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Nic Starr & BL Maxwell

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Book Blitz

The Sweet Spot by Naomi Springthorp

Title: The Sweet Spot
Series: An All About the Diamond Romance Book 1
Author: Naomi Springthorp
Genre: Sports Romance
Release Date: June 14, 2018


Can her baseball fantasy become reality, or will she strike out at love?

Rick Seno is a warrior behind the plate in his catcher’s gear. In control and calling the game for the San Diego Seals. He’d show me the same attention in my bed, if he was more than my imaginary baseball boyfriend.

I’ve worn a Seno jersey to every game since Rick became a big leaguer.

It’s silly. I’m almost a decade older than him. I don’t compare to the flawless baseball skanks who wait for him at the player’s garage.

But, what am I supposed to do when the All-Star of my dreams invites me out after a game?

I can’t believe he wants me. Until tonight, I was completely content with my life. Now, I’m caught off base and I’m not sure I can make it home safe.















USA Today Bestselling Author Naomi Springthorp is a born and raised Southern California girl. She’s a baseball freak who supports her team all season long and blatantly admires the athletes in those pants. Music has always been part of her life and she believes everything has a soundtrack. She loves her two feline fur babies, though they’re not quite sure what to do with her.

She writes Baseball Romance, Romantic Comedies, 90s Throwback, and Contemporary Romance–all with heat and sometimes a little sweet. https://linktr.ee/naomispringthorp


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Karma’s Kiss

Karma’s Kiss by M.C. Roth

General Release Date: 26th April 2022

Word Count: 63,879 Book Length: NOVEL Pages: 230

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE ANGELS AND DEMONS CONTEMPORARY EROTIC ROMANCE GAY GLBTQI PARANORMAL THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE WERESHIFTERS

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Book Description

Karma isn’t the worst curse to have after all. Zack is running from his family, his past and a curse that has tainted his life since childhood. Fleeing his temporary home for the sake of his ex-boyfriend, Zack becomes stranded in a snow drift in the middle of nowhere, wearing nothing more than a spring jacket and an old pair of running shoes. Resigning himself to freezing to death, he is rescued by Eric, an irresistible man who treads the line between kindness and discourtesy. Zack quickly realises that Eric’s home is a different kind of frozen hell. There is no electricity in the tiny one-room cabin, no running water and definitely no Wi-Fi. But Eric is more than just a man. He is the only one who seems to be immune to Zack’s curse, and he has secrets of his own. Eric may be more dangerous than anything Zack has ever seen before. Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and the death of a secondary character.

Excerpt

“No. No. No,” said Zack as he pushed the gas pedal all the way to the floor. The ancient car responded sluggishly, a full second passing before the engine vibrated with a purr that made his foot go numb. The bald tyres spun, trapped in a sheet of ice and snow that coated the road and the lone vehicle. The storm sagged against the windshield as the wipers tried lethargically to keep up, leaving large, frosted streaks with every swipe. With each pass, the ice crystals grew denser, coating the wipers with budding globs of ice. Another burst of wind battered the side of the car, fluttering against the door and buffeting the tiny cracks in the vehicle. A trickle of cold air brushed against his chilled knuckles, and a shiver cascaded though his body. The vehicle lurched closer to the ditch that had disappeared into the blizzard’s cloud. The tyres caught, edging sideways in a frozen rut. He jerked at the steering wheel, but there was no response as he was buried deeper in the drifts. Zack’s heart pounded as he lost control of the wheel and the engine sputtered. But he barely noticed as the car lurched into a stall or as the air got even colder through the flimsy heating vents. The storm was the furthest thing from his mind. It had happened again. And, of course, it had chosen the moment when the biggest snowstorm of the decade was blowing its way across the lakes. The radar had probably gone from red to purple then black while he’d driven with no destination in mind. The roads had been relatively clear a few hours before, when he had fled to his car, putting it straight into second gear before he even had his seat belt on. He had hit the highway, flipping a virtual coin to choose the exit he’d take before the heavy flakes had started drifting down from the grey sky. He shuddered. His darkness—his curse—the thing had haunted him for as long as he could remember… It always seemed to choose the worst moments to rear its ugly, jealous head. This had to be one of the top five of all time, though. He had tried to keep moving. He’d tried to leave before he could put anyone else at risk. But he’d been sucked in by another pair of sweet blue eyes and a soft voice that had promised him a good night. That night had turned into a stream of great weeks and gentle touches that had him coming more consistently than he ever had. The sex had been fantastic, if not a little bit soft, more often ending in his mouth or his hand—and not somewhere better, tighter and hotter. His nights hadn’t been cold in an empty hotel bed or on a couch that he had claimed during a stranger’s party. He had started to look forwards to waking up in the morning and seeing someone other than himself in his bed. Then it had all gone wrong. One word and a spurned rejection, and his past had caught up with him with the force of a starving tiger. He’d staggered as he’d felt the blood drain from his face. He had fled before anything could happen to the man who he had almost started to like. If he’d had the opportunity, he could have developed full-blown feelings, which were more dangerous than his curse. He’d grabbed everything in sight that belonged to him, leaving more behind than he’d taken. His socks and underwear were lost beneath the bed and in the basket of laundry, but he hadn’t had the time to retrieve them. They weren’t the worst things that he’d ever left behind. He’d had run to his ancient Honda, breathing hard by the time he had tugged the door open. As he’d sped away, he’d left another chunk of his past behind him, the sweet memories tainted by his bitter curse. The traffic had steadily thinned, until he was the only car in the midst of a forest that seconded as a snowy hell. His trusty Honda was only five years younger than him and had more problems than he did, which was saying a lot. Its most recent issue was that it apparently couldn’t drive through more than two centimetres of fresh snow. He fumbled with the key, glancing out into the bleak stretch of swirling snow as he tried to start the engine yet again. Stomping on the gas, he waited for the RPMs to climb into the red zone before popping the clutch and putting the car directly into second gear. First gear didn’t exactly work, and on ice, it was its own death trap. There was a shuddering jerk that had relief flooding his gut, until the car rocked once and stalled back into silence. The dials dropped and the fuzzy radio station faded until the barest hint of the country song vanished under the sound of the wind. “Shit,” he said as he slammed his hand against the steering wheel. It shuddered, barely holding on to its rigging after his repeated abuse. He could imagine the wheel finally tumbling off as he merged lanes on a highway doing one-hundred-and-thirty-five kilometres per hour. I’m lucky like that. His palm ached from the hit and the cold that was steadily seeping into the car, but it didn’t stop him from slamming the wheel a second time. His thumb caught the edge of the horn, but the blaring sound was swept away on the wind. The temperature inside the car noticeably dropped another few degrees, and his breath turned into a misty fog that coated everything it touched. The car’s heater was lukewarm at best, and without a working defrost, ice had started to crust on even the inside of the windshield. He turned the key again as he popped the car back into neutral and pushed the clutch to the floor. He shivered as another gust of wind cut into the Honda. His thin jacket was best suited for balmy fall days, but it was the only one that had been in sight as he’d scrambled to leave. His toes were numb in his sneakers, and his hands? Well, he was afraid to look at them, because he wouldn’t be surprised if a few fingers were already missing. His gloves had been one of the many things that he had left behind, and his hands had been aching since the snow had started. The car key turned under his hand, jingling with the other attached keys and mementos that he had picked up on his travels. There was a tiny metal sandal that he’d picked up in a beach town and an iron sun from a gift shop that he’d found in the middle of nowhere. The rest were worn, their edges smooth from their constant motion. He kept them close, so he wouldn’t have to look back and remember. The key turned, with the promise of escape and a hint of heat. Silence. Not even a putter from the flooded engine. His gut churned as a shiver racked his body. It was so freaking cold, and according to the last clear announcement on the radio, the storm was just getting started. He grappled with the horn, pushing the button as hard as he could. There had to be someone close by who would come to his rescue if they heard him honking. People in the city might not have looked twice, but he was pretty far into the wilderness, on the only road that probably ever saw a plough in winter. People were different out here—lonelier. The button clicked under his palm as the battery finally gave out. The same battery had lasted him twenty years, so, of course, it would choose to fail him when he was about to lose his toes. Zack took a shuddering breath as his vision blurred and his heart sank. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to keep the warmth from escaping. Perhaps everything was finally catching up with him. Freezing to death wouldn’t be the worst way to go. He’d seen worse before—so much worse. His stomach clenched as memories fluttered to the surface of his mind. He tried to push them away before he could retch. “Look at the snow. Just look at the snow,” he said, holding himself tighter as he tried to focus on an individual flake in the whirling mass—anything to leave the flashes of his past behind. Beyond the window he could see bits of the forest through the gaps in the gathering ice on the windshield. The road was nearly invisible, with no tyre tracks except his own behind him. Even those were almost gone now. A green bough fluttered in the wind, dumping its heavy load onto the ground below it. A bird fluttered from the branch, battling against the wind as it took off. For a moment, it looked like it would lose the fight and be tossed into the nearest tree trunk. It pumped its wings faster, finally triumphing over the storm. There were no hydro lines along the road or lamp posts that would guide a traveller along at night. It was a tourist’s nightmare. He cursed himself, wondering if he should’ve taken the other fork in the road that had probably led along a path that was closer to the city. A smudge of colour caught his eye as it flashed along the very edge of the trees. The trunks grew close together, dark and foreboding within the mass, and their limbs danced and swayed in the wind, dumping the snow back to the earth with each pass. There was so much movement that he wondered if he had imagined the blur. He squinted and leaned closer to the window, trying to make sense of it through the fluttering snow. It could have been a deer. He’d already seen a few along the way, looking ready to jump out at his car and double his insurance. Or it could have been a bear, given how far he’d come, although he’d only ever seen them on television. The dark beacon had looked too small to be the creature he’d seen on Planet Earth. He spotted it again as the wind stilled and the blizzard cleared for a moment. It moved through the snow with a fluid grace that could only belong to an animal who could survive a harsh winter. Nothing battered or beaten lived in this cold, and no predator could thrive without hunting in the perpetual storm that was February. It grew closer with every loping step, until it seemed larger than what he imagined a bear would be. It was fast, too, cutting through the drifts as if it weighed nothing. Zack knew how hard it was to walk through snow that deep, which was why he usually avoided it at all costs. That, and he really didn’t want to get his too-tight jeans wet. Zack scrubbed the inside of the window with his nails, bits of ice stinging his numb fingertips. His breath frosted it over again, until everything blurred. It could have been a dog with how dark the colouring was, but he’d never seen a dog that big. A bear would definitely make more sense, but according to the television, bears hibernated in the winter. The ice on the window thickened into an opaque crystal as he pressed his forehead against it, desperate to see what was coming. It was running at a pace that was hardly possible over the covered ground, gliding over the snow without seeming to disturb it at all. A bubble of fear simmered in his gut as he pictured a bear breaking through his window with its massive, clawed paws. He was small enough that he wouldn’t be able to put up much of a fight, but there was still enough meat on him to make a decent meal, he supposed. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes to try to ground himself. The wind around him paused, the car going suddenly still and silent. He snapped his eyes back open, looking through the tiny gaps from his fingertips. There was nothing but the dark tree trunks capped with pure white. The seat creaked as he freed himself from the seatbelt and lifted himself to his knees, pressing against a strip of clear glass. He blinked, rubbing his eyes to remove the imagined fog, but nothing appeared. The snow was undisturbed, except for the partially covered ruts from his own tyres. There were no footprints, and no animal was out in the wind. I’m officially losing my mind.

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About the Author

M.C. Roth

M.C. Roth lives in Canada and loves every season, even the dreaded Canadian winter. She graduated with honours from the Associate Diploma Program in Veterinary Technology at the University of Guelph before choosing a different career path. Between caring for her young son, spending time with her husband, and feeding treats to her menagerie of animals, she still spends every spare second devoted to her passion for writing. She loves growing peppers that are hot enough to make grown men cry, but she doesn’t like spicy food herself. Her favourite thing, other than writing of course, is to find a quiet place in the wilderness and listen to the birds while dreaming about the gorgeous men in her head. Find out more about M.C. Roth at her website.

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Wrong Side by HJ Bellus

Wrong Side: An Enemies-to-Lovers Sports Romance by HJ Bellus releases May 11th!

Pre-Order: https://amzn.to/3IzpA8c
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Everyone knows the Bad Boys of Penwood University dominate campus life with their power to make or break anyone they want. Sadie Alexander never thought she’d end up on their radar. All she wanted was to escape her childhood, and Penwood was her ticket to a new life. But Theo Hudson, the number one Bad Boy and all-star football player, makes it clear he has his sights set on her.

She’d heard the stories, knew the warnings, yet Theo makes it impossible for her to run the other way. The harder she fights to keep her distance, the more determined he becomes to have her. But Sadie isn’t willing to risk everything she has worked so hard to achieve for a guy with a reputation.

The deeper Theo manages to slip into her life, the tighter Sadie gets wrapped up in the unraveling secrets around her.

In the end, Sadie is forced to answer one question…was he worth it?

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MEET THE AUTHOR
HJ Bellus is a small town girl who loves the art of storytelling. When not making readers laugh or cry, she’s a part-time livestock wrangler that can be found in the middle of Idaho, shot gunning a beer while listening to some Miranda Lambert on her Beats and rocking out in her boots.

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 Ice Floe by Melissa Birling

Ice Floe
Melissa Birling
Publication date: April 28th 2022
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

SECRECY IS SAFETY. SISTERHOOD IS EVERYTHING.

Seventeen-year-old Glacia didn’t plan to track a kidnapper, stick a middle finger to the government, and fall into a forbidden summer fling. This is simply what happens when you’re the resident odd girl out, in a shoal of all-female mermaids whose values are a little cracked. Or a lot cracked, if you consider government-endorsed murder and the seizure of male infants to be an issue.

When society rules, family, and romance collide, Glacia fights back the best way she knows how: by taking the matter into her own combat-trained hands and kicking some tail. The problem is, no amount of training can prepare Glacia for the crime circle she discovers, secrets she unveils, and human guy she can’t get out of her head. Glacia finds herself at a crossroads where she must decide whose rules to follow. Who she can trust. And ultimately…who lives and who dies.

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EXCERPT:

We’ve been sitting on the ledge a while now, mostly staring at the view. I steal occasional glances at Tucker. I can’t shake the feeling that there’s a force between us. Energy. A pulse. A magnet. Something. Every time I focus my thoughts elsewhere, he pulls me back in. It’s distracting.

“You ready to head down?” he asks.
“You might as well get started. I can’t climb down with all your equipment in the way.” “I have an extra harness. You should come down with me.” He reaches for his pack and stands up.

I jump up to join him. “No way. I’m not hooking myself into that death trap.” “Glacia, come on. This cliff is super challenging, and it’s way more difficult to climb down than up,” he says, his voice growing louder. Here we go again.
“I’ll be fine once you get your stuff out of the way.” I raise my volume to match his. “It’s not safe. I would feel horrible if I let you climb down and you got hurt.”
“Let me?”
“Not let you. It’s your choice.”
“I choose NO.”
He clenches his jaw tightly and grinds his teeth. I take a few steps back in preparation.

There’s enough room up here to land a solid kick to the face. That should knock him out, then I’ll have to figure out a way to climb down his cat’s cradle setup. Tucker crosses one arm over his chest and raises a hand to cover his mouth. We glare at each other – at an impasse.

“Let’s make a deal,” he offers. “You climb down with me using a harness and rope, and I’ll take you on a boat ride.”

This catches my attention.

“That’s right, I saw you light up when I mentioned my dad’s boat shop,” he continues with a cocky air.

He’s more perceptive than I gave him credit for. Volatile and perceptive. A hefty combination.

“Have you ever been on a boat?” he asks.

I shake my head. I would love to go on a boat. Tucker knows how to fix them and can teach me everything a trainer could, plus more. What am I thinking? This is crazy. I can’t go on a boat with a human. What excuse would I give if I got caught? I can’t pretend I’m seducing. Everyone knows that’s not high on my priority list, and you’re not supposed to seduce alone. Maybe I could say that I’m collecting information to share with the girls I teach… Hmm. That’s almost believable, given my dedication to the studio.

Tucker can tell I’m on the fence about it and ups the ante. “I’ll teach you to drive the boat.”

Unfair. Of course, I want to learn how to drive a boat. That’s a beyond useful skill in my back pocket. I peek down the cliff face to assess the reliability of Tucker’s wedge-rope system. Stupid. Like I know what I’m looking for.

“Fine,” I agree. “We need to be hooked together, so if I die, you die.”
“Seems reasonable.”
“AND I get to drive the boat.”
“Deal. Let’s see, today is Monday, and I already have plans tomorrow. Wednesday?” “What time?”
“Eleven a.m. on the Ula pier.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
Tucker flips his pack around, unclips a belt, and offers it to me. “Do you know how to wear a harness?”
I snatch it from him, compare it to his gear, and step into the leg holes. When I have it all clipped in, I throw my hands on my hips. “Now what?” I ask.

Tucker leans in toward me, rope in hand, then pulls back and reconsiders. “That’s not quite right,” he says haltingly. “Can I fix your harness?”

“I already agreed to this mess, didn’t I?”

He rolls his eyes. “I think that’s a yes. Pull the harness up – it has to sit higher on your hips.”

I follow his instructions, and he flops the rope over one arm. He moves in closer and bends down to reposition the harness. His fingers wrap around the loop against my leg as he pulls it up below my hip. My heart beats faster and my insides twists. I evaluate the top of Tucker’s head in an effort to distinguish these sensations from other emotions. He secures the loop and raises his gaze to meet mine.

“Is that too tight?” he asks. His hazel eyes penetrate mine. The edges are a deep brown that blend into a murky green with an amber starburst around the pupil.

I shake my head and look away. I hope he can’t tell how disoriented this is making me. “Pull the tabs on your waist tighter,” he instructs.
I cinch the waist while he rearranges the other loop on my leg. Why is this making me so agitated? He’s only fixing my gear so I don’t fall to my death. Tucker gathers the rope into his hand and reaches out to tie it to the front belt loop. As he does, his fingers brush my skin just below my belly button. A jolt of electricity shoots through my body. I take in a small gasp of air and hold my breath. He freezes, his fingers lingering on my stomach. Did he feel that too?

Author Bio:

Melissa Birling strives to experience life from a “both and” rather than “either or” perspective. She enjoys living in metropolitan cities and on a small farm. She appreciates burn-your-tongue Mexican cuisine and delicious London pub food. Lately, Melissa spends her time engaging with cyber security professionals and mermaids. Not actual mermaids, although if you know any, she’d love to meet them.

The revelation that one can be both a successful corporate consultant and a fantasy author who writes about mermaids, encouraged Melissa to finish her debut novel, Ice Floe. The emotional high of typing “The End” at the completion of her first draft, triggered a writing spree that hasn’t stopped since. On any given Saturday or Sunday, you will find Melissa writing. She won’t respond to any attempts at human engagement, because she’s “at a good part,” but you’ll find her typing away, nevertheless.

Melissa lives with a ceaselessly supportive husband and their dog who enjoys hunting neighborhood skunks.

Website / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter


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Release Blitz

Snap Me Up

Snap Me Up by Landra Graf

Book 1 in the Full Throttle Cyborgs series

Word Count: 62,153 Book Length: NOVEL Pages: 254

Genres:

ACTION AND ADVENTURE EROTIC ROMANCE FANTASY FUTURISTIC AND SCIENCE FICTION ROMANCE SCIENCE FICTION

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Book Description

For this mechanic, anything is fair game. Snapper Rodriguez never met a woman or a racer he didn’t like, until Gina Morales shows up. She’s butting her head under every hood, moving his tools and plain annoying. He’d rather fall down a mine shaft and lose his other limb than put up with her any longer. Gina Morales is still trying to figure out what it means to be human, and as the first AI with a body in existence, she’s eager to find her maker. A racing garage like Full Throttle seems like a great place to start, though the head mechanic is an ass and she can’t help but get involved when their latest racing engine fails. When Snapper and Gina are forced to work together to create a new engine and steal parts from competing racing gangs, the thrill of the job and the close quarters bring unwanted attraction. Too bad Snapper still wants her gone and will do anything to make that happen, even promise her tastes of human connection that she’s never experienced before. As things heat up, the threat to Gina’s synthetic heart grows, along with her confusion. They’ll have to decide if love is worth the risk or if this is a finish line they can’t cross. Reader advisory: This book contains references to theft, cyborgs, and the major injury of a minor character.

Excerpt

Wrench to the left to loosen. Wrench to the right to tighten. Gina Morales found the process interesting, like everything else human. Who came up with the idea to tighten clockwise or loosen counterclockwise? Who came up with a clock? Of course, she could answer these questions with her big AI brain, though completing the actions, experiencing them, meant far more than simply knowing. A loud winding noise started at the opposite end of the bay and Gina didn’t even bother to look. No, she’d tried to tell that idiot Snapper the engine wouldn’t work, but he, like most male humans, believed he knew more than a woman did. All right, that may be unfair. He believes he knows more than me. Stubborn through and through. A small explosive blast erupted at the opposite end of the bay, the air wafting the scents of combustion and melting metal. Then the fire exhaust compression tanks hissed. This brought a different smell. Gina sniffed and got a good hint of ozone, crisp and clean, before the fans kicked in to clear out any possible toxic chemical reactions. “Fuck!” Snapper’s exclamation brought a smile to her face. Since the first day Gina had stepped into the Full Throttle mechanics bay, Snapper had acted suspicious and rude. Though she half admired his cautious nature, it got a little old when he questioned every move she made. Sure, she was lying to his face, but that was for her safety and security. No one could know she was the first-ever synthetic. Her AI brain had once been the primary software component of a ship named after her, but she’d evolved, and six months prior had discovered a madman from Earth’s moon had worked with someone on Mars to create synthetic bodies. It was her chance to exceed her parameters and prove her worth to her creator. Though becoming human had opened a whole new universe for her. It’s all new. Snapper swore again and threw something. Gina set her wrench down and leaned up, squaring her shoulders as she approached him. “It wouldn’t have done that if you—” “Don’t say it, Gina.” Snapper brought his hand up and massaged his temples, rubbing black slick all over his tan skin. The dirt marring his face bothered her. The lack of attention to cleanliness—she itched to take care of it. Problem-solving was a natural reaction to her root programming, as it had been for more than twelve years. “You have—” He whirled around to face her, blue eyes blazing. “Are you finished with the engine tune-up on that hauler?” A shit job he’d given her for daring to make a suggestion the last time. As an AI, she should have learned her lesson, and she had, but being human meant trying again. At least, Sampson had always told her that. “I’m almost done. Just tightening the last few bolts.” “Then maybe stick to it and let me worry about the engine.” She took a deep breath. “I would be happy to, though you should know that if you added an extra row of plugs, it would be able to distribute the load more evenly.” “You’re a racing engineer now, are you? Your skills were slip drives and trolling motors when you showed up. Best stick to haulers, drifters and ships, and leave the racers to us.” Gina clenched her jaw. “Snapper—” “Gina, how about you finish your assignment and let me deal with ’ol grumpy ass here.” The voice beside her belonged to Drag, the newly appointed leader of Frog Lick and the Full Throttle gang. This town and the gang had once belonged to the Smiths, but they were long gone now, moved on or arrested. What was left was a blend of Smiths, others from another gang called Macintosh and some stragglers from non-affiliated gangs who had earned a place with Full Throttle. Drag had been the one to give her a chance, while his buddy Snapper wanted to give her a hard time. Where Drag was all blond hair, straight-cut and slicked-back, with a solid build and trimmed goatee, Snapper was dark, curly hair and untamed beard. Like a wild man fitting into the uncivilized stereotypes often used to describe Mars men on the Upper Planets. “Aye, aye, cap…er, boss.” She caught herself but didn’t miss how Drag’s blond eyebrow raised a fraction. Instead of doubling down with more words that might give herself away, or cause more questions, she pivoted on her foot and went right back to the hauler. Her wrench waited for her, and she grabbed it, though her curiosity couldn’t be helped. She’d always been more of a listener anyway, from her years possessing an inanimate object. “I don’t like her, Drag.” She wrenched with a little more force than planned, and the damn bolt squeaked. Her grip eased up as the conversation continued. “You could at least hear her out. She might have a good idea or two.” Gina liked Drag. Liked him a lot. He was logical, smart, thoughtful, and he was constantly attempting to improve the gang-town, in more ways than others did. Starting with equality for women and men… Prior to Drag taking over as gang leader, women weren’t allowed to work in the mechanics bay or any areas of ship building and mining. Snapper growled. “Maybe, but I don’t have time for ideas right now. We needed this racer ready to start testing. We’re pushing it as things are. Now, I got nothing.” “You got a body, just not an engine. It’s all right, we have time and you go back to the drawing board. We’ll get thoughts from others at the town meeting tonight. Many heads are better than one.” Funny how Gina had tried to tell Snapper the same thing a couple of days ago and he’d shot her down. Drag, on the other hand, was able to get through. At least, Snapper’s weary sigh implied most of his fight was gone. “Fine, I’ll be at the meeting, though I was hoping to skip it.” “No,” Drag replied. “I need you there. You and Rune are my right hands. We need to show a united front, more than ever.” Gina tightened the last bolt in place and slammed the engine cover down, doing her best to give the impression that she wasn’t hanging on every word…except the pair had gone silent. She glanced over and saw Snapper’s pensive expression. Those fingers were back to massaging engine grease into his skin. She rubbed her own fingertips together. The presence of grease there made her stomach turn a bit. Dirt, grime—she’d been a ship, knew the feel of such things, yet even now she ached to clean her hands. “They turned us down, didn’t they?” Snapper’s question was met by Drag’s nod of agreement. Not good at all. She gathered her tools and dropped them in the box against the wall. Another quick look—Drag and Snapper were now talking to their driver, Hemi. She took that moment to slip away to the sink and contemplate her next move. The water and soap were a mash of odd sensations that she’d never gotten used to, though less overwhelming than the baths with the full immersion into the liquid. She’d almost frozen in fear the first time she’d cleaned herself, her experience limited to the ion showers on the ships. No water, no waste. Though here, everything was recycled, filtered and re-used. Soapy suds were swept clean by droplets of liquid—the same liquid that powered humanity. Seventy percent of their bodies was composed of this life-giving nectar. Gina dried her hands on a towel then took another peek around the corner—with Drag and Snapper sidetracked, she could log her progress on the hauler in the computer and potentially access the other files. It wouldn’t take long, and this was her best chance, while the system was unlocked and available. She hadn’t dared let the machine log her as getting in after hours or attempting to erase the evidence. In other circumstances, a little light hacking might work, but one never knew when a tech might discover her digital fingerprints and cause her trouble. Snapper’s attitude toward her increased her desire to take the risk. She was tired of waiting, taking it slow, per Sampson’s suggestion. Hell, Sampson didn’t even know she wanted to find her maker. Maybe Sampson didn’t fix my morality and ethics subroutines from when I was hacked eight years ago. She logged the information then let her fingers fly. Her eyes scanned everything as fast as she could. Access to the Smiths’ old files, the visitors, the mechanics, the software developers and ship builders… The name imprinted on her mind, Torrent, never appeared anywhere. Clicking out of the last file took her back to the main screen. “I see you watching him. Best not to get any ideas.” Snapper’s deep timbre washed over her, a low rumble like when she’d be caught in the edge of a current floating through space and trying to get her bearings. She froze. “What do you mean?” “You watching Drag, getting that admiring look in your eyes like he invented Marsanium or something.” Turning slowly, Gina found little to no space between them. Two steps max, but they were eye-to-eye. The big difference between her and most of the other women in Frog Lick—they had to look up to him. Maybe she did intimidate him. Sampson had suggested as much on their last holo-call. “He didn’t invent Marsanium. The discovery was made by Jangles McKinney in 2292.” Snapper shook his head and muttered under his breath, “You’re just a little walking encyclopedia and I know that, Gina. It was a comparison.” “A figurative method of speech? I’m afraid I don’t see the reference clearly as I don’t admire the invention of Marsanium, though I do admire Drag. He is a good leader.” Hopefully, complimenting his best friend would deflect him away from noticing her inability to react to his figurative language. Fatch. Snapper shook his head. “What are you working on here?” “Just updating the maintenance records on the hauler and listing the parts and supplies I used.” She crossed her arms behind her back and stood up as straight as possible, prepared to handle whatever attitude he responded with. She suspected more vitriol. “A lot of open files to be logging basic information,” he replied with a frown. “I forgot where things were.” Snapper stepped closer. “Then allow me to show you again, though maybe you should spend less time reading books and memorizing facts about my planet and focus more on your job?” Gina stood her ground. “I found everything, and I’ll do better. See you at the meeting?” She could smell his sweat, mixed with a citrusy flavor that reminded her of the lime grove on the planet Eden. Sharp and bitter, much like him. Scents were another gift humans took for granted. She enjoyed the smell of new things, along with trying to determine which ones appealed to her. This close she could also glimpse the hairs on his chin, as curly and wild as the ones on his head. Though they weren’t all the same color—dark brown, ginger, even a couple of gray strands graced his face. Her exploration of his features meandered on to the Grecian nose, a near Romanesque style like the old books of Earth displayed. Bluest eyes with a smattering of wrinkles around the edges…and the indention between his brows that grew more pronounced every time he was frustrated. “Gina, why are you looking at me like that?” She reached into her back pocket and pulled out the towel there. Every mechanic kept one, though she didn’t sweat like the others and rarely had a use for it. Now she reached up and rubbed the grease away from his temples, one by one. He took in a sharp breath, almost a hiss. There a was creak and groan of metal at her side as he clenched his cyborg fist tightly. Another difference… He, like Drag and a couple of the others, was enhanced with cybernetic parts. While she possessed more strength than the average human, there was a good chance Snapper could give back as good as she gave. Another thing we have in common, but I can’t tell him that. She froze, and slowly pulled her arm back. “There. Clean.” Her fingers still tingled from the limited contact with his skin. So much sensation, three thousand touch receptors in a fingertip. How do you humans not go into overload from a fleeting touch? Snapper growled, that indentation between his brows back again. “Next time, Gina, ask for permission before you touch someone.” She dropped the cloth at his feet. “Excuse me?” “Leave Drag alone too. He doesn’t need you trying to moon after him.” “What does that mean? I don’t moon after anything. You’re implying a moon can move outside of its orbit?” She cocked her head to the side as he took a step back. “And pick up that cloth.” He walked off without answering her question, on top of treating her like some Mars adolescent or a cleaning robot. She wasn’t a damn robot anymore, and high time she showed him, too.

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About the Author

Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day, and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after. You can visit Landra’s website here, find her Amazon author page here and follow her on Pinterest here.

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TEASER REVEAL

Alexius by Bella J

ALEXIUS, Dark Sovereign Book 1 by International Bestseller Author Bella J is releasing on May 10th!

Pre-Order available now!
Amazon: https://geni.us/AlexiusDS

Add it to your TBR on Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3utOXEH

Series: Dark Sovereign Book 1
Genre: Dark Romance
Trope: Mafia Romance

I’ve never met him. Never even seen him.

But I’ve heard the whispers. The rumors. The stories about him being as cruel as his father.

Maybe even worse.

They say his presence wraps around your throat whenever he enters a room. And that’s exactly what I feel the moment he walks into the diner where I work, and I hear people breathe out his name.

Alexius Del Rossa.

They call him the crown prince of the Dark Sovereign—a society of men who own everything but the weather in this town.

Men say he has ice in his veins, and women talk about the corrupted heart in his chest. He’s the kind of man you pray never to cross paths with. The kind of man a girl like me has no chance of surviving.

But while his eyes trap mine, and his magnetism touches my skin, I’m unable to move when he forces me into a corner and hands me an envelope.

It’s an offer.

One I can’t refuse.

See, I have nothing. No family. No friends. No home.

I can disappear and no one will know.

And that is exactly why he chose me.

You can download a free copy of the first 8000 words of Alexius here: https://claims.prolificworks.com/free/icaxuxxy

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Bella J is an International Bestselling Author, who loves writing dark and gritty romance with alpha-holes who have absolutely no redeeming qualities…until they do. Maybe. 

Some of her bestselling novels/series include:

The Rise of Saint

The Fall of Sin

American Street Kings Series

Royal Mafia Series

She lives in Cape Town, South Africa with her husband, two kids, and a chihuahua who gets treated like royalty. 

Bella J’s writing motto: The darker the road to love, the sweeter the HEA.

WEBSITE: https://www.authorbellaj.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/BellaJNovels/
INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/bellajauthor/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BellaJ_Author
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TOUR HOSTED BY: HEA PR More

Release Blitz

(Not)Normal

(Not)Normal by Katy Hunter

Book 2 in the Mixed Emotions series

General Release Date: 26th April 2022

Word Count: 50,993 Book Length: NOVEL Pages: 199

Genres:

CELEBRITIES CONTEMPORARY EROTIC ROMANCE

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Book Description

Falling in love with Elijah Booth was never Milly’s plan, but the warm Texas summer, two adorable aunts and a horse called Smoky might just change her mind. Milly Parker, a British singer, has packed her bags and is heading to her aunts’ house in Austin. Sally and Carrie run the best coffee shop in town, and Milly is about to become their newest barista. She’s also about to meet some of Sally’s best customers. From nine to ninety-nine, they come in all ages, shapes and sizes. One in particular, Elijah Booth, catches her eye, but he is not like the boys she left behind. Elijah, like almost every other single person in town, has made a vow of celibacy—not even a kiss before marriage. Can Milly adjust to her new life in a new country and the new rules that come with it—or will she start to wonder if her new normal is even normal at all? Reader advisory: This book contains mention of domestic abuse, using alcohol for avoidance, and a surprise pregnancy.

Excerpt

Sal taps on the steering wheel to the beat of the country music blasting out of the radio. The windows are wound down to the max, and the tires are speeding along the road a little fast for my liking. “Is it far?” I’d quite like it not to be far. My legs are sticking to the fake leather seats. That’s going to pinch. “No. Twenty minutes or so.” It’s already been twenty-five minutes. How big is this place? Ever since we left Austin, all I’ve seen is the occasional red barn or auto shop and one or two shooting ranges. Otherwise, it’s flat, dry countryside as far as the eye can see. I’m about to discover my new normal. Normal. I hate that word. It packs people up in neat little boxes. My mum likes to use it when referring to anybody who isn’t exactly like her. Me, for example. “It’s not normal, Milly.” She’d brought it out when I’d run off at sixteen to be a popstar, when I’d given that up to go to college and again when I’d refused to bring any boyfriends home, because, well, none of them were going to last long enough for her to get attached. She might have brought it up once or twice when a video of me breaking my ex-boyfriend’s heart went viral. Then this… Flying across the world to Austin to help Sal run her coffee shop. Carrie is sick, like really sick, and Sal needs help. And I really need to get away. Mum thinks people should stay in one place. She’s always lived in the town she grew up in. She met and married my dad there, bought a home there. It’s like she got everything she needed with two minutes’ walk of the town center, cemented her feet to the floor and never moved again. I will never cement my feet anywhere. You can quote me on that. I can’t think of anything worse. How can you not want to see the world? Experience all the things? Taste all those delicious mouths that are just waiting to be kissed? I’ve seen what marriage does to people, how it numbs their sense of adventure. I want to feel. “Do you have to go in today?” I ask. She turns to me and smiles, looking exactly like my dad for a split second. Luckily for her, that’s one of the very few things they have in common. “No, honey, you’ve got me all to yourself until tomorrow. Carrie’s got it covered.” Carrie is Sal’s ‘close friend’. I’m pretty sure she’s a lot more than that, but Sal has never been one to share things like that with our side of the family. I guess I’ll find out soon enough. “And when do I start?” I lean down and grab my bag. Thinking about Carrie reminds me that I should call Mum and Dad, tell them I got here okay. I fiddle with my phone while Sal explains how the shift system works. “So, it’s basically part-time. You start straight away, but we’ll ease you in.” Good. I’m no barista. Sal’s coffee shop is supposedly the best in town, and I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility yet. Sal packed her bags at eighteen and ran away to America in search of Melrose Place. I don’t know where that is, but she told my dad that it had to be better than home. She met Carrie shortly afterward and they moved to a little town a few miles out of Austin, set up their business and never looked back. I’ve never quite worked out how moving across the world, settling down and working in the same place for your whole life is any different from what she would have done had she stayed at home, but I guess it’s warmer—a lot warmer. The trails of sweat trickling down my back right now can attest to this fact. Eventually, love makes everybody cement their feet to the floor. I twist and turn the ancient buttons in front of me. One of them falls off into my hand. “Doesn’t this car have air conditioning?” She chuckles. “The air conditioning hasn’t worked on this old thing for years. I keep telling Carrie we need to get a new car but goddammit that woman loves her Pontiac more than me.” Unbuttoning my blouse in an attempt to get some kind of respite, I lean out of the window, letting my arm catch the gusts of wind as we race on down the road. Being blasted by hot air is slightly more pleasant than wallowing in it. Precisely seventeen minutes later we draw up in front of their beautiful home. Admittedly you have to drive down the bumpiest, dustiest lane to get there, but it’s totally worth losing all the feeling in your bum. “Her grandmother left her the land, and we built on it. Six acres.” Sal grabs my suitcase from the boot of the car and stands beside me, admiring her massive house. Sal and Carrie have the kind of place that I could only ever dream of owning. It’s a mansion compared to what I left behind. Back home, houses are small and stuck together. If you strike lucky, you get an end of terrace with an alleyway that goes down the side. This place has a front porch, a double garage and a garden five times bigger than itself. I’m not jealous. There’s nothing more stifling than buying a house. But if I did want one, it would probably need to look like this. “And she doesn’t mind me staying?” I have fond memories of the few times I’ve met her. She would play board games with me when I was little and take me to the park, but I don’t know a lot about Carrie from an adult’s point of view, other than the fact that she is my aunt’s partner. “Are you joking? You’re the daughter we never had. Prepare to be smothered.” I haven’t been filled in on the intricacies of Carrie’s illness, but I know it’s bad. Bad enough for my dad to shed a tear, and he never cries. Another member of the household is going to be a burden on the two of them, no matter how much they love me. I grab my auntie and pull her in for a spontaneous hug. The woman is skin and bones. She works too hard and, as I’m beginning to understand, worries too hard, too. “I missed you, Auntie Sally. Can we go see Carrie right now? I need more hugs.” Carrie is the opposite of Sal. She’s all boobs and bum. The two of them are polar opposites, and yet it works. It has for twenty-five years. We drag my suitcase into the front hall. “Do you want a glass of water or something?” Bright, modern paintings adorn every wall, interspersed with landscapes and portraits. The house is open plan, light and bright—and hospital-level clean. There is not a speck of dust in the place. Are they really going to want me living here? I’m twenty-one on the outside, but those who have had the misfortune to share a house with me might suggest that I stopped maturing at around age seventeen. I gulp down my water as we close up the house and head off to the coffee shop, and I place the pristine crystal glass on a side-table by the front door as we leave. My disruption to their perfect home has begun, and it’s only the first day. I’m more than exhausted but too excited to sleep. Leaning in to check myself in the car’s side-view mirror, I’m horrified by what I see before me. There are bags under my eyes big enough to have paid the extra baggage allowance. I look too much like I’ve been on a packed plane for fourteen of the last sixteen hours. Then again, when did I ever look fancy?

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About the Author

Katherine E Hunt

Katy Hunter lives on a mountain in France with her husband, kids and two dogs. When she’s not writing you can find her curled up in front of the fire, book in one hand and a glass of chardonnay in the other. Follow Katy on Instagram and sign up to her Facebook reader’s group. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter

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Release Blitz

Amethyst

Amethyst by Rebecca Henry

Book 1 in the Ambrosia Hill series

General Release Date: 26th April 2022

Word Count: 31,456 Book Length: SHORT NOVEL Pages: 117

Genres:

GLBTQI LESBIAN PARANORMAL ROMANCE YOUNG ADULT

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Book Description

She was sent away because of her feelings for another girl. But what she discovered at her aunts’ lake house was a birthright of magic. Thirteen-year-old Zinnia is about to turn fourteen when her life is flipped upside down. With her parents on the brink of a divorce, Zinnia is sent to spend the summer with her eccentric great-aunts at their lake house away from her home in Manhattan. Zinnia arrives at her aunts’ massive Victorian house with a heavy heart after a recent falling out with her best friend Charlotte, who betrayed her trust by showing the meanest and most popular girl in school a letter Zinnia wrote confessing her feelings for Charlotte. The aunts rely on practical magic, acceptance and old family friends to help heal their great-niece in more ways than one. What Zinnia discovers on Ambrosia Hill is more than just her birthright to magic—she meets Billie, a girl who conjures feelings inside Zinnia that she can no longer deny. Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of homophobia and mild peril.

Excerpt

“It’s just for the summer.” That’s what my parents told me as I boarded the train to spend three months in the countryside with my great-aunts. The city skyline faded into the distance, replaced by rolling hills that climbed high into the horizon. The gentle rocking of the train lulled me into a trance. Three months in an old house, on top of a tall hill overlooking a silent lake in a sleepy village with nothing to do, was enough to make me lose my mind. “Great,” I said out loud to myself, my thoughts turning to the city that I was leaving behind. There was always something to do in Manhattan, whether it was going out to eat, going to a skateboard park, catching a movie or going to the mall. By the time the conductor announced Ambrosia Hill, I was the only passenger left. Me, myself, and I, all alone, a ticket for one to the last stop on the line. I peeked out of the window and saw the glistening ripples of Lake Cauldron. The black turrets of a tall Victorian-style house touched the clouds like a church steeple in an empty town. I could almost see both my aunts sitting on the porch overlooking their enormous garden, drinking freshly squeezed lemonade with their long black dresses, wide-brimmed hats and crimson boots. As the train rolled to a stop, I grabbed my suitcase then left the car. The station was quiet and empty, much like my plans for the summer. I swung my bag over my shoulder and rolled my suitcase to the parking lot. I took a moment to remind myself that this was just for the summer. My old life would still be waiting for me in September with the same boring school, the same bullying kids and the same depressing apartment with my parents still on the verge of a divorce…but it was my life, and I resented being sent away from it. I brushed my long hair out of my face, wishing I could grow up by September, skip high school and be off to college, or go backward in life to when things were happier and be a little kid again. Anything would be better than being thirteen in the twenty-first century. Charlie was waiting by his old pickup truck. The rusted hubcaps were a deeper shade of orange than the last time he had met me at the station, and I thought a headlight might be out, but overall, the car seemed functional enough. Charlie flashed me a big, fatherly smile. The wrinkles around his eyes traveled down the sides of his face, and for a moment I couldn’t believe how time had caught up to him since my last visit. “Well, look at you, Zinnia! You’ve shot up like a string bean.” Charlie reached straight for my suitcase and threw it into the truck. His hearty laugh filled the cabin as we both buckled in. “I almost didn’t recognize you there with how you’ve grown.” I looked down at my cramped legs, desperate to stretch out as my knees touched the glove compartment. Charlie patted my back and turned the key inside the ignition, bringing life to the beat-up truck as the engine groaned like an old dog too tired to wake from its nap. “Here we go, String Bean! Off like a herd of turtles at the races.” I cracked a smile at this, almost by accident, before wiping it away and looking out of the window. I could admit that I liked Ole Charlie. He’d been neighbors with my aunts for over forty years, and I’d known him all my life, so I thought it was safe to say that he was basically family. “Wait till your aunts get a look at you, string bean.” I rolled my eyes as I tried, and once again failed, to conceal my smile. Every time I visited my aunts, Ole Charlie gave me a new nickname. I suppose my nickname for this summer is going to be string bean. I whispered it to myself for a test drive and annoyingly, it wasn’t so annoying. “It’s been a few years since you and your mom visited us on Ambrosia Hill.” Charlie looked over at me with his old brown eyes full of affection. “Not ashamed to say we’ve missed you, string bean.” Mom loved coming to Ambrosia Hill. The aunts had raised her after my grandma became sick and couldn’t take care of my mom anymore. Mom said visiting with Grandma during that time was the hardest thing she’d ever had to do, and it was a sad relief for everyone when Grandma passed away. That was the day Mom packed up a suitcase and moved to the city, where she eventually met my dad and had me. But she never forgot where she came from, and every summer she and I would come up by train to Ambrosia Hill and visit our aunts. At least until my parents started fighting. I was nine years old when they had their first big fight and I remembered hiding under the kitchen table hugging the wooden leg, hoping that if I stayed hidden, it wouldn’t be real, and everything would go back to the way it was. But that didn’t happen, and the fighting only got worse. Mom was too ashamed to visit the aunts after that. With her marriage on the brink of divorce, she felt like a failure. She’d left home to chase her big-city dreams on Broadway, and instead of achieving that dream, she had gotten a reputable job, one where she could achieve success. But even if she didn’t live her exact dream, at least she was in the city, married and a mother. She’d had a good life before all the fighting began. I rolled my window down and stuck my head out as we began the long slope up Ambrosia Hill. The village was named after the hill and apparently my aunts’ house was one of the first settlements on Lake Cauldron. Most people with lake houses invested in updating their homes into fancy summer getaways from the city. But not my aunts. They’d lived in their house for the majority of their lives, and they refused to change even a single detail, including their old purple porch. My great-aunts loved purple and black, from the violet-painted siding to the ebony trimming along every window and doorframe. Even their garden was filled with purple and black flowers mixed amongst the green foliage. The house was the same on the inside, with rich black wood furnishing and purple wallpaper. My room was in the attic when I came to visit and it was a fairytale room hidden from the rest of the massive house. When I was a little girl, we’d painted the ceiling a deep indigo with pale crescent moons and diamond-shaped stars. The walls were papered in pale pink with blue roses. Pink and champagne ceiling lights hung across the attic and warm fairy lights covered every square inch of the room. An old-fashioned canopy bed with four black posts sat in the center. Growing up, I used to pretend that I was a princess locked in a tower waiting for my one true love to rescue me. But what I didn’t admit to anyone, at least not then, was that I never wanted to be rescued by a prince. I wanted someone else, something different from what the other girls my age wanted in life, and the typical happy ending didn’t feel right to me. Fairy tales screw kids up. It wasn’t who I wanted to rescue me that was the issue—it was the fact I thought I needed to be rescued by anyone. My parents were desperate to understand what I wanted, and when they couldn’t, they started insisting that it was simply a phase, and that I’d grow out of it once I met the right boy. Truthfully, I don’t think they even had the time to worry about me. They were far too busy arguing with each other. Still, my dad was persistent that time away with my aunts would clear my head and eventually I’d forget all about the girl from my class. The girl with the red hair and freckles who had stabbed me in the back. The girl who had been yanked out of St. Hope and enrolled into another school the second her parents discovered the letter I had written to her. A letter that had gone around my entire middle school and had labeled me forever. It had hurt at first, knowing that kids in school slapped me with a label like I was different from them. I wasn’t different—I was just me and I deserved to be myself like everybody else in the world. I wouldn’t allow some meddling bullies to affect me. I would not let them win by showing them how they’d hurt me. As the truck stopped outside the garden gate, Aunt Stella and Aunt Luna jumped up from their rickety porch chairs and ran down the driveway to greet me. Aunt Luna was carrying a black kitten in her arms, and Aunt Stella was holding on to the top of her wide-brimmed hat, which shielded her eyes from the glaring sun. Almost unconsciously, I ran to meet them, flying into their arms. The tears that I had been holding back rushed out of me like a waterfall. They burned my flushed face as I clung to my aunts. They comforted and cuddled me like momma birds. “It’s all right now, my darling girl. You’re with us. No one will hurt you.” I looked into Aunt Stella’s loving eyes. There with them on Ambrosia Hill, I could be me. I didn’t have to wear a mask or pretend to be strong—I could allow my tears to flow freely. “You are our little love and always will be.” Aunt Luna cupped my face in her chubby hand, and I reached for her like a child hugging a teddy bear. “Come now. I know exactly what you need,” piped up Aunt Stella. “Yes, yes, yes!” clucked Aunt Luna as she handed me the black kitten. “A glass of chocolate almond milk with a chocolate chip cookie is just the thing for this occasion.” Both aunts turned on their heels and shuffled back to the house. “Come along, dear!” called Aunt Stella. I turned and waved goodbye to Ole Charlie, who tipped his cap at me with a wink before getting back in his truck and driving away. The purple and black walls swelled when I walked inside the dark house, then surrounded me like a giant hug and for a moment, it felt like the house was alive and greeting me with love. Nothing had changed in the three years since I had last visited. Black candles sat inside tall iron holders. Old dusty books decorated the built-in bookshelves along the far wall. Dried herbs hung from every rafter and exposed beam. Inside the large wood-burning fireplace were towers of quartz crystals. Branches of eucalyptus draped around the mantel, trailing to the floor. Wicker baskets littered the house, filled with yarn, empty glass jars and pouches of dried herbs. I inhaled, breathing in the scent of my summer home, my other life…a part of me I had almost forgotten existed. Suddenly, I was overcome with the realization I had forgotten my true self. Standing amongst my aunts’ collection of tarot cards, pentagrams and spell books, I remembered the inner strength I had inside me. There is another identity to the Fern women, an identity my mother tried to hide from the world. Only in Ambrosia Hill were we free to be who we truly were—a lineage of magical women. My aunts scurried back from the kitchen with Aunt Luna carrying a tray of homemade cookies and three glasses of chocolate almond milk. Aunt Stella caught me eyeballing the clutter surrounding me and placed a hand upon her hip. “Darling girl, a clean house is a sign of a misspent life.” She raised her eyebrows to support her statement. “Come along, dear. We have something important to do,” Aunt Luna said as she skipped past me, stopping to kiss the kitten, which was, by then, curled up like a baby in the crook of my arm. “You won’t want to miss it, dear!” added in Aunt Stella as she raced up behind me, shoving me back out the front door and onto the porch. A tote bag was draped over her shoulder. The aunts placed the tote bag and tray of treats onto the porch table as they chirped back and forth to one another in playful banter. “She forgot what day it is! Why, this used to be her favorite day of the summer. Apart from her birthday, that is.” Aunt Luna laughed. Aunt Stella nodded, positioning a stack of card paper neatly on the table. “She’s been inhaling too much smog in that city. The fresh air will do her lungs some good, she’ll remember any moment now,” she replied. Her heeled boot tapped against the weathered wood floor. I sat down between them, setting the kitten on the table next to a vase of purple orchids and some black candles. “What am I supposed to be remembering?” I could feel the creases in my forehead grow deeper as I desperately tried to recall what special day it was. My aunts both looked at me with their eyebrows raised gesturing at the random items scattered on the table in front of them. I shrugged in apology, still not grasping the significance of the day. “It’s the summer solstice!” they sang in union. I turned my wrist up and caught the date on my smartwatch. “Oh, my gosh, it’s June twenty-first.” Coming from a historical line of green witches, the summer solstice had always been a significant day with an important purpose for the Fern women. Every June twenty-first, my aunts wrote about the things they wanted to let go of in their lives, things that no longer served a purpose. After they wrote their messages in gold ink, they folded the paper into a tiny boat and placed a tealight inside it. When the crescent moon appeared in the night sky, they lit the candle and released the boats into Lake Cauldron. It was a symbol of new beginnings and a chance for positive self-growth. I shook my head, amazed that I had forgotten about the summer solstice. Both my great aunts had lived their entire lives as green witches, just as their mother and her mother before her had done, going back three hundred years. My aunts had educated me at an early age on how to be a green witch. The very essence of a green witch was to be a naturalist, someone who connected with nature on a personal and powerful level. Green witches were wise women, herbalists and healers who helped those around them by using the properties of nature. We may never use magic to harm others or for personal gain. I was a green witch by birth rite, and fourteen was a significant year for a teenage witch. I hadn’t identified as a practicing witch before. I’d never cast spells on my own. Any spells I had done were guided by my aunts. However, at fourteen, Fern witches developed individual traits and branched out into our own magic. I could feel a change coming. One that would redirect my path forever. “Ha! She remembers! I told you she would. You worry too much, that’s your problem, Luna.” Aunt Luna placed her hands on her round hips with her head cocked defiantly to the side. “I do not. You’re the one who worries.” Aunt Stella waved her hand in the air. “Pish-posh. I am as calm as a cucumber, but you could worry the horns off a billy goat.” I giggled, breaking up their banter. I reached for the gold pen and a piece of black cardstock. I stared at the paper, unable to find the words I needed to write. I could feel them stirring inside me and I could see them take form in the shape of her face. Aunt Luna reached for my hand, understanding my internal struggle. Aunt Luna was the maternal one of the two sisters. She lived to nurture those around her, and her maternal instincts were fierce when it came to me. Although Aunt Stella was stern, she had an intense love that ran deeper than any river marked on a map, and I could feel that love surrounding me as I stared at the pen in my hand. It baffled me why neither she nor Aunt Luna ever had children of their own. I made a mental note to ask them someday. “Draw, dear,” whispered Aunt Luna. “A picture can be just as powerful as words. If your artistic expression helps you, then draw whatever you need to let go of.” Before I could respond, my hand moved involuntarily, sketching the outline of her face. Of all their faces, everyone who had hurt me.

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About the Author

Rebecca Henry

Rebecca Henry is an American author living abroad in England. She is a devoted vegan who gardens, practices yoga, crafts, travels the world, and bakes. Rebecca’s favorite holiday is Halloween, and she is obsessed with anything and everything witchy! Besides writing fiction, Rebecca is also the author of her vegan holiday cookbook collection. Her love for animals, baking with her family, having a plant-based diet and cruelty-free food all came together in her holiday cookbook collection.

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