Review: Cinderellis (Once Upon a Vegas Night #2) by Evie Drae

As the son of music industry royalty and a famous rock star in his own right, Henry “Cinder” Cinderford has spent his life on the road. Craving stability, he signs on to do a special limited engagement in Las Vegas and plans to spend the next six months discovering the meaning of home.

After losing his mom at a young age, Ellis Tremaine survived a childhood with an abusive stepfather who took out his anger on the son he never wanted. Nearly two decades later, Ellis continues to struggle against the emotional manipulations of his family, even in his career. But when he meets none other than the Prince of Pop himself, things start to change.

From attraction to friendship to something so much more, Ellis and Cinder become the celebrity ‘ship known as “Cinderellis.” But when reality threatens their storybook romance, all they can do is hope there really is a happily ever after for every once upon a time.


Fairy tale retellings?! I'm such a fan! I think it's fun to read authors put on their creative caps and try to rehash classic tales.

Evie Drae's Cinderellis (Once Upon a Vegas Night #2) is a standalone tale  of love between a pop star 'prince' Cinder (or Henry) and a jack of all trade, blue collar worker, sweet, gentle giant Ellis! The story is a pretty quick read with QUILTBAG friendly characters (well expect for the villain, of course). Ellis is socially awkward, shy and submissive who works so hard he isn't caught up to current social media trends,etc. Cinder, is a world weary son of musical legends who is looking to finally laying roots. They find each other one magical night in Las Vegas. And magic happens!

Our 'Cinderella' in Drae's retelling is Ellis, a late twenty-something who is stuck working under his abusive stepfather's thumb. (Let me add this: some might look down on older characters still being abused...it's a hard cycle to break for some. And I thought the author did a very good job explaining why Ellis, 6 foot plus giant of a man could still react the way he did to the evil stepdad.)

The story alternates POV's which helped understand both main characters. Cinder was pretty smooth and adaptable when it came to Ellis. Ellis definitely was inexperienced in just about all the ways when it came to the world, so I liked Cinder's handling of him. The pacing is pretty quick when we get to the romance. The pacing was mostly smooth with minor hiccups.

My biggest concern with this wonderful story is the try-hard-ness in the dialogue. In the beginning Ellis came off as shy and socially awkward, he had panic attacks for some social interactions, then it seems to disappear as we zipped through the romance. And his personality melded in Cinder's personality at times; meaning chatterbox Cinder and Ellis shared the same reactions and word vomit/cheesy one liners at time. I'm not the biggest fan of cheese, so to each their own.

I felt the romance, or the buildup to the romance was rushed at points to fit in more sex scenes. Ellis had a shitty past with his previous sexual experiences. He seemed to get over his hangups fairly quickly. Though I must say, sexually he read like a fairy tale prince: gentle giant and submissive. He and Cinder definitely had good chemistry in and out of the bedroom.

The conflict is the stepparent (no surprise, as this is a Cinderella retelling) but it felt a little anti-climatic toward the end as it read rushed and not as satisfying. And the step sister was under utilized. She could have easily been not added and more step dad scenes could have been used instead. Maybe I would've gotten more of an impact from him? *shrug*

Other than that, I thought the story was a cute story. I'm happy Ellis grew as a person. I'm a big fan of fairy tale retellings and I enjoyed the ideas the author came up with. I'd check out more from this series.

Recommended for readers who like easy reading, cute characters and fairy tales.



Audiobook Tour: Unbreak Me by Maria Vickers

 


Author Maria Vickers and Gay Book Promotions visit on the Unbreak Me audio book Tour! Discover more about the Andrew Joseph Perez narrated romantic ghost story today!

AUDIOBOOK TOUR

Book Title: Unbreak Me

Author: Maria Vickers

Publisher: Self-published

Narrator: Andrew Joseph Perez

Release Date: March 10, 2021

Genre: Contemporary paranormal (One of the MCs is a ghost)

Trope/s: Second chance, ghost story

Themes: Moving on, loss, forgiveness

Heat Rating: 4 flames

Length:  6 hours and 14 minutes

It is a standalone story.

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Buy Links 

Audible US  |   Audible UK  

Also available in Kindle Unlimited and paperback

Amazon US   |   Amazon UK  

Two broken hearts, one wandering soul.

Blurb 

They were supposed to be together forever. That was the plan, but through a cruel twist of fate the night before their three-year anniversary, Tex Davis lost the one man he would ever love, Memphis King. A year has passed and he still hasn’t been able to move on. Everyone tells him it’s time, but what do they know? Memphis was his partner in love and life. Losing him, broke Tex. 

Tex has been given an opportunity to move from New York to Seattle. His friends and family are encouraging him to take it, but he has already decided to decline the offer because that would mean leaving Memphis behind. 

Then something happened. 

Whether it be fate or something else, Memphis came back to him. Tex’s first love is supposed to help him move on, but not even Memphis can bring himself to force Tex to let him go. 

Is it so wrong to want to spend forever with the person you loved most? Both hearts are begging to be unbroken. 

About the Author  

Maria Vickers is a bestselling and award-winning author who currently resides in St. Louis, MO with her pug, Spencer Tracy. She has always had a passion for writing and after she became disabled in 2010, she decided to use writing as her escape. Life is about what you make of it, you have to live it to the fullest no matter the circumstances.

From a young age, she has always loved books and even dreamed of being an author when she was younger. Growing up in the Navy, she used to weave tales for her siblings and her friends about anything and everything. And when she wasn't creating her own stories, she had a book in her hand. They transported her to another world. She hopes that her readers will have the same experience when reading her stories, and that, in some way, they can relate to her characters. 

Getting sick changed her life forever, but it also opened doors for her that she thought would always be out of reach. 

Author Links

Blog/Website  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Newsletter Sign-up

Instagram  |  Amazon  |   Goodreads  |   BookBub  

About the Narrator

Andrew Joseph Perez is an actor, singer, stuntman, and advocate based in Los Angeles. Originally from a suburb of Sacramento, he studied Drama at Seattle University before working regionally in theaters from San Francisco, CA to St. Petersburg, FL. He’s toured internationally with Armed Forces Entertainment and has voiced characters for Netflix, Playstation, X-Box, and others in projects ranging from Dynasty Warriors to Gundam. In addition to his performance work, Perez is also an advocate for the disabled and a fundraiser and partner with the Movember Foundation, fighting Prostate Cancer, Testicular Cancer, and suicide in men worldwide (mobro.co/andrewjperez). 

You can find him on Instagram and Youtube @andrewjosephperez, and on Twitter, Facebook, and the web @andrewjperez or andrewjperez.com. Follow, subscribe, and stay tuned for upcoming projects, or join his Patreon, also @andrewjosephperez, for exclusive behind-the-scenes content, extras, and secret releases and updates.

Hosted by Gay Book Promotions

Follow the tour and check out the other blog posts and reviews here

Blog Tour + Giveaway: Fix the World by Various Authors

The Fix the World Anthology blog tour visits our blog today! Check out more info about the sci-fi collection from Other Worlds Ink and the 12 contributing authors: Bryan Cebulski, J. Scott Coatsworth, Rachel Hope Crossman, Jana Denardo, J.G. Follansbee, Ingrid Garcia, Jennifer R. Povey, D.M. Rasch, Holly Schofield, Anthea Sharp, Mere Rain, and Alex Silver! Don't miss the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway!

Fix The World

Other Worlds Ink has a new hopeful sci-fi anthology out: Fix the World. And there's a giveaway!

We’re a world beset by crises. Climate change, income inequality, racism, pandemics, an almost unmanageable tangle of issues. Sometimes it’s hard to look ahead and see a hopeful future.

We asked sci-fi writers to send us stories about ways to fix what’s wrong with the world. From the sixty-five stories we received, we chose the twelve most amazing (and hopefully prescient) tales.

Dive in and find out how we might mitigate climate change, make war obsolete, switch to alternative forms of energy, and restructure the very foundations of our society,

The future’s not going to fix itself.

Publisher | Amazon | iBooks | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Liminal Fiction | Thalia | Goodreads


Giveaway

OWI is giving away a $25 Amazon gift card with this tour:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Direct Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/b60e8d47178/?


Excerpt

From "Rise"

by J. Scott Coatsworth

The rumbling increased to a roar, and more dark patches appeared in the green lagoon waters. So expensive. So laborious to stabilize what was left. But every bit worth it, in this moment.

A great spume of water sprayed high enough to throw a shimmer of mist across her face as the first part of the old city broke the surface. As the spume cleared, the top of the Campanile di San Marco rose above the water, green roof gleaming like new. A nice touch. The Restoration Guild must have worked overtime on that one. Its golden weathervane was gone, but the bas relief of the lion of St. Mark made her clutch her heart.

“Mamma, what’s the lion for?” She licked chocolate off her hands, desperate to make her afternoon snack last just a little longer.

“It’s the symbol of the city.” Mamma put her hand on Cinzia’s chest, patting it—boom boom, boom boom. “The beating heart of who we are.”

Cinzia stumbled. It felt like yesterday.

“You okay?” Gio’s brow creased.

“I… sorry, yes. So many memories.”

Skipping over the bridges. The bad days of the quarantine. The corner market where mamma used to do her grocery shopping…

The Flood.

Another building broke the surface nearby—the Santa Maria della Salute, the beautiful basilica. Water poured off the gorgeous green domes in a thundering flood. They were mostly intact, though one of the smaller ones had a gaping hole—water poured out of it, cascading down to the lagoon like a waterfall, joining the general uproar of the Rise.

“Look, Kendra. You can see the outlines of the Canal Grande now.” The old waterway—the pulsing artery of the city—snaked away from them like a backwards ’S.’ In the distance, she could make out the edge of the Sestriere Cannaregio, the district where her mamma had lived in a modest apartment in an old stone palazzo that looked out on a concrete courtyard.

Waters rising, as it rained for close on a month, coming ever closer to their own second-floor balcony.

What if the water doesn’t stop coming?” Cinzia stared out at the concrete courtyard, where the seawater swirled and churned.

“Don’t worry about that, tesoro. The water always stops, eventually. Now come here and help me with dinner.”

She had been lucky. She had survived.

All across the lagoon, the buildings of Venice were rising from the water. Many were broken, piles of bricks and debris covered with algae and surprised fish that flopped around on suddenly exposed land. The outlines of the city were becoming clear as water poured out of the buildings, churning the lagoon into a muddy, frothy mess.

A row of palazzos along the edge of the Canal Grande collapsed, sending up a deafening roar as they crumbled into rubble. Cinzia stepped back instinctively, pulling Kendra with her as the platform rose thirty meters into the air to avoid the cloud of debris that briefly rose above the lagoon before settling back to earth.

“Nothing to be alarmed about. Not all buildings were stabilized prior to the Rise.” Doctor Horvat’s lined face nodded reassuringly from the hovering screen before them, her voice broadcast across the world and to the Lunar colonies far above. “We expected some collapses. We will keep you away from the dangerous areas.”

“What if the city doesn’t stop rising?” Kendra grasped the railing, her gaze locked on the scene below.

Gio knelt next to the girl. “There’s no chance of that. The polyps have a very short lifetime…”

Cinzia was grateful to him. He probably understood the science behind all of this far better than she.

Her mind drifted.

They ate the last of the almond cantucci, savoring the hard cookies even though they were stale. Cinzia was still hungry, but she knew better than to ask for more. There was no more.

Outside, the rain had finally slowed to a constant drizzle.

Mamma ruffled her hair, managing a wan smile. “I need you to stay here, Cinzia. Someone will come for you, I promise. I will find us help.”

The helicopters had stopped coming days before, and the boats that had been plentiful the first few days, with men telling them to stay put, had bypassed their part of the city ever since.

The rumbling subsided.

Cinzia opened her eyes and looked around. For just a moment, there was absolute silence on the traghetto, along the shore, and on the sky board.

She looked over the railing.

Venice—her Venice—lay before her. It was in sad shape. Many of the landmarks she remembered were tarnished or broken. Whole zones of the city had collapsed, and except for Piazza San Marco, a green film covered the risen city. She was a ghost of her former glory.

But she was there, as solid and real as the hand before Cinzia’s face.


Author Bio

Bryan Cebulski is a rural California-based journalist from the Midwest who writes quiet queer speculative and literary fiction.

Scott Coatsworth lives with his husband Mark in a yellow bungalow in Sacramento. He was indoctrinated into fantasy and sci fi by his mother at the tender age of nine. He devoured her library, but as he grew up, he wondered where all the people like him were. He decided that if there weren’t queer characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends. A Rainbow Award winning author, he runs Queer Sci Fi, QueeRomance Ink, and Other Worlds Ink with Mark, sites that celebrate fiction reflecting queer reality, and is a full member member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

Rachel Hope Crossman grew up in Athens, Greece and Berkeley, CA as the child of a linguist and an actor. Her imagination, marked by the stones of the Acropolis, the granite slabs of the Sierra Nevadas and the blues of the San Francisco Bay, is the all and everything that fuels her engine. A preschool teacher, then substitute teacher, Rachel ultimately followed her Montessori bliss to teach elementary. Mother of four grown children and author of Saving Cinderella: Fairy tales & Children in the 21st Century, (2014 Apocryphile Press), Rachel currently writes eco-fantasy and science fiction stories.

Jana Denardo is Queen of the Geeks (her students voted her in) and her home and office are shrines to any number of comic book and manga heroes along with SF shows and movies too numerous to count. There is no coincidence the love of all things geeky has made its way into many of her stories. To this day, she’s still disappointed she hasn’t found a wardrobe to another realm, a superhero to take her flying among the clouds or a roguish star ship captain to run off to the stars with her.

J.G. Follansbee is an award-winning writer of thrillers, fantasy and science fiction novels and short stories with climate change themes. An author of maritime history and travel guides, he has published articles in newspapers, regional and national magazines, and regional and national radio networks, including National Public Radio. He's also worked in the high-tech and non-profit worlds. He lives in Seattle.

Ingrid Garcia helps selling local wines in a vintage wine shop in Cádiz and writes speculative fiction in her spare time. For years, she was unpublished. But to her utter surprise—after years of receiving nothing but rejections—she’s sold stories to F&SF, and the Ride the Star Wind and Sword and Sonnet anthologies. She tweets as @ingridgarcia253and is busy preparing a personal website and—dog forbid—even thinking about writing that inevitable novel

Jennifer R. Povey was born in Nottingham, England, but she now lives in Northern Virginia, where she writes everything from heroic fantasy to stories for Analog. She has written a number of novels across multiple sub genres. Additionally, she is a writer, editor, and designer of tabletop RPG supplements for a number of companies. Her interests include horseback riding, Doctor Who and attempting to out-weird her various friends and professional colleagues.

Mere Rain is an international nonentity of mystery whose library resides in California. Mere likes travel, food, art, mythology, and you. Feel free to reach out on social media. Mere Rain has published speculative short fiction with The Mad Scientist Journal, Mischief Corner Books, Things in the Well, and Mythical Girls.

D.M. Rasch writes feminist speculative fiction for LGBTQ+ young adults and adults, exploring where the social and political meet the personal. Her characters are often found doing their best in worlds that challenge them to become their best selves. Queer representation and reaching out to LGBTQ+ youth drive her writing, informed by her MFA in Creative Writing from Regis University and two bossy sister kittens who like to edit. She identifies as a genderqueer lesbian, currently writing and working (remotely) in the Denver, CO area as a creative mentor, coach, and editor in her business, Itinerant Creative Content & Coaching LLC.

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. Her stories have appeared in Analog, Lightspeed, Escape Pod, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes.

Anthea Sharp is the author of the USA Today bestselling Feyland series, where a high-tech game opens a gateway to the treacherous Realm of Faerie. In addition to the fae fantasy/cyberpunk mashup of Feyland, her current novels are set in the shadowed enchantment of the Darkwood, where dark elves and fairytale elements abound. Anthea lives in sunny Southern California where she writes, hangs out in virtual worlds, plays the Irish fiddle, and spends time with her small-but-good family.

Alex Silver (he/him) grew up mostly in Northern Maine and is now living in Canada with a spouse, two kids, and three birds. Alex is a trans guy who started writing fiction as a child and never stopped. Although there were detours through assisting on a farm and being a pharmacist along the way.

Other Worlds Ink logo

Release Blitz + Giveaway: Love's Bloom Collection by Megan Slayer and Elizabeth Hollows

Join authors Megan Slayer and Elizabeth Hollows as they celebrate their MM contribution to Pride Publishing's Love's Bloom Collection: Love Next Door and Garden of Cupid! Find out more about the neighbor romances and enter in the giveaway to win a LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! 

Love's Bloom Collection

Spring is a time of renewal, of new life and new love. Maybe it’s a spring fling, or a second chance at love! This is a collection of Spring-themed stories, where new relationships grow and love blooms.

Garden of Cupid by Elizabeth Hollows  

 

Will doesn’t want a relationship. Blain isn’t looking for a boyfriend. But with an old lady playing Cupid, how can they ignore a chance at love?

Will Brewer is a shy artist living with only his cat for company. He’s not good with people and even worse with relationships. He isn’t looking for a boyfriend. He just wants to paint. In fact, he would happily be living the life of a hermit if his eighty-year-old neighbor, Mrs. O’Grady, wasn’t constantly roping him into tasks around her house.

And he isn’t the only one she’s preying on.

The new and gorgeous mechanic Blain Stewart has just moved in next door. Where Will feels like an awkward fool around Blain, the mechanic finds him adorable.

Blain has just ended a bad long-term relationship with a high-maintenance man who didn’t understand him. He feels like he’s starting all over again and he’s hesitant for his fresh start to include the talented and charming Will.

But when Mrs. O’Grady asks them to plant some flowers in her garden, the tension between them skyrockets.

They both think friendship would be safer than a new romance. But when attraction, connection and an enthusiastic old lady are pushing them together, can they resist?

Add to Goodreads | Choose Your Store | First For Romance

Love Next Door by Megan Slayer

Can three tiny kittens really bring these two men together and prove love can bloom despite the chilly spring days?

Tommy Davis considered himself a loner. He spent his days writing and running, all while keeping everyone else at bay. That is, until he discovers three kittens abandoned in his shrubbery. His fatherly instincts kick in, and he goes to the one person he knows can help—his sexy-as-sin next-door neighbor who happens to be a veterinarian.

Matthew James wasn’t looking for love, but the moment Tommy shows up on his doorstep, he can’t send him away. He’s had a thing for Tommy since the first time he saw him, but his shyness has kept him from making a move.

The melting snow, blossoming flowers and a trio of kittens could be more than the guys can handle, but they just might be the push Matthew needs to find his forever with Tommy.

Reader advisory: This book contains references of past sexual assault and mentions of an abusive ex.

Add to Goodreads | Choose Your Store | First For Romance

About the Authors

Elizabeth Hollows

Elizabeth Hollows is an Australian writer of LGBT love stories specializing in homosexual or lesbian romance.

Her preferred genres are fantasy, science fiction and contemporary/modern.

She has been writing since she was twelve, but has spent the last few years writing romance stories and discovering a passion for LGBT romance.

When Elizabeth is not writing she embroiders, reads and plots her next novel. She is a fan of the winter months and always has a book in her handbag and a cup of tea nearby.

You can find Elizabeth at her website here

 

Megan Slayer

Megan Slayer, aka Wendi Zwaduk, is a multi-published, award-winning author of more than one-hundred short stories and novels. She’s been writing since 2008 and published since 2009. Her stories range from the contemporary and paranormal to LGBTQ and BDSM themes. No matter what the length, her works are always hot, but with a lot of heart. She enjoys giving her characters a second chance at love, no matter what the form. She’s been the runner up in the Kink Category at Love Romances Café as well as nominated at the LRC for best author, best contemporary, best ménage and best anthology. Her books have made it to the bestseller lists on Amazon.com.

When she’s not writing, Megan spends time with her husband and son as well as three dogs and three cats. She enjoys art, music and racing, but football is her sport of choice.

Find out more about Megan on her website, and sign up for the newsletter here. You can also check out her Blog, Amazon Author Page, Bookbub and Instagram.

Giveaway

Enter to win a fabulous gift package and get a First For Romance Gift Card!

Love's Bloom Giveaway

THE LOVE'S BLOOM AUTHORS ARE GIVING AWAY THIS FABULOUS PRIZE TO ONE LUCKY WINNER. ENTER HERE FOR YOUR CHANCE TO WIN A LOVELY GIFT PACKAGE AND GET A FIRST FOR ROMANCE GIFT CARD! Notice: This competition ends on 20TH April 2021 at 5pm GMT. Competition hosted by Totally Entwined Group.

Release Blitz The Sheltering Tree by J.R. Lawrie

 
Author J.R. Lawrie and Signal Boost Promotions celebrate the release of The Sheltering Tree! Read more about the romantic suspense and enter in The Sheltering Tree eBook giveaway!


 


Publisher: Carnation Books

Cover Design: J.R. Lawrie

Length: 140,000 words approx.

Blurb

The heart of Alastair Harding's life is duty. Becoming the first gay chief of the Metropolitan police has required certain sacrifices, but Alastair made them willingly. If his life now lacks human connections, he can't exactly complain—and it's a little too late for regrets.

Jay Fieldhouse knows all about sacrifice, too. Brought to London for his own safety by witness protection, Jay's grassroots charity works day and night to save vulnerable kids from a life of crime. But getting close to other people is tough when no one really knows who you are.

When he meets Alastair one night at a charity event, Jay is intrigued by his glimpse of a gentle soul beneath the commissioner's uniform. The two men decide to run their lonely paths side by side for a while—after all, life is short and good sex is hard to come by.
Then the shadows of the past begin to stir, and the words which go unsaid might be Jay and Alastair's undoing.

The Sheltering Tree is J.R. Lawrie's first full length novel, following her beloved debut anthology, Let Your Heart Be Light.




J. R. Lawrie graduated from the University of Leeds in 2011 and now lives in York, UK, writing LGBTQ fiction. 

LET YOUR HEART BE LIGHT, J.R.'s debut anthology, was published by Carnation Books in 2019, followed by THE SHELTERING TREE in April 2021. 

For more updates, you can follow J.R. on Twitter: @jrlawrieauthor


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Release Bliz + Giveaway: Killing Games by Reis Asher


Join author Reis Archer and IndiGo Marketing in celebrating the release of Killing Games! Find out more about the new thriller and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!

 

Title: Killing Games

Series: Killing Games, Book One

Author: Reis Asher

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/05/2021

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: M/NB

Length: 55900

Genre: Dystopian thriller, LGBTQIA+, horror, alternate universe, dystopia, thriller, bisexual, nonbinary, hunted, civil war, game with human as prey, murder

Add to Goodreads


Description

Edgar Tobias works as a freelance computer programmer in the city of Anver. Desperate to escape his deceased fathers’ fame as a hit singer-songwriter duo, he left the city of Kasyova and the arts behind. He doesn’t know he’s about to be targeted in a vicious murder game where the prize is a million dollars in cryptocurrency to the first person who can capture his murder on video.

Reis Asher lost everything in the Anverite civil war ten years ago, including their mother. Their father created the agreement known as Unification, which joined Anver and Kasyova to create the Twin City-States of Anver-Kasyova, ending the civil war and ushering in a new era of peace and prosperity.

When they discover the Killing Game, they know that it represents a threat to everything they hold dear and set out to stop it. But powerful forces are at work that refuse to be undermined by one stubborn soul and their sense of justice.

Someone wants Edgar dead, and they’ll stop at nothing to see him six feet under… even if that means Reis and other innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire.

Excerpt

Killing Games
Reis Asher © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Chapter One
Edgar

Edgar Tobias woke to the irritating beep of his alarm, the three-tone pitch loud enough to rouse even the dead from their slumber. He fumbled for the clock with blurred vision and shut it off before pulling himself up to a sitting position to avoid the temptation of snoozing. He looked at the blinds covering his window, and the lack of light told him it was still dark outside. It was always hard to get out of bed in the darkness, but when he needed to start working early to make ends meet, he had to use all his willpower to make sure he didn’t spend all his waking hours beneath the covers.

Thankfully, his computer provided much-needed motivation by choosing that moment to light up, informing him of several unread e-mail messages that might be from his freelance clients. Edgar peeled back the blankets to reveal his naked body and climbed out of bed. He padded across the carpet to his desk. There were a surprising number of new contract offers, given he’d only started freelancing a couple of weeks ago. People wanted mobile applications and they were willing to spend a good amount of cryptocurrency to make their ideas come to life—without having to waste time learning a programming language. Yeah, quitting Central had been the right thing to do. When it became clear his manager wasn’t going to allow a promotion unless Edgar went on a date with him, it was obvious the only way for Edgar to restore his self-respect was to quit and go into business for himself.

Sensing a long day ahead of him, Edgar grabbed the bath towel slung over the back of the chair and headed into the bathroom. Cool water always refreshed him, and it had the desired effect—until it became scalding hot without warning. Edgar backed up, uttering a curse. He was covered in lather, and the last thing he wanted to do was call the maintenance manager while he was naked and soaped up… Bad enough Chris always gave him the eye when he came to work on Edgar’s aging refrigerator. Edgar suspected his interest was why he’d never received a new one in the building’s annual budget. Chris wanted to keep making repairs and inventing excuses to see him.

Edgar shut the water off and walked into the kitchen. He turned on the faucet to find the water was scalding hot there too. Someone had cranked up the water thermostat to beyond safe levels. It seemed like a strange thing to happen, but it could have been a perfectly routine malfunction down in the boiler room. He was a programmer, not a plumber. He poured the hot water into a bowl and added ice from the fridge’s ice maker to cool it off. Back in the bathroom, he washed the suds away with the water until he felt clean enough to dry off with a towel. That inconvenience resolved, he dressed in jeans and a T-shirt before dialing the number for the maintenance manager.

“Chris? Yeah. The water’s boiling. You might wanna check out the stoker before it explodes… I don’t see why you need to come up here for that, but go ahead… Yeah, I’m here right now.” Edgar cut the connection, releasing a sigh. Of course, he wanted to make a house call. Edgar hadn’t realized Chris was so desperate to see him he’d burn his skin off for a visit, but he could tolerate the guy’s presence if it meant the issue got fixed.

Not five minutes later, the apartment echoed with a hollow knock. Edgar closed his e-mails and wandered to the front door. He let Chris in and shut the door behind him. The skinny blond man had been an excellent building manager for years, and despite his annoying swooning over Edgar, he had to admit he liked the fact Chris was friendly, charming, and knew his way around plumbing and heating systems like a pro. While people in Anver often had to deal with slum landlords and half-assed repairs, Chris had always kept his apartment feeling like a luxury pad for half the price a professional usually paid.

“Hey, Chris.” Edgar greeted him first, surprised he walked past him without a word. He looked a little pale as he headed to the bathroom and proceeded to throw Edgar’s clothes out of the closet so he could get to the pipes.

“Sorry. I probably should have taken care of that, huh?”

“It’s no big deal.” Chris moved a large box of sweaters out into the hallway. Edgar noticed a clip-on camera on the pocket of his overalls.

He raised an eyebrow. “They’re making you wear those for house calls, now?”

“No,” Chris said. “I wanted to wear it. The guy down in 2B was creepy as hell last time I was down there.”

“I hope you’re not wearing it because you think I’m creepy.” Edgar took a step back to give Chris some space. “If I’ve done anything inappropriate over the years, please tell me so I can never do it again.”

Chris laughed. “I wish you would do something inappropriate! Why do the good guys have to act like celibate priests? You’ve got the bad boy look; can’t you follow up on that rogue-like charm with a good come-on?” He took a hammer to the one pipe that looked like it was in perfectly good shape, confirming Edgar’s suspicions he was here just to see him, as usual.

“I guess I don’t do come-ons,” Edgar said. “I’m sorry to disappoint.”

“I’m not your type,” Chris pointed out. “In that we’re both bottoms. A tragedy if I may say so myself.”

Edgar laughed. “Uh-huh.”

Chris stood, the mirth draining from his face. “There. I need to check the stoker in the basement, and you’ll be good to go. Want to come check it out with me? I’ll need someone to hold the flashlight.”

Edgar opened his mouth to say no, he had a lot of work to do, but a hint of something in Chris’s eyes made him not want to say no. It wasn’t attraction or anything of the sort. Chris seemed sad all of a sudden, as if a black cloud had blotted out the sun. Was he really so smitten with Edgar, or had his ego finally inflated out of control? Regardless, it seemed cruel to make excuses. Especially if that creeper from 2B was hanging around downstairs.

“Okay. Let’s go.” Edgar followed Chris out of the apartment. They stood in silence as the elevator arrived, and then once again as it descended to the basement level. It chimed, doors opening into a dimly lit passageway. A striplight flickered off and on, struggling to cling to life. A shiver passed down Edgar’s spine and he had to fight the sudden urge to leave Chris and go back upstairs. Instead, he forced himself to walk forward until the elevator doors closed behind him.

“Here.” Chris pressed a flashlight into his hands, and he turned it on. Green tile covered the walls, a remnant of the building’s past as a hospital. After Unification, Anver had found itself with a surplus of hospitals and a shortage of housing. It had made sense to turn some of the towering glass structures into homes. The bomb-proof glass—a remnant of the war—held the heat in nicely.

The huge industrial furnace clanked and groaned as they stepped into the stoker room. Chris looked at the dial and sighed. “Someone’s been messing with the heat. I told Kristoff we needed a lock on this door. You know, I love Kasyovans, but it’s a pain in the ass when they’re too busy with their next show to deal with their obligations.”

Edgar vaguely recalled the building’s owner saying something about being in a band, but only answered with a grunt. He was ready to get out of here and get back upstairs, where heavy thoughts like loneliness could be buried under a pile of work.

“Hey, Edgar. You ever hear of the Hunt or the Committee?” Chris asked.

“The what or the who?” Edgar narrowed his eyes. “Not a clue what you’re talking about, I’m afraid.”

“Nothin’. Forget I asked.” Chris shrugged.

The flashlight began to flicker in Edgar’s hands, throwing them into momentary gloom as the battery signaled its imminent death.

“I think we should hurry up and get out of here,” Edgar said.

“Are you afraid of the dark, pretty boy?” Chris mocked.

“Don’t call me—” Edgar’s complaint was cut off by a force constricting his air supply. It took him a moment of alarm to realize he was being strangled with a rope from behind, its owner pulling back almost hard enough to snap his neck. He swept out with his leg and took his assailant down, grateful for the trick he’d learned in Kasyovan conscripted military service. The rope loosened and he was able to crawl free, gasping for air.

“Shit!” The voice was unmistakably Chris’s.

“What…the…fuck!” Edgar yelled, reaching for his throat and coughing until tears swam in his eyes. The rope burn would leave a mark, but if Chris was his assailant, he wasn’t safe yet. He fled toward the light, leaving the boiler room and running along the dim corridor. He pushed the instant need for a reason away and concentrated on hammering the call button for the elevator. When it arrived, he entered and immediately hit the close button, aware of Chris racing toward the doors…

They shut completely with a thud and a chime. Edgar slid down the wall, horrified and perplexed, as the elevator ascended. Had Chris tried to kill him?

What in the Twin City-States was going on?

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

Reis Asher (he/him) is a transmasculine author living in rural Pennsylvania with his husband and four cats. He loves video games, reading, technology, and of course, writing. He enjoys shining a spotlight on queer characters and their adventures in a diverse range of worlds, from the fantastical to the everyday. Catch him on Twitter where he’s happy to interact.

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Review: The Young Man's Guide to Love and Loyalty (Magic Emporium) by Clara Merrick

Loyalty is Lieutenant Owain Morgan’s watchword—loyalty to England’s Queen Elizabeth XII, to her daughter the Princess of Wales, and to the Royal Navy in which he serves. When his loyalty leads him into danger, an unseen something—or someone—lends a helping hand. Is he imagining it? Could it be a guardian angel? Or is it someone—or something—else?

Enter the intriguing Benjamin Fletcher. Owain knows that sharing a drink and a steamy afternoon together doesn’t have to mean anything, but Benjamin’s quiet charm works its way into his heart…. Until Benjamin turns up in the Earl of Essex’s retinue, that same Earl who, rumor says, is angling to marry the Princess of Wales and make her power his own.

Every encounter with Benjamin binds Owain’s heart more tightly to this enigmatic man yet tests his loyalty to Queen and Country. Will Owain be forced to choose between love and loyalty?

The Young Man’s Guide to Love and Loyalty is part of the Magic Emporium Series. Each book stands alone, but each one features an appearance by Marden’s Magic Emporium, a shop that can appear anywhere, but only once and only when someone’s in dire need. This alternate history contains princesses, palaces, steam trains, fumbling lovers, and a guaranteed HEA.


This was an interesting take on European history retold in an alternate universe, all entwined with magic and the land of fairy.

Owain is a straight laced English naval officer, and when his captain confiscates much needed Spanish silver for the crown, he’s tasked with reporting the valuable intel to his command in London. Once he starts on his journey, strange happenings abound, and Owain soon finds himself in over his head.

Soon, Owain is embroiled into also aiding the royal princess unravel a possible conspiracy to overthrow the throne, and his eyes are slowly opened to the world around him. Things aren’t black and white, and treachery lurks around every corner. What also lurks is Ben, the mysterious man whom Owain had a blissful one night stand with, and it remains to be seen if Ben is a friend or a foe. Regardless, Owain can’t stop thinking about him and only hopes he’s on the right side.

For someone who is not very knowledgeable about European history, I felt this was an engaging spin on it. The concepts were smart and the variations were refreshing especially where women were often in traditionally male leadership roles of the highest order. There’s a lot going on in this which kept the pace fast, but in and amongst missions and investigations, the romantic development was not fully realized enough for me (though what we got was nicely smexy), nor was the mystery in its conclusion (I’m still scratching my head a bit).

This looks to be the debut of Clara Merrick, and it contains a great premise. This ends with a solid HFN and as with many of the stories in this loosely connected series, there’s plenty of wiggle room for sequels galore and this is definitely one of them. Overall, I’m confident that fans of historical romance will surely have a good time! Enjoy!




Release Blitz + Giveaway: A Blind Eye by David Jackson Ambrose

Author David Jackson Ambrose and Indigo Marketing host today's release blitz for A Blind Eye! Discover more and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway!


Title: A Blind Eye

Author: David Jackson Ambrose

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/05/2021

Heat Level: 3 - Some Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 95900

Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQIA+, Gay, racial inequities, pop culture, fairytales, urban legends, fables, disability, hoarding, homelessness, colorism, biracial, cultural appropriation, trans lives, coming-of-age, cross-dressing, disabilities, enemies/rivals to lovers, folklore, humorous, illness/disease, interracial, law enforcement, #ownvoices

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Description

Babe thought he had done all the right things. He works a respectable job, owns his own home, pays his taxes, and throws jury duty summonses in the trash just like every other fellow American. He even stays faithful to his promiscuous boyfriend. But even through all of the right things, he is unsatisfied with his life.

Chance, an Eminem wannabe, drops his pants low and listens to hip hop to show his alliance with Black culture, but Babe has to learn to accept him as more than the “W” word: a wigger.

Alise and her special-needs son, Rueben, have been evicted and reduced to living in a car when her husband runs out on them. They now have to rebuild their lives after losing all their earthly possessions.

Babe finds that Alise and Chance may represent an opportunity for a fresh start as they navigate the intricacies of race relations, working class disillusionment, and mental health.

Excerpt

A Blind Eye
David Jackson Ambrose © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Babe & Chance

The Lark Bar was a decaying local dive on the edge of town. It was the only gay bar that did not require a trek into Philadelphia proper. His nerves were too frazzled for a long drive, but he felt like he would go mad if he sat waiting around in that empty house one second longer.

He waited as the bartender casually, deliberately served every other patron before pretending to notice him standing at the end of the bar, his sleekly muscled arm held aloft like some rare tropical bird, signaling with the only lure that outweighed racism; the cold hard cash held in his fist.

Babe pondered the subtle ways prejudice played out in small-town gay bars versus the clubs in the city. In the city, you were denied entry, waiting while burly doormen examined your photo ID as if the secrets of the universe might be found within. You tamped down on your slowly mounting fury as inebriated white fag hags were nodded past, screeching in your ear as they obliviously bumped into you along the way.

Here, no one carded you on the street. Because they could not run the risk of a public confrontation. The Lark Bar was tolerated, not welcomed, by the conservative county commissioners, bureaucrats, and taxpayers. Bringing undue attention and police involvement were verboten.

He leaned forward and mouthed Grand Marnier, rocks and floated a ten-dollar bill onto the damp bartop, noting the derision scouring the attendant’s face before he turned and plunged a tumbler into a mound of ice. Babe knew that look. He had seen that same expression all through his childhood in the white suburbs of Upper Merion. The expression was designed to remind him that he was a pretender, that he did not belong; his delusions of grandeur had been noted and silently challenged.

Babe acknowledged maybe this time it was true. Ordering a beer would have been a more financially responsible choice. Especially if he planned to follow through on the thing he had vowed to do not more than thirty minutes before, storming out the house in search of a drink to bolster his resolve. But he had to let these gatekeepers know he wasn’t an outsider begging for the scraps of their acceptance. So he ordered top shelf, even when his budget indicated well options would have been the smarter choice.

He tipped 20 percent because he knew they expected nothing. He was aware of the stereotype of Black people being poor tippers. That was another irony that struck him. White servers didn’t seem to grasp that they were poorly tipped because they served poorly. He overtipped even after being made to wait until all other patrons were served. He ignored abrupt behavior and belittling expressions.

He counted out the change handed back to him, peeled off the proper percentage and threw it dismissively onto the bar, turning his back before the bartender could also deliberately ignore the tip, and leaned back with his elbows on the ledge behind him.

The hypervigilant jukebox playlist was another harbinger of the gradations of exclusion. Philly DJs played the current Black divas but remixed and diluted bass, lifted treble, and quickened bpms until most remnants of Africa were obscured to an acceptable approximation of pop (read: non-Black). Here, in the city perimeter, the only divas of color were Diana Ross and the Pointer Sisters fighting amongst a plethora of Patsy Cline, Celine Dion, and Barbara Streisand.

But here, in this small, dark space, with its abysmal checkerboard dancefloor off by the fire escape at the back, only occasionally populated for a rousing two step, and the echoing wail of canned music with its lone, weak strobe waving across dusty walls, the desire of lonely men was far more palpable than hidden amidst the revelry of big-city dance palaces.

It was bleakly evident in every wizened, mustachioed gaze glancing from hooded eyes. It was signaled in the way conversation momentarily froze as he passed, and the tremulous, trepidatious smiles Babe was too distracted to notice.

Babe crossed the peeling linoleum dancefloor to the seating area sectioned off by an ornate metal railing with steps going down like a cockpit. Sitting at the table by the wall furthest to the back, Babe set down his drink with shaking hands. He found this space, away from lustful consideration, with 8x10s of golden age Hollywood stars lining concrete walls somewhat comfortable. The scent of lemon wood polish merged with the orange blossom wafting from his glass. Even through his distraction, he was able to appreciate the gleam emanating from the random width pine beneath his unlaced Timberlands.

If they would tear up that awful linoleum on the dancefloor and show off the natural-random-width wood flooring beneath, he speculated, this place might not be as pathetic as it was. But, he realized, appealing to people like him with his mass of thick dreadlocks and tight wife beater, was most likely not part of the demographic the business model would have been designed to attract.

A loud, braying laugh cut through the din of a Tammy Wynette song. Peering through the smoke, Babe recognized the boy wavering at the bar. Pale and thin, basking in the attention of sad, old men, vaingloriously accepting drink after proffered drink, he swayed and bobbed from one torso to the other like a badminton birdie being hit between two opponents. Babe had occasionally seen him during the course of running errands, grocery shopping, or driving his friend Ricky down to the city to cop. The wan, pale boy always seemed to be sitting out on the cement stoop of a narrow two-story row house on Airy Street, no matter the time of day, in weather both clement and inclement. Ricky would point at the boy as they passed, cackling derisively.

“What?” Babe would ask, looking briefly at the boy as they roared past in a cloud of gas fumes and pumped-up mixtape bass.

Ricky pointed a pudgy manicured finger at the boy slouched on the stoop, wearing sagging jeans and Timberlands with his thin purple hair woven into sloppy wide cornrows.

“Would you look at that mess over there? Who did that head like that? These wiggers always be getting the whole shit wrong, chile. Especially the sissies.”

Then, as now, Babe didn’t find anything terribly wrong about how the guy was dressed. He didn’t find anything even notable about it. He didn’t see how wearing baggy jeans or oversized T-shirts denoted someone aping Black culture. Everybody wore big jeans. He admitted the braids were kind of bad, but he had seen worse.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

David Jackson Ambrose is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania. He has an M.A. from Saint Joseph’s University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Temple University. He has presented at the National Conference for Teachers of English. His exploration of race and the mental health field was selected for honorable mention for AWP’s 2016 Intro Journals Project. Ambrose was selected as a 2018 Lambda Literary Award finalist for his debut novel, State of the Nation. He describes his work as “a focus on marginalized people and the ways identities are shaped by a confluence of the prison industrial complex, the mental health factory, (both of which he refers to as neo-plantations) and police state apparatus as it collides with gender, sexuality and the construct of race to impose disability and hierarchy as part of the design of American capitalism.”

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Release Blitz + Giveaway: If A Butterfly Don’t Fly (Out of Underhill #2) by Mell Eight

Author Mell Eight and IndiGo Marketing host today's blitz for new fantasy release, If A Butterfly Don’t Fly (Out of Underhill #2)! Find out more and enter in the $10 NineStar Press credit giveaway! 

Title: If A Butterfly Don’t Fly

Series: Out of Underhill, Book Two

Author: Mell Eight

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: 04/05/2021

Heat Level: 1 - No Sex

Pairing: Male/Male

Length: 41600

Genre: Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Fae/faeries, mythical creatures, disabilities, magic, performance arts, security guard, musicians

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Description

Merridy has always loved music but can’t sing. The only job in the music business he can get is as a security guard for the Bard and Sons, a premier record label. He keeps their secrets and patrols their hallways, always wishing for a big break he knows will never come.

Changeling’s Court is a brand new band struggling to record their first single. Merridy chances upon a scrap of their lyrics without accompanying music notes and can’t help composing a simple melody for them. If he’s found out, he’ll probably get fired.

Instead, he finds himself in a strange new world of magic and faeries—and danger.

Excerpt

If A Butterfly Don’t Fly
Mell Eight © 2021
All Rights Reserved

Music was embedded in the very fibers of the building.

Merridy took a deep breath as he stepped out of the stairwell and onto the first floor of practice rooms and felt the remnants of the notes played on instruments and sung into microphones swirling around him. They chimed in his ears and seemed to fill the air with a shine he could almost reach out and touch. Merridy wanted to touch it so badly, but instead, he let out his breath and smoothed down the front of his security guard uniform before reaching for the door handle that led into the first private lounge, which belonged to a soloist named Amaryllis.

As he stepped inside, Merridy saw Amaryllis’s bra hanging from the back of a chair. It was lacy across the tops of the cups, the sort of bra that, if the front of her shirt slipped while she was sweaty from singing onstage under the hot lights, might look like a fancy camisole peeking through.

Normally, Merridy didn’t mind the overnight shift as a security guard at the headquarters of the Bard and Sons. There wasn’t anyone else around as he walked through the halls half lit by security lighting and the ambient light that filtered in through the windows from the parking lot outside. He enjoyed the quiet and the solitude—and the music. He couldn’t sing any of the notes aloud, of course, but he could hear each note in his head as if the musicians were still hard at work. Sometimes he took the notes he heard and wrote them down; he had notebooks full of songs he’d heard, of notes that had twined through his mind, all put down onto the bar lines preprinted on staff paper and filed on his bookshelves at home.

He wasn’t used to running into women’s underwear, though. Today, all he had expected coming in was the rather minor suspense of the new band taking over the lone empty practice room. Any sort of excitement to break up the monotony of walking in circles all night was a relief, and finding out what type of band—pop, rock, country—had moved in would be the highlight of his evening. He wanted to know what the remnants of their music would sound like when he stepped into their empty practice lounge, and if it was as good as he hoped, he was looking forward to buying their soundtrack to hear it firsthand.

Of course, what he really wanted was to be playing in his own band in the light of day, rather than sneaking hints of the sounds of other bands as he walked through each room at night, but he was taking what little he could get and trying to enjoy it as best he could.

He quickly checked the rest of the room to make sure it was completely empty, which included looking behind doors and inside the full wardrobe. Merridy closed the wardrobe doors, took one more look around the cluttered lounge, and hurried back into the hallway.

Merridy unhooked his keys from his belt and made sure the lounge door was firmly locked. Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small pad of organizer tabs, the ones usually used to keep school notes organized. He chose a red tab and yanked it free of the roll before sticking it to the underside of Amaryllis’s nameplate. It would warn anyone arriving in the morning that this door should remain closed and locked until Amaryllis herself came to clean up her mess. Not even the morning custodian was allowed to go in to vacuum.

A bra was fairly innocuous, but given who it belonged to, it would probably sell for big bucks online. Merridy’s simple red tab would keep anyone stupid enough to try—like the sound mixer who had been selling used drumsticks on eBay a few months back—from having the opportunity.

With Amaryllis’s room done, Merridy continued down the hallway to the next door. It opened to reveal one of the two recording studios on the floor. He wasn’t allowed to touch any of the electrical parts, like the blinking lights or the slides on the sound mixer board. He didn’t know what any of the buttons did, and if he inadvertently ruined a project left unfinished overnight, he would be in major trouble.

He walked past the electronics and into the inner studio, where the instruments and the microphones for the singers were located. He could almost hear what the room sounded like when the instruments were playing—guitars riffing, drums pounding, and the simple note of a piano or bass holding it all together. The melodies would soar, reverberating through the room as a singer crooned into the mesh-fronted mic stand. Merridy knew what that sounded like from the dozens of auditions he had tried out for, and he’d reveled in each and every experience, but it didn’t matter how good he was on keys or strings. Once the band found out he couldn’t sing, somehow he was never actually chosen.

The imagined music faded from Merridy’s thoughts as that harsh dose of reality set in. He quickly checked that the inner studio was also empty of people and continued on. He left the studio door as he’d found it: unlocked and tab-free. There wasn’t anything sensitive to hide there.

Merridy checked behind every door—including the janitor’s closet—for trespassers. Very famous, platinum-selling artists used the studio space or kept practice lounges in the building. Rabid fans and competitors alike would kill and bribe for even the slightest glimpse of what Merridy saw every night. Some things Merridy wished he could unsee. Stars were very strange people, and he didn’t envy the custodians who had to clean up after them.

He finished his round of the floor where he had originally started, at the lone staircase in the corner. There was an elevator on the other side, but Merridy had to take the stairs up to the second floor first to ensure they were clear. He input his code into the keypad on the door to tell the other security guard manning the phones and desk in the lobby downstairs that he had finished the floor before heading farther upstairs.

The next two floors were comprised of more studio space. He had to flag one room on the third floor where someone had left a bong and some weed lying on a table next to a guitar.

He headed to the fourth floor, which was an exact replica of the prior two. Merridy walked to the first doorway and popped it open with a grimace. Soul Sound was a hard-rocking, hard-partying band, and their practice studio still sounded like it. The music floating through the air was a little shrieky, with high-pitched runs of the guitar accompanied by deep-throated screaming into the microphone. There were plenty of people who liked screamer rock, but Merridy just couldn’t find enough of the melody floating through his mind to enjoy it himself. He tried not to listen for as long as he could manage while he flipped open doors and checked behind furniture.

The job of a security guard was boring and monotonous, and often weird. This first walkthrough of all the rooms was the most interesting part of his night, because he never knew just what he would find behind each closed door. After the surprise was gone, the hours slowly trickled by until the sun rose. The daytime security guards, who only had to sit at the desk in the lobby unless an issue occurred upstairs, would arrive, and Merridy could go home to sleep.

He swept all the rooms on the floor like usual, luckily not seeing anything too startling, until he reached the final door. The nameplate he was used to was gone, and the blank rectangle of wall where it used to be was slightly darker than the paint around it. It had been carefully removed; the holes for the screws didn’t look torn or destroyed. Merridy turned and opened the studio door.

The furniture was different, too, as were the instruments scattered across the room. Antiquities and Wine—the country band that the space belonged to—had needed banjo stands, but those were now replaced by an upright piano. A leather jacket, another thing that didn’t fit with Antiquities and Wine’s chosen image, had been carelessly left across the back of the new couch.

Antiquities and Wine had moved to new studio space recently built farther south, Merridy remembered suddenly. That tidbit of information had gone out in the company’s weekly internal email bulletin. A new band had already taken the space. Merridy wondered who they were. The space felt quiet, almost anticipatory, as the old notes in the air faded without Antiquities and Wine there to renew them. The new band hadn’t yet begun to fill the space with their own sound.

He walked farther into the room, seeing four guitars—a bass, two electric, and one acoustic—on stands and a drum snare on top of the new piano. They were probably a pop-rock or rock band. In the back of the room, near the private bathroom, was a desk strewn with staff paper. Many of the sheets had been crumpled into balls and tossed aside. The ones still flat on the desk had dozens of cross-outs, some lines excessively crossed, the pen having cut deep.

Songwriting obviously wasn’t going too well for the new band.

Well. Either they’d figure it out, or they’d get out. That was the way the business worked. They had been given their chance with the nice studio. If the band blew it, too bad. It was more of a chance than Merridy had ever had. He sighed and resolutely pushed his jealousy away before heading into the bathroom to double-check it was empty. Merridy had a good job. Just because he wanted to switch places with someone in the new band wasn’t reason enough to let resentment simmer and ruin his night. The sink, toilet, and glassed-in shower stall hid no one, so he turned to head back out.

There was one piece of regular lined paper on the desk next to the bathroom door that wasn’t crumpled or covered in pencil scratches. Merridy couldn’t help stopping to read the four simple lines handwritten there.

In my dreams, I know you see me,

And in my hopes, you’ll hold my hand.

Reality hits, so does the truth:

You and me will never be we.

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NineStar Press | Books2Read

Meet the Author

When Mell Eight was in high school, she discovered dragons. Beautiful, wondrous creatures that took her on epic adventures both to faraway lands and on journeys of the heart. Mell wanted to create dragons of her own, so she put pen to paper. Mell Eight is now known for her own soaring dragons, as well as for other wonderful characters dancing across the pages of her books. While she mostly writes paranormal or fantasy stories, she has been seen exploring the real world once or twice.

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