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Dare to Hope (All Cocks #4) by TM Smith

Date to Hope

Blurb

Tristan is the second oldest of the Brennan brothers and the odd man out. Most of the Brennan men have careers in law enforcement, but as a psychiatrist, Tristan chooses to help people in a different way. Quiet and restrained, he is content to hover in the background of his more gregarious brothers. Then he meets two men, each broken and damaged from losses beyond their control.

Gabriel Simenson is mourning his lover’s death. The random act of violence that took Gio’s life has left everyone at All Cocks reeling. The only thing keeping Gabe from drowning in misery is the friendship he’s forged with Micah, the newest model at All Cocks. He continues to struggle, and at the urging of his All Cocks family Gabe agrees to counseling with Tristan under one condition: Micah must go with him.

Micah Solo can relate to unbearable loss, having lost his leg and so much more in Iraq. The past two years he has been alone, adrift and vulnerable — the memories of war haunting his dreams, spilling over into his daily life. At All Cocks, Micah has found the acceptance he craves and the family he lost, but still he yearns for happiness and peace within.

The friendship between the three is instant, the mutual attraction evident. They circle each other, wanting more, yet unsure if it is truly possible. Is life the mundane reality they’ve each come to accept for themselves or do they dare to hope?

The All Cocks Stories is a series set within the world of online gay porn.

*Warning* Micah’s PTSD is told in detail, including flashbacks to his time in Iraq.

What did I think?

The All Cocks series consists of 4 books set in the world of gay porn. It’s blends the behind-the-scenes world of the men behind the porn stars, showing a glimpse of the mechanics of making porn, but more about the relationships of the people when the cameras aren’t rolling.

As I mentioned when I read the first few books, there is an ensemble cast of characters who appear throughout the books, including the three men who own All Cocks, their actors, and other friends. Each book focuses on a main couple, but also the characters who form the friend group. Therefore there are a lot of characters to remember. This perhaps was the biggest challenge for me – keeping the characters straight in my head, and determining the point of view for each scene in the story.

Book 4, Dare to Hope, has a slightly different feel to the earlier books. For a start the sex feels less (not that this is detrimental to the story). There is a strong focus on friendship, and that friendship forming the basis of love. Sex is almost like an after-thought. But I thought this was appropriate, given the specific situation of the three men involved – Micah who is dealing with PTSD, Gabe who is grieving, and Tristan who is grappling with balancing his feelings and his professionalism.

So although I understand the need for a slow progression, I would have liked to see the three men acknowledge their relationship a little earlier in the book. That way there would have been more on-page time of them together in their three-way relationship.

I enjoyed the banter and the dialogue. All in all, very enjoyable.

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Buy Links

Amazon US

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COVER REVEAL: Daniel (The Third Legacy) by RJ Scott

Cover Reveal - DanielDaniel (The Third Legacy)

A hidden past can only mean an uncertain future.

Daniel ‘Danny’ Flynn has made his way through college on athletics scholarships. One more year at university, and as soon as he graduates, a career with his aunt’s real estate agency will be his.

Danny had his hopes set on an alternate path—winning a place on the US gymnastics team. When he doesn’t make the cut, it looks like his future is set in selling houses. He’s buried his past and his lies have kept him sane; he’s not going to let them out now.

Corey Dryden is a journalist onto the story of the year. Four men, one abuser, and all connected to Dallas royalty—Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes. Corey just needs a way in, and tracking down Daniel is his first step. This story could be award winning exposure for Corey’s career, and he’ll do anything to get what he needs. Can the lies he tells Danny lead to anything but heartbreak?

Because, Danny’s past has to stay hidden, or it could destroy any hope of a future for either of them.

A new story set in the world of Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D Ranch, Texas.

And here is the beautiful cover by Meredith Russell…

Legacy Daniel jpg

Daniel – The Third Legacy
Available 29 January 2017

The Legacy Series and Buy Links

Kyle – The First Legacy

Available 12 August 2016

Two men destroyed by the past learn to live—and love—again.

Kyle Braden has nowhere else to go. With no money, no prospects, and no drive to be something else, he turns to the only man who promises him help. Jack Campbell-Hayes wants to show Kyle that he can be more than he ever thought.

Kyle gets to realize just how far he’s come from being the scarred man who shut everyone out, when the first person through the doors of Legacy Ranch carries a gun and threatens to kill anyone who comes near him. Kyle wants to be the man that someone turns to for help and it scares him.

Thrown out of his house and with three years on the streets marking every inch of his body, Jason Smith is scared. His life is an evil mess of hate and despair, and even the offer of a fresh start and a clean bed isn’t enough for him to hand over his gun. He’s cheated death twice, and he’s not letting there be a third time—he might not be so lucky.

For these broken men, Legacy Ranch offers more than a place to live and work.

It offers hope.

A new story set in the world of Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D Ranch, Texas.

Gabriel – The Second Legacy
Available 30 September 2016

Trapped in darkness, can an escort find a man to help him into the light?

Gabriel Reyes never gave in. He fought and was hurt, was abused but escaped with his life. He made his way in the world using the one thing he was good at: sex. Using his body, he earned the flash car and the apartment with the views. Gabriel’s a success; he’s made it.

He needs no one and he has no one. But that’s okay, because he’s safe.

Cameron Stafford hires Gabriel for a night, needing nothing more than eye candy to persuade his family that he’s happy. With the money he has in the bank and a job that takes him all over the world, why wouldn’t he be happy? It doesn’t matter that a degenerative disease is stealing his vision; for now he has purpose.

One night with an escort was all it was supposed to be, until Cam is thrust into Gabriel’s world. He soon realizes he’s fallen for Gabriel, a man caught in his own world of darkness.

A new story set in the world of Jack and Riley Campbell-Hayes and the Double D Ranch, Texas.

 

Legacy Daniel LLB Banner

About RJ Scott

My goal is to write stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and most importantly, that hint of a happily ever after.

I’ve been writing since age six, when I was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and a mixing bowl. You can’t tell a six-year-old not to lick the bowl!

I was told to write a story, and two sides of paper about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born.

As an avid reader myself, I can be found reading anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror. However, my first real true love will always be the world of romance. I love my cowboys, bodyguards, firemen, and billionaires (to name a few), and I love to write dramatic and romantic stories of love and passion between them. (Yum.)

With over ninety titles to my name and counting, I’m the author of the award-winning The Christmas Throwaway, which was the All Romance eBooks bestselling title of 2010.

I’m also known for the Texas series, which charts the lives of Riley and Jack, and the Sanctuary series, which follows the work of the Sanctuary Foundation and the people it protects.

I’m always thrilled to hear from readers, bloggers, and other writers. Please contact me via the links below:

Full list of all books and works in progress:

List of all print books:

Reviews for RJ’s books:

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GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY: Koi by Remmy Duchene

koi

 

Hello everyone! I am Remmy Duchene. I’m super excited to be here today and to talk about the third and final book in my SHIVER series, entitled KOI!

The story of the SHIVERS came about because I listen to a lot of music. There is a song titled SHIVER by a Canadian pop singer name Shawn Desman. This song is one of the most beautiful lyrically and visually. I’ve watched the video over and over again and still find it enchanting and romantic. I’m not sure how a long song turned into beings that are half Zeus and Half Goddess of the Storm Winds (That one I created specifically for these stories) but at the end of the day, my new species, CIRO and OSAKI and KOI were born! Well, Osaki is a whole other story but you get my drift.

I carried my love of Mythology (in this case, Greek) and my love of men with super-powers throughout the stories. Koi is the final tale – though I am tempted to write another. He is the third born son, kind but fed up with all the evil lurking in the shadows. Though Ciro is the eldest, Koi now believes he must protect the earth, keep Ciro and Osaki out of the war because they are now in love. He feels alone and though that is not the case, Koi carries a heavy burden.

My love of mythology started in Jamaica when I started high school and they told me I had to read a book titled Men and Gods. Of course I jumped at it because I LOVE reading. The book had story about Perseus and Oedipus Rex and Andromeda, and Zeus and all the gods of Olympus and I was hooked.

There was something about the Gods, their turbulent histories and relationships that spoke to me. There was always a fight, a war, misguided love—something that sparked my interest and made me want to dig through old, dusty books and numerous website to find the different take on the story. Family drama always makes for an interesting read, or TV isn’t that what they say?

The truth is in the television shows we watch really—Like Scandal (the Gladiators is a sort of family and they fight all the damn time!), Second Chance (Father and son-bad relationship, so bad that the father had to come back from the dead to fix things), Maury, how many times have you watched that show and see a headline like “Did my sister sleep with my husband and is her kid his?” Yet it’s on television—it has been for years! –Family drama all over the place.

And Koi’s family is drama to the third degree.

These three stories, CIRO, OSAKI and KOI are infused with my adoration for Greek Myth, my love of Interracial couples (including a Blasian *giggles) and the joy I feel when I write. I really do hope you all enjoy KOI as much as you did CIRO and OSAKI. While I will miss writing them, they will always be a part of me, a part of what makes my writing what it is.

Please leave a comment below and you could win an ebook copy of CIRO.

Love and Chocolate,

Remmy D

Blurb

When a Shiver’s fed up, no one’s safe.

Koi Pyktis is the last of the Shivers and, lately, he’s been feeling as if the whole world is in love, leaving him the odd Shiver out. Though he has his eyes on Kofi’s friend, Christophe Sidler, he knows he must keep his hands off him. His father’s enemies are out there and they seem hell-bent on starting a war between the Shivers and anyone else they want.

Christophe Sidler has loved Koi Pyktis since the moment he laid eyes on the studly Greek. But he’s fresh from mourning his mother, getting his feet wet in the business world and trying desperately not to put his foot in his mouth around Koi.

However, what will Christophe feel and say when he finds out what Koi really is, and where will Christophe stand in the battle ahead?

Word count: 50,975

Buy Link

Buy link: https://www.pride-publishing.com/book/koi

Giveaway

Leave a comment on this blog post and a random winner will be chosen to receive an eBook copy of CIRO.

The winner will be drawn on Sunday 24th April. Good luck!

About the author

Multi-published Remmy Duchene was born in St. Anns, Jamaica and moved to Canada at a young age. When not working or writing, Remmy loves dabbling in photography, travelling and spending time with friends and family

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Monday Meets: Nic Starr

This week I visited Brynn Stein’s blog to talk about naming my characters. It isn’t as easy as you’d think it would be. 🙂

Make sure you sign up to Brynn’s blog. She has some great content and fabulous guest authors visiting regularly.

Nic xx

Stein's Station

 At long last, Monday Meets returns as a regular feature on my blog. Today, I present my first guest blogger in 2016, Nic Starr. She’s here discussing her newest book in the Rustic Series, Rustic Moment.

Rustic Moments title

What’s in a name?

One of the first things I do when I start a new story is to give my characters a name. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Just choose a couple of names and get on with it. If only!

There are so many elements that go into choosing names, that sometimes it takes me a long time to determine the final versions. And I can’t start the story until I have the names (at least the first names) settled in my mind. If the names aren’t right, if they don’t roll off my fingers when typing, then the story just doesn’t flow. I have started stories in the past where I’ve changed…

View original post 1,842 more words

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BOOK BLAST: Love’s Design by RJ Scott

Title: Love’s Design
Series: Bodyguards, Inc. #5
Author: R.J. Scott
Genre: M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: December 9, 2015 

 

Can Christmas be the time when Kirby finally stops running and allows himself to fall in love with the man who saves his life?

CIA Agent Stefan Mortimer is cooling his heels in the UK until he can go home. Taking on easy assignments with Bodyguards Inc. seems like a good solution to keep him sane. He’s used to life throwing him curveballs, and it’s just another day at the office when he rescues Kirby Devlin and his niece and nephew. Now he has to keep Kirby and the kids alive and stay professional.

Kirby Devlin has one priority; keeping his small family safe. On the run, and facing danger at every turn, Kirby finally runs out of places to hide on a snowy December day at an Edinburgh train station. Stefan comes to the rescue, saves him and the children. Is it possible that Kirby finally has someone to trust?

Now, if only it would be as easy for Kirby to trust Stefan with his heart.

“…Kirby was on the run with little Andy and Louise, having seen their father stabbed and left for dead. An unexpected attack at the train station left Kirby in a bloody mess and Stefan coming to the rescue. … Love’s Design was a great addition to the Bodyguard, Inc. series, with a magical Christmas theme…”

“If you’re not reading this series, you really need to because it wins all the awesome!” ~Meredith at Diverse Reader

“When I read an R.J. Scott book I never fail to get a quiver in my body and a smile on my face. Love’s Design lived up to my expectations.” ~Evelise at S.E.X. Reviews

Chapter One

 


“What the hell is he doing?” Stefan murmured as the man in the cheap suit moved out of the shadows and back into them again.

Tall, with his hands pressed deep into his jacket pockets, the man crossed from one side of the large empty waiting room to the other. His expression was one of determination, but his posture screamed anger, and it was difficult to tell which was winning from this distance. Stefan was killing time at Waverley, the train station in Edinburgh, waiting for the train holding his latest babysitting job to depart, and all he could focus on was this one man. Typical that even when he was supposed to be having a quiet time with his Kindle, Stefan spotted shit that just wasn’t right.

Call it boredom, call it a sixth sense, but the man in the suit was up to something. And he was one of three. He had two friends along for the ride: a tall guy and another as wide as he was tall, with his head disappearing into his thick neck. Abruptly, Stefan knew he had been looking at the man in charge of two heavies. Both Tall Guy and Neck Guy had disappeared into the bathrooms five minutes ago and had yet to come back out.

The Boss, as Stefan called him in his head, kept pausing outside the bathrooms, where a sign proclaimed “Cleaning in Progress”. The waiting area was sprawling, drafty and empty of all but a few diehards, probably those waiting for late arrivals, which were mostly delayed, due to snow.

Stefan knew something was going down in there and he fairly itched with the need to get involved.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys,” he muttered to himself. Kyle would kill him if he got involved with something that would call the wrath of MI6 down on them again. As it was, Kyle was trying to calm down the CIA after the whole missing-scientist incident, and almost had them agreeing to take Stefan back so that Stefan could hunt down whoever fucked up and exposed the scientist they’d had under protection.

Three suspicious men in a near-deserted railway station weren’t his problem. His problem was the annoyingly entitled investment banker who was now safely on a train with his next bodyguard, on his way to London. A glance at the board had Stefan wincing. He’d hoped to be gone from the station by now, but the snow was causing delays and some cancelations, and the London train would be the last on the board scheduled to leave, four hours late at nearly 10:00 p.m. The rest of the departures were listed with large signs saying everything had been canceled. No wonder the station was empty. And yes, he was bored.

One thing Stefan Mortimer didn’t do well, was sitting on his ass doing nothing. I’m bored. I need to get laid, and I need to go home. Not necessarily in that order. He’d been stuck in the UK for going on half a year now, and, by necessity, had slipped into working for Kyle at Bodyguards Inc. Not that he needed the money, but he was a man of action, and sitting around with his thumb up his ass was not the way he spent his time.

He sipped at his coffee, and the cold, bitter brew furred his tongue. He’d left it too long to drink while studying the dynamics of the man and his two bodyguards, and the drink hadn’t been that amazing to start with. Brits didn’t know how to make coffee, not like back home.

The man he’d been watching stopped pacing and checked his watch, then, with a brief look around the area, pushed through the bathroom door. He wouldn’t be able to see Stefan from that angle, not properly; to all intents and purposes Stefan looked like he was sleeping and was behind a metal grate enclosing a small area where he was hiding from having to interact with people.

As soon as that bathroom door shut, and with no real conscious decision, Stefan was on his feet, his hand automatically going for his weapon, then falling away when his brain caught up with his muscle memory. Scotland. No guns.

As he walked to the bathroom, he unzipped his jacket and flexed his arms a little to make sure he had full movement. He didn’t know what was happening behind that door, but he might need to think on his feet. Or, he might have to make a big deal out of washing his hands and retreating, if indeed nothing was going on.

He slipped through the door and waited just inside. The bathroom smelled of bleach, and the lights were low. There was a small entry area with long mirrors—two had large cracks in them—hand dryers, and an off-center arch that led through to the cubicles and urinals. That was where the noise was coming from. A rhythmic banging… and a whimper.

Either I’m walking in on an orgy, or shit is going down.

Stefan looked around for a weapon, anything he could use. Short of smashing a mirror, he had nothing, and only in the movies was smashing a mirror a good idea. Last time he’d tried it, he’d cut his arm open. He still had the scar to prove it. Stefan pulled back his shoulders and sauntered around the corner and into the main bathroom as if he had no better place to be. Like he belonged. Pacing Man from outside had his back to Stefan, Neck-Guy the same, but there was no sign of the victim or the third goon.

The third man came out of the last cubicle dragging something—a body—and looked directly at Stefan with a shocked expression. “Private party,” he said, brooking no argument. “Fuck off.”

Stefan slumped a little and made himself look as small and innocent as he could. “I just need to—”

“You need to leave.”

Stefan saw the blood, the body, saw the muscle-bound man turn and walk his way, observed Pacing Man step toward him as well. He knew exactly where they all were.

“What’s wrong?” Stefan asked. “Who’ve you got there? Your boyfriend?”

He knew better than to ask the bad people questions, but this seemed like a wisecracking kind of moment to him and he needed them all coming toward him.

Elephant-Necked Guy got to him first, a meaty hand on his shoulder, gripping hard and attempting to propel Stefan back out of the bathroom. Stefan allowed him to step forward, and then mid-step, when he was off balance, Stefan twisted his leg, caught the man behind the knee, and had him crashing into the urinals. His huge head smacked the porcelain, rendering him unconscious.

“Oops,” Stefan said. “My bad.”

Pacing Man stepped back in shock, and bodyguard two dropped the victim’s lifeless body before assuming a stance, clearly thinking this was coming down to a fight of some sort. Stefan steadied himself, waiting until he was gripped, and he had the second man unconscious at his feet with the judicious use of a bathroom door, a toilet, and a paper dispenser.

That just left Pacing Man.

Who, for fuck’s sake, had a gun on him.

“This is the UK, you know,” Stefan said, his breathing a little heavy. It had been a long time since he’d gotten physical with anyone, and it was showing. “No guns.”

“Fuck you,” Pacing Man said. “Turn around and leave.”

Stefan glanced at the body. Noticed movement, saw eyes open through blood, and shook his head. “Not happening.”

Pacing Man shook his gun. “I’ll shoot you.”

Stefan made a hundred small observations. Pacing Man was pale, a little shaky, the gun not quite so steady, but he had the gleam of something in his eyes, a confidence. Was he high? The victim groaned, made an effort to stand, grabbing at the slick tiled wall to find purchase.

“Help,” the beaten man pleaded.

“Why are you hitting him?” Stefan asked. He didn’t know what was going on here, but a gun against fists wasn’t a fair fight. He didn’t care why the guy on the floor had been beaten, because, whatever the reason for beating someone to a pulp, it didn’t sit right with him. Stefan stepped forward suddenly and Pacing Man reared back, fear in his face, his hand lax, and Stefan relieved him of his gun in the blink of an eye.

Pacing Man’s eyes widened, just before they shut as Stefan slammed his head against the bathroom door. Pacing Man twisted in his hold, taking Stefan by surprise, Stefan’s gun hand and the man’s head getting caught by the door as it slammed on them. Stefan felt the agonizing pain of mashed muscles and skin at the same time as Pacing Man slumped to the floor, unconscious.

Which left only Stefan and the victim awake.

Stefan leaned over and helped the bloody man stand, taking his weight even as they stumbled back against the wall.

“Help me,” the man said.

“Trying, buddy, really trying.” He attempted to hold the man upright though his wrist throbbed. He knew the pain would ease in a minute—he’d had injuries like this before—but, just at this moment, it hurt like a bitch.

The man exhaled noisily and wiped his face with his sleeve, blood smearing over pale, freckled skin.

“I need to get them,” he muttered.

“What’s your name?” Stefan began to move them out of the bathroom area.

“Help me,” the man said again.

Stefan helped him over the bodies on the floor; Elephant-Necked Guy was mumbling and groaning, and they only had a few minutes to get out of the bathroom before Stefan would have to hurt his fists again.

He reached awkwardly for the dropped gun and placed it in the small of his back. They needed to get the fuck out of here. He wasn’t sure he’d be up to taking on the big guy in there with only one hand in use and holding up the victim too, and he sure as hell wasn’t using a gun. “What’s your name?”

“Kirby,” the victim said.

“Okay, Kirby, let’s get you out of here.”

They made it out of the bathroom and out to the waiting room. Luckily for Stefan and Kirby, it was as empty as it was five minutes ago. Swiftly, Stefan moved Kirby along, but then Kirby balked and stopped.

“Wait,” he said on a painful exhale.

“What? No waiting. We need to get you to a hospital.” Hell, we need to get me to a hospital.

“Please,” Kirby whispered. He yanked himself away from Stefan, and the only thing stopping him from hitting the floor was the departures board support.

Stefan grabbed him to stop him from falling, intensely aware of the blood all over Kirby’s sweater and jacket. Kirby was bleeding, but from God knew where. Stefan had seen a cop here earlier, doing his rounds, or maybe it was a security guard. They’d exchanged nods, but the man was nowhere to be seen now.

“The hospital,” Stefan said firmly. He’d call the cops once he knew Kirby wasn’t bleeding internally.

“No.” Kirby shook his head, his eyes closing. “Help me.” Using Stefan as a crutch, he lean-dragged himself away from the support.

Stefan sighed noisily. He had half an eye on the bathroom door behind them and half an eye on every other fucking thing. Who the hell was this Kirby guy, and why were three men—well, one at least—beating on him?

“Help you how? You need a hospital.”

“No, they’ll be killed. Please.”

Who? Who’ll be killed? “What do you need me to do?”

“To the door, to get them,” Kirby mumbled.

They made it to a side corridor, and a door marked Staff Only.

Kirby leaned on the door. “Thank you.”

“What’s in there?” Stefan asked. Kirby’s thank-you sounded suspiciously like a dismissal. “Drugs? Is this a drugs thing?”

Kirby shook his head, and Stefan took the time to catalog the contusions under the blood. The blood on his face was from a split lip and a wicked-looking cut over one eye, and it had matted the long dark hair that fell around his face. He was skinny, short, and weighed nothing, but there was a fire in his bright emerald eyes.

“Thank you,” he said again and then waited for Stefan to leave.

“Not going anywhere.” Stefan was following this through to find out what the hell was hidden in the room. He had a gun in his possession, a man who’d been beaten, and three goons who were clearly after something. Stefan wasn’t letting this go.

A hundred thoughts must have passed through Kirby’s head, and they all telegraphed in his expression. Fear, anger, and finally resignation—at least those were the ones that Stefan read.

“Who the hell are you?” Kirby’s words were mumbled around a swelling mouth.

Stefan thought on his feet and pulled out the ID that he never left at home, realizing at the last minute that he’d have to reach across his body, because his right hand was way past sore. “Stefan Mortimer, CIA.” He waved it in front of Kirby, who grabbed at it and held it still.

“Fuck,” Kirby muttered.

“So, tell me what’s going on?”

Kirby leaned back against the door, and he pushed a hand into his pocket.

Stefan tensed. What was Kirby trying to retrieve? He only relaxed when Kirby pulled out a security card, which he pressed against the keypad.

“I stole a card.” Kirby wasn’t apologizing, merely explaining. The door lock released, and Kirby went into the room, with Stefan close behind. They shut the door and Stefan flicked on the lights. He didn’t know what he would see, but when boxes moved of their own accord, he tensed. What the hell?

Kirby stumbled toward the boxes, fell to his knees, and gathered two small children into his arms. Stefan felt himself go slack-jawed.

Children?

Not drugs, then.

The little girl was making that noise Stefan’s nieces made when they were just about to go into full-on, blubbering tears, and Kirby held her closer, muttering words under his breath but gripping the small girl tightly.

Stefan stepped forward to ask questions, He stopped himself. Someone else would deal with this; someone who was better placed to care about the man who had been beaten up. The same man who held these two children like they were the most precious things in the world.

And now the little girl was sobbing into Kirby’s neck. Stefan sighed inwardly, his innate sense of making things right pushing to the front.

“What is this?” he asked, glancing back to the door, but there was no danger, nothing chasing them. No one had seen them come into the room.

Kirby said nothing.

“Kirby?” Stefan crouched down by the three of them, reaching out a hand toward the crying girl before drawing it back.

She was all about Kirby and probably wouldn’t want a stranger talking to her. Finally, Kirby released his tight hold and opened his eyes—deep, remorse-filled green. He made to stand, off balance with the added weight of the girl and what looked like a slightly older boy hanging around his neck. Stefan held out a hand, but Kirby managed to stand without his help. Evidently he was used to the extra ballast.

“I am so sorry,” he said. He had a soft Scottish accent, more obvious now he was calmer. Maybe Kirby was from Edinburgh itself, or at least close by. “I had to leave Louise and Andy in here when I saw them.”

“You mean the guys looking to take you out?”

Kirby shook his head. “You shouldn’t get involved. We’ll be fine now.” Stefan saw he was talking directly to the young boy who nodded mutely. This must be Andy.

“You might have a concussion.” Stefan’s field training kicked in. “We need to get you to a hospital.”

Kirby smiled up at Stefan, although he grimaced with the pain of it and the smile didn’t quite reach his eyes. “I don’t feel dizzy, just sore.”

Stefan wondered how much of a lie that was. Was he used to being beaten up? Hell, he couldn’t be more than a buck-sixty and at least six inches shorter than Stefan was.

“Just keep an eye on dizziness and feeling sick,” Stefan finally offered.

The little girl’s sobs had now reduced to hiccups, and huge blue eyes peeped at Stefan over Kirby’s shoulder: wet eyes with long lashes and tears sparkling in them.

“You’re bleeding,” Andy whispered. He touched Kirby’s face. “Did McLeod do that to you?”

“No.”

Andy added something with resigned perception. “Was it Bull or Tommy?”

Kirby nodded. “It’s okay, though,” he said. “This man helped me, helped us.”

Andy slipped out of Kirby’s hold and looked up at Stefan.

Stefan was tall, a couple of inches over six feet and aware that he was probably intimidating, considering his white sweater was darkened with Kirby’s blood. He copied what Kirby had done, crouching low again, and held out his good hand. “Hello.”

Andy held out a hand and shook Stefan’s gently, his touch light and wary. “I’m Andy, and this is my sister Louise. She’s four, nearly five, and I’m seven.”

“Nice to meet you, Andy. What do you say we get Kirby to the hospital, huh?”

“We’re not going to the hospital,” Kirby snapped.

Andy winced at the harsh and unyielding tone of it. “No hospital if Uncle Kirby says no.” He pulled back his thin shoulders as he spoke.

Stefan didn’t like to see a kid wince that way, in fear, and he recognized the bravery that followed. He looked at Kirby, at the blood, at the pale wash of heat on his high cheekbones and the pain that bracketed his eyes. “Yes, we are. You, me, the kids, are all getting checked out.”

“I can’t,” Kirby said a little desperately. “If we do….”

“He’ll find us,” Andy finished.

Stefan looked from Kirby to the little boy and back. “Who will? One of the guys I knocked out?”

Andy’s eyes widened. “You did? All of them? Bull as well?”

“Is Bull the big guy with no neck?” Stefan asked.

Andy nodded. “Aye.”

“Yeah,” Stefan said. “Even him.”

Andy’s eyes widened. “Really?”

Kirby moved between Stefan and Andy. He evidently wanted to cut off the fledgling hero worship. “We need to go,” he said. “The bairns and I, we need to go. Now.”

Stefan translated the word bairns to mean children. “Sorry, can’t do that,” he replied. “I need some answers, and I need them now before I call Security.”

If anything, Kirby’s face paled further at those words and Stefan saw his gaze dart guiltily to the door.

“I’m just taking my niece and nephew for a break,” Kirby said quickly and started to brush past Stefan.

“I don’t believe you.” Stefan gripped Kirby’s arms, startled at the sheer fear in the other man’s eyes and wondering whether, if he looked hard enough, he could find a glimmer of guilt.

“Let. Me. Go.” Kirby’s words had an edge to them, an edge of violence, and it was all Stefan could do not to scoop up the kids there and then. Violence in a man with children this small didn’t bear thinking about. “I don’t know who you are, but you need to leave me and the bairns alone,” Kirby said firmly, drawing himself as tall as he was able. “He can’t have them, and I swear if you try anything, I will call Security myself.”

“Who can’t have them? Is someone after you? Is it Child Protection? What are you trying to do?” Stefan asked.

“Leave us alone,” Kirby forced out, rubbing soothing motions into the girl’s back as she whimpered at his raised voice.

Stefan realized the more Kirby talked, the more involved Stefan became. Clearly there was an agenda here, and Stefan wasn’t sure he wanted to be a part of it. He wanted to know why a man and two children were being chased down. What was Kirby’s connection to the kids? And who the hell were Bull, Tommy, and Pacing Man? Kirby would be going to the hospital if Stefan had his way, but first things first, Stefan needed to assess this situation.

“I’m calling Security,” he decided. Something was wrong here, and he had to get the authorities involved.

Stefan didn’t see Kirby move or put the little girl down, but he sure as hell felt the punch that snapped his head back. He immediately went on the defensive, grabbing Kirby, twisting him around, and pressing him to the wall.

Kirby yelped in pain, but Stefan wasn’t letting go just yet. He felt tiny fists on his thighs.

“Leave him alone, let him go!”

Both kids were thumping him. Stefan loosened his hold, watching as Kirby slid down the wall, and the two children moved to stand between him and Kirby.

“Please,” Kirby said, “No police.”

The way he said police—poe-leece—was so soft, and pleading was clear in every cell of him.

“Don’t touch my uncle,” the boy snapped, fierceness in his expression.

Stefan held up his hands. “I won’t touch him.”

“Let us go,” Kirby murmured. “Go away so I can find somewhere safe.”

Stefan thought on his feet and crouched again, so he was on the same level as the kids. “I can help you, but you have to tell me something first.”

The boy frowned but didn’t lower his fists or step away from Kirby. “What?” he asked suspiciously.

“Is he really your uncle?”

The frown didn’t drop. “Yes.” The boy nudged the girl. “Tell him, Lou.”

“Tell him what?” The girl, Lou, didn’t have her fists up. Her eyes were bright with tears, but she was as brave as her brother, standing as a barrier between Kirby and Stefan.

“Tell him you want to stay with Uncle Kirby.”

She didn’t answer in words; she nodded, then slipped back and into Kirby’s arms.

Stefan eyed the tableau critically. “Okay, I’ll get you all away from here, as long as your uncle promises to see a doctor.”

“I will,” Kirby said. “Let us go, and I will go straight to a hospital when I can.”

Stefan didn’t like to point out the contradiction in going straight there and the added “when I can.” He would cross that bridge when he came to it.

“This is how it’s going to go,” Stefan began. “We’re leaving.” He stared past the small boy and into Kirby’s green eyes, wondering what kind of man Kirby was.

“We’re getting a train,” Kirby said.

“Not tonight, you’re not. They shut the station down, issues with snow.”

“Shit.” The curse was loud and made Lou wince.

“Why do those men want you, Kirby? What did you do, and whose kids are these?” There, that was all the questions Stefan had at this moment.

Kirby stared at him, holding the girl tight. Maybe Kirby wasn’t bleeding internally, but he looked like shit. Kirby stumbled to stand, using the wall to support himself. Stefan took a step closer, and, in response, Kirby moved to one side, his hands on Andy’s shoulders, his legs hitting boxes. He looked scared and defiant, and he stepped forward so he was between Stefan and the children as much as he could be.

Andy still had his hands clenched at his sides, and there was a scowl on his face. “McLeod hurt Daddy, stuck a knife in him and made him fall down,” Andy said. “We saw him do it.”

Stefan looked from Andy to Kirby and put two and two together immediately. The kid’s dad was knifed, and the uncle was taking them from Edinburgh? Jesus, this was worse than he thought. “The children are witnesses to something?”

Kirby nodded mutely, and the horror of what was happening here hit Stefan. This was stupid; they needed to call the cops.

“An’ Uncle Kirby was keeping us safe,” Andy added. “Don’t you hurt him.”

Stefan shook his head, as struck dumb as Kirby was. The pain in his wrist was more of a dull ache, so it clearly wasn’t that bad. Either that or adrenaline was numbing him. Wouldn’t be the first time. He had to trust Kirby and his niece and nephew were in danger, and this was what Stefan did best—he handled threats, and he looked out for people.

“We need to get you out of here. Where’s your car?”

Kirby blinked at him. “We were going to…. I don’t have a car.”

“Okay. I have one. I’m in the main parking area.” He stopped talking and instead internalized all the steps needed to get Kirby and the children to his waiting car and then the authorities. By now the three men he’d dealt with would be awake. “Follow me and stay behind me. Okay?”

“Uncle Kirby?” Andy said from behind him.

“It’s okay, Andy. You remember the rules.”

“Aye, run, and if they catch me, I scream right loud, like a girl.”

The kid looked so earnest. His short dark hair was in a messy pile of sticking-up bits, his eyes were damp, but he’d spoken with complete determination.

Kirby nodded. “And stay with me.”

Andy looked up at Stefan. “You a bad guy who’s good?”

What Stefan landed himself in, he didn’t know, but hell if he was abandoning one skinny man with intriguing green eyes and two small kids.

A bad guy was not who he was. He was a typical good guy, who was quite happy being the bad guy if it kept innocent civilians safe. That was who Stefan Mortimer was.

And he was excellent at his job.

Chapter Two

Kirby held Louise tight and eased over one shoulder the backpack he’d left in the room with his niece and nephew. The burn was intense. Tommy had hit his mark each time. God knows what would have happened if Bull had joined in. Kirby should thank the heavens that Stefan had found them before he ended up a bloody mess or worse on a bathroom floor. They wanted Andy and Louise, and there was no way Kirby would crack and tell them where they were.

“Come on, Andy, he won’t hurt us,” Kirby lied. How the hell would he know what this superhero was going to do? He was CIA, but that wasn’t a cop, so he wouldn’t know who McLeod was, wouldn’t know how bad this situation was for Andy and Louise. He held out a hand to Andy, which the child took immediately.

“I’ll take the boy,” Stefan ordered, attempting to wrest Kirby’s grip from Andy.

Andy shouted a sharp “No!”

“What the hell? Stop it! For God’s sake, you’re scaring him,” Kirby snarled, his free hand coming out to block Stefan’s movement.

They stood staring at each other.

“I’m scaring him?” Stefan sounded incredulous. “How can I be scaring him? I’m trying to help him.”

“Just be gentle.” Kirby’s voice was determined, firm, but it wasn’t enough to get Stefan to stand down. At this point, Kirby wasn’t sure that anything he could say would make Stefan stand down. Kirby’s voice was low, his hand raised, palm upward, entreating Stefan not to make a fuss. As Stefan moved again, Kirby switched suddenly from simply telling to instant pleading. “Please, don’t hurt him. Just help us out of here.”

Stefan looked confused for a moment, and then, more carefully, he held out his hands. Andy looked from Kirby to Stefan before accepting the lift up. He curled into Stefan’s neck.

“Uncle Kirby?” Louise’s voice was so low that Stefan almost missed it. “I’m thirsty.”

The little girl was oblivious to most of what had happened today, but however used to the violence she was, she had to be scared and uncertain, and in turn, Kirby had to be the strong one. It broke his heart to hear her soft voice. “We’ll get you a drink soon, sweetie. You’re going to be okay?”

She nodded. Then it was clearly time to go. With the silent impasse, the tension curling between the two men, Kirby waited as Stefan opened the door a crack to peer outside.

“It’s clear,” Stefan announced.

Kirby wanted to ask him if he was sure, but he didn’t. Stefan was CIA; he must know what he was doing. More so than Kirby, general fuck-up and a waste of space, would.

Stefan turned back to him. “New rules. You stay with me, you don’t run off, we find the cops, and we sort this out.”

Kirby’s world shifted. “No, I can’t. We can’t. Please.” If the cops knew he was here, if they knew about McLeod, and Robbie, they would take one look at Kirby and take Andy and Louise. He wasn’t going to let that happen.

“What?” Stefan frowned.

“No cops, please. Just let me get them safe.”

Then what? Kirby asked himself. He didn’t even know what the fuck he was doing. Getting a train from Edinburgh to freaking anywhere hadn’t gone well so far after the snow had canceled so many departures.

“We need to report this,” Stefan persisted.

“I’ll explain everything. Just get us away.” Pain knifed through him from his chest, which Louise’s weight pressed on, and he couldn’t help the gasp of pain. “Please.”

Stefan stared at him, incredulous, and clearly two seconds away from calling emergency services and bringing the full weight of the law down on the idiot who thought he could fix everything.

“I’m not promising anything.”

“Then I will take them and run.”

“Fu—freaking idiot.” Stefan corrected his cursing. “People want to hurt you.”

“Not as much as I want to hurt them,” Kirby snapped.

Stefan’s lips tightened, He relaxed and exhaled noisily. He’d clearly read something in Kirby’s expression, probably the evidence that Kirby was not taking this to the cops.

“Okay, but the minute I think—”

“Thank you,” Kirby interrupted.

Stefan peered back out of the door. “Walk normally,” he said under his breath. “Hide your face.”

Kirby didn’t argue. He tried to walk as normally as he could despite every part of him screaming that he should run fast and far. He hid the bruises on his face and the blood that pooled at his throat behind Louise’s long hair and hoped to hell no one stopped them.

They made it out of the waiting area, and Kirby refused to look at the door to the bathrooms. What if McLeod was awake, or Tommy and Bull? With what Andy and Louise knew, those guys weren’t going to let them get away.

They crossed two roads before entering the parking lot. Kirby wanted to look around them, wanted to ensure Robbie and his goons weren’t waiting for them, but he didn’t. With absolute focus, he followed Stefan, walking just a few feet behind him, fixated entirely on the slightly limping walk that Stefan had going on.

That man was a goddamn hero; he’d dispatched McLeod and Tommy—not to mention Bull—in just a few simple movements. He was capable and clever, and he’d get them out of here. They reached a large black 4×4, and the sound of the doors unlocking was loud in the nearly empty part of the parking lot.

With quick motions, both men had the back doors open. Only then did Kirby realize there were no car seats. He closed his eyes briefly. They needed car seats. His eyes caught Stefan’s, and he knew that was the least of their worries. He strapped Louise in, watched as Stefan did the same with Andy, and then they climbed into the front.

“Please drive safely,” Kirby murmured. “Don’t hurt the bairns.”

Stefan cast him a quick glance that spoke volumes. If looks could kill, Kirby would be dead already.

Efficiently, Stefan had them out of the parking lot and onto the main road until the glow of the city receded and they were on the M8 driving southwest. Stefan kept checking his mirror.

“Are we being followed?” Kirby asked.

“No, I can’t see that we are.”

“You can drop us anywhere.” Kirby looked back at Andy and Louise, both dozing in the belts. “Soon. I don’t like them in the car without seats.”

“Seems like the least of your worries,” Stefan commented evenly. “Want to tell me what the fuck just happened?”

Kirby shook his head and faced front. “Drop us off at a bus stop or something.”

“Of course I can do that,” Stefan said.

Kirby sighed with relief; he’d been expecting Stefan to argue. “Thank you.”

“As soon as you tell me where you’re going. What bus stop should I be dropping you at?”

Shit. Kirby should have known that Stefan wasn’t letting this lie. He thought on his feet. “I have family in Jedburgh,” he lied.

“No, you don’t.”

“I do.”

“Kirby, stop. I’m not dropping you or the children anywhere for some freaking bus at nearly eleven at night. It’s freezing out there. You’d last five minutes.” They stopped at a junction, and Stefan crossed his hands on the wheel as they waited for the lights to change. He seemed to be favoring his right hand, and it looked swollen. Had he hurt it trying to help Kirby? “Stop messing about. What do you need?”

“No cops.”

“I got that. What do you need?”

“Sleep. Somewhere for the children to sleep, somewhere I can clean up. To think.”

Stefan nodded. “Finally, the truth.” He pulled into a gas station and cut the engine. “Stay here. I’ll be back in five minutes.”

Kirby nodded mutely. Where the hell would he go? Take Andy and Louise and run. But run where? Stefan had stopped in the middle of freaking nowhere, despite being on the main road. The snow was persistent but not heavy, the roads were still white with it, and anyone passing would be unlikely to pick them up. Was Stefan in there calling the police?

Stefan came back pretty quickly, with a carrier bag of stuff that he stowed next to Kirby’s seat. Kirby didn’t ask about the police; he had to trust Stefan. They left the service station and took the next road winding out into the countryside, with Stefan visibly looking for something in particular. They ended up driving for about ten minutes, and the outskirts of a small town began to emerge on the otherwise deserted road. The sign read “Livingstone,” and there was a Premier Inn. Stefan went in, paid, then drove to the rear of the hotel, parking the car under the trees by the snowdrifts against the wall, around a corner and out of sight of anyone happening to pass.

The man who had saved them had skills.

“We can go in the rear.” Stefan took the carrier bag, opened the back door and scooped up a dozing Andy, who murmured in his sleep, then woke and wriggled to be let down. Stefan let him slip to the ground as Kirby picked up the sleeping Louise. Soon the four of them had made their way through the rear entrance with their key card, and up one flight of stairs to room 210.

Kirby didn’t know what he was doing. Why did he trust this man? What secrets would he have to keep to stay safe? Fuck, how were they in a hotel room with a strange man?

What had happened to keeping his head down and staying alive?

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RJ Scott has been writing since age six when she was made to stay in at lunchtime for an infraction involving cookies and was told to write a story. Two sides of A4 about a trapped princess later, a lover of writing was born. She reads anything from thrillers to sci-fi to horror; however, her first real love will always be the world of romance. From billionaires, bodyguards and cowboys to SEALs, throwaways and veterinarians, she writes passionate stories with a heart of romance, a troubled road to reach happiness, and more than a hint of happily ever after.


 

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Book Blast & Giveaway! RUSTIC MOMENT by Nic Starr

Title: Rustic Moment
Series: Rustic #3
Author: Nic Starr
Genre: M/M Romance
Release Date: April 15, 2016

Betrayal, heartbreak, and financial ruin are only the beginning.
The last few months have been tough on Grant Parnell. He discovered his boyfriend was having an affair and it’s taken its toll, both emotionally and financially. With his business facing ruin, Grant could lose everything.

Dave Monroe is excited to start a new phase of his life. He’s following his dream and pursuing an exciting career opportunity. When Grant visits his friends in the country and finds out Dave might be moving to Melbourne, he offers him a place to stay. For Dave, life’s looking good.

Dave had only met Grant a couple of times before moving in with him, but the simmering sexual attraction is undeniable. As he settles into Grant’s home, deeper feelings develop. It’s hard not to fall for Grant’s gorgeous exterior, but it’s the strong man underneath who captures Dave’s heart.

Grant always craved success. His business and his home are testament to just how far he’s come, proving his family wrong and making something of himself—or he had. Now everything is falling apart. As Grant’s world spirals out of control, Dave is the one sure thing in his life.

But if they are to have any chance at happiness, Dave will need to teach Grant what’s really important.


“I said no.”
 
Grant’s voice was loud enough to travel down the hall. Dave immediately tensed at the tone. He couldn’t tell if Grant was angry or just being firm, but his words were clear. “This is the last time I want to have this conversation. You aren’t welcome here anymore.”
 
“I just want to know what you said to Douglas.” The answering voice was menacing, and Dave’s hackles rose.
 
Who on earth is that?
 
Dave placed the milk bottle on the benchtop and edged closer to the doorway. Grant could no doubt take care of himself, but Dave wanted to be close at hand. Just in case.
 
In case of what?
 
It didn’t matter what, it only mattered that Dave make sure Grant was okay, and the stranger’s voice didn’t sound anywhere near okay.
 
“What are you talking about? I haven’t spoken to Doug in weeks. In fact, if you know how to contact him, maybe you can tell him to call, and that I need to speak to him and sort out some crap.”
 
“I know you’ve said something. He told me you were trying to shaft him and get rid of him from the business. Then he went overseas, and now he’s come back and doesn’t want to see me.”
 
“So he’s back, then?”
 
“Don’t pretend you don’t already know.”
 
“I’m not pretending anything. How many times do I have to tell you I haven’t seen or spoken to Doug? We haven’t exchanged so much as an email. Okay, well, maybe that’s not quite true. I’ve sent him emails and letters, but he hasn’t replied. If he doesn’t want to see you, John, that’s between you and him. It has nothing to do with me. I’ve told you before—you’re welcome to each other.”
 
“Don’t you dare—”
 
“Get your hands off me.”
 
Dave didn’t wait to hear any more. Before he was even conscious of moving, he was striding down the hallway, and was bloody glad he’d done it. Grant was shoved up against the wall. A guy—John, the ex-boyfriend?—gripped him by the upper arms and yelled in his face.
 
“Hold it right there. Get your fucking hands off him,” Dave growled.
 
Shocked eyes met his as John looked his way and instinctively dropped his hands. “I… ah….”
 
“Step away. Now.”
 
John hesitated for a moment, looking between Grant and Dave.
 
Dave didn’t take his eyes off John, watching the man’s every move. “I said now.”
Nic Starr lives in Australia where she tries to squeeze as much into her busy life as possible. Balancing the demands of a corporate career with raising a family and writing can be challenging but she wouldn’t give it up for the world.
 
Always a reader, the lure of m/m romance was strong and she devoured hundreds of wonderful m/m romance books before eventually realising she had some stories of her own that needed to be told!
 
When not writing or reading, she loves to spend time with her family-an understanding husband and two beautiful daughters, and is often found indulging in her love of cooking and planning her dream home in the country.
 
You can find Nic on Facebook, Twitter and her blog. She’d love it if you stopped by to say hi.

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GIVEAWAY: Perihelion by Tami Vendura

cover (1)

Blurb:

Kato Ozark, crown prince and soldier, has just been chosen to pilot his family’s queenship. He’s trained his entire life for this honor, but it comes with a catch. It seems that First Engineer Mas’ud Tavana has also been chosen as the queen’s pilot. Mas’ud has no formal training, and they both believe a mistake has been made. But when an attack on a distant Ozark queen forces them to work together, it’s clear their minds are better as one than apart.

They might even go on a proper date. Through mission briefings and politically required offspring, the mental link their queenship forges between them only grows stronger. Within this bond they find strength in each other. Then a rogue AI attacks their ship, ripping the queen open to the core. The two pilots feel it all; the assault destroys their connection and tears them adrift into open space.

Kato and Mas’ud wake up in the medical bay of a rival family with no memory of their queenship or each other. Hailed as a war hero, Kato retrains as a kingship pilot, preparing to defend Earth against the AI. Mas’ud, dismissed as permanently broken, struggles to rediscover his own truth.

Their queenship is out there, waiting for her pilots to come home. The future of their family depends on it.

Content Warnings: Violence

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This story was written for the MM Romance Goodreads Group Love is an Open Road event.

What Is Love is an Open Road?

An extension of the Don’t Read in the Closet event from the M/M Romance Group at Goodreads.com, the event is a collection of free M/M short stories, novellas and novels. These stories were written by authors/members of the GoodReads M/M Romance group, for the 2015 Love is an Open Road event. They are based on photographs and prompts provided by members of the same group.

GIVEAWAY

Giveaway: Runs until 4/10, 3 prizes

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter

Download links:

You can download your copy from the MM Romance Group site at:

Perihelion by Tami Veldura ♥

If you would prefer to support the author, you can purchase a copy:

Amazon: [universal link]

AllRomanceEbooks: [link]

Barnes & Noble: [link]

Apple iTunes: [link]

Kobo: [link]

Scribd: [link]

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Smashwords: [link]

About the Author

Tami Veldura bio picTami Veldura is a writer, reader, lover, and artist. She currently resides in sunny California. She writes queer science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and YA fiction.

 

Website: www.tamiveldura.com
Goodreads: Tami Veldura
Twitter: @tamiveldura
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Instagram: tamiveldura
Patreon: Tami Veldura
Email: tamiveldura@gmail.com

 

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GIVEAWAY: Awakening by Megs Pritchard

Awakening-crossing Desires BK 1

Author Name: Megs Pritchard

Book Name: Awakening

Series: Crossing Desires

Book: One

Release Date: March 6, 2016

Blurb:

Tony likes women. Always has. Always will. So when he wakes up in a strange bed after a drunken night out, he isn’t too concerned.

Thinking he’d scored with a woman from the club he’d been in the night before, he was shocked and horrified when he realized he was in a man’s bed. Naked.

What the hell happened last night?

With that question in mind, Tony quickly leaves before seeing the man he spent the night with, but in his haste leaves something important behind.

When the man he spent the night with calls him, Tony realizes that he has to meet him in order to get back what he left and that maybe he might not be as straight as he once thought.

With his brother’s help, Tony begins to question what he thought he knew about his sexuality and where the answer to that question might lead him.

Continue reading

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GUEST POST: Herc and Pyotr by Atom Yang

Herc & Pyotr COVER

Blurb

Herc thought he had the perfect life: a great partner and a meaningful career as a psychotherapist—until his partner left him a week ago and Herc became too depressed to see his clients. When a random meteorite punched a tidy hole in his car’s engine, it seemed like the world had it in for him, but bumping into Pyotr, the handsome older man who’s moved in a couple of doors down and happens to study things like falling stars, things might be looking up for Herc—and more may be falling than the skies in this light-hearted, apocalyptic romance.

Guest Post – Oh, for Namesake!

In high school, I remember learning how James Joyce named his protagonist in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man “Stephen Dedalus,” after the mythological hero Daedalus—a brilliant inventor who created wings to escape a labyrinth with his son, Icarus, who didn’t fare as well as his father because he flew too close to the sun and melted his wings, leading him to fall to his death. Joyce’s previous choice for a surname had been “Hero.”

This had a huge influence on me, as I had been asked since I could answer about my real name by people who assumed that my name in English was some pseudonym (trust me, it isn’t and it’s on my birth certificate), and that I had a Chinese name full of deep meaning compared to their names which they believed had long become devoid of any meaning. Even if “Christopher” meant “Christ-Bearer,” my Western friends were more likely to have been given the name because their parents liked it, or maybe a relative had it (so it had sentimental but not etymological meaning).

It seems funny that their fascination with my Chinese name (which is Romanized and used as my middle name) probably made a few of them decide to tattoo their bodies with Chinese characters in some grammatically incorrect way in their adulthood, because it had more meaning than the English word for “peace.” Or it looked cooler (I think the word is actually exotic.)

Anyway, my point is that, after having been asked what my name(s) meant, or why I was given my English name, it was refreshing to see someone like James Joyce of the Western canon pay attention to the importance of names in his stories, and the act of naming as a novelist.

When I wrote my latest book, Herc & Pyotr, I picked names that would resonate with fans of disaster movies, as the story took place within MLR Press’s Storming Love series of disaster romances.

Knowing that I’d have to write about meteors made my mind jump immediately to that lovely piece of cinema known as Meteor (released in 1979 and a co-production of American International Pictures and the legendary Shaw Brothers of Hong Kong)—the two missile systems used to destroy the eponymous meteor were called Hercules (United States) and Peter the Great (USSR). Incidentally, the movie was inspired by research at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) about meteors hitting Earth called “Project Icarus,” because asteroids and such can be pulled into the sun’s orbit, and on their way down, crash into planets like ours. Even scientists have a flare for mythological nomenclature.

In my story, I did go with the Russian spelling of Pyotr in English (did that make sense?), and shortened Hercules’ name, which I think makes it more fun for readers who enjoy discovering “Easter eggs” or hidden references in a story (and there are plenty in my work). See if you catch the nod to U2’s song, “Until the End of the World,” from Wim Wenders’s film, Until the End of the World.

The other notable appellation in Herc & Pyotr is Nestori. It’s the Finnish version of “Nestor,” who was one of Hercules’ best friends. With Nestori named, and the inclusion of a Russian-American character, it wasn’t long before I decided on the cultural context for my story, and after much research and interviewing, I learned a lot about Finnish, Swedish, and Russian culture, especially how they adapted to being in the States.

Names have magic, and so does the act of naming. When I write, I never take lightly what I and my readers will call the characters, because I want the experience of my stories to be encompassing and meaningful, from the punctuation on the page to the name of each person.

I had a writing teacher once accuse me of being a puzzle-maker like Joyce and not like her hero and master of minimalism, Raymond Carver, who was straightforward. I’d like to think that my stories work on different levels, and of myself as a wrapper of gifts rather than a creator of mazes. However, even if I were to create mazes, riddles, and puzzles—I seem to remember those things as being fun.

And “Raymond” means “King of the World.” Add that to “Carver” and you have a really interesting name!

Excerpt

Chapter One

I took care of my car.

Regular maintenance, oil changes, carwashes–the works. I figured I’d sell it one day, and I didn’t want it to have a scratch or a sticker to drop its value, let alone anything wrong mechanically. Everything worked on it–the power windows, radio, CD player…until today.

“Great,” I said, staring at the fist-sized hole in the hood. I clicked my key fob and turned off the alarm. A few of the neighbors came out and turned off their car alarms, too, that had been set off by the very loud boom that shook all of our windows early this spring morning.

“Jeez, Herc, what happened?” Nestori, my friend and neighbor down the way, stood there with his blond bed head, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He wore a rumpled white tee, sweatpants, and socks–we were dressed alike except I had slippers. Maybe I appeared as lost as he did. Or worse, since I hadn’t changed my clothes since the beginning of the week.

“I don’t know.” I gawked at the smoking hole. “Lightning?” I pieced together the evidence I had, and only came up with a timeline that started with a crash, followed by my car alarm, then a couple of minutes later the aforementioned boom, and finally the other cars being triggered. “A frozen turd from an airplane?”

“Are you serious? Holy shit.”

“Ha ha.”

“What?” His golden eyebrows crinkled together, and then he grinned. “Oh.”

“To be fair, it did fall from the sky.” Everybody huddled closer to peer into the puncture. “I don’t know. I don’t even know who I should call about this.”

“What about Jason?”

Nestori’s innocent question should’ve felt like a sucker punch, but the numbness from seeing my killed car protected me. “He left last week. We’re not together anymore.”

“Bro. Why didn’t you say anything?”

Because you would’ve wanted to get me drunk and laid.

“I would’ve totally come over with a bottle of Jack and helped you get some D, man.”

“So that’s why I haven’t seen him jogging for a while.” Pihla, the widow who lived across the street, had the perkiest personality–and breasts–in our neighborhood. “I thought he left on a business trip.” She wore a pink satin robe over a pink nightie with matching pink slippers. A small, thin, gold cross on a gold chain stuck out sideways from her cleavage and wobbled back and forth, unable to rest flat. Her son, Sami, clung to her leg, his head just above her knee, avoiding eye contact like some toddlers do. This suburban Madonna in pink held a mug of expensive coffee I could smell and envy from where I stood, and rested her French manicured hand on her shy boy’s head. By the way she had batted her eyes at Jason during block parties, or how she happened to pick up the morning paper from her driveway when he’d jog past, I always thought she had a crush on my partner.

Ex. I meant ex-partner.

“Yeah, he didn’t leave on a business trip. He just left me.” I wondered if I died inside my home from choking on a chicken bone while eating, single and alone, how long it would take for my neighbors to notice my dead, bachelor body. I thought I smelled something funny, one would say a week later. Jeez, what happened? another would ask. Who the hell cares? my ghost would spell out on a Ouija board, life sucks.

“Meteorite,” said a faintly accented voice from the crowd. Slavic, I would guess.

“Whoa! You think a meteor hit Herc’s car?” Nestori asked. “How do you know?”

Meteorite,” the voice gently corrected. “It’s a meteorite when it lands. I saw everything as I was jogging this morning.”

“Meteorite,” I mumbled. My geek brain fetched a personal wiki page from when I wrote a report in sixth grade about asteroids crashing into Earth and destroying all life, because I’ve always been a cheery person. The word disaster” comes from the Italian disastro, meaning “ill-starred event.”

Why couldn’t it have been a pretty shooting star that vaporized all sparkly in the atmosphere, so I could make a wish? Instead, it’d dropped a deuce on my perfectly maintained car.

The hole in the hood gaped back at me, and I thought about the day Jason left. He had requested I park on the street instead of in the garage, so he’d be able to get his things out of the house without too much trouble.

I should make a wish anyway.

Something realistic, not like true love and a happy-ever-after ending with a handsome, emotionally intelligent man, because that obviously doesn’t happen. How about a nice pair of shoes? Good shoes are more reliable than men.

“I’m sorry this happened,” the voice said, this time to my left. “There have been worldwide reports of meteor strikes over the past few weeks.”

I turned and came eye to eye with the concerned face of a middle-aged man only slightly taller than me. He wore a red baseball cap and his black hair, lined with a few strands of gray, escaped his hat around his ears and a little over his forehead. His color-coordinated stubble, speckled with silver, defined a square jaw and framed full lips. Perspiration darkened his loose, gray shirt, forming something like a Rorschach inkblot in the center of his defined chest. Despite the smell of engine oil and gasoline coming from my mortally wounded car, the scent of his clean sweat cut through and woke me from my daze.

“Hi, I’m Pyotr. I moved here last week.” He offered me a firm handshake and a smile, and returned to surveying the damage to my car, his hands on his hips. “You should probably call your insurance and not your ex. I work from home a few days a week, so if you need a ride, let me know? I live down the street.” He started running lightly in place. His feet were bare, which I hadn’t noticed.

“Thanks for the offer…Pee-yo-ter. I may take you up on it.”

“Please do.” Pyotr smiled again, nodded a succinct farewell, and trotted off.

“Yeah, if you need a ride…” Nestori and a few neighbors offered, but I didn’t pay attention.

I was busy making an unrealistic wish. And it wasn’t for shoes.

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About the Author

Atom Yang PICAtom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character, in case you were wondering.

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GUEST POST: Double Scoop by Clare London

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DoubleScoopFSTITLE: Double Scoop

SERIES: With a Kick #8

AUTHOR: Clare London

PUBLISHER: Jocular Press

COVER ARTIST: Lou Harper

LENGTH: 45,000 words

RELEASE DATE: April 07, 2016

BLURB: A sudden disaster strikes everyone’s favourite ice cream shop, With A Kick. Not only does it threaten the livelihood of its owner, Patrick, but also his loyal assistant Lee. The last thing in the world Patrick would ever want to do is hurt Lee, either physically or emotionally. Why would he? He’s been falling in love with Lee since the day Lee invited himself into the shop’s business and Patrick’s life. But familiar and deeply-held insecurities hold Patrick back – he’s too gruff for Lee, too old, and his labour-of-love business is never going to make him rich.

Lee is weary of trying to make Patrick see how much he admires and cares for him. To Lee, it’s a very straightforward situation. Patrick is sexy, Patrick is smart, Patrick needs Lee’s help – and Lee needs Patrick in his life as more than a boss. All the characteristics Patrick finds inhibiting, Lee finds attractive. However, if Patrick’s apparently never going to make a move on Lee, how long should Lee wait to make his own move? Maybe Patrick thinks Lee is too clingy, too immature. Maybe Lee should give up his romantic hopes completely. If, that is, he can bear to do it.

The disaster at the shop brings them a whole new opportunity to work – and love – together to make a go of things. They’ve both got to look at each other in a whole new way. With the help of all their With A Kick friends, this could be make or break for the reluctant couple!

GuestPost

Happy Ever After… at last?

The With A Kick series is 8 books down… and hopefully still counting! It’s a joy to write about the wide variety of characters who live and work around the Soho area of London. And there’s always more inspiration for me and Sue Brown to find love and life stories to write about.

But the guys in Double Scoop seem to have been waiting a long time for their story! Patrick and Lee have been working at the shop since it opened. In fact, although it’s Patrick’s name on the lease, and he lives above the shop, Lee was the one to persuade him to go into business in the first place. We learn a little more about how they met in this book. Patrick readily admits he fancied Lee from the start – and Lee seemed to be equally attracted to Patrick in return.

And they’ve been working together ever since. In the same shop, most days of the week, throughout the working day and often on into the evenings, when they have meals and movie nights together. So… what’s been the delay in them getting together?

It’s a topic I often return to in my books – the characters’ own misgivings. Who hasn’t felt nervous in a new relationship? That they should be on their best behaviour? That the other person won’t like you if they know you, warts and all? Patrick is one of the worst offenders at this. He’s had a rocky dating history, and is conscious of approaching forty. He doesn’t think he’s particularly charming or smooth-talking, and he’s far from rich. So why on earth would a young, lively, hot guy like Lee be interested in him?

Personally, I think people should be alert to any opportunities, and trust themselves to believe in good fortune when it comes their way. What do *you* think?

Excerpt

 

Patrick liked this time of morning in London. It was still too cold in February to do without a jacket and scarf, but otherwise he savoured the onset of spring and the pale, bright sun that glistened off the pavements. He took deep, regular breaths, measuring a circular route around Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, pacing himself slower than he would have done when he was younger. It allowed him to take proper note of life happening around him. His friends preferred to travel to St James Park or Green Park, and run around a greener space, but Patrick lived and belonged here in Soho, and never sought anywhere else. He absorbed the exotic mixture of a new day’s aroma: diesel taxi fumes, the crinkled pages of old books, grocery store spices, lingering pub beer, and fried food being cooked at the fast food venues already awake and serving breakfast. He wasn’t a man to wax lyrical at the best of times, but he loved London with a passion.

Sufficiently exercised and with his appetite now fully awake and clamouring for coffee and food, he cut through the streets towards home. Turning the final corner, he slowed to a brisk walk, then stopped. He leaned on a street lamp, regaining his breath and easing his muscles. The front window of With A Kick was already in view with its stylish red paintwork and matching awning. Patrick took a moment longer just to stand and look at it. Every day was the same: the feelings of pride and excitement just as strong. Only a few years ago, he’d been a teacher, aiming for Assistant Head, and planning out the twenty-odd years to early retirement. Good grief. What a boring life in comparison to now!

He laughed wryly to himself. Amazing how ambition could be kickstarted by the end of a lacklustre romance and a previously secure job slipping away. Eighteen months ago, he’d been saddened but not surprised by his boyfriend Rafe moving on—they’d been drifting more out than into each other’s life for months. He’d also seen the writing on the wall about his school having to make redundancies. It had still surprised him how willingly he accepted his when it was offered. He’d always thought of himself as a man who planned and relied on a steady routine, yet in the space of a couple of months, he found himself single again, out of work and slightly depressed from the culture shock. It was as if the whole bloody world had crashed, as opposed to… what? ‘An opportunity for new adventures and new challenges’, his late dad would have said. His dad had always been a glass-half-full man. Patrick remembered him fondly.

Then things had slowly but steadily fallen into place for him. Now he was an entrepreneur of sorts and, look, his latest ice cream creations were displayed in the window of his own shop, on one of Lee’s brightly coloured posters!

Lee.

That was another thing that never changed: the small lurch of excitement in his gut when he thought of his friend and assistant in With A Kick. Patrick sighed, not at the overall thought of Lee—and Lee’s youth, and good looks, and energy, and cheeky jokes, and slim hips that he swayed outrageously when he was showing off in the shop, and that sexy, sexy grin… anyway, not all that, which Patrick had to admit never ceased to cheer him up every morning in the shop. No, the sigh was for the thoughts that inevitably followed. The ones that reminded him he hadn’t found much success with romance, that he was much older than Lee, much less good looking in a very bear-y type of way, much more tired of life, and with a grin that he couldn’t ever remember anyone saying was sexy

Good God. Enough self-pity for the morning! Lee had plenty of attention from other guys, he didn’t need his nearly-forty year old boss coming onto him as well like some besotted, horny teenager. Besides, Patrick had his commitment to the business to keep him busy, and that was no hardship now that they were starting to make proper money. Yes, when he thought of With A Kick, he did think of “they”. Lee and he were together in running the shop, at least.

“Patrick! Good morning.”

Patrick turned and recognised Mr Amsel from the German café across the way, waving at him. Next to the elderly shopkeeper, a wiry young man straightened up from where he’d been crouching beside a pile of boxes. He was also smiling. Patrick waved back at them both. The community spirit among his fellow traders was one of the best things in his life nowadays. The young man, Curtis, was a regular supplier and odd-job man for all of the businesses around here, and Patrick made a mental note to chat to him about replacement tablecloths. Lee had suggested a funkier design, to match a range of ice cream flavours based on musical styles that Patrick was working on at the moment. And if anyone could get something new and unusual for the shop at a good price, it’d be Curtis. Patrick wasn’t in the mood for negotiation before his morning coffee, but he was sure Curtis would call into With A Kick later on for a mug of tea and a ‘Pluck and Play’, his favourite ice. He’d talk to him then.

He glanced back down the road, where the With A Kick shop-front light had just flickered on. Lee must be in early today. Patrick thought he’d declared it was his turn to open up, but he had to admit the thought of Lee bustling around inside the shop had Patrick happily quickening his step.

An alleyway ran down the side of the shop to the kitchen exit, and by the time he reached it, he’d decided they should talk to Curtis about getting some new shot glasses too. Bookings for adults-only, night time parties at With A Kick were really taking off. Out of the corner of his eye, he registered the kitchen light snapping on as well, and the thought of a hot, strong cup of coffee warmed his thoughts. Maybe Mr A would like to quote Patrick for some hot party snacks as well—

The sudden boom took his breath away: a burst of deep, throaty noise, gusting the air past Patrick’s head like the kick back from a jet. A mini tornado, belching without warning from the kitchen door, and bursting up the alleyway and onto the street.

Rubbish bags, stacked against With A Kick’s outside wall, tumbled and rolled as if tossed by giant hands. Loose packaging swirled up in a murky maelstrom, spinning and spiralling into the sky. A pavement display clattered to the ground across the road, and a passing bicycle swerved sharply in front of Patrick with a screech of brakes. A dog started barking furiously.

Patrick had been thrown backwards into the street, and staggered, trying to keep his balance. Someone behind him screamed; he watched the shocked cyclist’s mouth make the shape of “What the fuck was that?” His eyes stung; his hearing was muffled. A youngster began to wail loudly. Stunned for those few seconds, Patrick was unable to move, unable to think clearly. Voices reached him, but all the words were garbled.

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AuthorBio

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Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with the weekly wash, waiting for the far distant day when she can afford to give up her day job as an accountant. She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

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TourSchedule

April 11: Because Two Men Are Better Than One :: UK Gay Romance

April 12: RJ Scott :: Diverse Reader

April 13: Rainbow Book Reviews

April 14: MM Good Book Reviews :: Drops of Ink

April 15: Sue Brown :: Loving Without Limits

April 18: Joyfully Jay

April 19: Alpha Book Club :: Hearts on Fire

April 20: Elisa – My reviews and Ramblings :: Bayou Book Junkie :: Love Bytes Reviews

April 21: The Purple Rose Tea House :: Nautical Star Books :: MM Book Escape

April 22: Rick R. Reed :: TTC Books and More :: The Novel Approach