Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday's Series Spotlight: Breaking Free by AM Arthur


Saved #1 
Summary:
He didn’t want an alpha to save him, but fate had other ideas…

Braun Etting was raised to know his place as an omega by his alpha father’s cruel words and fast fists, and he expects nothing but violence from the alpha who may one day mate him. His older brother Kell mated a cruel alpha who abuses him daily, and Braun is terrified of that seemingly inevitable future. When Braun’s father dies in a car crash, leaving Braun an orphan, he’s sent to a halfway house for omegas. But on his fourth night there, he witnesses a horrifying crime that sends him fleeing to the streets alone—and edging into his first heat.

Tarek Bloom is settled in his workaholic, single lifestyle, even if it is somewhat embarrassing to be a twenty-eight year-old unmated alpha. He enjoys his job as a constable, helping people and solving problems, so he isn’t prepared for his life to flip upside-down when he walks into his beta friend Dex’s apartment to help with “a problem.”

The problem turns out to be an unmated, nearly in-heat omega orphan who Dex and his husband rescued off the street last night. The even bigger problem is that Tarek feels the mating bond for this terrified omega immediately—and he’s pretty sure the omega feels it, too. But Braun hates alphas as a general rule, and no way is he giving in to the bond. All mating leads to is violence and suffering, so no thank you. But Tarek’s gentle kindness slips under Braun’s emotional shields, and Braun begins to want. To dream. All Braun has ever known is violent alphas, but Tarek is determined to make Braun trust him—and to trust in the idea of their happily ever after.

NOTE: This is a non-shifter Omegaverse story with alpha/omega/beta dynamics, heats, knotting, and mpreg. In this world, omegas are second-class citizens with few civil rights and almost no protections under the law. Trigger warnings for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. 

Seen #2
Summary:
Hell is a six-by-six jail cell and no hope for the future. 

Kell Iverson has never raised his hand against another person in his entire life—and yet somehow he’s been arrested and charged with the murder of his alpha mate Krause. Sure, Krause brutalized him on a daily basis, and Kell hated his mate, but he never wanted the man dead. Not fighting the charge and accepting his fate is the easiest path—except Kell doesn’t think he’ll survive a week in prison, and he doesn’t want to disappoint his younger brother Braun by giving up. He also doesn’t expect to recognize the lawyer who shows up to defend him.

Ronin Cross was barely eighteen when he felt the mating bond with then-fourteen-year-old Kell, but his family moved away before Ronin could decide what to do. For the last ten years, he hasn’t forgotten teenage Kell, hasn’t mated, and now he’s in Sansbury Province to defend adult Kell from a capital murder charge. The mating bond is still there, but now isn’t the time to pursue anything with his fragile, battered, emotionally-damaged client.

For Kell, the term “kind alpha” is a contradiction, because he’s never known one. He went from abusive father to abusive mate, and for twenty-four years, he’s simply done what he’s told. But Ronin asks Kell what he wants. What he likes. Ronin sees him, and it’s both confusing and delightful. But Kell is facing prison time at best, execution at worst, and as his trial date looms, he can’t indulge in a fantasy that will never come true…or can he?

NOTE: This is a non-shifter Omegaverse story with alpha/omega/beta dynamics, heats, knotting, and mpreg. In this world, omegas are second-class citizens with few civil rights and almost no protections under the law. Trigger warnings for physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. 


Saved #1
Chapter One
Braun didn’t remember a thing about the car accident that sent him to the provincial hospital’s emergency care. He only remembered getting in the car so his father could drive him to his health screening, and then waking up in a bed with a headache and sore ribs, and a beta constable watching his door.

The constable didn’t surprise him. Braun was an unmated omega showing signs of his first heat, hence today’s health screening. His guard, Constable Heely, gently explained that their car had been hit on the driver’s side, head-on, and that his father was in surgery to repair severe lacerations to his neck and torso.

Braun wanted to tell the doctors to simply let the man die, but what would become of Braun then? His omegin was long-dead, and his older brother’s mate was a nightmare, just as their father had been. Omegas, especially young, unmated ones, could not legally live on their own, and he’d heard terrible rumors about the halfway houses for orphaned omegas, or for those whose mate had died.

As much as Braun hated the man, he needed his father to live long enough for Braun to find a mate who’d take him, despite having nothing to offer except his body. Their family came from poor stock, barely living on their fixed government income, and it was to his alpha father’s eternal shame that he’d been given two omega sons and no alpha heirs.

Besides, as an alpha, the doctors would help his father, no matter what. Alpha health received top priority, always, while omegas were seen to last, even after betas. Probably why the constable wasn’t making an effort to tell anyone Braun was awake and asking questions.

“How long has he been in surgery?” Braun asked the constable.

“They took him up about thirty minutes ago,” he replied. “He lost a lot of blood on the scene and in transit, from what I’ve heard. I’m sure someone will be down when there’s news.”

“Thank you.”  Braun didn’t ask any other questions, because the older man seemed bored by the whole thing. Betas were generally indifferent to omega issues, so being told to stand guard over one on the verge of his first heat had to be pretty high on the list of Boring Things I’d Rather Not Be Doing.

Braun tested out his extremities and torso, finding nothing else terribly wrong with himself, other than a few bandaged cuts. His father’s side of the car had taken the brunt of the collision, and Braun had never before been so grateful for the man’s asshole-ish demand that Braun ride in the backseat like a child, rather than in the front like the grown man he was. Twenty—twenty-one in a few weeks—was ridiculously old to still be subjected to that, but Braun had no choice if he ever wanted to leave his neighborhood. Unmated omegas weren’t allowed to drive, and mated omegas could only learn with the permission of their alpha mate.

Kell.

“Has my brother been told about the accident?” Braun asked.

The constable shrugged. “I don’t know. I wasn’t given that information.”

“Can you find out? His name is Kell Iverson. His mate is Krause Iverson.”

The name snared Constable Heely’s full attention. “Iverson?”

“Yes. His family is part of the Iverson Financial Group.”

“Your brother mated well.”

He’s mated to an evil son of a bitch alpha who treats my brother like shit.

“Can you find out if he knows, please?” Braun asked, pushing back a rise of fury that always hit him when he thought about his older brother’s situation with Krause—a situation Braun had no power to change. And worse, his brother was pregnant with their first child and due to give birth soon. Braun’s joy at finally being an uncle was always tempered by remembering who the child’s sire was.

“I’ll call my supervisor and find out.”

“Thank you.”

The man stepped into the corridor to make his call. Braun used the bed control to raise his upper body some more. It strained his ribs, but he felt less exposed, less weak. He had no idea who his father might have listed as an emergency contact, but he knew the man wouldn’t have listed either of his sons. His disdain for omegas dripped off him like oil. More than once, Braun and his brother had been subjected to cruel ranting tirades about “useless omegas” who weren’t “good for anything except shitting out more useless omegas, just like your useless omegin!”

A nurse in red scrubs walked into his room, then stopped short, dark eyebrows going up in surprise. “Oh, you’re awake,” he said.

“For a few minutes now,” Braun replied. He smelled like a beta, so Braun didn’t bother averting his eyes. “My head hurts a lot.”

“That’s because you got a solid wallop against the car window. I’ll let your doctor know, so he can adjust your pain dosage.” The man made a note on Braun’s chart, then fiddled with one of the machines. “There you go. More pain medicine for your head.”

Braun blinked. “Don’t you have to ask the doctor first?”

“Unfortunately, honey, your assigned doctor is one of those old-fashioned assholes who doesn’t think omega health is a priority. He’ll probably look at the chart and think he did order the increase.” The kind nurse held out his hand. “I’m Serge.”

Braun tentatively shook the offered hand. “Braun. Thank you.”

“For what?”

“Treating me like a human being.”

Serge groaned. “Ugh, I hate that you have to thank someone for being kind to you. Alphahole parent?”

Braun glanced at the door to make sure were still alone—an omega openly bashing an alpha was considered an arrestable offense—before nodding. “And my brother’s been mated to someone worse.”

“Ouch, honey, I’m so sorry. Is your brother coming to see you?”

“I don’t know, that’s what my guard went to find out for me. I doubt my brother’s husband would bring him here to see me, or allow him to take a taxi, but he still should know. Especially since our father is critical.”

Constable Heely walked into the doorway and hovered there. “I left a message for your brother with one of the family’s servants.”

“I appreciate it, thank you,” Braun said.

“And I, unfortunately,” Serge said, “have other patients to check on, but I’ll try to stop by later to see how you’re doing, okay? You aren’t being admitted for your injuries, but the authorities will probably keep you here until your father’s condition improves.”

“I understand.” As much as Braun didn’t want to be stuck in the hospital for days or weeks, it was better than being stuck in a jail cell, which he’d heard rumors had been done a few times when an unmated omega or widowed omegin was in heat. For the omega’s safety.

After Serge left, Braun settled in to wait for news of his father’s condition.

#

News came after two hours of staring around his small room, with only the bored constable for silent company. Neither of them attempted to initiate conversation. They likely had nothing in common, anyway. The man was a constable and of authority, and Braun was a lowly omega with no higher education. His father had withdrawn Kell and Braun from school when they each turned sixteen, as was his right under the law. Omegas could enter their first heat at any time after that age, and the younger they heated, the more fertile they likely were.

Braun and Kell had both disgraced their father by not heating until they were both nearly twenty-one, usually an undesirable age for an alpha in his own prime who wanted a large, healthy family. It had shocked Braun when a family as powerful as the Iversons had allowed Krause to mate with Kell, especially at Kell’s age. Their father had been overjoyed to relieve himself of the burden of one of his two omega offspring.

A doctor in white scrubs entered Braun’s room with Serge in tow, and the tall, broad-shouldered man reeked of alpha. His flat expression told Braun nothing, and Braun respectfully kept his gaze on the man’s chin.

“I’m sorry,” the doctor said, “but your father died in surgery. The damage was too extensive.”

Braun’s heart ripped in two directions at once. He wanted to celebrate the death of a cruel, heartless man, but he was also terrified now that his only protection from the world was gone. Ripped away in a freak accident, leaving Braun an unmated orphan omega. Braun didn’t know what his face looked like, but Serge rushed to his side and held one of his hands. Braun squeezed tight, grateful for the support from the stranger.

“What happens to me now?” Braun asked.

“I’ve been advised of your situation,” the doctor said. “And I believe the authorities will agree that you’ll be best off in a halfway house for now, until you’re claimed.”

Claimed. Braun hated that word, as if he was a lost possession waiting for its owner to find him. Mated at least implied a partnership, even if there never was an equal balance to the pairing. Alphas would always be bigger, stronger protectors of the smaller, weaker omegas. It was simple biology.

“I have a brother who is mated,” Braun said. “Could I go live with him?”

“If you were a widow, then normally yes, other family could take responsibility for you,” Constable Heely replied. “But you’ve never been mated, and your chart says you’re showing signs of your first heat. You’ll be safer in a halfway house, unless you’d prefer a jail cell.”

“No, not jail. Wait, when did you read my chart?”

“While you were unconscious.” The constable still sounded bored. “I can transfer him as soon as he’s released,” he said to the doctor. “All I’ll need is his medical history, so the staff knows how to tend to him.”

Tend to me. I’m not a damned house plant, I’m a human being.

A human being utterly alone in a world that denied him any autonomy to make decisions about himself or his body. He had to go where they sent him, or risk being jailed for real.

The doctor and constable conversed by the door.

Serge squeezed his hand tighter. “I’m so sorry about this,” he whispered. “I wish I could help, but I don’t have any legal authority to intervene.”

“I know,” Braun replied, “but it helps knowing someone actually gives a damn what happens to me.”

“Your brother doesn’t give a damn?”

“He does. We love each other very much, but he has an extremely controlling husband, so there’s nothing my brother can do to help.”

“Well, these halfway houses are just temporary for omegas. I’m sure someone as gorgeous as you will find a mate in no time.”

“Thank you.” Braun had never felt very attractive, and the compliment from Serge—cute, blond, blue eyes, excellent build—boosted his confidence a fraction. “It’s scary not knowing what’s next.”

“I know, honey, but you’ve got a strong core. The car they pulled you out of was completely totaled. Whatever’s coming your way? You’ll survive, I know it.” Serge pointed at Braun’s chest. His heart. “In here, I know it.”

“I’ll get started on the discharge paperwork,” the doctor said, loud enough for Braun to hear. “And then he’s all yours.”

Braun bristled at the dismissive tone. He’d heard it all his life, mostly from his father, but that vile creature was dead. Gone from this earth and Braun’s life. In that moment, Braun vowed to find a good, decent alpha for his mate, someone who’d protect him from cruel men and provide for their children.

He owed Kell and their omegin nothing less.

#

The halfway house was a dreary structure in a mostly abandoned neighborhood, a victim of the housing crisis of three years ago. Empty, abandoned homes lined the street, some of them vandalized, many with front doors wide open. Untended yards likely teeming with ticks and snakes and spiders. The yard of Braun’s new home was mowed, but still a bit wild in its upkeep.

Constable Heely delivered him there as promised, and a wide, stumpy man greeted him at the door. Beta to his core, but he’d been around an alpha recently, because the scent clung to his skin.

“Ah, our new arrival,” the stranger said with a grin. “Name’s Fynn. I’m house director here, and I’ll be helping you get settled.” To the constable, he asked, “You got papers?”

Heely handed over a big envelop with Braun’s medical history, as well as the bottle of prescription painkillers for his ribs.

“Good, good,” Fynn said. “Your work is much appreciated, constable, but I can take it from here.”

Braun swore he heard Heely muttered, “Thank goddess,” but he couldn’t swear to it.

Fynn ushered Braun inside. The interior of the home was well-maintained. They stood inside of a big living room with two sofas and a television. Four young men were lounging around, watching a program. They didn’t wave or greet him in any way, and that sent prickles of alarm down Braun’s spine. They all seemed….disinterested. Bored.

“The downstairs is all yours,” Fynn said, leading him through the living room to a kitchen in the rear. He pointed to a locked refrigerator. “Mealtimes are strictly observed and there’s no snacking in between. And that room”—he tapped on a padlocked door that was probably the entrance to a basement—“is off-limits unless you’re in heat. That’s our quiet room. The backyard is fenced in and has barbed wiring at the top, so you can go out there at your leisure, except during heat.”

All that made sense. Braun followed him down a hallway to a staircase, and up they went. Fynn stopped at a room with a set of bunked beds, one of them less than perfectly made. “This is your room. Top bunk is free. Your roommate’s name is Gill. He’s probably in the yard right now, he does love to lay about in the sun.”

“How many of us are here?” Braun asked.

“Six, not including you, so I guess seven. Once a week, we have an open house for unmated alphas to come visit, see if anyone is a good fit or feels the mating bond. Next one is in three days. You’re good-looking enough and in great shape, so you might not be here very long. How old are you again?”

“Twenty, almost twenty-one.”

Fynn grimaced. “Well, maybe, I don’t know. Like I said, you’re good-looking.”

Braun resisted rolling his eyes. He was well-aware of his age and that it lowered his chances of finding a good match, but he was determined to do this for Kell. Maybe it would be difficult to find a good alpha at twenty, going on twenty-one, but he was damned glad he hadn’t been made an omegin at eighteen. The idea of giving birth at any age terrified him.

“I gotta go get dinner started,” Fynn said. “We eat at six sharp.” The man turned and left.

Alone for the first time in hours, Braun stared at the bunked beds a moment, and then heaved his duffel bag onto it. Constable Heely had driven Braun home—his former home—so he could collect clothing, toiletries and personal items. As per the law, omegas couldn’t inherit property, so his father’s home and possessions would be sold, and whatever money it made would be put into a trust for Braun’s future mate to manage.

Please, goddess, give me a mate who will let me manage my own money.

Braun didn’t know anyone in this house, and he didn’t know his roommate, this Gill person, so Braun didn’t unpack, despite the small room having two dressers and a closet. He stayed in his room, bored and scared, until dinner. The dining room had a long, wide table, and he sat next to a young omega who exuded fear and sadness. Everyone at the table, except Fynn, was subdued, and Braun couldn’t help feeling sorry for them. They were all young, like him, and likely orphaned. Alone in a world that saw no value in them except as reproductive vessels for future alphas.

Betas could marry in a civil union version of an alpha/omega mating, but they were unable to reproduce. Beta couples who wanted children could apply to adopt unwanted beta infants produced by alpha/omega couples. Those children were usually given up for adoption by extremely fertile couples who couldn’t support the extra offspring.

Only an alpha/omega coupling could create children, and alphas were the top prize. The biggest earners, the CEO’s, the inventors and the powerful. It was considered an honor to be omegin to an alpha offspring, and doubly so to birth two. Only one omegin in history had ever given birth to four alpha children, and he had small marble bust in his honor at the Museum of Natural History.

No one really spoke during the meal, and Braun wasn’t sure if that was because of house rules—of which he hadn’t really been notified—or because no one had anything to say about anything. So he ate the boring plate of meat and potatoes Fynn had cooked and drank the juice put by his plate. Apple wasn’t his favorite, but it was wet and he was thirsty. Apparently the only other between-meals thing available was tap water.

After everyone had finished eating, Fynn stood at the head of the table. “We have a new face in the house tonight, everyone,” he said. “Please say hello to Braun Etting. His father died in a tragic automobile accident this morning, leaving him alone in the world.”

A murmur of hellos rose up from the table. Braun waved, cheeks blazing at being put on the spot.

“Gill, Braun has been assigned to your room.”

The guy across from Braun with white-blond hair and a thin face glared at Braun but said nothing. Must be Gill.

“Now,” Fynn continued, “who can tell Braun what the number one house rule is?”

“Don’t go out the front door without an escort,” a guy with dark skin and black hair piped up.

“Exactly. I’m the only permanent resident who lives here and sleeps here every night, but we have daytime volunteers who are here from seven in the morning until five at night, to assist with your needs. The backyard is open territory, but you are not allowed to go out the front door, not for medical appointments or any other reason, without a volunteer escort.”

“Understood,” Braun said softly.

“A list of chores is put out every morning, and everyone is expected to contribute their fair share. As long as you all contribute, no one will be punished.”

Braun had been on the painful end of enough belt beatings to avoid doing anything that led to punishment. He’d do whatever he needed to do in order to get through this new part of his life and be ready for his alpha when he finally showed up.

Seen #2


Author Bio:
No stranger to the writing world, A.M. Arthur has been creating stories in her head since she was a child, and scribbling them down nearly as long. When not writing, she can be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself with her cuisine experiments. A.M. Arthur was born and raised in the same kind of small town that she likes to write about, a stone's throw from both beach resorts and generational farmland. She's been creating stories in her head since she was a child and scribbling them down nearly as long, in a losing battle to make the fictional voices stop. She credits an early fascination with male friendships (bromance hadn't been coined yet back then) and "The Young Riders" with her later discovery of and subsequent love affair with m/m romance stories. When not exorcising the voices in her head, she toils away in a retail job that tests her patience and gives her lots of story fodder. She can also be found in her kitchen, pretending she's an amateur chef and trying to not poison herself or others with her cuisine experiments.


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Saved #1

Seen #2

Book Blitz: Canary Club by Sherry D Ficklin

Title: Canary Club
Author: Sherry D Ficklin
Series: Canary Club #1
Genre: Historical Romance, Young Adult
Release Date: October 16, 2017
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Summary:
“Bad Luck” Benny is a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Recently released from jail, he has vowed to keep his head down and stay out of trouble. But he also needs to care for his ailing sister and the rest of his struggling family, and he’ll do anything to make that happen—even if it means taking a position with a notorious crime boss. He soon finds himself in over his head—and worse still—falling for the one dame on earth he should be staying away from.

Masie is the daughter of a wealthy gangster with the voice of an angel and gun smoke in her veins. Strong-willed but trapped in a life she never wanted, she dreams of flying free from the politics and manipulation of her father. A pawn in her family’s fight for control of the city, and with a killer hot on her heels, she turns to the one person who just might be able to spring her from her gilded cage. But Masie is no angel, and her own dark secrets may come back to burn them both.

Two worlds collide in this compelling story of star-crossed lovers in gritty prohibition-era New York.

Perfect for fans of Beatriz Williams’ A CERTAIN AGE or Libba Bray’s THE DIVINERS, THE CANARY CLUB by Sherry D. Ficklin will entice Historical Romance fans of all ages. This Gatsby-era tale filled with dazzling speakeasies, vicious shoot-outs, gritty gangsters, and iridescent ingenues has also been compared to the television series Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING and BOARDWALK EMPIRE.


Lepke.

I roll the name around in my head like a curse.

Glancing back over my shoulder toward my room, toward June, I know what I have to do.

For the most part, it suits me just fine to let people think I’m just some silly girl, some empty-headed dame. Because what it means is that they never see me coming, never suspect me of being capable of doing terrible things.

But I am my father’s daughter.

I was born to violence like a fish is born to water. It’s part of me, part of who I am. All my life I’ve watched the people around me suffer—the women most of all. It’s a fact of this life that more often than not, shots are fired, grievances aired, and warnings sent through the women around the powerful men. They are soft targets. Disposable, but cared for enough to make a point.

In this business, women are nothing more than weaknesses to be guarded and fodder to be thrown when needed. Pawns in a game we aren’t even allowed to play. It’s one of the reasons I was so glad when Mother had sent me off to private school upstate. For a few months, I’d felt normal. Safe.

Being called back to the life after losing her was like suddenly having an axe hanging over my head again. For one dark, dark moment I’d considered running away—and I might have too. But soon enough I realized that this is where I belong, even if I might wish otherwise. I have to do what I can to protect my family, what family I have left. I know my part and I can play it as well as any Hollywood starlet. I know I should be appalled, bereaved that things like this come so easily to me now. But I let that grief, and the dreams of being anything other than what I am, go a long time ago. And so I stay.  Cursed to walk the fine line between hero and villain, between vengeance and redemption.

But Lepke isn’t going to get away with this. Not this time.

I drag my hand through the water, mixing in the salts, cementing my plan in my head.

As soon as I deposit June in the tub I steal away to the den to make a call.

“Hello?” Vincent Coll’s groggy answer reverberates through the receiver.

My heart stutters at the sound of his voice. “It’s Masie. I need a favor.”

“What’s up, doll?”

I hesitate, biting my bottom lip. It’s then that I notice the smear of blood on my dress.

“I have blood on me, Vinny,” I say, more to myself than him, but his tone heightens.

“Are you alright?” He’s awake now, alert and sharp.

“It’s not my blood,” I clarify. “It’s the blood of someone I care about, though.”

He calms again, “What do you need?”

“Lepke Brewer,” I spit the name, unable to quite put into words how I want him to suffer. How much I want him to hurt.

On the other end of the line there’s a deep sigh, followed by the sound of a lighter flicking and Vinny taking a long drag. Despite being someone I once cared about greatly, Vinny is a dangerously unstable man on a good day. I know he’ll do what I’m about to ask without breathing a word of it to anyone—not out of loyalty to me or sympathy for June and what had happened to her, but for the sheer opportunity to level some brutality on a rival. Most people call him Mad Dog, thanks to his reputation for being about as well tempered as a rabid animal. But to me, he’s just Vinny, the young boy who’d come to stay with us after being expelled from the Catholic Reform School his mother had abandoned him to. We’d spent our formative years together, thick as thieves and practically family, until he took up the roll as Daddy’s enforcer and hit man. He’d changed after that.

Hell, we’d both changed. And neither of us for the better.

I roll the memory of him around in my head, biting the inside of my cheek as I decide what to say next. We haven’t been close in a very long time, and that’s the way it has to be. It might have been something more once, or maybe I just wanted there to be something there that never was. He’d kissed me exactly once, and it had been enough to sear itself into my memory, only to be buried beneath piles of disappointment and choices neither of us can take back. He has to be hard to do what he does, with no weaknesses for our enemies to exploit. And if I’m being honest, it’s the darkness in him that terrifies me. Not because I don’t understand it, but because I do. I know exactly how easy it would be to allow myself to be consumed by the violence of this life—and how good I would be at it.

But that’s not the person I want to be.

Even so, here I am, about to ask him to do the dirty work for me, just so I can keep my hands just a little bit clean.

“You want him taken care of?” he asks finally.

I suck in a breath before answering. Yes, I want him dead. I want him wiped from the face of the earth so he can’t ever hurt anyone ever again. I imagine myself saying yes. I imagine myself throwing a fistful of dirt onto Lepke’s coffin as it’s lowered into the ground. And then I imagine trying to look myself in the mirror every day after that.

“I want him to hurt,” I say after a moment. “I want him to be broken to the core of him. But leave him breathing.”

 Leave it to Vinny to echo my own fears back to me. “You sure about this, Mas?” he asks, taking another drag and exhaling it slowly. “It’s not going to keep you up at night?”

It’s a barb from an accusation I’d leveled at him the last time we spoke, when I’d asked how he slept at night, after all he’d done. His answer had been crude and aimed to hurt me. Mine would be much kinder.

“I suppose I will have to find a way to live with myself,” I answer, keeping my tone indifferent.

He hangs up without even saying goodbye.

I hold the receiver in my hand for a few heartbeats before returning it to its cradle. JD is being groomed to take over the family business and –despite daddy’s constant berating that he’s too soft-hearted or slow-witted or whatever insult he feels like hurling in the moment for the job—I’ve never stepped in and asked for a place in the business. I’m just the girl, after all, to be coddled and protected and mollified. I’d been surprised that he let me worm my way into the club as it’s headline singer rather than being shipped off to wherever. Now, I can’t help but wonder, if Daddy had seen me tonight, if he might rethink the line of ascension.
And I can’t help but wonder what life would be like for me if he did. 



Author Bio:
Sherry is the author of over a dozen novels for teens and young adults including the best selling Stolen Empire series. She can often be found browsing her local bookstore with a large white hot chocolate in one hand and a towering stack of books in the other. That is, unless she's on deadline at which time she, like the Loch Ness monster, is only seen in blurry photographs.

Sherry also writes contemporary romance under the pen name SJ Noble. You can find her at her official website, or stalk her on her Facebook page.


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The Canary Club #1
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Glitter and Gold(Prequel)
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Release Tour: Betting on Cinderella by Petie McCarty

Title: Betting on Cinderella
Author: Petie McCarty
Series: Cinderella Romances #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: October 18, 2017
Summary:
Garrett Tucker inherits his grandfather's casino empire and steps into the reclusive billionaire's shoes as the "Prince of Vegas." His first act is to buy a bankrupt casino in Biloxi. When he discovers embezzling in his new operation, Garrett goes in undercover. His prime suspect is the new finance supervisor—the spitfire brunette who stole his heart at first sight.

Andi Ryan moves to Biloxi to care for her godmother and takes a job as finance supervisor for the renovated Bayou Princess casino. She discovers someone is skimming from the till and starts her own investigation, worried she will be blamed for the theft when the new owner discovers her godmother has a gambling addiction.

A rival Vegas competitor has sent a spy in to ruin the Bayou Princess, and Garrett and Andi are forced to work together to prove her innocence and discover the identity of their casino spy.


Garrett mentally kicked himself. He had gone and scared her.

Too much. Too soon. 

But he couldn’t make himself move. He could lie here forever with Andi in his arms.

She wriggled from his grasp to sit up. “Um . . .”

“What?”

She looked too uncertain.

Not good. 

He was okay with, “Not now, but maybe later.

“I can’t,” she whispered.

Good thing he was sitting down. The jangle of fear that hit him could have knocked his knees out from under him.

“Can’t or won’t?” he forced out. No maybes on this one.

“Both.”

What the hell? Can’t and won’t?

All his uncertainties flooded back. Flora had said Andi and Peters were just friends. Was that friends with benefits? And what about that damn Drakos pawing her last week? No, he wouldn’t let those doubts crowd them here on the couch.

“Too soon?” he tried.

“Partly.” She looked away, and his heart sank amongst the growing heap of doubts.

“There’s someone else,” he said flatly, working to keep his expression blank and the hurt at bay.

She met his gaze square on then, no doubt trying to muscle her courage. “There’s something I should tell you.”

Damn.

“I’m—” She exhaled hard. “—no good at it.”

What? Is that all?

He fought back a grin of pure joy. “I’ll give you lessons.” He pulled her back for another kiss.

She shoved at his chest. “No. I don’t think I should.”

She flinched at his expression, and he worked to smooth his scowl.

“Go ahead. Spit it out.” Even he didn’t like his tone. “You’re sleeping with someone else, right?”

He should have done his homework before he went off half-cocked with all the flowers and balloons, trying to woo her.

“No, and I should slap you for that, suggesting I’m loose enough to go out with you while sleeping with someone else.”

“Then what the hell is it?” he shouted, forgetting all about Flora at the back of the house.

“I’ve never done it before!” she shouted back.

“What? Slapped someone?”

“No, you jerk. Slept with someone.” This, she didn’t shout.

He froze, right down to his heartbeat, and stared at her bright-pink cheeks. Could it be? Was she? A virgin?

“Holy smokes,” he wheezed.

She stared at her untouched glass of wine. “I’m not saying you and I will never,” she said softly.

Relief, warm and desperate, allowed his muscles to finally move. He gently traced the line of her cheek with his finger, a lump forming in his throat at the touch of something so rare and priceless.
“Glad to hear that.” He brushed his lips across hers, light as a whisper. Once. “My little sweetheart.” Twice. “My precious—” Three times. Always a charm.

“You’re not mad?”

Those big blue eyes stared up at him with an innocence that made his too-experienced heart ache with emotion.

“Mad?”

Should he tell her he wanted to go outside and howl his joy at the moon? To yell to the world what a lucky son of a gun he was? His Andi would be his Andi—proprietary, like his stock portfolio. All his. No one else. A primal sense of possessiveness overwhelmed him.

“No, sweetheart, not mad. Glad,” he managed, then tugged her close and let his kiss show her exactly how he felt.

“When you’re ready,” he said against her lips. “Only when you’re ready.”

He had finally said and done the right thing, for she grabbed his shirt and laid an eye-crossing kiss on him.

Cinderella Busted #1
Summary:
Cinderella's fairy tale moves to Jupiter Island, Florida where Lily Foster, owner of an eclectic landscape nursery, is mistaken for a wealthy socialite by billionaire resort developer Rhett Buchanan. Overdue for a little romance in her life, Lily is anxious for one fabulous date with her handsome prince, so she cultivates her inadvertent masquerade.

Rhett Buchanan has become jaded with the Palm Beach social scene, dominated by scheming women desperate for more money -- his money. Rhett falls hard when he meets Lily Foster. She is a breath of fresh air after the smog of gold diggers constantly surrounding him.

For Rhett and Lily, it's love at first sight until her deception comes to light and pitches their relationship into a disastrous tailspin. Well-meaning friends are determined to intercede and resort to inept high jinks to reunite the estranged couple while a wicked ex-girlfriend plays dirty to keep the couple apart.

Author Bio:
Petie spent a large part of her career working at Walt Disney World -- "The Most Magical Place on Earth" -- where she enjoyed working in the land of fairy tales by day and creating her own romantic fairy tales by night, including her new series, The Cinderella Romances. She eventually said good-bye to her "day" job to write her stories full-time. These days Petie spends her time writing sequels to her regency time-travel series, Lords in Time, and her mystery-romance-with-elements-of-suspense series, the Mystery Angel Romances.

Petie shares her home on the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee with her horticulturist husband, a spoiled-rotten English Springer spaniel addicted to pimento-stuffed green olives, and a noisy Nanday conure named Sassy who made a cameo appearance in Angel to the Rescue.

Visit Petie's web site online or her Facebook page.


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Friday, October 20, 2017

Random Paranormal Tales of 2017 Part 7


Hexslayer(Hexworld #3) by Jordan L Hawk
Summary:
Horse shifter Nick has one rule: never trust a witch.

Nick has devoted his life to making his saloon a safe haven for the feral familiars of New York. So when a brutal killer slaughters a feral under his protection, Nick has no choice but to try and catch the murderer. Even if that means bonding with a handsome Irish witch.

Officer Jamie MacDougal came back from the war in Cuba missing part of a leg and most of his heart. After his former lover becomes one of the killer’s victims, Jamie will do anything to solve the case.

Nick comes to Jamie with a proposal: after making a temporary bond, they will work together to stop the murders. Once the killer is caught, they walk away and never see one another again.

It sounds simple enough. But the passion that flares between the two men won’t be so easily extinguished. And if Nick can’t learn to trust his witch, he stands to lose everything—including his life.

Click for Saturday's Series Spotlight: Hexworld Part 1

Click for A Christmas Hex #2.5


Nick has spent his life hating witches, or at the very least not trusting them, not even his brother's witch.  His life's mission is to protect familiars, specifically feral familiars.  Jamie McDougal, one of Roosevelt's Rough Riders, is a witch without a familiar and an uncle who's views on familiars are not the same as Jamie's.  When familiars are being viciously killed, Nick decides he has to work with Jamie to stop the murderer but what happens once the case is solved?  Will Nick be able to let Jamie go and return to his anti-witch stand?

I knew we would eventually get a book in this series about Nick and to be honest I wasn't really looking forward to it.  I liked his need for freedom but his anti-witch stance always grated on me a bit and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to like him as a main character.  Its not that I felt he was irredeemable, he hadn't gone that far whenever he appeared in previous installments but I just wasn't sure I'd be ready to cheer him on.  Well! I'm adult enough to admit when I'm wrong and was I ever wrong! Nick was fun, frustrating, enjoyable, irritating, and yes he still grated on my nerves at times but I most definitely wanted to see him happy.

As for Jamie, well what's not to like?  He is a man with a heart that is "Grinch after finding Christmas spirit" big who wants to find the killer and find happiness all at the same time.  It's easy to say that Nick doesn't deserve someone like Jamie but truth is, they are perfect for each other.  Now, that's not to say everything is smooth sailing for the pair just because I found them perfect for each other, quite the opposite really.  Ms. Hawk really puts her couples through the wringer and Nick and Jamie are no different, most of the time that wringer is Nick but who can blame him considering the feelings he's been holding on to for so many years.

As for the killings, well as usual I don't do spoilers so I won't touch on that aspect of the story too much other than to say I was completely hooked from beginning to end.  Even without Nick and Jamie, Hexslayer would have had me on the edge of my seat with just the mystery alone.  Thankfully, we do have Nick and Jamie so once again Jordan L Hawk has brought us into a world of magic, mystery, mayhem, and just the right amount of mushiness to make this a perfect paranormal package fitting for this time of year.  However, if you don't have the time or opportunity to dive in now, you will be enthralled whenever you do give it a go because even though October is my favorite month to read all things weird and out there, I'll be reading this series whenever the author decides to give us another entry.  Simply put, Hexslayer and the whole Hexworld universe, takes us on an amazing journey of the magic most of us loved as children and gives it an adult flair that lets us delve back into the "what ifs" and "could bes" that we tend to forget as we grow older.  Just brilliant fun from beginning to end.

RATING: 

The Tourist by Clare London
Summary:
Visiting isn't a science, at least not for me. It's just what I do. Not that I mind, though. It's not a bad thing, you understand, to find yourself in someone else's body, stepping into a hot shower stark-naked and sporting a decent-sized morning wood.

Ace is a tourist. A spirit who spends his time visiting the lives of others for entertainment and sexual satisfaction. He can't make anyone do anything they aren't willing to do-but he is able to push them to their personal limits.

He's currently visiting Dan and his lover, Ricky-a couple struggling with jealousy and words left unsaid. Emboldened by Ace, Dan becomes more sexually aggressive, a pleasant surprise for Ricky. But when an abusive ex threatens their newfound happiness, how far will Ace want to get involved? Will his fascination with the couple's sexual games tempt him to protect them from a very real physical danger? 

Cursed Miracles by Meg Harding 
Summary:
Two hundred years ago on Christmas Eve, William Mashinter was frozen in time, cursed by his wife to roam the world on his own, waiting for the love of his life to find him. The love of his life, whom she killed. Time hasn’t healed this wound, and William is tired of the happy holiday and the constant reminders of a love that’s been taken from him. But then the impossible happens, and maybe… maybe he can get a new Christmas perspective.

Brady Gallagher has lived three different lives, always aware of the first and most important, yet unable to find the man who will fill in the missing pieces and let him know he’s not crazy. He encounters him at a work event, of all places, but is he willing to throw everything else to the wind and embrace the miracle laid out before him?

Origingal Review December 2016:
Cursed Miracles is the perfect blend of romance, history, paranormal, contemporary, and it's all wrapped up together in a beautiful Christmas package, small maybe but Miracles will warm your heart, not to mention spice it up just the right amount, faster than a bag of roasted chestnuts and a glass of mulled wine.  A lovely little holiday novella that I look forward to re-reading next year and many Christmases to come.  Meg Harding is another new author for me and I look forward to checking out her backlist and future tales in 2017.

RATING: 

Human Rights by SL Armstrong 
Summary:
After landing in the pound after being abandoned by yet another family, Ewan is convinced he's too old to be adopted out again. For a pet like him, the only fate left is to be put down. But when Sir Jiat—of the City Guard, no less—visits the pound, he goes straight to Ewan. Jiat prefers the more mature pets and treats Ewan better than he's ever been treated by any previous owner. Ewan sleeps at the foot of his master's bed, not on the floor or outside; he is given toys and other pets to play with and plenty of room to run; and he's fed on a schedule and eats very well. But Ewan's love for his master begins to change, to become something else, something more.

Plenty of pets have been killed over the years for acting on the feelings that Sir Jiat inspires, so he dares not express the desire building inside him. And yet, Ewan can't help but notice that Sir Jiat has begun to act differently as well, more doting, treating Ewan almost as an equal. So even though the thing he wants more than anything is also their society's greatest taboo, Ewan resolves that if he must die, he will die having felt, just once, the warmth of Sir Jiat's soft fur pressed against his bare naked skin.

Sight Unseen by Hunter Raines
Summary:
Daniel Van Doren was once a renowned writer, until he was blinded in the car accident that killed his lover. Now, all he sees are ghosts in need of help. They follow him everywhere, and the only way to be rid of his ethereal visitors is to help them resolve their unfinished business here on earth so their spirits can find peace.

Ghostwriter Logan Riley is assigned to pen Daniel's biography. He plans to reveal him as a fraud, but when they meet he's struck by Danny's quiet sincerity--and a growing attraction. Which makes sticking close to Danny to find out the truth more than a little distracting.

When they are attacked by a violent poltergeist Logan begins to believe Danny's not just telling the truth, he's in grave danger. A spirit has learned how to harness the energy of the living to break through the barrier between worlds to harm Danny. And Logan may be the one to blame...


Daniel Van Doren lost his writing mojo when he lost his sight but he gained ghostly visitors that need closure.  Logan Riley is sent to ghostwrite Dan's biography and in doing so is determined to prove him a hoax and con-man.  What they find together is pain, frustration, unwanted company but will they also find exactly what they need?

I first featured Sight Unseen a couple of years ago in my Random Paranormal Tales on my blog but I just now got around to reading it.  I loved it!  There is many times I just wanted to bang their heads together to get them to talk to each other but you just need to let the characters find that out at their own pace.  There really isn't too much I feel I can say about Sight that won't give away plot points and as you know I don't do spoilers so let me just say that Hunter Raines has brought together a wonderful blend of paranormal, lust, drama, romance, with just the right amount of fear and heart to make this a must read.  One thing I can say is I really appreciated the fact that we don't see Dan having to convince the cops that he isn't a charlatan or crazy, yes it helped that the cop he works with the most is his ex-brother-in-law but I still found it refreshing to not have to see the main character go through that aspect.

Overall, Sight Unseen is a great read that I wished I had read sooner but whenever you come to the party doesn't always matter, its the fun you have when you get there and that is the same when it comes to books.  Whether you read it as a new release, years later, or a re-read doesn't matter if it thrills the soul and gives you enjoyment than the author has done their job and that is what Hunter Raines' Sight Unseen has done for me.  A great addition to my paranormal library.

RATING: 


The Tourist by Clare London
It isn’t a bad thing, you know, to find yourself stepping into a hot, fresh-smelling shower, stark bollock naked and sporting a decent-sized morning wood. Even if the period immediately beforehand is a bit of a blurred memory. Even if you can’t remember where the hell you are, exactly how you got there, what day it is, or even how much shampoo you’re going to need because you can’t remember if you’re bewigged, buzz-cut or bearded.

I reached for the plastic curtain, not sure how firm my grip was, tugging it back awkwardly. When I stepped forward onto the smooth tray, I stubbed my toe against the tiled wall and yelped. Seemed I couldn’t even gauge the size of my own bloody feet.

You see, visiting isn’t an exact science. Hell, it’s no science at all, at least not for me. It’s just what I do. I drift in my strange but by-now-familiar limbo, jumping in and out of human bodies for a bit of a laugh and—you must understand, I’m not going to lie about it—for sexual satisfaction. From men.

I get a thrill from it; I get off on it.

The last thing I remembered? A rewarding couple of days in the bed of two very limber athletes. Moroccan, maybe. On a work visa, staying in a tiny but over-warm bedsit, the best they could afford so close to London. I never knew whether they were legally in the country or not, and didn’t really care. I was only passing through. They were dark, with sun-salty skin, and full of youthful strength and stamina. An imaginative collection of toys, too. Delicious. But their bickering wore me ragged in the end, even though it was their idea of foreplay. And so I moved on. Took that deep breath of virtual anticipation, and jumped. Never knowing quite where I’d end up.

But, like I said, it wasn’t always a bad thing. Particularly when I found myself pressed up against the side of another body in that shower, equally naked, slick with water and warm with sexy, willing enthusiasm. How did I know “willing”? Pretty obvious, if you ask me. He had a thick, solid dick, happily nudging against my thigh. Just what I like the best. There was barely enough room to turn one person around in there, let alone two, but it didn’t seem like either of us resented getting up close and personal.

I leaned in, just to make sure, and he moaned with pleasure. Yeah, that confirmed it. I gave up worrying about shampoo and went for groping his hips instead.

“Hey, there.”

He sounded startled and I paused. I mumbled something under my breath that could have been taken as a tentative apology.

“No. It’s fine.” He twisted around to face me and that delicious dick rubbed against mine. It was long and curved up toward his belly, eager for action. Mine was no slouch, either. Looked like I had plenty of inches, and at the moment they were all standing to attention. “Just…it’s a surprise, that’s all.” He tilted his head and touched the side of my neck with his lips, quick and sloppy. “I didn’t want to wake you just yet. It’s not your fault I’m up so early.”

“Up?” My voice was low and firm. I liked the sound of it. I smirked and ran my hand along the length of his cock. It was a broad hand; looked strong, the skin tanned, fingertips calloused.

He sucked in a breath. “God. Yeah. I know you’re not so keen on the morning…”

I squeezed, not that gently, and he shut up immediately. “You think you should be telling me what I am and what I’m not?”

He stared at me. Deep brown eyes, an expression of excitement and confusion, all mixed in with the twinkle of morning lust. And something else even more promising. “I…guess not. Sorry.”

His hair must have reached just under his ears when it was dry. The water made it cling lower to his neck, creating small dark licks of sensuality. I imagined twisting one around my fingers and tugging. Hard. “So make it up to me.”

“Dan?” He laughed shakily. “What’s up with you this morning?”

“Nothing different. You feel good and I want it.”

He shuddered and his lips dragged across my jaw. I had quite a lot of morning stubble. His hand grasped my hip, his palm slippery with soap. “Well, this is a surprise, but a very pleasant one, you know?” He moaned softly and his fingers tightened on my flesh. “Very good. I think you can tell—”

I pressed against him again and he sucked the words back in. After a second’s hesitation, he stepped back, close up to the tiled wall. His heart was beating so fast I could feel the vibration in his chest. I knew then what he needed. Doesn’t take me long to know what a man’s like, not nowadays.

“I think you do far too much of that,” I said. “Thinking. I’m not a whole lot keen on it myself, at least not at this moment.” As far as I was concerned, feeling was taking up most of my attention. I knew what I wanted, I knew what my body was aching for. Good. It’s a special treat when I find a like-minded libido to host my fantasies.

I rubbed my dick against him again, this time bending my knees to get better effect. I was an inch or so taller than he was and I needed that angle so that I was sliding against his cock, not into his navel. Though that looked and felt pretty fine, too. The whole torso was nicely defined, not too muscle-bound. He was what they called hot these days, well-proportioned like one of those underwear models who were so popular in magazines. I reckoned he was younger than me, but not too young. Perfect. His skin was slightly plump, with a healthy sheen and barely tanned. I nudged again and dropped my lips to the junction of his neck and throat. His head went back and he gasped.

He wasn’t as broad as I was—I could instinctively tell from the position of our arms—and his pecs were covered with a mat of fine hair. The nipples were dark brown mounds poking up through it. Made my mouth salivate. Another thing I knew instinctively—I loved nibbling. I sucked at the skin of his neck and the little buds tightened. I felt them push against my own chest, and the excitement rippled straight down to my balls.

His treasure trail was darker, though that might just have been from the water running over his shoulders and down his front. My eyes slid downward, following its path, over the gentle mound of his belly, down to the curls at his groin, glistening, tangled, and then to our cocks, dancing their own version of a thrusting tango, seeking friction, swelling even further with eagerness.

He chuckled softly. “Dan, this is…”

“I say what it is.” I glanced back up at his face. The water pattered onto the tray at my feet and my voice had been more growl than whisper. For a second, he tensed and I wondered if I’d messed up already.

Then he relaxed, letting out a long breath. His eyes half closed. “Yes,” he murmured, delight in his tone. “You do.”

Cursed Miracles by Meg Harding
TWO HUNDRED years ago, William Mashinter the Third learned a very important life lesson. One he won’t forget—even if he lives two hundred more.

Don’t piss off a witch.

As he sits at his large oak desk, staring out at the city of Chicago with its sky-high buildings and abundance of snow flurries, he thinks back to the Christmas Eve that changed everything. The day where his life went to complete hell after being sunk partially in it for a too-long time. The events that led to it. When everything had been ripped from him because he’d dared to try and touch the stars.

He scowls.

He hates Christmas. It’s the only time of year he gets reflective. The one period of time when his pain is more present than ever. So many years later, and it’s still a raw wound. He doesn’t think it ever won’t be.

The scenery outside his window changes, his office vanishes, and he’s standing in an old Victorian room, staring at his father from across the man’s desk. His father, Lord Mashinter the Second, is an imposing man with iron-gray hair and an attitude that has people naturally bowing to him. His face is lined with age, his stomach going soft. His eyes are hard, like flint, and they’re not prone to displaying affection. This isn’t an exception. He’s staring at William like he’s talking to an underling, and for all intents and purposes, that is what William is to him.

“Lord Granger has agreed to marriage terms between you and Lady Jennifer Granger.” He says it casually, while barely looking up from the paper he’s reading.

William’s stomach feels like it plummets to his feet. The nightmare he’s avoided his whole life is finally here. Marriage. To a woman he doesn’t love. When he loves someone else. He has to reach for the chair back in front of him, grip tight to keep from falling. His world is being flipped upside down. “Father,” he says, protest on the tip of his tongue. He’s made his feelings on this matter as clear as he could without revealing the truth. He loves Lord Brady Gallagher. And he knows—is painfully aware—that their love isn’t conventional. That it won’t ever be accepted amongst these people he calls friends and family.

Human Rights by SL Armstrong
I'd had three masters in my life, and still, here I was, in the pound. I was nothing but a mutt, after all, and when one of the purebreeds they'd wanted so badly came up for sale, I was on the way out. Wouldn't want to risk having the pedigree of an expensive, beautiful bitch ruined by a mutt's seed. It didn't matter that Puan had adopted me when I was but four years old and trained me herself. I was her favorite stud until she'd landed one of the red-coated females that came from the High Breeders. Within two days, I was fifteen and foisted off on one of Puan's friends.

But Lienx wasn't as nice as Puan, and he didn't like the manners Puan had instilled in me. I wasn't allowed on the furniture. I wasn't to eat in the kitchen. I spent nights leashed to a small house outside in the yard. Lienx ruled his home with an iron fist, and when I misbehaved, I was thoroughly beaten. I learned quickly to remain invisible in Lienx's home, but then Lienx married, and his new wife, Moha, didn't like mutts. Within two weeks, Lienx had procured a purebreed. I was sent to the pound.

By the heavens, the pound. Cages. Left to wallow in our own filth because those in charge didn't want to bother. The food was tasteless. Sunlight was a treat once a week when we were taken out into the yards. Run. Play. Soak up the light until we were herded back into the large, hot buildings and locked away to be forgotten. Most pets came to the pound to die, and, at twenty-four, I resigned myself to such a fate. Two masters and well into my life, I wasn't the sort of pet a lovely master came looking for. Imagine my surprise when Kica came running through the pound, eager to find her newest pet.

Kica. Nine-years-old and the sweetest little girl. I think I loved her. She would play with me out in the yard, toss balls for me to run after, and she'd bring me scraps of her own meals. Little girls, though, grow up. For her sixteenth birthday, her father gifted her with a squealing, writhing purebreed with gorgeous, clear blue eyes. I saw her love for me die as the bawling mass in her arms demanded her attention. My heart broke when her father carted me back to the pound with not even a farewell kiss from Kica.

Thirty-one-years-old and back at the pound. I hated it. There was nothing I could do about it. I was nothing but a mutt, passed around. I would die here. I knew it in my very bones. There were younger, more beautiful pets to be found in the small cages, with bright eyes and unusual hair. I was plain. Forgettable. I was also tired. I didn't want to go home with someone else who would either abuse me or earn my trust and love only to betray me when something better, more expensive came along.

If I wore a collar and leash, I wanted it to mean something. I wanted to be wanted, needed. Heavens, perhaps even cherished, loved. Loved. I thought Kica had loved me. She'd said as much so many times as she'd brushed my hair, oiled my skin. But love, it seemed, was fickle. I was expected to give mine without pause, but my masters? They were allowed to gift it and take it back without any thought to my heart. Best to die in this sweltering hellhole of a building, thirsty and hungry and craving the sunlight, than to slowly wither as I bounced from home to home.

"What's down this hall?"

I couldn't help but lift my head as the question filtered down the dingy hallway. Was someone actually looking for an older pet? Surely not. Even if they were, I refused to allow my hopes to rise. There were two dozen other pets in this hall, all over the age of twenty-five and as tired as I was, that this person could potentially choose.

"Those are the older pets. Male. Ones that have been here more than once. You don't want any of them. They'll be taken care of when they've been here six months."

I hated that voice. Miab. He was an asshole. He liked to use the older female pets for copulation, which was—technically—against the law. Even pets knew that. We could be beaten, starved, denied water or baths, but we weren't supposed to be used sexually. Not that we weren't, but who believed a mongrel over an upstanding citizen? Miab, though, was a sick sonovabitch. He liked to hurt the females that he fucked, and none of us trusted him. I often wished to claw his eyes out.

"I want to see them. Age doesn't matter. None of your younger pets caught my attention. Maybe I need an older one."

Miab sighed, loud and annoyed. "All right. Come on."

Footsteps. None of us looked up. None of us moved. I don't think any of us wanted to go to another home. Six months, and then we'd be destroyed. Better than this indefinite hoping, and we wouldn't be a drain on the state's resources anymore.

"How old is the oldest here?" That voice was smooth, deep, and it made something in my gut flutter. "How old is the youngest?"

"Eldest is there, Henri. Has had six homes. Likes to bite. He's forty-six." Miab walked past my cage and pointed to an end cage. "Youngest is Fredrick. He's twenty-seven. Had three homes. Last home surrendered him because he attempted to seduce their youngest daughter."

The visitor walked up and down the corridor, pausing at each cage, but I didn't hear anyone move. When his shadow fell over me, I didn't bother to look up. The shadow didn't move, though, and after a moment, the visitor spoke.

"I'd like to see this one is the playroom, please. I'd also like to read his file."

Miab scoffed. "Ewan? He's had three previous homes."

"Why was he brought here?"

"The file says..." Miab flipped through paperwork, but I still didn't look up. "He was the pet to Master Dierr's daughter, but he secured her a purebreed. Ewan was no longer needed."

Sight Unseen by Hunter Raines
The stench of rot, mildew and decay jammed Danny's nasal passages. He'd tried breathing through his mouth for about a minute, but that only made him want to retch, so he returned to his original tactic. Slow, shallow breaths through his nose, taken one small whiff at a time.

If he survived this revolting trek through Phoenix's sewer system, he'd be showering for the next three days. And he'd spend every minute of those seventy-two hours inhaling the scent of fresh shampoo until his lungs went numb.

"You better be right about this, Van Doren." Detective Nick Samuels snorted, then gagged, before letting a gob of spit loose. It landed somewhere in the vicinity of Danny's feet. "If you're dragging me through shit for nothing, I'll spend the rest of my days making you pay. God as my witness."

"Right, Detective. Because this is where I always take my evening stroll."

Nick let out a groan that said he didn't give a damn if Danny walked off a cliff without bungee gear. "You just better be right. That's all I'm saying." No threat this time, but Danny heard it just the same.

Despite the fact that he'd helped the Phoenix P.D. solve six homicides in the last nine months, Nick didn't like him much. He never had, not even when he'd been married to Danny's sister. That was probably Danny's fault. They'd gotten their relationship off to a rocky start the first night he found Nick groping Elena in the front seat of his car. A decade later, Nick still hadn't forgiven him for that bloody nose.

The shape he followed flickered in the distance. She was short, maybe four foot six at best. Probably about ten years old. She ran ahead of them, but he couldn't give chase. Being blind made treading on a newly paved sidewalk as treacherous as skating on bare feet. Slogging through the sewers with the rank stench of waste sticking to his lungs and his feet sloshing through inches of foul water meant he had to shuffle rather than walk, and running was out of the question.

"Come on, honey." Danny kept his voice low, soothing, even though he had no idea whether the little girl could hear him. She pretended to, sometimes, and other times he might as well have been talking to a brick wall. A bystander watching him hold a conversation with himself would think he was doing just that. Most people who knew him already assumed he'd lost his mind along with his eyesight.

Hell, most days he thought the same.

"Right behind ya, pumpkin."

The sarcasm in Nick's voice grated on Danny's nerves. If he didn't need the man to identify the location of the body when Danny finally led him to it--and to guide him back out of this hellhole once his ethereal guide disappeared--he'd have been just as happy to leave the detective sitting in front of a box of donuts at the station.

Well, no, that wasn't entirely true. Danny wasn't stupid. Or reckless, for that matter. He needed Nick to watch his back on this ill-advised expedition, almost as much as the little girl's ghost needed him.

Two years ago, before Danny lost his sight, Nick had been tall, lean and handsome. These days, Danny liked to picture him based on his surly demeanor and gruff voice. It took some effort, but he pictured a barrel-chested, beer-gutted man with a bad comb over and a permanent snarl on thin lips crusted with powdered sugar. Danny grinned at that mental image and momentarily forgot his resolve to take small, shallow breaths. He sucked in a mouthful of the funky air before catching himself, and his stomach writhed.


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Random Paranormal Tales of 2017

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Jordan L Hawk
Jordan L. Hawk grew up in the wilds of North Carolina, where she was raised on stories of haints and mountain magic by her bootlegging granny and single mother. After using a silver knife in the light of a full moon to summon her true love, she turned her talents to spinning tales. She weaves together couples who need to fall in love, then throws in some evil sorcerers and undead just to make sure they want it bad enough. In Jordan’s world, love might conquer all, but it just as easily could end up in the grave.

Clare London
Clare took the pen name London from the city where she lives, loves, and writes. A lone, brave female in a frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home, she juggles her writing with her other day job as an accountant.

She’s written in many genres and across many settings, with award-winning novels and short stories published both online and in print. She says she likes variety in her writing while friends say she’s just fickle, but as long as both theories spawn good fiction, she’s happy. Most of her work features male/male romance and drama with a healthy serving of physical passion, as she enjoys both reading and writing about strong, sympathetic and sexy characters.

Clare currently has several novels sulking at that tricky chapter 3 stage and plenty of other projects in mind . . . she just has to find out where she left them in that frenetic, testosterone-fuelled family home.

All the details and free fiction are available at her website. Visit her today and say hello!

Meg Harding
Meg Harding is a graduate of UCF, and recently completed a masters program for Publishing in the UK. For as long as she can remember, writing has always been her passion, but she had an inability to ever actually finish anything. She’s immensely happy that her inability has fled and looks forward to where her mind will take her next. She’s a sucker for happy endings, the beach, and superheroes. In her dream life she owns a wildlife conservation and is surrounded by puppies. She’s a film buff, voracious reader, and a massive geek.

SL Armstrong
S.L. Armstrong was born in West Virginia and raised in Tampa, Florida with her younger brother and a family dog.

She has been a voracious reader since early childhood, a hobby encouraged by her mother. In middle school, S.L. began to write as a hobby, scribbling poetry and snippets of prose during her classes. By the end of her high school career, she’d filled three binders full of her writings. It was the beginning of a life-long obsession with words and worlds, characters and plots.

Shortly after high school, S.L. married her husband, who has always encouraged her in her chosen field.

S.L. writes primarily male/male romance or homoerotic fiction, and she tends to lean toward the fantasy, paranormal, and horror genres.

She and her husband currently live together in Bradenton, Florida with seven cats and two dogs.

Hunter Raines
Hunter Raines leads a double life. By day, she works in a male-dominated environment as a professional proposal writer responsible for securing multi-million-dollar accounts. By night, she pens naughty tales of hunky men doing wonderfully sexy things to each other. Her coworkers think they're the source of her inspiration, and she doesn't have the heart to tell them otherwise.

Hunter is the author of numerous short stories and novellas, and she holds an Honors B.A. in English Literature. When she's not working or writing, she can be found curled up in her library of more than four thousand books, or playing video games with her husband.


Jordan L Hawk
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Clare London
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Meg Harding
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SL Armstrong
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EMAIL: hrainesauthor@gmail.com



Hexslayer(Hexworld #3) by Jordan L Hawk
The Tourist by Clare London
Cursed Miracles by Meg Harding
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Human Rights by SL Armstrong
Sight Unseen by Hunter Raines
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