Release Blitz

The Harder We Fall by Rebecca Raine

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Release Blitz, Excerpt & Giveaway: The Harder We Fall By Rebecca Raine

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For years, I’ve been bound by sleeplessness and sorrow. His voice threatens to set me free.

Insomnia. It’s part of the penance I pay for my greatest mistake. But when an ill-timed doze behind the wheel of my car nearly introduces me to a pole, I know something has to change.

Sleep with Me, a locally-made meditation app, promises a cure. I don’t expect it to work. Nor do I expect to become enthralled by the voice of its creator, Sam Stephenson. His ability to coax forth my nightly surrender is unnerving. I have to meet this man and learn the secret behind his techniques, so I can evict him from my head—and still get a good night’s sleep.

In person, the quiet and reclusive Sam is his own kind of complicated. He needs my business skills as much as I need his meditation skills and we forge an unlikely partnership. But the attraction between us soon flares into passion and, as we grow closer, I start to long for more than my guilty conscience will allow.

I have no right to love, not after the damage I’ve done. How can I give Sam all he deserves, when our chance at a happy ending was ruined before we even met?

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Excerpt:

“You know, openly gay men don’t usually spend so much time in a closet.” He grins, glancing at the walls surrounding us. “It never occurred to me to spend time in the metaphorical closet. Mum accepted me, I assumed others would, too. Which hasn’t always been the case, but I have no regrets there.” His eyebrows lift in question. “What about you?” “For a while,” I say with a shrug. “Then I got caught kissing a boy while drunk at a high school party. There wasn’t much point denying it after that?” “Did the other students give you a hard time?” A bitter laugh bubbles up through my chest but I tamp it down. “Sometimes. But they had better reasons to hate me. I was used to people talking behind my back, staring when I walked past. Being out didn’t change my life overly much.” Sam frowns as he puts a hand over mine on my knee. The questions are there in his eyes. Why did people hate you? What happened? What did you do? His mouth opens, but I beat him to the punch. “You use this place for more than recording now?” He stops, and then a barely perceptible nod acknowledges my right to keep my past to myself. “I do,” he says, looking around the room. “There’s so much I struggle to do. Talking to new people, going out, doing stuff. It’s tiring, always having to work so hard to do things other people do without thought. When I’m in here, I can just be.” He smiles, and there’s an ease to it I’ve never seen before. “When you’re leading your class, you make it seem so easy. Sitting there, being you. Like nothing can touch you.” He watches me for a long moment. “Your thoughts can’t hurt you, Tristan. Not by themselves.” He’s said those words to me before, but apparently I need reminding. “My thoughts could,” I whisper. “If I let them. I’m not brave like you.” Both our hands are joined now, our fingers threaded together over my knees. This time, the tremor isn’t coming from his side. Why am I saying these things? He brought me here to show me his sanctuary, and I’m treating it like a confessional. “You are brave,” he says with quiet insistence. “I know you’re scared. But you’re here, asking for help when you need it. That’s brave.” A new depth has crept into his tone as we’ve talked. A commanding gentleness I recognise. “Your voice…” I take a shaky breath, my mouth twitching at the corners. “My siren has arrived.” His expression turns bashful as he ducks his head. “I didn’t mean to.” “No, don’t stop.” My grip on him tightens. “Please.” Meeting my gaze, he nods. “It doesn’t usually happen spontaneously. Only when I’m recording or teaching a class. It’s this place, I suppose. I feel safe here.” As he speaks, his thumbs stroke my palms and I shiver. “Having me here doesn’t spoil the feeling?” “No.” A touch of awe glints in the blue. “I think, maybe, I feel safe with you, too.” I don’t move when he lets go of my hands and raises up off the cushion so he can scoot closer. I don’t move when he extends his legs over my still folded ones, so his calves bracket my hips and his feet touch down behind me. He’s not actually in my lap, his arse is still on the floor in front of me, but it’s a close thing. I don’t move as he reaches out to touch my cheeks, stroking his thumbs over them. My own hands remain on my knees, my fingers digging in there. I don’t move, but my heart is a wild thing in my chest and my breathing is laboured. Shudders rack my body as he brushes his nose against mine. When his breath fans across my lips, I still don’t move. But I close my eyes, and I wait. His closed lips touch mine. They’re soft and tentative. Barely pressing against me. They’re hopeful lips, in search of a response. I move to give him one.
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Enter the Giveaway:

To celebrate Rebecca’s new release, we are giving readers the chance to win 1 of 3 e-copies of The Harder We Fall!

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About the Author:

Rebecca is a long-time lover of all things romance. Whether it’s a book, movie, or real life, she will always have more fun if there’s a love interest thrown into the mix. She lives in Queensland, Australia with her very own hero husband, two quirky kids and one big, black dog. Other than reading and writing books, her favourite things include loud music, enjoying a glass of wine on the patio, organising everything in existence, and spending too much time on the Internet.

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Pre Order

Maverick by LeAnn Ashers

Maverick by LeAnn Ashers releases April 19th!

Pre-Order today!
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BELL
I grew up in a cult, one that kept me completely sheltered from the real life. They even forced me to marry at the age of fourteen.

I was trapped, and life was utter hell until I was offered a way out. I spent months healing and finally being happy for the first time ever.

Then he came into my life.

Maverick rooted himself deep inside my heart from the second I met him. From his cocky grin to his alpha male attitude, I was in love with him.

More importantly, he kept me safe when I needed him most.

MAVERICK
The second I laid eyes on her, I knew she was the one I had waited for my whole life. All I saw was her.

But everything came to a head when her past resurfaced.

The second I saw the fear in her eyes, something inside me snapped. It became my life’s mission to find every single person who hurt her.

After all, I am a Grim Sinner for a reason.

It’s time to Reap.

Pre-Order today!
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MEET THE AUTHOR:

LeAnn Ashers is a blogger-turned-author who spends her days reading and writing. She released her debut novel early 2016, and can’t wait to see where this adventure continues to take her. LeAnn enjoys writing about strong-minded females and swoon-worthy, protective alpha males who love their women unconditionally.

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Series Tour

CONVERGENCE HERE by JM Riddles.

 


★✩★ SERIES TOUR ★✩★

Title: WOLFMOTHER

Author: JM RIDDLE

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/55846860/


Tour Host: DS PR Services




Purchase links

Amazon

US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08MMP5GTK/ 

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08MMP5GTK/

CA https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B08MMP5GTK/  

AU https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B08MMP5GTK/  



Also available in the series

Torn Apart – Book 1

Amazon 

US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07586TV6Y/

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07586TV6Y/

CA https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07586TV6Y/

AU https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07586TV6Y/



Blood bound – book 2

Amazon. 

US https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07Q3TC9HM/. 

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07Q3TC9HM/.

CA https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07Q3TC9HM/.

AU https://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B07Q3TC9HM/.



BLURB:

With the goddess’s help, Halea was able to capture Lord Anshar within the dark mirror, but how can she save him? The demons have grown more powerful and learned to mimic their prey, and all the warning signs point to the coming of another convergence. In his despair and madness, Lord Anshar vows to never again perform a sacrifice to banish the Chaos Dimension, but Varg does not believe him and fears that if Halea succeeds in her mission and frees the dragon, the ultimate price may be her life. As the danger mounts, the few remaining priestesses must look to Halea and the lycans for help. Varg and Halea call for a gathering of the wolves to battle against the looming threat but does Halea truly have what it takes to become a Wolfmother?


*Warning: Mature content and language not intended for anyone under the age of eighteen.




Author Bio:

J.M. Riddles (aka Your Humble Author, aka J) is an avid lover of science fiction and fantasy. Some of her writing also features romance, paranormal, horror, surrealism, mature, and even young adult fiction. She holds a Bachelors’s degree in English Literature and four Associates degrees. Some of her interests include heavy metal, rock, sci-fi, fantasy, food, art, makeup, nature, and all things nerdy.



Social Media links:

Website https://www.jmriddles.com/

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/J.M.-Riddles/e/B071CPJKCZ

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Facebook https://www.facebook.com/JMRiddles/

Twitter https://twitter.com/JM_Riddles




Book Blitz

Unbridled Dreams

 


Self-Help/Non Fiction

Date Published: 2/7/21

Publisher: Great Success Books



Do you feel a nudge from within to realize and live your full potential but do not know where to start? In the most amazing way, you have already begun your adventure. You are capable of a great deal more than you give yourself credit for.

What you need now is a little hand-holding and then you can enable yourself in reaching for the stars. This wonderful book was written specifically for you in mind. What you foremost need is the belief that you were meant for greatness and that you can achieve anything that you desire.

This indispensable guide will take you on a journey of self-discovery, changing your mindset, figuring out your dreams, and giving a voice to your passions. Once there, you’ll begin to set goals and start to attain them one-by-one. The author will stay with you at each step of the way and show you how it’s done.



Excerpt

From introduction

Do you feel a burning desire to be the very best you can but don’t know exactly how or where to begin the process? Do you know for certain that God created you for greatness and yet are afraid to walk out your true destiny? Do you have goals and dreams but lack the motivation, resources, training, or coaching to move forward? Have you accomplished a measure of success but still want more from your life? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are certainly not the only one.

There are indeed a countless number of women who share these same sentiments and are reduced to living lives considerably below their full potential. They often feel stuck in an inescapable cycle of mediocrity, having a desire to be their very best but subconsciously settling for substantially less. They live an “average” life, finding solace while existing at the top of the bottom or the bottom of the top, not excellent, “just enough.” Either way, they gravitate to a place of comfort, following the path of least resistance.


About The Author

Rhonda Mincey is a world traveler. She is an international speaker, dream weaver, award-winning mentor, transformation coach, poet, and author. Rhonda has made her mark by inspiring women from all walks of life to confront their fears and accomplish their goals. Rhonda has authored several books, including the highly acclaimed A Girl’s Guide to Being Great that she wrote to help girls realize their value and maximize their opportunities for a successful life.

Rhonda is also an award-winning mentor for women and girls and received Georgia’s Southern University’s Service Award and the prestigious Turner Broadcasting Station (TBS) Pathfinders Award for her work. Rhonda is named a Top 25 Woman in Business 2021 from Courageous Magazine. Rhonda possesses a master’s degree in education with a focus on community leadership.

When Rhonda isn’t writing, she enjoys reading inspirational books, walking on the beach, traveling, and spending time with family and friends


Contact Links

Website

Facebook: Great SuccessLLC

Instagram: @rhondagmincey

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Book Blitz

Firefanged

 


Demon in Exile, Book One

Fantasy, Action Fantasy

Published: October 2020



A demon in Exile. It wasn’t a gift. It was a message.

Colivar is a Kingdom plagued by seemingly random incursions from the Infernal Domain. For centuries, the Order of the Vigil has fought to stem the tide and preserve the Realm, but politics and uncivil wars have depleted their ranks. For reasons unknown, the High Prince of Hell has decided to lend them a hand in the form of a demon in exile.

In the frontier city of Lockrun, a teenager named Ara encounters a demonic assassin and somehow survives, while on the northern horizon the black cloud of another Horde blows in his city’s direction. Ara soon realizes the extent of the threat and must come to grips with a mysterious dark soul that shares his fight from within.

The Demon in Exile Series offers a witty blend of pain-filled action and twisted drama in a series where the characters are as strong as they are flawed and striving to keep their own fragile humanity intact.


Other Books in the Demon in Exile series:


The Scarred Man

Demon in Exile, Two

My district. My city. Murderhall.

The second book of the series brings us into the urban, fantasy setting of Maidenhall, where Ara Storm confronts the dark forces hidden beneath the surface of the Realm’s Capital City and within himself.

Amazon


Sorrow’s Twin

Demon in Exile, Three

Sometimes, everything goes according to plan. I dread those moments.

In the third book of the genre-bending Demon in Exile series, deep in the jungles on the Realm’s eastern border, a Vigil Campaign becomes more deadly than anyone imagined. Struggling to control his inner madness, a demon-slayer finds himself in the worst of all possible positions as he confronts a clan of heretics and their demonic overlords.

Amazon


Wind Catcher

Demon in Exile, Four

Coming April 5, 2021

Don’t confuse insanity for intent.

Amazon


Black Fortune

Demon in Exile, Book Five

Coming June 2021

Amazon


Gray Prince

Demon in Exile,Book Six

Coming December 2021

Amazon


The Devil and Koki-Ten

Demon in Exile, Book Seven

Coming in 2022


Storm Sister

Demon in Exile, Book 7 1/2

Coming in 2022

Vigil Storm

Demon in Exile, Book Eight

Coming in 2023


About the Author

Rory Surtain, a 2020 debut author and novelist, resides on the South Coast of the USA, dodging hurricanes, airports, and alpha-personality domestic cats. After a few decades of being creative in the technical and corporate worlds, freedom has taken the form of fitness, Irish whiskey, and full-time writing and self-publishing.

The Demon in Exile series of Fantasy Fiction novels will consist of at least 8 books (there are more clawing their way to life in the author’s head) to be released beginning in October of 2020 via Amazon and eventually other outlets. Fans of urban fantasy, vampire/werewolf fantasy, or military fantasy and strong, yet flawed characters will enjoy this genre-bending series.


Contact Links

Website

Facebook

GoodReads

BookBub

Promo Link


Purchase Links

Amazon

B&N

 

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Release Blitz

Deadly Interception by Reilly Garrett

Title: Deadly Interception
Author: Reily Garrett
Genre: Romantic Thriller
Release Date: March 29, 2021


Harlyn bristled under the weight of unknown eyes dissecting her every move. Skin at her nape crawled from the mal intent focused in her direction. Behind the trunk of a spreading oak, she scanned the isolated meadow in search of the unknown threat.
Nothing stirred but shadow arms sprouting budding leaves. It’d been years since she’d turned the tables on the predator intent on breaking her.


Harlyn Colton has never run from a fight, not until her best friend’s murder sends her to the mountains of Pennsylvania. Shredding her ID and ditching electronics, she assumes she’s bought time to sort the mystery before federal officers knock on her door.

Brice Crenshaw works with the Ferndel foundation, a group organized to help returning military Veterans learn valuable skills and smooth out the rough edges before joining civilian life.

When a kickass, knife wielding female arrives with a target on her back, the group closes ranks to protect one of their own.

Accidents stack up while dead bodies reveal conflicting evidence. With the help of her K9 companion and the distraction of a well-intended protector, Harlyn must uncover the identity of the killer before he eliminates his final witness. Harlyn.





Prologue


Harlyn bristled under the weight of unknown eyes dissecting her every move. Skin at her nape crawled from the mal intent focused in her direction. From behind the trunk of a spreading oak, she scanned the isolated meadow in search of the unknown threat.

Nothing stirred but shadow arms sprouting budding leaves.

 It’d been years since she’d turned the tables on a predator intent on breaking her. Preparation for round two increased self-awareness and steadied the hand resting on her knife’s hilt.

Tonight’s mission to gather evidence had equated to a lark during the light of day. Under a full moon casting splintered shadows through fragmented clouds, the self-assigned task plunged her into doubt and uncertainty. She was an electrician—not a spy.

There! Approaching from the south side.

The dark shadow’s stealthy grace offered no indication of gender or intent. Neither Dylan nor Lonnie should’ve reached the trailer, yet.

They were all supposed to converge after each investigated their respective section of the site. Supplies received in advance had sparked Harlyn’s suspicion of intended theft. Seeing her ex-boyfriend cozying up to the building inspector checking the block foundation had sent up another red flag.

Stealing materials during early phases of construction was common, which necessitated the foremen matching deliveries to the time of need. Lumber had moved up the scale of desirability due to extensive forest fires yet remained less convenient than small tools.

She couldn’t voice her concerns to her supervisor and wouldn’t go to her father without evidence. Hence, she’d enlisted her two friends to help. Each possessed an equal bent toward serving justice.

Their search time had been cut to a fraction by Lonnie’s text before leaving work. She’d found evidence but couldn’t retrieve it with her boss hovering about in the trailer. Evidence retrieval should’ve been a quick and easy mission.

Nothing in Harlyn’s life went according to plan.

The lone figure approached their temporary headquarters and paused at the corner, watching, listening. Size and shape dictated the interloper male, neither indicated intent.

The flowing movement was unique, skilled. It wasn’t Dylan, though he should be close.

Lonnie would hide if she heard someone coming, but this apparition stalked without sound.

It didn’t make sense. A thief would arrive in a vehicle capable of hauling boosted items. She’d heard no engine, seen no lights. If he didn’t intend to steal, what did he want?

Tonight wasn’t a war game acted out during training sessions. There’d be no atta-boy or curt nod for a job well done. Just the simple satisfaction of doing the right thing.

 Her heart had never thumped so hard, nor had she needed to wipe her brow. In counterpoint, she retained a level head instead of allowing panic to rule her thoughts. Perhaps that had been her father’s ultimate goal.

Ominous silence reigned like in the eye of a hurricane. How she missed the snow of Pennsylvania’s Appalachian Mountains. Her father’s settling them near the Kofa Wilderness in Arizona sucked. She preferred a wider climate base to Arizona’s heat.

Patches of moon glow gilded wild grasses filling potholes and rutted trails. Trampled paths marked initial workers’ routes in establishing the building’s foundation.

A familiar musky scent jerked her gaze backward in search of the silver-gray fur of a badger. Over the staccato thud of her heartbeat, she listened for the hiss, growl, or snarl indicating an intruder ventured too close to its burrow. Nothing bearing claws lurched forward. It either passed or perhaps was a figment of her imagination, her mind’s way of warning her to retreat.

Visual searching for the uninvited guest revealed nothing. Either his subconscious alerted him to another presence and he’d left, or he’d gained entrance to the trailer.

With no weak light leaking from the interior, maybe it was empty.

I need to see who it is and what he’s after. Maybe another member of the construction crew suspected corrupt dealings.

Halfway to the trailer and caught in a pool of moonlight, Harlyn froze with the sound of shattering glass inside. The intruder hadn’t appeared klutzy. A fight was in progress.

She bolted forward.

This wasn’t the plan. They’d come prepared with cell phones to take photos or make copies of shipping invoices. That’s it. 

Knives tucked in her boots wouldn’t help if an adversary carried a gun. The night’s purpose included satisfying persistent suspicions, not engaging in a brawl.

Thirty yards of flat desert separated her from the trailer. She closed the distance in seconds.

Wooden steps made no sound as she gained the small landing and reached for the door.

The handle was cool and turned without a sound. New hinges offered no protest as she quickly inched the door ajar to get her bearings.

It burst wide with a speed and force that knocked her backward. Unable to maintain balance, she stumbled down the steps and landed in a graceless heap at the bottom.

Atop the small landing, the intruder growled. Stray beams of moonlight reflected off the silver blade in his hand. A darker substance dripped from the lower half of the knife.

“You shoulda stayed out of this, brat. Bringing a friend tonight will cost you your life in the end. Now your daddy has to grieve another family member’s death even though I didn’t get personal satisfaction from the first.” Soft words carried deadly intent. The voice, though guttural and barely above a whisper, sounded familiar.

“Who the hell are you?” 

Black material covered his face, neck, and hands while a long-sleeved t-shirt hid possible tattoos, common among their work group. He moved forward with familiar ease. 

Military.

“I’m the collector. Though I didn’t plan on so much wet work tonight. You’ll be coming with me now to your new, albeit, temporary home.”

His dark chuckle reverberated down her spine.

Harlyn’s roll to the side ended in a crouched position even as he landed in fighting stance where she’d sat seconds prior. In her mind, her dad’s warning rang clear. “When facing a knife, run. No matter how good you are, there’s always someone who’s better.”

A low groan filtered through the open door. Lonnie’s thin mewl carried in the still night.

“Why? She’s never done anything to hurt anybody.” Lonnie was her best friend, one of four people who knew about her past.

“Wrong place, wrong time. If you’d have come alone, she’d still be alive and you might’ve survived your next ordeal.” Careful steps carried him sideways to test her response.

“What do you want?” She mirrored his movements to remain in open space.

“You—alive—if feasible. Otherwise, I’ll take you in pieces.”



Reily Garrett is a writer, mother, and companion to three long coat German shepherds. When not working with her dogs, she’s sitting at her desk with her furkids by her side.

Author of chilling suspense and snarky romance, her stories span the distance of romantic thrillers, paranormal romance, and erotic romance. Regardless of genre, each book delves into a dark and twisted imagination yet is tempered with romance and a touch of humor.

Reviews by Kirkus Reviews, San Francisco Bay Review, and BestThrillers.com best describe her work:

“This could be James Patterson, Lee Child, and Tess Gerritsen rolled into one, but the dark, twisted methods used by the serial killer could surprise even those readers…” – San Francisco Bay Review

“…steamy, seductive police procedural…” – BestThrillers.com

“…well-researched thriller that remains romantically genuine throughout.” – Kirkus Review

Prior experience in the Military Police, private investigations, and as an ICU nurse gives her fiction a real-world flavor.



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Release Blitz

You Know I’d Never

Title: You Know I’d Never

Author: Kara Lowndes

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/29/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 34700

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, in the closet, coming out, reunited, musicians, second chances

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Description

How do you get over the love of your life when you can’t even admit you loved her? Janey has been in the closet her entire life—even when she fell for her first girlfriend, Elise, back in high school. After Elise left their small hometown of Clitheroe to pursue her dreams of becoming a musician, Janey knew that the only thing she’d have to remember her by was the song that Elise had written about Janey. But that love song soon turned into the biggest hit of the decade, and Elise and her band return to Clitheroe a few years later to pay tribute to their hometown. Janey, still stuck where she was five years ago when Elise left, knows that she can’t let her ex slip through her fingers again. But she’s still in the closet, and has no intention or idea of coming out to her homophobic family. How can she make amends with the woman she loved when she can’t even be honest with herself or the people closest to her?

Excerpt

You Know I’d Never Kara Lowndes © 2021 All Rights Reserved Chapter One “What’s wrong with you?” I heard Bess’s voice cut cheerily through the quiet of the store, in that specifically slightly-rude-yet-somehow-polite way only women aged fifty or above could get away with. I looked up from the inventory I had been taking and found her beaming at me from the doorway. “I don’t know,” I replied. “What do you think? Do I need a new haircut? Eyebrows done? Lose twenty pounds?” “I was thinking more than you could use a good night’s sleep,” she replied briskly, striding over to the desk to loop her forest-green apron over her head. A swirl of the dusty morning air had flooded in behind her, and the tiny store suddenly smelled of the outside—car fumes and coffee and everything else that made up Clitheroe, Massachusetts. “Okay, well, when you can convince Arnold to stop giving me the morning shifts, maybe I can squeeze one in,” I told her. “Or you could do this thing that I’ve been hearing so much about,” she suggested. “Going to bed early? Ground-breaking, I know, but still…” “I’ll look into it,” I promised her. “But it doesn’t sound like it’s for me.” “Inventory?” she asked, pointing to the battered clipboard I held. I nodded. “If you can keep from being overtaken by the thrill, I could use a little help,” I replied, and she came over to give me a hand. Bess was nearly sixty, and after her husband had passed away, she had decided to get out to work for the first time. She had spent most of her life as a stay-at-home mom while her late husband worked to support them and their two kids, Annette and Ben, and she brought an eternally maternal vibe to everything she did. Including working with me at Robson’s Local, the grocery store that served our tiny town. She had only been there for a year, but I had already grown used to seeing her bleached-blonde coif coming through the door every morning, her crisp shirts (of which she seemed to have an unlimited supply) so sharp they could have taken out the eye of an unsuspecting customer. Not that she couldn’t have done that with one lash of her tongue just fine. I had dealt with enough comings and goings in this store over the years to know a permanent fixture when I saw one—most summers, I had to deal with training up some hopeful high schooler, determined to prove that they were responsible enough for a driving licence by getting a job, most of whom crapped out by the time school came around again and they could show off their new wheels to all their friends. I didn’t get that luxury, annoyingly enough. I mean, I could show off my car to my friends if I wanted to, but given that most of us were in our twenties by now, I doubted that it would have much of the same impact. Besides, it wasn’t like I ran into a lot of them around town anymore, not since most of them had left for college or careers or other real-life crap across the state. Most of the time, I could fool myself into pretending this had all been my choice, my decision, but in truth, I had been hiding out here for way too long to think about starting anew now. Twenty-three. Twenty-three, and I was still too nervous to get out of this town. How pathetic was that? Only five years ago, I had been scrambling to figure out how I would fulfil all of my plans, putting degrees on top of international road trips next to careers in everything I had ever even had a passing interest in. If the version of me then had seen the version of me now, she wouldn’t have been impressed. And she would have told me to cut my hair short again, because it looked way better cropped than the long, brown, slightly tangled mess it was at the moment. “I don’t think you’re going to have much luck getting any sleep around these parts for the next couple of weeks,” Bess sighed, as she helped me stock the shelves with tins of soup and pick an explosion of chips left there by an errant schoolboy the day before off the floor. “Why do you say that?” I asked. And honestly, I had no clue what the hell was going to come out of her mouth next. If I had, maybe I could actually have prepared for it. I know there’s these moments in movies where the heroine hears some huge news and the whole world comes to a halt for a moment. I had always believed it was a little movie magic to make everything seem more exciting, more romantic, more thrilling and significant. Or maybe it was just that this news really was all that to me. “That musical group are coming into town soon,” she explained, frowning slightly as she checked the price of the soup against the note on her clipboard. “Here, I think these are meant to be on offer…” “What band?” I asked with some interest as I grabbed the clipboard on her to check. “Something about fists, I think?” she replied, shaking her head. “I swear, my memory isn’t what it used to be these days…” My vision blurred slightly. The words on the page before me seemed to crawl together like bugs. “Clenched Fists?” I asked, and she nodded, snapping her fingers. “Oh, yes, that was it!” she agreed. “Did you see the poster too?” “No,” I replied, shaking my head. I blinked and tried to wipe some of the fuzz from the corners of my eyes. “I just…I’ve heard of them before, that’s all.” That was putting it pretty fucking lightly. Like I hadn’t been following them for five years straight. Like I hadn’t spent every day trying not to think about the woman who played guitar, the way her fingers looked wrapped around the neck of her instrument, and how they felt wrapped around my… “Really? I can’t say I’ve ever heard about them,” Bess replied, shaking her head. “Goodness, you know how out-of-date I feel? Maybe they should keep me in the back with the rest of the produce that’s reached its sell-by date…” She continued chattering away to herself, and I knew I should have been listening, but her words faded out to a blurry buzz in the back of my head as I tried to take in what she had told me. Clenched Fists. Here. In Clitheroe. Elise with them. My brain dredged up a memory of her with her feet planted on the low coffee table of her parents’ house, her big, beat-up boots beside her, and I found myself wondering if she still had them, for some fucking reason. Probably not. Because, unlike some people I could mention, she had actually been able to let go of the past. “Are you all right?” Bess asked, waving her hand in front of my face to draw my attention back to the real world. I blinked, nodded. “Fine,” I replied. “Just tired, that’s all.” “A good night’s sleep, that’s what you need,” she told me again, but she kept her eyes pinned to me for a moment longer, like she was trying to figure something out. I offered her a quick smile, hoping it would be enough to deflect her attentions for now. Because the last thing I wanted was to have to come clean about what was really going on in my head at that moment. I made it through the rest of the shift in a haze; I felt like my head was going to straight-up explode with the weight of the news that I’d had to take in. I told myself that I must have misheard or gotten something wrong, and I had just about convinced myself of that until I managed to sneak out to connect to the WiFi of the store across the street so I could check up online. And yeah, there it was—Clenched Fists. Hometown return. A series of gigs over a couple of weeks, for charity, to raise cash for LGBT youth in the area. I looked at the band photo—the four of them, against that black backdrop, dressed in loose muscle shirts and tight jeans, their instruments slung over their backs and looped over their shoulders like they had hardly noticed they were there. I flicked my eyes over them one at a time—the singer, Melinda, who’d gone to the school one town over; the bassist, Elena, who’d been a friend of a friend in college when the band had started; the drummer who seemed to change out every time I checked in with them… And then her. Fuck. This had been a test for me. A test to see if I had it in me to deflect the rush of blood to the head that came whenever I laid eyes on Elise. She had cut all her hair off not long before she had left Clitheroe, and I had always thought she had looked badass with it short. She had big brown eyes, a big nose, and a strong jaw, and the short hair just drew attention to her powerful features. Her gaze seemed to burn through the camera and straight toward me, the way it always had when we had been kids. Not kids—teenagers. Lovers. Fuck, fuck, fuck. I clicked away from the page and stuffed my phone back in my pocket. Maybe I could just get a ticket somewhere and go out of town for a couple of weeks. It wasn’t like anyone other than Bess was going to miss me, right? I could have pretended that I didn’t even know they were coming in. Clenched Fists? Never heard of them. No, I just don’t listen to music; it’s not my thing… By the time my shift finished, I had managed to think myself into a total corner about all of this. I could feel the walls closing in around me, mad at myself for letting it get this far. She was just an ex. Plenty of people had exes, and if I was going to insist on staying in my hometown, there was a solid chance that I was going to run into her. What was I so upset about? She was in my past; I was in hers. But she wasn’t just an ex. She was the ex. I didn’t much go for cliché where I could avoid it, but if ever there was a time for it…she was the one who’d gotten away. Or, actually, I supposed, I was the one who had gotten away from her. Even though I would have done anything, anything at all, if I could have crafted it to turn out any other way. I made it back to the studio flat I had that overlooked the one bar in town, just as it was getting dark outside. I would normally have to fight myself about getting takeout from the burger place across the street, but today, I was distracted. Even though my stomach was growling, I hardly noticed it. There was only one thing I hungered for, and that— More cliché, apparently. I sighed as I closed the door behind me and leaned up against the wood, my head thumping. Not with pain, but with her. With the memories of everything we had done together. Though that was a kind of pain all its own. It had always been painful, even when it had been good—the pain and the pleasure had come wound up in each other until the lines between the two blurred uselessly into one. Food. And maybe a beer. Yeah, that would make me feel better. I could drink and eat my problems away for tonight, and by the time tomorrow came around, I would be one day closer to putting her behind me again. In the past, where she belonged. And one day closer to having her back in Clitheroe after all these years.

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Meet the Author

Kara Lowndes is the pen name of Louise MacGregor, a Scottish author and blogger with a passion for bringing the most exciting queer romances to life.

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Something Borrowed

Title: Something Borrowed

Author: Yolande Kleinn

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/29/2021

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 19300

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, contemporary, bi, gay, lawyers, fake boyfriend, friends-to-lovers, age-gap, interracial, garden wedding

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Description

When public defender Trevor Ortega finds himself dateless for his ex’s wedding, faking a relationship seems like the perfect solution. Less perfect is his thoughtless impulse to invite Sebastian Greer—friend, federal judge, and former boss—as his plus one. It would be a solid plan if not for one problem: Trevor’s been in love with Sebastian for years, and each fraudulent touch will remind him of everything he can’t have. Trevor doesn’t know why Sebastian agreed to his scheme, but there’s no backing out now. It’s only one night after all, and what’s a little heartbreak between friends?

Excerpt

Something Borrowed Yolande Kleinn © 2021 All Rights Reserved As the voice droned steadily in his ear, the only thought in Trevor Ortega’s head was, Too bad a stunning location can’t salvage an interminable evening. He scanned the rooftop garden, taking in the way starlight and a crescent moon glowed across cement pathways and eerily symmetrical greenery. A high stone wall ran the perimeter of the roof, and past it stretched a downtown cityscape reaching all the way to the river and beyond. Whoever had coaxed their way into using this rooftop bower as a charity venue had seriously outdone themselves. Understated strings of lights illuminated chairs, white-draped tables, and a long banquet spread, plus a narrow counter where waitstaff served drinks. The glass of champagne in Trevor’s hand was untouched and likely to stay that way. These events wound him too tight to drink. He’d never understood how his fellow attorneys didn’t share his reluctance. Tonight’s entire tableau felt so starched and formal, so full of people he desperately wanted to impress. After five years settled in as a public defender, he still couldn’t imagine relaxing at a gala like this. The air had cooled considerably now that the sun had set. Even with the extra weight of his nicest suit jacket, Trevor shivered a little. If he could simply appreciate the atmosphere in silence, he could trick himself into enjoying the party. Of course, silence was more than he could reasonably hope for tonight. He smiled blandly at the man still talking to him. Trevor had only fleetingly caught the name offered in greeting. He probably should have tried harder to retain the information, if only to avoid crossing paths in the future. Sharp skinny angles gave his relentless conversational partner an intimidating air, the impression not at all helped by aggressive eyebrows and a sweep of receding white hair. The man’s expressionless mouth had not stopped moving for ten solid minutes. Trevor hadn’t been able to sneak in a single word to excuse himself. Somehow, the other cornered parties had all managed to escape, leaving him the sole recipient of a furious diatribe about the tax code. Trevor didn’t mind conversations about tax codes, as a general rule. They could be fascinating in the right company. But here in this moment, words flowing over him without clarity or inflection, the topic bored him to tears. He couldn’t decide if having already eaten made the situation worse or better. On the one hand, he’d be cranky as hell if he were putting up with all this on an empty stomach, waiting in vain for a chance to escape to the banquet line. On the other hand, his full stomach meant the steady lull of his colleague’s voice was making him legitimately sleepy. Ridiculous. Trevor didn’t want to be here in the first place. Now that he’d fulfilled his obligation to make an appearance and could discreetly depart in good conscience, he had no graceful way to extricate himself from a one-sided conversation so dull he would prefer a concussion. It would be a different matter if this were a total stranger—Trevor might be willing to risk interrupting him midword—but he vaguely knew the man as a spouse of someone-or-other whom he couldn’t risk offending. A shadow fell past Trevor’s elbow as someone approached him from behind. Even without knowing who the shadow belonged to, an instantaneous rush of relief cut beneath his skin. Any interruption at all could be enough of an opening to enable escape if he played his hand right. Then he turned—had to tilt his head back to meet the new arrival’s eyes—and grinned in recognition. Sebastian Greer stood at his elbow, tall and broad and so handsome it wasn’t fair. “Trevor.” Sebastian greeted him with a nod, then turned an apologetic smile toward the argumentative tax attorney, who had finally stumbled midsentence. “Mr. Callum, I hope you’ll forgive the intrusion. I’ve got a professional question for Mr. Ortega. Can I borrow him for a moment?” With difficulty, Trevor contained his grin. If he let it spread too wide, it would broadcast his relief plainly, never mind that he was so grateful for the intervention he could kiss Sebastian here and now. Thoughts of kissing Sebastian Greer could only lead to incurable distraction and embarrassment if he were caught staring, so Trevor set the notion aside with the efficiency of long practice. He raised his glass in a parting gesture toward Mr. Callum, trying not to appear overly pleased, then let his former boss lead him away. With every step toward relative seclusion, Trevor tried not to notice how effortlessly gorgeous Sebastian looked in his tuxedo. Wide shoulders filled the dark jacket without straining the fabric. A bow tie sat perfectly knotted under the round line of his jaw, and the crisp white of his collar stood out dramatically against warm umber skin. Sebastian’s eyes glittered in the moonlight, and Trevor clenched his teeth. It wasn’t fucking fair. An overworked federal circuit judge had no business looking like he just strode out of a fashion shoot. Even the silvering hair at his temples could have been a touch-up for the cover of a magazine. How was Trevor supposed to keep his composure in front of a knight in shining armor this devastatingly handsome? Somehow, whether through willpower or desperation, he managed to tamp down the cascade of uninvited feelings as he and Sebastian reached an empty corner of the roof. Trevor hoped his smile was visible through the shadows and that it conveyed a reasonable level of gratitude. “Thanks for the rescue.” “Thanks aren’t necessary.” Sebastian wore a distinctly smug expression as he sipped from the drink in his own hand. It could have been a gin and tonic, but it was probably just club soda with lime. Trevor wasn’t the only one who wouldn’t risk being inebriated among a crowd of his peers. “I thought I recognized the flicker of glazed displeasure in your eyes. If I misgauged, I offer my most sincere apologies.” Trevor snorted at the familiar veneer of decorum in Sebastian’s teasing, then sipped his drink to keep from admitting he would forgive nearly anything for the sake of Sebastian’s company. When he trusted himself to manage something more measured than longing, he said, “‘Glazed displeasure’ might be an understatement. I’d legitimately started to wonder if I should fake a fainting spell to make him go away. I was scouting for an escape hatch when he cornered me.” Trevor nearly choked on another half-hearted sip of champagne when Sebastian asked, “Can I join your escape attempt? There’s an excellent bar half a block away.” Maybe it was silly to be surprised by the suggestion. Sebastian had invited him out for drinks and meals any number of times since their professional paths had parted ways—and in any case, the invitation was never for anything more intimate than a casual evening between colleagues, no matter how fervently Trevor might wish otherwise. They’d never socialized off the clock while he was Sebastian’s law clerk, but the five years since had been different. Trevor didn’t think he’d imagined the way they had slipped gradually across the line from professional acquaintances to friends. “God, yes, please let’s do that.” He prayed his helpless infatuation didn’t echo too obviously through the words.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Yolande Kleinn may be a shameless dreamer and a stubborn optimist, but she is also a proud purveyor of romance and hijinx. Excitable, fastidious, and a little eclectic, she spends every spare moment writing the stories she wants to read. If she can drag other people into the pool along with her, then so much the better.

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Junior Hero Blues

Title: Junior Hero Blues

Author: J.K. Pendragon

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 03/29/2021

Heat Level: 1 – No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 58400

Genre: Contemporary YA, LGBTQIA+, Action/adventure, Coming-of-age, Criminals, Enemies/rivals to lovers, Geeks, Humorous, Interracial, Law enforcement, #ownvoices, Superhero, Young adult

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Description

Last year, Javier Medina was your average socially awkward gay high schooler with a chip on his shoulder. This year, he’s…well, pretty much the same, but with bonus superpowers, a costume with an ab window to show off his new goods, and a secret identity as the high-flying, wise-cracking superhero Blue Spark.

But being a Junior Hero means that Javier gets all the responsibility and none of the cool gadgets. It’s hard enough working for the Legion of Liberty and fighting against the evil Organization, all while trying to keep on top of school work and suspicious parents. Add in a hunky boyfriend who’s way out of Javier’s league, and an even hunkier villain who keeps appearing every time said boyfriend mysteriously disappears, and Blue Spark is in for one big dollop of teenage angst. All while engaging in some epic superhero action and, oh yeah, an all-out battle to protect Liberty City from the forces of evil.

Welcome to the 100% true and totally unbiased account of life as a teenage superhero.

Excerpt

Junior Hero Blues
J.K. Pendragon © 2021
All Rights Reserved

When I woke up, my mask was lying beside me on the ground, and I felt like my entire head had been squeezed like a pimple.

It took me a few minutes to get my bearings, and by the time I realized the Raven was there with me, she was putting my mask back over my eyes and checking my vitals. Masks have a way of obscuring expressions, but I could see her jaw was tight and her lips were even thinner than usual.

“What happened?” I groaned, my voice raspy. I was starting to get memories back, of the smoke and explosions of the battle, and of him. That bastard smashing my head into a mirror—I raised a hand to my forehead and felt crusted blood through my glove—and then of us fighting, and of a rather unheroic rage that had come over me as we did so. The last thing I remembered was my hands on either side of his head, shooting sonic waves into his ears so hard his eyes were rolling back, and his big meaty hands around my neck, squeezing me into darkness.

“Don’t know.” The Raven’s ambiguously Slavic accent was harsher than normal. “I found you here, with your mask off. Who did it, do you know?”

“Yeah.” I coughed. “Who do you think? Jimmy Black.”

*

I guess I should back up a bit. Jimmy Black was my sworn enemy, if you go for dramatics like that (I totally do), and I’d met him before all this crap with the Organization started. I’d been on a date with Rick Rykov. My first date. Ever, that is, and I was pretty convinced the whole thing was a setup to make fun of me, because that would be typical. But then Rick actually showed up at the café, and we sat there for twenty minutes drinking coffee and discussing our lives like regular people, and there was absolutely no sign of the whole thing being a prank or some plan concocted by him and his friends to humiliate me.

I mean, aside from being gay, Rick was, like, standard bully material. He was a football player, even—six feet of lean teenage muscle and popularity. And I have a theory that being gay in high school just pushes your social standing to an extreme either way. Like, if you’re already popular, and then you come out as gay, you become this amazing, brave individual who inspires change (exhibit A: Rick Rykov). But if you come out as gay, and you’re that weird little Spanish dude who came to America in first grade and couldn’t speak any English, who decided to compensate for that fact by eating a bug in front of his entire class, which was never forgotten, ever, by anyone…

Well, see exhibit B: Javier Medina (that’s me, by the way). Skinny, brown, nerdy. I’m sure you can picture it. That, combined with my family not exactly being wealthy, meant I got picked on a lot in school, even before the bug thing, so I’m a little skittish. Or possibly a lot skittish. You decide.

So anyway, naturally, considering my rather extensive history with bullies, when a superhot, superpopular football player came striding down the hall toward me after class one day, my first instinct was to run away. Unfortunately, Kendall (who apparently has superhearing that I don’t know about) had overheard that Rick was planning on asking me out and grabbed my arm to keep me from escaping. She’s pretty heavyset, and I guess she was using her weight to her advantage, because I was basically rooted to the spot despite having, you know, moderate superstrength.

So then Rick strolled up, cool as you please, and introduced himself. Like, he full-on shook my hand. As if it were a job interview. And then he asked me out, and I was thinking I might be stupid enough to eat a bug, but I sure as hell wasn’t stupid enough to think that Rick Rykov was actually asking me out on a date. So I told him to eff off.

Yeah right. I actually said something along the lines of, “Uhh…you want to go…on a date? With me? Wh… Why?”

And he said, “Because I like you. I think you’re cute, so I thought we could get to know each other a bit better over coffee.”

At this point, I was basically giving myself whiplash looking around trying to see if I was in the process of being ambushed with the eventual intent to stick my head in the toilet. And then I got kind of angry because, like, here I was, busting my butt every single day to save people’s lives and keep the public safe. Screw putting up with this high school bullying crap.

So I decided I would go out with Rick, and if he or any of his buff football friends decided to try to pull one over me, I was just going to spontaneously snap and beat the crap out of them (or at least use my powers to pull some fun tricks with them) and plead temporary insanity to Captain Liberty after the fact.

Rick seemed pleased, and a little surprised I’d agreed. We set a date, and I went fully expecting to be doused with whipped cream, or laughed and jeered at, or at the very least stood up.

But Rick was there, leaning back in one of the little spindly café chairs that looked like it might break under his weight and sipping some frothy drink. When I sat, he shook my hand again, and then we just sort of…started talking.

Which I know isn’t a big deal, because, like, people talk all the time. But not me. I mean, I talk to Kendall, because she’s my best friend and has been forever, and we tell each other everything. I talk to my parents, in Spanish mostly, which is still a bit easier for me, funnily enough (although I’m sure you can tell I have an absolutely superb grasp of the English language). But with everyone else? It’s kind of like the fewer syllables I can use, the better. I mumble my way through life. I just can’t make myself say what I’m thinking most of the time.

So yeah, it was pleasantly surprising to be able to talk to Rick. He asked me questions and waited patiently while I answered them, and then offered information about himself. He lived with his parents in a really nice part of town, although pretty close to me, and had a sister and a cat. And I told him, a bit defensively, that I lived with my parents in a crappy little apartment that didn’t allow pets, and that my dad worked on computers and my mom worked at a gas station so we could have a little extra income. I was all set for Rick to be all judgey or awkward (or worse, feel bad for me) about my poorness, but he didn’t seem to care about that at all. He actually seemed to genuinely want to get to know me.

And then, just when I was starting to relax and believe that this was actually a thing that was happening and I wasn’t going to, you know, die, Rick’s phone rang. He had a sort of awkward conversation and said, looking really let down, “I’m sorry, I’ve got to go to work. Last-minute thing.” Then his face brightened up a bit. “But we should do this again sometime.”

I agreed, and he went off, and I was left sitting there for about ten minutes finishing my coffee and thinking. And then my phone rang too.

I should have figured it out right then and there.

It was the Legion dispatch, about as polite as ever, which is to say one step up from a robot. Actually, scratch that, the Legion AI was way friendlier.

So she was all, “There’s an incident downtown, not far from your location. Can you respond?”

And I figured why not, since I was pretty pumped at that moment, and anyway, it was my job. Like, I got paid for it and everything. So I told her I’d be there in two minutes, and grabbed my bag and headed out.

Now, listen up, because I’m going to let you in on a little secret about switching from your civilian clothes into your superhero getup.

The telephone booth thing?

Utter bullcrap.

I mean, maybe except for old pros like Captain Liberty. I’ve seen him change into his costume so fast it was as if he must have been wearing a tear-away outfit, complete with, like, origami cape and boots in his back pocket. But for the rest of us, it’s three-plus minutes of awkwardly hunching on top of a building—try even finding a telephone booth these days—ripping off your clothes and pulling on the parts of your costume that don’t fit under them, and then you have to try to fit everything, including your shoes, into your backpack. And then you have to look for a place to stash your backpack where it won’t be stolen or crapped on by pigeons or something.

And the Legion really does expect you to respond to a call within only five minutes. I don’t know why they haven’t invented some sort of quick-change technology. Maybe they have, and they just don’t make it available to Junior Heroes.

It’s a complete rip-off being a Junior Hero, by the way. You’re supposed to be only assigned to low-risk stuff, but half the time it’s just as dangerous as anything else anyway, and the rest of the time it’s freaking boring.

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Meet the Author

J.K. Pendragon is a Canadian author with a love of all things romantic and fantastical. They first came to the queer fiction community through m/m romance, but soon began to branch off into writing all kinds of queer fiction. As a bisexual and genderqueer person, J.K. is dedicated to producing diverse, entertaining fiction that showcases characters across the rainbow spectrum, and provides queer characters with the happy endings they are so often denied.

J.K. currently resides in British Columbia, Canada with a boyfriend, a cat, and a large collection of artisanal teas that they really need to get around to drinking. They are always happy to chat, and can be reached at jes.k.pendragon@gmail.com.

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