New Release

Remaking a Man

Remaking a Man by Amy Craig

Book 2 in the Sun Valley Mafia series

Word Count: 72,223 Book Length: SUPER NOVEL Pages: 305

Genres:

BILLIONAIRE CONTEMPORARY CRIME CRIME AND MYSTERY EROTIC ROMANCE THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE

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Book Description

A one-night stand turns serious… Nina’s neighbor sets her up on a blind date with a handsome insurance salesman. After a candlelit dinner, Nina hooks up with him in a posh New York hotel room, but she writes off the date as a one-night stand. Returning home, she discovers her neighbor’s death, her dog’s abduction and the salesman’s possible involvement. Traipsing across the city with her date in tow, she realizes he’s a quarrelsome billionaire and that her dog may never return. Grieving her losses, she accompanies her date to a ‘billionaire summer camp’ in Sun Valley, Idaho, but the idyllic setting revolves around his whims—and the person who took her dog follows them. Reader advisory: This book contains scenes of violence and murder.

Excerpt

  Standing on the marble front step of her family’s Miami mansion, Gisella tapped her designer footwear, adjusted her sunglasses and blocked out the bright spring day. She breathed deeply and shuffled the bags hanging from her toned arms. At the end of the driveway, her brother Antonio revved his red convertible’s souped-up engine and pounded the dashboard in time to blaring rock music. Miami traffic streamed past the estate. People stared. Why can’t he just leave? She marveled at his arrogance, but she kept her expression neutral and her phone in her pocket. He was the youngest of her two siblings, and he had the stocky, tan physique her male family members prized. He also had a propensity to wear outlandish suits, a revolving door of girlfriends and a sophomoric sense of humor. If he caught her taking a selfie in front of the house, he would turn it into a meme, but her account depended on dance stills and teasing hints of glamour. The minute he left the estate, she would take the picture while her hair looked good. Flexing her toes, she rifled through the bags on her arms. One duffle held her ballet kit, another tote functioned as a purse and the bags from her morning shopping spree hiked her credit card bill. Instead of feeling guilty for the extravagance, she admired her long, lean legs. Her form allowed her to excel as a professional ballerina, but she worried she had the coltish naivety to match her legs. When would she work up the nerve to demand a driver’s license and stop relying on Antonio for transportation? Every time she talked about her license, her father pouted and asked what more he could do to ensure her comfort. If her mother had lived, Gisella’s life might be so different. A car horn honked. A woman blew kisses. “Antonio!!” He ignored the entreaty, let the engine rumble and scanned the beachside traffic. His muscled forearm hung over the door, and he tapped his fingers against the expensive paint job. Milky fingerprints marred the convertible’s finish. A second Miami driver slowed to gawk at the handsome, moneyed mobster. A trailing car smashed the vehicle’s lights. Horns blared and doors flew open. Releasing the engine’s pent-up energy, Antonio took advantage of the distraction and roared across two lanes of traffic. Gisella rolled her eyes and snapped the picture she needed, but she doubted her high-gloss smile was worth the price of the photograph. Riding home with her brother from dance rehearsals and a shopping spree, she had stared out of the window and listened to him complain about women and their fickle ways. His problems never changed, but the consistency soothed her. If he spent more time listening to the women, he would have fewer problems with them. For instance, she had wanted to close her eyes and rest, but Antonio couldn’t take a hint. As soon as she made Principal Dancer, she could move out of her father’s house and make rent, but she would have to stop shopping like a mafia princess. Squaring her shoulders, she faced her father’s front door. Most Miami residents painted their doors to ward off humidity’s warping effects. Papà imported Cocobolo heartwood and exposed the precious wood to the elements. His house could grace the cover of Architectural Digest, but his acceptance in local society depended on discretion. Biscayne Bay would freeze over before he opened the mansion’s doors to gawking strangers. Every piece of furniture came with a decorator’s commission, authenticity papers and a cataloged serial number. The insurance company knew the exact cost of her father’s investment, and if the house burned, they’d be wise to pay up. She appreciated the wealth, but its origins bothered her. Her sweet Papà, Gregorio Vitella, ran drugs from South America up the Eastern shoreline. She feared that enjoying the proceeds made her complicit in his crimes. Pressed by a tipsy ballet friend, she’d admitted the concession that let her sleep at night. Her father’s legitimate insurance company probably covered her bills, but how could a person separate good money from bad people—and where did that distinction place her? Pushing open the door, she scanned the marble foyer and dropped her bags, but a green potted palm, a black concert piano and an excruciatingly expensive console table provided little company. The console table rested on acrobatic loops of brass. Beneath a glass top, python skin gleamed with a subtle sheen, and she wondered if the piece’s black crystal pulls would make an interesting jewelry set. Opening a drawer, she checked for mail and flipped through the family correspondence. “Come stai, Papà?” Her question echoed. Raising her head, she set down the mail and waited. A hidden white paneled door opened. Martin, the butler, emerged, wearing the formal black suit and crisp white shirt required for his service. He’d perfected the practiced, subservient gaze on his own. She’d grown to like him, but she wondered how long he would last in the household. “Signorina Gisella, your father is in his study.” Keeping a bright smile on her face, she handed Martin her shopping bags and kept her purse on her shoulder. “Thanks. I’ll freshen up and join him.” “Yes, Signorina.” The man couldn’t speak ten words of Italian. As soon as staff members picked up a basic understanding of the language, her father fired them. Smart members played dumb. Gisella found her allies among them, but she’d learned to mind her comments, too. Ducking into the gilt-papered bathroom off the foyer, she pinched her cheeks, added lipstick and prepared to act like a dutiful daughter. Her life revolved around the Miami Ballet Company, beachside runs and formal dinners, but in her father’s house, she would forever be ‘Gigi’. Bracing her hands on the sink, she tilted her head. Her loving father owned Florida’s biggest commercial real estate company, Cosmica Insurance Holdings, but he also ran the Florida branch of the Italian mob. He wore a suit to school functions, but when business soured at home, he rolled up his shirtsleeves, and the gentlemanly look faded. When she had been ten, she’d witnessed the reality of his business dealings through a crack in the study door. She’d never seen his victim again, and she’d kept her observations to herself—but she listened. When classmates at her parochial school asked what her father did for work, she parroted the company line. “CIH offers property insurance, casualty insurance and value-added insurance services across twenty southeastern states.” They looked impressed. Why shouldn’t they? Every new homeowner in Florida received a direct mailing touting CIH’s low rates and friendly staff. The mailings glossed over the company’s potential money laundering credentials, but who read the fine print? Leaving the bathroom, she made her way to the back of the house and to her father’s study. The caviar-black masculine room had views of the pool and heavy leather furniture. Despite a sparking oasis waiting beyond the windows, the room looked like a cave. Last fall, her father’s interior designer Lisette had joined the family before Sunday dinner. Wearing a pantsuit, she’d sipped a dirty martini and made vague references to former clients. “I prefer to create a visual impact by mixing wood species and texture. That movie star I mentioned”—she sipped her drink—“had a thing for ebony.” Gisella had wanted to like the woman, but her influence on the house’s décor leaned toward gilt and Hollywood glamour. Having a thing for ebony shocked her as much as Lisette’s cosmetic surgery bill. Once a woman immersed herself in wealth, keeping life entertaining required novelty and a steady flow of cash. “How do you plan to tackle the study?” Lisette had wrinkled her surgically enhanced nose. “The hospitality industry uses black to create glamour, drama and intimacy. Everyone’s doing it.” Gisella had sipped her wine and assumed Lisette was doing her father. Walking across the room, Gisella admitted the study’s black walls created drama, but if her father wanted to scare his minions into compliance, he could pull out the handgun he kept in the desk’s top drawer. To keep her in line, he deployed guilt. ‘What would your mother think?’ She wrinkled her nose. Walking around the polished walnut desk, she leaned down and pressed a kiss to his cheek. He smelled of black tea, Damascus rose, tobacco and leather. At sixty-five years old, he looked ten years younger. Faint silver streaks threaded his black hair. He could wear chinos and he would still smell like old manners and aged wine caves. “Come è andato il lavoro, Papà?” “It is what it is.” Continuing in Italian, he set aside his papers. “How was your shopping trip?” She sat opposite him and crossed her legs. “Fruitful.” He laughed. Pulling a stack of receipts from her purse, she slid them across the desk. “The rest will come by email.” Shrugging, he leaned back in his chair and left the crumpled slips on the table. “Gigi, you’re old enough to drink and old enough to marry.” She picked at her nails. “Is that so?” “More than old enough. In the home country…” Looking up, she tilted her head. “We’re not in the home country.” He held up a hand. “But if we were, you’d be a bride, and I’d be a grandpa.” “Ursula is older.” “Your sister wants to be a nun.” “So she says.” Looking past his full head of hair, she regretted her outburst and second-guessed her decision to come home after rehearsal. If she’d stayed out and shared a drink with Antonio, she’d have to listen to his stories and give up her evening run. She couldn’t hide from her father. He financed her life and provided patronage for her art. Looking at him, she softened her expression and recalled the sunlit days he’d spent with her and Ursula. “You’re too young to be a grandpa.” “Hear me out,” he said. She exhaled. Drinks with Antonio sounded better. At least he planned to fuck up his own life instead of hers. When her mother had drowned off the Amalfi Coast, Papà had whisked his three children to Miami and begun a new life on the Atlantic’s eastern coast. Given how he’d lost his wife, one would think he would have chosen Oklahoma, but he knew how to make money along a coastline. Aunts and nannies had sopped up spilled milk, but when he’d come home at night, he’d kissed her cheek and left his old-world scent against her shoulder. Some nights, remembering the smell of roses and leather, she recalled how much consistency mattered to children and old men. “Yes, Papà.” “I have a series of eligible young men lined up. You will give them each an evening and tell me which man suits you.” “What if I prefer women?” “Gisella Santa Maria Vitella!” He slammed his palm against the desk. A vase rattled but resisted gravity’s lure. She rolled her eyes and stood. The dates her father arranged would be insurance agents or mob hit men. She couldn’t decide which option she found more appalling. “I can find my own dates, Daddy.” He gripped the leather armrests. “Sit down.” Lowering her frame, she kept her back straight and maintained eye contact. The company’s Artistic Director scared her more than her father did, but his familiar expectations could surprise her. Cosseted and pampered, she enjoyed an easy life until she slammed into a glass wall keeping her from enjoying life’s stunning vistas. Eventually, she found an exit, and her father acquiesced to her wishes. He cleared his throat. “You’re too old to prance around the stage in a tutu.” She wet her lips. “Too old to dance, and too young to procreate. What’s a girl to do? Marriage is a contract, isn’t it? Do I get a lawyer?” He raised an eyebrow. Outside the mansion’s walls, ballet defined her life and gave her predictability. At fifteen, she’d enrolled in the company school and trained for three years. After graduation, she’d joined the ballet as a School Apprentice and spent two years in the trenches before joining the corps de ballet. Three years later, she’d made Soloist, then Principal Soloist. The lure of becoming Principal Dancer kept her focused. The goal also kept her father off her back. It was like he’d made a deal with his six-year-old daughter, and he refused to back out of his agreement. For the last twenty years, he’d sponsored the company’s performances, but rarely attended them. Last month, she’d celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. Most dancers stopped dancing professionally between thirty-five and forty years of age. She’d known her father wouldn’t give her that much time and would propose an arranged marriage. She might have to accept it, but an IUD would buy her time to achieve her dreams. Crossing her arms, she settled back into the chair. Sometimes, she lay awake at night and imagined defying her father, but he killed the men who disobeyed him, and she lacked a mother to intercede on her behalf. Caught between ideals and reality, she walked a narrow line and kept her gaze focused on the future. Sometimes, she dreamed of her mother, but she wondered how much time had reshaped the memories. She remembered holding her breath under water to watch fish, but now she hated to swim. Her inability to trust her memories undermined her faith in herself, and her father’s coddling approach undermined her achievements. She could dance across the stage playing a role, but striking out on her own meant vulnerability. Until she knew she could succeed, she would humor his demands. “I hear you, Papà. Who’s the first victim?” “You will love Marco.” Tilting her head to the side, she rubbed her scalp. “Doubtful, but tell me where to report.” “You’re a good girl, and you’ll make me proud. I’ve tried to raise you the old way, but your aunts can’t replace your mother. I’m getting old. You’ve had leeway to pursue your dancing, but tomorrow evening at eight, you and Marco will dine.” She shook her head. “Not tomorrow, Papà. I organized a beach cleanup.” “You hate the water. Find someone else to pick up trash…” Holding up her hand, she interrupted his mandate. “CIH is sponsoring the event.” His forehead wrinkled. Maybe he was getting old. “Perhaps Tuesday?” she offered. His nostrils flared. “Tuesday.” Standing, she rounded the desk, pressed a kiss against his smooth cheek and let his scent calm her frustration. How many times had he threatened her dancing? How many times had he shipped her back to Italy to take in the old country? Here she remained. Marco and the remaining suitors would fizzle out, and she’d continue dancing. “Ti amo, Papino.” He pulled back. “You will go on this date.” “Sure.” Picking up the receipts, she dropped them in the trashcan. “I have plenty of new dresses to wear.” “Gigi…” She winked. Walking out of the office, she let her clicking heels say everything she held back. The marble-backed rhythm sounded so final, like the sound of a bullet fired at close range. Violence hung over her family like a constant threat. If her father understood anything, he understood endings. Keeping him focused on new beginnings remained her job. Opening the door to her room, she shucked the heels for soft slippers, settled into a stretch and let the music guide her. Ursula opened the door connecting their rooms and pushed a shoe out of the way. “I thought dancers didn’t wear high heels.” “They do when they want salespeople to take them seriously.” Dropping to the floor, Ursula lolled her head. “You’d think a black credit card and a bodyguard would be enough to get their attention.” “You’d think.” Gisella deepened her stretch and puzzled through Ursula’s recent transformation. Her sister’s dark brown hair, olive skin and generous curves could rock a bikini, but lately she’d insisted on dressing like a martyr. If Ursula deviated from her prayers and walked into a boutique, the salespeople might press the panic button. Gisella suppressed a smile. Her sister had always been serious, but her devotion had deepened in the last six months. After Sunday mass, Gisella had known why. No longer content to hide behind her hymnal, Ursula had stared at Father Pietro, the hot new priest. The man of the cloth must have given Ursula a bit of pious encouragement. Gisella shrugged and laid her torso along her leg. If Ursula wanted to plan her life around vespers, God love her. “How was your day?” “Good. Lots of praying, solemnity, hymns and stuff.” Gisella raised her head. “And stuff?” Ursula swallowed. “Church stuff.” “Maybe you could put the stuff on hold and help me cleanup the beach tomorrow. Every set of hands helps.” “Sure.” Ursula stood. “I have a few hours to spare.” Watching her sister slip into the next room, Gisella judged her sister’s choices. Dancing made her feel alive. Why would any woman dedicate her life to an organization that spent so much time imagining what came after death?

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About the Author

Amy Craig

Amy Craig lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana USA with her family and a small menagerie of pets. She writes women’s fiction and contemporary romances with intelligent and empathetic heroines. She can’t always vouch for the men. She has worked as an engineer, project manager, and incompetent waitress. In her spare time, she plays tennis and expands her husband’s honey-do list. Find Amy at her website, on Amazon and follow her at BookBub.

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New Release

New Release – The Billionaire Fling

 ★✩★ RELEASE BLITZ ★✩★

The Billionaire Fling

A Contemporary Romance Collection for Charity 

Romance Café Collection Book 19

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Blurb:

Champagne, sports cars, private jets: these powerful billionaires can buy everything but love.

With the world at their command, how will they cope with the one person who wants their heart, not their money?

Strap on your red sole stilettos, pop open the champagne, and dive into our billionaires’ glittering happily ever afters.

Over twenty titillating stories from USA Today best-selling and award-winning romance authors in a spicy billionaire collection curated by The New Romance Cafe, with ALL proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.



Participating Authors:

Celia J. Lisbeth

DL Gallie

Emmy Dee

Gabbi Black

Heather Scarlett

JA Lafrance

Jackie Paxson

Janie Grey

Kat Parrish

Kathleen Ryder

Keighley Bradford

Kenna Shaw Reed

Kristine Charles

Molly Lachaussee

Nikita Bloom

Stacy-Deanne

Susan Horsnell

TL Hamilton

Toni Denise

Whimsy Nimsy



About The New Romance Cafe

The New Romance Café is the place to get your daily dose of romance books. 

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New Release

New Release – Rebel Boss by Carolyn Delaney

 ★✩★ NEW RELEASE ★✩★

Rebel Boss

Denver Billionaires Book 2

By Carolyn Delaney

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Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo 




Also available:

Enemy Boss Book 1

Universal



Blurb:

Kiara

I do what I have to in order to provide for my son and me. If being paid to be the arm candy of wealthy men helps keep a roof over our heads, I refuse to feel any sort of way about it.

Roman Silverstone is admittedly one of my favorite clients. His gorgeous smile and sexy beard had me instantly attracted to him, even though we aren’t supposed to do anything physical with the clients. But, he takes me to the most amazing dinners and has even introduced me to his family. I always look forward to our dates when he’s on my schedule.

Except now he wants to see me outside of my job. It’s strictly forbidden, and I have bills to pay. The problem is, my son is becoming attached and I’ve got no one to blame but myself for this predicament I’ve put myself in.

 

Roman

Being one of the CEOs of Colorado’s largest brewing company is hard work, but marketing is my specialty, and I’m killing it. I’m responsible for all new clientele and I love my job, even if my cousins do give me crap for not wanting to wear a tie.

But my job requires me to attend a lot of social events. I don’t have time for romantic entanglements or expectations from women who always seem to want more, so I’ve found it easier just to hire a date for these things.

Kiara is my favorite of all the girls in Bella Manor. She’s breathtakingly beautiful, sexy, well-spoken, and looks great on my arm.

I’ve found myself wanting more from her, and her cute kid is growing on me, but she says she’s risking too much by seeing me outside of work.

Well, she’s going to be quitting that job if I have anything to say about it, because Kiara is mine.





DENVER BILLIONAIRES’ SERIES

Enemy Boss

Rebel Boss 

Sinful Boss: Coming soon

 


About Carolyn Delaney

Carolyn lives in Colorado with her husband, who’s delivered on his promise of a happily ever after, and their daughters, who spend their parents’ money like broke little best friends instead of teenagers.

When not writing, she can be found buying too many shoes, traveling, or dreaming about traveling. You can contact her at carolyndelaneyauthor@gmail.com or at 

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New Release

New Release Blitz – Family First by Jessika Klide

 ★✩★ NEW RELEASE ★✩★

Family First

Book 12 in The Hardcore Series

By Jessika Klide

Genre: Contemporary Romance | Billionaire Romance

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Blurb:

In this twelfth sequel in The Hardcore Series, Family First begins where The Shakedown ends. Mia brings Aurei devastating news that packs quite a gut punch, forcing Siri and Aurei to commit to putting Family First in a way they weren’t expecting.




About the Author:

Jessika Klide lives in LA …Lower Alabama, is married to her high school sweetheart of 40 years, and has a mammoth mule named Thor. Her husband is a former Army Aviator who flew UH1 Hueys in the 1980’s and who currently flies as a volunteer with Friends of Army Aviation. She has a deep respect and love for the men and women of the US Armed Forces and writes about hot, alpha military men and the sexy, strong women that love them.



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New Release

Roanoke River Omegas

Title: Roanoke River Omegas

Author: Will Okati

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: January 13, 2023

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 246 pages

Genre: Romance, New Adult, Action Adventure, Box Sets, Paranormal Romance, Gay, Sex/Gender Shifters & MPreg, Single Parent/Pregnancy Romance

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Synopsis

Unusual Omegas and unique Alphas falling in love and finding families? There’s never a dull moment in Roanoke River. Conceivable (Roanoke River Omegas 1) Omega Jory’s in love with his best friend, Alpha Darius, and Darius has no idea. Darius’s in love with Jory, and Jory has no idea. But when Jory asks Darius to father his baby, everything’s about to explode. Inexplicable (Roanoke River Omegas 2) Kit had no clue he was pregnant. Now everything’s changing, including his long distance love affair with Deacon. Babies do what they want, when they want. Just like Deacon used to. But now that he’s a father, he’s got to convince Kit he’s in this — and their lives — for keeps. Combustible (Roanoke River Omegas 3) Long, lean, wild and unconventional for an Omega, Zane rocks and rolls Alpha Grant’s world. Zane can’t be predicted. He can’t be contained. And Grant freaking loves it. Their love affair is gonna be complicated — and downright combustible.

Excerpt

Copyright ©2023 Will Okati Excerpt from Conceivable What did you do with a drunken sailor? Why, anything you wanted, that’s what. You could tie him up tight with a crimson ribbon, dip him in a pool of melted butter, run him through a room of screaming fire alarms, and when he got done with all that, then you could tuck him in bed with an Alpha’s lover. And every last bit of it sounded fine when sung at the top of three dozen-odd throats at Happy Hour on a Friday evening in MacInnes’s pub. Better still when Darius could raise his mostly empty glass and swing it in time with the song. Best of all when tucked into a booth with his best friend beside him, warm as toast and smelling faintly of Omega and largely of burnt-sugar whiskey. As weeknights went, this was a good one. The last lines of the chorus were still echoing off the ceiling when someone who fancied himself a soloist stood on top of a table and started belting out a boozy version of “Danny Boy.” He got a few catcalls and the occasional coaster tossed at him, but he had a decent deep tenor and most of the rowdies settled down to listen. Darius included. Still laughing, still warm, he slid back into the booth he shared with Jory and kicked his legs forward to tangle their feet together. Best friends — closer than blood since they’d met in another bar on weekend passes five years back — they’d always been in each other’s space ever since. Didn’t bother them any that Darius was an Alpha and Jory an Omega. Darius was Navy and Jory part of the Peace Corps, sure, but the military kept everyone on hormone suppressants to cut down on hanky-panky in the ranks, so what did it matter? “Another round?” Darius asked when their impromptu soloist paused to drown his own thirst. Redheaded and usually fair as cream, Jory’s cheeks were cherry pink tonight from the two whiskies and a pint of Guinness he’d already downed, but he gave Darius a blazing grin and raised his empty glass. “You’re on. And I mean it, you’re on. Last round was mine.” Was it? Darius shrugged, not bothered either way. They always took turns. He halfway stood to wave at their waiter — a friendly Beta who could pull pints fast as lightning strikes — then thumped back down in a comfortable slouch. Jory, still grinning, made him laugh. Made him content. Being around him made something inside Darius feel… satisfied. Good. “So,” he said, after tipping back his empty glass in search of just a few more drops. “You were saying, about the kids, before that racket started up?” Jory had gone into teaching kindergarten after getting out of the Reserves, and taken to it like a duck to water. “That they’re adorable. Today I had to teach one of them not to lick the drinking fountain because that wasn’t how it worked. Also? ‘Racket’ my hindquarters, you love it.” Jory’s smile shone smile softer, warmer, teasing. “As if you weren’t singing along.” Darius bent his head, only a little sheepish and only for half a second. He came up with a glint in his eye and clinked his glass against Jory’s. “Shut up.” Jory clinked back. He knew this game. “You shut up.” “Bite me.” “Needs ketchup.” “Kiss my ass.” Jory laughed. “Bend over!” Their pert, pretty little Beta waiter — what was his name, Adam? — rolled his eyes as he swung by their table with two full glasses. “Drown yourself in these, would you?” He softened his words with a gentle love tap on the back of Darius’s dark head and a rustle through Jory’s auburn tangle. “Drink up, boys, order some more, and leave a good tip. I’ve got bills to pay!” “Good thing I have a steady job,” Darius remarked as Adam sped away. He’d left the Navy a year after Jory mustered out and would have settled where his best friend did regardless, but he thanked his lucky stars Jory had picked Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Made finding work on the water easy, and Darius had settled into a good hands-on position at the lake. Solid work that left him aching with sore muscles every day, but satisfied down to the bottom of his soul. “Or I wouldn’t be able to afford taking my best friend out for booze-ups at fancy joints like this.” Jory wrinkled his nose. “Speaking of kids, how are the new hires you were talking about?” “Eh, there’s a few bright stars,” Darius said with a shrug. “Some better than others. Time will tell. But they do already know how to use the water fountains. Probably.” “They’re not as cute as a baker’s dozen of toddlers, though.” Darius waggled one hand to and fro. “They probably think so, especially when they’re out looking to score some tail, but nope.” Jory nodded in satisfaction, making him a pleasure to look at. Darius had always liked his friend’s face, not exactly handsome but friendly and open but with fine, well-shaped bones. Very dissimilar to himself, with his tall leanness, his longer features and darker complexion. His general attitude was sharper-edged, more serious. But whenever Darius got too stuck in his head, Jory pried him out, and whenever Jory’s warm heart got a little too bruised, Darius was there to pick him up and settle him down. What he’d do without Jory in his life, Darius didn’t know. And he didn’t want to know. Darius downed his drink and wiped the Guinness foam away with a sigh of satisfaction. “So did the kid wrap his head around how water fountains worked, in the end?” “Hmm?” Darius cocked his head. “I said…” But Jory’s attention had drifted. He did that sometimes — wandered off in thought and lost himself in daydreams. Darius didn’t worry about it, as he always came back, but every now and again it was interesting to try and track what’d caught Jory’s fancy. He let his gaze go slightly out of focus, turned toward Jory’s line of sight, and… Ah. There it was. Courting couples. Of which there were plenty, no matter where you went, but especially in MacInnes’s when the beer was flowing and the whiskey bit back. Darius followed Jory’s regard, jumping from pair to pair. First an Omega couple — interesting, you didn’t see that too often — in their, hmm, mid sixties? Yes, and comfortable with each other in a way that said they’d been an odd couple for decades. Nice. From there, a couple of Betas who were plainly just friends, but with a few saucy benefits like the hands tucked in each others’ back pockets. A thirtyish Omega buying a jar of spicy brined pickles for a laughing Alpha who rode him piggyback and kissed his ear, and a widower Darius knew who always drank one Long Island iced tea with a picture of his mate on the table with him. Humanity, in all its infinite variety. And then, something Darius knew Jory would zero in on as special. An Alpha with an Omega on his arm, the two of them so in love it almost rang from the rooftop and echoed in everyone’s ears. Total hearts in their eyes, and eyes only for each other. Young, maybe on the uphill climb to twenty-five, but the Alpha had a toddler on one hip and the Omega’s stomach was proudly curved, maybe six months gone with a second cub. He rested one hand on the swell, an unconscious gesture but one that spoke of pleasure and pride. His Alpha glanced down and wrapped his free arm around the Omega’s shoulders, giving him a cuddle. Darius shook his head, but with a lopsided smile. The whole effect was so sweet it’d give a man diabetes, but he wouldn’t complain too much about it. He glanced at Jory to see that Jory had noticed him in turn. “Busted?” “Nosy,” Jory said, giving his shin a gentle nudge under the table. “Look who’s talking.” “But that’s all right,” Jory continued, undaunted. “You can buy the next round. Again.” Darius snorted. “Anyone ever tell you you’re not a cheap date?” “Every now and again.” Jory checked his watch. “Actually, make it a cup of coffee instead. It’s getting late, and I need to sober up.” “Why? We’ve walked home three sheets to the wind before.” “I have my reasons,” Jory said without further explanation, leaving Darius to wonder what he meant by that. It seemed to be something that made him a little nervous. He pushed his glass back and forth in the circle of condensation it’d left on the table, but didn’t drop any handy clues. “Did you see the couple with one in arms and one on the way?” Darius nodded. Of course he had. Ah. Two plus two came together. “Is that the water fountain kid?” Jory’s smile blossomed, warm and pleased. “It is. He’s adorable, huh? He wants to name his baby brother Mr. Ed.” A swallow of beer almost went down the wrong way. Darius coughed. “He wants to what, now? How does he know Mr. Ed? I don’t even remember where I heard of Mr. Ed.” “No telling.” Jory laughed too. “His parents are just hoping he’ll come around to plain old ‘Corey’ when he’s born.” He fell quiet again, but Darius could tell he was still watching the couple. Darius had to admit they made entertaining viewing. The baby must have been awake, inside. The Omega patted his belly, trying to soothe him, and the Alpha tracked his movements with one palm, fascination written across his face. Little judo master, Darius thought the Alpha said at one point. He winced in imagined empathy, and — the strangest thing — a flicker of jealousy. Jealousy? Darius frowned down at the remnants of his Guinness. He’d been a bachelor since he presented as Alpha, and hadn’t really minded. When he needed company or he went into rut he knew where to find what he needed. Aside from that, it didn’t seem so important. He had Jory, and they kept each other busy. Besides, Jory had decided to stay on military-grade suppressants when he went civilian to keep himself level and lower the risk of getting pregnant by accident, so it’d never been an issue. But now, Darius wondered. No. He knew. He’d seen that look on Omega faces before, and it surprised him to see it on Jory’s, but then again it wasn’t a shock. It looked… natural. Nice. Darius tapped the back of Jory’s hand with one finger. “I see. You’ve been thinking about it.” Jory, still captivated by the scene, raised his shoulder a fraction of an inch. “On and off.” He shook his head and focused, looking back at Darius. “No, that’s a lie of omission. I have been thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I want that, and I can’t stop wanting it.” “A baby?” “Enough that I stopped taking my suppressants,” Jory said, simple and clear. He settled his hands around his glass. “Three days ago. You know suppressants. They start working fast, and they stop just as fast. Should be gone by the weekend.” Darius blinked. Jory really meant business, then. The thought fascinated him in a way that surprised Darius. The mental image of Jory as round and curved and full as that Omega gave him a jolt like electricity applied deep down inside, something that sparked too much heat to ignore. He stamped that down carefully, tightly, and securely. Darius had never been immune to Jory’s charms. He’d had dreams, fantasies. Wishes. Desires. But he’d refused to let himself take one single step past plain and simple friendship. Nothing that’d start them down the road to a messy breakup. He’d seen it happen before — too many times — when friends hooked up. Hell, he’d encouraged Jory to date other people. He’d been glad that Jory was living with Alpha Whateverhisnamewas when he moved into town so the question of sharing an apartment couldn’t come up. Darius realized he was staring. To cover his reaction, he cleared his throat and hurried on. “Fertile. No kidding. Who’re you going to get to be the father?” “That’s the thing,” Jory said, his gaze fixed calmly on Darius. “I was hoping it would be you.”

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Meet the Author

Will Okati (formerly known as Willa) has lived through a few Interesting Times, but come out the other side a little grayer, a little wiser, and ready to get writing. Still as passionate about coffee, cats, and crafts as ever, but knowing that to your own self you must be true. Also still one of the quiet ones to watch out for, but life — like storytelling — is always a work in progress.

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New Release

Rory & Ink

Title: Rory & Ink

Series: Monster Apocalypse 4

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press

Release Date: January 13

Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 145 pages

Genre: Romance, Thriller/Suspense, Action Adventure, Futuristic, Paranormal Romance, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy, Alien Encounters, Alternative Universe, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Gay, Magic

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Synopsis

Rory has never been the kind of person who enjoys fights or violence, but when a member of his newfound family is kidnapped, he will not just stand by and do nothing. No, Rory will use his still new and not entirely welcome magic to help. And when that is done, Rory will once more put all his efforts into becoming a trophy mate to his handsome blue husband, and he will worship said husband from the tips of his horns to his paw feet. Inkiri has never been happier in his life. His human mate accepts him, and not just that, Rory loves him. And while Rory seemed afraid at first, he will stop at nothing to protect the people near and dear to him. All Inkiri can hope is that he will prove himself worthy for such an extraordinary mate. With his future life as trophy mate almost within reach, Rory might be forgetting something that he has to do, but that’s okay. There are people in his life now who will remind him of all the things that are important and of all the things that aren’t. Content warning: While this series is a comedy, this book alludes to physical and sexual abuse. It is not experienced on page, but it is a reality of a side character’s life.

Excerpt

All rights reserved. Copyright ©2023 Alexa Piper Rory It would be fine, I told myself, everything would be fine. I could do this. Once, but not because I would die the first time. I was going to be brave this once, because someone I cared about was in trouble and needed help. Starting right after we had Kinnek back, I would stop caring about people, because I would ask the presence if it would turn me into a shrub, a really fancy one with tiny berries and no attachments whatsoever. And of course, when I wondered whether shrubbery was in fact a goal I could aim for, I wondered whether Inkiri would mind. If I were a shrub. The presence was mildly amused, Inkiri locked eyes with me and told me he would protect me, and Vergis squeezed my hands to let me know I needed to do magic. “Dispense,” he mumbled, because that’s what he’d started saying since sometimes, I got distracted and didn’t… dispense right away. Fudge, but if it had been anyone but Vergis’s dad we were going to save, I would have told Vergis that I was not an effing paper towel dispenser. Get us close to where Kinnek is, I told the magic even as I mentally waved it over to power up Vergis. The presence — the land — acknowledged that, and off we were. There were ten of us, all told. Vergis, Inkiri, and Lissir were the ones the land cared about most, I felt that. It also cared about Charles, either because he was Vergis’s dad or because he had already come to protect me once during the raspberry incident that had ended with Charles revealing he had a bunker and my guys liking the concept so much they’d imprisoned the cola asshat in there. It is good he is here since two of your knights stayed with your mate’s blood, the land told me as we hopped through the veils. Well, okay. The land could be prickly if it didn’t like a person, and it didn’t like that Zeddira was requiring medical attention. You need to protect everyone, though, even Luëris and the other protectors, I told it. Remember, no bloodletting. Remember how I told you such a thing is not within my power, Rory. We are here. Here was not the dark camp made up of tents and orc-like Koa Esher with a cloud of doom looming above I’d expected, but instead a very fancy estate. It was almost a castle, from the size of it, from the gray, ivy-encrusted stone I spied from where we’d arrived… which was a golf course, one of those sandy pits, and the castle was right across a small and no doubt artificial lake, framed by formerly neatly groomed trees that had taken the chance and were growing wild now, with mistletoe in the upper branches. The lawns that were supposed to be perfectly green and flawlessly mowed were mottled, grasses growing there now and making any games a thing of the past. “Where?” Charles asked. He was calm and held his gun as if he was ready to use it. He was. And he might. Violence might happen. I needed to get used to the idea. The other protectors and Inkiri closed in around me and Vergis immediately, and Lissir unsheathed one of his sickle-like swords. He got a look in his fiery eyes that I’d not seen there before, and his mouth pressed to a thin line. I turned to the presence, and it reacted immediately. I will guide you. There are many of them here, a lot who have the strange magic. I started walking where the land was pointing me — toward the extremely large house or small castle — but Inkiri stopped me. “Tell us.”

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Meet the Author

Alexa (she/her) has a lot of characters living in her head and wanting their stories told. Many of these people get snarky and won’t stop complaining if Alexa is too slow writing them, which means that for this author, sleep is a luxury. Consequently, Alexa is a coffee addict, but she is sure she has it under control (six cups of coffee are normal in a morning, right? Right!?)

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New Release

New Release – Caged by Mona Black

 ★✩★ NEW RELEASE ★✩★

Caged

Golden Cage Omegas, #1

By Mona Black

Genre: Reverse Harem 

Hosted by DS Book Promotions




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Blurb:

Finding out I am an omega in a world ruled by betas was only the beginning of my troubles…


Alphas and omegas are considered non-humans. We’re thought of as animals, some of whose traits we share. Furry ears and tails, anyone? Oh, and also mating cycles. Finding out I am an omega in a world ruled by betas was only the beginning of my troubles…


That’s right.


Not something I thought I had to worry about. See, I thought I was a beta. I thought I was human.


And then, my world is upended once again when my parents are killed by a pack of rogues. Escaping, I head to the city, and there I am captured and sent to the Golden Cage.


A Cage where omegas are kept, to be sold to an alpha pack. To the highest bidder.


I came to the city to find a gang of boys I met many years ago, to beg them for help, but instead I am being sold to an unknown pack, the choice not up to me.


What are the odds that the gang of boys I once knew, all grown-up now, would bid for me?


* CAGED is a full-length Reverse Harem Omegaverse standalone novel. No shifting happens in this book. It contains M/M and steam. *



About Mona Black

Mona Black is a Fantasy Romance and Reverse Harem Romance Author. She writes about Fae, shifters, and witches, and of course, love. She loves fairy tales and long sagas of magic, and especially loves characters who redeem themselves and find their happily ever after.

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New Release

NewRelease The Party Is Over, a new Lilah Love book, by @LisaReneeJones is LIVE!!


 #NewRelease The Party Is Over, a new Lilah Love book, by @LisaReneeJones is LIVE!!

About the book: All dressed up and no one to kill…Actually there are plenty of people to kill, but I’m trying to show restraint. I have handcuffs. I have a badge. I can arrest the bad guys and not kill them. But with my father trying to become governor, and Kane’s uncle standing in my face, all bets are off. Because let’s just face it, being a bitch isn’t a way of life, at least not for me. It’s a destination I travel when idiots lead me there. And cornering me in a back alley as Kane’s uncle has done, makes him an idiot. And sometimes being a witch means a girl just has to get stabby.Amazon → https://mybook.to/PartyOver/opt/1Apple → https://apple.co/3LJNqRqNook → https://bit.ly/3JuBTn6Kobo → https://bit.ly/354om6OGoogle → https://bit.ly/3HXmpruHaven’t started the series? Start it for #FREE: https://www.lisareneejonesthrillers.com/the-lilah-love-series.html
New Release

Now and Always

Bloodstone by Rebecca Henry

Book 3 in the Ambrosia Hill series

General Release Date: 10th January 2023

Word Count: 47,930 Book Length: SHORT NOVEL Pages: 166

Genres:

CONTEMPORARY GLBTQI LESBIAN PARANORMAL YOUNG ADULT

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Book Description

There’s something wicked in the wind on Ambrosia Hill. Zinnia knows nothing is as it seems in the witching world. Her aunts calling her back to Fern House was not without consequences—for Zinnia and for her mom. Zinnia must embrace her witch abilities and undergo her biggest test yet. Can she learn to rely on her personal magic, embrace the strength of others and trust that what she sees isn’t always reality? There’s something wicked in the wind this Halloween on Ambrosia Hill and Zinnia must fight for those she loves most.

Excerpt

Being a witch has one certainty—I’ll never have all the answers to life’s mysteries. But one mystery I needed to figure out, and now, was who was Ursula Geist. A strong breeze rustled through the maple trees that towered above me, showering my tree-lined path in a golden hue. I inhaled the aroma of dried leaves, their desiccated scent mixing with dying plants, rotted earth and plump mushrooms, reminding me I was home. My pupils dilated, a sensation green witches experience when our awareness comes alive in nature. Breathing deep, I could taste the crisp cabbage and sweet corn growing free in my aunts’ garden. Closing my eyes, I could sense the very fabric of life coursing through my arms and legs like an electrical current. In Ambrosia Hill, autumn was authentic, unlike the artificial scents of the city. The world felt mirthful and alive, so incongruent with the fear I had a strong gush of for my mother. It seemed unfair the rest of the world would continue on when mine was so dangerous and unsure. The day was perfect. I could almost forget I was on my way to the local library to search for a clue about a cryptic name, spelled out by my obsidian pendulum. Almost, but not quite. When I’d googled the name, nothing had come up, telling me that whoever this Ursula Geist was, I’d have to find the answers within Ambrosia Hill. The autumn breeze picked up my hair, so I pulled my beanie down tight over my head and stuffed my hands in my coat pockets, bracing against the wind as I charged down the path leading me to town. I hadn’t been to the Ambrosia Hill Library in quite some time. I preferred to read the books at my aunts’ house, full of whimsy and witchcraft. The library was conveniently located across the village green from the local hardware store. I checked the time on my phone and flaunted my first real smile of the day. Billie would still be at the hardware store with her dad. I quickened my steps to make a detour inside to see her. She worked behind the counter on Saturdays so her dad could be on the floor to help with customers, and we had made plans to meet up after her shift. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I debated whether or not to tell Billie what had happened in the garden after she left. She had told me she wanted to be included in my life, and that meant she accepted me being a witch. She had taken the news better than I’d hoped, but was this too much too soon? Do I tell her about Ursula Geist? I don’t know anything yet, but I do know it can’t be good. Magical candles holding secret messages was one thing, but a diabolical spirit trapped inside a pair of old witch boots buried in my aunts’ garden was not second date material. I sighed, kicking a pebble off the sidewalk. I thought back to an online article I’d read on the train ride from New York—Nine Signs Your Girlfriend Has Toxic Baggage. An evil entity buried in the yard ran circles around each and every one on the list. I’m fourteen, not twenty-five, and here I am dating my first girlfriend with more baggage than a diva in Vegas. Gathering my courage, I stopped in front of the door beside a wheelbarrow filled with hay. A snarky-looking skeleton holding a trowel smiled at me as I shuffled from one foot to the other. A tall man with thinning hair in an oversized work coat and black boots passed me. I pulled the door open and gestured for him to go in ahead. He shot me a peculiar glance, his eyebrows pulled together as he looked me up and down, as if he knew me and disapproved. Knew my family name, knew my house on top of the tallest hill in this sleepy town. It was a look I was familiar with, what with being a Fern woman in this small town. He rubbed at his thick beard as he stepped through the door, cutting a wide berth around me as if I were contagious. The door closed again, and I watched through the glass as he nodded to Billie’s father Ben, who greeted him in the center of the store surrounded by a horde of shoppers. Billie leaned over the counter and spied me through the store windows. Laughing, she mouthed, “What are you doing?” before motioning for me to come in. The man paused his conversation with Ben to glance at me through the window, raising his bushy eyebrows in what I assumed was suspicion. Maybe he thinks I’m going to place a curse on the entire store where everyone’s teeth fall out? Whatever it was that was going through his head, I could tell he wasn’t crazy about me. But now all three of them were watching me, so I bit my lip and headed in. The chime of the doorbell was loud, like a dinner bell calling the cattle home for supper, and I flushed, self-conscious that the rest of the store seemed to turn and was now staring at me. Then the moment passed, and everyone turned back to whatever it was they were doing. Only Billie’s puzzled grin was focused on me. My palms were sweating and I rubbed them down my pant legs. The hardware store was packed. Customers cramped their aisles with their carts full of carving knives, decorations and large, round gourds. With everything that had transpired over the last twenty-four hours, I had almost forgotten that Halloween was a few days away. Ben caught my eye and shot me a big wave. Tension melted from my shoulders at the sight of his kind face, and I offered a shy wave with a warm smile in return. A line of customers awaited their turn at the checkout counter, and Billie held up her finger, letting me know she’d be free in a few minutes. I nodded and circled around the front of the store, listening as she made small talk with the old timers who praised her on her costume. I had to agree with them. She looked amazing, and heat rushed to my face when she caught me looking at her and Billie responded with a wink. She wore a green blazer over a black T-shirt, which hit just above her belly button in her high-rise ripped black jeans. She wore a headband with two electrical bolts, making it look like she had sockets coming out of the side of her head, and she’d added stitches to her face and hands. She had topped everything off with black lipstick to match her black nail polish. Billie could pull off an outfit like that and make it look cool enough to wear out to a skateboard park, or even Price Choppers, the local grocery store. An elderly man with stark white hair and thick overalls sidled up to the counter, tipping his driver’s cap at Billie. “Getting cold out there,” he drawled as he placed a package of light bulbs and a pack of gum on the counter. Billie rang up his items with a smile. “Sure is, Mr. Johnson. Winter is coming fast this year.” The old man nodded as he pulled a wallet from the bib of his overalls. “Speaking of fast,” he said as he handed Billie a ten-dollar bill, “which is faster, hot or cold?” Billie smirked as she leaned against the counter, her eyes tilted up at the ceiling as if in deep thought. “Cold?” she guessed as she handed him his change. “Hot.” He chuckled, pocketing the money. “Because you can catch a cold.” Billie’s boyish grin spread wide across her face, and she fist-bumped Mr. Johnson on his way out of the door. “Good one, Mr. Johnson!” she called out to him. “I’ll have to remember that one,” she said as I strolled over to her. Billie’s dad walked out from an aisle and flashed me a bright smile. “Hey there, Zinnia! Billie told me you were back in town for Halloween. It’s good to have you home, sweetheart.” My face heated. “Thank you so much. It’s wonderful to be back,” I replied, a trace of bashfulness in my voice. “Why don’t you take Zinnia outside to visit with Bacon for a bit?” he asked as he slid behind the counter. “She needs lunch. I’ll stay in here to handle the front.” Billie took off her work apron, tossing it on the counter as her dad wrapped his arm around her neck in a big hug, kissing her on the cheek. “Too much, Dad,” she squealed as she squirmed away, a big smile on her face. It felt like an old routine of theirs, something they did a lot and that Billie loved even though she’d never admit it. With a pain stabbing my heart, I realized how much I missed my dad. “What?” he asked, taking a step back in mock surprise. “I thought you liked head-lock hugs? Next you’re going to say you don’t even like noogies.” His eyes were twinkling with mischief. “Yeah, maybe when I was like ten,” she teased, bumping him in the side with her shoulder and I laughed. “And nobody in the history of the universe has ever liked noogies.” They had an easy friendship between them, so different from my relationship with my dad. Billie had a quality about her—she was real with the people in her life. Billie wasn’t afraid of embarrassment or displaying public affection with those she loved. Even though her dad was her parent, he respected his daughter, and in return, she respected him back. I knew from experience that it wasn’t an easy task to be included in Billie’s circle. She kept that number low, selective. But what she lacked in quantity, she made up for in quality. One friend of Billie equaled a dozen friends. Billie wasn’t shy—she wasn’t afraid to be who she was. If she liked someone, they’d know it—they’d feel it across their skin and deep into their bones. It was an electric charge that ignited the entire body. That was real magic, something no one could receive from even the most powerful spell. Of course, there was a trade-off. It worked both ways with Billie. If a person ended up on her bad side…their one hope was to run and hide. I admired her ability to be honest and tell it to me straight. Billie smiled at me and I went weak in the knees. She was so pretty it made my head spin, and it was hard not to stare as Billie brushed her arm against mine, and all the tiny hairs on my skin shot straight up under my sweater. A tingling sensation ran up and down my arm as if electricity were running through me, as though Billie had flipped on a switch inside of me. “Come on, City Girl. Let’s go out back.” My heart quickened at my nickname, coined by our first encounter over the summer at the lake. She reached for my hand as I followed her out through the back door and into the frigid air. I watched her from the corner of my eye. How does she have that effect on me? Billie’s pet pig Bacon snorted, and Billie crouched down to give her a cuddle. I curled my now-vacant hand into a loose fist, already missing her warm touch. Bacon waddled over to me, wagging her spiral tail. I squatted down and gave her a huge hug. It felt so good to be back with them. I loved animals, and part of the reason I’d fallen so hard for Billie was her sensitivity toward all living creatures. Her strong vegan roots acted like a moral compass for her. Billie studied me and Bacon, her emerald eyes locked on my every movement. I let out a slow, shaking breath. I liked her looking at me and she knew it. Billie offered me a teasing wink. She stood up, brushing the loose dirt from her jeans as she picked her way to a storage container and scooped out Bacon’s lunch—a mixture of grains and leafy greens. Her tail swinging like mad, Bacon pulled out of my arms, snorting as she ran over to her food bowl with what I could only assume was pure gluttonous joy. I plopped backwards onto the ground with a giggle. It was impossible not to smile as I watched the two of them interact. Billie’s entire face lit up around her pig. “What are you up to today? Any big plans with the aunts?” Billie raised her eyebrows at me. “Perhaps an afternoon sacrifice, or maybe raising the dead?” I laughed with an uneasy head nod. She wasn’t too far off. I countered with, “Ah, nothing that gruesome for us green witches. More like calling the corners. Maybe I’ll conjure up a small storm, like a tornado.” I pressed my lips together as if I were thinking. “Just over your store, though.” Billie threw her head back and laughed. “I see you haven’t lost your spunk, City Girl.” And she threw me another wink. My face responded as it always did—I could feel the color rising in my cheeks and I pictured myself turning a deep red. The same color as the beets growing in my aunt’s vegetable patch. “Okay, in all seriousness though, what are you up to?” She tilted her head. “Still able to hang out when I get off, right?” I got to my feet and toed a pebble around in the dirt with my boot. Billie scrunched her eyebrows together and stepped closer to me. “Zinnia, is everything okay?” My gaze met hers. Her face was etched with genuine concern. I took a deep breath, knowing I couldn’t hide the truth from her. Somehow protecting her with a lie seemed like more of a betrayal than dumping my witchy teen drama on her. I bit my lip. “I’m on my way to the library to look up a strange name that I can’t find on the internet, but my pendulum told me that’s where I need to start looking if I want to figure out who and what is hurting my mom.” Billie’s jaw dropped, and I gripped her elbow, allowing some of the fear I’d been feeling to spill into my voice. “Billie, her reflection moved backwards in the mirrors. And she can’t eat cinnamon—it flipping burned her!” I wrung my hands together as I continued to verbally vomit on my girlfriend. “Do you know how serious that is?” I paced as Billie stared at me with wide eyes. “She’s in trouble. Something is wrong, and my aunts aren’t here to help me, Billie.” I stopped my frantic pacing to gauge her reaction. She was staring, an open-mouthed, blank expression on her face, her willowy arms dangling limp at her sides. Even Bacon paused mid-chew to watch my freak-out. Girlfriend of the Year award goes to…um, yeah, not me. More like Baggage Accolade of the Decade goes to the complicated and never-ending string of commotion girlfriend…yep, I’ll take that one, thank you. I inhaled a long breath before continuing. “They left for Conjure Lake and I’m not sure when they are coming back. I can’t get in touch with them because there’s no cell phone reception in the mountains, and all I have to guide me is this.” I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the divination board. Billie gasped, then reached out for it. I gave it to her and she turned it over, studying the rows and symbols, being careful while examining the board before handing it back to me. “So to answer your question—yes, I’d love nothing more than to see you this afternoon. You’re the main reason I came back to Ambrosia Hill. I want to be with you.” Tears filled my eyes, and I blinked them back. “But I have to find answers, Billie. And fast.” I shook my head, closing my eyes. “I can’t leave my mom to face whatever this is alone. Something is wrong, and I’m afraid of what might happen to her.” Billie stood mute beside me for a long moment, examining my face with the same care she’d shown the divination board. “Well, you are never boring,” she said as she wrapped an arm around my back, pulling me into her. She held me in a tight hug, and I huffed a laugh as I melted against her, my head resting on her shoulder. “It’s okay, Zinnia, I’m not going anywhere. I meant what I said last night. I’ll support you, no matter what. We will figure this out together.” I sighed, hugging her tighter, “You honest to God—or should I say Goddess—don’t care I’m a witch?” Billie laughed, rocking us back and forth. “Omigod, no way. The biggest problem most girls have is a surprise pimple. Not you. You’ve got monsters crawling out of the dirt in your garden.” She pulled back to grin at me. “My girlfriend is a witch. How many people get to say that?” We both laughed, and I sighed again. “Not many,” I said with a shrug. Billie’s dad called from the back door. “Hey, kiddo, another wave just hit! Come inside as soon as you can, okay? Bye, Zinnia! See you soon!” I yelled goodbye back as I waved, standing on my tiptoes as if the extra height would make my goodbye more sincere. Billie offered me an apologetic shrug. “I’ll meet you at the library when I get off. Find out as much as you can and we’ll go from there. What’s the name?” I told her, and Billie looked back at the store. “I’ll ask around today and see if anyone recognizes that name.” She leaned forward to give me a quick peck on my lips, and my eyes bulged out of their sockets like Buzz Lightyear. First, I’m her girlfriend, and now we can kiss freely? It was like a fairytale, and I was loving every second of it…minus the spooky entity stalking my mom. Every fairytale has something creepy, but mine’s the one with Billie.

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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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