. But only for a moment. As her mouth gently moves over mine, I begin to thaw. She’s so fucking soft, her taste so very sweet. The kiss is almost chaste—at least it’s the most chaste I’ve ever had. Unpracticed.

And yet, it still manages to make my heart pound against my ribs like an animal in a cage.

“What are you doing?” I whisper, when she pulls back just a little.

“I’m distracting you.” She looks up at me uncertainly. From behind those ridiculously prim little glasses with those big, dark eyes that could bring me to my knees. “Is it working?”

My tongue traces my lower lip, craving more of her.

“I’m not sure. Keep trying—I’ll let you know.”

She smiles quick and relieved . . . and then she reaches back up, wraps her arms about my neck, and kisses me.

Her two lips envelop my lower one, then the upper, all eager, pleasing sweetness. My hands find Sarah’s lower back and I pull her in close, tight against me. Slowly, I open my mouth and she mirrors my movement, opening for me. And it’s good. So very, very good.

It’s like my blood has turned to gasoline, and the touch of her wet, warm tongue is the spark.

I delve deeper, kiss her harder—more demanding—taking the lead. I cup her head in my hands, holding her still while I plunge and devour. A moan seeps from her lips and I devour that too.

But then, breathing harshly, I tear my mouth away.

“Sarah, maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should just—”

“I’m sick of being afraid, Henry. And I’m so tired of being alive . . . but not really living. I’ve wanted this for a long time. I want . . . you.” It’s only then that hesitation dims her eyes. “Do you want me too?”

I grip her arms. “More than I’ve wanted anything or anyone in my entire life.”

She takes my hands in hers, lifts them and presses my palms to her breasts. They’re soft and full and absolutely perfect.

“Show me.”

Beneath her robe, her bedclothes are paper thin. I trace my thumbs across her nipples, feeling them harden and peak. I want to suck on them until she’s mindless. I want to lick every inch of her skin and watch her flush with desire.

I wrap my arms around Sarah and lift her right off her feet. With a groan, my mouth is back to hers. Her small pretty hands cup my jaw as I carry her toward the bed. I stop against a wall on the way, knocking a frame sideways, lifting her leg in one hand and wrapping it around my hip so I can thrust against her.

There’s so much I know—deviant, filthy, lovely moves. And I want to teach her every damn one.

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Emma Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the hot and hilarious Tangled series and The Legal Briefs series. Emma lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children and two naughty (but really cute) dogs. She has a long-standing love/hate relationship with caffeine.

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Start of Something New by Tamryn Eradani

Title:  The Start of Something New

Series: Daniel & Ryan, Book 2

Author: Tamryn Eradani

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: February 13th

Heat Level: 5 – Erotica

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 13100

Genre: Erotica, BDSM, businessmen, contemporary, friends to lovers

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Synopsis

After a successful first scene together, Daniel and Ryan explore the possibility of continuing their relationship. Negotiating likes and dislikes in BDSM play is one thing, but can Daniel, who likes to keep his life ordered and free of mess, loosen up enough to let the relaxed and uninhibited Ryan deeper into his life?

Excerpt

The Start of Something New
Tamryn Eradani © 2017
All Rights Reserved

 

Daniel wakes up to the first chime of his alarm, and he gets it turned off and his feet swung over the side of his bed before he realizes something isn’t quite right. The mattress is too soft to be his, and the walls are the wrong color. There’s a half glass of orange juice on the bedside table, and that’s what gets last night trickling back to him in bits and pieces.

He’s in Ryan’s apartment. Ryan-from-work’s apartment.

At least he’s not in Ryan-from-work’s bed.

Daniel eases out of the guest bed, glad that he’s not in yesterday’s work clothes, but he frowns when he sees them strewn haphazardly on the floor. He picks up his slacks and shakes them out, even though getting rid of wrinkles isn’t that easy. He’s going to have to take them to the dry cleaner.

He has his overnight bag from the car so he changes into his running clothes. Ryan’s bedroom door is closed, and Daniel doesn’t hear any signs that he’s awake, so Daniel doesn’t feel bad for going for a run. He does leave a note saying where he’s gone in case Ryan wakes up and is alarmed to find either his houseguest or his keys missing.

When Daniel comes back from his run there are still no signs that Ryan’s awake so Daniel takes him time in the shower. It’s more difficult to luxuriate in the shower than in a bath, but Daniel makes do, lathering up with the soap from his toiletry bag until he smells like sandalwood rather than sweat.

His cock, half-hard since he woke up this morning, takes interest in in the smooth slide of skin against skin as he washes his calves and then his thighs. His scene with Ryan ended last night. Daniel’s body is fully his again. If he wanted to knock out a quick one, or even take his time, he could.

He doesn’t want to, though.

Either he and Ryan will do something before Daniel leaves this morning or he’s going to go home and think about last night. In either case, it’s too early for anything.

He finishes his shower and changes into the pajamas from his overnight bag for lack of anything else better to wear. Then he goes to make breakfast.

It figures that it’s the brewing coffee that finally lures Ryan from his room.

He stumbles into the kitchen, covering a yawn with one hand and scratching his belly with the other. His hair is sleep tousled and his cheeks are pink from being under all his blankets. Daniel has a hard time reconciling this image with the man that put Daniel on his knees last night.

“Breakfast?” Ryan asks, coming over to peer over Daniel’s shoulder. “What’s wrong with the eggs?”

“I took out the yolks,” Daniel says. “Healthier for you that way.”

He moves the eggs to one unused burner to cool and Ryan takes that as his cue to wrap an arm around Daniel’s waist and pulls him in for a brief hug. Well, a hug and—

“Did you just sniff my hair?” Daniel asks.

“Did you bring your own shampoo?” Ryan counters.

“It was in my bag.” Daniel leans back into Ryan’s embrace, then adds, “If you want me to smell like you then you need to get better shampoo.”

Ryan’s arm tightens briefly across Daniel’s waist, and Daniel allows himself a brief, triumphant smile.

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Meet the Author

Tamryn studied English and Creative Writing in school but has been writing since she could first hold a pencil. Recently, she’s turned her focus towards writing erotica. She enjoys writing stories where sex comes first, then feelings, because doing things out of order can be fun.

Tamryn has spent the past few months writing the Daniel and Ryan series with a lovely view of mountains out her window, and she’s now searching for a new mountain range to serve as her backdrop as she begins her next project.

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Release Day Blitz: Hard Wired by Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Hard Wired

Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell

Release Blitz

 


Title: Hard Wired
Series: Cyberlove, #3
Authors: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell
Publisher: Megtino Press
Release Date: February 13, 2017
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance / Gaymers

Blurb:

My FallenCon agenda is simple: sit on a couple of panels and let people meet the real me. Jesse Garvy—mod of a famous Twitch channel and, if I ever come out of my shell, future vlogger. I definitely didn’t plan to sleep with a moody tattooed fan-artist, but he’s gorgeous and can’t keep his hands off me. There’s a first time for everything, and my first time with a guy turns out to be the hottest experience of my life.

But the next day, I find out my moody fan-artist is Ian Larsen AKA Cherry—someone I’ve known online for years. And he’d known exactly who I was while shoving me up against that wall. Before I figure out whether to be pissed or flattered, the con ends.

Now we’re back online, and he’s acting like nothing happened. But despite the distance between us, and the way he clings to the safety of his online persona, we made a real connection that night. I don’t plan to let him forget.

Purchase Links

Universal Global Link: books2read.com/hardwired

 

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Strong Signal

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Fast Connection

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About the Authors

Megan Erickson

 

Megan Erickson is a USA Today bestselling author of romance that sizzles. Her books have a touch of nerd, a dash of humor, and always have a happily ever after. A former journalist, she switched to fiction when she decided she liked writing her own endings better.
She lives in Pennsylvania with her very own nerdy husband and two kids. Although rather fun-sized, she’s been told she has a full-sized personality. When Megan isn’t writing, she’s either lounging with her two cats named after John Hughes characters or… thinking about writing.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | FB Group

 

 

 

 

Santino Hassell

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into an unlikely romance author.

Santino writes queer romance that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Social Media:

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Release Day Blitz & Giveaway: The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple by K.A. Merikan

Title:  The Black Sheep and The Rotten Apple:

Author: K.A. Merikan

Publisher:  Acerbi&Villani ltd.

Release Date: 7th of February 2017

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 140,000 words

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Historical – 18th Century Cornwall, Highwayman, Kidnapping, Forbidden love, Violence

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The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is the kind of book that just needed to be written, despite our already tight schedule. The idea first came to us when we watched a documentary about highwaymen, but we promised ourselves to wait. And then we went to Cornwall for a month, and initial plans collapsed. As we walked through the woods, watching the lush nature and the old stone cottages peppered on both sides of a valley where we were staying, the characters and story steadily came to us. Our aim was to write a historical book that provides as much excitement as readers learned to expect from our contemporary romance.

RELEASE DATE: 7th February 2017

If you want to see our inspiration photos for this book, check out the ‘Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple’ Pinterest board:

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The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple is our baby. It’s been a year since we started working on this book, and to celebrate its release, we’re organizing a quiz for readers who follow The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple blog tour. Answers to all questions will be provided in the blog posts, and we will then randomly pick the lucky winners. You can win:

  • a signed paperback of The Black Sheep and the Rotten Apple + a selection of Cornish treats (main prize – for one person)
  • 3 ebooks of choice from our backlist + a surprise treat from Cornwall (will go to 3 more people)

For a chance to win, follow the instructions in blog posts and solve the quiz, which will be published on our website on 1st February 2017. Please, send answers to kamerikan@gmail.com with ‘Black Sheep Quiz’ in the subject line of the email.

 

Winners will be randomly chosen from readers who sent us correct answers by 17th February 2017.

LINKS TO ALL POSTS:

02/01 THE QUIZ

02/03 Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

02/06 We Three Queens

02/07 Boy Meets Boy Reviews

02/08 Prism Book Alliance

02/09 The Novel Approach

02/09 Joyfully Jay

02/10 The Zipper Rippers

02/10 The Book Bella

02/11 Divine Magazine

02/12 Bayou Book Junkie

Blurb

“How does one start a relationship with another man when it is forbidden?”
“One needs to decide that the other man is worth dying for.”

Cornwall, 1785

Sir Evan Penhart. Baronet. Highwayman. Scoundrel.

Julian Reece. Writer. Wastrel. Penniless.

No one forces Julian Reece to marry. Not his father, not his brother. No one.

When he is thrust into a carriage heading for London to meet his future bride, his way out comes in the form of an imposing highwayman, riding a horse as black as night. Julian makes a deal with the criminal, but what he doesn’t expect is that despite the title of baronet, the robber turns out to be no gentleman.

Sir Evan Penhart is pushed into crime out of desperation, but the pact with a pretty, young merchant’s son turns out to have disastrous consequences. Not only is Evan left broke, but worse yet, Julian opens up a Pandora’s box of passions that are dark, needy, and too wild to tame. With no way to lock them back in, rash decisions and greedy desire lead to a tide that wrecks everything in its way.

But Julian might actually like all the sinful, carnal passion unleashed on him. How can he admit this though, even to himself, when a taste of the forbidden fruit could have him end up with a noose around his neck? And with highway robbery being a hanging offense and the local constable on their back, Julian could lose Evan before he can decide anything about the nature of his desires.

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

Themes: highwayman, abduction, ransom, forbidden love, self-discovery, danger, crime,
Genre: Dark romance, historical
Erotic content: Explicit scenes

Length: ~140,000 words (standalone novel)

WARNING: Adult content. Contains violence, distressing scenes, abuse, offensive language, and morally ambiguous protagonists.

Excerpt

The sun was high up in the sky by the time the desynchronized orchestra left Julian’s skull. There wasn’t enough space to properly lie down anywhere in the carriage, but he managed to obtain a comfortable position by resting his legs up the wooden wall while his upper body occupied one of the benches. He still felt like the filling of an enormous rattle as the carriage bent in all possible directions on the uneven road leading away from the coast.

Horace didn’t even make an attempt to hold back his disapproval, but after delivering several biting comments and a lengthy speech about duty, he at last leaned against the side of the carriage in the seat across from Julian and closed his eyes. It was difficult to say whether he was truly in need of a nap or if it was Julian’s face that he didn’t wish to look at.

With his headache out of the way yet not quite well enough to read, Julian opened the curtains in hope of amusing himself with the views, but so far, he merely got to see the side of a narrow gully—all dirt and grass.

He couldn’t understand why Father was being so implacable about having his youngest son marry a title. Couldn’t it wait a fortnight so that Julian could finish that new novel he came up with last night? This one could truly be the breakthrough Julian had been waiting for, the one that would make the Reece family known for more than fabric trade.

Inspiration was a moment in time when Julian’s friend Martin emerged from the darkness of an alley behind the tavern. In that very second he had not resembled himself but a man made of bronze, dreamlike and yet of substance, with strong hands that could crush Julian if they wanted. The novel would start with a similar encounter somewhere in the narrow back alleys, just off the Colosseum. Haunted by the ghost of an ancient gladiator, the protagonist would be believed to be slowly descending into madness, when in reality his awareness of the supernatural would become a vehicle for truth.

Julian was not yet certain of the exact message he wished to convey, but the events would be presented from several points of view, through letters written by the protagonist, his friends, and an official of some sort who’d represent the stale world order.

He’d already had several beautifully evocative ideas for metaphors describing the gladiator himself, but they became somewhat blurry after a night of cards and drink.

Oh, if only he could travel to Rome to let the atmosphere of the city soak him all the way to the bone—without a wife fighting for his attention and pulling him away from work because of feminine fancies.

He looked out of the window with growing disdain. Who in their right mind traveled on Sunday, and so early at that? Julian would have much preferred listening to a sermon at church to spending the day in what was effectively a hearse carrying one of the brightest literary talents just waiting to be discovered.

Now that Julian was feeling better, he was upset with himself about not asking for a day’s delay on religious grounds. He’d never been as devout about prayer as he was about his art, but if the Christian faith could postpone his commitment to a woman he never met, he would gladly kneel and pray. And Miss White wasn’t even a woman but a girl of fifteen, quite pretty in the portrait Julian had been shown, and a viscount’s only daughter at that, but surely as hungry for her intended’s attention as the bawdy house wench who’d become sweet on Julian some years ago.

Back then, he still visited Madame Canard’s establishment to do what everyone else did when they visited a school of Venus. These days, Julian had neither the overwhelming desire nor patience to handle a cunt, no matter how lovely the lady it was attached to. He still enjoyed having a drink with the harlots, and no card table within twenty miles was as lively as the one at Madame Canard’s, but at twenty-five he’d much rather handle needs of the flesh in solitude.

Sweet perfume made his nose itch, the act itself made him unpleasantly sticky—with his sweat and hers—and while he would not dare to ask, it was his suspicion that the friends who usually accompanied him to the brothel were only whoring so much because of pride and bravado. It was a sign of status to be able to afford women and decent wine daily, and so fucking and gambling was the thing you did as a social activity.

Julian’s eyes darted to Horace, who slept with his head thrown back and leaning against the side of the carriage. His wide-open mouth was asking for a distasteful prank, but Julian was far too upset to think of amusing himself at Horace’s expense. So far, the day’s joke was on him.

In the years past, he’d been mocked by his father and siblings over not taking on a profession that they deemed worthy of a gentleman, but with the family being very prosperous, Julian saw no reason to divert his focus from his one true calling.

Despite frequent threats, he’d hoped that Father—having four willing sons and three daughters—wouldn’t push Julian into marriage, but it seemed a lost cause. Soon it would be a wife nagging Julian to stop wasting his time following intellectual pursuits and instead turn his attention to practical matters. As the head of his own family, maybe he’d even be pushed to join the family trade, one step farther from traveling abroad to meet the great artists of the continent.

The carriage started a steep climb up a hill, and Julian cursed, pushing the soles of his boots against the wall to keep his body from rolling off the narrow bench. How long would it take for them to reach London at this pace? It was over two hundred miles away, so a week perhaps? The last time Julian had made the journey, he was so intoxicated most days that he couldn’t properly count them.

But out of nowhere, as the slope of the hill became gentler, the ugly dirt and grass that had been Julian’s only source of entertainment for the last half an hour were replaced by lush greenery of tree tops. He grinned and glanced at Horace, but the fat sod was too busy snoring to notice the change in scenery.

A wicked plan was starting to take shape in Julian’s head, and he quietly removed his feet from the side of the carriage and lowered them to the floor. Pulling himself upright was easy enough after that, and he stalled, eyes transfixed on the permanently flushed face of his brother that was an unappetizing contrast with the white wig he wore, and made him look like a man many years his senior. Julian might be less inclined to business, less sedate than his siblings, but at the very least he had good taste and flair most of Julian’s family lacked, buried deep in the stern world of pretense and money.

Horace didn’t even stir. The old pig was fast asleep, and if that wasn’t Julian’s chance to save his life, he didn’t know what was. Careful not to make any sound, Julian gathered his valise and the coat he’d earlier taken off because of the heat, stilling when the carriage came to a halt. His eyes immediately darted to Horace, but his brother only smacked his lips in his sleep. Hunt could have stopped to relieve himself. What an opportunity this was!

Julian could feel his heartbeat in his throat when he softly pressed on the door handle. Still distinctly aware of his brother being close enough for their knees to touch, were Julian not careful enough. He opened the carriage and left it in a soft stride before closing the door with care.

A warm breeze combed through his hair, wiping away the unpleasant wetness of sweat, and his lungs filled with fresh air, but he didn’t get to enjoy it.

The shining muzzle of a pistol was grinning at him from inches away.

Despite the warm weather, Julian’s whole body was shaken by a chill when his gaze met a pair of eyes so dark they might as well have been lacquered coals. The man had a tricorn hat pulled low over his forehead, and a black scarf obscuring the lower half of his face.

This can’t be happening.

“Don’t try to scream, or I will blow your brains out.” The man squinted and lowered his gun to Julian’s pupil. “Through the eye.”

Julian opened his mouth as his throat closed, robbing him of breath. He wanted to look back, suddenly wishing Horace weren’t such an easy sleeper, but Hunt was nowhere to be seen either. Heat washed over Julian’s body, making him stiffen as if he were made of clay. Had this man hurt their coachman? If so, where was the body?

“What do you want?” Julian whispered, resting his hand on the door handle when his knees softened.

“These.” A hand in a leather glove gripped Julian’s sweaty fingers and slipped off his rings. “And all your other valuables.” The man didn’t even blink, his voice dark as if dragged through tar.

Julian stared, and his mind finally came up with the answer for what this was. “You’re a highwayman…”

“And you’re cork-brained to travel on a Sunday when the roads are empty.” The man’s gaze drifted away to Horace for a split second, but he must have judged him as no threat, and when Horace snored from inside the carriage, the highwayman chuckled quietly.

Julian’s lungs emptied, and a silly grin emerged on his face, encouraged by the highwayman’s amusement. “Ah, I should have gone to church after all.”

The smile died on his lips when the robber poked Julian’s temple with his gun.

“Your valuables,” he urged.

Julian clenched his teeth when they threatened to clatter. He needed to keep calm. His father believed his friends to be villains, so he could handle one. “I’ve been taken out of the tavern this morning with nothing but the clothes on my back. I lost everything at the tables. You should try my older brother. He’s Father’s heir. He should have a healthy sum on him.”

The highwayman gripped the front of Julian’s waistcoat and pulled him forward so hard Julian stumbled straight into the man’s arms. He was much taller than Julian, with wide shoulders that were so strong their size couldn’t be just padding. His clothes smelled of leather and horse sweat, and Julian found himself staring into the eyes above the black scarf.

Before he could say a word, the man turned him around, and pressed the gun to the side of his head.

“Go on, wake up your brother.”

Julian breathed in and out, stiff with discomfort at the warm body pressed against his back as if the highwayman was seeking warmth. The gun provided some relief against heated skin. Its presence made Julian’s blood speed through his veins. It wouldn’t go off. Murder wasn’t in the robber’s interest, but if that was the case, then where the hell was Hunt?

Then an idea illuminated Julian’s mind. “I have a proposition, Mister—”

The highwayman stilled. He’d be lying. Of course. “Noir,” he said in the end. “What kind of proposition can you have, pretty boy? With no money in your pockets.”

Something about Noir’s tone sent a hot shiver through Julian’s ribcage, but he ignored the condescending words and slowly looked back into the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. “I don’t have much on me, but you must know my father. He’s William Reece, the cloth merchant. You could take me and ask for ransom. We could split it between us like two gentlemen,” he whispered and gave Noir a polite nod. Appealing to the highwayman’s self-importance should do the trick. His kind were known for a love of opulence and status they didn’t deserve.

He must have managed to surprise the thief, because Noir’s grip on him faltered. “How much could I ask for a son who hates his father?”

Julian exhaled in relief when he felt Noir’s aggression turn away from him. “A lot. He needs me. I’m worth more than you can imagine,” he said with a small smile.

Noir stole another glance at Horace sleeping in the back of the carriage, and his gloved hand slid to Julian’s neck, squeezing around his nape in a way that had Julian rising to his toes. “You better be. You scream, or try to run, and I will kill you.”

Julian swallowed against the warm, soft leather. It felt surprisingly expensive. Might have been snatched from a gentleman. “I don’t doubt that,” he lied. “However, we share a common goal, friend.”

“Call me ‘friend’ once this is all over.” Noir shook his head and pushed Julian behind the carriage, where a gloriously jet-black stallion awaited its rider, and watched Julian with eyes as dark as Noir’s.

“I hope you haven’t hurt our driver. He’s a good fellow,” said Julian, smiling at the huge beast in front of him.

“He’ll live. Your brother will find him once he wakes up.”

Julian was sure there had to be a hint of a smile under that black scarf. When Noir put the gun inside his coat, Julian tried to assess the man more thoroughly.

The black leather riding coat was worn but of good quality. Could have been stolen too, but the clothes underneath, as black as everything the man wore, were clean, suggesting the highwayman wasn’t sleeping rough somewhere. Unless he dressed up for robbery.

Julian opened his mouth to comment on the beauty of the horse, but Noir spun Julian around and pulled back his hands.

“Good heavens. We’re partners,” Julian whispered with distaste. Hot and cold sweats were hitting him in rapid waves, and he couldn’t tell whether he was scared or excited about this new development. Once he got out of this, he could write a novel about the peril of travellers attacked by rogues while driving through a dark, rainy forest, and with a bit of poetic license, call it a true story.

“I haven’t decided on that yet,” said Noir, and a cold shiver went down Julian’s back at the proficiency with which the man tied his hands. A former sailor perhaps? That wouldn’t bode well, as those types rarely possessed the intellectual capability for complicated schemes. His speech was also far too refined to have been only recently acquired. Damnation!

“Mr. Noir. I’d much rather ride with my hands free. You see, I’ve been incapacitated by gin just this morning, and I don’t feel secure enough without my hands to assist me yet. I assure you, I am harmless.”

Once Noir had tied Julian’s hands, he turned him around. “Now you are. Up.” And just as Julian was wondering how exactly he was supposed to climb atop the tall beast, the scoundrel grabbed his legs and picked him up. Julian barely refrained from screaming. It was no way to handle a gentleman, and yet he couldn’t help but be amazed by Noir’s physical prowess.

Definitely a sailor. A naval officer, perhaps.

Julian’s face flushed with heat when he imagined his bottom sticking out like a whore’s ass at a party. Good grief, what had he gotten himself into? What was next? Being kidnapped by pirates?

His foot found the stirrup, and he exhaled with relief, pushing his other leg over the horse’s hindquarters until he straddled its back. “I see no reason for this kind of treatment, considering it was I who came up with a most lucrative opportunity for you.”

“Keep that up, and I will gag you.” Noir was quick to get on the horse himself as soon as he’d attached Julian’s coat and valise to the saddle. Julian felt completely overwhelmed when the man reached for the reins, all but embracing him.

Julian shuddered and curled his shoulders to not be in the way, though no matter what he did, the shape of the saddle brought them close together. “You’re a scoundrel. Another man in your profession would have treated me right.”

Noir laughed darkly. “You are correct, sir. How could I have forgotten.” Even though the mockery had him exaggerate the polite accent, Julian was becoming certain that Noir’s natural speech was not that of someone uneducated.

Before Julian understood what was happening, Noir pulled a burlap sack over his head.

“I will scream,” whispered Julian, staring through the dots of light in the smelly thing. He squeezed his hands into fists and pushed them hard against Noir’s stomach. His mind was rattling again, as if the drunkenness returned with full force.

“No one will hear you where we’re going.”

“Julian?” came a sleepy voice from the carriage.

Noir’s thighs tensed, and he must have urged his mount to rush, as it went almost straight into gallop.

Julian screamed at the top of his lungs. “Horace!”

The stallion flew forward, and without the aid of his hands, Julian was forced to hang on to it with his legs alone, shaken like a rattle. The rapid gait moved him back and forth over the front of the saddle, making Julian stiffen and push back against the firm chest behind him. Without seeing where they were going, Julian tried to hold on to anything he had on hand, and as it happened, it was probably Noir’s waistcoat. If the horse tripped, at least they would stumble and break their bones together. Or maybe the villain would cushion Julian’s fall in a well-meaning act of God.

It was Sunday.

 

Meet the Author

K. A. Merikan is the pen name for Kat and Agnes Merikan, a team of writers, who are mistaken for sisters with surprising regularity. Kat’s the mean sergeant and survival specialist of the duo, never hesitating to kick Agnes’s ass when she’s slacking off. Her memory works like an easy-access catalogue, which allows her to keep up with both book details and social media. Also works as the emergency GPS. Agnes is the Merikan nitpicker, usually found busy with formatting and research. Her attention tends to be scattered, and despite being over thirty, she needs to apply makeup to buy alcohol. Self-proclaimed queen of the roads.

They love the weird and wonderful, stepping out of the box, and bending stereotypes both in life and books. When you pick up a Merikan book, there’s one thing you can be sure of – it will be full of surprises.

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Release Day Blitz: Omens & Artifacts by Elizabeth Hunter

Omens & Artifacts

An Elemental Legacy Novella

Elizabeth Hunter

Releases: January 31st, 2017

Synopsis

In the elemental world, reputation is everything, but gaining it can get you killed.

Setting up shop as an antiquities hunter means nothing if you don’t have clients. Benjamin Vecchio, nephew of a famed vampire assassin, is the subject of widespread speculation, but so far that speculation hasn’t translated into work.

What Ben needs is a job. A big job. A profitable job.

A legendary job.

Finding the lost sword of Brennus the Celt, the mythical Raven King of the British Isles, would make Ben’s reputation in the immortal world, but it could also draw dangerous attention. The Raven King’s gold hoard isn’t famous for being easy to find. Luckily, Ben has his own legend at his side.

Tenzin is a wind vampire who doesn’t like digging, but she’s more than happy to let Ben do the dirty work while she provides the muscle he needs to make other immortals pay attention. They’re partners. Or so Ben thinks.

But when finding this treasure puts Tenzin’s future plans at risk, will their partnership survive? Tenzin isn’t used to taking orders from anyone, particularly from a young human who used to be her student. Digging into ancient Scottish history can get you dirty. It can also get you killed.

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About Elizabeth

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ELIZABETH HUNTER is a contemporary fantasy, paranormal romance, and paranormal mystery author. She is a graduate of the University of Houston Honors College and a former English teacher. She once substitute taught a kindergarten class, but decided that middle school was far less frightening. She’s the author of the Elemental Mysteries, the Irin Chronicles, and the Cambio Springs Mysteries.