Title: The Jock Script
Series: The Script Club #3
Author: Lane Hayes
Publisher: Lane Hayes
Release Date: Sept. 24, 2021
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Genre: Romance, Bisexual, Jock and Nerd, Romantic Comedy, Coming Out, Humor
SynopsisThe nerd, the coach, and the hookup… Asher- Swipe left, swipe left, swipe left. Sure, the idea of a quick, no-strings intimate rendezvous via hookup app sounds oddly thrilling, but it’s simply not me. Or maybe it is me, because it happened…and I liked it. Until I realized he looked familiar for a reason. A bad reason. Now I’ve made a faux pas with the sexiest man on planet Earth, and my internal karma system requires me to fix it. Help! Blake- I may seem like I have it together, but the truth is, I’m a hot mess. I’m so deep in the closet that I can’t remember my real name some days. That’s okay. The benefit of one-night stands is anonymity. Until Asher. Not a total surprise. I’ve always had a thing for geeks, but I’ve never met anyone like him. He’s a pint-sized dynamo on a quest for perfection who can help me come out…if I follow his script. Hmm. I’m in. The Jock Script is an MM bisexual, geek/jock romance starring a bowtie wearing nerd, a sexy lacrosse coach, and a shenanigan inducing script!
ExcerptAsher closed his mouth in a tight line and sighed. “We should change the topic. Every time I’m with you, I secure my spot in Hades.” I threw my head back and laughed. “What’s with you and the guilty conscience? I admire your commitment to honesty, Ash, but I don’t think it’s healthy to punish yourself after the fact. Not to mention, your rules seem arbitrary. They don’t make sense.” “Sure, they do.” “Hmph. You say sex is a part of nature, and you’re happy to discuss it until your internal sex-o-meter overloads and you decide you’ve overstepped some invisible boundary. It’s like you want to punish yourself for no good reason.” Asher opened and closed his mouth. “I don’t do that.” I polished off my salad, pushed my plate aside, and reached for my wineglass. “Yeah, you do. You should give yourself a break once in a while.” “Says the devil incarnate.” “Who me?” I flashed a roguish grin. “I’m not so bad, and you don’t have to be so good. Is this the remnants of a super religious upbringing or—” “Oh, gosh, no. My mother is a hippie. She’s not judgmental at all.” “Then why—” “I’m just weird, Blake.” His tone was firm rather than sharp and sent a strong message that he’d prefer to drop the subject. In fact, he looked suspiciously eager to greet the waiter when he returned to clear our salad dishes and set dinner plates on the table. I observed his animated hand gestures, his starched collar, and perfectly straight bow tie, wondering what he was hiding under all that armor. Asher wasn’t weird, he was—okay, fine…he was totally weird. But I had a feeling he was compensating too. Making up for something or glossing over an unseen flaw. Sort of like a kid standing guard over a lamp he’d busted by accident. No one would notice as long as he made sure the unblemished side was never shown. Call me crazy, but that got me. Yes, I was very attracted to him and definitely wanted to get naked and horizontal with him ASAP. But I wanted to know him too. I wanted to peel away his protective layers and study his quirks. His internal system of checks and balances fascinated me. I twirled my fork around my pasta and smiled. “You know, I’m no devil and anyone who sucks dick like you cannot be an angel. There’s got to be a good middle ground for us.” “Yes. As friends.” “Right,” I agreed, shifting in my seat to adjust my cock when he hummed around a mouthful of pasta. No joke, my dick woke up at the mention of alien sex and was now stretching the seam of my zipper. I sipped my wine and willed my body to get the “friend” memo. “So, buddy…since we’re supposed to be spending time together now, I think you should come to my game next weekend.” “Game,” he repeated, drawing out the single syllable into two. “The one you coach? Or do you play also?” “I play with a club team, but our season ended a couple of weeks ago. We’re on a break till summer, which is fine ’cause my kids have finals and my girls’ team is in the last stretch before CIFs.” “I don’t understand that acronym, but I’ll come to your game and maybe afterward we can do power tool…things.” “Sounds like a date. The game is at ten at Westgate. I’ll text you the address.” “Okay. I have questions, like…where do I sit and what should I wear? Also, what are the rules?” I smiled. “Sit wherever you want and wear whatever you want. The idea is to have fun. Well…and to kick OC Lutheran’s ass. As for the rules…the goal is to put the ball in the net more times than our opponent. You’ll be able to follow along.” He didn’t look convinced. “I’ll do some research. Now, what about us? Do you want me to be there and not speak or…are you going to introduce me? And if so, what will you say? I need to rehearse my lines.” “Lines? This isn’t a play, Ash. We’re friends.” “No, we’re not. We hardly know each other.” I frowned. “Then we need to fix that ’cause I’m going to introduce you as my friend. It’s less complicated that way.” “And if someone asks where we met, I’m allowed to improvise, correct?” he teased. taking a big bite of pasta. Too big of a bite. He slurped a rogue piece of tagliatelle with wide eyes, then covered his mouth with his napkin. It was pretty freaking cute. I pointed at the sauce on his cheek. When he swiped at the wrong side, I hooked my finger and motioned for him to lean in. I wiped his cheek with my thumb, underestimating the intimacy of the gesture. The strong current of heat and desire sizzling between us threw me off guard, rendering me speechless.
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Brandy Roberts Goodreads Review – “Brutal boxer just tore my heart out this story was emotional over load to the max and there was some shocking things I didn’t see coming.”
Doris Goodreads Review – “What a fantastic MC book filled with everything that checks off all the boxes in what I love about this genre!”
KelChickBookLover – “Naomi delivers another fantastic book that grabs your attention right from the start.”
Title: Ground of Insurrection
Series: Wizard Wars, Book One
Author: Mell Eight
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 09/27/2021
Heat Level: 1 – No Sex
Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, criminals, farming, gods, magic, magic users, political, revenge, royalty
DescriptionLife on the prairie isn’t easy, especially since the prairie has a habit of eating people it doesn’t like. Ruse knows the dangers, but there’s so much more to the prairie than death. The nearby country of Ammet, however, only sees an exploitable resource to be conquered. Caught between the political machinations of Ammet and his love for the prairie, Ruse can only hope he doesn’t wind up killed by one or the other.
ExcerptGround of Insurrection Mell Eight © 2021 All Rights Reserved When Ruse stepped outside that morning, Dahlia was already in the square, her wooden basin for washing clothes and a full wicker basket of dirty laundry set up next to her. She was pulling water from the large stone well in the center of the square by the time Ruse reached her side. Her strong forearms bulged with muscle as she easily lifted the heavy bucket from deep underground and carried it over to her basin. It took ten buckets to fill the basin, and Dahlia did it every morning without fail. Ruse wouldn’t be able to do it every day, but Dahlia never complained. Her auburn hair was tied tightly to her head in a series of braids that kept it safely out of the water. It made her look severe and dangerous, too, but that was probably just an extra bonus. No one messed with Dahlia because otherwise they wouldn’t have clean clothes to wear. She did all the washing for the village. Three feet to Dahlia’s left, a dead body lay on the ground. Poor Stan had been disemboweled sometime during the night, and his body was left where he had eventually fallen. It likely hadn’t been a slow death, judging by the drag marks his legs had dug in the dirt as he’d struggled toward the tavern across the square. The ground was soaked with blood, and his intestines, poking through the wide gash in his abdomen, glistened in the morning sun. Dahlia was ignoring Stan, as everyone else in the village was also doing. If Stan was weak enough to get caught by a knife in the dark, then he deserved his death. Someone had alerted Ruse that he had work to do, of course. A body couldn’t be left lying like that for too long, not if the village wanted to avoid pests gathering and the potential for disease. Besides, Ruse knew Dahlia wouldn’t tolerate the body when it began to steam and bloat and mess up her washing schedule. If it got that bad, she would blame Ruse, and then Ruse wouldn’t get his rations that day. He hurried to collect his tools from the storage area, which included his wheelbarrow, a shovel, and a rake. The air smelled like yeasty baking rolls from the tavern and moldering blood. Though an unpleasant combination, Ruse was used to it. He rolled the wheelbarrow over to Stan. “If you’re going to sleep with the spit-boy, at least kick him out early enough that you can get to work on time,” Dahlia admonished as she dropped the empty bucket back on its metal hook next to the well. She turned her back on Ruse and leaned over her basin, dipping her fingertips into the water briefly. The water began to steam as her magic took hold, and she stepped back to get a cake of soap and the first of the shirts. Ruse grumbled under his breath at her words. He had only slept with Ethan once or twice, and it was just to scratch an itch. There was someone else he would much prefer to be sleeping with, of course, but since that wasn’t possible Ruse made do with what was available. Once he and Ethan both got tired of their own hands, they would probably have sex again, but Ruse hadn’t been with Ethan last night. “I think Lettie’s new concoction at the tavern did me in,” Ruse replied. “There’ll be a lot of people with sore heads this morning.” He bent down and gripped Stan under the armpits. Ruse wasn’t particularly tall or strong, just five foot six and wiry, but there was an art to moving dead bodies around that he had long ago perfected. The body would flop whichever way gravity took it, so all Ruse had to do was lever Stan high enough that he tipped easily into the wheelbarrow. Dahlia grunted. “That explains Old Dave. He’s still facedown in the street that way.” She pointed along the street toward the tenement house where most of the town’s residents lived. It was along Ruse’s route toward the dump site, so he’d stop and see if he had a second body to collect this morning. Ruse used his shovel to get all the large pieces of intestine into the wheelbarrow with Stan, then raked at the ground to try to remove as much blood from the soil as possible. Once he had done as much as he could, Ruse gripped the handles of the wheelbarrow and pushed. Old Dave was still lying in the dirt of the road when Ruse trundled past him. The gray hair from his unkempt beard fluttered over his mouth as he breathed, so Ruse left him alone. Live bodies weren’t his responsibility. The dump site was a spot of ground just outside the town. No one lived there, of course, but Ruse usually ran into one or two townspeople as they brought their personal trash to the site. A spell in the capital city emptied the city’s trash receptacles once a week, and that spell had been replicated in the dump site for the village. The city wizards took everything away, bodies included. But it was also where the wizards left things for the town. The tailor came to the dump site to collect bolts of cloth while the group of farmers came for the seeds every spring. Ruse came for the bodies, to collect anyone the city wizards sent to their village. None of the villagers were without fault however. The tailor had been convicted of killing people, dismembering their bodies, and then sewing them back together out of order before leaving them lying out in the middle of a busy street. The farmers were an entire gang of thieves who had chosen to make a homestead with their members instead of joining the rest of the town. Ruse was just Ruse, but he fulfilled a vital role in their community. Admittedly, he didn’t just cart around bodies; his other role was behind the scenes working with Moe to keep the village running smoothly. The community they lived in only worked because everyone took an active role. Dahlia washed laundry, Lettie cooked meals for the community, and Moe ensured they always had something to drink. Ruse couldn’t hide behind a job that was practically invisible, so he carted around bodies. When he got to the dump site, Ruse tipped his wheelbarrow and let Stan’s body flop out. It took a couple of shakes to get all the bits and pieces out too. Ruse left the wheelbarrow tipped and headed over to the small well that had been dug by someone with an affinity for water before Ruse had been sent to the town, but it was convenient for him. He pulled up a bucket from deep inside the well and brought it over to his wheelbarrow. It took a couple of buckets to get all the blood off. Once his wheelbarrow and tools were clean, Ruse headed to the pickup side of the dump site. There was a body waiting for him along with two gigantic pallets of what looked like bricks. The city apparently wanted them to start building with the fancier material now that they had proven their abilities with their wooden houses being sturdy. Damned bastards. The body was alive, barely, and Ruse’s job also included carting in new arrivals. He brought them to the tavern where Moe, the proprietor, would lay down the law and explain the rules. Live bodies didn’t handle the same way as dead ones. There was always more resistance in the unconscious bodies. Plus, Ruse had been asked not to bruise or bang up the new arrivals before Moe had his turn. It took a lot more effort to hoist the newcomer into his wheelbarrow than it had to pick up Stan. It was a man this time, which would disappoint the villagers hoping for a woman. He was tall, at least six feet, but probably even more. Each additional inch in height made it that much more difficult for Ruse to lever his body into the wheelbarrow. Luckily, he was thin and muscular; Ruse had to get help when an obese person arrived. His features were pleasant: eyes evenly spaced, lips full, and his cheekbones well formed. He made the old wheelbarrow look like a fancy chair just because of how pretty he was. Ruse knew someone even prettier, but if he allowed his thoughts to drift in that direction now, he would remain distracted throughout the day. The wheelbarrow bumped over ruts and ridges in the road as Ruse walked back into town. Old Dave was still breathing as Ruse passed him again, and the square smelled pleasantly like fresh bread and soap, which was a good change. The tavern was the largest building in the square. It served as a meeting place for the entire town and was where Ruse was supposed to bring any news. Ruse left the wheelbarrow in the square and walked across the long porch outside the tavern and into the building. It was still dark inside. The shutters hadn’t been opened yet, and the fire that had been left to die down overnight still showed faintly glowing embers. Moe was standing behind the bar, wiping down mugs. He was a large, dark-skinned man and heavily muscled. Moe had the type of frame that at first glance made Ruse think he was obese, but all that hard-packed flesh was actually muscle. With one swing, Moe could crush a man’s skull. “New arrival for you, Moe,” Ruse said with a jerk of his thumb over his shoulder toward the door. His wheelbarrow with its cargo was waiting outside. “They also sent us bricks.” “Bricks?” Moe asked. “Well, damn those city wizards to hell and back. What do they expect us to do with bricks?” “Build,” Ruse sighed. Moe spat to the side. “Fuck them anyway. I’ll send someone to pick the stuff up. Go have your breakfast, Ruse. I’ll put your wheelbarrow back in your shed when I’m done with the newcomer.” Ruse nodded politely to Moe and headed to the kitchen. The village couldn’t be found on any maps. It didn’t have a name and people didn’t travel to it to visit or sightsee. There were many different reasons for that, foremost the fact that an idiot tourist from the city was more likely to die violently than have a good time. Although, since almost no one knew the village even existed, dead visitors weren’t really a problem. The country of Ammet was an ancient one, formed after the Great Wizard Wars two centuries ago that had ruptured the earth and destroyed half of humanity. Out of necessity, the war’s survivors had banded together in one location. It was more defensible and sustainable to work and live together. Their single location soon became a thriving city. The city grew and eventually became powerful enough to claim all the land between the Great Bone Canyon in the east and the Ruptured Mountains in the west. The northern border was the frozen sea where fire and heat wizards melted the ice to ensure the continuation of shipping and trade. The southern border was contested, as it didn’t have a natural landmark to point to on a map. The area was prairieland. Ammet claimed the entirety of the prairie. Oshe, the country immediately to the south of the prairieland, claimed the same. The two countries were not friendly because of that disagreement, but they had never gone to war to cement their borders. The prairie didn’t welcome invaders. The magic during the Great War had warped the land too, so while the prairie might not have been as physically imposing as the Great Bone Canyon, it was just as deadly. Armies on both sides had marched into the prairie and mysteriously vanished. With no military option available, both countries had instead continued to snub each other for decades with no border solution in sight. However, in the last twenty years, Ammet had found what they believed to be a solution. The prairie rarely bothered travelers or traders. Groups of fewer than ten people passed through all the time. Ammet couldn’t march against Oshe with so few soldiers, but they could attempt to physically claim the land. If they could prove to the International Wizards’ Council that they had citizens living in the prairie, the IWC might be willing to write the permanent border in favor of Ammet. Oshe would get nothing, which suited Ammet perfectly. Ammet was comprised of damned bastards as far as Ruse was concerned, and he knew they didn’t actually understand the prairie they were trying to co-opt. The prairie was not to be taken lightly. Even those small trade caravans that braved it were just as likely to vanish as emerge unscathed. Ammet didn’t want to experiment with their own wizards, who might die in the attempt, but the prisons were overfilled, so Ammet chose five criminals and magically transported them far into the prairie with some rations and a pile of wood and nails. Ruse didn’t doubt that the first group of murderers, thieves, and other ilk sent to the prairie had killed each other instead of building themselves a shelter, but the city wizards kept trying with new groups. At some point, they had gotten the starting group balanced correctly and all five criminals survived the first day and longer. Eventually, the first house was built and the first farm sown. The wizards slowly sent more people, one or two at a time, and also included more materials needed for the village to grow. When the prairie ignored the first village, the wizards sent another five criminals to another location to start a second. There had to be at least a dozen of the villages throughout the prairie now. Ruse’s village, the sixth village, had finally grown large enough that the city wizards appeared to want sturdier buildings built of brick instead of wood. Many of the criminals living in the village were just happy not to be in jail—the material their houses were built out of was inconsequential—but Ruse and some of the smarter villagers knew better. Ammet was letting them build houses, stores, and taverns, but they were still criminals. Ruse knew that once the village had reached the point where even the least hearty city wizard could live in total comfort, all the criminals would be disposed of so the new, law-abiding and Ammet-supporting tenants could move in. Ammet would proudly fly their flag over the prairie, and there wasn’t anything Oshe could do about it. The new bricks would be utilized immediately in various places around the village. The new criminal would swim or sink according to his own strengths. Either he would find some way to fit in, or he would end up at the wrong end of someone’s knife. That was how the prairie villages worked. Lettie was stirring something in a pot over the stove when Ruse walked into the kitchen. She was as old as Old Dave although she wasn’t mean about life like Dave was. Her back was bent and her hands wrinkled, but her grip on the spoon was strong. She had been an alchemist before being sent here when she was caught experimenting on humans. Moe ensured she kept her experiments to culinary pursuits. Lettie ladled Ruse a bowl of oatmeal from the pot and filled a plate with two freshly steaming rolls. Ruse thanked her and took his meal to the small table in the corner.
Meet the AuthorWhen Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.
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Today is my post during the blog tour for Bly by Kelsey Ketch. Bly is a standalone contemporary fantasy book with mystery and horror.
This blog tour is organized by Lola’s Blog Tours and the tour runs from 20 September till 1 October. You can see the tour schedule here.
By Kelsey Ketch
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy/ Ghost Story
Age category: New Adult
Release Date: 22 September, 2021
Blurb: I left the United States to find inner peace. Instead, I find myself confronting a malicious ghost.
Astyr Salt is a spiritual and emotional empath who moved to England with the intent to forget about a traumatic, supernatural event that occurred during her freshman year of college. However, when she takes a spiritual cleansing assignment in a haunted country home in Essex, she is isolated with all her own pent-up emotions.
These emotions energize the ghosts inhabiting the country home, helping them draw their own tragedies to the surface. Searching for the truth, Astyr is forced to relive the past. And the deeper she dives into the country homeâ€™s horrific history, the more the intertwined memories place her in the path of an evil and demented predator.
A blend of contemporary fantasy, horror, and mystery, Bly is inspired by Henry Jamesâ€™s classic novella, The Turn of the Screw.
– Google Play
Kelsey Ketch is a young-adult/new-adult author, who works as a Wildlife Biologist and Data Analyst. During her free time, she can often be found working on her latest work in progress. She also enjoys history, mythology, traveling, and reading.
For more information, please visit her site at kelseyketch.com.
There is a tour wide giveaway during the blog tour for Bly. These are the prizes you can win:
– a signed copy of Bly and a lavender wand (US Only)
– 10 ecopies of Bly – through Bookfunnel (International)
You can see what the lavender wand looks like here.
For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
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Title: Immortal Things
Author: Rick R. Reed
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 09/27/2021
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Female, Male/Male, Female/Female
Genre: Horror/Thriller, LGBTQIA+, vampires, artists, prostitution, dark, immortal, Chicago
DescriptionBy day, Elise draws and paints, spilling out the horrific visions of her tortured mind. By night, she walks the streets, selling her body to the highest bidder. And then they come into her life: a trio of impossibly beautiful vampires: Terence, Maria, and Edward. When they encounter Elise, they set an explosive triangle in motion Terence wants to drain her blood. Maria wants Elise . . . as lover and partner through eternity. And Edward, the most recently converted, wants to prevent her from making the same mistake he made as a young abstract expressionist artist in 1950s Greenwich Village: sacrificing his artistic vision for immortal life. He is the only one of them still human enough to realize what an unholy trade this is. Immortal Things will grip you in a vise of suspense that won’t let go until the very last moment…when a shocking turn of events changes everything and demonstrates—truly—what love and sacrifice are all about.
ExcerptImmortal Things Rick R. Reed © 2021 All Rights Reserved Prologue No one can hear the screams, the cries for mercy, and the shrieks of agony. It is as though the house is alive and it clamps down in reaction to the turmoil going on inside. One would never guess from its calm exterior that blood drips from its walls and those unlucky enough to enter have a good chance never to emerge again. This house appears to be empty. Dignified. Crumbling testimony to the wealth that once existed on Chicago’s Far North Side. It sits like a boulder on a corner, empty-eye-socket windows facing Sheridan Road and beyond it, the expanse of Lake Michigan. The lake is dark now; white-tipped waves crash against the shoreline, breaking at the boulders, a crescent moon bisected and wobbling on its black and churning waters. The house has borne witness to these waters, moody and changeable, always fickle, for more than a hundred years. The house is fashioned from white brick, yellowed and dirty. Nothing grows in the yard, save for a few straggling weeds that refuse to give in to the barren soil. The house is dead. And so are its inhabitants. ***** The dead are inside and reveal a surprising likeness to living creatures. They can move and speak just like the rest of us. They have wants and needs. They go about fulfilling these wants and needs with the same kind of intensity and purpose as the rest of the world. One could even say they have jobs, even if their occupations would be deemed illegal and certainly immoral by almost everyone. But look beyond these superficial similarities and you’ll feel chilled. Touch their flesh and it’s cold. Lay your head at their breasts and hear…nothing. Look into their eyes and find yourself reflected back in a black void that you just know, if you linger too long in its embrace, you’ll be sucked in and it will be all over for you. Grab one of their cold wrists and feel stone, marble to be exact. There is no pulse. But tonight, they are a merry band of three. Like the living, they are filled with anticipation. An evening out awaits them. They will, like so many others getting ready for a night on the town, meet others, exchange knowing glances and a mating dance of words. They will sup, but not on the gourmet offerings of the city. Most houses borne of this period contain many rooms, perhaps more than necessary. Whoever designed this house had the presence of mind to create wide-open spaces, breathing room. Enter the double front doors and you come directly into the living room. Or is it a drawing room? A great room? No matter. What you do not enter is a vestibule or a foyer as other houses of this period would contain. The walls are parchment colored, but right now, that color is indiscernible to the human eye, lit as they are by dozens of flickering candles. Water stains mar the walls and give to them a trompe l’oeil elegance, a look of almost deliberate aging. The floors are dark, their hardwood planks, tongue and groove, blackened by the lack of light and dust accumulated over many years. Along one wall is a fieldstone fireplace, its mantel tall as a man, its hearth cold and empty. There is no furniture in this huge room. No chairs. No tables. No bookcases or desks. No divans or chaise lounges. What does occupy the room, other than these three lifeless, yet curiously beautiful souls, is art. Paintings of every period lean against the wall and hang from their crumbling surfaces. Here is one after the style of Rubens, there another that looks pre-Raphaelite, here a Picasso…Jackson Pollock…Monet…Keith Haring…Willem de Kooning…Mark Rothko…Barnett Newman…plus the works of a legion of unknown artists, in every style and medium imaginable. The walls are crowded with it. The room is a gallery assembled by someone with vast resources, but tastes that go beyond eclectic. The only common theme running through these works is that all are unique. There is a respect for form, for color, for technique. Most of all, there is a certain indefinable quality that manages to capture the human spirit in its delicacy, in its discontent, in its hunger. Perhaps it’s the hunger that appeals to them. And the floor is a cocktail party of human sculptures. Men and women carved from marble, granite, and alabaster, cast in bronze. There are later figures cast from polymers, smooth acrylic, welded metals. It is eerie—this empty house that has become museum or mausoleum. Or both. But art is what the dead crave. It sustains them—that and something else—something warmer and more vibrant, but they are too genteel to admit to such hungers. Like animals, they simply feed when they are hungry and discuss it as little as possible. The walls also contain long leaded-glass windows, through which, appropriately enough, a full moon sends its pale rays, distorted and laying upon the darkened wood like silver. The leaded glass has become opaque, obscured by layers of dust, grime, and accumulated smoke. And we can see the creatures now, gathering. Listen: and hear nothing save for the creaking of ancient floorboards. First, let us consider Terence, broad shoulders cloaked in a pewter, latex zippered vest open just enough to display the cleft between smooth and defined pecs, tight leather jeans, and biker boots. Blond hair frames his face in leonine splendor: thick, straight, and shining, it flows to just below his shoulders. Glint of silver on both ears, studs moving like an iridescent slug upward. Terence is the second oldest of the three. His skin, like the others, has the look and feel of alabaster. Dark eyes burn from within this whiteness and present a startling contrast. Terence is a study in symmetry: his wide-set eyes match each other perfectly, his aquiline nose bisects dramatic cheekbones, and his full lips speak volumes about sensuality and lust. Stare into Terence’s eyes and gain a glimpse—quick, like a jump cut in a movie—of cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and the grime and elegance that was London in the late 1800s. Shake your head and the image disperses and you are left thinking it’s only your imagination conjuring up these images. After all, what does this post-punk Adonis have to do with the British Empire in the time of Oscar Wilde? Besides, Terence’s smile will have you thinking only of the present. And the present is what Terence lives for—the pleasure he can find, the communion of flesh and blood, seemingly so religious and yet sent from hell. He throws back his head and does a runway model turn, for the benefit of his companion, Edward, who rolls his eyes and snickers. “Don’t look to me to be one of your adoring minions.” Let’s shift our focus to Edward. Edward is musculature in miniature, stubbled face and a shaved pate. Leather vest, black cargo pants tucked into construction worker boots, no jewelry save for the inverted cross glinting gold between shaved and defined pecs. On his bicep, a tattooed band: marijuana leaves repeated over and over, rimmed with a thick black line. Edward’s look would be comfortable in the leather bars along Halsted Street, and he is the only one of the three who prefers the embraces of men. He is relatively young, a newcomer to this scene of death and the greedy stealing of life. Watch him carefully and you will detect a hint of uncertainty in his handsome, rugged features. Melancholy haunts his dark eyes, which, unlike Terence’s, are not symmetrical: the left is a little smaller than the right and crinkles more when he laughs, which is seldom. Curiously, though, it is Edward’s features that look most human…because it’s humanity that lacks perfection and Edward hasn’t been of this undead world long enough to adopt its slick veneer of beauty that’s too perfect to be real or wholesome. Look into Edward’s eyes and you’ll see a beatnik Greenwich Village, a more personal vision: an artist’s studio which is nothing more than a cramped room with bad light with canvases he worked on night and day, brilliant blends of color and construction for which Edward had no name, but one day would be called abstract expressionism. Shake your head, and—as with Terence—these images disperse. There’s nothing there, save for this macho gay clone boy with eyes that still manage to sparkle, in spite of the thin veneer of sadness and remorse deep within them. And last comes Maria, on silent cat feet, moving down the stairs. A whisper of satin, the color of coagulating blood: rust and dying roses, corseted at the waist with black leather. Black hair falls to her shoulders, straight, each strand perfect, sometimes flickering red from the candles’ luminance. Dark eyes and full crimson lips. Maria stands over six feet, and her body, even beneath the dress, is a study in strength: muscles taut, defined, like a man save for the fact that the muscles speak a hypnotic feminine language: sinew locked with flesh in elegance and grace. “Feline” would not be going too far were one to describe her. There is the same grace, the same frightening coiled-up power, perfect for the hunt, perfect for surprising and making quick work of her prey. She pauses, turning slowly in front of the men, her men, waiting for an appraisal. And, unlike Terence, this move does not seem vain, but more her due. The men applaud softly and Maria stops, dark eyes boring into theirs. They do not see the watery streets of Venice, but you would, if you dared to engage her gaze for long. Dark canals and mossy mildew-stained walls, crumbling stairs at which black water laps, an open window through which one hears an aria. Smell the mildew and the damp. The three take seats on the dusty floor, bring out mind-altering paraphernalia. Terence, first: “Whom will we lure tonight?” And Edward, eyes cast downward, the candle flames reflected off his bald and shining pate, sighs. It is Maria who touches him, her hand a whisper, but with the tightness of a claw against his shoulder, forcing him to look up into her eyes. “I know it’s hard. But eventually you’ll come to understand, to be like Terence and enjoy what is natural.” Edward laughs, but there is no mirth in it. “Natural? You call what we do natural?” “We are God’s creatures, just like the ones we prey upon. Just as an owl preys upon a mouse. We have needs and we do what we must to satisfy them—or else we die.” “We’re already dead,” Edward says. Maria picks up a glass cylinder and looks at it critically for a moment. “Legend looks at us that way. That much is true.” At the top of the cylinder is a small bowl, which Maria stuffs with sticky, green bud. The smell of marijuana is redolent in the air, mixing with the burning wax of the candles. “But I prefer to think of us as another species. A different kind of animal.” Edward stares at the silver light coming in through the long leaded-glass windows. It has been more than fifty years since he first met Terence in a tiny basement bar in Greenwich Village. Fifty years since he transformed himself into this new kind of animal Maria is now trying to make him think he is, to excuse their killing, the mayhem they wreak wherever they go. The heartbreak and the bloodshed, the latter so delicious, and so damning. Will he ever become callous enough to view what they do and what they are, like Maria? Will he ever be able to look at one of their victims, convulsing before them on a grimy floor, surrendering to death, and see them as merely sustenance? He’ll never believe it. The most curious thing about his transformation is this: time has taken on completely different dimensions. Five decades have passed like five days. It makes eternity easier to bear, he supposes. “If that’s what gets you through the night, Maria, fine. And as for being like Terence one day, well, that’s a hell I hope to never visit.” His last comment elicits a snort from Terence, who seems to either find everything humorous or everything sexy. He lives for pleasure. Sometimes, Edward wishes he could be like him. Terence has no conscience. It would be easier to be so ignorant. “Here.” Maria hands him the glass cylinder, the thing that in a head shop would be called a Steamroller, and Edward fishes in his vest pocket for a disposable lighter. He fires it up and holds it to the little ashen bowl topping the cylinder, watching as it grows orange and holding his hand over the open end of the tube. It fills with smoke. When Edward removes his hand, the blue-gray smoke rolls toward him, into his open mouth, and he longs for the oblivion he knows it will bring. He holds the smoke deep in his lungs and then exhales. It doesn’t take much of this stuff to change his mood, to make him forget, and for that, he’s grateful. He hands the cylinder to Terence, who locks his hand over his and stares into his eyes. “You always were so beautiful,” he whispers. “You always were such a liar.” And the merry band of three becomes silent and a little less merry. They know the truth: Terence is a liar, and had it not been for his charm and deceptions, Edward would not be with them tonight. No, Edward would not be with them. He would be a man in his seventies by now, either a bum or a respected abstract expressionist painter; in the movie of his life, someone short but muscular would play him; the title of this film would not be Pollock, but Tanguy. Instead, Edward was no longer an artist, no longer a human being really. No, he is now a creature who has made stealth and superhuman attunement his artistic expression. He thinks, with a dark snort, that all he draws now is blood. Maria’s cold, satin flesh takes hold of his forearm; the slight pressure of her nails: the gentle touch of a bird of prey’s talons. Even with his own kind, Edward thinks, one can’t be too careful. She knows he is not attuned to the night, but is depressed and resigned to the hunt. He has never fully realized the joy of taking sustenance. Maria stares into his black irises with her own pitch orbs, and smiles. She licks her lips and raises her nose to sniff. “Mmm. Can’t you smell them, Edward? The sharp, hot tang?” She closes her eyes in a kind of rapture, breathing in deeply. The smell of people wafts through the hot summer air, as much a background as the bleating horns, exhausts, and squealing brakes from the cars on Sheridan Road. Edward allows Maria to lead him to the front door. Puncture or perish is the joke he whispered to himself. Terence waits at the curb, his big Harley churning and revving. He grins and one can see, even from yards away, Terence’s eyes twinkling with anticipation. Edward thinks as he descends the wide flight of stairs, Maria clutching his arm, that Terence is the luckiest of the three because he feels no remorse. He has no heart.
Meet the AuthorReal Men. True Love. Rick R. Reed is an award-winning and bestselling author of more than fifty works of published fiction. He is a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Entertainment Weekly has described his work as “heartrending and sensitive.” Lambda Literary has called him: “A writer that doesn’t disappoint…” Find him at http://www.rickrreedreality.blogspot.com. Rick lives in Palm Springs, CA, with his husband, Bruce, and their fierce Chihuahua/Shiba Inu mix, Kodi.
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Title: Waiting for Raine
Series: Comet Lake Chronicles, Book One
Author: Layla Dorine
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 09/27/2021
Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex
Pairing: Male/Male, Male/Male Menage
Genre: Paranormal, LGBTQIA+, shifters, mates, author, menage, hurt-comfort, disability, intersex, pregnancy, offspring