15 August 2022

Book 4 in the Paladin League series by Patti O’Shea Book Blitz and Giveaway! #PaladinLeague #PattiOShea #XpressoTours @XpressoTours⁣

 

Wicked Deception
Patti O’Shea


(The Paladin League, #4)
Publication date: August 15th 2022
Genres: Adult, Romance, Suspense

Special Forces Sgt. Kyle Winter’s vow to stay far away from the nun he can’t get out of his head is blown to pieces when he’s assigned to work undercover at the convent. The arms dealer his team is after has been showing too much interest in the place and his captain wants to know why. How hard can it be to avoid Sister Sexy anyway?

Marianna Castillo is desperate. So desperate, she’s disguised herself as a nun, and hidden in a convent. She’s been running for more than two years, staying one step ahead of the arms dealer trying to kill her. He can’t allow her to live, not when she knows a secret that can destroy him. And now he’s watching the convent.

Mari needs help, but the person with the skills to keep her safe can’t be trusted. A mercenary’s loyalty is always for sale to the highest bidder, and the man who wants her dead can pay him a fortune.

But as the arms dealer closes in, she has to make a choice. Keep running or trust Kyle to fight beside her to reclaim her life.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

Trujillo, Puerto Jardin
South America

After finishing his sandwich, Kyle quietly sipped his coffee and waited. There was no guarantee she’d be here today. Just because he’d seen her on a Thursday didn’t mean anything. The nuns probably came to the open-air market multiple times a week. Maybe they had a rotation and there was no telling which day would be assigned to her. Maybe she rarely drew market duty.

Maybe, but Kyle was here anyway.

He shouldn’t be doing this. Not only because his captain would be irate, but because he was attracted to her. Very attracted.

Nothing would come of it. He’d been raised in Catholic boarding schools across South America and respected the sisters. He might have stopped going to mass after his father died, but Kyle hadn’t strayed so far that he’d make a play for a nun.

No, he was here because he was sure she was in trouble. When she’d looked around the market three weeks ago, there’d been terror in her eyes. Something scared her to death and he wanted to know what.

And he wanted to help.

Kyle wasn’t like his buddy, Griff. He didn’t rush to every woman’s rescue. But he did have a soft spot for nuns.

Sweat ran down his cheek, and he absently wiped it away. He was dressed in camo fatigue pants, combat boots, an olive-drab T-shirt with a long-sleeved camouflage shirt to hide his weapons, and the dark green Toros baseball cap he’d appropriated from Griff’s woman when she’d left for the States. It wouldn’t matter what he wore, though. It was hot.

Trujillo was close enough to the equator and the tropical rainforest that drinking coffee wasn’t a pleasure. He sipped anyway because it gave him a reason to be sitting in the market, and because he was addicted to caffeine.

The place became busier as it got closer to lunch, but still no sign of the nuns. Kyle was reasonably certain she was part of La Convento de Madres Fieles. It was the nearest abbey to the market, and it sure looked as if the sisters walked here to shop.

He bought a second coffee. Another half hour passed. He was about to give up when he saw the flash of black in his peripheral vision. Kyle turned. The nuns were at the market, but they were too far away to know if his sister was part of the trio.

They wore short tunics again, ending above their knees—not too surprising given the heat—but they had full coifs and veils, and were carrying string bags. He felt for them. They must be more uncomfortable than he was.

Keeping them in the edge of his vision, Kyle turned his attention toward the produce stall across from his position. If today was like the previous weeks, they’d head there to buy their fruit, and he didn’t want to show interest in them.

They grew closer. His nun was one of the sisters today.

Again, her legs were the first thing he noticed, and he had to force his gaze to her face. He guessed she was in her mid-twenties. In the US, it might be surprising, but not in Puerto Jardin where many young women went into the church. One of her group said something and she smiled briefly.

He forgot to breathe. Even without makeup, she was beautiful. High cheekbones, big, dark eyes, and full, kissable lips. Easily one of the most stunning women he’d ever laid eyes on.

None of the nuns he’d had in school looked like her.

Patti O'Shea's passions are writing, airplanes and traveling. Fortunately, she's been able to enjoy all three. After receiving a degree in advertising copywriting, she took a job with a major U.S. airline and now works in 757 Engineering. Besides teaching her about the planes she loves, it's given her an opportunity to travel to places like Australia, Papua New Guinea and Canada's Yukon Territory.

Writing, though, remains her primary love. Patti created her first romance when she was in junior high school and has been hooked ever since. She should have figured out she was a writer years earlier, however, since her dolls had such involved lives, complete with goals, motivation and conflict.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter

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The Potrero Complex Book Tour and Giveaway!

 The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein Banner

The Potrero Complex

by Amy L Bernstein

August 1-31, 2022 Virtual Book Tour

Synopsis:

The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein

Journalist Rags Goldner is battle-scarred and heartbroken after covering a devastating pandemic that rages in Baltimore for five years. She leaves the city with her partner in search of a simpler life in small-town Maryland—only to discover nothing in Canary is simple. A teenager is missing, and it falls to Rags to fight the forces of apathy, paranoia, and creeping fascism to learn the shocking truth about Effie Rutter’s fate—and the fate of thousands like her.

Praise for The Potrero Complex:

“Anyone immersed in the experience and possible outcomes of social change after this pandemic will find The Potrero Complex frightening and hard to put down, presenting thought-provoking insights on the progress and erosion of freedom in the name of safety and social preservation.”

D. Donovan, Sr. Reviewer, Midwest Book Review

“Bernstein sets us in a post-pandemic time just the barest bit beyond our own, on the way to a dystopia that feels too frightening and too familiar. A thoughtful, complex, well-executed novel—not a who-done-it? but a much scarier what-in-the-hell-is-happening?”

Robert Kanigel, author of Hearing Homer’s Songand The Man Who Knew Infinity

“An intelligently conceived tale of an unthinkable yet credible future. A novel of dark deeds in dark times.”

Karen S. Bennett, author of Beautiful Horseflesh

“A complicated tale of post-pandemic times in the not-so-distant future, where share cars, data phones, and respies figure into a plot that is scarily believable.”

Avery Caswell, author of Salvation

“Richly textured, with many evocative threads [that] explore the culture of a post-pandemic small town—a town that camouflages its disturbing secrets. A cautionary tale.”

Kathy Mangan, Professor Emeritus, McDaniel College, author of Taproot

“A scarily prescient novel that deftly explores the fraught connections between individuality, society, public policy, and technology.”

Courtney Harler, Harler Literary LLC

“An emotional, haunting tale leaves you with more questions than answers, and that’s a good thing. A memorable and timely reminder that there are no easy solutions when fear and conspiracy feed like hungry beasts and the innocent exist simply for the taking.”

PJ McIlvaine, screenwriter, author of My Horrible Year

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Published by: Regal House Publishing
Publication Date: August 2nd 2022
Number of Pages: 270
ISBN: 1646032500 (ISBN13: 9781646032501)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | Regal House Publishing

Read an excerpt:

MISSING: A teenaged girl with lanky, blonde hair and a sunburst tattoo on her cheek.

The holographic posters, brighter than day itself, lit up the air on every block of Main Street. They were the first thing Rags Goldner noticed as she and her partner, Flint Sten, arrived in Canary.

The girl’s name was Effie and she was sixteen.

Effie’s pixelated image beamed down at Rags like a celebrity unaware that her fifteen minutes of fame were up.

Rags refused to give a damn about the missing girl who, after all, she didn’t know. Nor did she know much about the town, Canary, where the driverless ShareCar she and Flint had leased for their move had brought them. But missing kids make news, and as Canary’s newly imported one-and-only newspaper editor, Rags knew she’d be expected to do something about it. Which meant she wouldn’t control the news hole on day one. Which meant all kinds of people would come at her to do one thing or another.

Rags hadn’t been in town five minutes and already she could tell things were going to get complicated—and complicated was the very thing she and Flint were trying to get away from. Damn all the politicians and peacekeepers and their gatekeeping bullshit, she thought.

As the car made a final turn toward its programmed destination, Rags’s twitch flared up: the muscles in her upper left cheek and the outer corner of her left eye performed an uncontrolled little dance. “Ah, crap,” she said. “Turning Main Street into Times Square won’t help them find the girl. What a waste. And all that light pollution.” She stretched her face, willing the twitch to stop.

Flint held up his dataphone and aimed it at one of the digital posters as they cruised by. The static image of Effie sprang into augmented-reality motion: she turned her head, blinked, and laughed.

“Stop doing that, Flint,” Rags said. “Just don’t.” No way that girl, out there somewhere, is smiling.

“Don’t get spun up so fast.” Flint looked over at her for the first time in hours. Their connection was like a faulty wire, fritzing on and off. “Give yourself some room to ramp up,” he said, putting his hand on top of her head in a familiar gesture: simmer down. It helped. The twitching nearly stopped. “We haven’t even come to a full stop yet. Pace yourself.”

“Well, look,” Rags said. “They’ve plastered her face everywhere. Probably been like that for weeks.”

“You think the story about this girl has gone cold, right?” Flint said. “What do you call that?”

“Beat up. I’m guessing the story’s beat up. The first thing I’m going to hear is that they want me to flog it some more. Remind me, why are we doing this?”

“Let’s not,” Flint said, looking back down at his screen. “Anyway, it was your idea.”

As the ShareCar rolled noiselessly down Main Street, Rags saw just one person hanging around the deserted downtown: a woman standing on a corner who appeared to be waiting. For what? Rags wondered. As they slowly passed by, Rags caught a dead look in the woman’s eyes. A block further on, Rags watched a man and a woman, both in shabby coats, as they appeared to argue, their faces contorted with anger. The man handed the woman a bicycle pump. She handed him in return a loaf of bread. What kind of town is this?

The ShareCar parked curbside at 326 Main Street. For well over a century, the little brick building, sandwiched between other little brick buildings, had housed the Canary Courant. A chatty little newspaper, the Courant, as Rags knew from her research, printed anything and everything within the bounds of what people once called ‘common decency’ about the town of Canary, a tiny hamlet in the northwestern corner of Maryland, not far from the Pennsylvania border. The kind of town that flew under the radar for anyone who did not live there.

The fact that the Canary Courant was still a going concern in 2030 was astounding, even mysterious, and a key reason that Rags was here. Though perhaps not the only reason. The paper’s survival was even more of a puzzle when one considered that the town itself, which had been shriveling for decades, was now skeletal. The pandemic, which everybody called The Big One, had raged for nearly five years. It hollowed out an already hollowed out place, killing off over two-thirds of the elderly population living out their days in Canary. Those folks never knew what hit them—their dreams of slipping into gracious idleness on their front-porch rockers, eating breakfast on the cheap at the town diner, destroyed in an agony of fever and blood.

On Canary’s rural outskirts, on their way into town, Rags had seen the crematorium, a hulking cinderblock rectangle erected for one single purpose: to incinerate the infected dead into piles of decontaminated black ash. She was sure Flint missed it— though it was very hard to miss, rising up from a flat expanse of undeveloped land—just as he’d missed seeing Effie until she pointed it out. Like I’m his goddamn tour guide.

Now, nearly two years after The Big One had been officially declared over, Rags suspected that Canary’s survivors were like a mouth full of missing teeth—families broken by a plague that took not merely the elderly but also children and their parents with a seemingly vicious and terrifyingly random determination. With an emphasis on random. Survivors everywhere were known as “Luckies,” though Rags only ever used that term in its most ironic sense.

And yet, even in a near ghost town like Canary, in a still-brittle economy, in a world where print media was a rare novelty, the ink-on-paper edition of the Canary Courant lived on, as quirky and creaky as Miss Havisham in the attic, each folded issue tossed at sunrise every Wednesday and every other Sunday into doorways and onto walkways by a young father and son living on gig income.

Rags deliberately suppressed her own journalistic instincts when it came to figuring out how this newspaper managed to keep going years past its natural expiration date. Turning a blind eye to its improbable existence was both expedient and convenient for her. She knew that income from print ads—about as old-fashioned as you could get—was the sole reason the paper was able to keep going. It surely wasn’t due to subscription revenue. But she didn’t know why anyone would buy print ads in a tiny newspaper serving a dying community in a digital world. There’d be time, she figured, to get to the bottom of that.

The main thing was that this improbable job as the Canary Courant’s editor came her way at a time when she and Flint were looking for an escape hatch that would take them away from the exhausting hysteria and suffocating autocracy that made post-pandemic, big-city living unbearable in countless ways. They came to Canary in search of a simpler life—though Rags, if pressed, could not readily have defined what that would look like. Freedom from fear? Freedom to forget? She kept these notions to herself because she did not think Flint would admit to any of it—let alone acknowledge the possibility.

Rags had worried before they arrived that an out-of-the-way place like Canary might have borne an influx of people seeking—or imagining—that this place would prove to be some kind of oasis. But from the little she’d seen so far, there was nothing oasis-like about this town. The garish and intrusive billboards of the missing Effie radiated an anxious thrum, nothing like a small-town welcome.

Rags and Flint left the ShareCar with programmed instructions to continue on and wait for them at the house they were renting a few blocks from Canary’s minuscule town center. The entire move, including Rags’s new job, had been planned remotely, so this was their first time actually in Canary. In the grand scheme of things, given the terrifying and unpredictable upheavals they’d already lived through, moving hundreds of miles away to a new place sight unseen didn’t feel at all risky.

From the outside, the newspaper office mimicked the virtual reality images Rags had already seen online. A plate-glass window with old-fashioned gold lettering rimmed in black spelled out Canary Courant. Since 1910. Rags doubted there was anything very “current” about it; the very name advertised its status as a relic with a pretentious echo of French. Rags wondered who else knew that courant in French had more than one meaning— not just “current” but also “ordinary.” Someone must have had the lettering on the window repainted many times over the years—and who even knew how to do that sort of thing, anymore?—but this was a line item Rags wasn’t going to worry about. She was here on purpose yet still felt faintly ridiculous about the whole thing.

All this ye-oldy feel-good yester-year crap, she thought. Some kind of amusement park for blinkered folks. A post-apocalyptic Disneyworld? Or maybe Westworld—a place where you could trick yourself into relaxing, just for a moment.

Yet here she was, along with her IT-guru partner Flint, a software developer steeped in AI arcana, who was definitely not the ye-oldy type. Fitting in, for both of them, was beside the point. Rags figured they’d both settle for some kind of new equilibrium. She waved her dataphone in front of the digi-lock and the heavy front door swung open. The newspaper office was a step up from the threshold because, Rags learned later, the floor had been reinforced a century ago to support the heavy metal printing presses that used to take up a third of the space with their loud, clackety racket.

As Rags entered the square-shaped newsroom, the old floor creaking, a woman likely more than twice Rags’s age—a surprise in and of itself, in this day and age—stood up quickly from a battered wooden desk, her chair scraping against the floor. Rags knew only her first name, Merry. She was tall with broad shoulders, like a swimmer, dressed in loose-fitting wrinkled clothes, her hair silver-gray and so long it touched her buttocks.

“You’re here,” Merry said with a slightly accusatory edge that did not escape Rag’s notice, as though she’d been doing something she shouldn’t.

“Yup,” Rags said as she scanned the room. She made a quick mental list of all the things she intended to change. Rags hated clutter the way healthy people hate cancer: it was offensive, invasive, and should be eliminated quickly and surgically. The heavy furniture would have to go, and the old-fashioned filing cabinets, and the shelf of tacky journalism awards—the fake-gold winged angels, the stupid quill pens mounted on blocks of glass. Rags guessed that most if not all of the people who’d won those awards were long dead, one way or another. She’d call someone as soon as possible to haul all this crap away. The place looked like a mausoleum, for chrissakes. And that told her all she needed to know about Merry, who radiated the territorial energy of a fox guarding its cubs.

“I’ve got tomorrow’s front page made up on screen,” Merry said, standing rigidly by her desk. “I suppose you want to see it.” Rags saw Flint make a tiny, familiar gesture: flicking on his ear discs (he’d insisted on upgrading from old-school earbuds), so he could drown out the voices around him and listen to the soundtrack of his choice. With this personal sound cushion enveloping him, Flint glided around the room like a restless ghost, ignoring the two women, fingering every piece of tech there was, and there wasn’t much. Rags turned her attention to Merry—watching her watching Flint, to see how much this invasion of Merry’s claimed space unsettled her. Rags didn’t bother to introduce them, as Flint wasn’t likely to visit the newsroom again.

“Is it all about the missing girl?” Rags asked.

“Is there another big story in town I’ve missed?” Merry asked, her blue-gray eyes staring icily at Rags. “Because if so, be my guest. You’ve got two whole hours until we send the file to the printers.” Merry stepped away from her desk, as if inviting Rags to step in. Rags read the gesture as it was intended: What the fuck do you know?

Well, this wasn’t going to be pretty. In that moment, Rags had to admit to herself that while she thought she longed to live in a place where she could pursue small stories of no consequence, instead of big ones that traded in life and death, she was never going to check her personality at the door. She wouldn’t look for trouble, but she wouldn’t back away from a fight, either, especially if she knew going into it that she had the upper hand. She was editor-in-chief, after all, not Merry—a holdover from a previous regime with an ill-defined job, as far as Rags knew.

Rags sat down at a battered desk nearly identical to Merry’s and began opening drawers, which contained random bits of long-obsolete office junk: Post-It notes, ballpoint pens, paperclips, a box of peppermint Tic-Tacs. Rags popped a Tic-Tac in her mouth and bit down hard; it was stale and tasteless.

“That’s Freddy’s desk,” Merry said. “You mean it was,” Rags said.

“For a long time, yeah. He was a damn good copy editor.

Nothing got past Freddy. That’s what everybody said.”

“Except The Big One, I’m guessing,” Rags said, without an ounce of sympathy. “Snuck right up on him.”

“Yeah, it did,” Merry said flatly, turning back to her screen.

“So what’s your plan, Polly?”

“Don’t call me Polly. Call me Rags.”

“I was told the new editor-in-chief is named Polly,” Merry said, as if trying to catch Rags in a lie. “I wasn’t told anything about somebody named Rags.”

“Yet here I am,” Rags said, rising from Freddy’s chair. She stood behind Merry and looked at the screen. “How many stories on this girl, Effie, have you run this month, Merry?”

“We try to post something every week.” “Why?” Rags asked.

“Why? Because we’re trying to flush out new leads, Pol—

Rags.”

“Are there any?” Rags asked, scrolling around the digital home page of the Courant. Merry hovered over her, as though she feared Rags would break something.

“Not in over a week,” Merry said.

“So it’s a beat-up story but you keep milking it for, what, sympathy?”

“No!” Merry said, turning red. “You don’t have any children, do you? Because if you did, you’d—”

“Bury it,” Rags said.

“You want me to bury the lead story? And replace it with what?” Merry’s cheeks flushed. She bit her lower lip. Rags noted how little it would take to get her really and truly riled up.

By this point, Flint had found an ancient PC from 2010 sitting on a dusty windowsill and he was taking it apart, down to the motherboard and its old components. Rags knew he was going to wait her out, and this would keep him happily occupied until she was good and ready to leave. He was patient in this type of situation, which Rags appreciated; his tolerance of her own need to press on, push hard, was essential to balancing them out. Maybe here, finally, she’d find a way to press less, though the situation was not promising in that respect.

Rags touched Merry’s screen to scroll through the pages of the main news well. It was only a couple of pages long before you hit sports, the crossword (unkillable), and then those unaccountably robust print ads listing everything from flying lessons to bizarre personals. She told Merry to make the lead a story she’d spotted about a leaking septic tank and to bury the Effie story right before the sports section. The need for the switch was obvious. The Effie story had had its day, and anything that remotely threatened public health, like a septic tank problem, belonged well above the fold. It was a thin fold, in any case, despite the ads.

“And when the next kid goes missing, you want us to bury

that too?” Merry asked.

“What do you mean, the next kid?” Rags asked. “It’s going to happen,” Merry said, biting her lip. “You don’t know that.”

“You don’t know anything,” Merry said.

“Then tell me, Merry. Tell me what I don’t know.”

Rags could see Merry’s chest rising and falling, as if she was struggling to hold something in. But Merry said nothing.

“Switch the stories,” Rags said. There was no way she’d back down and let Merry have her way. And besides, if there was nothing new to report on the Effie case, then there really wasn’t a compelling reason to give the story the banner headline for the week. Rags had no qualms about her decision. “Flint, let’s go find our new home.”

Flint had his head deep inside the guts of the old PC he’d found. She called to him again. He straightened up, dusted off his hands, and followed Rags out without a word to Merry, leaving the deconstructed computer in bits and pieces on the desk.

***

Excerpt from The Potrero Complex by Amy L Bernstein. Copyright 2022 by Amy L Bernstein. Reproduced with permission from Amy L Bernstein. All rights reserved.

 

Amy L Bernstein

Amy L. Bernstein writes stories that let readers feel while making them think. Her novels include The Potrero Complex, The Nighthawkers, Dreams of Song Times, and Fran, The Second Time Around. Amy is an award-winning journalist, speechwriter, playwright, and certified nonfiction book coach. When not glued to a screen, she loves listening to jazz and classical music, drinking wine with friends, and exploring Baltimore’s glorious neighborhoods, which inspire her fiction.

Catch Up With Amy L Bernstein:
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BookBub - @Amy5705
Instagram - @amylbernstein
Twitter - @amylbernstein
Facebook - @AmyLBernsteinAuthor
TikTok - @amylbernsteinauthor

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The Devil's Lover by Alexa Piper New Release Blitz and Giveaway!

 

Title:  The Devil's Lover

Series: Hellbound 5

Author: Alexa Piper

Publisher: Changeling Press LLC

Release Date: August 12

Heat Level: 4 - Lots of Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 149 pages

Genre: Romance, Action Adventure, BDSM, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Urban Fantasy, Dark Desire, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures, Magic, Murder Mystery

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Synopsis

Lionel and Lucifer are drawn deeper into a murder case, but they are set on solving it together.

Just when Lionel’s love life has gone back to normal -- normal meaning the kinky Devil making his ownership known -- Lionel’s murder case gets stranger. Lionel’s birth father seems to have his hands in the mystery, and Lionel finds himself in the sights of Eris, goddess of discord.

Lucifer used to be a prime example of a powerful underworld deity with all the knowledge and skill to take care of a lover in the bedroom. But that was before Lucifer fell properly in love and won over his necromantic boyfriend, who also happens to be a demigod. Lionel’s innate magic, magical skill, and stubborn nature make it exceedingly difficult for Lucifer to be the alpha god he wants to be for Lionel.

Lucifer is set on finding a way to provide for the man he loves and to fulfill Lionel’s every desire. But before he can focus entirely on his necromancer, the two of them must solve the case, prevent primordial deities from being raised and destroying the world, and learn to communicate better. It’s what relationships and crime solving are all about.

Excerpt

All rights reserved.
Copyright ©2022 Alexa Piper

Lionel

The Devil’s body in front of mine, protecting me from a threat I didn’t quite understand, that was a new and uncomfortable feeling, and something I didn’t really care for. I tried getting a decent look at the deity that had teleported into Lucifer’s doorless office, but the Devil his own damn self kept pushing me back. It was so annoying when he was trying to be an alpha god.

“Will you cut it out, Beelzebug?” I grumbled, and Trony, in her pink tartan skirt and with her sword in hand, gave me an admiring look.

Nyx, the deity that had Lucifer so riled, chuckled and turned their milky, unseeing eyes on me. “You are a fierce one. Tiamat has said as much.”

And speak of the dragon mother, she appeared in the office as well, which was fine, apart from the fact that she wasn’t wearing any clothes. Awesome.

“What is going on here? Nyx, do you have to scare the children?” the dragon mother said and crossed her arms under her breasts. Not that I was paying any attention to her breasts, but it was sort of hard not to notice they existed. Why did all gods have trouble with clothing? Buttons and zippers really weren’t all that bad.

“Children?” Lucifer said and straightened before pulling me to his side and circling my waist with his arm in a proud <em>look, this is my boyfriend</em> kind of way. Apparently in his mind, the presence of the dragon mother lessened the threat level in his office.

“No one in this room was scared,” Metatron said and flashed her sword.

“What were you saying about Eris?” I asked the blind god… then realized looking at them wouldn’t be enough to cue them in on the fact I was speaking with them. “I mean, Nyx. You were saying about Eris?”

The sightless god turned to face me. “Eager as any human, aren’t you?” They smiled. “Or as the Devil dispensing deals.”

Tiamat clapped her hands. “If you have something to say about Eris, I am interested. I don’t appreciate her harassing poor, lovesick humans around the corner, but I think we can talk while also eating, can’t we?”

Metatron nodded. “I second that. The necromancer has been turning his nose up at my food since his return from Scotland, and he looks worse for wear.”

“I haven’t!” I said. “And I don’t! It’s just been a busy few days, and there were corpses.”

“Humans are quite frail and need regular nourishment, even those who are only partially so,” Nyx said, and they and the dragon mother nodded knowingly.

Lucifer glowered at the other god. “I know best what my boyfriend needs,” he said, but I could tell I was in for eating my breakfast out of the Devil’s hands while sitting in his lap.

* * *

Lucifer was indeed behaving like a total alpha god, and it reminded me that I should call Persephone and give her an update, but that would mean looking at my phone and seeing whatever social media was now making of the sharkomancer incident. Maybe I should still tell her about the minotaur… but what would I even tell her about that? It was confusing, the way I felt or should feel about Minos, and I was actually glad to be dealing with something else right about now.

The dragon mother, Nyx, and Lucifer and I teleported to the already set dining room table, and I tried to grab a chair, but Lucifer wouldn’t let me go. He pulled me close and tilted my chin up.

“How about I take you to Sephy’s and Hades’ place? It’s almost the weekend anyway, and you trained Marc Deacon well. I am sure he can handle things here while you relax a little,” Lucifer said. He was doing his best at looking charming, dashing, someone you didn’t want to say no to. His kitty-cat hair was catching the light just so.

In one word, he was a transparent, overprotective alpha god, and he was trying to lull me into damseling myself, or whatever you’d call it. “You are not benching me,” I said. “I will raise the minotaur, even if it’s --” If it was what? A way for me to get back at him? To make sure he was very and truly dead? I shook my head. “I’ll raise him. I can do my fucking job, whether you believe that or not, Beelzebug.”

Lucifer’s face soured, but then he kissed my forehead. “I know you can, my love, but you don’t have to.”

“What are you saying about raising the minotaur?” Tiamat said. She had put on a bathrobe, just a thin one that hugged her every curve and still revealed a lot, but it was better than nothing. Which was the alternative.

Lucifer hugged me close. “He was apparently murdered in his cell at the human prison not too long ago. Christine just called with the news.”

“The minotaur,” Nyx said, and I wiggled out of Lucifer’s hold and even managed to sit in my own chair instead of the Devil’s lap. My goals had shifted over the past few months, and today, this was an achievement, and I knew it. “He was a powerful human sorcerer,” the blind god went on. They used their cane to find a chair opposite the dragon mother. Lucifer moved his chair at the head of the table to the left, toward my own, until he was sitting right next to me.

“You knew him?” I asked. “How did you know the minotaur?”

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Meet the Author 


Alexa Piper writes steamy romance that ranges from light to dark, from straight to queer. She’s also a coffee addict. Alexa loves writing stories that make her readers laugh and fall in love with the characters in them. Connect with Alexa on Facebook or Instagram, follow her on Twitter or TikTok, and subscribe to her newsletter!

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14 August 2022

Shawn and Henry Series: Take a Shot, Book Two by Jessica Skye Davies New Release and Giveaway! @ninestarpress @indigomarketingdesign #LGBTQIA+ #romance

Title:  Shawn and Henry

Series: Take a Shot, Book Two

Author: Jessica Skye Davies

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/09/2022

Heat Level: 2 - Fade to Black Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 42600

Genre: Contemporary romance, LGBTQIA+, enemies-to-lovers, Aussie race car driver, Wales, long distance relationship, age gap, slow burn, London, amateur historian, light BDSM

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Description

James and Merrick (Take a Shot, book 1) are just beginning to navigate their relationship, and their best friends, Shawn Lasting and Henry Martin, are doing their best to be cautiously supportive. Shawn and Henry frequently come into contact, but after the tension and animosity of their first meeting, they remain wary of each other.

When Shawn finally confronts Henry about his animosity, their tension proves to have been sexual all along and quickly transforms into a long-distance relationship. With encouragement from Shawn, Henry explores his sexuality far more than he’s ever previously allowed. Meanwhile, Henry encourages Shawn to work toward making some of his own lifelong dreams a reality.

When Henry informs Shawn he’s in love with him, Shawn balks and explains that he’s always been a no-strings sort of guy, leaving Henry feeling stung and rejected.

A difficult family experience at his mother’s funeral makes Shawn question some of his preconceptions, and he realises that what he feels for Henry is love. Now, he needs to ask Henry’s forgiveness and hope that it will be enough to let them both have a love neither ever thought possible.

NOTE: The beginning of this story runs concurrently with book one, James and Merrick, but is told from the POV of their best friends, Shawn and Henry. Because of the overlap, this one can stand alone and readers do not have to read book one first.

Excerpt

Shawn and Henry
Jessica Skye Davies © 2022
All Rights Reserved

June

Shawn Lasting leaned back in the cafĂ© chair that was surprisingly more comfortable than it looked and stretched his legs out, taking a sip of his dry stout. The table had ceased its wobbling only after Shawn conscripted a couple of beermats to act as shims. There wasn’t often a lot of foot traffic worth watching from the pub’s front beer garden, despite the proximity to Kew Gardens and the National Archives, but it was a quiet neighbourhood pub that suited the situation best that evening.

Shawn adjusted the shawl collar of his jumper a little higher as a breeze of typical British summer weather delivered a chill. He was waiting for his best friend, James, to join him for their usual Thursday dinner get-together and was beginning to question his decision to sit outside. Shawn’s attention was caught by a fit jogger going by the cricket grounds across the road. The jogger’s abbreviated running shorts—a throwback style that took him back to adolescent PE classes in the late 70s—showcased a pair of long, toned legs that more than made up for the weather.

James approached from around the corner while Shawn was leaning half out of his chair to watch the jogger’s progress toward the Thames. “Well, at least that explains why we’re sitting outdoors in fourteen degree weather,” James said, sitting down.

“Sheer stubbornness, I reckon. It’s summer and not raining, ergo, we sit outdoors,” Shawn said. “Anyway, I figured you could do with some fresh air. Expect this is the first you’ve been beyond your front steps since the weekend, isn’t it?”

James shrugged and took up the pint that Shawn had waiting for him. “Laying low, that’s all.”

“Not that I blame you,” Shawn said. “Especially since Michael’s little meltdown made it all public fodder.”

James sighed.

Shawn glanced over apologetically. “Sorry. We can leave that subject out for the duration.”

“Appreciate it,” James nodded.

“What about what’s-’e-called? Talked to him at all?”

“Merrick. His name’s Merrick. I did talk to him yesterday, as it happens. Wanted to talk to him all week, really, and again today. But I’m doing my best to give it space. And time.”

Shawn hummed understandingly. “How did it go?”

“Fine, really. He’s very easy to talk to,” James said.

Shawn noted the immediate change in James’s demeanour as soon as he started talking about Merrick. He was pretty certain James had never looked at ease like that when Michael was discussed, even before things had started to go genuinely bad between James and his ex-fiancĂ©.

“Not been round to see him yet, though, right?” Shawn asked.

“Not yet. Thinking about asking him to get a coffee with me on the weekend or something.”

Shawn gave James a hesitant look. “Sure that’s wise at the moment? With that big bouncer bloke hanging around him an’ all?”

James snorted. “Henry’s not a bouncer; he’s Merrick’s mate. He explained the situation when we talked yesterday. Henry’s been his closest friend since he was in uni; he was there when Merrick went through his own nasty breakup with a control freak. He was also the one who saw that awful joke of a wedding announcement in the paper. He’s very protective of Merrick. Not so different from you, really.”

Shawn rolled his eyes. “Yeah, only difference is I don’t use my physical stature to intimidate people.”

“Shawn, your physical stature is a trace better than average. Besides, you’re all Big Dick Energy, so you don’t need to.”

“And what the bollocks is Big Dick Energy when it’s at home?” Shawn said doubtfully.

James laughed. “Confidence. You know—like you know what you’ve got and don’t have to prove it to anybody. That kind of thing.”

Shawn considered it for a moment before saying, “Well, can’t argue wi’ that.”

James just shook his head affectionately. “What are you eating?” he asked, standing to go put their dinner order in.

“Salad,” Shawn practically grumbled. “Knee was giving me shit this morning; missed my workout.”

James patted Shawn’s shoulder sympathetically. “Add on chicken or anything?”

“Grilled, yeah,” Shawn said with a nod.

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Jessica Skye Davies has been a writer since her first works were “published” in her grandparents’ living room and written in crayon. She’s been a professionally published author since 2011. Jessica lives in Pittsburgh and is active in the community, having served with a local LGBT community center for several years and currently serving with the local Welsh society. She’s often found spending time with friends, attending the symphony, watching hockey, rugby, or soccer, and moonlighting as human pillow/concierge for her official writer’s cat, Squidge.

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The View From Olympus Mons by Barry Creyton Book Tour and Giveaway! @ninestarpress @indigomarketingdesign #LGBTQIA+ #contemporary

 Title:  The View From Olympus Mons

Author: Barry Creyton

Publisher:  NineStar Press

Release Date: 08/09/2022

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 56500

Genre: Gay Fiction, LGBTQIA+, sex workers, bartender, scientist, men with children, performance arts, reunited, deep closet, coming out, HIV/Aids, tear-jerker

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Description

Nate and Craig are inseparable high school friends in spite of their social differences—Nate from a wealthy family, Craig struggling to support his drug-addicted mother.

The boys seal their friendship by burying a time capsule, a collection of childhood possessions representing their lives, swearing to unearth it thirty years hence. They look forward to the future with optimism, but when Nate declares his deep feelings for Craig, he’s rejected and circumstances part the two. Thirty years later, Craig is informed of Nate’s hospitalization in critical condition, the victim of a hate crime.

In the twenty-four hours Craig spends at his boyhood friend’s bedside, events which have shaped their lives over three decades unfold—Craig’s journey from poverty to respect as a computer scientist, through twenty years of unhappy marriage, to the late discovery of his true sexuality, while Nate is disowned by his family and forced to support himself by prostitution.

Though contact between them has been nil for thirty years, neither has been able to break the bond formed in their childhood—Craig unable to forgive himself for re-jecting his friend; Nate’s life and relationships ham-pered by his unending, unresolved love for Craig.

Ultimately, Craig will drive a frenzied 900 miles to find release from the guilt that has shadowed his life—back to the tree house where it all began.

Excerpt

The View from Olympus Mons
Barry Creyton © 2022
All Rights Reserved

Denver, Colorado

Craig was early. He parked the SUV and sat contemplating the house he’d once called home.

July was warmer than usual, the sky clear, and twilight lent some enchantment to this row of houses on Cherry Street. All remained as determinedly cozy as they had been in the thirties when, in that sliver of affluence between the depression and the war, developers had smelled profit. The result was this stretch of sugar-candy houses that were snapped up by newlyweds, unaware that many of them would soon be separated by World War II.

Craig always thought the Tudor facade of his former home was a monument to kitsch, but he’d bowed to Janet’s passion to live within its deceitful walls. Twenty years ago, he’d bowed to all of her demands. Light from the cross-paned living room windows fanned across the lawn, hinting at warmth within. But there’d been little warmth here—with one exception: Madeleine.

Now a pretty, intelligent twenty-three, Maddy had organized this evening in hopes of—what? Certainly not a reconciliation. Ever the diplomat, the bridge-maker, Maddy wanted her parents to be friends. The ostensible excuse for the evening was the few possessions Craig had left behind two years ago when he’d abandoned this house and his marriage: a few old text books, some CDs of twentieth century French music, which he’d loved and Janet loathed, a stack of worn T-shirts, a pair of shabby jeans. Janet had dumped them into a waste bin in the garage when Craig left. Maddy packed them into neatly labeled boxes and used them as a ploy to get her father and mother to the same table.

He glanced at his watch, then turned the rearview mirror to check his appearance. There was evidence lately of his forty-five years. A frown line and small creases at the edges of his mouth indicated a determination to which he’d come late in life. And a little silver had appeared at his temples. His secretary deemed the streaks “distinguished.” Craig saw only the decline of his youth, misguided rather than misspent. His unemotional assessment of the status quo was interrupted by the chortle of a mockingbird hoping to attract a mate.

Benediximus bird.

He took a bottle of red from the passenger seat, a Californian wine he knew Janet liked, and got out of the car. The path he walked was familiar, ringing the doorbell to request admission was not.

From inside, he heard Maddy call “I’ll get it!” A moment later the door opened. Maddy beamed. “Hey, you,” she whispered as she pulled him into the hall and hugged him tightly.

“Hey yourself, kiddo.” Craig nuzzled the top of her head with his chin. She took the wine without inspection and placed it on the hall console, then eased Craig out of his bomber and hung it up.

“Looking good!”

“For an old guy.”

“You’re still movie star material and you know it.” She took his hand and led him into the living room. “Mom’s in the kitchen. Come on, I’ll make you a drink.”

He slipped an envelope from his jacket and dropped it on the table by the wine bottle, then walked the short hall to the living room. He took in the newly covered sofa and chairs. “Been some changes.”

Maddy looked around as if seeing the room for the first time. “I guess. I haven’t been back here for a couple of months.”

“How’s the apartment going?”

“Fine. Close to work. Noisy. But all mine.”

Craig stood uneasily, reluctant to make himself too comfortable as Madeleine poured vodka into a shaker. “How’s Danny?”

“He’s good. He’s on the final edit. It’ll be out in the fall.”

“His first is way up on the bestseller list. He should be very pleased with himself.”

Craig smiled. “He is, believe me.”

“And you should be proud of him! Has he let you see the new one?”

“He doesn’t want anyone to read a word until every last phrase is perfect.”

“Another historical piece?”

“Peloponnesian War.”

“Wow. He tackles the big ones!” She handed a martini to Craig. “Sit! You look as if you’re waiting for a train!”

Craig regarded the armchair, which had been exclusively his for so many years, and decided against it. He sat on the edge of the sofa, a stranger in the room he’d known so well for so long.

He watched as Maddy sank gracefully into an armchair. She wore a gray business suit, befitting her position as a rising ad exec, softened with a silk blouse in pale blue. She was pretty. That was beyond question—she’d inherited his wavy, pitch-black hair, his deep-brown eyes, but her mother’s high cheekbones and full lips. He was so proud of her. This urbane, attractive woman was the finest thing his marriage had produced. The only really happy thing. He sipped the martini, relaxing a little into the warmth it offered the pit in his gut.

Janet appeared in the doorway. “Dinner in ten.” No greeting, no smile.

“I brought some wine. It’s on the…” But Janet was gone.

Maddy smiled a sympathetic smile. Craig acknowledged this with a patient shrug. He took another look around the room and familiarity began to morph into claustrophobia.

Maddy reached for his glass. “Let me top that up.”

Craig shook his head. “I’ll have wine with dinner. So. Are you running the agency yet?”

“I’m working on it,” she said lightly.

“And how’s what’s his name?”

“Connor.”

“Has he proposed?”

“I’m working on it,” she repeated in exactly the same tone. Then she chuckled. “If it goes anywhere, you’ll be the first to know.”

Craig reached over and took her hand. “Don’t waste time, kiddo. We only get so much of it.”

Maddy was about to reply when Janet called them to dinner.

The predominant sound at the dining table was the clink of flatware on china. Maddy’s best intentions were being eroded by her mother’s grim silence. She started inconsequential topics—the new furniture covers, a group of Janet’s watercolors over the fireplace. Craig offered praise for the meal which he knew Janet had not exactly slaved over. Each foray into bonhomie drew a monosyllabic response from Janet. But then, dinner conversation was something this table had barely known during the final years of the marriage.

“I left the check on the hall table,” Craig said, breaking a longueur.

“You could’ve mailed it,” Janet allowed without looking at him.

“I thought, since I was coming by…”

Craig noted now that she seemed older than he remembered. Over the last couple of years, the pretty girl he’d met in twelfth grade had been completely absorbed into this rigid, unsmiling woman. She wore black jeans and a gray denim shirt, colors that compounded the aspect of severity, colors—or rather, noncolors—she would never have worn ten years ago. Her once luxuriant auburn hair was pulled back tight in a pony tail. There was no cynicism in Craig, but he surmised that her grim appearance was calculated. Remembering her talent for manipulation, he wouldn’t have been surprised if this was a tactic to exacerbate the guilt he already felt at the way their marriage had turned out.

Maddy kept the flow of conversation moving as brightly as possible to counter Janet’s silence. “So, what are you working on now?”

“We’re trying to increase the accuracy and performance of semantic parsing.”

“Once more for the layman.”

Craig smiled for the first time since they’d sat at the table. This was his field, his passion. “Okay, let’s see. You talk to your phone, your computer, your TV, Alexa, Siri. They talk back, answer questions. But, in spite of the label ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ what you hear is a collection of recorded syllables, short phrases, reassembled by computer to respond to what is understood of your query. So, what I’m aiming for—well, my team—is a program that can create an actual voice, construct phrases all by itself, learning new words, new colloquialisms each time you interact. And I don’t mean the kind of speech generator Stephen Hawking used, I mean speech that’s indistinguishable from human speech. The program learns, without human intervention, improves its own efficiency, and eventually, will even simulate emotion. What we’re aiming for is literal artificial intelligence.”

Maddy smiled and shook her head. “I hope I never have to ask Alexa to open the pod bay door.”

Janet folded her napkin and pushed her chair back from the table. “Someday,” she said with a smile, “one of your machines might teach you how to simulate emotion.”

Craig sounded no more than resigned. “This is uncomfortable. For all of us.”

“It was your daughter’s idea to get us together, not mine.”

Your daughter. Not our daughter.

“Maybe I should go.”

“Oh, finish your dinner! If this is what it takes to get the rest of your crap out of this house, eat.” She left the room, taking her wine glass with her.

Maddy offered Craig a sheepish shrug and a whispered, “Shit.”

Purchase

NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Barry Creyton has worked extensively in British and Australian theatre and television as actor, playwright and director. His plays are produced in more than twenty languages. Awards include the prestigious Kessell Award for his outstanding contributions to Australian theatre, the L.A. Ovation Award, and the Noel Coward International Writing Award. He resides in the United States. Visit Barry's Website.

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13 August 2022

Bratva Sweetheart by @sabinebarclayauthor Book Blitz and Giveaway! #sabinebarclay #BratvaSweetheart #XpressoTours @XpressoTours⁣

 

Bratva Sweetheart
Sabine Barclay


(The Ivankov Brotherhood, #2)
Published by: Oliver Heber Books
Publication date: August 9th 2022
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Mafia, Romance

She thought it was only for one night…

I’ve never let anyone into my life.

At least not like her. Not until her.

She sees a side of me that isn’t the bratva monster everyone else believes.

Now that she knows, she’s mine.

Mine to keep and protect. Mine to please. In return, it’s her love I crave. She’s my soulmate.

Every kiss, every touch will take her to her limits, and I’ll be the one to catch her.

Bratva Sweetheart is an interconnecting, standalone Dark Mafia Romance with a HEA and no cliffhanger. It contains extra-steamy scenes that will make your toes curl and your granny blush. This is book two in The Ivankov Brotherhood, a six-book series that’ll keep you warm at night.

Goodreads / Amazon

EXCERPT:

I can’t help but love people watching in a strip club. It’s New York City, so there’s usually something shady going on somewhere. Sometimes it’s more than just a lap dance. Sometimes it’s a guy getting thrown out for trying to make it more than just a lap dance. And sometimes you see the most unlikely people conducting business. I’m certain that’s one of the club owners. Pussycats. How utterly unoriginal. But damn, he can call this place whatever he wants. He’s hot.

“Bourbon on the rocks with a splash of water.”

“If you drank vodka, you wouldn’t need to dilute the taste.”

That voice. It’s sin waiting to happen. I look to my left, and the man who’d been in the corner talking to a rather large Italian-looking guy is now beside me. He was hot from a distance. He’s Lucifer in a suit up close. Are my panties on the floor? Those blue eyes might have just made them drop. They’re certainly wetter than they were a few minutes ago, watching Todd and the understudy stripper. God, I can be a b*tch. The girl is just doing her job.

“I had a bad experience with vodka in college. I steer clear.”

“Made yourself sick?”

“And if I’d like to continue to enjoy orange juice without being certain I taste vodka, I stay away.”

I offer him what I hope is a slightly sarcastic yet sexy smiley kind of smirk. From the way he’s grinning, it either worked, or he thinks I’m batsh*t. Oh! Maybe he did like it. He smells amazing, and now his chest is practically against the side of my shoulder. I can smell the hint of vodka on his breath, and for once, it doesn’t make me want to shiver and turn away.

“You didn’t look like you were having a good time earlier. Boyfriend not paying enough attention? Or perhaps too much attention?”

“He’s not my boyfriend.”

“Your date then.”

“Not a date. Those both imply romance. That’s not our arrangement. Partners in crime. Partners in fun. Definitely not partners in life.” I cock an eyebrow, waiting to see how he responds to me basically admitting that Todd is a f*ck buddy. We tried going on a couple dates. We enjoyed each other’s company, and we really enjoy having sex together, but no sparks ever flew for either of us.

“So you came for an appetizer, and I suppose you’re supposed to be the main course later.”

I look back over my shoulder and can’t find Todd. He’s not at the table I just left. I wonder if he went to the bathroom. He better not be taking care of anything, otherwise, I’ll have to do all the work to get him revved up again. Sometimes we enjoy the foreplay, but that wasn’t the deal tonight.

“Something like that.”

“But only one of you gets to sample. That hardly seems fair.”

“It’s fine for tonight.” Todd and I have been to clubs that allow us to do more than just watch. He might get a lap dance, and I might get his fingers. I might sit on his lap while he f*cks me, and I get a lap dance. We’re kinky like that, but we’ve never had a full-on threesome. Women just don’t interest me enough for that. Now two guys? One can only wish.

Mr. No Name shakes his head when the bartender approaches, and I reach for my purse. Before I can insist that I pay, he’s picking up both of our drinks and turning away from the guy. I don’t know what to say beyond a mumbled thanks. I follow this guy, which I know is ridiculous, but I’m too damn curious for my own good. He steers us away from the men in the corner where I first spotted him. There’s another man who looks so much like him they could be twins. My mystery man nods to his lookalike before taking us to a corner table on the opposite side of the stage.

“You can see if your friend returns. That way you won’t miss him.”

There’s something about his tone. Those two sentences have more than one meaning. As I meet his gaze, I can see it just as much as I heard it.

“Thank you for my drink. But I usually don’t accept drinks from strangers.”

“Good thing you watched it being poured. I’m Bogdan Kutsenko.”

Oh, holy f*cking sh*t. I thought he might be, but now I know. He’s a f*cking billionaire. He and his brothers own a slew of strip clubs, casinos, commercial developments, and Lord only knows what else. And I’m fairly certain that whatever else is not even close to legal. I’ve heard the rumors. Russian mafia.

“You recognize my name. Should I let you go back to your friend?”

Sabine Barclay, a nom de plume also writing Historical Romance as Celeste Barclay, lives near the Southern California coast with her husband and sons. Growing up in the Midwest, Sabine enjoyed spending as much time in and on the water as she could. Now she lives near the beach. She's an avid swimmer, a hopeful future surfer, and a former rower. Before becoming a full-time author, Sabine was a Social Studies and English teacher. She holds degrees in International Affairs (BA), Secondary Social Science (MAT), and Political Management (MPS). She channels that knowledge into creating engrossing contemporary romances that will make your toes curl and your granny blush.

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